Rhonda Stoltzfus’ 500 words | Becoming an Activist for Modern Ag

Rhonda Stoltzfus’ 500 words | Becoming an Activist for Modern Ag

Rhonda describes her journey from organic farming in Iowa to becoming a proponent for genetically engineered crops on Maui.

Rhonda has BSc in Horticulture from Iowa State, which is also where she met her husband. She enjoys raising their children, writing about genetic engineering on her blog “Iowa Meets Maui”, and spending time on Maui’s beautiful beaches.

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I’ve become an activist. I started out as an organic farmer, and somewhere along the line, in the last 20 years, I became a pro-Monsanto activist. I went from growing organic strawberries in Iowa to battling an anti-science group in Maui. It was a bit of a journey.

I’m from California originally, a pharmacist’s daughter in a small ranching and bee-keeping community. I didn’t become involved in agriculture until I discovered gardening. Imagine my delight when I learned you could receive a degree in fruit and vegetable production! I moved to Iowa, earned a BS in Horticulture, and found a nice farm boy to marry who was studying Plant Breeding. He took a position with a small seed company and I started my fruit farm. The term GMO never came up in our house – my husband was a corn breeder. How it was accomplished was a non-issue.

The first year on my farm I had one rule: No Pesticides. This lasted until the thistles showed up in my fields. I spent several days hoeing before calling my farming father-in-law to come up with the sprayer. My journey from organic to conventional had begun.

The more I learned about organic vs. conventional production methods, the more disgusted I became with the label ‘organic’. What my father-in-law was using in his fields was nothing more than a synthetic version of what I was allowed to spray under organic guidelines. A few semesters of chemistry came seeping back through the fog of my memory and I realized there was no difference in how any of these chemicals – synthetic vs. ‘natural‘ – would effect my body if I chose to eat food produced with one over the other.

Around the time I was becoming disillusioned by the organic label, the small company my husband was working for was bought by Monsanto. I spent the next few years grilling my husband as to the factual nature of every nasty thing I heard about his new employer. It soon became clear that NONE of it was true. Not a thing. Not the farmer suicides in India, not the claims of baseless litigation against U.S. soy farmers, and certainly not the claims of world domination.

We’ve since moved to Maui where my husband continues to work for Monsanto. If you are tuned in to news of genetic engineering, you may have heard that a small group of citizens here have managed to bring a ‘ban on farming with biotechnology’ to our ballot. That’s right, the citizens of Maui County get to decide if 600 families will still have jobs when they wake up on November 5th. How can a group of people put science up for vote on a ballot?

Over the last year, I’ve become an activist.   A cheerleader for Monsanto. A lover of GMO. I’m a reluctant public speaker, but have found myself testifying in support of Monsanto and biotechnology before our county council. I’ve starting writing about this travesty of the law. I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen about the company and the great people that work with my husband. Well, they work with him until November 4th. The voters of Maui County get to decide whether they still work together on November 5th.

All facets of agriculture need to become far more vocal about the benefits of GE before a petition like the one in Maui shows up on your local ballot. Everyone needs to become an activist for modern ag.

If you would like to share your story on GMOs or an experience in science communication with us at Skepti-Forum please see our prior posts: here for GMO Perspectives, and here for Adventures in Science Communication.
Photo Credit: Peter Lui Photography | CC