Thursday, June 28, 2007
From Reuters: Boys with autism and related disorders had higher levels of growth hormones than other boys, which may explain why children with the condition often have larger heads, researchers reported on Friday.
Boys with autism and autism spectrum disorders were also heavier than boys without these conditions, the teams at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital reported. Read the rest of the article...
Monday, June 25, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
From the Center for Food Safety:
Tell the House Agriculture Committee Not to Allow Language Preempting State's Rights in Farm Bill
House Agriculture Committee to Consider Language in the Farm Bill that Would Deny State’s Rights to Protect Citizens from Risky Foods
Last week the U.S. House subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry passed new language added to the 2007 Farm Bill that would bar states or localities from prohibiting any food or agricultural product that the USDA has deregulated. The new language reads:
SEC. 123. EFFECT OF USDA INSPECTION AND DETERMINATION OF NON-REGULATED STATUS.Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has—(1) inspected and passed; or(2) determined to be of non-regulated status.
The primary intent of this passage is to deny local or state rights to regulate genetically engineered crops or food. This would wipe out the restrictions passed by voters in four California counties and two cities, and could limit the powers of the California Rice Certification Act and its ability to prohibit the introduction of GE rice varieties. Local and state laws pertaining to GE crops have also been passed in Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. All of these democratically enacted laws are threatened by this language.
The biotech industry and big agribusiness have been trying to push similar bills in dozens of states across the country, and also at the Federal level with last year’s so-called “Food Uniformity” bill. Now they want to sneak it into a committee hearing and hide it in the Farm Bill.
The members of the committee need to hear from all of us NOW!
For contact information for the members of the House Agriculture Committee, Click HERE. Then click on the name of the member(s) you'd like to reach to be taken to their webpage for contact information. If you have time, please make a phone call to one or two of these members. Phone calls can make a big difference! Call members of the Agriculture Committee at (202) 225-2171
For a list of state and local regulations on GE crops, CLICK HERE
Saturday, June 9, 2007
"Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms" at http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/gmfood.shtml
"Genetically Modified Foods: A Primer" at http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/genetics_modification/
"Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Harmful?" at http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php
"Genetically Modified Food: A Growing Debate" at http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-75-1597/science_technology/genetically_modified_food/
"Science in the News: Genetically Modified Foods" at http://athome.harvard.edu/programs/gmf/index.html
"GE Food Alert" at http://www.gefoodalert.org/
Last but not least, if you find the above sites depressing, here's something to cheer you up: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/g/g_m_o_.asp
Poisons from Aspartame (NutraSweet/Equal) Digestion
Methanol (poison) • Aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP) • Aspartic Acid • Beta-aspartame • Phenylalanine
FACT: Formaldehyde is formed in the body from the methanol released during aspartame digestion.
FACT: Formaldehyde is a poison that has been proven to cause gradual neurological damage, immunological damage, and irreversible genetic damage at extremely low-dose, long-term exposure. The internal damage and changes occur long before poisoning symptoms become clinically evident.
FACT: Formaldehyde from aspartame is distributed throughout the body and accumulates in various organs and tissues in the form of “adducts” (formaldehyde bound to protein).
“These are indeed extremely high levels for adducts of formaldehyde, a substance responsible for chronic deleterious effects that has also been considered carcinogenic.
“It is concluded that aspartame consumption may constitute a hazard because of its contribution to the formation of formladehyde adducts.”
[Life Sciences (scientific journal), Volume 63, No. 5, page 337+, 1998]
Q. Alcoholic beverages and fruit & tomato juices have much more methanol than aspartame. Why aren’t these substances equally toxic?
A. Alcoholic beverages and fruits have been proven to contain protective substances which prevents the methanol from being converted to formaldehyde and therefore prevents slow poisoning.
Q. I have been told that methanol levels in aspartame are too low to cause poisoning. Is that the case?
A. The levels of methanol and formaldehyde are high enough to cause gradual neurological, immunological, and genetic damage.
Q. I have been told that the body already contains methanol and formaldehyde. If so, how can they be toxic?
A. Normal metabolism does create an extremely low level of methanol and formaldehyde in the body. However, because these substances are so toxic to the body, the levels are very tightly controlled. Exposing children to formaldehyde levels as low as 0.75 milligrams (mg) daily for several months has been shown to cause gradual toxicity. It only takes a very slight increase to cause slow poisoning.
Q. I have been told that after aspartame ingestion, the blood plasma levels of methanol does not rise. Why is that?
A. This is not true. Research published in the mid-1980’s shows that methanol levels do rise even after a relatively small dose of aspartame. The methanol test used by aspartame manufacturer-sponsored “research” was developed in the 1960’s and is incapable of showing methanol increases less than 500%. Unfortunately, these deceptive tests and subsequent published research fooled the FDA and a number of independent researchers.
