Food

True Axis of Evil Is Poverty, Pollution, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 13, 2005   View Article

Acts of terrorism like the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. are a worst-case symptom of global insecurity brought about by the festering interplay among poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation—the true “axis of evil,” according to the Worldwatch Institute in its State of the World 2005 report.

The Washington, D.C.-based research group released its annual report Wednesday. It concludes that until these conditions—and compounding factors such as the spread of small arms—are fiercely fought, political instability, warfare, and extremism will continue to thrive.

Vintage Wine Records Trace Climate Change to 1300s

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 17, 2004   View Article

Connoisseurs may pore over grape-harvest records in search of the perfect vintage of wine. But a team of French scientists and historians is toasting the same records for the insights they yield on past climate.

In Burgundy, France, as in other parts of Europe, the first officially decreed day of grape harvesting has been carefully noted in parish and municipal archives for at least 600 years.

Can Wild Bees Take Sting From Honeybee Decline

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 20, 2004   View Article

Decades of disease and overuse of pesticides have put the squeeze on populations of the domesticated honeybee. As a result, farmers are increasingly left with fields of flowering crops that fail to bear fruit.

Since some 15 to 30 percent of the food we humans eat directly or indirectly depend on the pollination services of bees, scientists say the problem threatens to take some excitement—and potentially abundance—from our diets.

Bee Decline May Spell End of Some Fruits, Vegetables

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 5, 2004   View Article

Bees, via pollination, are responsible for 15 to 30 percent of the food U.S. consumers eat. But in the last 50 years the domesticated honeybee population—which most farmers depend on for pollination—has declined by about 50 percent, scientists say.

Unless actions are taken to slow the decline of domesticated honeybees and augment their populations with wild bees, many fruits and vegetables may disappear from the food supply, said Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Owls Use Dung to “Fish” for Beetles

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 1, 2004   View Article

Burrowing owls have an affinity for the dung of other animals. Their underground nests and surrounding areas are carpeted with the stinky stuff. Now a team of researchers has found at least one reason why all this fecal matter matters to the owls: It’s bait for dung beetles, the owls’ favorite grub.

The research, reported in today’s issue of the science journal Nature, demonstrates that burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) deliberately use mammal dung as a tool to reel in a meal—and in the process substantially increase the number of dung beetles they eat.

Africa’s Penguins Still Reeling From “Guano” Craze

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 16, 2004   View Article

After a century-long population crash, African penguins face a tough road to recovery, conservationists say. The birds face problems old and new—from the lingering aftereffects of a 19th-century guano craze to modern woes like oil pollution and a dwindling food supply.

“Before artificial fertilizers were invented, guano [bird excrement] was the best source of nitrogen. [It was] white gold,” said Les Underhill, the director of the avian demography unit at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

DNA Sheds Light on Irish Potato Famine

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 5, 2004   View Article

In the mid-19th century, a fungus-like disease that turned potatoes into black, inedible mush led to the fatal starvation of approximately a million people in Ireland. A team of DNA sleuths now believes they know the true identity of the killer disease.

The mystery began unraveling three years ago, when the researchers presented DNA evidence from samples of 150-year-old potato leaves. The scientists said the findings exonerated the previous prime suspect behind the Irish potato famine: a strain of the pathogen Phytophthora infestans known as the Ib haplotype. (The pathogen causes a plant disease known as late blight.)

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach