By Kitty Gordon
Avid “Beyond the Rows” readers will have been introduced to my fellow intern Rory, and will know a little about who we are, and why we’re with Monsanto for the summer. For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to read Rory’s blog, I’ll fill in the gaps.
My name is Kitty Gordon. I am a 26 year old Communications and Public Relations student from Aberdeen in the north east of Scotland, and part of the fantastic Saltire program.
The Saltire Foundation is a Scottish organization established in 2006 with a view to nurturing ambitious Scottish talent (that’s us by the way), and through international internships giving them unrivalled experience in business on a global scale.
This year there are a record 54 students from Scottish universities taking part in Saltire internships the world over. I am fortunate enough to be one of those interns, spending eight weeks with Monsanto’s Corporate Marketing and Communications department at the Creve Coeur campus in St. Louis.
My main interests in my field of study are Corporate Social Responsibility and reputation. Anyone familiar with Monsanto and the legacy they carry with them, will understand what I mean when I say I could not be better placed for my internship, and I know I will learn so much during my time here.
Obviously GM is fairly controversial; the global acceptance levels vary staggeringly. Certainly back home in sunny Scotland, we are resistant to the notion of GM foods and to a degree romanticize the idea of living off the land. Perhaps this is because in most cases, we can. A relatively temperate climate, despite how frequently we complain about the weather, means that Scotland’s agriculture rarely fails or suffers blows that have the ability to devastate lives or communities. Even if we were so unfortunate, the country itself hardly relies on the products provided by our own agriculture. A large portion of our food is imported, and we are affluent enough as a nation to be able to source from whichever region or country has the finest crop. Hunger, or lack of food, just isn’t a widespread problem.
In fact, Scotland ranks second in the world for obesity rates. Rivaled and surpassed only by: none other than the USA. High five for us? Perhaps not.
It is rare to read the word ignorance without the implication of criticism, it is certainly not a criticism though when I say that Scotland as a whole is largely ignorant of the benefits of GM foods and crops. I am included in this. Before I came to Monsanto, I had little knowledge or understanding of GM outside the occasional news article condemning it, and urging us to live from the fat of the land. I don’t claim to have had any personal concern either way. If something tastes good, and is affordable, my needs have been met.
I write this on my eighth day at Monsanto, as a true conscript to the future of GM. By day two in fact, in no small part due to the fantastic tours of the Monsanto facilities, I wholeheartedly believed that there is little option but to accept GM foods and crops. As Rory told you in his blog, mankind will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the last 10,000 years combined due to a rapidly growing population. If we attempt to do this by organic cultivation, given the challenges the industry faces, I struggle to see that it can be done.
GM is not just exciting because of the vast potential to change the ability of developing countries to weather the challenges of crop and food production, but the ability to help America and Scotland drop a few places on the aforementioned fat list.
During my tour of Creve Coeur, our tour guide told us of the incredible technology being used here to develop seeds, and in turn oils, that have lower saturated and Trans fats. If we consider that these oils are made and sent to wholesale food producers, the potential to lower our saturated fat intake is really quite vast. Given the amount of fat intake we indulge in across our two nations, this can only be a good thing.
Actually, fat intake brings me inelegantly to my experiences of the U.S so far. Anyone who has ever shared a see-saw with me will know I like my food, and what better place to be than America for variety and volume when it comes to sustenance.
Most of my food related dalliances in my time here have been excellent, Creve Coeur cafeteria is unbelievable by the way, and I’ll probably go home a little rounder due to all those Trans fats I mentioned. Particularly if I indulge in another blooming rose. A deep fried onion dish that is truly disgusting, but tastes amazing. This culinary delight was brought to us by one of the residents at our long stay hotel, just one of the many fantastic people we’ve met here so far.
Our hotel in Westport is a little community of people from all walks of life: the good, the bad, and the hilarious. Staff and residents alike have been so welcoming and fun, taking great delight in our “funny accents”, inability to cross the road (sadly me, not Rory) and enthusiasm for all things U.S.A.
The experience in the office has been much the same, with countless offers of advice and help, tips on what to do in the area, and where best to do it.
As for the “have a nice day” phenomenon: it’s brilliant! I really enjoy the friendliness in St. Louis, and the enthusiasm that people have for life and everything in it. Mouths would hang agape at home if I finished every conversation with such a nicety. As we say in Scotland: they’d think I was a right daftie.