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Hershey's Most Popular Chocolates Will Go GMO-Free by End of the Year

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Hershey's Most Popular Chocolates Will Go GMO-Free by End of the Year

Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, the Hershey Company's love affair with Genetically Modified Organisms is (mostly) over.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars and Milk Chocolates Kisses will be GMO-free by the end of the year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Shutterstock

After years of mounting pressure and thousands of Facebook posts, e-mails and telephone calls from consumers and advocacy organizations, the candy giant announced it "will feature a lineup of simple ingredients, and transition some of its most popular chocolate brands, including Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars to simpler ingredients."

This means, as Confectionery News reported, Hershey will swap genetically modified sugar beet for cane sugar, as well as switch to non-genetically modified soy lecithin for these iconic products by the end of the year. Artificial vanillin and emulsified polyglycerol polyricinoleate (which reduces the viscosity of chocolate and is used as a replacement for expensive cocoa butter) will also be dropped.

Besides switching to ingredients people can actually recognize, the confectionery company said it's aiming for more transparency in sourcing, manufacturing and labeling process. Hershey says it's also working with suppliers to source 100 percent certified and sustainable cocoa, as well as certified sustainable and traceable palm oil.

“We will strive for simplicity with all of our ingredients, but we may not achieve it with every product,” Hershey president and CEO John P. Bilbrey said. “This is a journey and it will take time. We are equally committed to sharing what we achieve and what we don’t. For ingredients that may not be as simple, we will explain what they are and why we need them to provide the great flavors, aromas, textures and appearances that our consumers know and love.”

Advocacy group GMO Inside spearheaded the pressure on Hershey (as well Mars) to make its products without GMOs over environmental and health concerns. The organization also noted that after their successful campaign, Hershey's will no longer source milk from cows that are treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST.

John Roulac, co-chair of GMO Inside and CEO of Nutiva, called Hershey's decision just the first step. "Hershey's needs to take the next step and go non-GMO with all of its chocolates, and get third-party verification for non-GMO ingredients. This includes sourcing milk from cows not fed GMOs and agreeing to prohibit any synthetic biology ingredients, starting with vanilla," said Roulac. "Consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and verification, and Hershey's and its competitors would be wise to offer third-party verified non-GMO products to consumers."

Hershey's announcement comes just weeks after Nestlé pledged to remove artificial coloring and flavoring from all its candy products sold in the U.S. and one month after Breyers announced it will stop using milk from cows treated with the artificial hormone rBST.

"As one of the leading chocolate companies in the U.S., this commitment will help move the rest of the companies in this sector," said Nicole McCann, Green America food campaigns director. "Hershey's joins General Mills, Unilever, Post Foods and other leading companies in responding to consumer demand to make at least some of its products non-GMO."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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