Are bugs the answer?

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It was not until recently that I became aware of the fact that bugs could be our answer to food security problems. In a world with an ever-expanding population where we already have trouble feeding the people we have we need to be looking outside the box to be able to feed ourselves without destroying the planet. The western style of obtaining our protein through agriculturally grown mammal meat and products is simply unsustainable in the long run for our population sizes. This is especially true if you take into consideration the growing scarcity of clean water. So is there a way to feed us all? 

Insects are protein rich, take less land, less water, are extremely abundant,  and take less time to produce than other protein sources. On top of that they can be ground up into a flour-like material to make innumerable food products in which, unless you were told, you couldn’t tell was made of “bugs”. So why the resistance? Insect consumption is something that the vast majority of us in the “west” consider icky. It brings to mind stories of lost hikers forced to eat butterflies to survive, not delicious and nutritious meals. However icky it may be to our western sensibilities I think that it may become a necessity in the fairly near future. As the price of meat goes up due to the scarcity of water and graze-able land, less and less people will be able to afford such a luxury on a daily basis. In the end I believe there will be a major paradigm shift toward acceptance of insect consumption, whether or not it is due to true interest or due to necessity. I personalty hope that it is embraced with typical American gusto so that someday soon I may be able to attend a bug cook-off or something of the sort.

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GMOs- whats all the fuss about?

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GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, seem to cause quite a ruckus wherever they go. Safeway and Kroger just announced that they will not carry GMO Salmon in their stores, Starbucks was recently slammed for serving its customers milk from cows that were fed with GMOs, and there calls to label all GMO products in the US. GMOs are in an estimated 60-80% of the food we eat, including canned soup, baby formula, juice, and tofu. So what’s the big deal? After all, almost all the foods we eat today have been modified from their original form for thousands of years through careful breeding of individuals that contained characteristics we wanted. The difference: technology.

While farmers have traditionally practiced artificial selection for desired traits like increased yield or improved taste, genetic engineering consists of adding genes from other species that would not ever occur naturally. However, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you, and just because something is not natural doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Arsenic and poison ivy are natural and you don’t see anyone touting their merits. So is this non-natural genetic modification of the foods we eat bad for us or the environment?

In short: we don’t know for sure.  Many risks have been discussed, including:

-Unintentional introduction of allergens or toxins

-Gene transfer to non-target species

-Adverse change in the nutrient content

-Creation of “super weeds” through overuse of certain herbicides

Many botanists contend that it would be unlikely to introduce a new allergen or toxin through genetic modification and we have yet to find a case of this occurring. I would also note that there is no scientifically valid cases that gene transfer or adverse change in nutrient content has occurred over the decades that we have been growing GMOs. Since genetic engineering was needed to insert a “new” gene into an organism’s DNA, we have no reason to think that the gene in question could transfer itself to a non-target species without such help. As for the creation of “super weeds” that are resistant to herbicides, this would undoubtedly happen with or without herbicide-resistant GMOs. The presences of herbicide-resistant GMO crops and the overuse of that herbicide probably increases the rate at which naturally herbicide-resistant weeds occur, but are not their sole cause.

In a world where the human population is still increasing and natural habitats are being converted to agricultural land, GMOs could arguably be seen as our savior. GMO crops can be made pest and disease resistant, drought tolerant, cold tolerant, or have increased yield over their non-GMO relatives. This allows producers to grow more food, in more places, with fewer chemicals, and less land. Any quick internet search will lead you to plenty of people advocating against GMO crops, but I think that it is important to note that the loudest opinion is not always the right opinion. We should never stop questioning the safety of the things we put in our bodies, but fear of the unknown or hypothetical is not a reason to avoid GMO products. While we should not blindly embrace GMOs, we also shouldn’t condone them for crimes they have yet to commit. I, for one,  certainly look forward to seeing more research on the subject.

This is, in my opinion, one of the best articles out there on the subject. I encourage everyone interested in GMOs to take a look:

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

USA TODAY: Holy guacamole! Chipotle may stop selling it?

From USA TODAY

Holy guacamole! Chipotle may stop selling it?

Chipotle says it may stop selling guacamole, at least temporarily, as the Mexican menu fast-food chain chain grapples with an avocado shortage it blames partly on climate change. But a company spokesman says not to “read too much into” a statement given to regulators. In dry language, the Securities and Exchange Commission filing in February doles out a climate-connected scenario dubbed “guacpocalypse” by some. The company was more conversational and direct in spreading the word Wednesday afternoon that customers shouldn’t worry. “Fret not guac lovers,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold tweeted. “This is a non-issue,” he told USA TODAY. “The sky is not falling.”

http://usat.ly/1iaJUuQ

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