domingo, agosto 30, 2015

Why scientists are worried about the GMO apple and potato

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sábado, agosto 29, 2015

Lessons in critical thinking and William Saletan – Part 1

Slate magazine's William Saletan with Fail Report Card
In the first of a two-part series, Claire Robinson responds to journalist William Saletan’s recent attack on her and other GMO critics
In a recent incisive article on the GMO debate, Timothy Wise of Tufts University laments the "current vehemence" of the battle. He singles out Slate magazine’s William Saletan as one of the more extreme examples of those ready to tar "anyone who dares call for precaution with the stain of being another science-denying zealot". Wise accuses pundits like Saletan of "polarizing" the debate so much that they actually contribute to the suppression of scientific inquiry.

This couldn’t contrast more with how Saletan himself sees things. He responded to my three-part critique of his recent GMO promotional in Slate with a lecture on “how to think critically”. The implication is that this is something he is rather good at, whereas I and other GMO opponents are not.

So let’s take a look at the supposed gold standard of critical thinking, as exemplified by Saletan. And because we all have a life beyond the wit and wisdom of gullible journalists, I’ll restrict myself to a few major lessons in critical thinking in which Saletan gets a big “F” for “fail”.

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lunes, agosto 24, 2015

Guerra sucia contra los pueblos del maíz

La Jornada: Guerra sucia contra los pueblos del maíz 

El 19 de agosto 2015, el juez Francisco Peñaloza Heras, del juzgado décimo segundo de distrito en materia civil, canceló la medida precautoria que desde hace dos años mantiene suspendida la siembra de maíz transgénico en México en respuesta a una demanda colectiva por los daños que estos granos causan a la biodiversidad y la salud. Sin embargo, la suspensión sigue vigente, ya que su decisión fue inmediatamente apelada por Colectivas AC, representantes legales de la colectividad de 53 ciudadanos y 20 organizaciones que presentaron la demanda en 2013.
La forma en que el juez Peñaloza tomó la decisión, ignorando los argumentos de los demandantes y científicos independientes, pero basándose en los dichos de Monsanto y otras empresas, es otro escalón en la guerra sucia contra el maíz campesino y los pueblos del maíz.

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sábado, agosto 22, 2015

Timothy Wise of Tufts University gives an update on the GMO debate.

As the vitriol intensifies in what passes for debate over the safety of genetically modified foods, scientific inquiry, thankfully, continues. A Tufts researcher, Sheldon Krimsky, recently published his assessment of the last seven years of peer-reviewed evidence, finding 26 studies that “reported adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals.”
If recent history is any indication, Sheldon Krimsky should expect to be slammed as a “science denier.”
The current vehemence is the product of a well-funded campaign to “depolarize” the GMO debate through “improved agricultural biotechnology communication,” in the words of the Gates Foundation-funded Cornell Alliance for Science. And it is reaching a crescendo because of the march of the Orwellian “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” (code-named “SAFE” for easy and confusing reference) through the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23 on its way to a Senate showdown in the fall.
In an April New York Times op-ed, Alliance for Science affiliate Mark Lynas follows the party line, accusing environmentalists of “undermining public understanding of science,” even more than climate deniers and vaccine opponents. Slate’s William Saletan goes further in his July feature, calling those who want GM labeling “an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science.”
Who would have known that depolarization could feel so polarizing—and so stifling of scientific inquiry.

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Coexistence is impossible

07 July 2014.

Coexistence of agro-ecology with GM and chemical agriculture will never work, since toxic agro-chemicals and GM organisms spread, writes Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero

When faced with the challenge of agro-ecology, the defenders of the industrial agribusiness model are left with no arguments. Some of them seek refuge in the comfortable if intellectually lazy position of proposing the combination of both agricultures, combining “the best” of each so as to reach a harmonious coexistence.

