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September 24, 2017

019 The SciBabe Talks Toxins; Your Questions Answered

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Today chemophobia rules supreme.  From fast-food establishments to farming critics, everyone seems to be an expert, except the experts!

Talking Biotech #19 features The SciBabe, Yvette d’Entremont (@TheSciBabe).  She has experience in the chemical industries and a background in applied toxicology.  This is a light-hearted discussion of “toxic”, what it means, and what we really need to worry about.  In the second part, Kevin Folta answers your questions, covering Dr. Don Huber, IARC and glyphosate, using his slides for your presentations, and student tracts in science communication.

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2 Comments on 019 The SciBabe Talks Toxins; Your Questions Answered

  1. there are very few species-specific pesticides. species-specific pesticides affect the biology of only one species, e. g. lures, mating disruptors using pheromones. Most biologicals affect multiple species across taxa above the species level. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is not species specific. Various strains are toxic at the ordinal level or across orders. There are 400,000 described species of beetles, 180,000 described species of lepidoptera, etc. There are strains of Bt that are toxic to non-insect species. There is a Bt in the paws of cats, for example.

    Nearly all of the major IRAC classes of insecticides are highly broad-spectrum with a few moderately broad spectrum. The same is true of the classes of herbicides, etc. Large chemical companies primarily work on discovering, developing, and marketing broad-spectrum pesticides. From what i am learning, the new generation of insecticides are the RNAi’s. Apparently, these are being developed using highly conserved genes. This will mean that they also will be broad-spectrum.

    Pesticides have non-target affects. These chemicals generally are toxic to beneficial organisms including pollinators, predators, and parasites. There are other affects on the environment.

    • You are exactly right. We were a little loose with the language when saying it is “species specific”.

      And yes, there are non-target effects, although products like Bt crops confine the effects to species that feed on the plant, which is a good thing. I’ve yet to read convincing evidence of effects from pollen on pollinators.

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