FOOD BITES: JULY 2018

Magnesium Treats Depression

As little as 248 mg of magnesium per day leads to an astounding reversal of depression syndrome, according to research conducted at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and published in the journal PLoS One in June 2017.

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FOOD BITES: AUGUST 2018

Source of Yuma E. Coli Romaine Found

Federal officials first announced on April 13 an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown and produced in the Yuma, Ariz., area. Federal investigators found the source of the outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 on July 28: canal water.

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FOOD BITES: NOVEMBER 2018

Lab-Grown Meat Gaining Traction

More and more meat is being grown in labs from cultured cells. Several start-ups, such as Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats, SuperMeat and Finless Foods, are developing lab-grown beef, pork, poultry and seafood. This burgeoning niche industry is attracting millions in funding; Memphis Meats gobbled

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FOOD BITES: NOVEMBER 2018

Lab-Grown Meat Gaining Traction

More and more meat is being grown in labs from cultured cells. Several start-ups, such as Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats, SuperMeat and Finless Foods, are developing lab-grown beef, pork, poultry and seafood. This burgeoning niche industry is attracting millions in funding; Memphis Meats gobbled up $17 million from donors such as Bill Gates and ag giant Cargill in 2017. To “grow” meat, a muscle sample is taken from an animal. Technicians collect stem cells from the tissue, multiply them and allow them to differentiate into primitive fibers that form muscle tissue. One sample from a cow can yield enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter pounders, says Mosa Meat. Also called “clean meat,” lab-grown meat could be available for sale within a few years, contingent on overcoming a few challenges. Cost and taste are the first two hurdles the industry faces. In 2013, the patty for a burger made from lab-grown meat cost more than $300,000 to produce and was overly dry because it had too little fat. Expenses have since decreased; it currently costs about $600 to produce a quarter pound of meat at Memphis Meats. The costs should continue to decrease over the next several years. Focusing on texture and supplementing with other ingredients could help improve the taste. The next step will be to prove these meats are safe to eat in order to receive market approval. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration is currently considering how to regulate lab- grown meat. Natural meat producers are pushing back, arguing lab-grown products are not meat at all and should not be labeled as such. Surveys show the public has only tepid interest in eating meat from labs.

Who Owns Marine Genes?

Certain snippets of DNA can be patented so private entities have exclusive rights to their use for research and development. Delegates met at the United Nations in September to begin negotiating a new treaty to conserve biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Some issues on the agenda included marine genetic resources; which marine species are providing genes that are of commercial interest; how many sequences are appearing in patents; and which entities are applying for these patents. The research paper “Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources” was published in the journal Science Advances in June. It analyzed 38 million records of patent sequences. Of the patented marine life genetic sequences, 73 percent of the patents studied in the paper are for microbial species, which only account for about 20 percent of marine life. The paper cites 862 separate species of marine life that have genetic patents. Lead author Robert Blasiak, a conservation researcher at the University of Stockholm, says he was “shocked” to learn how many genetic sequences in the ocean were patented, including iconic species such as plankton, manta rays and sperm whales. German chemical giant Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (BASF), the largest chemical production company on Earth, according to

Chemical & Engineering News, owns 47 percent of the 13,000 patented marine gene sequences. “Some of these microorganisms come from the deep sea, particularly unique areas of the ocean,” said Blasiak’s coauthor Colette Wabnitz, an ecosystem scientist at the University of British Columbia. By laying claim to stretches of these adaptive organisms’ DNA, BASF is paving the way for future innovation in the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors, Wabnitz says. BASF has been experimenting with the genes of tiny aquatic lifeforms to produce designer health foods. “They’ve been splicing genes from different microorganisms into grapeseed and canola, then taking the seeds and seeing if they can produce oils that contain omega-3 fatty acids,” said Blasiak. Marine life patent holders are from just 10 countries, led by Germany, the United States and Japan. These countries control 98 percent of patented sequences, while 165 countries have no marine life patents whatsoever. Given that these sequences hold potential worldwide benefits, Blasiak and Wabnitz are perturbed by the disparity in their distribution. The UN’s deadline for a new treaty is 2020.

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover