November 2009 Archives

Seed magazine: Sweet Obesity


The article sweet obesity in seed magazine are considering about increasing the amount of obesity american lead people to think diet soda is good way to control the body condition and help them to lost weight. People usually think that drinking soda and eating something sweet which is contain sugar will gaining more weight but the research show that Low-calorie artificial sweeteners in diet soda gained significantly more weight than sugar-sweetened.

They also do the research with 2 rats, and feed them with diffirent diet, first one ate sugar sweetened and second ate artificially sweetened yogourt in addition to their usual diet of rat chow. Then after five week, the rat who ate artificial sweetners gained more weight than the rat who ate sugar-sweeted yogurt. Therefore, drinking diet soda may not losing weight and gaining weight is not cause by regular soda.

I am very much agree which this research because diet soda is not helping us losing weight, and normal soda will not be the reason for you gaining weight. That still depend on want you eat and what conditiion of your body. Some individuals are easy to gaining weight by eating a small amount of foods but others may not gaining any weight even though they eat a lot of food because it is depend on your body condition, if your body can burn fat faster than others than other you will not gaining a lot of fat but if you body can not burn fat easyly as other person, the fat remain in your body, if you keep eating food, the fat will increasing more but not burning, you will become obesity.

 I have a friend who is gain fat every easyly even she is trying to eat diet, and does not eating much during the day, but she still keep gaining weight. In the other hand, no matter what i am eatting i don't gain any weight as much as my friend does.It is not depend on diet food, diet soda to lose your weight but  I think it is still depend on other condition such as body condition, genes, and much more other things that make you gaining more weight. Eating condition may important but it is only affect a little bit.

Hieu Nguyen 

Tetyana Navalyana- Blog #4


            How many of you notice how technology keeps evolving for the better over a period of time? It seems that it was only yesterday when I first received my cassette player during Christmas time. Today, the cassette player is in my basement, and instead I am using my newest IPod touch technology. So what will happen in a hundred years from now? Will we have the cars that can fly? Will the cell phones be smaller than today's? How will technology impact our lives and make a difference in the future?

            This topic really interested me, and I decided to look for an article in the Seed Magazine with a similar interest. I found one about a new nanoscale storage device that can hold a maximum of a trillion bits of information. Alex Zettl, a physics professor, along with his team at the University of California, Berkley, researched and found a solution to such a problem. They created the technology that is able to hold a lot of memory and store important information without it ever getting deleted. "The system consists of a minuscule particle of iron encased in a carbon nanotube and represents information in binary notation" (Seed Magazine).

            Personally, I believe that this new technology invented by Alex Zettl is a very good idea. In my house, we used to watch a lot of VHS tapes since we did not have a DVD player at that time. Now, since we have the DVD player, we do not watch VHS tapes anymore since some are blank and got erased due to humidity, change in temperature, as well as the electromagnetic fields. So will this new technology work? Who knows? Zettl mentioned that this invention will last for more than a billion years. But will we know how long it can last for? No, since we will not live that long to confirm such a case!

Seed Mag: Genomic Revolution


The article I picked is called The Genomic Revolution.  This topic relates to what we have been talking about in class, selecting genotypes.  People have been depending on domesticated cows for many uses, such as milk.  Recently,   "Bovine Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium and the Bowince HapMap Consortium promises to revolutionize cattle breeding".   Cow genome involves analyzing and evaluating phenotypic records of cows to improve cattle breeding efficiency.  Over the past 50 years, industry has been able to "produce twice as much milk with half the number of cows through progeny testing".  Progeny testing is a process of evaluating the genetic value of lineages in cattle breeding.  Thus they can select a specific genotype to make cattle breeding more efficient. 

Another benefit from genotyping is to "select for livestock with the most efficient digestion, resulting in minimum feed".  Cow is a ruminant animal that can break down biomass and convert forage into usable energy.  "Lewin predicts that mimicking this cellulytic process and understanding the cow's microbial degradation process may prove vital in producing biofuels".  This study will help us to further comprehend digestion of low quality forage. 

The third benefit of studying the cow's genome would benefit the environment greatly.   If we could gain a better genetic basis behind the caloric efficiency of the rumen, we would control methane, a by-product from cow and the second most abundant greenhouse gas on Earth.  With further genotyping, we can control methane by selecting for livestock with the most efficient digestion.  If cows can efficiently digest their food, they would eat less and therefore, produce less methane.

