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Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.

 

 

 

 

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Links between exposure to organophosphate pesticides and the onset of diabetes

26 Jan

As the government’s Food Agency is diligently warning the public of possible harm from burnt toast, will it heed a new concern raised by Indian scientists?  

British governments have a poor record when there is a conflict of interest between public health and large arms related/chemical/pharmaceutical companies.

Successive governments resisted acknowledging the harm done by early nuclear tests, Gulf War medication, thalidomide, mercury in infant vaccines and infected imported blood products – even, in the 70s and 80s compelling farmers to use organophosphate-based sheep dip and to this day encouraging the addition of a toxic chemical to drinking water.  

msc-header

The number of diabetes cases in Britain is causing concern; the Medical Research Council (above, a publicly funded government agency) reported in 2015 that there are 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK and quotes estimates that more than one in 16 people in the UK has diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed).

Richard Bruce sends a link to a report from India by Pallava Bagla published on Tuesday. It records that scientists at Madurai Kamaraj University in Tamil Nadu have found links between the use of pesticides and the high prevalence of diabetes in India (65 million people, second only to China).

They found the prevalence of diabetes in people regularly exposed to insecticides was three-fold higher (18.3 per cent) than in unexposed people (6.2 per cent).

Their results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Genome Biology. They also conducted experiments on mice, in which they found that exposure to pesticides upsets the micro-flora of the gut, leading to the onset of diabetes. Read quite a detailed account here: http://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-1134-6

The team – which had been conducting the research in rural areas of South India – suggests that if people are continuously exposed to common OP pesticides like Malathion and Chlorpyrifos, they can get diabetes even when they do not have the other risk factors – obesity and high cholesterol.

ops-2-used-in-agric-india

This was a departure from traditional findings: the 3,080 people surveyed were physically active and did not have the better known risk factors for diabetes like obesity and high cholesterol.

OP pesticides are widely used in agriculture. Malathion is used even in urban areas to control mosquitoes and termites. They are known to affect memory and concentration, cause depression, headache and speech difficulties. The US Environmental Protection Agency (at risk under the new president?) publishes findings that these are amongst several classes of toxic chemicals that can harm children; researchers say OPs could be a contributing factor in learning disability and behavioural problems in children.

The scientists at Madurai Kamaraj University suggested that, in view of the high occurrence of diabetes in India, the use of OP (organophosphate) pesticides should be reconsidered.

 

 

 

Pesticide concerns – but better news from France and America

6 Jan

Some time ago Richard Bruce, whose health has been profoundly damaged by pesticides, highlighted the lack of reference to “the poisons that are added to the wheat AFTER harvest, in the food grain stores and during processing”.

He continues: “Here in the UK tons of the poisons have been admixed with wheat, barley, oats and other food crops every year for decades, often with no withholding times after treatment at all. The EU intervention stores demanded that the grains were protected from insect infestation by these products for at least 5 years in store … Bakers have refused delivery of clean wheat unless it is treated with the poisons”.

peschemhealthRichard pointed out that though the British Medical Association stated in the publication ‘Pesticides, Chemicals and Health’ * (use link below) that wholemeal bread contained the highest residues of the poison – 24 years later it is still approved for use in our food and NEVER appears on the food content labels because it does not have to be declared.

The official reason? Because it is classed as a pesticide and not a food additive. 

Recently he wrote that science is not true science now. It is controlled by vested interests. Corporate pseudo-science rules over all. Dangers are played down, or even totally dismissed, so as to ensure greater profitability. He continued:

“Over the years, I had to contact various “experts’ at universities and even had some insects I found eating barley roots sent to the British Museum to discover what they were. I don’t know much but I was astounded by how little those “experts” really knew and I have been very wary of experts ever since. I once asked a veterinary surgeon if he could test to see what poison had been injected into an egg which had obviously been left in a row of soon to be baled straw to tempt a predator. He actually told me that I would need to know the name of the poison before he could test it – and left me with that poisoned egg! I was angry about it at the time – a completely illegal act ignored – a portent of what was to happen to me!”

mark-purdeyHe recalled speaking with the late Mark Purdey (right). The Guardian recorded that Mark’s life changed one day in 1984 when an official from the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF, as it then was) told him he had to comply with a warble fly eradication order and treat his herd of Jersey cows with an organophosphate (OP) pesticide. “When she arrived, it was as if my whole life became focused,” he explained. “Prior to that, I knew what was happening in farming, and I was concerned, but I hadn’t been actively campaigning.”

