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“Where there’s toxins, there’s …. WHAT?”

Posted on 27 October 2011 by Jerry

The old adage “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is prompting the question “Where there’s toxins there’s….what?” for researchers in Canada.  They have identified toxins (pesticides/insecticides) contained within genetically modified (GM) foods in the blood streams of a group of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses.  After decades of the genetically modified food industry’s assurances these poisons are destroyed in the digestive tracts of the humans and animals that consume them, this study shows they are not destroyed and in fact, enter the human blood stream.

This is potentially a very significant issue for human health given the vast amount of crops Americans and Canadians consume that now contain these poisons.  In an earlier article entitled “Speed/Slow/Stop…or Label Genetically Modified Foods” we quote statistics from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service that show that various genetically modified crops now represent the majority of U.S. planted acreage of each crop.  For example between 65% to 72% of all corn planted in the U.S. contains Bt pesticides or HT, herbicide-tolerant, toxins and 94% of all soybeans planted contain HT herbicide-tolerant toxins.  In addition, recent estimates are that 80% of all processed foods purchased in supermarkets have genetically modified ingredients largely as a result of oils and syrups from GM corn, cottonseed, canola, and soybeans.

Not only are we consuming these toxins directly in the crops we eat, we are also exposed to them indirectly in our animal protein (beef, pork, etc.) as these same crops are fed to animals in our food chain.  Researchers Aziz Aris and Samual Leblanc from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Center in Quebec, Canada believe the toxins found in these human bloodstreams came from meat, eggs, and milk derived from farm livestock which have been fed genetically modified grains or corn.   Their research report appeared in Reproductive Toxicology in early 2011. Genes that produce these toxins have been incorporated into widely grown genetically modified crops both in Canada and in the United States.

This research paper entitled “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada” is one of the few research efforts looking for evidence of the toxins.  This is not because of a shortage of people who want to research them but rather because it is so difficult to obtain the necessary information. These genetic modifications have been patented and are therefore proprietary to the chemical companies that produce them.  This means information about these seeds is secret.  Furthermore farmers who buy and use these seeds are required to sign contracts stipulating they will not give seeds to others.  If they fail to honor these agreements, the chemical companies can sue them and deny them future access to the seeds.

This study looked at 69 women and 30 fetuses for herbicide serums GLYP, GLUF, and 3-MPPA.  They also looked for the Bt insecticide toxin CryAb1.   All of these serums and toxins were found in the non-pregnant women although the Bt toxin was found in only 67% of them.  Pregnant women only showed evidence of the 3-MPPA serum and the Bt toxin CryAb1 with the Bt toxin showing up in 93% of the pregnant women.  All fetuses likewise showed evidence of the herbicide 3-MPPA with 80% of them showing the Bt toxin CryAb1.

At this point we do not know what negative effects result from these GM chemicals in the human blood stream.  Further study will be required.  In the interim, to be as safe as possible people should choose organically grown foods to have the least possible exposure to these genetically modified substances.  Finding animal protein where the animals have not been fed genetically modified foods will be much tougher because there is usually nothing that will indicate what these animals were fed.
Note: The genes used in genetically modified crops are to make plants tolerate herbicides such as GLYP, GLUF and 3MPPA.  This is what has been added to produce “Roundup Ready” crops which allow farmers to use Roundup to suppress weeds with no fear of hurting or destroying their crops.  The CryAb1 is a Bt toxin or an insecticide produced by genetically modified crops to make them insect resistant.

 

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, we discuss the developments of genetic engineering and its successor science, synthetic biology.  We describe the risks associated with both.  This article describes the realization of one of the worst fears of opponents of genetically modified foods.  For more information and other articles on related topics go to www.iamaguardian.com.

Use the following link to access the original study: http://somloquesembrem.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/arisleblanc2011.pdf

August 12, 2011, San Francisco, Synthetic Biology/Genetic Engineering

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Reducing the Deficit: A Nuclear Benefit

Posted on 16 October 2011 by Jerry

While unilateral reduction of nuclear weapons is certain to further negotiations with Russia, one of the side benefits of U.S. efforts to reduce budget deficits is the overture to NATO to remove tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.  This has been discussed for a number of years following the end of the cold war.  This proposed disarmament has recently been at the center of controversy surrounding President Obama’s negotiations with Russia.  The Russians have long maintained the U.S. must remove its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe before serious discussion can begin on reduction of similar weapons by Russia.  Apparently however, it has taken a serious budget deficit to give the U.S. the final incentive to move on the proposal.