Regardless of the benefits of bovine genetic study, only 0.04 percent of Department of Agriculture budget in 2007 was going toward agriculturally domestic animals research.  There is not enough funding to support it.

I think it would be okay to select specific genotypes in livestock to improve the agricultural systems.  I am not familiar with the agricultural system but I think how we use domesticated cows for meat, milk, etc. are no different from genotyping.  I recently learned that some cows are shot with a stun gun at the head to make it impossible to regain conscious.  Thus, I do not believe that genotyping is unmoral considering the ways cows are used for a variety of purposes and are slaughtered each year.  After reading this article on Seed Magazines, I think domestic animals research is essential since it plays a large part in our life.  Given that we have so many domestic animals, we can further use them to our advantage to go green by reducing methane production.  However, I am not sure about selecting cows to produce milk because there could be some factors in the milk that could chemically disrupt our body system.

Phuong Thuy Pham

A false fix by Justin Schwartz


            Have we as a society become so frightened by the though of the devastating H1N1 virus that we are willing to believe anything that is thrown at us. In times of crisis there are people who seek to take advantage of the crisis at hand. Producers also know that consumers are look for the quick technological fix. Many people do buy into the claim that "buy this product and you will be cured." There is a rule of thumb when confronting these product and that is if it sounds too good to be true, chances are that it is too good to be true.


There are web sites that claim to "kill" the H1N1 virus by simply spraying their "magic" potion on any surface. Company's are also using everything from gloves to masks to sanitizers to take advantage of consumers in fear. There is also a products such as ionic silver that can kill viruses, but it is not effective to the H1N1 virus.  


Now, anyone with a shred of common sense has to realize that a product will not be able to magically kill the H1N1 virus. If this was so there would be no need for the national emergency that we are currently experiencing and there would be no need to the H1N1 vaccine. There is a reason that the FDA must approve a product before they can claim to kill or cure the H1N1 virus. Currently there are only two products that the FDA has actually approved one of which is Tamiflu, according to an article by The New York Times. Take that into mind when you come across a product that makes the acquisitions even if the product claims to contain Tamiflu because most of the time there is only a minuet quantity of Tamiflu with in the product.


The false claims are keeping the FDA on their toes. The FDA must now patrol the web as if to be police and make sure that consumers are not scammed. According to The New York Times, the FDA has found 140 products that claim to win the war against the H1N1 and have sent out letters to 75 manufacturers telling them to remove their products from the web or sales floor. The FDA reports that about 80% of the companies that have received the letters have in fact taken there products down. If a company does not comply with the rules manufacturers can be reported to the 3rd parties or host sites, their products will be taken down, and assets can be seized.


When contacted by The New York Times, Q-Based Solutions representative was asked if they sold anything to prevent swine flu and of course the answer was yes. The representative pushed their "healing gel" which was said to "kill the virus on anything that it is applied to." When asked if that included the H1N1 strain, the representative answered: "Yes, it's good for it." It is very possible that the representative did not hold any credentials to be making that claim that it would kill the H1N1 strain.


We must keep in mind not to trust any Joe Shmoe. There is no magical fix to the H1N1 virus. My simple advice is to take precautionary actions if you have not been lucky enough to receive the vaccine yet. Keep your hands out of your eyes and mouth, wash your hands, sneeze into your sleeve instead of into the open air or on your hand, and just use common sense when trying to stay away from the H1N1. In times of crisis we cant be looking to the easy technological fix. We are a society who thrives on science and technology, but at the same time we have to use common sense when coming across these products. These products however should not reflect or deter you from listening to your doctor, but do be skeptical of those who stand to make a profit such as the manufacturers.

Evolved for Extinction?

Michele Serbus                                                                                                                     The article I read from SEED magazine was about animals becoming to evolved to fit specific niches and not being able to compete when new species are introduced into their environment. This phenomenon often happens in areas that are cut off, such as islands. When new competitors, often those brought over from the mainland from humans, the evolved animals face extinction because they are not able to adapt to the new environment. The question is do we intervene or let nature take it course?                                                                                     This would be seen by Darwin as natural selection. The fitter of the two or more species would survive. Often the species competing against these nearly extinct species is humans. We are competing constantly for land, water, and food. Humans have destroyed or greatly changed all the areas of the world, whether it be a land mass or the polar ice caps. As our population grows exponential, the populations of all other species that inhabit our environment can only be expected to decline.                                                                                   Many animals were hunted until extinction and many more are reaching that point now. These animals cannot be expected to be preserved in the wild due to illegal pouching and environmental factors, such as habitat change or climate change. The only other option is to house them ourselves in manmade habitats, thereby taking them out of their natural niches forever. By doing this we preserve apart of history for many generation, but really alter the animal's behavior in nature.

