U.S. Navy to release genetically engineered organisms into the ocean, unleashing mass genetic pollution with devastating consequences


Image: U.S. Navy to release genetically engineered organisms into the ocean, unleashing mass genetic pollution with devastating consequences

(Natural News) No longer content to tinker with the genetic design of crops and humans, scientists – at the behest of the U.S. Military – are now turning their attention to the world’s oceans. As reported by Defense One, the Pentagon is looking at various ways in which to genetically engineer marine microorganisms into living surveillance equipment capable of detecting enemy submarines, divers and other suspicious underwater traffic.

The Military is also looking at using genetic engineering to create living camouflage in which creatures react to their surroundings to avoid detection, along with a host of other potentially nefarious applications.

While such modifications might appear to offer benefits to national security endeavors, there will be a price to pay – as is always the case when scientists interfere with genetic design. What will the effects of mass genetic pollution be on our oceans, and what irreversible and devastating results may be unleashed? (Related: First GMO ever produced by genetic engineering poisoned thousands of Americans.)

Unleashing engineered organisms without knowing the consequences

Military officials, who insist that this type of research is still in its infancy, are being supported in their endeavors by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

Defense One explained the research in more detail:

You take an abundant sea organism, like Marinobacter, and change its genetic makeup to react to certain substances left by enemy vessels, divers, or equipment. These could be metals, fuel exhaust, human DNA, or some molecule that’s not found naturally in the ocean but is associated with, say, diesel-powered submarines. The reaction could take the form of electron loss, which could be detectable to friendly sub drones.

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“In an engineered context, we might take the ability of the microbes to give up electrons, then use [those electrons] to talk to something like an autonomous vehicle,” explained NRL researcher, Sarah Glaven, who was speaking at an event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab. “Then you can start imagining that you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment.”

Researchers have already proven, in a laboratory environment, that the genes of E. Coli bacteria can be manipulated to exhibit properties that could prove useful for submarine detection. However, this type of research is limited because it may not necessarily be replicable in marine life found in the areas where you need them to be in order to detect unfriendly subs.

Nonetheless, Glaven believes that the team can make these types of mutated marine organisms a reality in just a year.

“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she noted. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.” (Related: Genetic pollution harms organisms through 14 generations of offspring, stunning scientific study reveals.)

Part of a wider “synthetic biology” military program

This marine modification research forms part of a greater $45 million military program which encompasses the Navy, Army and Air Force platforms, and has been labeled the Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments. The program aims to provide researchers in these branches of the military with whatever tools they deem necessary to engineer genetic responses in a way that could be manipulated by the Military.

It is not difficult to imagine that this large-scale genetic manipulation program could create disastrous effects – effects which our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with, and which may prove irreversible.

‘Fukushima lessons: Any notion that nuclear power is clean is obsolete’.


The unit No.1 (L) and No. 2 reactor building of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Reuters / Itsuo Inouye)

The unit No.1 (L) and No. 2 reactor building of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Reuters / Itsuo Inouye)

The world must phase out nuclear power because it is absolutely not clean from the mining processing of uranium to the generation of high-level radioactive waste, Kevin Kamps for the radioactive waste watchdog Beyond Nuclear, told RT.

It’s been four years since the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history struck the Fukushima nuclear power plant. All of Japan’s 43 operable reactors have been shut down since 2013, because of safety checks required after the accident. The operator of the nuclear plant has sent a second robot inside the Fukushima reactor to collect data from it. The first robot became immovable after recording some footage from inside the reactor.

RT: Since the disaster, Japan has allocated more than $15 billion to an unprecedented project to lower radiation in towns near the power plant. However few locals believe Tokyo’s assurances that the site will eventually be cleaned up. Do you think their fears are reasonable?

