Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bees, Butterflies, Biotech, and Barack

Here's the second paper I did this semester.  It was for BIOT640, Ethical Considerations in Biotechnology...1000 words in APA format on recent legislation that will effect the field of biotechnology.  I received a 95/100 points with the comment that it should have had a bit more discussion on how the field of biotechnology will be effected by this memorandum.

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 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


  1. Could you still submit the paper if you were only plagarizing yourself? ;-)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. That's against the rules, too! They tell you upfront you cannot submit works that you have previously used for other classes or published anywhere.

      All the papers that are turned in get entered in the Turn It In database, so not only do they check you against the internet, but also against all papers that have been turned in previously.

  2. Hate to do this, but: Effect vs. Affect

    1. Give me some guidance there! I batted that back and forth a hundred times, neither word seemed right. The Word spellchecker underlined both words in blue, which was no help.

      I was just looking at this, "affect" does seem the better choice:

      "What is the difference between affect and effect?

      As a verb, to affect means 'to act upon or have an influence on', as in "Sunless days affect my mood." It can also mean 'to make a show of; to put on a pretense of; to feign; to assume' as "to affect ignorance." To effect means 'to bring about or create' as in "to effect a change." If you affect something, you do to it. If you effect something, you cause it to be. Advertising might affect the sales of widgets (by causing them to increase), or it can effect sales (bring them about) if, for example, there were no sales at all to begin with. As a noun, effect means 'result, consequence, outcome'. An effect is that which is produced when you affect something: "The poem affected me deeply; it really had an effect on me." Affect as a noun is a term from the field of psychotherapy meaning 'the emotional complex associated with an idea or mental state'. Keep in mind that usually if you want a noun, the word you want is effect, but if you want a verb, the word you want is affect."

    2. Tim

      You know, I just realized that there are two uses of effect in the paper (the two uses in blog post first paragraph should be "affect"). The second one is correct: "Possible Negative Effects on the Biotechnical Field"

      The first one though is not: "How a Presidential Memorandum on Insect Pollinators will Effect the Field of Biotechnology"

      That one is a verb, and therefore should be "affect." The memorandum in the noun and it is having an action on "the field of biotech."

      If it was written this way: "How a Presidential Memorandum on Insect Pollinators will Effect Changes to the Field of Biotechnology" or something like that, it would be correct.

      Language and grammar; great stuff, eh? :-) I really didn't want to be the grammar nazi, but figured you'd truly appreciate the feedback as these little things can affect the credibility of a paper, no matter the actual content/facts. (Also it can backfire on you if you get it wrong while trying to correct. I'm 99%+ certain I've got this correct :-)

      Affect vs. Effect is one of the tougher ones, no doubt, and can drive you crazy trying to ensure proper usage.

    3. I'm also forever debating the use of 'which' and 'that'. I just read a good should be able to substitute the word 'consequence' any time you use the word 'effect.' Makes sense. But, in your sentence, "How a Presidential Memorandum on Insect Pollinators will Effect Changes to the Field of Biotechnology," it doesn't work...grrrrrrr.

      Thanks for the feedback...have you tackled today's blog?

  3. And no, govt is not likely to make any of this better. More likely is unintended consequences that cause more harm. That's the way these things go.

  4. Hi Tim
    I've been in the horticulture business over thirty years. This year I have noticed a huge increase in honey bees/bumble bees in my neck of the woods (Oklahoma), especially in my garden/landscape plantings. Quite interesting as pollination in my vegetable garden has been challenging over the last several years. No idea why the marked uptick this year, but welcome anyway. Let's hope this continues.
    Love your work by the way. Interesting to chase your work/comments around the internet.

  5. Good luck on your papers!

    Here in Ontario, Canada, a class action lawsuit launched against two manufactures of neonicotinoids could go Canada-wide if beekeepers from enough provinces join.

    This will be interesting to watch since they are not lobbying the government for change.