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The future is in your hands
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Editor's note: Below is the text of Jenica Reagan’s award-winning speech in the annual Rotary speech contest. She won first place in the first round, held at Lathrop High School, and second place in the area level held in Tracy. She received a prize of $125 for each contest.

The world in my hands – that’s a pretty big concept to think about. I know I have pretty big hands but I don’t think the whole world could fit in them.

But I do know that I can make a difference in my school and community which will eventually spread to the whole world. This is called grassroots – a process in which you start with a small group of people and keep moving up, until you have informed a large population and accomplished what you had in mind.

Rotary, being the world’s first service club organization with more than 1.2 million members and 33,000 clubs worldwide, is very supportive of grassroots projects and has helped youth with their projects for more than 100 years.

The grassroots project I would like to continue is agriculture literacy in youth. People are becoming more and more unaware of how agriculture impacts their everyday life and how many of the products they use come from farming or animals. We live in a society that doesn’t even know the difference between a sheep and a goat. This is scary considering agriculture is the backbone of our economy and truly decides what the future is to hold. Just our agricultural trades with China consists of $12.2 billion in exports and $3.4 billion in imports. Farming and animal production are the only fields of work that can’t be outsourced to another country to save the producer money. If the United States relied solely on other countries for food and other animal products, we would be vulnerable to other countries. I am currently the president of the FFA chapter here at Lathrop High School, and I am running for office as the central region president. Next year I plan on running to be a California state FFA officer. By doing this I would be serving as a political representative for agriculture and educating students all throughout the state on farm and animal production.

This would just be the start of my career in agriculture literacy. I want to hold many political offices leading up to being the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States. Every day the population is moving closer and closer to urbanization, which isn’t their fault. We have made it to where people don’t have to know how their steak gets to the meat counter or how their vegetables make it to the produce section, but these are the issues at hand I am facing head first to improve. Agriculture literacy isn’t a problem just in the United States; this is a worldwide epidemic for the consumer and producer.

Many countries are still practicing crude un-efficient ways of farming that affect the environment and economy of those countries. If we could educate them on proper and more efficient ways of farming they would be able to provide better for their people and become more globally involved in trade and merchandising. Biotechnology has many things in store for the future of farming. It already plays a huge role in farming today but it is always increasing.

Many people don’t believe in biotechnology because they think it is unethical and that we are going to create plants and animals that we can’t control, but what they don’t know is that genetically modified crops aren’t  made just to increase yields for the farmer but to produce safer and more reliable sources of food. Farmers are able to use less pesticides and fertilizers that can harm the environment and public, with genetically modified crops and make farming more efficient.

Currently 70% of all crops are genetically modified, some examples are strawberries with a flounder fish gene to withstand the cold weather so we can grow strawberries in the winter; cabbage with a scorpion’s venom gene so that caterpillars won’t eat the cabbage making it where pesticides aren’t used. What the public needs to know is that every genetically modified crop goes through five to ten years of testing before it is released for sale and the government won’t release it until they are proven harmless.

Within my grassroots project, I want to properly educate people about biotechnology so they won’t be afraid of it and so they can realize the important improvements that it will have on our future. With the world in my hands I’m going to raise agriculture literacy in the youth of America because they are the ones who will make a change for the people of tomorrow.