One Thousand Celebrations of Science!

1000-2Today, on the Biofortified Blog we have reached an important milestone. For over five years we have been blogging, having a conversation, and building resources for people to learn about science, plants, agriculture, and particularly genetically engineered crops, and now we have a total of 1,000 blog posts! While I did give an update on posts, hits, and comments back in October when we passed 1,000,000 views, I’m going to take a moment to show everyone where we’re heading, and then I’ll give you an update on our Bring Frank N. Foode™ to Life! Kickstarter project and announce the winner of a Silver Bullet Frank N. Foode™ from our Plant Plushie™ design vote!

1,000 Posts Baby!

Wow! We’re really at 1,000 posts! I can’t adequately express through words how awesome this is. Each post about science on our blog has been interesting, informative, engaging, thought-provoking, and helpful to people looking for information and discussion about important issues. Each has taken hours to research, write, illustrate, edit, and publish, followed by discussions that go even longer (sometimes 500 comments longer)! If you have contributed one of these fantastic posts, think about what it took to put it together, and multiply that by one thousand!
There are many different ways to visualize how massive this collective writing exercise is. How much has been written? I exported the posts to look at how much we have all written.

  • 1,000 posts
  • 1,704 single-spaced pages in Word at 12 point Times New Roman font
  • 12,500 paragraphs
  • 925,000 words

Who is writing these posts? While initially, Anastasia, Pam, David, and myself (& Frank) wrote most of the posts with a few guests, that trend is starting to change. Out of 1,000 posts, 816 have been written by us, and 184 by our guests and contributors. That doesn’t sound like a huge proportion when reported that way, but let’s think about it another way. When I last reported how many posts we had by each of our contributors, there were about 150 out of 921. So about 34 out of 79 new posts were written by our many different contributors – almost half! (And we have quite a few in the editing queue and new contributors working on drafts of the first posts!) Our blog is reflecting our growing and vibrant community, bringing ideas and topics up to be discussed that we wouldn’t have if it were not for all of you! Let’s keep this trend going.
What is in these posts? This is something that can really only be answered visually. I took these 925,000 words and generated a word cloud of the 500 most frequently used words, and this is what I got. Below is a graphical representation of what we have all written about on the Biofortified Blog!

Word Cloud of 1,000 posts on the Biofortified Blog. Generated at

The conclusion is Crops, Food, People, and Farmers have been central to what we write about. We write about Genetic Engineering, Plants, Organic, Seeds, Research, Science, Technology, Agriculture, Genes, Health, GMOs, and what we Know. Does our site description even need to be updated? It looks like it is right on!

Now let’s talk about impact. We hit one million views back in October, and today we now have over 1,445,000! Hits per month are 50,000-60,000, and 11,900 comments have been written, along with 2,634 Forum posts. As I like to say, we’re growing organically! And that is all thanks to all of you. You have helped us celebrate science – one thousand times.

A graph of our page views every month, showing the organic growth pattern of a genetic engineering-focused blog.

Now, how long until we hit two thousand? Don’t place bets – write something and help us get there!

Frank N. Foode™ Kickstarter update!

In April and May, we asked you to help us refine the design of the new Frank N. Foode™ plushie, as well as the new Papaya plushie. The reviews came streaming in, and everyone had some great input about the design. Most everyone was happy with the design as-is, and we got some suggestions about his facial features, glasses, etc, and could easily reach a decision about those elements. The papaya got great reviews, with only one criticism rising to the top – the awkward transition from green to yellow. But even then, everyone was still cool with it. It seemed we were well in order to get these plushies finalized and start production right away, right? No, there was one thing about the new Frank plushie that we didn’t like, but it took your input to really show us that it meant something – his husks needed stripes.
There was one comment that put it bluntly, without even mentioning the stripes in particular:

“Never change a brand midstream.”

But with the design, we seemed to be backed into a corner. The fabric that I used to design the original Frank N. Foode™ plushie’s husks was in fact discontinued. I know this because I tracked down the company that manufactures it, called them up, scanned and sent pictures of the fabric, got the number, and found out that it was discontinued, but I could perhaps order some. I did this late last year, and when I found this out, I thought, great! How many yards do I have to purchase? 5,000. Unless we were going to make 20,000 or more of these, that option was out.
Last fall, I scoured the internet and fabric stores looking for options for the husks. This year I did the same. And when I saw the plushie design reviews I knew I had to take another stab at it, but it would cause a delay. All of this came down on me in one of the busiest and most difficult periods of time in my life… finishing and defending my Ph.D. dissertation.
In early May, I finished my Ph.D. dissertation and handed it over to my committee. I defended my thesis on the 23rd of May, and did my final edits to turn it in to the graduate school on the 12th of June. As you can imagine, this was a busy time! I also moved my wife back to Madison between sending the dissertation off and defending it. Late April was a blur for me, I have trouble remembering everything else that went on. Suffice to say, this interfered with our Kickstarter, and I’m sorry about the delay. But, somehow in the middle of all this, I found the solution.
indexGreen stripes. Not some picnic-table stripe pattern, nor a trendy chevron, but green stripes of the right color, and with an living, organic feel to them. On a website that specializes in custom designs for fabric printing. It’s sort of a an etsy-meets-fabric kind of site, where individual artists can sell their work on a yard here or there. Moreover, there was an individual artist who I could contact to find out if we could license his work to produce the fabric we need for these plushies – and on first contact he was open to doing so!
Check his stuff out. He’s got some really geeky designs, like fabric with DNA, theobromine, capsaicin, and physics equations. These green stripes were made from a photo he took of green-striped bamboo. And the colors are a spot-on match for the original Frank N. Foode™, and even more life-like than the original pattern. A yard of this fabric was sent off to the designer who is working with it right now. And since this would mean we’re printing fabric, the cost to us will go up, but we think we can manage it with the money we raised. While we’re at it, I took a turn as an artist in the same vein, taking various colors from Hawai’ian papayas and sending them over to see if we can turn a good papaya plushie into an awesome one!

