Extreme shortages of toilet paper, pasta and other pantry products defined the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic for many shoppers around the world. Availability of most these goods has returned to normal. But not for baking goods – flour in particular. In Britain the flour shortage has led to the thousand-year-old Sturminster Newton Mill, established in 1016, cranking back into production. Sales by small artisan outfits – such as the Shipton Mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 – have surged. It’s the same in France. So why are there flour shortages from Europe to the United…
On World Bee Day, May 20th,the European Green Deal was released and few are happy with its final committee iteration but most unhappy will be conventional farmers. The European Commission's Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies endorses the organic industry and calls for their share of the market to increase to 25 percent while other vested interests criticize that it does not do enough to reduce use of meat. Farmers are worried about lack of guidance around a call to reduce pesticide usage by 50 percent when BASF is so concerned about Europe's undermining of science they have begun…
The deeper layers of the ocean are warming at a slower pace than the surface but animals living in the deep ocean are more exposed to climate warming and will face increasing challenges to maintain their preferred thermal habitats in the future, according to a new model in Nature Climate Change which analyzed contemporary and future global patterns of the velocity of climate change across the depths of the ocean.  Despite rapid surface warming, the team found that global mean climate velocities in the deepest layers of the ocean, greater than half a mile below the surface, have been 2X to…
The European Patent Office may have hoped to put an end to its chaotic decision-making, because they have written an opinion that "plants and animals exclusively obtained by essentially biological processes are not patentable," and environmentalists opposed to science are cheering, but that may be because they don't realize how confusing the G 3/19 "Pepper" decision really is. Activists say an inability to patent means that companies have less incentive to optimize plants, but they ignore that it is also an indication that there is no scientific foundation for beliefs that products like GMOs…
Should you wear a face mask when you leave your house? It’s the question no one seems to agree on. In France, the government originally said masks were unnecessary, but this week has made it mandatory to wear them on public transport and in secondary schools and is distributing masks through supermarkets and pharmacies. The UK government says it is still considering evidence on mask-wearing and is holding out on a recommendation, yet Scotland has already recommended that people cover their faces when in public spaces. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a security guard has been shot and killed in a…
European organic industry activists have been hoping their March Against Bayer & Syngenta "virtual" events would gain traction but the only people talking about it on social media are paid allies and Russian propaganda sites such as Russia Today and Sputnik. So they are pivoting to the less educated population in Brazil, whom they hope can be exploited with more success, so they are targeting European agriculture companies that way. Campanha Permanente Contra os Agrotóxicos e Pela Vida has been using identical "highly hazardous pesticides" advocacy messaging in efforts to worry indigenous…
Australia has completed its move toward modern approaches to agriculture. South Australian has lifted its ban on modern genetic engineering (older mutagenesis engineered foods were still allowed) and councils can continue to adhere to the organic industry manufacturing process but it will no longer be illegal to use modern approaches to farming there.  Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone announced the change and noted the Government made multiple attempts to lift the ban without engaging in the kind of mandate South Australia was using against farmers. He said they had compromised in…
While some will lay the spread of coronavirus at the feet of the World Health Organisation (for protecting China from criticism in its refusal to accept that they had a deadly virus) others will try to claim it was caused by 5G cellular service or vaccines. Almost all Europeans will be skeptical of those claims. What about blaming agriculture? On that topic, many Europeans do believe it is a problem, and some are willing to consider that it led to more COVID-19. When the crisis is over, instead of being more suspicious of environmental NGOs that have spread misinformation about SARS-CoV-2,…
The Arctic is predicted to warm faster than anywhere else in the world this century, perhaps by as much as 7°C. These rising temperatures threaten one of the largest long-term stores of carbon on land: permafrost. Permafrost is permanently frozen soil. The generally cold temperatures in the Arctic keep soils there frozen year-on-year. Plants grow in the uppermost soil layers during the short summers and then decay into soil, which freezes when the winter snow arrives. Over thousands of years, carbon has built up in these frozen soils, and they’re now estimated to contain twice the carbon…
European advocacy groups are getting help from avowed communists such as Rob Wallace, Marxist conspiracy theorist and author of Big Farms Make Big Flu, in their fight against science. It may be a losing battle since coronavirus shows how important science and medicine are to the modern world. Italy is at 11,591 deaths and Spain has 7,340 but that is a tiny fraction of 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu. Groups like Greenpeace and Corporate Europe Observatory are concerned that just when they had Europe convinced it should continue to reject GMOs and more effective pesticides, consumers…
