This afternoon, I polished off my entry into the Ashoka Changemakers GMO “Risk or Rescue” contest, with minutes to go before the deadline. I was going to submit my entry last night, but what I had written on the site’s system disappeared when I tried to publish it. So I had to start all over, this time writing it out in Word first. It would have been nice to know the character limit of the ‘describe your idea’ section beforehand, which led to the catastrophic disappearance.
Anyhow, please consider registering at the changemakers site and voting for my entry. The number of votes to beat is 33 votes, I know way more people read this site than that! As opposed to the hiccups that the publishing process experiences on changemakers, registration takes less than a minute and is pain-free. So get to it!
My entry is below the fold.
The text-only entry boxes eliminated my formatting, so here it is as I would like to have shown it:
Biofortified is an independent group blog for plant genetics and genetic engineering (GE). By posting news, discussing research, debunking myths, and inviting the input of guest experts and especially readers, our knowledgeable writers are helping to bring a new standard of communication to agricultural biotechnology. Check us out!
What makes your approach innovative?
Group science blogs have been tried and tested, but this is the first one for plant genetics. The site is currently written on a volunteer basis by two graduate students and two professors, and features posts written by guest experts. This gives the public an opportunity to learn about GE, ask questions, and give their own input.
There are many resources on the internet where people can find factual information about GE crops, but Biofortified is the first forum of its kind to encourage dialog on this important topic, and to bring scientists into an open online forum where they can talk about the issues that they find important. To our knowledge, no other organization is making such a dedicated effort to discussing genetic engineering on the web.
Finally, our blog mascot, Frank N. Foode is going to be a big hit. As he travels the country and the world in search of plant genetics adventures, he gives us a personal connection to the genetics of the foods we eat. No one seems to be able to resist getting their photos taken with him!
How will you sustain your solution?
Maintaining the site is inexpensive, something that a small fundraiser can take care of each year. But we have big plans for extensive information resources and new media approaches, which will take time to put together. This will become easier as Biofortified adds members in the future. The blog is not yet a year old, yet conversation is starting to build up and people are taking notice.
It is important also to keep people interested in a resource, and to create a community where people feel that they can be open, honest, and are entertained enough to keep coming back. In the near future, we plan to release the first in a series of videos to not only bring some science to the public’s computer screens, but also into their kitchens. Most people have all the basic tools to learn about their food right at home, and with Frank N. Foode as their cooking guide, they can see that science can be fun and delicious!
What will be the impact of your solution?
Three authors live in the United States, and one in Australia. As time goes on, we will be adding more writers across the world, to help add to the varied global perspectives we talk about on the blog. We talk about more than just the science – there’s also the politics, social impact, environmental issues, economic considerations, and more. So we have the potential to reach people around the English-speaking world on a wide range of issues connected to this technology.
Genetic engineering is not a “RISK or RESCUE“, it is a RESCUE with RISKS. All plant modifications have risks, including traditional breeding, and we need to encourage public dialog that recognizes this fact and puts this technology in the proper context without resorting to black-and-white false dichotomies. If we can help people realize just this fact, we will have already moved the debate forward in a positive manner.
This is just a taste of some of the reasons why we think this effort is worth your vote. Stick around the comments section in the final week of the Changemakers contest to hear more!
I included a few images in the contest entry, and here they are for posterity:
The banner image, of course.
Frank N. Foode representing the plants.
Anastasia, Frank, and myself when we all met at Maize Genetics.
In my entry, I might have let slip some information about a secret project I am working on with Frank, so in the coming week look forward to hearing more about it. Indeed, each day until the contest closes, I will post one good reason to vote for this blog in the Changemakers contest. There was really not enough space in the contest to adequately explain why something like Biofortified is a great idea worthy of votes, so I will use their comment system to help voters decide. In the meantime, we have until 4 pm EST on September 16th, so get out there and vote!
(By the way, I know that online contests invite their own sort of shenanigans, please lets keep it clean and only register/vote once per person.)