Bioscience Resource Project

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Bioscience Resource Project.png
Type 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit
Focus Science, Food and Agriculture, Health, Environment, Biotechnology, Biosafety
Established 2006
Location Ithaca, New York
Key people

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director;

and co-founder Allison Wilson, PhD, Science Director

The Bioscience Resource Project is a public interest organization that describes itself as providing independent research and analysis in the agriculture-related biosciences since 2006.[1] In 2011, they started Independent Science News,[2] a website providing news and critical comment on topics where food, agriculture, and biotechnology impact human health and the environment.[3]

Philosophy and mission[edit]

The mission statement of the Bioscience Resource Project says the organization aims to provide high quality scientific information and analysis "to enable a healthy food system and a healthy world." [4] Underpinning this mission are the beliefs that (1) public interest science [5] and an independent science media are essential to healthy food and agricultural systems [6] and (2) the hallmark of a healthy food and agricultural system is its ability to support human health while preserving biodiversity and ecosystem health.[7]


Drs. Allison Wilson and Jonathan Latham initiated the Bioscience Resource Project to help remedy a perceived deficit of independent scientific analysis of genetic engineering and its risks.[8]

In 2006, the Project published two related scientific review papers: Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants: Analysis and Biosafety [9] and The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation.[10] The Bioscience Resource Project website launched in 2007.

In 2008, the Project published a third scientific review, Transcomplementation and synergism in plants: implications for viral transgenes?,[11] and became a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit.

In 2011, the Project launched a second website, Independent Science News.

Project activities[edit]


The Bioscience Resource Project publishes two websites:

Independent Science News[edit]

Independent Science News.[12] Acting as a science watchdog,[13] Independent Science News reports on conflicts of interest and their implications,[14] and provides independent analysis of topical issues in genetic engineering, human genetics and disease causation, agriculture and food policy, and biosafety regulation. The website also links to science news on the web, from both traditional and alternative media sources.[15]

Bioscience Resource Project[edit]

Bioscience Resource Project.[16] The Bioscience Resource Project website describes the Project and its current work. It also links to additional resources [e.g. scientific articles [17] and websites [18]] on topics covered by Independent Science News.


The Bioscience Resource Project publishes biosafety reviews of genetic engineering techniques, such as plant transformation and the use of viral DNA to engineer virus resistance,[19] that are used to produce GM crops for commercial use.[20] The Project reviews (see 1.2 History for titles) are cited in academic articles and books on genetic engineering.[21]

Other activities[edit]

Project scientists speak at meetings and to the public. Recent venues include the 7th Annual North American Summit on Food Safety (Canada, 2012), GMLSII (Implications of GM crop cultivation at large spatial scales, Germany 2010),[22] Plant Transformation Technology II (Vienna 2011), and on National Public Radio.[23]


Contesting the precision of plant genetic engineering[edit]

Article Content: The Bioscience Resource Project’s biosafety analyses of genetic engineering techniques (see 1.3.2 Publications) challenge two key assumptions that underlie both current GMO regulation in the U.S.[24] and the claims of proponents of genetic engineering worldwide:[25] (1) that genetic engineering is a precise and predictable technique and (2) that unintended consequences resulting from the genetic engineering process are highly unlikely.[26]

Reception: Individuals, NGOs, and scientists critical of genetic engineering cite the Project's biosafety analyses to support the argument that, due to the likelihood of unintended effects,[27] each new genetically modified plant requires careful analysis and strict regulation.[28] Scientific and industry advocates of genetic engineering dispute this, arguing that genetic engineering produces unintended consequences that are equivalent to those found in conventionally bred plants.[29] An exchange [30] in Nature Biotechnology, that includes the viewpoint of Project scientists, illustrates both sides of the debate.

Challenging the idea that common western diseases are genetically determined[edit]

Article Content: In 2010, Independent Science News published “The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?” The article brought together three separate bodies of scientific evidence to support the theory that lifestyle and environment, and not genes, are the important determinants of most common western diseases. The three bodies of evidence summarized included (1) Scientific reviews claiming the failure of GWA studies to find major disease genes,[31] (2) Research challenging the reliability of the heritability estimates for disease that were the reason to expect important disease genes,[32] and (3) Research indicating the existence of large environmental and lifestyle effects on the prevalence of common non-infectious diseases.[33] The article also questioned the value of genetic research compared to research into disease prevention and the study of non-genetic causes,[34] and it questioned the motives of human geneticists and government backers.[35]

Reception: After its publication, geneticist and environmentalist David Suzuki,[36] author Michael Pollan, scientist Marion Nestle, and doctor and columnist David Katz (Huffington Post) [37] cited "The Great DNA Deficit" and supported the contention that genes are not the major determinant of western disease susceptibility. At the same time the article's authors, and those who gave it positive reviews, were criticized by writers for various genetics websites, including Newsweek writer Mary Carmichael, on the Open Helix blog,[38] Discover magazine blogger Razib Khan,[39] Wired contributor and geneticist Daniel MacArthur,[40] and John Derbyshire of the New Republic.[41] The debate also reached National Public Radio, where Dr. Latham debated geneticist Stanley Nelson, MD on the Patt Morrison show.[42] Dr. Latham's subsequent Guardian article "Failure of the Genome" [43] resulted in further debate over the value of human genetics research in the prevention and treatment of common non-infectious disease.[44]

