Live chat about the future of Biology Fortified

BFI-boardFriends, readers, and supporters, earlier this month we revealed some unfortunate news about our sites being under attack. Since our announcement the outpouring of support we have received has been heartfelt and overwhelming. Expressed through signatures and comments on our open letter, blog posts and support through social media and donations, you have expressed your thanks for what we do and have helped ensure the security of what we have all built together. In turn, we would like to thank all of you for supporting us and standing up for what is right in what can at times be a difficult dialog. The attack appears to be over for now, but you have shown us that what we do is valuable – and we are inspired to do more!
As we approach the New Year, we are considering expanding the resources we are building, and engaging the public in new and innovative ways. We have several ongoing projects, and many more that are seeds of ideas waiting to sprout. We want to continue to build, update, and expand the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA), and bring our cooking video project to light. We’re also working on more video interviews to bring to everyone on the blog. But what other projects could the future hold? And how will we fund them? We’re going to hold a live, open discussion Thursday the 4th of December, at 7:30 pm Eastern time (6:30 pm CST, 5:30 pm Mountain, and 4:30 pm Pacific) via Google+ Hangouts. You are all invited to chat with us!
When the discussion is live, we will provide the link right here. To participate in the discussion, leave comments here on this post – we will constantly refresh the page to check for your input.
We may be able to open up the discussion for select readers to briefly join the live hangout to pose a question or make a comment. If that is something that you would like to do, please let us know by sending us a note via our Contact page. Give us your name, let us know what you are talking about,

Projects for the Future of Biology Fortified

What will Biology Fortified be doing in the coming year in terms of resource and outreach projects? Here is a short list of ongoing projects and other ideas.

  • Continue to build and expand the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA)
  • Create fun cooking videos that will help people interact with the science of GMOs and other ways food has changed.
  • A neutral fact-checking resource for GMOs, akin to Snopes and Politifact
  • Visual and performing arts to interest people in science
  • Educational materials for schools and classrooms
  • Public events? A traveling speaker series?
  • A podcast/vidcast?

What do you want to see us do? Give us your suggestions in the comments!

Funding for the Future of Biology Fortified

In the pockets of “Big Art”

From the beginning, we have been very consistent in how Biology Fortified is funded. To date, it has been funded by a combination of reader contributions and small grants. We have a lot of projects that we want to see happen, and we don’t want to have to call for individual donations to support all of them. For the first time, we’re getting serious about hiring a fundraising manager to seek out and apply for grants and support that can help support the work that we want to do in the coming years. But where can funding for our organization come from?
To maintain our independence, the competing biotechnology and organic/non-GMO industries have had zero contribution to our organization. That policy is not being reconsidered, but the funding landscape is complex and can seem like a minefield. Vested commercial and ideological interests are everywhere, and come in many forms – not just private industry. There are nonprofit organizations that clearly align with and support the industry that funds them, while other NGOs may receive some such funding but have longstanding reputations of impartiality and integrity. There are also private industries that don’t have a vested interest one way or another – and others may not have one yet, but could in the future. There are different degrees of separation and contexts that matter when it comes to many such funding sources, which we must consider.
There are some who consider any connection, real or tenuous, as violating an organization’s independence. Take, for instance, this document (PDF) wherein one ideological organization attempts to malign our GENERA project and the scientific society that supported our initial work by trying to dig for a few such connections. There will always be people who use the “one drop rule” to base their ad-hominem arguments on, and we’re not talking about satisfying these marginal individuals. We care about ensuring that in our own eyes and the eyes of open-minded and neutral observers that we accurately report and represent the science, and the views of the scientific community and ourselves and not any backers or partners would could be seen as influencing that information. With that goal in mind, let’s have a discussion about what kinds of funding sources we should pursue.
To get the discussion going, let us pose a few ideas in the form of general questions. Don’t take these as reflecting a real source of funding that we are considering, but as merely thought experiments to help us explore the funding landscape. Which of these organizations are acceptable sources of funds to support our work, and which should we steer clear from? (When we speak about industry, we mean both biotechnology and competing industries)

  1. Scientific Societies with industry employees as board members?
  2. Foundations that typically support biotech or anti-biotech causes?
  3. A charitable foundation started by a company that does or has done business with an industry?
  4. Biotechnology-related nonprofits that have received mostly philanthropic foundation funding, but some small proportion from industries?
  5. Private industry that is unrelated to food/agricultural debates and discussions?
  6. Foundations with a partisan political mission?
  7. Government granting agencies?
  8. Arts foundations and companies?

What do you think about these different kinds of funding sources? Are there some that you would consider fit our mission, and some that could conflict with it? Do you have some to suggest that we could pursue (contact us) and some to warn us to avoid? Tell us about your perspective on funding and independence in the comments, and we hope to chat with you Thursday!


  1. I am drawn to your website for unbiased science information on GMOs, and as a farmer I find this website a valuable professional resource.
    Please develop materials for K-12 grades, to combat the anti-GMO push into education.
    I also think a true, honest, non-partisan fact-check that media can rely on for GMO info is desperately needed.
    Keep up the good work, and thank you.

  2. I can’t make it to the live chat. So I’ll drop these ideas here.
    *I want movie nights. With live chats. So much of what we are all battling consists of those awful documentaries on YouTube. They are unwatchable alone because there’s nobody to commiserate with. You can’t force your friends to watch them, because they’ll stop coming over. But it might be a fun way to get through them. Can also be put to good use with quality movies. This CyTube thing might do it: Might need some installation and software support.
    *On the funding: I think you are never going to be pure enough for the purity trolls. Ever. Look at what’s happening to the Soil Association now. Even they aren’t pure enough for some folks. And some people are claiming the government funding is just another way industry works (yes, I know, but they’ll link it). Everything is 6 degrees from Monsanto on this subject. I think you need to do what you need to do to be sustainable and effective.

  3. I second the motion for K-12 online science curriculum. A non-profit lesson plan would be beneficial and doable.

  4. Mary and Amelia, My mother is a retired grade school teacher who has had a couple of for children history books published. She would be a good one to do some of the writing if given a factual outline and some coaching to work with. If interested just google me or Carl/Marcia. same last name. With that name we are easy to find.

  5. My humble opinions:
    1) I think so long as the board member is not from a senior management position of said industry company, it may work. To exclude ALL employees may leave the pool of qualified candidates a bit scant. Ex-employees?
    2) In of itself, like the Gates foundation, sounds cool to me.
    3) Could be tricky. Depends on how deep and tight the ties are.
    4) Sounds good. Can take direct funds from Industry as long as proportion allows Biofortified to back away without undue harm.
    5) May also be limited to a proportion of funds. Said company could throw their hat in the ring at a later date.
    6) God only knows where that would lead to. Case by case basis?
    7) No problem there for most reasonable people. Logistically, though, could be a headache (federal rules, yada, yada)
    8) Arts foundations, OK, i would think, companies, same as #5.
    The world’s a crazy place and i suspect i may be a bit naive when it comes to these things.

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