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Genetically Modified Sexual Aptitude

Posted on 02 June 2013 by Jerry

Comparison between genetically modified and natural salmon.

Comparison between genetically modified and natural salmon.

Scientists are afraid of a genetically modified new species that disrupts the natural ecology by crowding out and starving competing species.  One that grows faster than a wild organism, becomes bigger and breeds indiscriminately spreading its aggressive characteristics.

Rather than promoting diversity which science shows is good for evolution, it significantly reduces variety.  It increases ecological dependency on a single species creating greater risk if something were to happen to that newly dominant species.  This is how we have population crashes of a species and the collapse of its ecology.

This risk, the viability of the fishing industry, and human health are major reasons over 59 retailers selling natural fish in over 4660 stores announced they will not sell the genetically modified AquAdvantage® Salmon even if approved by the Federal Drug Administration.  These grocery chains include well-known companies such as Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, H-E-B, Giant Eagle, and Meijer.

These and other retailers are now also reacting to a new Canadian study recently released by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society.  Reporting that AquAdvantage® Salmon easily breed with brown trout and they also show the salmon hybrid’s “competitive dominance” over other, natural, brown trout.  This would indicate that both natural brown trout and Atlantic salmon are at risk of declining stocks due to this aggressive genetically modified hybrid.

While AquaBounty, the company responsible for the GM fish, indicates it will only raise sterile fish even the FDA admits that up to 5% of the fish will be fertile.  When discussing future large-scale production, which AquaBounty hopes represents millions of fish, this 5% will be tens of thousands of fertile fish.

We have been following the AquAdvantage Salmon developments in various posts on this blog for months.  The significance of this salmon is that if the FDA approves it for human consumption and sale, which appears likely, it will be the first genetically modified animal to itself be introduced into the food supply.  All previous genetically modified foods have been largely plants that have been mainly modified to be impervious to various manufacturer’s herbicides or pesticides.

There is high certainty that if this fish is approved, many other genetically modified animals for which FDA approvals will be sought will follow it rapidly.  Besides concerns there is no labeling requirement to identify these GM foods, the FDA unfortunately is in dire need of a significant updating and modernization.  The FDA is today operating under animal drug requirements designed for the testing and regulation of feed additives and animal vaccines.  Their required testing is not designed to study the long-term effects of human consumption or the ecological damage that genetically modified animals can cause.

The present reality of genetically modified foods, plant and animal, must be recognized.  The long-term ramifications to our ecology and health must be studied before further GM organisms are taken out the lab and introduced into our food supply and environment.  The risks are too big and far-reaching to not be studied.  While not popular with businesses, environmental impact assessments in other situations protect the environment and human populations.  A comparable study methodology must be imposed on these newly proposed GM products.

Use the following links to obtain further information:   

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To Know Nano is to Say Whoa to Nano

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Jerry

If you haven’t learned about Nanotechnology, its time you did.  Chemical, food and packaging companies are once again adding risky, untested, and unlabeled ingredients or coverings to the products we consume in the U.S. and most of the world.  Now, in addition to genetic modifications to over 80% of what we buy in supermarkets, we must also worry about nanoparticles.

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of atomic and molecular particles which are from 1 to 100 nanometers in size.  For perspective, the diameter of a human hair is 40,000 to 60,000 nanometers.  This is so small that normal biological barriers do not stop these particles from spreading throughout the body.  Studies show that when inhaled, ingested, or just rubbed on the skin, nanoparticles move through these normal blood barriers and use the circulatory system to accumulate in all the organs of the body, including the brain.

While most often composed of various metals such as silver, gold, titanium dioxide, and carbon, particles of this size can be created of almost anything.  One major problem is that these materials often act in surprising and distressing ways at this size.   They do not conform to the norms established at their usual scale in our environment.  They are ofter unpredictable.  As witnessed in so many other technical breakthroughs, there is a virtual land rush of companies seeking competitive advantage by including nanoparticles in almost everything they make.  Today nanoparticles are added, without our knowledge, to such products as food, clothing, medicines, shampoos, suntan lotions, cosmetics, vitamins, and toothpaste. 

Their use is not restricted to smaller companies. The American Chemical Society journal recently identified that for example, Nano-titanium dioxide (a thickener and whitener) is in 187 of the products they tested.  These include M&Ms and Mentos, Dentyn and Trident chewing gums, Nestle coffee creamers, various flavors of Pop-Tarts, Kool-Aid, Jell-O pudding, and Betty Crocker cake frostings.  As already indicated, this is a very small sample of products using nanoparticles. They will soon be used in a plethora of packaging materials.  For instance they will be used as a preservative coating on bananas.

