Clarification and Education

FROM THE MARCH ISSUE: Editor Lisa Gibson previews the magazine, including feature articles about the enhancement of yeast for ethanol production,ethanol and corn education initiatives, a biofilm-fighting success story, and more.
By Lisa Gibson | February 21, 2019

I have to laugh when I see labels that say “non-GMO” on food products that haven’t been genetically modified anyway. Peanuts and sunflower seeds, for example. There aren’t any GM peanuts or sunflower seeds on the market, so the label is a feel-good tactic aimed at people of the mindset that GM food is tainted, unhealthy or somehow harmful. It showed up on potatoes before any GM potatoes were available. Many people don’t quite understand what genetic modification actually is and how it’s done.

In my days as the editor of an agricultural journal, I read and published multiple letters from readers, clarifying that GM was the practice of coaxing evolution in organisms, using traits from other naturally occurring organisms. Cold and pest tolerance in crops, for example. It’s not artificial food. It doesn’t involve chemicals. Anyway, I digress.

My point is that genetic modification is largely misunderstood. In the ethanol industry, we have a better handle on it because yeast is genetically modified. It’s amplified to make sure it’s tolerant of high temperatures, solids and organic acids; it’s altered to inhibit glucoamylase production. Yeast for ethanol production is tailored to produce ethanol efficiently. It’s the focus of the cover story, starting on page 16. Freelancer Susanne Retka Schill delves into the specific tactics used by yeast providers in modifications of their products. The practice has been polished by those who do it, shaving off time and money. One source even says widespread genetic modification of yeast could help educate the public on the process, prompting its acceptance. I really hope so.

Education is crucial, whether it’s about GMOs, or ethanol itself and its many benefits. In Kansas and Ohio, state corn groups have teamed up to offer workshops to train teachers on ethanol education. Then, they provide materials and funding so those teachers can educate their students, offering labs and visits to ethanol plants. It’s an incredibly useful and effective strategy in those states. Turn to page 24 to find out more.

Our last feature in this issue focuses on biofilm. Bob Jewell from Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. is vocal about the measures his plant takes to prevent and control it. From grime to gleam, a biofilm-free cooling system can affect many facets of a plant’s performance. It starts on page 32.
Back to yeast, the contribution at the end of the magazine focuses on health, laying out some problems caused by standard bacteria-control strategies.

It seems the common themes through this issue are clarification and education. In our industry, those concepts are crucial and, rightfully, are dedicated much time and attention.

Now, if only we could communicate our knowledge to the peanut and sunflower seed sectors.

Author: Lisa Gibson