Technology in the Trash

Blog Response to Aritcle: Technology in the Trash
By: T. Adam Wichelmann

The article I read strongly relates to our discussion of green chemistry and the issues surrounding trash.  While eating a snickers, have you ever wondered where the wrapper ends up?  While watching a new DVD, have you ever pondered where the impossible to get off stickers end up?  While running in a new pair of sneakers, have you ever questioned where the box ends up?  Carlo Ratti and his team at MIT have and are trying to come up with some answers.  Their goal, as described by the article, is to "throw light on how waste is produced, exposing and correcting inefficiencies in the system and encouraging individuals to own their pollution".  This system uses tiny "energy-efficient" markers that work similar cell phones.  In order to track the garbage, the makers will be attached to the garbage and tracked using cell-phone networks.  Essentially, the marker will detect cell-phone signals off of cell-phone towers.  The signal strength of these signals will then be used to triangulate the exact location of the garbage.  Scientists will then be able to use this information to track garbage and time its travel.

The technology and ideas behind this experiment are very unique and exciting.  As we discussed, a highly debated topic in the world is garbage.  What do we do with it?  Is it a problem?  Is it our problem?  What happens to it?  These answers potentially could be answered with the success of this experiment.  From this experiment, scientists aim to specifically track garbage flow and travel and give the public insight into where their trash ends up.  They also hope to gain knowledge on the efficiency levels of the current garbage disposal methods and find ways to improve efficiency.  Subsequently, they hope this will lead to less carbon emissions and, essentially, a cleaner, more sustainable planet.

This research has the potential to create a huge paradigm shift.  Potentially, it could have a strong affect on public outlook on trash and swing people into a more thoughtful nature when it comes to their garbage.  I think there is a need for change because we, as Americans, generally have a strong disassociation with our garbage.  When its in the can it isn't our problem.  In order for a paradigm shift, I believe its necessary to make people aware of where their garbage goes and the impacts it has on the world.  If people become more aware of the situation then their could be a strong movement to fixing the garbage industry and making it more efficient.  Subsequently, I feel this will lead to further development of and funding for the Plasma technology we discussed in class in order to solve the garbage dilemma.

A Natural Obsession


Taylor Nordstrom

The article that I read was "A Natural Obsession" this article was very interesting in that it dealt with our food and organic choices.  The article downplays and shows many flaws in organic farming today, and shows a lot of pro conventional farming rationale.  It is definetely true that organic foods are sweeping across our country and that more and more people are switching to organic, but there are many reasons not to switch.

The article pointed out the obvious reasons of not being able to feed the world because of decreased yields in organic foods, but there were some more interesting things that I have never thought about before too.  Since organic foods have started to become more mainstream shipping them has started to become a priority due to the fact that organic foods can't all be produced locally.  The shipping alone is creating a much larger carbon footprint than conventional farming. 

The article also goes into more depth about how side effects have not been shown in pesticide use on conventional crops, but that the use of pesticedes has reduced the amount of plowing and tractor use in fields drastically also.  Less plowing means less erosion of the soil, and far less irrigation in areas where irrigation is needed. 

The part of this article that actually struck me the most though was the part about GMO's and integrity.  The article shows an example with wheat breeding.  Organic foods have all been cross bread in some time, but the difference between organic and gmo's is that in bioengineering of gmo crops everything is known exactly about the plant and seed.  Organic foods have the troubles of old breeding  have introduced entire foreign genomes, and radiation induced mutations that are actually quite scary when compared side by side to constructed crops.  Personnaly I believe GMO's are our future due to the fact that we have to feed an ever increasing population, and organic foods just aren't going to be able to keep up. 

Natural Trade Offs, Natural Reactions, Natural Consequences

| 1 Comment

The debate between the benefits of organic foods versus foods produced traditionally has a great affect on how we farm produce and how we will change this process in the not so distant future. A recent Seed Magazine article asserts that the allure to organic is, "They aren't in any way related to industrial-scale farms or big box grocery chains; chemical herbicides or pesticides; biotechnology or its subgenre, genetic engineering. And by those criteria they are deemed to be safer, more nutritious, and less damaging to the environment." The article goes on to say that these ideas are not exactly accurate, that diseases too are natural and that no so far in the 13 years of their distribution in the marketplace, no genetically engineered products have made anyone sick.  The article proceeds to discuss population increases, the demand for food as a result, and the space needed to produce the food; the history of Green technology; and the need for sustainable farming.