We see this line of thinking in the work of the international organization Ecoagriculture Partners[1] and more recently in a well-publicized article by Jonathan Foley in the National Geographic.[2] Puerto Rico agriculture secretary Myrna Comas has also hopped aboard the “coexistence” bandwagon after being confronted with local opponents of genetically modified (GM) crops and toxic agrochemicals. In testimony to the PR Senate on June 6 she declared that “we aspire to an agriculture of coexistence in which the strategies used for agricultural production are promoted without excluding the freedom of our farmers.” In this clever discourse, which assures us that “we can have it both ways”, the proponents of agroecology are presented as intolerant zealots who won’t compromise.

But the scientific data show quite clearly that no coexistence is possible. The toxic agrochemicals used in conventional agriculture end up polluting everything, and GM organisms reproduce and spread like all organisms are supposed to.


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miércoles, agosto 19, 2015

Where are the studies on social impacts of GM crops?

Comprehensive Studies on the Social Impacts of GM Crops Seriously Lacking
A review of 99 peer-reviewed journal articles published since 2004 on the social impacts of GM crops has been done, summarising current knowledge and identifying research gaps, with the aim of determining the current state of knowledge in order to contribute to a more evidence-based and less polarised dialogue on GM crops in agriculture.
The review found that very few studies took a comprehensive view of the social impacts of GM crops in agriculture. The literature was dominated by studies on economic impacts which presented a more positive picture of the role of GM crops in socially sustainable agriculture than was warranted. The review showed that economic impacts for different groups of farmers were in fact very mixed and that the political and regulatory context had significant impact on the ability of different groups of farmers in different locations to benefit. In addition, while wellbeing was frequently discussed, it was rarely studied and cultural heritage and farm level risk from GM crops were rarely covered.
Another finding was that the way in which GM crops were governed today reinforced market dominance by private industry and particularly reduced the possibilities for GM crops to benefit poorer and more marginalised farmers. In addition, there was a clear lack of knowledge regarding the social impacts of GM crops on farmers in the Global North. Existing literature focused almost exclusively on farming in the Global South.
Moreover, the review found that two-thirds of publications are based on previously published empirical evidence, indicating a need for new empirical investigations into the social impacts of GM crops in agriculture.
The Abstract, Discussions and Conclusions of the paper are reproduced below.
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by Fischer, K., Ekener-Petersen, E., Rydhmer, L., & Björnberg, K. E.
Sustainability, 7(7), 8598-8620.
It has recently been argued that the fragmented knowledge on the social impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops is contributing to the polarised debate on the matter. This paper addresses this issue by systematically reviewing 99 peer-reviewed journal articles published since 2004 on the social impacts of GM crops in agriculture; summarising current knowledge, and identifying research gaps. Economic impact studies currently dominate the literature and mainly report that GM crops provide economic benefits for farmers. Other social impacts are less well studied, but present a more complex picture. Studies on access to and benefits of GM crops show that these vary significantly depending on the political and regulatory setting. Substantial evidence indicates that intellectual property rights (IPR) and the private industry’s dominance limit the access and utility of available GM crops to many farmers. Wellbeing is frequently discussed in the literature, but rarely investigated empirically. Existing evidence is contradictory and inconclusive. Impact studies from the Global North are virtually non-existent. Moreover, two-thirds of publications are based on previously published empirical evidence, indicating a need for new empirical investigations into the social impacts of GM crops in agriculture.

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RNA threat

Transgenics and microRNA
From Devon Peña's environmental justice blog

For several decades now, scientists have been warning of the dangers of genetically-engineered crops. Many of these concerns have focused on environmental risks. One pattern of such risks involves development of so-called Super Weeds. A well-known example is mutating wild Pigweed  that has developed resistance to Monsanto's flagship glyphosate herbicide, Roundup. 

These mutated weeds pose a bigger threat to organic farmers who rely on natural and cultural controls that can be undermined by these anthropogenic (human-induced) changes in weed morphology, reproduction, and biogeographic distributions.  

