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Showing posts from July, 2018

Mutagenesis vs Genetic Engineering

EU Scientists Weep ... and the Activists Cheer

Today in the most recent reminder that governments are not to be trusted with scientific decisions, the Court of Justice of the European Union has decided handed down a ruling that they don't understand science.   They have affirmed that gene edited crops are to be treated the same as transgenic crops.  This means that they will never be approved for use in the EU. Friends of the Earth = Enemies of Progress Why does an organization that has a good record of standing up for many important environmental and social issues, make the tremendous mistake of fighting technology?  However, crops featuring genetic innovations due to mutagenesis are just fine.  In other words, treat plant materials with radiation or chemicals to break chromosomes, rearrange chunks of DNA or change thousands of sequences in unknown ways -- that's good!  No testing, no environmental assessment, no labels.  But if you make a single base change out of billions of bases, and you know what th

Write for Plant Cell Extracts

The articles in The Plant Cell represent the most novel and significant findings in plant genomics and cellular and molecular biology.  But the articles are so damn dense!  Can we help synthesize key findings in a way that helps better communicate the important work, and train new authors to write for public audiences?  That's the job of Plant Cell Extracts!   If you are interested in distilling a paper we will help with the process.   1.  Pick a paper to write about.  2.  Contact me at kfolta at  3.  We brainstorm ways to tell the story in a relatable way 4.  You write 5   A crack team of editors gives it a hard edit 6.  You fix 7.  We publish!  You are the author, all efforts are made to ensure we retain your voice and you maintain all discretion to accept/decline suggestions.  Why? It is easy-- 500-1500 words is a breeze It is important -- we need to be more effective at sharing the science and the significance It shows you care about publ

My Letter to the USDA on "BE" Labels

The public comment period on the USDA's proposed "bioengineered" labels is history, at least your ability to respond to it.  But as far as public comments go, the slate does not disappoint.  As usual, the well informed decided not to share their knowledge, but every person with an opinion and no grasp of science was happy to chime in.   The Federal Register collected 2,446  comments.   The dominant take-home is that people have no clue about the science.   When they do have a clue, they agree that the USDA AMS made a huge mistake by floating happy symbols with the term "B.E." for "bioengineered" a term nobody understands or ever used.  I did find my letter, and can say with certainty that I agree with myself from April 2018.  I think its a neat letter.  My letter to the USDA AMS about "Bioengineered" labels.  In 20 years we'll have to get together and agree that I was correct.    For those of you that don't want to

Talking Biotech Podcast 142 - Barley Domestication and Breeding

If you like beer and bread, you better like barley.  It's history is dotted with fascinating stories.  It has even been used as a pregnancy test.   This week's guest is Dr. Sheila Adimargono (@seminisa) discusses barley, from  early domestication to modern genomics.   Click here for this week's podcast. 

The Need for Scientists to Engage the Public

I'm speaking at IAPB 2018 in Dublin Ireland and they asked me for a synopsis of my presentation for the media.  I liked it so much that I posted it here!  Moving innovation to application means that scientists need to take advantage of every opportunity to engage the public, and then do it correctly.  Consumers crave new technology.    They will queue up for a week to buy the newest mobile phone, even though the last version works well.   Transportation, communication, medicine—just several areas that are greatly improved because technology has enhanced the human experience. But when we talk about food, the same consumers are skeptical or even afraid of technology.   There is a conspicuous drive to return to The Good Ol’ Days , a quest for the simple, and rejection of any technology that could alter plant genetics.   This, despite the fact that human efforts in crop improvement are the basis for civilization and ultimately the technology that gives them new mobi

Social Scientists Find Russian Anti-GMO Link

It sounds like crazy conspiracy, but it actually is true. Upon analysis of messaging in social media and news outlets a team of researchers from Iowa State has identified that a massive amount of information critical of biotechnology comes from sources in the Russian Federation.  This week's podcast. 

The Damage of "Both Sides"- When Academics Push Agenda

I was very fortunate to be able to speak at the Manna Center for Global Food Security conference in Tel Aviv, July 4, 2018.   The Manna Center at Tel Aviv University (TAU) understands that the concept of global food security requires a comprehensive analysis of this complicated problem, and integrates input from social scientists, biologists, economists and other experts.   It was clear that solutions would require careful nuance and sophisticated approaches. The conference was well attended, mostly by students and faculty from TAU, but also with a significant attendance of international delegates. I absolutely loved the conference and associated events, and that is why this blog post is hard to write. I must be critical of one facet of the otherwise stellar event. This blog post is necessary because the room was full of students.   While most of the talks were outstanding, students were actively deceived by a professor that blatantly presented a skewed information and presen