Study: Men all over world tend to eat more meat than women

chicago, illinois — Vacationing in Chicago this week from Europe, Jelle den Burger and Nirusa Naguleswaran grabbed a bite at the Dog House Grill: a classic Italian beef sandwich for him, grilled cheese for her. 

Both think the way their genders lined up with their food choices was no coincidence. Women, said Naguleswaran, are simply more likely to ditch meat, and to care about how their diet affects the environment and other people. 

“I don’t want to put it in the wrong way, that male people feel attacked,” said Naguleswaran, of Netherlands, laughing. She said she used to love eating meat, but giving it up for climate reasons was more important to her. “We just have it in our nature to care about others.” 

Now, scientists can say more confidently than ever that gender and meat-eating preferences are linked. A paper out in Nature Scientific Reports this week shows that the difference is nearly universal across cultures — and that it’s even more pronounced in countries that are more developed. 

Researchers already knew men in some countries ate more meat than women did. And they knew that people in wealthier countries ate more meat overall. But the latest findings suggest that when men and women have the social and financial freedom to make choices about their diets, they diverge from each other even more, with men eating more meat and women eating less. 

That’s important because about 20% of planet-warming global greenhouse gas emissions come from animal-based food products, according to earlier research from the University of Illinois. The researchers behind the new report think their findings could fine-tune efforts to persuade people to eat less meat and dairy. 

“Anything that one could do to reduce meat consumption in men would have a greater impact, on average, than among women,” said Christopher Hopwood, a professor of psychology at the University of Zurich and one of the authors of the paper. The work drew on surveys funded by Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit dedicated to ending animal agriculture. Hopwood said he is not affiliated with the organization and is not an advocate. 

Researchers ask what thousands eat

The researchers asked over 28,000 people in 23 countries on four continents how much of various types of food they ate every day, then calculated the average land animal consumption by gender identity in each country. They used the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures health, education and standard of living, to rank how “developed” each country was, and also looked at the Global Gender Gap Index, a scale of gender equality published by the World Economic Forum. 

They found that, with three exceptions — China, India and Indonesia — gender differences in meat consumption were higher in countries with higher development and gender equality scores. 

The large number and cultural diversity of people surveyed is “a real strength of this,” said Daniel Rosenfeld, a social psychologist at UCLA who studies eating behavior and moral psychology and was not involved in the study. 

The study did not answer the question of why men tend to eat more meat, but scientists have some theories. One is that evolutionarily, women may have been hormonally hardwired to avoid meat that could possibly have been contaminated, affecting pregnancy, whereas men may have sought out meat proteins given their history as hunters in some societies. 

But even the idea of men as hunters is intertwined with culture, Rosenfeld said. That’s a good example of another theory, which is that societal norms shape gender identity from an early age and thus how people decide to fill their plates. 

‘I’m going to eat more’

Rosenfeld, who said he stopped eating meat about 10 years ago, said his own experience hanging out in college “as a guy hanging out with other guy friends” illustrated the cultural pressure for men to eat meat. “If they’re all eating meats and I decide not to,” he said, “it can disrupt the natural flow of social situations.” 

The same cultural factors that shape gender influence how people respond to new information, said Carolyn Semmler, a professor of psychology at the University of Adelaide in Australia who also studies meat eating and social factors such as gender. Semmler was not involved in this study. In some of her past work, she’s studied cognitive dissonance around eating meat. 

In those cases, she said, women presented with information about poor animal welfare in the livestock industry were more likely to say they would reduce their meat consumption. But men tended to go the other direction, she said. 

“One participant said to me, ‘I think you guys are trying to get me to eat less meat, so I’m going to eat more,'” she said. 

Semmler said meat can be important to masculine identity, noting for example the popular notion of men at the grill. And she said presenting eating less meat as a moral cause can be a sensitive issue. Still, she said, people should be aware of how their food choices affect the planet. 

But she and Hopwood acknowledged how difficult it is to change behavior. 

“Men are a tough nut to crack,” Hopwood said. 

Jose Lopez, another diner at the Dog House Grill, said he thought men should eat less meat but said that in general he has observed otherwise. 

“We’re carnivores,” he said. “Men eat like savages.” 

Respiratory diseases plague Kenya as more people burn wood to save money

NAIROBI, Kenya — Piles of firewood surrounded Jane Muthoni in her kitchen made of iron sheets. The roof, walls and wooden pillars were covered in soot. As she blew on the flame for tea, the 65-year-old was engulfed in smoke.

“I’ve used firewood all my life,” she said. “Sometimes I usually cough from inhaling the smoke, and my eyes itch, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t have money to even buy charcoal.”

She was unaware of the lasting toll on her health. But experts are.

Respiratory diseases have been the most prevalent diseases in Kenya for the past several years and are on the rise, according to government authorities, with 19.6 million reported cases last year.

Burning biomass such as firewood is the largest contributor to those diseases, said Evans Amukoye, a scientist with the Kenya Medical Research Institute’s respiratory diseases research center.

“One can have itchy eyes, coughs while inhaling the smoke, and for serious cases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you find that you cannot walk as your lungs have become tight,” Amukoye said. The disease is caused by indoor or outdoor air pollution or smoking.

Data from Kenya’s health ministry shows that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is responsible for 1.7% of deaths in the country.

People in low-income areas are diagnosed with respiratory diseases later in life compared to middle-class people in urban areas with better awareness and access to health care, Amukoye said.

Families in informal neighborhoods and rural areas are the most affected as most people rely on firewood or fossil fuels for cooking. Women hunched over a smoking fire at stalls for tea or snacks is a common sight in the capital, Nairobi, and beyond.

The government’s 2022 Demographic and Health Survey showed a high dependence on traditional fuels for cooking in Kenya. The number of households relying on biomass like firewood increased from 4.7 million to 6.7 million between 2020 and 2022.

Economist Abraham Muriu said he believes the increase in Kenyans using firewood is a result of economic shocks caused by reduced incomes during the COVID pandemic and ongoing high inflation.

“Firewood is readily available and the most accessible fossil fuel, especially in rural areas,” Muriu said.

He said more Kenyans in urban areas have likely resorted to using firewood or charcoal, too, as prices and taxes rise. Blackened sacks of charcoal are openly on sale at some Nairobi intersections, and the hunt for firewood across the country is constant.

