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Tuesdays at 12pm | 1911 Building, room 129

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Fall 2017

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Sarah Evanega, Cornell Alliance for Science: Empowering Champions, Embracing Advocacy
Date: 11/14/2017
ABSTRACT: Solutions to hunger, poverty, and sustainable agricultural growth are often inaccessible to Less Developed Countries (LDCs), where they are needed the most.
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The Cornell Alliance for Science is a global communications initiative committed to ensuring access to scientific innovation as a means of addressing these pressing issues. By connecting a global grassroots network of “Science Allies” — researchers, farmers, policy makers, communicators, and other stakeholders all committed to our shared mission — the Alliance applies innovative communications approaches to positively shift the conversation around agricultural biotechnology.
The Alliance for Science trains passionate advocates who work to ensure that the people in their countries have access to agricultural biotechnology innovations. Trainees are equipped with skills necessary to lead campaigns in support of biotechnology that target specific obstacles in their home countries and social contexts. They become part of a growing global network of collaborative Science Allies who are actively working toward achieving justice for the poor.
In this session, Alliance for Science Director Sarah Evanega will introduce the organization’s mission, activities, and highlights of the training programs with hopes of exploring opportunities for collaboration.
Public Lecture - "Hunger & Hypocrisy: A Climate for GMO Change," Monday, 11/13/2017


Eli Hornstein, PhD Student: Re-Engineering A Lost Symbiosis
Date: 11/7/2017 | Request password
ABSTRACT: Biotechnology has great potential as a tool to address pressing issues beyond the agricultural applications in wide use today. In the context of environmental conservation, Eli will discuss how biotechnology could provide solutions to problems that have been intractable to traditional approaches for decades.
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This talk will focus heavily on Eli's research in progress to genetically engineer crop plants to form new symbiotic relationships with soil fungi, called mycorrhizae. Ability to form or alter mycorrhizae in agriculture can greatly increase the uptake of soil nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and water. This in turn has potential to reduce fertilizer application, and ease consumption of land and water.
We will also discuss the inherent challenges of manipulating a complex relationship that varies across interactions between multiple organisms and their environment, as well as the potential challenges of proposing to deregulate such an engineered product.


Tom Wedegaertner, Cotton, Inc.: Ultra-Low Gossypol Cottonseed
Date: 10/31/2017 | Request password
ABSTRACT: Many plants use chemical defense mechanisms to reduce or eliminate predation and the cotton plant is no exception. Gossypol, a naturally occurring noxious compound, found in pigment glands located throughout the cotton plant, is an effective insect deterrent and a cumulative toxin in animals. The elimination of gossypol allows cottonseed protein to be used much more efficiently by using it in food products for direct consumption by humans, rather than feeding it to inefficient cattle.
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The worldwide production of cottonseed protein is about 11 million tons. This is a massive amount of underutilized protein. Without gossypol, this is enough protein to satisfy the daily, basic protein needs (50 grams/person) of more than 600 million people for one year. Cotton is uniquely suited to serve as a source of both food and fiber for an ever increasing world population.
Modern plant biotechnology (RNAi and a seed specific promoter) has produced a genetically-enhanced cotton plant that has gossypol production silenced in the seed while retaining normal levels in all other plant tissues. This allows the plant to retain its natural defense mechanism against insects, but at the same time creates a seed that is safe for human and animal consumption.
Deregulation by various agencies must happen before companies can commercialize new plant traits that were created with transgenic technology. This is perceived to be a huge and complicated barrier to commercialization of biotechnology innovations. Navigating the regulatory process in the U.S. is not as onerous as its perception.


Rene Valdez, PhD Student: Perceptions of De-extinction Among Experts and in the News Media
Date: 10/24/2017
ABSTRACT: De-extinction is the re-creation of extinct species using methods from synthetic biology, cloning, genetic engineering, reproduction technologies, and stem cell research. Researchers around the world are investigating the possibility of reviving species, including the woolly mammoth, passenger pigeon, and gastric-brooding frog. These efforts have drawn considerable attention from scholars and the media.
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Advocates argue that returning extinct species will restore ecological functions and increase interest in conservation efforts. Others question whether de-extinct species can survive in contemporary ecosystems, if there are appropriate policies to govern de-extinction, and how broader publics will receive de-extinction.
In this presentation I examine perceptions of de-extinction, drawing on results from two studies. First, I'll present results from a study of synthetic biology experts, focusing on their perceptions of potential hazards, benefits, research and governance needs, and public reactions. I will then present results of a content analysis of news articles covering de-extinction. I will discuss how the news media compares de-extinction to science fiction, and their interpretations of technological inevitability and biotechnology policy. I will conclude by comparing results from both studies to highlight differences and similarities regarding potential policy and public reactions.
Further Reading:
The NGO Revive and Restore is on the forefront of de-extinction research
IUCN's Guiding Principles on Creating Proxies of Extinct Species for Conservation Benefit


Keith Edmisten, NC State: The Adoption of Biotech in Cotton Production Download slides on SlideShare
Date: 10/17/2017
ABSTRACT: Cotton producers - both in North Carolina and across the U.S. - were early adopters of biotech. The cotton industry has widely employed the use of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant varieties, evolving the variety of traits and management strategies along the way. Producers have experienced both pros and cons in this evolution.
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Dr. Edmisten will present some of the issues producers have faced, and some of the solutions industry and growers have adopted. He will also discuss why growers embraced the technologies in such a wholesale manner, and why they continue to use them.