One of several of my questions, is how bad can genetically modified foods really be? tells me that imprecise technology is one of four weaknesses of G.E.  Genes can be precisely cut from a gene but inserting the gene into the cell of another organism is actually random and problems could result. Side effects of G.E. are still unknown. Other things include, crop failure, toxins, environmental damages, more pesticides, some deaths.

Generally, these seem pretty bad. I must indicate that the statics included in the site were from the late 1990s, and GE has come far since then. Even if it has advanced the ramifications of what could happen are still frightening. This type of "gene power" is incredible to consider-- remarkable how far humans have come in a really short time - however, I cringe to think what this knowledge could do in despotic hands. Will someone come to power in my life who will attempt to physically craft a master race? Actually, be able to CHOOSE what people will look like, their intelligence, what they know? This is a bit dramatic admittedly, yet this seems be what most people in opposition of GE do fear. We are standing on the brink of this kind of power, in fact probably nearer to this kind of technology than the general public knows or is will to accept.

Can we use this technology to make sustainable farming work?  I think we are more than capable of doing this. Yet even if we can and do change policies on farming, laws cannot change attitudes. So it goes.

Can we reduce the rate at which world populations grow? Again I think the answer is yes. I am forced to pause when I see reality shows where families are 18 children large and the parents comment on how much food they go through in a few days or a week. I am not saying that the choices these people make are the cause for this problem. Not for a minute am I implying that. I do not think, however that propagating so freely is helping the situation either. I feel some kind of limitations must be made. I recognize that other factors get in the way in cases like these and often the motives to change will not be based on anything to do with the world populations, if they happen at all.

I really think the knowledge we have gained will give us what we need to mend that damages we've done in the past. But we must go about mending them in the proper way. It is not enough to merely invent something to fix an existing problem, only to cause more as a result. Each situation must be assessed as an individual problem or as a linked problem as the situation dictates. To really fix things and improve the condition and sustainability of the planet we shouldn't settle for quick fixes when it is clear that we have exceptional knowledge to tackle any obstacle. We must be smart enough to know when to think and when to invent. Only then can true progress be made.   

Nutritional Request


Charlie Schiller

It's always interesting when you walk into a grocery store and you overhear some of the conversations going on about why people are choosing some products over others.  I mean slogans and advertisements labeled on various products that read; "natural", "whole", and "real," how can you go wrong right?   Consumers have become more aware of what they are putting into their mouths in recent years.  However, have we become too concerned about the foods we have available for options?  I don't know if that is the main concern, but perhaps we sometimes have an instinctive thought that "natural", "whole", and "real" correlate to a more wholesome product that will be more beneficial for our bodies than some alternative options.  The article titled "A Natural Obsession" stated that there has been a skyrocketing popularity for organic foods.  Organic foods do cost more, but several consumers are opting to make the extra investment and buy the more naturally grown produces and products.  I do believe consumers should have the right to buy foods they feel comfortable consuming.  However, are we headed in the right direction for agricultural sustainability if we start offering more organic foods?

According to Ron Phillips, a professor at the University of Minnesota 14% of the world's population is estimated to be hungry.  He also stated that there are approximately 1.3 billion people in the world living on less than $1 per day.  Along with that all being stated, it is estimated that global food production will need to rise by roughly 50% in the next two decades to keep up with population growth (A Natural Obsession).  We have to keep searching for more ways to increase our efficiency and sustainability within agriculture.  I believe several of the reasons we have witnessed a big increase in demand for organic food is because of the general public's level of uncertainly in regards to health with biotechnology in agriculture.  People become concerned when they hear about genes from one organism being inserted into the DNA of another organism.  People start thinking about potential health issues when they hear or read about such practices.  "It is estimated that 70% of the processed food sold in the United States contains GM (Genetically Modified) products either directly or indirectly, as when GM crops are fed to animals." (The World Food Problem)  Agriculture is surrounded with GM technology, and should some of the progressive technology we have become accustomed to be shy away from, and perhaps be taken out of the hands of the producers?  Will we be able to keep up with the food demand of the world population if we choose to discontinue the popular conventional production methods and opt for more production of organic produces?   


Works Cited

Leathers, Howard D., and Phillips Foster. The World Food Problem. 4th ed. Colorado: Lynne Rienner, Inc., 2009. Print.


Beef? in vitro?? Hmmm... - Lilian Keraka


Response to the Seed interview: Jason Matheny on the worlds addiction to meat and how to grow ground beef in a test tube

    New Harvest is a non-profit organization that investigates the development of new meat alternatives, cultured in vitro. The very idea of this seemingly bizarre proposal arose due to the fact that the world's demand for meat is increasing rapidly. Unfortunately, this increase in demand has led to an accumulation of health related issues such as cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels. Meat production requires a great deal of resources as is the direct result of animal cruelty, "New Harvest's goal is to push forward technology that could be satisfy the growing global demand for meat I a way that's healthier, more energy-efficient and sustainable"

I happened to come across a rather intriguing interview between Seed Magazine's interviewer, Lee Billing and New Harvest's co-founder and director, Jason Matheny. Matheny provided Seed with numerous reasons as to why food scientists are looking into producing beef in vitro. Circumstances have proven that the global demand for meat has led to a "vast environmental footprint". For this reason, including the ones previously mentioned, Matheny has taken it upon himself to further explore the possibility of commercially produced in vitro beef.

I'm sure that anyone who decides to read this interview to completion will become a skeptic to even the slightest whiff of this scheme. Meat....made is a lab? Under what conditions exactly is this so-called meat being prepared? The very thought of it makes me uneasy. In vitro meat is "unnatural" they say; well, so is the commercial production of chicken, milk, yoghurt, cheese, bread and genetically modified foods. Unmistakably, on such terms, cultured meat might sound like a pretty good idea. Another reason why this endeavor may seem appealing is acknowledging the fact that bioreactors not only have the ability to make meat, but they also have the ability to customize its content. This draws attention to the likeliness of reducing the worry about food-borne illnesses, such as high-blood pressure. This would allow customers the opportunity to consume fat-free beef or vitamin fortified meat.

I'll admit, Matheny provides a pretty solid argument as to why this technique may become acceptable sometime in the near future. But what if a potentially harmful substance finds its way into the cultured meat? Are we in a position to face the possibility of consumers ingesting poisoned meat? What about the long term effects of its commercial use? Matheny suggests that further investigations could lead to breakthroughs in the exploration of artificially manufactured, functional organs. Could this discovery truly elongate lives, or shatter them in the long run?

Oh, and did I happen to mention that Matheny is VEGETARIAN...ironic, to say the least!


Gene Therapy Gives Sight


Giving Sight by Therapy with Genes, an article in the NY Times, published November 2 by Pam Bellock, is about a successful study published in journal Lancet that showed vision could be restored in some people using gene therapy.  This study conducted on 12 people from Italy, the United States, and Belgium proved that an injection into the eye could help restore vision after it had been fading.  The study was conducted on patients with a rare and serious disease called Leber's congenital amaurosis, which leads to the deterioration of sight and eventually blindness.  Researchers injected a virus with a normal version of the gene REP65 inserted into it.  When the virus invaded the light sensing cells and inserted its DNA the human gene REP65 was also included.  All people involved in the study showed significant improvement in about two weeks.  Patients who were legally blind could now read text on cell phones and see patterns in clothes.  Although sight wasn't restored to a perfect 20/20, it's amazing to me that they could reverse the loss of sight so dramatically in such a short period of time.

Gene therapy is currently a very exciting branch of science, but the number of people that it can help is currently limited.  The specific gene to fix the disease must be identified and for this particular treatment the photoreceptor cells must still be viable inside the eye.  This is most likely why the therapy works best for young people, but the oldest person in the study, 44, still had majorly improved vision.

When the benefits of science can change people's lives for the better I'm in favor.  This type of gene therapy isn't yet proven to provide lasting effects to the people who have received it, yet the simple fact is that sight has been restored to these people for now is amazing.  That gift is something that the patients certainly value, and scientist can build off of.  Although there has been a lot of controversy stemming from gene therapy, it is a path that should be explored further.  Society and government should play a large part in what this technology is used for and to what extent, so industry doesn't run wild.  I believe that gene therapy has the potential of healing many people in a safe and humane way.  If science can give sight to those who can't see, who are we to say no?

