Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Because it's more interesting to write about homework than to actually complete it.
My classmates would probably lynch me as an overachiever if they knew how I was approaching this assignment. But I am interested in learning about genetically modified crops. Saturday afternoon two combines harvested the soybeans from the field directly west of our property. Semi-truck hauled loads of beans to the elevator. Those plants probably grew from Roundup Ready seed--seed that's DNA has been modified to resist the herbicide Roundup. I don't have enough knowledge about Roundup Ready soybeans to form an opinion of whether they are beneficial or not. That's the real purpose of my research. 

Yesterday I began research for the paper due in a few weeks for my Human Biology course. Of the eight topics I chose Genetically Modified Foods. Because it is impossible to approach such a broad topic in a four-page paper, I further refined my topic to Roundup Ready Soybeans. As I continue my research I may narrow my topic further (thought I doubt I will be able to confine myself to four pages). 

Beginning my search

One of the first sites I visited was Wikipedia. It may not be a reliable source and thus I won't quote it in my paper, but it is a good place to get an overview of the topic. It also included external links that I may explore in the future. 

"Economic, health & environmental impacts of Roundup-type chemical and Roundup Ready soybeans" by Ronnie Cummins. A biased source, since Cummins is the National Director of the Pure Food Campaign. The article was published in 1996. I am seeking more current opinions and data for my paper. 

"The Problem with the Safety of Roundup Ready Soybeans" by Judy Carman, MPH, PhD Flinders University. "Reliability of source?" I wrote on the first page after skimming the article. The author has a doctorate degree, but so did my creative writing professor and that didn't make him an expert on soybeans. Also the statement, "However, raw soybeans will be fed to cattle. Steak is often served medium rare to rare. Therefore, there is a possibility that people will consume this new still-functional enzyme in their diet" reminds me of the concerns of the ex-hippies in my Mom's food co-op.

"Mysterious DNA in Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybeans" by Andrew Pollack of the New York Times. Again somewhat outdated material since it was written August 16, 2001. The article was about the publication of a paper about the DNA of Roundup Ready soybeans in the Jouranl European Food Resarch and Technology. If I get ambitious I could try to hunt up that paper. 

I also visited Monsanto's (the company that developed Roundup Ready soybeans) website. 

I was sidetracked by the statistics for blueberry production and value for the last five years in the Michigan Agricultural Statistics for 2007-2008. In 2007 18,500 acres of blueberries were harvested in Michigan yielding 93 million pounds of berries. Along with blueberry statistics I found statistics about soybeans, interesting graphs, and the URL of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee. 

I began searching academic sources using SVSU's database. I requested on article through ILLiad (our electronic library loan system) and found another that was available on micro-film on the second floor on the library. I don't know how to use micro-film, so I chose not to pursue that article. 

Continuing my search

Since this is an academic paper, I must include peer-reviewed sources. I will be electronically visiting SVSU's databases again.

I may try to interview a local farmer about his opinion of genetically modified soybeans.

We receive extra credit for illustrations in our papers. That's a good excuse to head outside with my camera. 


  1. I think you should check out the micro-film just for so you can say you experienced that part of history. Kind of like listening to records on a turntable...

  2. Maybe if I wait long enough I'll be able to access the micro-film on the internet. Patrons of the Grace Dow Library can access newspapers from 100 years ago online. How cool! Course I don't think I can wait 100 years for the micro-film.