Saturday, December 22, 2012


Obama Administration Snubs Risks, Set to OK 'Frankenfish'Published on Saturday, December 22, 2012 by Common Dreams
'Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product'

- Common Dreams staff  

The US Food and Drug Administration said Friday that a genetically modified salmon that grows twice as fast as normal salmon is 'unlikely' to harm the environment, clearing the way for the first approval of a scientifically engineered animal for human consumption.

   A genetically engineered AquAdvantage Salmon (background) alongside an Atlantic salmon of the same age (foreground). (Photo/Reuters)The environmental assessment concludes that the frankenfish “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States.” The regulators also said that the fish is unlikely to harm populations of natural salmon, a key concern for environmental activists.

The nonprofit Center for Food Safety sharply criticized the FDA’s assessment, calling the decision “premature and misguided.”

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product. The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value; it’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment. FDA’s decision is premature and misguided.” executive director Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement.

“We need a robust regulatory system that puts environmental, human health, economic and animal welfare risks first,” said Kimbrell. “Putting a GE animal on the path to consumer use without proper safeguards and with no mandatory labeling requirement proves that the system FDA has in place gives us none of that.”

The FDA will take comments from the public on its report for 60 days before making it final.

If the salmon are eventually approved for sale, consumers may not even know they are eating them.The FDA said more than two years ago that the fish 'appears to be safe' to eat, but the agency had taken no public action since then. Executives for the company behind the fish, Aquabounty, speculated that the government was delaying action on their application due to push-back from groups who oppose genetically modified food animals.

Experts view the release of the environmental report as the final step before approval.

If FDA regulators clear the salmon, as expected, it would be the first genetically altered animal approved for food anywhere in the world.

Critics call the modified salmon a “frankenfish.” They worry that it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the natural salmon population if it escapes and breeds in the wild. Others believe breeding engineered animals is an ethical issue.

Countries in the European Union have banned some genetically modified foods outright and instituted tight labeling requirements on foods that contain modified ingredients. Countries such as Russia, Japan and Peru also have instituted restrictions on genetically altered foods.

The New York Daily News reports:

If the salmon are eventually approved for sale, consumers may not even know they are eating them. According to federal guidelines, the fish would not be labeled as genetically modified if the agency decides it has the same material makeup as conventional salmon. AquaBounty says that genetically modified salmon have the same flavor, texture, color and odor as the conventional fish, and the FDA so far has not shown any signs of disagreeing.

Wenonah Hauter, director of the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, said forgoing labeling not only ignores consumers' rights to know what they are eating, but "is simply bad for business, as many will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered."

Hauter urged members of Congress to block the impending approval of the fish. Congressional opposition to the engineered fish has so far been led by members of the Alaska delegation, who see the modified salmon as a threat to the state's wild salmon industry.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Friday she is working to convince fellow senators that approval for the fish should be stopped.

"This is especially troubling as the agency is ignoring the opposition by salmon and fishing groups, as well as more than 300 environmental, consumer and health organizations," she said of the preliminary approval.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012


How Does the FDA Know What Is Safe to Eat or Buy If It Doesn't Define Safe?
December 19, 2012 in Health and the Environment

More than 90 percent of Americans carry residues of the chemical BPA in our bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control. We encounter the chemical through every day products such as plastic water bottles, canned food, and ATM receipts, and this steady exposure poses significant risks. Independent scientific studies show that BPA interferes with estrogen and alters the development of the brain, prostate, and breast tissue. The evidence is so strong that 11 states have begun to regulate BPA.

The Food and Drug Administration, however, has delayed taking action on BPA for more than five years—effectively leaving consumers to believe it is safe. Yet when public health organizations ask the agency to explain why it hasn’t protected Americans from this harmful chemical, the FDA stonewalls. NRDC recently had to sue the FDA just to make it comply with our Freedom of Information Act request for material on the agency’s BPA review.

It shouldn’t take a lawsuit for the public to find out what government officials think about health risks posed by consumer products. But as detailed in an exposé by Barry Estabrook in the latest edition of NRDC’s OnEarth Magazine, the agency repeatedly fails to protect Americans from known hazards. Not only does it discount the weight of scientific evidence on issues ranging from antibiotic use to raise livestock to mercury contamination in seafood. But it also has refuses to share how it determines something is free of harm.

