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Science and Social Control: Political Paralysis and the Genetics Agenda

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

Is the Hidden Viral Gene Safe? GMO Regulators Fail to Convince

EFSA Head Office

by Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Having unwittingly allowed a viral gene into the food chain, the response of regulators so far has been to release statements intended to allay public concerns. These statements, however, are inadequate to meet a potentially major food crisis. Not only do they fail to address important issues but they are also scientifically questionable even within their chosen frame of reference.

The GMO regulators involved are the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). These two agencies have separately released statements (see complete texts EFSA and FSANZ) defending their risk assessments and conclusions in response to our recent article “Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in GMO crops“. … Continue Reading

Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops

Cauliflower Mosaic Virus

by Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

How should a regulatory agency announce they have discovered something potentially very important about the safety of products they have been approving for over twenty years?

In the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin, 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance. … Continue Reading

How Millions of Farmers are Advancing Agriculture For Themselves

SRI-grown Rice in China

by Jonathan Latham, PhD

The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.

Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection. … Continue Reading

Risk and Responsibility: Farming, Food, and Unconventional Gas Drilling

November 12, 2012 Commentaries, Health 2 Comments

Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald (Photo credit: Marcellus Protest)

Extraction of hydrocarbon gas from tight shale formations using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has been advertised as a path toward energy independence for the United States and is being promoted worldwide. This is tempered by environmental and societal concerns that have led to banning the practice in some countries (e.g., France), at least one state in the U.S. (Vermont), and numerous towns and cities in the United States. In the United States, the process itself is largely regulated at the state level, with exemptions from federal laws regulating air, drinking water and hazardous waste disposal. Regulation at the state level varies considerably among states with significant shale deposits, as does the level of enforcement of regulations. The argument often given to suggest that the process is safe cites the fact that in the sixty years since the first gas well was hydraulically fractured, the industry has not found proof it finds acceptable that drinking water has been contaminated. This assertion is not universally accepted because of at least two factors. … Continue Reading

Seralini and Science: an Open Letter

Gilles-Eric Seralini

(Authors listed below) (Traduction Francaise)

A new paper by the French group of Gilles-Eric Seralini describes harmful effects on rats fed diets containing genetically modified maize (variety NK603), with and without the herbicide Roundup, as well as Roundup alone. This peer-reviewed study (Seralini et al., 2012), has been criticized by some scientists whose views have been widely reported in the popular press (Carmen, 2012; Mestel, 2012; Revkin, 2012; Worstall, 2012).  Seralini et al. (2012) extends the work of other studies demonstrating toxicity and/or endocrine-based impacts of Roundup (Gaivão et al., 2012; Kelly et al., 2010; Paganelli et al., 2010; Romano et al., 2012), as reviewed by Antoniou et al. (2010).

The Seralini publication, and resultant media attention, raise the profile of fundamental challenges faced by science in a world increasingly dominated by corporate influence. These challenges are important for all of science but are rarely discussed in scientific venues. … 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

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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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