Q. Formaldehyde is found in foods in tiny amounts. Why is it dangerous?
A. Formaldehyde toxicity can be reduced by the human digestive system and can be more easily tolerated in foods. In aspartame, however, the methanol bypasses the digestive system and is converted to the extremely toxic formaldehyde after it is already in the bloodstream.
Q. If methanol from aspartame is converted to formaldehyde, why can’t we measure formaldehyde levels in the body?
A. There are no direct tests for formaldehyde levels in the human body. Formaldehyde adduct levels in the above-quoted experiment were determined through indirect techniques where it was shown that the accumulation of adducts could not have come from anything other than the formaldehyde derived from aspartame. Tests by the manufacturer of formaldehyde metabolites (formate) have been proven to be flawed.
FACT: Aspartic acid released from aspartame is in “free-form” (unbound to protein) and is absorbed suddenly, unlike the aspartic acid found in food. In this “excitotoxic” form, it will inevitably increase the damage caused by the aspartame-derived formaldehyde.
FACT: Aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP) is found in aspartame. Dr. John Olney showed that pre-approval aspartame research found brain tumors in animals, that there has been an increase in the same types of brain tumors in humans, and that this type of DKP may transform into a cancer-causing compound upon digestion.
Q. Did a recent study show that aspartame does not cause brain tumors?
A. No. The most recent research on aspartame and brain cancer funded by the National Cancer Institute was conducted on children. Children would be considered to be the least susceptible to brain cancer from aspartame. Dr. Olney’s study was on the more susceptible population group, middle-aged and the elderly.
Q. According the the FDA and other government officials, brain tumor rates have been increasing since before aspartame was on the market and therefore aspartame could not have caused this increase. Correct?
A. Dr. Olney showed that aspartame may be promoting the conversion of less deadly brain tumors into much more deadly brain tumors in susceptible population groups. There has been an enormous increase in these deadly types of brain tumors since within a few years after aspartame appeared on the market and there has been a corresponding decrease in the less deadly types of brain tumors during the same time period. That is why the overall brain tumor rate remains somewhat stable. Whenever a government official or industry-paid scientist talks about overall brain tumor rates, they clearly did not read Dr. Olney’s research study!
Q. The rodents which were found to have brain tumors in pre-approval research were given high doses of aspartame. Is this a fair test?
A. The chemicals derived from aspartame digestion vary from 5 to 60 times more toxic in humans than in rodents. Therefore, high doses are required to simulate human ingestion.
Q. I have been told that a study published in early 1980’s showed that aspartame does not cause brain cancer. Is that true?
A. This was a sketchy study sponsored by close associates of the manufacturer and which used different experimental animals.
More Scientific Details:
More detailed Fact Sheets with extensive independent scientific references can be obtained from several reputable sources and can be found on the Internet at: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/
Avoiding Hidden Aspartame & Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame can be found on the ingredients list in the following products:
Soft drinks, over-the-counter drugs & prescription drugs (very common and listed under “inactive ingredients”), vitamin & herb supplements, yogurt, instant breakfasts, candy, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, cocoa mixes, coffee beverages, instant breakfasts, gelatin desserts, frozen desserts, juice beverages, laxatives, milk drinks, shake mixes, tabletop sweeteners, tea beverages, instant teas and coffees, topping mixes, wine coolers, etc.
Please check labels carefully and compare it against the list of “Sweeteners to Avoid” on page 2 of the Aspartame Poisoning Fact Sheet. Many people make the mistake of not checking labels carefully and continue to poison themselves. In addition, many people do not realize that their children may be given aspartame- or other artificial sweetener-containing foods or drugs at school without their knowledge. Talk to the school director and to the local PTA to assure that this does not happen.
Many people find it much easier to avoid toxic sweeteners by shopping at the local, large health food store when possible. Many health food stores have banned artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame). But it is still important to check labels as some health food stores are unknowingly selling aspartame, acesulfame-k, and sucralose! Please refer to the Healthier Sweetener Resource List on the Internet at http://www.holisticmed.com/sweet/ for resources for proven safe sweeteners such as stevia.
There are a number of steps individuals can take to detox and recover (to the extent possible) from aspartame poisoning:
1. Avoid all aspartame as well as all of the “Sweeteners To Avoid” on Page 2 of this Fact Sheet. Remember to check ingredients carefully.
2. Since aspartame can be very addicting, it is not a good idea to cut out both aspartame and caffeine at the same time. Aspartame is far more toxic and should be eliminated immediately. Be aware that aspartame withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
3. Avoid other excitotoxins in foods including MSG, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed proteins, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, and glutamic acid, aspartic acid, and cysteine supplements (which are often in “free-form” unlike when found in food),.
