With February being the month of love and romance, at least according to the floral, greeting card, and boxed candy industries, we thought we’d confess our love for science and technology. While the true story of St. Valentine might be somewhat shrouded in mystery, there’s no hiding the fact that we heart evidence-based science.  With our love of all things scientific in mind, here are some of the stories that we crushed on in February:

You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Science is based on hard facts and truth. And if so many people want the truth, why do consumers distrust science and facts? And prefer to believe false information?

A February 10, 2017, article on NPR asks if we can trust science.  And if so, then how? The article notes that there is a low level of knowledge about science among the general public, which can certainly engender mistrust. Some scientific issues have also become more politicized in recent years, which can also create an element of mistrust.  Some people consider science to be controlled by “Big Science”, such as industry and government, which makes them skeptical.

Ultimately, the issue is not about the science itself, but about building trust that has been lost.  And how should the scientific community go about rebuilding that trust with the public? The author suggests that one way is to acknowledge past mistakes and practices.

When we launched GMO Answers, we acknowledged that we had not always done the best job communicating about GMOs. We’re committed to having an honest and clear dialogue moving forward in order to take some steps to build trust and confidence in industry and science. And we hope that you have found the GMO Answers website a valuable resource, and a starting point to having a conversation about the way behind how our food is grown.

Justify My Love

One of the questions that is frequently asked at GMO Answers is, “Are GMOs regulated?” The answer is yes – by up to three different government agencies: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FDA makes sure that GMOs are safe to eat, the USDA makes sure that GMOs are safe to grow, and the EPA makes sure that GMOs are safe for the environment.

A new article at Smithsonian.com highlights the history of the FDA. From the very beginning, the agency was concerned about the safety of our food.  Although it was not known by its present name until 1930, FDA’s functions as the regulatory agency that we know today began with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, a law many years in the making that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Scientists at the FDA have done some very important work in its history, perhaps none more so than the work of Frances Kelsey who put the brakes on approving the drug Thalidomide out of fears that it caused birth defects. (It did.)

Scientists at the FDA continue to look out for the safety of America’s food supply and medicines. It is important to remember the FDA has jurisdiction over products in the food and drug supply chain, including GMOs.

To learn more about the FDA, its history, and what it does, please visit Smithsonian.com.

La Vie En Rose

Did you know that the roses that you receive on Valentine’s Day most likely have a patent on them? It’s true, according to a new article on Smithsonian.com.  One could think of a rose as an invention, or a scientific breakthrough. 

White Rose New DawnThe purpose of the patent system is to give inventors a period of exclusivity for commercial development of products, thereby protecting innovators and encouraging future innovation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants several different types of patents. Plant patents specifically cover certain types of plants. That beautiful red rose from that lovely bouquet on February 14 is the product of many years of scientific inquiry, breeding, and experimentation.  So much so, that companies that develop new breeds or strains of roses get them patented to protect their investment. And it’s not just roses that are patented. Many decorative plants, flowers, and even trees have been patented.  As our seed improvement infographic shows, seeds that are developed through selective breeding, interspecies crossing, mutagenesis, and transgenesis (GMO technology) can all be patented.

The roses you see at the florist today are very different from the roses of the past. The same can be said of much of our food.  Most of the food we eat today has very little similarity to the foods hundreds and thousands of years ago. Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and corn, just to name a few, look nothing like what was developed by Mother Nature. Even today, many of the fruits, vegetables, and other crops we eat are being studied and improved upon for new traits, such as taste, convenience, or size. Whether it’s a GMO or a conventional plant, researchers are constantly on the lookout for next new best thing, as this article in the Houston Chronicle about the breeding and development of a new type of peach at Texas A&M University illustrates.

To learn more about roses and their patents, head on over to Smithsonian.com to check it out!

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Dr. Pamela Ronald of the University of California, Davis is a world-renowned plant pathologist and researcher in the field of rice genetics. She and her laboratory have genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and tolerance to flooding, which are serious problems for rice crops in Asia and Africa. She’s been a Fulbright fellow, an AAAS Fellow, and most recently, been named by Scientific American as one of the World’s 100 most influential people in biotechnology.

Dr. Ronald is a prominent public speaker, and regularly gives talks on the benefits of GMOs. At one recent talk, covered by the St. Albert Gazette (Alberta, Canada), she discussed the environmental benefits of GMO crops.  She noted that genetically engineered crops can help reduce pesticide applications.  As an example, she explained how farmers in Bangladesh growing Bt brinjal (eggplant) can reduce pesticide applications since the modified plant is now more resistant to a common pest, the fruit and shoot borer.

She also discussed her own work with rice, noting that her lab has developed a variety of rice that is more flood-resistant, which could be essential as the threat of flooding may increase due to climate change. The article notes, “The benefits aren’t just for the farmers. It’s for the land, it’s for the water, it’s for the insects, it’s for everything.”

To learn more about Pamela Ronald, and the benefits of GMOs, please read the article, “GMOs are green? Yes, says expert.

Time to fly away on Cupid's wings and put the quiver and arrows away until next month. If you have any more questions about GMOs, please feel free to explore the rest of the GMO Answers site. You might want to start with our Explore the Basics page. You'll Love It!