Many scientists  also share longstanding concerns over introgression and horizontal gene transfer (HGT). While HGT occurs in nature as in the transfer of genetic sequences between bacteria and plants, the advent of transgenic crops presents a novel set of circumstances and basically involve the contamination of native land races and wild weedy plant genomes by the altered transgene sequences of the bio-engineered crops. 

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sábado, agosto 15, 2015

MIT Tech Review on RNA sprays

Next up: spray-on GMOs

MIT Technology Review

Get ready to hear A LOT about Monsanto’s latest GMO. The biotech firm says their new RNA-based sprays could be a miracle-worker-- silencing specific genes in a plant for just a few days at a time, precisely killing only target insects and harmlessly degrading into the soil. Monsanto hopes that the sprays will go over better with the public than traditional GMOs have, since RNA occurs naturally in all living things. But advocacy groups like the National Honeybee Board Advisory want the EPA to proceed with extreme caution, especially since the sprays are in part designed to be used in conjunction with weedkillers like RoundUp to combat superweeds.

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Recortes a agricultores y el mantengo ilegal a Monsanto, por Jessica Rodríguez Martín

"El Estado tiene la obligación de detener de inmediato este esquema ilegal y exigir la devolución de los millones pagados ilícitamente. Estos, al ser recobrados, tienen que ser destinados al Departamento de Agricultura y para el estímulo de agricultores puertorriqueños bona fide. De ello no ocurrir de manera inmediata, solo queda una interpretación posible. La misma que dio origen a que estas empresas llegaran a Puerto Rico en violación de todas las leyes ambientales y a nuestra Constitución."

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viernes, agosto 14, 2015

Ecuador: Campesinos de la Costa presentaron acción de protección ante presencia de cultivos transgénicos en la Provincia de Los Ríos

Martes 04 de Agosto de 2015 08:48
fecaol trnasgenicos1Con el grito “¡Transgénico es la muerte, para toda nuestra gente, la empresa lo produce y el gobierno lo consiente!” campesino y campesinas de la FECAOL, acompañados por comuneros huancavilcas y organizaciones sociales del Guayas cortaron parcialmente la Av. 25 de Julio frente al Complejo Judicial Valdivia, en rechazo al hallazgo de cultivos transgénicos de soya RR en la Provincia de Los Ríos. Repitiendo las consignas de la dirigente Glenda Cagua, los manifestantes convocaron a la ciudadanía a tomar conciencia y sumarse a la lucha por la defensa de la soberanía alimentaria, las semillas y la salud del pueblo ecuatoriano.
La FECAOL presentó una acción de protección y solicitud de medidas cautelares, ante la violación flagrante del art. 401 que declara “al Ecuador libre de cultivos y semillas transgénicas” y determina la obligación del Estado de regular “bajo estrictas normas de seguridad, el uso y desarrollo de la biotecnología moderna y sus productos, así como su experimentación, uso y comercialización”.

fecaol trnasgenicos3Al interior del Complejo Judicial los abogados explicaron que este es el inicio de una serie de acciones legales para garantizar que se cumpla la Constitución y precautelar el derecho de campesinos y consumidores de mantener al Ecuador Libre de Transgénicos.
Richard Intriago dirigente de FECAOL y realizador de las pesquisas que arrojaron estos hallazgos, mostró una funda de semillas transgénicas y declaró que “esta es la primera de muchas acciones que haremos para enfrentar esta amenaza a la soberanía alimentaria. Y para asegurar que el sistema judicial actúe eficazmente, vamos a sembrar estas semillas transgénicas en sus jardineras, a ver si aquí también pasan fumigando las avionetas como nos fumigan a los campesinos todos los días”.
La investigación se realizó con el método de prueba de detección de proteína transgénica “ELISA” de la firma Envirologix, que determina la presencia del transgénico en una muestra de la planta, se corroboró que existen superficies sembradas con semillas de soya transgénicas.
fecaol trnasgenicos2Además, se constató visualmente que estos cultivos de soya fueron rociados con glifosato sin causar daño alguno al cultivo pero si logrando quemar la maleza localizada en el interior, lo cual demuestra su resistencia al agroquímico, rasgo característico del evento transgénico RR.
La acción de protección cayó en la Unidad Judicial de Florida, en el despacho de la jueza Fernanda Medina Aguilera.