4. Consider using one or more of the powerful health-building steps detailed in the articles on the Holistic Medicine Web Page on the Internet at: http://www.holisticmed.com/
5. Outlines of a few simple detoxification ideas can be found on the Internet at: http://www.dorway.com/ & http://www.dorway.com/detox.txt
6. Healthcare practitioners who are often knowledgeable about aspartame poisoning include: Environmental Medicine Doctors, Holistic & Alternative Medicine Physicians (and many conventional physicians), Oriental Medicine Doctors, Chiropractors, and Osteopaths. The Directories of Practitioners Web Site on the Internet can help you locate such a healthcare practitioner for treatment if needed: http://www.holisticmed.com/www/directory.html
7. It is very important to keep a positive outlook. Once you switch to non-poisonous sweeteners, you can be proud that you are no longer ingesting a poison that distributes formaldehyde, an excitotoxin, and DKP throughout the body. You will now be taking good care of yourself!
It can take 60 days without aspartame (and in rare cases longer) before symptoms begin to improve.
Please copy all four (4) pages of this fact sheet and share with everyone you know … and even with people you do not know. A small amount of effort will eventually help millions of people all over the planet. But it starts with sharing this information with your family and friends. A detailed list of ideas to help others avoid toxic sweeteners can be found on the Internet at: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/asp-act.txt
Avoiding Becoming a Victim of Monsanto’s** Public Relations Campaign
• Monsanto gives money to other organizations (e.g., IFIC, American Diabetes Association, etc.). Unfortunately, these organizations take the money and provide scientifically inaccurate information to their members about aspartame.
• Monsanto has hired many former FDA & government officials. Therefore, do not expect the FDA to provide accurate information on this issue.
• Monsanto gave $75,000 to the American Dietetics Association (ADA) in 1992 to “work with the ADA in preparing fact sheets.”
• Monsanto claims that aspartame has been approved in countless countries. But none of those countries tested aspartame!
• Monsanto claims that aspartame has been approved 26 times by the FDA. Not true. Complete safety reviews were obviously not performed 26 times!
• Monsanto has funded many research projects at universities that were poorly-designed and poorly-conducted. These research projects eventually become published studies and then convincing-sounding summaries and press releases. Keep in mind that these summaries rarely reflect the severe flaws in the research (e.g., subjects taking anti-seizure drugs while testing aspartame as a cause of seizures!)
• Monsanto and others might claim that this Fact Sheet has little research cited and they may attack the honest scientists and physicians quoted. There are countless research studies detailed in the Scientific Section of the Aspartame (NutraSweet) Toxicity Information Center Web page at http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/ In addition, exhaustive details of the independent research showing poisoning from aspartame is available from a number of scientific publications, books, organizations, and Internet web sites. Please remember, nearly 100% of independent research has found problems with aspartame!
** Note: Monsanto recently sold European production of aspartame to their long-time partner, Ajinomoto Co. of Japan
and U.S. production to various investors including Michael Dell’s investment company (of Dell Computer Corporation).
Genetically Engineered Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies - Part 1
By Jeffrey M. Smith
Jun 8, 2007
Part 1: Genetically Engineered Soybeans
The huge jump in childhood food allergies in the US is in the news often  , but most reports fail to consider a link to a recent radical change in America’s diet. Beginning in 1996, bacteria, virus and other genes have been artificially inserted to the of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola plants. These unlabeled genetically modified (GM) foods carry a risk of triggering life-threatening , and evidence collected over the past decade now suggests that they are contributing to higher allergy rates.
Food safety tests are inadequate to protect public health
Scientists have long known that GM crops might cause allergies. But there are no tests to prove in advance that a GM crop is safe.  That’s because people aren’t usually allergic to a food until they have eaten it several times. “The only definitive test for allergies,” according to former FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl, “is human consumption by affected peoples, which can have ethical considerations.”  And it is the ethical considerations of feeding unlabeled, high-risk GM crops to unknowing consumers that has many people up in arms.
The UK is one of the few countries that conducts a yearly evaluation of food allergies. In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory were alarmed to discover that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50% over the previous year. Genetically modified soy had recently entered the UK from US imports and the soy used in the study was largely GM. John Graham, spokesman for the York laboratory, said, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.” 
Critics of GM foods often say that the US population is being used as guinea pigs in an experiment. But experiments have the benefit of controls and measurement. In this case, there is neither. GM food safety experts point out that even if a someone tried to collect data about allergic reactions to GM foods, they would not likely be successful. “The potential allergen is rarely identified. The number of allergy-related medical visits is not tabulated. Even repeated visits due to well-known allergens are not counted as part of any established surveillance system.”  Indeed, after the Canadian government announced in 2002 that they would “keep a careful eye on the health of Canadians”  to see if GM foods had any adverse reactions, they abandoned their plans within a year, saying that such a study was too difficult.
