Meat-eaters Club Members Only Please

If you had no natural predator then you can imagine how a sudden surge of invasive species could do unspeakable harm to an ecosystem.

What are US conservationists in the United States trying to curb burgeoning alien populations?

They are calling on chefs and foodies to consider putting them on a plate as a delicacy!

“Conservation can get so serious and dire, we want to put a little fun back in,” Laura Huffman, state director of the Texas Nature Conservancy, tells The Atlantic and here are four invasive creatures you should consider giving a try…

Lionfish
They’re striped!
They’re colourful!
They’re covered with venomous spikes!

But… those spikes can be removed and then the lionfish tastes rather good. According to National Geographic, lionfish have “moist, buttery meat that is often compared to hogfish.” One Connecticut sushi chef, in fact, has already given “spear-caught lionfish sashimi” a spot on his menu.

Feral hogs
Ask TV viewers: wild pigs are a serious problem. Not only are the mammals very smart but they reproduce at an astonishing rate AND devour everything and anything in their path.

Hogs is still pork by golly and by the divine will of the gods hogs is still bacon! Even veggies and vegans like bacon! The meat from feral boar tastes tender, dark, smokey, and sweet.

Snakeheads
Boasting razor-sharp teeth capable of tearing human flesh, capable of walking on land, AND able to survive for three days thanks to a lung-like adaptation that allows them to breathe out of water! PLUS females can lay 15,000 eggs in a single year. According to Nancy Matsumoto at The Atlantic, Scott Drewno, chef at Wolfgang Puck’s top-rated The Source, has a popular recipe for serving the monstrous fish.

[Drewno] cures snakehead with kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, cane sugar, ginger and garlic for about nine hours, and then smokes it using sencha green tea and serves it with a sauce of garlic chili, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and microgreens. Meaty, smoky, and exotically spiced, the dish is gaining a following. Although it is not on the lunch menu, “people are coming in and asking for it,” Drewno reports

Asian Tiger Shrimp
The shrimp can measure up to 13 inches long and weigh nearly a pound and are spreading through the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard” menacing those areas’ ecosystem.” In a single cycle, females lay anywhere from 50,000 to 1 million eggs. Don’t try putting these with eggs as it would be disservice.

Eat up! Children are starving!

Crop The Wild Relatives*

* It’s not illegal!

Kew’s growth strategy: hybrid crops without the genetic modification
Plan to crossbreed crops with their wild cousins to help boost resistance to climate change

British researchers are leading an unprecedented global project to track down and store wild relatives of common crops – to help breed hybrids with higher yields that could be resistant to the effects of climate change.

Crossing staple crops such as wheat, potatoes and rice with their wild cousins offers a natural, safe alternative to the genetic modification of plants in the lab, according to experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, which is behind the scheme.

A report by researchers at Kew found that so-called “crop wild relatives” offer a badly neglected “treasure trove” of genetic information that, if harnessed properly, could boost agricultural production and be worth up to £128bn to the global economy.

But global stocks of crop wild relatives are woefully low and many species are close to extinction, with aubergine, potato, apple, sunflower and carrot varieties most at risk, the report found.

More than half the 455 known crop wild relatives of the world’s 29 most-consumed food plants have either not been collected at all, or are badly under-represented, making it essential to build stocks as soon as possible, warns Jonas Mueller, of the Kew Millennium Seed Bank.

“Now that we have identified the gaps the next step is to collect them and make them accessible for agricultural research. We know the climate will change but we don’t know how. So we don’t yet know how it will affect the crops that have been bred in the past specifically for the climate of today,” said Dr Mueller. “It can take 15 to 20 years to breed a new crop variety, so every year we delay has a knock-on effect. It is a matter of urgency,” he added.

Locating and storing the crops will begin this summer in Italy, Cyprus and Portugal. It is a huge task that in many cases is easier said than done. Many crops lie in conflict-ridden regions such as Pakistan and Sudan, where wars can put both the species and the collectors at risk.

Some wild relatives of the faba bean – better known in this country as the broad bean – are found only in war-torn Syria and are a particular cause for concern. Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Australia and the US also have large numbers of priority crop wild relatives that need to be collected and stored.

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The Seed Bank, yesterday. Or not. It might have been Friday. Or not.

Britain could benefit tremendously from an injection of wild genes as its widely grown crops of conventional wheat, potatoes, barley, carrots, sugar cane and apples face an increasingly unpredictable climate.

A new generation of wild-domesticated crop hybrids could be more resistant to floods, droughts and extreme temperatures, using a technology which many scientists say is better understood and more effective than genetic modification. Ruth Eastwood, of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, said the procedure could potentially be safer than GM because their similar genetic backgrounds meant there was a “lower likelihood of unexpected interactions between genes”. “It certainly is another option that has proved to be effective already,” she said.

Andy Jarvis, of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia, also involved in the project, said: “Crop wild relatives are a potential treasure trove of useful characteristics that scientists can put to good use for making agriculture more resilient and improving the livelihoods of millions of people.”

Kew’s global 10-year programme with Germany’s Global Diversity Trust to identify and plug gaps in wild relative stocks is unprecedented.

