Dr Bronner's acid-dropping, Burner CEO profiled

Mike from Mother Jones writes, "Josh Harkinson profiles David Bronner, the 40-year-old, hallucinogen-dropping, Burning Man-attending scion of the Dr. Bronner's soap empire, who channels roughly half of the company's substantial profits into activism, including the Washington State GMO-labeling bill that voters will decide upon tomorrow. Bronner, who favors the labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, has been arrested for planting hemp seeds on the DEA's lawn and for a performance-art protest where he milled hemp seeds in a cage outside the White House. He also sued the DEA (and won), so that his company could legally obtain hemp oil as a soap ingredient. Since David took over, Dr. Bronner's sales have soared. It's on track to bring in $64 million in revenues this year. But in a strike against corporate greed, Bronner has capped the company's top salaries at five times that of the lowest-paid warehouse worker."

Read the rest

Activists destroy GMO test plot

Golden Rice is a strain of rice genetically engineered to produce extra beta-carotene, part of a humanitarian effort to get more Vitamin A into the diets of people who subsist primarily on rice. The genes that produce the beta-carotene come from corn and a soil bacterium. On the legal end, the rice was developed using free technology licenses that allow the International Rice Research Institute to hand the rice out for free to subsistence farmers, and allow those farmers to save seeds and replant in subsequent years. Last week, anti-GMO activists destroyed a test plot of Golden Rice in the Philippines.

GMO foods and Prop 37's defeat: an animated infographic video

Jess Bachman, whose infographics we've featured on Boing Boing before, recently started getting into animation as a way to tell data-intensive stories. This video on food labeling, and why so many big businesses donated so many millions to defeat California's Proposition 37, is his first experiment.

"I opened After Effects for the first time last monday and finished this video on GMO labeling last Friday," Jess says. "It's nothing too special, but I'm excited about this new story telling medium for me, so if you have any stories to tell, let me know."

Your suggestions for future videos welcome in the comments!

Musicians on file-sharing, record industry as Monsanto


On TechDirt, Mike Masnick rounds up three thoughtful and thought-provoking statements from musicians about the way that their careers can be helped by piracy, and the how the response to downloading is bad for art and society. I was especially impressed with this op-ed from Doomtree Collective's Dessa, who makes a connection between the music industry's attempt to control music duplication and Monsanto's iron-fisted demand that its seeds be bought anew every season:

Peddling a product that consumers can duplicate for free is a tricky business. With affordable consumer technology, you can now copy a song a hundred times, with no degradation in the sound quality—and most people seem to immediately recognize why that’s gonna make it harder to get paid for songs. But my first experiences with lossless, duplicable technology didn’t have anything to do with my career as a rapper. My first encounter wasn’t with a torrent site. Or a bootlegged disc. It was a tomato.

Seeds, quite obviously, are the mechanism of plant duplication. You drop a sunflower seed in wet dirt and, bang, you get a brand new one. Essentially, you just 'burned’ a sunflower. The seeds of this new plant can then be harvested and planted to create an infinite, almost lossless supply of flowers and seeds.

Three Artists On Piracy: Sharing, Disruption And Turning Filesharers Into Your Street Team

(Image: Monsanto DSC03058, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from home_of_chaos's photostream)

Study raises new concerns about safety of genetically modified food

A study at Nanjing University in China found that ingested "microRNA" (very small pieces of ribonucleic acid, or RNA) from plants were able to survive digestion and influence the function of human cells.

Food columnist Ari Levaux has a piece digging into the implications, in The Atlantic. The basic idea: if this research stands up to the rigors of scientific scrutiny, it could prove that when we eat food, we consume not just fuel and nutrients, but information that changes us on a cellular level, and influences health.

Snip:

Monsanto's website states, "There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans." This viewpoint, while good for business, is built on an understanding of genetics circa 1950. It follows what's called the "Central Dogma" (PDF) of genetics, which postulates a one-way chain of command between DNA and the cells DNA governs.

The Central Dogma resembles the process of ordering a pizza. The DNA knows what kind of pizza it wants, and orders it. The RNA is the order slip, which communicates the specifics of the pizza to the cook. The finished and delivered pizza is analogous to the protein that DNA codes for.

We've known for years that the Central Dogma, though basically correct, is overly simplistic. For example: Pieces of microRNA that don't code for anything, pizza or otherwise, can travel among cells and influence their activities in many other ways. So while the DNA is ordering pizza, it's also bombarding the pizzeria with unrelated RNA messages that can cancel a cheese delivery, pay the dishwasher nine million dollars, or email the secret sauce recipe to WikiLeaks.

Monsanto's claim that human toxicology tests are unwarranted is based on the doctrine of "substantial equivalence." This term is used around the world as the basis of regulations designed to facilitate the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered foods, by sparing them from extensive safety testing.

via The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods - The Atlantic. You'll also want to read the actual study, and make up your own mind.

Update: Here's a critical take on the linked-to Atlantic piece. Ari responds here.

(via @coopportunity)