Giving Up Meat Won’t Save The Planet And Cows Are Not Killing The Climate

The claim that livestock produced 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission was absolutely false, was corrected by the original author, but the media and eco-fascists refuse to acknowledge the truth. ⁃ TN Editor

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection.

However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences.

Setting the record straight on meat and greenhouse gases

A healthy portion of meat’s bad rap centers on the assertion that livestock is the largest source of greenhouse gases worldwide. For example, a 2009 analysis published by the Washington, DC-based Worldwatch Institute asserted that 51% of global GHG emissions come from rearing and processing livestock.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the largest sources of US GHG emissions in 2016 were electricity production (28% of total emissions), transportation (28%) and industry (22%). All of agriculture accounted for a total of 9%. All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing3.9% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s very different from claiming livestock represents as much or more than transportation.

Why the misconception? In 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a study titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which received widespread international attention. It stated that livestock produced a staggering 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The agency drew a startling conclusion: Livestock was doing more to harm the climate than all modes of transportation combined.

This latter claim was wrong, and has since been corrected by Henning Steinfeld, the report’s senior author. The problem was that FAO analysts used a comprehensive life-cycle assessment to study the climate impact of livestock, but a different method when they analyzed transportation.

For livestock, they considered every factor associated with producing meat. This included emissions from fertilizer production, converting land from forests to pastures, growing feed, and direct emissions from animals (belching and manure) from birth to death.

However, when they looked at transportation’s carbon footprint, they ignored impacts on the climate from manufacturing vehicle materials and parts, assembling vehicles and maintaining roads, bridges, and airports.

Instead, they only considered the exhaust emitted by finished cars, trucks, trains, and planes. As a result, the FAO’s comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock to those from transportation was greatly distorted.

I pointed out this flaw during a speech to fellow scientists in San Francisco on March 22, 2010, which led to a flood of media coverage. To its credit, the FAO immediately owned up to its error. Unfortunately, the agency’s initial claim that livestock was responsible for the lion’s share of world greenhouse gas emissions had already received wide coverage.

To this day, we struggle to “unring” the bell.

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Got Milk? Driverless Cars Will Deliver Your Grocies

The next step in the automated food chain will be for your ‘smart refrigerator’ to automatically order replacement groceries when you run low, and have them auto-delivered by driverless chariots. ⁃ TN Editor

Deliveries from an Arizona grocery store will soon be arriving with no one behind the wheel.

A fully autonomous vehicle is about to pilot public roads Tuesday with no back up driver, though it will be monitored by humans in another automobile.

After almost a thousand test runs with humans aboard modified Prius vehicles, deliveries will be made Tuesday in Scottsdale, Arizona, using the R1, an automobile with no steering wheel and no seats for humans.

The R1, when summoned, will travel within a one-mile radius of the Fry’s Food grocery store just east of the Phoenix Zoo.

It will travel up to 25 miles per hour on residential roads, but stay clear of main roads or highways, according to Pam Giannonatti at Kroger Co., which owns Fry’s.

Kroger has partnered with the tech company Nuro on the project.

“Through this exciting and innovative partnership, we are delivering a great customer experience and advancing Kroger’s commitment to redefine the grocery experience by creating an ecosystem that offers our customers anything, anytime, and anywhere,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer.

Attempts to deploy fully autonomous vehicles on public streets have been limited by technological hurdles, as well as human apprehension.

Uber pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona this year following the death in March of woman who was run over by one of the ride-hailing service’s robotic vehicles while she crossed a darkened street in a Phoenix suburb. It was the first death involving a fully autonomous vehicle.

That vehicle had a backup driver at the wheel.

Waymo, a self-driving car spinoff from a Google project, has been offering free rides in robotic vehicles with no human back-up driver as part of a test program in the Phoenix year for the past year. Earlier this month, Waymo launched a ride-hailing service available to about 200 people that will have a human behind the wheel to take control in case something goes awry.

Giannonatti said safety is paramount in this next step of autonomous vehicle technology.

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Will The Public Eat Gene-Edited Farm Animals?

The CRISPR gene editing tool lets Technocrat scientists experiment with life itself and there is virtually no oversight or regulations to control them. If left unchecked they will destroy the genetic makeup of animals, humans and the entire food chain. ⁃ TN Editor

Three cows clomped, single-file, through a chute to line up for sonograms – ultrasound “preg checks” – to reveal if they were expecting calves next summer.

“Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis’s sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research.

The cows had been implanted a month and a half earlier with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their biological gender.

The research project pits one of the hottest fields in biotechnology against the messy politics of gene modification.

As scientists in labs across the world create virus-resistant pigs, heat-tolerant cattle and fatter, more muscular lambs, a big question looms: Will regulation, safety concerns and public skepticism prevent these advances from becoming anything more than fascinating laboratory experiments, or will the animals transform agriculture and the food supply? So far, gene-editing tools have jump-started research worldwide, creating more than 300 pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. Now, proponents of the field say the United States is at a make-or-break moment, when government action over the next year could determine whether any gene-edited food animals make it to market.

The announcement last month that a Chinese researcher had created genetically edited human babies sparked an international furor and a moral debate. But while such research is effectively outlawed in the United States and was swiftly condemned by a group of leading researchers, Van Eenennaam and her colleagues are pushing similar techniques into the barnyard. There, such applications are far less hypothetical. But the societal consensus about how or whether they should be used – and how to prove the technology is safe for animals and people who eat them – is even less clear.

Just down the road from the Beef Barn are five bulls and a heifer, the second generation of cattle that have been gene-edited to lack horns, avoiding a grisly procedure in the dairy industry called “disbudding,” when calves’ horns are burned or cut off. The new gene-editing attempt is even more audacious.

For farmers seeking to maximize beef production, all-male cattle could be a win: Males gain weight more efficiently than females. For scientists, successful births would add to a menagerie of gene-edited animals that demonstrate the power of the technology beyond the lab, where their use is mostly routine and uncontroversial.

“The technology challenges of producing genetically engineered animals are gone,” said Charles Long, a biologist at Texas A&M University who says he works in pretty much any livestock animal except chickens. “What we have to do is really start producing the animals that have these traits.”

Gene-edited plants will soon be in the grocery store, but similar tinkering with the DNA of animals faces a far more uncertain future. The regulatory process for getting animals approved is more complex and treats the edited DNA as a veterinary drug – a difference that animal scientists argue will effectively kill their field by preventing innovations that could make raising livestock more sustainable, more efficient or more humane. Many advocates and ethicists agree that the current oversight system is a poor fit but think that scientists and industry underestimate potential safety concerns.

“I don’t want speed limits, either, but they have a role,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety.

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Israel-Based Startup First To Create Lab-Grown Steak

Using very sophisticated regenerative science, Aleph Farms intends to disrupt the traditional meat industry with lab-grown or ‘clean’ meat. Technocrats create solutions for problems that exist only in their mind. ⁃ TN Editor

For the first time in its roughly two-year history, an Israeli startup claims to have achieved a key step toward the holy grail of the lab-grown-meat industry: turning animal cells into the delicate and sinewy tissue of steak.

Aleph Farms, which got its start with help from an Israeli research institute and an incubator that’s part of the food giant that owns Sabra — the most popular hummus in America — said on Wednesday that it had produced the world’s first lab-grown steak.

Based on photographs and video, the thin but clearly steak-like cut of beef appears to be a big milestone toward eventually making meat without slaughter that is ready for people to eat.

“The smell was great when we cooked it, exactly the same characteristic flavor as a conventional meat cut,” Aleph’s CEO and founder, Didier Toubia, told Business Insider.

But the true contribution to the lab-grown meat field, he said, was the steak’s texture.

“It was a little bit chewy, same as meat. We saw and felt the fibers when we cut it with a knife.”

If there were a holy grail in the world of real meat made without farm animals, it would be steak.

While many companies make plant-based burgers, a handful of startups are trying to make real, environmentally friendly beef and chicken from animal cells — bypassing the farm animals. None, however, have released a product consumers can buy in stores or restaurants.

The Silicon Valley-based startup New Age Meats let Business Insider taste its lab-grown-sausage prototype in September; the vegan egg and mayo company Just(formerly Hampton Creek) claims to have made prototype chicken nuggets; and the Bill Gates-backed startup Memphis Meats said it produced the world’s first chicken strips from animal cells last March.

But none has publicly achieved the goal of replicating the texture, shape, and mouthfeel of savory, chewy sirloin.

That’s because crafting a burger, meatball, or any other product that combines several ingredients with ground meat or seafood is much easier than mimicking the complex texture and flavor of a steak or a chicken breast.

“Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough — imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak,” Toubia said in a statement.