How do we know if a product is safe to eat or put on our children’s skin or bring into our homes if the FDA won’t explain why it has given its stamp of approval?

The lack of transparency begins with the near absence of guidance documents. These documents lay out an agency’s policies for conducting tests and analyzing results. If officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, are trying to assess the safety of a chemical, they follow clearly defined steps to decide whether a chemical is a carcinogen or developmental toxin and what level is safe to have in our air and water. The EPA doesn’t always stick to its guidelines, but because they are publicly available, when scientific review identifies gaps the public can hold the agency accountable and say: “You didn’t follow your own safety protocol.”

That level of accountability is not possible with the FDA. The agency has some guidance documents, but they do not make them accessible on the website. Some FDA officials say they are reluctant to issue guidelines because it reduces their ability to be flexible and respond to new science. They prefer to handle health hazards on a case-by-case basis.

The trouble with this approach is it can turn safety into a moving target.

After every major oil spill, for instance, the FDA has set different and sometimes wildly divergent standards for how much oil-contaminant is safe in the seafood we eat. When the BP disaster sent roughly 170 million gallons into one of America’s most productive fisheries, the FDA issued standards that were much less protective than the ones it issued after the Exxon Valdez spill and allowed for more contamination.

This change wasn’t because of new research but because the agency decided, this time, that a greater amount of cancer risk was “acceptable.” In addition, the agency relied on outdated science for the risk assessment methods it used to calculate allowable levels of oil spill contaminants in Gulf seafood. As a result, the FDA set levels up to 10,000 times too high to protect the most vulnerable populations—including pregnant women, children, and local fishers who eat more seafood than average Americans—from increased cancer risk.

When the FDA does share the reasoning behind its safety determinations, it often reveals influence from industry. Years of research, for instance, have confirmed that BPA poses health hazards. The nation’s leading group of hormone experts, the Endocrine Society, has said the presence of BPA in food containers is a significant health risk, and the National Institute of Health is focusing its BPA research on low-dose exposures because even that may be harmful. The FDA has chosen to discount hundreds of independent low-dose studies. Instead, it spent years defending its refusal to ban BPA in food by citing studies funded by manufacturers of BPA but twice these proposals have been rejected by outside reviewers. More recently it started doing its own research while continuing to postpone any regulatory decisions.

“Corporations can have too much to say about how the FDA operates,” says former FDAscientist Renee Dufault in the OnEarth article. Dufault was ordered by the agency to stop investigating the presence of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup. "If an industry group has enough clout, the FDA is going to be deferential.”

Several years ago, a group of science advisors conducted an independent review of the agency. They concluded that “The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific base has eroded and its scientific organizational structure is weak.” This is not merely some bureaucratic matter. It is a matter of public health. The science advisors’ report said, “The nation is at risk if FDA science is at risk.”



Illegal imports of genetically engineered maize into the EU?SmartStax produces six different insecticides                         
20. December 2012

Munich/ Brussels 20 December 2012. Testbiotech has informed the new Commissioner Tonio Borg about its suspicions that the genetically engineered maize, SmartStax, has been imported into the EU for years without legal authorisation. It is a joint Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences product, which produces six insecticidal proteins and is tolerant to two herbicides. SmartStax was assessed by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA in 2010, but the results of the assessment were controversial and the maize was not authorised.

„SmartStax is grown in the US on millions of hectares of farmland. In the last few years, around one million tonnes of maize have been imported from the US into the EU. It is highly likely that large amounts of SmartStax were among these imports,” says Christoph Then for Testbiotech. “If US maize importers cannot show that their shipments are free of SmartStax, the shipments must be stopped.”

SmartStax was introduced into the US market in 2009. Since then imports of maize into the EU have been increasing. These imports are mainly used for animal feed. 800.000 tonnes of maize were imported into the EU in 2011. In 2012, the US has so far exported large quantities of its maize harvest despite a reduced yield in many regions due to a severe drought. The harvest from fields with SmartStax should be separated in the US to prevent it being exported to EU markets. However, there are no efficient controls in place since it is difficult to identify. SmartStax consists of several genetically engineered maize events, which are already authorised as single plants and can therefore be easily mistaken.

