Singing the praises of the stick’s role in human evolution

| | January 22, 2018

Sticks are probably where the story of craft begins—the point at which our very distant ancestors progressed from animalistic existences to lives materially enhanced by the objects around them. The transition is most notoriously depicted in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when, in a moment of epiphany, an

Marijuana genome map promises to unlock potential of ‘magical’ plant

| | January 22, 2018

The fledgling cannabis industry is full of wide-eyed claims about what pot can do. Outperform your favorite energy drink? Maybe. Cure cancer? Worth a try. The biggest believers and entrepreneurs make the plant sound almost magical. Now one startup, [Sunrise Genetics] has the key to keep the science from the hype: the first-ever full map of the cannabis genome.

Report: ‘Little doubt’ GMOs increase crop yields

| | January 22, 2018

Editor’s note: Gary Brester is a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University Some have questioned whether GM crops have been responsible for increased crop yields. Comparing US yields to European Union yields (where GM crops are banned) provides evidence that GM technologies have increased crop yields…Banning yield-enhancing technologies means that food crop production

Monsanto looks to launch new herbicide-tolerant canola, soybean varieties in coming years

| | January 22, 2018

Dicamba-tolerant canola is coming and so is a triple-threat soybean, resistant to glyphosate, dicamba and glufosinate. That’s just some of what’s in Monsanto’s crop and weed-control pipeline, Robb Fraley, the seed and pesticide giant’s executive vice-president and chief technology officer told reporters during a conference call Jan. 4. … Triple-stacked soybeans will hit fields sooner

‘Animal uplift’: Could we—and should we—make animals smarter?

| | January 22, 2018

Advances in neural implants and genetic engineering suggest that in the not–too–distant future we may be able to boost human intelligence. If that’s true, could we—and should we—bring our animal cousins along for the ride? … There’s already tantalizing evidence of the idea’s feasibility. As detailed in BBC Future, a group from MIT found that mice that were genetically engineered to express the human FOXP2

New Zealand garden centers continue selling neonicotinoid insecticides, won’t follow Bunnings’ lead

| | January 22, 2018

Kiwi garden centres will not immediately follow hardware giant Bunnings’ lead and stop selling controversial pesticides said to harm bees. Palmers Garden Centres, Kings Plant Barns and Oderings Garden Centres will not pull products containing neonicotinoids, but will continue to re-evaluate the situation and listen to customer feedback on the matter. Neonicotinoids are found in

Killing cancer cells with the body’s own internal clock

| | January 22, 2018

Women who work night shifts have substantially higher risks of breast, digestive system, and skin cancers, a recent study found. The findings reinforced a connection researchers have observed between cancer and the circadian clock, a biological system that controls the daily schedule of physiological processes. Now, in findings that could lead to a new class

Do you really own your own DNA?

| | January 22, 2018

Is DNA property? At first glance, the answer would appear to be yes. After all, why would surreptitiously swabbing someone’s DNA be any different than surreptitiously pickpocketing their wallet? … [John] Wilbanks, who is Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit seeking to foster open systems of biomedical research, says that property rights in DNA

EU seeks ‘clarity’ on court’s recommendation not to regulate new crop breeding techniques as GMOs

| | January 22, 2018

The European Commission expects “important” clarity on the scope of GMO legislation ahead of a Court ruling on new plant breeding techniques, an EU spokesperson told following the release of an Advocate General’s first opinion. European Court of Justice Advocate General Michal Bobek released on Thursday (18 January) his opinion following a request by France in

Genetic Literacy Project’s Top 6 Stories for the Week – Jan. 22, 2018

| January 21, 2018

Viewpoint: It’s unreasonable to think Big Ag controls pro-GMO scientists | Cameron English I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How genetic testing guided what to do next. | Ricki Lewis Tackling bees’ greatest threat: Lithium chloride could kill Varroa destructor mites without harming bees | Ross Pomeroy Deepening the nature v. nurture debate: How hormones impact development in the

Figuring out what a memory looks like in the brain

| | January 19, 2018

[Janice] Chen and her colleagues found something odd when they scanned viewers’ brains: as different people retold their own versions of the same scene [of BBC’s Sherlock], their brains produced remarkably similar patterns of activity. Chen is among a growing number of researchers using brain imaging to identify the activity patterns involved in creating and

Gene editing: How breeders use CRISPR and TALEN to improve crops, livestock

| | January 19, 2018

Animal and plant breeders are trying out a set of powerful new tools which have the potential to revolutionize agricultural practices and provide consumers with more healthy and safe food options. … [T]wo processes developed in recent years are accelerating breeders’ ability to genetically alter crops and animals and apply the brakes to harmful organisms.

