Genetically engineered, bacteria-infected and sterilized mosquitoes are among the cutting-edge weapons being tested against diseases like Zika and dengue, even as some experts say old-fashioned tools like DDT may be worth discussing.
Every weekday at 7 a.m., a van drives slowly through the southeastern Brazilian city of Piracicaba carrying a precious cargo — mosquitoes. More than 100,000 of them are dumped from plastic containers out the van’s window, and they fly off to find mates. But these are not ordinary mosquitoes. They have been genetically engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, which die before they can reach adulthood. In small tests, this approach has lowered mosquito populations by 80 percent or more.
The burritos didn’t contain GMOs, but they did contain E. coli.
“Last April, Chipotle announced it would be phasing out ingredients containing genetically modified organisms. As Science of Us argued at the time, this was a meaningless bit of PR designed to bolster Chipotle’s reputation as a “responsible” or “wholesome” fast-food joint; while GMOs, like any technology, need to be effectively regulated and deployed responsibly, all else being equal there are no valid reasons to consider foods without GMOs to be healthier or more environmentally friendly than those containing them. But Americans are terribly ill-informed about GMOs — they answer basic true-false questions about the technology with barely more accuracy than a coin flip — and therefore become easy prey to this sort of opportunistic corporate feel-goodery.” (more…)
One of the most persistent arguments for modern, mechanized agriculture is that it produces a lot of food per acre, leaving more land for other purposes. I’ve often wondered how solid this argument is, and when a debate broke out recently, I decided to look closer.
It started with a paper from a think tank. The Breakthrough Institute study, called Nature Unbound, argued that, by embracing technology, humanity could shrink its footprint and leave more land for “nature.” (more…)
A systematic overview of more than 100 studies comparing organic and conventional farming finds that the crop yields of organic agriculture are higher than previously thought. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap between organic crops and conventional farming.
The study, to be published online Wednesday, Dec. 10, in theProceedings of the Royal Society B, tackles the lingering perception that organic farming, while offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemically intensive agriculture, cannot produce enough food to satisfy the world’s appetite.