NEURALINK’S GRIM EXPERIMENTS.
The California National Primate Center observed a tan macaque suffer severe neurological defects following a Neuralink experiment, leading to the monkey’s euthanasia on September 13, 2018. An autopsy revealed the Neuralink implant’s adhesive leaked, causing inflammation and brain rupture. The incident violated the US Animal Welfare Act; however, due to proactive reporting by the center, neither the center nor Neuralink faced legal consequences. Documentation and footage of Neuralink’s experiments at UC Davis remain largely unreleased. The university argues that releasing certain images would not serve the public’s interest, while others claim the public has a right to view taxpayer-funded animal experiments. Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, tightly controlled the information UC Davis could disclose. Documents highlight both botched surgeries and animal suffering. Despite the controversy, Neuralink recently gained FDA approval for human trials. The company, after ending its partnership with UC Davis in September 2020, now conducts tests in-house, away from public scrutiny. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is suing UC Davis for the release of images and videos of Neuralink’s experiments. (Wired)
FERTILIZER CRISIS CAUSING MASS HUNGER.
Suleiman Chubado, a farmer in northeastern Nigeria, faces dire consequences from the dramatic increase in fertilizer prices. Fertilizer costs have more than doubled over the past year, leaving Chubado unable to nourish his crops adequately. Consequently, his family often goes hungry. While the exact cause of the price surge remains ambiguous, one theory points to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which disrupted key fertilizer ingredient shipments. This disruption, paired with climate change and other global pressures, threatens food supplies and livelihoods globally, highlighting the risks of global interconnectedness. The crisis was precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which elevated transportation costs, followed by the war and aggressive interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve. As a result, fertilizers, priced in dollars, became substantially more expensive in countries like Nigeria. This situation underscores the widespread danger when economies rely heavily on major suppliers for essential products, resulting in diminished harvests, food price increases, and widespread hunger. (New York Times)
PHILIPPINES GETS BAYER SEEDS.
Bayer AG has announced plans to introduce its direct-seeded rice programme to the Philippines in 2024, a cultivation method that promises greater environmental benefits. Having already launched the system in India, Bayer claims it can decrease water consumption by 40%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, and cut manual labor costs by half. Traditional rice farming involves nurturing seedlings in nurseries before moving them to water-logged paddy fields, a method used for around 80% of global rice crops. Bayer’s approach uses rice hybrids that can be planted directly into the soil. Although the Philippines ranks among the top ten rice producers worldwide, it still can’t fulfill its domestic demand, in contrast to India, which is the leading rice exporter. Bayer’s announcement was made during an international rice conference in Manila, hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). In another development, IRRI revealed the identification of genes in rice with low and ultra-low glycaemic index (GI) values, marking a significant step in addressing global diabetes concerns. Many rice varieties have previously been deemed unsuitable for diabetics due to their high GI. IRRI’s discovery paves the way for new rice types that cater to health-conscious consumers, as emphasized by Dr. Nese Sreenivasulu of IRRI’s nutrition research unit. (Channel News Asia)
AI FARMING ADVICE.
A new AI chatbot, Farmer.CHAT, is set to revolutionize agriculture, offering solutions to modern farming challenges exacerbated by climate change and the Ukraine war. At the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum in Tokyo, experts discussed the potential of AI in enhancing sustainable farming. Ismail Serageldin, ex-vice president of the World Bank, believes the app will significantly benefit farmers in marginal lands. AI chatbots can promote resilience and sustainability in agriculture by aiding the creation of drought-resistant crops, early-warning systems for climate-related disasters, and sustainable land management. Traditional agricultural extension service specialists find it challenging to reach remote areas, but Farmer.CHAT, available on mobile phones, provides farmers with advice in multiple languages. Digital Green, an AI application developer, emphasized its user-friendliness and accessibility. However, concerns persist, as up to 30% of global food production doesn’t reach consumers due to post-harvest issues. With food insecurity doubling since 2020, largely due to the Ukraine conflict and climate change, there’s a call for the agriculture sector to actively engage in carbon capture and sequestration. (Japan Today)
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UNCHECKED KILL FISHING CAUSES DAMAGE.
