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  • "Our mission is to provide the highest quality scientific information and analysis to enable a healthy food system and a healthy world"

Project News and Views

The Meaning of Life (Part I)

The Meaning of Life (Part I)” by Jonathan Latham, PhD was published on Tuesday 21st March, 2017 by Independent Science News.

From the author: This article is highly relevant to the food movement. We hope it will become (along with “Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life”) an essential text in the education of food producers, food activists, and environmentalists. The connections between food concerns and genetics are many:
1) a gene-centric view of life is a vast diminishment of biological possibilities, including but not limited to minimising or denying the possibility that you or your customers may be harmed by poisons and pesticides, or that your farming can be improved by changes to the system and not just by the genes in the crop. 2) A gene-centric view of life is inherently reductionistic.
3) Because a gene-centric view of life is reductionistic, like any reductionist concept, is easily twisted for commercial or political purposes because it removes the key elements of understanding from a form in which anyone can understand them (like overall health) into a formulation that can be misrepresented or mismeasured—this is the scientific basis of promoting “superfoods” and vitamin pills over natural foods, for example.

For reasons such as these I wrote in the article: “A genetically determinist society is therefore one not capable of understanding itself as directly at risk from irresponsible corporate activities and government indifference. It is fundamentally defenceless against polluters, junk food marketers, community dislocation, and other threats to human integrity.
In a wider political frame, the history of the 20th Century shows that a genetic determinist society is also vulnerable to fascists, racists, dictators, and warmongers. All this too is the product of a century and a half of the manipulation of biological science.”

Article Synopsis: In a previous article I showed that DNA does not deserve its reputation as a biological “master molecule” and that it has no special powers of organismal control. To prove it, in diverse disciplines of biology, compelling alternative explanations of biological phenomena—as properties of systems and not genes—are emerging that refute traditional thinking. This paradigm-shifting conclusion, outlined in “Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life”, nevertheless begs an obvious question. If the role of a master molecule was truly scientifically undeserved, how could DNA ever be considered to occupy it?
The answer, it turns out, is that DNA has a fascinating but little-known scientific history. It was consciously fashioned into its role by wealthy institutions who were helped by influential scientists. This remarkable historical manipulation of the science of genetics is solidly documented and it explains how DNA emerged as a master molecule even in the absence of the necessary scientific evidence. This aspect of DNA has been largely ignored by historians of science who have assumed that this manipulation was tangential to the history of biology and merely sped up the inevitable discovery and understanding of DNA. The new developments in systems biology show, instead, that this manipulation subverted the whole course of scientific history and turned biology, in effect, on its head.

Read the full article at: https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/the-meaning-of-life-part-i/

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The War Over Mangoes

Published on Monday, March 13 by Independent Science News: “The War Over Mangoes,” written by Meredith Rector

Synopsis: Narco-agriculture is the taking over of farming for the purpose of smuggling and money laundering. A recent victim is the mango farming sector in Oaxaco, Mexico, where drug cartels have taken advantage of the leading position of Oaxaca in the world mango trade. Farmers and the workers are now suffering as a consequence.

To read the complete story go to: https://www.independentsciencenews.org/environment/the-war-over-mangoes/

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Upcoming Talks by Dr. Jonathan Latham: GMOs, Gene Editing and Land Grants.

Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project, Dr. Jonathan Latham will be speaking at the following events in April and June 2017:

April 5, 2017, Dr Latham is speaking as part of a panel called “Rethinking the Land Grant” at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Boston, USA.

June 4-8, 2017, Dr Latham is speaking at the 14th ISBGMO Meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico

Recent talks included:

February 25, 2017, Dr Latham spoke at the Organic: Inspiring Change Conference in Toronto. His talk was titled “Historic Risks and Novel Risks of Genetic Engineering and Gene Editing”.

January 27, 2017, Guelph Organic Conference, Dr Latham spoke on a panel discussion of novel plant breeding methods, Guelph, Canada.

January 27, 2017, Dr Latham was one of the featured guests at a Salon and Dinner at the very excellent Artisanale Restaurant, Guelph, Canada.

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Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban

Published onMon Feb 13, 2017 on Independent Science News: “Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban” was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD.

https://www.independentsciencenews.org/environment/gene-drives-a-scientific-case-for-a-complete-and-perpetual-ban/

Synopsis: At what point do the products of a technology become sufficiently complex, uncertain, or unmanageable as to be unregulatable? This question is surprisingly rarely discussed given that it is key to successful and safe technological development. This article examines and compares the properties of indisputably successfully regulated systems, such as airplanes, with less successful examples of government regulation and applies these lessons to gene drives.

