New GMO Study Shows Cancer Risk

September 26, 2012 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Science · 6 Comments 

A new French life-long study shows rats fed a particular variety of Monsanto’s GMO corn or exposed to glyphosate (Round Up) residues had a significantly higher risk of developing tumors and organ damage.

As a result of this study, Russia has suspended the import of US GMO corn.

This peer reviewed study showed a number of important things.  The first was currently all testing is done for 3 months, and in this study the tumors didn’t develop until after the initial 90 days.  This is also the first study that shows exposure to the GMO corn alone was enough to cause tumors, suggesting direct manipulation of the corn genome can itself cause cancer.  The study also showed exposure to glyphosate residues can cause cancer.

Dutch Research Nonsense

September 24, 2012 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Science · Comment 

If there was ever a finer example of research study nonsense, I can’t remember when.  Supposedly Dutch researchers have come up with the first ‘hard evidence’ that drinks containing sugar contribute to childhood obesity.

Yes, I know.  If you believe the comments on that post, or talk with worried moms the world over, you’ll know it’s just a fact that sugar is bad for children.  If you follow the links on the post through, and actually read the referenced studies, you get a different story.

This study only included youngsters who were already drinking sugary drinks, because it was considered unethical to possibly give them sugary drinks otherwise!

The children in The Netherlands were given specially manufactured artificially flavored non-carbonated drinks containing sucralose and acesulfame potassium, two ingredients not normally found in commonly available sugar free drinks.  They then supervised the drinking of the beverages, and tested for traces of these chemicals in the urine of the children.  At the conclusion of this study, they determined these children gained less weight than their peers who drank a similar beverage made with real sugar.

I’ll bet those drinks tasted vile!

So what have we learned here?  It seems to me, we’ve learned large quantities of these two chemicals delay weight gain in the 5-12 year age range.

Is there really anything else to be gained from this study?  Apparently we’re supposed to conclude drinking diet soft drinks as an alternative to those made with sugar is healthier for children.

Did anyone read any conclusions about the long term health of the children?  What about longer term weight gain?  A similar study in the US noted weight loss was limited to the first year, and after that returned.  Was there any other way the health of those children were improved with all those chemicals?  What about the children who drank water instead of specially manufactured artificially flavored drinks?  Don’t we know when people diet to lose weight, they almost always gain it back and then some?

Drinks containing sugar have been around for a long time, especially if you consider fruit juice too.  Both sugar free drinks and childhood obesity on the other hand are relatively new, especially in Europe.  Is it a coincidence the widespread consumption of sugar free drinks in the US corresponds with the obesity epidemic there?  What about other changes in the diets of children.  Could a significant increase in the amount of processed food have something to do with it?

Isn’t it a little strange there’s money for a study to show sugar free drinks are good for you, but no money to show the dangers of sugar substitutes?  What about that Italian study from a few years ago that showed aspartame causes cancer?

We need to spend more time worrying about the processed food children are eating, including sugar substitutes, and less time on sugar.  We need some real science!

Is this any different from the ‘science’ that showed us all those energy saving light bulbs were good for us?

Field Liberation Movement Calls for Support

Now nearly a year and a half ago, I posted on the Belgian Field Liberation Movement, and their Field Liberation Day in Wetteren.  This was a demonstration against a genetically modified potato field planting trial.  After much public debate, and many long winded speeches by politicians, they finally decided last May to sue eleven of the ‘Field Liberators’ in civil court for damages.

Last month a Belgian court, acting on a filing from Greenpeace, declared the original permit authorizing the field trial invalid, and thus the field trial itself illegal.  Way to go Greenpeace!

The civil trial is now scheduled for 15 January 2013.

You can help!  You can donate to help offset possible sanctions or civil liabilities, as well as pay their legal or other expenses.  You can buy their t-shirts or beer!  You can also attend the hearing in January to show your support.

Light Bulb Video

September 12, 2012 · Filed Under Environment, House and Home, Political, Science · Comment 

Paul Wheaton of permies.com made a nice video about so-called energy efficient light bulbs.