Kevin Kamps: Yes, it is an unprecedented catastrophe. Of course there was Chernobyl, but in this area of Japan – it is so densely populated all over. So when they are trying to clear the landscape down to a certain depth, it is going to be more and more expensive. When you add all of the projects from decommissioning of the nuclear power plant to trying to clean up the landscape to loss of economic activity – we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars all together. It is going to be very difficult for anything like normal life ever to return there.

RT: In addition to massive radioactive remains, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise following the increase in coal-fired power. Should environmentalists sound the alarm here?

KK: Just in recent days there have been the admissions by high-ranking Tokyo Electric officials that the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant could take more like 200 years because of the lack of technology to do the job. They are going to have to invent all of these robotic systems and engineering processes to try to remove the melted cores at Fukushima Daiichi because that is their current plan unlike Chernobyl with the sarcophagus. The current plan in Japan is to remove those melted cores to somewhere else – perhaps to geologic disposal, they haven’t said. But it is going to be very challenging.

RT: How has the country been handling the shortage of nuclear energy so far?

KK: It is high time for Japan, but I should also say the US and many other countries, to do what Germany is doing – which is to make the transition in its energy sector to efficiency and renewables. Germany will phase out the nuclear power by 2022. This is a direct response to Fukushima. And it will also largely phase out fossil fuel by the middle of the century, by 2050. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world. So if Germany can do it, so can other developed countries in the world. It is high time that we do this so that dangerous nuclear power plants can be shot down, and we don’t have to turn to polluting fossil fuels.

RT: What is the main importance of nuclear power phase-out in your opinion?

KK: I think it’s very important that world turned from the nuclear power. It is absolutely not clean from the mining and processing of uranium to the generation of high-level radioactive waste. Then the routine radiation releases is even from normally operating nuclear power plants. But then certainly you have the disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Any notion that nuclear power is clean is obsolete at this point.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters / Kyodo)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

RT: On Tuesday, a Japanese court halted the restart of two reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui prefecture citing safety concerns. Why did the judges issue such a ruling?

KK: They are having a very difficult time. Just in recent days again a judge in Fukui prefecture ruled for the second time against the restart of atomic reactors in their prefecture, this time at Takahama. Two reactor units were blocked by this judge’s ruling from restarting. And last year he ruled against two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant. So the local population, the local governors of prefectures, and local elected officials like mayors have put a stop to these plants restarting reactors in Japan.

RT: Do you think this latest move by the court is a major blow to the Prime Minister’s attempts to return to atomic energy?

KK: Yes, and in this particular case in the last couple days the judge in Fukui prefecture ruled that the new regulations – supposedly based on lessons learned from Fukushima by the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority – are irrational and do not guarantee protection of public health and safety and the environment. So it is a big blow to Prime minister, [Shinzo] Abe’s plans to restart reactors.

RT: All 40 reactors in Japan are shot down at the moment, aren’t they?

KK: That’s right; all 40 reactors in Japan are currently shot down. And this has been the case largely since the Fukushima catastrophe began. There have been a few exceptions but for very short periods of time.

RT: If the court comes up with further restrictions that would eventually extend the countrywide shutdown of the reactors. What are the consequences likely to be for Japan’s economy?

KK: It has made it. There have been challenges and difficulties; there has been a crash course in energy efficiency and also in energy conservation… And … there have been imports of fossil fuels, natural gas and coal. That is why I said [that] it is important for Japan to as quickly as possible transition to a renewable energy economy. In fact, that prime minister who served during the beginning of the catastrophe, Naoto Kan, implemented laws that would make that renewable transition happen more efficiently.

RT: Are there any achievement that have been made by the Japanese government trying to tackle the problem? Any good news?

KK: The good news is that renewables, especially efficiency, are very quickly deployable. You can establish a large scale solar photovoltaic facility in a matter of months, the same with wind turbines and efficiency is even faster than that. You have companies in Japan that are poised to do this kind of work…So there is a real promise in renewables; Japan has tremendous resourcesboth domestically, but also for the export and the installation of renewables around the world. And you have to always remember that the devastation caused by Fukushima Daiichi is a very negative thing for the Japanese economy. So you could have 40 good years at a nuclear power plant like Fukushima Daiichi, and you can have one bad day that is now tuned into four bad years, and there is no end and sight- this will go on for very long time.