Mercy Letting, 33, a businesswoman in Nairobi’s Kasarani neighborhood was using charcoal to make meals for customers in the first six months after opening her restaurant early last year. With time, it affected her health.

“I am asthmatic, so whenever I used charcoal to cook the smoke would always trigger an attack, forcing me to spend part of my daily earnings on medication. This happened five times,” she said.

She found it expensive, spending 4,500 Kenyan shillings ($33) per month to buy a sack of charcoal. “I eventually had to buy an ‘eco-friendly’ cooker, which has been great for my health and good for business.” It requires less charcoal.

Letting also bought an induction burner, which she said is faster in cooking and more efficient as she spends only 50 Kenyan shillings ($0.38) per day on electricity.

Although companies pursue “clean cooking” options, high prices remain an obstacle to many Kenyans.

“If we want to deliver a truly clean and efficient solution to users across Africa, it needs to be affordable for them,” said Chris McKinney, the chief commercial officer at BURN Manufacturing, which describes itself as a “modern cookstove” company based on the outskirts of Nairobi.

“This has been the key barrier to scaling for us,” he said.

Brazilian women protest bill that equates late abortions with homicide

SAO PAULO — Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday as protests sweep across Brazil in opposition to a bill that would further criminalize abortions. If passed, the law would equate the termination of a pregnancy after 22 weeks with homicide.

The bill, proposed by conservative lawmakers and heading for a vote in the lower house, would also apply in cases of rape. Critics say those who seek an abortion so late are mostly child rape victims, as their pregnancies tend to be detected later.

To rally opposition, rights’ groups created the ‘A child is not a mother’ campaign that has flooded social media. Placards, stickers and banners emblazoned with the slogan have abounded during demonstrations. And viral visuals depicting women in red cloaks compare Brazil to Gilead, the theocratic patriarchy Margaret Atwood created in her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

About 10,000 people, mostly women, filled several blocks of Sao Paulo’s main boulevard on Saturday afternoon, organizers estimated. It was the biggest demonstration yet, following events in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Florianopolis, Recife, Manaus, and other cities.

Marli Gavioli, 65, has mostly refrained from protesting since demonstrations in the 1980s that called for the end of the military dictatorship, but she told The Associated Press she’s too outraged to remain home. “I couldn’t stay out of this, or I would regret it too much. We are being whipped from all sides, us women. It’s past time we do something,” she said.

Brazil only permits abortion in cases of rape if there is an evident risk to the mother’s life or if the fetus has no functioning brain. Aside from those exceptions, Brazil’s penal code imposes between one- and three-years jail time for women who end a pregnancy. Some Brazilian women fly abroad to obtain abortions.

If the bill becomes law, the sentence will rise to between six and 20 years when an abortion is performed after 22 weeks. Critics have highlighted that would mean convicted rapists could receive lesser sentences than their victims.

Experts say that late access to abortion reflects inequalities in health care. Children, poor women, Black women and those living in rural areas are particularly at risk.

“We cannot be sentenced to prison for having suffered a rape and not receiving support and care,” Talita Rodrigues, a member of rights’ group National Front against the Criminalization of Women and for the Legalization of Abortion, said by phone.

Of the 74,930 people who were victims of rape in Brazil in 2022, 61.4% were under 14 years old, according to a 2023 study of the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, an independent group that tracks crimes.

“For children, it is common for a pregnancy to be discovered only after 22 weeks,” Ivanilda Figueiredo, a professor of law at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said by phone. For example, they might not know that periods — a sign a woman isn’t pregnant — are monthly, she said.

Among the protesters in downtown Rio on Thursday was Graziela Souza, a 25-year-old student who was sexually assaulted as a child.

“I think it’s very important for victims to be present, as much as it hurts,” Souza said. “We must speak out and fight against it, because if we stay at home we are going to lose.”

Defenders of the bill have argued that abortions at a later stage were unimaginable when Brazil’s penal code was adopted in 1940, which explains why there is currently no time limit. Had it been envisioned, they argue, it would be considered infanticide.

The bill’s author, lawmaker and Evangelical pastor Sóstenes Cavalcante, declined an interview request from the AP.

On Wednesday, the lower house Speaker Arthur Lira rushed through a procedure to fast-track the bill in under 30 seconds, with many lawmakers reportedly unaware it was taking place. The maneuver allows the plenary to vote without the bill first clearing committees. Lira has been a top target for protesters’ ire. Signs on Saturday read “What if it happened to your daughter, Lira?” and simply “Lira out.”

Conservative lawmakers proposing the bill — who protesters have dubbed ‘the rape caucus’ — are playing politics, hoping to boost turnout and support from Evangelical voters in October municipal elections, Fernanda Barros dos Santos, a political scientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said by phone. Abortion is a topic of high concern for Christians, who make up a majority of voters in Brazil.

“The bill puts people who are progressive in a very difficult situation, because they lose votes by defending abortion rights,” said Figueiredo, the law professor.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government has been seeking inroads with Evangelicals, a key voting bloc for far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula beat Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election.

“The president sent a letter to Evangelicals in the campaign saying he was against abortion. We want to see if he will veto it. Let’s test Lula,” Cavalcante, the bill’s author, told local news outlet G1 on Tuesday.

First lady Rosângela da Silva, known as Janja, slammed the proposal on social media Friday, saying women and girls who are raped need to be protected, not revictimized. Lula finally weighed in on Saturday, speaking at the G7 in Italy.

“I had five kids, eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild. I’m against abortion. However, since abortion is a reality, we need to treat abortion as a public health issue,” he said in a news conference. “And I think it’s insanity that someone wants to punish a woman with a sentence that’s longer than the criminal who committed the rape.”

Although strict abortion laws have long been the norm across the predominantly Roman Catholic region of Latin America, feminist movements have gained momentum in recent years and delivered successive victories for abortion-rights campaigners. Colombia’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in 2022, following a similar breakthrough ruling by Mexico. Argentina’s Congress legalized abortion in 2020, and a few years earlier Chile rolled back a strict ban.

Midwives: State law could jeopardize Native Hawaiian birth traditions

HONOLULU — Ki’inaniokalani Kahoʻohanohano longed for a deeper connection to her Native Hawaiian ancestors and culture as she prepared to give birth to her first child at home on the north shore of Maui in 2003.

