Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com

Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com.

nsects offer key advantages over mammals and electronics, however, because of their antennae. For example, electronic nose devices have trouble detecting an odor amid more complicated conditions, like when there’s a greater mixture of gases, as is found in human breath. And studies have revealed that sniffer dogs identify odors correctly only about 71 percent of the time, while also requiring at least three months’ training. Bees, in contrast, have achieved an accuracy rate of 98 percent and can be trained in about 10 minutes.

In developing “Bee’s,” the Portuguese native needed something that enabled the user to easily transport bees into the instrument and safely suck them back out using a vacuum. The source material also had to be malleable enough to shape into a system with well-defined pathways that don’t impede their movement. She eventually settled on glass as the material because of its flexibility and transparency. “To know the results of a breath test, you’d have to see the behavior of the insects,” she says. “Everything is about their behavior.”

Prototypes have undergone field testing, and although it didn’t find any instances of cancer, it did turn up a case of diabetes that was later confirmed. It’s unlikely, though, that the concept will amount to anything beyond being an exhibition curiosity. While there was a brief period in which she felt ambitious enough to reach out to potential collaborators, the process proved so time consuming and unfruitful that she ultimately gave up. The only organizations that seemed even remotely interested in her idea were a handful of charities. So for now, “Bee’s” exists as one of those purely academic exercises to show, as she puts it, the “symbiotic relationship” humans have with nature and how “technology and science can better foster these relationships.”

“I think there’s only four labs in the world doing research into insects for disease screening, which shows you that this approach doesn’t go over well in the western world,” says Soares. “Medical and health technologies are a big business, and the bottom line is they just don’t see how something like this can be profitable.”

Glen C. Rains, an agricultural professor at the University of Georgia, largely concurs, though he adds that there are more complex issues besides economics. The entomologist, as well as licensed beekeeper, has dealt with numerous challenges while developing a similar device called the Wasp Hound, which uses a batch of five wasps to detect the presence of bedbugs. Rains’ system is a bit more elaborate in that it uses a camera to record the wasps’ behavior. The data is then fed into software that analyzes these movements to determine if the bugs actually did indeed detect these unwanted guests. After over a decade of development, Rains has forged a partnership with Bennett Aerospace, an engineering firm, to refine the technology for large-scale real applications.

Wild Bumblebees need protection | EcoWatch

Conservation and Science Leaders Demand Protection of Wild Bumblebees | EcoWatch.

 

To prevent the spread of disease to wild populations of agriculturally significant bee pollinators, petitioners asked U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to use its authority to regulate commercial bumblebees. Specifically, the petitioners want APHIS to create rules prohibiting the movement of bumblebees outside their native ranges and regulate interstate movement of bumblebee pollinators within their native ranges by requiring permits that show the bumblebees are disease-free before being transported.
The letter comes nearly four years after an initial petition for rulemaking, which asked the APHIS to regulate the movement of commercial bumblebees to help control the spread of parasites to wild bees. The agency has not responded, despite dramatic declines in several native bee populations across the country. Researchers believe that pathogens transmitted by commercial bumblebees are likely part of the problem, prompting the call for agency intervention to help stem native bumblebee losses and avert the associated impacts on the U.S. food system.
“It has been almost four years since we filed our petition asking that APHIS regulate the movement of commercial bumblebees,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Several species of bumblebees are in steep decline and it is urgent that APHIS take action soon to protect these important pollinators.”
Bumblebee pollination is essential to the reproduction of many crops and native flowering plants, and pathogens of bumblebees can act as indirect plant pests that pose a significant threat to agriculture and native ecosystems.
“Without immediate agency intervention we will likely continue to see a dramatic decline in bumblebee pollinators with perilous and potentially irreversible consequences,” Giulia Good Stefani, attorney with NRDC said. “One-third of the food on our plates depends on pollinators. A failure to protect our bumblebees has direct implications for the health of the ecosystems that depend on them and for the security of our food supply.”
The unregulated interstate movement of bumblebees outside their native ranges may already have introduced diseases that have led to the rapid endangerment of four formerly common bee pollinators and the possible extinction of a fifth bumblebee. The last reported sighting of a Franklin’s bee (Bombus franklini) was in August 2006, and, without regulation, the western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis), the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), the yellow-banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola), and the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) are each in danger of disappearing throughout significant portions of their distribution ranges.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

 

Yesterday Boyd’s boss, environment secretary Owen Paterson, told the Conservative party conference not to worry about global warming. “I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.” A few weeks ago on Any Questions, he managed to repeat 10 discredited claims about climate change in one short contribution.

His department repeatedly misrepresents science to appease industrial lobbyists. It claimed that its field trials of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees showed that “effects on bees do not occur under normal circumstances“. Hopelessly contaminated, the study was in fact worthless, which is why it was not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Similar distortions surround the department’s refusal to establish meaningful marine reserves, its attempt to cull buzzards on behalf of pheasant shoots, and its determination to allow farmers to start dredging streams again, turning them into featureless gutters.

There’s one consolation: Boyd, in his efforts to establish a tinpot dictatorship, has not yet achieved the control enjoyed by his counterparts in Canada. There, scientists with government grants working on any issue that could affect industrial interests – tar sands, climate change, mining, sewage, salmon farms, water trading – are forbidden to speak freely to the public. They are shadowed by government minders and, when they must present their findings, given scripts to memorise and recite. Dozens of turbulent research programmes and institutes have either been cut to the bone or closed altogether.

In Australia, the new government has chosen not to appoint a science minister. Tony Abbott, who once described man-made climate change as “absolute crap”, has already shut down the government’s climate commission and climate change authority. But at least Australians are fighting back: the climate commission has been reconvened as an NGO, funded by donations. In Britain we allowed the government to shut down the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission with scarcely a groan of protest.

