Ed Yong, a journalist who other scientists usually regard highly, just published a story “A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses”, describing a paper published in eLife, that claims to show that “infection can operate at a level above the individual cell level, defining a viral multicellular way…


According to science, GM crops are safe. Due to the intense debate about these crops and regulatory measures in North America and Europe, there have now been over 500 scientific studies looking for — and failing to find — conclusive risk to human health from GM crops.

People and livestock have been eating GM crops for nearly 30 years without a single documented case of harm to either one of them. Due to the intense debate about these crops and regulatory measures in North America and Europe, there have now been over 500 scientific studies looking for…


No, they don’t. The key message when thinking about GMO safety is that the nutritional properties of a plant depend on what genes a plant has, not how they got there. And the properties of individual genes are often not related to the species from which they originally hail. That is to say that a gene from a peanut moved into corn will not make that corn more “peanut-y.”

So far, all commercially available GMO crops, anywhere in the world, have been found to be “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. This means that GM plants are just as safe — or un-safe — as non-GM plants of the same species and variety.

Substantial equivalence means that, a GM…


Many GM plants use different herbicides than conventional crops. Most cultivated GM plants are designed to be used with an herbicide called glyphosate, which is considered one of the safest available herbicides (for humans). Glyphosate is also used on non-GM plants. There is evidence that accumulation of any herbicide in the environment (like waterways) can be harmful but the evidence that glyphosate is more harmful than other herbicides is not clear.

Herbicides are chemicals used by farmers to prevent the growth of weeds which compete with crop plants for sunlight, water, and soil nutrients. They’re an important part of modern agriculture, and by allowing non-mechanical methods of weed-control, like tilling (ploughing) or hand-weeding (as is still practiced in much of the…


Why were we caught unawares, and why we need a long-term project to edit the human germline

Dr. He Jiankui, the scientist in China, who revealed this week that he’s created two genome-edited human babies. (The National Academies)

The first CRISPRed babies have been born in China, and from all the noise of the past few days my takeaway is that this inevitable development has caught us all shamefully unprepared.

The story began Sunday evening with an article in the MIT Tech Review describing experiments by a scientist…


So this post is mainly a response to this excellent piece by Dr. Arjun Raj. This isn’t exactly a rebuttal (despite what the title says), but just some thoughts I wanted to develop on, especially since the original post has been rattling around in my head for a while now…


How and why we should get rid of author lists in scientific publications

About a month ago, Steven Burgess, conducted a Twitter poll asking if biologists would consider making the lists of authors that accompanies every scientific publication, alphabetical. Unsurprisingly, I and 670 other scientists voted against this proposal.

i. the problem

In the biological sciences, authorship of scientific, peer-reviewed articles is perhaps the single biggest…


It’s been three days now since the current US administration issued its new, far-reaching immigration controls. Among the first hit were multinational companies, Silicon Valley and scientific institutions, all of which rely on an international, multi-cultural workforce. As scientists, we know that academic life means a lot of travel, and…


How science can deal with the post-truth world.

The legitimisation of falsehood is the defining phenomenon of the ‘post-truth’ world we live in today, and this was perhaps most visible in the Brexit and Trump campaigns of last year. For scientists, this new post-truth world stands as a stark repudiation of everything we value: truth, rationality, logic, evidence…


A conversation with George Church

In my first article, I talked about the recent GP-Write proposal and highlighted what I thought were key questions that needed answering. I was pleasantly surprised, a couple of days later, to receive an email from George Church providing some counter-arguments and answers. …

Devang Mehta

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