But generations of colonialist suppression had eroded many Hawaiian traditions, and it was hard to find information on how the islands’ Indigenous people honored pregnancy or childbirth. Nor could she find a Native Hawaiian midwife.

That experience led Kahoʻohanohano — now a mother of five — to become a Native Hawaiian midwife herself, a role in which she spent years helping to deliver as many as three babies a month, receiving them in a traditional cloth made of woven bark and uttering sacred, tremorous chants as she welcomed them into the world.

Her quest to preserve tradition also led her into a downtown Honolulu courtroom this week, where she and others are seeking to block a state law that they say endangers their ability to continue serving pregnant women who hope for such customary Native Hawaiian births.

“To be able to have our babies in the places and in the ways of our kupuna, our ancestors, is very vital,” she testified. “To me, the point of what we do is to be able to return birth home to these places.”

Lawmakers enacted a midwife licensure law in 2019, finding that the “improper practice of midwifery poses a significant risk of harm to the mother or newborn, and may result in death.” Violations are punishable by up to a year in jail, plus thousands of dollars in criminal and civil fines.

The measure requires anyone who provides “assessment, monitoring, and care” during pregnancy, labor, childbirth and during the postpartum period to be licensed. The women’s lawsuit says that would include a wide range of people, including midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, and even family and friends of the new mother.

Until last summer, the law provided an exception for “birth attendants,” which allowed Kahoʻohanohano to continue practicing Native Hawaiian birth customs. With that exception now expired, however, she and others face the licensing requirements — which, they say, include costly programs only available out of state or online that don’t align with Hawaiian culture and beliefs.

In 2022, the average cost of an accredited midwifery program was $6,200 to $6,900 a year, according to court documents filed by the state.

Attorneys for the state argued in a court filing that the law “undoubtedly serves a compelling interest in protecting pregnant persons from receiving ill-advice from untrained individuals.”

State Deputy Attorney General Isaac Ickes told Judge Shirley Kawamura that the law doesn’t outlaw Native Hawaiian midwifery or homebirths, but that requiring a license reduces the risks of harm or death.

The dispute is the latest in a long history of debate about how and whether Hawaii should regulate the practice of traditional healing arts that dates to well before the islands became the 50th state in 1959. Those arts were banished or severely restricted for much of the 20th century, but the Hawaiian Indigenous rights movement of the 1970s renewed interest in the customary ways.

Hawaii eventually adopted a system where councils versed in Native Hawaiian healing certify traditional practitioners, though those suing say their efforts to form such a council for midwifery have failed.

Practicing midwifery without a license, meanwhile, was banned until 1998 — when, lawmakers say, they inadvertently decriminalized it when they altered the regulation of nurse-midwives, something the 2019 law sought to remedy.

Among the nine plaintiffs are women who seek traditional births and argue that the new licensing requirement violates their right of privacy and reproductive autonomy under Hawaii’s Constitution. They are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.

“For pregnant people whose own family may no longer hold the knowledge of the ceremonial and sacred aspects of birth, a midwife trained in Native Hawaiian traditional and customary birthing practices can be an invaluable, culturally informed health care provider,” the lawsuit states.

When Kahoʻohanohano was unable to find a Native Hawaiian midwife to attend the birth of her first child, she turned instead to a Native American one, who was open to incorporating traditional Hawaiian aspects that Kahoʻohanohano gleaned from her elders.

She surrounded herself with Hawaiian cultural practitioners focusing on pule, or prayer, and lomilomi, a traditional massage with physical and spiritual elements. It all helped ease her three days of labor, she said. And then, “two pushes and pau” — done — the boy was born.

The births of her five children in various Maui communities, Kahoʻohanohano said, were her “greatest teachers” in herself becoming one of the very few midwives who know about Native Hawaiian birthing practices.

She is believed to be the first person in a century to give birth on her husband’s ancestral lands in Kahakuloa, a remote west Maui valley of mostly Native Hawaiians, where her daughter was born in 2015. The community is at least 40 minutes along winding roads to the island’s only hospital.

Kahoʻohanohano testified about helping low-risk pregnant women and identifying instances where she transferred someone to receive care at the hospital but said she’s never experienced any emergency situations.

Among the other plaintiffs are midwives she has helped train and women she has aided through birth. Makalani Franco-Francis testified that she learned about customary birth practices from Kahoʻohanohano, including how to receive a newborn in kapa, or traditional cloth, and cultural protocols for a placenta, including taking it to the ocean or burying it to connect a newborn to its ancestral lands.

The law has halted her education, Franco-Francis said. She testified that she’s not interested in resuming her midwifery education through out-of-state or online programs.

“It’s not in alignment with our cultural practices, and it’s also a financial obligation,” she said.

The judge heard testimony through the week. It’s not clear how soon a ruling might come.

Dutch visitor dies on Greek island, 4 foreign tourists missing

athens, greece — A missing Dutch tourist was found dead early Saturday on the eastern Greek island of Samos, local media reported, the latest in a string of recent cases in which tourists in the Greek islands have died or gone missing. Some, if not all, had set out on hikes in blistering hot temperatures. 

Dr. Michael Mosley, a noted British television anchor and author, was found dead last Sunday on the island of Symi. A coroner concluded Mosley had died the previous Wednesday, shortly after going for a hike over difficult, rocky terrain. 

Samos, like Symi, lies very close to the Turkish coast. 

The body of the 74-year-old Dutch tourist was found by a Fire Service drone lying face down in a ravine about 300 meters (330 yards) from the spot where he was last observed Sunday, walking with some difficulty in the blistering heat. 

Authorities were still searching for four people reported missing in the past few days. 

On Friday, two French tourists were reported missing on Sikinos, a relatively secluded Cyclades island in the Aegean Sea, with less than 400 permanent residents. 

The two women, aged 73 and 64, had left their respective hotels to meet. 

A 70-year-old American tourist was reported missing Thursday on the small island of Mathraki in Greece’s northwest extremity by his host, a Greek-American friend. The tourist had last been seen Tuesday at a cafe in the company of two female tourists who have since left the island. 

Mathraki, population 100, is a 3.9-square-kilometer (1.2-square-mile) heavily wooded island, west of the better-known island of Corfu. Strong winds had prevented police and the fire service from reaching the island to search for the missing person as of Saturday afternoon, media reported. 

