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No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

October 21, 2013 Biotechnology, News 1 Comment
ENSSER

Press release from ENSSER:

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians.[1]

The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists, journalists, and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops were generally found safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “This claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.” … Continue Reading

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

by Pat Dutt and Jonathan Latham, PhD

New scientific research has cast grave doubt on the safety testing of hundreds of thousands of consumer products, food additives and industrial chemicals.

Everyday products, from soft drinks and baby foods, to paints, gardening products, cosmetics and shampoos, contain numerous synthetic chemicals as preservatives, dyes, active ingredients, or as contaminants. Official assurances of the safety of these chemicals are based largely on animal experiments that use rabbits, mice, rats and dogs. But new results from a consortium of researchers and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest such assurances may be worthless (Seok et al. 2013). … Continue Reading

Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus

by Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

How should a regulatory agency announce they have discovered something potentially very important about the safety of products they have been approving for over twenty years?

In the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance. … Continue Reading

Risk and Responsibility: Farming, Food, and Unconventional Gas Drilling

November 12, 2012 Commentaries, Health 1 Comment
American Gasland

Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald (Photo credit: Marcellus Protest)

Extraction of hydrocarbon gas from tight shale formations using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has been advertised as a path toward energy independence for the United States and is being promoted worldwide. This is tempered by environmental and societal concerns that have led to banning the practice in some countries (e.g., France), at least one state in the U.S. (Vermont), and numerous towns and cities in the United States. In the United States, the process itself is largely regulated at the state level, with exemptions from federal laws regulating air, drinking water and hazardous waste disposal. Regulation at the state level varies considerably among states with significant shale deposits, as does the level of enforcement of regulations. The argument often given to suggest that the process is safe cites the fact that in the sixty years since the first gas well was hydraulically fractured, the industry has not found proof it finds acceptable that drinking water has been contaminated. This assertion is not universally accepted because of at least two factors. … Continue Reading

America: Becoming a Land Without Farmers

Abandoned Farmhouse

Evaggelos Vallianatos (Photo Credit: Homini:))

The plutocratic remaking of America has a parallel in the countryside. In rural America less than 3 percent of farmers make more than 63 percent of the money, including government subsidies.

The results of this emerging feudal economy are everywhere. Large areas of the United States are becoming impoverished farm towns with abandoned farmhouses and deserted land. More and more of the countryside has been devoted to massive factory farms and plantations. The consequences, though worse now than ever, have been there for all to see and feel, for decades. … Continue Reading

Designed to Fail: Why Regulatory Agencies Don’t Work

EPA Cleans up the San Juan River oil spill disaster 1972

William Sanjour*

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have been “reforming” regulatory agencies over and over again, and over and over again they have failed. Yet, as a result of the recent catastrophic failures of regulatory agencies, politicians and pundits are talking about the same old “Regulatory Reform” again.  “Fill the regulatory agencies with honest people who won’t cave in to special interests.”  “Give them more money, more authority and more people.”  But my experience has shown that by concentrating all legislative, executive and judiciary authority in one regulatory agency just makes it easier for it to be corrupted by the industries it regulates.

I worked for the US Environmental Protection agency for 30 years and lived through many cycles of “Regulatory Reform,” doing the same “reforms” over and over again and expecting different results. I’ve learned that the way to achieve true regulatory reform is to give regulatory agencies less money, less authority, fewer people but more intelligent regulations. The theme of this article is that by dispersing regulatory authority, rather than concentrating it, we would make corruption more difficult and facilitate more sensible regulation.
… Continue Reading

Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?

Malaysia: Deforestation for Agriculture

Jonathan Latham (Photo Credit: auspices)

Imagine an international mega-deal. The global organic food industry agrees to support international agribusiness in clearing as much tropical rainforest as they want for farming. In return, agribusiness agrees to farm the now-deforested land using organic methods, and the organic industry encourages its supporters to buy the resulting timber and food under the newly devised “Rainforest Plus” label. There would surely be an international outcry.

Virtually unnoticed, however, even by their own memberships, the world’s biggest wildlife conservation groups have agreed exactly to such a scenario, only in reverse. Led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), many of the biggest conservation nonprofits including Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy have already agreed to a series of global bargains with international agribusiness. In exchange for vague promises of habitat protection, sustainability and social justice, these conservation groups are offering to greenwash industrial commodity agriculture.
… Continue Reading

New Report Links Food, Climate and Agricultural Policies

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Understanding of the ‘problem’ of agriculture took a giant step forward in 2007 with publication of the UN IAASTD report. This report, which was as important for agriculture as the IPCC reports have been for the climate, pinpointed a move to ecology-based agriculture as the key to meeting many other fundamental needs such as clean water, safe food and sustainability. What the IAASTD didn’t do, at least directly however, was to focus on politics, especially the obstacles to progress in improving agriculture.

A new report, The Wheel of Life:  Food, Climate, Human Rights and the Economy (Sept. 2011), released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, usefully complements this deficit. … Continue Reading

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Commentaries

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 …

The Health Care Doctors Forgot: Why Ordinary Food Will Be the Future of Medicine

Apple and a Pear

by T Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus, Cornell University The problem Few issues have become so intensely debated and politically charged as the need to reform the health care system. This debate has resulted in the ObamaCare program (The Affordable Care Act), which aims to expand and improve …

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 …

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 …

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Reviews

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Biology as Ideology

Author: by Richard Lewontin ISBN: 0140232192 Publisher: Penguin books (1991) 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 …

The Unsettling of America

The Unsettling of America

Author: Wendell Berry ISBN: 0871568772 Publisher: Sierra Club books (1977) 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 …

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