Identity preserved: a carefully controlled production and distribution system that maintains integrity of the crop being delivered.

I spend a lot of my time gathering data and quotes, then putting the “puzzle pieces” together into what I hope are informative stories. But lately I've felt a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information available. I wonder if the information superhighway is taking me for a ride.

It all started with an unassuming conversation I had with a recently retired agronomist — someone who's been an information source for years. He wondered how much longer he could keep up to speed about soybeans. “The technology changes so quickly,” he said.

Just a few days later I was at a university experiment station. Although armed with a tape recorder, note pads and cameras, I knew I couldn't, in one day's time, absorb more than a tenth of what those researchers were doing.

More recently, I was attempting to gather the definitions of what I thought were two simple biotech-related terms: identity preserved and channeling. A colleague pointed me toward www.biotechterms.org — an online version of a book by Kim Nill of the American Soybean Association (ASA). It holds hundreds of definitions, but not the two I was looking for.

So I tried, still on the Internet, to use a multiple search engine, keying in “channeling.” I'm usually not faint-hearted, but, truthfully, I was afraid to go into most of the suggested sites. Spirit channeling, the paranormal, UFOs, aliens and upholstery channeling, whatever that is, aren't my cup of tea.

I actually found some sites pertaining to my other term. Identity Preserved International (IPI), for example, works to “facilitate a relationship between buyers and sellers of identity preserved food.” Many of the sites had a lot of information. No definition, though.

My next hope was to contact Mr. Nill directly, but the biotech-term guru wasn't in. Instead, I connected with ASA's communications director, Bob Callanan.

We spent an enjoyable half-hour on the phone; he offered a wealth of statistics, plus a good quote on ASA's view on biotech and farmers.

“We grow biotech crops because they're less expensive than conventional crops to produce,” he said. “And today the market is paying the same price for both. Greenpeace can yell and scream, but the fact is our soybean exports to the European Union went up 15% last year. A third of our crop goes there.”

By the end of the info-laden discussion, I had a terse, 15-word definition for identity preserved, a fresh fax on one biotech issue and the www.amsoy.org Web address for details on another.

As I glanced at my office in-box, overflowing with company and university press releases, then at my 100+ e-mails telling me to log on to this or read that, I again felt overwhelmed.

Then I thought of my brother and old neighbors and farming friends who just might be waiting for what I could ferret out. I squared my shoulders and asked Callanan for an explanation of channeling, too.

“Channeling is a corn term,” he responded. “Talk to the corn growers.”