On the island of Amorgos, authorities were still searching for a 59-year-old tourist reported missing since Tuesday, when he had gone on a solo hike in very hot conditions. 

U.S. media identified the missing tourist as retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Albert Calibet of Hermosa Beach, California. 

Amorgos, the easternmost of the Cyclades islands, is a rocky 122-square-kilometer (47-square-mile) island of less than 2,000 inhabitants. A couple of years ago the island had a record number of visitors, over 100,000. 

Some media commentary has focused on the need to inform tourists of the dangers of setting off on hikes in intense heat. 

Temperatures across Greece on Saturday were more than 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) lower than on Thursday, when they peaked at almost 45 C (113 F). They are expected to rise again from Sunday, although not to heat-wave levels.  

Worst of rainfall that triggered Florida floods is over

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — Although more rain could trigger additional isolated Florida flooding, forecasters say the strong, persistent storms that dumped up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) in southern parts of the state appear to have passed.

Some neighborhood streets in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas still have standing water, although it is rapidly receding, officials said.

“The worst flooding risk was the last three days,” said Sammy Hadi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “The heaviest rainfall has concluded.”

The no-name storm system pushed across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly the same time as the early June start of hurricane season, which this year is forecast to be among the most active in recent memory amid concerns that climate change is increasing storm intensity.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a media briefing in Hollywood, south of Fort Lauderdale, and said while more rain was coming, it’s likely to be more typical of South Florida afternoon showers this time of year.

“We are going to get some more rain today, maybe throughout the balance of the weekend. Hopefully it’s not approaching the levels that it was, but we have a lot of resources staged here, and we’ll be able to offer the state’s assistance,” he said.

DeSantis said the state has deployed about 100 pumps in addition to what cities and counties are using to try to clear water from streets.

Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said while flooding was extensive, there were no reports of destroyed homes and very few of severely damaged homes. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.

“We don’t think there’s going to be enough damage to necessarily qualify for a federal disaster declaration,” DeSantis said. But he added the storms may have affected enough business to qualify for Small Business Administration assistance.

The downpours hit Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, delaying flights at two of the state’s largest airports and leaving vehicles waterlogged and stalled in some of the region’s lowest-lying streets. The main problem was hundreds of vehicles that were stranded on streets as people were unable to navigate the flood waters.

“Looked like the beginning of a zombie movie,” said Ted Rico, a tow truck driver who spent much of Wednesday night and Thursday morning helping to clear the streets of stalled vehicles. “There’s cars littered everywhere, on top of sidewalks, in the median, in the middle of the street, no lights on. Just craziness, you know. Abandoned cars everywhere.”

Report: Highly potent opioids now show up in drug users in Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria — Traces of highly potent opioids known as nitazenes have for the first time been found to be consumed by people who use drugs in Africa, according to a report released Wednesday by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a nonprofit organization.

Nitazenes, powerful synthetic opioids, have long been in use in Western countries as well as in Asia where they have been associated with overdose deaths. Some of them can be up to 100 times more potent than heroin and up to 10 times more potent than fentanyl, meaning that users can get an effect from a much smaller amount, putting them at increased risk of overdose and death.

The report focused on Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau and is based on chemical testing of kush, a derivative of cannabis mixed with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol and chemicals like formaldehyde. Researchers found that in Sierra Leone, 83% of the samples were found to contain nitazenes, while in Guinea-Bissau it was identified in 55%.

“The GI-TOC ( Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime) believes that these results are the first indication that nitazenes have penetrated retail drug markets in Africa,” the report said.

Many young people in West and Central Africa have become addicted to drugs with between 5.2% and 13.5% using cannabis, the most widely used illicit substance on the continent, according to the World Health Organization.

In Sierra Leone where kush is one of the most widely consumed drugs, President Julius Maada Bio this year declared war on the substance, calling it an epidemic and a national threat.

Nitazenes have been detected repeatedly in substances sold to young people in the region such that users are most likely ingesting them “without knowing the risks they face,” Wednesday’s report said.

The authors said their findings suggest that nitazenes are being imported into Sierra Leone from elsewhere and that the substance being sold as kush in Guinea-Bissau was of similar chemical composition to that found in Freetown.

Officials in the two countries must deploy chemical testing equipment as a first step in tackling drug abuse, the report said. “Without this, it is impossible for the government of Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and the wider subregion to accurately monitor the countries’ illicit drug markets and develop evidence-based responses,” it said.

Disease, extreme weather push up orange juice prices

MOGI GUACU, Brazil — Orange juice prices have always been volatile, falling when bumper harvests create an oversupply of oranges and rising when frost or a hurricane knocks out fruit trees.

But the record-high prices the world is seeing for OJ right now may be on the table for a while, since the diseases and extreme weather ravaging orange groves in some top-producing countries aren’t easily resolved problems.

This year’s harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of orange juice, is likely to be the worst in 36 years due to flooding and drought, according to a forecast by Fundecitrus, a citrus growers’ organization in Sao Paulo state.

“The concern isn’t just that the price of juice is going up. The concern is not having the juice,” Oscar Simonetti, an orange farmer in Mogi Guacu, Brazil, said.

In the U.S., Florida’s already diminished orange production fell 62% in the 2022-23 season after Hurricane Ian further battered a crop that was struggling due to an invasive pest. Drought also cut Spain’s orange production last year.

Scarce supplies have sent prices soaring. In the U.S., a 12-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate cost an average of $4.27 in April, 42% more than during the same month a year earlier, according to government figures.

In the United Kingdom, where the British Fruit Juice Association says supplies are at 50-year lows, the price of fresh orange juice rose 25% over the past year, according to consumer research company Nielsen.

Those price increases are turning off inflation-weary consumers. Orange juice consumption has fallen 15% to 25% in major global markets — including the U.S. and the European Union — over the last year, according to Rabobank, a Dutch bank that focuses on food and agriculture.

Jonna Parker, a principal for fresh food client insights at market research company Circana, said consumers are increasingly getting their morning fruit intake from energy drinks, smoothies and other beverages besides orange juice.

“The price gets high and people consider other alternatives,” she said.

