Archive | October, 2011

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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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A New “Ozone Hole” at the North Pole

Posted on 21 October 2011 by Jerry

This is an update to the earlier story about the ozone depletion at the North Pole.  When we last looked (June 2, 2011) the ozone depletion had set a new record of 40%.  Unfortunately the colder weather at the higher altitudes lasted longer than expected making the chlorine chemicals that destroy ozone reach their most active level.  New data indicates the ozone loss reached 80% which makes the ozone loss over the North Pole equivalent to that already existing over the South Pole, in effect giving us two ozone holes to now worry about.

The good news may be that the extraordinary colder temperatures at the North Pole may return to warmer levels which will moderate a return of a fully fledged ozone hole in the North.  The temperatures at the North Pole did not set any record this year but the cold period lasted significantly longer and over a wider area.  The bad news is that unfortunately the winters that are cold have been getting colder which may once again bring us an ozone hole at the North Pole.  Again the ozone layer in the stratosphere blocks ultraviolet-B rays from the Sun that can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions.

Background: in Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 10: Protect Live Imperative – Ozone Hole documents the development and discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic.  It also warns of continued use of ozone destroying chemicals, although not the worst kind, in the largest developing nations, India and China.  These countries were given an exception under the Montreal Protocol and its successors.

Use the following links for more information:

For an abstract of the original report in Nature go to http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10556.html

For BBC news reports go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15105747?print=true

 

October 6, 2011, San Francisco, Ozone Hole

 

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Focused Space Colonization

Posted on 21 October 2011 by Jerry

There is a role for human colonization of space.  It is to create an insurance policy against a  catastrophe that might befall life on our planet. We should act as if the ongoing existence of life is precarious.  If we do not fall victim to global threats we have created like the ozone hole (which has now been duplicated over the North Pole if you didn’t know), climate change, nuclear weapons or synthetic biology, we are still vulnerable to the unanticipated impact of other space objects, such as asteroids and/or comets.  In addition, rising to the challenge of surmounting a hostile environment on another planetoid would give us the science to survive whatever deterioration of our environment may occur on planet Earth.

Our present space program can only be described as winding down.  In July 2011 with the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis a major part of our space exploration ended with the last mission of the space shuttle.  Capping three decades consisting of 134 missions, the shuttles were retired to go on display at various sites across the country. In turning away from the the average cost of each shuttle mission estimated at  roughly $1.5 billion per launch and the high estimates of the cost to replace the aging shuttle fleet, the administration has cancelled further missions and held out the entry of private businesses to transport astronauts and sightseers into space.  In the face of a global economic downturn, dwindling congressional support, the lack of a highly motivational objective and diminishing public support, we have been left with no impetus for future concerted manned space flight.

Of course the space shuttle is not our entire space program, while it may have been the general public’s most familiar space project.  Two of our unmanned probes are breaking ground giving us a view of places we have never been before: NASA’s Messenger spacecraft is entering orbit around Mercury while the Voyager 1 has become our most distant spacecraft from Earth and is about to leave our Solar System.

The Messenger space mission is finally coming to fruition after fifteen years.  Messenger has had to participate in six planetary flybys – one of Earth, two of Venus and three of Mercury itself.  These were necessary to insert the probe into the correct orbit at the right speed around Mercury.  Voyager 1, now 10.8 billion miles from Earth after its 33 year journey, is about to leave our Solar System.  It has entered space where the solar wind is no longer blowing particles away from our sun but rather sideways as the particles move down the tail of the comet-shaped heliosphere.  This phenomenon is the result of the solar wind pushing up against the particle matter coming from other stars at the official edge of the Solar System or heliopause.

In addition to these two unmanned probes, there is an ongoing series of inexpensive, short duration efforts to learn more about space.  One of these was the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) that was designed as an infrared telescope to scan the universe looking for asteroids, comets and other cosmic objects.  The $320 million space telescope scanned the sky one and one-half times taking about 1.8 million images and spotting previously unseen objects including 15 comets and 25,000 asteroids.

As challenging and important as these efforts and projects are to various constituencies in academic or research circles, they pale in comparison to the effort and benefit to be gained by creating a self sustaining colony elsewhere in our solar system.  The peril to life on our planet is real with every new effort to identify asteroids and comets significantly multiplying our vulnerability.  It would be a mistake to underestimate the potential size or threat of a future object on a collision course with our planet.  While it is easy to talk about launching a space craft which will deflect an oncoming celestial object it is harder to do in reality and if it fails there is no fallback.

In addition the glacial pace with which we are moving on the ozone hole, climate change, nuclear disarmament, and synthetic biology clearly demonstrates we will be working for centuries to eliminate these threats.  An objective to establish a colony elsewhere should be a world-wide effort specifically partnering developed nations with underdeveloped nations to jointly undertake one or more essential efforts to make this objective a reality.