Purdey refused, arguing that the suggested dose was far too high and in any case his natural treatment for warble fly was perfectly effective. The battle lines with the agricultural bureaucracy were drawn; before they had a chance to prosecute him, Purdey took MAFF to court and shook administrative complacency by winning his case.

He suggested to Richard that modern farmers have been treated rather like the Hitler Youth – indoctrinated into dependence on chemical inputs and forcing the land into submission from birth. They know no different and are reluctant to change. This coupled with the induced fear of crop and livestock losses through disease convinces them never to change.

Richard ends: “If my efforts to gain justice and truth through the courts taught me anything it is that none of the experts can be trusted. It appears to me that too many of them simply repeat what they are taught and told without ever checking the facts for accuracy. We see it all the time, even when the claims made have been proven to be false”.

Better practice

beer-sheva-park

Above: Beer Sheva Park in Washington State: read more here, http://www.beautifulwashington.com/king-county/parks/seattle/south-seattle/273-beer-sheva-park.html

Seattle (Washington State USA) is one of 17 American states to have “pesticide free parks”. It has fourteen, maintained by Seattle Parks and Recreation department without the use of any pesticides since 2001. IPM practices are used and their parks are not overrun with fire ants or other pests. Read in more detail here. The program is now being expanded to include eight more parks and about 25 more acres, making a total of 22 parks and about 50 acres distributed geographically throughout the city which provide citizens with an opportunity to use these facilities with the knowledge that no pesticides are used.

And in France on 29th December it was reported that pesticides will be banned in all France’s public green spaces and non-professional gardeners will no longer be able to buy pesticides over the counter. The pesticide ban covers public forests, parks and gardens, though local authorities are still allowed to use pesticides in cemeteries. The new law also stipulates that pesticides will be prohibited in private gardens from 2019.

 

*https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19922316043

Hawaiian parents and environmentalists campaign against use of harmful sprays

7 Dec

In 2015 an American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Local schools had been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift.

aerial-spray

Years earlier, whilst in America, a friend of the writer, who was in good health at the time, developed emphysema and died prematurely after being exposed to spray drift.

Carla Nelson, a pediatrician, pointed out that doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.” Read her Guardian coverage here.

In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, who then chaired the health committee, made his fourth attempt to curb pesticide and herbicide spraying, but ruefully commented that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

A year later, Time magazine reported that there was growing evidence of glyphosate’s potentially dangerous health effects. It was judged a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization last year but despite this, on the Hawaiian island of Maui and elsewhere, sprayers simply sprayed and moved on; no one monitored the observance of the safety directions of their own product.

spray-hackneyHawaii environmentalists have used a little-known law, FIFRA, short for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which requires sprayers to follow the safety instructions on the product’s label down to the letter.

For products containing the herbicide glyphosate, that means keeping people away from the area where the product has been used for four hours after applications for agriculture, or until the product dries when sprayed for non-agricultural purposes. That can be difficult in places like long stretches of roads and highways where extended monitoring to keep people away from recently sprayed areas is virtually impossible.

Parents began to circulate photographs of government employees spraying Round Up, the primary commercial product containing glyphosate. Footage showed authorities spraying on highways, roads and near schools without any visible effort to keep people away.

Finally the uncertainty raised by activists over the labelling issue convinced Stephen Rodgers, who oversees pesticide application on Maui’s state highways to switch to organic pesticides. His department no longer purchases Roundup and will stop using the product entirely – but only when the existing supply has been used.

Significant exposure to glyphosate in farm workers has been linked to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer. Nature magazine, which is sceptical of the impact on human health, at least reports a study showing a link between glyphosate and cancer in mice. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), ruled last year that the pesticide is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a Harvard-educated pediatrician and epidemiologist, Dean for Global Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “For a long time glyphosate was viewed as an innocuous herbicide. A lot of things have changed”.