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jueves, agosto 13, 2015

Worries about dsRNA

Why Scientists are Worried about the GMO Potato and Apple | Institute for Responsible Technology 

The question that serious scientists are asking is: If we (or bees, or birds, or deer) consume the dsRNA in the apple or potato, can it influence how our genes work? Will these genetically modified organisms (GMOs), eaten as apple pies, french fries, or whatever, change our development,  physiology, and behavior?

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martes, agosto 11, 2015

Why did AAAS scientists disagree with health professionals on GMO safety?

GMO Free USA questions the findings of a survey that found 88% of scientists polled thought GM foods were safe

A Pew survey earlier this year found that 88% of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) scientists say GM foods are generally safe to eat. In contrast a majority – 57% – of the general public says that GM foods are generally unsafe to eat, with only 37% saying such foods are safe.

GMO proponents have trumpeted these findings as a sign that the public have got it wrong on GM crops and scientists have got it right.

But GMO Free USA has an entirely different take on the Pew survey. In a masterly analysis, the group shows that on the subject of GMO food safety, the AAAS scientists are out of step with health professionals and that it is people who oppose GMO labelling who are “anti-science”.

This is an article with a delayed fuse: it’s well worth reading to the end.

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domingo, agosto 09, 2015

Kevin Folta received $25,000 from Monsanto

Roundup, Dollars and Kevin Folta

Investigation reveals damaging conflict of interest despite claims of no Monsanto funding. Report by Claire Robinson and Jonathan Matthews

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From GM Watch: GMO safety assessments have important knowledge gaps – scientific report

Report commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency concludes that Intacta Roundup Ready 2 Pro soybeans have not been proven safe and that studies raise safety concerns

Ever wondered why there is such a massive gap between your view of GMO safety and the view of most governments and pro-GMO scientists? Ever asked yourself whether, in doubting GMO safety, your perception may be skewed or that you may be guilty of championing dodgy science or ignoring “sound” science?

If your answer to either of these questions is yes, a new scientific report commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency will reassure you that it is the GMO proponents’ views that are skewed, not your own.

The report investigates whether the GM soybean Intacta Roundup Ready 2 Pro grown in Brazil is safe for health and the environment, as well as sustainable. This GM variety is also authorized in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, and may be present in Bolivia due to illegal introductions from the neighbouring countries.

The report, by Georgina Catacora-­Vargas of GenØk Centre for Biosafety, concludes that:
* In the scientific literature there are important gaps of knowledge about the safety of GM crops and a lack of proof of their safety.
* Authorizations of GM crops are given on the basis of incomplete information and research (provided by the companies that develop them) with significant methodological weaknesses.
* There is only limited research on stacked GM crops such as Intacta RR2 Pro, including on the combined effects of the insect resistant and herbicide tolerant genes.

Catacora-­Vargas searched for animal feeding studies on Intacta RR2 Pro but found only a 42-day nutritional study in chickens and a medium-term 90-day feeding trial in mice. Neither is long enough to show long-term health effects.

Catacora-­Vargas cites the pig feeding study by Dr Judy Carman and colleagues as a potentially informative study, noting that adverse health effects were found in the GMO-fed pigs. Catacora-Vargas also mentions the 2-year Seralini study on GMO maize and Roundup as indicative that long-term studies are needed.

The author’s consideration of these findings is in stark contrast to the determination of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to ignore or dismiss worrying findings in independent animal feeding studies.

No GMOs are grown or sold in Norway due to the country’s Gene Technology Act, which requires that the GMO is shown to be “of benefit to society and… likely to promote sustainable development”. Thus far, no GMO has satisfied these conditions.

