Large scale farming is a dirty business, but Taiwan’s environmental authorities have come up with a novel way to clean up it’s six-million-swine pig farming industry: a href="http://green.yahoo.com/news/afp/20110105/od_afp/taiwananimalspollutionfarmoffbeat.html">potty train the pork
. The Environmental Protection Administration has pledged to increase the number of toilet trained pigs in that country after one breeder successfully reduced the amount of waste water on his 10,000-pig operation by 80 percent by teaching his pigs to use the toilet.
Since they were introduced 15 years ago, genetically modified foods have taken astonishing hold in North America. This time of year, the result is a Thanksgiving menu that may, on the surface, look much the same as the one your grandma cooked 20 years ago. But at the genetic level, it is very different, and it's a far cry from the fabled feast shared by the pilgrims and American Indians in the 17th century. In celebration of Thanksgiving, the most food-focused day of the year, here's a look at how biotechnology is changing the way we eat.
Since early man fashioned that first stone tool, technology has been a cumulative process – we had to have stone tools to get to metals to get to spaceships to get to Facebook. Or something like that. The point is, every field of technological inquiry has its waypoints and milestones, and robotics – a field that notches mind-blowing advances with increased regularity – has just hit upon another monumental breakthrough: teat detection.
On October 16, more than 150 countries will observe World Food Day to raise awareness of poverty and hunger. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations established the occasion in 1979 and held the first one in 1981 with the theme "Food Comes First." The October 16 date commemorates the founding of the FAO, which was born after President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited representatives of Allied Nations to Hot Springs, Virginia, to discuss the founding of an international organization dedicated to food and agricultural development.
Although World Food Day is only 29 years old, malnutrition has plagued our planet's citizens since the dawn of mankind. Feeding billions of starving people poses a daunting challenge, and many argue that industrialization has only drained the world of its natural resources. Convinced that that's not always the case, we consulted our archives to find ways that science and technology actually worked to fight the hunger crisis.
The rich, creamy red meat of the bluefin tuna is prized almost to a cultish degree -- at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, a single majestic specimen can sell for over $100,000 -- and as a result the species is severely overfished and endangered. Farming the fish, which might offer a solution, has proven remarkably difficult. After years of experimentation with sexy mood lighting, Australia's Clean Seas company only managed to get them to breed in captivity by injecting them with spear guns full of reproductive hormones. Now, a European initiative has announced an alternative.
The raising of livestock consumes two-thirds of the planet's farmland, and is a major source of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, tons of edible, sustainable protein swarms all around us, free for the taking. In a new policy paper being considered by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Belgian entomologist Arnold van Huis makes the sensible recommendation that the western world eat more insects.
Algal blooms that feed on nutrient-rich manure and fertilizer runoff can deplete oxygen in the water when they die, creating inhospitable dead zones -- but the same green scum might also serve as a preventive solution upstream. A microbiologist with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service used algae to recover almost 100 percent of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from manure, and suggested that the dried-out algae can then act as slow-release fertilizer for farms.
Astronauts on long space voyages would probably get pretty tired of freeze-dried meals, so scientists have long been trying to figure out how to grow space food to supplement their diets. According to researchers at Purdue University, strawberries may be one space-friendly crop. They say a low-maintenance strawberry cultivar called Seascape would do pretty well in space. It produces fewer berries than other cultivars, but they're bigger and just as tasty.
According to a new study, organic feed produces measurably different gene expression in chickens compared to normal feed, even if the ingredients are the same. The finding surprised researchers at the Louis Bolk Institute in the Netherlands, where a large research project is underway to examine possible health effects of differently produced feed.
With its annual output of over 330 million tons a year feeding animals, running cars, and decorating South Dakota tourist attractions, maize is clearly Americas most important crop. That's why the newly published complete corn genome could drastically change the food, automotive and plastic industries.
There was a time when a farmer simply tasted a clump of dirt to tell the fecundity of the soil. Now, a wide range of chemical analysis help instruct farmers on the optimal mix of fertilizer, pesticide and water. However, tests on soil samples are expensive and time consuming, and few farmers can afford to waste either time or money. And that's where the satellite imaging comes in.
A second Green Revolution can't come soon enough for UK scientists, who say that their government should invest $3.3 billion in crop research to help feed the world. That world will only grow hungrier, and will require a 50 percent boost in food production over the next 40 years.
Apparently, human urine works remarkably well as a fertilizer for tomatoes, according to a new study out of Finland.
Plants fertilized with a mixture of stored human urine and wood ash produced 4.2 times more fruit than plants without the pee, the study found. The urine-fertilized tomatoes had more beta-carotene than unfertilized ones, and much more protein than traditionally fertilized plants.
Rice farmers in Asia may no longer need to fear monsoon season's devastating floods. Japanese scientists have identified genes that allow deepwater rice to grow hollow "snorkels" to avoid drowning, and have also introduced those genes into other rice variants.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.