Genetics may help us choose our friends

| | January 19, 2018

You may have more in common with your friends than you think, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Your genes may be similar, too. Past research has suggested that people tend to be somewhat genetically similar to their spouses and adult friends, likely because humans naturally gravitate toward people with whom they have

Top Mexican university endorses GMOs: ‘Unfair and immoral’ that farmers don’t have access to biotech

| | January 19, 2018

The national debate about the use of GMOs in Mexico experienced a significant shift when the technology received strong academic support from one of the most important colleges in Latin America. This past November, the Biotechnology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) publicly endorsed the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture.

Should the FDA have a say in ‘do-it-yourself’ biohacking?

| | January 19, 2018

In the past few months, the possibility of do-it-yourself genetic engineering has exited the realm of the purely hypothetical. … All of these attempts fall outside the purview of U.S. regulatory oversight, since the job of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t generally include policing what people can do to themselves. But this

Viewpoint: Plant scientists need to engage public on gene editing in agriculture

| | January 19, 2018

Easing the public into being more comfortable with genome-edited food will take more than simply stating facts according to Kevin Diehl. The director of regulatory product strategy, scientific affairs and industry relations for DuPont Pioneer in America provided the keynote address on the second day of TropAg 2017 in Brisbane [Australia]…. Mr Diehl gave an insight into

No set date to end glyphosate herbicide use in Germany, says agriculture minister

| January 19, 2018

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said on Thursday [Jan. 18] he could see no set date for an end to use of the controversial weed-killer glyphosate in Germany. Schmidt caused international controversy and a major row in Germany’s government coalition in November by unexpectedly backing a European Union Commission proposal to permit use of glyphosate

Hope for Huntington’s disease? New therapy shows promise in early trial

| | January 19, 2018

Huntington’s has no cure. Over decades biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into developing and testing pharmaceuticals for these devastating conditions, only to unleash storms of disappointment. Yet in December a ray of something approximating hope poked through when a California company released preliminary findings from its small Huntington’s study. Results from this early-stage clinical trial

Nigerian scientist hits back at anti-GMO group’s attack on approval of biotech cassava field trials

| | January 19, 2018

A research scientist, Paul Onyenekwe, has described the approval granted to two international agencies by a Nigerian regulatory agency to test run some genetically modified cassava in Nigeria as a welcome development. Mr. Onyenekwe, the President of Nigeria Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium, NBBC, was reacting to criticisms levelled against the approved field trials by some

Australia set to reduce regulations of CRISPR gene editing to speed up crop research

| | January 19, 2018

Australia is set to reform how it regulates new genetic engineering techniques, which experts say will help to dramatically speed up health and agriculture research. The changes will enable agricultural scientists to breed higher yielding crops faster and cheaper, or ones resistant to drought and disease. Australia’s gene technology regulator Raj Bhula has proposed reducing

Are ‘incredible genes’ protecting President Trump’s health?

| | January 19, 2018

Unless someone swipes one of President Trump’s used forks from the Mar-a-Lago dining room and sends it to 23andMe for DNA analysis, the world will simply have to guess what the White House physician meant when he told reporters…that Trump “has incredible genes, I just assume.” “Incredible genes” may seem like hand-waving, but there’s no

European court recommends gene-edited crops be exempt from EU GMO laws

| | January 18, 2018

Gene editing technologies should be largely exempted from EU laws on GM food, although individual states can regulate them if they choose, the European court’s advocate general has said. The opinion may have far-reaching consequences for new breeding techniques that can remove specific parts of a plant’s genetic code and foster herbicide-resistant traits. Hundreds of millions of

Glyphosate herbicide harms human gut microbiome? ‘Not biologically plausible’

| January 18, 2018

[O]n numerous occasions I have heard glyphosate critics argue that glyphosate should be opposed because it might alter the microbiome in humans. In a post on his Facebook page, The Mad Virologist discussed a recently published study on the effects of glyphosate on gut microorganisms, and inspired me to unpack the microbiome argument against glyphosate and

Viewpoint: GMO, conventional or organic? Let farmers decide

| | January 18, 2018

When one disparages farms that are organic or ones that use full-on technology, this does not take into consideration the importance of all food systems. … Standing in a field of GM canola in Western Australia, we were discussing genetically modified versus non-GM crop production. On this farm, the high salinity of the soil was

Rural-urban divide: Groundbreaking gene therapies could exacerbate inequality in cancer care

| | January 18, 2018

Two new cancer treatments have shown miraculous cures, but if you happen to live in Arkansas or Montana, or a handful of other rural states—let alone outside the U.S.—you’ll have to travel hundreds of miles to get them. And it’s by no means certain that they’ll eventually be available everywhere. These groundbreaking gene therapies, Kymriah and Yescarta, were

Are genetically engineered Arctic apples safe to eat?

| | January 18, 2018

The Arctic apple is the juiciest newcomer to produce aisles. It has the special ability to resist browning after being cut, which protects its flavor and nutritional value. Browning also contributes to food waste by causing unappealing bruising on perfectly edible apples. … Are Arctic apples safe? After over a decade of research, regulatory agencies