His colleague, Chuck Benbrook, an adjunct professor at Washington State University’s crops and soil science department, said “There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways. It’s time to pull back … on uses of glyphosate that we know are leading to significant human exposures while the science gets sorted out.”

Part 2: studies which conclude that glyphosate does not cause harm.

 

 

 

Causes of diseases are already well-known –  but nothing is done to remove those causes

28 Nov

Richard Bruce recently sent an email reflecting on the Queen’s opening of the £700 million Francis Crick Institute (below), which will have some £130 million in annual funding. Its aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease. It is the biggest research building under one roof in the entire European Union employing some 1500 scientists and staff.

francis-crick-institute_19_cwellcome-images-copy 

He asks: “Do they need all that money to re-discover what they already know?”

The Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London are involved.  Richard comments: “Some interesting names there with staff who must know what is really going on” and summarises his post examining what the MRC actually knew and what it has reported over the decades.

The Francis Crick Institute in London is said to be “a world-leading centre of biomedical research and innovation, it has scale, vision and expertise to tackle the most challenging scientific questions underpinning health and disease.

The aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease.”

Richard’s post states that the cause of these illnesses is already well-known and has been known for a very long time but nothing is done to remove those causes. He says that protecting the poisons industry seems to be the real aim: “Poisoned people earn the industry £millions in drug sales and research”.

He asks, “Why is the Medical Research Council now implying that it does not understand the ever present danger not only to the occupationally exposed but to everyone, adult, child and unborn, exposed as we are in our food, clothes, furniture, fuels, paints, oils and our environment?”

And comments: “Shocking really”.

Richard Bruce who has an extensive knowledge on the effects of organophosphates which are used far more widely in agriculture than just sheep dip. He personally was badly affected by Actellic used in grain stores documented at: Trouble in Store 

 

 

 

Science, precaution, innovation: learn tragically ‘late lessons from early warnings’

30 Jul

 

Glyphosate herbicides, harmful pharmaceuticals, infected blood transfusions, mercury preservative in infant vaccines, organophosphate insecticides, GM technology and fluoridation of the water supply . . . the damage to human and environmental health has been incalculable.

pprof mcgladeAs Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist and Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in her preface to Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation:

“There is something profoundly wrong with the way we are living today. There are corrosive pathologies of inequality all around us — be they access to a safe environment, healthcare, education or clean water. These are reinforced by short-term political actions and a socially divisive language based on the adulation of wealth . . .

“One thing that has become clearer over the past decade is that certain chemical substances are highly stable in nature and can have long-lasting and wide ranging effects before being broken down into a harmless form. The risk of a stable compound is that it can be bio-accumulated in fatty tissues at concentrations many times higher than in the surrounding environment . . . So exposure to toxic chemicals and certain foodstuffs are at risk of causing harm, especially to vulnerable groups such as foetuses in the womb or during childhood when the endocrine system is being actively built. Even with small dose exposures, the consequences can in some instances be devastating with problems ranging from cancer, serious impacts on human development, chronic diseases and learning disabilities”.

chemical exposures coverProfessor McGlade points out that well-informed individuals and communities would ‘more properly’ set ‘the power to act’, than current political systems which have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’ – and, we would add, to accumulate profits. She calls for “a more ethical form of public decision-making based on a language in which our moral instincts and concerns can be better expressed . . .”

Above, a book by Claudia Miller, M.D., M.S., a tenured Professor in Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Vice Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), who has written extensively on the health effects of low-level chemical exposures.

One simple measure could be adopted. Every scientific report or review should be prefaced by a declaration of the researcher’s competing financial interests

From the Nature/ British Dental Journal’s declaration of the authors’ competing financial interests Critique of the review of ‘Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries’ published by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2015, we learn that – out of 17 – these authors had such an interest – see footnote, with names added to the initials in the list.

The Cochrane review noted- amongst many other findings – that only two studies since 1975 have looked at the effectiveness of reducing cavities in baby teeth, and found fluoridation to have no statistically significant impact – and within the ‘before and after’ studies none showed the benefits of fluoridated water for adults.

In view of the authors’ competing interests it is not surprising that they cast doubt on the validity of the unfavourable findings of the Cochrane Review, which is ’unconstrained by commercial and financial interests’.

