From 10% to “Significant” to 70% to 90% in Less Than One Year
Famous epidemiological work by Doll and Peto in the early 1970s concluded that exposure to chemicals in the environment might account for up to 10% of human chronic disease, such as cancer. This 10% number became, and persisted for 40 years, as “conventional scientific wisdom.”
In the early days of the Human Genome Project, some scientists suspected that our genes play the dominant role in predisposing a person to either succumb to, or successfully combat cancer and other chronic diseases. Some geneticists speculated that environmental factors might not even account for 10% of chronic diseases.
In May, 2010 the President’s Cancer Panel report stated bluntly that the contribution of chemicals in the environment, including pesticides, to the cancer burden of disease is “significant” and has been, for years, underestimated. They called for more focus on avoiding such exposures as one of many necessary steps in the long-overdue shift toward cancer prevention as opposed to cancer treatment.
In an October 22, 2010 commentary in Science, the nation’s most respected scientific journal, two experts in the etiology of disease write:
“Although the risks of developing chronic diseases are attributed to both genetic and environmental factors, 70 to 90% of disease risks are probably due to differences in environments.”
The scientists making this case cite several new studies involving use of advanced tools that can screen human DNA for genetic twists indicative of exposure to certain chemicals, some from the environment, others manufactured inside the body.
They see evidence in the new data leading them to concluded that 70% to 90% of chronic diseases, including cancer and diabetes, are triggered by environmental factors via complex interactions between a person’s genes, health, lifestyle, and early life and ongoing exposures to chemicals and pathogens.
Sources: Stephen Rappaport and Martyn Smith, “Environment and Disease Risks, Science, Vol. 330, No. 6003, pages 460-461.
Katherine Harmon, “Sequencing the ‘Exposome’: Researchers Take a Cue from Genomics to Decipher Environmental Exposure’s Links to Disease,” Scientific American, October 21, 2010.
Editor’s Note: I cannot think of another example of such a rapid and dramatic shift in scientific “conventional wisdom.” In just the last few years, science has basically re-written the book about what causes some of our nation’s most costly diseases and health problems including cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, reproductive problems, autism, allergies, and ADHD.
New science insights have not, unfortunately, been matched by comparably fundamental changes in efforts to prevent disease and health problems rooted in prenatal and early life exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Our government agencies and political leaders frequently assert that regulatory and public health policy in the U.S. is science-driven and always based on the latest, sound science.
The gap is now Grand Canyon scale, and growing, between what we now know about the best ways to prevent disease and health problems and what we are doing in response.
High Quality Managed Pastures Reduce GHG Emissions per Gallon of Milk Produced
A team of scientists in Ireland studied the impact of pasture quality on milk production, dry matter intake from forages, and methane emissions from Holstein cows.
High quality pastures with younger growth and less herbage volume per acre/hectare provided grazing animals forage that is more readily digestible. As a result, high quality forages reduced methane emissions by 42 grams per day, or by about 10% based on typical enteric methane emission rates, when compared to the same cows grazed on nearby pastures with about twice the per acre/hectare volume of herbage.
Methane emissions from cows consuming high quality forages were reduced by 3.5 grams per kilogram of milk, representing about a 25% reduction from typical baseline levels of enteric methane emissions per kilogram of milk produced.
These findings are relevant to dairy farmers worldwide, and drive home the importance of pasture and grazing management in terms of the overall environmental footprint of dairy farm management systems.
Source: C.M. Wims, et al., “Effect of pregrazing herbage mass on methane production, dry matter intake, and milk production of grazing dairy cows during the mid-season period,” Journal of Dairy Science, Vol. 93, No. 10, pages 4976-4985.
Organic Systems Show Great Promise in Reducing GHG Emissions in California
Organic management of vegetable and row crops in California’s Central Valley has the potential to reduce net GHG emissions from soil by 3,496 kilograms (kg) of CO2-equivalents per hectare per year, compared to conventional management systems with standard tillage.
The "standard tillage" system in the “Long-term Research on Agricultural Systems” (LTRAS) study resulted in net soil GHG emissions of 1,081 kg CO2-equivalents per hectare/year.
Accordingly, the organic system brought about an approximately 4,500 kg reduction in CO2-equivalents per hectare per year.
In the LTRAS, conventional systems with conservation tillage performed about the same, and in some cases marginally worse, than the conventional system with standard tillage in terms of net soil GHG emissions.
