selective focus photo of plants

DAILY DOSE: Scientists in Mexico take to the streets to protest new law; New GMO plant has the ability to replicate asexually.

Members of the scientific community in Mexico took to the streets to protest a new law passed against their wishes. They claim that the law will negatively affect their ability to do research in the future. Per Nature,

More than 14,000 people have signed a letter protesting the approval of a new science law in Mexico on 29 April. Researchers are organizing a march against it later this month and even calling for a strike. They say that the legislation — the General Law on Humanities, Sciences, Technologies and Innovation — consolidates power over science with the government and ignores the wishes of the research community. And they are angry that Mexico’s ruling party, that of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, rushed the law through — the approval didn’t follow normal parliamentary procedures, the researchers say.

The process was “atypical” and “irregular” says Fidel Sánchez, a bioinformatics researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

The law’s passage adds to tensions between the research community and Obrador’s administration, which has slashed science funding in Mexico and accused some scientists of organized crime.

Mixing politics and science is pretty ugly, regardless how common it is.

Here’s news that will surely freak out each and every anti-GMO activist and their mothers. Self-propagating GMO plants. Per Science,

Plant breeders have long dreamed of an easier, more powerful way to create hybrid seed. In nature, some plant species reproduce clonally: The eggs inside their flowers become embryos without pollination, part of a process called apomixis—“away from mixing” in Greek. If researchers could genetically engineer crops to reproduce through apomixis, the process of creating the first hybrid generation might still be laborious. But then seed companies could much more easily propagate hybrid offspring.

For decades, scientists had limited success. But recent breakthroughs have brought the concept closer to reality. In 2019, an international team reported that it had successfully engineered a line of rice plants that could reproduce clonally—the first instance of synthetic apomixis in a crop. Groups around the world are working to develop apomictic varieties of sorghum, tomatoes, alfalfa, and other crops. There’s a palpable “sense of excitement” in the field, says Mary Gehring, a molecular biologist at the Whitehead Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies development in apomictic plants.

The technology won’t be ready to be commercialized for years. “There’s still an awful lot that we don’t understand about how to make it efficient for agriculture,” says Peggy Ozias-Akins, a geneticist at the University of Georgia. But seed companies are paying attention. Apomictic reproduction would simplify how they produce hybrid seeds, quicken the release of new varieties, and reduce costs. The technology could also benefit smallholder farmers in poorer countries who might not have regular access to commercial hybrid seeds, because they could save seeds produced by the previous year’s crop. “It really would be a big game changer,” says Adam Famoso, a rice breeder at Louisiana State University.

That sound you heard was everyone at the Non-GMO Project falling out of their chairs.

Desperation can sometimes breed ingenuity. That seems to be the vase among ecologists in the Amazon. Per the Associated Press,

In a remote corner of the Amazon, Brazilian ecologists are trying to succeed where a lack of governance has proved disastrous. They’re managing a stretch of land in a way that welcomes both local people and scientists to engage in preserving the world’s largest tropical forest.

The goal is ambitious, counter the forces that have destroyed 10% of the forest in less than four decades and create something that can be replicated in other parts of the Amazon.

It began with a four-month expedition along the Juruá River in 2016. Researchers visited some 100 communities that at first sight looked similar: rows of wooden homes on stilts along the water. But they were struck by contrasts in the living conditions.

To understand what they saw, it’s important to know that 29% of the Amazon, an area roughly three times the size of California, is either public land with no special protection, or public land for which no public information exists, according to a study by the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment.

The annual typhoons that sweep over South Asia are delayed this year. That has resulted in the area suffering through an ungodly heatwave. Per Channel News Asia,

Swathes of India from the northwest to the southeast braced for more scorching heat on Monday (May 22), with New Delhi under a severe weather alert, as extreme temperatures strike parts of the country.

The Indian Meteorological Department issued a heat wave alert for seven southern and central states last week and broadened it to the capital and some northern states on Monday as sizzling temperatures breached normal levels.

It warned that blistering heat will continue for the next few days before rains bring some relief. The southwest monsoon is slightly delayed this year and will hit in the first week of June, causing temperatures to stay high longer than usual, it said.

It’s really hard to underestimate the importance of the annual typhoon to all life on the subcontinent.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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