Friday, October 27, 2006


With approaching elections, debates about embryonic stem cell research have been given lots of attention. While issues of ethics have been brought up, weighing the destruction of embryos against possible medical breakthroughs, no one seems to have given much attention to related advancements in stem cell science.

Recently, a team of researchers at Advanced Cell Technology reported in the journal Nature that they have been able to remove singe cells from human blastomeres (cell groupings that result from mitotic divisions of the embryo) and coax these cells into forming embryonic stem cells with no harm to the embryo. If this procedure can be replicated successfully, then one side of the ethics argument may become irrelevant.

Monday, October 23, 2006


A colleague, who certainly carries views of the more liberal and left wing flavor commented on how out of bounds our state’s concealed carry laws were. He certainly is of the opinion that these laws do more to endanger the populace than protect it. He criticized the politician who introduced the bill. The politician I’m sure took the opposite view.

Both individuals are confused about where they should focus their criticisms. The 2nd amendment of the constitution makes clear that all people are to have an unfettered right to bear arms, with no exceptions mentioned regarding concealment or otherwise.

While the politician may have felt that he won a victory for the 2nd amendment, the fact that a bill had to be introduced at all is testament of our government not recognizing protected constitutional rights. He should have taken his passion to the Supreme Court, who should simply side on the basis of a literal interpretation of the constitution. My colleague, while disgusted with the politician, should realize that his true focus should be on amending the constitution to restrict the use of guns.

Of course, to the disgust of all of us, this is not likely to happen. It is in the best interest of each legislature to push through every bill necessary to maintain power, and our courts do not have a reputation of standing in the way. This process has been coined ‘ the quiet repeal of the American Revolution’ by economist Thomas Sowell in his book ‘The Quest for Cosmic Justice.’

Why is this relevant to this blog? This blog is devoted to science and economics, and both are heavily influenced by the way we are governed. In fact, many of the things that I have written about are in response to potential governmental and political behaviors.

Friday, October 20, 2006


"Would I prefer that the world was nothing but organic agriculture? Yes. But on the other hand GM crops have a much higher yield per acre and use less pesticides."
-Leslie Hoffman, Director, Earth Pledge

" Over the next 10 years. I predict the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered foods, and nuclear power."
-Founder, The Whole Earth Catalog

"You couldn't feed more than 4 billion people on an all organic diet."
-Norman Borlaug, Winner, Nobel Prize for accomplishments in agricultural advances benefiting the 3rd world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


While organic foods provide us with a sense of nostalgia for 19th century agriculture, its claims of safety, sustainability, and ‘greenness’ can be distracting. Case in point, the recent recall of E. coli infested spinach, traced to a major organic producer, Earthbound farms. According to the Center for Global Food issues, organic foods are 8 times more likely to be recalled than conventional food. Although organic food makes up less than 1% of diets in the US, it accounts for 8% of all food E coli cases.

According to a University of Minnesota study, researchers determined that produce grown with manure aged 6-12 months was actually 19 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli than foods grown with manure aged more than a year. USDA organic rules allow manure to be applied after just 3 days of composting—right up to harvest time and raw manure can be applied until 90 to120 days prior to harvest in most cases.

It’s true that conventionally growers may also use manure as part of their fertility program, but in a recent study published in the Journal of Food Protection, organic produce was 6 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli than conventional produce. Conventional growers always have the option of reducing manure use and supplementing with synthetic alternatives that offer the same nutritional value with less risk and increasingly less damage to the environment as genetics and technology improve.
Perhaps that’s why the founder of The Whole Earth Catalog believes the environmental movement will soon reverse its trend of aversion to GM foods.