It is reported that the U.S. government presently spends about $54 billion each year on nuclear weapons related programs.  President Obama has pledged to increase these amounts by $2 billion a year for bomb factories with an additional $12 billion more per year in the next 10 years to develop a new generation of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines and bombers.  Another way of portraying these expenditures is the development of a new fleet of 12 nuclear armed submarines at a cost of $110 billion, $55 billion for 100 new bombers, and a new missile to replace 450 Minutemen II ballistic missiles.  In addition the Department of Energy is planning to spend over $85 billion over the next decade to add new capabilities to nuclear warheads in the present stockpile.

Recent discussions between former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov, the former Russian Foreign Minister, have raised suggestions that both sides should consider cutting the size of their respective arsenals to 1,000 warheads or less from the level of 1,550 recently specified in the signed New START disarmament treaty.  In 2006 Steve Kosiak, now at the Office of Management and Budget, estimated a reduction of this magnitude would cut the arsenals by one third and save two-thirds of the annual cost.

It is not clear whether these massive expenditures are justified.  They may be designed to give us an enhanced negotiating position with the Russians or we may actually be planning to spend the dollars as allocated.  I am certain both positions are held as valid by people on both sides of the issue.  Whatever the case, the need to reduce the budget deficit, the pressures on the international economies or the simple fact that arsenals of this scale are no longer necessary should provide sufficient incentive for policy makers to seize the opportunity to initiate a much more aggressive reduction of nuclear weapons.

July 29, 2011, San Francisco, Protect Life – Nuclear Weapons

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 12, Protect Life – Nuclear Weapons there is a recommendation that nuclear weapons have outlived their usefulness and need to be managed by a neutral international third party which ultimately would be given the mandate to supervise and attest to their destruction.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20110715_6804.php

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/how-to-shave-a-bundle-off-the-deficit-spend-less-on-nukes/241844/

 

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Too Sentient for Their Own Good

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

June 16, 2011. San Francisco, Animal Life Experience

At least four animals besides humans possess self recognition; great apes (excluding gorillas), bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants and the corvid bird family including crows, ravens and magpies.  These animals recognize they are looking at themselves when they see their own image in a mirror according to results from “mirror and mark test” experiments. In addition, excluding the corvid bird family, these animals are known to have a more highly developed right prefrontal cortex and to exhibit empathy when interacting with others. In human beings this part of the brain is believed to contribute to enhanced problem solving and a broader range of emotions. Unfortunately for these non human sentient creatures we do not always respect their awareness of their own existence and the other capabilities that go along with it

Two recent articles about chimpanzees used for invasive medical research and dolphins in captivity ask if these animals are too smart for this type of treatment.  They suggest our behavior amounts to animal cruelty. A Nature article published on June 16, 2011 entitled Chimpanzee Research on Trial, by Meredith Wadman, reports on the increasing public pressure for the United States to end its use of chimpanzees in biomedical  research.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have asked the Institute of Medicine (the medical branch of the National Academy of Sciences) to render an opinion about whether the government should continue its practice of supporting biomedical research on chimpanzees – human kind’s closest living relative.  The formal opinion is scheduled to be released at the end of 2011.  The NIH bowed to public pressure and outrage when the public reacted to the NIH plans to move 186 semi-retired chimps back into active medical research

The author reports that the United States is unique in that no other country in the world other than Gabon carries out invasive experiments on chimpanzees. Many countries have outlawed chimp research completely including the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the European Union in 2010.  Controversy has grown since an airing on ABC’s Nightline of a Humane Society undercover expose´ of treatment of chimps at Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center.  The animal terror and abuse revealed on the documentary prompted strong reactions from the public, the Humane Society, and Jane Goodall.

We do not have a good history of medical research practices having freely used unsuspecting people in the past; soldiers, oppressed minorities, developing country populations, convicts and medically institutionalized patients.  We are out of step with the rest of the civilized world which has discovered that ever-more sophisticated in vitro methods make chimps unnecessary.

A second article, by David Grimm in the April 29, 2011 issue of Science magazine asks Are Dolphins Too Smart for Captivity? A pioneering 1950’s brain researcher named John Lilly became convinced that dolphins were highly intelligent and had a complex vocabulary.  In the 1970’s Lou Herman, the founder of a research-only dolphin facility in Honolulu, Hawaii showed that dolphins understood two artificial languages – one based on electronic sounds and another on a trainer’s hand gestures.  He reported that they grasped grammar and syntax and could comprehend human pointing, a capability that eludes chimpanzees.

