Category Archives: Agricultural Biotechnology

World Economic Forum Releases Global Risk Report…Trouble Ahead?

Terry D. Etherton

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released its sixth annual report on the state of the global economy. The Global Risk Report 2011 discusses several threats to world stability, including rising economic disparity, insufficient global governance, and sufficient availability of water, food and energy.

According to the WEF Global Risk Report 2011, economic disparity and global governance failures likely will  pose a risk to global stability. Economic disparity can be viewed as the “gradient” in wealth among countries that may affect social and political stability.  Economic disparity is an important contributor to many global issues including corruption, health issues, food insecurity, terrorism, and several others. Continue reading World Economic Forum Releases Global Risk Report…Trouble Ahead?

Former Ag Secretary John Block Weighs in on “Coexistence” at USDA

Terry D. Etherton

As I have written in previous blogs posted on Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology, a “firestorm” has erupted in response to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s idea of calling for producers of GM, non-GM and organic crops to “coexist”.  This issue flared up after USDA issued its environmental impact statement on Roundup Ready alfalfa in December, 2010 when Mr.  Vilsack convened a “stakeholder” meeting (December 20) of proponents and opponents of the biotechnology to “talk it out”.

Representative Colin Peterson (D-MN), the past Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, recently weighed in about the “firestorm” in the January 5 issue of the Agri-Pulse Newsletter. Continue reading Former Ag Secretary John Block Weighs in on “Coexistence” at USDA

Seed of Change: America may Shift its Policy on Genetically Modified Crops

Terry D. Etherton

There was a very interesting article, Seed of Change: America may Shift its Policy on Genetically Modified Crops, published in The Economist on January 6, 2011 about the mess that potentially has been created by USDA Secretary Vilsack and his “coexistence plan” for oversight of Roundup Ready® Alfalfa.  I had written about the “coexistence plan” in a blog Luddites at the USDA Door that I posted earlier this week.  I encourage you to read the article in The Economist.

Luddites at the USDA Door

Terry D. Etherton

I can imagine that you are wondering what “Luddites at the USDA Door” means?  I selected the phrase to describe a process that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack launched on December 20, 2010 to explore the topic of “coexistence” and regulatory oversight for Roundup Ready® Alfalfa, an alfalfa variety produced using the tools of modern genetic modification (GM).  Coexistence, you ask…what does this mean?

Some background is needed… In 2006, the Center for Food Safety, a prominent Luddite group, sued USDA to stop the sale and planting of Roundup Ready® Alfalfa seeds.  The next step in this “tale” was a federal court-ordered injunction in 2007 that halted sale of Roundup Ready® Alfalfa until a review and the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) could be completed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA.  This was just released in December, 2010 and is a mere 2,468 pages, including appendices.  Imagine reading this! Continue reading Luddites at the USDA Door

Happy Holidays – And Celebrate Science

Terry D. Etherton

Pontifical Academy of Sciences

To all the readers of my blog, I wish you a Happy Holiday Season and the best for a wonderful New Year!  There is much to celebrate in life!  And, there also is much to celebrate in the world of science.

At this time of the year, many individuals celebrate Christmas.  Interestingly, in the spirit of religious celebration, the proceedings from a scientific symposium hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences were just published in the November, 2010 issue of New Biotechnology.  The symposium “Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development” was hosted by the Catholic Church, and held at Vatican City in May, 2009.  The “take home” message from the symposium is summarized in an Editorial published in New Biotechnology by Dr. Werner Arber – that science and scientific advances “can undoubtedly and decisively contribute to solving the growing problem of world hunger.”  What a powerful message to convey at this time of the year about the need for science, and value of science in feeding a growing world population.

The importance of science also reverberates powerfully in the message by Pope Paul VI who in referring to the tragedy of world hunger concluded his message by asking God “to direct the application of scientific research to the production of new food supplies, since one of the greatest challenges that humanity must face, together with the danger of nuclear holocaust, is the hunger of the poor of this world” (Arber, 2010).

With this, I urge you not to forget about the 1 billion individuals in the world who are hungry.  And, the need to continue innovation in science to discover and “deliver” the next generation of scientific advances that will benefit humankind in the future.

