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Condoning Car Attacks on Protesters

The interesting thing about COVID19 times is that whenever I sense we have hit the lowest low, society always seems to find a level lower.  At a time when we admire the work of physicians, nurses and other folks on the front line of the pandemic, there are equal magnitudes of disappointment from some that represent a significant mindset within our nation.

Today someone I knew from high school posted this on Facebook:



A new low in counter-protest swag endorses the recent trend of using vehicular violence to quash social movements. 

Clearly the All Lives Splatter is a play off of Black Lives Matter, and the car plowing into protesters depicts the increasingly frequent use of vehicles weaponized by those aggressively opposed to the requested social change.  Since the death of George Floyd in late May, there have been 66 vehicle attacks on protesters.

The tactic typically employed by Islamic militant groups has now been adopted by those wishing to limit the American tradition of protest.  The…

The Joy of Growing Food for Others - What we can learn from a four-year-old farmer

Olivia is a tiny girl, probably somewhere between four and five, that doesn’t really walk from place to place as much as she bounces. Her hair is white-blonde from the sun, she always smiles, and she sings while she talks.
We met her at a Gainesville, Florida farmers market. My wife Natalia sells the fruits and vegetables she produces there, and Olivia and her parents are regular customers. One day last fall Olivia would fall in love with the cucamelon. Also known as the mouse melon or Mexican sour gherkin, the cucamelon is a fresh-market fruit that has the color and size that would be perfect as a watermelon for Barbie and Ken.
Cucamelons have a pickle-like quality and a hint of citrus, and they are a favorite at the market. We eat them in salads and on cheese boards, plucked by the dozens from long prolific vines. And Oliva just loves them. During the early spring Florida growing season in January and February she’d come back week after week, searching for the fruit even when they were…

Film Review: The Need to Grow

The recurring ads on Facebook pulled at me to watch The Need to Grow, a documentary film about food and farming.  As someone connected with these areas professionally and personally, I thought it would be worth a watch.  Here is a review.

First the good things.  The film is nicely shot and well written.  The majority of the work builds on themes such as nutritious diets healthy soils, and efficient energy. Those are the central underlying values of the film, and ones that I wholly endorse. 

However, where the film falls apart is in its approaches to achieve those end points.  Two of the "experts" recruited for the film are none other than Jeffrey Smith and Vandana Shiva, two people with little training in science or farming (and no, Vandana Shiva is not a physicist as the film claims). 

The narrator is actress Rosario Dawson, who early in the film makes the proclamation, "Agriculture is the most destructive human activity on the planet."

It is clear where this is going…

Science From Home 3-30 to 4-3

Hi Everybody, 

I'll keep doing the daily science story at 11AM EDT at facebook.com/kmfolta.  

This week:

Monday






Tuesday


Wednesday


Thursday



Friday


No Ventilator for You!

Today the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that we will fall woefully short of ventilators to treat COVID19 patients. Using the data from Italy and the rate of growth in the States, it is estimated that there will be need for 1.4 to 31 people per available ventilator.  Tough decisions will have to be made. 

That's why I'm starting the hash tag #NoVentilatorForYou.  And here is the first charlatan that should be denied access. They also should be arrested and jailed for life.   

On Instagram the account @mypronatural is selling concoctions with the clear implicit goal of treating SARS-COV2.  This is pure profiteering off of a crisis, lining pockets with false health claims that will endanger lives and burden the health care system. 

I motion that when we have to make decisions about who has access to the limited ventilators, the folks behind this campaign move to the back of the line. 
Do I hear a second?

At least report them on Instagram.  I did.  It did nothing. 

Let's…

Home School Video Field Trips!

With the closure of schools due to COVID19, it is an opportunity to try new experiments in education. This week I'll be featuring Facebook Live streaming video that students can join from any location.  I'll present topics in science and agriculture for 30 minutes, then stop to answer questions about the topic and about life as a scientist.  We'll also present a diversity of guests that will show their work. 

I'll gear the lessons for grades 3-6, but all ages are welcome.  I'll be glad to answer questions afterward until there are no more! 

11 AM EST at my professional Facebook page

This week:

3/23    Plants and Light





3/24    Plant Grafting:  How and Why




3/25    From Egg to Goose (we'll look at live goose eggs as they develop)




3/26    No More Oranges?   The race for a cure for the citrus disease



3/27   Crop Domestication - Where did Fruits and Veggies Come From?


Bogus Hand Sanitizers

As anticipated, bogus and dangerous crackpot cures have been bubbling up during the recent COVID-19 outbreak.   We know that hand hygiene is important at this time, and that soap and water are superior to all other methods of virus suppression on your hands. Period. 

Of course, there are those that shun the offerings of Big Soap and delve into the alchemy cabinet to devise a magical virus shield. Sadly, the folks that shun science and technology in a medical parlance certainly appreciate the technology of the computer, and are glad to share their shaman's crappy guidance with the world. 

