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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’ and its implications for democratic rights and free-speech. What Snowden shows is that surveillance is both a breach of our personal rights but it also imperils our ability to collectively enforce all of our rights.

Snowden’s Testimony to the European Parliament (March 7th):
I would like to thank the European Parliament for the invitation to provide testimony for your inquiry into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens. The suspicionless surveillance programs of the NSA, GCHQ (UK), and so many others that we learned about over the last year endanger a number of basic rights which, in aggregate, constitute the foundation of liberal societies. … 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 about journalism are 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

The Founding Fables of Industrialised Agriculture

Farming in Italy

by Colin Tudge

Governments these days are not content with agriculture that merely provides good food. In line with the dogma of neoliberalism they want it to contribute as much wealth as any other industry towards the grand goal of “economic growth”. High tech offers to reconcile the two ambitions – producing allegedly fabulous yields, which seems to be what’s needed, and becoming highly profitable. The high-tech flavour of the decade is genetic engineering, supplying custom-built crops and livestock as GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). … Continue Reading

Science and Social Control: Political Paralysis and the Genetics Agenda

NIH_1crop2

By Jonathan Latham, PhD (Originally posted July 31st and lost after a DDOS (electronic) attack).

Variations in individual “educational attainment” (essentially, whether students complete high school or college) cannot be attributed to inherited genetic differences. That is the finding of a new study reported in Science magazine (Rietveld et al. 2013). According to this research, fully 98% of all variation in educational attainment is accounted for by factors other than a person’s simple genetic makeup.

This implies that most of student success is a consequence of potentially alterable social or environmental factors. This is an important and perhaps surprising observation, of high interest to parents, teachers, and policymakers alike; but it did not make the headlines.

The likely reason is that the authors of the study failed to mention the 98% figure in the title, or in the summary. Nor was it mentioned in the accompanying press release. … Continue Reading

The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science

R Goodman

by Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD

Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, has jested that instead of scientific peer review, its rival The Lancet had a system of throwing a pile of papers down the stairs and publishing those that reached the bottom. On another occasion, Smith was challenged to publish an issue of the BMJ exclusively comprising papers that had failed peer review and see if anybody noticed. He replied, “How do you know I haven’t already done it?”

As Smith’s stories show, journal editors have a lot of power in science – power that provides opportunities for abuse. The life science industry knows this, and has increasingly moved to influence and control science publishing. … 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

Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs

Jonathan Latham

Jonathan R. Latham, PhD By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my PhD. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, …

Neoliberal Ebola: The Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak

Guinea Forest Region in 2014

by Rob Wallace The notion of a neoliberal Ebola is so beyond the pale as to send leading lights in ecology and health into apoplectic fits. Here’s one of bestseller David Quammen’s five tweets denouncing my hypothesis that neoliberalism drove the emergence of Ebola in West Africa. I’m an “addled …

Ruthless Power and Deleterious Politics: From DDT to Roundup

DDT, Time Magazine, 1947

By Evaggelos Vallianatos Morton Biskind, a physician from Westport, Connecticut, was a courageous man. At the peak of the cold war, in 1953, he complained of maladies afflicting both domestic animals and people for the first time. He concluded that the popular insect poison DDT was the agent of their …

Monsanto’s Worst Fear May Be Coming True

Chipotle Mexican Grill

by Jonathan Latham, PhD The decision of the Chipotle restaurant chain to make its product lines GMO-free is not most people’s idea of a world-historic event. Especially since Chipotle, by US standards, is not a huge operation. A clear sign that the move is significant, however, is that Chipotle’s decision …

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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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