Britain is also playing a leading role in the science. In May, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge claimed to have developed a new type of wheat that could increase its productivity by 30 per cent. It did this by recreating the original rare cross between an ancient wheat and wild grass species that happened in the Middle East 10,000 years ago, to form a “synthetic” wheat that can be crossed with modern UK varieties.

Advocates of plant breeding with crop wild relatives, which has been going on for decades, say it is a much safer and more effective way of improving plant yields than the fledgling process of genetic modification, which the Government is promoting in the face of an effective ban in Europe.

Success stories include a nutritionally enhanced variety of broccoli which contains higher levels of glucoraphanin, thought to slow down the progress of skin cancer.

An analysis of Kew’s research by the financial consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that commercial crops that have already benefited from the input of crop wild relatives will generate a total of £44bn in their lifetimes. This would rise to £128bn if the technique boosted the yield, disease resistance, and tolerance to temperature, drought and flooding of the world’s 32 most-consumed crops.

Ms Eastwood said: “Adapting agriculture to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time. Crop wild relatives are already being used to improve our food crops right now and are extremely valuable economically as well. But they are underutilitised.”

The project team first identified all known wild relatives of the world’s most important crops. It then spent two years scouring gene banks, dried plant collections and museums to determine stock levels and gather data on sightings in the wild. From the data, the team identified species that are a high priority for collection.

The report comes a week after the UK Government announced plans to invest £160m setting up centres for innovation in sustainable farming and bringing new agricultural technologies to market.

The 29 crops: What’s involved?

The 29 crops covered in the project are: African rice, alfalfa, apple, eggplant (aubergine), bambara groundnut, banana, barley, wheat, lima bean (butter bean), carrot, chickpea, common bean, cowpea, faba bean (broad bean), finger millet, grasspea, lentil, oat, pea, pearl millet, pigeon pea, plantain, potato, rice, rye, sorghum, sunflower, sweet potato and vetch.

Early winners: potatoes and wheat

The breeding of staples with their “crop wild relatives” (CWRs) has already proved beneficial.

Late blight is one of the most damaging diseases for potatoes: its negative economic impact is thought to be $3.5bn per year in developed countries alone. Resistance to the condition in current European potato varieties has been exclusively derived from CWRs. Varieties of potato with CWR-derived late-blight resistance, such as the C88 potato, are also being introduced into China. In one study, it was estimated that CWR-derived resistance was responsible for preventing the loss of approximately 30 per cent of the annual yield, where conditions for blight were prevalent.

Wheat varieties such as Veery have benefited from the introduction of genes from rye, a relative of wheat. The beneficial traits inherited include tolerance to extremes of temperature and drought conditions, as well as resistance to a variety of diseases such as wheat rust. These wheat varieties have had a significant impact in the developing world, as well as in developed-world markets such as the USA.

Source: The Independent

Wicked Sick Map!

Illness and death are the common lot of humanity, but just how they get you depends in part on where in the world you live. This artwork makes that point by combining the beauty of microscopy with the geography of disease. Each continent is painted as microscopic views of the parts of the body that, when diseased or dysfunctional, cause most death or illness for the people who live there.

North America is built from fatty adipose tissue because of its epidemic of obesity. Europe and Russia is represented by brain tissue, representing the neurodegenerative disease of its ageing population. East Asia and the Pacific region is shown as pancreatic tissue, which when diseased causes diabetes. Greenland is marked by a few sperm cells that represent infertility.

The artist, Odra Noel, trained as a doctor, and uses her knowledge of organs and tissues, cell structure and mitochondria in her work. She says she painted this work on silk to evoke old maps.

The disease map of the world is on show from 2 July at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition in London. This festival of science and technology presents exhibits covering everything from acoustic thermometry to zebrafish genetics.

Image: Odra Noel/Scientific Art / odranoel.eu
© NewScientist.com TYVM

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Natural Bar Codes?

Electronic Nose Sniffs Out Food From Problem Sources

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As globalized supply chains make the origins of the food you eat so murky, companies are investing in technology to track the exact places its ingredients were grown by looking at their molecules.

Where does your food come from? That’s a harder question to answer than you imagine. A global supply chain stretching across dozens of countries comes together at your grocery story to fill your shopping cart–some of it illegally.

Faced with a vast international trade in foods, companies are now looking for ways to find out where there suppliers are really getting their goods. Technology using molecular tagging, “a natural bar code that can’t be washed off or rubbed away,” says Ian Green, director of business development at Picarro which is pioneering the technology, is being picked up by companies from Coca Cola to Kraft.

It’s a natural bar code that can’t be washed off or rubbed away.

The World Customs Institute estimates the counterfeit food industry is worth about $49 billion a year, while the FDA only inspects about 2% of imported food in the U.S. (about 15% of the total), and the number of domestic inspections is declining, reports Newsweek. “Products are moving around the world so fast now that there is just ample opportunity,” says John Spink, a food-fraud expert at Michigan State University in Newsweek. “And the demand for inexpensive food virtually guarantees that the problem will persist and grow.”

