Nancy Vosnidou's 500 Words | Let's Talk More

Nancy Vosnidou’s 500 Words | Let’s Talk More

Our 500 Word project is well underway to becoming a 500 Story project. Telling this story is Nancy Vosnidou who offers a perspective that is so often not heard with the near-superstitious fear surrounding a particular biotech corporation. Nancy is a mom of two amazing daughters, and works as the Scientific Communications Manager at  Monsanto. She is also a classically trained violinist who plays with a community orchestra, and a die-hard sci-fi nerd who spends too much time watching reruns of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.
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I’ve been a scientist for 25 years.

I have seen firsthand, and been part of, some incredible advances that make huge differences in how we, as human beings, live. Among my experiences: a refrigeration valve company, a hot dog producer (you’d be surprised at the high quality!), a clinical diabetes lab (saw firsthand how GMO insulin revolutionized treatment for people who used to take beef/pork insulin blends), a university (got a PhD in protein biophysics, did nifty stuff like computational modeling), a pharmaceutical company (developed biological drugs for autoimmune inflammatory diseases like psoriasis), and an agriculture company.

Because of my passion for education and scientific outreach – I spent many years mentoring students, tutoring, teaching – in this latest evolution of my twisty and interesting career, I now work as the Scientific Communications Manager for Monsanto.

Yes, I work for Monsanto.  My job is to talk about the complicated, detailed worlds of science and farming, to people who may not have experience with either.

It’s the first job I’ve had where people don’t say “oh you’re a scientist, let’s talk more!”. It’s a job where people say “oh you’re a scientist with Monsanto…” and the “let’s talk more” part never seems to follow. There is usually an unspoken judgment, a slight backing away from the conversation, a virtual door that I can almost hear closing. Talking about science is easy when you work in medicine, or astrophysics, or even mycology (the study of fungi, like mushrooms and yeast – beer and bread!). But talking about science when you work in agriculture? The conversation ends before it even has a chance to begin.

When I did diabetes research, it was easy to connect with people. Everyone knows someone who is affected by this disease, and people are genuinely interested in the science. Isn’t medical science great, saving lives, using the best technologies to make our lives better!

In agriculture, it is hard to connect with people. Most people don’t have to think about where their food comes from. In the US, we spend a lesser percentage of our annual incomes on food than do people in most other countries. Most people are two to three generations removed from farming. We are wealthy as a society, and specialized in the jobs we choose, so that issues like climate change, insect migration, water availability, population growth, dietary shifts, and changing political policies, are almost abstract discussions.

This can’t remain an abstract discussion. Despite the fact that people are disconnected from agriculture, or maybe because of it, people have more opinions about how food is grown than they do about any other scientific area I’ve been a part of.  The conversation can’t continue to be driven by those who don’t understand the basics of science, the basics of farming, and the basics of where this planet is going if we don’t continue developing sustainable technologies that improve the production of our food.

Let’s talk more.

If you would like us at GMO SF to share your story, please see our previous post: Callout for Your Stories! In 500 Words, What is Your Stance on GMOs in Society?
Photo Credit: Pavel Maltsev | CC