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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1413

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we examine Oklahoma’s wheat future and honor some Oklahomans who excel in agriculture.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1413

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1413

For more information visit these links:


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Non GMO Project

Jayson Lusk

Rodd Moesel

Oklahoma Agricultural Hall of Fame

Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

Show Details

Show 1413: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: March 30, 2014



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, today, we begin with a growing debate over the direction of Oklahoma’s top crop. It involves just three little letters, GMO, but three letters that could determine the future of Oklahoma’s wheat industry.

Don Schieber: My firm belief is that we won’t see GMO in wheat in my lifetime.

Brett Carver: Science is not that simple, that’s all I can say.

Rob: In our “Oklahoma Standard,” I’ll introduce you to an Oklahoman whose entrepreneurial spirit has helped him grow a blossoming business.

Rodd Moesel: Our family didn’t have much money so to help pay for going to school I started a business making terrariums.

Rob: Alisa Hines takes us to Kingfisher to meet a teacher helping her students find the science in agriculture.

Rob: Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female Announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future. Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male Announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, biotechnology is nothing new. It permeates our lives from the medicines we take to the clothes we wear, even the food we eat. Yet when it comes to biotech foods called GMOs, which is short for genetically modified organisms, GMOs are where most concerns are raised when it comes to biotechnology, and interestingly enough, not in this country. From Europe to Asia there’s a strong reluctance to eat foods whose genes have been modified. So much so that the wheat industry here in the U.S. has been reluctant to use GMOs, yet a recent editorial in The New York Times questions that policy and sparked a debate among some in the agricultural community on whether it is time to change how we develop new wheat varieties. Joining me now with more on that story is our Andy Barth.

Andy Barth: Well, Rob, wheat breeding is a science that goes back not decades, not even centuries, but thousands of years. Wheat has been called the staff of life because diets around the world are so dependent upon it. So when an Oklahoma agricultural economist penned an editorial promoting increased use of genetic modification in wheat, it began a debate that has ramifications for both the agricultural industry and consumers around the world. It’s the backbone of Oklahoma’s agricultural industry – wheat, a crop that while grown here in the southern Plains is shipped around the world. Today, Don Schieber is elbows deep in wheat flour --

Don Schieber: Kind of getting a little pre-mix here.

Andy: -- cooking cinnamon rolls for members of the American Farmers and Ranchers at their annual conference. Schieber is the past president of the U.S. Wheat Associates, the international marketing group for wheat growers around the country. And he says he understands why the industry has been slower to adopt GMO technology.

Schieber: My firm belief is that we won’t see GMO in wheat in my lifetime. But if we do, it’s going to be because we need it, not because some company wants to get rich over it.

Andy: And one reason GMO wheat is not on the market yet, Schieber says is due to international trade concerns.

Schieber: There’s just too many countries around the world that are not in favor of it at this time. A lot of ’em will say, “We don’t want it. We can’t use it.” But you go behind the camera, behind the closed doors and they’ll say, “We know it’s coming, but we’re not ready for it yet.”

Brett Carver: GMOs or GM crops or GM technology is not without risk or disadvantages.

Andy: Brett Carver is a professor at OSU, specializing in wheat breeding and genetics, and says while genetically modified technology is a valid resource, it’s not one OSU plans to utilize right away.

Carver: We’re looking at the GM option as something that we can, again, access novel genetic variation. But we’re going to do that as a last resort. It’s a tool. It’s a tool in that toolbox. And it’s going to be a tool that we currently are exploring. But it will be a tool used along with other tools, or maybe we would use these other tools first.

Andy: And Schieber says when GMO technology does appear in wheat he wants farmers to still have a say.

Schieber: We still want the farmers to have the choice, GMO or non-GMO. And I think if we have GMOs, and they will make money and will be safe, and it will work for everybody, I think the farmers will use it.

Andy: And while other commodities have embraced GMO technology, Carver says traditional wheat breeding is still cutting edge.

Carver: The concept is wheat lags behind these other crops. So the whole theory can’t be supported. Wheat is not lagging behind those crops. We have the scientific data that shows that. And even in those crops that have the GM technology, the introduction of that technology did not cause a sudden acceleration of genetic progress.