Global orange juice consumption was already declining before the current price hikes due to competition from other drinks and public concern about the amount of sugar in fruit juices. If that trend continues, it should help balance supply with demand and keep prices from rising much further, Rabobank said. But it expects limited supplies will keep prices elevated for some time.

In some markets, orange juice is disappearing from shelves altogether.

Late last year, McDonald’s in Australia removed orange juice from its menu in favor of an “orange fruit drink” that contains 35% orange juice. The company cited short supplies.

Tokyo-based Morinaga Milk Industry Co. expects to stop shipping its Sunkist brand orange juice – which uses juice from Brazil – by the end of June because of low juice supplies from Brazil, a company spokeswoman said. In April 2023, Megmilk Snow Brand Co., based in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, stopped shipments of 1-liter and 450-milliliter packs of orange juice, which it sells under an agreement with Dole. Sales haven’t yet resumed.

Some companies are considering using alternatives to oranges in their products. Coldpress, a British juice company, introduced a mandarin juice product in February, citing the high price of regular juicing oranges.

But others are tight-lipped about their plans. Several major orange juice makers – including Dole, Tropicana, Florida’s Natural, Uncle Matt’s and Coca-Cola, which makes the Simply and Minute Maid brands – declined to comment or failed to respond to inquires from The Associated Press.

The roots of the current supply troubles stretch back decades. In 2005, an invasive bug called the Asian citrus psyllid arrived in Florida, injecting bacteria from its saliva into the state’s orange trees. The bacteria slowly kills the tree by destroying its root systems. There’s no known cure once a tree is infected.

The impact has been devastating. In 2004, before the disease – called citrus greening – hit Florida, the state produced 200 million boxes of oranges. This year, it will produce less than 20 million.

Michael Rogers, a professor of entomology and the director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, said no type of orange tree is totally resistant to greening, but scientists have been trying to breed trees that are more tolerant of it.

Citrus greening arrived in Brazil around the same time as Florida, but it has progressed more slowly there because Brazil has much larger orange groves. Bugs spread the disease by flying from tree to tree, Rogers said.

Still, the disease is spreading. Fundecitrus estimates that 38% of Brazil’s orange trees had citrus greening in 2023. Simonetti, the orange farmer, estimates that 20% of his production is affected by greening. Oranges on affected trees don’t ripen properly and fall off early, affecting the quality of their juice, he said.

Shifting production to other locations isn’t necessarily an option. California grows oranges, for example, and the citrus psyllid doesn’t fare as well in the state’s climate. But California also doesn’t get the rainfall needed for juicing oranges; its oranges are usually sold for eating, Rogers said.

Another issue impacting orange harvests is extreme weather, which is becoming more common as the world warms due to climate change.

Last year, nine heat waves swept across Brazil, resulting in lower output and poorer fruit quality. This year, the impacts of El Niño have been particularly dramatic, with a historic drought in the Amazon and devastating floods in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

“The temperatures are high during the day. At night the temperature drops. The plant can’t stand this temperature difference,” Simonetti said.

Brazil’s 2024-25 harvest is expected to yield 232 million boxes of oranges, down 24% from the prior year.

“We have never seen a harvest like this,” Vinícius Trombin, the coordinator of Fundecitrus’ crop estimates survey, said.

To make up for the anticipated smaller yield, some producers are considering blending oranges with tangerines to make juice, Trombin said. But he’s skeptical.

“The consumer wants an orange juice made up 100% out of oranges,” he said.

Parker, of Circana, isn’t so sure. She thinks blends with other fruits might help hold down costs and revive consumer interest in orange juice.

“The idea of multiple flavors is very popular and is a way to stand out,” she said. “You’ve got to keep people engaged. Once you lose that interest, it’s really hard to get people back.”

Myanmar cracks down on flow of information by blocking VPNs

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s military government has launched a major effort to block free communication on the internet, shutting off access to virtual private networks — known as VPNs — which can be used to circumvent blockages of banned websites and services. 

The attempt to restrict access to information began at the end of May, according to mobile phone operators, internet service providers, a major opposition group, and media reports. 

The military government that took power in February 2021 after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has made several attempts to throttle traffic on the internet, especially in the months immediately after their takeover. 

Reports in local media say the attack on internet usage includes random street searches of people’s mobile phones to check for VPN applications, with a fine if any are found. It is unclear if payments are an official measure. 

25 arrested for having VPNs

On Friday, the Burmese-language service of U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported about 25 people from Myanmar’s central coastal Ayeyarwady region were arrested and fined by security forces this week after VPN apps were found on their mobile phones. Radio Free Asia is a sister news outlet to Voice of America. 

As the army faces strong challenges from pro-democracy guerrillas across the country in what amounts to a civil war, it has also made a regular practice of shutting down civilian communications in areas where fighting is taking place. While this may serve tactical purposes, it also makes it hard for evidence of alleged human rights abuses to become public. 

According to a report released last month by Athan, a freedom of expression advocacy group in Myanmar, nearly 90 of 330 townships across the country have had internet access or phone service — or both — cut off by authorities. 

Resistance that arose to the 2021 army takeover relied heavily on social media, especially Facebook, to organize street protests. As nonviolent resistance escalated into armed struggle and other independent media were shut down or forced underground, the need for online information increased. 

The resistance scored a victory in cybersphere when Facebook and other major social media platforms banned members of the Myanmar military because of their alleged violations of human and civil rights, and blocked ads from most military-linked commercial entities. 

Users unable to connect

This year, widely used free VPN services started failing at the end of May, with users getting messages that they could not be connected, keeping them from social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp and some websites.

VPNs connect users to their desired sites through third-party computers, making it almost impossible for internet service providers and snooping governments to see what the users are actually connecting to. 

Internet users, including online retail sellers, have been complaining for the past two weeks about slowdowns, saying they were not able to watch or upload videos and posts or send messages easily. 

Operators of Myanmar’s top telecom companies MPT, Ooredoo, Atom and the military-backed Mytel, as well as fiber internet services, told The Associated Press on Friday that access to Facebook, Instagram, X, WhatsApp and VPN services was banned nationwide at the end of May on the order of the Transport and Communications Ministry. 

The AP tried to contact a spokesperson for the Transport and Communications Ministry for comment but received no response. 

The operators said VPNs are not currently authorized for use, but suggested users try rotating through different services to see if any work. 