See also[edit]

Other organizations[edit]


  1. ^ Lotter, D. (2009) The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 1: The Development of a Flawed Enterprise. Int. Journal of Society of Agriculture and Food. 16(1) p. 40.
  2. ^ Independent Science News website
  3. ^ The impacts of food and agriculture on health, society, and the environment are called the multifunctionality of agriculture and are discussed in the IAASTD.
  4. ^ The mission statement and the philosophy of the Bioscience Resource Project are found on the Philosophy and Mission page of the Bioscience Resource Project website. The Project’s philosophy is further discussed in "Why Independent Science News?" on the front page of the Independent Science News website.
  5. ^ Raffensperger et al. (1999) Defining Public Interest Research: A White Paper written for the Science and Environmental Health Network, The Center for Rural Affairs, and the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education
  6. ^ There have been various attempts to describe the principles of a healthy system of food and agriculture. All address the multifunctionality of agriculture. Two examples are: (1) Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. (2010) endorsed by the American Dietetic Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association and (2) the Seattle Farm Bill Principles (2012)
  7. ^ This viewpoint occurs regularly on the two Bioscience Resource Project websites. Examples of references that support this viewpoint are: Chappell M.J. and L.A. LaValle (2009) Food security and biodiversity: can we have both? An agroecological analysis. Agriculture and Human Values 28(1)3-26.; Lappe, M.F. et al. (1998) World Hunger: 12 Myths. Second edition. Food First. Grove Press, New York; McMichael P. and Schneider M. (2011) Food Security Politics and the Millennium Development Goals. Third World Quarterly 32(1) pp132-135. See Altieri, M.A. (2000) Multifunctional Dimensions of Ecologically-based Agriculture in Latin America Archived October 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 7(1):62-75 for a practical example.
  8. ^ Freese W. and Schubert D. (2004) Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods[permanent dead link]. BGER 21:299-324.; Peekhaus W. (2010) The Neoliberal University and Agricultural Biotechnology: Reports from the Field. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 30(6) pp 418-426.; Lotter, D. (2009) The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity. Int. Jrnl. of Soc. Of Agr. and Food. 16(1) 50-68.; Diels J. et al. (2011) Association of Financial or Professional Conflict of Interest to Research Outcomes on Health Risks or Nutritional Assessment Studies of Genetically modified Products. Food Policy 36:197-203.
  9. ^ Wilson, A. K., Latham, J. R., and Steinbrecher, R. A. 2006 Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants -- Analysis and Biosafety Archived January 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews 23: 209-237.
  10. ^ Latham, J. R., Wilson, A. K., and Steinbrecher, R. A. 2006 The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation. J. Biomed Biotechnol. 2006: 25376.
  11. ^ Latham, J.R. and A.K.Wilson (2008) Transcomplementation and synergism in plants: implications for viral transgenes? Archived September 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Molecular Plant Pathology 9: 85-103.
  12. ^ Independent Science News
  13. ^ H. Warner M. (March 2010) Eli Lilly’s Desperate, Deceptive Campaign to Boost Bovine Growth Hormone.
  14. ^ For examples of reporting on conflicts of interest see Independent Science News articles: “The Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?”; “Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?”; “Conflicts of Interest: In Agriculture too?”; Also see Project book reviews of The China Study and The Unhealthy Truth.
  15. ^ See the "Science News on the Web" column on the Independent Science News website.
  16. ^ Bioscience Resource Project
  17. ^ Examples include links to papers on CAFOs Archived December 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.; Golden Rice; Biofuels; Sewage Sludge[dead link]; GWAS and Scientific Assumptions[permanent dead link], written by other public interest organizations or researchers.
  18. ^ Examples include links to the websites of other non-profit organizations (e.g. Union of Concerned Scientists, The National Whistle Blowers Center, Center for Food Safety) and public interest researchers (e.g. Sheldon Krimsky, The Blog of Marion Nestle)
  19. ^ For a review see: Dasgupta I et al. (2003) Genetic Engineering for Virus Resistance. Current Science 8(3) 341-354.
  20. ^ For a current list of genetically engineered crops that have been deregulated for commercial use or for links to the applications for deregulation themselves (i.e. the documents that describe the engineering techniques used and the safety tests performed, that are submitted by applicants to regulators when they claim GMO biosafety) see: Petitions for Nonregulated Status Granted or Pending by APHIS Archived June 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine..
  21. ^ To see who has cited the articles go to the Google Scholar citation results for each paper. One example can be accessed at:,33&sciodt=0,33&hl=en
