Ecosystems are not smart, we are.

Cover crop seed blend of 17 species

In my recent post Don’t mimic nature on the farm, improve it, I argued that we should cast aside the ideas of “balance of nature” and “nature knows best” in designing farming systems. There is no reason to “follow nature’s lead” if nature has not been optimized by any process that we know of, and therefore consists of mostly random mixes of species dictated primarily by natural disturbances. But if we don’t, what are we left with? We are left with an agriculture based on human ingenuity, consisting of: Crop rotations; or better yet, dynamic crop sequences. Residue management and

How does BT work?

Adult corn borer. By Tony Morris vis Flickr.

Life, at it’s most basic level is really just a series of chemical reactions. Biochemists and molecular biologists, such as myself, look at how life works at the very most basic level. Unfortunately, this stuff is all very complicated and there are few resources online to explain how this work. Anastasia has a wonderful post about how Bt corn works in transformed plants, titled simply ‘Bt‘. In the post, she focuses on how the protein works from the angle of a plant biologist. In this post, I will be discussing the protein from the angle of an entomologist. Specifically,

E.coli’s use in GMOs: can you get E.coli poisoning?

The cloning process.

For my first post on Biofortified, I’d like to share an account of an exchange that started on Twitter. It all began when I stumbled upon a doozy of a story, about how you can get E. coli poisoning from GMOs. The author outlines that E.coli is used during the course of genetic engineering to replicate DNA since it is highly prolific. But, the author highlights, E.coli is also able to transfer DNA laterally to and from other species. Then the author says: “It is possible that a mutated form of e-coli resulting from the cloning process used in creating GMOs could

Don’t Mimic Nature on the Farm, Improve it

320px-Thomas_Cole_The_Garden_of_Eden_Amon_Carter_Museum

Behind many efforts to make agriculture more sustainable is the idea that our farming systems need to be more like nature. According to agroecologist Miguel Alteri, “By designing farming systems that mimic nature, optimal use can be made of sunlight, soil nutrients, and rainfall.” This strategy arises from a long history of thinking that there exists a “balance of nature.” This idea has greatly influenced how we look at nature1 and agriculture. In the latter case, it drives much of what is done in organic farming and agroecology, but also finds its way into no-till farming. Nonetheless, it is

GMO Papayas are about People

alberto

Last August, I was invited to speak about genetically engineered crops at a GMO Summit organized by the Hawai’i Crop Improvement Association. The event was held on the big island of Hawai’i, known for its enormous volcanoes, long beaches, and coffee and papaya farms. The HCIA flew me in to speak (honorarium declined), I stayed at people’s houses, and while I was in the state I knew I really wanted to see a papaya farm and to meet Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, who developed the genetically engineered ringspot virus-resistant papayas known as SunUp and Rainbow. So I sent him an