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Alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein had a dream: He wanted to ‘seed the human race with his DNA’

Jeffrey E. Epstein, the wealthy financier who is accused of sex trafficking, had an unusual dream: He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch.

Mr. Epstein over the years confided to scientists and others about his scheme, according to four people familiar with his thinking, although there is no evidence that it ever came to fruition.

Mr. Epstein’s vision reflected his longstanding fascination with what has become known as transhumanism: the science of improving the human population through technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Critics have likened transhumanism to a modern-day version of eugenics, the discredited field of improving the human race through controlled breeding.

Then there was Mr. Epstein’s interest in eugenics.

On multiple occasions starting in the early 2000s, Mr. Epstein told scientists and businessmen about his ambitions to use his New Mexico ranch as a base where women would be inseminated with his sperm and would give birth to his babies, according to two award-winning scientists and an adviser to large companies and wealthy individuals, all of whom Mr. Epstein told about it.

There is no indication that it would have been against the law.

Read full, original post: Jeffrey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA

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Milkweed: Mother’s milk for monarch butterflies, but yield-robbing weed for farmers

Key to the existence of the monarch butterfly is the lowly milkweed. It is the only food source for caterpillars during the butterfly’s annual multi-generational migration from Mexico to Canada. And it is becoming increasingly hard to find, declining by 58 percent from 1999 to 2010, according to an estimate by Iowa and Minnesota scientists.

And since the weed-killer glyphosate has been largely responsible (at least during the past two decades) for killing milkweed, the plant has become a rallying symbol for environmentalists and anti-GMO activists. While the monarch faces a wide range of threats unrelated to milkweed depletion, efforts are underway to find a way to create more feeding zones, without adding to farmers’ weed woes.

Milkweed, itself, is a complicated plant. There is more than one species, and it’s important to match a geographic region with the right milkweed. One species, in particular, can be damaging to the monarch’s traditional migration pattern. The plant has never been a favorite of farmers. And its unique genetics, combined with agricultural attitudes that go back a century or two, make it difficult to expect an easy solution.

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Milkweed 101

The best known milkweed is, not surprisingly, the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. There are many other species, however, including nine native species in the state of Iowa alone, according to a study by Iowa State University researchers. In Central and North America, the US Forest Service estimates there are more than 100 species of milkweed.

The common milkweed ranges from the US South and Midwest (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana and the Dakotas) into southern Canada, and is found in every eastern state  except for Florida (which has other varieties). It can spread easily through production of rhizomes. It’s an opportunistic weed, preferring sunny areas that have been disturbed (by us). Hence, it favors agricultural fields, fencerows, roadsides and other open areas. The Forest Service referred to the common milkweed as “somewhat weedy.” For many farmers, the Forest Service description is too kind.

It’s a weed

Pam Smith, crops technology editor at The Progressive Farmer, recalled having to pick milkweed on her father’s farm:

A good chunk of my childhood was spent ridding our farm fields of milkweed. The sticky, white, latex goo that came with each cut seemed to seep into the soul and glue hand to hoe.

Milkweed has long stood in the way of higher yields for farmers. In the 1970s and 1980s, farm infestation by milkweed was increasing, and farmers used a number of herbicides to control its growth, according to a study by Iowa State University ecologist John Pleasants and University of Minnesota conservation biologist Karen Oberhauser. When glyphosate was introduced, it was quickly adopted by farmers (along with consumers), and, with the adoption of glyphosate-resistant crops, milkweed populations were slashed in agricultural settings

The common milkweed’s genome was sequenced in 2011 by a team at Oregon State University. The effort yielded information on how the milkweed reproduced and thrived, as well as how it formed toxic compounds known as cardenolides, which are toxic to most animals — the exception being the  monarch butterfly caterpillar (it is, however, toxic to adult monarchs). This defense helps the plant fend off an estimated 450 species of possible predators. And its genome, one would think, would help determine a way to engineer the plant to fend off glyphosate. If you have glyphosate-resistant milkweed, you can plant it side-by-side with corn or soybean, right?

Wrong, said Orley Taylor, a professor of ecology at the University of Kansas and founder and director of MonarchWatch, a resource site on monarchs. Of the 16 (and counting) weeds that have evolved into a form that resists glyphosate, none of them is milkweed. This is due to the plant’s genetics — milkweeds have “low reproductive rates and long pre-reproductive life histories,” Taylor said.