In conclusion, the stance of the new report and of the Norwegian government on GMOs is likely not so far apart from the views of many GMO skeptics.

The report is now available from the website of GenØk-Centre for Biosafety:

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jueves, agosto 06, 2015

Compelling Evidence of Human Health Effects of Pesticides

Dear Friends and Colleagues 
The use of synthetic chemical pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) in agriculture around the world began in the 1950s with the onset of industrial agriculture through the ‘Green Revolution’. Since then, industrial agriculture has come to rely increasingly on the use of these chemicals, many of which have become extremely pervasive and persistent in the environment as a result of their widespread repeated use. Pesticideshave been found in every habitat on earth and are routinely detected in both marine and terrestrial mammals.
A report by Greenpeace examines the growing body of research relating to known and suspected human health effects of pesticides, given that the general population is exposed to a cocktail of pesticides daily through food and polluted air, water and soil. Among the many active ingredients that are potentially dangerous to health are the currently approved organophosphates, chlorpyrifos and malathion. Some groups of people are particularly exposed/vulnerable such as farmers and pesticide applicators, young children and fetuses in the womb. The report cites compelling evidence showing correlations between pesticide exposure and incidences of childhood leukemia, several types of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and endocrine and immune system disruptions along with transgenerational effects.
The report calls for an urgent paradigm shift from industrial agriculture with its heavy reliance on chemical additives towards the full implementation of ecological farming as the only means of feeding the world healthy and safe food and protecting the ecosystems we live in. With this, it underscores the necessity of a phase-out of synthetic chemical pesticides, through legally binding national and international agreements and targets.
The Executive Summary of the report is reproduced below. The full report can be accessed at
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
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Executive Summary
Since 1950, the human population has doubled, yet the area of arable land used to feed these people has increased by only 10%. There are huge pressures to provide food, at low cost, on land that is becoming more and more degraded as nutrients are stripped from the soil. Reliance on external inputs – fertilisers and pesticides – continues to be the short-term solution for large-scale commercially intensive agricultural systems.
Synthetic pesticides have been widely used in industrial agriculture throughout the world since the 1950s. Over time, many of these chemicals have become extremely pervasive in our environment as a result of their widespread repeated use and, in some cases, their environmental persistence. Some take an extremely long time to degrade, such that even those banned decades ago, including DDT and its secondary products, are routinely found in the environment today.
As a consequence of this persistence, and potential hazards to wildlife, effect-related research on the impact of pesticides has increased exponentially over the past 30 years (Köhler and Triebskorn 2013). It is now clear that these effects are wide and varied. Over the same period, scientific understanding of the effects of pesticides on human health and their mechanisms of action has also expanded rapidly, with studies revealing statistical associations between pesticide exposure and enhanced risks of developmental impairments, neurological and immune disorders and some cancers.
Nevertheless, proving definitively that exposure to a particular pesticide causes a disease or other condition in humans presents a considerable challenge. There are no groups in the human population that are completely unexposed to pesticides, and most diseases are multi-causal giving considerable complexity to public health assessments (Meyer-Baron et al. 2015). Furthermore, most people are exposed to complex and ever changing mixtures of chemicals, not just pesticides, in their daily lives, through multiple routes of exposure. Pesticides contribute further to this toxic burden.

