Podcast: Neuralink brain chips; Flu vaccines during COVID; US farm system unraveling?

canola oregon seed industry debate cross pollination willamette valley

Elon Musk’s company Neuralink recently debuted its brain implant in pigs, pushing us a little closer to integrating humans and computers. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, getting a flu shot this fall could be the difference between life and death, say some experts. Critics fear America’s farming system is about to unravel in the face of climate-change fueled water shortages and unsustainable growing practices that jeopardize soil health. How serious is this threat to our food supply?

Join geneticist Kevin Folta and GLP editor Cameron English on this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies as they break down these latest news stories:

Brain implants that read and write neuron signals are one step closer to widespread use after Neuralink demonstrated how the devices work in pigs. The initial goal is to use these tiny computer chips to bypass spinal cord injuries and restore movement for people who are paralyzed, a reasonable goal since similar devices have already been employed.

More distant applications may include restoring sight to people with eye injuries, minimizing pain and even recording memories. As the technology continues to develop, though, some scientists warn that Neuralink has to carefully consider the risk of serious brain injury, particularly brain bleeding.

memory chip brain implant

It’s important to get a flu shot every year, but it could be essential in 2020, say some infectious disease experts. With the deadly SARS-COV-2 virus already circulating, a bad flu season may lead to many more illnesses and deaths, the results of an overburdened health care system unable to treat people suffering from one or both infections. Conversely, social distancing measures and masking used to stem COVID-19 transmission have apparently mitigated this year’s flu season in the southern hemisphere, and could have the same effect in the US. Whatever the case, the flu vaccine is a wise insurance policy in the face of uncertain risk.

America’s agricultural system produces an abundance of affordable food, but  unsustainable practices employed on many conventional farms has locked that system “in a state of slow-motion ecological unraveling,” writes Guardian contributor Tom Philpott. As climate change accelerates, the problem can only get worse—unless we right the ship and rethink how we produce food.

But the question remains: how do we do that? Do we solve this problem with “a direct political challenge to big agribusiness” firms that profit from conventional farming, as Philpott maintains, or a greater reliance on technology that reduces land use while increasing crop yields?

Related article:  Young scientists urge New Zealand's Green Party to embrace CRISPR for 'sake of the climate'

Subscribe to the Science Facts and Fallacies Podcast on iTunes and Spotify.

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

Cameron J. English is the GLP’s managing editor. BIO. Follow him on Twitter @camjenglish

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped

Video: We can ‘finally’ grow GMOs—Nigerian farmer explains why developing countries need biotech crops

Nigerian farmer Patience Koku discusses the GMO crop trials she is conducting on her farm, and why growers can "rise ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend