Thursday, January 29, 2015

Biotech's simple defense of Genetic Modification for the Lay Person: "Just Add Water"

Genetic Engineering's Scientific Justification or the usual Apologetics for another Industrial Business Model
WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

Jurassic Park - Mr. DNA Sequence
The Biotech industry has a very high elevated view of itself. Not only is it supposed to be as believable as gravity, but the narratives it generates are expected to be uncritically swallowed. The snarky satirical Government Warning label above utilized by GMO defenders recently has been inspired by the Biotech Leadership's ability to manipulate the truth for justification of an industrial world's global business model. A plethora of articles have come out since that infamous Team Monsanto taking  on Team Organic when Intelligence Squared offered them a debate platform between the two opposing sides back in December 2014. The arguments these biotechs have used are to convince the average person who knows almost nothing on the science of genetics, is that what Biotechs are doing is as safe as a kid playing with different coloured Legos or Tinker Toys. Lego blocks are just Lego blocks made of, well just plastic. Plastic is Plastic. The fact that there are many Lego blocks of differing colours makes no difference at all. Lego blocks are after all just Lego blocks. Of course this almost identical to what Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer, Robert Frawley, who has a strong (vested interest) in the successful outworking of the Monsanto Corporate business model and his public relations colleague, Alison Van Eenennaam who insisted: "We're just talking about genes, genes are genes, you take one gene one thing and you put it with some other genes" This same "Just Add Water" recipe certainly isn't something new. Back in 2010 an article appeared in Science Daily in which a lead author of a research paper titled, (Peptides may hold 'missing link' to life) named, Seth Childer had this to say about the ease of explaining how the origin of life just found a way:
"Our studies have now shown that, if you just add water, simple peptides access both the physical properties and the long-range molecular order that is critical to the origins of chemical evolution."
science-art.com
Seriously though, you'll find these funky "Just Add Water" explanations clouding up the understanding of real science and how the natural world really functions everywhere you turn now days on cyber space. Never underestimate power of it's usage when defending a powerful money making business model or for that matter any religious ideology. Since the December debate on GMOs and the irresponsibly flawed cupcake explanation of Genes are just Genes, DNA is just DNA, there have been numerous articles written by so-called science defenders championing the cause of genetic manipulation for the imagined benefit of designing a better product because nature was & is after all a lousy designer. One article from io9 'We are from the future' attempted to make fun of the 80% of people who were for GMO labeling on food. [see my personal take on Labels at the bottom] This same author, Robbie Gonzales, who wrote the article, "80% Of Americans Support Mandatory Labels On Foods Containing DNA. DNA!" also applied that silly Gov Warning label referenced at the top of this post. He also used the same identical lame talking points by Robert Fraley and Ms Eenennaam who described DNA in that infamous debate as nothing more than like simple plastic Lego building blocks. In other words, if you built a robot of all red Lego blocks and another robot of blue Lego blocks, then taking one colour with another has no ultimate serious consequences. It's just that simple, except when it's not.  Some of the worst defense of gmos came from many of the ignorant commenters at the bottom of the article who clearly have no clue as to how the natural world really operates and functions, other than they all imagine themselves as mighty defenders of nothing more than Science. Anyone taking up a contrary scientific position is not ever considered a lover of science but rather a religious heretic, which translates in their worldview as Anti-Science. Seriously folks, didn't you know that most genetically engineered organisms are nothing more than a piece of cake to make ? Just add water and all sorts of amazing superior organisms spontaneously arise out of the mix. It's just that easy. 

Image: Horticulturalist Maureen Gilmer
Okay, I'm going to go ahead and use their same exact stupid idiotic childish line of reasoning to justify things we  all see and know to be actual scientific blunders. You should also understand clearly the folly of such short sighted profit driven Science-Based Agricultural decisions made some time way back in history and that all of us today are presently paying the price right now. I actually touched on a couple these examples back in 2012 when I wrote an article on where the beginnings of disrespect for the informational content of DNA originated (Here). I listed a couple of prime examples in that article, but literally there are hundreds [maybe 1000s] of science-based mistakes that we and the natural world are all paying for today. It's the subject of noxious invasive species for which the shallow vision of so-called experts back then believed at the time were nothing more than a simple quick fix solution to their problems. As I stated in that post, if we compare the tiny molecular realm of any microscopic cell of a genetically engineered organism to any real life sized ecosystem that we can all see, feel, touch and experience in real time, then just maybe we can arrive at what potential for problems there would be within the hidden world of GMOs. So let's take the above photo which many will recognize as a Tamarisk windbreak in the Coachella Valley along the Southern Pacific Railway track right-of-way. Anyone familiar with that region and similar areas will understand what a terrible problem the wind can be down there. Not only to the transportation infrastructure, but also agricultural industry which needs to somehow protect tender young crops from the drying desiccation of hot desert winds. Hence Tamarisk Windbreaks were the answer and problem solved, right ?. Wrong! We all know that this hasty decision has generally ruined most stream and riverside habitats all across the Southwestern United States by taking over and crowding out native vegetation which in turn also took away habitat from other living organisms. Now most understand the horrific result of the reality on the ground down there in the desert, right ? But what if you found out that the proponents of introducing Tamarisks for windbreaks also used the same flawed "Just Add Water" Cupcake Mix story we've all be given on GMOs ? It might just go something like this:
"Well Tamarisks are made of DNA and Genes just like other organisms around the Earth. It's not like they come from some other alien planet or something. We are simply putting one lifeform from our planet Earth which contains DNA and genes within another ecosystem which also contains numerous other Earthly lifeforms which BTW just also happen to contain DNA and genes."  
Knowing what we know about the consequence of this bad science-based agricultural decision, how would you react to proponents of Tamarisk planting back then who would demonize any potential critics of their scheme by calling them Anti-Science Luddites for not allowing their science-based business model to go forward ? Who would you say were really the anti-science crowd ? Would it be reasonable to say that they didn't allow enough time for experimentation and testing before they put their money making scheme into full blown operation ? What other 100s of examples of science-based agricultural blunders could we point to as shining examples of short sighted human greed and nothing to do with science ? What about Australia's Cane Toads to the Rescue scheme ? How well has that worked for Australia and it's various ecosystems ? See, you could just go on and on. I'm actually winding down my writing and comment on the subject of Genetically Modified Organisms on this blog. I've had it. Nothing I can say or do will change anything. BTW, on my take on the GMO Label issue ? Well, even if such a mandate were ordered, you need to understand that there is no guarantee that their genetic pollution they've unleashed on to the natural world won't somehow find a way to infect other healthy viable seed. So it's a mute point for me to comment on. Now, I do have one more article to write after this which will mostly illustrate how unnecessary Glyphosate and other chemical weed herbicides are in not only the urban garden and landscape, but also on an agricultural scale. After that I'm done. Now pay attention to something I found while cleaning up my bookmarks below.


Hypocrisy, Double Standard and a Greedy Pot Calling the Kettle Black
I had a couple of videos saved in my bookmarks which I reviewed for saving still or deletion. The subject in both videos was Industrial Business Tycoon of Shark Tank fame Mr Kevin O'Leary. Mr O'Leary is known for his ruthless business savoy. He has a nose for making a buck or rather *cough-cough*, Big Bucks. He is also a major defender and proponent for championing GMOs and calls other people anti-science for being against them. The first video was of Kevin O'Leary being debated by a 14 year old girl named Rachel Parent who was on the side of caution regarding GMOs which she insisted and correctly so that GMOs haven't been tested enough and that thus far the only real testing being done is by the very people who stand to gain from such studies are those who will profit greatly from this. She also believes the studies should be independently done by Labs with no vested interest in the profiteering of a Biotech company, along with mandatory labeling. The retort by O'Leary was incredible. He questions as to why the girl wants more independent long term testing, he insists it isn't necessary and that people everywhere have already been eating GMOs for years and he is afraid that she has become as he puts it, "a shill for anti-gmo group that wants to use you". I'll stop there and you can listen to the entire 14 minute debate where this young girl doesn't back down on her position. Bottom line though is that Kevin O'Leary feels enough testing of 20 years with humans and nature as the guinea pigs is good enough for him and the world should just let the GMO Industry alone, because after all, they just want to feed mankind and it's good for the global economy. 