RT: Everyone in Japan and all over the world understands that it is very dangerous industry and something should be done to prevent future catastrophes. So why are Japanese authorities slowing down all these processes?

KK: It is a form of addiction; it is a form of political power that is very deeply ingrained. The Japanese nuclear power industry dates back to the 1950’s. The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Abe, one of its founding planks and its platform was pro-nuclear power. Apparently, it is very difficult for these powerful elites to learn lessons and to change their ways. But I think the Japanese people are showing that they have had enough of these risks to their country: first suffering the atomic bombings of 1945 and now also suffering the worst that nuclear power can deliver as well.

White House declares war on ‘superbugs’ .


U.S. President Barack Obama.(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has unveiled a $1.2 billion plan to combat drug-resistant bacteria, also known as ‘superbugs.’ Five out of six Americans are on antibiotics, and 23,000 die annually of drug-resistant infections.

Released to the public on Friday, the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria envisions efforts to rein in over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors, use of “medically important antibiotics” in food animals, and the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, while promoting the development of new and more effective antibiotics for human use.

We know that 5 out of 6 Americans are prescribed antibiotics each year. That adds up to 262 million antibiotic prescriptions annually,” president Obama said in an exclusive interview with WebMD. “And studies have consistently shown that a lot of America’s antibiotic use is unnecessary.

One of the main causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the use of antibiotics when they are not needed, the president said. Drug-resistant infections are on the rise: according to government statistics, there are two million infections a year in the US, resulting in 23,000 deaths.

The plan envisions $1.2 billion in funding to various government agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would begin research on new antibiotics, while the Department of Agriculture is to start reducing “irresponsible use” of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. A newly created Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, with up to 30 members managed by the HHS, would be entrusted with oversight of the plan.

We’re seeing an increase in drug-resistant organisms that are affecting every community,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Tom Frieden told The Hill, “and are at risk, really, to undermine much of modern medicine.

The CDC would use the $264.3 million increase in funding to develop prevention programs in every state, potentially forestalling 600,000 infections and $8 billion in medical costs, Dr. Frieden said.

Some questions remain as to where the money would come from. President Obama says some of the funding is already in the 2016 budget, but it appears the rest will have to get approval from the Republican-controlled Congress.

Wherever we can act without Congress, we will. But to get the whole job done, we need Congress to step up,” Obama told WebMD.

The plan has already faced some criticism for not going far enough to reduce antibiotic use in agriculture. Industrial farming accounts for the vast majority of antibiotic consumption in the US, and is on the rise around the world.

The plan continues to allow the routine feeding of antibiotics to animals that live in the crowded conditions endemic to industrial farms,” said a statement by environmentalist group Natural Resources Defense Council.

Monsanto’s Roundup system threatens extinction of monarch butterflies .


Reuters / Michael Fiala

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready system – a potent herbicide combined with genetically-modified seeds that can withstand it – has decimated the monarch butterfly’s only source of food in the Midwest, putting it on the edge of extinction, according to a new study.

Biotechnology conglomerate Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup has become the most common herbicide in American agriculture today, used in tandem with the company’s genetically-engineered Roundup Ready crops.

Since its heavy proliferation began in the 1990s, glyphosate has been a leading killer of 99 percent of milkweed in the Midwest’s corn and soybean fields. Glyphosate-sensitive milkweed plants are the only spots where monarchs lay eggs, as the plant is the only food source for monarch larvae.

According to the Center for Food Safety’s new report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America,” these conditions have contributed to a drastic 90-percent drop in population for monarchs in their main habitat, crop fields in the Midwest.

“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety.