Airplanes have a reputation for spreading germs and it makes sense when there are 150 people in a small tube with recirculating air 16 inches from each other for extended periods. But some risks are more than others. The tray table you eat on likely has more risk of disease than the bathroom. It's a SARS-CoV-2 world so people are thinking about an increased risk for contagions in a way few did during previous recent coronavirus pandemics like SARS or MERS. A new paper tackles the problem using pedestrian dynamics.  Scientists have long used the SPED (Self Propelled Entity Dynamics) model, a…
Disease has afflicted humans ever since there have been human. Malaria and tuberculosis are thought to have ravaged Ancient Egypt more than 5,000 years ago. From 541 to 542 CE the global pandemic known as “the Plague of Justinian” is estimated to have killed 15–25% of the world’s 200-million population. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the native population dropped from around 30 million in 1519 to just three million 50 years later. Today we are battling to control the COVID-19 virus which has the potential to cause the most deadly pandemic in human history. There is, however, a…
As most people rush to distance themselves from COVID-19, Canadian researchers have been waiting eagerly to get our (gloved) hands on the hated virus. We want to learn everything we can about how it works, how it changes and how it interacts with the human immune system, so we can test drugs that may treat it, develop vaccines and diagnostics and prevent future pandemics. This is what researchers live to do. Much of our everyday work is incremental. It’s important and it moves the field forward, but to have a chance to contribute to fighting a pandemic is especially inspiring and exciting…
Some around the world predict that the COVID-19 will heal divisions and narrow inequalities. A pandemic, they claim, can remind us of our common humanity and the need to discard prejudices. It can also highlight inequalities and injustices and prompt people in power to deal with them. In Europe, some predict it will highlight the plight of people in the ‘gig economy’ who do not enjoy a guaranteed wage. In the US, there are hopes that it may make it easier for people who cannot get to polling booths to vote. In South Africa, some hope it will prompt action against the conditions which make…
We feel that we live in the present. When we open our eyes, we perceive the outside world as it is right now. But we are actually living slightly in the past. It takes time for information from our eyes to reach our brain, where it is processed, analysed and ultimately integrated into consciousness. Due to this delay, the information available to our conscious experience is always outdated. So why don’t we notice these delays, and how does the brain allow us to feel like we are experiencing the world in real time? We’re living in the past Consider catching a ball. It takes several dozen…
It sounds like something out of a bizarre horror movie – or from the tall tales of an 18th-century explorer. But that is exactly what Captain James Cook’s expedition found in 1775 when its members set foot on the remote subantarctic island of South Georgia. Not that the expedition’s naturalists knew about the duck’s diet at the time, simply that it was remarkable to have found a duck this far south. What Cook had discovered is now known as the South Georgia pintail (Anas georgica georgica), a rare subspecies of pintail duck only found on this remote island in the Southern Ocean, and one that…
Despite being taken out of use in the United States and other countries, chloridazon is still common in Europe 60 years after being introduced by BASF. In America and other places, it is no longer used because it can be toxic to humans, does not break down in nature and will eventually seep into the groundwater. Water purification plants can break down chloridazon, using UV light, but unfortunately the breakdown products of chloridazon are also toxic.  A new method using clay can solve the problem, a study finds. By creating neatly spaced slits in a clay mineral, researchers were able to …
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is a pro-science agriculture advocate, arguing it's the best way to address climate change and sustainability without impacting poor people and those in developing nations. What is less clear is how willing the European Union is to negotiate its 2001 biotechnology regulations at a time when courts are using those to argue that food strains created using mutagenesis, including those already considered part of the organic process, must be labeled as Genetically Modified Organisms - GMOs. The activist group GMWatch is worried that if government…
There are thousands of kinds of cheese, each with its own color, shape, nutritional value, flavor and texture. Since cheese is made from milk, cheese types tend to vary based on the source of milk. Some of the most popular cheeses are made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. But there are also cheeses made from camel milk, water buffalo milk – even moose milk. To make cheese, you need to add bacteria to the milk. These create chemical reactions that cause it to change into a combination of solid “curds” and liquid “whey.” The whey is generally drained off, concentrated and dried into a…
One of the more startling discoveries arising from genomic sequencing of ancient hominin DNA is the realisation that all humans outside Africa have traces of DNA in their genomes that do not belong to our own species. The approximately six billion people on Earth whose recent ancestry is not from Africa will have inherited between 1% and 2% of their genome from our closest but now extinct relatives: the Neanderthals. East Asians and Oceanians have also inherited a small amount of ancestry from the Denisovans, another close relative of Homo Sapiens. Now a new study, published in Science…