Want to watch something even more incredible, double standard and two faced when it comes to the demand that we spend a much  longer time on scientific experimentation and testing ? In the link I'll simply post below the main quote here. It may come as no surprise to many folks that Kevin O'Leary is also pro-natural gas fracking and a heavy hitting die hard Climate Change denier or  refuter. This is not an uncommon phenomena for pro-gmo defenders or proponents like a majority of GMO Farmers who also believe humans have nothing to do with climate change (GMOs Expose Dangerous Science Disconnect in Agriculture). When O'Leary comments on length of time needed for scientific studies about Climate Change before governments need be concerned and start doing something to reverse it, he says this:
"You need to take a long term view of this. Just because Al Gore got everybody squawking like chickens on his alarmist movie, doesn't mean you change fiscal policy. What I'm saying is that if you are going to need to study climate change, do it over a period of fifty to a hundred years . . "
(Source: The Lang & O'Leary Exchange on CBC television, November 30, 2012)
Fifty to one hundred years of study before you put a stamp of approval that climate change is real and only then should we do something about it ? Why doesn't he apply the same standard of lengthy 100 years of research and studies to GMOs ? This man is the perfect poster child for all that is dead wrong with genetic modification public relations. It's all about the business model and money folks and it always has been and always will be. It has never ever been about the clean pure unadulterated neutral unbiased altruistic science you've been force fed. If it were, then Farmers would actually be replicating the Earth's natural world through practices created by actual observation of Nature and through Biomimicry or practice of Biomimetics. Pay attention, Genetic Modification is NOT the same thing as related kinds of organisms have sex or cross pollinating with each other. What they are doing is not Biomimicry, it's a trip off into Sci-Fi world for mere profit. Once again, I'll simply conclude with one more post and perhaps link it here at the bottom. There is a whole lot more here folks than just adding water, there's this thing called informational content of DNA irrespective of where your conventional or secular church says it came from!




Thursday, January 1, 2015

Diversity of Flowering Plants Imperative to Pollinator & Predator Health

There was an article on BBC online which highlighted research which seems to support the importance of bees having access to a variety of flowering plants. This was also the subject of another article earlier this year which mentioned the benefits of wildflowers near agricultural fields because Bees receive better nutrition from such Wild flower variety. But now there is this theory of "doctor bees" within  Bee Colonies who may be directing their peers to plants which can help "sick bees" to recover may further show their organisational and social skills. However if these coworkers of Hive Doctor Bees fall ill and are too weak, then these Doctor Bees will go over & find just the right type of honey in their hive which was made from the pollen of a particular plant and get the sick bees to feed on it. This should prove logical to most gardeners, landscapers and even Farmers planting for more biodiversity or variety of flowering plants not only for the bees, but all the other beneficial insects as well. There has also been some recent research work done on specifically selected honey being used by some medical professionals to fight infection in wounds of their patients. Here are some of the important points from that article:
"Now it seems honeybees may have a way of helping to keep their workforce healthy - by employing bees that feed "medicinal honey" to other members of the hive."
"A group of worker bees called "nurse bees", if they are infected with a parasite, selectively eat honey that has a high antibiotic activity, according to Silvio Erler of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Halle, Germany and his colleagues."
"These bees are also responsible for feeding honey to the larvae and distributing it to other members of the colony. So it's possible they are the hive's doctors, prescribing different types of honey to other bees depending on their infection. If that is true, it could be a big part of how bees fight disease."
(Source BBC) "Honey Bees Play Doctors and Nurses"
Early in 2014, my wife and I watched a documentary on the global issue of colony collapse disorder on just how and why Bees are so important to Agriculture all around the globe. There were a couple of interesting points mentioned, aside from the usual controversy of GMOs and Chemical Insecticides. One important clue was revealed in the California's Central Valley agricultural areas whose orchards are extremely dependent on the services of Bee Keepers. These Bee Keepers move their hives around to provide pollinating services to various Almond, Peach, Cherry and other orchard Farmers. The fact is that these bees being used in this way are over worked and under stress. They also are being forced to pollinate and feed on a monoculture diet with little else in the way of additional dietary supplements in the form of natural dietary variety which comes from a community of plant life. Hence they have to artificially provide these Commercial Bees with synthetic anti-biotics which would be present in a normal healthy diet involving great variety of pollen food choices such as countless wildflowers for which they have zero access under a sterile industrial Ag environment. Above right you can see one example of something which is mixed with water and laid out close to the hive for the honeybees to access. Of course, bees are not the only self medicating creatures. You can bookmark this video and watch it from the link below here later which came from the Animal Planet program about the importance of biodiversity of grasslands for herbivores who also find a treasure trove of pharmaceuticals in such pristine habitats called "Most Extreme Animal Medics - Using Plants To Self-Medicate". This is actually one of Joel Salatin's of Polyface Farm's talking points with what he calls "Salad Bar Beef"
Most Extreme Animal Medics - Using Plants To Self-Medicate
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image: inaturalist.org

Eriastrum densifolium
Now switching some gears here and moving over towards a different direction away from Honey Bees for the moment. Most conversation when it comes to the subject of pollination is always about the European Honey Bee and after that of course follows Bumble Bees. Nothing wrong with that of course, but rarely are all the other more important Pollinators like various flies, mosquitos, wasps, etc, etc ever focused upon and they should be. One of my goals this past summer's visit to California was to drive back up to my former long time residence in Anza and photograph a plant which I always found important to my property's landscape ecosystem and Garden's environment. It's a plant that most folks in and around Riverside County probably don't really pay much attention to unless they actually see it growing en masse in some field which is highlighted by the richness of the cobalt blue flowers when they bloom. The plant is called Woolly Stars (Eriastrum densifolium). Perhaps a better known variety is Santa Ana River Woolly Stars because it has had some controversy surrounding it's protection from developers between the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside. While the flowers are strikingly spectacular, the foliage is somewhat dull grey and sparse in appearance and probably that way most of the year except for those two hottest summer months of the year when it is in full bloom. Try looking up info on this plant and you won't find very much other than the usual out of touch intellectual descriptive dry data which serves mostly to document the plant's existence. And that is really a shame because there is so much more to this plant other than a handful of dry dull stats only a Botanist could love. 


photo mine

Woolly Stars
Eriastrum densifolium
For residents of Anza and Terwilliger Valleys, this plant to the right here in the photo next to a friend's horse corral is one you have often seen, but perhaps ignored other than when in full bloom and never gave it any credit of worth beyond that short showy display of blue flowers in the summertime. It's only a foot or more tall shrub which has beautiful flowering blooms for those two hottest months, but as far as landscape value, not nearly as impressive as perhaps other larger chaparral ornamental species. But believe it or not, it's also an important wildlife magnet for not only pollinators, but also beneficial insect predators. When I lived up in Anza and opened up some spaces in my wild landscape within my property's acreage, this little shrub spread. It loved the openness, the direct sunlight and decomposed granite sandy soils. This is probably why it is more often found naturally in washes and especially floodplains like bajadas or alluvial fans in and around Riverside county. This one in the photo at right was taken at a friend's place in Terwilliger on Yucca Road. In fact what was surprising to me was the mass display of these blue flowers in the open fields east of this shot. I say surprising because this particular area has been very hard hit by the past three year's drought which has effected all of California. And yet still, it was found together in large groups in full bloom this past June/July when I was there for visit. Below is the picture of the field at the end of bloom which surely others in Anza have also seen but never thought much about the plant. Now it's not overly spectacular at this point, but still impressive given the drought extremes.



photo mine
Now take another look at a photo taken back during a wetter rainy season in 2011 along the Hwy 243 from Beaumont to Idyllwild where a far more brilliant display was recorded and posted on Palomar's Wayne's Word Botany pages. Notice the potential ? I'll post the link below it as other beautiful pics of other flowers along Hwy 243 are posted for folks enjoyment. You might also take special note of the Chaparral in the background behind this field which also shows a deeper green healthy colour, probably the last time this region experience a good soaking rainy season.

