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Showing posts from February, 2016

Beware of Blue Strawberries

It seems like every spring I need to solve a crisis around blue strawberries, mythical creatures that someone is exploiting for fame or fortune. Here we are again.  

Several years ago a clever student asked a rhetorical question to the internet about the utility of a blue, "GMO strawberry". Despite no such critter, the internet exploded, causing the US strawberry industries to have me draft a press release. It was that crazy. 

All because of a photoshopped strawberry. The CMO.  Computationally Modified Organism.

Here we are again.  It turns out that unscrupulous off-shore entities are dealing in fictitious plants.  I was alerted to ads on Ebay and Amazon that present these photoshopped seeds. 






According to the sellers these are novel products for the garden.

Notice that most of these get rather poor ratings, on par with unicorn jerky and bigfoot-fur sweaters.  Things that don't exist never perform to the buyer's satisfaction.  
Most of the reviews claim that the seeds neve…

A Frosty Mug of Glyphobia

When the news broke across the internet that beer was contaminated with glyphosate, my first response was to crack a cold can of Sierra Nevada and read the story. 

Soft-science activism has already concocted claims of physiologically-irrelevant detection of glyphosate in breast milk and fresh soybeans.  I don't partake of such commodities under normal circumstances.  But now beer!   You've crossed a line glyphosate.  Them's fightin' words. 

Or perhaps not.  Once again, we are reminded of two basic rules.


Beer contains high amounts of a potent carcinogen that accounts for a tremendous number of deaths each year.



1. We are extremely good at detecting extremely little
2. The dose makes the poison. 

How much glyphosate is there?  Well according to this analysis:


Yikes! Herbicides are detectable in my beer, and what's scary is that we can actually identify molecules that are almost not there. 
According to these data there is somewhere between 460 parts per trillion (equivale…

Talking Biotech #25

Talking Biotech Podcast #25 talks about color-changing flowers and the safety of strawberries, one of the "Dirty Dozen".   It is an episode about the brilliant things we can do, and the safe things we currently do, with technology.

Please Stop Foodbabe-ing!

The new headline circulating in the pro-genetic-engineering social media space is depressing. With joy and gusto, it is being promoted and circulated by those that appreciate the utility of genetic engineering and chemical inputs to safely address specific ag challenges. 



The above article appears on Deadstate.
The claim is that compounds approved for, and used by, organic production are potentially dangerous. Well, not so much potentially dangerous as outright carcinogenic.  

The main shock to most readers is that organic production uses any chemical inputs at all, as the organic halo implies that no chemicals are used.  Of course, we know that to not be true, it is just other chemicals that may be used. 

But just like other chemicals, the dose makes the poison.  For the most part these chemicals have low toxicity, and virtually no risk if applied properly and washed from food. 


Fighting manufactured fear with manufactured fear?  Why adopt Food Babe tactics if you loathe Food Babe tactics…

Answering Students' Questions about Bananas

There was a spirited discussion on Twitter about yesterday's blog.  I pointed out that Iowa State University had a faculty member that is an expert in cartotenoids and their bioavailability.  She was given the task of testing the soluble levels of beta-carotene from the genetically-engineered banana that contained this nutrient. 

In response to her being asked to perform this test, a petition circulated and 57,000 signatures were gathered.  Today there will be a protest/delivery of the petition.

The discussion on Twitter was basically one woman hurling insults at me and telling me that what I posted was not true, that I need to "get on Google and do some research", and that I'm just an industry lackey.  She insisted that I respond to "the questions from students" which I'm happy to do today below.

I'm happy to answer the questions for this Twitter-er.  I suggest you do visit Twitter and enjoy the entire dialog.  My guess is that since she's sure …

A Protest Over Bananas in Iowa

Monday, a group of well-fed students and jumpers-on will march with signs. In a world full of actionable atrocities, these folks have centered their time and energies on a scourge that threatens the progress of mankind-- A dozen ISU students will be paid to eat bananas that carry a banana gene that allows the fruit to produce beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A.  The orange stuff in carrots.  

Say it isn't so. 

An apparently vitamin A sufficient and sighted student dons a banana costume to protest bananas being developed to provide nutrition to the developing world.  A passer by checks out the happenings, then rubs his butt in confusion. 
One year ago I was in Ames, IA at Iowa State University.  The banana trials were supposed to begin then, and the story was on the lips of students and faculty.  Twelve lucky students would get $900 to eat bananas and then have their blood monitored for Vitamin A bioavailability. Five-hundred students answered the solicitation. 
Why is this happen…

THEATER & ARTS REVIEW: Seeds -- Opening Night!

I was extremely fortunate to be attending the Crop Connect Conference in Winnipeg the same day that Seeds opened.  I mean, how often are you in canola country, at a canola-heavy conference, and get to see a play about canola? Plus, I've been through these court records and know that story well. A small outing of farmers, canola industry folks and a scientist or two headed downtown and take in the performance at Prairie Theater Exchange.

Seeds is a play written by Annabel Soutar.  It chronicles the Percy Schmeiser affair, the story of a Saskatchewan canola farmer that was sued by the Monsanto Company because he was illegally growing genetically-engineered canola off license. The popular activist internet myth that likely seeded the script says that Schmeiser was the innocent victim in a classical David vs. Goliath episode, that company thugs sued him for a few seeds blown onto his property. Yet actual court records tell a story of a guy that illegally obtained technology and then pl…