Connect with us

Business News

Monsanto and Dicamba, a drama of Shakespearean proportions

(BUSINESS NEWS) Agriculture is easily the world’s most important industry but what happens when seed companies and chemical companies start battling?

Published

on

monsanto

Let’s talk about weeds.

Not that kind of weed. Fun as it is to write about, socioeconomically speaking weed has nothing on weeds. Really get your head around the following number: per the USDA, and they’d know, as of 2012, 41 percent of the land area of the United States was used for agriculture.

That’s not “arable land” or “cleared land” or any other qualifier. All of it. From the peaks of the Rockies to the bit under the squeaky spot in your shower, two-fifths of this absurdly large country is used for one industry.

Between that and, yknow, keeping everybody from starving, agriculture is the Most Important Thing. Anything that changes how agriculture works quite literally changes the country.

Right now, there’s a scary consensus building among experts that it’s changing for the worse.

This is a tale of two names. The first is one you’ve probably heard. In fact, if you’re interested in agriculture or just follow the news (at quality outlets like American Genius, you well-informed, conscientious and terribly attractive person, you) you probably saw this name coming as soon as you knew this was about crops and drama: Monsanto.

Monsanto is a gigantic deal. They’re the world’s biggest seed supplier, with 26 percent of the global market. In particular, they’re far and away the leading seller of genetically modified seed. Roughly 40 percent of cropland in the United States is planted with crops that have patented Monsanto data in their eeny little genes.

They’re also drama magnets. They got straight-up busted for falsifying accounting data in 2016, and they’re under constant fire from folks who have a problem with genetically modified crops in general, since those are Monsanto’s large, seed-filled, faintly glowing bag.

That’s not the problem. The problem is they may be killing crops.

That brings us to the second name: dicamba. Dicamba is a weed killer, patented in 1967 and sold as Banvel, Diablo, Oracle and Vanquish, which I’m pretty sure were my first four WoW characters.

Obviously, dicamba isn’t new. What’s new is that Monsanto has formulated dicamba-resistant seed. That’s a big deal. The thing about plant killers is that they kill plants. As a rule, if you hose down your farm with a herbicide, you stop having a farm pretty quickly.

Monsanto is Monsanto because they changed that. They developed herbicide-resistant crops, specifically resistant to a plant killer called glyphosate.

You may have assaulted a dandelion or two with glyphosate yourself; it’s RoundUp. For decades, you could spray your fields with RoundUp and only the bad stuff would die. 80 flipping percent of American crops are grown from glyphosate-resistant seed, and Monsanto invented it.

Unfortunately, as a wise man once said while fleeing velociraptors, life… finds a way. Weeds are developing glyphosate resistance, or being displaced by species that already have it.

Monsanto needed to make lightning strike twice, and they chose dicamba. They engineered dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean seed and got it on the market, fast.

Then, crops started dying.

There’s no question that’s happening. According to a 2017 survey, 3.1 million acres of crops showed damage from drifting dicamba. The question is what’s causing it, and how (and whether) we can make it stop.

The problem is volatilization. Tl;dr on volatilization is that once administered, herbicides evaporate, forming clouds that move, condense and fall on other plants in unpredictable ways. Dicamba is infamously bad about that. Monsanto, as well as BASF and Du Pont, claimed to have formulated low-volatility versions that solved that problem.

Agriculture scientists and farmers alike have questioned those claims. Reports from multiple parts of the 26 million acres of land now planted with dicamba-resistant seed have described crop damage consistent with volatilization, the problem Monsanto et al said they’d fixed.

Monsanto’s argument is that the damage is just growing pains, the unavoidable consequences and human error that go with bringing a new product to market. The company claims that in 88 percent of cases investigated by Monsanto, the new herbicide had not been used in accordance with directions.

But scientists were able to replicate the effect in controlled conditions: a field sprayed according to Monsanto’s rules for low-volatility dicamba damaged an unsprayed field nearby, just by sharing the same air. According to those scientists, the patterns of crop damage also conflict with the Monsanto claim.

Monsanto is already fielding accusations of rushing or scamming scientific oversight on other products. Weed scientists are making similar accusations about dicamba-resistant seed. Whether that’s the case here or not has yet to be determined.

What is not in debate is that America’s most important industry is facing a serious problem. How – and whether – it gets fixed will have repercussions well beyond Monsanto’s market share.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business News

The best jobs in America, 2018 edition

(BUSINESS NEWS) Is your job on the list of the best jobs? Is this your year?

Published

on

jobs working

Whether you love or hate your job, like any other human, you want to know how it ranks on the list of all occupations. And also like any other human, you know that the tech industry is going to dominate any ranked list of this nature.

And of course, you’re right.

Indeed’s 2018 list of The Best Jobs in the United States, the top 25 are mostly tech jobs.

