Home » Commentaries » Recent Articles:

America: Becoming a Land Without Farmers

Abandoned Farmhouse

Evaggelos Vallianatos (Photo Credit: Homini:))

The plutocratic remaking of America has a parallel in the countryside. In rural America less than 3 percent of farmers make more than 63 percent of the money, including government subsidies.

The results of this emerging feudal economy are everywhere. Large areas of the United States are becoming impoverished farm towns with abandoned farmhouses and deserted land. More and more of the countryside has been devoted to massive factory farms and plantations. The consequences, though worse now than ever, have been there for all to see and feel, for decades. … 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

Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?

Jonathan Latham, PhD (Photo Credit: auspices)

Imagine an international mega-deal. The global organic food industry agrees to support international agribusiness in clearing as much tropical rainforest as they want for farming. In return, agribusiness agrees to farm the now-deforested land using organic methods, and the organic industry encourages its supporters to buy the resulting timber and food under the newly devised “Rainforest Plus” label. There would surely be an international outcry.

Virtually unnoticed, however, even by their own memberships, the world’s biggest wildlife conservation groups have agreed exactly to such a scenario, only in reverse. Led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), many of the biggest conservation nonprofits including Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy have already agreed to a series of global bargains with international agribusiness. In exchange for vague promises of habitat protection, sustainability and social justice, these conservation groups are offering to greenwash industrial commodity agriculture.
… Continue Reading

‘Phantom Heritability’ Indicates Poor Predictive Value of Gene Tests

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK (photo credit: jurvetson)

Last week, a paper on “phantom heritability” was published by a research group led by Eric Lander, one of the leading contributors to understanding the implications of the Human Genome Project (HGP) for common, complex diseases such as heart disease and cancer (1). The paper has created excitement amongst scientists who have been critical of the claims made for the likely impacts of the HGP on health and medicine. This is not because the paper makes a startling new discovery, but because it is an important step towards recognition of these long standing criticisms. … Continue Reading

The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?

Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?

Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD

Just before his appointment as head of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, the most prominent medical geneticist of our time, had his own genome scanned for disease susceptibility genes. He had decided, so he said, that the technology of personalised genomics was finally mature enough to yield meaningful results. Indeed, the outcome of his scan inspired The Language of Life, his recent book which urges every individual to do the same and secure their place on the personalised genomics bandwagon.

… Continue Reading

The AquaBounty Salmon: Will the World’s First Commercial GE Animal Be an Albatross?

The AquaBounty Salmon

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson (Photo Credit: Yodod)

Is it unrealistic to expect the scientific approval process for the world’s first commercial genetically engineered (GE) animal, the AquAdvantage salmon, to be rigorous and complete? Or for the applicant to present experiments that fully meet regulatory expectations? If you expect these things, it seems, you expect too much. Despite the biotech industry’s “dedication to rigorous science-based risk assessment”, the science of the AquAdvantage salmon is full of holes. Its maker, AquaBounty Technologies, has failed to provide key data on which the safety assessment process depends.

… Continue Reading

Valuing Folk Crop Varieties for Agroecology and Food Security

Valuing Folk Crop Varieties

Dr Debal Deb, Founder-Chair, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, India (Photo Credit: D. Deb)

On May 25, 2009, Hurricane Aila hit the deltaic islands of the Sunderban of West Bengal. The estuarine water surged and destroyed the villages. Farmer’s homes were engulfed by the swollen rivers, their properties vanished with the waves, and their means of livelihood disappeared, as illustrated by the empty farm fields, suddenly turned salty. In addition, most of the ponds and bore wells became salinized.

… Continue Reading

European Community Law and Nanotechnology: A Risky Business?

June 26, 2009 Commentaries, Environment, Health Comments Off on European Community Law and Nanotechnology: A Risky Business?
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

Science News on the Web

Why Independent Science News?

Scientific inventions and ideas shape the future. As science becomes ever more beset by commercial and ideological pressures, there is urgent need for scientific reporting and analysis from an independent, expert, public interest perspective. With this standard, Independent Science News works to shape a future that is biodiverse, just, and healthy for everyone.
More about us...

Sign up to our mailing list

E-mail address:
Name (optional):

Translations

EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish

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. …

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 …

More Reviews...