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Showing posts from April, 2018

Denouncing Public Education

When scientists Monday-morning quarterback the lack of public acceptance of any technology, the usual conclusion is that we fumbled the communication. From refrigerators to in vitro fertilization, from antibiotics to biotech, rocky beginnings can be blamed on the fact that nobody bothered to simply talk to concerned people. 

Over the years scientists and science communicators, sociologists and psychologists have kibbutzed about this problem, and clearly we have determined that the right kind of information did not flow through the right channels in the right way.  Communications efforts were confined to big companies talking to farmers, and nobody talking to the public. 

One possible strategy would be to have science students engage in proper, evidence-based discussion.  It would provide solid, publication-backed science-- and do it in social media and newspaper comments sections, the places where these conversations were taking place.

We've discussed this is a dozen different contex…

Rice Domestication and Breeding Podcast

This week's podcast is on rice domestication. Rice represents a huge amount of calories consumed on the planet, and it has an amazing history. This is worth a listen, with Dr. Susan McCouch from Cornell University. 

How Will Time Judge You?

This week I was stunned by an article in Mother Jones.  Author and Senior Editor Kiera Butler wrote an article about the IARC decision against glyphosate, and how the panel knowingly omitted data from a massive study that did not support the panel's predetermined conclusion that links the herbicide to cancer. 

Scientists and regulatory agencies have long recognized that glyphosate is benign relative to other week killers, and extremely safe at levels used. Activists claim that it is a deadly poison and its immense toxicity is covered up by a deep cabal between companies, regulators and every scientist and farmer in the world. 


Keeping readership trust in the long term requires discussion of of evidence when it is blatant or insurmountable.  The comments section is priceless, including claims that Monsanto paid for this article.

Mother Jones has a history of supporting less-than-scientific positions, including work that they have written about me personally.  

The problem is that when …

Off Target CRISPR Report Retracted

The world is poised to hate gene editing technologies, much like they hated refrigerators, cars, open heart surgery and in vitro fertilization.  There has not be a revolutionary technology yet that consumers haven't rejected first, and asked questions later.  Except stuff Apple sells. 

So when a paper came out last year claiming massive off-target effects of CRISPR-based gene editing, the critics went ballistic. 



The scientific brain trust at Mercola.com jumped on the news story, as to the biotechophobe the genetic sky was falling. 

But to the rest of us we looked carefully at the paper and had a lot of questions.  Mostly, it appeared that what the researchers were calling "off target changes" were not changes from gene editing at all, but instead were just natural sequence variations found between mice.  Bee. Eff. Dee. 
One year later, the paper has been retracted.  But the damage has been done.  This revolutionary technology now gets a sideways look when mentioned.  This o…