Genetic engineering may provoke increased allergies to soy
The classical understanding of why a GM crop might create new allergies is that the imported genes produce a new protein, which has never before been present. The novel protein may trigger reactions. This was demonstrated in the mid 1990s when soybeans were outfitted with a gene from the Brazil nut. While the scientists had attempted to produce a healthier soybean, they ended up with a potentially deadly one. Blood tests from people who were allergic to Brazil nuts showed reactions to the beans.  It was fortunately never put on the market.
The GM variety that is planted in 89% of US soy acres gets its foreign gene from bacteria (with parts of virus and petunia DNA as well). We don’t know in advance if the protein produced by bacteria, which has never been part of the human food supply, will provoke a reaction. As a precaution, scientists compare this new protein with a database of proteins known to cause allergies. The database lists the proteins’ amino acid sequences that have been shown to trigger immune responses. If the new GM protein is found to contain sequences that are found in the allergen database, according to criteria recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, the GM crop should either not be commercialized or additional testing should be done. Sections of the protein produced in GM soy are identical to known allergens, but the soybean was introduced before the WHO criteria were established and the recommended additional tests were not conducted.
If this protein in GM soybeans is causing allergies, then the situation may be made much worse by something called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). That’s when genes spontaneously transfer from one species’ DNA to another. While this happens often among bacteria, it is rare in plants and mammals. But the method used to construct and insert foreign genes into GM crops eliminates many of the natural barriers that stop HGT from occurring. Indeed, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted verified that portions of the gene inserted into GM soy ended up transferring into the DNA of human gut bacteria. Furthermore, the gene was stably integrated and it appeared to be producing its potentially allergenic protein. This means that years after people stop eating GM soy, they may still be exposed to its risky protein, which is being continuously produced within their intestines.
Genetic engineering damaged soy DNA, creating new (or more) allergens
Although biotech advocates describe the process of genetic engineering as precise, in which genes—like Legos—cleanly snap into place, this is false. The process of creating a GM crop can produce massive changes in the natural functioning of the plant’s DNA. Native genes can be mutated, deleted, permanently turned on or off, and hundreds may change their levels of protein expression. This collateral damage may result in increasing the levels of an existing allergen, or even producing a completely new, unknown allergen within the crop. Both appear to have happened in GM soy.
Levels of one known soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, were up to 27% higher in raw GM soy. In addition, although cooking soybeans normally reduces the amount of this protein, the trypsin inhibitor in GM varieties appears to be more heat resistant. Levels in cooked GM soy were nearly as high as those found in raw soy, and up to seven times higher when compared to cooked non-GM soy.  This suggests that this allergen in GM soy may be more likely to provoke reactions than when consumed in natural varieties.
Another study verified that GM soybeans contain a unique, unexpected protein, not found in non-GM soy controls. Moreover, scientist tested the protein and determined that it reacted with the antibody called IgE. This antibody in human blood plays a key role in a large proportion of allergic reactions, including those that involve life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The fact that the unique protein created by GM soy interacted with IgE suggests that it might also trigger allergies.
The same researchers measured the immune response of human subjects to soybeans using a skin-prick test—an evaluation used often by allergy doctors. Eight subjects showed a reaction to GM soy; but one of these did not also react to non-GM soy. Although the sample size is small, the implication that certain people react only to GM soy is huge, and might account for the increase in soy allergies in the UK.
Increased herbicides on GM crops may cause reactions
By 2004, farmers used an estimated 86% more herbicide on GM soy fields compared to non-GM.  The higher levels of herbicide residue in GM soy might cause health problems. In fact, many of the symptoms identified in the UK soy allergy study are among those related to glyphosate exposure. [The allergy study identified irritable bowel syndrome, digestion problems, chronic fatigue, headaches, lethargy, and skin complaints, including acne and eczema, all related to soy consumption. Symptoms of glyphosate exposure include nausea, headaches, lethargy, skin rashes, and burning or itchy skin. It is also possible that glyphosate’s breakdown product AMPA, which accumulates in GM soybeans after each spray, might contribute to allergies.]
GM soy might impede digestion, leading to allergies
If proteins survive longer in the digestive tract, they have more time to provoke an allergic reaction. Mice fed GM soy showed dramatically reduced levels of pancreatic enzymes. If protein-digesting enzymes are less available, then food proteins may last longer in the gut, allowing more time for an allergic reaction to take place. Such a reduction in protein digestion due to GM soy consumption could therefore promote allergic reactions to a wide range of proteins, not just to the soy. No human studies of protein digestion related to GM soy have been conducted.
