Financial Conflicts at National Academy Advisory Panel on the Future of GMO Regulation

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by Jonathan Latham, PhD

Synopsis: A letter from academics, non-profits and farmer groups (signed by
the Bioscience Resource Project) indicts the lack of balance, perspective and
independence among experts chosen to carry out a new taxpayer-funded National
Academy study. The study will advise the federal government on how to overhaul
regulations concerning GMOs—including novel biotechnology products developed
using synthetic biology and other techniques, such as DNA “editing”.

The complaint comes on the heels of a Food & Water Watch report (Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs) showing structural conflicts of interests at every level of the National Academy. The Academy receives millions of dollars in donations from biotech companies and allows industry representatives to sit on high-level boards overseeing operations.

For decades, scientists and public-interest groups have raised questions about conflicts of interest and potential bias in the Academy’s work on GMOs.

The new study is being conducted by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on
Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the
Biotechnology Regulatory System. Despite a federal law that prohibits biased
committees with conflicts of interests, two committee members (out of 13) are
industry employees, six have conflicts of interest and no representatives of
consumer, farmer or public interest groups have been included by the Academy.
To read the full story go to:
https://www.independentsciencenews.org/news/conflicts-at-national-academy-advisory-panel-on-gmo-regulation/

Read the letter from from academics, non-profits and farmer groups:

Click to access sign-on_letter_to_nrcnas_0.pdf

Read the Bios of the members of the committee for Future Biotechnology
Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology
Regulatory System:
https://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/CommitteeView.aspx?key=49773

The Surprising Healing Qualities … of Dirt

The Surprising Healing Qualities ... of Dirt

More at Yes! magazine..

The scientists investigating this soil-health connection are a varied bunch—botanists, agronomists, ecologists, geneticists, immunologists, microbiologists—and collectively they are giving us new reasons to care about the places where our food is grown.

For example, using DNA sequencing technology, agronomists at Washington State University have recently established that soil teeming with a wide diversity of life (especially bacteria, fungi, and nematodes) is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food. Of course, this makes sense when you understand that it is the cooperation between bacteria, fungi, and plants’ roots (collectively referred to as the rhizosphere) that is responsible for transferring carbon and nutrients from the soil to the plant—and eventually to our plates.

Given this nutrient flow from soil microbes to us, how can we boost and diversify life in the soil? Studies consistently show that ecological farming consistently produces a greater microbial biomass and diversity than conventional farming. Ecological farming (or eco-farming, as my farmer friends call it) includes many systems (biodynamic, regenerative, permaculture, full-cycle, etc.) that share core holistic tenets: protecting topsoil with cover crops and minimal plowing, rotating crops, conserving water, limiting the use of chemicals (synthetic or natural), and recycling all animal and vegetable waste back into the land. Much of this research supports what traditional farmers around the world have long known to be true: the more ecologically we farm, the more nutrients we harvest.

Read the rest at Yes! magazine

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

CRISPR/cas9

Read the rest of this article at Independent Science News

For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle Up; “We Have the Technology to Destroy All Zika Mosquitoes“; and “CRISPR: gene editing is just the beginning”. (CRISPR is short for CRISPR/cas9, which is short for Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR associated protein 9; Jinek et al., 2012. It is a combination of a guide RNA and a protein that can cut DNA.)

The hubris is alarming; but the more subtle element of the propaganda campaign is the biggest and most dangerous improbability of them all: that CRISPR and related technologies are “genome editing” (Fichtner et al., 2014). That is, they are capable of creating precise, accurate and specific alterations to DNA.

Douglas Gurian-Sherman, with the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit group that has campaigned against genetically engineered crops, says the lack of formal regulatory review of gene-edited crops is disturbing. For one thing, it makes it difficult to know exactly what’s been done to the crop. “The company can just keep its data to itself,” he says.

The issues of CRISPR and other related new “genome editing” biotechnologies are the subject of intense activity behind the scenes. The US Department of Agriculture has just explained that it will not be regulating organisms whose genomes have been edited since it doesn’t consider them to be GMOs at all. The EU was about to call them GMOs but the US has caused them to blink, meanwhile the US is in the process of revisiting its GMO regulatory environment entirely. Will future safety regulations of GMOs be based on a schoolboy version of genetics and an interpretation of genome editing crafted in a corporate public relations department? If history is any guide it will.

OCA Sues Two Infant Formula Makers for Falsely Labeling Products Organic

FINLAND, Minn. – The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced today that the nonprofit consumer advocacy group has filed suit against two infant formula makers—The Hain Celestial Group (NASDAQ: HAIN), owner of the Earth’s Best infant and toddler formula brands, and The Honest Co.—for falsely labeling “organic” products that contain ingredients prohibited under the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OPPA).

A guerilla gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley: A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA -- in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where "the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys."



Ron FinleyRon Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”