Conventional systems with cover cropping did reduce net soil GHG emissions by about 1,000 kg/hectare/year, in effect making the conventional system+cover cropping neutral with respect to net soil GHG emissions.
Source: De Gryze, S., et al., “Simulating greenhouse gas budgets of four California cropping systems under conventional and alternative management,” Ecological Applications, Vol. 20, No. 7, pages 1805-1819. October 2010.
Editor’s Note: This is an important, rigorous study that provides by far the most accurate and reliable estimates available of net soil GHG emissions under contemporary, intensive (organic or conventional) cropping systems in California.
Two striking insights emerge from this research.
In the quest to reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming, the most prominent and powerful coalition of agribusiness companies are promoting the combination of conservation tillage, GE seeds, and precision farming-guided fertilizer applications as the best way to reduce net GHG emissions. This study, along with others, shows why this combination of practices will bring about little or no change.
Conservation tillage, and even no-tillage does not result in appreciable, sustained soil carbon sequestration. The increase in soil organic matter in the top few inches of soil in no-till fields is accompanied by no increase or declines deeper in the soil profile.
GE seeds impact how farmers manage weeds and certain insects, but have marginal, if any impact on net GHG emissions.
Precision farming can bring about marginal gains in nitrogen use efficiency, and hence some reductions in nitrous oxide losses, but will do little to build soil organic matter and sequester substantial levels of carbon. The big gains from nutrient management come from incorporating cover crops plus animal manures in the soil profile.
Cover crops plus additions of compost and/or animal manures are core practices on organic farms in California, and indeed around the world. This California study shows that this combination of practices has the potential to turn significant GHG emissions into substantial reductions.
In addition, these same practices in organic systems help combat against yield losses in dry years, improve water quality, promote biodiversity and ecosystem stability, are safer for farm workers and consumers, and can increase net farm income. The major thing holding back the transition to organic fruit and vegetable production in California is consumer demand.
Climate Change Impacts of Eight Beverages Ranked per Ounce of Nutrition Served
A team of scientists from Sweden teamed up with Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washington to rank eight common beverages relative to their global climate change impact per unit of nutritional benefits delivered.
The nutrient density of 100 gram servings of the beverages was ranked using the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations for 21 essential nutrients, in conjunction with a well-accepted nutrient profiling technique that can be applied to individual foods. The percentage of the daily nutrient requirement for adult women across each of the 21 nutrients was calculated, multiplied by the percent of the 21 nutrients for which 100 grams of the beverage provided 5% or more of daily nutrient needs, and then added together to represent the total nutritional contribution of a 100 gram serving size of each beverage.
Farm through consumption life-cycle assessments were drawn upon to produce an index based on total grams of CO2 equivalents per 100 grams of beverage, a GHG measure typically referred to as global warming potential. The “Nutrient Density to Climate Impact” (NDCI) index was created simply by dividing the nutrient density index by the climate change index.
Milk scored highest on the NDCI index, with a score of 0.54, followed by orange juice at 0.28, and soy drink at 0.25. The other beverages (soft drink, beer, red wine, mineral water, and oat drink) scored between 0.0 and 0.07.
Milk had by far the highest nutrient density, scoring 53.8, compared to orange juice at 17.2 and soy drink at 7.6. In terms of GHG emissions, red wine topped the list with an index score of 204, followed by soft drink at 109, and milk at 99.
Source: Annika Smedman, Helena Lindmark-Mansson, Adam Drewnowski, and Anna-Karin Edman, “Nutrient density of beverages in relation to climate impact,” Food and Nutrition Research, Vol. 54: 5170, 2010.
Editor’s Note: This provocative study is just the first of many that will grapple with the tradeoffs between nutrition and global climate change when choosing what to eat. In ongoing work by the Center, we are working toward models that go several steps further than the NDCI index by creating an overall food nutritional quality-food safety-environmental impact index.
In addition, we recognize the need for such an index to be customized to reflect the unique health and nutritional needs of the young and old, pregnant women and adults dealing with diabetes, and individuals attempting to slow the progression or reverse degenerative diseases through dietary interventions.
This current study focused on the most common form of each food consumed in Sweden, and did not account for fortification. The milk product was a 1.5% fat skim milk. Had this study focused on whole milk and built in the benefits of whole milk in terms of omega 3 and CLA intakes, the results would have been even more favorable to milk.