  22. ^ Conference summary for International Conference on Implications of GM Crop Cultivation at Large Spatial Scales, p.1.
  23. ^ Examples of Bioscience Resource Project radio interviews are found at Uprising on Pacifica Radio (March 2012): Big Conservation Groups Rife With Corporate Executives and Why We Get Sick on Southern California Public Radio: Episode: Patt Morrison for January 11, 2011.
  24. ^ Crawford (2003) Regulation of Foods Derived From Plants, Statement of Lester M. Crawford, Deputy Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration to the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development, and Research House Committee on Agriculture.; Freese W. and Schubert D. (2004) Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods Archived 2011-12-08 at the Wayback Machine.. BGER 21:299-324.; Pelletier DL (2006) FDA’s Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods -- Scientific, Legal and Political Dimensions. Food Policy 31:570-591.
  25. ^ Some examples are: Feldbaum (1998) Can Bioengineers Feed the Planet?; Jelenić (2005) Food Safety Evaluation of Crops Produced through Genetic Engineering – How to Reduce Unintended Effects?, Arh Hig Rada Toksikol 56 (p.185, Abstract)
  26. ^ Kessler, D.A., Taylor, M.R., Maryanski, J.H., Flamm, W.L., and Kahl, L.S. 1992. The Safety of Foods Developed by Biotechnology. Science 265: 1747-1832.
  27. ^ Haselberger AG (2003) Codex Guidelines for GM Foods Include the Analysis of Unintended Effects Archived July 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. Nature Biotechnology 21(7) 739-741.; A database and explanation of unintended effects in GM organisms has been compiled by the Nature Institute at: Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation
  28. ^ Examples include: Lotter, D. 2008. The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 1: The Development of a Flawed Enterprise. Int. Jrnl. Of Soc. Of Agr. & Food, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 50-68; Pusztai A. and S. Bardocz (2011) Potential health effects of foods derived from genetically modified plants: what are the issues? Archived October 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., TWN Biotechnology and Biosafety Series 14.; Dolezel M. et al. (2009) Standardising the Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Plants in the EU. Final report for the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) Germany, Wien.; Comments submitted on Arborgen LLC GE Eucalyptus field testing. Accessed at: [1]
  29. ^ Schouten HJ and Jacobsen E (2007) Are mutations in genetically modified plants dangerous?[permanent dead link], Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Volume 2007, Article ID 82612, 2 pages doi:10.1155/2007/82612.; Parrott W. et al. (2010) Application of food and feed safety assessment principles to evaluate transgenic approaches to gene modulation in crops. Food and Chemical Toxicity.
  30. ^ See: Bradford KJ et al. (2005) Regulating transgenic crops sensibly: lessons from plant breeding, biotechnology and genomics. Nature Biotechnology 23(4)439-444 and response: Regulatory regimes for transgenic crops (2005) Nature Biotechnology 23(7)785-789. A PDF file of this exchange about GM crop regulation can be found at:; Viewpoints of Project Scientists are on p. 785.
  31. ^ e.g. Dermitzakis and Clark (2009) Life after GWA Studies. Science 326:239-240.
  32. ^ e.g. Lewontin R.C., Rose S., and Kamin L.J. (1984) Not in Our Genes. Pantheon Books New York, USA.
  33. ^ e.g. Fraser GS and Shavlik DJ (2001) Ten Years of Life: Is it a Matter of Choice? Arch Int. Medicine 161:1645-52.; Esselstyn CS et al. (1995) A Strategy to Arrest and Reverse Coronary Artery Disease: A 5-year Longitudinal Study of a Single Physician’s Practice. J. Family Practice 41:560-568].
  34. ^ Examples of this viewpoint include Hall et al. (2010) Being More Realistic about the Public Health Impact of Genome Medicine. PLoS Medicine 7(10) Access no. e1000347.; Morgan I (2003) The Biological Basis of Myopic Refractive Error. Clinical and Experimental Optometry 86: 276-288; Mozaffarian D et al. (2009) Lifestyle Risk Factors and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults. Arch. Int. Med. 169: 798-807.
  35. ^ Example of this viewpoint include Lewontin R.C. (1993) Biology as ideology. Penguin books New York, USA; Gundle et al. (2010) ‘To Prove this is Industry’s Best Hope’: Big Tobacco’s support of Research on the Genetics of Nicotine Addiction. Addiction 105:974-983.
  36. ^ Genome studies lead to unexpected results, David Suzuki, April 2011 Blog Post.
  37. ^ Katz D. (2010) Is there a genie in the genome?. Huffington Post.
  38. ^ "DNA Deniers", Open Helix Blog Post in Dec 2010, by Mary Carmichael.
  39. ^ Heritibility and Genes as Causes, Discover Magazine Blog Post by Razib Khan in December 2010.
  40. ^ Bioscience Resource Project critique of modern genomics -- a missed opportunity, Wired Blog Post by Daniel MacArthur on December 15, 2010.
  41. ^ Environmental determinism, National Review Blog Post by John Derbyshire in December 2011.
  42. ^ Radio debate between Dr. JR Latham and S Nelson, MD (2011) Why we get sick – debating the genetic vs. environmental causes of disease.
  43. ^ JR Latham (2011) The failure of the genome. The Guardian.
  44. ^ A. Rutherford (2011) The human genome was just the starting point. The Guardian.