EU braces for landmark decision on whether CRISPR, other New Plant Breeding Techniques will be regulated as GMOs

| | January 18, 2018

UPDATE: The European Court of Justice’s advocate general has said gene editing technologies should be largely exempted from EU laws on GM food. The European Court of Justice on Thursday [Jan. 18] is set to issue a preliminary opinion on whether so-called New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) should fall under the EU’s laws governing genetically

Depression and epilepsy may share same genetic roots

| January 18, 2018

From the time of Hippocrates, physicians have suspected a link between epilepsy and depression. Now, for the first time, scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Columbia University have found evidence that seizures and mood disorders such as depression may share the same genetic cause in some people with epilepsy, which may lead to better screening

MERS treatment could come from genetically engineered cows

| | January 17, 2018

Human antibodies made in genetically engineered cows have proved safe in an early stage clinical trial…and could be developed into a treatment for the fatal viral disease, MERS. MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a SARS-like viral infection first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 that has caused deadly outbreaks in the Middle East

‘Sabotage’ of field trials by anti-GMO activists causes seed company to reconsider research in France

| January 17, 2018

Limagrain, the world’s fourth-largest seed maker, will consider moving its research activities out of France if field trials in its home market continue to be sabotaged by opponents of genetically modified crops. The French cooperative group was targeted last month by protestors who invaded test fields southeast of Paris and scattered non-commercial seed. That was

Breast cancer and BRCA: Mutation doesn’t affect patient survival rate

| | January 17, 2018

Young breast cancer patients with faulty BRCA genes have the same survival chances as those without, a study has found. The researchers, who looked at almost 3,000 women, also found outcomes were the same whatever kind of treatment women had – including mastectomies. … The study, published in The Lancet Oncology, found 12% of 2,733 women

Can ‘public good’ GMOs change the conversation?

| | January 17, 2018

Today, as technology is becoming more accessible and less expensive, smaller labs and researchers are able to produce GMOs at a reduced costs — with the seed produced available for public good, not profit. And this allows them to respond to small, localized food production issues such as bananas in Uganda and papaya in Hawaii. For the development

Mars in 15 years? Not without overcoming 3 big challenges

| | January 17, 2018

Editor’s note: Zahaan Bharmal is the Head of Marketing Strategic Communications at Google and has a degree in Physics from Oxford University In July this year, the Earth and Mars will come closer than at any other point in the last 15 years. They will be in perihelic opposition, meaning Mars will reach the nearest

Uganda’s Minister of Science: Country will be better off with GMO law

| | January 17, 2018

Uganda’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Elioda Tumwesigye, has said Uganda should embrace science and innovation for faster economic transformation of Uganda. Tumwesigye said it is surprising that Uganda and other African countries are still debating Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) yet countries like America had the debate many years ago and have since advanced.

Why this winter’s flu is wreaking so much havoc

| | January 17, 2018

To put it flatly, H3N2 is the problem child of seasonal flu. It causes more deaths than the other influenza A virus, H1N1, as well as flu B viruses. It’s a quirky virus that seems, at every turn, to misbehave and make life miserable for the people who contract it, the scientists trying to keep

Viewpoint: Russia Today’s ‘fake news’ about GMOs is a strategic attack by Putin on US science and technology

| | January 17, 2018

On Sunday [Jan. 7], CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a segment on the propaganda role of Russian news network RT, or Russia Today. … RT, the Kremlin’s primary English-language propaganda arm, is the mouthpiece for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda. Fake news is its stock in trade, as illustrated by its blatant disinformation attacks on the reporting of news by respected media outlets

Neuroevolution: Artificial intelligence learns by adapting and evolving

| | January 16, 2018

[An] old idea—improving neural networks not through teaching, but through evolution—is revealing its potential. Five new papers from Uber in San Francisco, California, demonstrate the power of so-called neuroevolution to play video games, solve mazes, and even make a simulated robot walk. Neuroevolution [is] a process of mutating and selecting the best neural networks. … At Uber, such

Non-GMO, organic, gluten-free: Are food labels overwhelming consumers?

| January 16, 2018

Editor’s note: The following is part of an editorial by Capital Press, a website covering agriculture in the US West Foodies, farmers, processors and others spend a lot of time talking about labels, and there are plenty to talk about. They include how and where food was grown and processed and what is — and isn’t

Viewpoint: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni should trust country’s scientists—not activists—on GMO safety

| | January 16, 2018

Editor’s note: Arthur Makara is the executive director of the Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development in Uganda When [Uganda’s] President [Yoweri] Museveni announced his decision to defer signing the National Biosafety Act 2017 into law a few days ago, I wrote a piece clarifying that he is likely to have been misinformed. I based my

‘Bioprinting’ body parts could become a reality—if we clear some hurdles

| January 16, 2018

Printed replacement human body parts might seem like science fiction, but this technology is rapidly becoming a reality with the potential to greatly contribute to regenerative medicine. Before any real applications, “bioprinting” still faces many technical challenges. Processing the bio-ink and making it stick to itself and hold the desired printed gel structure have been

Hardware chain Bunnings Warehouse pulls neonicotinoid insecticides over bee health concerns

| | January 16, 2018

A controversial pesticide allegedly linked to bee deaths will be pulled from [Australian, New Zealand, and UK hardware store chain] Bunnings’ shelves by the end of this year, a spokesman has confirmed. The canned product Yates Confidor is a class of pesticide which some studies suggest affects bees’ navigation and immune systems, resulting in colony death.