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Robots Are Rapidly Replacing Immigrant Farm Workers

The rationale for immigrant workers has always been “we need them for jobs American’s won’t do.” Within 10 years, 90 percent of human labor on farms and will be replaced by robots. So, where are the 30 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. working these days? Certainly not on farms. ⁃ TN Editor

As a boy, Abel Montoya remembers his father arriving home from the lettuce fields each evening, the picture of exhaustion, mud caked knee-high on his trousers. “Dad wanted me to stay away from manual labor. He was keen for me to stick to the books,” Mr. Montoya said. So he did, and went to college.

Yet Mr. Montoya, a 28-year-old immigrant’s son, recently took a job at a lettuce-packing facility, where it is wet, loud, freezing — and much of the work is physically taxing, even mind-numbing.

Now, though, he can delegate some of the worst work to robots.

Mr. Montoya is among a new generation of farmworkers here at Taylor Farms, one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of fresh-cut vegetables, which recently unveiled a fleet of robots designed to replace humans — one of the agriculture industry’s latest answers to a diminishing supply of immigrant labor.

The smart machines can assemble 60 to 80 salad bags a minute, double the output of a worker.

Enlisting robots made sound economic sense, Taylor Farms officials said, for a company seeking to capitalize on Americans’ insatiable appetite for healthy fare at a time when it cannot recruit enough people to work in the fields or the factory.

A decade ago, people lined up by the hundreds for jobs at packing houses in California and Arizona during the lettuce season. No more.

“Our work force is getting older,” said Mark Borman, chief operating officer of Taylor Farms. “We aren’t attracting young people to our industry. We aren’t getting an influx of immigrants. How do we deal with that? Innovation.”

Moving up the technology ladder creates higher-skilled positions that can attract young people like Mr. Montoya, who is finishing a computer science degree, and bolster retention of veteran employees who receive new training to advance their careers.

“We are making better jobs that we hope appeal to a broader range of people,” Mr. Borman said.

In a 2017 survey of farmers by the California Farm Bureau Federation, 55 percent reported labor shortages, and the figure was nearly 70 percent for those who depend on seasonal workers. Wage increases in recent years have not compensated for the shortfall, growers said.

Strawberry operations in California, apple orchards in Washington and dairy farms across the country are struggling with the consequences of a shrinking, aging, foreign-born work force; a crackdown at the border; and the failure of Congress to agree on an immigration overhaul that could provide a more steady source of immigrant labor.

Farmhands who benefited from the last immigration amnesty, in 1986, are now in their 50s and represent just a fraction of today’s field workers. As fewer new immigrants have arrived to work in agriculture, the average age of farmworkers has climbed — to 38 in 2016, according to government data, compared with 31 in 2000.

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Gene-Edited Food Is Coming, But Will Shoppers Buy?

Collectively, Technocrat-minded scientists will pollute and degrade the world’s gene pool, one modification at a time. Editing DNA on one plant or animal is one thing. Editing hundreds or thousands of species is insanity. ⁃ TN Editor

The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

By early next year, the first foods from plants or animals that had their DNA “edited” are expected to begin selling. It’s a different technology than today’s controversial “genetically modified” foods, more like faster breeding that promises to boost nutrition, spur crop growth, and make farm animals hardier and fruits and vegetables last longer.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has declared gene editing one of the breakthroughs needed to improve food production so the world can feed billions more people amid a changing climate. Yet governments are wrestling with how to regulate this powerful new tool. And after years of confusion and rancor, will shoppers accept gene-edited foods or view them as GMOs in disguise?

“If the consumer sees the benefit, I think they’ll embrace the products and worry less about the technology,” said Dan Voytas, a University of Minnesota professor and chief science officer for Calyxt Inc., which edited soybeans to make the oil heart-healthy.

Researchers are pursuing more ambitious changes: Wheat with triple the usual fiber, or that’s low in gluten. Mushrooms that don’t brown, and better-producing tomatoes. Drought-tolerant corn, and rice that no longer absorbs soil pollution as it grows. Dairy cows that don’t need to undergo painful de-horning, and pigs immune to a dangerous virus that can sweep through herds.

Scientists even hope gene editing eventually could save species from being wiped out by devastating diseases like citrus greening, a so far unstoppable infection that’s destroying Florida’s famed oranges.

First they must find genes that could make a new generation of trees immune.

