Don’t believe what Dr. Oz is saying about an agricultural herbicide

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Dr. Oz. Source: Wikipedia

Television personality Dr Oz has released a video which talks about an agricultural product called Enlist Duo.  Virtually nothing in this video is presented accurately.  It is a prime example of fear-mongering around the issues of “GMOs” and pesticides.  I’d like to respond, point by point, to what it says that is not true or misleading.  Dr Oz’s statements/image descriptions will be in red:

“The EPA is on the brink of approving a brand new toxic pesticide you don’t know about.”

The product in question, Enlist Duo is a combination of two very old herbicide products:  2,4-D and glyphosate. A great many consumers do know about these materials because they have been approved for homeowner use for decades and are common ingredients in products available at any neighborhood gardening center.  These chemicals are still approved for use in more than 70 countries around the world and for use in high exposure settings like lawns, parks, sports fields and gardens. They are still used this way because after multiple rounds of increasingly sophisticated scrutiny by regulators, they have been confirmed to be quite low in toxicity to humans and to the environment. This product is neither “brand new” nor is it notably “toxic.” Continue reading.

Thomas Lang makes music for Frank N. Foode™

thomaslang-900As you know, we’re working on the music for our educational video series, Cooking with Frank N. Foode™, and we are seeking donations to help fund this important part of our new outreach project. Next, I want to introduce you to Thomas Lang, who composed the music for this series. We knew it would be a challenge to create music that fits the topics we would talk about on the show, and bring out both the science and the character of Frank N. Foode™. We were fortunate to not have to look very far to find Tom.

Several years ago, Ariela and I were already acquainted with Tom while he was a composition graduate student at UW-Madison. He worked in the campus music library, and he was a very helpful tutor and a fantastic composer, we soon learned. Three years ago we attended a concert that featured his award-winning piece, Music for Orchestra in However Many Incarnations, which was inspired by actors who played Dr. Who in Doctor Who. Continue reading.

Let’s make Music for Cooking with Frank N. Foode™!

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Frank, Mozart, and Papaya enjoy some Viennese coffee together

As many of you may have heard, following the unboxing of our Frank N. Foode™ and Papaya plushies, we have placed the order for these plushies and the factory is beginning production. Not only that, but we managed to increase our order from the original 500 Franks and 250 Papayas to 750 Franks and 500 papayas! The tremendous amount of support and enthusiasm that we saw in our Kickstarter campaign and while we perfected the new designs has been phenomenal, and I personally can’t wait to get the boxes ready to ship as soon as the plushies arrive!

We know that Frank N. Foode™ is going to be a hit, and he will help us reach more people and make science more fun for them. Right now we are preparing to launch Frank into a whole new domain with cooking videos and science festivals – and to do that we need to make music! And we’re going to need your help. Continue reading.

Unboxing the new Frank N. Foode and Papaya Plushies

A little box came in the mail today, with something we’ve all been waiting for. Watch the video, and let me know what you think!

Sex and death in the cornfields, Part II- Why rootworms?

Hi, I started this series to explain a little more background behind the news and opinion articles you may have seen about Bt-resistant corn rootworms, with scary titles like Voracious worm evolves to eat biotech corn engineered to kill it and Evolution one-ups genetic modification.  I started out talking about the system as it was originally developed for moths, but I wanted to come back to talk about why rootworms are so good at developing resistance to Bt crops.  Part I of this article talked about refuges and how they are used to slow insect resistance, so I’m assuming you know how a refuge works.  If you don’t, check out Sex and death in the cornfields: What is a refuge?

Diabrotica virgifera virgifera

Western corn rootworm. Image by S Gorski.

There are several different pestiferous species of rootworms, but they are often lumped together because their larvae are difficult to tell apart.  The Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) is the most damaging and most studied.

As you may recall, transgenic Bt-expressing corn targeting rootworms has only been around since 2003, and there are already reports of resistance.  Resistance has been confirmed in Iowa.  Reduced susceptibility has been reported in Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  (Reduced susceptibility is basically the same idea as resistance, but is defined more loosely; there is a lower standard of evidence to meet.)  So it looks like there will be more resistance occurring in the near future.

It looks like we haven’t been as effective in slowing resistance development with rootworm-active transgenics as with moth-active transgenics.  Why? There are lots of things about the rootworm system that make it less simple and less elegant than the moth system. Continue reading.