Photo courtesy of Tim Reinbott.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that it will fund a University of Missouri project focused on building drought resiliency through soil health.  

Over the last year or so, at least 20 states have introduced bills that would require labeling of genetically modified food. The common point of contention is the pervasiveness of grains that have had their DNA altered. But some of these proposed laws – including one in Missouri – take aim specifically at genetically engineered meat or fish. And that got Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson wondering: How close are we to actually eating genetically engineered animals? What she found out might surprise you.

Barrett & MacKay Photography Inc.

Kevin Wells has been genetically engineering animals for 24 years.

“It’s sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Wells recently as he walked through his lab at the University of Missouri - Columbia. “You take DNA apart and put it back together in different orders, different orientations.”

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

Who knew storing grain could be so dangerous?

Things have been heating up at the Bridgeton Landfill, a few miles west of the St. Louis airport.

Whether you call it an underground fire, a smoldering event, or just a chemical reaction, it’s causing temperatures inside the landfill to reach well over 200 degrees.

Regional news coverage from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

Courtesy Todd Feeback/Kansas City Star

When the Bartlett Grain Co. elevator exploded in Atchison, Kan., in October 2011, the town’s 11,000 residents knew it immediately. People who live miles away from the elevator still talk about pictures jumping off walls.

Chad Roberts, 20, was among six people killed in the explosion, one of the deadliest workplace accidents in the last decade. The victims also included elevator employees John Burke, Ryan Federinko and Curtis Field, as well as grain inspectors Travis Keihl and Darrek Klahr. Two others were injured.

Zoe Bock, Roberts’ mother, is still grieving.

Idle ethanol plants wait for new fuel standards

Mar 19, 2013
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Ethanol is an up and down industry, and right now it’s down. Ethanol plants in at least 13 states have stopped running over recent months because of higher corn prices and lower demand for the biofuel. The industry is trying to change the equation by putting more of the ethanol in gasoline. But as Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media reports, ethanol critics are pushing back.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) heard about University of Missouri (MU) research on Friday on subjects such as genetically-modified cassava, food contamination in the global supply chain and root biology in relation to drought. About three dozen professors, economists, students and scientists attended the public meeting at the university's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Just south of Hermann, Mo., Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. processes 2 million pounds of meat a year -- everything from cattle to hogs to buffalo to elk.

And everything gets a label.

“No antibiotics added, raised without added hormones, all natural, minimally processed," Glenn Brandt, the production manager for Swiss Meat, reads from a hefty roll of hickory smoked beef sausage stickers.

What this label does not indicate, however, is whether or not the sausage contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Agriculture officials want to recognize more Missouri farms that have been in the same family for at least 100 years.

More than 8,000 century farms have been honored since Missouri began the program in 1976 as part of the nation's bicentennial celebration.

The University of Missouri Extension says farms that have been in the same family since December 31st, 1913, can receive the distinction. Applications must be postmarked by May 15th.

Photo courtesy of USFRA

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

Missouri farmer Chris Chinn is taking on a high-profile role as one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming and Ranching.” 

Why are there 50,000 snow geese in mid-Missouri?

Mar 15, 2013
Sally French / Missouri Drone Journalism Program

On Saturday as many as 50,000 snow geese congregated at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, a 4,400-acre wildlife refuge southwest of Columbia.

Eric Staszczak / KBIA

An international group that presents research aimed at solving global agriculture issues, is meeting at The University of Missouri today. A public meeting of the Board of International Food and Agriculture Development, or BIFAD, gathers on MU’s campus to draw upon university research to help solve the world’s food problems.    

Mississippi Passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' Bill

Mar 12, 2013

Mayor Mike and his public health edicts are having a rough ride.

On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rule capping soda sizes. And lawmakers in Mississippi are taking the backlash against government regulation on food marketing one step further.

File / KBIA

Climatologists say recent rain and snowstorms are slowly easing the grip of the worst U.S. drought in decades. But the wet weather also is creating some potential headaches.

Sure, we know that gluten-free is the Jennifer Lawrence of food trends. But we were still startled to hear that one-third of Americans say they're trying to avoid gluten. Really?

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Marilyn Andersen raises angora goats and llamas for wool that she spins and weaves in her studio at Two Cedars Weaving in Story City, Iowa. She also has a part-time job coordinating distribution of local produce through a service called Farm to Folk. Neither effort comes with health insurance.

Mansoor Khan for Harvest Public Media

Can a watermelon be grown in the shape of a square? What do Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps eat for breakfast? Which island nation produces the most lamb in the world? Consumers interested in pulling back the curtain on our food system will get these and many other questions answered at “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.” The exhibition, on view now at the American Museum of Natural History, explores how our food is produced, distributed and eaten.

Cows at MU Farm
File Photo / KBIA

The Missouri House has given first-round approval to a measure that supporters say will help protect farmers.
The proposed state constitutional amendment would prohibit laws that limit what it calls modern farming and ranching practices unless they're passed by the Legislature. The measure would add that the right to engage in modern farming and ranching practices are "forever guaranteed."

House members endorsed the measure Wednesday. It needs another vote before moving to the state Senate. If it passes the Legislature, the amendment would go to a statewide vote.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When a group of small farmers in the southeastern U.S. banded together to sue a powerful dairy cooperative a few years ago, many hoped that the case would bring big changes to the milk industry.

But the recent settlement of the case involving Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America Inc., resulted in little long-term reform, even as the farmers received some monetary damages.


Children younger than 16 could avoid future federal regulation and continue to work on their parent's farm under a bill scheduled for a vote this week in Missouri's Senate.

In 2012, the federal government proposed rules that would have prevented children from doing certain agricultural work. The plans were scrapped after opposition from lawmakers, but Missouri's Senate is looking to pass a law just in case.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At an open house at DuPont Pioneer’s Dallas Center Corn Research Center near Des Moines, Iowa, retired corn breeder Bill Ambrose marveled at the tools available today to do the job he did for nearly 40 years.

Generic seeds could have a short lifespan

Feb 22, 2013
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

The winter storm that dumped several inches of snow and ice across much of Missouri may bring some short-term relief to the state’s drought conditions.

Kelly Smith is Director of Marketing and Commodities for the Missouri Farm Bureau.  He says the winter storm arrived on the heels of recent rain events, helping saturate the soil.

“This snow is gonna slowly melt into the ground," Smith said.  "We will get some runoff from it in some areas because they got a 10 to 13-inch snow…we had areas in our state as high as 13, maybe even 15, inches up in north of (the) Kansas City area.”

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?


Consumers in Europe are still shocked and paralyzed after learning that ready-made meals advertised as beef products – lasagna, hamburger, salami – actually contained horsemeat. Authorities are still unpacking the extent of the deception, but the case has already touched at least a dozen countries.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Raw milk cheese — which is made from unpasteurized milk — has gathered a small but fervent following for its taste, nutritional benefits and freshness.

File photo / KBIA

One of the largest economic engines in Macon, Mo. has temporarily halted production. High corn prices forced the Macon POET Biorefining’s ethanol plant to temporarily close.

When Wal-Mart calls, Herman Farris always finds whatever the retailer wants, even if it's yucca root in the dead of winter. Farris is a produce broker in Columbia, Mo., who has been buying for Wal-Mart from auctions and farms since the company began carrying fruits and vegetables in the early 1990s.

During the summer and fall, nearly everything Farris delivers is grown in Missouri. That's Wal-Mart's definition of "local" — produce grown and sold in the same state. In winter, it's a bit tougher to source locally.