B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
Boston Globe: Food fights can't feed the hungry
In an op-ed piece in the August 21 Boston Globe, Hans Kornberg, a CAS professor of biology and former chair of the United Kingdom's Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification, addresses the irony behind the debate in industrialized nations over food biotechnology. He points out that a recent U.N. report has determined that those who have the most may deny this promising technology to those who need it most. "Those with the luxury to debate the issue must acknowledge our privileged vantage point," Kornberg writes. "We get our food from grocery stores that are stocked full. The world's poor depend largely on subsistence farming.
"Already 800 million are chronically malnourished. Now, as the world's population continues to expand, developing countries must feed more people on less land without ravaging the environment.
"Food biotechnology -- the techniques used to improve crops at the genetic level -- offers scientifically proven ways to help a hungry world by enriching the nutritional content of staples, improving agricultural productivity, and protecting the environment."
While opponents of food biotechnology often cite safety concerns, Kornberg says objective scientific research has proven that biotechnology is safe and beneficial. "There is no valid evidence that anyone's health has been permanently damaged through the consumption of genetically improved food," he writes. "And for the world's poor, the United Nations says this technology is indispensable."
CNN Live Today: The risk of shark attacks
The sighting of a large school of sharks on August 16 off the coast of Florida prompted CNN anchor Natalie Allen to talk by telephone with Phillip Lobel, a CAS associate professor of biology, about shark behavior on CNN Live Today. Allen cited numerous reports of shark school sightings in the area and asked Lobel if there was anything unusual about this.
"I don't think we typically see [this type of aggregation of sharks] in Florida," Lobel said, "but it's a function of where the sharks aggregate and often they're in areas where people just don't go or at times when they don't see them. The other problem is that sharks have been heavily fished. So often there isn't the population density of sharks to form a noticeable aggregation. I guess it's a good sign for shark populations that so many are together in one place."
Lobel's identification of a black-tipped shark being shown on the screen during the interview led Allen to ask whether such sharks were dangerous or posed any particular concern to swimmers. "Well, I think it's like playing in traffic," Lobel responded. "It should be obvious that you shouldn't swim in a group of sharks. Although these aren't terribly large or known to be dangerous, any shark is potentially dangerous, just like potentially any dog can bite you."
Boston Globe: Call for a debate on cloning
In an August 18 Boston Globe op-ed piece, Caryl Rivers, a COM professor of journalism, writes: "Perhaps the most ominous aspect of cloning is that the clone would always walk in the shadow of another life. One of the great gifts of the human species is our individuality. Every baby is a fresh start, a combination of genes that has never existed before. The cloned child would not have this gift. In some cases, parents may want to replace a dead child with its clone, giving the illusion that the dead child can live again. But the new child will not be the same child. What if his or her personality, or athletic ability, is not the same, despite genetic similarities? After all, identical twins often choose different careers and develop different traits. Will parents withdraw or put pressure -- no matter how subtle -- on the child to be more like its dead twin?
"And whom will we clone? Who will have the resources to order up a replica? . . . This issue is too important for politics as usual. It demands nothing less than our full attention in listening to arguments from many points of view. It demands well-considered steps into the future, not just a wild leap into the unknown or a fearful retreat into the past."
Chattanooga Times: Tobacco ads still target children
A study has found that the 1998 multibillion-dollar national tobacco pact, wherein manufacturers agreed to forgo advertising specifically aimed at youth, has failed to end massive advertising targeted at teenage magazine readers, reports the August 16 Chattanooga Times. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports that cigarette makers still spend large amounts for magazine ads targeted at middle school through high school students. Study coauthor Michael Siegel, an SPH associate professor of social and behavioral sciences, says, "Our findings suggest that the tobacco settlement was a total failure in terms of protecting kids from cigarette advertising." The major tobacco companies spent a total of $127 million last year advertising brands popular with youth. The ads appeared in magazines such as People, TV Guide, Sports Illustrated, Motor Trend, Mademoiselle, and Rolling Stone.
"In The News" is compiled by Mark Toth in the Office of Public Relations.