Lyndsie Kaehler, Blog Post #3

Blog Post #4


While browsing the New York Times website for an appropriate article for discussion, I came across one that is somewhat related to the Military Industrial Complex topic we discussed a little while back.  The article, which was posted on October 27, 2009, is called "Old Trick Threatens the Newest Weapons" by John Markoff.  This article discusses the United States lack of secure sources for weapons electronics.  Small electronic components used in advanced military communications and weapons equipment circuitry that are manufactured in foreign countries could pose a serious threat to national security.

The problem is that these small computer chips that are made outside of the United States could potentially contain Trojan horse viruses that could greatly compromise all advanced military technologies.  These hidden bugs could be triggered during a crises situation and cause important communication and weapons systems to crash and therefore become unusable.  The tampered with parts could also allow enemies to steal important government and military information.  This is scary because we would probably never know that they are there until it is too late. 

The opportunity for sabotage has become available because only 1/5 of the all the computer chips are made in the United States.  Also, only a quarter of the most advanced chips that are needed for the newest technologies are made in the U.S.  With American semiconductor manufacturing plants moving offshore, the risk of having parts that are tampered with in our military technologies increases.  One might claim that this is a good argument in favor of some of the concepts present in the military industrial complex.  It is important that the U.S. government has control over where we are getting our military technologies from, otherwise we become susceptible to these forms of technological attack.

Genetically Modified Plants

So, I did this a little backwards.  I wrote my paper before I wrote the blog post.  I figured I'd post the cliffs notes of it to generate some discussion hopefully.  Here the link to the article:

 By: Michael Lent

           Genetically modified plants (GMP) have created much debated since their introduction to the market in the nineties.  Unfortunately, ideologies supporting a great ignorance have surfaced since their introduction; that ignorance claims science has failed us, is continuing to fail us and therefore, man must return to nature.  Due to this sentiment, the social norm is such that organic food equates to healthy, whole, natural and real; however, all of these terms are very idealized, arbitrary, lack a solid definition and are instead defined by what they are not.  They are not from industrial-scale farms sprayed with chemical herbicides or pesticides or created with biotechnology.  Biotechnology is actually a green solution to the use of herbicides and pesticides; this is precisely what is being ignored by the organizations that reject genetically modified plants.  The truth is that the human population is growing at an alarming rate, a rate organic agriculture cannot sustain, genetically modified plants are just as healthy as organic food, there is an energy crisis and the myths that perpetuate ignorance and create the skepticism and fear associated with genetically modified plants must be dispelled through education.

            It is this lack of education that is the root cause of the fear, skepticism and ignorance associated with genetically modified plants.  In a broader sense, it is not just genetically modified plants that are feared but rather science's interference with agriculture.  The U.S. environmental movement - while important and necessary - founded mostly by Rachel Carson has made too great of an assault against science.  The legitimate fear of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and other pesticides has snowballed into a fear of all involvement of science with agriculture.  According to political scientist Robert Paarlberg, "[Bioengineering] is a technology that's pretty green and yet, if you're a member of an environmentalist organization that took its ideologies from Rachel Carson, you're not going to like it because it is based upon what is seen as an arrogant effort to dominate or engineer nature rather than yield to nature or try to work in harmony with nature."  Those environmentalists clinging to Rachel Carson's ideologies are doing themselves a great disservice by not acknowledging just how green the genetic modification of plants really is.

No one should argue that paying more attention to where the food on one's table comes from or how it got there is anything but good idea; perhaps, this is in part how the organic movement should be framed.  The organic movement also offers one sanctuary from the onslaught of food science that has gone awry with such products as fiber-infused Splenda (Montenegro).  Splenda, or sucralose, is a purely synthetic compound and not found in nature at all.  However, the appeal is that it offers a way for one to taste sweetness while avoiding the calories typically associated with it.  To somehow save it from the inherent prejudices associated with its artificial creation, fiber-infused Splenda is an attempt to bring it back within the realm of the organic movement with a substance that is so ubiquitously found in nature.  Then, there are breakfast cereals that somehow combine a multivitamin and nearly all portions of the food pyramid to create what might as well be a pill in food form to start one's day right.  Given these deceptions, it is no wonder the organic movement greets biotechnology with the same fear and skepticism.

