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Is a Major GMO Safety Test Ineffective?

June 17, 2008 Biotechnology, Environment, Health, News Comments Off on Is a Major GMO Safety Test Ineffective?

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

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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The No-Nonsense Guide to Science

June 4, 2008 Biotechnology, Reviews Comments Off on The No-Nonsense Guide to Science
The No-Nonsense Guide to Science

Book Author: Jerome Ravetz

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Traditional science as practiced in European and US universities is being confronted on many sides. These challenges are manifested in the rise of alternative medicine and patients groups, well-publicised failures and ethical lapses, criticism from environmental groups and declining student interest in many science subjects. To make matters worse, there is an increasingly cogent intellectual critique of scientific infallibility, objectivity and disinterestedness.

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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 on Long-term persistence of GM oilseed rape in the seedbank

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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Let the World Learn From Our Experience with GMOs

March 25, 2008 Biotechnology, Commentaries Comments Off on Let the World Learn From Our Experience with GMOs

E. Ann Clark, University of Guelph, Canada

E. Ann Clark is an Associate Professor in the department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She wrote this piece in response to a widely reported survey which suggested UK farmers wanted to grow GMO crops (1). The first paragraph refers to the fact that the 30 farmers questioned for the survey were selected from a list provided by SCIMAC (the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops). In their own words, “SCIMAC is a grouping of industry organisations along the UK farm supply chain, established in 1998 to support the carefully managed introduction of GM crops in the UK.” It is written as an open letter to British farmers and others considering growing GMO crops.

As I tell my students, how you frame the question predetermines the range of possible answers. This article demonstrates the corollary: how you pick your survey respondents predetermines the outcome. Did the authors of the research – Professor Andy Lane and Dr Sue Oreszczyn – actually intend their findings to be released now, or was it an inadvertent disclosure? Perhaps this small and patently selective sampling of farmer opinion – 30 ‘large-scale, commodity farmers — not those mainly involved in organic growing’ – was just a preliminary effort, to be followed up by a larger, statistically sound sampling? Or perhaps all British farmers are large-scale commodity growers, such that this small group could be considered representative?
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What is Nature Biotechnology good for?

December 4, 2007 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Health, Science Media Comments Off on What is Nature Biotechnology good for?

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

The case of Irina Ermakova

Quite likely it surprised many regular readers of Nature Biotechnology that for the September (2007) issue their journal had invented a new article format specifically in order to describe, and then extensively criticise, the work of a researcher that most of them had never heard of before (1). That surprise will only increase if they read the translation, featured on our website, of a Nov 1st article (The excommunication of a heretic) in the Swiss Newspaper WOZ. Readers who thought this new format was simply a curious, if rather aggressive, literary innovation, can now see that this was a story with a disturbing history. Even more interesting however than the ethical shenanigans behind the publication of the interview with Dr Ermakova, is a point not raised by the Swiss newspaper article.

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Rethinking the Risks of Viral Transgenes in Plants

November 30, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Commentaries, Environment Comments Off on Rethinking the Risks of Viral Transgenes in Plants

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Part I: Transcomplementation and its implications

Today marks the publication, in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology, of the Bioscience Resource Project’s newest biosafety review: Transcomplementation and synergism: implications for virus-resistant transgenic plants?.

This review, which represents a conceptual reanalysis of the risks of viral proteins expressed in transgenic plants, is particularly timely because virus resistance and the biosafety of viral transgenes are currently under active discussion in more than one US regulatory agency.

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The Excommunication of a Heretic

November 26, 2007 Biotechnology, Health, News, Science Media Comments Off on The Excommunication of a Heretic

by Roland Fischer

The article below is translated from an original article in the Swiss German-language newspaper WOZ

An unusual article was published in the September printed edition of the science magazine “Nature Biotechnology”. The editor of the magazine had arranged a sort of “triangular” interview. In one corner he had invited a Russian scientist to answer a few critical questions about her feeding study of GM soybeans. That was researcher Irina Ermakova, who had already presented her initial results at conferences, and who now gladly agreed to help. The study had created considerable controversy, since Ermakova had reported toxic effects on the offspring of laboratory rats, leading to stunted growth and low survival rates.
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Corn Fakes

November 2, 2007 Biotechnology, Health, News Comments Off on Corn Fakes

The article below is reprinted from the British magazine Private Eye, No. 1194, 28 September-11 October 2007. The ‘heavy-handed’ libel threats referred to below temporarily closed the GM Watch website this summer.

Heavy-handed libel threats on the part of a biotech researcher have done little to silence criticism of a scientific paper claiming that shoppers prefer GM produce.
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Commentaries

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 …

Industrial Production of Poultry Gives Rise to Deadly Strains of Bird Flu H5Nx

A factory chicken farm

by Robert G. Wallace Multiple outbreaks of deadly H5 bird flu are decimating poultry across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The epidemic, moving across Eurasia in wave after wave, follows an eruption of H5N2 here in the U.S. in 2015. All the new strains—H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8, and …

There’s Nothing Parochial About the Issue of GMO Food Labeling

Monsanto Prop 37

by Jonathan Latham, PhD The GMO labeling issue has quieted down some but there is still plenty to discuss. Just this week the USDA proposed to redefine GMOs with new loopholes for gene editing. However, it is also possible for reasonable people to imagine that GMO labeling is a sideshow …

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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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