New Scientist: Researchers Should Join with Activists in Examining Food Biotech Regulation

In this week's edition of the New Scientist magazine, I have a commentary article on the UK controversy over genetically modified wheat and the lobbying efforts in the U.S. to label food containing GM ingredients.  Below is an excerpt:


CONTROVERSY over genetically modified wheat is building to what seems likely to be confrontation in the UK on 27 May.

On that day, the anti-GM group Take Back the Flour has called for protesters to gather 30 minutes from London at the site of field trials, and to "decontaminate" the area by destroying the crop. Researchers involved with the trials have responded with an open letter and video appeal to the protesters, urging restraint.

But as this case and emerging food-biotech conflicts in the US show, an easy, communication-based fix is elusive. If scientists want to ensure they can do such research, they need to join activists in critically examining the system which governs this technology and its commercial use...

...The controversy over GM wheat and the US lobbying underscore the need for scientists to join activists in discussing weaknesses in our regulatory process and commercialisation regimes. Until these are addressed, no amount of smart communication is going to shift the conversation.

Rather than blaming public opposition for limiting scientific enquiry and assuming that communication can fix the problem, scientists should join activists in considering whether the policy arrangements that have long benefited their research are adequate for managing complex questions that transcend environmental and health risks.

In doing so, scientists and food activists are likely to gain a better understanding of each other, and to recognise common ground and points of compromise.

European wind farms could meet global energy demand, researchers now say

A new study estimated the untapped potential of wind energy across Europe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A new report calculated how much electricity Europe could generate if it built onshore wind farms on all of its exploitable land.
  • The results indicated that European onshore wind farms could supply the whole world with electricity from now until 2050.
  • Wind farms come with a few complications, but the researchers noted that their study was meant to highlight the untapped potential of the renewable energy source in Europe.
Keep reading Show less

Physicists find new state of matter that can supercharge technology

Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
  • The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
  • Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
Keep reading Show less

New vaccine (for cats) nixes allergic reactions for humans

You want one. Now you may be able to survive one.


Photo credit: Jie Zhao
/ Getty contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • Cats live in a quarter of Western households.
  • Allergies to them are common and can be dangerous.
  • A new approach targets the primary trouble-causing allergen.
Keep reading Show less