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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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The Killing of the Countryside

December 1, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Environment, Reviews Comments Off on The Killing of the Countryside

The Killing of the CountrysideBook Author: Graham Harvey

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Visitors to Britain are always being asked to admire the “unspoiled countryside” of a particular region, but landscapes are more than just photo opportunities. In only sixty years the British countryside has changed from being predominantly meadows and grasslands abundant with orchids and bees to virtual monocultures of rye grass whose wildlife is largely confined to clipped hedges and mown verges.

Many species of insects and flowers are all but extinct in Britain and the process continues. Today, the weed seed bank in farmed arable fields is estimated to be declining by approximately 3% per year. What has been lost and how we got here is the story of this book. Of all the ways that the UK landscape has been ‘spoiled’ , ugly development is perhaps the least of the villains.
ISBN: 0099736616 Publisher: Vintage (1998)

Rethinking the Risks of Viral Transgenes in Plants

November 30, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Commentaries, Environment Comments Off on Rethinking the Risks of Viral Transgenes in Plants

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Part I: Transcomplementation and its implications

Today marks the publication, in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology, of the Bioscience Resource Project’s newest biosafety review: Transcomplementation and synergism: implications for virus-resistant transgenic plants?.

This review, which represents a conceptual reanalysis of the risks of viral proteins expressed in transgenic plants, is particularly timely because virus resistance and the biosafety of viral transgenes are currently under active discussion in more than one US regulatory agency.

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Effects of GMO Pollen in Waterways

November 2, 2007 Biotechnology, Environment, News Comments Off on Effects of GMO Pollen in Waterways

Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems E. J. Rosi-Marshall, J. L. Tank, T. V. Royer, M. R. Whiles, M. Evans-White, C. Chambers, N. A. Griffiths, J. Pokelsek, and M. L. Stephen PNAS 2007 104: 16204-16208

PNAS Press Release :
Ecological impacts of genetically engineered corn are particularly important because of increased corn demand created by biofuels production

A new study indicates that a popular type of genetically engineered corn–called Bt corn–may damage the ecology of streams draining Bt corn fields in ways that have not been previously considered by regulators. The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in the Oct. 8 edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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FOE Report Criticises EU Biotechnology Strategy as ill-focussed and not evidence-based

March 20, 2007 (Un)Sustainable Farming, Biotechnology, Environment, Health, News Comments Off on FOE Report Criticises EU Biotechnology Strategy as ill-focussed and not evidence-based

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

A major stated goal of the European Union is to integrate and support ecological sustainability, job creation and competitiveness as stated in the form of the Lisbon objectives. These goals are supposed to be reached by means of research programmes and incentives, including programmes on biotechnology, but how plausibly does research in fact support these objectives? The EU biotech strategy is due for review in 2007, and to coincide with this Friends of The Earth (FOE Europe) has published a new report: The EU’s Biotechnology Strategy: mid-term review or mid-life crisis? which questions the likely contribution of EU biotech programmes to the Lisbon objectives.
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Conflicts of Interest: In Agriculture too?

March 15, 2007 Commentaries, Environment, Health, Science Media Comments Off on Conflicts of Interest: In Agriculture too?

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Failure to declare a conflict of interest, as Lester Crawford has been reminded (see news item), is a federal offence for United States Government employees, punishable by a prison term. To many scientists however, conflicts of interest are a fact of life. Members of hundreds of government advisory panels hold shares in, consult for, or are employed by, the companies about whose products they are supposed to provide ‘independent’ guidance (Krimsky, 2003). Similarly, many public interest organisations, notably patient groups and charities, are in the similar position of receiving money from corporations affected by their policies, conduct and advice. The prevailing attitude in science is that these conflicts either are unavoidable, because most successful scientists have them, or that they do not matter because scientists are sufficiently objective to discount them. In the words of numerous editorials and official guidelines, these conflicts are ‘apparent’ rather than real. None of these arguments should carry much weight.
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The Agenda Gap in Science

February 28, 2007 Commentaries, Environment, Health, Science Media Comments Off on The Agenda Gap in Science

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

Writing in New Scientist recently (New Scientist 06-01-07), Bernard Dixon, a former editor, bemoaned the lack of dialogue between scientists and the public and warned of the dangers of disengagement. Unfortunately, like many people, both in and out of science, his conception of the relationship between science and society lacks clarity and this is a pity because this relationship is ultimately what sustains science. Nevertheless, he does identify one exceptionally important point: it is not lack of public enthusiasm that undermines the engagement process, it is lack of enthusiasm on the part of scientists and policymakers. But, despite this acknowledgement Bernard Dixon never manages to answer why efforts to sustain dialogue have never succeeded. Maybe we can propose an answer?

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Cisgenic Plants: Just Schouten from the Hip?

February 23, 2007 Biotechnology, Commentaries, Environment, Health Comments Off on Cisgenic Plants: Just Schouten from the Hip?

Allison Wilson and Jonathan Latham

Many genetic engineers have long resented the regulatory procedures imposed on transgenic crop plants, often arguing that there is no difference between the risks arising from transgenic plants and plants bred using ‘conventional’ methods. A recent proposal calls for complete deregulation of transgenic plants which have only plant DNA inserted into their genomes (Schouten et al., 2006a,b). The term cisgenic has been coined for such plants in order to highlight the origins of the transferred DNA. Other terms for plant-derived transgenes include ‘all-native DNA’ and ‘P-DNA’ (Rommens, 2004).

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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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