Lay off the ibuprofen? Painkiller may lower male testosterone

| | January 16, 2018

In recent decades, prompted by concerns that men’s sperm quality is declining, researchers have looked at things they suspect of potentially disrupting the body’s endocrine system. … In a study published…in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that a concentrated dose of the over-the-counter painkiller taken by young, healthy men appears to be

CRISPR could be the answer to genetic engineering’s prayers

| | January 16, 2018

Since its introduction four decades ago, genetic engineering has been a source of high hopes for health, agriculture, and industry. But it has also provoked deep anxiety, not least owing to the laborious nature of the genome-editing process. Now, a new technique, CRISPR-Cas, offers both precision and the ability to modify the genome text at

Extending human life: What are the age limits?

| | January 15, 2018

How long do you want to live – to 85, 90, 100 or beyond? More important than how long we live is the state of our health in old age. … [S]cientists in the United States believe drugs could be on the horizon that delay the diseases of old age and increase the healthy years

‘Organic GMOs’: Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak on how genetic engineering can reduce pesticide use and protect the environment

| | January 15, 2018

[Genetic engineering] is a powerful tool that can help us farm responsibly and sustainably by minimizing damage to the environment and prioritizing the health of both people and animals — the precise goals of organic farming. Type the terms ‘GMO’ and ‘organic’ into Google and you’ll get a barrage of links framing the two as diametrically opposed. The truth

Is speculation about alien life legitimate science? Or merely a distraction?

| | January 15, 2018

Speculation about extraterrestrials seems to be everywhere these days. [Recently] it was “Tabby’s Star” (more officially known as KIC 8462852), whose mysterious dimming and brightening, according to the latest analysis, is likely due to dust blocking different wavelengths of light rather than “alien megastructures.” Before that came reports of an interstellar asteroid—not a spacecraft—entering our solar

Monsanto seeks Brazilian approval to test controversial weed-controlling dicamba herbicide-resistant GMO soy seeds

, | | January 15, 2018

The Brazilian unit of seed and agrochemicals maker Monsanto on Thursday [Jan. 11] said it will run field tests with genetically modified soy seed INTACTA2 XTEND in Brazil in the 2019-20 crop, looking to launch the variety commercially the following year. INTACTA2 XTEND seeds have been engineered to resist some weed killers, including those containing

450-year-old mummy found with oldest evidence of hepatitis B infection

| | January 15, 2018

Once, this boy mummy was thought to have died of smallpox, but a new analysis of his now 450-year-old DNA reveals signs of hepatitis B, instead — the oldest known infection of the virus. The puzzling new diagnosis is made stranger still by the similarity between the mummy’s hepatitis B virus and modern-day strains, suggesting

Rwanda begins process of legalizing GMO crops

| | January 15, 2018

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has drafted a law governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Rwanda which will soon be forwarded to the Rwanda Law Reform Commission for review. The draft bill was prepared along with the National Biosafety Framework, biosafety policy and regulations according to officials. The objective of the legislation is to ensure

New generation of GMO crops could dramatically boost biofuel production

| January 15, 2018

Plant biomass contains considerable calorific value but most of it makes up robust cell walls, an unappetising evolutionary advantage that helped grasses to survive foragers and prosper for more than 60 million years. The trouble is that this robustness still makes them less digestible in the rumen of cows and sheep and difficult to process

Genetic Literacy Project’s Top 6 Stories for the Week – Jan. 15, 2018

| January 14, 2018

Rethinking the pesticides–neonicotinoids–bee health crisis narrative: Why the media get it wrong | Jon Entine Viewpoint: Oprah for president? Junk science enabler? | Stephan Neidenbach Viewpoint: Misguided activism imperils potential of golden rice | Henry Miller Treating the concussion epidemic: Could spit tests identify those most likely to recover slowly? | Ricki Lewis Viewpoint: African farmers blocked from using

Public embrace of CRISPR gene editing key to future of agriculture

| | January 12, 2018

The process of producing food, protecting the environment, and improving animal health is advancing at a seemingly breakneck pace. These advancements are driven in part by new scientific discoveries, genetic research, data science, enhanced computational power, and the availability of new systems for precision breeding like CRISPR—an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

