College Professors Told to Fork Over Email Exchanges with Monsanto
In an unprecedented use of Freedom of Information laws, an anti-GMO group wants to read the emails of forty university professors with professional associations to biotechnology firms.
The politicking of the biotechnology industry seems to have gone a little too far.
Now, an anti-GMO group is requesting to read the professional emails of 40 university professors with alleged ties to biotech firms such as Monsanto.
Called US Right to Know, the group alleges that a select group of university professors are actively promoting biotechnology products like genetically modified crops in exchange for financial compensation.
There are no briefcases of cash here, but rather generous research grants given to outspoken proponents of GMO foods. Kevin Folta, a plant scientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, for example, received an unrestricted $25,000 research grant from Monsanto last year.
It's not just large grants, however, that cause concern among anti-GMO groups like US Right to Know. Biotechnology companies are given to hiring ambitious public relations firms like Ketchum of New York, which manages the website GMO Answers.
While appearing as a neutral source for information on GMO crops, GMO Answers is managed by Ketchum and to create a well-credentialed sited, Ketchum reached out to professors friendly to the GMO industry to respond to queries posted by online users.
Ketchum even went so far as to draft responses for certain academics, including Folta, telling him it's important that his responses be "authentic" and encouraging him to alter the scripted answers to suit his preference.
US Right to Know says that when professors on the public doll are indirectly working for private companies with private interests, the public has a right to know. Hence the request to sift through the professors' email.
At least one institution, the University of Nebraska, has refused to hand over the emails requested by the anti-GMO group, which is filing Freedom of Information briefs in state courts.
Dr. Lee M. Silver, professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, gives essential context to the GMO debate, explaining the complications of defending natural foods by prioritizing natural products.
Read more at Nature.
It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back
- In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
- Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
- The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points
Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?
Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."
Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.
In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.
Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.
"Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."
Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.
Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.
Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.
What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.
It's an asteroid, it's a comet, it's actually a spacecraft?
- 'Oumuamua is an oddly shaped, puzzling celestial object because it doesn't act like anything naturally occurring.
- The issue? The unexpected way it accelerated near the Sun. Is this our first sign of extraterrestrials?
- It's pronounced: oh MOO-uh MOO-uh.
A study started out trying to see the effect of sexist attacks on women authors, but it found something deeper.
- It's well known that abusive comments online happen to women more than men
- Such comments caused a "significant effect for the abusive comment on author credibility and intention to seek news from the author and outlet in the future"
- Some news organizations already heavily moderate or even ban comments entirely; this should underscore that effort
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