Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist

Assumed safety of pesticide use is false, says top government scientist

This article appeared in The Guardian. Damning assessment by one of the UK’s chief scientific advisers says global regulations have ignored the impacts of ‘dosing whole landscapes’ and must change Damian Carrington  Environment editor@dpcarrington Fri 22 Sep 2017 12.23 BSTFirst published on Thu 21 Sep 2017 19.00 BS   Shares 6,809   The assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government. The lack of any limit on the total amount of pesticides used and the virtual absence of monitoring of their effects in the environment means it can take years for the impacts to become apparent, say Prof Ian Boyd and his colleague Alice Milner in a new article. The damning assessment of pesticide regulations that are meant to protect the global environment follows a growing number of highly critical reports including research showing farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world. “The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation – that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales – is false,” state the scientists in their article published in the journal Science. Boyd is chief scientific adviser to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where Milner also works on secondment, but their criticism reflects their own views. “The effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored by regulatory systems,” the scientists said. “This can and should be changed.” They contrast this situation with pharmaceuticals, for which there is a system of rigorous global monitoring after a drug is approved in case adverse effects emerge. “Vigilance on the scale that is required for medicines does not exist to assess the effects of pesticides in the environment,” they said. They cite the UK as an example of one of the most developed regulatory systems: “Yet it has no systematic monitoring of pesticide residues in the environment. There is no consideration of safe pesticide limits at landscape scales.” The scientists’ article also criticises the widespread use of pesticides as preventive treatments, rather than being used sparingly and only when needed. Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals Read more Milner told the Guardian: “We want to start a discussion about how we can introduce a global monitoring programme for pesticides, similar to pharmaceuticals. It can take years to fully understand the environmental impact.” “Any chemical you put into the environment has the potential to be widely distributed,” she said. “We’ve known this for decades, particularly through the early work in the 1960s – the Silent Spring,...

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Plants are capable of complex decision-making

Plants are capable of complex decision-making

 Earth Matters > Wilderness & Resources They might not have brains, but that doesn’t mean they’re dim-witted. BRYAN NELSON December 29, 2017, 4:51 a.m.   Are plants smarter than we think they are? (Photo: brewbooks/Flickr) Have you ever had the distinct feeling that your houseplants know more than they’re letting on? Well, your intuition might not be far off. We already know that plants are capable of learning and adapting to their environment, just like any organism. But a new study out of Tübingen University seems to suggest that plants can do more than just adapt. They can actually make decisions, and fairly complex decisions at that. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Plants might be rooted, but their environments can be intricate, and the contexts where they’re situated can change. In fact, researchers discovered that competition and a dynamic environment are what really pushes plant decision-making to its limits. For instance, when vying with competitors for limited sunlight, a plant is faced with having to choose among a number of options. It can attempt to outgrow its neighbors, thus gaining more access to light. It can also attempt to go into a low-light survival mode, if it doesn’t deem an arms race to be worthwhile. The plant might also need to determine which way it should grow to best maximize its resources. “In our study we wanted to learn if plants can choose between these responses and match them to the relative size and density of their opponents,” said Michal Gruntman, one of the study’s researchers, in a press release. In the experiment, whenever plants were presented with tall competitors, they would go into shade-tolerance mode. Conversely, when plants were surrounded by small, dense vegetation, they would attempt to grow vertically. But there were also subtler decisions built into each of these scenarios, too. For instance, plants in shade-tolerance mode would make their leaves thinner and wider (to capture as much light as possible) relative to the level of their competition. “Such an ability to choose between different responses according to their outcome could be particularly important in heterogeneous environments, where plants can grow by chance under neighbors with different size, age or density, and should therefore be able to choose their appropriate strategy,” said Gruntman. All of this essentially means that scientists are beginning to look more closely at how plants work through their decisions. Obviously plants don’t have nervous systems, so more research will be needed to see exactly how these decision-making mechanisms operate within our flora friends. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click...