In contrast with adults, children’s embrace of evolution likely hinges on scientific aptitude, not religious beliefs

| January 12, 2018

In contrast to adults, acceptance of evolution in schoolchildren in the UK is linked to their scientific aptitude rather than conflicts with belief systems, say scientists at our Milner Centre for Evolution. Previous studies in the USA have shown that adults that strongly reject evolution are often highly educated but reject the scientific consensus owing to conflicts

How our cells’ natural defenses to fight cancer can be unlocked by new immunotherapy

| | January 12, 2018

Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes, immune cells which have a powerful arsenal of cytotoxic weaponry that they can use against tumors. Unfortunately, tumors protect themselves using a protective microenvironment that shields them from attack from NK cells. This microenvironment promotes tumor growth and survival and has an immunosuppressive effect that blunts the attempts of

Viewpoint: How Monsanto could end up profiting from dicamba herbicide drift fiasco

| | January 12, 2018

By mid-October, state departments of agriculture nationwide had received 2,708 complaints from soybean farmers who claimed their fields had been damaged by wayward dicamba. Some 3.6 million acres had been affected, an unprecedented case of herbicides gone rogue. The Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee agriculture departments all temporarily restricted or banned dicamba (several more states will do so in 2018), and

Reversing aging in the elderly? Cells derived from skin of old mice show it may be possible

| January 12, 2018

Researchers at Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) João Lobo Antunes have found that manipulating a single RNA molecule is enough to revert cellular ageing. Throughout time all cells age gradually, contributing to the development of several diseases. Inducing cellular regeneration is one of the strategies used to fight diseases associated with cellular ageing. However, aged

How artificial intelligence might solve the ‘chemical treadmill’ farmers are trapped in to kill crop-choking weeds

| | January 12, 2018

After months of research, they faced a disappointing truth: There was no way around herbicides. “Turns out zapping weeds with electricity or hot liquid requires far more time and energy than chemicals—and it isn’t guaranteed to work,” [Jorge Heraud, CEO at Blue River Technology] says. Those methods might eliminate the visible part of a weed,

Genetics may explain why some people outperform others even when deprived of sleep

| | January 12, 2018

When deprived of sleep, some people are able to cope and respond much better than others. Although scientists have identified genes associated with this phenomenon, it was still unknown why the effects of sleep deprivation tend to vary so widely across both individuals and cognitive tasks. … [I]n a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports,

Viewpoint: Oprah for president? Junk science enabler?

| | January 11, 2018

Oprah Winfrey’s recent speech at the Golden Globes captured the imagination of countless people with rumors spreading that it could generate a popular well-spring of support that would prompt to her run for president in 2020. But many of the same science communicators and journalists who are concerned about President Trump’s anti-science tendencies are having

Perfect workout: Could genetic tests identify your optimal training routine?

| | January 11, 2018

A new review examines the potential of genetic testing for creating personalized exercise regimens for physical training and for identifying the risk for physical injury associated with physical activity. While physical activity is generally recognized to improve fitness and reduce the risk of chronic disease, it also understood that the response to physical training varies

Food Evolution director: Organic, natural food industries use misinformation and fear to sell products

, | | January 11, 2018

You’ve probably heard the same conversation, in one way or another, for years: Some say genetically modified organisms (GMO) are harmful, while others say they’ll help us feed the growing billions of humans that populate our planet. People’s positions on the subject seem cemented, bound by the hard stays of emotion, and nearly impossible to

How Alzheimer’s kills: Protein tau spreads through the brain like an infectious disease

| | January 11, 2018

For the first time, scientists have produced evidence in living humans that the protein tau, which mars the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, spreads from neuron to neuron. … Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom combined two brain imaging techniques, functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, in 17

How living GMO algae could electrify rural Africa

| | January 11, 2018

Fuel cells powered by living algae that are five times more efficient than current models, have been designed by scientists at the University of Cambridge. It is thought they could one day be used to provide electricity to places where there is no existing electrical grid system, such as parts of rural Africa. The new design makes

Hunter-gatherer ‘paradise’? Stone Age settlement discovered in Israel

| | January 11, 2018

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered next to one of the country’s busiest roads the site of an extraordinarily well preserved prehistoric “paradise” used by stone age hunter-gatherers over half a million years ago, who left behind evidence of hundreds of knapped flint hand-axes. The discovery at about a five-metre depth at Jaljulia, near the town of

US Farm Bureau opposes non-GMO labels on products without GMO alternatives

| January 11, 2018

An end to the use of non-GMO labels on products that do not have GMO alternatives, NAFTA modification to improve access to difficult Canada dairy markets, and American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall will return for another term. Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention approved several measures Tuesday [Jan. 9] to help

Bangladesh develops country’s first GMO rice variety

| January 10, 2018

Scientists in Bangladesh have developed the country’s first biotech rice variety giving farmers an answer to the difficulties they face in harvesting the staple with machines. Stems of BRRIdhan-86, the variety that got release approval yesterday, are strong and stout and easy to reap by mechanical harvesters. This will come handy to farm owners, who

