Archive | April, 2012

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Roundup (Glyphosate) and Infertility

Posted on 27 April 2012 by Jerry

In a new study the chemical glyphosate, commonly referred to as GLYP, and glyphosate-based products like Monsanto’s Roundup Bioforce®, were found to cause testicular cells in rats to die within 24-48 hours after a dosage that is 10 times below the chemical level in normal agricultural use.  This chemical is used on crops that have been genetically engineered to not be harmed by the herbicide.  In an earlier August 2011 article, “Where there’s toxins, there’s….What?” we identified a study at the University of Sherbrook Hospital Center in Quebec that showed GLYP was found in the blood streams of the women studied.  The unknown of those findings was the physical effects of the exposure in their blood streams.  This new study gives us an indication of some of the long term effects of exposure to this chemical.

The lead French researcher, Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, released his report at the same time there were reports of GLYP contamination of ground water in Catalonia, Spain, and GLYP found in human urine samples at 4-20 times the level allowed in drinking water of Berlin City (0.1 micrograms per litre, or 0.1 parts per billion [ppb]).  An article summarizing these findings stated, “American consumers exposed to glyphosate through residual levels in genetically modified (GM) foods are likely to have even higher levels in their system; although no studies appear to have been done.”

Further the article observed, “The concentration of the herbicides used in the experiments ranged from 0.0001% (1ppm) of Roundup Bioforce®, (corresponding to 0.336ppm of pure glyphosate) to agricultural levels of 1% (10,000ppm)….  Further the permitted level of glyphosate residue on food or feed in the U.S. is 400 ppm or 400 times the lowest concentrations tested by Séralini and colleagues.  Thus, the concentrations used in the study are very relevant to human exposure as well as exposure of other animals.  Of particular concern is the scarcity of published data regarding the possible bioaccumulation of this herbicide, leaving us only able to speculate how much is in our bodies….Chronic exposure has not been sufficiently tested, and needs to be investigated.”

In another study also led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, he and his colleagues tested the effects on human tissue of combined exposure to both glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) and pesticides with the Bt toxins of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac.  Human embryonic kidney cell line 293 was the human tissue in the experiment.  The study looked at the effects of the combined exposure within a 24 hour period. 

Findings were as follows:

  • Cry1Ab caused cell death from 100 ppm with no effects detected from exposure to Cry1Ac.
  • Roundup, tested alone from 1 to 20,000 ppm, will kill cells from 50 ppm which is far below agricultural dilutions (50% lethal concentration at 57.5 ppm).

The conclusion reached in this research contradicts assertions of the chemical industry over the last 20 years. Unfortunately the dosages administered in a very short time are considered too high to be conclusive.  More prolonged exposure to smaller dosages are required.  The researchers stated however, “In these results, we argue that modified Bt toxins are not inert on nontarget human cells, and that they can present combined side-effects with other residues of pesticides specific to GM plants.”

Use the following link to obtain more information on this story:


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Synthetic Biology Alarms Sound

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Jerry

As if the controversies over genetic engineering and genetically modified foods were not enough, brewing just below the awareness of the general public is increasing alarm about synthetic biology.   More and more groups are weighing in on the continuing lack of regulation and risk oversight of Synthetic Biology.  There are two polarized points of view, the “more-benefit” and “more-risk” views of Synthetic Biology.

The more-benefit point of view is that the industry should basically continue its present full-speed-ahead pace.  This position is reflected in the publication “Risk Governance of Synthetic Biology” published by the International Risk Governance Council under the auspices of the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center (see – under Download at page bottom select Guidelines for the Appropriate Risk Governance of Synthetic Biology).

The group on the more-benefit side of the controversy highlights, by category, all the real or imagined future benefits of Synthetic Biology.  They suggest there will be the launching of whole new industries.  They also warn of the chilling effect any government regulation would have on this bright future.  They fear that future investment in synthetic biology companies would dry up if there were any restraints.  While acknowledging some risks from synthetic biology, they believe the benefits clearly outweigh the risks and that the risks are unproven with the “genie already out of the bottle”.

Opponents of synthetic biology, on the more-risk side of the issue, want to slow the industry pace to let safeguards and regulation catch up to the science.  They state their position in the publication, “The Principles of the Oversight of Synthetic Biology”, published by the Friends of the Earth (see and scroll down to The Principles for the oversight of synthetic biology and select it. ) The more-risk opponents identify the risks of synthetic biology as much more substantial and immediately threatening than the hypothesized future benefits.  Further, they completely reject calls for industry self regulation which they believe would be wholly insufficient given the risks involved.