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/idyllwild1.htm

image: Richard Bartz (Wiki-commons)

Bee Fly (Bombylius major)
Of course the main reason for my bringing up the subject of this plant was certainly not for it's Horticultural value in the landscape. I highly doubt anyone would put up with the dry dull grey rangy looking foliage which is common most of the year. But once again for me it was it's incredible ability as a beneficial insect magnet for my wildscape and garden in Anza. On very hot days when these plants were in full bloom, the first thing you first hear is the intense high pitched humming of what turned out to be hundreds of Hover Flies and Bee Flies. I first noticed Bee Flies on my property back in 1985 when I planted a Mediterranean type plant from Asia called Blue Mist (caryopteris x clandonensis) which was given to me by a friend. These mini-helicopters do their amazing and incredible acrobatic tricks with regards their flight. Aside from the high pitch of their humming, it was these entertaining maneuvers that captured my attention. I could sit for the longest time watching these Bee Flies moving from Woolly Star flower bundle to another Woolly Star. The info on these flies is that they also thrive in hot dry sandy or gravely locations, which would account for their abundance throughout the Anza area. The other interesting similar types of pollinating critters which visit this Woolly Star shrub are the Hover Flies as seen here in the photo collage below left here. 
image: Alvesgaspar (Wiki-commons)

A poster of hoverflies (Syrphidae)
When you research both groups of Bee Flies & Hover Flies, the info on them reveals that there  are many 1000s of species or varieties and that there are most likely many more 1000s yet to be discovered and  identified. The other interesting service these critters provide aside from their incredible importance to pollinating numerous plants worldwide, is when they are in their youth where they are described in larval stages as predators or parasitoids of the eggs and larvae of other insects. Hence both Fly groups are beneficial as biological controls for your gardens, landscapes and if respected enough, could well have extremely positive benefits on a larger scale farming operations if Farmers were open-minded enough to break away from the Industrial Ag sector and attempt going more the organic farming route. In the Wiki entry on the Hover Flies, there is a nice summary on what some people are doing with certain species of Hover Fly. 

"Unlike adults, the maggots of hoverflies feed on a variety of foods; some are saprotrophs, eating decaying plant or animal matter, while others are insectivores, eating aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects. This is beneficial to gardens, as aphids destroy crops, and hoverfly maggots are often used in biological control. Certain species, such as Lampetia equestris or Eumerus tuberculatus, are responsible for pollination."
"Many species of hoverfly larvae prey upon pest insects, including aphids and the leafhoppers, which spread some diseases such as curly top. Therefore, they are seen in biocontrol as a natural means of reducing the levels of pests. Gardeners, therefore, will sometimes use companion plants to attract hoverflies. Those reputed to do so include alyssum, Iberis umbellata, statice, buckwheat, chamomile, parsley, and yarrow."
(Source)

Oregon State University
Many folks will recognize many of the flowering companion plants listed in the above description for attracting garden predators for biological control agents in the garden. However, there are countless varieties of natives in any ecosystem area around the globe which will work equally well as a beneficial insect magnet. All a person has to do is some personal research and if that fails, then take personal responsibility and start observing things for yourself. For example, this picture to the right is of a native California Coffeeberry. The beautiful bright evergreen foliage and multi-coloured berries are the reasons people choose them from their Native plant nurseries for the landscape.  
image: James Soe Nyun
California Coffeeberry
'Eve-Case' in bloom
But I guarantee you, positively nobody ever intends on planting them for their flowers. So why is that ? Well, take a close look at the photo to the left. Dull ? Mundane ? Drab olive green ? Yes of course, according to the flawed viewpoint of some Governmental land managers, they are probably just too dull and mundane to be bothered with by the average gardener. Yes, all those words could be used to describe the average person's taste in what a garden's flowering plants should like like when in bloom. The photographer of that photo above left, James Soe Nyun, said Coffeeberry flowers are mostly nondescript to most humans. He got that right. I'm different on the other hand. The California Coffeeberry behind my old place in Anza I found to be an amazing magnet for every kind of insect winged creature available. For me it was the presence of all these critters which gives these flowers their beauty. Every type of Fly, Mosquito, Gnat, Bee, Wasp, Beetle, Moth, etc, etc, etc which normally never hang out with each other, were in fact crawling over each other on these blooms to get a taste of what ever invisible pheromones this plant with inconspicuous flower clusters was giving off. But especially those tiny little predatory wasps which prey after the bad garden insects. They were most abundant. There were Bumble Bees hovering above all this insect party chaos, but they were too intimidated to come down and take their chance at a sip of the brew. As far as I've known, I'm the only one who has written about this until now. The photographer I mentioned above where I found that picture also had a description of why he took it and the words of a unhappy camper of a gardener who described the exact same phenomena I did, but with a rather negative slant. 
"The coffeeberry’s flowers are much more nondescript to humans. On the recent garden tour I spoke to a homeowner who was wishing that she hadn’t planted her coffeeberries so close to paths because the bugs seem to go crazy over its blooms, more so than just about any other native plant. Here we have the humble blooms of Frangula (Rhamnus) californica ‘Eve Case.’ "
(Source)
image by Dr. Alistair Dove
Systematic & Ecological Parasitologist
While I totally and adamantly disagree with that lady Gardener's take on the California Coffeeberry flowering phenomena, I am also at the very same time overjoyed by the fact someone else describes exactly what I have been saying all along about the native California Coffeeberry chaparral plant for landscape use. In fact she said it draws "bugs" insects more than any other California native plant. Yup, sure enough, that's what I've been saying all along. Nice to be verified, even if in a rather unusual sort of way. The ultimate goal for any Gardener, Landscaper or commercial Farmer should be to attract those very critters such as the tiny parasitoid wasp in the above right photo which scouts out your garden and preys upon the very things you don't want taking up residence there. Like the numerous caterpillars which chew up all manner of leaves and fruits from your vegetable garden or fruit orchard. 
Insect Paparazzi: Brian Marlow
This is the exact thing people pass over when out and about in Nature looking to photograph some magnificent scene for which to publish on a Google Plus or Facebook page. What a waste. Not that I don't enjot pretty scenery, I do, but if you do actually see such unusual phenomena happening, don't discount it, document it and send it to those who study these things for purposes of Biomimicry or Biomimetics. In the descriptive pages I referenced regarding hoverflies and beeflies, the experts admit they don't know what exact role most of those critters play within most ecosystems. No kidding, it would be a challenge. They are just so tiny and elusive. Go beyond getting that perfect shot of a common honeybee pollinating a flower. Document other things like the mass display of insects on a shrub like California Coffeeberry. It is also imperative you know the time of year differing plants bloom and what they attract, especially if you are laying out strategic plans for organically maintained landscape. I can really only speak from my own experience in Southern California in the chaparral backcountry. The Coffeeberry for example is one of the earliest bloomers and with what looks to be this year's heavier than normal rainfall in California, this would be a golden opportunity to document this chaparral shrub which attracts more beneficial "bugs" insects than any other California Native. Other Natives like California Holly (Toyon) is an early summer bloomer and Redshank or Ribbonwood are late Summer bloomers. Keep in mind also, the same shrub or other flowering plant will bloom at different times depending on elevation. I have observed both of these shrubs having similar beneficial insect attracting abilities. Find out as much as you can in and around whatever environment you live in  and plan accordingly your garden and landscape which will allow you to pursue a course of a more organic nature. But you first need to deprogram yourself and break away from all those glittering labeled chemical goodies you see at those commercial Garden Center or Home Improvement stores. Forget their illustrations and the easy to use instructions. Realize that when you use that industrial junk to kill the supposedly bad insects, you also kill the good ones, even if you don't see any of them. 