Remarkable Study Highlights Father's Role in Obesity/Diabetes
Overweight male rats fathered female offspring prone to obesity and diabetes. Fat and glucose-intolerant males were mated with normal female rats and their progeny were carefully studied to identify any signs of increased risk of obesity and diabetes in the adult offspring. There were many and some were significant.
The paternal high-fat diet (HFD) altered the expression of 642 pancreatic islet genes in adult female offspring – clusters of genes critical to insulin sensitivity.
One important gene was unregulated (over expressed) by 1.76-fold.
According to the authors of this study published in the prestigious journal Nature:
“This is the first report in mammals of non-genetic, intergenerational transmission of metabolic sequelae of a HFD from father to offspring.”
Source: Sheau-Fang Ng et al., “Chronic high-fat diet in fathers programs B-cell dysfunction in female rat offspring,” Nature, Vol. 467, page 963-966, October 21, 2010.
Double Pyramids Proposed to Guide Food Selection
The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition in Parma, Italy has proposed a “double pyramid” to help guide food choices in an increasingly interconnected world where the impacts of culture, tradition, and family on food consumption patterns are waning.
One pyramid is driven by the nutrient content of foods relative to human needs, and reflects the contemporary USDA food pyramid. The second pyramid reflects life-cycle environmental impacts in terms of land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Barilla Center concludes that:
“...those foods with higher recommended consumption levels, are also those with lower environmental impact. Contrarily, those foods with lower recommended consumption levels are also those with higher environmental impacts.” (Page 8).
Foods that should be consumed the most for nutritional and environmental reasons include fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, and rice, legumes, and olive oil. Those that should be consumed less because of low nutritional value and high environmental impacts include sweets, red meat, cheese, and white meat.
The free, 150-page report by the Barilla Center entitled "Double Pyramid:
healthy food for people,
sustainable food for the planet" is beautifully laid out and contains full details on the methodology and data sources used to construct the two pyramids.
Mediterranean Diet Dramatically Reduces Risk of Diabetes
In a major study involving 13,380 Spanish university graduates followed for an average 4.4 years, people adhering closest to a Mediterranean diet experienced just a 13% type 2 diabetes incidence rate, compared to a 40% diabetes incidence rate among those deviating most significantly from a Mediterranean dietary pattern.
The monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil and their impact in preventing insulin resistance are noted by the team as one likely explanation for the protective impact of the Mediterranean diet. The other possible explanation is the lower concentrations of inflammatory markers in blood of people adhering to the Mediterranean diet, brought about in part by the heightened levels of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids in foods that are typically part of the Mediterranean diet.
Source: M.A. Martinez-Gonzalez et al., “Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of developing diabetes: prospective cohort study,” British Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336, June 14, 2008.
Independent Research Confirms that Pesticide Residues in Children’s Foods are Common
Dr. Alex Lu, Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues working for the Food and Drug Administration and Emory University tested 239 food samples consumed by children in the “Children’s Pesticide Exposure Study (CPES).”
The CPES project has previously published strong evidence showing that dietary exposure to organophosphate (OP) insecticides virtually disappears in just five days after school-age children switch from conventional food to predominantly organic foods.
The team’s new paper reports the results from testing the actual foods consumed by the CPES children. One of more OP insecticide was found in 14% of the samples, and one or more synthetic pyrethroid was found in 5%.
This study tested only for OP and synthetic pyrethroid residues. Headlines triggered by the study are focusing on the finding that 20% of children’s foods contain residues. In fact, over 70% do, when fresh fruits and vegetables are tested for most currently registered pesticides.
Source: Chensheng Lu, Frank Schenk, Melanie Pearson, and Jon Wong, “Assessing Children’s Dietary Exposure – Direct Measurement of Pesticide Residues in 24-Hour Duplicate Food Samples,” Environmental Health Perspectives, online July 16, 2010.
Bt Toxins from GE Corn Found in Midwestern Streams
About two-thirds of the corn planted in the Midwest is genetically engineered to express one or more Bt genes for insect pest management purposes. A survey was conducted of 217 streams in Indiana to determine the presence of corn leaf and stalk residues and Bt toxins. Stalks and leaves (called detritus) were found in 86% of the streams and the Cry 1Ab Bt toxin was found in 13%. The toxins are known to persist in water for at least six months after harvest.
Source: J.L. Tank et al., “Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, early addition, September, 2010.