David Cameron’s government claimed that the tiny savings it made were required to reduce the deficit. Yet somehow it manages to fund a lavish range of planet-wrecking programmes. The latest is the Centre for Doctoral Training in Oil and Gas, just launched by the Natural Environment Research Council. Its aim is “to support the oil and gas sector” by providing “focused training” in fracking, in exploiting tar deposits, and in searching for oil in polar regions. In other words, it is subsidising fossil fuel companies while promoting climate change. How many people believe this is a good use of public money?

To be reasonable, when a government is manipulating and misrepresenting scientific findings, is to dissent. To be reasonable, when it is helping to destroy human life and the natural world, is to dissent. As Julien Benda argued in La Trahison des Clercs, democracy and civilisation depend on intellectuals resisting conformity and power.

A world in which scientists speak only through minders and in which dissent is considered the antithesis of reason is a world shorn of meaningful democratic choices. You can judge a government by its treatment of inconvenient facts and the people who expose them. This one does not emerge well.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot A fully referenced version of this article can be found at monbiot.com

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information.

 

Just the fact that Monsanto’s GE wheat trials got out of control and contaminated a wheat field in Oregon — causing Japan and South Korea to ban U.S. wheat imports — has resulted in 150 groups now demanding the USDA keep a tighter lid on Monsanto’s GMO experiments. These groups are fed up with seeing the market value of their crops destroyed by sloppy “open field” experiments being conducted by Monsanto that spread genetic pollution across the country and contaminate non-GMO crops. (Monsanto goes even further and actually sues the farmers whose fields they contaminated!)

Hedge funds dumping Monsanto

As InsiderMonkey.com reports, Monsanto “has experienced declining interest from the entirety of the hedge funds we track.”

The report goes on to say:

At the top of the heap, Jeffrey Vinik’s Vinik Asset Management said goodbye to the largest stake of the 450+ funds we monitor, totaling close to $100.8 million in [Monsanto] stock. Sean Cullinan’s fund, Point State Capital, also dropped its [Monsanto] stock, about $54.7 million worth.

These sales leave Stephen Mandel’s Lone Pine Capital with the largest holdings of Monsanto, over $613 million worth of the company’s stock. Natural News urges all investors to ditch Lone Pine Capital and take your money somewhere else that doesn’t invest in “the world’s most evil corporation.”

Blue Ridge Capital also owns over $320 million in Monsanto stock and should be immediately abandoned by all investors.

Monsanto share prices plummeting ever since the March Against Monsanto

So far this year, Monsanto (MON) share prices have plummeted from a high of $109 to a current trading range around $95. That’s a drop of nearly 13%, and the bad news for Monsanto just keeps coming.

For one, the European Union’s new food safety guidelines affirm the methodology and findings of the Seralini GM corn rat study. As much as the biotech industry and all its pimped-out science trolls have attempted to attack the study, the secret is already out: GM corn causes cancer tumors and consumers accurately see GM corn as equivalent to a “poison” symbol on foods.

The Seralini study, by the way, found that:

• Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.

• Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.

• Rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.

• The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GM corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.

Anyone who is still investing in Monsanto is investing in this:

What’s killing Canadian honeybees? – Canada – CBC News

What’s killing Canadian honeybees? – Canada – CBC News.

 

‘Fugitive dust’

Ontario’s bee die-off last year raised the question of how bees were coming into contact with this pesticide, if indeed the seeds were buried. That spurred investigators to look at the planting process, which was when most of the recorded bee deaths occurred.

When corn planters sow their fields, a lot of dust is kicked up as the large tractor and planter, followed by a fertilizer container, move up and down the fields. As the insecticide-coated corn seed moves through the hopper, it leaves behind residue that is carried up into dust clouds that can stay airborne and carry across the fields.

The irregular shape of the corn seed may further accentuate the problem. A talcum powder is sprinkled over the irregular shaped seed to help it flow smoothly through the hopper.

The powder itself is benign, but Health Canada and CropLife Canada now acknowledge that the talc actually helps disseminate the dust off the seeds.

This “fugitive dust” is now considered by Health Canada and others as one likely route of exposure to neonicotinoids for honeybees and other pollinators.

Bees can come into contact with the insecticides through “direct contact caused from planter dust, in which case bees are probably doomed almost instantly. It contaminates nearby flowers in a typical wash like any pesticide,” says University of California apiarist Eric Mussen.

Evidence is mounting

Some scientists think the acute deaths that seem to coincide with planting are just the tip of the iceberg.

Jeff Pettis is the research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture bee lab in Maryland. Last September, around the time Health Canada reported the insecticide residues on 70 per cent of the dead and dying bees, Pettis told CBC News, “I am almost more concerned about the possible residues in corn pollen as the plants mature than the temporary exposure that occurred this spring with planting and dust.”

A farmer pours neonicotinoid-covered corn seeds into a barrel. A farmer pours neonicotinoid-covered corn seeds into a barrel. (Janet Thomson/CBC)

Eric Mussen at the University of California agrees. Because of the systemic nature of the insecticide, he says, “any time the plant is in bloom you’re going to have a long-term exposure, and now it becomes incorporated into the bee hive.”

Laval University entomologist Val Fournier suggests another potential source of exposure. When she sampled surface water from puddles in fields two to three weeks after they were planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn, she found levels of neonicotinoids 10 times higher than what is known to cause death.

“This water would be very, very toxic for bees,” she says.

In April, the European Union issued a moratorium on neonicotinoids as it assesses the ongoing global decline in bee populations. But Canada’s pesticide regulatory agency does not want to take that step.