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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.
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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Real Burning Question: Are Liquid Fuels the best use of Non-Woody Biomass?

March 28, 2009 Commentaries, Environment, Science Media Comments Off on The Real Burning Question: Are Liquid Fuels the best use of Non-Woody Biomass?
Are Liquid Fuels Really the Best Use for Non-Woody Biomass?

David Malakoff, Science Writer (Photo Credit: PortWorks)

If Roger Samson had a coat of arms, it might be a flickering flame encircled by a wreath of grass.

For decades now, the Canadian agriculture expert has been talking up the environmental and economic benefits of burning non-woody biomass – such as pellets made from perennial grasses – to produce heat and electricity. And he’d won some converts: Policymakers, industry executives and farmers in the United States and Canada were warming to the idea, conducting research and starting pilot projects.

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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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Commentaries

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. …

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 …

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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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