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But just as important is the farmer’s (somewhat understandable) resistance to planting a weed that not only resists herbicides, but will be just as difficult to remove from a field as it was before the introduction of glyphosate. According to Taylor:

The idea of creating an HT milkweed has been an on-going joke to more than 10 yrs. A logical answer, right? Actually, no. This is not the way to go. Farmers want clean fields. It’s a matter of some pride and “dirty” milkweed infested fields caused many farmers to send their children to the fields to chop milkweeds in June and July. The milkweeds would regrow later but by then the corn was so high outsiders couldn’t see these dirty fields and couldn’t tease their neighbors about poor weed control. The children sent to the fields to chop milkweed grew to hate it and the antipathy continues today.

An interstate solution

What then, if not genetics or replanting milkweed in fields, can boost populations of the monarch caterpillar’s sustenance?

Pleas for milkweed planting have come from many quarters, and suggested replanting areas have included the White House garden and the yards of citizen scientists. Several states, particularly in the Midwest, have developed monarch restoration programs. Most of these involve planting milkweeds, if not in farms, then along roadsides, gardens and other open, non-agricultural areas. Taylor, in fact, has proposed developing a roadside network of milkweeds extending along the sides and medians of Interstate 35, which extends through the spine of Monarch migration country, from south Texas up into Minnesota. Others, including Pleasants and Oberhauser, have proposed that roadside milkweed plantings could help boost monarch populations during migration.

But each area has specific species and strains of milkweed. This diagram shows the ecological niches that correspond with certain milkweeds.

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Plants that are not native could prove invasive in all the wrong ways. A type that is typically the most available in retail nurseries is the tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), which is not native to anywhere north of Mexico, lives much longer than native species and can cause Monarchs to remain in temporary migration areas instead of moving on. In some areas, the planting of this milkweed has actually contributed to the problems facing the monarch, serving as a reminder that there are no easy solutions to this complex problem.

A version of this article originally ran on the GLP on July 12, 2017.

Andrew Porterfield is a writer and editor, and has worked with numerous academic institutions, companies and non-profits in the life sciences. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @AMPorterfield

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Creating Superman (and woman): Who benefits from human enhancement?

“Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousand fold.”

That’s what the character Khan Noonien Singh remarked on the original Star Trek episode Space Seed. Portrayed brilliantly by the late Ricardo Montalbán, Khan was the leader of a group of enhanced humans created through eugenics.

From the demigods of Greek mythology to the superheroes of 20th century comic books, we’ve been intrigued by the idea of human enhancement for quite a while, but we’ve also worried about negative consequences. Both in the Greek myths and modern comics and television, each enhanced human has been flawed in some way.

In the area of lifespan enhancement, for instance, Tithonus, though granted eternal life, shrunk and shriveled into a grasshopper, because his immortal girlfriend Eos, forgot to ask Zeus to give him eternal youth. Achilles, while super strong and agile, had a weak spot at the back of his heal, and Superman would lose his power if exposed to “kryptonite”. As for Khan’s people, their physical superiority, both physical and mental, made them overly ambitious, causing a third world war that nearly destroyed humanity in the Star Trek backstory.

khanUsing genetic modification, nanotechnology, bionics, reconstructive surgery, hormones, drugs or any combination of these approaches, real-life human enhancement is looking ever more achievable. As with the fictional examples, the idea of enhancement being a double-edged sword will surely remain part of the discussion. At the same time, though, because enhancement means mastering and manipulating human physiology and the basis of consciousness and self-awareness, the road to enhancement will be paved with advances beneficial to the sick and the disabled. This point must be at center stage when we weigh the pluses and minuses in various enhancement categories, especially physical capability, mental function, and lifespan.

Steroids and drugs

In a real sense, physical enhancement is not a science fiction milestone that we’re on the verge of achieving, but a spectrum along which we’ve been moving in increments for some time. For years, anabolic steroids have been banned in competitive sports and athletes caught using them have been shamed, as it’s widely understood that these agents boost physical performance. Similarly, using amphetamines, such as Adderall, which is prescribed for hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, gets professional athletes into trouble.