This has prompted scientific studies highlighting the risk of repeated human exposure.  As of this writing, studies of their effects show a connection between these particles and damage to our livers, cancer in our lungs and to brain edema, or swelling of the brain, in laboratory animals.  They also cite research that indicates damage to the DNA in research animals and the premature corrosion of metals.  Scientists have found the toxicity of these particles increases as their size gets smaller.  Of concern is the even greater absorption of these particles by children. These findings prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue its Current Intelligence Bulletin 63 – Occupational Exposure to Titanium Dioxide. 

It has also prompted scientists to comment.  Jürg Tschopp, the lead researcher and professor of biochemistry at Lausanne University said he was concerned nanoparticles could become the “asbestos of the future”.  In addition he is quoted as saying “With titanium dioxide you accumulate, like asbestos, particles in the lung.  You get chronic inflammation and this can last ten or 15 years and the next step is cancer.”  Richard Di Giulio, an environmental toxicologist participating in the study hosted by the Duke Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CIENT), stated “My suspicion, based on the limited amount of work that’s been done, is that nanoparticles are way less toxic than DDT, but what’s scary about nanoparticles is that we’re producing products with new nonmaterial far ahead of our ability to assess them.”

Once again at least the European Union is serving as a bastion of consumer protection by requiring at least the labeling of foods containing nanoparticles.  Other domestic and international efforts to force labeling disclosing nanoparticles have been vigorously opposed by the industries who think they can gain from the use of these materials.  They often will not even acknowledge their use, citing protection of their proprietary information.

Heather Millar, in her Orion Magazine article, “Pandora’s Boxes: Inside nanotechnology’s little universe of big unknowns” summed up our situation exactly.  She wrote “As a society, we’ve been here before – releasing ‘miracle technology’ before its potential health and environmental ramifications are understood, let alone investigated.  Remember how DDT was going to stamp out malaria and typhus and revolutionalize agriculture?  How asbestos was going to make buildings fireproof?  How bisphenol A (BPA) would make plastics clear and nearly shatterproof?  How methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) would make gasoline burn cleanly?  How polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were going to make electrical networks safer?  How genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were going to end hunger?”  Once again the material sciences have prompted businesses to get way ahead of our safety.

I must thank a doctor friend who insisted that Nanotechnology was something I needed to focus on.  While at this point it does not rise to the urgency of “threatening all life on this planet”, it could someday and is deserving of our attention.

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Obama Stealth Objective: Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Jerry

Climate Change has received no attention in the U.S. presidential election because it has been successfully politicized by Republican Tea Party members and climate deniers. This has not stopped President Obama in trying to meet his 2009 Copenhagen climate change commitment.  A new study released in Europe sees the U.S. close to reaching its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% of 2005 levels.  Researchers clearly credit efforts by the Obama U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting under authority given it by the 1970 Clean Air Act and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling that the EPA’s authority includes regulation of greenhouse gases.

The research was jointly funded by the Climate Policy Research Programme (Indigo) of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.  The report states, “The country is currently on course to achieve reductions of 16.3% from 2005 levels in 2020.” Going further the report identifies EPA fuel efficiency standards for mobile sources (trucks and automobiles) and rules for preconstruction permitting of power plants and industrial facilities as setting the proper direction for U.S. efforts.

Tougher vehicle fuel efficiency standards originally proposed in 2009 took effect in January 2011 for cars and trucks in the 2012 model year.  These new standards require fuel efficiency improvement of 5% per year or 30 miles per gallon for light trucks and SUVs and 39 miles per gallon for cars by 2016. These requirements and consumer vehicle choices moving to hybrid models account for significant reductions of forecasted greenhouse gas emissions.

Other key factors causing U.S. progress include fuel prices, energy efficiency, the economic recession, and state and local government efforts to reduce emissions.  Specifically heralded were the cap and trade plans of California and nine north-eastern states, renewable power targets set for electricity generation in 29 states and new energy efficiency standards in 24 states.

The researchers identified future expected EPA operating performance standards for new and existing power plants as the most prominent area of uncertainty in their forecast.  The report states, “The uncertainty about the issuance of these standards is a concern, but the legal requirements of the Clean Air Act are clear.  A new administration could ‘slow walk’ the regulatory development and delay it for years, but it is unlikely to stop it altogether.”

