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23andMe disproves its own business model

July 7, 2011 Health, News 2 Comments

Jonathan Latham

Online gene testing company 23andMe last week published its first genetic research study into Parkinson’s Disease. The study was funded by the participants (many of whom are customers of 23andMe), the company itself, and Google-founder Sergei Brin, who is married to 23andMe’s CEO and founder, Anne Wojcicki (1). Wojcicki is also personally subsidising the company and is a co-author on the paper.

23andMe’s study shows that two new genes it has discovered, plus all known existing genes linked to the disease, are not much better than random selection for predicting who will get Parkinson’s Disease. … 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

Strangely like Fiction: Sponsored Academics Admit Falsely Claiming Dairy Hormone Safety Endorsements

February 22, 2010 Health, News 4 Comments

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

The fight over rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) continues, even under new ownership.

After acquiring rbGH from Monsanto, Elanco (part of Eli Lilly) has stepped up efforts to convince milk processors and the wider food industry that milk from rbGH-injected cows is safe. Central to their new campaign is a paper, commissioned through PR company Porter-Novelli, from eight prominent experts and academics in medicine and dairy science (Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST): a safety assessment).
… Continue Reading

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health

February 6, 2010 Health, Reviews 2 Comments
The China Study

Book Authors: T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II

Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project)

What will it take for veggie stir-fry on rice to replace a beef burger on a bun as the all-American meal? A switch to a more plant-based diet has been standard dietary advice for years and the new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report is no exception. In The China Study, however, the Campbells go much further, arguing that “a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness” and that the healthiest diet is an entirely plant-based whole-food diet (no meat, dairy or eggs and little, if any, fish). A simple switch to such a diet, claim the Campbells, will dramatically decrease your risk of getting the diseases common in Western societies, including auto-immune diseases, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As large-scale genetic screens to identify genes for these same diseases continue to fail, and as this failure looks to be permanent (see The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?), this advice appears more and more prescient.

… Continue Reading

Transgenic High-Lysine Corn LY038 Withdrawn After EU Raises Safety Questions

November 10, 2009 Biotechnology, Health, News No Comments

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

A Monsanto/Cargill joint venture has quietly withdrawn its application for high-lysine transgenic corn after EU regulators on the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) GMO panel raised questions about its safety for human consumption.

… 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

The Unhealthy Truth: How our Food is Making us Sick and What We Can Do About It

April 15, 2009 Health, Reviews Comments Off on The Unhealthy Truth: How our Food is Making us Sick and What We Can Do About It
The Unhealthy Truth

Book Author: Robyn O’Brien (with Rachel Kranz)

Reviewed by Jonathan Latham (The Bioscience Resource Project)

Allergies and food intolerances are serious medical conditions. They are the cause of many deaths and hospitalizations annually and they predispose to other illnesses. They can also exact a high toll in other ways since worry, inconvenience and lost opportunities can significantly harm the quality of lives.

… Continue Reading

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).
… Continue Reading

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Commentaries

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 …

Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life

Phytoplankton

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Test your understanding of the living world with this simple question. What kind of biomolecule is found in all living organisms? If your answer is “DNA”, you are incorrect. The mistake is very forgiveable though. The standard English-language biology education casts DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) as the …

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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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