Seemingly, industry is relying upon the fact that illegal imports will escape the notice of the authorities. It is highly likely that large quantities of SmartStax have already entered the EU. This is because although the EU Commission did not authorise the plants, it equally took no measures to prevent it from being imported. There are thus sufficient grounds for suspecting that large amounts of the US maize imports violate current EU legislation.

SmartStax combines various insecticidal toxins that were originally produced only in soil bacteria. It is grown in the US because pest insects there have increasingly adapted to genetically engineered plants that produce just one single toxin. One of the six toxins in SmartStax (Cry1A105) is artificially synthesized from several bacterial proteins and does not have a true homology in nature. The EU requires that so-called stacked events produced by crossing genetically engineered plants can only be marketed if they have been authorised. They must be checked for risks arising from the interactivity of the various inserted DNA constructs in the plant cells.

SmartStax, however, was never fully investigated. For example, poultry was fed with the kernels for just 42 days to observe weight gain, and no results from feeding trials with kernels or plants to investigate health effects were forwarded to the authorities for the market application in EU. Testbiotech is demanding a new and comprehensive risk assessment of SmartStax and efficient measures to stop its import into the EU.

Christoph Then, Testbiotech, Tel +4915154638040,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Monsanto’s Roundup Devastating Gut Health, Contributing to Overgrowth of Deadly Bacteria  pesticidesprayfield 260x162 Monsantos Roundup Devastating Gut Health, Contributing to Overgrowth of Deadly Bacteria

December 17th, 2012 | Updated 12/17/2012 at 10:30 pm

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Much of the public forgets the gut when it comes to warding off the flu and other more threatening diseases, but the gut—and its army of beneficial bacteria—are essential in protecting us from harm. That’s why eating genetically modified and/or conventionally farmed food could be a direct assault on your own health. Most recently, research has shown that Monsanto’s herbicide, known as Roundup, is destroying gut health, threatening overall health of animals, people, and the planet significantly.

The journal Current Microbiology recently published a study that caught Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, suppressing beneficial bacteria in poultry specimens. Given that gut health is directly linked to chronic illnesses and overall health, this isn’t exactly welcome news for people who can’t always afford or who lack access to organic, locally grown food.

But it gets worse. While good bacteria died, highly pathogenic bacteria were unaffected by glyphosate. These pathogens include several strains of Salmonella and the class Colstridia, anaerobic bacteria known to be some of the deadliest known to us, including C. tetani (tetanus) and C. botulinum (botulin). Although botulin is used to ease overactive muscles and in Botox, America’s most popular cosmetic procedure, it takes but 75 billionths of a gram to kill someone weighing 75 kg (165 lbs).

“A reduction of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract microiota by ingestion of glyphosate could disturb the normal gut bacterial community,” the authors of the study wrote. Glyphosate, they added, “could be a significant predisposing factor that is associated with the increase in Clostridia botulinum-mediated diseases by suppressing the antagonistic effect of these [good] bacteria on clostridia.”
Dangers of Pesticides

This is hardly the first time eyebrows have been raised over glyphosate. The toxic ingredient is also known for causing sterility in men, obesity, and Parkinson’s and related diseases, and not just in field workers of conventional farms but also in locals and animals that drink the groundwater polluted by such establishments.

Finally, the researchers also noted that glyphosate can cause bacteria to genetically mutate with chronic exposure. And the food we eat, the animals we eat, and we ourselves are already victims of chronic exposure, which is partially why concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are today known for being hotbeds of botulism and other pathogens. (Cattle in Ireland have already been victims of botulism thanks to contaminated poultry litter.)
Pesticides and Food Irradiation Not the Answer

To eradicate the problem of food contamination, the Food and Drug Administration recently loosened their grip on the conventional use of food irradiation, allowing now 1.5 Kilograys more than last month to dose poultry. One Kilogray, by the way, offers the same amount of radiation as 2,500,000 chest x-rays. Food radiation by itself is another hotly debated health dilemma and, frankly, a dead end.

That’s because food irradiation doesn’t solve the problem that glyphosate causes direct harm to workers, consumers, animals, and the planet—even the very soil we grow our food in that we find lacking in nutrients of late.

There are simple ways to avoid pesticides in food and overall exposure. Read our updated list of the dirty dozen foods you should always buy organic, plus 15 that are low in pesticide residue.
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