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Science Friday: Monsanto Contaminates Groundwater | The Word on the Tip of Your Tongue | Cheetahs' Speed Secret

Is GMO Farming Poisoning The World's Drinking Water?

    Monsanto's Herbicide Linked To Groundwater Contamination

    In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry last year, evidence surfaced that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Monsanto's patented herbicide Roundup, is flowing freely into the groundwater in areas where it is being applied.1 The researchers found that 41% of the 140 groundwater samples taken from Catalonia Spain, had levels beyond the limit of quantification – indicating that, despite the manufacturer's claims, glyphosate herbicide does not break down rapidly in the environment, and is accumulating there in concerning quantities.

    Why Is Groundwater Contamination An Important Finding?

    Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface, that supplies aquifers, wells and springs. If a chemical like glyphosate is mobile enough to get into the groundwater and is intrinsically resistant to being biodegraded (after all, it is being used to kill/degrade living things – not the other way around), significant environmental exposures to humans using the water are inevitable. After all, according to the USGS, 88,000 tons were used in the US in 2007 alone.

    Keep in mind that glyphosate is considered by the EPA as a Class III toxic substance, fatal to an adult at 30 grams, and has been linked to over 20 adverse health effects in the peer-reviewed, biomedical literature.

    This groundwater contamination study adds to another highly concerning finding from March, 2011, published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, where researchers found the chemical in 60-100% of all air and rain samples tested, indicating that glyphosate pollution and exposure is now omnipresent in the US. When simply breathing makes you susceptible to glyphosate exposure, we know we are dealing with a problem of unprecedented scale.

    In fact, glyphosate's broad spectrum toxicity has been identified to be one potential cause for the disturbing loss of indispensable food-starter bacteria from soils and cultured foods within certain regions of the world, indicating that GMO farming may be depleting the microbial biodiversity of the soil, and ultimately its ability to remain fertile.


Gene mutation sought to explain mysterious language problem

A family that struggles to recall words could provide a window into the biology of language cognition.

Ewen Callaway

20 June 2012

    Ten years ago, psychiatrist David Skuse met a smart, cheery five-year-old boy whose mother was worried because her son had trouble following conversations with other kids at school. He struggled to remember names and often couldn’t summon the words for simple things such as toothpaste.

    Skuse is an expert on language development at the Institute of Child Health at University College London, but he had never encountered anything like the boy’s condition. His scientific curiosity was piqued when the mother, who is bilingual, mentioned her own difficulties remembering words in English, her native tongue. Her mother, too, had trouble recounting what had happened in television shows she had just seen. “The family history of this word-finding problem needs further investigation,” Skuse noted at the time.

    About half the members of this family, dubbed JR, share similar language deficits and brain abnormalities. These deficits seem to be inherited across at least four generations, Skuse and his colleagues report today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B1. Identifying the genetic basis of the family’s unique trait — which they call the ‘family problem’ — could help to explain how our brains link words to objects, concepts and ideas.

    “It’s like that tip-of-the-tongue moment; you’re struggling to find a word,” says Josie Briscoe, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bristol, UK, and a study co-author. The researchers tested eight JR family members on a number of language and memory tasks to better understand their deficits.

    “A lot of [the affected family members] are women, and they consider themselves stupid,” Briscoe says. “One of them said to me, ‘Well, my husband just thinks I’m stupid and there’s no point in taking me on holiday because I won’t be able to remember it afterwards’.”

    The researchers found otherwise, with the eight family members studied possessing above-average non-verbal intelligence and normal verbal intelligence. ...


The Secret to Cheetahs' Speedy Stride Found

Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 21 June 2012 Time: 08:02 AM ET

    Cheetahs and greyhounds have very similar running styles, but somehow the big cats leave their doggy rivals in the dust. Their secret: Cheetahs "switch gears" while running, striding more frequently at higher speeds, new research finds.

    Greyhounds, on the other hand, seem to take the same number of strides per second at every speed.


    "Cheetahs and greyhounds are known to use a rotary gallop, and physically they are remarkably similar, yet there is this bewitching difference in maximum speed of almost a factor of 2," study researcher Alan Wilson, from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.