A test by the AP of more than two dozen VPN apps found that only one could hold a connection, and it was slow. 

The military government has not yet publicly announced the ban on VPNs. 

Contraception, in-vitro fertilization become key campaign issue

The debate over the right to an abortion has divided U.S. politics for decades. But two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, sending that decision back to the states, a new front has opened — the debate over birth control. VOA Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports on the election-year battle over contraception and in-vitro fertilization.

World leaders discuss AI as China’s digital influence in Latin America grows  

washington — Pope Francis, originally from Argentina, spoke Friday about the ethics of artificial intelligence at the G7 summit at a time when China has been rolling out its own AI standards and building technological infrastructure in developing nations, including Latin America.

The annual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations held in the Puglia region of Italy this week focused on topics that included economic security and artificial intelligence.

On Friday, Francis became the first pope to speak at a G7 summit. He spoke about AI and its ethical implications and the need to balance technological progress with values.

“Artificial intelligence could enable a democratization of access to knowledge, the exponential advancement of scientific research, and the possibility of giving demanding and arduous work to machines,” he said.

But Francis also warned that AI “could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations, or between dominant and oppressed social classes.”

Technology and security experts have noted that AI is becoming an increasingly geopolitical issue, particularly as the U.S. and China compete in regions such as Latin America.

“There will be the promotion of [China’s] standards for AI in other countries and the U.S. will be doing the same thing, so we will have bifurcation, decoupling of these standards,” Handel Jones, the chief executive of International Business Strategies Inc. told VOA.

To decrease reliance on China, U.S. tech companies are looking to Mexico to buy AI-related hardware, and Taiwan-based Foxconn has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building manufacturing facilities in Mexico to meet that need.

Huawei’s projects

At the same time, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has been implementing telecommunications and cloud infrastructure in Latin America. The company recently reported a 10.9% increase in revenue in that region in 2023. The United States has sanctioned Huawei because of national security concerns.

“I would argue that Huawei is developing the infrastructure in the region [Latin America] in which it can deploy its type of AI solutions,” said Evan Ellis, Latin American studies research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

Ellis elaborated on the potential security concerns with Huawei’s AI solutions, explaining to VOA how China may be able use integrated AI solutions such as facial recognition for potentially “nefarious purposes,” such as recognizing consumer behavioral patterns.

Jones emphasized the potential security threat to the West of China implementing AI in Latin America.

“The negative [side] of AI is that you can get control, and you can also influence, so how you control thought processes and media, and so on … that’s something which is very much a part of the philosophy of the China government,” Jones said.

Jones added that China is moving rapidly to build up its AI capabilities.

“Now, they claim it’s defensive. But again, who knows what’s going to happen five years from now? But if you’ve got the strength, would you use it? And how would you use it? And of course, AI is going to be a critical part of any future military activities,” he said.

In May, China launched a three-year action plan to set standards in AI and to position itself as a global leader in the emerging tech space.

‘Rig the game’

“Once you can set standards, you rig the game to lock in basically your own way of doing things, and so it becomes a mutually reinforcing thing,” Ellis said.

“In some ways you can argue that the advance of AI in the hands of countries that are not democratic helps to enable the apparent success of statist solution,” he added. “It strengthens the allure of autocratic systems and taking out protections and privacy away from the individual that at the end of the day pose fundamental threats to the human rights and democracy.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment about analysts’ concerns related to security as China’s digital influence grows in Latin America.

But in a previous statement to VOA about AI, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said, “The Global AI Governance Initiative launched by President Xi Jinping puts forward that we should uphold the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in AI development, and oppose drawing ideological lines.”

Liu said China supports “efforts to develop AI governance frameworks, norms and standards based on broad consensus and with full respect for policies and practices among countries.”

Parsifal D’Sola, founder and executive director of the Andres Bello Foundation’s China Latin America Research Center, said Huawei has been transparent with how it “manipulates information, [and] what it shares back with China.”

“The way Huawei operates does pose certain risks even for national security, but on the other hand … it’s cheaper, it has great service … [and it provides] infrastructure in areas of the [countries] that do not have access,” D’Sola said.

Experts said countries in Latin America seem less worried about the geopolitical battle between the United States and China and more concerned about efficiency.

“Security is part of the conversation, but development is much more important,” D’Sola said. “Economic development, infrastructure development, is a key priority for – I don’t want to say every country, but I would say most countries in the region.”

As China and countries in the West continue to discuss the implications of AI, Chinasa T. Okolo, expert in AI and fellow from the Brookings Institution, said one of the challenges of creating regulatory guidelines for this emerging technology is whether lawmakers can keep up with the speed of technological advancement.

“We don’t necessarily know its full capacity, and so it’s kind of hard to predict,” Okolo said, “and so by the time that, you know, regulators or policymakers have drafted up some sort of legal framework, it could already be outdated, and so governments have to kind of be aware of this and move quickly in terms of implementing effective and robust AI regulations.”

Pope Francis, in his speech, acknowledged the rapid technological advancement of AI.

“It is precisely this powerful technological progress that makes artificial intelligence at the same time an exciting and fearsome tool and demands a reflection that is up to the challenge it presents,” he said, adding that it goes without saying that the benefits or harm that AI will bring depends on how it is used.

New ‘crypto bill’ could mainstream digital currencies in US

The lack of laws governing digital currencies has slowed their expansion in the United States. Cryptocurrency investors tell VOA’s Deana Mitchell they are encouraged that the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a new legal framework for electronic money.

Astronaut health and a VIP tour of Boeing’s Starliner capsule

New studies examine the effects of spaceflight on amateur astronauts. Plus, a VIP tour of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, and we remember a spaceflight pioneer. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us The Week in Space.

Google AI Gemini parrots China’s propaganda

Washington — VOA’s Mandarin Service recently took Google’s artificial intelligence assistant Gemini for a test drive by asking it dozens of questions in Mandarin, but when it was asked about topics including China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang or street protests against the country’s controversial COVID policies, the chatbot went silent.

Gemini’s responses to questions about problems in the United States and Taiwan, on the other hand, parroted Beijing’s official positions.

Gemini, Google’s large-language model launched late last year, is blocked in China. The California-based tech firm had quit the Chinese market in 2010 in a dispute over censorship demands.

