Karla Thieman
U.S. Department of Agriculture

As the third youngest of four siblings, Karla Thieman, says her favorite chore growing up on her family’s farm in Concordia, Mo., came during calving season. Family members would take shifts getting up very early on cold mornings in February or March to check on the cows that were calving. “There was always this sense of excitement of potentially finding a new baby calf, and the person who found the calf or pulled the calf would get to name the calf so, that was always a very special honor.”

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- are not exactly a controversial subject at the Ag Innovation Showcase.

The three-day annual event is the place where the agriculture industry comes together to talk about new trends and startups to present to potential investors.

Yet this week at the seventh annual showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, there was also discussion around how people outside of agriculture view the technology. The auditorium was packed for a panel discussion called "Transparency Without Prejudice--Bridging the GMO Divide."

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.)

The Ag Innovation Showcase began on Monday at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. In its seventh year, the three-day event includes panel discussions on trends in agriculture and technology and gives startups a chance to find investors and partners. 

This year, 19 early stage companies will present to possible investors. Those companies are focused on precision agriculture, renewables and sustainables, biological solutions and farming innovations.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Sen. Claire McCaskill is embarking this week on an agricultural tour of the state.

The Missouri Democrat began Monday with a stop at the Danforth Plant Science Center, a non-profit research institute, in suburban St. Louis. The center’s campus also includes the Bio Research & Development Growth Park (BRDG Park), an incubator that houses and helps develop life science startups.

After touring the facility, McCaskill said such research is key to the future of agriculture.

Kevin Kliesen, Business Economist and Research Officer,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Many Midwest farmers will be feeling the effect of this summer’s abnormally wet weather for the rest of this year and into 2016. A new agricultural survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests farmer income will continue to take a hit into next year in part because of the delayed planting of soybeans and the inability to bale hay.

GMOs, Monsanto and the fight against climate change

Jul 12, 2015
A storm hovers over an Illinois rural landscape on May 29, 2015. Extreme weather is likely to become more common in the Midwest under climate change conditions, according to researchers and federal reports.
Darrell Hoemann | Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Twenty years ago, less than 10 percent of corn and soybean acres in the United States were planted with genetically engineered seeds, the type of biotechnology now commonly known as GMOs.

Farmers have rushed to adopt the engineered seeds since then, in part because of climate change concerns.

Rice in Missouri is grown mostly in the Bootheel.

A rice farmer from Dexter, Mo., asked his U.S. representative a question more than 15 years ago that launched two Missouri lawmakers into the first successful effort to open Cuba to U.S. trade since the embargo in the early 1960s.

The change came with restrictions that the Obama administration is now trying to remove, but it was the first crack in that trade wall.

St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:30 pm June 24, 2015 with comments from Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant

The chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Monsanto says the company is still committed to putting together a deal to acquire a European agricultural chemical manufacturer.

Interest in Syngenta remains high, but Hugh Grant has told analysts on Wednesday that Monsanto is keeping options option in case a deal is not reached.

"This isn’t something we’re gonna turn into an epic struggle," he stated during the company's quarterly earnings conference call.

Our previous story from June 23, 2015:

The chairman of Syngenta is laying out the general terms for any possible acquisition by St. Louis-based Monsanto.

Flooded fields, an inability to plant, and the possibility of disease are all concerns Missouri farmers have due to recent rains.
Sonya Green | Flickr

Missouri's farmers are facing significant challenges as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Bill compound an already wet planting season.

Microbiologist Mary-Dell Chilton works in her lab at Syngenta.

Mary-Dell Chilton pioneered the field of genetic engineering in agriculture.

She has spent most of her decades-long career working for Syngenta, where she founded the agribusiness company's research on genetically modified seeds.

But Chilton started out in academia. And it was here in St. Louis, at Washington University, that she led the team that created the first genetically-modified plants in the early 1980s.

File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based Monsanto lined up its experts for a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, to challenge last week’s determination by a World Health Organization committee that the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weed killer could be dangerous to people with frequent exposure. 

soybean and corn fields in southern Illinois
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

A team of 17 cancer experts assembled by the World Health Organization has ruled the most commonly used herbicide a “probable carcinogen.”

Monsanto Inches Closer To Biggest Biotech Launch In Company’s History

Feb 8, 2015
Farmer Jenny Mennenga holds soybean seeds at her family farm near LeRoy, Ill., on Jan. 26, 2015.
Darrell Hoemann | Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting


Update Feb. 16, 2015: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated viruses become immune to antibiotics over time. Antibiotics are primarily used to kill bacteria, not viruses. The story has been corrected to use “bacteria” instead of “viruses.” 

To counter a “super weed” epidemic plaguing farmers, agribusiness giant Monsanto is steadily moving forward on the introduction of its next major wave of genetically engineered crops.

St. Louis Public Radio

When you ask people what they think of Monsanto, it doesn’t take long for the four-letter word to come out.

"I hate Monsanto," Jackie King said emphatically, while shopping at the farmer’s market in Tower Grove Park.

King said she doesn’t like GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, that Monsanto helped pioneer in the 1980s. The subject of GMOs came up a lot, but shoppers at the market looking over locally-grown vegetables voiced a lot of concerns about the company, from patented seeds to its impacts on small farmers.

Melanie Bernds, Danforth Plant Science Center

"Precision agriculture" is the trend to watch at this year's Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The Danforth Center’s Chief Operator Officer, Sam Fiorello, said that's a change for the international gathering.

When the Showcase started in 2009, most of the participating start-ups were using genetic engineering to develop crops that could resist pests, drought or other agricultural stresses.

This year, none of the products presented involve GMOs.    

Courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

KWS, a German agricultural company, is opening a research center at BRDG Park in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s campus.

The company, which specializes in plant breeding, has 4,800 employees in 70 countries. The new facility will be its first molecular plant research space in North America, hiring 25 positions in the first year and another 75 in following years.

GMO Critics Protest At Monsanto Headquarters

May 25, 2014
Monsanto protest
St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of demonstrators protested outside Monsanto’s corporate headquarters in Creve Coeur Saturday.

They called for the agriculture biotech company to end practices they say are harmful to the environment and abusive of the rights of farmers. That includes Monsanto’s development and control of genetically modified, or GMO, crops.

big data
Via Monsanto

Farmers have been collecting data about their farms for decades.

Now all those data are going high tech. Major agricultural companies like Monsanto, John Deere and DuPont have been developing more ways to mine that than ever before – all in the name of helping farmers make better decisions about when to plant, what to plant and how much.


Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s effort to protect Missouri's egg producers from stiffer California mandates is getting support from five states that have joined Missouri’s suit.

The five states are Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa. Combined with Missouri, the six states “produce more than 20 billion eggs per year, 10 percent of which are sold to California consumers,” Koster’s staff said.

(via Flickr/jasonippolito)

Is there any aspect of life that technology hasn’t touched?

While I’m sure people can cite examples in the non-digital sphere, agriculture is not one of them. It hasn’t been for some time – farmers are adept at using all kinds of technology to monitor weather, pricing, soil content. But a new development is taking the idea to a new level. And St. Louis's own Monsanto seems to be leading the way.