Students at GES Colloquium

Tuesdays at 12pm | 1911 Building, room 129

Colloquium Information

  • GES Colloquium meets weekly on Tuesdays at 12pm in the 1911 Building, Room 129. Add to calendar
  • The new Discussion Group will meet on Thursdays at 12pm in 2321 Gardner Hall.  Add to calendar

Please contact Dr. Jason Delborne with any questions.

Spring 2018


Mike Jones, GES PhD Student: Surveying U.S. Public Opinion on Gene Drives for Agricultural Pests {video embargoed}
Date: 1/16/2018
ABSTRACT: A major proposed application for gene drives is to control agricultural insect pests which cause damage and spread crop disease. However, despite calls for upstream public engagement from scholars and funders of gene drive research, we still know little about how the public would react to such releases.
Read More
OBJECTIVES/METHODS: After focus groups and pretesting, we survey a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults on gene drive attitudes and preferences for agricultural applications. We introduce gene drives and proposed applications in Spotted-Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) and Asian Citrus Psyllid (Diaphorina citri) and track respondent selection of additional information on a variety of topics. We then elicit attitudes on drive use under diverse conditions, including for USDA-organic certification in the presence of gene drive insects. Respondents also ranked the importance of resolving key ecological, health, and economic uncertainties before making decisions on drive release.
RESULTS: A majority of the U.S. public supports drive use for non-native agricultural pest species with controls to limit how far the drive can spread. However, use of a geographically ‘unlimited’ drive reduces support by 22 percentage points. Over 70% of respondents sought additional information on ‘possible risks’ of drives and overwhelmingly ranked health and ecological uncertainties as top priorities to resolve. Organic producers face challenges, as 39% of organic consumers disagree with permitting certification when GM insect material is in or on crops (vs. 35% who agree). Organic consumers aware of allowable pesticide use and those not purchasing to ‘avoid GMOs’ are much more tolerant of drive insect presence.
CONCLUSIONS: Early incorporation of public preferences in research and design phases of gene drive systems, let alone release decisions, provides a more democratic, demand-driven approach to the risk assessment process. Likely applications of limited drives may receive majority support, but market risk for alternative production systems and a prioritization of resolving challenging questions of ecological risk may set a high bar for public acceptance in certain contexts.
Read more>>

Magda Stawkowski, Anthropology Postdoc: "I am a mutant." {video embargoed}
Date: 1/23/2018
ABSTRACT: “Mutant Biologies: Survival and Health Strategies at Kazakhstan’s Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site”
The Soviet-era Semipalatinsk nuclear test site situated in contemporary Kazakhstan was an experimental landscape where science, technology, Cold War militarism, and human biology intersected to create lasting effects/legacies.Read more >>


Larisa Rudenko, MIT Visiting Scholar: Goldilocks and the Regulatory Bears
Date: 1/30/2018
ABSTRACT: Biotechnologies have been “emerging” since the 1980s. Their governance and regulation have been the subject of intense scrutiny. That technologies and the products resulting from them precede regulatory processes specific to them is neither novel nor unexpected. Read more>>

Adam Kokotovich, GES Postdoc: Wild Rice, Genetic Engineering, & the Ojibwe: The Science of Responsible “Non-innovation”
Date 2/6/2018 | Live stream link
Abstract: Given the growing power of gene editing, the importance of responsible research and innovation (RRI) is more apparent than ever. Yet within this area of work there is a need for further attention to when and how RRI should - at times - lead to “non-innovation.”
Read more>>


Caroline Ridley, EPA: Gene drive organisms: an ecological risk problem
Live stream link
Date: 2/13/2018
ABSTRACT: Gene drive organisms represent the latest technology with the potential to address some of the most challenging pest-related problems in agriculture, public health, and conservation. Their proposed applications range from suppressing populations of damaging crop pests, to replacing disease-carrying mosquitoes with harmless variants, to eliminating populations of destructive island predators. In this talk, Dr. Caroline Ridley will share insights into current assessment approaches for evaluating the ecological risks of pest control products, and discuss how novel aspects of gene drive organisms may spur the need for innovative assessment approaches.

Royden Saah, Island Conservation/NC State: GBIRd Program Update
Date: 2/20/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Attempting to develop a program that exists on the cutting edge of both science and social responsibility is a challenge for any institution. The development of the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents program (or GBIRd) was conceived by dedicated individuals with little more than good intentions and a determination to explore the technology in hopes of safely using it to prevent extinctions. Using their expertise in a wide array of disciplines, GBIRd leaders have developed a program that has received both supportive and unenthusiastic attention from publics, governmental leaderships, and stakeholders about the potential use of this technology. In this GES colloquium, Royden will share history, steps/missteps, current status and program aspirations of GBIRd. Read more>>

Megan Serr, PhD Student: Male house mouse competition in semi-natural environments
Date: 2/27/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
Dr. Nora Haenn, Professor, Anthropology Graduate Program: Multiple Roles to Affect Change: Lobbyists, Thought Leaders, Public Intellectuals, and Others
Date: 3/13/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
David Hawthorne, Professor of Entomology, University of Maryland
Date: 3/20/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
Katie Barnhil, PhD Student
Date: 3/27/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
Elliott Montgomery, Professor, The New School
Date: 4/3/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
Jesse Tack, Professor, The New School
Date: 4/10/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
Bruce Tabashnik, CALS, University of Arizona
Date: 4/17/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon
GM Tree Workshop Speaker (TBD)
Date: 4/24/18 Live stream link
ABSTRACT: Coming soon

Fall 2017


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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.



Dr. Makiko Matsuo & Dr. Masashi Tachikawa: Gene Editing and Agriculture in Japan
Date: 11/14/2017 [This colloquium was not recorded at the request of our speakers]
ABSTRACT: Dr. Makiko Matsuo and Dr. Masashi Tachikawa, traveled from Japan to discuss their research around the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) related to gene editing in the food and agriculture sectors. Currently in the second year of a five year project, Drs. Matsuo and Tachikawa visited NC to explore the types of research and development projects are occurring (e.g. crops, livestock, fish), legal/regulatory issues, and public engagement around and acceptance of GMO technologies.
Read More
Dr. Makiko Matsuo is a Project Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy, the University of Tokyo. She is currently engaged in the Science, Technology and Innovation Governance (STIG) Education Program. Research related to food safety (particularly GM food) is one of the topics she has long worked on and she has participated in several Codex (the joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program) Committees as a technical adviser including the 6th Session of the Codex Ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology held in 2006 hosted by Japan.
Dr. Masashi Tachikawa is a professor at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Japan. Prior to joining Nagoya University, he has spent more than twenty years working for various research institutes of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He is engaged in research activities focused on regulatory framework and risk governance issues related to transgenic crops, new breeding techniques, food nanotechnology, and synthetic biology.


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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GES Newsletter

Discussion Section

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 (GES 591-002, 1 credit) will meet on Thursdays from 12-1 in 2321 Gardner Hall 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. Please contact Dr. Jason Delborne with questions. 

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