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MD Grange: Biotechnology can help food challenges

By Ike Wilson, Frederick News-Post, MD (11/12/12)

  NOVEMBER 13, 2012 --

Biotechnology could be a solution to the nation's food production challenges.

Jimmy Gentry made that case at the recent Maryland State Grange 138th Annual Session held at FSK Post 11 American Legion in Frederick.

The oldest agricultural family fraternal organization in the country, the grange conducts community service projects and provides a voice for its membership in government affairs.

With an increasing population and decreasing farmland, challenges for agriculture are mounting, said Gentry, overseer of the national grange and president of the North Carolina State Grange.

"We are losing farmland at alarming rates to development, and it is becoming more difficult to find adequate and affordable labor to work on farms," Gentry said. "With these and other challenges that producers are facing, how will we feed an increasing population?"

One answer centers around agricultural biotechnology research, which has been proven to increase yields and reduce labor per unit of production, Gentry said. Such advances will be an important part of increased production in the future, he said.

"At its simplest, biotechnology is technology based on biology," according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization's website, bio.org.

"More than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests, and reduce farming's impact on the environment," the website says.

Grange members also approved a number of resolutions during their annual session, including calling for increasing milk consumption in school lunches and increasing school lunch portions.

The three-day meeting drew about 60 people, and an additional 100 people from across the state attended the Ag/Awards Banquet.

The "Service to Maryland Agriculture Award" was presented to Ralph and Sarah Adkins. Nicole Ripley Myers of Linganore Grange No. 410 received the Granger of the Year Award.

Sheila Selzer of Linganore Grange No. 410 received the Youth Booster Award. Maryland State Grange Secretary Donna Wiles presented New Market Grange No. 362 with the Secretary's Honor Grange Award.

Grange members from across the state collected 400 bras for the WFRE Radio "Bras for the Cause" campaign, and the "Change 4 Grange Campaign" donated $200 for the radio station's Breast Cancer Awareness Month project. The money goes to the Women's Center at FrederickMemorial Hospital's Crestwood branch.

The Grange Youth donated $1,000 to the Libertytown Food Bank and $500 to the "Very Special Arts of Loudoun County, Virginia." The money was raised through youth-sponsored Rock-A-Thons over the past two years.

Attending the Maryland annual session was a great experience, Gentry said.

"This group really cares about the future of our country and the welfare of agriculture," Gentry said. "Many good resolutions were passed that places the Maryland State Grange in a good position to have a voice as issues arise in the state and federal legislative bodies."

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