“To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

As Monsanto is on the precipice of receiving US government approval for its next generation of the Roundup Ready system, the report raises the question of how much longer will the monarch survive?

“Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” said Dr. Martha Crouch, a biologist for the Center for Food Safety and a co-author of the report.

“Very few of us fully understand the ecological impacts of our food system, but we need to pay attention. The decline of the monarch is a stark reminder that the way we farm matters.”

The Center for Food Safety said it was presenting the new report “to Congress today at an expert briefing on the decline of monarchs.”

In December, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said it may designate the monarch as a threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act. The agency review comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus).

Disregarding their natural beauty, monarch butterflies play an important role in ecology. They carry pollen from plant to plant, helping fruits and flowers to produce new seeds. In their caterpillar stage, they are a food source for birds, mammals, and other insects.

While milkweed can grow away from main cropland, there is an increasingly low amount of habitat that can support monarchs. Herbicide spraying over corn and soybeans fields that dominate the Midwestern Corn Belt leave monarchs to search for milkweed in other areas like roadsides and pastures, according to the report. Monarchs also produce four times more eggs per plant on milkweed growing in a crop field as opposed to milkweed sprouting elsewhere, the Center for Food Safety claimed.

Monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl, and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to these threats.

The report said that as monarch population sinks, they will likely become more susceptible to remarkable weather events.

The Center for Food Safety listed a host of policy recommendations in the report, including that the US Department of Agriculture should “reject applications to approve new herbicide-resistant crops, and [US Environmental Protection Agency] should deny registrations of herbicides for use on them, unless or until appropriate restrictions are enacted to ameliorate their harms to milkweeds, monarchs and pollinators.”

“Glyphosate is the monarch’s enemy number one. To save this remarkable species, we must quickly boost milkweed populations and curtail the use of herbicide-resistant crop systems,” said Bill Freese, a co-author of the report.

As RT reported last month, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved Monsanto’s new GMO cotton and soybean plants. The company now awaits approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for it latest herbicide – a mix of the formidable chemical dicamba and glyphosate, which the company has developed for use on the newly-approved GMO crops.

The new GMO crops – coupled with the dicamba/glyphosate cocktail – make up what Monsanto has dubbed the ‘Roundup Ready Xtend crop system,’ designed to trump super weeds that have evolved along with its Roundup biocide.

For its part, Monsanto says it is seeking alternatives for the monarch.

“At Monsanto, we’re committed to doing our part to protect these amazing butterflies. That’s why we are collaborating with experts from universities, nonprofits, and government agencies to help the monarch by restoring their habitat in Crop Reserve Program land, on-farm buffer strips, roadsides, utility rights-of way and government-owned land.”

Earth is headed for its sixth mass extinction.


The rapid depletion of Earth’s biodiversity indicates that the planet is in the early stages of its sixth mass extinction of life since becoming habitable 3.5 billion years ago, according to a new study published in Science.

Human activity, including a doubling of its population in the past 35 years, has driven the decline of animal life on Earth, the researchers concluded.

AFP Photo / NASA

There has been a 25 percent average decline rate of remaining terrestrial vertebrates, and a 45 percent decline rate in the abundance of invertebrates. These losses will continue to have innumerable impacts on species that depend on the delicate balance of life on Earth for their own survival.

“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” said Rodolfo Dirzo, lead author of the study and a biology professor at Stanford University.

“Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”

The “Anthropocene defaunation,” as some researchers have dubbed this era, is hitting large animals such as elephants, polar bears, and rhinoceroses the hardest, as these megafauna are the subject of some of the highest rates of decline on Earth. This trend matches previous mass die-offs of the Big Five extinction periods.

Megafauna usually have lower population growth rates that need larger habitat areas to maintain their populations, thus they are particularly affected by human growth and desire for their meat mass. Losses among these animals often mean dire impacts for other species that depend on them within an ecosystem.

