The Meaning of Life (Part I)

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Many people date the DNA revolution to the discovery of its structure by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. But really it began thirty years before, conceived by the mind of John D Rockefeller, Sr. Thus it is fitting that DNA is named after him. …

The War Over Mangoes

by Meredith Rector (Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR)) Growing mangoes in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has racked up an enormous socio-political expense for the region far greater than the price tag on the fruit in the supermarket. For a Mexican drug cartel desperate to move product, hiding …

Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban

by Jonathan Latham, PhD One of the central issues of our day is how to safely manage the outputs of industrial innovation. Novel products incorporating nanotechnology, biotechnology, rare metals, microwaves, novel chemicals, and more, enter the market on a daily basis. Yet none of these products come with an adequate …

Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Test your understanding of the living world with this simple question. What kind of biomolecule is found in all living organisms? If your answer is “DNA”, you are incorrect. The mistake is very forgiveable though. The standard English-language biology education casts DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) as the …

Recent Articles:

Students Protest the University of California’s War on Agroecology

Gill Tract Farm March 2012

(UC STUDENTS’ OPEN LETTER TO THE EXTERNAL ADVISORY BOARD OF THE AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY INSTITUTE (ASI) & SAREP)

As the students of the University of California, we come to you today to share our often silenced voices, our vision, and concerns we have about our common future. Our intention here is not to disrupt but rather to be present with you, share some stories, and to plant a hopeful seed in your hearts and minds as you enjoy this amazing food.

As documented in numerous studies, including a report from Food & Water Watch entitled “Public Research, Private Gain”, our University ­- a public trust and land grant college ­- faces an ever greater threat of privatization which deepens systemic racial and socioeconomic inequity. … Continue Reading

Why the United States Leaves Deadly Chemicals on the Market

By Valerie Brown and Elizabeth Grossman

Scientists are trained to express themselves rationally. They avoid personal attacks when they disagree. But some scientific arguments become so polarized that tempers fray. There may even be shouting.

Such is the current state of affairs between two camps of scientists: health effects researchers and regulatory toxicologists. Both groups study the effects of chemical exposures in humans. Both groups have publicly used terms like “irrelevant,” “arbitrary,” “unfounded” and “contrary to all accumulated physiological understanding” to describe the other’s work. Privately, the language becomes even harsher, with phrases such as “a pseudoscience,” “a religion” and “rigged.” … Continue Reading

Why Andrew Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force Won’t Save New York’s Bees

Bombus affinis, the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee

By Tracy Frisch
As in other parts of North America, beekeepers in New York have been experiencing unsustainable losses of honeybee colonies. In 2014-15, annual colony losses in New York reached 54 per cent, according to the Bee Informed Partnership survey. And though losses were lower in preceding years, they consistently exceeded the economic threshold of 15 percent loss. At great expense, beekeepers have been able to recoup their winter and summer losses, but for declining native bee species the prospects are even less rosy. For example, the rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once common in New York and the Northeastern US, is now a candidate for the endangered species act. … Continue Reading

GE Soybeans Give Altered Milk and Stunted Offspring, Researchers Find

October 26, 2015 Biotechnology, Health, News 3 Comments
Cilentana Goats, Italy

By Jonathan Latham, PhD

Pregnant goats fed with genetically engineered (GE) soybeans have offspring who grow more slowly and are shorter, according to a new Italian study (Tudisco et al., 2015). Publishing in the journal of Small Ruminant Research, the researchers were testing the results of supplementing the feed of female goats with Roundup Ready GE soybeans.  Roundup Ready soybeans are engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup and are sold by agribusiness giant Monsanto. They are some of the most widely grown soybeans in the world. … Continue Reading

Why Cancer Research Has Stalled

October 5, 2015 Commentaries, Health 6 Comments
T. Colin Campbell

By T. Colin Campbell (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus, Cornell University)

A recent publication, which received sustained media attention, claimed that most cancers are just “bad luck” (Tomasetti and Vogelstein 2015). Its authors stated that only about one-third of cancer mutations are caused by known lifestyle or environmental factors (smoking, alcohol use, UV light and human papilloma virus). The other two-thirds of cancers, said the authors, are random (stochastic or chance) mutations with no known cause. Therefore, we can do very little to prevent cancer except to avoid these known risk factors. … Continue Reading

The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left out)

Food Industry Enlisted Academics

by Jonathan Latham, PhD

“Reading the emails make(s) me want to throw up” tweeted the Food Babe after reading a lengthy series of them posted online by the NY Times on Sept 5th. The emails in question result from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and are posted in the side bars of a front-page article by Times reporter Eric Lipton (“Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show”). The article is highly disturbing, but, as the Food Babe implied, the Times buried the real story. The real scoop was not the perfidy and deceit of a handful of individual professors. Buried in the emails is proof positive of active collusion between the agribusiness and chemical industries, numerous and often prominent academics, PR companies, and key administrators of land grant universities for the purpose of promoting GMOs and pesticides. In particular, nowhere does the Times note that one of the chief colluders was none other than the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). … 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

Neoliberal Ebola: The Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak

Guinea Forest Region in 2014

By Rob Wallace

The notion of a neoliberal Ebola is so beyond the pale as to send leading lights in ecology and health into apoplectic fits.

Here’s one of bestseller David Quammen’s five tweets denouncing my hypothesis that neoliberalism drove the emergence of Ebola in West Africa. I’m an “addled guy” whose “loopy [blog] post” and “confused nonsense” Quammen hopes “doesn’t mislead credulous people.” … Continue Reading

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Commentaries

The Meaning of Life (Part I)

DNA double helix

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Many people date the DNA revolution to the discovery of its structure by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. But really it began thirty years before, conceived by the mind of John D Rockefeller, Sr. Thus it is fitting that DNA is named after him. …

The War Over Mangoes

Mangoes from Mexico

by Meredith Rector (Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR)) Growing mangoes in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has racked up an enormous socio-political expense for the region far greater than the price tag on the fruit in the supermarket. For a Mexican drug cartel desperate to move product, hiding …

Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban

Mosquito and DNA

by Jonathan Latham, PhD One of the central issues of our day is how to safely manage the outputs of industrial innovation. Novel products incorporating nanotechnology, biotechnology, rare metals, microwaves, novel chemicals, and more, enter the market on a daily basis. Yet none of these products come with an adequate …

Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life

Phytoplankton

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Test your understanding of the living world with this simple question. What kind of biomolecule is found in all living organisms? If your answer is “DNA”, you are incorrect. The mistake is very forgiveable though. The standard English-language biology education casts DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) as the …

More Commentaries...

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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