On Wednesday, Slate published a long, in-depth feature article on GMO labeling by William Saletan called Unhealthy Fixation. It has been the talk of the week in the social media discussion about genetically engineered crops and the arguments and tactics of the organizations and individuals who oppose their use. The subtitle of the article says it all: “The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.” If you have not yet had a chance to read this article, you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing – twice. Saletan frames the issue around the perennial political topic of GMO labeling, but the important focus is on how many groups that campaign against genetically engineered crops, such as Greenpeace, have been consistent only in their opposition to the technology. Their arguments however have been duplicitous and inconsistent with
To help educate people about the many methods that are used to generate new traits in plants, Biology Fortified has created an infographic on six different crop modification techniques, with examples of crops generated with each method. This infographic was made by Layla Katiraee together with Karl Haro von Mogel and we hope that it will be the first of many graphics that Biology Fortified will develop to help people understand and relate to the science! This post provides the references and a brief explanation on each technique, along with downloads in multiple formats.
Around the world there are “Skeptics in the Pub” events that gather folks from the local community who are interested in issues of science, technology, health, and sometimes explore the more ephemeral things like the paranormal – ghost busting and Bigfoot sorts of discussions might ensue. You should look around and see if there are folks in your area that host these evenings, and you’ll find folks interested in hearing about and discussing these wide-ranging and fascinating topics, with beer or cider or perhaps a soda. Personally, I hang around at the Boston Skeptics events, but these exist world-wide. Look for one around you. They are fun and interesting and can help support local venues. Earlier this year I asked if the Boston Skeptics would be interested in hearing about GMOs – but from the Monsanto side. Like good skeptics, they were open to hearing this side of a controversial
In the debate surrounding GMOs, a statement that is often made is that many countries have banned transgenic crops, which suggests that they are not safe. Here’s an example from the Non-GMO Project’s website: “Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.” All countries have laws and regulations surrounding biotech crops, including the United States, which is why you can’t develop a transgenic crop and have it sold in stores the following season. Very few countries have an outright ban, where GMOs can neither be grown nor imported. According to GMOAnswers.com, only Kenya falls in this category, but I also found that Peru has a 10-year ban on the use and import of GMO seeds.
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).