Past studies have found that the loss of larger animals means a spike in rodents, as grass and shrubs proliferate and soil compaction decreases, all while the risk of predation also declines, Futurity.org notes. As rodent populations increase, so do the disease-transporting ectoparasites that come with them.

“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo.

“Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”

About 16 to 33 percent of all vertebrate species are considered threatened or endangered, the review found.

Invertebrate loss also has far-reaching ripple effects on other species. For example, the continued disappearance of vital honeybee populations across the globe will have bleak consequences for plant pollination, and thus on the world’s food production, as RT has previously reported.

Insects pollinate about 75 percent of the world’s food crops, according to Futurity.

Overall, of the world’s more than 71,000 species, 30 percent of them are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Based on this assessment – and without drastic economic and political measures to address the current die-off – the sixth mass extinction could be cemented by 2400 A.D., University of California, Berkeley geologist Anthony Barnosky told Harper’s magazine.

Solutions to the die-off are complicated, the study posits, as reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation of lands must come through regional and situational strategies.

“Prevention of further declines will require us to better understand what species are winning and losing in the fight for survival and from studying the winners, apply what we learn to improve conservation projects,” said Ben Collen, a lecturer at the University College of London and a co-author of the study.“We also need to develop predictive tools for modelling the impact of changes to the ecosystem so we can prioritize conservation efforts, working with governments globally to create supportive policy to reverse the worrying trends we are seeing.”

Researchers from University of California, Santa Barbara; Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; the Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England; and University College London are coauthors of the new study.

Gasoline better for environment than corn biofuels, study says.


Contrary to popular ‘green’ beliefs, a study funded by the US federal government argues that corn-based biofuels are actually worse for the environment than gasoline, as they emit more greenhouse gasses and deplete soil carbon.

Reuters / Regis Duvignau

The $500,000 peer-reviewed analysis by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, published in an issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, claims that cellulosic biofuels like ethanol, produced from residue, the byproduct of harvested corn (left-over leaves, cobs etc.) lead to a 7-percent increase in emissions, as well as 62 grams above the 60-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions stipulated in the law on energy targets of 2007. 

This is a setback for those lobbying for cleaner fuels, who wish to combat climate change. The federal government has been trying to push through mandates for increasing ethanol production to promote the idea of clean alternatives to gasoline. They invested over $1 billion in federal funds to support cellulosic biofuel research. But ethanol-based fuel alternatives have so far been a more expensive, cumbersome venture. 

This should make farmers happy, as soil erosion has always been a problem, as well as the issue of retaining residue for nourishing and preserving soil quality. 

According to experts in the field, the research is long overdue and is the first attempt to quantify the effect of ethanol-based biofuel on carbon depletion in soil. It looked at production in 12 Corn Belt states. 

The key conclusion is that when left to be absorbed naturally by the soil, the leaves, stalks and cobs are more beneficial for the soil than when it is later burned as fuel and the residue gives off carbon into the atmosphere. As a result, the study concludes the process contributes to global warming. 

“If less residue is removed, there is less decrease in soil carbon, but it results in a smaller biofuel energy yield,”
 Adam Liska, the professor in charge of the study said, adding that the results of the study were in line with his expectations and that he’s “amazed [the findings have] not come out more solidly until now.” 

As a preventive measure against depriving the soil of carbon it gets from corn residue – and to reduce carbon emissions – the research suggests planting more crops to give the earth the carbon it needs; it also talks of using alternative feed stocks and sources of residue, as well as harnessing more electricity from carbon-fuel stations, as opposed to coal-operated ones. 

The study received a swift response from government officials and oil businesses, who say the research is flawed, as it uses scenarios that are firstly too simplistic, because they don’t account for variations in carbon depletion from soil in a given field; secondly, they are seen as too extreme in overestimating how much residue is removed. 

According to Jan Koninckx, who is the global business director for bio refineries at DuPont, a chemical company, “no responsible farmer or business would ever employ [the study’s suggestions], because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense.” 

