Monsanto Officials Presenting ‘The Future of the American Food Chain’ at Southeast

milkweed

A bumblebee is seen here on a swamp milkweed plant in August at the Butterfly/Pollinator Garden at the Charles Nemanick Alternative Agriculture Garden.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 3, 2014 – A third of the world’s food supply comes from horticulture crops largely pollinated by a dwindling honey bee population.

“Without the pollinators, about one-third of the world’s food supply becomes unavailable,” said Dr. Sven Svenson, Southeast Missouri State University associate professor of agribusiness and co-advisor to the Horticulture Club.

That’s why Southeast’s Horticulture Club has invited representatives of Monsanto Company to campus Dec. 12 to discuss “The Future of the American Food Chain: Healthy Plants=Healthy Planet.”

“It is natural for our horticulture students to be curious about what Monsanto is doing concerning vegetables and bees,” Svenson said. “So much information concerning our food supply and its safety seems to be coming second and third hand with dubious accuracy.  So, the Horticulture Club students and all of our agribusiness students would like to hear direct, unfiltered information, and provide a venue for the University community and the general public to hear the same.”

Presentations are scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon in Academic Hall Auditorium. Three 50-minute sessions are planned with question-and-answer sessions at the end of each. The Southeast Missouri State University Horticulture Club is hosting the event which is free and open to all students, industry members and the public.

Monsanto presenters scheduled to speak are:

  • Pam Howlett, Regulatory Law and Policy
  • Jerry Hayes, Beelogics Commercial Lead
  • Traci Ramsey, Global Vegetables-Commercial Human Resources and Southeast alumna
  • Eric Park, Sunny Gilbert and Dilip Chandu, Scientists
  • Sarah Vacek, Soybean Quality Traits Product manager
pumpkins

Pumpkins fields in early August at the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center. The vines have few pumpkins without bees.

Svenson will moderate the discussion along with Heidi Clark, Horticulture Club co-advisor, and officers of the Horticulture Club. The club is organizing the program as a public service to the southeast Missouri region and hopes the program will be well received and appreciated, Svenson said.

“People hear the word ‘horticulture’ and think about backyard tomatoes, landscaping, mowing lawns, sports fields, golf courses, flower arrangements, greenhouses, and botanic gardens,” he said.  “These are all part of horticulture, but horticulture also provides another important aspect of our daily lives.”

Horticulture crops – such as blueberries, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes and peaches — are high in nutritional value, Svenson said. So studying declining honey bee populations which are critical in their pollination and are threatened by Colony Collapse Disorder is important.

“Over 80 percent of these horticulture crops require bees or other pollinators to help the plants create the fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts we eat, not to mention all the value-added products like vegetable and fruit juices, coffee, chocolate, pizza sauce, potato chips, strawberry jam, and wine,” he said.

As important as horticulture crops are by themselves, their production, distribution, and use is intricately linked to the larger calorie grain crops like soybeans, rice, corn, and wheat.  Since horticulture crops and grains provide much of the feedstock for the production of beef, pork, and chickens, the horticulture crops are linked to the entire American Food Chain, according to Svenson.

“As issues related to food safety, biotechnology, and government regulations impact any portion of the American Food Chain, they similarly impact horticulture crops.  Therefore, it is difficult to discuss horticulture crops without addressing the entire American Food Chain,” he said.

In addition to bee health, other topics to be addressed by Monsanto officials Dec. 12 include safety and testing regarding biotech crops and nutritional attributes of certain products, the vegetable seed business, and grain channel and commercial production management.

Visitors to campus attending the program may obtain a parking permit from Parking Services with the Department of Public Safety at 1401 N. Sprigg Street in Cape Girardeau or parking@semo.edu.

For more information, contact Svenson at (573) 986-6878.