Sri Lankan tea farmers want glyphosate herbicide ban overturned

| | January 10, 2018

Tea farmers in Sri Lanka want their government to reauthorize the use of glyphosate for agriculture. The country is one of only five in the world to ban the chemical, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide Roundup. … In the face of rising crop losses because of overgrowing weeds, the Planters’ Association of Ceylon is asking

Is President Trump pro-GMO?

| | January 10, 2018

“We are streamlining regulations that have blocked cutting-edge biotechnology, setting free our farmers to innovate, thrive, and to grow,” Trump told a meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation in Nashville, Tennessee, on January 8. … He’s pro-GMO? Sounds like it. KFC-loving Trump may have been referring to how, in November [2017], his administration scrapped USDA rules that would have regulated plants created through gene-editing tools like

Battling rhino poachers with DNA evidence

| | January 10, 2018

In murder investigations, DNA evidence often helps to link a perpetrator to a crime scene and put him or her behind bars. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 8 show that DNA evidence is also successfully being used to link rhinoceros horns seized from poachers and traffickers in various countries directly to the specific crime

Viewpoint: Preaching to the choir won’t win over GMO skeptics

| | January 10, 2018

Editor’s note: Robert Arnason is an agriculture journalist. In 2017 I interviewed about 800 to 1,200 people about agriculture, agronomy, science and food. Looking back at the responses, to probably more than 3,000 questions, one comment stands above the rest. It came from Kevin Folta, professor and chair of the University of Florida horticultural sciences

Treating difficult brain and breast cancers with the help of viruses

| | January 9, 2018

New research published in Science Translational Medicine … introduced a new potential treatment for some of the most difficult to treat cancers––brain and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). The research, published in two side by side papers, shows that viruses enhance the use of checkpoint therapy in cancer treatment. … The process of making this distinction [between self and invader] becomes difficult for immune cells

After 60 years, best friends find out they’re biological half-brothers

| | January 9, 2018

Seventy-four-year-old Walter Macfarlane and 72-year-old Alan Robinson have been friends for more than 60 years. Born in Honolulu, they first met in elementary school, played high school football together and joke they could have married the same girl. They sent their children to the same schools they attended and vacationed together as families. But it

Viewpoint: Are women instinctually attracted to dominant men?

| | January 9, 2018

[Anthropologist Richard Wrangham writes:] Women don’t like many specific acts of demonic males. But paradoxically, many women do regularly find attractive the cluster of qualities and behaviors—successful aggression, dominance and displays of dominance—associated with male demonism. Both men and women are active participants in the very system that nurtures the continued success of demonic males;

Study: Pesticide residue on food as risky as drinking one glass of wine—every 7 years

| | January 9, 2018

Relatively few studies are available on realistic cumulative risk assessments for dietary pesticide exposure. Despite available studies showing low risk, public concern remains. … The present article proposes a new method to estimate average residue levels in imported foods based on residue monitoring data and knowledge about agronomic practices. The two methods were used in

Viewpoint: Most online personality tests are scientific quackery––except maybe this one

| | January 9, 2018

While most of the personality tests shared around the internet are, indeed, bogus procrastination devices, there is a science to personality, and it’s something that researchers really can put into a quantified, testable format, said Simine Vazire, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis. The most popular — used by the vast majority

Fact check: Will climate change cause chocolate to go extinct in 40 years?

| | January 9, 2018

In the waning hours of 2017, like a politician holding inconvenient news for a Friday afternoon, Business Insider published a terrifying headline: “Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years.” That claim was repeated uncritically around the web as the story gained viral strength, capping a year of difficult news. Contrary to its click-ready headline, however, the

How the media, government and Google talk about GMOs differently—and why it matters

, , , | | January 9, 2018

Here, semantic network analysis is performed to characterize the presentation of the term “GMO (genetically modified organism),” a proxy for food developed from GE crops, on the web. Texts from three sources are analyzed: U.S. federal websites, top pages from a Google search, and online news titles. We found that the framing and sentiment (positive,

Blight-resistant GMO potatoes could reduce pesticide use in Uganda

| | January 9, 2018

Uganda is steadily progressing towards having a potato that will not require chemical spraying. … According to Dr Alex Barekye, who is the director of Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research Development Institute in Kabale District, this new variety has shown great results in resisting late Blight disease that is a menace in potato growing areas. …

Will Canadians accept unlabeled genetically modified salmon?

| | January 9, 2018

Between April and June [2017], Canadians participated in an unprecedented experiment: supermarket shoppers bought about five tonnes of genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon, making it the first transgenic animal approved and sold for human consumption anywhere in the world. What’s notable, beyond the precedent, is that none of the shoppers knew they were buying it.

