Avoiding GMOs isn’t just anti-science. It’s immoral.

Opinion piece originally published by the Washington Post.

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed. (more…)

Scientists Are Engineering GMO Species to Self-Destruct After Breeding in The Wild

Story originally published on Science Alert.

Genetically modified organisms could potentially do a lot of good for the world, like ending the spread of diseases, or maybe one day helping us grow more food to feed the hungry.

There’s a big problem, though. When you release altered species out into the wild, how can you prevent them from breeding with untweaked organisms living in their natural environment, and producing hybrid offspring that scientists can’t control or regulate?

“This is a problem that has been recognised for a while,” says synthetic biologist Maciej Maselko from the University of Minnesota.

Together with his team at the university’s BioTechnology Institute, Maselko has come up with a radical solution to this scientific dilemma – but it’s not one that any procreation-inclined GMOs will like too much.


Engineers make wearable sensors for plants, enabling measurements of water use in crops

Story originally published on ScienceDaily.

Iowa State University plant scientist Patrick Schnable quickly described how he measured the time it takes for two kinds of corn plants to move water from their roots, to their lower leaves and then to their upper leaves.

This was no technical, precise, poster talk. This was a researcher interested in working with new, low-cost, easily produced, graphene-based, sensors-on-tape that can be attached to plants and can provide new kinds of data to researchers and farmers.

“With a tool like this, we can begin to breed plants that are more efficient in using water,” he said. “That’s exciting. We couldn’t do this before. But, once we can measure something, we can begin to understand it.”


The media coverage of agricultural biotechnology reviewed

EMAC director Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes co-authored new article titled: Media Coverage, Public Perceptions, and Consumer Behavior: Insights from New Food Technologies.  The media often play the role of translating new science to consumers. The article discusses the recent literature that has examined the supply and demand factors that affect media coverage of new food technologies and the impact on public perceptions and consumer behavior toward food that utilizes these technologies. The article starts with a discussion of the ways in which the media influence public perceptions and consumer behavior related to foods made with new technologies. It then covers the incentives of news media and the potential sources of biases in their reporting. The article reviews empirical studies that have examined media reporting of new agricultural and food technologies, especially biotechnology, in terms of both their agenda setting and framing effects and the social amplification of risk. It also synthesizes the findings of studies that have examined the influence of media coverage on public attitudes and consumer behavior.

McCluskey, J., N. Kalaitzandonakes, and J. Swinnen “Media Coverage, Public Perceptions, and Consumer Behavior: Insights from New Food Technologies” Annual Review of Resource Economics, 8:467–86, 2016

See the article here.