Where can I find solid information resources on biotechnology, genetically modified organisms, and the seemingly endless list of science issues that arise in discussions centered around food today?
This is a big question I receive when folks are involved in discussions about hot topics related to our food supply. Folks against GMOs have a seemingly endless supply of news links and articles damning biotechnology and threatening an endless list of harm to our bodies if we consume anything but naturally selected foods. To make this even more frustrating, many of these studies supporting the anti-GMO argument have been proved as “bad science” by the academic and research worlds, which makes the conversation even more frustrating.
Where can we find solid, academic, unbiased peer-reviewed science centered around the biotechnology debate? It’s difficult in a society that is increasingly illiterate when it comes to science and when emotion outsells logic by a long-shot, but there are resources available.
Search engines for scientific literature
My first and most accessible recommendation would be Google Scholar. It’s just like Google, but directs your search to research literature. There are also online databases like PubMed which search multitudes of research journals. If you run into a road block with paid-access journals, check with your local library or University. Those places usually have subscriptions to information sources like these. However not all journals are created equal. I’m leery of journals where someone can pay to have their material published and trust the process more when a panel of peer reviewers must accept the research. The impact factor is a good way to measure the relative importance of the journal.
I have found a few pages with in-depth reviews of the science literature surrounding the safety of GMOs and biotechnology in our food supply.
- A Decade of EU-funded GMO research – This pdf from the European Commission reviews a decade’s worth of research on safety of GMO and biotechnology.
- Bringing light to the discussion about GMOs? – Alexander Stein provides links to several articles in the discussion
- GMO Pundit – David Tribe shares links to more than 600 research studies showing the safety of biotechnology.
Science bloggers writing about biotechnology and food
It’s been a bit of a struggle to find credible scientists and researchers sharing their information online and joining the conversations in social media. Once you start finding a few, the search becomes much easier. After surveying a few groups and asking for their suggested resources, I have this list of blogs and/or websites from contributors who are involved in academics and research. These writers often cite their resources, making it easier to learn more about where their information comes from.
- Academics Review – Academics Review was founded in January 2010 to ensure that sound science is widely and easily available to inform us all on some of the most critical issues of our time. Some of those issues relate to how we grow our food: what is safe and what is not, what constitutes real advancement, and similarly vital scientific and technological topics that affect how we live.
- Applied Mythology – Steve Savage has been involved in agricultural technology for 32+ years. He was originally trained as a plant pathologist but his career has taken Steve into many other disciplines and touched on many crops and geographies.
- Best Food Facts – Our mission is to bring you the most objective, trustworthy and accurate information directly from the experts. We seek to ensure that content on Best Food Facts is useful, timely, relevant and simple to understand so that, based on the facts, you can make informed decisions. We are dedicated to providing information on the many facets of food production, preparation, consumption and everything in-between.
- BioFortified.org – Biology Fortified, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to providing factual information and fostering discussion about issues in biology, with a particular emphasis on plant genetics and genetic engineering in agriculture.
- Genetic Literacy Project – In theory, biotechnology and related cutting edge sciences are widely celebrated. But in practice, the words “gene” and “genetic engineering” often stir fear and misunderstanding. Intricate science scares people who don’t understand risk and complexity. What is the potential of agricultural and human genetics? The goal of the GLP is to serve as a resource to those interested in disentangling ideology from science.
- Illumination – Kevin Folta is a researcher in the University of Florida, the Horticultural Sciences Department.
Obviously, I would love to see more scientists getting involved in the online conversations and sharing their insights on the topic and addressing the claims that are being made. If you know of some, encourage them to take that leap. Here is a list of even more blogs recommended on the topics of food, biotechnology, and related science from individuals involved in science.
- Collide-a-Scape – Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine
- Debunking Denailism – Emil Karlsson (from Sweden) has experience from university level molecular biology, genetics and immunology.
- In the Pipeline – Derek Lowe, Chemist
- Tomorrow’s Table – Pamela Ronald, ScienceBlogs, National Geographic
These links and blogs may not be as flashy as those from the opposition, but last time I checked, science wasn’t out looking for emotional appeal. I hope these links give you a start when it comes to looking for information resources on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. I believe scientists and researchers have every right to be involved in the conversations about the safety of our food supply. After all, they are the people most acquainted with the knowledge and information.
If you have more resources to add to this list, or know of a scientist or researcher involved in these online conversations, please leave a link in the comments section below!