Andy: Advancements that Carver says is still an ever-evolving process.

Carver: Science is not that simple that’s all I can say.

Andy: Well, now both Carver and Schieber agree that the cost of a single genetically modified wheat trait will cost in the hundreds of millions. An expensive program that will undoubtedly face a lot of scrutiny worldwide. But Schieber tells us that the U.S., Canada and Australia have signed agreements stating they will release GMO technology in wheat at the same time to prevent a single nation being scrutinized alone.

Rob: A couple of quick questions for you, Andy. I’ve been told that the wheat genome is particularly complex and subsequently hard to modify genetically.

Andy: It is, Rob. In fact, scientists say wheat has about 17 trillion various sequences, which is five times the amount of DNA that humans have. Still, an international team of scientists has done a complete analysis of the full genome.

Rob: So if the science is there and we have an international agreement among the major wheat growing nations, what’s our hold-up?

Andy: In one word – exports. Fully 35 percent of the world’s 7 billion people depend on this staple crop for survival. And what that means for growers in this country is that almost half of every bushel they harvest will be heading overseas.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Andy. Now if you’d like to learn more about international attitudes over GMO crops, we do have a story I did a few years back, talking to both European scientists and consumers over their skepticism of biotechnology. Just head to and look under this week’s value added section. Now when we return, I sit down with the Oklahoma ag economist who’s advocating a change in policy toward genetically modified wheat.

Male Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

Rob McClendon: Well, Jayson Lusk is no stranger to controversy. Lusk is the author of “The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate,” a book where he takes shots at many of the conventional wisdoms currently held about nutrition and agriculture. And his latest targets are GMOs and those who oppose them in our food supply. Earlier, I sat down with the Oklahoma State University agricultural economics professor here in our studio. So what has changed in the past decade that you think now it’s time that we really address this issue?

Jayson Lusk: Well, I think there are several things. One is there’s a lot of really interesting and exciting research going on, both by food and agribusiness companies, but also by non-profit groups and by universities all across the U.S. So there are a lot of really interesting traits that are being developed that have a lot of promise in terms of biotechnology. Biotechnology, by the way, is not the solution for all the problems; you know, it’s important not to overhype it. But I think it does have the potential to provide advantages to some producers and consumers. So I think that’s one thing. There’s been more technological research that’s come about. Another thing is, you know, we’ve been growing this stuff since the mid-’90s now in corn and soybeans, so it’s been a long period of time and there’s a lot better understanding of the consequences both at the farm level and at the consumer level. We have known for a long time due to all kinds of research, whether it’s animal feeding trials or what not, that there really isn’t any evidence of adverse health consequences from biotechnology. But I think 20 years of eating experience has also partially changed that. And again, we’ve seen very widespread acceptance of these technologies among other farm commodities. So I think it’s a combination of those things, and also when you look at wheat in particular there have been changes that I think have made people perhaps a little more open to the idea. And one of those things is we’ve had a recent drought so thinking about varieties that are more hardy, more tolerant to drought and low water conditions, I think, is something that’s gotten people thinking. And moreover, if you look at the amount of acreage that’s planted to wheat in the United States, it’s really declined quite dramatically over the last 20 to 30 years. And there’s a big combination of factors for why that’s true, but I think it’s also caused people to think a little bit about what is it that has made other commodities like corn and soybeans and, especially in Oklahoma, canola, relatively more attractive. And what is it about wheat that can maybe keep it in terms of maybe making it relatively competitive?

Rob: And in many ways, you know, so goes the U.S., so goes the world. And while you talk about the hardiness traits and the drought tolerance, you know, here we’re really talking about profitability when we talk about those things. But when you go into other parts of the world we’re talking about food security, about them even having the crop to feed themselves.