As a guy that hangs at farmers markets and has some crunchy online friends, I am seeing too much quackery.  The majority state that homemade hand sanitizers can be made from various ingredients found in any respectable commune's infirmary. 



At least you'll have supple, sweet smelling hands in the casket.


If you don't want to construct your own, or if local witches went to Whole Foods and b…

Talking Biotech #230 - A Deep Dive on COVID19

As of 3/11/2020 COVID-19 is emerging as a significant health threat worldwide.  This pandemic is on the rise, and public health suffers from politicized spin, misinformation, and a lack of good information.  This episode is targeted to the Talking Biotech listener that can connect with family and friends, sharing the facts of this outbreak.   Today's guest is Dr. ChubbyEmu, the YouTube physician that has been at ground zero in discussing the coronavirus outbreak.  We dig a layer deeper into the disease, its physical manifestations, and the current state of the disease as it spreads into the USA.

Talking Biotech #229 - A Universal Influenza Vaccine

Seasonal influenza causes thousands of deaths annually.  Part of the problem is that the vaccine must be administered annually because the virus presents different immunological faces to avoid detection.  Dr. Peter Palese is a pioneer in studying the molecular biology of the influenza viruses.  Today he and colleagues are on a quest to identify a universal flu vaccine that would provide one-time durable immunity.  We discuss the strategies and progress toward this public health milestone.
Here's a link to this week's podcast. 

Talking Biotech #228 - Improved Oils from Plants with GE

Plants produce a variety of oils, many that are critical to the human diet.  The precise chemical qualities of plant oils dictate its stability, use, nutrient quality, or even its use as fuel.  Dr. Surinder Singh is an expert in plant oils at CSIRO, the Australian National Research Laboratory.  His laboratory has been working on projects in a variety of crops to improve the oil quality for human nutrition, but also as a potential fuel.  Such efforts provide a renewable and more sustainable source of valuable oils, taking pressure off of fisheries and carbon-intensive practices.
Listen to this week's podcast here.

Talking Biotech #227 - Anti CRISPRs

The arms race between bacteria and the viruses that infect them brought the Cas9 and similar editing systems.  These enzymes are essentially a bacterial immune system, and now are being exploited as important tools in genetic engineering.  To counter the bacteria response viruses produce inhibitors of the Cas enzymes. Dr. Joseph Bondy-Denomy is a professor at the University of California San Francisco that studies these inhibitors.  He discusses their discovery and potential applications. 

Listen to Talking Biotech Podcast #227 here. 

The Inspiration of Being Un-Nominated

Awards and recognition are nice, not to litter the walls and mantle, but because they show that you have had impact and influence with a given group of respectables. It is a little pat on the back that your efforts are appreciated and meaningful. When your efforts sometimes came at personal and professional cost, that can mean a lot. 


Not so fast, someone online says you have skeletons in your closet, and that could make things uncomfortable!

I'm not going to provide details.  However, I recently found out that I was to be nominated for a rather prestigious recognition.  That's great, and I was honored that people I deeply respect felt that I was worthy of the opportunity.  That's a win right there. 

Today I found out that they are not going to continue with the nomination. Turns out that a discussion of the politics and optics suggest this maybe best be done sometime in the future.  Of course, it is no reflection on the body of work or impacts. It's just politics and opt…

Talking Biotech Podcast # 226 - The Global Gene Editing Tracker; Remembering Dr. Chad Finn

In the first part of today’s podcast Dr. Kayleen Schreiber and Jon Entine discuss the latest addition to the Genetic Literacy Project, a website called the Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker.  This online resource provides instant access to the current state of gene editing approvals, along with information on gene drives and other important regulatory updates.  In the second half Dr. Bernadine Strik remembers her colleague Dr. Chad Finn.  Dr. Finn contributed in massive ways to plant breeding, particularly in the development of new berry varieties for the Pacific Northwest.  He also shared a tremendous interest in service to his community and to the scientific community, and was invested in students and the development of others. He was everyone’s friend. He left us suddenly and unexpectedly and leaves a palpable gap in our community. Dr. Strik memorializes his contributions and character.
Listen to Talking Biotech Podcast Episode #226 Here. 

Talking Biotech Podcast #225 - Fake News Survivor; Corona Virus Update

Dr. Ilaria Capua is an internationally recognized virologist, and a world expert in avian influenza and other animal viruses.  Following her effort to make genetic information about viruses more accessible in the interest of finding faster cures, she was unknowingly put under investigation, as she was central in moving viral information and samples to colleagues worldwide.  Wire taps and clandestine evidence gathering filled a file, that eventually would be discovered, leaked and maliciously reinterpreted, alleging that Dr. Capua was the mastermind of an international virus trafficking ring. She was accused in the media, without evidence, of providing viruses for others to spread so that she could profit from vaccines produced. These false allegations left her facing life in prison. Years later the charges were completely dismissed as manufactured claims by the media. However, the events were life changing. Today Dr. Capua has channeled her energies into broadening science education,…

Folta Returns as Talking Biotech Host

In November of 2019 I was told to end the long-running podcast series Talking Biotech.  I was devastated, and requested that the recorded episodes be allowed to run, which would take the podcast through 2019. 

