Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is Monsanto playing fast and loose with Roundup Ready Soybeans in Argentina? | By Kelly Hearn | Grist | Main Dish | 22 Sep 2006

Is Monsanto playing fast and loose with Roundup Ready Soybeans in Argentina? By Kelly Hearn Grist Main Dish 22 Sep 2006: "Monsanto claims RR soybeans decrease the need for repeated herbicide applications. But some weeds build resistance to herbicides, and when they do, different herbicides are needed in the mix. Pengue and Altieri report that in the Argentinean pampas, eight species of weeds exhibit resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. The fear: the more plants become resistant, the more farmers turn to different pesticides, further complicating the soup of poisons being spread through the country's fields.

There are also concerns that all this genetic tinkering is causing GM soy to have lower protein levels than regular varieties. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004 analyzed soybeans and soybean meal from the world's top producers: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and the U.S. Those from Argentina, which Benbrook says at the time were 98 percent Roundup Ready, had the lowest crude protein content. Those from China, which grew no GM soy at the time, had the highest. 'This points directly to the possibility that RR has resulted in significant decline in protein level,' Benbrook said, adding that it mirrors concerns that protein levels in soy and corn in the United States are decreasing.

Meanwhile, experts say that GM crops may be playing a role in rising social dislocation. In 1998 there were 422,000 producers or local farmers in Argentina; by 2002, that number had dropped by 25 percent to 318,000.

And there are health worries stemming from the widespread use of Roundup, which has reportedly been sprayed aerially and drifted onto non-RR crops and into communities. Dario Gianfelici, a general physician from the small town of Cerrito in a soy farming region, says he has seen medical problems in farmhands that stem from herbicide exposure. "I don't have the money or the manpower to [raise awareness] like I would like to do," he said in a telephone interview, "but I continue to talk about this.""

Friday, September 22, 2006

Latest E. coli outbreak should prompt rethink of industrial agriculture | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 21 Sep 2006

Latest E. coli outbreak should prompt rethink of industrial agriculture By Tom Philpott Grist Victual Reality 21 Sep 2006: "The organic question distracts from the real story behind the outbreak: consolidation of production. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California produces three-quarters of the spinach consumed in the United States -- and of that, fully three-quarters comes from Monterey County, which encompasses Salinas Valley.

Natural Selection Foods buys, processes, and packs salad greens for such giants as Dole, Trader Joe's, and Sysco, among others. The company's Earthbound Farm brand boasts on its website that it produces '[m]ore than 7 out of 10 organic salads sold in grocery stores' in the U.S.

In 1999, Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, the largest U.S. fresh-vegetable grower and shipper, with 40,000 acres under cultivation in the United States and Mexico, bought a 33 percent stake in Natural Selection/Earthbound.

Given Natural Selection's scale, it's no surprise that an outbreak in a small region of California's central coast could repeatedly wreak havoc nationwide.

One possible culprit is tainted water, either through irrigation or washing in the processing plant. In a letter last year, an FDA official sounded an alarm about this problem, writing that 'creeks and rivers in the Salinas watershed are contaminated periodically with E. coli.' The rolling hills alongside the Salinas River support 'extensive cattle ranches,' according to the Watershed Institute [PDF] at California State University. Might manure from these operations be leaching into the watershed?

Other sorts of agricultural runoff certainly have, including nitrogen-based fertilizer, which is used heavily on conventional farms. The Waters"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

massage for cancer patients

Bottom Line Secrets."In a three-year study of the effect of massage on more than 1,000 cancer patients -- the largest study to date of massage used for cancer patients -- patients rated their symptoms immediately before and after a single treatment of massage therapy.
Result: Anxiety declined by 52%... pain by 40%... fatigue by 41%... depression by 31%... and nausea by 21%. Massage was as effective as standard drug therapy for these symptoms.
Helpful: Insurance companies are more likely to pay for massage therapy if a doctor writes a referral to a certified therapist or if treatment is part of a hospital in-patient therapy.

To locate a massage therapist in your area, contact the American Massage Therapy Association, 877-905-2700, or visit

Our inside source: Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD, chief, Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City."

Monday, September 18, 2006

For sale: US academic integrity, by Ibrahim Warde

For sale: US academic integrity, by Ibrahim Warde: "CONFLICTS OF INTEREST ON THE CAMPUS
For sale: US academic integrity
Private enterprise is much taken with education, especially the universities. In the United States the race to get hold of academic disciplines that bring in the money has already increased conflicts of interest between research and business. Under cover of a "marketplace of ideas," the logic of the market could turn academics into entrepreneurs and endanger the unity of our universities.
By Ibrahim Warde

In November 1998 the University of California at Berkeley signed a controversial agreement with Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant and producer of genetically engineered crops. In exchange for $25m to its Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (DPMB), the university would grant the firm first right to negotiate licenses on about one-third of the department's discoveries (including the results of research funded by state and federal sources). Novartis would also be represented on two out of five seats in the department's research committee, which determines how the money is spent.

About half of the faculty members of the College of Natural Resources, of which the DPMB is a part, expressed concern that the deal would erode Berkeley's commitment to 'public good research', and 60% feared it would impede the free exchange of ideas among scientists (1). California state senator Tom Hayden declared that the deal 'raises significant questions of whether biotechnology research primarily serves the interests of corporations and marginalises potential academic critics at the expense of free inquiry and unfettered research'.

Yet, by and large, the deal represents the new model of cooperation between corporations and universities. Since California's Proposition 13, which froze property tax and started a widesand started a widespread "tax revolt" in 1978, state funding for education has started to decline. Changes were afoot at the federal level, too. In 1980 the US Congress, concerned about declining productivity and rising competition from Japan, passed the Bayh-Dole act, which for the first time allowed universities to patent the results of federally funded research. Subsequent legislation further encouraged corporations to fund academic research - through tax breaks among other things - and universities to licence their inventions to corporations.

With the end of the cold war, universities suffered more public cuts. Thus in 1987 Berkeley, which was once funded almost entirely by the state of California, saw the share of public funding fall to 50% of its overall budget, and to 34% in 1999. Buildings erected in the 1990s, such as the one housing the business school, were financed exclusively by private donations. The Haas family (heirs to jeans makers Levi Strauss) was its most generous benefactor, and saw to it that the school bore its name. A number of major corporations endowed faculty positions. Even the dean holds the position of "Bank of America dean". The state-of-the-art building of the Haas School of Business is plastered with corporate logos and all its rooms - and even the tables and chairs - are adorned with plaques commemorating their donor - a company, an alumnus or a graduating class."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Consumer Reports Warns About Benzene Risk In Beverages

Consumer Reports Warns About Benzene Risk In Beverages: "Consumer Reports Warns About Benzene Risk In Beverages
Reported by: 9News
Web produced by: Neil Relyea
First posted: 8/30/2006 11:56:20 PM

You may want to look more closely at the labels in the beverage aisle.

A new report says some ingredients can combine to form a potential cancer causer.
Consumer Reports magazine, tested drinks containing 'sodium benzoate' and 'ascorbic acid,' which is vitamin C.

The magazine says if left out in heat and light, those compounds can create benzene.
Researchers found higher than normal benzene levels in Crystal Light Sunrise; Classic orange; Fanta orange and pineapple sodas; and Sunkist orange soda, after they sat in a warm, bright room. "