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Streetlights could be replaced by glow-in-the-dark trees after scientists create plants that shine like fireflies

Streetlights could be replaced by glow-in-the-dark trees after scientists create plants that shine like fireflies

  Experts injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant This caused it to give off a dim light, that lit up the pages of a book, for 3.5 hours  The enzyme involved, luciferase, is created by fireflies in their fluorescent glow The team hopes to develop a way to paint the nanoparticles onto plant leaves This would allow them to create much larger lights out of trees and bigger plants  By Tim Collins For Mailonline PUBLISHED: 10:19 GMT, 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:47 GMT, 14 December 2017 Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours. The chemical involved, which produced enough light to read a book by, is the same as is used by fireflies to create their characteristic shine. Scroll down for video Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts created a watercress plant which caused it to glow for nearly four hours and gave off enough light to illuminate this book HOW DOES IT WORK? Luciferases make up a class of oxidative enzymes found in several species that enable them to ‘bioluminesce’, or emit light. Fireflies are able to emit light via a chemical reaction in which luciferin is converted to oxyluciferin by the luciferase enzyme. Some of the energy released by this reaction is in the form of light. The reaction is highly efficient, meaning nearly all the energy put into the reaction is rapidly converted to light. Lighting accounts for around 20 per cent of worldwide energy consumption, so replacing them with naturally bioluminescent plants would represent a significant cut to CO2 emissions. To create their glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned to an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light. Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity. The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier. The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp. Researchers believe with further tweaking, the technology could also be used to provide lights bright enough to illuminate a workspace or even an entire street, as well as low-intensity indoor lighting. Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT...

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Almost all plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers.

Almost all plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers.

Most of the plastic in our oceans doesn’t get dumped there directly, rivers carry it to the sea. As it turns out, a very small number of them do most of the damage. At last count, there were at least 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the world. Much of it gets discarded and eventually ends up in our oceans. Researchers are looking for ways to collect that trash in the sea using a variety of technologies but the overall consensus is that using less plastic, or at least catching the trash at the source, would be much better than filtering it out afterwards. Read: There are 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the world But where to start? Well, in fact, that might be an easier decision to make than one would think. It turns out that about 90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world’s oceans gets flushed through just 10 rivers: The Yangtze, the Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, the Nile, the Ganges, Pearl River, Amur River, the Niger, and the Mekong (in that order). These rivers have a few key things in common. All of them run through areas where a lot of people live — hundreds of millions of people in some cases. But what’s more important is that these areas don’t have adequate waste collection or recycling infrastructure. There is also little public awareness that plastic trash is a problem at all, so a lot of garbage, gets thrown into the river and conveniently disappears downstream. So the problem is huge but the good news is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel — or for some breakthrough technology. Simply collecting and recycling trash as is already being done in other parts of the world (with varying degrees of success) could largely solve the problem. “Halving the plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would already be a major success,” said Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. Schmidt was lead author on a recent study that identified the 10 rivers as the main polluters. Below some of the  Rivers: Yangtze River The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river and the third-longest river in the world. It also tops the list of river systems through which the most plastic waste flows into the oceans, according to a recent study. The Yangtze flows into the East China Sea near Shanghai and is crucial to China’s economy and ecology. The river basin is home to 480 million people — one-third of the country’s population. Indus River The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research found 90 percent of plastic flowing into oceans can be traced to 10 rivers. The Indus ranks second on the list. One of Asia’s...

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The incredible moment a chameleon gives birth to 26 adorable fingernail-sized babies on her breeder’s hand

The incredible moment a chameleon gives birth to 26 adorable  fingernail-sized babies on her breeder’s hand