Papaya plushie 2.0, unassembled

On the right, you can see the result of this exploration, unassembled. We’re hoping that this design will not be prohibitively expensive, that way we can send you a papaya so perfect that you could lose it in a bin of papayas – if you ignore the cute eyes! We haven’t seen the new Frank yet, but I’m confident that in a few days we will, and that everything will be ready for production.
This is where we stand with the status of the plushies, so we are expecting a delay from the July delivery we originally projected, but essential design details and getting those Ph.D. initials on the end of my name got a little in the way – both of which I hope you will understand!


Now I do have more awesomeness to share about our Kickstarter. Our artist Celestia has finished the T-shirt design! She skillfully transferred the Kickstarter graphic into a 3-color design for printing onto black T-shirts. Many of our Kickstarter backers donated to get T-shirts, and this is what they will get. If you missed the Kickstarter and you want one, or two, or twenty, you can get one! But you have until July 15th to order them from this page. Then they will be printed and sent off to everyone!

The perfect T-shirt to take to the farmer’s market, or a local protest!

Rewards Getting Ready

Cutting Fabric with scissors isn’t like cutting DNA with enzymes. Let an expert do it, Frank!

We had an interesting assortment of rewards in our Kickstarter, from books to jars of hand salve, and some special tote bags and exclusive plushies. Almost all of our books have arrived, complete with signatures (for those books advertised with autographs), and the jars of hand salve have been made. The Frank embroidery designs for the exclusive tote bags are being tested, and I’m almost ready to begin sewing the first gold and silver plushies. These have been a lot of fun to plan!
I have searched high and low for the right components to make the Silver Bullet and Golden Grain plushies for our top backers. And I’ve been surprised as what I’ve been able to find – and where. In Ciudad Obregon, the city in Mexico where Norman Borlaug created his Green Revolution varieties of wheat, I found two matching gold and silver fabrics with just the right shimmer, flexibility, and texture to make Frank’s body. Then in Chicago, I found what was going to be the most challenging fabric of all – the fabric I would use for the husks. Remember all the trouble I described just to get a green, striped fabric for the normal Frank husks? What about gold and silver Franks?
That’s when I found these two matching fabrics. Shiny, wavy, striped – one even has green embedded in it! Our backers are in for a treat! Take a closer look at the fabrics – here. Speaking of treats, that brings me to our last item of business for today.

Silver Bullet Winner!

Our Kickstarter was supported by several bloggers, who poured their hearts and souls into encouraging people to support our campaign. We asked you to vote on the best blog post supporting Bring Frank N. Foode™ to Life!, and here were the contenders:
Pharyngula: The cuddliest artificial genetic mutant ever
Celestia’s Caricature Blog: Putting My Art where my Heart Is
Skeptical Vegan: Help Bring Frank N. Foode to Life!
Sleuth 4 Health: GMOs Can be Fun!
Psiram: Frank N. Foode bei Kickstarter (english translation)
BIOtech NOW: Bring Biofortified’s Frank N. Foode™ to Life!
Genetic Literacy Project: Want your own Frank N. Foode? Kickstarter campaign brings GMO mascot to the masses
Drum roll, please!
The blogger who got the most votes, and who will be getting a free Silver Bullet Frank N. Foode™ is none other than Celestia Ward, our artist who wrote Putting My Art where my Heart Is! The two runners-up were Jamie Foley at Skeptical Vegan, and Julee K at Sleuth 4 Health, who will also get free T-shirts for helping us out. Congratulations, everyone, and thank you for helping us make this happen. Now you can show it off to everyone with pride!
That’s all I have for you today, thanks for reading, and for supporting us. I will keep you posted about the final plushie designs, and before too long, we will be able to put Frank N. Foode™ and Papaya plushies in your hands.


  1. Yay! Celebrating the freedom for farmers to grow and use what’s right for them, and for continuing to liberate more plants to help farmers, consumers and the environment seems like a real good holiday bonus!
    Well done Biofortified team. You have filled a hugely needed niche in the information ecosystem. Congrats.

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