At BIO 2010!

Hi there folks, Frank N. Foode™ here. I’ve been hanging out in Chicago for the Biotechnology Industry Organization International Convention. I remember last year: the farmers, scientists, and businesspeople I met, and the stuff I learned. And as soon as Karl joins me at McCormick Place tomorrow, I can get some more good pictures. I will be going to a lot of panel discussions, and Biofortified’s own Dr. Pam Ronald and Karl Haro von Mogel will each be participating in one of them. Cool!
I will also be available for photo ops, too, so to make it easy for you to find me, here’s where I will be on Wednesday the 5th:

Session Track: Food and Agriculture, Breakout Sessions
Session Location: Room N426C
Session Date: Wednesday May 5, 2010
Session Time: 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Session Speaker: Alexander Grobman, PhD – Chair | Company:Peru Biotec  [and other speakers]
Summary: The Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety, approved in February 2000, was implemented in September 2003. The Protocol applies to the transboundary movement, transit, handling and use of all living modified…
Then it will be time for lunch, and I’ve got a date with Pam! Well ok, I’m in the audience.

BIO will host a special media luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 featuring Dr. Channapatna S. Prakash, professor of plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University, who will moderate a discussion on “When Politics Impedes Progress to Combat Hunger.”
Luncheon speakers are scheduled to include:

  • Pam Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology and Chair of the Plant Genomics Program at the University of California, Davis, and author of the book, Tomorrow’s Table
  • Michael Specter, New Yorker staff writer and author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.
  • Margaret Zeigler, deputy director of the Congressional Hunger Center.
But wait, Former Vice President Al Gore is also scheduled to give a keynote luncheon at the same time! What is a plant to do? I know Karl will be at the panel discussion, because for some weird reason the media don’t get to listen to Gore’s speech. (Who made that decision?) Maybe I can slip away and catch part of it, I don’t know!
Whatever I manage to do, after lunch it will back to the breakout sessions. This one looks really good:
Session Track: Food and Agriculture, Breakout Sessions
Session Location: Room N426C
Session Date: Wednesday May 5, 2010
Session Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Session Speaker: Sally Squires – Chair  [and other speakers]
Summary: The panel will address the connection between public perception of technologies, such as agricultural biotechnology, and their adoption. The speakers will address the political hurdles, which often…
And then there’s this one, I wonder if they will talk about the Supreme Court Case?
Session Track: Food and Agriculture, Breakout Sessions
Session Location: Room N426C
Session Date: Wednesday May 5, 2010
Session Time: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Session Speaker: Thomas Redick, Esq – Chair | Company:Global Environmental Ethics Counsel  [and other speakers]
Summary: The benefits of biotech crops for sustainable supplies of food, feed, fuel and fiber must hurdle standard setting and laws that deny the sustainability of biotech crops. While legal WTO victories…
But I will have to leave this one early to make it in time to see Karl Haro von Mogel participate in a panel discussion about blogging about biotechnology. And they’re providing drinks for people to hang out, listen, and think!
Think & Drink
Wednesday, May 5
5:00 – 6:30pm
Biotech Now Lounge, West Lobby, Level 1

Social Media—Master or Slave?
Organized by: Brodeur Partners
The explosive growth of social media is reinventing the way companies communicate with consumers, lawmakers, investors and the broader public. Organizations that don’t master this changing communications landscape will find themselves left behind.  The challenge if social media is that when everyone has a platform to speak his mind, anti-biotech naysayers can reach an even greater audience with fewer moderating forces to counter misinformation. How individual companies, nonprofit organizations and the industry as a whole respond to this moment will have reverberations for decades to come. Come hear from biotech companies engaging in social media and learn about new tools to improve the public perception of biotechnology.
I wonder if Karl will let me sit on his lap so I can have a little of the spotlight? Pretty please with mulch on top?
I’ll try to tweet when I can, and you can also follow the convention chatter with the #bio2010 hashtag


  1. Frank, I have a Q I’d like to you to ask of a few different people when you get a chance. When I was at BIGMAP, I talked to some biotech regulators about using metabolomics or transcriptomics to determine substantial equivalence. Basically, the idea is that you could use these tools to compare a transgenic event, its nontransgenic isoline, and a diverse panel from the same species – then see if anything in the transgenic one is significantly different from levels in the others. Some examples so far have been barley (Kogel, 2010) and potatoes (Lehesranta, 2005). I personally think this has potential for 1) testing transgenic varieties to find out if there really are any differences, 2) actually learning what the differences are, if any, and 3) boosting consumer confidence because it would allow us to definitively say “there are no unintended differences”. I’d so far as to say this could replace a lot of the tests that are currently being done and could streamline the regulatory process. But the people I talked to said 1) the tests aren’t valuable enough to warrant the price, 2) expression from plant to plant of the same line or even the same plant at different times differs too much so we can’t depend on differences between a GM plant and its isoline, 3) toxicology tests were more valuable. I think they’re being short sighted, and I’d like to know what others say about it.
    PS: Brandon says I should’t talk like this, he doesn’t like the word metabolomics :p

  2. Anastasia,
    I’m glad you posted these references. I do a bit of work in metabolomics (the word is fine, I just hate saying it!) and these will be interesting reads. One of the problems I would see with this application is identifying the signals you get. Many times, in the species I’ve seen (brassicas), the mix from the mass spec is quite complex. You have to know what you are looking for. The mass spec is picking up a lot of intermediate precursor compounds, etc. Do you envision going after specific classes of compounds, e.g. a class of proteins or other by products?

  3. Welcome 🙂 I have a few more where those came from, I’ll post ’em later on.
    I think the targets will change as the method becomes more sophisticated. It might make sense to target specific groups of compounds (or specific groups of genes) at first, then as we get better at identifying all those peaks, start looking at more groups. But overall, I think looking at sig differences in the transgenic variety compared to a wide panel will at least give us a start on where to look – to see if those differences are biologically significant as well as statistically significant.

  4. One issue with this, and it’s a perception issue rather than necessarily a science one – looking at TxP or MxP you can essentially guarantee statistically significant differences. The Kogel paper for instance (if it’s the one I’m thinking of) shows that there are differences but that varietal differences are at least as big as, if not bigger than, differences seen in the transgenic.
    Now, any scientist (other than a handful I guess… waiting for a Seralini response on this, or a UCS white paper…) would look at this and conclude that there aren’t significant differences – whereas I can totally see the anti-GM side leaping all over it and screaming about 2% of transcripts/metabolites being significantly different therefore this isn’t substantial equivalence.
    To confound things, you could conceivably have a plant with very small changes in TxP and MxP being non-equivalent (lets say we engineer in THC or something) and with massive TxP and MxP differences being substantially equivalent in terms of nutrition etc (admittedly it’s somewhat harder to see how something massively deviant would be substantially equivalent)
    You set your panel too wide you find stuff. You find stuff once, you give ammunition to the other side. Even if it never repeats. The toxicity studies by Monsanto reanalysed by Seralini show just this – results which show something to be non-dangerous still fuel magical thinking due to failure to consult a statistician (or at least one who knows his arse from his elbow)

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