Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Expect desultory posting here to continue for the forseeable future. The plus side of this is a more selective approach, one would think, but I leave it to you to judge from the quality of the following: The U.S. government -- now freely elected™ -- is predictably outraged over the official NAFTA report [discussed above] on transgenes in Mexican maize, for making outrageous "anti-scientific" claims such as:

There is no reason to expect that a transgene would have any greater or lesser effect on the genetic diversity of landraces or teosinte than other genes from similarly used modern cultivars.

Elsewhere, our old friend Nina Fedoroff has produced a new book: Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food, which you can read in the world's most retarded electronic format at the National Academies Press site (or you can fork over real money for the pdf); reports of drought-resistant wheat from Egypt; and speaking of cereals, I should point out gramene, a comparative genome database for grains; the plight of Mexican farmworkers in the Anderson Valley; CGIAR accused of pandering to multinationals [really, this is shocking]; D.G. Hole, et al., "Does organic farming benefit biodiversity?" Biological Conservation 122 (March 2005), 113-130 concludes:

The majority of the 76 studies reviewed in this paper clearly demonstrate that species abundance and/or richness, across a wide-range of taxa, tend to be higher on organic farms than on locally representative conventional farms.

update: Everyone's favorite fanatics at the CCF just interrupted me with their foray today into heretofore unscaled heights of douchebaggery. In the course of mocking Jerry Garcia's widow (for this), they write:

...Berkeley professor Ignacio Chapela -- whose study on genetically enhanced (GE) corn in Mexico became a case study on scientific hoaxes after it was retracted by the prestigious journal Nature. Incidentally, Chapela's work was rebutted again this week, as a new report from the North American Free Trade Association found that GE corn poses no threat to Mexico's native corn species.

Of course, they don't link to the actual report, but to a summary of it on another industry blowjob site. The lies:

  1. the report says nothing of the kind, as indicated by out government's response above;
  2. it, in fact, confirms the important part of the Chapela article, which established that there were transgenes in Oaxacan maize landraces, and has never been disputed;
  3. there was no "hoax": the bombshell was the discovery of the transgenes [the dispute concerned the methodology used in the second part of the paper, which claimed extensive fragmention of the foreign DNA throughout the maize genome. Note again, noone has ever disproved even these disputed results; they have only raised (apparently valid) doubts about the suitability of the the techniques used, and their successful application]. Nature has never satisfactorily eplained their "retraction," and Quist and Chapela stand by both parts of the paper. One wishes someone would repeat the experiment correctly to end all this bullshit one and for all.

Normally I ignore these clowns. They're just trying to earn a living, and their incompetence is actually kind of endearing. But now they're just making shit up.

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