Howard Buffet Calls for a “Brown Revolution” to Improve Soil Fertility in Africa
Howard Buffet said that a “brown revolution” focused on building soil quality is more important than new seeds and fertilizer in promoting food security in Africa. Buffet, the son of Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffet, made the comments during the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa on October 13th.
His talk emphasized the complexity of enhancing food security, leading him to predict that “Simply distributing seeds and fertilizer, if that’s the plan, will fail long term.”
Source: Alan Bjerga and Andrew Frye, “Africa Needs ‘Brown Revolution’ in Soil, Howard Buffet Says”, Bloomberg, October 13, 2010.
Editor’s Note: The exact same point is made in the commentary “The Browning of the Green Revolution” by R.L. Mulvaney, S.A. Kahn, and T.R. Ellsworth, three scientists affiliated with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois.
This compelling commentary explains how excessive nitrogen fertilizer use can accelerate the decomposition of organic matter, eroding long-term soil quality.
Fertilizer can help boost crop yields in the short run in most resource-poor regions with degraded soils, but excessive use tends to trigger spikes in soil microbial populations. Hungry microbes gotta’ eat, and soil organic matter is their meal of choice.
Howard Buffet is 100% correct in calling for greater focus on building soil quality and fertility as a first order of priority. Healthier soil must form the foundation of higher levels of productivity, if higher yields are to be sustained and not come at ever-higher cash and environmental costs.
“Tiles, Farms and the Dead Zone” – NYT Editorial
In an October 20, 2010 editorial, the New York Times highlights new research conclusively linking the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico to tiled grain fields throughout the Mississippi River drainage, and particularly in the relatively flat, highly productive croplands of the Midwest. Where corn is king, many fields must be drained via tiles to allow planting operations to proceed in the spring. The drain tiles hasten the flow of nitrogen containing water to the river, and then the water and nutrients flow into the Gulf.
The editorial states:
“Sacrificing life in the gulf for corn in the fields is a trade-off that has to stop.”
To its credit, the NYT does not blame farmers for tiling their fields, many of whom installed their tile drain systems with conservation incentive payments from the USDA. They call for more research on proven alternatives – resorting wetlands, cover crops, different methods to apply fertilizer.
Source: “Tiles, Farms, and the Dead Zone,” The New York Times, October 20, 2010.
Editor’s Note: Too bad this editorial did not cut to the chase and the real solution – sustainable and organic production systems. More research on alternative systems, while useful in mapping out more efficient transitions, is not really the answer, since scientists and farmers already know how to dramatically curtail nitrogen loses.
Today’s industrial agricultural systems in the Midwest result in very inefficient uptake of available nitrogen into corn plants – about two pounds are lost to the atmosphere and water system for every pound absorbed by plants. In sustainable and organic systems, N uptake efficiencies rise to around 60%. More N into plants means much less moving through the soil, and less making it into water and flowing all the way down the river to the gulf.
Public policies make highly wasteful nitrogen management systems both acceptable and the most profitable for large-scale farms. Research won’t change this, unless it changes the minds of policy-makers and political leaders and compels them to shift incentives toward systems that solve this and related problems at their roots, while forcing those polluting the gulf, or air, or soil, even if inadvertently, to pay a fuller share of the total costs stemming from their actions.
“State of the World” Report Pre-released at the World Food Prize Meeting
The opening chapter of the WorldWatch Institute’s 2011 “State of the World” report was released in Des Moines, Iowa during the recently completed World Food Prize meeting. This report covers promising agro-ecological innovations from around the world and assesses their global applicability.
Chapter 15 in the State of the World 2011provides “A Road Map for Nourishing the Planet” and contains short essays by five experts, including the Center’s Chuck Benbrook. There is heavy emphasis throughout on the need for locally adapted, agroecological approaches in attaining enhanced food security. Funding for the SOW 2011 report was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The 304-page book will be available in January, 2011 and be ordered online at: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/State-of-the-World-2011/.
PlosOne Strawberry Fruit Quality Paper Getting Around
The lead story in “The Scoop” last month announced the publication of the results of the Washington State University strawberry fruit quality study that was partially funded by the Center.
Lead scientist John Reganold reports that nearly 10,000 copies of the paper have been downloaded from the PlosOne website and media interest remains high.
Friends of the Center in Washington, D.C. also report that the paper is being read and discussed at the“highest levels of USDA.”
“What is Organic Food and Why Should I Care?”
The University of Minnesota has issued a well written, consumer friendly report on the benefits of organic food and farming. The six-page report was written by Jim Riddle and Bud Markhart and is accessible online: http://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/organic/whatisorganicfood.pdf.