Biopsychologist Lori Marino of Emory University in Atlanta is reported to have observed that dolphin tanks are chemically treated, bereft of other marine life, and just a tiny fraction of the hundred-square-kilometer ranges these animals are used to.  Further she says it’s no wonder that intelligent social dolphins swim in circles and jump out of their pools, and that these stresses contribute to their premature deaths from gastroenteritis, fungal infections and other ailments.  “You can’t replicate the natural settings for these animals.”  A joint 2009 Humane Society and World Society for the Protection of Animals report concluded “The totality of the captive experience for marine mammals is so contrary to their natural experience that it should be rejected outright.”

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 6: Human Uniqueness there is considerable discussion about self recognition in animals and the implications of the highly developed right prefrontal cortex in some mammals, including Homo sapiens.  Chapter 9: A Positive Life Experience Imperative and Chapter 15: Enhancing the Life Experience elaborate on the need for us to focus our efforts on improving the collective world life experience and in ending animal cruelty in all its forms.  Finally Chapter 16: Transcending Egocentricity states in part that “As much as we can benefit from a new thought, we can be handicapped by holding on too long to an old one….It is time to recognize evolutionary development of a new level of consciousness that extends beyond self serving behavior.”  We need to let these animals have opportunities for positive life experiences.  We need to end experimentation on chimpanzees and return marine mammals to the wild.

Use the following links for more information:  http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110615/full/474268a.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6029/526.summary

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/chimpanzee_research/

http://iom.edu/Activities/Research/Chimpanzees.aspx

http://www.wspa-international.org/Search.aspx?keywords=dolphin+captivity&pn=1&pp=10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ozone Depletion Sets Record at the North Pole

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

The original ozone hole occurs over the South Pole, Antarctica.  This is because temperatures in the stratosphere are colder there, at minus 80° Fahrenheit, for longer in the year than at the North Pole.  This year ozone depletion over the North Pole set a new record at 40% surpassing the old record of 30% due to a longer, very cold, Arctic winter stretching farther into March and April than normal.

Researchers note the greater variability of temperatures in the North Pole which cause larger fluctuations of ozone depletion from year to year.  Although ozone depletion was larger than normal it was not unexpected.  The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization acknowledged that even though this Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, it was colder than normal in the stratosphere.

Scientists remain optimistic that the world’s ozone layer outside of the polar regions will return to pre1980 levels around 2030-40 and that both poles will fully recover by 2045-60.  This is according to scientists at the WMO who continue to have faith in the continued enforcement of the Montreal Protocol that progressively banned the worst offending chemicals over a number of years.

Confusion about whether the ozone is recovering continues however as an April article titled “First Detection of Ozone Hole Recovery Claimed” appeared in Science magazine’s April 8, 2011 edition.  The article quoted researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia as saying their study showed that “virtually all” of the of the year-to-year changes in springtime Antarctic ozone can be accounted for with two kinds of atmospheric circulation.  “Subtracting their estimate of the natural changes in ozone from actual changes, the group finds ‘a clear upward trend since the late 1990’s’ in the hole’s ozone that represents a ‘systematic rebound’.   Over the past decade the rebound has amounted to about 15%, they estimate.” This report was controversial among atmospheric researchers who said the report’s data was insufficient and could produce different conclusions if uncertain parameters were varied in a new analysis.

June 2, 2011, San Francisco, Ozone Hole

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 10: Protect Life Imperative – Ozone Hole, on page 115, there is discussion of the exception made in the Montreal Protocol for developing countries that allows their continued use of ozone destructive chemicals and the rapid growth of use of air conditioners in China and India.  The concern is that this exception will limit or reverse progress gained in restoring the ozone of the planet.

Use the following links to access the WMO press release and Science magazine article: http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_912_en.html

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Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

genetically modified foods

In the early 1990’s advances in genetic engineering changed the nature of the chemical business at firms such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Bayer.  They went from manufacturing chemical substances such as herbicides like Roundup, to patenting genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn, rice, soybeans and wheat.  These seeds were genetically engineered to have many different characteristics.  In some cases they added genes to crops that made them impervious to herbicides such as Roundup.  These crops were branded as “Roundup Ready” in that a farmer could use Roundup in his fields to kill weeds with no fear the herbicide would damage their crop.  In other cases they added genes that were from other species of plants that produced natural pesticides. These made the resulting crops impervious to various insect pests.  With active support from the United States government and the deep pockets of these multinational chemical companies, there was a concerted push to have these seeds approved for use and planted throughout the world.

The chemical companies insisted there was little environmental or heath risk from these genetically modified crops.  They said that human or animal consumption involved taking these crops into the digestive tract and that any potentially harmful toxins or chemicals were destroyed in the digestive process.  Opponents claimed there was insufficient research to determine possible effects.  Since these seeds were patented products of their respective companies, information about them was withheld as proprietary and access to them for research was not granted.  Recent research indicates their toxins are not destroyed in the digestive process but instead can be found in the human blood stream, see the related story “Where there’s toxins, there’s….what?” June 1, 2011.

