GMO regulations detrimental to crop development and research #research #GMO #GE #crop #agnerds #agnet #agchat


Check out page 729+ – article by Strauss et al on the implications of regulations on biofuel crops/development (grasses and woody plants) in US entitled “Far reaching Deleterious Impacts of Regulations on Research & Environmental Studies of Recombinant DNA-modeified Perennial Biofuel Crops in the US”
October 2010, Volume 60 No. 9

“…the current legal and regulatory situation places severe constraints on both the ability to develop GE crops at all, and then on the performance of adequate environmental studies to inform regulatory and other social decisions about their use…”  (p. 738).

Strauss etal outline some ways to address the current constraints/problems:

1. focus regulatory requirements on defined risks.
2. use scientific criteria for design of categories for a low-level presence (LLP) system
3. create an early stage LLP management system
4. clarify the role of NEPA and the CBD

According to Strauss etal, “…the regulatory thicket is deep and thorny…”  Resolving issues will require reworking of laws (in US and internationally) or “…a fundamental court precedent that stops the penalization of the GE process” and “enshrining into law the ‘product not process’ principle” (p. 739).

“Solving these problems will require new ways of thinking and strong scientific and political leadership to move us toward a regulatory system that enables, rather than arbitrarily blocks, the use of GE as a tool to accelerate and diversify the breeding of … biofuelcrops.”  (p.739). 

An article from outlines the report by Strauss and colleagues

Article excerpt:  “The current environment poses enormous legal risks that can and have cost some companies millions of dollars in civil lawsuits, the scientists said, sometimes for damages that were more of perception and market issues, than of safety or environmental impact.”

Online Anti-Technology Advocacy Networks

Ryan January 2010 Advocacy & Issue Networks.pdf

Please check out this working paper I wrote… “Framing, Exploring and Understanding Online Anti-Technology Advocacy Networks (working title)” (January 2010). I experiment with the webcrawler tool “Issuecrawler” to explore online advocacy networks around this issues of ‘terminator technology’ (or gene use restriction technologies) and ‘synthetic biology’.

Thanks to Dr. Edna Einseidel for her support of this work (through funding from Genome Canada GE3LS).

Call for New Techniques to Improve Wheat Production #wheat #production #genetics

Geneticists Call for New Techniques to Advance Wheat Production


Researchers Robert Graybosch and James Peterson from the Oregon State University examined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data on wheat yield in the Great Plain region and found out that the yield increase is slowing. They said that the data “suggests a plateau has been reached.” Thus, they suggest that there is a need for the use of available production techniques on a wider scale to increase the wheat productivity.

“Use of these more productive areas for wheat production could, temporarily at least, continue to meet world demands for wheat. In the long term, however, effective strategies to increase the genetic gain for wheat grain yield must be identified,” Graybosch and Peterson wrote in their paper published in the Crop Science Society of America. They concluded that “further improvement in the genetic potential for grain yield awaits some new technological or biological advance.”

Researchers and activists alike benefit from dialogue… #research #activtism

An Act of Distinction

– Editorial, Nature v.466, p 414, July 22, 2010
‘Researchers and activists alike benefit from dialogue – and a clear line between legal and illegal acts.’
When prosecutors in California charged four animal-rights activists with violations of the 2008 federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) last year, they were vague about the actions involved – which is why the indictment was dismissed on 12 July. The act criminalizes “a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation” if it places individuals who work with animals, or their families, in fear for their lives or safety. Federal judge Ronald Whyte of the Northern California district court in San Jose said that prosecutors had not explained what the activists had done to cross a line.

The prosecutors have the option to re-indict if they can be more explicit. But a lawyer for the activists suggests that the prosecutors’ vagueness on that first round was intentional: the specific actions, when set down in an indictment, might look suspiciously like ‘speech’ protected by the first amendment to the US constitution.

According to police reports, that speech allegedly involved shouting epithets at researchers on university campuses throughout California’s San Francisco Bay Area – “Vivisectors go to hell!” and “You’re a murderer!” being among the milder examples – writing slogans on the pavements outside researcher’s homes; wearing masks; and banging on doors.

Whatever one thinks about such behaviour, the US constitution does protect even offensive free speech. Lawyers, ethicists and the research community should look critically at the AETA. Does it make the line between protest and crime clearer or blurrier? Is it even necessary?

There is a case to be made that it is not. Animal-rights activists causing trouble for researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have been successfully dealt with using court injunctions and existing anti-stalking laws, for example.

But there are also arguments to be made in the AETA’s favour. According to Colin Blakemore, a University of Oxford neuroscientist with extensive and sometimes painful experience of the issues, similar laws enacted in the United Kingdom have been instrumental in raising awareness among police and prosecutors about the activists’ gruelling organized campaigns. And when enforcement against activists was tightened, the result was a general relaxation among researchers and a boom in communication and openness.

