Monday, July 30, 2007
2 Small 2 Regulate
In an unsurprising move, the US FDA has ruled that products made with nanotechnology do not need special labeling
. Just as in their decisions on genetically modified foods, the US government seems to think industry is better served if citizens
consumers don't know what they are putting into and on their bodies and their surroundings.
Here is the FDA's official response to health and environmental concerns:
We believe we do not have scientific evidence about nano-sized materials posing safety questions that merit being mentioned on the label. (Dr. Randall Lutter, FDA's associate commissioner for policy and planning)
? Do they have scientific evidence otherwise, that it does not
pose safety questions?
The FDA is making a pretty good case for citizen review boards
I must say. A little discussion around this flared up earlier in the month on a discussion list devoted to synthetic biology
where a European study on implementing "participatory technology assessment"
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Welcome Guest Bloggers!
We are lucky to have two new contributors, Jennifer Rutledge and Lisa Tucker.
Jennifer Rutledge is currently a PhD candidate and instructor in Political Science at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cites. Her research interests are Food politics, Politics of Children, International Development, Socio-political Change, International Organizations, Human Rights and International Law.
Lisa Tucker is an artist and organizer in Southern California. Lisa most recently organized a multidisciplinary series of events at the University of California, Irvine titled Food Bioneering: Hybrid Investigations of Food
Thanks Jennifer and Lisa, and welcome!
Monday, July 16, 2007
Ethanol and GMOs
Much of the criticism of ethanol has focused on the exorbitant amount of water and oil needed to produce ethanol, the continued mono-cropping of US farmland, and the subsequent rising cost of food. What has been less widely criticized is the rise in genetically modified corn that ethanol production will create. Currently 61 percent of the US corn crop is genetically modified and that number grows every year. The increase in corn production demanded by ethanol production will result in an automatic increase in genetically modified corn being planted.
In addition, companies are working to create genetically modified strains of corn that will be most readily converted into ethanol, largely by increasing the starch content of the corn. For instance, Monsanto and Cargill are working together and have formed Renessen, a biotechnology and processing company. Renessen has created MAVERA corn, a corn high in starch, that can only be processed in a specific processing plant, owned by Renessen. In addition, if a farmer wishes to sell corn to Renessen, she/he will have to purchase the seed from Renessen since the Renessen processing plant can only process Renessen corn. Thus, the closed loop of corporate control that GM food creates is yet again on display.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Science Jury Duty?
Wired recently ran an opinion piece on the notion of public hearings on scientific research
, which of course received some very critical comments from scientists and others referring to "ignorant masses." A short and unsurprising discussion, but worth a read anyway.
DNA and the Ethics of Ownership
The Genetics and Public Policy Center
, has organized a panel on the topic of genomics and patent law
where experts will address such questions as:
Should elements of the human genome be patentable?
Who really owns DNA patents? And what, exactly, do they give ownership of?
Do gene patents foster or stifle innovation?
How might patent reform affect DNA patents?
2:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 10, 2007
National Press Club
529 14th Street, N.W. -- 13th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20045
The Center is based at Johns Hopkins and is supported by the The Pew Charitable Trusts
and by research funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute. The panel is also co-sponsored by the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy.
While the questions posed and goals stated seem promising and certainly worthy of debate and discussion, the last 3 questions kind of assume the answer to the first, key question.
If anyone reading this attends, please let us know or post a comment as to reactions.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Monsanto's Profit Round Up
Much as in the 2001 case of Percy Schmeiser
, a Canadian federal court has ruled that a farmer must pay Monsanto for damages incurred through the "illegal" use of their patented Round-Up Ready Soybean, i.e. not paying the licensing fees required by the company. In this case
, the farmer is Ontario farmer Edward Wouters, of Northspruce Farms Ltd. The judgment was for $107,000.
In a not-unrelated story, Monsanto reported a 71% rise in profits
, mostly due to an increase in corn planted in the US - claimed to be the most corn planted since WWII. And with Monsanto reportedly holding 33% of the US corn seed market and their 25% increase in prices for Round Up Ready Corn.
Adam Zaretsky, on video
You can see bio-artist and educator Adam Zaretsky
on video leading workshops, giving lectures and discussing genetics, ethics and art on Google video
Synthia v Dolly in a race for the border
This week (July 2 - 6) in Paris, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity's scientific subcommittee is meeting to discuss climate change and the role synthetic biology might play in potential solutions for renewable energy. This meeting follows closely on the heels of the announcement
, in a report, by J. Craig Venter and co from Synthetic Genomics Inc
, that they had replaced the DNA of one bacterium into another - effectively creating an entirely new species. One, not-so-obvious question for those non-specialists among us following these developments is how synthetic organisms will fit into the current legal and regulatory framework. The ETC Group for example asks if the global movements of such organisms will be governed by the Cartagena Protocol
- the treaty on transboundary movements of GMOs.
Oh, and Synthia was the oh-so-clever name given to the synthetic microbe being developed by Synthetic Genomics.
You can hear Venter discuss this research on NPR's Science Friday