Editorial Summary of the National Academy of Science’s Consensus Report on Genetically Engineered Foods

This morning, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a consensus report titled “Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops: Experiences & Prospects”. You can download the full 400 page report which includes a four page summary here. The public release of the report was accompanied by a webcast including a presentation of the report followed by a … Continue reading Editorial Summary of the National Academy of Science’s Consensus Report on Genetically Engineered Foods

So you heard GMOs are banned in Europe…

The lowdown: The European Union has approved the cultivation of one GMO and importation of many (with more on the horizon). The European Commission and European Academies Science Advisory Council, like other government and scientific associations around the world, supports the evidence-based conclusion that GMOs currently on the market are not any less safe than  their … Continue reading So you heard GMOs are banned in Europe…

It’s the plants. They’re learning. They…remember

  Sorry Mark Wahlberg, this is not a prequel to the 2008 sci-fi thriller “The Happening,” but maybe M. Night Shyamalan was onto something. Could plants learn that large groups of people are threatening, then kill them with an aerosol neurotoxin? Probably not. But they do learn, remember, forget, and even make decisions in some capacity. If … Continue reading It’s the plants. They’re learning. They…remember

So you heard GMOs cause “superweeds”….

The low down: Superweed is a misleading term used to describe weeds that are resistant to an herbicide. It is conceptually possible that certain, herbicide-resistant GMOs could contribute to an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds; however, such concerns are not limited to GMOs, but are relevant for any crops used in conjunction with herbicides. The details: First of all, what is a superweed? According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSAA), there is “no science-based definition for superweed,” but the term is often used to describe herbicide-resistant weeds. Just as overuse of one particular antibiotic promotes the spread of bacteria resistant to that antibiotic, overuse of an herbicide can result in herbicide-resistant weeds. According to Rick Boydston of the USDA-ARS...

The birds and the bees and the flowers? The not-so-secret sex life of plants

It’s springtime, so those of us with allergies might have noticed plants getting all animal planet with our sinuses. Seems most plants are pretty lose with their pollen, but when it comes to procreation, they’re very particular. So how do plants swipe right on a match? (For my married friends, that’s a tinder reference. For … Continue reading The birds and the bees and the flowers? The not-so-secret sex life of plants

From Pitchforks to Personal Protective Equipment: Who is Growing Our Food?

Picture a farmer-you might conjure the popular image of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”- a weathered old man with a pitchfork propped next to his thin-lipped apron-clad daughter. While Wood claims to have painted in appreciation of Midwestern culture, writers such as Gertrude Stein saw satire, and Iowans were outraged at their depiction as "pinched, grim-faced, … Continue reading From Pitchforks to Personal Protective Equipment: Who is Growing Our Food?

Activity: Breeding Vs. Genetic Engineering

Plant breeding and genetic engineering are incredibly useful tools. Like most tools, they serve distinct purposes. Plant breeding randomly combines the genes of two closely related plants. This is useful when both parents have several useful traits. Genetic engineering allows scientists to move specific genes between species. I used the following scenario to demonstrate the precision … Continue reading Activity: Breeding Vs. Genetic Engineering

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk-all that junk inside them genes?

Imagine if all the music on itunes was interrupted by blocks of white noise that you had to manually edit out every time you downloaded a song. Makes no sense right? Why would songs be recorded that way? Why not just remove the junk at the source, so you don’t have to waste time and energy? That’s … Continue reading Whatcha gonna do with all that junk-all that junk inside them genes?

If we’re going to label GMOs, let’s do it sensibly

In my last “Let’s talk biotech” post, I discussed how challenging it is to define whether a genetically improved plant is technically a “GMO”. Determining if a given food item contains genetically modified ingredients is even more difficult. There has been a lot of recent discussion about GMO labeling. On one side, you’ll hear that … Continue reading If we’re going to label GMOs, let’s do it sensibly