Soy linked to peanut allergies
There is at least one protein in natural soybeans that has cross-reactivity with peanut allergies.  That means that for some people who are allergic to peanuts, consuming soybeans may trigger a reaction. While it is certainly possible that the unpredicted side effects from genetic engineering soybeans might increase the incidence of this cross-reactivity, it is unlikely that any research has been conducted to investigate this. GM soy was introduced into the US food supply in late 1996. We are left only to wonder whether this had an influence on the doubling of US peanut allergies from 1997 to 2002.
Eating GM foods is gambling with our health
The introduction of genetically engineered foods into our diet was done quietly and without the mandatory labeling that is required in most other industrialized countries. Without knowing that GM foods might increase the risk of allergies, and without knowing which foods contain GM ingredients, the biotech industry is gambling with our health for their profit. This risk is not lost on everyone. In fact, millions of shoppers are now seeking foods that are free from any GM ingredients. Ohio-based allergy specialist John Boyles, MD, says, “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it—unless it says organic.” 
Organic foods are not allowed to contain GM ingredients. Buying products that are certified organic or that say non-GMO are two ways to limit your family’s risk from GM foods. Another is to avoid products containing any ingredients from the seven food crops that have been genetically engineered: soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, Hawaiian papaya and a little bit of zucchini and crook neck squash. This means avoiding soy lecithin in chocolate, corn syrup in candies, and cottonseed or canola oil in snack foods.
Fortunately, the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America will soon make your shopping easier. This Consumer Non-GMO Education Campaign is orchestrating the clean out of GM ingredients from foods and the natural products industry. The campaign will circulate helpful non-GMO shopping guides to organic and natural food stores nationwide. The Campaign will provide consumers with regular GM food safety updates that explain the latest discoveries about why, Healthy Eating Means No GMOs.
This article is limited to the discussion of allergic reactions from GM soybeans. The evidence that GM corn is triggering allergies is far more extensive and will be covered in part 2 of this series.
Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of the new publication Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, which presents 65 risks in easy-to-read two-page spreads. His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the top rated and #1 selling book on GM foods in the world. He is the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which is spearheading the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America. Go to www.seedsofdeception.com to learn more about how to avoid GM foods.
[ 1] See for example, Charles Sheehan, “Scientists see spike in kids' food allergies,” Chicago Tribune, 9 June 2006, http://www.montereyherald.com
[ 2] See for example, Carl B. Johnson, Memo on the “draft statement of policy 12/12/91,” January 8, 1992. Johnson wrote: “Are we asking the crop developer to prove that food from his crop is non-allergenic? This seems like an impossible task.”
[ 3] Louis J. Pribyl, “Biotechnology Draft Document, 2/27/92,” March 6, 1992, www.biointegrity.org
[ 8] Stephen R. Padgette et al, “The Composition of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybean Seeds Is Equivalent to That of Conventional Soybeans,” The Journal of Nutrition 126, no. 4, (April 1996); including data in the journal archives from the same study.
[ 10] See for example, Scott H. Sicherer et al., “Prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergy in the United States determined by means of a random digit dial telephone survey: A 5-year follow-up study,” Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, March 2003, vol. 112, n 6, 1203-1207); and Ricki Helm et al., “Hypoallergenic Foods—Soybeans and Peanuts,” Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report, October 1, 2002.
Spilling the Beans is a monthly column available at . The website also offers eater-friendly tips for avoiding GMOs at home and in restaurants.
Permission is granted to publishers and webmasters to reproduce issues of Spilling the Beans in whole or in part. Just email us at email@example.com to let us know who you are and what your circulation is, so we can keep track.
The Institute for Responsible Technology is working to end the genetic engineering of our food supply and the outdoor release of GM crops. We warmly welcome your donations and support.
Go to www.responsibletechnology.org or click here if you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation. Click here if you would like to become a member of the Institute for Responsible Technology. Membership to the Institute for Responsible Technology costs $25 per year. New members receive The GMO Trilogy, a three-disc set produced by Jeffrey Smith (see www.GMOTrilogy.com ).