Lusk: That’s exactly right, and I mentioned early on, one of the fears with some of the genetically engineered varieties is how our importers are gonna react, the people buying the stuff. But if you look at the major importers of U.S. wheat, you know, some of the biggest ones are in countries like Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa actually represents one of the biggest importers. And these countries are deeply concerned about food insecurity. And we’ve seen a lot of political unrest in those countries. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that some of that political unrest came about because of high food prices in 2008 and 2011. So these countries are deeply concerned about being secure, a steady supply of food that’s not too expensive that people in those countries can eat. And so I think that it’s important for these countries to be able to have access to technologies that make food less expensive. And I think those attitudes are also gonna carry over to our trading partners. And by the way, if we in the U.S. were to adopt a genetically engineered wheat variety we probably wouldn’t be the only one. It’s not as if we’re the only country producing wheat. Canada is probably working on it. I can bet there are people in other countries like Australia and elsewhere who are probably thinking about these same issues. And if U.S. producers want to remain competitive in a world market, one of the things they have to do is have some of the best knowledge available, also access to some of the best technologies available.

Rob: And ultimately this could be good for our rural and actually our entire economies here in the southern Plains.

Lusk: I think that’s the idea. Again, if you look at corn and soybeans, the fact that 90 percent of acres are planted in biotech variety, you know, behind every one of those acres there was a farmer making a decision. Which of these varieties do I plant? And sometimes, you know, you hear arguments that, you know, genetic engineering hasn’t delivered on all these great promises. And maybe that’s true. In some cases it was overhype, but at the end of the day you’ve got farmers making decisions. And at least in their eyes, you look at the decisions they’ve made, they’re telling us when they’re voting with their feet and with their dollars they think they’re getting something out of that biotech variety. Whether it’s time savings, whether it’s the ability to remove the downside risk of yields or the ability to convert to no-till practices, I think that when you look at the choices farmers have actually made, we can see that they perceive that there are a lot of advantages.

Rob: Well, certainly an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times and one that I think will, has, started some debate. Thank you so much.

Lusk: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” finding the science in agriculture, but first, the newest inductee into the Oklahoma Ag Hall of Fame.

Rob McClendon: Well, each year as part of Ag Day festivities at the state Capitol, the governor’s office honors an Oklahoman with its Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture. And this year’s winner is a gentleman whose love of growing things is only rivaled by his love of helping others. For Rodd Moesel, growing up meant growing things.

Rodd Moesel: My family had a truck cropping operation in Pauls Valley, Okla. As they made any money they would buy used greenhouses and got in the greenhouse business. After a few years, I guess eight or nine years in Pauls Valley, moved to Oklahoma City, and that’s when I really started being old enough to really remember, remember and do everything. But so, grew up in Oklahoma City and had a greenhouse operation called Moesel’s Hort Haven.

Rob: And from that family business sprang an interest in all things green.

Moesel: Mom had been a 4-H’er, been a national winner in 4-H, so I grew up hearing the stories about 4-H. And we moved to Oklahoma City right when I turned 9, and so we called to find out where the 4-H Club met and they gave us an address on N.E. 23rd Street. And so Dad drove me over there for my first 4-H Club meeting, and we went looking, and he was new to the city, didn’t know, and anyway, it turned out the address was the Governor’s Mansion. And we drove past several times before Dad pulled in and asked the highway patrolman where this address was, and they said, “Well, that’s right here.” So my first 4-H Club meeting was at the Governor’s Mansion when Henry Bellmon was governor for the first time, and my club president was Pat Bellmon, vice president was Gayle Bellmon, and the secretary was Ann Bellmon.

Rob: And so began a life that became a mixture of plants and public service.

Moesel: I was an introverted little kid, scared of everything, and one of the things 4-H does is it encourages young people to reach out, to speak, to make presentations and get involved.

Rob: So while still in junior high, Moesel became a regular fixture on Oklahoma City television.

Moesel: I’d grown up helping people at the family nursery and greenhouse my whole life so I knew quite a bit about gardening. And it was, so I guess a lot of people were fascinated by a little kid who could tell ’em when to plant and what to do. And so I was on weekly for two or three years with Lola and Wayne and Bill and did a gardening segment. And so, got comfortable with that and then ultimately I ended up, Channel 4 called and wanted me to start being on “Danny’s Day.” And that was on like at mid-day so I would sneak out of school for a little bit at the middle of the day and would go do “Danny’s Day” once a week with Mary Hart or Danny, one of the two of them, and did that for a couple of years.

Rob: And it was thanks to 4-H that Moesel then spent a year in our nation’s capital, courtesy of the president.