I then decided to continue the podcast using guest hosts. Modesta Abugu stepped into that role, and hosted four weeks of outstanding content. 

I will return as podcast host on February 8, 2020.  The appropriate paperwork has been filed with my university for me to continue this outreach and education, but only to do it as "outside activity" -- a non-work-related effort executed outside of work time.  That's easy. It always was. 

Having a clear delineation from the university allows new flexibility in funding. I have elected to not pursue advertising (although it was lucrative for a podcast with this much traffic).  Instead I'm requesting small support form this loyal audience, as even a few dollars per month can translate into better products and penetration.  

Fun…

Straight Info on the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus

The outbreak of a new contagious virus in Wuhan has many people asking questions that the internet's experts are happy to answer.  As with any public health incident, the misinformation is difficult to separate from authentic guidance.

Today I was able to attend a discussion by animal virologist Dr. Illaria Capua.  She covered the topic with off-the-presses information and provided several action items. 

Dr. Capua made some clear points that I'll list as bullets for clarity.


Similar historical outbreaks.  SARS and MERS were also highly infectious coronaviruses, but were rapidly contained early because of their physical routes of transmission. Started in wildlife. These kinds of coronaviruses are transmitted to people from animals. Previous examples track transmission from chickens, pigs, camels and bats.  The 2019-nCoV virus likely originated from a bat. Numbers.  As of today, just under 9826 people are infected globally, and there has been 213 deaths (all fatalities in China).Wo…

Myth Busted - You Can Get GMO Seeds

One of the oldest and boring tropes of the anti-biotech movement is that it is impossible to acquire seeds for your own research.  That has been shown to be false over and over again, but the claim just does not die. 

The other day I was able to buy Roundup Ready seed online, a small batch of 2500 seeds for $44. It's a very high price of over two cents a seed.  

So there you have it.  You can buy the seeds online, they are not locked in a company vault, and they were easy to obtain.

Talking Biotech Podcast Going Forward

On November 14, 2019, I was told my my university to get out of visibility.  That meant no more use of social media or podcast, and I was to cancel future presentations, at least as I understood it in the room. To follow up, On November 18  I submitted a letter asking for clarity. It was clear that I was supposed to end the podcast and social media use. This was from a letter to university administration from me to summarize the expectations. It was clear that I was supposed to end the series. You may notice that a few more were added and the series extended through 2019.
I received a response that did not address the podcast, but told me to use social media with discretion and cancel talks.  I cancelled six substantial talks. It was horrifying to back out of long-standing commitments.  I then submitted paperwork on December 11, 2019 asking for permission to identifind another host for the podcast, and I'd just do the production.  That way the series could continue and I'd be ou…

Goop-ing Up Medical Media

The Goop brand is synonymous with horrible health advice, packing bogus treatments and misinformation as credible medical intervention.  Now the originator of the brand, Gwenyth Paltrow (self-described as knowing nothing about science) has a new streaming video series coming on Netflix, permitting a pipeline of misinformation to penetrate even more deeply. 



Netflix gives its grand stage to Paltrow, providing a larger audience to mislead and even harm.

Paltrow and her brand have loosely targeted women's health issues offering a series of claims, advice and products that have been highly criticized by legitimate physicians like Jen Gunter.  Like Gwenyth's hinterparts the Goop brand has only picked up steam.  
What's the harm?  Paltrow's celebrity status affords her immediate cache as an expert in everything.  The scientific evidence clearly shows that celebrity advice influences vaccination rates, cancer screening and cancer treatment.  On the other end of the spectrum they…

Talking Biotech 220 - Biotech Cotton Comes to Kenya

This outstanding educational series continues in my absence with the first of many guest hosts. Your continued interest and support are more important than ever. 


Kenya is an emerging economy and has significant investment in advanced technologies.  However, a 2013 ban on biotech crops has limited farmer access to the most needed technologies for the field.  That moratorium is finally being lifted, as biotech cotton has been approved and will be available to farmers in 2020.  Farmers recognize the potential for Bt cotton to reduce or eliminate dependence on the insecticides currently required for production.  Today's guest is Daniel Magondu, Chairman of the Society of Biotech Farmers of Kenya.  The episode is hosted by Modesta Abugu, a graduate student studying tomato improvement. Follow Modesta Abugu on Twitter: @modestannediAbout the Socienty of Biotech Farmers in Kenya (SOBIFAK)Listen to the Episode Here. 



Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 


From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…