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Is a Major GMO Safety Test Ineffective?

June 17, 2008 Biotechnology, Environment, Health, News Comments Off

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Commercially, insect-resistant transgenic (GMO) plants are made by inserting a gene coding for one of a family of toxins produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. These Bt toxins are regarded by most regulators to be safer for the environment than externally applied synthetic pesticides and this is because, as plant-expressed proteins, they are considered specifically targeted to organisms that consume the crop (Glaser and Matten, 2003). As a result of this understanding Bt toxins expressed by transgenics are managed as a ‘public good’ by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA 1998).
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Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank

June 4, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Environment, News Comments Off

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

A key aspect of transgenic agriculture is control of gene flow. Gene flow is important for many reasons including: 1) protecting intellectual property from unwanted incursions into farmers’ fields (and vice-versa); 2) maintaining the genetic integrity of crop cultivars; 3) maintaining labelling and consumer choices; and 4) biosafety risk assessments which presume limited transgene dispersion and that transgenic traits can be removed from circulation.

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Cisgenic Plants: Just Schouten from the Hip?

February 23, 2007 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Environment, Health Comments Off

Allison Wilson and Jonathan Latham

Many genetic engineers have long resented the regulatory procedures imposed on transgenic crop plants, often arguing that there is no difference between the risks arising from transgenic plants and plants bred using ‘conventional’ methods. A recent proposal calls for complete deregulation of transgenic plants which have only plant DNA inserted into their genomes (Schouten et al., 2006a,b). The term cisgenic has been coined for such plants in order to highlight the origins of the transferred DNA. Other terms for plant-derived transgenes include ‘all-native DNA’ and ‘P-DNA’ (Rommens, 2004).

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Commentaries

Peasant Sovereignty?

China village

By Evaggelos Vallianatos In May 2014, the Spain-based international agrarian organization, Grain, reported that small farmers not only “feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland,” but they are also the most productive farmers on Earth. For example, small farmers and peasants in nine European countries outproduce …

Will Food Sovereignty Starve the Poor and Punish the Planet?

Weeding maize in Burkina Faso

by Gilles Billen, Luis Lassaletta and Josette Garnier Globalisation is not only a matter of clothing and mobile phones. Long-distance worldwide shipping of food commodities has also increased tremendously over the last few decades. Lassaletta et al. (2014) estimate that one-third of all proteins (a proxy for the nutritive potential …

How the Great Food War Will Be Won

Dustbowl and soil erosion USA, 1935's

By Jonathan Latham, PhD By conventional wisdom it is excellent news. Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods can yield almost as highly as pesticide-intensive methods. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. Indeed, both findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but …

Seeds of Truth: Vandana Shiva and the New Yorker

Dr. Vandana Shiva

by Dr Vandana Shiva (A response to the article ‘Seeds of Doubt’ by Michael Specter in The New Yorker) I am glad that the future of food is being discussed, and thought about, on farms, in homes, on TV, online and in magazines, especially of The New Yorker’s caliber. The …

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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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