Read the full article at: Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual Ban

The article is also printed in GeneWatch Magazine at https://issuu.com/genewatchmagazine/docs/genewatch_30-1

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Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life

Published on Monday Feb 6, 2017 by Independent Science News: “Genetics Is Giving Way to a New Science of Life” was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD.

https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/genetics-is-giving-way-to-a-new-science-of-life/

Synopsis: “Genes…run everything in our bodies” states the website of the US National Institutes of Health. This view is genetic determinism. It is the idea that DNA is a master molecule that controls living organisms and it has been the conceptual foundation of biology for over 100 years. However, exactly twenty years ago, Prof Richard Strohman, of UC Berkeley, predicted of genetic determinism that “this paradigm has little power and must eventually fail” (in Nature Biotechnology 15: 194-200, 1997).
That day of failure has now arrived. Read More »

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Industrial Production of Poultry Gives Rise to Deadly Strains of Bird Flu H5Nx

Published on Monday Jan 30, 2017, by Independent Science News: “Industrial Production of Poultry Gives Rise to Deadly Strains of Bird Flu H5Nx” was written by Rob Wallace, PhD. The article can be read at: https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/industrial-production-of-poultry-gives-rise-to-deadly-strains-of-bird-flu-h5nx/

Synopsis: Multiple deadly new strains of H5N bird flu are successively infecting poultry farms across the globe. These pathogens are killing millions of farmed birds and threaten human outbreaks. Thanks to industry-funded research, blame is usually placed on wild bird populations and climate change. According to new research, however, the real culprit is escaping that judgment. It is factory farm conditions such as cramped housing, genetic uniformity, and the rapid cycling of birds.

Rob Wallace is an epidemiologist and animal health expert.

Read the full article at: Industrial Production of Poultry Gives Rise to Deadly Strains of Bird Flu H5Nx

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There’s Nothing Parochial About the Issue of GMO Food Labeling

Published on Jan 24, 2017 on Independent Science News: “There’s Nothing Parochial About the Issue of GMO Food Labeling,” a new article by Jonathan Latham, PhD.

https://www.independentsciencenews.org/health/theres-nothing-parochial-about-the-issue-of-gmo-food-labeling/

Synopsis: Last week, Michael Pollan, Olivier de Schutter, Mark Bittman and Ricardo Salvador called GMO labeling “parochial”. They are mistaken. GMOs are the leading edge of agribusiness strategy in intellectual, financial, and legal senses. They have enabled huge profits and leveraged the concentration of the global seed supply, while at the same time boosting sales of herbicides and pesticides. Labeling, on the other hand, is a mechanism for introducing democracy and the protection of consumer rights, possibilities that are everywhere in short supply. It should not be dismissed or diminished.

Go to There’s Nothing Parochial About the Issue of GMO Food Labeling to read the full article.

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Latest Fracking Threats to Agriculture and Soil Quality

Unconventional gas and oil extraction (fracking) expose farmers, livestock and consumers to multiple hazards. Two new publications collect scientific research and other documented reports on the harmful impacts of fracking on rural communities, agriculture and food systems.

On November 17, The Concerned Health Professionals of New York  published the 4th edition of the Compendium of scientific, medical and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction). Like the first edition in 2014, the updated compendium is organized by key topics and written to be intelligible to “public officials, researchers, journalists and the public at large”. It is fully referenced and includes summaries of scientific and medical literature, government and industry reports, and journalistic investigations that document fracking’s harmful impacts. Read More »

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Jonathan Latham Speaks at Organic Conference in Guelph, Ontario on Jan 27, 2017

Jonathan Latham, Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project, is speaking during the Keynote Forum of the 2017 Guelph Organic Conference, along with Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) (Ottawa); Rene Van Acker, PhD – Crop-weed Ecologist and Dean, Ontario Agriculture College (Guelph); and Dianne Dowling – Organic Dairy Farmer and President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Local 316 (Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox-Addington).

The Forum is entitled: What is the future of genetic engineering? It is being held on

For more information about the Forum go to: http://guelphorganicconf.ca/sessions/keynote-forum-what-is-the-future-of-genetic-engineering/

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Radio Interview with Jonathan Latham: The Food Movement Is Unstoppable

In this one hour interview, Project Executive Director Jonathan Latham discusses the future and the food movement. He discusses how the food movement is becoming the political alternative to neoliberalism. The discussion moves to ask what are the threats to it? How it might be co-opted and by who?

Listen here: https://bioscienceresource.org/the-food-movement-is-unstoppable/

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