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Life Sciences

Corn Field

“Unnatural” Corn/Canola oil — Dispatches from Behind the Looking Glass…

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” (Rev. Charles Dodgson, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Recent news brings one of those items that causes palms to smack foreheads:

ConAgra Foods is facing two class action lawsuits that claim the marketing of its Wesson cooking oils as “100% natural” and “pure” is misleading because the oil is extracted from plants that have been genetically modified (GM).

“The two lawsuits, one filed in Los Angeles and the other in Brooklyn, seek millions of dollars’ worth of refunds for consumers who bought products in ConAgra’s Wesson range of cooking oils, as well as a court order preventing the company from labelling the oils as natural. The oils concerned include Wesson-brand corn oil, canola oil, Best Blend and vegetable oil.

“According to the complaint, labelling the oils “100% natural” is misleading because GM plants are “unnatural”, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says: “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material

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Human Genome Illustration

Investing in Innovation Pays Off: New Study Shows 14,000 Percent Return on Human Genome Project

Two new reports released last week provide some of the most compelling evidence yet for the importance of federal investments in science and technology innovation. Amid the bitter and protracted negotiations over this fiscal year’s federal budget, U.S. investments in science and innovation were largely spared from the deepest cuts some federal programs faced. But they may not be safe for long as Congress considers making further spending cuts in the fiscal year 2012 budget beginning in October against the backdrop of debate this summer over raising the national debt ceiling.

That’s why it is critically important that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle distinguish between federal “spending” and “investments.” What many fiscally conservative lawmakers omit in their zeal to slash spending is that many federal programs actually have positive rates of return, meaning they bring in more revenue—to the government, economy, or both—than they cost the taxpayer. To put it another way, some federal investments are profitable to the public balance sheet and save the taxpayers money in the long run.

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Against the Current

Every so often a "news" item appears that gets the most important facts so upside down one is reminded of Thomas Jefferson's comment that   “… nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle” (Thomas Jefferson, June 11 1807, letter to John Norvell). The May 20 article in the Washington Post gives us a contemporary example that once again reaffirms the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

The occasion is the imminent "threat" of increased availability of a nutritious, healthy, safe food with a lower carbon footprint and reduced environmental impact compared to competing products. It's difficult to make that out from the article, but we're talking about transgenic, or "genetically modified (GM)" salmon.

The offending piece in the Washington Post opens with an assertion that does violence to reality stating, "In the absence of a federal law requiring labels for genetically modified food…". What's wrong with this statement?

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Val Giddings Headshot

ITIF Moves Into Biotechnology…

ITIF expands its portfolio to move into biotechnology. With all the money being invested in biotechnologies around the world by governments and the private sector, and with all the attention paid by NGOs, this may appear superfluous to some.  We see this as all the more reason. We propose to attack some of the fundamental policy issues, some of the thorniest problems, and to follow the facts wherever they may lead.  We propose to show that Joshua Reynolds was not 100% correct when he stated "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the true labor of thinking."

Why is important to bring critical eyes to bear on challenges associated with biotechnology?

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Agriculture Innovation: When a Fish is More Than Just a Fish

The Food and Drug Administration seems to be moving closer to approving genetically modified salmon for sale in the United States.  While 80 to 90 percent of corn and cotton in the United States are genetically modified (GM) this would be the first time a GM animal is sold for human consumption.  The fish developed by AquaBounty Technologies has an added growth gene that enables it to grow twice as fast and fifty percent larger.  Opponents, ranging from fishermen and their regional elected officials to environmentalists and religious groups, have begun calling AquaBounty’s salmon “Frankenfish” and claiming that a GM fish would endanger consumers, infect local stocks, destroy the environmental ecosystem, and generally constitute playing God.  Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress that would either ban the fish outright or require a “transgenic” label.

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