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US Crop Yield Increases Owe Little to Biotechnology

April 16, 2009 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, News Comments Off on US Crop Yield Increases Owe Little to Biotechnology

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

The latest advertising campaign from Monsanto claims that already its “advanced seeds… significantly increase crop yields…”, while since the mid-1990s the biotechnology industry has consistently proposed that higher yielding genetically engineered crops will be necessary to feed the world.
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Roundup Ready 2 Yield as much as Conventional Soybeans?

Roundup Ready 2 Soybeans

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Gore Vidal once wrote that “I told you so,” is the most satisfying sentence in the English language. If so, then the imminent launch of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean line is going to provide a lot of satisfaction, though not to supporters of Monsanto. The role of the new glyphosate-resistant line (insertion event MON88978) in the following story is to provide a single, but highly significant, new data point.

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Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxin

October 21, 2008 Biotechnology, Environment, News Comments Off on Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxin

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Concerns over bees, especially the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) have rarely been higher. Although there are few hard data there is a general consensus that both solitary and social bee populations are declining and that recently the still-mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) has dramatically worsened this situation. No definitive cause for CCD has yet been established but there is widespread agreement that CCD is caused by more than one factor (Calderone, 2008 ; Oldroyd, 2007).
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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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Commentaries

The UK’s Royal Society: a Case Study in How the Health Risks of GMOs Have Been Systematically Misrepresented

by Steven Druker For more than twenty years, many eminent scientists and scientific institutions have routinely claimed that genetically modified foods are safe. And because of the perceived authority of their pronouncements, most government officials and members of the media have believed them. But when the arguments these scientists employ …

“Poison Papers” Snapshot: HOJO Transcript Illustrates EPA Collusion With Chemical Industry

The Poison Papers

by Rebekah Wilce The world of independent chemical testing has a shiny veneer. The public is reassured that chemicals they’re exposed to on a daily basis are certified by technicians in spotless white lab coats who carefully conduct scientific studies, including on animals in neat rows of cages. But a …

The Biotech Industry Is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs from the Inside

by Jonathan Latham, PhD The British non-profit GMWatch recently revealed the agribusiness takeover of Conabia, the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of Argentina. Conabia is the GMO assessment body of Argentina. According to GMWatch, 26 of 34 its members were either agribusiness company employees or had major conflicts of …

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. …

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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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