Whatever the merits of the AETA, having a clear distinction between legitimate and illegitimate tactics is in everyone’s best interest. Activists who want to protest legally need to know what is allowed, and researchers who wish to engage with legitimate animal-rights activists need to be able to recognize who they are.

Not every researcher believes that such engagement is worth pursuing, arguing that the minds of hard-core activists are already firmly made up. But engaging in dialogue with more moderate animal-rights groups – particularly young people who might otherwise, in the future, become further radicalized – can be mutually beneficial, demonstrating to everyone that the opposing side are not monsters.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, where cars have been set alight, homes flooded and razor blades sent in the post, the US branch of the animal-research defence group Pro-Test and the campus animal-rights club Bruins for Animals put together a panel on animal-research ethics in February. The event culminated in a joint statement condemning harassment and intimidation that had been directed at those who participated in the panel.

Such steps are to be applauded. When researchers and non-violent animal rights advocates air their differences by communicating with one another, the result can be more than just a feel-good exercise. If labs communicate, animal lovers can be convinced that not all research involving animals is torture. And if activists persuade rather than frighten, researchers can be motivated to rethink experimental design and reduce their reliance on animals.

Translational research approaches needed to link upstream research with downstream user

New article in Nature (March 11, 2010 issue) examines the notion of ‘translational research’ as a way of fast-tracking HIV vaccines to ensure they reach those that need it. The article challenges conventional approaches to funding research which tend to be short term and focused on upstream basic research activities which fail to pull in the public and/or private sector actors that are capable of bringing valuable innovations to the market.

These [models establish] practices that emphasize long-term (eight years or more) institutional commitment. They reward proven scientific leadership and track records rather than project-specific proposals; they try to link researchers with those from outside … R&D; and they limit major project reporting and reviews of laboratories to multi-year cycles, increasing time for [innovations to reach the market].”

Play Rush Limbaugh backwards, destroy tree beetles….

A recent study dubbed “Beetle Mania” is aimed at how to “…disrupt mating, tunneling and reproduction” of beetles.

Richard Hofstetter, an entomology professor at Northern Arizona University who worked on the project, told Discovery News that “the most annoying sound” his colleague, Reagan McGuire could think of was Rush Limbaugh or rock music.

Key findings of interest:
1. beetles built up resistance to sounds over time
2. timing and loudness mattered
3. manipulated sounds work best when used during mating (male would tear female apart)

Notes on collaboration in scientific communities…

“Several explanations have been given for the increase in coauthorship over time (Laband and Tollison 2000; McDowell and Michael 1983). Funding requirements, particularly in large lab settings, might induce collaboration (Laband and Tollison 2000; Zuckerman and Merton 1973). While social scientists are rarely as dependent on labs, the rise of large-scale data collection efforts suggests a similar team-production model. Training differences between disciplines might also account for coauthorship differences. Advanced work by PhD students in the natural sciences is usually closely related to an advisor’s work, and commonly results in collaboration. Social science students, in contrast, tend to work on projects that are more independent.” (Moody 2004 (American Sociological Review; volume 69: 217)

In the Canadian context…
“…a number of SSH disciplines have more paradigms competing with one another than do those in the NSE, and as a result SSH literature is more fragmented – a situation that hinders the formation of a solid “core” of scientific journals –, thereby making article-based bibliometric analysis more difficult to conduct successfully.” (Larivière etal 2006; Scientometrics (60;3): 521).

“…According to MOODY (2004), the collaboration rate for books is generally lower than that for articles. Therefore scholarly articles are a more informative medium for analysing collaboration not only in the natural sciences but also in the social sciences and humanities, although we must be careful not to generalize the results to all scholarly research output.” (Larivière etal 2006; Scientometrics (60;3): 521).

“The collaborative activities of Canadian scholars, as measured by the number of joint publications, are increasing in both the NSE and the SSH. There is also an upward trend in international collaboration. However, the rate of growth is not the same across all disciplines. While rates for all types of collaboration in the social sciences rose steadily since 1980, collaboration rates for the humanities remained unchanged in a number of cases. Overall, psychology and economics and administration were the disciplines with the strongest collaboration, followed by social sciences, education, and law. In the humanities, history was the discipline in which collaborative activities were most frequent, but the rate remains very low. In the humanities and literature, formal collaboration based on co-authorship is a marginal phenomenon. Not surprisingly, the disciplines with the highest collaboration rates are, in general, the ones in which journal articles are the main medium of knowledge dissemination.” (Larivière etal 2006; Scientometrics (60;3): 531).