science facts and fallacies

Podcast: Fighting drug-resistant bacteria; consumers embrace CRISPR-edited food; bomb-detecting plants; and life-saving biosimilar medicines

, | March 18, 2020
Cameron English: GLP Senior Agricultural Genetics Editor    More details
Kevin Folta: University of Florida plant geneticist    More details
Scientists have halted bacterial evolution, helping to preserve the efficacy of life-saving antibiotics. Biosimilar medicines could cut US health care spending by $54 billion. Consumers will eat gene-edited food if they understand its benefits to humans, animals and the environment. And plants can be engineered to detect flu viruses and other harmful substance—including explosives used in bombs. On this episode of the Science Facts and Fallacies podcast, geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English bring you the latest stories from the world of genetics and biotechnology.

Battling antibiotic resistance by stopping evolution


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose an increasingly deadly threat to public health. These so-called “superbugs” infect more than three million people and kill thousands annually. While scientists rush to develop novel drugs to battle these stubborn microbes, one research group has devised a clever approach to preventing harmful bacteria from acquiring resistance in the first place.

Viewpoint: Embracing biosimilars will drive down prices, increase access to drugs

Biologics, medicines derived from living organisms, allow doctors to treat and prevent once-incurable diseases. While the technology represents a massive step forward for modern medicine, these treatments are often prohibitively expensive, which limits the positive impact they can have. Biosimilars, drugs with similar composition and function to brand-name biologics, are poised to expand access for millions of people and cut drug spending in the US by $54 billion. Will corporate intellectual property battles, disinformation campaigns and physician ignorance halt this positive development?

Related article:  Ghana considers new rules to enhance its GMO regime

Shoppers will buy gene-edited food if they know its consumer, animal and environmental benefits


According to a new survey, most US consumers don’t know what gene-edited food is—but they’re convinced it’s bad. This skepticism fades away, however, after shoppers are educated about the health, animal welfare and environmental benefits of agricultural gene editing. These results suggest science educators need to spend less time on the technical details of CRISPR and more time communicating the tangible benefits that gene editing offers.

Synthetic biosensors: Engineered plants could detect flu viruses and crop pests before they become global problems

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread across the globe, our inability to rapidly detect the novel coronavirus has made it difficult to properly combat COVID-19, the resulting respiratory disease that has infected almost 200,000 people and killed nearly 8,000 as of March 17.  What if biotech plants could spot harmful viruses before they cause pandemics? It may sound like science fiction, but researchers are turning genetically engineered plants into biosensors capable of detecting diseases, plant pests and even bombs.

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow him on Twitter @kevinfolta


Cameron J. English is the GLP’s senior agricultural genetics and special projects editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

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