“If we can go in and edit the gene, change the DNA sequence ever so slightly by one or two letters, potentially we’d have a way to defeat this disease,” said Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, as he examined diseased trees in a grove near Fort Meade.

Genetically Modified or Edited: What’s the Difference?

Farmers have long genetically manipulated crops and animals by selectively breeding to get offspring with certain traits. It’s time-consuming and can bring trade-offs. Modern tomatoes, for example, are larger than their pea-sized wild ancestor, but the generations of cross-breeding made them more fragile and altered their nutrients.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals that were mixed with another species’ DNA to introduce a specific trait they’re “transgenic.” Best known are corn and soybeans mixed with bacterial genes for built-in resistance to pests or weed killers.

Despite international scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat, some people remain wary and there is concern they could spur herbicide-resistant weeds.

Now gene-editing tools, with names like CRISPR and TALENs, promise to alter foods more precisely, and cheaply without necessarily adding foreign DNA. Instead, they act like molecular scissors to alter the letters of an organism’s own genetic alphabet.

The technology can insert new DNA, but most products in development so far switch off a gene, according to University of Missouri professor Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes.

Those new Calyxt soybeans? Voytas’ team inactivated two genes so the beans produce oil with no heart-damaging trans fat and that shares the famed health profile of olive oil without its distinct taste.

The hornless calves? Most dairy Holsteins grow horns that are removed for the safety of farmers and other cows. Recombinetics Inc. swapped part of the gene that makes dairy cows grow horns with the DNA instructions from naturally hornless Angus beef cattle.

“Precision breeding,” is how animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California, Davis, explains it. “This isn’t going to replace traditional breeding,” but make it easier to add one more trait.

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Alarmist Redux: UK ‘Meat Tax’ Proposed Under Guise Of Saving Lives

Ever since UN Agenda 21 was produced in 1992, there has been a war against red meat of every type. Environmentalists would ban it outright if they could, but attacks like these continue to proliferate in every nation. ⁃ TN Editor

A ‘meat tax’ which would almost double the price of a packet of sausages should be brought in to prevent thousands of Britons dying each year, health experts have said.

Researchers at Oxford University set out to determine the level of tax needed to offset the healthcare costs of eating red and processed meat.

They calculated that increasing the cost of red meat by 14 per cent, and processed meat by 79 per cent would prevent the deaths of nearly 6,000 people each year and save the NHS nearly £1 billion annually.

It would mean a £2.50 packet of sausages would rise to £4.47, and a fillet steak increase from £5.50 to £6.27.

The World Health Organisation has classified beef, lamb and pork as carcinogenic when eaten in processed form, and “probably” cancer-causing when consumed unprocessed.

Red meat consumption has also been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. Together it is thought that meat accounts for more than 60,000 deaths each year.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, of the Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) at Oxford, said: “Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat.

“However, our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost, not just to people’s health and to the planet, but also to the healthcare systems and the economy.

“I hope that governments will consider introducing a health levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measures to make healthy and sustainable decision-making easier for consumers.

“A health levy on red and processed meat would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems.”

The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, found that a health tax would reduce consumption of processed meat such as bacon and sausages by about two portions per week in Britain.

Higher taxes on processed meat were also expected to cause consumers to switch to eating more unprocessed meat.

The NDPH are the same body which called for a sugar tax to be introduced in 2016 saying it would bring significant health benefits. The levy  came into effect in April.

Commenting on the idea of a meat tax, Tam Fry, Chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: “When the sugar levy was first announced people sucked their teeth and argued it was an infringement of their human rights.

“But as the noise died down people began to realise that they had a real choice and that switching to something more healthy was a good thing.

“I see no reason why if sensibly introduced the same thing can’t work with meat. Clearly cutting down on red and processed meat is far healthier and also much better for the environment as raising a cow takes a huge amount of natural resources.”

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Mini-“Robot Supermarkets” Assemble Customer Orders On Demand

The entire trillion dollar grocery industry is transforming before your eyes as Amazon sparks a robot war with other grocery store enterprises. Stores will be largely free of cashiers, pickers and stockers, putting millions of people out of work. Technocrats invent because they can not because there is a good reason to do so. ⁃ TN Editor

Grocery group Ahold Delhaize will roll out small, automated warehouses to speed order picking and cut delivery times, Reuters has learned, as it revamps its ecommerce business in response to rising competition in a fast-growing sector.