Steven Druker, Alliance for Bio-Integrity and author of Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: Genetic Engineering and the Chronic Misrepresentation of Facts
Date: 10/10/2017
ABSTRACT: Although bioethicists have addressed a wide range of issues posed by recombinant DNA technology and its unprecedented power to alter genomes, they have overlooked the most crucial one: that the venture to employ this genetic engineering technology in food production has been chronically dependent on misrepresentation.
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Basic facts of biology (and about the technology itself) have been untruthfully portrayed; false claims have been issued by scientists, scientific institutions, and government agencies; unsettling evidence has been suppressed or significantly distorted; and scientists who performed the research that produced the evidence have been unjustly attacked, defamed, and demoted.
Read full abstract


David Berube, NC State: ZIKA
Date: 10/3/17
ABSTRACT: Dr. Berube, who is working on a book entitled Communicating Zika, gives a student-directed conversation on the subject. Topics include how Zika got into Brazil, why it's so dangerous (the microcephaly connection), what the future may hold, how it is being mitigated and the roles of government and media.


Dan Charles, Author and NPR Correspondent: Genetic Engineering & Journalism
Date: 9/26/2017
ABSTRACT: Discussion about some of the different ways that journalists have covered genetic engineering over the past several decades, and the journalistic conventions and impulses that shape this coverage.

AGES: Untold Stories of GMO Pioneers Keynote, 9/26/2017


Jayce Sudweeks, PhD Student: Examining the Policy Narratives Surrounding the Release of GM Mosquitoes
Date: 9/19/2017 | Request password
ABSTRACT: In an effort to combat diseases such as dengue fever and Zika, genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes have been released in Brazil to control mosquito populations. A similar release effort was attempted in the Florida Keys, but has been delayed.
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Using the Narrative Policy Framework, this research examines the policy narratives of the various actors and coalitions involved in both the US and Brazil policy debates regarding release of GM mosquitoes and attempts to identify coalition and narrative factors that might influence the difference in release decisions.



Michael Vella & Sumit Dhole, PhD Students: Population Genetics of Gene Drives
Date: 9/5/2017
ABSTRACT: Michael Vella discusses theoretical analysis of gene drive countermeasures that could be used to reverse a CRISPR-based homing drive. Countermeasures include synthetic resistance alleles, reversal drives, and immunizing reversal drives.
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Unexpected dynamics arise in some cases, and each countermeasure has advantages and disadvantages that would need to be considered before use.
Sumit Dhole then delves into a comparative analysis of three gene drives that have been proposed for localized population alteration – the one- and two-locus under-dominance drives, and the recently proposed daisy-chain drive.
Related Publications:


Todd Kuiken, GES Center: The Long & Winding Road: Synthetic Biology and the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity
Date: 8/29/2017
ABSTRACT: There are multiple processes happening inside the United Nations in relation to synthetic biology and the shift towards digital genomic information both simultaneously and separately. Within the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Secretariat implemented a process to continue the work of an Ad-Hoc Technical Expert group that is charged with understanding the impacts of synthetic biology as it relates to the Convention.
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In a separate process, the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefits sharing is examining how the digitization of genetic material may affect the implementation of the Protocol.
Simultaneously, but in a different U.N. sphere, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is examining the impacts of synthetic biology and the digitization of genetic material and how it may impact that Treaty. These processes could be on a collision course as they do not interact with one another and could develop different rules around the same technologies.
This talk explores the various processes that are currently in play and provide the “greatest hits” of engagement that is taking place along with how it may impact your research and how you can become involved to better inform the process.


Fall 2017 GES Colloquium Intros
Date: 8/22/17

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Spring 2018 Info

Colloquium + New Discussion Section. Questions? Contact Jason Delborne

  • Pencil us in for Tuesdays at noon. If you will be a graduate student in Spring 2018, please sign up for GES Colloquium (GES 591-001) for 1 unit of credit. Formal enrollment is not necessary to attend, but it helps us justify the resources that GES invests in the Colloquium every semester.
  • GES Discussion Section (GES 591-002, also 1 credit) Do you ever leave on Tuesdays wishing you could dig a little deeper into the research you just heard about? We feel the same way. Starting in the Spring, the Discussion Section will meet on Thursdays from 12-1 to further discuss that week’s topic plus a reading. Sessions will be informal and experimental. Faculty are also encouraged to attend whenever you’re available.

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We welcome scholars and experts at all career stages, with a range of opinions, perspectives, and disciplines. Consider signing up to practice an important conference talk, share a piece of your thesis research, or introduce yourself to the GES Community.

We also welcome nominations for speakers from campus or beyond. Please send suggestions to Jason Delborne.