When I first worked as a representative and field tester for many of the products put out by one of my former employer, Coors-Biotech, back in the late 1980s, there was so much promise about even the idea behind Biotechnology. The idea was of course that these people and their companies were going to learn from Nature and replicate what nature does for solutions to our problems. How was I to ever know that most of today's corporate industrial biotechs actually view nature as flawed and poorly designed ? That Human scientific genius would one day view themselves above nature and take it upon themselves to correct what they view as Nature's flaws and poor designs. And as a result our natural world in general would go so far down hill that many other experts would be saying life on Earth is on the brink of extinction ? This is why the average person's view of a Biotech Scientist is more that of a mad scientist. Not that they are truly insane, but the results of much of what they have done have hurt rather than help the natural world. Biotechs were supposed to practice what we call biomimicry or biomimetics. Not the obscene profit obsessed patent lawsuit filing thugs we have today. That was never what biotechnology was supposed to be about. But nevertheless, we are assured Science will just find a way, except when it doesn't.  

Which brings me to another type of failed science which is supposed to help and benefit our planet, except when it doesn't. That would be Astrobiology, otherwise known as the "Science of Could." Now I am as fascinated and interested as anyone else when it comes to things about outerspace, universe, stars, planets, galaxies, etc. But an Astrobiologist is brought on board a space program because supposedly they are experts in what it takes for life to exist and how it functions. Seriously, when you view our planet Earth, does it really appear they have a handle on running and maintaining life on our planet ? They have yet to find any life elsewhere and what we usually get is story telling. When it comes to the space program, do you know what real science is ? Real science was done by those scientists, researchers and engineers who designed and built the Hubble Satellite Telescope. Real science was used and performed by those who studied mathematics, researched, designed and built the very space craft which left the ground and placed that Satellite in orbit around Earth. Real science is where Scientists explore and share the photos of what they find out there in the universe well beyond our solar system. But where real Science fails and pseudoscience takes over is when certain individuals look through that telescope and invent stories about mythical earth-like planets which could have life. They don't know what it took for life to work here on Earth, let alone how it work on some mythical Sci-fi world, so how can we believe stories more influenced by Hollywood Fiction than real science ? Mankind right now needs those Astrobologists to come back down to earth and use that public grant funding money and research time to study nature here and create real world viable solutions to turn things around for the better down here on Earth. Many environmental groups and individuals who run them won't strongly criticize much of the bad science that is going on today, like genetic engineering. There is a sort of unwritten rule (code of silence) that you don't publicly criticize any science because after all, it's "Science" and after all, only science will save us. No it won't. It's as if criticism would be a sort of secular sin or heresy by the Orthodoxy which runs today's science. Science is only as good as the people who use and run it for whatever corporate or governmental purpose. The days of discovery and wonder are disappearing, especially as our planet's natural world breaks down. Insisting in a blanket statement that science will correct everything would be like someone else making a generalized blanket statement that religion is going to save mankind. No it won't, because there is good and bad religion, or that politics will save the planet, but how has that been working for the planet ? There is also good and bad government. Unfortunately for the believers, Scientists themselves are not immune to any of the other flaws common to all mankind which infects every human being alive today. I understand this disturbs many of the science types who hear or read this, but that's NOT the purpose of the post. The purpose of my post is to inspire individuals [Not trying to impress the orthodoxy who won't listen anyway] to view things with a deeper meaningful perspective on life when in the outdoors and discover for themselves things they should have been looking for all along. Then when finding such gems of information, making practical application for personal and community benefit. 

From Raw Materials into Electronic
 Mind Numbing Gadgets
The Corporate and Governmental entities are going to pursue whatever their heart's desire for wealth and power. It should be acknowledge that the planet will suffer no matter what. Others will have religious and ideological motives for defending these entities. Aside from some Divine or other extraterrestrial intervention, it seems highly unlikely that humans will find real solutions for saving this planet. Seriously people, look at the daily News Reports as to what is going down all across the globe. Does it look like true peace and security is just on the horizon or around the corner ? Now, you'd think that the experts would be interested in safer organic approach solutions inspired through Biomimicry, but the problem is, these things I've mentioned above have zero profit value for most corporate Entities and their share holders. If they cannot patent it and monopolize an industry, they are not interested in an organic natural approach to custodianship of our planet Earth. For those with families who do care and want their children to have a deeper appreciation of our natural world, then understand it starts with proper parenting to educate your own children. Don't expect the public school system to do that job for you. Thus far they've failed because what is taught is only the textbook solution provided by an industrial mandate. In the mean time, there are some folks who have come up with some tools to help parents teach their children more about the Outdoors which seems to be foreign to most people living in the Industrial Nations today. Take a look at this documentary below when you find the time.
Ever Consider Swapping Screen Time for Wild Time ? (Project Wild Thing) 
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Other important reading on various pollinators
http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/why-bees-need-help
http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/wildflowers-and-natives.html


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ever consider swapping Screen Time for Wild Time ?

"To the making of many books Documentary Films there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh"
 Eccl 12:12

Project Wild Thing
A few nights ago my wife and I watched a documentary film called, "Project Wild Thing",  whose creator, David Bond, is intent on getting more kids off Computers and embrace more of the Natural World. Over the past two decades there has been a plethora of the usual protest-activist films created by various people with motives to create a cause for change. I actually enjoy some of these, although many of their intended message often get's lost as a result of the celebrity of the maker. The message behind many of these documentaries is to ask viewers, "What are you doing about Global Warming? Deforestation ? Fracking for Natural Gas ? Democracy in the Middle east?  Bee Colony Collapse Disorder ? Nuclear energy? Gun control? Repression in ? Russia? Burma?" In reality, what the majority of people are doing about the world's problems seems to be more about watching documentaries on them or clinking "Like" on a Facebook page about the problem. This gives most people the illusion that they are doing something, while at the same time doing nothing in the real world effort department. But pause here and ask yourself, do protest documentary films ever really change anything ? And who actually watches them ? 

Photo: Amanda Gahler

From left, Elliott Hill, Evelyn Hill, naturalist Becky McConnell and Sophia Kottke try out some pond dipping at Westwood Hills. When is the last time you saw kids trying to catch something out of curiosity and for the fun of it ?