But Liska believes that this is, in fact, the first study that got the carbon depletion math as close to the truth as possible. 

And, as professor David Tilman of the University of Minnesota said in support of the study: “It will be very hard to make a biofuel that has a better greenhouse gas impact than gasoline using corn residue,” as cited by The Associated Press.

Monsanto’s Roundup may be linked to fatal kidney disease, new study suggests


A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.

The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

The hypothesis helps explain a global rash of the mysterious, fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males.

Furthermore, the study’s findings explain many observations associated with the disease, including the linkage between the consumption of hard water and CKDu, as 96 percent of patients have been found to have consumed “hard or very hard water for at least five years, from wells that receive their supply from shallow regolith aquifers.”

The CKDu was discovered in rice paddy farms in northern Sri Lanka around 20 years ago. The condition has spread quickly since then and now affects 15 percent of working age people in the region, or a total of 400,000 patients, the study says. At least 20,000 have died from CKDu there.

In 2009, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health introduced criteria for CKDu. Basically, the Ministry found that CKDu did not share common risk factors as chronic kidney disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and glomerular nephritis, or inflammation of the kidney.

Based on geographical and socioeconomical factors associated with CKDu, it was assumed that environmental and occupational variables would offer clues to the disease’s origins – or in this case, it came from chemicals.

The new study noted that even the World Health Organization had found that CKDu is caused by exposure to arsenic, cadmium, and pesticides, in addition to hard water consumption, low water intake, and exposure to high temperatures. Yet why that certain area of Sri Lanka and why the disease didn’t show prior to the mid-1990s was left unanswered.

Researchers point out that political changes in Sri Lanka in the late 1970s led to the introduction of agrochemicals, especially in rice farming. They believe that 12 to 15 years of exposure to “low concentration kidney-damaging compounds” along with their accumulation in the body led to the appearance of CKDu in the mid-90s.

The incriminating agent, or Compound “X,” must have certain characteristics, researchers deduced. The compound, they hypothesized, must be: made of chemicals newly introduced in the last 20 to 30 years; capable of forming stable complexes with hard water; capable of retaining nephrotoxic metals and delivering them to the kidney; capable of multiple routes of exposure, such as ingestion, through skin or respiratory absorption, among other criteria.

These factors pointed to glyphosate, used in abundance in Sri Lanka. In the study, researchers noted that earlier studies had shown that typical glyphosate half-life of around 47 days in soil can increase up to 22 years after forming hard to biodegrade “strong complexes with metal ions.”

Scientists have derived three ways of exposure to glyphosate-metal complexes (GMCs): consumption of contaminated hard water, food, or the complex could be formed directly within circulation with glyphosate coming from dermal/respiratory route and metals from water and foods.

Rice farmers, for example, are at high risk of exposure to GMCs through skin absorption, inhalation, or tainted drinking water. GMCs seem to evade the normal liver’s detoxification process, thus damaging kidneys, the study found.

The study also suggests that glyphosate could be linked to similar epidemics of kidney disease of unknown origin in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and India.

Recent investigations by the Center for Public Integrity found that, in the last five years, CKDu is responsible for more deaths in El Salvador and Nicaragua than diabetes, AIDS, and leukemia combined.

Paleobiology


Childhood field trips to natural history museums were, for many of us, our first brush with the field of paleobiology. Paleobiologists still use many of the tools and methods we associate with the study of ancient animals: exploration, digging, fossil collecting, and microscope work. In recent years, however, the field has become less of a collecting and describing science and moved increasingly into the analytical, data-driven realm.

Spectroscopy, DNA sequencing, X-ray computed tomography scans, and computer models of movement are bringing new insight into ancient organisms, including animal behavior, diet, and evolution (1). Scanning electron microscopes, for example, indicate some feathered dinosaurs were brilliantly colored. Computerized locomotion models indicate how ancient animals may have walked. Isotopic analysis of ancient human hair indicates whether the owner had a more uniform or varied diet.

