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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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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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Royal Society Science and Agriculture Study Criticised

October 15, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, News Comments Off on Royal Society Science and Agriculture Study Criticised

There are significant concerns about the long term security and sufficiency of global food-crop production due to the potential impact of many factors including climate change, population growth, changing consumption patterns and competing demands for land. The Royal Society is to study the extent to which the biological and related sciences can contribute to enhancing global food-crop production over the next 30 years within the context of changing global and regional demand during this period.
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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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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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How the Science Media Failed the IAASTD

April 7, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Commentaries, Environment, Science Media Comments Off on How the Science Media Failed the IAASTD

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Note: An excellent complementary piece, from one of the IAASTD authors, is:
The IAASTD report and some of its fallout – a personal note By Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich, Switzerland

You may not have heard of it, but a potential landmark document in the fields of development and agriculture (called by some the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of agriculture) is currently in the late stages of reaching fruition.

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Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture

March 14, 2008 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on Food is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture
Food is Different

Book Author: Peter M Rosset

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Most people would probably agree that the world needs food and agricultural
systems that:
1) provide adequate, affordable, nutritious, tasty and culturally appropriate food,
2) offer rural people the opportunity for a living wage/income,
3) contribute to broad-based development and
4) conserve rural environments, cultural and culinary traditions

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Civil Society Statement on Nanotechnology: Guiding Principles for Regulation

March 14, 2008 Environment, Health, News Comments Off on Civil Society Statement on Nanotechnology: Guiding Principles for Regulation

An international coalition of 44 food, environment and labour organisations is calling for urgent precautionary management of nanotechnology’s toxicity risks to human health and the environment, and its significant social challenges. The group has released a joint statement that details the principles which should underpin precautionary and democratic management of this powerful new technology.
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Bee Learning Behaviour Affected by GMO Toxin

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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