Some governments reacted aggressively, e.g. the United States, while others reacted cautiously, e.g. the European Union.  Different groups of farmers accepted the crops, others rejected them citing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods.  With little regulation and much governmental support, the industry has been very successful in the United States at replacing natural crops with genetically modified crops.  The following chart was published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 2011.  It shows various modified crops achieving between 65% – 94% of planted acreage in the United States.  This leads to very high reliance on genetically modified ingredients in the American food supply.  A recent estimate is that 80% of the products purchased at an average grocery store in the US contain some ingredient that is from a genetically modified source.

Designations before the crop type refer to the type of genetic modification that has been made:
HT = herbicide-tolerant varieties   Bt = insect resistant varieties

The chemical industry, assisted by the U. S. Government, has actively fought labeling of genetically modified food with every tactic at their disposal.  This has included using provisions in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to block any country from requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.  They have asserted the labeling would amount to adoption of “technical regulations” that erect “unnecessary obstacles to trade” or are more “trade restrictive than necessary” under the Technical Barriers Trade (TBT) Agreement or the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the GATT.   On this basis they have blocked labeling of genetically modified foods as violations of the GATT and threatened legal challenges through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In addition, they have derailed progress by the Codex Alimentarious Commission in Geneva which was established jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  As a part of its mission to establish internationally recognized standards for food safety, the Codex has sought an agreement to allow countries to have a valid argument for requiring genetically modified labeling domestically under Article XX of the GATT.

In a surprise move at the July 5, 2011 Codex meeting, the United States, the lone holdout to an agreement on genetically modified food labeling, abruptly reversed its two decades old position and endorsed a labeling guidance document.  While the Codex cannot order labeling, its guidance document gives countries the international permission to require genetically modified labeling of food consumed in their country. Over a hundred countries signed the guidance document and a substantial number will now begin their process to initiate mandatory labeling.

There is little agreement however, on what labeling standards should be followed.  Two major camps have emerged over the years with some arguing for “product” labeling with others endorsing a “process” labeling.  Under the product option, which is the minimalist approach, genetically modified foods would require labeling only when the products are not substantially equivalent to their unmodified cousins in composition, nutritional value or intended use. In addition, labels would be required if the modified food contained allergens or ingredients from certain fats not found in their natural counterparts.  The process option would call for labeling of all genetically modified foods and food ingredients regardless of whether they were substantially equivalent to their natural counterparts or not.  This process option has been adopted and implemented by the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and to some extent China.

It is very doubtful that the chemical industry or the U.S. government will change their long held position against labeling of genetically modified foods.  They adhere to the argument there is no substantial difference between genetically modified foods and their natural counterparts.  This acceleration of labeling internationally can serve as the opportunity for American citizens who favor mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods to renew and redouble their lobbying efforts to secure labeling at home.  In addition, we must encourage organizations which will push for labeling nationally to embrace this as a priority effort.  This is the opportunity to reverse the tide and make progress in this area.

Organizations who are leaders on this issue and who could use support and further encouragement are as follows:

Greenpeace International: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/

Organic Seed Alliance:

http://www.seedalliance.org/ten-ways-to-respond-to-usda-s-ge-alfalfa-and-sugar-beets-decision/

The Center for Food Safety

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

Letters to elected officials are also a required part of lobbying for labeling.  The following link provides access to a data base with which to indentify your elected representative and their address.  You are encouraged to take a stand and demand full “process” labeling of genetically modified foods in the United States.

Congressional Representatives: http://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Background:  In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, there is a description of the history of genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the risks associated with both.  The book calls for “mandatory and detailed” labeling of all genetically or synthetically engineered plant or animal food.  It takes the position “Only an informed citizenry should decide to consume genetically engineered food.”

 

Use the following links for more information:

 

GM Foods in the Supermarket:  http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/opinion/comments/supermarket_foods_0520111206.html

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.:  http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/biotechcrops/

 

Country Adoption of GM Crops – a recent sampling:

South Africa: http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201106081109.html  and  http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201107060142.html

Peru: http://www.farming.co.uk/articles/view/4140 Peru’s Congress bans GM crops

Ireland: http://canadianawareness.org/2011/04/ireland-says-not-in-this-country-bans-genetically-modified-crops/

Canada: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=5790

European Union: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14045365

Approval of GM Food Labeling: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/017860.html

http://www.codexalimentarious.net/web/archives.jsp?lang=en  See session 39 Codex Committee on Food Labeling, click English pdf, scroll to REP 11/FL Appendix III.

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