The jobs themselves range wildly in terms of salary, required education level, field, and availability, though all fall above the $75,000 per year mark. As is to be expected, a large number of the jobs in question are located in the tech field, though you might be surprised to see several other fields holding prominent spots as well.

One such field is construction, though there are a couple of caveats in the field’s growth itself. As job persuasions such as construction management and construction estimator make their way onto the list of the top 25 jobs of 2018, the respective hiring departments are forced to contend with decreasing searches for construction jobs as the year has progressed.

While the results should speak for themselves, it’s clear that anyone looking to hire in the construction field will have a bit of pandering on their hands.

Tech jobs such as full stack developer and computer vision engineer are still at the top of the list – a position which hasn’t changed much from last year – and the actual number one spot, while not quite as tech-oriented as past years, is commercial project manager.

Indeed notes that the position of the role of machine learning engineer is especially surprising (spot number 4) given its number 17 spot on last year’s list.

Naturally, the rise in self-driving technology and the interest in AI has most likely influenced the sudden jump this year; if you’re someone with the proper education and skills in the machine learning department, this should be your year.

A couple of outliers on the list include plumbing engineer (spot number 14), registered nurse in the infusion field (spot number 24), and optometrist (spot number 7). As Indeed points out, healthcare roles in 2018 have made an unexpected appearance on this list; naturally, such positions fall on the “more education” side of the spectrum, but their involvement makes for a nice contrast with the normal tech backdrop.

The full top 25 list:

  1. Commercial project manager
  2. Full stack developer
  3. Computer vision engineer
  4. Machine learning engineer
  5. Preconstruction manager
  6. Construction superintendent
  7. Optometrist
  8. Data scientist
  9. Chief estimator
  10. Development operations engineer
  11. Agile coach
  12. Construction estimator
  13. Senior talent acquisition manager
  14. Plumbing engineer
  15. Project superintendent
  16. Staff pharmacist
  17. Head of sales
  18. Commercial real estate agent
  19. Construction manager
  20. Project architect
  21. Product owner
  22. Senior clinical specialist
  23. UX researcher
  24. Registered nurse – infusion
  25. Partnership manager

Continue Reading

Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

Published

on

remote work

Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

Continue Reading

Business News

Verb develops your team’s talent while making a major social impact

(BUSINESS NEWS) Any sized team can improve their talent, but add in a dash of social good, and Verb has the platform to rule them all.

Published

on

verb

More organizations are looking to offer training opportunities for their employees (but with an emphasis on more efficiency, cost effectiveness, and impact than traditional classroom instruction) – and there are a number of solutions. Organizations can seek to leverage those same on-demand resources that consumers are using (Like Lynda.com) or using their own internal corporate learning solutions to host content (like Cornerstone On-Demand, Accord, or other LMS (that’s uh – Learning Management System, non-talent TD folks)) providers, and hope by doing so they develop employees and solve the variety of skill gaps that are emerging for a millennial and post-millennial workforce.

Verb seeks to offer a flexible learning solution that also solves a secondary challenge: getting employees to be more engaged with work.

The product offers subscription style learning, offering focusing on the core skills like communication and leadership skills. Specific skill development is bestowed upon employees through four types of learning elements: articles, activities, courses, and impact programs. This suggests that the learning is focused not only on content and theoretical learning, but also activity based and impact styles of learning to help employees transfer those skills into the workplace.

The standout of this learning solutions it that it seeks to drive in something that a lot of young professions seek – purpose.

Verb connects with social impact organizations to facilitate learning opportunities and promote development. A great example from their blog is a Summer partnership with United Way for Greater Austin (check it out) where they conducted a five-week leadership program that taught local nonprofit professionals how to communicate their organizational strategy and mission more effectively with pitch decks.

Adding in purpose is an emphasis on mentoring, where social entrepreneurs can become impact partners and connect with brands to help improve their visibility, awareness, and credibility.

Social entrepreneurs have a real opportunity to generate their visibility and gain more attention, companies like Sproutel (which have this awesome story about Jerry the Bear – you’re gonna cry if you watch it!) or TOMS both have gained some attention via Verb.

The benefits here are pretty clear – organizations can get a learning solution that helps them develop their employees more effectively and can collect learning metrics that help justify their expense and demonstrate impact.

The most highly regarded quality is mentoring opportunities created to connect them with social impact organizations – and those social entrepreneurs benefit from their visibility. From a learning professional – the opportunity to have experience learning, mentoring, and an engagement opportunity seems like a rare bundle – and one that can be particularly valuable for large and small organizations.

Talent development is a significant investment, and Verb looks like a pretty awesome solution that can nestle in beside other talent development strategies.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

The
American Genius
News neatly in your inbox

Join thousands of AG fans and SUBSCRIBE to get business and tech news updates, breaking stories, and MORE!

Emerging Stories