Around the same time my wife and I watched that documentary, the next day [Dec 29th] there was an article which came out titled, "Visiting a Park could save your Life, scientists say". Actually, people shouldn't need a scientist to tell them to do something that should come to a person naturally. Unfortunately other sectors of science have created modern artificial forms of an environment telling us it is for our own good. Interesting, science fighting against other science. Scientists today do tell folks many things that have possible benefits, but most people ignore them anyway.
"City dwellers should visit parks more often and take advantage of this free and easy way to boost their physical and mental health, environmental scientists have urged."
 (Source)

image Bristol green
I seriously don't want to go too deeply into that article, so you can read it for yourself later. Mainly I really found the "Project Wild Thing", by David Bond more beneficial than anything I have seen in a while. Of course his organization wants global participation if possible and that is up to each individual. I'm not pushing that. What I would encourage people to do is watch the video and realize what the Industrial World's advertised lifestyle is doing to people and to their children and make a real huge effort to personally make changes in their lifestyle and for the benefit of their children. This type of thing should be taught in Schools, but it won't. Industrial countries main focus is always about Career and personal economic status. As David Bond pointed out, the world's advertising is powerful and mostly dumbs people down making them lazy. What was fascinating about the beginning of the video was David Bond having a tough time getting his kids dressed while they were kicking and screaming that they didn't want to go outside. His daughter loves watching TV all day. His son wants to do nothing but play video games and loves playing with guns. In one seen he takes a young boy out for a walk in the city neighbourhood and is shown that area's wild grassy strips which are mostly loaded with Dog poop. That is the lifestyle choices and environment most kids in large modern industrial cities  are accustom to. Below here is the film trailer of the actual documentary and below this I have added the link to the full 1:19.33 minutes of the entire documentary film if you would like to bookmark it for later. Oddly enough, David Bond just posted it a month ago on YouTube and it's only got 109 views thus far. Again, I'm not promoting his cause, just that parents need to watch this documentary and evaluate how they personally are raising their kids and ponder growth stunting influences what you are exposing them to.


Project Wild Thing 2013 (Full Documentary 1:19.33 minutes)
Below is a funny humorous pic I've always been fond of four small African boys outside in the bush commenting on the unfortunate sad living conditions of kids in the Industrial world. Reminds me of African immigrants here  in Sweden and the children born to them in here. Even those kids are subject to Nature Deficit Disorder conditions that their parents were never subjected to. Funny how many immigrants believe the pastures are greener in the Industrialized Rich Nations


Finally this picture below is of Biologist Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute teaching young children about the local native Chaparral Plant Community often misunderstood by millions of adult Californians who have lived in and around this environment all their natural lives. Nature Deficit Disorder is a very common ailment among most Californian Adults, but it's treatable at any age

Image: Chaparral Institute

Chaparral Institute: Why Children and Nature ?
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Important Child Nature Educational Links to Bookmark
Project Wild Thing 2013 Video
 http://projectwildthing.com/
http://www.californiachaparral.com/
'Purpose in life' a boon to your health, study shows
 Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life, study finds
Sense of meaning and purpose in life linked to longer lifespan
One thing scientific studies like these cannot find in their research work is which purpose is the better purpose. If your purpose is to blow up enemies with remote-controlled car bombs, to become involved with angry riots & protests in the streets, or to cheat your way to riches, it doesn’t matter if you get a prostate or breast exam and avoid the hospital sooner. It’s the exact same vanity to feel happy pursuing a worthless career, like many of the advertised modern materialistic lifestyles being promoted today. A good purpose will always involve the truth and love with family and friends enjoying Nature as it was originally intended to be. 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Genetic Engineering: More ruthlessly & Ideologically driven than you can possibly fathom

As time pants on to the end, I'm becoming more and more skeptical about what the world's Biotechs are really pursuing and playing with behind the scenes


image: NIAID/Colorado State University

The coronavirus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome (green particles)
 seen on camel cells in a scanning electron micrograph

"Imagine that scientists wanted to take Ebola virus and see if it could ever become airborne by deliberately causing mutations in the lab and then searching through those new viruses to see if any spread easily through the air."
Source NPR: "Scientists Debate If It's OK To Make Viruses More Dangerous In The Lab"


I really am not wanting to spend a lot of time on the above subject matter at this conference in which some Scientists and/or other individuals were advocating why not make money both ways, one with bioweapons and the other with the Pharmaceutical cures. With today's dirty tricks and controversy all over the News Media regarding Biotechs spending millions trying to foil attempts at making them more responsible and doing what it takes to keep their business model as the standard food producing monopoly and this recent article above in NPR about Biotechs pursuing and justifying making Bioweapons grade viruses, it makes you stop and wonder what else are they working on behind the scenes ? It also made me take pause and pondered back again to that Superbug scare incident in Germany back in 2011 where an extremely deadly E-coli variation called O104:H4 had killed 22 people or so that somehow it just happened to mysteriously got into some organic produce. Now there is no doubt that Biotechs don't really like the organic movement, especially since more and more science is coming out and backing it. It raises the genetically engineered hairs up on the backs of their collective necks. Organic Farms and Producers are extremely sensitive to health and well being and take care to maintain a high standard of cleanliness, after all, that's what they are about. So it's odd that such a deadly superbug would show up on organic produce ?

I remember thinking it an odd thing at the time when all of this was in the world News, about this E-coli variation of O104, is that historically they almost never had been resistant to antibiotics. And yet, this thing was resistant to eight different classes of antibiotics. This is the type of thing that generally is bioengineered from a Laboratory. Antibiotic resistance is not uncommon for something to develop in the wild, but to be resistant to eight varieties of antibiotics almost all at once with other unnatural deadly properties present within this organism ? This type of thing is just not typical in the wild or hasn't been before. The other odd anomaly is that Vegetable growers don't use antibiotics on vegetables, even conventional growers do not use them even if they use fertilizers and perhaps other chemical pesticides. Mostly these are for livestock. But these certified organic growers are careful so as to keep their certification and they are generally more conscientious when it comes to purity. Of course there was speculation it was manure, just like the US scare, but no problem found there and the origin has really been a mystery although many organic producers were accused, some as far away as Spain. There was back then an article from the Guardian in the UK which had several interesting paragraphs and here is one:


"The reason why this deadly E coli makes doctors shudder"
"According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute, O104 is resistant to more than a dozen antibiotics in eight classes: penicillins; streptomycin; tetracycline; the quinolone nalidixic acid; the sulfa drug combination trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazol; three generations of cephalosporins; and the combination drugs amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, piperacillin-sulbactam, and piperacillin-tazobactam. Indifference to so many drugs signals that O104 possesses what is called ESBL resistance – and in fact, according to the Koch analysis, the strain harbors two genes that confer that resistance, TEM-1 and CTX-M-15 – a property that has been making doctors shudder since the 1990s, when strains of  (ESBL-resistant) Klebsiella, a bacterium that causes serious hospital-acquired infections, began pingponging through Europe."
(Source)
Again, I don't want to spend a lot of wasted time here, but this is the kind of thing people in the 21st Century are use to hearing about. Could some Laboratory somewhere [cannot say who, but use your imagination] have deliberately created such a thing ~in some Lab and turned it out into the wild or in direct contact with organic packaged produce ? We all know how the E.U. feels about genetically modified organism seeds coming from North America and the dirty smear tactics against E.U. leaders opposed to GMOs and the memos for dealing with them in the Wiki-Leaks saga. If true nobody would really be surprised. With that in mind we are reminded of other mysterious tactics or anomalies which have happened recently. The GMO Wheat which is not grown by Farmers nor approved from what I understand, but low and behold it showed up along farm roadsides next to non-gmo wheat fields up in the state of Oregon. It would appear that a clever strategy would be that once all crop seed is contaminated with transgenic genes and healthy clean viable conventional seed is gone, nobody will have a choice but to purchase more expensive GMO Wheat. Can't get Approvals, then force it. Now here is an important note about  Wheat and Farmer's buying into the Industrial Agriculture Ideology. It's an interesting article came out today in PhysOrg on just that subject of deeply indoctrinated Dogma of the Industrial Agricultural Ideology causing resistance of Farmer to go the route of superior organic natural Farming practices with Wheat which is proving more yield at less cost.
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"Ideology prevents wheat growers from converting to more profitable methods, new study shows" 