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martes, agosto 04, 2015

Encuentran soya transgénica ilegal en Ecuador

Editoriales Editoriales
Escrito por Elizabeth Bravo- RALLT   
Lunes 03 de Agosto de 2015 16:37
Ante la introducción ilegal de soya transgénica en la Provincia de Los Ríos, demandamos que se respete la Constitución que declaró al Ecuador libre de transgénicos
La Federación de Centros Agrícolas del Litoral (FECAOL) como parte de un proceso de monitoreo en la Provincia de Los Ríos, encontró soya transgénica con resistencia a glifosato, sembrándose en los campos ecuatorianos. Ante esto, presentó el día de hoy, ante un jurado de Garantía Jurisdiccionales (constitucionales), una ACCION   DE PROTECCIÓN CON MEDIDAS CAUTELARES.
Casi toda la soya que se siembra en el Ecuador, se encuentra en la provincia de Los Ríos. El muestreo de FECAOL fue realizado en los cantones Baba, Pueblo Viejo, Babahoyo, Ventanas, Urdaneta, Quevedo y Mocache. En varios lugares se encontró soya transgénica.
soya transgénica- San CarlosEl monitoreo se hizo utilizando la prueba de Detección de Proteína Transgénica ELISA, que es el test que utilizan las empresas en los puertos para verificar la presencia o no de transgénicos, o para reclamar derechos de propiedad intelectual.
Esta prueba fue confirmada además con una constatación visual, pues la soya transgénica sembrada, crecía en medio de vegetación quemada por el herbicida glifosato.
Al momento, casi el 50% de los cultivos de soya que se siembran en el mundo son resistentes al herbicida glifosato, siendo los principales productores Estados Unidos (con 29,5 millones de hectáreas), Brasil (23,9 millones de hectáreas) y Argentina (20,2 millones de hectáreas). Con el incremento de los cultivos transgénicos se dispararon también las aplicaciones del herbicida glifosato, porque estamos pues frente a una tecnología que ha sido diseñada para que los agricultores usen más agrotóxicos.
Recientemente la Organización Mundial de la Salud determinó que el glifosato es un posible cancerígeno. Esto ya lo sabían los habitantes que viven cerca de las zonas donde se siembra soya transgénica, pues año a año son envenenados con millones de litros de herbicida, dejando tras de si unas condiciones epidemiológicas terribles: índice de cáncer, leucemia, enfermedades autoinmunes muy por encima de las estadísticas declaradas como “normales” por la Organización Mundial de la Salud.
Hay antecedentes históricos de que la soya transgénica logró introducirse en países donde su ingreso estaba prohibido, por medios ilegales, lo que sucedió a vista y paciencia de la empresa Monsanto, dueña de la tecnología. Una vez que los gobiernos de turno aprobaron los transgénicos, como consecuencia de los hechos consumados, Monsanto empezó a cobrar regalías por el uso de su tecnología. Uno de estos países fue Brasil, donde se introdujo de contrabando la llamada soya “Maradona” desde Argentina. Hoy Brasil es el segundo productor de mundial de soya con resistencia al glifosato. Su expansión en este país ha significado la destrucción de ecosistemas naturales, la desaparición de zonas de cultivos alimenticios, y daños ambientales y de salud por el uso intensivo de agrotóxicos.
No podemos permitir que eso suceda en nuestro país. Recordemos que la Constitución declara al Ecuador “Libre de semillas y cultivos transgénicos”, y que es obligación del Estado precautelar porque esa condición se mantenga.
Rechazar la siembra ilegal de la soya transgénica es defender la rica biodiversidad del Ecuador, es asegurar nuestra soberanía alimentaria y nuestro derecho a una alimentación sana, es promover la agricultura campesina, es mantener nuestra independencia frente al poder de las transnacionales y es cumplir con nuestra Constitución.

Nota al pie de foto: campo de soya transgénica. Véase como toda la vegetación está quemada con el herbicida, sin que el “veneno” le afecte a la soya transgénica.

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domingo, agosto 02, 2015

University of Hawaii faculty condemn persecution of Prof Hector Valenzuela, punished for his research on organic and non-GMO farming

Academics and scientists at the University of Hawaii have united in condemnation of the mistreatment by university authorities of Prof Hector Valenzuela, a researcher in organic and non-GMO agriculture.

There’s more about the campaign to redress the wrongs suffered by Prof Valenzuela on the blog of Derek Bickerton, a retired professor of linguistics.

Derek is hoping to help kick-start similar actions in other universities where Agribiz companies have gained an unhealthy degree of influence and academics and scientists are persecuted for holding critical attitudes on GMOs and pesticides.

UHM faculty condemn academic freedom violations

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