Footnote:

  1. A. J. Rugg-Gunn: AJRG was a member of the MRC (UK) working group on water fluoridation and health and is a trustee of The Borrow Foundation (long associated with milk fluoridation).
  2. A.J. Spencer: AJS is a member of the Australian Government Department of Health, Nutritional Reference Values Fluoride Expert Working Group and the National Health and Medical Research Council Fluoride Reference Group.
  3. H.P. Whelton: HPW is Principal Investigator of the FACCT study funded by the Irish Health Research Board and is an evaluation of the impact of changes in the policy on children’s oral health in Ireland. She is an independent advisor to the British Fluoridation Society.
  4. C.Jones: CJ is a member of the British Fluoridation Society, the Cochrane Oral Health Group and commented on the Cochrane review protocol.
  5. J. F. Beal: JFB is vice-chairman, British Fluoridation Society.
  6. P.Castle: PC is a communications adviser to the National Alliance for Equity in Dental Health and the British Fluoridation Society. 
  7. P.V. Cooney: PVC was Chief Dental Officer for Canada.
  8. J. Johnson: JJ is President, American Fluoridation Society. 
  9. M.P. Kelly: MPK is co-investigator on the CATFISH study of a water fluoridation scheme in Cumbria.
  10. M.A. Lennon: MAL was a member of the Advisory Panel for the York Review, a member of the MRC Expert Group and formerly Chair of the British Fluoridation Society.
  11. J. McGinley: JMcG is manager, Fluoridation Activities, American Dental Association.
  12. D. O’Mullane: DO’M is a member of the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health.
  13. P.P. Sharma: PPS is the President, Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry. 
  14. W.M. Thomson: WMT was a member of the panel which produced the Royal Society of New Zealand report on community water fluoridation.
  15. S. M. Woodward: SMW works for The Borrow Foundation.
  16. S.P. Zusman: SPZ is Chief Dental Officer with Israeli Ministry of Health.

 

 

 

Water fluoridation: Bedford councillors accept the Precautionary Principle

16 May

In April, Bedford’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously recommended that fluoride should NOT be added to Bedford’s water.

This followed a protracted two-year debate. Bedford Council will now have to consult Bedfordshire County Council and the Secretary of State will eventually be involved in their decision. The issue could then go out to consultation and the public will be asked to respond within 3 months.

bedford cllrs fluoridationA video made by Fluoride Free Bedford includes footage of the council reflecting on this important decision.

Councillor Anthony Forth (below) issued the following statement:

bedford cllr quoted“I would like to propose that following the review process, this committee recommends a termination of the existing water fluoridation scheme, subject to the necessary consultations that are outlined on pages 26 to 28.

“I think that the evidence in favour of water fluoridation does seem extremely dated… On the other hand, a number of the pieces of evidence of dis-benefits are not as scientifically rigorous as we might like.

I think that as a group we’re happy to accept the Precautionary Principle that there isn’t strong evidence for re-introducing fluoride, so therefore we should not go ahead.”

Professor K.K. Cheng (professor of epidemiology, University of Birmingham) and his colleagues Iain Chalmers, editor, and Trevor A Sheldon,  professor and pro-vice chancellor. co-authored Adding fluoride to water supplies: US National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health

They reflected, in similar vein, that public and professional bodies need to balance benefits and risks, individual rights, and social values in an even handed manner. Those opposing fluoridation often claim that it does not reduce caries and sometimes overstate the evidence on harm. On the other hand, the Department of Health’s objectivity is questionable—it funded the British Fluoridation Society and, along with many other supporters of fluoridation, it used the York review’s findings selectively to give an overoptimistic assessment of the evidence in favour of fluoridation: Wilson PM, Sheldon TA. Muddy waters: evidence-based policy making, uncertainty and the “York review” on water fluoridation. Evidence Policy 2006: 2:321-31.

In response to the Medical Research Council recommendations, the department commissioned research on the bioavailability of fluoride from naturally and artificially fluoridated drinking water. The study had only 20 participants and was too small to give reliable results. Despite this it formed the basis of a series of claims by government for the safety of fluoridation.

The Cheng study ends: “Against this backdrop of one sided handling of the evidence, the public distrust in the information it receives is understandable. We hope this article helps provide professionals and the public with a framework for engaging constructively in public consultations”.