Better Know a Scientist: Estefania Elorriaga

The plant on the left has a TALEN (will show it's trait much later)
The plant on the top-right is her transgenic control, 
expressing GFP (green fluorescent protein).
The plant on the bottom right is the unmodified control.

This week in “Better Know a Scientist”, I’m interviewing Estefania Elorriaga. She’s in the midst of her PhD in Dr Steven Strauss’ lab in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. She is doing research on using site-specific nucleases for mutagenesis (fear not! She’ll have to explain her research in this interview).

Pope Francis issues cautious statements about GMOs


(Editor’s note: Introduction by Karl Haro von Mogel) On Thursday the 18th of June, the Vatican published an encyclical written by Pope Francis – an open letter addressed to “every living person on this planet.” The bulk of this encyclical focused on addressing climate change and other detrimental impacts that humans are having on the environment. Subtitled On Care for Our Common Home, it called for a revolution in how we think and act about climate change, which to this day remains a politically divided issue despite the overwhelming scientific consensus. Pope Francis blesses a sample of Golden Rice at

The inconvenient truth about GMO labeling


Over the past few months, there have been several big stories on the labeling of GMOs: Chipotle, a chain of restaurants popular in the United States declared that they were going to eliminate GMOs from their menu. A perhaps more interesting story is that the USDA stated that they would  start providing a verification program for companies whose products are non-GMO. In writing and researching GMO labeling bills proposed in different states and nations as well as looking into companies that have decided to take the non-GMO plunge, the one factor that stands out more than any other is what each of these

Why no one will ever “prove that GMOs are safe”

Water has never been proven safe. Image by Konstantin Stepanov via Flickr.

Water has never been proven safe. Image by Konstantin Stepanov via Flickr. When discussing transgenic crops, I regularly get asked to provide a paper that “proves” that GMOs are safe. Whether you want proof that biotech crops, organic bananas, or conventional peaches are safe, I cannot provide you with such a paper. Safety is a relative term and is generally defined as the absence of risk or harm. As such, asking for proof of safety is, in essence, asking someone for proof of the absence of risk. The risk of what ever is being evaluated is measured in relation to

TED Talk: The Case for Engineering our Food


My TED talk on sustainable ag, food security and GMOs is now available for viewing. Please watch it and let me know what you think!