Wheat field in the Palouse area of Washington state

U.S. wheat growers resist converting to a more profitable method of farming because of ideology – their personal beliefs about organic farming – rather than technical or material obstacles, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Arkansas researcher. 
"Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Ideological Challenges to Changing Strategic Orientation in Commodity Agriculture" was authored by Melea Press at the University of Bath in England, Eric Arnould at Southern Denmark University, Jeff Murray at the University of Arkansas and Katherine Strand at McGill University in Canada. Their study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Marketing."
"Organic wheat production over the past 30 years has consistently yielded profits for producers. Price premiums have ranged between 14 and 74 percent, averaging approximately 47 percent more than conventional, or chemical, wheat production. USDA reports show that organic wheat production is profitable while chemical wheat production is only profitable because of government subsidies, which organic farmers do not receive. Organic wheat farming represents only 1 percent of the overall wheat market "
"Conventional farming, also called industrial agriculture, uses chemical pesticides and herbicides and synthetic or chemical fertilizers. Without these chemicals, organic farming relies on crop rotation, animal and plant manures for fertilizers and other biological or mechanical processes for pest control."
"So why do farmers who use chemicals resist change when profit isn't an issue and technical or material obstacles such as learning and using new equipment or keeping different kinds of records are not a deterrent? The same reason organic farmers adopt new growing methods: Ideology."
"Across our data, we found expressions of ideological tensions embedded in the different strategic orientations to agriculture," said Jeff Murray, marketing professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. "One would think that obstacles to the expansion to organic commodity production are mostly technological or material, but instead it's the intensity of these ideological tensions that impedes the transition to a more economically strategic orientation. And likely, until these tensions subside, the transition will remain in a stage of crisis." 
Considering the economic benefits of organic wheat production, the researchers sought to examine the challenges farmers face as they experimented with a new strategic orientation for doing business. Specifically, the researchers wanted to understand the extent to which ideology – specific beliefs and attitudes about the methods of production – affected the legitimacy of different ways of doing business.
To answer these questions, the researchers conducted interviews with 23 wheat producers operating in the high plains region of the American West. Fifteen of the producers were organic farmers, three were chemical and five were so-called no-till or minimum-till farmers. Three in the latter category were chemical-only farmers and two had both organic and chemical fields. The researchers interviewed farmers in their homes, fields and by phone.
The researchers found that strategic orientations for doing business may be thought of as ideologies. Rather than benefiting their business, these ideologies are likely to contend with each other, Murray said. In other words, a producer's beliefs or opinions about what is the right way to farm might not match the most efficient or lucrative method of production.
In a broader context, the findings show that individuals may be less committed to so-called "normative" legitimacy, that is, the proper, most efficient or most economical way of doing business, and more committed to cultural or cognitive forces, said Murray. The researchers emphasized the importance of recognizing how these ideological beliefs influence farming methods and using this understanding to find new ways to inspire farmers to adopt profitable changes.
"When approaching strategic change, managers might have greater success if they recognize that potentially conflicting ideologies are in play," Murray said.
(Source)
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Some Important Points to take Note of
"Organic Farming relies on crop rotation, animal and plant manures for fertilizers and other biological or mechanical processes for pest control."
"Organic wheat production over the past 30 years has consistently yielded profits for producers. Price premiums have ranged between 14 and 74 percent, averaging approximately 47 percent more than conventional, or chemical, wheat production."
"Conventional farming, also called industrial agriculture, uses chemical pesticides and herbicides and synthetic or chemical fertilizers."
"USDA reports show that organic wheat production is profitable while chemical wheat production is only profitable because of government subsidies, which organic farmers do not receive. Organic wheat farming represents only 1 percent of the overall wheat market."
And yes, those precious golden subsidies. Let's not forget that as a motivating factor why most U.S. Farmers are for the most part unwilling to let go from the Industrial Farm teat. When I first moved to Europe 8 years ago, many eastern European countries still had those government subsidy cheques they were sending out to each of their citizens. It wasn't much, but the people depended on those cheques for getting by, it was a sort of psychological safety net. Those people from former Soviet occupied areas did not know how to maintain making a living on their own without those precious cheques, so when many countries like Hungary announced an end to such subsidies, there was great fear and anger out in the streets and I remember the riots in Budapest. I think this refusal to give organic farmers sibsidies the same way they do the Chemically & GMO run Farms is what also is a major stumbling block to many. It's one more area of proof folks as to why it's NOT about the "Settled Science". See the Perks you get as a Farmer when you trust and follow the settled science ? This is one big topic never brought out in any of these GMO-Industrial Ag discussions and clearly it should be.
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Also this, anyone else find it so incredible that this 1% represents such a dangerous threat to Biotechs that they feel the driving need to run multi-million dollar advertisement smear campaigns against organics and people who want them, character assassinations against individuals promoting sustainable agriculture, dirty tactics and lawsuits against Farmers who refuse to purchase their Junk and this incessant political lobbying to keep their monopoly intact ? If the Science speaks for itself, then why all the dirt ? On the Intelligence Squared Debate, Robert Fraley & Alison Van Eenenaam said that the Science & Truth on GMOs is settled with further development and research to clarify this later. When one has "Settled Science" [like Consensus]  on their side, there is little need or room for any further reading or research. Funny, ever notice that "Settled Science" is immune to such things as evidence ? Okay, just one more tidbit below.



Farmers Abandoning GMO Seeds and the Reason Will Surprise You 

"A growing number of farmers are abandoning genetically modified seeds, but it’s not because they are ideologically opposed to the industry.  Simply put, they say non-GMO crops are more productive and profitable.  Modern Farmer magazine discovered that there is a movement among farmers abandoning genetically modified organisms (GMO) because of simple economics.  “We get the same or better yields, and we save money up front,” crop consultant and farmer Aaron Bloom said of non-GMO seeds. Bloom has been experimenting with non-GMO seeds for five years and he has discovered that non-GMO is more profitable."  [of course no more subsidies]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Industrial Agriculture: Rejecting Nature's Tool-Kit

"As we work to save the vital whitebark pine from disappearing from the landscape, it is essential to use all available tools. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are an integral part of forest integrity, ecology and health; showing respect for these mighty microbes might just mean the difference between the restoration and death of a forest."
Dr. Cathy L. Cripps is an associate professor at Montana State University
 Somewhere a Monsanto Research & Development Chief  just fell off a chair
Ghost forest of whitebark pine “skeletons.” Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps
In his book Diversity of Life, E.O. Wilson states that “Most life on land depends ultimately on one relationship: the mycorrhiza, the intimate and mutually dependent coexistence of fungi and the roots systems of plants.” His point is that the importance of these beneficial fungi should not be underestimated. This is especially true for forest ecosystems, and those of Whitebark Pine are no exception.


WHITEBARK PINE FORESTS IN PERIL
"Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is North America’s only stone pine — pines with seeds that are not dispersed by wind — and it is primarily limited to the Pacific Northwest and the north-central Rocky Mountains. This five-needle pine is considered a keystone species at treeline elevations where other conifers have difficulty surviving. At these high elevations, it forms magnificent forests of gnarled old growth trees or low-tangled krummholz forms. However, whitebark pine populations are diminishing at an alarming rate because of record infestations of mountain pine beetles coupled with the devastating effects of the invasive white pine blister rust. The results are ghost forests of whitebark pine skeletons. The species has been granted endangered status in Canada and awaits this designation in the United States. Enormous efforts are underway to restore lost forests with large plantings of disease-resistant nursery-grown whitebark pine seedlings. But, can we also retrieve all the complex parts of this unique ecosystem? And what about the mycorrhizal fungi — how crucial are they to the survival of these forests?"
A COMPLEX ECOLOGY
"Above ground, the ecology of whitebark pine forests is a fascinating story of the interaction of trees, birds, squirrels and bears. In fall, when the round purple cones mature, the forests erupt in a riot of sound and a flurry of activity. Clark’s nutcrackers, large gray corvid birds with long bills, attract each other to the ripening food source with their raucous calls. Landing precariously in tree tops, they incise seeds out of cones like surgeons and gulp them into their crops. They fly off to bury their treasure as a food stash. Meanwhile, red squirrels chatter high above trying to beat the birds to the cones by clipping and dropping whole branches — an efficient way to gather a winter’s cone supply. Later, as winter approaches, grizzly and black bears raid the squirrel stashes for the fatty seeds. In spring, seedlings germinate in clusters from the un-retrieved seeds and, remarkably, this is the main dispersal mechanism for whitebark pine as a species; it depends on the forgetfulness of the birds."
UNDERGROUND CONNECTIONS
"What goes on below ground is more of a mystery. Here, a major portion of the trees exist as extensive and massive roots systems that push through hard soil in harsh high-elevation habitats just below treeline. This is the interface between the living and non-living world. It is a dark place where pale, living roots come into contact with minerals in the soil — or do they?"


Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps.

How ectomycorrhizal fungi works (Click to Enlarge)
"In a twist of nature, certain mycorrhizal fungi insert themselves between tree roots and soil to form a protective barrier around each root tip. In addition, the fungi boost the uptake of nitrogen into roots by extending their long thin bodies into the soil where they forage for scarce nutrients. The microscopic threads that comprise their bodies are called hyphae — or, when in mass, mycelium — and they act as conduits, moving nutrients and water from soil into roots. These fungi can also protect tree roots from heavy metals, tiny invertebrate grazers, and root pathogens hiding in the soil. The fungi themselves are able to eke out a living on photosynthetic scraps, sugars that leak from fine roots."
"‘Mycorr-’ means fungus and ‘-rhizal’ means root and the unions of these two entities, called mycorrhizae, are found on the roots of more than 80 percent of the plant species on Earth. This mutualism is not the exception, but the rule in nature, and all forests — except perhaps those of mangroves — depend on mycorrhizal fungi. This has been true for thousands of years."
"The group of fungi that attach themselves to woody plants, mostly trees, wrap themselves around the outside of roots to form what are called ectomycorrhizae. These tiny sock-like structures are found on each of the thousands of root tips throughout a forest. Although miniscule, ectomycorrhizae have a huge impact on the survival of trees, many of which could not maintain themselves in nature, especially in harsh climates, without these fungi. They are only visible when they reproduce and their fruiting bodies (i.e. mushrooms) push up though the soil to produce the spores that fly off in the wind to land, mate and continue the species’ life cycle."
NO TWO FUNGI ARE ALIKE
Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps

Siberian slippery Jack (Suillus sibiricus)
ectomycorrhizal with whitebark pine
 "Just as each tree species is not interchangeable with another, so too one fungal species cannot be substituted for another without altering the biology of an ecosystem. There are thousands of species of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the world, each with its own unique ecology, physiology, and preference for certain tree hosts."
"As an example, Cenococcum is a tough hardy fungus with dense black mycelium that is found everywhere, often at low levels just below the radar. But it comes into its own during periods of drought, when it thrives while other fungi die, all the while passing the benefits of drought tolerance on to its tree partner. Another example is Piloderma, a promiscuous fungus that attaches itself to many different tree species; it not only gains sugars from tree roots but also has the ability to decompose dead organic material and pass the nutrients along to living trees. Its bright yellow mycelium can be observed in rotting wood or organically rich soils as well as on roots. Douglas-fir alone associates with more than 2,000 different species of ectomycorrhizal fungi, and some are only found with this species. A single tree in a forest can host any number of ectomycorrhizal fungi simultaneously, with each providing its own unique set of benefits. Often, there is a succession of fungi found on a tree over its lifetime. Certain ectomycorrhizal fungi are important in a tree’s establishment as a seedling, and other fungi come in later to provide benefits in mature forest situations."
FUNGAL ALLIES OF WHITEBARK PINE
Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps

Slippery jacks are also part of the forest food
 chain. These were nibbled by a small animal
"Until recently, we knew very little about ectomycorrhizal fungi in whitebark pine forests. Our mycology lab at Montana State University (MSU) has discovered that from the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) north into Alberta, these forests appear to host only a limited number of ectomycorrhizal species in great contrast to Douglas-fir forests. Some of these fungi are specialists and are only found with five-needle pines; some only occur with stone pines. There are several species of stone pines scattered throughout Europe and Asia, in addition to the whitebark pines of North America."
"A well-known fungal inhabitant of stone pine forests in Europe (P. cembra forests) and Asia (P. pumila forests) is the so-called Siberian slippery jack (Suillus sibiricus). Remarkably, this fungus also occurs with five-needle pines in western North America, and we now report it from most of the whitebark pine forests studied in the GYA. These records show that the Siberian Suillus has a long evolutionary history with stone pines in the northern hemisphere that may be an indication of its importance to these pines; it does not occur with other conifers or on two/three-needle pines. Other examples of specialists with whitebark pine include S. tomentosus variety discolor and S. subalpinus; the latter is only known from the Yellowstone region. A variety of mammals, large and small, devour the mushrooms produced by these fungi as a natural part of the forest food chain."


"Other special ectomycorrhizal fungi found in whitebark pine forests include Rhizopogon, commonly called “pogies.” These interesting fungi spend their whole life underground. Instead of mushrooms, they produce subterranean tuber-like fruiting bodies often called false truffles. These marble- to golf-ball-sized tubers have unique odors that attract squirrels, voles, deer and bears — including grizzlies — which sniff them out and dig them up as a food source. When ripe, these pogies can smell intriguingly musky, fermented fruity or sour — even like blue cheese. The spores located inside the pogies are capable of traveling through the digestive tract of a mammal unharmed and are eventually deposited in pellets and piles. In a sense, these fungi have co-opted mammals as their spore dispersal mechanism just as whitebark pines have co-opted birds to disperse their seeds. Ultimately, the spores germinate and reunite with a root to form an ectomycorrhizal bond after passing through the gut of a mammal. When greasy scat samples of grizzly bears were brought into the MSU lab, examination with a microscope revealed a mass of one kind of spore. The bears had feasted exclusively on one particular kind of pogie, no doubt with a very attractive odor!"
"Coming full circle, while we see whitebark pines providing habitat for the animals that eat or spread its seeds and rest or nest in boughs and shade for the understory plants that proliferate at their base, there are even more intricate ecological relationships among these organisms, including the ectomycorrhizal fungi that help maintain the forests."
MISSING PIECE IN RESTORATION HARDWARE
Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps

Roots of an inoculated seedling covered
with ectomycorrhizae
"Are these fungi a missing piece of the puzzle in whitebark pine restoration? Can they be used to jumpstart the whitebark pine seedlings being planted in such huge numbers to help a greater number survive?   
In Austria, forests on steep slopes were clear-cut to extend pastureland many years ago. Subsequent efforts were made to restore these forests which included the planting of European stone pine seedlings, a practice that continues today. Fifty years ago, a wise mycologist named Meinhard Moser discovered that adding the spores or mycelium of Suillus sibiricus (and related species) to nursery seedlings could significantly boost the survival of these nursery seedlings when they were out-planted. Today, mature forests are flourishing on the alpine slopes of Austria and the Siberian Suillus is still used on the stone pine seedlings in the Austrian Federal Nursery. Inoculation of nursery trees with ectomycorrhizal fungi is now status quo in Europe."
Credit: Dr. Cathy L. Cripps

