It's kind of crazy writing college papers. Back when I got my Bachelor's, the internet was still young and was basically worthless for researching. I remember spending many days at the library checking out books, scribbling notes out of encyclopedias, and photocopying magazine articles and scratching notes for references on the back. I hate to think about how many acts of blatant plagiarism I committed just because there was really no way to get caught...my computer was great for word processing, but not much more.
Now we have the world's biggest library in our house and on our phone. Once you learn how to navigate it, it's an amazing place! No Dewey Decimal System to bother with and no pesky librarians 'shusshing' you. You'd think plagiarism would be rampant now, but the universities have gotten smart! Before turning in any paper, you must first submit it to Turn It In .com. This is a student's worst nightmare! An automated "originality" checker. Once submitted, your paper is matched against the entire internet to look for strings of words that match strings of other people's words...and given an originality score. All of my papers so far have received a "zero" which means completely original. The school policy is that no paper may have a TurnItIn score higher than 10%. Properly cited quotes do not count against the originality score. One student lamented in an online discussion that her paper had received a "60%" meaning it was only 40% original.
Had I written this blog prior to turning this paper in to TurnItIn, it supposedly would have gotten a "100% plagiarized" score.
How a Presidential Memorandum on Insect Pollinators will Effect the Field of Biotechnology
On June 20, 2014, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum titled, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” This memorandum was in response to a marked decrease in two key plant pollinators: honey bees and monarch butterflies (Obama, 2014). The decline in populations of these pollinators may have an impact on agricultural products as up to 70% of food crops rely on insect pollination to some extent (Pettis, Lichtenberg, Andree, Stitzinger, Rose 2013). The exact cost of the decline in honey bees and monarch butterflies will never be enumerated, but if pollinators disappear it is estimated the decline in agriculture production would be approximately 3-8% (Pettis et al., 2013). The Presidential memorandum places a $15 billion value attributed to honey bee pollination and also mentions losses incurred by beekeepers and honey producers and the loss of honey bees and monarch butterflies is of concern to scientist and citizen alike. This Presidential memorandum has numerous implications for the field of Biotechnology.
The honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the workhorse of a lucrative industry. Orchard owners pay beekeepers to place colonies near their trees and consumers buy over $2.8 billion in honey and bee products yearly (United States Department of Agriculture, 2014). In 2006, a dramatic decline in honey bees was noticed by beekeepers across the nation. A condition known as “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)” was soon diagnosed. Over the last ten years CCD has caused a 33% decrease in the population of bees kept by colony owners. Similar declines have been seen throughout history but never to this extent (Johnson, 2010).
The decline in monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, is not of economic importance, rather, people enjoy seeing monarch butterflies. They are the official state insect of seven US states and as Tierra Curry, senior scientist, Center for Biological Diversity recently said, “We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans (Curry, 2014).” The decline in these easily recognizable icons is primarily due to the loss of the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, which the monarch butterfly relies on completely for parts of its life cycle (Tyler Flockhart, Pichancourt, Ryan Norris, Martin, 2014).
The Presidential memorandum established a Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and consists of at least 14 department and office heads. The mission of the task force is to establish a national strategy (comprising a research plan, education plan, and public-private partnerships) and to increase and improve pollinator habitat. This memorandum has both good and bad ramifications for the biotechnology field.
Possible Positive Outcomes on the Biotechnology Field
Judging by the numerous articles and news stories praising this presidential memo, it appears to be a public relations success. The inclusion of the monarch butterfly was a stroke of genius in terms of popular support. Many people are not particularly fond of bees and those outside the bee industry cannot see the declines in bee numbers or revenue, but millions upon millions of people have noticed a decline in monarchs. Garnering public approval of the plan will help ensure that little opposition is given to spending plans. The mandated education portion will lead to the need for biotechnology experts across many fields as the strategy is put into motion. Aside from public support, these actions will also lead environmental improvements, secure the insect pollinated food supply, ensure beekeeper solvency, and lead to reforms in agricultural practices that decimate critical animal habitat.
Possible Negative Effects on the Biotechnical Field
The memorandum also has negative implications for the biotechnology field. Tough questions will have to be asked, and answered, concerning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food crops and pesticides. The price of remediation will be staggering if it is determined that the pollinator decline is due to the overabundant use of GMO plants that either kill critical habitat or impact bee/butterfly survival. The impact of removing GMO crops and pesticides to protect honey bees and monarchs could far exceed the cost of having no monarch butterflies or honey bees (Brooks, Barfoot, 2013) putting the biotechnology industry in an ethical dilemma of cost versus reward for complying with the national strategy on pollinator health.
Several environmental groups observing monarch butterflies blame herbicide and insect tolerant GMO crops for the destruction of the common milkweed, other weeds important to the monarch’s life cycle, and the monarch itself. Some of these groups may have ulterior motives involving the elimination of GMO crops at any cost. GMO crops have been a mainstay of US agriculture for nearly 20 years, removing them now would have an impact on the global food supply and economic stability of the entire agribusiness realm. Americans have acknowledged a willingness to collectively pay over $6 billion for monarch restoration efforts, but many will not be willing to pay higher food and fuel costs in perpetuity for the enjoyment of seeing monarch butterflies or bolstering the bee industry (Diffendorfer, Loomis, Ries, Oberhauser, Lopez, Semmens, Thogmartin, 2013).
The quandary of solving the problem of insect pollinator declines will rest firmly with biotechnologists, not the department heads of various government agencies. Possibly this Presidential memorandum will produce sweeping changes, save the honey bee industry, and preserve monarch butterfly habitat. It also may get bogged down in legislation and be taken up by lobbyists from both sides of the GMO debate while honey bee and monarch butterfly populations continue their steep declines.
Brooks, G., Barfoot, P. (2013). The global income and production effects of genetically modified (GM) crops 1996-2011. GM Crops and Food. 2013 Jan-Mar;4(1):74-83. doi: 10.4161/gmcr.24176.
Curry, T., (2014). After 90 Percent Decline, Federal Protection Sought for Monarch Butterfly.
Center for Biological Diversity.
Diffendorfer, J. E., Loomis, J. B., Ries, L., Oberhauser, K., Lopez-Hoffman, L., Semmens, D.,
Thogmartin, W. E. (2013). National valuation of monarch butterflies indicates an
untapped potential for incentive-based conservation. Conservation Letters.
Johnson, R. (2010). Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Congressional Research Service
Obama, B. (2014). "Presidential Memorandum -- Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators." Washington DC: The White House.
Pettis, J. S., Lichtenberg E., Andree M., Stitzinger J., Rose R. (2013). Crop pollination exposes honey bees to pesticides which alters their susceptibility to the gut pathogen Nosema ceranae. . PloS one, 8(7), e70182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070.
United States Department of Agriculture (2014). National Honey Report. Number XXXIV, #8