Gene Editing and GMOs

Gene editing has been getting a lot of attention lately, with an increasing number of articles about this method in the media. In this post, I’ll provide a very high level overview of the method (please note that many molecules and enzymes will be omitted for the sake of simplicity). Most of the information here is from a 2014 review entitled “Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering” from the journal Cell (unfortunately behind a paywall). As you can imagine, gene editing is somewhat of a holy grail. To erase undesired mutations in DNA would be a dream for many clinicians/doctors. But there are many different applications besides erasing what we don’t want. We could introduce variations that we do want: creating an animal model for a disease, developing crops with desired traits, etc.


Feeling Detached from Food Production? Blame Jethro Tull

Many consumers today feel out of touch with how their food is produced and are disturbed by a lot of what they hear about it through their social networks or other sources of information. If it is necessary to assign fault for this phenomenon, I think we could blame Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull!? No, I don’t mean the 70s rock band led by flautist Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre, I mean the early 18th century agronomist and inventor named Jethro Tull  (the two Jethros did; however, have similar hair styles).


Political Ideologies and the Anti-GMO Movement

The Anti-GMO movement has been around since before GM technology first walked across the world stage. The mere hint of it initiated the creation of activist groups against it, and the ideology of anti-GMO began before the public really knew anything about the science. The pervasive question here is why? It should come as no surprise that the majority of anti-GMO sentiment comes from the left portion of the political spectrum. The common thought process is that the right supports GMOs because they support big business. This may be true to some extent, but I don’t think the causation is supported. I think that the right, because they don’t automatically hold a dislike for big business simply doesn’t have a reason to buy into the fear mongering about the science in this case.

2012 U.S. drought, credit: Theresa L Wysocki.

Food Crises and Technological Phobia

Drought across the United States has reduced substantially the expected yield of corn and soybean fields for the fall 2012 U.S. harvests.  With reduced yield, prices have risen rapidly for these crops that are widely-used food and feed ingredients, huge international agricultural trade commodities, and important food aid essentials.  With the price increases, persons around the world have expressed concerns that a situation similar to 2008 is about to occur.  In 2008, high food prices led to social, economic, and political instability – hunger, export restrictions, riots, and the overthrow of governments. In light of these concerns, commentators have expressed varying opinions about appropriate actions to prevent a 2008 food crisis from coming again in 2012 or 2013.  Several commentators, including the FAO Director General and twenty-six United States Senators, urged the United States to waive its Renewable Fuel Standard that results in about 40% of U.S. corn being used

Want to identify plants with your smartphone?

Editor’s Note: We have been receiving a large number of requests to identify plants for people. We don’t have the resources or expertise to be able to do this. Please contact a local university extension expert if you are unsure about a plant that you are looking at. You can check up with iBoPlanet™ to see if they have completed their app, but please do not ask us to ID your plants! Please enjoy the interview below. Thanks! Recently, we received a message from an enterprising Floridian who wants to help people identify every plant they come across – with nothing more than a smartphone and a camera – and an application that he is building. His name is Steve Bowen, and he is trying to raise money for his smartphone app, called iBoPlanet™. He explains it in detail with a video on his Kickstarter fundraising page. The basic idea