Congressional lawmakers and experts tell VOA that they are concerned about Gemini’s pro-Beijing responses and are urging Google and other Western companies to be more transparent about their AI training data.

Parroting Chinese propaganda

When asked to describe China’s top leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, Gemini gave answers that were indistinguishable from Beijing’s official propaganda.

Gemini called Xi “an excellent leader” who “will lead the Chinese people continuously toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Gemini said that the Chinese Communist Party “represents the fundamental interest of the Chinese people,” a claim the CCP itself maintains.

On Taiwan, Gemini also mirrored Beijing’s talking points, saying the United States has recognized China’s claim to sovereignty over the self-governed island democracy.

The U.S. only acknowledges Beijing’s position but does not recognize it.

Silent on sensitive topics

During VOA’s testing, Gemini had no problem criticizing the United States. But when similar questions were asked about China, Gemini refused to answer.

When asked about human rights concerns in the U.S., Gemini listed a plethora of issues, including gun violence, government surveillance, police brutality and socioeconomic inequalities. Gemini cited a report released by the Chinese government.

But when asked to explain the criticisms of Beijing’s Xinjiang policies, Gemini said it did not understand the question.

According to estimates from rights groups, more than 1 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang have been placed in internment camps as part of campaign by Beijing to counter terrorism and extremism. Beijing calls the facilities where Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being held vocational training centers.

When asked if COVID lockdowns in the U.S. had led to public protests, Gemini gave an affirmative response as well as two examples. But when asked if similar demonstrations took place in China, Gemini said it could not help with the question.

China’s strict COVID controls on movement inside the country and Beijing’s internet censorship of its criticisms sparked nationwide street protests in late 2022. News about the protests was heavily censored inside China.

Expert: training data likely the problem

Google touts Gemini as its “most capable” AI model. It supports over 40 languages and can “seamlessly understand” different types of information, including text, code, audio, image and video. Google says Gemini will be incorporated into the company’s other services such as search engine, advertisement and browser.

Albert Zhang, a cyber security analyst at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told VOA that the root cause of Gemini making pro-Beijing responses could result from the data that is used to train the AI assistant.

In an emailed response to VOA, Zhang said it is likely that the data used to train Gemini “contained mostly Chinese text created by the Chinese government’s propaganda system.”

He said that according to a paper published by Google in 2022, some of Gemini’s data likely came from Chinese social media, public forums and web documents.

“These are all sources the Chinese government has flooded with its preferred narratives and we may be seeing the impact of this on large language models,” he said.

By contrast, when Gemini was asked in English the same questions about China, its responses were much more neutral, and it did not refuse to answer any of the questions.

Yaqiu Wang, research director for China at Freedom House, a Washington-based advocacy organization, told VOA that the case with Gemini is “a reminder that generative AI tools influenced by state-controlled information sources could serve as force multipliers for censorship.”

In a statement to VOA, a Google spokesperson said that Gemini was “designed to offer neutral responses that don’t favor any political ideology, viewpoint, or candidate. This is something that we’re constantly working on improving.”

When asked about the Chinese language data Google uses to train Gemini, the company declined to comment.

US lawmakers concerned

Lawmakers from both parties in Congress have expressed concerns over VOA’s findings on Gemini.

Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told VOA that he is worried about Beijing potentially utilizing AI for disinformation, “whether that’s by poisoning training data used by Western firms, coercing major technology companies, or utilizing AI systems in service of covert influence campaigns.”

Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the committee, warned that “AI tools that uncritically repeat Beijing’s talking points are doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party and threatens the tremendous opportunity that AI offers.”

Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is worried about the national security and foreign policy implications of the “blatant falsehoods” in Gemini’s answers.

“U.S. companies should not censor content according to CCP propaganda guidelines,” he told VOA in a statement.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, urges Google and other Western tech companies to improve AI training.

“You should try to screen out or filter out subjects or answers or data that has somehow been manipulated by the CCP,” he told VOA. “And you have to also make sure that you test these models thoroughly before you publish them.”

VOA reached out to China’s embassy in Washington for comment but did not receive a response as of publication.

Google’s China problems

In February, a user posted on social media platform X that Gemini refused to generate an image of a Tiananmen Square protester from 1989.

In 2022, a Washington think tank study shows that Google and YouTube put Chinese state media content about Xinjiang and COVID origins in prominent positions in search results.

According to media reports in 2018, Google was developing a search engine specifically tailored for the Chinese market that would conform to Beijing’s censorship demands.

That project was canceled a year later.

Yihua Lee contributed to this report.

AI copyright fight turns to disclosing original content

Artists and other creators say their works have been used to build the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry without any compensation for them. Matt Dibble reports on a proposed U.S. law that would force AI companies to reveal their sources.

Kenyan group uses old ATMs to dispense free sanitary pads to students

A public-private partnership in Kenya provides female students with free sanitary napkins dispensed from converted ATMs at school. The goal is to provide pads to young women from poor families so they don’t miss school because they are menstruating. Victoria Amunga reports from Nairobi, Kenya.

Despite war, surrogacy in Ukraine keeps flourishing

Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was an international surrogacy hub. Relatively low cost and a favorable legal framework led to thousands of babies born every year thanks to Ukrainian surrogate mothers, many of them for overseas parents. Despite the war and the risks, hopeful foreigners keep coming to Ukraine. Mariia Prus has the story.

Australian-led study issues food security warning over plant breeding skills shortage

Sydney — Australia’s national science agency warns a lack of scientists specialized in plant breeding could lead to ‘dire’ food security implications around the world. Researchers say plant breeding is a critical science that underpins the global production of food, animal feed and fuel. The finding is among the conclusions of a recently published paper by researchers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.      

A joint paper published earlier this month by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in collaboration with Lincoln University in New Zealand and McGill University in Canada, warns that highly-skilled plant breeding experts, who are reaching the end of their careers, are not being replaced by sufficient numbers of university graduates, many of whom are choosing other areas of plant science including molecular biology.

Lucy Egan is the study’s lead author and a CSIRO research scientist.  She told VOA Wednesday that new recruits are needed.

“It is really based on developing new plant varieties for future climates.  So, plant breeding is a slow game.  It takes a long time to develop a new crop variety, so you’re looking at least ten years on average to develop a new variety.  When you have a lack of plant breeders coming through to replace the generation that are retiring, it does generate a bit of concern around the succession plan,” she said.

