News: chicken feed, stress tolerant rice, shark overfishing

Chickens fed an enzyme have less phosphorus in their waste. Animals can not digest most of the phosphorus in their grain based feed because of the way it is tied up in the molecules phytate and phytic acid (which occur naturally in the grains fed to the chickens). The enzyme phytase lets the phosphorous molecules out of phytate and phytic acid, making them available for absorption into the gut. This could mean far less pollution resulting from CAFOs. The research was done on chicken farms in Delaware, where chickens produce more than 280,000 tons of waste per year. There are now 19 lbs of phosphorus per ton of poultry litter compared to 25-30 lbs/ton 5 years ago. “That reduction means that the phosphorus load to the environment has been reduced by some 2 million to 3 million pounds per year.” The enzyme could be produced very easily with transgenic E. coli, then mixed into feed. Another great example of a problem that could be solved with genetic engineering.

A grad student at U Arkansas has discovered a gene that controls stress tolerance in rice. This discovery has great potential in the transgenic arena – we need to develop extremely stress and drought resistant plants to keep up with global warming – traditional breeding may not be fast enough.
Another crisis of the seas: rising popularity of shark fin soup is causing declines of bivalves all over the world. Overfishing of sharks means an increase of rays, their natural prey. Rays eat oysters, clams, and scallops. Fishermen have reported decreases in catches of all three.

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