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Showing posts from December, 2016

I'll Turn 50, Where's My Free Stuff?

On January 11, 2017 I will turn 50.  To many this chronological milestone represents a harsh reminder of beer-soaked sand clumping through life's hourglass, a grim reminder of aging and the unpleasantries of human senescence. 

I look at it as a way to start cashing in my chips for free stuff and early bird discounts. 


Frankly, I think it is all crap. It doesn't phase me a bit, but I'll take the bonus goods for eclipsing an arbitrary chronological metric.

I spent my first 35 years in school and postdoc time, scrounging for change, and taking any job that would give me five bucks or a sandwich. I could never figure out why the elderly got the discounts. Not only did they have all of the money, they also had social security. 

Senior discounts seemed wasted on the old.  I was the one that really needed the free bagel. 

I was taken back to January 10th, 1988, the day before my 21st birthday, and how the next day I'd be magically responsible enough to buy the alcohol I had been e…

Talking Biotech 062 -- DNA Evidence of Dog Domestication

Comment on Natural News

I needed a picture of myself to send to organizers of an upcoming conference. I found this in Google images and was curious what it was:



So I clicked the link and it took me to a Natural News story that talked about how I "receive bribes", "run scams", engage in "corruption".  It says that Monsanto provides me with money to take luxury vacations in Hawaii.  It was all assembled from cherry-picked comments in my personal emails that I willingly handed over to USRTK.
Of course, none of that is true. 
it is simply an opportunity to hurt someone, so Mike Adams used his reaching website to produce a (well, one of many) story that was false and potentially very damaging.  


When you read the comments section you see how this hateful rhetoric whips people into a frenzy.  This is just one example.  Five likes! 
I thought that since it has been a year I could provide a factual synthesis of the situation and maybe at least have the proper story out there in space. So I …

Mythbusting "Terminator Genes"

The discussion of the concept of Terminator Genes is important.  Many people feel that this technology is a reason to not adopt genetically-engineered crops.  Vandana Shiva speaks of the technology as though it is present in every plant. 



However, the story is much more interesting and is the subject of today's podcast.  The technology only existed in concept, maybe in a few plants that never left a greenhouse.  It was originally devised to limit gene flow, one of the issues that critics raise today.  However, it was never even close to commercialization. The story is told by Dr. Mel Oliver, the USDA scientist that developed the idea. 

The story is important to know.  Why do people claim that this technology is widespread?  The answer is that it is a way to create fear.  Why does anyone them, when their claims are not true? 




More USRTK Harassment - My Correspondence with Journalists

It has been a couple of months now since I received a public records requests from USRTK or The Food Babe Vani Hari.  They love reading the boring emails of a lifelong public scientist, hoping that they can funnel off specific statements and feed them to writers that can fabricate bogus accusations. 

After turning over about 27,000 pages of email under records requests in the last two years without any resistance, they found no smoking gun.  Gary Ruskin originally said that he wanted to know why a scientist would possibly provide science-based answers on a website where the public asks questions. That was the original probe.

After 27,000 pages of email, they can see that I've done nothing wrong, nothing unethical, and that I'm pretty happy to enjoy a casual conversation with others. 

But now they want more.  After they've retrieved all correspondences between me and every company you can think of, every other scientist in my discipline, and even entities I've never heard …

GE Crops in Organic Production?

Dr. Mark Williams has extensive training in molecular biology.  He also is interested in sustainable crop production, and leads training in organic production at University of Kentucky.  In this interview he speaks about the intersection of these areas, touching on how what have been treated as disparate approaches really fit well together.  Dr. Williams touches on  gene editing, food labeling, environmental impact, and how education efforts need to focus on sustainable agriculture using the best tools going forward.  Hosted by Dr. Paul Vincelli

Post-Truth and Ag Policy: Boulder County Colorado

I've known of the stewing agricultural pressure cooker known as Boulder County, Colorado for several years, and this week the inevitable happened.  Affluent city dwellers have used post-truth emotional arguments to denounce scientific and agricultural experts, placing their Whole-Foods-informed truthiness above evidence. 

The county harbors 25,000 acres of farmland, most of it under needed irrigation.  The space has been greened by annual plantings dominated by corn and sugar beets.  Over the last two decades these crops have transitioned to genetically engineered (familiarly "GMO") seeds that bear traits to limit farmer costs and reduce environmental impacts. 



Boulder County plans to restrict farmer seed choice based on politically-motivated, emotionally driven rhetoric that denies basic scientific facts.
But last week a county council voted 2 to 1 to 'phase out' the use of genetically engineered seeds, putting restrictions on farmers about the plants they choose t…