Monsanto, RoundUp and Junk Science

Last weekend demonstrators joined a March Against Monsanto in some 428 cities in 38 countries, including more than 240 cities in the U.S. alone. What exactly has so many people riled up? Monsanto, of course, is an agrichemical and biotech giant, responsible for more than 90 percent of the traits in genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton sold worldwide. The company is a flash point for those who oppose the technology. But now a new issue has emerged. Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate — trade name RoundUp — which is used on most genetically engineered crops (also known as GMOs), is sparking new and serious concern, not just among GMO opponents but among health and environment experts globally.

There is good reason to be concerned with glyphosate and its widespread use on GMO crops. When they were first being introduced in the early 1990s, biotech companies said GMO crops could do many things — produce more nutritious food, resist climatic stress, reduce pesticide use, and confer many other benefits. But, in fact, the characteristic most widely engineered into crops was the ability to withstand RoundUp. This was a win-win for Monsanto — they could sell the engineered seeds, and also sell the weed killer the seeds were designed to withstand. Since this greatly simplified weed control, farmers embraced the seeds and glyphosate use. Today, 90 percent or more of the corn, soy, canola, sugar beets grown on U.S. cropland are varieties that have been engineered to tolerate glyphosate.

Not surprisingly, glyphosate use has increased vastly. In the period between 1996 and 2011, during which GMO crops were introduced into U.S. agriculture, these crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds. Use of glyphosate on just two crops, corn and soy, has increased almost 17-fold between 1996 and 2012, from roughly 12.5 —> Read More

NASA’s Journey to Mars Ramps Up with InSight, Key Tests Pave Path to 2016 Lander Launch

NASA's InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. As part of a series of deployment tests, the spacecraft was commanded to deploy its solar arrays in the clean room to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of Mars.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. As part of a series of deployment tests, the spacecraft was commanded to deploy its solar arrays in the clean room to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’ is ramping up significantly with ‘InSight’ – as the agency’s next Mars lander has now been assembled into its flight configuration and begun a comprehensive series of rigorous environmental stress tests that will pave the path to launch in 2016 on a mission to unlock the riddles of the Martian core.

The countdown clock is ticking relentlessly and in less than nine months time, NASA’s InSight Mars lander is (…)
Read the rest of NASA’s Journey to Mars Ramps Up with InSight, Key Tests Pave Path to 2016 Lander Launch (916 words)


© Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2015. |
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Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter’s pheromone (odor) plume. Two strategies are involved: males must find the outer envelope of the pheromone plume, and then head upwind. Can understanding such insect behavior be useful for robotics research? Yes, according to an entomologist, whose research using computer simulations shows that such insect behavior has implications for airborne robots (drones) that ply the sky searching for signature odors. —> Read More

Hacking The Nervous System

(Photo: © Job Boot)

One nerve connects your vital organs, sensing and shaping your health. If we learn to control it, the future of medicine will be electric.

When Maria Vrind, a former gymnast from Volendam in the Netherlands, found that the only way she could put her socks on in the morning was to lie on her back with her feet in the air, she had to accept that things had reached a crisis point. “I had become so stiff I couldn’t stand up,” she says. “It was a great shock because I’m such an active person.”

It was 1993. Vrind was in her late 40s and working two jobs, athletics coach and a carer for disabled people, but her condition now began taking over her life. “I had to stop my jobs and look for another one as I became increasingly disabled myself.” By the time she was diagnosed, seven years later, she was in severe pain and couldn’t walk any more. Her knees, ankles, wrists, elbows and shoulder joints were hot and inflamed. It was rheumatoid arthritis, a common but incurable autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own cells, in this case the lining of the joints, producing chronic inflammation and bone deformity.

Waiting rooms outside rheumatoid arthritis clinics used to be full of people in wheelchairs. That doesn’t happen as much now because of a new wave of drugs called biopharmaceuticals – such as highly targeted, genetically engineered proteins – which can really help. Not everyone feels better, however: even in countries with the best healthcare, at least 50 per cent of patients continue to suffer symptoms.

Like many patients, Vrind was given several different medications, including painkillers, a cancer drug called methotrexate to dampen her entire immune system, and biopharmaceuticals to block the production of specific inflammatory —> Read More

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