I had two pieces of bad news when I turned my phone on yesterday morning (not counting Trump bad news – I’ve become immune to that or mornings would be too depressing). A Whatsapp chat with my school friends explained that the violence in Bangalore had environmental causes, and a chat with my PhD friends informed me that Bayer had bought Monsanto. Continue reading
Patents are a seen as backbone of innovation – there’s no point in investing vast sums of money in something if a competitor can replicate your product as soon as it’s released. However, this of course means that innovations which could be used for the good of society can be controlled by patent holders (who may or may not give much weight to the ‘benefit society’ objective). Continue reading
I recently woke to the news that environmental activists were arrested for scaling the roof of New Zealand’s parliament to raise awareness of climate change (my alarm is set to the Today programme, so I guess I’m not alone). This didn’t fill me with hope. I’m not sure awareness is the problem – what we’re lacking is action.
Take healthy eating as an example – it’s widely known what a healthy diet looks like, and also widely ignored. So I was interested to read a Global Food Security blog post about research into behaviour change. What could make people switch to a healthy, sustainable diet?
Many wild relatives of crops have genes which protect them from drought, disease and other stresses. These are exactly the characteristics we want in our crops, so these genes have great potential for agriculture.
Organic agriculture is in particular need of new genetic resources because modern crop varieties are normally bred with conventional agriculture in mind. Without inputs which are banned in organic agriculture, these varieties often don’t thrive. Currently average yields are lower on organic farms, and new genetic resources could help reduce this difference. Continue reading
This week nine environmental charities (including Greenpeace) wrote to Jean-Claude Junker requesting the abolition of the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission.
The scientific community rallied together to write counter-letters to Mr Junker, speaking out in support of the Chief Scientific Advisor position and its role in evidence-based policy making. I’m pleased to say that I’m a member of two organisations which signed one of these letters. Continue reading
Last week, the Council for Science and Technology released a (very positive) report on GM, calling for more trials, more investment, and a more evidence-based regulatory system. This was widely reported elsewhere with barely a mention of unhelpful phrases such as ‘frankenfood’, so for a summary I would suggest the BBC, the Guardian, or the Guardian’s analysis.
Sadly, the next day the Daily Mail had its say: ‘Scientists’ hidden links to the GM food giants’. For a start the headline is misleading because information about industry funding of research institutes is freely available. It then goes on to attack individual scientists in a way that is not constructive to the debate (including names and photos). Here are my problems with their article: Continue reading
The crop in question is a insect-resistant maize for human consumption. Ministers and diplomats from 19 of the 28 EU countries opposed approval, but that’s not enough to reject the crop. There will likely also be a proposal on GM cultivation that would allow individual member states to ban GM crops if they wished.