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Organic Bytes #83: Health, Justice and Sustainability News Tidbits with an Edge!

  • 6/8/2006

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Written and edited by Craig Minowa and Ronnie Cummins

IN THIS ISSUE

  • EPA ADMINISTRATORS PRESSURE STAFF TO OVERLOOK TOXIC PESTICIDES
  • GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COTTON KILLING SHEEP AND GOATS
  • GERMAN COMPANY TAKING OVER U.S. DRINKING WATER SUPPLY
  • DRIVING AWAY FROM CORN-BASED ETHANOL
  • GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN PRODUCING HERBICIDES IN YOUR GUT?
  • STUDY: CANADIAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM BETTER THAN U.S.
  • SURVEY: NEARLY A QUARTER OF U.S. CONSUMERS NOW BUY ORGANIC
  • OVERLY STRICT PARENTING CAN PRODUCE OBESE KIDS

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EPA ADMINISTRATORS PRESSURE STAFF TO OVERLOOK TOXIC PESTICIDES
Government scientists are blowing the whistle on the Environmental Protection Agency's attempts to allow the continued use of 20 hazardous organophosphate pesticides. Nine thousand EPA scientists have submitted a strongly worded letter to the EPA's Administrator, Stephen Johnson, protesting that "industry pressure" is compromising the "integrity of the science upon which agency decisions are based." Research indicates that these specific organophosphate pesticides, similar in composition to bio-warfare nerve gases, pose serious health threats, especially to babies in the womb, infants, and children, yet most of them are contained in common products used by the average consumer. EPA scientists complain that they are being forced to skip key risk assessment tests on these dangerous toxins due to pressure from the chemical industry. This rebellion inside the EPA comes on the heels of the agency's new controversial regulations that would allow the intentional dosing of pregnant women and children with pesticides.
TAKE ACTION! http://organicconsumers.org/epa7.htm

 

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GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COTTON KILLING SHEEP AND GOATS
In India's Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, government officials have ordered an investigation into the deaths of hundreds of sheep and goats who appear to have been poisoned by eating genetically engineered (GE) cotton. "They just became very dull and lifeless and died," said one shepherd, Pendala Venkatamma. Sheep and goats regularly graze on traditional cotton, but after 4-5 days of eating Monsanto's genetically engineered bT cotton, the animals'stomachs swelled, and they died. Although Monsanto denies its cotton could have this effect, government officials have launched a scientific investigation. "We have immediately alerted the animal husbandry department to give us the details of villages where this has happened and... their findings regarding this" said Poonam Malakondaiah, Agriculture Commissioner. 
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_646.cfm

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GERMAN COMPANY TAKING OVER U.S. DRINKING WATER SUPPLY
As municipal water supplies across the U.S. are taken over by corporations, citizens who were once proponents of water privatization are stepping up to the tap to figure out if there's any way to take back control of their water. Freshwater, a resource that has been considered publicly owned for thousands of years, is now considered "blue gold," and as such, is quickly becoming a privately owned commodity. Some quick facts: -A German company, RWE, now owns the water in over 1,100 U.S. cities. -In Illinois alone, more than one million people now have their local water supply owned by that same German company. -15% of the U.S. business water supply is now privately owned... a figure that has more than tripled in the last decade.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_658.cfm


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DRIVING AWAY FROM CORN-BASED ETHANOL
President Bush has made a surprising call to eliminate a two decade long tariff on ethanol produced from sugarcane in Brazil.  Sugarcane produces eight times more energy per pound than corn, making U.S.  corn-based ethanol appear to be irrational and inefficient. But according to Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, a biofuel trade organization, competition in the global marketplace will only create demands for U.S. farmers to generate biofuels more efficiently.  A potential competitor to sugarcane ethanol is cellulosic ethanol, derived from switch grass and farm waste. "No threat. It's an opportunity," Shaw said. "We are in Iowa. All you see is cellulose."  Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland, one of the most powerful corporate agribusiness lobbyists in Washington, continues to successfully push Congress to approve subsidizing the less efficient corn-based ethanol with billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Some studies have estimated that in order to replace all U.S. oil imports with domestically produced corn ethanol, as much as five times the entire area currently farmed for all crops in the U.S. would be needed. 
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_661.cfm