However, attitudes shift when we move from sports to academic settings. Survey studies on the campuses of highly competitive colleges and universities in multiple countries suggest that large numbers of students either take, or are open to the idea of taking, Adderall and similar drugs to enhance cognitive function. Because a student who does not have ADHD acquires “super-sharp attention and concentration,” one psychologist writer says, “It’s no different than an athlete who’s pumped up on steroids.”

But among the highest achieving college students–in other words future leaders in our society– the trend is to view enhancement differently from enhancement in settings of competitive sports. 33 percent of students at an Ivy League college believe that using ADHD drugs as study aids, or to gain advantage over other students, is not a form of cheating. Another 25 percent are unsure and only 41 percent are sure that the practice amounts to cheating.

Evolving into digitality

Beyond cognition-enhancing drugs is the idea to improve brain function with hardware and software. Some argue that “parts of us have already evolved into digitality,” and there are projects in the works aimed at creating implantable brain chips. This means bioelectronic devices, equivalent to an external hard drive or a jump drive, that enhance the memory of your laptop when you plug it in, but this would enhance your brain. People may worry that this is not natural, but just as Adderall does good for narcoleptics and people with ADHD, a memory chip for the brain could help people with Alzheimer disease and other causes of dementia. With such conditions in mind, researchers are already studying the use of such chips to restore memory in laboratory animal Alzheimer models.

A brain implant is one example of a larger category of devices that we call artificial body parts, or bionics. Widely popularized by the 1970s television series

milThe Six Million Dollar Man, the term “bionic” implies a limb or an organ that’s not merely prosthetic, but also functional. In the series, the lead character, Steve Austin, had a bionic arm, eye, and two legs that looked natural and performed dramatically better than the biological parts they replaced, while a spin-off series, The Bionic Woman featured a character with similar bionic parts, but an ear instead of the eye. Today, a remake is in the works, updated with six billion dollars, instead of six million, as the price tag for the character’s bionics –and for the fact that Steve Austin-style bionics are becoming technologically feasible.

Using legs as an example, while current mechanical models still don’t look like natural legs, people are using mechanical legs to walk, run, and even to climb rocks. All such people are amputees who lost one or both legs to injury or disease, but this may not always be the case. Eventually, the technology could evolve to bionic legs that can propel a real-life Steve Austin on a jump to the roof of a two-story building, or a run at cheetah-like velocities. In our free society, this could lead some people to have their natural legs replaced with bionics, even before their natural legs no longer function. The same goes for other body parts, and there will be huge debates about the ethics of such choices and the surgeons who agree to go along with it. But as those debates rage on, more and more double amputees will regain the ability to walk and run with new legs ever more similar to their old ones.

Biogenetic approaches

Scientists are making strides toward the goal of growing replacement body parts, or growing tissues that can be assembled into new body parts, using stem cells, genetic engineering, and other biotechnology. Known as regenerative medicine, this area of research is moving in parallel with bionics and there’s always discussion regarding which strategy will prove more practical sooner for routine replacement of a body part. Particularly to replace a heart or other internal organs, the idea of transgenic organs (organs created by combining human tissue with tissues of other species, such as pig) may be further ahead now compared with the mechanical approach, although both technologies are moving forward dramatically. In the course of time, all body parts should be replaceable, and this will have implications for debates regarding the human lifespan.

Lifespan enhancement

Research involving bowhead whales has suggested that it may one day be possible to extend the human lifespan to 200 years. On top of this, a Swiss research project at the University of Bern succeeded in increasing the lifespan of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster by 50-60 percent. The researchers did this using a genetic manipulation that causes bad or aging cells to be eliminated efficiently throughout a fly’s life, while healthy cells are selected to maintain body tissues. Essentially, the research team identified a quality control system that can be tuned up with a genetic switch.

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Since the relevant gene, called azot, is conserved between flies and humans, reviews of the study have been optimistic regarding the potential for human applications. Currently, it’s thought that, in the absence of disease, the absolute maximum potential human lifespan tops out at just over 120 years, due to depletion of stem cells. This hypothesis is supported by studies of samples taken from a woman who died in 2005 at the age of 115. But, using a handful of genetic strategies combined with stem cell approaches of regenerative medicine, science in the near future might be able expand the maximum potential lifespan dramatically. This, in concert with bionic enhancements for areas of the body that fail sooner, could lead to human lifespans measured in multiple centuries, or longer.

