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Showing posts from 2017

Biotech Fights Peanut Carcinogen

Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen.  It is produced by a fungus that grows readily on corn and peanuts, known in the Developing World as 'groundnuts' (which makes more sense IMHO).  Billions of people suffer from chronic exposure. Dr. Dilip Shah was part of a team at the Danforth Center that created solutions to solve this problem.  On this week's podcast we talk about those solutions, and how they may lead to better health around the world.   

"Expert" Commentary on a Paper They Didn't Read

The story of canola oil causing dementia and memory issues seems like old news.  But I received an email that it has popped up again in the wacky press, another alleged expert weighing in on this obvious relationship that actually is not even remotely supported by the data in the paper.  These cases are especially egregious because these health-oriented websites get huge traffic, and lousy information is consumed rapidly and shared widely.  The claim emerges again, but this time with a new twist!  The author, Michelle Schoffro Cook didn't even read the paper, but is happy to lend her opinions that further advance this misinformation, along with a dandy of a tangential spin.  How do I know she didn't read it?  She notes in her analysis that it was published in the journal Nature .  It was not.  Nature wouldn't touch this paper with a 10 impact factor pole.  It is not a bad paper.  It is not a good paper.   I would not have done the experiments that way, but

Food Activists Stop Technology from Serving the Poor

This is an article that appeared in Real Clear Science , and details the emotional hardship of seeing a problem and a solution separated by a barbed-wire fence.

To the Easily Offended,. Lighten Up.

In the news, the CDC was apparently told to not use seven words/terms in its internal documents. I've seen other examples like this, as in my state where the Governor does not allow the terms "global warming," "climate change," or "sea-level rise" in official documents.  So on a Saturday morning the creative juices are flowing and I made a funny list of alternatives. Yes, it is funny.  "Humor arrr arrr," as Mork would say. But it is 2017 (still, please make it stop) and with every harmless, funny intention comes the outrage.  Turns out that some small gaggle of folks find the term "Mansition" a slam to the transgender community.  First, I have a lot of empathy for transgender people.  Not only do I recognize the challenges of having an identity that is traditionally forced into one box or the other, I also understand its personal and damaging implications of surviving in an intolerant world.  I stand up for th

TB113 - The Tragic Story of Nikolai Vavilov; Science Moms Documentary

Can politics shape science into disrepair?  Can government decisions harm people and long-term progress?  These questions were answered in the tragic story of Nikolai Vavilov.  The story is told by Dr. Jules Janick, Emeritus Professor from Purdue University.  In the second half the film "Science Moms" is discussed with Natalie Newell.  The complete episode can be found here , or anywhere you consume podcast media!

How the Media Gets It Wrong - Case Study in Canola Oil and Alzheimer's

The manufactured hyperbolic connection between canola oil and Alzheimer's Disease is a perfect example of how a grain of research is extrapolated to wild new proportions.  Read the story here on Genetic Literacy Project  

Explaining the Dicamba Story

The herbicide dicamba has been implicated in substantial off-target movement and crop losses.  But what is the whole story?    I wrote this article for Real Clear Science with Cameron English. 

No Evidence that Canola Oil Causes Dimentia and Alzheimer's Disease

I posted this article over on Medium .  It shows how a set of experiments in mice prone to Alzheimer's like brain pathology were wildly misinterpreted to create a sensational headline that the media promoted everywhere. 

Canola Oil is Not Causing Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Misinterpretation of Science Extrapolates a Bogus Claim The headlines are remarkably clear — if you eat canola oil, you’ll soon not remember that you ate canola oil. The media exploded with their interpretation of a peer-reviewed scientific report in the cleverly named journal  Scientific Reports . The spate of internet articles from any Google search indicates the link between canola oil and leaky mental gaskets is as clear as canola oil. The news is pretty damn certain this stuff is brain poison! The scientific paper has a rather different view. But wait, canola oil has been touted as a healthy oil with a composition similar to olive oil. How can this be true in light of the new findings? The answer is pretty simple. The news media took the liberty of overstepping the data actually presented in the scientific report in  Scientific Reports . What did the paper actually say? First, what is canola oil? Like all things Canadian it is a friendly version of something el

What's Up With Dicamba?

Problems caused by off-target migration of dicamba herbicide have created great divides across agriculture. Between companies denying culpability to farmers damaged and academics in between, the situation has horrible optics for agriculture.  Those looking in see unintended consequences, uncertainty, and all of their worst nightmares coming true.  The effect will be slower registration of future (desperately needed) herbicides and other farm inputs, and perhaps increased skepticism of claims about the safety of modern agriculture. To add clarity to the situation we discussed what is happening with agronomist Karen Corigan.  This week's podcast.  \

Talking Biotech #110 - Gene Therapies in Pets

In this week's podcast MIT  Technology Review 's Emily Mullin talks about gene therapies for pets.  While technologies to treat genetic diseases have been slow to reach humans, they have been deployed in animals to demonstrate their efficacy.


