Mendel’s Garden # 29

The next edition of Mendel’s Garden is up at Biofortified. Come read the latest in genetics blogging!

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Hawai’i and Genetic Engineering

My new post is up at Biofortified, discussing Hawai’is curious relationship with GE. Here’s a taste:

Hawai’i is a remote archipelago of islands with a declining sugar industry. The new expanses of open acreage are now being filled with GE crop trials, and controversy.

PRSV-Resistant Papaya
PRSV-Resistant Papaya

The University of Hawai’i produced the first GE Papaya resistant to Papaya Ringspot Virus, which grows there today (and even surrounds and protects organic plots of Papaya), and is currently investigating several other crops and their potential for improvement. Those efforts have been put in jeopardy recently as the council of the big island of Hawai’i banned the growing of GE taro and coffee with no allowance for continued academic research.

(…)

So if this was about helping Hawai’ian farmers defend themselves against Monsanto and worried coffee consumers, why was there no provision to allow University GE research on the big island of Hawai’i?

Read the rest here.

The Biofortified Blog

I mentioned before that something seemed to be different about the science blogging world. Several genetic-engineering-centric blogs have cropped up, bringing some in-depth discussion of this field to the internet. In a discussion with someone else online, they suggested – wouldn’t it be great if there was a group of scientists who could respond to news about GE crops? I’ve had similar thoughts as well.

Well after a month or two of work, I’ve built a home for such a group, and invited some blogging scientists to contribute. Behold: The Biofortified Blog!

The scientists we have so far are Continue reading The Biofortified Blog

Review: Tomorrow’s Table

While I was in the process of applying for graduate school, in late 2006, I was chasing down a letter of recommendation from my former boss, and somehow, the conversation turned to a book he was asked to proof-read. That book, a year and a half later, was to be published as Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming and the Future of Food, by Pamela Ronald and Raoul W. Adamchak. Pamela Ronald is a rice geneticist and genetic engineer, the chair of the plant genomics program at UC Davis, now also the Director of Grass Genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Research Institute in Emeryville. (She is also a former professor of mine.) The second author, Raoul, is an organic farmer, who runs the UC Davis Student Farm‘s Market Garden, a stone’s throw from where I used to garden in Davis.

When I first heard about it in production, I couldn’t wait to read this book, because I knew what it would be about, an idea that both Pam and Raoul have promoted and embody in their lives. You see, Pam and Raoul are married, and they think Organic Agriculture and Genetic Engineering should be, too. Continue reading Review: Tomorrow’s Table

Nothing new here.

This story caught my attention, “New DNA Technique Led Authorities to ‘Anthrax Killer’,” and I wanted to find out what this new technique was. When I read the story, however, they didn’t say anything about what it was.

The identification was made from those samples, with DNA samples taken from the victims to confirm.

A government scientist told the Associated Press Sunday that investigators started with DNA from some of those victims and matched specific DNA patterns to anthrax cultures that the suspect, Army scientist Bruce Ivins, 62, was responsible for in the lab.

This scientific technique took years to develop.

That sounds like standard run-of-the mill PCR to me. Take some unique sequences in the anthrax samples that can be used to differentiate it from all other samples, then create PCR primers to make copies of, and sequence those sequences in each sample. The victims, anthrax from letters, and the suspected anthrax lab. If the sequences match, you have a winner. (or loser) I could do it.

So I don’t see what is so new about this mystery DNA technique… must’ve been new to Fox News or something.

Still, it is nice to know that we know the source of those anthrax letters, although the suspect committed suicide, this means that if it ever happens again, we can always call on this secret technique involving this “DNA’ thing!

It’s spreading!

I’ve got two more genetic engineering blogs to add to my blogroll. The first is called GMO Food for Thought, and is run by C.S. Prakash, AgBioWorld founder. He maintains a declaration in support of Agricultural Biotechnology at his site, and there are over 3,400 signers of this list. (Although I can’t seem to navigate past the first page of signers.)

The second is Malaysia4Biotech, another blog popping up overseas, which has already started churning out the posts. Author Mahaletchumy Arujanan opens with the big Why for blogging about biotech:

The 21st century is hailed as the century of biological sciences, particularly biotechnology which is revolutionizing all aspects of our lifestyles from food to agriculture, environment, industry, and healthcare and medicine. Biotechnology is changing the terrains and landscapes of these fields to enhance the quality of life and environment. Countries are racing to embrace this powerful tool to create wealth though innovation. Malaysia is not spared as the government has pledged it strong commitments to develop this sector. Continue reading It’s spreading!

Contrast these two debates

Previously, I engaged in a discussion with someone who helped put on an anti-evolution event in Florida. He came on displaying classic trollish behavior, and as soon as I pointed him out on that, he laid out some of his arguments. Following that, I responded to the arguments in kind. The discussion trailed off, and at least one thing was resolved. A couple people chimed into what was primarily a debate between John and myself.

Contrast it to this recent discussion, just finished, between Bonnie (and Walter) at The Ethicurean and myself. As I mentioned previously, Bonnie posted an interview with anti-GE activist and lawyer, Claire Hope Cummings. I immediately responded by pointing out that the interview was riddled with factual errors and one glaring logical fallacy employing a form of linguistic bias. How did this one turn out? Continue reading Contrast these two debates