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Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

February 23, 2015 Environment, Health, Reviews 8 Comments
Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins

Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts who professed such certainty.

Twenty years later, he would drop a rubber ring into a glass of ice water to show a panel of clueless rocket experts how willful ignorance of basic temperature effects likely caused the Challenger shuttle disaster (1). … Continue Reading

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

November 24, 2014 Environment, Health, Reviews 2 Comments
The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald

Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project)

The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell University, used a case study approach–looking at individual households–to search for possible effects (Bamberger and Oswald 2012).

The Real Cost of Fracking

The Real Cost of Fracking

Many fracking chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors or other classes of toxins (Colborn et al. 2011). Bamberger and Oswald’s studies, carried out during the ongoing fracking boom, uncovered serious adverse effects including respiratory, reproductive, and growth-related problems in animals and a spectrum of symptoms in humans that they termed “shale gas syndrome”. Ultimately, their research led them to consider fracking’s broader implications for farming and the food system (Bamberger and Oswald 2012 and 2014). … Continue Reading

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

May 13, 2012 Health, Reviews Comments Off on Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
Biology as Ideology

Book Author: Richard Lewontin

Reviewed by: Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Biologists know that complex traits are typically associated with genetic variation between individuals. Nevertheless, if we hear on the news that obesity, antisocial behaviour or some other disorder has a strong genetic component, we are likely to attach special significance to this ‘fact’. We may be less likely to attribute social factors as a cause and we may be more likely to accept a technological or pharmaceutical solution as a remedy. The disorder may also acquire a credibility and a sense of inevitability that it previously lacked. The reasoning that leads to these conclusions has a certain logic, after all we investigate causes primarily so that we can find remedies, but nevertheless we need to be careful that our thinking is well-founded.

… Continue Reading

The Unsettling of America

March 25, 2012 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on The Unsettling of America
The Unsettling of America

Book Author: Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

In 2002, peasant associations from all over Asia organised an international scientific conference. The motivation for the conference was the fact that peasants and their leaders had no dialogue with agricultural scientists, either from their own countries or with those from abroad. A lack of support from scientists was not the only motivation however. The peasants had also come to believe that the science with which they were familiar was actively hostile to their way of life. As a result, many had demonstrated outside the UN-sponsored International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Phillipines, a research centre set up specifically to support farming in developing countries.

… Continue Reading

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health

February 6, 2010 Health, Reviews 2 Comments
The China Study

Book Authors: T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II

Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project)

What will it take for veggie stir-fry on rice to replace a beef burger on a bun as the all-American meal? A switch to a more plant-based diet has been standard dietary advice for years and the new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report is no exception. In The China Study, however, the Campbells go much further, arguing that “a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness” and that the healthiest diet is an entirely plant-based whole-food diet (no meat, dairy or eggs and little, if any, fish). A simple switch to such a diet, claim the Campbells, will dramatically decrease your risk of getting the diseases common in Western societies, including auto-immune diseases, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As large-scale genetic screens to identify genes for these same diseases continue to fail, and as this failure looks to be permanent (see The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?), this advice appears more and more prescient.

… Continue Reading

The Unhealthy Truth: How our Food is Making us Sick and What We Can Do About It

April 15, 2009 Health, Reviews Comments Off on The Unhealthy Truth: How our Food is Making us Sick and What We Can Do About It
The Unhealthy Truth

Book Author: Robyn O’Brien (with Rachel Kranz)

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Allergies and food intolerances are serious medical conditions. They are the cause of many deaths and hospitalizations annually and they predispose to other illnesses. They can also exact a high toll in other ways since worry, inconvenience and lost opportunities can significantly harm the quality of lives.

… Continue Reading

The No-Nonsense Guide to Science

June 4, 2008 Biotechnology, Reviews Comments Off on The No-Nonsense Guide to Science
The No-Nonsense Guide to Science

Book Author: Jerome Ravetz

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Traditional science as practiced in European and US universities is being confronted on many sides. These challenges are manifested in the rise of alternative medicine and patients groups, well-publicised failures and ethical lapses, criticism from environmental groups and declining student interest in many science subjects. To make matters worse, there is an increasingly cogent intellectual critique of scientific infallibility, objectivity and disinterestedness.

… Continue Reading

Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture

March 14, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture
Food is Different

Book Author: Peter M Rosset

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Most people would probably agree that the world needs food and agricultural
systems that:
1) provide adequate, affordable, nutritious, tasty and culturally appropriate food,
2) offer rural people the opportunity for a living wage/income,
3) contribute to broad-based development and
4) conserve rural environments, cultural and culinary traditions

… Continue Reading

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Commentaries

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation. I …

Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA

US Chemical Production

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned …

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

crispr-cas9

by Jonathan Latham, PhD For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle …

Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels

The now-bankrupt Kior site in Columbus, Mississippi

By Almuth Ernsting Biofuels consumed today are usually ethanol made from the sugar in sugar cane (or sugar beet) or they may be made from starch in grains. In the US this is mostly corn starch. Alternatively, biodiesel may be made from plant oils such as soybean or canola oil.

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Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

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