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Everyday I feel so grateful for being able to serve the students and faculty at my university, the farmers of our state and nation, and the public that wants to learn more about food and farming. Still every day we must endure challenges posed by those that want to stop progress, and want to stop our mission. But things are slowly changing. It is because of the huge number of people that are stepping into engage others with evidence-based arguments. And special thanks to everyone that defends the scientists and farmers that passionately share what they do, and why it is important. For all of these things, I am grateful. Peace, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Carey Gillam Celebrates Monsanto Employee Integrity

The class action lawsuits against glyphosate (the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup) have created some interesting situations and odd bedfellows. A compound described as low-toxicity by dozens of government agencies, companies and independent scientists is claimed to be toxic by Carey Gillam and activists worldwide.  What is their evidence?  Private emails from within Monsanto itself. The TV ads seek plaintiffs in class action lawsuits. So in other words, Gillam and the rest of the activists feel that the work from Monsanto employees is of such a high caliber, such a great quality, so worthy of their trust-- that the rest of the allegedly independent scientific world (including the governments of Germany, New Zealand and Canada) can't be trusted.  Hacks all.  It is basically a conspiracy.  The world's "independent" scientists, government agencies in the USA, the European Food Safety Agency, and hundreds of academic scientists that have s

Huber's Letter to My Superiors

Four years ago this week I attended a talk by anti-GMO darling Dr. Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor affiliated with Purdue University. In his presentation, Huber made reference to his Molecular Bigfoot, a mysterious new organism that only he has seen, that is harbored on Roundup Ready crops. And it kills you and gives your kids autism.  The magical organism is a central part of his campaign to spread fear around modern agriculture, and he travels the globe misleading audiences and invoking fear from authoritative credentials. As I've always said, he has a solid record and history. That's what makes his fear campaign more deplorable.  Here are some things you don't know about the story, mostly because I decided not to make a big deal of it.  I will now. He's still out peddling his nonsense, so it is appropriate to show more about who he really is.  The Slide at PAG The Plant-Animal Genome Conference brings many people together in my discipline. It is the place w

Four Years Later, Is the Unknown Pathogen a Fake?

Four years ago this week I went to see Dr. Don Huber present his sideshow at an event in my town. The grandfatherly man ground his axe against modern biotechnology, especially genetically engineered plants and the products used on them.  One of the highlights of the night was when he scared and disgusted the concerned audience. He showed them pictures of aborted livestock and images of human disease. He claimed it to be caused from a "virus-like microfungus", an organism unknown to modern science, propagated in genetically-engineered crops and fostered by glyphosate treatment.  Six years ago Purdue Professor Emeritus Don M. Huber wrote a letter to the USDA Secretary claiming to have cultured a new type of organism that thrived in Roundup Ready soybeans and corn, and caused harm to humans and livestock.  He never has produced any evidence building on this claim, despite vigorously defending it, claiming that it was being worked on.  Isn't it time he came clean? 

In Support of Dr. Peter Gallogly

I saw the video, I've heard the comments, and read the police reports.  You should too.  I can also add some points you have not read anywhere else.   I've been seen by Dr. Peter Gallogly and Dr. Tom Raulerson at the Gainesville After Hours Care, mostly in its old location on 2nd Avenue.  I appreciated the care I received so much that I considered them my primary physicians, even though the facility was frequently jammed and it was hard to get an appointment.  They also are the only game in town in the evenings and weekends outside of the emergency room, which means they see a lot of urgent cases.  There's my review from Google, probably at least ten years old now.  I'm a state employee, I have great insurance, and I can go anywhere.  I chose GAHC because of the professionalism, the compassion, their social mission, their service to the community, and an appreciation for the good physicians and staff that work there.  Both of these physicians always took

Fake News II - You Can Have it Both Ways

In yesterday's blog I described how a former scientist was provided a high visibility forum by the taxpayer funded Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC)-- to make up fake news .   I hate that term.  But it is a news website, and the information is fake . Fake news .  It is so false, so maliciously untruthful, that neither Thierry Vrain or the CBC reporter noticed the inherent contradiction. The lies are so bad that they don't align. It is about creating fear, uncertainty and doubt, even if the claims are internally contradictory.  But in the world of false information, you can have it both ways, and nobody cares, so long as the nonsense you spout fits their bias.  Let's look at three lines from this article.  This statement implies that rigorous dose-response tests have been performed and have concluded that low-doses lead to disease.  No such evidence exists.  There is no evidence that it accumulates in all of our organs. And "no research ha

Fake News On CBC? Who Funds This Nonsense?

When a government news agency promotes false information to subvert a government scientific safety decision, it is time to re-evaluate their role and if they should even receive government support.  Their November 6th 2017 interview is a shameful distortion of facts, evidence, and directly opposes the science-based decision that government regulators made.  As usual, the object in question is glyphosate, the low-toxicity herbicide that has been used for about four decades.  It has been recognized for its low toxicity by 100 world governments, most that did their own independent evaluation. It has a reasonable half life in the environment, low environmental impact, and efficacy against a wide variety of weeds.  But there is a movement afoot to take this safe and useful chemical away from farmers, municipalities and homeowners.  It has been a carefully orchestrated misinformation campaign driven from many angles.  The article on CBCNews states clearly that a safe, well studi