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QUICK RELATED TIDBITS

  • Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, designed it to run on vegetable and seed oils like hemp. In fact, when the diesel engine was first introduced at the World's Fair in 1900, it ran on peanut oil.
  • Two decades later, Henry Ford was designing his Model Ts to run on ethanol made from hemp. He envisioned the entire mass-produced Model T automobile line would run on ethanol derived from crops grown in the U.S.
  • Even in the 1920s, the oil industry had massive lobbying power in Washington. Lobbyists convinced policymakers to create laws favoring petroleum based fuels while disgarding the ethanol option.
  • Nearly a century later, amidst oil wars in the Middle East, Global Warming, and a nearly depleted oil supply, the U.S. government is finally shifting attention to fuels that are more along the lines of Diesel and Ford's original ideas.
  • In an interview with the New York Times in 1925, Henry Ford said: "The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumac out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust -- almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years."

Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_666.cfm

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GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN PRODUCING HERBICIDES IN YOUR GUT?
A widely cultivated variety of genetically engineered corn may be slowly poisoning American consumers. Dupont's Pioneer Liberty Link corn was bioengineered to withstand high levels of the toxic herbicide glufosinate. Enzymes in the plant actually break down the herbicide, making it less toxic to the plant, thereby allowing farmers to apply higher levels of herbicides to the plant and surrounding weeds.  Scientists are now finding that enzymes in the human gut are likely "reactivating" the herbicide within our bodies. A recent study on rats found that 10% of the chemicals were reconverted back to the toxic herbicide within the digestive tract of the animal. Another study on goats found a full 30% of the herbicide was rebuilt in the gut.  Glufosinate is known to cause nerve damage and is a likely endocrine disruptor. Scientists are also concerned that by reactivating the toxic chemical in the digestive tract, it is likely killing off beneficial bacteria necessary for healthy digestion. 
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_637.cfm

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STUDY: CANADIAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM BETTER THAN U.S.
Harvard Medical School has released a study revealing that Canada's health care program is doing a better job of taking care of its citizens than the U.S. health care system... and at half the price. "Most of what we hear about the Canadian health care system is negative; in particular, the long waiting times for medical procedures," said Dr. Karen Lasser an instructor of medicine at Harvard who worked on the study. But the survey found the wait times weren't that different between the U.S.  and Canada. What's more, twice as much money is spent on medical bills per person in the U.S. in comparison to Canada, yet Canadians are healthier and live two to three years longer. According to the survey results, "Canadians were 7 percent more likely to have a regular doctor and 19 percent less likely to have an unmet health need." U.S.  respondents were almost twice as likely to go without a needed medicine due to cost. "Based on our findings, if I had to choose between the two systems for my patients, I would choose the Canadian system hands down," said Dr. Lasser. 
Learn more:
http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_636.cfm

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QUICK TIDBITS


  • 23% of U.S. consumers now buy organics at least weekly.
  • "Organic" has replaced the word "natural" as the mainstream food buzzword.
  • Asian Americans and Latino/Hispanic Americans are more likely to purchase organics than Caucasians.
  • African Americans are more likely to be what the Hartman Group calls "Core Organic Consumers," those most involved in the organics world.

    Source: Conagra consumer survey released last week

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A new study released in the journal Pediatrics shows that overly strict parenting can produce obese kids. "Children of authoritarian parents had five times the risk of being overweight compared to children of authoritative [a more diplomatic style] mothers," said Dr. Kyung Rhee, the study's lead author. Authoritarian parents are described as strict disciplinarians, Rhee said, while authoritative parents are more respectful of a child's opinions while maintaining boundaries. Children of permissive and neglectful parents were twice as likely to be overweight as children of authoritative mothers, they also found.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_684.cfm


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