Background:  In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 4: Uncertainty, Probability and Life, we cite two prior meteor impacts that made a significant difference in the history of life on our planet.  The meteor crater discovered in the Wilkes Land region of East Antarctica is approximately 300 miles wide.  Scientists estimate that the size of the meteor that made this crater was 30 miles wide.  This meteor is credited by many scientists with the largest mass extinction of life in Earth’s geologic history, the Permian-Triassic extinction that set the stage for the age of the dinosaurs.  Another crater in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, the Chicxulub crater, is credited with the mass extinction of the dinosaurs setting the stage for the emergence of the next dominant species, mammals which of course includes Homo sapiens.

 

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/610/1

http://www.space.com/9305-president-obama-signs-vision-space-exploration-law.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environmnet-11988466

NASA’s Busload of Science, Science, www.sciencemag.org Vol 333, 1 July 2011

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=15044&media_id=113678611

 

 

 

October 6, 2011, San Francisco, Potpourri: Space Exploration/Colonization

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Historic Humane Agreement to Help Hens

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Jerry

The United Egg Producers (UEP) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced an historic agreement to support legislation to progressively end the use of barren battery cages to immobilize more than 90% of the over 260 million egg laying hens in the U.S. today. Once enacted by Congress this would be the first federal protection for any farm animal during production.  While there is federal law governing the humane slaughter of animals it applies to mammals only.

The proposed legislation increases the space allocated per bird over time to 124-144 square inches.  This contrasts with 67 square inches allocated to the majority of hens today with approximately 50 million hens having only 48 square inches presently.  The increase space will be accomplished by phasing in new hen housing systems.  The proposed legislation would also:

  • Prohibit the practice of forced molting through starvation, an inhumane treatment inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year which involves starving the birds for up to two weeks to reduce their body weight and change the laying cycle;
  • Provide “environmental enrichments” that allow the hens to perform natural instinctive behaviors  by providing perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas;
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationally to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens” or “eggs from cage free hens”;
  • Prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses;
  • Prohibit the sale of all eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

This proposed change in how egg laying hens are treated follows closely behind results of research with chickens that seem to show they display signs of empathy when they see close relatives in distress.  Joanne Edgar at the University of Bristol, UK and her coworkers place individual hens and their chicks in boxes where they were separated by a clear plastic sheet allowing the hen to see the chicks and vice versa. When the chicks were frightened by bursts of air their mothers’ behavior and physiology changed showing greater clucking and an increased heartbeat.  [see Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2701(2011)]

This agreement represents the type of direct human intervention that is required by all who accept the role of Guardians of Life.  This holds up representatives of both the Humane Society and the United Egg Producers as symbolizing the higher consciousness required in a humanely managed world.

 

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 15: Enhancing the Life Experience there is considerable discussion of the cruelty to which factory farmed animals are subjected in the U.S. and throughout the world.  This Chapter identified forward looking legislation passed in California in 2008 entitled the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.  This legislation was approved in a public referendum in which it received a 63% majority.  This legislation was supported by the Humane Society, Farm Sanctuary, and the ASPCA among others.  While applying more broadly than just the hens, it serves as a useful model for the proposed federal legislation.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.unitedegg.org/homeNews/UEP_Press_Release_7-7-11.pdf

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2011/07/landmark-egg-agreement.html

July 7, 2011, San Francisco, Human Intervention

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Nope I’ll Pass Addendum

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Jerry

In a related article dated September 25, 2011 entitled Nope I’ll Pass on That, But Gimme Some of That, we provided lists from two separate articles that would be of use to shoppers for food.   One article identified a list of foods stack ranked by measured pesticide residues. Another article identified varieties of Heirloom or natural seeds that could be purchased from identified sources in order to insure you avoid genetically engineered foods when planting a garden or crop acreage.

Now in a new posting from the phillyburbs.com entitled, Some Genetically Modified Foods there is a list of known genetic modifications by crop or foodstuff.  The article complains that it is virtually impossible to identify all of the genetically modified foods because there are no laws in the U. S. that force disclosure of genetic modifications.  This is a reasonable list however that describes some of the modifications, how widespread they are and what products contain them as ingredients.   Use the link below to make a copy of the article.  Refer to an earlier article if you want the latest on GM food contamination of human blood.  See article, Where There’s Toxins, There’s…What?” under genetic engineering.

Use for following link for more information:

http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/the_intelligencer_news/some-genetically-modified-foods/article_32dda038-d72f-5d66-a011-4e1d1449f16b.html?mode=print

 

October 8, 2011, San Francisco, Genetic Engineering

 

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