The report said that the implications of a skills shortage “could be dire” and that global food security could be affected. It recommends establishing “dedicated training facilities in different countries”.  

Egan said that plant breeding can help countries adapt to a warming climate.

“I think instead of focusing on, you know, certain countries and the implications, I think if you look at it on a global level plant breeding is really the backbone of the agricultural sector.  Without the development of new varieties with changing climates and all these things that are sort of happening across the world, we need to really build strength and resilience within the agricultural sector and plant breeding is really key to do that,” she said.

The research is published in the journal, Crop Science.  It reports that since the 1960s, global crop production has increased by more than 250%, which is due in large part to plant breeding science.

LogOn: Washington state tests drones to remove hard-to-reach graffiti

A drone equipped with a painting hose is being deployed against stubborn graffiti in hard-to-reach areas. Natasha Mozgovaya has more in this week’s episode of LogOn.

Australia locks down farms as avian influenza spreads

Sydney — Bird flu continues to spread in the Australian state of Victoria, where more than 500,000 chickens have been euthanized.  Strict quarantine zones restricting the movement of birds and equipment have also been put in place.  Australian health authorities say bird flu spreads mainly among wild water birds.

The highly pathogenic H7N3 strain of avian influenza has been found on four farms, while another virus, H7N9, has been detected at a fifth property over the past seven weeks in Victoria state.  The Australian farms have been put into lockdown.  At least 580,000 birds have been destroyed as part of sweeping biosecurity controls.

Japan and the United States have temporarily banned imports of poultry from Victoria as a precaution.

In Australia, some supermarkets are restricting the number of eggs that consumers can buy because of disruptions to the supply chain.

Avian influenza is a viral disease found across the world. It spreads between birds or when contaminated animal feed and equipment is moved between areas.

Danyel Cucinotta is the vice president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, an industry group.  She told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  Tuesday that the virus can spread quickly.

“There is very little we can do and no matter how good your biosecurity is you cannot stop wild fowl coming in. This is a particular flight path for migratory birds.  There is housing orders at the moment, which means all birds get locked up.  This is about protecting our birds and protecting the food supply chain,” she said.

The strains of bird flu identified in the states of Victoria and Western Australia can infect people, but experts insist that cases are rare.

The virus can also infect cows.  The United States’ Department of Agriculture has said that avian flu has infected dairy cows in more than 80 herds across several states since late March.

At least three U.S. dairy workers have tested positive for bird flu after exposure to infected cattle.  All three patients are recovering.  

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the infections do not change its assessment that bird flu is a low risk to the general community and that it has not seen evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Last month, health authorities in Mexico confirmed a fatal case of human infection with an avian flu virus that had been reported in poultry.

Alzheimer’s drug that slows disease gets backing from FDA advisers

WASHINGTON — A closely watched Alzheimer’s drug from Eli Lilly won the backing of federal health advisers Monday, setting the stage for the treatment’s expected approval for people with mild dementia caused by the brain-robbing disease. 

Food and Drug Administration advisers voted unanimously that the drug’s ability to slow the disease outweighs its risks, including side effects like brain swelling and bleeding that will have to be monitored. 

“I thought the evidence was very strong in the trial showing the effectiveness of the drug,” said panel member Dean Follmann, a National Institutes of Health statistician. 

The FDA will make the final decision on approval later this year. If the agency agrees with the panel’s recommendation, the drug, donanemab, would only be the second Alzheimer’s drug cleared in the U.S. that’s been shown to convincingly slow cognitive decline and memory problems due to Alzheimer’s. The FDA approved a similar infused drug, Leqembi, from Japanese drugmaker Eisai last year. 

The slowdown seen with both drugs amounts to several months and experts disagree on whether patients or their loved ones will be able to detect the difference. 

But Lilly’s approach to studying its once-a-month treatment prompted questions from FDA reviewers. 

Patients in the company’s study were grouped based on their levels of a brain protein,  

called tau, that predicts severity of cognitive problems. That led the FDA to question whether patients might need to be screened via brain scans for tau before getting the drug. But most panelists thought there was enough evidence of the drug’s benefit to prescribe it broadly, without screening for the protein. 

“Imposing a requirement for tau imaging is not necessary and would raise serious practical and access concerns to the treatment,” said Dr. Thomas Montine of Stanford University, who chaired the panel and summarized its opinion. 

At a high level, Lilly’s results mirrored those of Leqembi, with both medications showing a modest slowing of cognitive problems in patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s. The Indianapolis-based company conducted a 1,700-patient study showing patients who received monthly IV infusions of its drug declined about 35% more slowly than those who got a placebo treatment. 

The FDA had been widely expected to approve the drug in March. But instead, the agency said it would ask its panel of neurology experts to publicly review the company’s data, an unexpected delay that surprised analysts and investors. 

Several unusual approaches in how Lilly tested its drug led to the meeting. 

One change was measuring patients’ tau — and excluding patients with very low or no levels of the protein. But panelists said there was enough data from other measures to feel confident that nearly all patients could benefit from the drug, regardless of their levels. 

In another key difference, Lilly studied taking patients off its drug when they reached very low levels of amyloid, a sticky brain plaque that’s a contributor to Alzheimer’s. 

Lilly scientists suggested stopping treatment is a key advantage for its drug, which could reduce side effects and costs. But FDA staff said Lilly provided little data supporting the optimal time to stop or how quickly patients might need to restart treatment. 

Despite those questions, many panelists thought the possibility of stopping doses held promise. 

“It’s a huge cost savings for the society, we’re talking about expensive treatment, expensive surveillance,” said Dr. Tanya Simuni of Northwestern University. She and other experts said patients would need to be tracked and tested to see how they fare and whether they need to resume treatment. 

The main safety issue with donanemab was brain swelling and bleeding, a problem common to all amyloid-targeting drugs. Most cases identified in Lilly’s trial were mild. 

Three deaths in the donanemab study were linked to the drug, according to the FDA, all involving brain swelling or bleeding. One of the deaths was caused by a stroke, a life-threatening complication that occurs more frequently among Alzheimer’s patients. 

The FDA’s panel agreed those risks could be addressed by warning labels and education for doctors and medical scans to identify patients at greater risk of stroke.