Justin Holland, 16, a junior at Marysville High School is in FFA, likes raising cattle with his dad and just recently had dinner with the president of Niger.

Justin Holland, 16, a junior at Marysville High School is in FFA, likes raising cattle with his dad and just recently had dinner with the president of Niger.

"It was really cool," Holland said about his dinner with Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger's president.

Holland did more than just have dinner with the president; he talked with him about how to increase food trade in Niger.

Holland was one of six Ohio high school students to be chosen from among 100 applicants to go to the Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation. He got there by writing an essay about genetically modified crops.

In September, Holland and 39 other students presented their essays at the eighth annual Ohio Youth Institute at The Ohio State University.

When he got the call that he was chosen, he said it took a while to realize what was going on.

"I was in shock," he said. "It never really set in until we landed in Iowa."

That is when he saw security details for the many dignitaries attending the World Food Institute. The sight of so many police officials made the experience real for Holland.

While at the conference, he had to present his essay to several experts, including professors from Ohio State University, Texas A&M and Iowa State.

"I was so nervous," Holland said.

After his presentations, he said, the professors talked with him about how to improve on his topic, genetic engineering in crops

He said he chose that topic after his agriculture class conducted a study of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed the hungry.

Holland says that study and his own research convinced him he would like to pursue a career in genetically modified crops.

He said President Issoufou liked his idea but said it would not work because the European market will not accept genetically modified food, thus making trade options limited. But he said the countries in the deserts of Africa do need to do something to produce crops that are more resistant to drought conditions.

Holland and the other five Ohio students joined more than 200 high school students and teachers from across the United States and other countries at the international symposium that was attended by more than 600 leaders from 65 countries.

In three days, he said, he shared 10 lunches and dinners with scientists and dignitaries.

"You can just have a normal conversation," he said. "They're actually really nice."

He said any future students who think they might like to attend the Iowa event "have to be willing to spend a lot of time working on the essay. It's really detailed."

Holland said the Global Youth Institute was life-changing for him.

"It was one of the best experiences I've had and it changed my career path," he said.