This week is Climate Week in the UK, which aims to get the public involved in thinking about climate change. In the scientific community, there is an increasing level of consensus about climate change and the need to take drastic action to limit severe consequences. However, in order to introduce challenging policies, there must be public support. In a paper in CAB Reviews, Ashley Cobb and Michael Carolan from Colorado State University, look at trends in public attitudes, and consider their implications for plans to mitigate climate change impacts.
US media coverage of climate change has been a double-edge sword, in that while it has raised awareness about climate change by increasing perceived knowledge, it has also suggested scientific disagreement on the issue, despite the consensus amongst climatologists.
“The trouble with the world is not that people know so little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” This observation from Mark Twain is one of many illuminating quotes in an examination by Richard Vetter of the power of myth in science and medicine, and the limited power of hard science in dispelling such myths.
Myths are particularly persuasive when they are consistent with pre-existing beliefs, are repeated frequently, and the origins become lost, says Vetter, in a paper in CAB Reviews. Vetter, from the University of California, Riverside, takes as his focus the urban myths that abound regarding spiders.
Be careful to check tuffets before you sit on them
The creation of transgenic plants often involves the use of DNA sequences from bacteria and other non-plant organisms – in particular as vectors to introduce the desired genes. However, some people are concerned about the use of DNA from such distantly related sources, and regulators require separate rules to be complied with for transgenic plants compared to those derived by selective breeding. Could using plant-derived sequences help address those fears and reduce the regulatory burden for crop biotechnologists?
Tony Conner and his colleagues from Plant and Food Research, New Zealand consider the potential for intragenic vectors in a paper in CAB Reviews. This involves finding DNA fragments within a plant species that are very similar to those from foreign DNA that have been used as vectors for many years. Various techniques have been developed, some involving small amounts of foreign DNA, but fully intragenic plants have no foreign DNA and are entirely composed from plant-derived sequences.