GMOs and the Dr. Oz Show – A Stampede over Science

Terry D. Etherton

On December 7, 2010, Dr. Pamela Ronald, a distinguished plant scientist at the University of California – Davis,  appeared as guest expert on the nationally-syndicated “Dr. Oz Show” to discuss the benefits of GMOs.  I had been contacted by the producer of the show to participate, however, I could not because of scheduling issues (they asked at the “last minute”).

My initial thought about the show was that it provided a great opportunity to present the facts about the efficacy and safety of GMOs to a large audience.  Unfortunately, what “played out” was way past disappointing.  There was unbelievable bias in how the segment was edited to produce the “final” version that overshadowed the sound scientific facts about GMOs.  I found it remarkable that much of what Dr. Ronald presented during the filming of the segment was edited “out” of the final version of the show!

As readers of  Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology appreciate, I am strong believe that science journalism should being practiced in an accurate and non-biased manner.  Unfortunately, there are many, many examples of inaccurate and deceptive scientific reporting.  The GMO segment on the Dr. Oz Show is a good example of how journalistic bias is conducted.  It is reprehensible to me that sound science was ignored and that the virtues of the scientific method were attacked on the Dr. Oz Show!

After watching the segment, and learning about what really occurred during the filming of the segment, I was compelled to write to the producer of the show to convey my disappointment in how the segment was produced.

The letter I e-mailed to the producer of the show, Rosalyn Menon, is presented below.  Dr. Ronald has already written a provocative blog on Tomorrow’s Table about her experience of appearing on the Dr. Oz Show.  It is a compelling read.

If you wish to watch the segment that was aired on the Dr. Oz Show, click here. Continue reading GMOs and the Dr. Oz Show – A Stampede over Science

GMOs and Nature – One and the Same

Terry D.Etherton

A recent post on the New York Times Freakonomics blog presented insightful information about the nonsense some in the “media” are conveying that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are “unnatural”.  The blog is a refreshing and interesting story about GMOs being natural, and that adoption of them is not going to up-heave the natural world in some mysterious manner.  Continue reading GMOs and Nature – One and the Same

How to Feed a Hungry World

Terry D. Etherton

As readers of Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology appreciate, I have written a great deal about the looming World population growth, and the challenges we will confront in feeding the World’s population over the next 40 years.

Recently, the scientific journal, Nature, published an excellent series of articles about this topic (July 29 issue).  This is noteworthy because Nature is the preeminent scientific journal in the World.  It is telling that the leading life science journal in the World focused much of the July 29 issue on this topic.

In the Editorial in this issue, How to Feed a Hungry World, several important issues are presented that must be overcome if we are to produce and distribute sufficient food to feed the projected population of the World in 2050, about 10 billion people (the current World population is approximately 6.9 billion). Continue reading How to Feed a Hungry World

Why do Journalists Use the Word “Frankenfood”? Another Example of Atrophied Logic

Terry D. Etherton

This morning, at home over breakfast, I opened the Wall Street Journal.  And, page A15 “popped” open.  What caught my attention was the article EU Extends ‘Frankenfood’ Fight, Nears Ban on Farm-Animal Clones.  The purpose of the story was to convey that the European Union (EU) had moved a big step closer toward a ban on cloning farm animals and a prohibition of imports of cloned livestock and their meat and milk.

The EU decision is silly, and is not based on a shred of scientific evidence.  I have written previously about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conclusion that “….the available data has not identified any food consumption risks or subtle hazards in healthy clones of cattle, swine, or goats.”  The “key” take-home message is that cloning is safe. Continue reading Why do Journalists Use the Word “Frankenfood”? Another Example of Atrophied Logic

The “Smoke and Mirrors” of rbST-Free Milk Pricing Keeps Rolling On…and On

Terry D. Etherton

The latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey of retail food prices was just released.  In this informal survey, for the third quarter of 2010, shoppers reported the average price for a half-gallon of regular whole milk was $2.04, down 2 cents from the prior quarter. The average price for one gallon of regular whole milk was $3.16, up 10 cents. Comparing per-quart prices, the retail price for whole milk sold in gallon containers was about 25 percent lower compared to half-gallon containers, a typical volume discount long employed by retailers. Continue reading The “Smoke and Mirrors” of rbST-Free Milk Pricing Keeps Rolling On…and On