Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially plants, get a lot of hate. People – even some very environmentally conscious people – seem to fear or hate GM crops. Yet, as someone who is very worried about climate change, very worried about the human-induced mass extinction event that is happening before our eyes, and worried about the livelihoods of farmers and about those people that have so little food they go to bed hungry every night…

Humanity could vanish from the Earth right now, and our legacy would still linger for a thousand years. The world is waking to the reality of anthropogenic climate change, but that’s not the full story when it comes to how we’ve remade this planet in our image . Our obsession with plastic has flooded our environment with millions of tons of plastic waste, and every crevice of the planet is now filled with plastic fragments, small and large.


Why does the green movement hate GM?

This month, my friend James has written a brilliant piece exploring and (largely) debunking a lot of the common fears and complaints about genetically modified plants and crops. One of the reasons I asked him to write something on this topic is because it’s something I hear asked a lot. But it is also a topic that people seem to lump in with the general ‘green’ environmental movement – many organisations and individuals who describe themselves as being environmentalists also advocate the banning of GM products. Which seems very strange to me because as a biologist, I’ve never seen anything wrong with the concept of GM.

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This post is available for early view by patrons. It becomes public at 2:00pm on Sunday December 15th, 2019.

Saving Face or Saving the Planet?

I’ve written before about the issues surrounding our near-limitless demand for palm oil. So you might expect I’d be applauding Iceland for promising to cut palm oil from their own-brand products from 2019 onwards – the kind of self-imposed deadline most campaigners can only dream of. And you might think I’d be up in arms about the ban that has stopped their beautiful and heartbreaking advert from reaching millions. And you’d be partly, but not completely, right. 

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Lice evolved with birds and mammals

Parasites are thought to diversify with their host species, but the theory has rarely been tested. Kevin Johnson at the University of Illinois and his colleagues sequenced the genomes of 46 species of lice that parasitise birds or mammals, and two non-parasitic bark lice, and constructed an evolutionary tree. They estimated that parasitic lice first emerged between 90 and 100 million years ago, but didn’t begin to diversify until 66 million years ago – around the time of the dinosaurs’ extinction.

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Ants immunise their young

As I’ve mentioned before, living in a large densely-packed social group, like a city or an ant colony, comes with some drawbacks – perhaps worst of which is the risk of catching a contagious diseases. Earlier this year I wrote about research showing that raider ants treat injured workers’ wounds, helping them to heal. Now, a new study shows that the queen can pass on resistance to diseases she’s encountered, arming her workers against pathogens.

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The Ant Doctor Will See you Now

I’ve spent more time than most observing ants, and I’ve come to find them ‘cute’ – something few other people understand, and that is often hard to convey. So it’s nice to find a paper that offers the opportunity to give people a glimpse into the cuteness I see in ant behaviour.

Ants clean the wounds of injured nest mates, often saving their lives and keeping infection out of the colony.

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