Viewpoint: Why I avoid buying food with the Non-GMO Project label

| | January 8, 2018

Katie Pinke is the general manager/publisher of AgWeek I decided to visit the Non-GMO Project website and Twitter profile to look through their information shared about creating a “non-GMO” world. The people behind the project are a marketing machine, doing everything they can to get consumers to avoid GMOs in food. They’ve convinced millions of

Herbicide-resistant ‘super weeds’? Don’t blame GMO crops, study says

| | January 8, 2018

Andrew Kniss is a professor of weed science at the University of Wyoming Genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant crops have been widely adopted by farmers in the United States and other countries around the world, and these crops have caused significant changes in herbicide use patterns. GE crops have been blamed for increased problems with herbicide-resistant

GMO peace treaty: Mark Lynas lays out 7 steps to stop the fighting

| | January 8, 2018

The following is part of a speech by environmental writer and activist Mark Lynas at the 2018 Oxford Farming Conference [W]hat might a peace treaty look like? What might be the give and take on both sides of this enduringly fractious controversy? Here’s my seven-point plan. … Environmentalists accept the science of GMO safety, and scientists

Can CRISPR gene editing save chocolate from extinction?

| | January 8, 2018

Beyond the glittery glass-and-sandstone walls of the University of California’s new biosciences building, rows of tiny green cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses await judgment day. Under the watchful eye of Myeong-Je Cho, the director of plant genomics at an institute that’s working with food and candy company Mars, the plants will be transformed. If all goes

Viewpoint: GMO debate’s name-calling, death threats and ‘anti-science’ rhetoric bad for agriculture

| | January 8, 2018

What has the world come to when people get death threats for expressing an opinion about agriculture? The toxicity of the debate about farming in general and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in particular is so entrenched that Mark Lynas, a prominent British journalist and environmentalist who publicly changed his mind about genetic modification, wasn’t even

White blood cell warning system ‘sprays’ DNA to alert other cells

| | January 8, 2018

When some of our white blood cells detect viruses or other microbes that have invaded our bodies, they may alert other cells to the threat by spraying out some of their DNA. This unexpected warning system, described in a study…could hasten the body’s response to pathogens. … Researchers already know that some of our cells

Lou Gehrig’s disease might be treatable using CRISPR

| January 8, 2018

University of California, Berkeley scientists have for the first time used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to disable a defective gene that causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in mice, extending their lifespan by 25 percent. The therapy delayed the onset of the muscle wasting that characterizes the disease, which results in progressive weakness and

Alzheimer’s treatment breakthrough? ‘Ten years should be enough time’

| | January 8, 2018

British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli first set out to study Alzheimer’s because of his grandfather, who developed the disease when Jebelli was 12. … “Losing your keys, forgetting where you put your glasses, is completely normal,” he says. “But when you find your glasses and your keys and you think, ‘What are these for?’ — that’s

Genetic Literacy Project’s Top 6 Stories for the Week – Jan. 8, 2018

| January 7, 2018

Should it matter if the public is wary of gene editing and human enhancement? | Grant Jacobs Global glyphosate herbicide ban would cause substantial damage to economy and environment, study shows | Graham Brookes  Even if you don’t believe in God, religion may shape your subconscious thinking | Jamin Halberstadt, Brittany Cardwell   Are seed patent protections abused

Could we fight HIV with new Car-T therapy?

| | January 5, 2018

The same kind of DNA tinkering that produced the first FDA-approved gene therapy for cancer has shown hints of suppressing and even eradicating HIV infection in lab animals, scientists have reported. Although the study was small—it tested the genetically engineered “CAR” cells on only two monkeys as well as on cells growing in lab dishes—it suggests that after

Ugandan anti-GMO activists applaud President Museveni’s rebuke of bill authorizing GMOs

| | January 5, 2018

Civil society activists have backed President Museveni for rejecting to assent to the Biosafety Bill 2017, saying the move saved the country’s indigenous species and the environment. The activists from Environment and Food Sovereignty, a consortium of environmentalists and food rights activists, argued that the Biosafety Bill in its current form sought to abolish the

How African nations expect to learn from Burkina Faso’s GMO Bt cotton breeding problems

| | January 5, 2018

Stakeholders in the agricultural biotechnology sector are offering assurances that the problems that prompted Burkina Faso to temporarily halt cultivation of genetically engineered cotton won’t be repeated with GMO crops in other African countries. … The GMO cultivar (Bt cotton) introduced in Burkina Faso in 2008 had been engineered with genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil

How drinking alcohol ‘snaps’ DNA, raising your cancer risk

| | January 5, 2018

Drinking alcohol raises the risk of cancer by damaging DNA, scientists have discovered for the first time, leading health experts to call for people to cut down on their consumption. … Now a new study by the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University, has found that when the body processes alcohol it produces a

As Japan moves to embrace Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, even without the US, GMO issues loom for consumers

| | January 5, 2018

Consumer groups and farmers in Japan fear the repercussions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP), which is quickly moving forward on the heels of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conference of the other ten nations (including Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam) now involved in talks. … The story of GMOs in Japan is one