Sections of the report cover the definition of organic food, personal health, nutrition, water quality, the absence of GM crops, and a range of environmental benefits.
European Commission Proposes Temporary Ban on Cloned Food
An EU-wide, five-year ban has been proposed by the European Commission on animal cloning for food production, nor could food derived from the progeny of a cloned animal be sold for food.
Source: Caroline Scott-Thomas, “Commission proposes temporary ban on cloned food,” www.foodnavigator.com, October 20, 2010.
“New Rules” Set to Compensate Farmers and Countries Harmed When GM Seeds Go Wild
On October 15, 2010, agreement was reached on a new international treaty designed to extract compensation from businesses or organizations that allow internationally traded GE seeds or animals to spread into the wild.
Already, several countries have had to deal with the spread of unapproved GE crops that have germinated, gone to seed, and spread as a result of the loss of seeds during the transport of animal feed, or seed exchanged for research purposes.
The treaty is called the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplemental Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
Source: Yoshikazu Hirai, “GM treaty requires compensation,” www.asahi.com, October 18, 2010.
Getting a Grip on the Cost of Co-existence
The commentary in the September, 2010 “The Scoop” addressed the possible components and costs of a co-existence scheme, or policy governing the planting of genetically engineered and organic seeds in the same area.
The outcome of a series of trials involving contamination of the rice supply with a Liberty Link, herbicide-tolerant gene developed by Bayer Crop Sciences provides perspective on the magnitude of the costs of co-existence when things go wrong. A recently settled case involving three relatively small Texas rice growers led to a payment by Bayer of $290,000 for lost income caused by the presence of the gene in rice from the region, which disrupted export sales and forced the price down. Similar cases have gone to trial and resulted in $1 million-plus verdicts.
Source: “Bayer Settles Texas Suits Alleging Its GM Seed Contaminated Rice Fields,” Bloomberg, October 19, 2010.
Editor’s Note: Suppose a conventional crop is worth $1,000 per acre, and a nearby organic farm growing the same crop produces comparable yields and earns a 40% premium, or $1,400 per acre.
If gene flow and contamination forces the organic farmer to sell an organic crop at conventional prices, the compensation scheme would need to pay $400 per acre, plus all added testing and marketing costs. It is hard to imagine the biotech industry being willing to make payments of this magnitude per acre, and even less plausible the public will, or should via a tax-dollar funded USDA program.
NAFTA Arbitration Panel Denies Chemtura Claim for $78 Million over Lost Pesticide Sales
The chemical company Chemtura sought compensation of $78 million from a NAFTA arbitration panel from lost sales of lindane seed treatments in Canada, following a decision by Canadian regulators to no longer allow treatment of canola seeds with this persistent, endocrine disrupting insecticide.
The panel ruled that Canada had sound scientific reasons for their action, denied Chemtura’s request, and ordered Chemtura to reimburse Canada $3 million to cover legal expenses.
Source: “Chemtura Loses NAFTA Trade Case,” Chemical and Engineering News, September 6, 2010.
Australia Bans Endosulfan
Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Australia has announced its decision to ban the insecticide endosulfan (Thiodan) to better protect wildlife and farm workers.
Source: Ben Cubby, “Australia joins other countries in banning endosulfan,” The Sydney Morning Herald, October 13, 2010.
Editor’s Note: Over 1,500 residues of this insecticide or its metabolic breakdown products were found by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program in samples tested in 2008. Green beans, summer squash, tomatoes, and potatoes were most frequently contaminated.
Monsanto Partners with Sumitomo and Valent to Expand Range of Herbicides to Control Glyphosate Resistant Weeds
Monsanto announced on October 20th new partnerships with Sumitomo Chemical Company and Valent involving new economic incentives for growers planting Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant corn, soybeans, and cotton seeds.
In the next growing season, farmers participating in various Monsanto loyalty and reward programs will receive cash rebates and/or discounted pricing on certain Sumitomo and Valent herbicides needed to control glyphosate resistant and/or tolerant weeds.
Source: Associated Press, “Ag giants partner on weed management,” October 20, 2010.
Editor’s Note: This move is bound to further increase the sharp rise in the pounds of herbicides required per acre of GE corn, soybeans, and cotton.
The Center’s December, 2009 report “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years” documented the enormous increase in herbicide use over the last five years on GE crop acres.
