COLUMBIA — Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, turned up the Midwestern charm Tuesday morning at Bay Farm Research Center, slamming the movement against genetically modified organisms and assuring MU researchers she wouldn't abide any bias against agricultural research from the National Science Foundation.

"It's ironic to me that the same group that's pounding the table about climate change wants to ignore the science with GMOs," she said. "If you believe in science, you believe in science. You can't just pick and choose depending on the issue."

She also told the agricultural genetics researchers in the room to toughen up and ignore "a small group of people (protesting the growth and sale of GMOs) making a lot of noise."

But McCaskill was alarmed when Tom McFadden, director of MU's division of animal sciences, told her the National Science Foundation seems to avoid funding the application-based research agriculture embraces, and agricultural researchers have learned to frame their projects as more academic research to receive money.

"You shouldn't have to disguise it," she said. "That's something I'd like to go to bat for in Washington if bias exists."

USDA funding for research is comparatively paltry, McFadden said, so "it would be helpful to have more access to the NSF money."

McCaskill also heard about a wealth of advancements being made in drought prevention, genetic research and energy efficiency, but there were complaints of unreliable state funding for several projects. Several researchers said they'd made progress on an idea, only to have funding pulled unexpectedly.

After commiserating with Missouri Soybean Association treasurer Ronnie Russell about East Coast snubs, including what she saw as excessive focus on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in Ken Burns' 1994 documentary "Baseball" at the expense of the St. Louis Cardinals, McCaskill left for Kennett to continue her 13-city tour of the state's agriculture. 

McCaskill began the day with a visit to Stanton Brothers Eggs in Centralia.

Other Missouri destinations will include Kansas City, St. Joseph, Mountain Grove, Springfield and Purdy, according to a news release.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

  • Austin Huguelet was an assistant city editor in spring 2016. He also worked as a reporter and infographic designer.

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