The process works by analyzing tiny samples of food and measuring the “flavors” of atoms in the sample, known as isotopes. Every location on the planet has a slightly different signature of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that points to the origins of food or plants. A sample dropped in a 2,000 degree oven breaks apart into its constituent molecules of water, sugars, and carbohydrates, yielding a chemical signature almost as distinctive as a fingerprint.

For food companies dealing with rampant fraud and smuggling in commodities such as cotton, cocoa, or palm oil, it’s a reputational risk–and a legal one–to be doing business with new suppliers. Concerns about child slavery or clear cutting of tropical forests have risen to the boardroom. Illicit products slipping into supplies of otherwise legitimate–even certified–products have sparked customer boycotts, the wrath of NGOs, and even raids by U.S. customs agents (Gibson Guitar).

Smaller companies are getting bilked on a daily basis.

Another concern is about the authenticity of ingredients themselves. As companies scour global markets for the cheapest products, suppliers are passing off counterfeit materials as the real thing. “I think the smaller companies are getting bilked on a daily basis,” says Green. To see how prevalent it is, Picarro tested products sold by companies from Whole Foods to lesser known brands. So far they’ve found Italian olive oil that is neither from Italy nor olives, as well as cosmetics derived from shark liver oil rather than plants (a compound known as squalane).

The technology ~ at about $1 sample, it’s cheap to perform individual tests ~ requires a $100,000 machine, so it’s still out of reach for most. Companies worried about the integrity of their global supplies, however, might find mapping their supply chain is a good investment.

Source: Co.Exist

Noisy Jelly?!

As a species, we’ve sure put a lot of work into designing strange, noise-making implements that we pretend are perfectly normal by labeling them as “musical instruments.” Consider a tuba or a sitar–these are oddities by any aesthetic standard. We’re addicted to not just a wide variety of notes, but the unique flavors of each tone.

So maybe, when you think about it, there is nothing more strange about playing Jell-O than a cello.

Noisy Jelly is a project by Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard, two students at L’Ensci Les Ateliers. They experiment with agar agar jellies, placed upon sensors that convert their vibrations into music with the help of arduino processing.

“The signal has specific properties which are inherent to the jelly material,” Pluvinage tells Co.Design. “When you touch a jelly shape, maybe because it’s wiggling and the pressure of your finger is also not fixed, it produces a really small variation.” These minutiae add up–the wiggling, the jelly’s natural pressure sensitivity, the trembling of your own fingers–to create what, for lack of a better description, sounds like you’d imagine Jell-O to sound like.

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But beyond that sound itself, Noisy Jelly is really about the experience of playing for the musician, an experience like no other instrument in the world. “The thing we find the most exciting is the relation between the tactual property of the jelly and the sound produced. It’s difficult to feel it in the video, but touching the jelly (which is really strange and unusual … and cold) is really surprising,” writes Pluvinage. “It’s enabling to have really ‘rich’ interaction. You have a lot of ways to influence the sound, and the tactile sensation you have is incomparable to any button or tactile surface.”

Because of this whimsical interaction between a famous dessert and musical creation, or maybe chemistry class and art class, the team considers Noisy Jelly to be a packageable game for kids. And while it probably is, really, who doesn’t love playing with their food? Noisy Jelly would be perfect for kids ages 1 to 100.

Video link
Noisy Jelly Flickr Photo Set
.pdf Project

Source: Co.Design

Intestine on a Chip?

An Artificial Intestine On A Chip Knows How Food Affects You
Instead of eating food and then feeling bad, what about submitting your dietary choices to a miniature simulation of your own gutty works, so you can find out what you can and can’t tolerate?

Is milk actually good for you? In theory, maybe, but it’s possible that the seemingly innocent milk is triggering inflammation in your body. Eat enough inflammation-causing foods over a long period of time and your body might rebel, leading to a chronic inflammatory illness. But you’d have no way of knowing until it was too late. Soon, doctors may be able to use an artificial intestine on a chip to figure out exactly which foods are causing the most inflammation.

The Nutrichip, developed by researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is a mini artificial intestinal wall on a chip (pictured below) that consists of two levels: a top level made of cultured epithelial cells that represents the intestinal wall and a lower level made of immune system cells that represents the circulatory system.

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The chip uses high-resolution optical sensors to find and measure cytokine production from the immune cells. When macrophages detect possibly dangerous materials in the human body, they release molecules like cytokines–thus making cytokines a logical target for sensing inflammation.

Here’s how the system works: Food is “digested” using digestive enzymes. Once it has been digested, the food is injected into the chip, where cytokine production can be measured. “We have to reproduce every stage in the digestive process before food hits the intestine,” explained Professor Martin Gijs, one of the researchers behind the Nutrichip, in a statement. Blood tests can potentially provide similar information, but they are more invasive (and just not as exciting as an intestine on a chip).

The researchers are starting with dairy products. Once Gijs and his team sorout the most pro- and anti-inflammatory foods, they will undergo further nutritional testing. One day, this kind of testing could answer all sorts of questions for consumers, like whether probiotics have a significant benefit or what an anti-inflammatory diet really looks like.

Source: Co.Exist