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Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson

At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation.

I would like to examine these words carefully to decipher what they mean, how those words are used by this farmer and by others, and suggest how the movement for locally grown organic food in this country should respond. … Continue Reading

Many European Pesticide Approvals Are “unlawful” Says EU Ombudsman

DG SANTE Brussels

by Jonathan Latham, PhD

Many current pesticides in the European Union appear to have been approved illegally the Ombudsman of the EU has said. This judgment was reached on Feb 22nd by the EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, following an official complaint against the European Commission’s Directorate responsible for public health and consumer safety (DG SANTE). … 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

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, such as viruses and bacteria.

I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. One reason for this lack of concern was that I was still a very young scientist, feeling my way in the complex world of biology and of scientific research. Another reason was that we hardly imagined that GMOs like ours would be grown or eaten. So far as I was concerned, all GMOs were for research purposes only. … 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

Still Chasing Ghosts: A New Genetic Methodology Will Not Find the “Missing Heritability”

September 19, 2013 Commentaries, Health 26 Comments
Search for the missing heritability

By Evan Charney, Duke Institute for Brain Science, Duke University

One of the hopes and promises of the Human Genome Sequencing Project was that it would revolutionize the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of most human disorders. It would do this by uncovering the supposed “genetic bases” of human behavior. With a few exceptions, however, the search for common gene variants -“polymorphisms” – associated with common diseases has borne little fruit. And when such associations have been found the polymorphisms seem to have little predictive value and do little to advance our understanding of the causes of disease. In a 2012 study, for example, researchers found that incorporating genetic information did not improve doctors’ ability to predict disease risk for breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis [1]. … 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 essentially all 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 the summary abstract. 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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Commentaries

Don’t Eat the Yellow Rice: The Danger of Deploying Vitamin A Golden Rice

Educating village women

by  Ted Greiner, PhD What better way to discredit your critics than to rope in 107 naive Nobel Prize winners (all without relevant expertise) to criticize your opposition? But such tactics are not new. Long ago, the GMO industry spent well over $50 million to promote “Golden Rice” as the …

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation. I …

Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA

US Chemical Production

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned …

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 …

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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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