Scientists Say GMO Foods Are Safe, Public Skepticism Remains

Genetically-engineered crops are as safe to eat as their non-GE counterparts, they have no adverse environmental impacts, and they have reduced the use of pesticides. That’s according to a comprehensive report released by the National Academy of Sciences today—a group founded by the U.S. Congress to provide expert scientifically-based advice on a wide variety of issues.

But the academy also found that GE or (genetically-modified organisms or GMO) crops didn’t increase those crops' potential yields, and they did lead to widespread and expensive problems with herbicide-resistant weeds.

The report acknowledges that beyond safety, other issues need to be addressed, including earning the public's trust. It recommends a more transparent and inclusive conversation about GE crops ...

Is Moderate Drinking Even Moderately Good For Us?

Recent studies have shown that alcohol, coffee, and chocolate are probably good for you, which almost makes up for the fact that bacon, doughnuts, and anything covered with that diabolical orange dust are probably bad.  So it’s quite a blow that one of them might not be good after all.

It’s alcohol.

The benefits of moderate drinking have been widely accepted, and new information that questions those benefits has to be looked at in the context of all the old information that established them. But when two new studies, each coming at the question differently, conclude that the benefits of moderate drinking may be illusory, it’s worth taking a closer ...

The Truth About Fake Sugar Is Complicated

Will Splenda give you cancer?

The short answer: probably not. A new study found an increase in certain kinds of cancers in male mice given large doses of sucralose, the sweetener in Splenda, a popular sugar substitute. The lowest dose in the study the equivalent of a 150-pound human eating 350 little yellow packets every day. That’s about 12 times the FDA's maximum recommended intake.  And it’s one study, contradicted by the research that came before.

But the long answer is a case study in what’s wrong with nutrition research, and why simple answers to burning questions are so elusive.

Up until last month, there were over 100 studies conducted on the safety ...

The Surprisingly Big Carbon Shadow Cast By Slender Asparagus

The debate over our diet’s impact on the climate is getting louder. Most of the noise centers around beef, which many calculations put at the top of the impact charts. But conscientious eaters are looking at the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with all sorts of food production, and scientists are coming up with a few big carbon footprints that might surprise you.

A recent study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology looks at the climate impact of various fruits, vegetables, and animal products in the American diet.

The scientists assess total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from production using a unit that's a little tricky to parse: kilograms of CO2-equivalent per kilogram of food. Because different greenhouse gases have ...

Will a Reward Entice Inventors to Tackle Fish-Free Fish Food?

There’s a contest going on, and the prize is $100,000. Anyone can play! Anyone, that is, with the ability to make 100,000 metric tons of fish feed. Vegetarian fish feed.

One of the biggest challenges facing aquaculture is how to feed fish without having to raid the oceans for the small fish that go into feeding those farmed fish. Wild fish such as anchovies and menhaden produce two of the components of all fish feed, protein and oil. But harvesting them from the ocean only adds pressure to depleting global fish stocks.

The purpose of the F3 [Fish-Free Feed] Challenge, according to University of Arizona professor Kevin Fitzsimmons, ...

Want a Bird Flu-Free World? Consider Breeding Resistant Birds

The solution to avian flu, the virus responsible for the devastating eradication of chicken and turkey flocks across much of the nation this year, is, as we speak, alive and clucking across the pond.

It’s a chicken.

Genetically modified by a team of researchers in the UK, the bird doesn’t pass the virus on to other birds.  Had all the chickens in this country been so modified, the flu virus that hit poultry operations in fifteen states would never have made it past Chicken Zero, the first bird infected.

The flu was first detected in backyard flocks in the Pacific Northwest at the end of last year, and the U.S. ...

Walmart Chooses Words Carefully on Animal Welfare

The press release about Walmart's new animal welfare and antibiotic positions landed in my inbox last week. I care a lot about those things, so I clicked through: “As part of its animal welfare position statement, Walmart will not tolerate animal abuse, supports the globally recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare, and is committed to working with supply chain partners to implement practices consistent with the Five Freedoms.”

Given that conventionally-raised livestock has precious little in the way of freedoms, I thought five would be a big improvement, and these particular five are important. They’re the guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals, developed by the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee:

  • Freedom from hunger and ...

Finding Ways to Feed the Fish That Feed Us

This past weekend, I tasted shrimp grown with feed made from genetically-engineered bacteria.

The bacteria, which are way more interesting than the shrimp, are the brainchildren of Larry Feinberg, CEO and co-founder of Knipbio, a Boston-area startup. They’re interesting because they help address one of the gnarliest problems of a growing human population: feeding them fish.

We’re getting about as much from the oceans as we can. Too much, in some places; many species are severely overfished. We’ve got more and more people, but no more ocean, so fish farming has to make up the difference. Which it has already begun to do. The FAO estimates that, right now,

Genetically-Modified Cattle May Help Reshape African Farms

With one gene, molecular geneticist Steve Kemp may someday be able to boost the success of small farms across a huge swath of central Africa.

The gene is from a baboon, and it's important because it produces a protein that kills a diabolical protozoan called Trypanosoma brucei. Trypanosoma brucei causes a deadly wasting disease–trypanomiasis–in both cattle and humans. Now stick with me, here's where it gets interesting:

That protozoan, called a trypanosome, is the reason one-third of the African continent–an area the size of the United States–is almost completely prevented from keeping livestock. That's because the tse-tse fly, the trypanosome’s preferred method of transportation, lives there. Where flies can infect cattle, cattle usually can’t survive.

The implications ...

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