Would such capability increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots? No, says Dr. Helen Fisher, research professor at the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at Rutgers University. “We know from basic economics that the price is driven down.”

Beyond replacement of individual body parts and tissues, based on research in several fields, Fisher expects that a kind of “add on body” will be available at some point. There’s no way to do it yet, but some neuroscientists are already brainstorming possible ways to upload the human mind into a computer. We back up our important documents, so why not the brain, or, more precisely, the mind? The capability to protect a person’s consciousness or sentience as readily as we do with a computer file would raise an interesting philosophical question – namely, if you can back up a mind, you can have a copy; does this mean that a person can be in two places at once, that a new person would be created, or something along those lines? Whatever it means, Fisher thinks humans will need a prosthetic body with conventional senses (seeing, hearing, touching, etc.) to interact with one another and the environment, rather than say a cloud computer where their minds can simply exist.

Frivolous applications

orphan blackAs we move into an age of human enhancement, we can expect to see some people essentially “wasting” the technology. Just as people use social media technology to discuss a sandwich they didn’t like, or to update their friends constantly about their cats, people will get enhancements whose purpose the rest of humanity will not understand. A simple web search will reveal all sorts of strange anatomic modifications that people have obtained through plastic surgery. Some turn out to be hoaxes, but many are real. Imagining a movement aimed at self-directed human evolution, the BBC America science fiction series Orphan Black explored this idea with characters sporting various, bizarre surgical augmentations, including a man with a tail.

The wasting technology phenomenon goes with the territory, but it’s not a reason to reject progress. On the other hand, the potential for emerging, enhancement-relevant innovations to change humanity is pretty big, and this means that all of the discussion and debate is a good thing. We should embrace that, along with the emerging technology itself as we move forward, but never forget that it is already helping those seeking not to be enhanced, but merely restored. 

A version of this article originally ran on the GLP on May 12, 2017.

David Warmflash is an astrobiologist, physician and science writer. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @CosmicEvolution

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7 things to know about autism, including why it’s unlikely there will ever be a ‘cure’

To help spread awareness — and cut through the falsehoods, half-truths, and misinformation — here are seven things everyone should know about autism.

1) What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopment disability. People with autism have difficulty communicating or interacting socially, and may engage in repetitive behaviors. They interact, behave, and learn in unique ways. 

3) Are rates of autism increasing?

Yes, they are.

The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network estimates the prevalence of autism among 8-year-old children in the U.S. Its estimates are based on more than 300,000 children across the U.S., with updates released every two years.

6) Is there a cure for autism?

No, there is no cure for autism, but the question — often phrased in this manner — is misleading.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a disease. It seems unlikely that we’ll ever cure it with a pill or shot; however, therapies and interventions have been developed to help individuals and families address the challenges of living with autism.

With improved awareness, dispelled half-truths, and scientists working toward new treatment options, the future may be very bright indeed.

Read full, original post: 7 things everyone should know about autism

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GMO glyphosate-tolerant soybean has ‘no adverse effects’ on male rat reproduction system

Glyphosate tolerant soybeans represent a large portion of soybeans grown and fed to farm animals around the world. Despite their widespread use for many years, some have raised questions regarding their safety because the soybeans were genetically modified. The CP4 EPSPS gene which imparts resistance to topical application of the herbicide glyphosate was introduced into soybeans.

To assess their safety on the rat reproduction system, male Sprague Dawley rats were fed either glyphosate-tolerant (GM) soybean …. or near-isogenic, non-GM …. soybean meal …. Body weights and behavior were monitored daily, serum enzymes and histologic and EM appearance of the testis, and sperm morphology were also examined. After 90 days of feeding, no adverse effects were observed in rats fed glyphosate-tolerant soybeans.

Read full, original article: Evaluation of the effects of feeding glyphosate-tolerant soybeans (CP4 EPSPS) on the testis of male Sprague-Dawley rats (Behind paywall)

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Bollworm pest shows signs of resistance to latest GMO Bt corn, cotton in southern US

Also known as the corn earworm, the cotton bollworm has spent the last decade steadily evolving resistance to most of the corn and cotton Bt proteins on the market that target it.

Now, entomologists across the South are reporting increased feeding and survival in Bt corn and cotton fields expressing the Vip3A protein, once believed to be the final Bt stronghold against this pest. Texas scientists are testing some of these suspect bollworm populations for resistance.

