Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Youth in ag: Biotechnology needs you.

Biotechnology: Friend or Foe?

Stand firm in biotech career choice. Consider biotech career path.

by Mindy Ward, Penton Agriculture

In the back pages of a high school yearbook is a quote from my daughter. "I want to major in plant biology and become a researcher for Monsanto."

Agriculture biotechnology companies like Monsanto have been under fire for many years. While biotechnology continues to evolve in agriculture leading to less inputs and higher yields for farmers, not everyone is a fan of that technology.

So I wondered, should I continue to encourage my daughter to work for these types of companies?
My youngest daughter dreamed of being a plant breeder since she was in the sixth grade. But her zeal kicked in during high school when her agriculture education class visited Monsanto's Chesterfield Village Research Center, located in Missouri.

Over the next four years, she took classes designed to improve her knowledge of plant biology and today she is a sophomore majoring in plant sciences with an emphasis in plant biotechnology at Oklahoma State University.
It has not been an easy career choice. She has seen the ugly side of her degree field.

Take for instance the Chamber of Commerce board member who after hearing my daughter wanted to be a plant breeder, proceeded to lecture her on how the occupation was not a good one. He told her that she should have her "head on straight" before diving into that field. He warned of changing things from the way nature intended them. She just smiled. She was not upset. She was resolute.

"They just don't understand," she said. Her desire is to solve food insecurity. My daughter sees beyond her small town, state or even nation; she sees the world.

The fact remains--biotechnology will be a part of achieving a greater volume of nutritious food to feed a growing world population. There needs to be plant researchers and there needs to be companies like Monsanto.

Young people in agriculture, never let the negative words of others be it individuals in society, professors in college, or activist groups influence your career choice. Above all else, set your mind to use your talents to help feed, fuel and clothe the world. Resolve to make the world better for the next generation.

Mindy Ward is a Content Director for Penton Agriculture. She blogs about issues relating to farmers, consumers, youth and more at her blog Show-Me Life.