Mr. Kleyn has kindly agreed to address Gardening at Leisure in the New Year.  We can look forward to a most interesting talk. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ A breeder in South Africa shared a video of the moment on YouTube A Knysna Dwarf chameleon can be seen perching on his hand while giving birth The breeder says the chameleon gave birth on his hand, away from hungry males Male chameleons can be ferocious, and often try to eat the babies By Shivali Best For Mailonline A chameleon breeder in South Africa has shared an incredible video showing the moment a female chameleon gave birth to her tiny babies on his hand. The tiny lizards, which are just a centimetre long, can be seen calmly crawling down Aldo Kleyn’s palm just seconds after their mother has given birth. These Knysna Dwarf chameleon babies form part of a giant litter of 26 lizards – with their mum taking a grand total of just one hour and 13 minutes to pop them all out. A chameleon breeder in South Africa has shared an incredible video showing the moment a female chameleon gave birth to her tiny babies on his hand WHY DID SHE GIVE BIRTH ON HIS HAND? Mr Kleyn, says the female chameleon was keen to give birth on his hand, away from hungry males. He said: ‘When the females give birth, the males will try to eat some of the young ones. They are quite ferocious. ‘This female was reaching out to me and I realised she didn’t want to give birth on the tree with the males. ‘To begin with I put her on another plant and she gave birth to three babies, but she wanted to get back on my hand.’ Mr Kleyn, 54, says the female chameleon was keen to give birth on his hand, away from hungry males. He said: ‘I was completely blown away. Lots of people have been asking me questions about the video and asking why did I have her giving birth on my hand and not on a plant. ‘When the females give birth, the males will try to eat some of the young ones. They are quite ferocious. ‘This female was reaching out to me and I realised she didn’t want to give birth on the tree with the males. ‘To begin with I put her on another plant and she gave birth to three babies, but she wanted to get back on my hand. ‘It’s amazing to see that. The babies are perfectly formed when they come out. Some people have asked how does she feed them all, but the babies fend for themselves from the moment of birth. These Knysna Dwarf chameleon babies form part of...

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SCIENTISTS DISCOVER OPTICAL ILLUSION SOME FLOWERS USE TO ATTRACT BEES

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER OPTICAL ILLUSION SOME FLOWERS  USE TO ATTRACT BEES

  by LORENZO TANOS New research suggests that there are certain flowers that attract bees with a rather unusual optical illusion that’s visible to the insects, but not to human observers in most cases. Typically, gardeners attract bumblebees by planting blue flowers such as hydrangeas and delphiniums, as noted on a report from the Daily Mail. These flowers are high in nectar and are easily capable of attracting bees on their own. But the new discovery points to something different altogether — flowers luring the insects with microscopic ridges found on their petals. These ridges spread out a “blue halo” of light, creating an “aura” that could also be used as a bee signal. “The exciting thing is that it is a new optical trick – we didn’t know that flowers could use disorder to generate a specific color, and that is quite clever,” said study co-author Beverley Glover, from the University of Cambridge in England. The Guardian wrote that the discovery of how flowers attract bees via optical effects builds on previous research from Glover and her colleagues, who had found that the small ridges on the petals of select flowers are capable of bending light — a phenomenon known as diffracting. Having discovered some plants that could diffract, the researchers examined the petals of 12 different flower species to see if the phenomenon also occurred in them. Using artificial flowers with and without blue halos and testing them on bees, the researchers later found that the bees tended to go to the flowers with halos, while also using the blue hue to inform them which of the artificial flowers came with a sugar solution reward. Based on their findings, Glover’s team found that each of the flowers’ ridges had their own unique architecture, with the heights and spacings of the ridges tending to vary in particular. And while it was found that all 12 flowers only gave off a weak sheen, the researchers discovered that the ridges were also capable of dispersing blue and ultraviolet light. With that established, the flowers were revealed to have a “blue halo” effect, one that can only be seen by people in darkly-pigmented flowers, and one that differed based on the ridges’ degree of variation in height or spacing. Humans can’t see the blue hue emitted by the evening primrose’s petal ridges, but bees can. [Image by High Mountain/Shutterstock] The Daily Mail further noted that flowers that attract bees with the blue halo have been around for millions of years. Fossils of flowering plants, or angiosperms, from over 200 million years ago did not yield any proof of petal ridges capable of such optical illusions. But there were “several” examples of blue halo-generating ridges found in examples from two...

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