Beyond incorporating new analytical methods, paleobiology has moved into the applied sciences, gaining a voice in conservation biology. Because the climate has oscillated in the past, for example, preserved records of species distributions, assemblages, individual size, and other measurements can hint at what the future holds and how we can manage ecosystems for preservation and biodiversity (2).

Recent work studying tropical fossils suggests conditions became so hot during the Early Triassic that few plants or animals survived. Those animals left were primarily stunted (3). Paleobiology also lends weight to the importance of habitat preservation, especially along migration corridors. The seasonal migration routes traveled by herds of pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming have been used for 5,000 to 6,000 years. Those routes must be saved if the species is to be (2). Beyond informing policy, some researchers advocate paleobiology training for wildlife managers themselves, helping them answer forensic questions, such as: Are these the remains of a poached animal? (2).

A few biologists, however, question the field’s usefulness for conservation. The ancient record is spotty. Sampling is a product of luck as much as anything. Not all organisms are equally preserved and soft-bodied animals are hardly preserved at all. The links between past environmental and biological changes can be complex, nonlinear, or seemingly absent.

“Even a decade ago, the prevailing wisdom about fossil accumulations was that they were hopelessly biased,” writes Julien Louys, “to the extent that it would be difficult to ever meaningfully compare fossil communities to modern ones. That has luckily proved not to be the case” (4).

Instead, Louys argues, important measurements, such as species composition, trophic structure, abundance, and even genetic diversity, to an extent, can be traced through time, informing and guiding conservationists as they seek to protect modern ecosystems.

References

 

  1. Lyman RL

(2012) Biodiversity, paleozoology, and conservation biology. Paleontology in Ecology and Conservation, ed Louys J (Springer, Berlin), pp 147169.

 

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(2012) Lethally hot temperatures during the Early Triassic greenhouse. Science338(6105):366370.

 

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Source : http://www.pnas.org

 

Structures may cause jellyfish blooms.


Human-made structures such as harbours, tourist facilities, oil rigs and aquaculture farms provide ideal sanctuaries for jellyfish polyps to flourish and may explain an apparent increase in jellyfish blooms in many coastal waters around the world.

That’s the conclusion of a new study published by a group of international researchers, including lead author Winthrop Professor Carlos Duarte, Director of the Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia.

Their paper “Is global ocean sprawl a cause of jellyfish blooms?” appears in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Professor Duarte said most theories that seek to explain increased jellyfish blooms focus on jellyfish at their more mature swimming stage and factors such as a lack of predators or competitors due to overfishing.

But the new study examined the tiny polyp phase of jellyfish and found they congregate in millions on the underside of human-made structures.

“We call this new proposition the ‘Trojan Horse‘ hypothesis,” Professor Duarte said.

“The proliferation of artificial structures such as harbours, shipping facilities and aquaculture structures provides a habitat for jellyfish polyps and may be an important driver in explaining the global increase in jellyfish blooms.”

Professor Duarte said jellyfish larvae typically settle on a hard surface and grow into polyps as part of a colony.  The polyps are generally inconspicuous because they are very small – usually only a millimetre or so in length.

The study examined polyps growing on a variety of man-made structures around the world – including in Japan, Britain, Spain and Slovenia – and looked under docks, piers, pontoons and artificial reefs, and on the underside of oysters attached to piers.

“Jellyfish polyps existed on the underside of such artificial structures at densities of more than 10,000 individuals per square metre, and sometimes up to 100,000 per square metre,” Professor Duarte said.

Research was also conducted in Chesapeake Bay in the US and in a laboratory with a Mediterranean jellyfish species to examine how larvae settled on oyster shells, flagstones and 16 other surfaces, including bricks, ropes, cans, wood, concrete and plastic.

Source: Science Alert