Further warnings about the U.S. political environment include observations that “Another possibility is the reversal of the Clean Air Act, or at least the removal of authority for enforcing the GHG (greenhouse gas) rules.  This seems far-fetched because it would require an unbalanced legislature and administration.  However, a less-extreme outcome could be for a new legislature and administration to defund the activities of the EPA in developing these rules.  This would delay the rules indefinitely.”  Obviously then, of concern is candidate Romney’s commitment to restrict the EPA if elected as President of the United States.

The stealth progress of the Obama administration should give hope to those who believe climate change is an urgent issue that must be addressed.  It should strengthen their resolve to turn out the vote for the President and heighten their concern for what would be done by a Romney administration.

Use the following link to see a copy of the full fourteen page report.

Go to:

Scroll down the page and select “An Assessment of US Progress towards its Pledge on Climate Change Mitigation”.  Once at the title page, select “Download PDF”

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Primatives and Unacceptable Opportunity Costs

Posted on 11 December 2011 by Jerry

The financial industry has created havoc in the world’s financial system.  By encouraging people to buy things they could not afford, leveraging their own companies beyond all reason, and creating financial instruments they sold to others and then bet against, brokers and bankers have created a worldwide financial catastrophe.

They have forced the world’s governments to spend the largest sums in history to bail them out to stop a complete collapse of the economy.  It has crushed the average person’s savings and, because of plummeting property values, has left millions of people with debt they cannot repay.  This has eliminated the purchase of goods, services and payment of taxes forcing businesses and governments to lay off millions of people.

This is however only the immediate tragedy.  By squandering the world’s money as they enriched themselves, they have forced us to divert our attention from the world’s most urgent and costly problems.  As we struggle to put people back to work and pay off massive debt the financial industry is forcing us to pay the largest “opportunity cost” in history.

An opportunity cost is simply the cost or value of the best alternative choice that is not chosen or is foregone.  In our case the larger opportunity cost we will be paying arises from our inability to focus our attention and resources to aggressively combat climate change and the ozone holes.  Due to an unanswered climate change, a new North Pole ozone hole, and at least a decade of U.S. government inaction, the financial industry’s avarice will cause human suffering and dislocation beyond anything we have seen in history.

But why has this happened?  Is it the result of bad people or is it because of avarice and greed in the business world?  Obviously the overwhelming majority of people in business are just everyday working people trying to do the best they can for everyone.  Unfortunately there is a small group of bad actors who typify a flaw in how we do business. In their view it is expected that the strong and knowledgeable take advantage of the weak and uninformed.  They have taken the phrase “survival of the fittest” and used it in a misunderstood application of science.

British economist, Herbert Spencer, first used the phrase “survival of the fittest” to characterize Darwin’s process of natural selection.  Unfortunately when some business people try to interpret and apply the thought in their daily lives it leads them to misconstrue the lesson of evolutionary progress. The phrase calls to mind imagery of one animal besting another.  The concept gets generalized to rationalize setting aside normal personal moral standards when viewing business as dog-eat-dog. Their conclusion is that anything goes in business which becomes the basis for their primitive behavior of the past.  As “primatives” they cloak themselves in misunderstood science and act as if there is a jungle around them. They have obviously missed the point.

Evolution provides a forward looking definition of “the fittest”. The image of the most aggressive animal in the jungle is backward looking. Evolution defines the fittest human being as the one who can demonstrate success and survival most importantly in the future. The fittest today are those who exhibit an ability to work with and lead others. They achieve the greatest level of consciousness and prescience by establishing future directions and taking actions that produce the greatest good for the greatest number.  This is the standard to which we should hold all leaders of businesses.

Until we do, the greed of business must be counterbalanced by the peoples’ government that insures a set of rules and regulations which protect all of us but most importantly the weak and uninformed.   They must not be allowed to fall prey to unethical and unprincipled business practices because at the end of the day they have the least ability to afford the loss.

Finally, we do not have a choice about making the necessary and sweeping changes required by climate change and replenishing the planet’s ozone.  Because money is not readily available this will be a painful investment.  Nevertheless we must make progress and the sooner the better.  The longer we wait, the more expensive solutions will be and the longer the cures will take.  While we know the solutions will not be as good as we hope, we can hope they will not be as bad as we fear.

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 16 – Transcending Egocentricity, pages 186-187, there is discussion of the phrase “survival of the fittest” and its misinterpretation in business.  This is followed by a list of people who served as contemporary examples of the “fittest” of their time.  

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