Lonergan monitoring whitebark pine
 seedlings in the field.
"At MSU, graduate student Erin Lonergan and postdoc Dr. Eva Grimme examined how this practice might be applied to nurseries in the western United States. From their research, we now know that S. sibiricus can form ectomycorrhizae efficiently on whitebark pine seedlings in the greenhouse and that colonization will occur if given enough time (a few months) and if a low nitrogen fertilizer is used. High nitrogen fertilizers and fungicides prevent mycorrhizal colonization. The age of the whitebark pine seedlings at inoculation is also important since prolific side roots need to develop before colonization can take place. When successful, hundreds of tiny, white sock-like ectomycorrhizae can be observed on the roots of containerized seedlings."
(Article Source: American forests)
MSU study: Native fungus could be another tool for helping restore ghostly forests 
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Credit: Don Bachman

Cripps inoculating whitebark pine seedlings
The information and understanding of how nature really operates and functions in the natural world has been known for quite a few decades now. Unfortunately such knowledge has not really been considered for the natural world's own good until now. The reason it is being more seriously considered is that Scientists have now been realizing too late that they have no choice but to consider it because their own ideologically driven science has been wrong. This is not to say there have not been dedicated people out there over the last few decades who have been working hard all along to discover and create practical application of what they have observed and learned out in the field. I know because I'm one of them. The influence that has always controlled the direction Science takes has always been it's being shackled for funding that comes from big industrial agri-business interests. It is even worse now because Scientists who desire major funding for their pet projects must tow the corporate line or risk having their funding removed. This happened to my former Agricultural Instructor who retired early from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He had a course on Sustainable Agriculture and apparently it was this class which he was teaching some ecological and more sustainable farming practices which were found to be offensive to an Executive of an Industrial scale Feedlot business interest in San Joaquin Valley who threatened Cal Poly to withhold certain promised $500,000 in Grant Funding towards a new Butchering facility if he wasn't fired and his Sustainable Agriculture course dismantled. Also, at this same time period, they were peeved by a Campus visit of Michael Pollan who they also viewed as a radical or agricultural heretic.
Robert Rutherford
My wife and I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this past June 2014 and saw the new state of the art butchering facility. Oddly enough I thought he would still be working there, but when I saw that the large new beautiful building had been built after all, I guess I knew then that he was gone. So I wrote to him when I got back to San Diego. He said he got fed up with the administration at Cal Poly and with this issue hanging over him, he realized he could no longer make a significant difference as he wanted, so agreements were made and he retired early. He said University Professors are rewarded for the status quo. They & their Industrial Ag partners are a sort of Band of Brothers. I really admire and respect him for not caving in and sticking to his core principles and following what knows to be the truth. He now has his own business [Whole Options LLC] where he travels and lectures about sustainable Agriculture.

Unlike my Ag Instructor, the man I quoted at the beginning of this post below the photograph with the dead whitewashed skeletons of Whitebark Pines, Edward O. Wilson a Harvard Biologist who wrote the book, "Diversity of Life" from which the quote was taken, has gone down a much different road. Here is that quote once more:
“Most life on land depends ultimately on one relationship: the mycorrhiza, the intimate and mutually dependent coexistence of fungi and the roots systems of plants.”
He is also an environmentalist of sorts and has many radical ideas such as giving back half of the Earth to Nature again. He just seems  so committed to Nature in that quote doesn't he ? Unfortunately it would seem that Mr Ed Wilson has other commitments as well. I can almost agree with that sentiment of giving back much of the land back to Nature, since I despise most cities and prefer the quiet solitude of Natural surroundings. Unfortunately, I also read an interview he had done in "EarthSky Journal" in December 2011, where he was asked his views on what scientific advances in biology he sees advancing into the 21st Century. Unbelievably, this is what this same man said who wrote that environmental book and the quote about about Nature's Tool-Kit for maintaining living systems. 
"And within science, this is going to be a century of biology. We are entering an age of synthesis. So many discoveries have been made in biology in the cell, at the molecular level, and on up to the development of organisms."
"And we need all the biology and all the advances we can find in agriculture, especially. We’re going to have to switch worldwide to dry land agriculture. We don’t have enough water in enough countries to feed all those people and to restore soil to arable condition. So this means that we have to have genetically modified organisms. I’d take that as a given. Some people don’t like the idea. But that’s one of those necessities brought about by the human condition."

Image credit: Jim Harrison
Unlike my former Ag Instructor who stuck to his principles and standards on what he knows to be right by rejecting a good ole boys club, E.O. Wilson is a disappointment of sorts in that he sides with the good ole boys club. How can you make the same observation of pristine Nature and the various components within it's Tool-Fit for maintaining any ecosystem for eternity and then champion it from one side of your mouth in an environmental book and then turn directly around in an about face and from the other side of your mouth praise Industrial Science which continually takes a cheap shots at Nature through genetic manipulation and creating synthetic organisms ? And why does Industrial Science do this ? Well, aside from the major lure of obscene profits demanded by share holders, it's because Industrial Science is influenced by ideologically driven philosophers that teach modern Mankind that Nature is a bad designer with major flaws and that they can fix it, for a price of course. Suddenly the praise for mycorrhiza, as Wilson called it, flies out the window and no longer has any meaning. Of course in that debate between Team Monsanto & Team Organics, it was said that Biotechs have consensus and peer-review on their side. You know, the #1 biggest problem with College Professors and Research Scientists who are shackled and committed to the funding by Industrial Agriculture is that when they do write their research papers, they are then peer reviewed by other committed industrial scientists, which are then consumed by yet other Industrial Corporate Scientist and you suddenly then realize there really is no such thing as honest scientific scrutiny. E.O. Wilson is committed to his own status as a celebrity icon. The trouble with the world of science is the potential for fame, glitter and glory which allows personal ambition and bias to hinder real science in pursuit of that goal.

Fortunately, researchers like Dr Cathy Cripps are looking at a more natural holistic approach in replicating Nature as it really works. In the decades past I was always told by government experts that it  was not necessary to inoculate the nursery stock before out planting. Why they said, "those mycorrhizal spores were everywhere in nature. Why those spores are floating around us in the very air we breathe." Fortunately I never listened to and bought into their theory and have proof to show for it. When you look at the above ground surface and see that many plants within almost every ecosystem around the globe are failing now days, don't you think that what lives underground may also itself be failing as well ? Nothing anymore is indestructible. Every living thing today is at risk. So maybe the microbiological activity under the ground needs a boost to. When humans destroy Earth's ecosystems as rapidly as they have during the past 100+ years of enlightenment, we don't have thousands of years to wait and see if it can heal itself or not. Clearly things need a push and helping hand. For the moment, California is getting what is considered a rescue of another El Nino  rainy season of sorts. In my own experience, it has always been these small windows of exceptional wet periods of when Nature can spring back the best and humans can help it to further heal if they know the exact tools and how to use them. But we are finding that these system mechanisms are now breaking down and need help and a jump start. Mycorrhizal Fungi and Beneficial Bacteria can performance enhance that recovery if those in charge are humble enough to admit they have been making mistakes for the past 100+ years and will make a 360 degree turn around and start working with Nature instead of against it. Now go back and read Dr Cathy Cripps' research again, and then go seek out advice on a reputable Mycorrhizal promoting website and order the right blend of material for inoculation of your own trees and shrubs. Maybe your own restoration project. And dump the we don't have to inoculate dogma, because yes you do.


There is no mysticism here. You want successful landscaping, farming or gardening then you have to inoculate. The only mystic fantasy here is that the human leadership that people have allowed to be put in charge of land management is a miserable failure. Using Nature's Tool-Kit by learning to identify and use the right mechanisms will lead to many many success stories.
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Further Reading references
Mycorrhizal Applications Inc
http://holisticmanagement.org

The Controversy
http://www.newtimesslo.com/news/3411/controversy-erupts-over-michael-pollans-poly-lecture