Moths and Life Expectancy

Grind for February 10th
“A poet never takes notes. You never take notes in a love affair.”

– Robert Frost

Did You Know

The Headline

Scientists release genetically modified moths to mitigate crop damage

The Grind

The diamondback moth is a small, migratory pest that eats cruciferous crops such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Thanks to its high reproduction rate and resistance to pesticides, the diamondback moth causes up to $5 billion in losses every year.

The Details

This week, scientists released a genetically engineered diamondback moth that is incapable of producing healthy female offspring. The engineered moths’ male children will survive and mate with wild females, continuing the cycle until the overall population of diamondback moths is reduced.

The modified moths were produced by Oxitec, a company that has done similar experiments with mosquitoes to reduce the spread of disease.

“Our research builds on the sterile insect technique for managing insects that was developed back in the 1950’s,” explains researcher Anthony Shelton of Cornell University. “What is unique about this technology is that it is species-specific, so the released diamondback male moths only mate with female diamondback moths and do not affect other beneficial organisms in the field, such as pollinators or beneficial biological control insects.”

The experiment will not cause the diamondback moth to become extinct, adds Shelton, because the modified gene will disappear after a few generations.


The Headline

In the United States, life expectancy is up and drug overdose deaths are down

The Grind

Government data released this week shows a small increase in life expectancy for babies born in the United States in 2018, with females expected to reach 81.2 years of age and males expected to reach 76.2 years of age.

The Details

Data shows an increase in the number of deaths caused by suicide and influenza and a decrease in the number of deaths caused by cancer, accidents, heart disease, lower respiratory disease, and homicide.

The number of deaths caused by drug overdose dropped 4% in 2018, marking the first decline in this category in 28 years.

The age-adjusted death rate dropped by 1.1% overall, with Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 seeing the largest improvement. The infant mortality rate dropped 2.3 %.

“This is potentially good news, although we would need to see if this is the beginning of a new trend,” notes demographer Elizabeth Arias.

White House officials credit the drop in overdose deaths to the increased availability of Narcan as well as the decrease in opioid prescriptions.

“We will continue to fight this every single day, and we will continue to make the investments of money, of time, of education,” says Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Critics say the United States should not be celebrating, considering the amount of money required to push health outcomes to levels that continue to lag behind other developed countries.

Did you know… The oldest pig in the world lived to the age of 68.