Thursday, January 5, 2012

More On Food

Toxic botulism in animals linked to RoundUp:

Monsanto GM Corn Linked to Organ Damage in Animals:

Yves Smith comments:

One of my friends is a biomedical engineer who gave up doing science because it involved too much drawing of lines through scatter diagrams to claim the existence of relationships in order to keep the grant money coming in. She got a law degree, and worked for the National Institutes of Health, Big Pharma, a buyout firm, and served as general counsel of a public company before joining a firm with a well regarded FDA practice.

She is also the antithesis of a health food neurotic. She believes red wine and cheese are major food groups, likes chips, eats candy now and again. But if the subject of genetically modified food comes up, she will sputter for a minute or two and and bite her tongue. “That stuff should be banned. They are conducing a massive experiment on the public with no consent and no controls.” She argues that the research on the safety of GMOs are far too short in duration to conclude that they are safe. Moreover, she went to some lengths to try to avoid GMOs, and gave up, concluding it was too hard.
Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds:

Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.

“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.”

Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water.

“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.
Monsanto-Resistant Weeds Take Root, Raising Food Prices: Monsanto’s Roundup was supposed to make it easy for farmers to get rid of weeds, but it’s working on fewer and fewer plants, including some monsters that can grow three inches a day and destroy farm equipment.

"Super-strains of plants like pigweed--which grows three inches a day and is tough enough to damage farm machinery--have emerged, which may dramatically reduce the options for farmers to control them. The alternatives are usually more dangerous chemicals or plowing and mulching fields, undermining many of the environmental benefits biotech crops are supposed to offer. It's 'the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,' claims Andrew Wargo III, president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts."
Wholesale approval of genetically modified foods:

Cornucopia, WI – Over the holidays, the United States Department of Agriculture announced its approval of a novel strain of genetically engineered corn, developed by Monsanto, purportedly being “drought tolerant.”

Despite receiving nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to this particular genetically engineered (GE) corn variety (and only 23 comments in favor), the Obama administration gave Monsanto the green light to release its newest GE corn variety freely into the environment and American food supply, without any governmental oversight or safety tracking.

In addition to its announcement approving Monsanto’s newest GE corn variety, the USDA also opened a 60-day public comment period for two additional petitions – one for Monsanto’s GE soybean containing higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid, that does not naturally occur in soybeans, and the other from Dow AgroSciences for corn that has been genetically engineered to better resist the poisonous herbicide 2,4-D.

While the USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War.

2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide, and scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. Four separate studies in the United States reported an association with chlorophenoxy herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“The concern is that, just like Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn that is resistant to RoundUp™ (glyphosate) herbicide, the approval of a cultivar resistant to 2,4-D will cause an exponential increase in the use of this toxic agrichemical,” Kastel stated.

Research by the EPA found that babies born in counties with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields were significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. These birth defects were 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates.

The results also showed a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

In its petition, Dow AgroSciences states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops.

Eaters beware: WalMart is taking over the food distribution system:

Aubretia Edick has worked at a Walmart store in upstate New York for 11 years, but she won't buy fresh food there. Bagged salads, she claims, are often past their sell-by dates and, in the summer, fruit is sometimes kept on shelves until it rots. "They say, 'We'll take care of it,' but they don't. As a cashier, you hear a lot of people complain," she said.

Edick blames the problems on the store's chronic understaffing and Walmart's lack of respect for the skilled labor needed to handle the nation's food supply. At her store, a former maintenance person was made produce manager. He's often diverted to other tasks. "If the toilets get backed up, they call him," she said.

Tracie McMillan, who did a stint working in the produce section of a Walmart store while researching her forthcoming book, The American Way of Eating, reports much the same. "They put a 20-year-old from electronics in charge of the produce department. He didn't know anything about food," she said. "We had a leak in the cooler that didn't get fixed for a month and all this moldy food was going out on the floor." Walmart doesn't accept the idea that "a supermarket takes any skill to run," she said. "They treated the produce like any other kind of merchandise."
What are you putting in your mouth? Forget dissolving a tooth in Coke, Mountain Dew can dissolve an entire rodent caracss:

Pepsi Co., facing a lawsuit from a man who claims to have found a mouse in his Mountain Dew can, has an especially creative, if disgusting, defense: their soda would have dissolved a dead mouse before the man could have found it.

David Frum on obesity:

The problem for the country echoes the problem for individuals: Willpower is not enough. "(It's a) basic instinct, even stronger than the sexual instinct, to store calories to survive the next period of starvation. And we live in an environment where there's food every half mile. It's tasty, cheap, convenient, and you can eat it with one hand."

Thus says Martijn Katan of the Institute of Health Sciences at VU University in Amsterdam, author of one of the many studies on the limits of dieting, quoted in U.S. News & World Report.

If you as an individual want to change your weight, you must change your whole life. Likewise, to reduce obesity in modern society, we will have to alter the way society is organized.

Weight gain is driven by two trends: increases in calories consumed and decrease in calories expended. Modern America induces both.

For example: The after-inflation cost of sugary soda has declined by an estimated 48% over the past 20 years. Correspondingly, consumption of sugary soda has soared: Sugary soda is now the single most important source of calories in the American diet.

For example again: The number of Americans who work at physically taxing jobs continues its steady decline. Even those jobs that demand physical labor -- manufacturing, for example -- are much less grueling than they used to be, as electrically powered machines do the lifting and shifting that used to consume human energy.

While Americans expend fewer calories at work, they spend more time in cars -- almost twice as much as in the 1970s. They spend 26 hours per week consuming TV or online entertainment. Americans could theoretically compensate for more sedentary lifestyles by stepping up their recreational exercise -- but only about 20% of Americans bother. Some 80% never do -- including presumably all those failed dieters.

Want to change this? It's no small project. It would involve the redesign of cities, the relocation of schools, the reinvention of our modes of eating and amusement.

Bon appetit!

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