Egypt develops high-yield arid-resistant GMO wheat but activist opposition blocks biotechnology advances

| | January 4, 2018

Researchers at Egypt’s National Research Center (NRC), affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, obtained a patent for a new [genetically engineered] compound, which includes microorganisms that increases wheat yields in arid and semi-arid regions by as much as 68 percent. “The new compound would contribute to increasing wheat productivity by making it

Typing directly from your brain, and other neuroscience technologies to watch in 2018

| | January 4, 2018

Here are three fast-moving areas of neuroscience we’ll be watching in 2018: … [S]cientists at Brown University are developing salt-grain-sized “neurograins” containing an electrode to detect neural firing as well as to zap neurons to fire, all via a radio frequency antenna. … Such “stimdust” would be “the smallest [nerve] stimulator ever built,” [researcher Michel]

Halitosis: The genetic basis of bad breath

| | January 4, 2018

Most people would tell you that bad breath is brought on by a combination of bad luck and garlic. According to a new study in Nature Genetics, genes may play a direct role as well. Researchers at U.C. Davis have found that a the gene for a protein known as a SELENBP1 may be implicated in bad (specifically cabbage-scented)

‘Cruel and inhumane for rich nations to deprive developing world of GMO technology’: Purdue president Mitch Daniels

| | January 4, 2018

Of the several claims of “anti-science” that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). … a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage

Luxturna gene therapy approved for vision loss

| | January 4, 2018

The first two novel gene therapies for cancer treatment passed through FDA approval earlier this year, first B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) followed quickly by Yescarta for large B-cell lymphoma – a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. One more gene therapy squeaked in before year’s end, not for cancer treatment, but an inherited form of vision loss that can lead to blindness called biallelic RPE65 mutation-associated retinal dystrophy. The treatment

Improving the health of dairy cows using gene edited breeding–What are the issues?

| | January 4, 2018

How society regards the use of genetic modification and genome editing can have a significant influence on how these technologies are regulated by authorities and on the pace of technological advancement. In a review published in the Journal of Dairy Science authors from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences discuss potential applications of genetic modification and genome

Farmer exposes Non-GMO Project’s Twitter crop patent misinformation campaign

| | January 4, 2018

The Non-GMO Project spreads misleading and inaccurate information about food, agriculture and health on its website and social media. This was apparent on Sunday, December 17th, when the organization tweeted about farmers’ rights and plant breeding:  … Holding “GMO” liable for the transformation of plants into intellectual property remains a common misconception about agriculture, and one that

Exercise and weight loss: 23andMe study to explore how much genes matter

| | January 4, 2018

23andMe, following a banner Christmas season for sales of its personal DNA-testing kits, has just announced a large-scale study intended to uncover the genetic reasons why diet and exercise have different effects on different people. … “We’d like to better understand the genetic, demographic, psychosocial and behavioral characteristics that predict weight loss success overall, and

Beyond GMOs: Gene editing’s potential to transform food and farming depends on public acceptance

| | January 3, 2018

[The following is part of a letter from the editor of MIT Technology Review, David Rotman.] Decades of fretting over the safety and virtue of genetically modified organisms have led to a perverse outcome. Plant scientists in academia and startup companies have largely shied away from creating new GM crop varieties because it takes, on average, more

Phase out of GMO cotton in Burkina Faso taking increasing toll on farmers and industry

| | January 3, 2018

When cotton traders in Burkina Faso announced in 2015 that they were phasing out the cultivation of genetically modified cotton, they attributed it to losing 50 billion CFA (US$89.5 million) in five of the seven seasons the nation had grown the variety. The GM seeds were producing cotton with shorter fibers, which produces a lower quality fabric, so trading companies

Fraudulent ‘organic’ food imports overwhelming USDA, investigation finds

| | January 3, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture fails at regulation of organic food as fraudulent products overwhelm the agency’s conflicted, compromised system, a NerdWallet investigation has found. The USDA’s National Organic Program has not kept up with the explosive growth of organic food production and sales — either in staffing or enforcement, NerdWallet found. … The system today

Mystery of anesthetics: Despite lack of central nervous system, plants too ‘pass out’ from ‘knock out’ drugs

| | January 3, 2018

Just like humans, plants can succumb to the effects of general anesthetic drugs, researchers report in the Annals of Botany. The finding is striking for a variety of reasons—there’s the pesky fact that plants lack a central nervous system, for one thing. But, perhaps more noteworthy is that scientists still aren’t sure how general anesthetics work on

Looking back at 2017’s genetics breakthroughs

| | January 3, 2018

It was a big year for the building blocks of life. Here were the most significant breakthroughs in genetics research of 2017. … In a landmark decision made this past August, the Food and Drug Administration approved a treatment for childhood leukemia that works by genetically modifying a patient’s own blood cells to turn them into cancer killers. …