Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood. 

EU Member States back neonicotinoid ban.

European Union member states have voted in favour of Commission proposals for an almost total ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the EU.

In a vote on 27 April, countries representing 76.1% of the EU population backed the plan to clamp down on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, the use of which has been associated with declining bee populations. The move represents a major extension of an existing partial ban. Since 2013, three neonicotinoids - Bayer’s imidacloprid and clothianidin and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam - have been prohibited in the European Union. The proposal blocks the use of neonicotinoids to control pests in open fields but does not extend to permanent greenhouses.

Author: Katy Askew,  27 April 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.


New form of DNA found in human cell

Even the smallest of packages can have the biggest surprises. Scientists have finally identified a twisted knot of DNA, the i- motif inside living cells. This new shape is a four stranded knot of DNA.  DNA is known for its iconic double helix shape but DNA is not bound to just one configuration. While the DNA takes on its double helix form to efficiently store the genetic code, it also needs to adopt structural changes when that information needs to be accessed.

The i-motif forms, dissolves and forms again.

Scientists have known about i-motifs for some time but this is the first time that they have been seen inside a living cell. This resolves previous doubts about whether the i-motif could exist inside living cells.

“This new research reminds us that totally different DNA structures exist – and could well be important for ourselves,” says Daniel Christ, who co-led the research.

Author: Kelly Wong:  Australia’s Science Channel,  26 April 2018. The research is published in Nature Chemistry.


Record plastic and other waste pollutes the Arctic

It’s depressing but probably not surprising to learn that there is more micro plastic in Arctic sea ice than ever before. Many of the particles of plastic in the Arctic sea ice are so small that they could easily be ingested by arctic microorganisms - and that has scientists particularly concerned.

“No one can say for certain how harmful these tiny plastic particles are for marine life, or ultimately also for human beings,” biologist Dr Ilka Peeken notes. Peeken and colleagues from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research gathered ice samples from five regions during three expeditions over the spring and summer of 2014 – 15.

These samples were found to contain up to 12,000 microplastic particles per litre of ice. More than half of the particles were less than 1/20 of a millimetre wide. Two thirds belong to the smallest scale category of microplastic – “50 µm and smaller”. Microplastic refers to plastic particles, fibres, pellets and other fragments with a length, width or diameter ranging from a few micrometers to under 5 mm.

The researchers say the different types of plastic showed a unique footprint in the ice allowing them to trace them back to possible sources. For example the high percentage of paint and nylon particles pointed to the intensified shipping and fishing activities in some parts of the Arctic Ocean.

In all, the researchers found 17 different types of plastic in the sea ice, including packaging materials like polyethylene and polypropylene as well as paints, nylon polyester and cellulose.

Author: Nick Carne, Australia’s Science Channel, 26 April 2018


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AuthorRay Dennis