            Instead of fearing biotechnology, resisting the change it offers and entirely abandoning it, the endeavor should be made to improve upon it even further by using increasingly sophisticated techniques and an expanding holistic approach in tackling future challenges as well.  Although science has been able to fail in the past, that does not mean it will forever fail.  Given the estimation that the world's population will swell from the current 6.8 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050, it is a guarantee that there will be less arable land, more mouths to feed and a greater demand for energy; plants will have to be more efficient, productive and overall, create more food per area of land.  With global warming creating extreme weather conditions, plants also will need to be able to grow under hotter, drier conditions.  If not, multiple studies suggest that the yield from various staple crops could plunge by 20 to 30 percent by mid-century.  It quickly becomes apparent that humanity cannot afford to abandon science in this instance and hopelessly cling to organically grown food.  Genetically modified plants clearly will be part of the solution to feed the world and create sustainable energy.

This paradigm shift will need to occur soon, and it needs to happen by dispelling the myths that perpetuate ignorance and create the skepticism and fear associated with genetically modified plants.  President Lyndon Johnson's Science Advisory Committee concluded the following regarding world hunger: "The scale, severity, and duration of the world food problem are so great that a massive, long-range, innovative effort unprecedented in human history will be required to master it."  It is clear that the innovative effort to which the committee was referring is biotechnology.  The public must be taught that genetically modified plants are the only available contemporary solution to adapt to the change caused by global warming and to guarantee a plentiful harvest despite it.  The biotech-free renaissance that is ignorantly perpetuated by certain environmentalist and the organic movement must be shunned and ideologies more accepting of change and biotechnologies emphasizing genetically modified plants should be turned into policy.  Otherwise, it will mean mass starvation across the planet and an even greater energy crisis.  


It's All in Your Head!

-Sam Kim-
In the article titled, "Overhyped Placebos of Doom?" the issue regarding placebos and prescription drugs is addressed.  The FDA has a rule in which manufactured drugs cannot be put out into market if, during testing, a placebo drug presented the same results as the prescription drug.  Yet, although the results may be the same the author of this article argues that the effects of the placebo versus the actual drug are very different.  Gauging the usefulness of prescription drugs based on a placebo is not a reliable method.  Yet, the effectiveness of placebo drugs raises the question of how many prescription drugs are actually necessary if placebos do the same thing without the additional chemicals? 

Like the majority of the world I have taken prescription drugs for various ailments, but to know that a placebo drug can provide the same "results" without the chemicals is very appealing.  An ethical issue is also raised.  According to the article, studies showed that patients who were warned of side-effects of a prescription drug but then given a placebo also suffered from the same side-effects.  The ability of the human brain to make itself think that a change has occurred, and making itself forget that it actually altered itself because it thought it received something (huh? exactly) is truly amazing.  Therefore is it ethical to tell patients that certain side-effects are possible when taking drugs to warn them off them or is it ethical to not say anything because the brain can trick itself?  I think that the effectiveness of placebos should be studied and examined, but it should not be the foundation for manufacturing prescription drugs, there are too many unknown variables that are at play.

The issue regarding antibacterial products and drugs based on placebos both raise the issue on how mass marketing and manufacturing can result in unpredictable situations.  While, the fear of germs has raised cleanliness to a whole new level, the effectiveness of placebo drugs raises the issue regarding the necessity of specific drugs.  In the same way that manufacturing companies have created a public fear of germs that has caused more problems then solutions, manufacturing of drugs according to the placebo effect is also causing much more conflicts and raising more questions then answering or providing solutions.   I think that the effectiveness of placebos should be studied and examined, but it should not be the foundation for manufacturing prescription drugs, there are too many unknown variables that are at play.  In the same way continuous use of antibiotic products have produced more dangerous bacteria, the use of a placebo drug as the model for all prescription drugs may result in potentially harmful drugs and not helpful ones.    


Nature vs. Commerce in National Parks


            The article I read about was from The New York Times Science.  The article was about whether an oyster farm should be able to renew its permit to farm oyster in Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco, CA.  The national seashore is maintained by the US National Park Service who has said the oyster farm "cannot renew the permit... because federal law requires it to return the area to wilderness by eliminating intrusive commercial activity."  The owner of the oyster farm has sought legislation that could allow him to keep operating.  The article says that this debate has split local towns into "passionately opposed camps."

