Impossible $eafood | The Age and Beauty Bias | City Slickers vs. Country Bumpkins

MAY 10, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”

– Truman Capote




Impossible $eafood: It’s a brave new food world. Plant-based ‘meat,’ move over for lab-grown fish. Hamburgers without the cow, now seafood without the sea. Lou Cooperhouse’s company BlueNalu (a play on a Hawaiian term that means both ocean waves and mindfulness), aims to be the first to furnish consumers with cell-based seafood — various fish varieties grown in a laboratory from cells extracted from a real fish from the ocean. “Consumers are changing. They’re looking at health. They’re focused on the planet. This is not a fad or a trend — this is happening,” says Cooperhouse.

The process involves a needle biopsy worth of muscle cells extracted from a single fish, such as a Patagonian toothfish, orange roughy and mahi-mahi. The cells are then carefully cultivated and fed a proprietary custom blend of liquid vitamins, amino acids and sugars, which eventually grow into broad sheets of whole muscle tissue that can be cut into filets and sold fresh, frozen or packaged into other types of seafood entrees. Cell-based seafood is free from potential contaminants that can be found in its ocean-caught counterparts — like mercury, toxins, pathogens and parasites, and even “micro-particles of plastics,” as BlueNalu’s website notes.

Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are among a number of companies that have already, or may, successfully create plant-based and cell-based proteins that taste like beef, chicken and lamb. So far only six companies are working on cell-based seafood, and three of them are in California.

BlueNalu is focusing especially on species that cannot be easily farmed; Finless Foods is primarily focused on a bluefin tuna product; the team at Wild Type is working on cell-based salmon. All are likely five to 10 years away from having an actual product on the market. For people worried about illegal fishing and overfishing, warming ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, animal welfare and issues surrounding food safety and waste, these products could help feed billions of people and simultaneously help preserve the planet.




The Age and Beauty Bias: In 2016 the World Health Organization announced it was undertaking an ambitious global project which it said is a ‘prevalent and insidious’ health threat. The campaign involves four studies intended to define and identify ways to combat ageism, the “stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination ” based on age which affects not only individuals but policies. Four teams around the world are collecting and assessing the available evidence on ageism — its causes and health consequences, how to combat it, and how best to measure it. Results will appear in a UN report to be published within a year and hopefully will culminate in international mobilization. Some pre-report good news — it appears attitudes about ageism aren’t as stubborn as previously thought, and even short-term interventions can move the attitudinal needle. (NYT)

A Banana Republic’s Civil War: Intelligence agents in Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s government have arrested the vice-president of the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly. Edgar Zambrano was in his car Wednesday night when it was surrounded by SEBIN agents and towed, with him in it, to their headquarters. The Constituent Assembly had stripped Zambrano and six others of their parliamentary immunity on Tuesday. It is the first arrest of a lawmaker since last week’s unsuccessful attempt by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to stage an uprising against Maduro’s government. The US quickly expressed its disapproval of Zambrano’s detention in a sternly worded tweet: “Maduro and his accomplices are directly responsible for Zambrano’s safety. If he is not released immediately, there will be consequences.” Guaido’s immunity was stripped away in April. The US recognizes Guaidó as the country’s legitimate interim leader, and the Trump administration has made clear that his arrest would mark a serious escalation. (NPR)

Facebook Facepalm: A former antiquities official in Syria, now a professor of Middle East history and anthropology at an Ohio university, said ancient treasures looted from conflict zones in the Middle East, often by Islamic State militants, are being offered for sale on Facebook. Amr al-Azm, who has followed the trade in antiquities for years, said at least 90 FB groups with thousands of members offer artifacts for sale that have been taken from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The majority do not come from museums or collections, where their existence would have been catalogued. “They’re being looted straight from the ground,” al-Azm said. “The only evidence we have of their existence is if someone happens to post a picture of them.” The FB groups are run by an international network of traffickers who cater to dealers, including ones in the West. Al-Azm faulted FB for not heeding warnings about antiquities sales as early as 2014, when it might have been possible to delete the groups or at least slow their growth. (NYT)




A (World and) Science Without Ethics and Creating A 12 Monkeys Moment: It’s been almost a decade since Laurence Gonzales’ book “Lucy” came out. It’s about a delightful teenage girl who happens to be an entirely new hybrid species — half human, half ape — the result of an experiment in which a British scientist artificially inseminates a genetically altered female bonobo. A work of fiction of course, or is it? A transgenic animal has had the genetic material of a different species intentionally inserted into its genome. Now, scientists in southern China report they have created several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. Bing Su, the geneticist who led the effort, said: “This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model.”

Several Western scientists have called Su’s experiments reckless, and questioned the ethics of genetically modifying primates. One geneticist said using “transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take” and a “classic slippery slope.” Research using primates is increasingly difficult in Europe and the US, but China has rushed to apply the latest high-tech DNA tools to them, and has seized a technological edge. (Technology Review) Additional read: Baby with DNA from three people born in Greece: Experimental IVF, which involves extra egg from female donor, criticised by UK experts (Guardian) Additional trailer: 12 Monkeys, Trailer.




What Are You Smoking?: Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of the cannabis plant that produces chemicals called cannabinoids, some of which produce a high when smoked or ingested, while others do not. Marijuana is rich in THC, the psychoactive component that causes a high. Hemp is richer in CBD and generally contains only 0.3 percent THC or less. In its 2018 Farm Bill the federal government legalized the possession and sale of CBD oils containing no more than 0.3 percent THC. Unfortunately laws in most states haven’t caught up to federal law, leading to wildly divergent opinions among local police departments and prosecutors over what they think is legal and what isn’t. (NYT)




City Slickers vs. Country Bumpkins: Once upon a time there was a slim healthy rural cousin and a sluggish overweight city cousin. Now a new paper in the journal Nature has turned that preconceived old notion on its ear. The scientific community has been assuming that the three-decades-long rise in obesity levels around the world has been the result of more people moving to cities and adopting the sedentary, gluttonous lifestyle of urban dwellers. But they’ve been wrong. In the most comprehensive analysis of urban/rural weight gain to date, more than 1,000 researchers representing the Non-Communicable Disease Coalition analyzed 2,009 studies of more than 112 million adults from 200 countries. They assessed changes in body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, between 1985 and 2017. They learned everybody’s getting fatter, but rural residents are getting fatter faster. Turns out the bane of all dietary existence — highly processed junk food — is available everywhere. (NPR)

Capitalist Communes: Since the launch of WeWork in 2010, then WeLive in 2016, the concept of shared working and living spaces has gone mainstream. The co-founder says the company isn’t just simply “building a workspace” but is “building a new infrastructure to rebuild social fabric and … the potential for human connection.” The CEO and co-founder of Tribe, a co-living space with seven locations in Brooklyn, says his motto is “We help you make friends.” “New York can be an extremely isolating place, especially if you are here for a new job,” he says. A co-living space can provide residents, particularly recent transplants, with a premade social fabric. The concept may have started as an oddity but it has become a fixture in cities like New York, Washington DC, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, all places that attract young transplants. Hundreds of competitors have launched in cities across the country, with most promoting themselves as incubators of meaningful human interaction. The idea isn’t for everyone. Experts say it can work well for those who, in general, are under 35 and socially and financially equipped to fit in. For the chronically lonely, another expert says placing someone whose brain is in overdrive into a social setting with strangers “could actually make things worse.” (Vox)

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