In the past few years, researchers have documented resistance in the bollworm/earworm to some of the older Bt Cry proteins found in three-gene cotton varieties (Bollgard 3, TwinLink Plus and Widestrike 3) and pyramided corn hybrids (Viptera, Leptra and Trecepta). That has put tremendous selection pressure on the Vip3A protein in these varieties and hybrids, entomologists told DTN.

Read full, original article: Bollworm Battle Continues

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Viewpoint: New psychological guidelines targeting toxic masculinity are ‘profoundly anti-male’

Amidst the many challenges faced by many North American fathers in their efforts to maintain some semblance of meaningful involvement in the lives of their children, six months ago the American Psychological Association issued their guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men, 13 years in the making and consolidating 40 years of empirical research, mainly from a feminist standpoint. The guidelines are based on the view that “traditional masculinity” and a masculine sense of entitlement is the root cause of men’s mental health problems, not structural factors such as misguided family laws and policies and mean-spirited cultural responses to men-at-risk.

I add my voice to the chorus denouncing the ideological bias of the guidelines as profoundly anti-male, as essentially a denigration of men and misandrist. The authors of the guidelines report exploit narrow definitions of masculinity for their own ends. The view that violent and abusive behaviors are engrained in cultural prescriptions of traditional masculinity and reflected in masculine character is not based on the lived experiences of men and boys with mental health issues.

In sum, the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men contain many useful directions for practice but should be treated with much caution.

Read full, original post: Toxic Masculinity or Cultural Misandry?

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HPV vaccine better than expected at shielding against cancer. Why are anti-vaxxers fighting it?

New research shows that the HPV vaccine is exceeding expectations in protecting individuals from HPV infection and precancerous cells. 

So why is it also becoming a key target of many anti-vaxxers?

First, [Ob/Gyn Abbey Berenson] noted that many don’t realize the magnitude of the risk from HPV infection. “More than 80 percent of sexually active individuals will acquire an infection during their lifetime,” Berenson told me. Once they have the virus, many will clear it without further issues, but the virus lingers in about 10 percent of infected women and can lead to precancerous cervical lesions. 

Then there’s the idea that the vaccine hasn’t been tested enough. “Though it has been on the market in the U.S. for 13 years, there is the misconception that the vaccine is still ‘new,’” notes Berenson. Yet there are newer vaccines that lack such controversy, including several of the vaccines that prevent meningitis.

And finally, people may think that because protection is not perfect, it’s not worth getting.

We have a vaccine that prevents an assortment of cancers, but we cannot allow misinformation and anti-scientific mumbo jumbo to slow our progress. 

Read full, original post: The HPV vaccine is on trial as anti-vaxxers mobilize against effective cancer prevention

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Roundup trial: Bayer’s glyphosate-cancer legal losses signal public’s flagging trust in regulators

Jurors have sided with plaintiffs in all three cases over Bayer AG’s herbicide Roundup to go to trial so far, finding that glyphosate causes cancer and awarding a total of more than $2.2 billion in damages.

Those results underscore a growing skepticism of juries to trust the science conducted by regulators, which, if it continues, could have profound impacts on the ability of companies to defend themselves in product liability cases ….

“Over the past 10 years, jurors have become increasingly skeptical of government regulators ….” said Allan Kanner, a plaintiffs’ attorney with Kanner & Whiteley LLC who handles toxic tort cases.

Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG last year and which makes Roundup, has been accused of covering up the chemical’s health risks.

Despite losing at trial in each of the three cases to go before a jury, the company remains confident that appellate judges will be more willing to side with the company’s toxicology evidence, which includes findings by both federal and international regulators.

But Kanner said that strategy is based on a premise that regulatory experts still hold a deciding influence over jurors. “That model …. is based on a world view among jurors that no longer exists, or is rapidly eroding,” he said.

Read full, original article: Bayer Jury Awards on Roundup Underscore Legal Rift Over Science

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USDA: Purple corn could help battle obesity, diabetes

Purple corn is more than tasty and eye-catching. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a game-changing element of purple corn – it may help reduce the risk of major health diseases.

[T]he researchers found some with elevated levels of a naturally occurring chemical that may fight obesity, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. They also found that the outer layer of kernels might be used as natural food coloring.