Antarctica – The remote Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is under threat from industrial krill fishing, reports an AP investigation. These tiny pink crustaceans are a cornerstone of the Antarctic food web, feeding whales, seals, penguins and more. But our insatiable global demand for fish feed, supplements and pet food is spurring a krill fishing frenzy at the bottom of the world. As krill trawlers vacuum up tons of this foundational prey, their factory-like ships churn out oily pollution. Conservationists cry foul, but fishing nations like China and Russia aggressively block stricter catch limits. Scientists warn climate change already threatens krill populations and Antarctic wildlife dependent on them. Still, krill fishing outfits described as politically-connected continue expanding their Antarctic operations. With the majestic blue whale’s very survival tied to this opaque fishery, can Antarctica’s unique marine ecosystem withstand our ravenous appetite for tiny krill and the geopolitical tensions they ignite? (Associated Press)
RAW MILK CAUSES TONS OF BAD STOMACHS IN UTAH.
The Salt Lake County Health Department reported that 14 individuals in Utah contracted a severe gastrointestinal infection after consuming “raw,” unpasteurized milk. Utah has a notable history of such outbreaks due to its lax laws on raw milk sale and distribution. In 2015, the state even approved herd-share programs, allowing residents to purchase a portion of an animal’s unpasteurized milk yield. From 2012 to 2019, Utah had 14 raw milk-related outbreaks, the highest for a single state, followed by Pennsylvania with nine. Post the 2015 herd share legalization, outbreaks increased. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2022 revealed that states permitting raw milk retail sales experience three times more outbreaks than states that prohibit it. The recent Utah outbreak involved the Campylobacter bacterium, which has caused 25 outbreaks in Utah since 2009, affecting 295 people. Affected individuals showed symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain, and ages ranged from 2 to 73 years. One required hospitalization. Most confirmed consuming raw milk. The health department recommends heating raw milk to 165° F for at least 15 seconds before intake. (Ars Technica)
The American Museum of Natural History is re-evaluating its possession and display of around 12,000 human remains, which were acquired in the past through contentious methods, such as grave robbing of Indigenous and enslaved individuals. In light of current ethical concerns and public scrutiny, the museum has decided to remove all publicly displayed human bones and improve the storage for the remains. Additionally, the museum intends to investigate the origins and identities of the remains. Sean M. Decatur, the museum’s president, noted that many of these remains were procured due to racial prejudices and imbalances of power. The museum has been criticized for its slow pace in repatriating 2,200 Native American remains, as mandated by federal law. There are also concerns about remains from Black individuals and other New Yorkers acquired in ethically questionable circumstances. The museum’s decisions come as institutions globally re-examine their practices, especially concerning items obtained through colonization or dubious methods. Decatur emphasized that the museum must commit to restorative and respectful actions while engaging with local communities about the remains’ future. (New York Times)
INBREEDING GONE RIGHT.
Mikkira Station, south of Port Lincoln on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, is vulnerable to bushfires due to its surrounding dense, low scrub. This spring saw a fire scare from a neighboring property, and Lincoln National Park nearby is flagged as one of Australia’s highest fire risk areas. Helen de la Perelle, the station’s fourth-generation owner, is acutely aware of fire dangers, especially to her primary attraction – koalas. The station, which celebrates a century under her family’s management, has hosted koalas for 54 years. These animals were introduced in 1969 as a safeguard against potential wildfires in Kangaroo Island. However, a 2012 fire at Mikkira caused significant tree and koala losses. The station’s significance extends to local Indigenous ceremonies. Recent favorable weather led to an increase in koala numbers, but rapid growth could threaten eucalyptus trees. Unlike some other Australian koala populations, Mikkira’s remains disease-free and genetically healthy. (ABC)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.