Newsletter / June 2015

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Dear Science Allies:

The coverage of GMOs in May showed a positive shift towards a more rational look at the role biotechnology plays in addressing global challenges. Last month, the Alliance for Science continued to build diverse partnerships. As you will read in the original content that follows, members of our team built alliances from India to Iowa, documenting challenges facing scientists and farmers far and wide.

We also continue to strengthen our relationships with new and existing ally organizations. One exciting addition is SciDev.Net. On June 9, we’ll be partnering with SciDev.Net to co-host an online debate to discuss why farmers are not using more agricultural innovations, with a focus on Brazil, Senegal, and Tanzania. Visit the Alliance homepage starting June 5th to participate in the debate. An accompanying live panel of journalists will continue the discussion at the World Confederation of Science Journalists annual meeting in Seoul the next day, on June 10.

Follow @ScienceAlly and the hashtag #Tech4Ag. Join the conversation and be sure to look for an exciting new program the Alliance will unveil at the live event in Seoul.

In July, we will partner with Sense about Science USA and The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research to host a joint workshop at the American Society of Plant Biologists. Free registration is now open for our joint workshop “Standing Up for Science workshop: plant genetics & biotechnology.” This is an opportunity open to graduate students, post docs, and early career plant scientists who will be attending the meeting.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Evanega
Director, Cornell Alliance for Science
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Voice of Young Science Event

Standing Up for Science workshop: July 30 at ASPB annual meeting

Intended for graduate students, post-docs, and early career researchers to learn the in and outs of working with the media and the importance of communicating science with the general public. Contact Neda Afsarmanesh, Deputy Director at Sense About Science USA for more information: neda{at}

Be on the lookout for more information about another Voice of Young Science event at Cornell University in early November!

Global Leadership

12-Week Fellowship Program in Science Communications

Starting August 2015, the Alliance is launching our Global Leadership Fellows Program, a certificate program designed to empower emerging leaders who will improve science communications and promote evidence-based decision-making around the globe. For more information on the 12-week program’s curriculum and application requirements, visit our program web site.

Farmers in Bangladesh and India question unequal access to homegrown innovation

By Joan Conrow

This is the first of a series of articles about the challenges and opportunities that farmers in Bangladesh and India face.

Despite rampant speculation, little is known in the West about what farmers in India and Bangladesh want, or the obstacles they face. Even less is known about the agricultural biotech research under way in India, where universities and institutions — not multinational corporations — are taking the lead in developing traits to benefit the food crops most widely grown there. <more>
Alliance for Science multimedia producer and cinematopher Jeremy Veverka films brinjal farmers in Nadia, outside Kolkata, India. Photo by Joan Conrow.

No ordinary farmer: Gilbert Bor brings innovation to western Kenya

By Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee is on staff at the Alliance for Science.

In Western Kenya on the outskirts of the town of Eldoret lives a farmer who dreams of creating a more prosperous community. But he is no ordinary farmer. Gilbert Bor and his family live next door to the farm on which he grew up, but he has travelled globally and his experiences from around the globe have helped inspire his vision for his community and for his country.

When he is not busy tending to his own land or teaching business and marketing classes at a nearby university, Gilbert can... <more>

(from left): Gilbert Bor with two members of the Chepkatet farmers cooperative, Judith Jerubet and Henry Ngetich. Photo by Ryan Lee.

Alliance for Science in Iowa

The Alliance covered over 600 miles in three days while in Iowa last week. We interviewed ag scientists, farmer advocates, and multi-generational farm families, including a father-son duo at Henkeseen Holsteins Dairy. They were kind enough to let us film the first milking of the day and talk to us on camera about their family farm. Tune in soon for that video!

Dairy farmers, Matt and Trent Henkes. Photo by Hannah Smith Walker

Sence About Science USA partnership offers statistical consultation for journalists

Alliance for Science sat down with Trevor Butterworth, Director of Sense About Science (SAS) USA to learn more about this new organization and its stateside vision and plans.The Alliance and Sense about Science are jointly sponsoring a workshop, Stand up for Science, as part of SAS's Voice of Young Science program.

Hi Trevor! Can you tell us about Sense about Science USA?
Sense about Science is non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for sense about science! We believe that sound science should play a vital role in society, and that the public should ask for evidence, have access to evidence, and be equipped to understand evidence so that they can make fully informed choices as citizens. In order for that to happen, scientists have to stand up for evidence too—as science doesn’t just explain itself. <more>
American Society of Plant Biologists President Julian Schroeder recently invited the plant science community to consider signing the Cornell Alliance for Science Science 14 petition, which offers support for more than a dozen fellow plant scientists who have been subjected to FOIA requests.

More than 100 demonstrators turned out to champion biotechnology with dignity and composure at the March Against Myths events on May 23, a counterpoint to the March Against Monsanto.

MAMyth organizers (from left): David Sutherland, Kavin Senapathy, Karl Haro von Mogel.
MAMyths and March Against Monsanto demonstrators engage in peaceful but contested conversation.
MAMyths generated some compelling personal stories about the reasons people choose to stand up for science. Thanks to Karl Haro von Mogel for the photos and sharing the embedded links (above).

May Headlines

Each month, the Alliance tracks the world’s top news and opinions on agricultural biotechnology. If you or someone in your organization is interested in contributing reports to the Monthly Monitor, please let us know at We always encourage you to submit important news reports from your region.

American Chestnut

The American chestnut work of scientists William Powell, Charles Maynard, and others from SUNY-ESF— featured in an Alliance for Science interview from January ’15— was in the news this month. Check out multimedia coverage in the Smithsonian, PBS, and Scientific America.

Mozambique and Tanzania to allow WEMA field trials

Mozambique and Tanzania approve confined field trials and a more research-friendly framework for Water Efficient Maize for Africa, a public-private partnership aimed at developing drought-tolerant and insect-protected varieties that can be made available royalty-free to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists explore potential health benefits using biotechnology

A look at scientific literature influencing the scientific consensus of GMOs

Nodes of Science looks at influential papers, chapters, and other information across more than a decade of research. Do you have anything to add to the list? Leave a message in the comments section and help grow this resource!

The limits of biotech in the 21st century

Biotech and the Ethical Imagination, or BEINGS, met in Atlanta to discuss practical and ethical guidelines for a lot of sticky scientific issues, such as egg donations, stem cell research, gene patents, and bioterrorism. The final document, to be published next year, will include a series of broad guiding principles on genetic modification, biosafety, ownership, and donorship.

Africa Biosafety News

Nigerian Biosafety Bill passed, will boost scientific innovation

Ugandan ruling party approves legislation on biotechnology

Ethiopia passes measure to allow research on GMOs, including imported technology

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union favorably signals biosafety measures

Senegal hosts National Outreach and Awareness workshop for decision makers to discuss National Biosafety Framework

Mainstream media coverage of biotechnology was high in May

From Newsweek’s dramatic cover, “You Are Totally Wrong About Genetically Altered Food” (Tom Parrett), to Nathanial Johnson in Time, “GMO Controversy Misses the Point,” to Tamar Haspel’s always excellent posts in her The Washington Post column, 'Unearthed,' including her most recent: “The last thing Africa needs to be debating is GMOs,” media coverage this month emphasized the diversity of biotechnology and the cost of not considering it. Readers responded by sharing this information prolifically across Facebook & Twitter.

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