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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 Up; “We Have the Technology to Destroy All Zika Mosquitoes“; and “CRISPR: gene editing is just the beginning”. (CRISPR is short for CRISPR/cas9, which is short for Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR associated protein 9; Jinek et al., 2012. It is a combination of a guide RNA and a protein that can cut DNA.) … Continue Reading

The GMO Dark Act Cannot Survive the Light

Mike Pompeo, Kansas

by Steven M. Druker

An ardent attempt is afoot on Capitol Hill to prevent states from requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods – made especially urgent by the fact that Vermont’s labeling bill is set to take effect July 1st. Although proponents of these foods scored a major victory in July when they induced the House of Representatives to pass a bill (HR 1599) that would ban such state-enacted legislation, a version of that bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate; and because of the intense focus on crafting and passing crucial legislation that will provide necessary funding to keep the federal government functioning, none is likely to be during this session. … Continue Reading

The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left out)

Food Industry Enlisted Academics

by Jonathan Latham, PhD

“Reading the emails make(s) me want to throw up” tweeted the Food Babe after reading a lengthy series of them posted online by the NY Times on Sept 5th. The emails in question result from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and are posted in the side bars of a front-page article by Times reporter Eric Lipton (“Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show”). The article is highly disturbing, but, as the Food Babe implied, the Times buried the real story. The real scoop was not the perfidy and deceit of a handful of individual professors. Buried in the emails is proof positive of active collusion between the agribusiness and chemical industries, numerous and often prominent academics, PR companies, and key administrators of land grant universities for the purpose of promoting GMOs and pesticides. In particular, nowhere does the Times note that one of the chief colluders was none other than the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). … Continue Reading

Anthropocene Boosters and the Attack on Wilderness Conservation

White Cloud Mountains, Idaho, George Wuerthner

By George Wuerthner

A growing debate has serious consequences for our collective relationship to Nature. Beginning perhaps twenty years ago, a number of academics in disciplines such as history, anthropology, and geography, began to question whether there was any tangible wilderness or wild lands left on Earth. These academics, and others, have argued that humans have so completely modified the Earth, we should give up on the notion that there is anyplace wild and instead recognize that we have already domesticated, in one fashion or another, the entire planet for human benefit. … Continue Reading

What Happened to Obama’s Promise to Restore Scientific Integrity?

US EPA, Washington DC

By Jonathan Latham, PhD

Pretty much every branch of the US government has had trouble implementing President Obama’s flagship scientific integrity policy. In 2011, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) appointed the scientist Dr. Paul Houser to be its first ever Officer of Scientific Integrity. Within a year he was fired. Believing his dismissal was for drawing attention to a scientifically questionable Department policy, Houser formally accused the DOI of “scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal.” But because the Department of the Interior had fired him, they no longer had a scientific integrity officer for him to complain to. … Continue Reading

Edward Snowden’s Testimony to the European Parliament on NSA Spying and its Consequences

Edward Snowden Barton Gellman/Getty Images

Independent Science News has decided to reprint (1) in full the March 7th testimony of Edward Snowden to the European Parliament. Snowden’s testimony is vitally important for every citizen in every country to understand, yet it has barely been covered by the commercial or (non-commercial) global media. At stake is the possibility of individuals and organizations (not just the media) to function as checks on executive power. It also demonstrates the ability of a secret agency to become an executive power, able even to control the spy services of foreign countries. Publication here will enable ISN readers to hear from Snowden himself about what he considers the scope and significance of ‘suspicionless surveillance’ … Continue Reading

Fakethrough! GMOs and the Capitulation of Science Journalism

Biotechnology

by Jonathan Latham, PhD

Good journalism examines its sources critically, it takes nothing at face value, places its topics in a historical context, and it values above all the public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any equitable and open system of government. These statements are, if anything, especially applicable to the science media. But while the media in general has recently taken much criticism, for trivialising news and other flaws, the science media has somehow escaped serious attention. This is unfortunate because no country in the world has a healthy science media. … Continue Reading

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

Pamela Ronald

by Jonathan Latham, PhD
Professor Pamela Ronald is probably the scientist most widely known for publicly defending genetically engineered (GE or GMO) crops. Her media persona, familiar to readers of the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, NPR, and many other global media outlets, is to take no prisoners.

After New York Times chief food writer Mark Bittman advocated GMO labelling, she called him “a scourge on science” who “couches his nutty views in reasonable-sounding verbiage”. His opinions were “almost fact- and science-free” continued Ronald. … Continue Reading

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Related News Articles

What Happened to Obama’s Promise to Restore Scientific Integrity?

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

Welsh Farmer’s Defiance of GMO ‘Ban’ Not So Defiant After All

The Excommunication of a Heretic

Commentaries

Why the Food Movement is Unstoppable

jose bove, farmer and activist

by Jonathan Latham, PhD In 1381, for the first and only time, the dreaded Tower of London was captured from the King of England. The forces that seized it did not belong to a foreign power; nor were they rebellious workers – they were peasants who went on to behead …

How the GE Food Venture Has Been Chronically Dependent on Deception

Food and Drug Administration, Maryland

by Steven M. Druker, J.D. Although it purports to be based on solid science and the open flow of information on which science depends, the massive venture to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply has substantially relied on the propagation of falsehoods. Its advancement and very survival …

Millions Spent, No One Served: Who Is to Blame for the Failure of GMO Golden Rice?

Rice Farming

by Angelika Hilbeck and Hans Herren The recent Nobel laureates’ letter accusing Greenpeace of a “crime against humanity” for opposing genetically modified (GMO) golden rice reveals a deep division not only between civil societies and some science circles but also within the science community – a division in the visions …

Cashing in on Cellulosic Ethanol: Subsidy Loophole Set to Rescue Corn Biofuel Profits

Ohio corn field

by Almuth Ernsting Subsidies intended for next-generation cellulosic ethanol production are to be applied to a trivial improvement to corn ethanol refining technologies. Since cellulosic ethanol qualifies for much higher subsidies, this will significantly increase corn refinery profits and boost the demand for corn but will do nothing to combat …

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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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