            There are many different aspects to this issue and we first must determine what a national park is intended to do.  According to, "Point Reyes National Seashore was established to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States."  One of the main debates in this issue is that the oyster farm predates the national seashore by about 25 years.  It can be argued that the oyster farm is part of the "historical working landscape of the area."  However, I don't necessarily agree with that statement, because a few of the images I did not show an effort of protecting the park itself.  There were piles of shucked oyster shells and low-lying shacks.  Also, I am not sure what his motives are: actually protecting the cultural past or continuing to be a business man.  He has hired a lobbyist to promote his view in Washington which implies that he probably has made some money. 

There are also scientific reports saying the oyster farm poses a threat to baby seals and flora in the estuary.  The park has a variety of habitat and is home to 38 threatened and endangered species already.  I don't feel it should be a place for commercial interest and activity, because of the potential threat to the surrounding wildlife.  I think this issue will have a major impact in other parks, because there are hundreds of other private leaseholders in the national parks who would like to stay in business longer.  If this oyster farm is allowed to extend its lease for another 10 years, I feel the national park service is not fulfilling its obligations of protecting the wilderness and natural ecosystems.

Lisa Breuninger

Dan Leach

           Biology is a vast scientific field spread worldwide. One factor that scientists say limit new Biological systems advancements is its compatibility and understanding the massive amounts of data that vary throughout different countries. Today scientists use computer science and biochemistry to design new biological systems that help to understand and visualize the massive amounts of data found in experiments. However one downfall to these new biological systems is the lack of standardization. Scientists that use this biological systems can vary throughout different countries and communities. This lack of standardization is said by some scientists to have an impact on new technological developments just on the simple basis of not being able to understand the work presented.

            The article I read in SEED magazine discusses creating a standardized visual language that has the potential to contribute to the spread of biological systems and new technological advancements in biology, as well create a standardized language that can be understood by every scientists in the biology community. The new language called SBGN, is a visual language that incorporates computer science and biochemistry that create biological systems as well the potential standard for developing biological systems. Scientists say this could be a potential breakthrough in the scientific community.

           As SGBN is still in development it shows many potential aspects that the scientific community could benefit from however, the question is, will the scientific community adopt SGBN? SGBN is developed to make biological systems designs easier, of which many objectors say this new language actually makes it harder to comprehend. SGBN is said to be fax machine friendly which is countered by scientists asking why a universal language should be developed to be fax friendly and sciences technological advancements should not all be made on a compute. This is only one factor that addresses the adoption of SGBN among the scientific community. Many scientists say this new language adoption is dependent on upcoming generations of scientists. As well a standardized language will evolve to fit with new technological advancements set by upcoming generations of scientists.

            This new standardized language of biological systems does posses the possibility of becoming the standard in the scientific community, it however is still at its early stages of development and its adoption is unsure in the scientific community. Overall many scientists believe the standardized language will help spread biological systems as well contribute to further technological advancements in the scientific community. The standardized language among the scientific community will also help contribute to the mapping of genomes and help to develop potential cures by creating a universal language that is understood in the scientific community.

seedmagazine blog post


Tony Men

The article I read about was in The article was about how they will use a plasma rocket for outer space. I chose this article because it seemed fairly similar to the article that we read in class about the plasma junk, both articles had many parallels. In both cases the plasma technology seemed to be a vast improvement over what we have now. The plasma rocket could help traverse the universe by increasing the ability of a rocket to go out of space. Because the plasma rocket was more powerful than in ordinary rocket it would improve the trajectory of the rocket. Potentially it could help explore areas in the universe such as Mars, and Europa.

After reading these articles I started to wonder why these technologies were not more popular. In general, they seemed to be vast improvements over the technologies that we use in rocket and trash technology, yet have not been really used.  Prior to these articles about the plasma rocket and the plasma trash bin I had never heard of plasma before. Why is that? If a technology such as the plasma rocket are a vast improvement over what we have now why are they not used? Is money the only driving force behind technology?

I think this brings up important questions about what technologies are accepted and what aren't.  Though these technologies may not be perfect there seemed to be more pros than cons when it came to plasma technology. Even though plasma technology is superior to what we have it is not readily adapted because it cost a lot of money to produce these technologies. To contrast, in the military-industrial complex article we read about how new technologies were being developed even though they were not really needed. Because those technologies were economically well funded they were produced even though they were not a drastic improvement over the previous technologies, they were produced even if they weren't really needed. In a sense technology has become an economic issue. Therefore, it seems interesting that the most important success to a new technology is not that is not how useful it is, but that it is well funded economically.

Tony Men

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2009 is the previous archive.

December 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.