The continuing mass death of honeybees, known scientifically as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and a “pollinator crisis,” could well strain production of over 100 crops in the US including apples, zucchinis, avocados and plums. The agriculture value of these products is estimated at over $200 billion globally per year.As RT recently reported, a new USDA report has taken a broad look at the decline of bee colonies in the country, highlighting a dire situation as the number of colonies has plummeted from 3 million in 1990 to 2.5 million this year. Demonstrating that the decline is a long-term issue, that same report points to the existence of 6 million honey bee colonies in 1947. Though dire, the report does not offer any immediate solutions, as scientists continue to examine the potential causes for the mass colony collapses, during which adult bees abandon their hives, along with the queen, brood and food supplies. The USDA cites “multiple factors… including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure,” while also citing last summer’s drought as a contributing factor.Many environmental groups seem convinced that pesticides are a main factor in the continuing colony collapse situation. One group, Beyond Pesticides, has called the EPA’s recent green light for use of a new insecticide known as sulfoxaflor irresponsible in light of its “highly toxic” classification for honey bees.In late April, the European Union voted to enact a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (sulfoxaflor included) in light of scientific studies that indicate their harm to bees. As in the US, a number of European countries have also been monitoring declining health and colony collapses in their bee populations, including France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.Groups such as the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) have praised the continent-wide ban.“The EU vote comes after significant findings by the European Food Safety Agency that these pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to bees and their use should be restricted. Along with habitat loss and pathogens, a growing body of science points to neonicotinoid pesticides as a key factor in drastically declining bee populations,” said a statement by PAN.Meanwhile, major pesticide manufacturers scoff at the two-year European ban.“As a science-based company, Bayer CropScience is disappointed that clear scientific evidence has taken a backseat in the decisionmaking process. This disproportionate decision is a missed opportunity to reach a solution that takes into consideration all of the existing product-stewardship measures and broad stakeholder concerns.”Unlike the straight-cut decision taken by the EU, the same USDA report highlighting plummeting bee colony numbers in the US seems to undermine the possibility of even a temporary ban on potentially harmful pesticides. According to one veteran environmental reporter, Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine, the USDA report in introducing several “potential” factors in CCD skirts the issue of pesticides altogether. “The USDA report mostly withholds judgment on neonicotinoids, citing the need for more research, and the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a very slow review of the evidence,” says Walsh. The review cited by the agency is slated to take an additional five years. Meanwhile, the domesticated bee population in the US has reached a 50-year low. According to Walsh, in a normal year the commercial bee industry would expect to lose 10 to 15 per cent of its colonies, but over the past five years mortality rates have increased dramatically, ranging from 28 to 33 per cent. Unlike in the EU, where at least in terms of policy lawmakers were not willing to take a chance on pesticides, the USDA’s report points to various possible causes for the massive colony collapse, including: A parasitic mite called Varroa destructor; a bacterial disease called European foulbrood; and the use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, a neuroactive chemical.Yet, almost paradoxically, the USDA seems to lend further study a time frame which seems glacial compared to its own dire estimates of mass bee die offs. “Currently, the survivorship of honeybee colonies is too low for us to be confident in our ability to meet the pollination demands of US agricultural crops,” the USDA report said. …
According to a leading evolutionary biologist, the Chinese are engaging in a massive breeding operation with the aim of ultimately creating a breed of cognitively enhanced individuals. …
Bigfoot is real … maybe.
After months of waiting for a peer-reviewed scientific journal to publish findings on the validity of alleged Bigfoot DNA evidence, the time has come for answers. But is there enough empirical evidence to finally confirm that the elusive, tall, hairy man-beast of North America really exists? Maybe, but questions have now been raised about the scientific journal publishing the findings.
In November, after a five-year study of purported Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) DNA samples, Texas geneticist Melba Ketchum and a team of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology, were anxious for their findings to be published in a scientific journal. On Wednesday, their research appeared in the DeNovo Journal of Science, which seemed to confirm Ketchum’s research about the reality of Bigfoot.
http://www.youtube.com/v/R1JMi43oM8s?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata Link: Highlights from Nobel Week Dialogue 2012: The Genetic Revolution and its Impact on Society
In psychiatry, there has been a great mystery. We know that virtually every single mental disorder identified thus far has a heritable basis. So we know that many genes are involved. At the same time, whenever we go fishing for the specific genes that are associated with any disorder, we end up with an awful lot of seaweed. Each gene explains only a fraction of the outcome, and very few genes actually replicate. This doesn’t mean genes don’t contribute to the manifestation of psychological traits and disorders, but it does mean we’ll have to look beyond the genetic level if we want a fuller understanding of how we become who we are.In recent years, studies keep accumulating that show the importance of gene by environment interactions. But researchers aren’t just finding that the environment matters in determining whether mental illness exists. What is being discovered is far more interesting and nuanced: Some of the very same genes that under certain environmental conditions are associated with some of the lowest lows of humanity, under supportive conditions are associated with the highest highs of human flourishing.Continue Reading… …
The internet has
been abuzz over a Daily Mail article,
“Wanted: ‘Adventurous woman’ to give birth to Neanderthal man —
Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby.” The
Havard professor is geneticist George Church who
denies that he is currently pursuing any such research. Church
is the mastermind behind the Personal Genome Project* that
is aiming to sign up 100,000 people willing to provide their
genomes and medical histories to researchers.Church believes that the rumor got started through a bad
translation/misinterpretation of an interview that he gave the
German magazine Der Spiegel. Church insists:
“I’m certainly not advocating it,” Church said. “I’m saying, if
it is technically possible someday, we need to start talking about
In my 2009 column, “Neanderthal
Rights” I explore the morality of genetically resurrecting our
closest evolutionary cousins. I concluded:
So what if we bring back Neanderthals and it turns out that
their intellectual capacities are so dissimilar from ours that they
cannot cope successfully with modern life? Should we control their
fertility so that they go extinct again? This comes uncomfortably
close to the eugenic arguments used to justify sterilizing people
who were deemed mentally defective in the 20th century. Or perhaps
Neanderthals could be placed in reservations where they would be
allowed to develop without further interference from modern humans.
Would this be akin to confining them to a zoo?
One science fiction trope says that it is impossible for two
intelligent species to evolve simultaneously on the same planet
since one would inevitably out-compete the other. This may have
happened on our planet. Neanderthals disappeared around the same
time that modern humans began to move into their territory. New
research suggests that our ancestors
killed them off. Perhaps we should use modern science to
resurrect Neanderthals in order to right an ancestral wrong.
Just because these moral conundrums cannot be answered in
advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to
clone Neanderthals. The only way to find out what rights
Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world.
For what it’s worth, 23andMe tells me that about 2.7 percent of
my genes are likely derived from a Neanderthal ancestor.Disclosure: I am a participant in the Personal Genome
While it is speculative and unrealistic to definitively declare that dietary modification could completely offset someone’s genetics propensity to develop the disease, there is evidence that modest changes in the diet could indeed reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s.Read More…
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