In Chapter 7 of that report, in the section “Industry’s Response to Resistant Weeds,” the subsidies offered by Monsanto in crop years 2009-2010 are reviewed and include rebates up to $13 per acre treated for the purchase of qualifying herbicides from competitors. Syngenta has and is still offering similar rebates for the same reason through its AgriEdge Corn and Soybean program.
If current trends continue, farmers dealing with glyphosate resistant weeds will spend two to three-times more per acre for herbicides than when Roundup Ready technology was introduced in 1996.
The seed-biotech industry is, in effect, betting the conventional corn-soybean-cotton farm on the development and release of new GE seeds resistant to multiple herbicides, so that farmers will be able to apply three, four, five, even six different herbicides. And lest we forget, today’s modern biotech seeds are reducing pesticide use, according to biotech industry spokespeople.
Newly tolerant and/or resistant weeds (the 20th weed resistant to glyphosate has just recently been confirmed), and the rapid spread of already resistant weeds, virtually assures that cotton, corn, and soybean herbicide use will continue rising for the foreseeable future. The newly announced partnerships and loyalty program rebates represent an attempt by Monsanto to temper growing concern, even anger among some farmers, regarding the impacts of Roundup Ready technology.
As we point out in the “Thirteen Years” report, going down the road of battling resistant weeds with new GE seeds resistant to multiple herbicides makes about as much sense as pouring gasoline on a fire in the hope of putting it out.
See also the next, related item.
Tomato Processor Issues Chilling Warning to Congress About the Dangers of Dicamba
“I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agricultural industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide possesses the single most serious threat to the future of the speciality crop industry in the Midwest.”
Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, the country’s largest privately held tomato processor, issued this warning during testimony at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on September 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C. The subcommittee is exploring the impacts of resistant weeds.
One of the strategies that the seed-biotech industry is actively pursuing to deal with glyphosate resistant weeds is to engineer tolerance to dicamba herbicide into soybeans, so that this broad-spectrum, moderately persistent, and volatile chemical can be widely applied to any field in the Midwest that is infested with resistant weeds.
As Mr. Smith points out, the problem is that dicamba is mobile and subject to drift upon application, and volatilization and off-farm movement in the days after an application. When dicamba drifts into a field with any one of dozens of highly susceptible crops, including tomatoes, the damage is usually both serious and inevitable.
Farmers will not be the only ones hit by damage from dicamba drift – home gardens, and a wide range of plants in parks and suburban areas are also vulnerable to dicamba drift and damage.
Damage to non-target plants is one of several problems likely to arise in the wake of wider use of dicamba to treat glyphosate-resistant weeds. Dicamba has been implicated in increased risk of birth defects and other reproductive problems in parts of the country where farmers apply it regularly. The science behind these dicamba-related risks is covered in Chapter 7 of the “Thirteen Years” report (pages 59-60).
Access Steve Smith’s full statement, and other statements by witnesses at the hearing.
Interesting factoids about food, farming and the environment
10% of teenage boys age 14-18 consume 56 or more teaspoons of sugar a day, accounting for almost 900 kilocalories per day, or nearly one-half of typical caloric need.
The 5% heaviest consumers of sugar ingest four to six-times more than individuals in the lowest 5% cohort.
10% of males aged 14 to 30 years consume 86 or more grams of solid fat per day, accounting for 774 kilocalories, and less than 0.12 cups of fruit. These individuals consume on a daily basis at least six-times more fat than consistent with a healthy diet, and need to boost fruit intake 15 to 20-fold for optimal health.
10% of Americans consume less than 0.72 cups of all vegetables per day, only about one-quarter of current recommendations.
Source: “Usual Dietary Intakes: Food Intakes, US Population, 2001-2004,” National Cancer Institute, based on analysis of the NHANES dataset.
A genetically engineered E. Coli bacterium has the potential to meet current global demand for the cancer drug Taxol from a single 300 square meter fermentation vat. When first discovered, two to four Pacific yew trees had to be sacrificed to extract enough Taxol to treat one cancer patient.
Source: Jyllian Kemsley, “Boosting Taxol Production,” Chemical and Engineering News, October 4, 2010.
2.5% of Americans have a food allergy. The rate is highest among black children with asthma.
Source: “NIH-funded Study Finds 2.5% of Americans Have a Food Allergy,” Occupational Health and Safety Online, October 17, 2010.