Europe to Subsidize GMOs via Plastic Bag Tax

June 17, 2012 · Filed Under Environment, Featured Plant, Political, Science · 1 Comment 

In most of Europe we have to bag our own groceries in supermarkets.  If we don’t provide our own bags, we need to buy them.

It’s been a battle for some years now.  Supermarkets always want to offer free bags as a convenience.  They don’t usually like it when customers bring their own backpacks and the like, for fear of shoplifting.

In recent years a number of EU countries have started to impose bag or packaging taxes, presumably in order to further reduce the use of plastics in supermarkets.  Now suddenly GMO plastics have started to replace petroleum based plastics, and national governments are beginning to exempt GMO plastics from these taxes, in effect subsidizing their use.

The Netherlands has a tax scheme that strongly favors GMO plastics, taxing them at a lower rate.  Germany has exempted GMO plastics from their bag tax completely.  In other countries like Ireland, governments are being lobbied to scrap their taxes on GMO plastics.

Here’s a bag I bought from a local supermarket a few days ago:

Notice the logo in the upper corner:

It says ‘This bag is made from corn and fully compostable’.  I bought another bag from a natural foods store a few days ago, and it had this on it:

On the bottom is says ‘This bag is biodegradable’.  The clerk who sold me the bag said it was made from potatoes.

Is it a coincidence that the only two GM crops approved for planting in Europe are a ‘high starch’ potato and a corn variety?  I don’t think so.  We’ve been told for years now these two varieties are not destined for human consumption.

For the record I want to say to both Marqt and Ekoplaza that I’m very disappointed they would sell GMOs to their customers in this way, especially as they are not even clearly labelled for what they are.  This is a very misleading and dishonest thing to do.

Greenwashing

The argument goes that plastics are a huge environmental problem — so far I guess we all agree.  Therefore compostable or biodegradable GMO plastics are better — I guess this is where the agreement ends.

The argument is not unlike how expensive mercury filled bulbs imported from China are supposed to be better for us than cheaper locally made standard light bulbs.  The argument is not complete and not accurate.

Netherlands

Here in the Netherlands the argument goes that we are a coastal area, with canals that carry water out to sea.  A percentage of litter falls into these canals, and ultimately contributes to the ‘big plastic soup’ in the oceans.  What’s missing of course in this argument are actual statistics or studies that show how much this is as a proportion of the plastics in the sea, if there aren’t better ways of managing the problem for example filtering the water as it leaves land, and any sort of proof or explanation as to why GMO plastics are in any way better for the environment.

Certainly, if you as a consumer properly dispose of your waste and don’t throw it in the ocean, the entire argument of GMO plastics being better vanishes.

Compostable or Biodegradable

Biodegradable is a legally defined term, that indicates something will break down into naturally occurring components.  Compostable is a looser term, that simply means it will break down into something supposedly harmless, but not necessarily naturally occurring.

In either case, these plastics do not break down at all, except in industrial processes.  You can’t compost these plastics at home in your own garden, and there is no guarantee they will breakdown in the environment in any sort of reasonable time frame.  Once they do break down, all we have is the word of the manufactures that they will break down into something harmless.  In particular, it seems unlikely they would breakdown quickly in the cold dark oceans.

If they are disposed of properly, they are certainly of no added environmental benefit.  In a landfill they would still take up the same space as normal plastic, and if incinerated they would also break down in a similar way as ordinary plastic.  There are unlikely to be more or better recycling possibilities when compared to ordinary plastic.  In fact the presence of even a very small amount of GMO plastic can contaminate a batch of traditional PET or other plastics and undermine recycling efforts.

Agriculture is the Single Most Important Contributor to Climate Change

It’s highly unlikely GMO plastic can be produced with less impact to the environment as ordinary plastic.  This is the tiresome argument of biofuels, which take more energy to produce than is in the resulting product.

GMO crops still need chemicals and fertilizers, which are based on fossil fuels and impact the environment.

Labelling

In Europe there are labelling laws requiring the labelling of most GMO foods.  Packaging and plastics should not be exempt!  Consumers should have the right to choose alternatives.

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