Moesel: Somehow the president came to speak to National Club Congress, and we got to meet, and he got interested and invited me to be involved in Young Voters for the President. So I ended up in Washington, D.C., working on the Young Voters for the President campaign and then the inaugural, working on the inauguration after that and so forth. So I spent probably a little over a year in D.C. before coming back to start my freshman year.

Rob: At Oklahoma State University where Moesel used his horticulture know-how to pay for college.

Moesel: Our family didn’t have much money so to help pay for going to school I started a business making terrariums. We talked First National Bank of Oklahoma City and a number of other banks into giving terrariums, cause they were hot at the time, when people opened a bank account. We ended up doing thousands of terrariums, and that helped raise my tuition money and all to get through college.

Rob: And a business was born. Today, Rodd and his wife, Donna, own American Plant Products and Services, a wholesale company with annual sales over 6 million, raising foliage plants and selling greenhouse structures and equipment around the nation to both big and small.

Moesel: The more sophisticated the greenhouse, the more it’s our niche, I guess. So the two most important greenhouse ranges in the country are Monsanto at St. Louis and Noble Foundation at Ardmore, Okla. And we had a chance to do the Noble design and build the Noble Foundation facility, which is just remarkable. And then we, that’s led to the opportunity to do lots of seed company and research universities all over the country. So the more sophisticated it is, the fewer people that have the team and the talent to do that, and we like to think that we’re in that group. And then we love helping new businesses start. Right now there’s a whole bunch of folks starting with hoop houses and dual basics, and we love helping new businesses get started.

Rob: All together Moesel has designed and built over 50 teaching greenhouses around the state, which is just part of his commitment to helping everyone understand the role agriculture plays in all of our lives.

Moesel: More and more of our people live in city areas and they don’t get to, even their grandparents aren’t on the farm, so we’ve missed, you know, we’re getting enough generations away that they have no experience to tie into the farm experience. Well, the best way for traditional agriculture to communicate with folks is through the gardening experience because when people garden, they learn that they have to share some with the insects and some with the diseases, and they have to deal with droughts, and they have to deal with floods, and they have to deal with winds. And so all the same issues that farmers face, the gardeners face. And so the more you can get people gardening, the more you can then use that experience to help people understand the problems that a wheat farmer faces or a canola farmer faces or that a cattle raiser faces out on the ranch. So you know, we’re all dealing with real life. That’s a way to help people understand. It’s not just on the shelf at the Safeway or the Homeland or Crest, it’s, it does, you know, the farmer’s battling to get that food ready for them.

Rob: A role Moesel takes seriously, making a point to venture outside Oklahoma’s borders to work with other growers around the world -- helping others, while learning himself.

Moesel: An acre of greenhouse production or an acre of even outdoor truck farming production is equal to many acres of crop production because we’re doing the very same things, just a lot more intensively.

Rob: And Moesel credits his commitment to the Oklahoma agriculture and his dedication to helping others to a life philosophy he learned at home.

Moesel: A lot of that you get from your parents I think, and my parents were very giving, they were into outreach, doing every program they could for every garden club and church group and community garden and so forth from down at Pauls Valley. So we saw that model. And then my dad was in a real bad tractor accident when I was a little kid at Pauls Valley and so, Pauls Valley will always be home because the way the people of Pauls Valley responded. I mean, the people came and plowed the fields, they planted the crops. I mean, Dad was in the hospital for months and for a while we didn’t know if he was gonna live. I was, at that time, in first or second grade but I remember all that. And we had no money. I remember the, we thought, Mom and Dad had prepared us for there wasn’t gonna be anything for Christmas. Well, it’s probably the best Christmas we ever had cause one group came and bought a Christmas tree, another group came and bought gifts, and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus came and woke us up during the night. You know, all kinds of amazing things. And so I guess that whole experience taught me the importance of community and the impact we can have on each other. I don’t know the names of any of those people, but they changed my life and, you know, set a tone that, you know, you wish other people, not could have the bad tractor accident and so forth, but could experience that kind of reaching out. And that kind of love and support for one another, that makes a difference.

Rob: A difference Moesel hopes to make in other people’s lives in everything he does.

