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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

How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves

SRI-grown Rice in China

by Jonathan Latham

The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.

Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection. … Continue Reading

GMO Safety and LL601 Rice

April 14, 2007 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Health Comments Off on GMO Safety and LL601 Rice

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

LL601, the genetically engineered rice variety that has contaminated the US rice supply, is safe. The USDA says so. The UK Food Standards Agency says so. The US Food and Drug Administration, on 12 Sept, stated that: “LL601 rice poses no risk to human health and does not raise any food, feed safety or environmental concerns.” These assertions have been echoed by other organisations such as the USA Rice Federation: “We understand the EU sensibilities are a little different than the United States but nonetheless the product is a safe one”.
… Continue Reading

Contaminated Rice Cultivar Banned in Arkansas

March 20, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, News Comments Off on Contaminated Rice Cultivar Banned in Arkansas

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

As part of an ongoing US effort to purge contaminating transgenic traits from rice varieties, the state plant board of Arkansas has banned the BASF rice variety Clearfield 131. Clearfield 131, which is a popular variety with non-GM tolerance to Newpath Herbicide is a popular variety for growers with red rice problems and its loss is likely to be a major setback for many growers.
… Continue Reading

Unapproved Transgene Contaminates US Rice Supply

January 9, 2007 Biotechnology, Health, News Comments Off on Unapproved Transgene Contaminates US Rice Supply

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Transgene escape has again become a major biosafety and financial issue. On 18 August the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that non-transgenic long grain rice in the US was contaminated with Bayer transgene event LL601. This transgene encodes resistance to the herbicide phosphinothricin and LL601 has not been approved (deregulated) for cultivation or use in food supplies in the US or elsewhere. Contamination with LL601 was first detected in January and reported to Bayer in May, Bayer informed the USDA in late July. Contamination however is likely to have predated detection in January since the last permit for growing LL601 rice expired in 2001.
… Continue Reading

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Commentaries

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.

Why Chimpanzee-Testing in Medicine Had to End

Tracy at Chimp Haven

by John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. A French man died last month and five others in the same clinical trial were hospitalized after they took an experimental drug. The drug had been deemed safe for humans after having been tested on chimpanzees in preclinical trials.

The Centrality of Seed: Building Agricultural Resilience Through Plant Breeding

Wheat Breeding

by Salvatore Ceccarelli, PhD Five of the global issues most frequently debated today are the decline of biodiversity in general and of agrobiodiversity in particular, climate change, hunger and malnutrition, poverty and water. Seed is central to all five issues. The way in which seed is produced has been arguably …

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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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