At an investor event on Nov. 13, the world’s eighth biggest food retailer is set to showcase a partnership that will allow it to automate order collection at mini “robot supermarkets” attached to the stores of its U.S. chains like Stop & Shop.

Now Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize is teaming up with Takeoff, a start-up which builds small warehouses that stack groceries to the ceiling to save space and use robot arms to assemble shoppers’ orders for items such as beer, milk, bread and fruit.

The warehouses serve as condensed supermarkets that can supply several stores with click-and-collect orders. They cost about $3 million to build, which Takeoff says is less than the cost of a typical store revamp.

“Ahold is preparing for a major push,” Curt Avallone, Takeoff’s chief development officer who led digital innovation at Stop & Shop until 2003, told Reuters.

“If it goes well, both from their side and our side, the hope is we would rapidly be able to build quite a few.”

Ahold Chief Executive Frans Muller confirmed the deal on Wednesday and said it should help expand online faster and at a lower cost than with standalone warehouses.

“With the robotized solution we can optimize those picking costs and be closer with micro fulfillment to our catchment areas. We also reduce the cost of the last mile,” he said.

Ahold’s shares jumped 5 percent on Wednesday as it reported third-quarter results that beat analysts’ forecasts, lifted by strong online sales and growth in its key markets.

ONLINE GROCERY WAR

Ahold’s move is the latest salvo in a war for the online grocery market that has escalated since Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods last year. Whole Foods since launched same-day grocery delivery with Amazon’s Prime Now in more than 60 cities.

Other retailers are also racing to respond: Walmart will test Alert Innovation’s Alphabot automated grocery picking at a store in New Hampshire, and Kroger has teamed up with British online grocery expert Ocado.

Kroger said it will disclose the location for the first three U.S. sites out of a planned 20 high-tech Ocado warehouses in the next couple of weeks. They will take about two years to build and each cost Ocado about $39 million.

Ahold Delhaize, the operator of U.S. chains such as Giant Food, Food Lion and Hannaford, acquired Chicago-based online grocer Peapod in 2000 which is still the market leader.

However, growth has slowed at Peapod since Amazon bought Whole Foods and as supermarkets — including Ahold’s own chains like Stop & Shop — team up with start-ups like Instacart to offer curbside pick-up, or one- to two-hour delivery.

Ahold reported U.S. online sales growth picked up in the third quarter, but Muller said he was still not happy with that.

HAND TO MOUTH

Until now, Ahold’s strategy has been largely manual. At its warehouses, known as “dark stores”, pickers grab items from shelves and put them into crates for packaging and delivery.

Ahold Delhaize has decades of experience in delivering groceries to people’s homes, starting in the Netherlands in 1986 when its Albert Heijn chain took orders by phone or fax.

At one Albert Heijn warehouse outside the Dutch city of Eindhoven, pickers each grab an average of one product every 10 seconds, walking about 4.5 km a day. Algorithms work out the shortest path through the aisles, and try to minimise trolley congestion.

Pawel Kamienczuk, a 28-year-old order picker from Poland, sweats as he races down an aisle, trying to meet a target of 380 items an hour.

“At the beginning, it took time to get used to it, but now I don’t feel tired,” he said.

Kamienczuk wears a device like a smartphone on his wrist which tells him where to go and which items to grab next.

He scans each product with a device mounted on his forefinger and puts it into one of 18 blue crates stacked on a large trolley.

Albert Heijn warehouses can pick and pack 135-140 units per labour hour, lower than Kamienczuk’s rate because it takes into account work done by others to unload supplies, stack shelves, assemble orders and pack delivery vans.

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Doom And Gloom Scientists Now Warn Of Worldwide Famine

Computer modeling has become a god unto itself, and Technocrat operators are never concerned that their data and programming is uncertain. So, if rising water doesn’t drown you, tornados and hurricanes don’t destroy you, then you will likely die of hunger due to food shortages. ⁃ TN Editor

Researchers from Washington State University have published a new report of the Great Drought, the most destructive known drought of the past 800 years – and how it sparked the Global Famine that claimed the lives of 50 million people. The scientists warn that the Earth’s current warming climate could spark a similar drought, but even worse.

One of the lead researchers, Deepti Singh, a professor in WSU’s School of the Environment, used rainfall records and climate reconstruction models to characterize the environmental conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period in the mid-1870s known for widespread crop failures across Asia, Brazil, and Africa. The drought was connected to the most extreme manifestation of the El Nino supercycle ever recorded.