© copyright Jeffrey M. Smith 2007
Originally Posted at http://foodconsumer.org/7777/8888/C_onsumer_A_ffair_26/060811092007_Genetically_Engineered_Foods_May_Cause_Rising_Food_Allergies.shtml
Friday, June 8, 2007
Ever wonder why MSG consumption causes migraine headaches in some individuals? Think that the reason is entirely psychosomatic? Actually, there is a really good explanation as to why MSG-consumers get headaches, and it has a lot more to do with their physiology than their beliefs about ingesting MSG. This is the reason: MSG is a highly effective vasoconstrictor, meaning that consumption thereof will result in narrower, tighter blood vessels. And, yes, this happens in the brain as well. When arteries, capillaries, and other blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises, increasing the risk of stroke. As in a typical migraine, the pain results from the constricting reaction of the blood vessels and the resultant heightened vascular pressure.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The Wall Street Journal posted the following article today:
India Grapples With Food Security
Sameer Mohindru June 6, 2007
Reprinted from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118097690219423944.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
NEW DELHI -- Cotton output in India is surging just a few years after it started growing genetically modified varieties. Now some are saying the country may have to shift that model to other crops if it is going to succeed in its quest for food security.
Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, cotton, is the only genetically modified crop commercially grown in India. And the wide acceptance of Bt cotton has catapulted India into its new role as a major producer and exporter of raw cotton and textiles.
Cotton production is on an upswing at a time when production of most food crops, including staples such as wheat and rice, has stagnated, leaving a supply gap for food that can be met only by high-priced imports.
At the National Development Council meeting in New Delhi last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to India's "technology fatigue" and "the lack of any breakthrough in agricultural-production technologies in recent years."
Agricultural growth in India lags behind even sub-Saharan Africa, while farm incomes remain perilously low and most farmers struggle with high debt.
The consequences for the Indian economy couldn't be starker. India employs more than 650 million of its 1.1 billion people in agriculture, which last year contributed some 18.5% of gross domestic product, or the total value of goods and services produced there.
And yet even as the second-most populous nation struggles to produce enough food for its own people, it is remaking itself as a major producer of cotton, accounting for almost a fifth of global output, second only behind China, and providing 12% of global exports -- all on the back of Bt cotton.
India has around 120 million hectares under agriculture, but almost 700,000 hectares is lost each year to nonfarm activities. For cotton, plantings are on the rise, to 8.87 million hectares this year from 8.47 million in the 2005-06 season.
Of the current total, Bt cotton accounts for 3.8 million hectares, against fewer than 50,000 hectares in 2002-03. Since the 2003 period, India's cotton output has almost doubled, to 27 million bales weighing 170 kilograms each, and average yields are up around two-thirds, largely because of lower rates of pest infestation in the hardier Bt-cotton varieties.
While increases in cotton plantings have largely come at the expense of cash crops such as peanuts and not food crops, tighter land supply makes the wider acceptance of higher-yielding, genetically modified foods a necessity, according to some.
"If more volumes have to be produced on less land and with limited supplies of water, transgenics will have to play a pivotal role," said Bhagirath Choudhary, national coordinator, South Asia, for the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a nonprofit organization.
The agency promotes the use of transgenics, or genetically modified crops. Mr. Choudhary reckons that next year will see cotton production hit 30 million bales.
Observers say Bt cotton is the only significant technological breakthrough in Indian agriculture since the Green Revolution of the 1970s, when the introduction of hybrid seeds jump-started production and ended India's reliance on imports for its staples.
Scientists in India are investigating the use of transgenics in at least 16 crops, including rice, wheat, corn, rapeseed and potatoes, but large-scale trials have yet to be conducted.
Many foods can be grown only once a year, so testing can take a decade or more -- from laboratory to field trial to commercial sign-off.
Observers worry it may take several more years before commercial cultivation of food crops begins, unless research is accelerated. But for cotton farmers, circumstances couldn't be better: The number of transgenic Bt-cotton hybrids available for sowing this year has reached an unprecedented 111 from just 62 in 2005-06.
"In the next few years, India's entire cotton crop will be genetically modified," said R.K. Baldua, vice president at Gujarat Ambuja Exports, a cotton-trading firm.
Higher yields for each hectare sown also mean better returns for farmers. Government studies of a few areas under Bt cotton show that on average, annual incomes of farmers can rise around 11,000 rupees, or over $270, a hectare.
But the enormous increase in acreage hasn't been without controversy. Echoing concerns first raised over a decade ago, particularly in Europe, environmental activists point to the biosafety risk that Bt cotton poses to agriculture at large.
They fear that the Bt gene could contaminate crops grown in adjoining fields and enter the human food chain. New genes in foods can be problematic in two ways: by releasing harmful toxins or by raising a food's propensity to cause allergic reactions. Scientists test transgenic crops for both.
One activist filed a petition last year in the Supreme Court, seeking to restrict trials of several genetically modified crops, including cotton. The court has yet to rule, but has allowed transgenic trials for the time being, subject to a set of technical guidelines that must be followed.
Scientists assert that they will soon be able to contain environmental contamination by GMO's--thus validating that contamination is a current danger
Reprinted from ScienceDaily.com
Genetically Engineered Crop Containment Strategy Developed
Science Daily — Plant geneticists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, may have solved one of the fundamental problems in genetically engineered or modified (GM or GMO) crop agriculture: genes leaking into the environment.
