nyethumb

Bill Nye, Science Guy, and GMOs – oh my!

Bill Nye caused a bit of drama over his stance on GMOs with the publication of his recent book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. Biologists were dismayed by some of the unsourced claims he was making, and what seemed to be a failure to investigate the science on this issue. And for someone who has been such a strong supporter of evidence, even famously noting in his debate with creationist Ken Ham what would change is mind on a topic: Those of us who support evidence-based positions on scientific topics like evolution cheered this response enthusiastically. And realizing that if he really meant that–and it seemed to me biologists really took him at his word–we hoped Nye would look at the actual evidence on GMOs. Kevin Folta wanted to help Bill examine the evidence, and offered to use the debate format to do so. Although the Folta/Nye event

Biological pest control

Biological Pest Control Basics

Managing pests is an important part of cultivating plants whether you are tending a small garden in your yard or several fields of crops. Insect predators can make short work of healthy plants, particularly if insect predators are in abundance. The good news is that there are natural ways to combat these pests that growers have been utilizing for many years. Granted, not all solutions are created equal. There are a number of reasons why biological control efforts may fail; including breeding being out of sync or the countermeasure not being strong enough. The primary points of biological pest control are: Classic Biological Control Conservation Augmentation Each offers its own pros and cons with success hinging on a large number of factors that is impossible to completely define. Even still, these methods have traditionally been effective for a number of growers and have been used since the dawn of farming.

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which can be recognized from the banding pattern on its legs. Image by USDA via Wikimedia.

Genetically Modified Dengue Fighters

When I was 6 years old, my family moved to Venezuela. I graduated from high-school and then chose to move back to Canada to go to college while my family stayed behind. It’s only in the past 2-4 years that my family left Venezuela due to the economic and political instability. And the kidnappings. Most of that time was spent in a city called Barquisimeto. Our house overlooked a valley of sugar cane fields, called “Valle del Turbio”, named for a river that ran close to our house. The river, which translates to “murky”, was aptly named because during dry season it was stagnant and stinky. As such, mosquitoes and the illnesses they bear were very common in our neighborhood.

75percentyo

Roundup in 75% of Air? What the Report Actually Says

Last week the anti-biotech websites exploded with the news: “Roundup Weedkiller Found in 75% of Air and Rain Samples, Gov. Study Finds” and more scary-sounding titles like that. My first response was to get a copy of the paper right away so I could read all about it and see the data. That would be pretty remarkable. But I could not access the paper at Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. So how did all of these websites above and their scholarly journalists get the manuscript? I contacted one of the original paper’s authors, Dr. Paul Capel, and asked for a copy and got one.  Apparently I was the first. Seems like those coming to the conclusions of the websites above were acting true to form– skimming an abstract and drawing a conclusion that best fits their desires. So I actually read the paper! Want to know what it says?

grassroots125

At the Vanguard

One year ago, I was contacted by a journalist in Washington by the name of Marco who wanted to learn more about the messy biology and politics of genetically engineered crops so he could write about them in his local paper. Part of his challenge was as the State of Washington was gearing up for a mandatory GMO labeling battle and the political divide was already beginning to affect how people viewed the science. His resulting article on Arctic Apples was published and probably opened a few minds. Next, he wanted to write something about the Green Genes movement, including part of his interview with me, however the paper was not very receptive and would only barely publish it with a ton of edits and… a disclaimer. Now, instead you can read his excellent piece at the GMO Skepti-Forum site! (I’m biased) Here is an excerpt: When GMOs were first