Skip to main content

Science Marching? Stand Up for Science Today!

A few weeks ago when the internets exploded with news of a March for Science in DC, I wrote that I would not be joining. My feeling is that such things are important, but not for me. I’m using other channels on a daily basis to help broaden the understanding of science issues and improve trust in scientists. I’ve been doing that for years.
This sentiment brought me angry emails and hostile tweets. Not many, but a enough to realize that my inflammatory statements like, “Not the most effective use of my time in supporting science” are not always well received with a group poised to descend on the nation’s capital.
My point is a simple one. Protests and marches are fine, but are rather empty if we don’t follow up with sustained commitment to standing up for science.
So as you start to put ink to poster board for that April 22 march, know that science needs your help now. Right now. Actually yesterday. Your comments are needed in support of sensible Gene Editing regulations in crops. Or against it. The FDA is in the middle of a public comment periodYour voice needs to be there.



Support Gene Editing
Gene editing (or genome editing) techniques allow scientists to install precise changes in genetic sequence, conferring a new trait. The techniques are not classical genetic engineering (familiarly “GMO”), which installs new genetic material and associated regulatory regions— frequently with other non-native goodies as well. Gene editing uses precisely guided enzymes that digest DNA to install precise changes to genetic sequence, typically by removing a few little bits of information that disrupt the function of the gene. It is like cellular surgery, precise, effective and testable.
These technologies have been used with astounding success in medicine and animal agriculture. Gene edited cells have brought infants into remission from leukemia and produced cattle that don’t grow horns, or don’t catch tuberculosis. The applications in these areas are endless.
Gene editing can also be used to tweak genes in crops, particularly those that lead to unwanted characteristics. Genes affecting post-harvest decay, undesirable flavors, susceptibility to disease—these all are intuitive targets for gene editing. It is happening everywhere from the developing world to multinational seed companies, universities to small businesses. Most importantly, the plant products produced by this technology are identical to those obtained by traditional breeding.
Request Realistic Regulation
Traditionally bred (plant sex) and gene edited crops cannot be discerned from one another using any available technology. Therefore, there is no reason to regulate them differently. Based on these findings, Sweden has indicated it will not regulate gene edited products, and the USDA/FDA appears to be leaning in that same direction.
However, the anti-biotech interests have started a campaign to malign this technology. They want to defeat it, keep it our of our crop-improvement toolbox. Their fear is that companies might use it and make money, even if it could help the environment or the poor. They don’t want this technology just regulated, they want it stopped.
The FDA has opened a Public Comment Period. As of 12:45 pm EST on 2/9/2017 there are 36 comments, all firmly opposed to this revolutionary technology and none of them espousing a sound scientific rationale for their objections. Some of them are sadly hilarious.
Public comment ends on April 19, but do it now. Try to stay within the framework of the questions they would like answered, as described here.
Where are the protesters and science marchers? It’s stand up for science time! This technology will inevitably revolutionize agricultural genetics. Can you please stand up, be counted, and comment?
It does not matter if you want to mention the need for testing, the need for some regulation. I agree and that’s great. The point is that this technology should not be hampered by the same strangling regulatory system that burdens new crop variety development with standard genetic engineering approaches.
The ball is in your court. Stand up for science, study this issue and make your voice heard!
And if you add the hashtag #standupforscience in your post, we’ll know that you are responding as part of a commitment to driving policy with evidence and reason. That is the spirit of the proposed march in Washington DC!

Popular posts from this blog

Scientific American Destroys Public Trust in Science

This is a sad epitaph, parting words to an old friend that is now gone, leaving in a puff of bitter betrayal. 
When I was a kid it was common for my mom to buy me a magazine if I was sick and home from school.  I didn't want MAD Magazine or comic books.  I preferred Scientific American
The once stalwart publication held a unique spot at the science-public interface, bringing us interesting and diverse stories of scientific interest, long before the internet made such content instantly accessible.  It was our trusted pipeline to the new edges of scientific discovery, from the mantle of the earth to the reaches of space, and every critter in between.
But like so much of our trusted traditional science media, Scientific American has traded its credibility for the glitz of post-truth non-scientific beliefs and the profits of clickbait.The problem is that when a trusted source publishes false information (or worse, when it hijacked by activists) it destroys trust in science, trust in s…

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&#…

Mangling Reality and Targeting Scientists

Welcome to 2019, and one thing that remains constant is that scientists engaging the public will continue to be targeted for harassment and attempted reputation harm.  

The good news is that it is not working as well as it used to.  People are disgusted by their tactics, and only a handful of true-believers acknowledge their sites as credible. 

But for those on the fence I thought it might be nice to post how a website like SourceWatch uses a Wikipedia-mimic interface to spread false and/or misleading information about public scientists. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not crying victim.  I'm actually is screaming empowerment.  I spent the time to correct the record, something anyone can check.  Please look into their allegations and mine, and see who has it right. 

This is published by the Center for Media and Democracy.  Sadly, such pages actually threaten democracy by providing a forum for false information that makes evidence-based decisions in policy issues more challenging.  It…