In a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Rutgers Professor Pal Maliga and research associate Zora Svab advocate an alternative and more secure means of introducing genetic material into a plant. In GM crops today, novel genes are inserted into a cell nucleus but can eventually wind up in pollen grains or seeds that make their way out into the environment.
The two researchers at Rutgers' Waksman Institute of Microbiology argue for implanting the genes into another component of the cell -- the plastid -- where the risk of escape is minimized. Plastids, rarely found in pollen, are small bodies inside the cell that facilitate photosynthesis, the basic life process in plants.
"Our work with a tobacco plant model is breathing new life into an approach that had been dismissed out-of-hand for all the wrong reasons," said Maliga. "Introducing new agriculturally useful genes through the plastid may prove the most effective means for engineering the next generation of GM crops."
Skeptics had claimed that the approach was ineffective, based on 20-year-old genetic data showing that 2 percent of the pollen carried plastids. In the new study, Svab and Maliga found plastids in pollen 100- to 1000-times less frequently. This is well below the threshold generally accepted for additional containment measures.
The agricultural community worldwide seems to be embracing GM crops because the technology has the potential to deliver more healthful and nutritious crops, and increase crop yields with less use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
A "News Focus" story in the May 25 issue of the journal Science reported that genetically modified crops are flourishing worldwide, including in six European Union countries. "Last year (2006), 10 million farmers in 22 countries planted more than 100 million hectares with GM crops," it said.
There has been serious opposition to genetically modified agriculture both in the United States and abroad, coming from concerns about "foreign genes" escaping from GM crops, crossing with and contaminating other crops and wild species, and disrupting the ecosystem.
Pursuing the approach elucidated and advocated by the Rutgers researchers' findings may allay some of these fears and deflate the more vociferous arguments.
Svab and Maliga acknowledge that different strains of tobacco may produce plastid-carrying pollen at different frequencies, possibly accounting for some of the discrepancy between the old genetic data and the new. They emphasize that it will be important that any new crops that are developed be selected for low plastid pollen.
"We expect that there are nuclear genes which control the probability of plastids finding their way into pollen, but we have the tools that can be used to identify those genetic lines in every crop that will transmit plastids only at a low frequency," Maliga said.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The Orlando Sentinel published the following article today:
Forget the scares: Fish is healthful
Despite the fact that fish contains traces of toxins, experts agree it's a good food choice.
Harvard Health Letters Posted June 5, 2007
If you're an average American, you eat 16 pounds of seafood a year. Although that's only a fraction of U.S. chicken consumption, it still represents a lot of fish and shellfish -- nearly 5 billion pounds a year. Many people eat seafood because they love it. But more and more are choking it down as a kind of health food.
Is it? Seafood is a great source of protein that's low in saturated fat, and many types have good-for-the-heart omega-3 fats. But fish can also contain mercury and other toxins. Two reports, coincidentally released on the same day, weigh the benefits and risks of eating fish and shellfish.
One report, from the Harvard School of Public Health, offered glowing conclusions about the benefits of eating fish. The other, from the national Institute of Medicine (Washington, D.C.), was more cautious in its estimate of the benefits and worried more about the possible hazards of eating seafood. Although their tones differ, both basically say that eating fish once or twice a week is a good idea.
Fish has been touted as a heart-healthy food for years. But like many other foods, fish and shellfish can contain traces of toxins such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Let's look at what we know about the benefits and risks:
Known or probable benefits. The strongest evidence for fish as health food has to do with the prevention of heart-related death. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Drs. Dariush Mozaffarian and Eric Rimm of the Harvard School of Public Health make the case, based on a new synthesis of available data, that eating fish once or twice a week reduces the chances of dying from heart disease by one-third. That's on a par with what cholesterol-lowering statins can do. Experts believe that omega-3 fats in fish stabilize heart rhythms and prevent the sudden appearance of ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, or other potentially deadly arrhythmias. The main omega-3 fats in fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The Institute of Medicine report, "Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks", says that results "are not clearly supportive of a cardioprotective effect of EPA (or) DHA." The institute's main caution is that most of the evidence has come from observational studies, not the more rigorous randomized controlled trials.
Possible benefits. Eating seafood once or twice a week has also been linked with protection against stroke, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, age-related memory loss, and Alzheimer's disease. These connections, though, are preliminary since they come from small studies or from large ones with conflicting results.
Known risks. Aside from getting a bone lodged in your throat, the main hazards of eating fish or shellfish are food poisoning (from spoiled seafood or a naturally occurring toxin), parasitic or viral infections, and allergic reactions. Of these, food poisoning is the most common. Seafood accounts for about 3 percent to 4 percent of food-poisoning cases in the United States, about the same as for beef or chicken.