Moesel: It’s been a remarkable life. I mean, I’ve been blessed with an amazing wife, an amazing mom and dad and just amazing friends from the first 4-H meeting on. It’s just been remarkable. So, you know, you look back and you wonder what you’d change, but in the end there’s nothing you’d change. It’s just been a real blessing.

Rob: Rodd Moesel, the winner of the 2014 Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture. Moesel is also passionate about small business. In fact, he was instrumental in establishing the Governor’s Council on Small Business. Just one of many reasons we honor Rodd Moesel as an “Oklahoma Standard.”

Rob McClendon: Want to share something you’ve seen here today? Well, all of our episodes are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV, or you can subscribe to our weekly free podcast on iTunes.

Rob McClendon: With fewer and fewer Americans having grown up on a farm, an effort is underway in schools around the nation to help students understand where their food comes from. It’s called Ag in the Classroom, and Alisa Hines met up with their latest award-winning teacher.

Alisa Hines: It’s snowing paper balls in Lisa Storm’s classroom.

Lisa Storm: Now get one that’s not your own.

Alisa: Using Ag in the Classroom curriculum resources, Lisa teaches science using examples from agriculture.


Storm: Even though the subject was a general science subject like matter -- solid, liquid, gas -- we tied it in with what’s really happening today, the snow and the weather, and then we tied it in with how that affects the crops and the farmers and the situations around us.

Alisa: And since most of us are three or four generations removed from the farm, but still dependent upon agriculture to eat, Lisa says using it to teach just makes sense.

Storm: There’re lots of reasons why I use Ag in the Classroom. There’re so many subjects you have to teach in third grade, and you might as well use agriculture topics to teach them rather than anything else. Like if you’re teaching drawing conclusions or making an inference, you could read things about penguins or taxis in New York, or you could read about sheep and wool and pork and wheat in Oklahoma.

Alisa: And for some students, finding out where their food comes from is eye-opening.

Storm: At the beginning of the school year, I find that many of them don’t realize where their food comes from, and so we start with that. You know, where does this hamburger meat come from? Where does pork chop, where do pork chops come from? Even wheat -- they notice wheat, they just don’t realize it’s ground into make flour, and flour makes all these other products. So that’s a big one that we start on.

Student: Oklahoma has a culture that makes us strong.

Alisa: Now Lisa’s students are so excited about what they are learning that she made a video of them talking about Oklahoma agriculture.


Storm: I got my iPad out and we’d done the lesson “Oklahoma Agriculture, Oklahoma Strong,” and so I asked my students, “What do you remember from this?” And they started stating things so then we wrote it down, wrote our script, and we practiced.

Alisa: And as they say, practice makes perfect, turning their video into an award-winning one. Audrey Harmon is a state coordinator for Oklahoma’s Ag in the Classroom and says the class’s video is really eye-catching.

Audrey Harmon: She made sure her class knew about agriculture. They chose agriculture-related books, and then as she went through the classroom, they would say a little bit about agriculture and what they had learned. It brought up a lot of great discussions in her classroom about where their food comes from.

Alisa: Now not only did Lisa win the Ag in the Classroom video contest, but she also won another great honor.


Harmon: Lisa is a fantastic teacher. She’s a great proponent for agriculture. And she’s helped Ag in the Classroom specifically by writing over 50 Smart Board lessons that we can use and offer to teachers in our state and all across the nation.

Storm: Very excited and surprised and humbled because there’s so many good teachers out there.

Alisa: Lisa Storm, Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year.

Rob McClendon: You can keep up with us throughout the week. Just head to where you can see more of any of our stories, read our reporters’ behind the scenes blogs, see what others are saying about us on Twitter and face the facts with our regular updates. So reach out and touch us anywhere, anytime.

Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon” breaking the cycle on incarceration thanks to some of our four-legged friends.

Muddy Paws is actually a really great program. What we do is we give people and dogs second chances.

Plus we’ll meet some veterans cooking up new careers on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Well, we are out of time. I’m Rob McClendon. Thanks for watching. See you back here next week.

Male Announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Helping good people, grow good things. Thank you for watching “Oklahoma Horizon.”