The old-age dependency ratio (OADR) in the United States will be 38% by 2045-2050, up from 21% today. The OADR will rise to 78% in Japan, up from 35% today. The OADR is the number of people over 65 years old divided by the number of people of working age (typically, 20 to 64 years old).
Source: Warren Sanderson and Segei Scherbov, “Remeasuring Aging,” Science Magazine, Vol. 329, September 10, 2010.
Cotton prices have reached their highest levels since 1870, and have risen 56% in the last three months.
Source: Adam Cancryn and Carolyn Cui, “Flashback to 1870 as Cotton Hits Peak,” Wall Street Journal, October 16-17, 2010.
Most organic farmers use an average of six weed management strategies, while most conventional farmers use one (herbicides).
Source: Rodale Institute survey, cited in ”Seeking sustainable weed control alternatives,” www.aglinenews.com/news-3.html, October4 21, 2010.
Online Debate Scheduled on GMOs and Sustainable Agriculture
An upcoming debate on the motion “Biotechnology and sustainable agriculture go together, not against each other” will be held on the website of “The Economist” magazine. TOC's Chief Scientist Chuck Benbrook will debate Dr. Pamela Ronald of U.C. Davis. Visitors to the Economist debate website vote electronically as the debate goes on.
Each “Economist” debate is composed of three written segments running approximately 800 words each, and for the biotech-sustainable agriculture debate –
- Opening arguments will appear on November 2, 2010,
- Rebuttal arguments will be posted approximately November 8th, and
- Closing arguments on November 12th.
All readers of “The Scoop” are invited to check in and vote as the debate progresses.
TOC Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Dietetic Association to Focus on the Benefits of Organic Food for Elderly Americans
Dr. Chuck Benbrook and Katherine Musgrave, professor emeritus and nutrition educator from the University of Maine, are co-authoring a presentation for delivery at a panel during the annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association in Boston, Massachusetts on November 8th.
The presentation focuses on the most important health benefits of organic food and farming as people face the inevitable challenges inherent in aging.
Katherine Musgrave will deliver the talk and draw upon insights gained over her more than 60 years as an educator and registered dietitian. The presentation will be distributed via The Organic Center website, and summarized in the November 2010 “The Scoop.”
Benbrook to Deliver “Roots of Health” Lecture at Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is sponsoring the first annual Polly Walker Ecology Fund lecture on Tuesday, December 7th at 12:00 pm in Sheldon Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. The lecture will run through 1:30, with a reception to follow. Members of the public are invited to attend.
Benbrook’s full talk title is “The Roots of Health: The Importance of an Ecological Perspective on our Food System.” A series of meetings will also be held Tuesday and Wednesday with university students and faculty members.
Chia Seeds, GMOs, and Squash Covered on TOC Consumer Blog
Don’t forget to check out our blog. We have posted new organic recipes and consumer-friendly information about GMOs, roasted peppers, chia seeds and more.
”Mission Organic Made Easy” features three postings during the week, by Sara Snow, Annie Brown and Jamie Kelly.
Core Truths on the Major Benefits of Organic Food and Farming
Core Truths is a ground-breaking compilation of the most current research on organic agriculture. This highly readable and graphically stunning 108-page coffee table book documents the verifiable health and environmental benefits of organic products.
For more information
The Organic Center Features Jerry Garcia Artwork
Do you or someone you know love The Grateful Dead? Do you enjoy beautiful original works of art? If so, select a giclee of Jerry Garcia original artwork and benefit The Organic Center. This unique fundraising initiative to benefit The Organic Center is made possible through the generosity of filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia and features the series, "In the Garden," by the late Jerry Garcia. Individual prints are $250, or get the full series for $1,000. To order your Jerry Garcia art, click here.
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Informed consumers drive the organic marketplace. Help The Organic Center reach consumers with the latest science on the organic benefit by:
For companies, The Organic Center's Affinity Marketing Partnership Program provides resources and tools to help educate your customers about the personal benefits of organic food and farming.
- For more information about our affinity marketing program, email Jamie Kelly
Joan Boykin - Executive Director
Annie Brown - Development Director
Charles "Chuck" Benbrook, Ph.D. - Chief Scientist
TOC Board Chair: Mark Retzloff, Chairman of the Board, Aurora Organic Dairy
Treasurer: Timothy Escamilla, VP Procurement/Supply Chain, Ready Pac Produce
Secretary: James White, CEO, Jamba Juice
The Organic Center
P.O. Box 20513
Boulder, CO USA 80308
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