The research team …. created 20 varieties of the Apache Red maize strain, each with a different amount and type of anthocyanins, the element that gives the maize its distinct color.

In one finding, the scientists tested purple corn’s phenolic compounds against insulin resistance. They induced insulin resistance in the mouse fat cells, treated the cells with the anthocyanin compounds, and monitored the glucose uptake. They found that insulin resistance decreased by 29-64 percent ….

Read full, original article: Purple Corn Offers Benefits Inside and Out

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Amputees could ‘feel’ again with innovative prosthetic arm

For people who have lost a hand or arm, prosthetics may restore some functioning, but not the sense of touch itself. But scientists at the University of Utah say they’ve created technology that can return some degree of feeling for people with amputations.

There has been work elsewhere in creating prosthetics capable of providing sensation. But according to the team, the sensations people have while using them are limited and imprecise. They claim their work comes much closer to mimicking how our hands feel.

This happens through the surgical implantation of hundreds of electrodes directly next to the nerve fibers. They can “record from (listen to) or stimulate (talk to) small subsets of nerve fibers very selectively, and reasonably comprehensively,” [biomedical engineer Gregory] Clark explained via email. This allows for a wide range of specific sensory and motor signals to be received and sent back between the prosthesis and the nervous system.

It’ll take years at least before these devices could be commercially available, though, even if these trials and others go off without a hitch. But that’s still enough time for people living with limb loss today to someday benefit.

Read full, original post: Scientists Have Created a Prosthetic Arm That Lets Patients Feel Touch Again

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Nigeria readies GMO cowpea field trials ahead of 2020 commercialization

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has disclosed that it would commence the trial of the pod borer resistant cowpea this season, ahead of the commercialization of the new variety.

The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) had granted an environment release of PBR cowpea which was developed by the Institute of Agriculture Research (IAR), Zaria, and the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF).

Regional coordinator of the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Issoufou Abdourrahman Kolo, who made this known in an interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja, [July 31], said the trials would be held in all agroecology zones in Nigeria from the Sahel to the humid forest to see how the cowpea would perform ….

Kolo, while noting that the foundation would also go on farmers’ field to test the cowpea …. with real farmers, said they would be organizing [a] field day for everybody to see how the cowpea grows.

Read full, original article: AATF Set To Commence Variety Performance Trial Of PBR Cowpea

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Impossible Foods ramps up supply as Burger King plans nationwide GMO plant-based Whopper launch

Plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods on [July 31] announced a partnership with major meat supplier OSI Group, a longtime producer of patties for fast-food chains, as it ramps up to meet demand from consumers and restaurants including Burger King.

Burger King started offering the Impossible Whopper in April in 59 stores in and around St. Louis, and is expected to launch nationally, which would put the plant-based Whopper on the menu in about 7,000 Burger Kings.

The partnership between the vegan burger maker and one of the biggest meat suppliers comes as young, environmentally conscious consumers are feasting on plant-based patties and sausages.

“We got ourselves into a supply-demand imbalance in which we frankly just did not anticipate the level of demand that came from consumers,” ​Sheetal Shah, Impossible Foods’ senior vice president of product and operations, said.

Read full, original article: Impossible Foods signs major meat supplier to make its plant-based burgers

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Viewpoint: We should be skeptical of memory boosting promises by wearable brain stimulators like ‘Humm’

I came across a brain stimulation device called Humm that promises to improve your cognitive function and memory if you stick it to your forehead.

There are several broadly similar devices on the market, which make use of the principle of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) – passing a current through the head (the front of the head, generally) in order to modulate brain activity.

In the case of Humm, the stimulation is applied at a frequency of 6 Hz which is meant to enhance theta waves in the prefrontal cortex.

What caught my eye about Humm is that they report doing a randomized, controlled study to show that their device really works and isn’t just a placebo. Here’s the write-up of the experiment.

Humm stimulation might be in phase with my theta waves, enhancing them, but it would be equally likely to be out of phase and suppress them. There is indeed evidence that individually-tailored theta tACS can disrupt working memory, although to be fair, plenty of other studies show a benefit. My point is that, a priori, there is no reason to assume a beneficial effect of this kind of stimulation.

Read full, original post: An Electric “Humm” To Make You Smarter?