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Desert Farm Grows 17,000 Tons of Food without Soil, Pesticides, Fossil Fuels or Groundwater

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The world’s first farm to use seawater and sunlight to grow food in the middle of a desert just opened.

Using coconut husks, 23,000 mirrors to reflect solar power, and desalinated water, Sundrop Farms situated in Port Augusta – a desert area in Australian – works agricultural voodoo. Without resorting to pesticides, needing to rely on rainfall, or turning to fossil fuels to power their 20-hectare farm, their system is proving to be a sustainable show-boat for growing food in new ways.

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As populations rise, the global demand for food will rise also. Although food waste needs to be curbed, since roughly one-third of all food produce globally every year is thrown out, costing roughly $680 billion dollars to industrialized nations, and $315 billion to emerging nations, there are ways we can create more food sustainably without taxing the world’s resources.

The three biggest hurdles to growing pesticide-free food for most farmers are water, land, and energy. By breaking our dependence on these finite resources, along with respecting them along with traditional farming practices, more food can be grown for more people.

Climate change, biotech company land grabs, drought, floods, and pestilence are no longer a concern for innovative farmers, though. Sundrop’s ability to carry on despite extreme weather was already demonstrated just weeks ago a once-in-50-year storm wreaked havoc in South Australia. Sundrop Farms was able to take the brunt of high winds and continue operations despite a massive blackout that crippled much of the area.

By treating brackish water from Spencer Gulf and reusing it in a massive greenhouse lined with cardboard, Sundrop avoids having to rely on groundwater. Drought-devastated California farmers recently used 15 gallons of water to grow a tiny handful of almonds, and water-use like this is not uncommon in traditional farming.

Sundrop also grows hydroponically which reduces the overall need for water while making the need for soil a moot point. Utilizing a bevy of mirrors to redirect the desert sun, all the farm needs is sunlight and some seawater to grow 17,000 metric tons of food every year.

The company also uses no chemical fertilizers, and no pesticides, as it employs beneficial bugs to destroy the pests which could harm the crops. They grow only non-GMO produce, and supply grocery stores in Australia. About 13 percent of Australia’s market share, and will be sold at a fixed price for 10 years exclusively at Coles Supermarkets.

“Because we do everything in a controlled environment, we know what our input costs are, and we’re doing everything on a renewable basis, we can provide real consistency of supply and a higher quality product at a better price year ’round,” Philipp Saumweber, chairman and CEO of Sundrop Farms, said.

As if this weren’t jaw-dropping enough, the farm has a year-round growing season by heating the greenhouse in winter with 39 megawatts of clean energy gained from solar power.

Though the farm cost $200 million to build, the entrepreneurs who started it think it was worth the long-term investment, since they’ll never have to deal with fossil fuels. Sundrop says that “they are breaking farming’s dependence on finite resources.”

In addition to the Australian Farm, a Tennessee farm is in the works in the US, and they just completed building their first European farm in Portugal.

This farm proves, once again, that the biotech-promoted myth of needing genetically modified food and millions of pounds of carcinogenic pesticide to grow them to feed the population, is indeed a fabrication. From smaller, organic farms practicing age-old techniques to increase yield, to this farm using the latest and greatest technology, we truly don’t need anything more than some elbow grease and imagination to feed everyone healthy, sustainable food.

Image credit: www.ruralcoproperty.com.au

Environment

Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment

Jake Johnson

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Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.

Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.

Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”

Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”

“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.

The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.

As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”

While Oxitec’s CEO claims “strong public support” from Florida Keys communities, the project has sparked protests and pushback from local residents since the proposal was first floated.

“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.

Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”

“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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News

SpaceX Starship Had “Near Collision” With Unknown Flying Object, NASA Confirms

Elias Marat

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On Friday, NASA was able to successfully deliver four astronauts into orbit on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship, marking the first time that a manned mission took place using a reused rocket and spacecraft.

While the launch was a historical success, with the four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France reaching the International Space Station without any complications, there was a tense moment when they were warned of a potential collision with an unidentified flying object, or literal “UFO.”

While there was no time to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid colliding with an object, the crew was informed that they should get into their pressurized suits to mitigate any harm in case of a collision, reports Futurism.

“The NASA/SpaceX team was informed of the possible conjunction by US Space Command,” said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries. “The object being tracked is classified as ‘unknown.’

“The possibility of the conjunction came so close to the closest approach time that there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, so the SpaceX team elected to have the crew don their pressure suits out of an abundance of caution,” Humphries added.

The space agency was notified by the Pentagon about the potential collision roughly seven hours after the launch of the spacecraft, according to U.S. Space Command spokesman Erin Dick.

“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron quickly determined there was no conjunction threat, all aboard are safe and the spacecraft was not at risk,” Dick said.

While the “UFO” hasn’t been precisely identified, the most likely explanation was that it was a piece of space junk – or one of a growing number of human-made pieces of junk like chunks of rockets and dead satellites that have been the subject of increasing concern over the years, with the European Space Agency hosting a major conference on space debris just last week.

Humphries notes that the object only came as close as 45 kilometers from the spacecraft, posing “no real danger to the crew or the spacecraft.”

Nevertheless, the small scare illustrates the potential havoc that could be caused by the increasingly litter-strewn low-Earth orbital space.

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Bizarre

Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells

Elias Marat

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For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.

Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.

Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.

Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25  pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.

After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.

However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.

“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.

“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.

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