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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 25 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 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

Vitamin A Wars: the Downsides of Donor-driven Aid

September 24, 2012 Commentaries, Health 9 Comments
Growing leafy greens in India

Ted Greiner, Professor of Nutrition, Hanyang University, Korea (Photo Credit: Jon Orlando)

Surely one of the most precious of human dreams is to become rich and famous by doing good for others. And what could do more good than eradicating global malnutrition? Subtle variations on that theme have muddled the field of international nutrition for decades. Donor governments vary, but most want some proportion, and some want the vast majority, of their “donations” to poor countries to come back to them. Sometimes this is achieved by building up a cadre of domestic experts, or by providing products, including foods to the poor countries that will create preferences that will have to be satisfied by imports in the future. Meanwhile, those who feel uncomfortable with this way of doing things, and who ask why the capacity of developing countries cannot be built, and funds be provided to allow them to independently solve their problems, tend to get labeled as radicals. … 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

The Unsettling of America

March 25, 2012 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off
The Unsettling of America

Book Author: Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

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 from abroad. A lack of support from scientists was not the only motivation however. The peasants had also come to believe that the science with which they were familiar was actively hostile to their way of life. As a result, many had demonstrated outside the UN-sponsored International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Phillipines, a research centre set up specifically to support farming in developing countries.

… Continue Reading

European Community Law and Nanotechnology: A Risky Business?

June 26, 2009 Commentaries, Environment, Health Comments Off
European Community Law and Nanotechnology

Naomi Salmon, Department of Law and Criminology, Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK

Following hot on the heels of the ‘Biotechnology Revolution’, the ‘Nanotechnology Revolution’ is now gathering steam. After twenty or so years of basic and applied research, industry players are now seeing the fruits of their R&D investments incorporated into all manner of products ranging from high performance tennis rackets and anti-odour socks to self-cleaning glass, food packaging materials and sunscreen lotions1.

… Continue Reading

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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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