Opponents further suggest that the synthetic biology industry is working diligently to disseminate information as fast as possible to support their “genie already out of the bottle” argument.  Opponents use the worldwide formation of student research teams organized by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation (see ) as only one example of this rapid dissemination of information to amateurs and hackers who have insufficient knowledge or resources to protect the environment from synthetic biology organisms.  The Friends of the Earth report calls for an immediate “moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and their products to prevent direct or indirect harm to people and the environment.”

Interestingly, some of the people who participated in the drafting of the previously cited pro-synthetic biology report of the International Risk Governance Council and the Woodrow Wilson International Center have been more on the more-risk side of the issue in different forums.  Genya V. Dana (see ) is much more cautious in an article entitled “Synthetic biology: Four steps to avoid a synthetic-biology disaster” which appeared in Nature magazine this year (see ).

This Nature article says in part “Once released, synthetic organisms cannot be retrieved.  It is imperative that funding and research communities take action to prevent future ecological disasters.”   The tone reflected in the article sounds much more like the opposition on the more-risk side of the issue.

These two substantially conflicting views of synthetic biology may be explained if you go to the Synthetic Biology Project and select the About tab.  On the subsequent page the J. Craig Venter Institute is shown as an Initiative Partner.  This should be interpreted to mean the Venter Institute is supplying resources and funding to insure reports generated by the Synthetic Biology Project are generally favorable.  J. Craig Ventor is possibly the leading, and most self serving, proponent of synthetic biology. (See )

Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: the Human Odyssey in Chapter 13:  Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology provides a description of the development of synthetic biology, outlines its risks, and proposes steps that must be taken to reduce the risks posed by this science.

Readers are encouraged to read the source documents referenced in this article.  Use the following links to read them and obtain more information: – under download at page bottom select Guidelines for the Appropriate Risk Governance of Synthetic Biology and scroll down to The Principles for the oversight of synthetic biology and select it.

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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time Wins 2012 Nautilus Award & Others

Posted on 15 April 2012 by Jerry

Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, by Jerry Parrick, has been named a 2012 Silver Nautilus Medal award winner. Identifying the book as one of the year’s best new books in the “Science – Cosmology” category, the Nautilus award recognizes books that “promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change while at the same time stimulating the imagination and offering the reader new possibilities for a better life.”

Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, by Jerry Parrick, has been named a 2012 Independent Publisher Silver medal award winner. Identifying the book as one of the year’s best new books in the “Classical Studies/Philosophy” category, the IPPY award recognizes and encourages the work of “Publishers who exhibit the courage and creativity necessary to take chances, break new ground, and bring about change, not only to the world of publishing, but to our society.” Besides the works of small independent publishers, the IPPYs recognized books from presses such as Basic Books, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Carnegie Museum of Arts and Design, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Kent State University Press, The MIT Press, Princeton University Press, and the Stanford University Press.

Beyond Animal, Ego and Time has been awarded a 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Recognized in the Legacy Non Fiction category, the Hoffer Award review says in part “At first the subject matter might challenge you, but amazingly Parrick manages to pull it all together in an interesting and thought-provoking book. Never talking over his readers head, he breaks the topics down into easily digestible subtopics. Not quite the light reading that other books are, but an enjoyable read all the same.”


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Persistent PETA Presses to End Primate Experimentation

Posted on 06 April 2012 by Jerry

Watching the tactics of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a study in human activism and tenacity.  We have reported here on their ongoing efforts to end the use of primates in medical experimentation: see August 2011 article Too Sentient for Their Own Good and December 2011 article NIH Moves Chimps from Chumps to Champs.  Both of these articles mention PETA’s efforts to marshal public pressure on the National Institute of Health to end its support of invasive experimentation on chimpanzees.  They argue that these experiments can all be done in some other way and represent unusual cruelty to animals with such advanced intelligence.  Now PETA has launched a campaign to pressure international airline transport carriers to refuse to transport non-human primates into the U.S. for all types of medical experimentation.

A recent article in Nature, identifies that “In 2011, some 97% of the 18,044 non-human primates imported into the United States for use in research came from a handful of countries” identified as China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Mauritius (by way of Paris).  Using multiple techniques that include use of emails, social media, telephone calls and sit-in type protests such as at the Animal Transportation Association meeting in Vancouver in March of this year, PETA is exerting a full court press on these carriers.

So far these efforts succeeded, leading China Southern Airlines to cancel shipments from Guangzhou, China and Air Canada to petition the Canadian Transport Agency for required permission to end primate transfers in the future.  Air France, the last major European carrier to transport research primates, is under considerable public pressure to end the practice.

Following animal rights activists as they continually change tactics to make further progress on these issues is instructive and inspirational to others who would seek to change how the world sees issues that are important to them.  For those who want to see films that were made undercover in medical research laboratories in the United States to experience firsthand how they conduct these experiments, go to .

Use the following links for more information about these topics:  (March 22, 2012 issue of Nature, volume 483)

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