Consumer DNA testing–no oversight, no peer review, only estimates (quick post)

In a recent test, identical twins received different ancestry profiles from each of five well-known consumer DNA testing companies; the results should have been identical.

The difference comes through the calculations done by the companies–the reference panels and algorithms used; data that is kept secret by the companies. Remember that the results of this kind of testing are no more than estimates; they are not precise scientific fact —

(Charlsie Agro and Luke Denne, CBC News, January 18, 2019).

Identical twins and consumer DNA testing

Termites may do good


Are termites always bad? Maybe not …

In a study conducted in Borneo during the extreme drought of 2015-2016, researchers compared “widely scattered” plots of land within a tropical rainforest. In some of the plots, termites were removed; in other plots, the termites were left alone.

“In the plots with intact termite mounds and nests, soil moisture … was 36% higher during the drought than it was in plots where termite activity was disrupted.” In addition, the termites aided litter decomposition and soil nutrient content.

Termites like a moist environment and , if needed, “will dig down … to bring water up to their living spaces.”

The increase in soil moisture caused by the termite activity helped plants in the rainforest survive during the drought; plants used in the research were “51% more likely to survive” in areas where termites were active compared to areas where they were not.

What could this mean?

Due to climate change, “droughts are expected to occur more frequently” all over the world. As a result, termites could play “an increasingly important role” in assisting current and future “rainforest productivity and biodiversity.” Everything has a role to play and some human attempts to eradicate termites may lead to unintended consequences …

Read the article (Sid Perkins, Science, January 10, 2019).

Consumer DNA testing and the placebo effect (quick post)

Research shows that receiving genetic risk information for Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, etc. through consumer DNA testing can change actual body physiology, exertion/endurance during exercise, and the feeling of fullness after eating “in a self-fulfilling manner.” “Effects of perceived genetic risk … were sometimes greater than the effects associated with actual genetic risk.”

The placebo and nocebo effects can be powerful —

(Bradley P. Turnwald, et al., Nature Human Behavior, December 10, 2018).

Consumer DNA testing can create a powerful placebo or nocebo effect.

Plants can recognize kin (quick post)

As with humans and other animals, the evidence is mounting that plants can also recognize genetic “kin” (other plants that are similar) and will adapt to help them in ways like constraining the spread of roots, changing the number of flowers produced, and shifting leaves to minimize shading of nearby plants. There is also evidence that rice and sunflowers planted with kin results in higher yields —

(Elizabeth Pennisi, Science, January 3, 2019).

Sunflowers can recognize genetically-similar plants.

Plastic waste (quick post)

What has happened with plastic waste?

It’s still a huge problem; but, while China and other countries have heavily restricted imports, countries like Malaysia and Turkey are now recycling-and incinerating-more. See the numbers from the UK —

(Roger Harrabin & Tom Edgington, BBC, January 1, 2019).

See also —

Now that China will no longer take it, the U.S. and other countries will have to deal with their own plastic waste

Plastic waste is still a huge problem