“Climate conditions that caused the Great Drought and Global Famine arose from natural variability. And their recurrence — with hydrological impacts intensified by global warming — could again potentially undermine global food safety,” lead author Singh and her colleagues wrote in the Journal of Climate, published online Oct. 04.

The release of the study came days before the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global warming could cause intense droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

WSU says Global Famine was among the worst humanitarian disasters in modern time, comparable to the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, World War I and World War II. As an environmental disaster, it was the worst.

“In a very real sense, the El Nino and climate events of 1876-78 helped create the global inequalities that would later be characterized as ‘first’ and ‘third worlds’,” writes Singh, who was influenced by “Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World,” which detailed the social impact of the Great Drought and additional droughts in 1896-1897 and 1899-1902.

Singh’s report is the first global-scale analysis of climatic conditions for the 1870s. There are no other in-depth studies that characterize the dynamics of what led up to the Great Drought.

“This is the first time that somebody is taking multiple sources of data — like rain gauges and tree-ring drought atlases that let us go back 500 and 800 years (respectively) — as well as multiple datasets of past climatic conditions, to quantify the severity of this event and the severity of the conditions that led to it,” Singh said.

“The length and severity of the droughts promoted the Global Famine, aided in no small part by one of the strongest known El Ninos, the irregular but recurring periods of warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean. That triggered the warmest known temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean and the strongest known Indian Ocean dipole — an extreme temp difference between warm waters in the west and cool waters in the east. These, in turn, triggered one of the worst droughts across Brazil and Australia,” said WSU.

Singh said natural variations in sea-surface temps induced the drought, a similar weather event could occur today, but a lot worse. With rising greenhouse gases and global warming, the researcher said El Nino events could become intensified in the future, in which case, “such widespread droughts could become even more severe.”

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DARPA Developing GMO Insects That Genetically Modify Crops

Technocrats at DARPA are creating a new technology that could potentially become the deadliest bioweapon on earth. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the Department of Defense and develops technology for the military. ⁃ TN Editor

A team of scientist sounds the alarm in a new Science Policy Forum report about a mysterious US government program that is developing genetically modified viruses that would be dispersed into the environment using insects. The virus-infected or ‘Frankenstein’ insects are being developed as countermeasures against potential natural and engineered threats to the US food supply. The program is operated by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) could be viewed as an attempt to develop an entirely new class of bioweapons that would prompt other nations to seek similar weapons, they cautioned.

The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the University of Freiburg both in Germany, and the University of Montpellier in France suggest DARPA’s program could likely breach the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.

Dubbed the “Insect Allies” program, DARPA began modifying insects in 2017, with the plan to produce more resilient crops to help farmers deal with climate change, drought, frost, floods, salinity, and disease, said Gizmodo. The technology at the center of the program is an entirely new method of genetically modifying crops. Instead of modifying seeds in a lab, farmers would send swarms of insects into their crops, where the genetically modified bugs would infect plants with a virus that passes along the new resilience genes, a process known as horizontal genetic alteration. Hence the technology’s name—Horizontal Environmental Genetic Alteration Agents (HEGAA).

For HEGAA to work, Gizmodo explains that DARPA labs develop a virus that is inserted into the chromosome of a target organism. Scientists would use leafhoppers, whiteflies, and aphids genetically altered in the lab using CRISPR, or a variant of a gene-editing system, to carry the virus into crops. Each plant would then be infected by the insect, triggering the intended effects of protecting crops from natural and or human-made threats.

However, the lead author of the report, Richard Guy Reeves from the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, says DARPA’s Insect Allies program is disturbing and an example of dual-use research in which the US government, in addition to aiding farmers’ crops, is also developing a biological weapon.

Insect Allies is reportedly backed by $27 million of funding. According to Gizmodo, there are four academic research teams currently working on the project, including researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute in New York, Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University and the University of Texas at Austin. DARPA maintains that “all work is conducted inside closed laboratories, greenhouses, or other secured facilities,” and that the insects have built-in lifespans to limit their spread. By 2020 or 2021, DARPA is planning on testing the virus-infected insects on crops inside greenhouses at undisclosed locations.

Reeves said the use of insects as a vehicle for genetic modification is a horrible idea because they cannot be controlled and indicates that traditional overhead sprays to deliver HEGAAs is the safest bet. DARPA says insects are the only practical solution, as overhead spraying of HEGAAs would require increased farming infrastructure — something that is not available to all farmers.

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