Overfishing is another known, but underappreciated, hazard. Demand for seafood in the United States has exceeded our supply, and we now import it from around the world. The United Nations estimates that world consumption will outstrip the yearly catch by the end of the 2000s. Popular species already facing commercial extinction include the Patagonian toothfish (known in restaurants as Chilean sea bass), Atlantic cod, grouper, snapper, and bluefin tuna.
Possible risks. Given our staggering production of pollutants -- from factories, farms, cars, even homes -- it is inevitable that some find their way into our food supply. The technology to measure toxins has become so sophisticated that tiny amounts can be detected. The pollutants in fish that are highest on health experts' radar screens are mercury and man-made substances such as PCBs and dioxins.
These certainly aren't good for you. The question is, at what amount do they begin to harm health? Very high intake of mercury, such as the levels seen in industrial accidents, can damage nerves in adults, though the damage is usually reversed when mercury intake stops. Low levels of mercury may lead to subtle nerve damage or cardiovascular problems. But protective factors in fish seem to counteract these possible harmful effects.
What about PCBs, which people tend to think of as powerful promoters of cancer? The Institute of Medicine calls the cancer risk linked to PCBs "overrated," since it was based on experiments in which animals were given huge doses for long periods. No one really knows if, or how much, cancer is caused by the low levels found in fish. What's more, most (91 percent) of the PCBs in the American diet come from beef, chicken, pork, dairy products, vegetables and eggs.
Balancing act. Danger is almost always more memorable than safety. It is human nature to magnify risks, especially those outside our control. When Science magazine published a report in 2004 that salmon contained PCBs, and farmed salmon harbored more than wild salmon, some people stopped eating fish altogether. Others followed suit later that year when the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency issued an advisory on mercury in fish and shellfish. Yet swearing off seafood may be throwing out the baby -- or, more likely, the whole day care center -- with the bathwater.
The salmon story illustrates this nicely. Using data from the EPA and elsewhere, Mozaffarian and Rimm estimated that PCB intake from eating farmed salmon twice a week for 70 years would cause an extra six cases of cancer per 100,000 people, while eating wild salmon would cause two extra cases. Yet eating either would prevent at least 7,000 deaths from heart disease. Even if the hazard was 10 times greater and the benefit one-tenth the size, the scales would still favor eating fish.
Article can be found here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/health/orl-isfishgoodforyo07jun05,0,7714185.story?coll=orl-health-headlines
Monday, June 4, 2007
A Drexel University engineering professor has developed a millimeter-size cantilever biosensor that can detect cells and proteins in trace samples and in only minutes. The sensor could have wide applications in medical diagnostic testing (prostate cancer), detecting contamination in food products (E. coli bacteria) and monitoring for biothreat agents (anthrax). In medical testing, the sensor can be used to analyze the four most widely tested fluids: blood, urine, sputum and spinal fluid.
Existing conventional tests require 24 hours and a trip to a laboratory to boost the concentration of microbes in a sample to produce findings. The accurate, handheld sensor that Dr. Raj Mutharasan, a Drexel chemical engineering professor, has worked to develop over the past six years can yield findings in about 10 minutes.
No direct test for minute amounts of proteins exists on the market. A study, published in a recent issue of Analytical Chemistry, in which Dr. Mutharasan’s sensor was used, detected E. coli in ground beef at some of the lowest concentrations ever reported.
Results of a preliminary study in which the new sensor was able to detect noninvasively a prostate cancer biomarker in 15 minutes were recently presented by David Maraldo, a Drexel doctoral student in chemical engineering who worked with Dr. Mutharasan on the new sensor, at the 96th annual meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.
The sensor features a vibrating cantilever, supported at one end and coated with antibodies. The antibodies are specific to the desired target such as E. coli, anthrax or proteins that are biomarkers for diseases such as prostate cancer. When the target is present in a sample flowing past the sensor, it binds to the cantilever and changes the frequency of vibration so it can be read electronically.
The sensor affixed with antibodies against E. coli can detect as low as four cells per milliliter of solution. A voltage is applied to the ceramic layer, causing it to expand and contract, vibrating the glass sliver. The sensor detects changes in the glass sliver’s resonance frequency (the point where vibration is the greatest) and determines the presence and concentration of E. coli bacteria.
Dr. Mutharasan recently expanded the sensor’s applications to food toxins and biomarkers. A commercial prototype of the sensor is anticipated to be completed in July. Dr. Mutharasan is working with a company that has licensed Drexel’s technology to commercialize the device and expects it to be in the hands of food-safety experts soon.
Original Article: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=2290