“Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit” – (Ecowatch)

Today I have for you, an interesting piece. Normally when one see’s the source Ecowatch in any of my titles, it’s generally an investigation (or deep dive) of sorts. Today’s piece could end up following that trajectory. However, being that I am both ignorant and curious about the subject of lab-grown meat at present, there will also be some exploration on that front.

First, kudos to the author for the clever title to the article. Ingrid Newkirk would be amused.

Before now, I had heard of the phenomenon of lab-grown meat. A few years ago, I know it as an extremely expensive option that had much more progress to make before ever breaking the mainstream. More recently, it’s progressed enough to enable the start of conversations concerning its introduction into the food supply. And now it has come around enough to come on the radar of the anti-GMO brigade. An interesting development, since I didn’t even know the process involved genetic modification in the first place.

Right off the bat, this concerns me. Not the questioning of the safety of something brand new on the market. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, particularly where the free market is concerned. One can easily fill 50 books with examples of the damage that can be wrought when greed and/or pride cloud the judgment of budding or established entrepreneur.

My concern lies more in the worry that the anti-GMO forces are attempting to throw this idea out with the bathwater just on account to its mere basis on genetic modification. It would not be the first time that a good innovation ended up getting the ax on account to irrational fears. Golden rice, anyone?

Another thing I didn’t know was that this research (or at least the most popular variation of it) was being done by a private entity, Impossible Burger. That in itself introduces a bit of problem when it comes to the defense of the product. But more pertinent to this post is where my allegiances lie.
Businesses and private companies come and go.  However, pioneering science does not change. Hence, any defense you see is focused on the research angle, not on who is doing the work.

And so, onto the article.

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Nick Halla, chief strategy officer of Impossible Foods, gave a presentation about his company’s Impossible Burger as a sustainable solution to the problems of industrial meat production. He claimed their lab-created burger uses about 74 percent less water, generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and requires around 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef from cows. Halla said the Impossible Burger is seeing rapid acceptance in the marketplace, sold in many restaurants and “better burger” chains.

Personally, I would love to try this meat out for myself. But it is a long way into the future at this point. Even when (if?) it does get approved by the CFIA, it will be a long time before it ever reaches this prairie surrounded backwater near the edge of civilization.

I am curious about the manufacturing and production aspect of this alt-meat. Actually, let’s go with faux-meat (nothing good can ever come from labeling anything alt these days).

I don’t doubt the claim that dozens of percent worth of greenhouse gas emissions can be saved in its manufacturing, compared to traditional meat agriculture. Which is likely one of the least efficient industries humans engage in (only rivaled in inefficiency by the rest of the worldwide food production and distribution system itself).

It is not all rosy, however.

Yeta 2015 life-cycle analysis of potential cultured meat production in the United States painted a less rosy picture if one includes the generation of electricity and heat required to grow the cells in a lab.

“It’s really too soon to say what the environmental impacts of the first cultured meat products will be,” says the lead author of that analysis, Carolyn Mattick, an environmental engineer at Arizona State University. “However, new technologies often come with trade-offs. Take automobiles, for example. They provided huge advantages over horses in the early 1900s, but all of the cars on the road today cumulatively emit a lot of carbon dioxide. That is not to say we should give up our cars or stop researching cultured meat, but rather that we should be prepared to manage the downsides.”


There is always a catch. But in this case, not necessarily.

Given the current mix of electricity production methods in North America and elsewhere, such processes will generate some amount of greenhouse gases (even if a mere fragment of the old way). But that can be mitigated with more research and implementation in the area of constant sustainable energy production. Just as electric vehicles should not be written off simply due to their longer tailpipe on the part of the infrastructure they need to utilize, neither should this new meat source.

Yet Mark Post, the Dutch scientist behind the 2013 cultured hamburger, believes the energy demands could be quite easily reduced. “One of the big energy expenditures is cleaning the tanks with heat, but simple soap might be very, very efficient,” he says.

Better yet.

In some aspects, researchers say, lab-grown meat might be better for us. Because cultured meats would be produced in sterile environments, they would be free of such dangerous bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that pathogens in conventional meat are the most common sources of fatal food-related infections.

And the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals — to fight disease and help the animals grow faster — has been identified as a source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is dangerous to humans. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that the sales of antibiotics for such usage has been going up — by about 23 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Both Memphis Meats and the Dutch team, which is trying to make the production of cultured beef more efficient, said they do not use antibiotics in their products because the sterile lab process does not require them. They also don’t use growth-promoting hormones, which commercial feedlots give to most cattle. According to a European Commission report, their adverse effects in humans may include “developmental, neurobiological, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects.” One of these hormones, estradiol, has been banned in farm animals in Europe since 2003 but is still in use in the United States.

So far so good. Well, but for that last part. That be almost enough to drive me to veganism.


As for lab-grown meat and cancer, the story gets complicated. Last October, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, published a report that classified red meats as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans.” And the head of the IARC suggested that people “further support public health recommendations to limit intake of meat.” Yet scientists aren’t sure which elements of conventional meat are responsible for its potential carcinogenic effects.

A couple of my past entries are applicable here.

First, are all those things on the probably carcinogenic to humans list, compiled on account to a past Ecowatch piece coving the Monsanto Glyphosate lawsuits.
I predicted (back in 2015) that they wouldn’t get anywhere, and at current it’s still up in the air, with the judge not moved by the evidence of either side (that article being only a week old as of today, March 20th, 2018).
I can’t say that I am surprised. With the number of interests that benefit from muddying of the water on both sides, it’s hard for most people to come to an informed conclusion (let alone a judge, tasked with coming to a just conclusion based on what information he has to work with).

The second entry is my look into acrylamide. I researched this on account to Dave Rubin, oddly enough. This was long before I seen through him for what he was (in a word, a moron).

“It wasn’t possible to disentangle the contribution of multiple components,” says Véronique Bouvard, one of the researchers responsible for the preparation of the WHO report.

There are a few substances that scientists suspect, though. Among them is heme iron, which is common in meat and is found almost exclusively in meat. This form of iron can cause DNA damage and induce formation of N-nitroso compounds, some of which are potent carcinogens.

A study that followed nearly 200,000 post-menopausal women found that the amount of heme iron in their diet was positively associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Other studies show connections between heme iron intake and colon cancer.

Raises an eyebrow, indeed. But not just for faux-meat. Good argument for vegetarianism, it would seem.

Now, the flip side.

So here is the good news for lab-grown meat: According to its producers, lab-cultured beef or pork can be made completely free of heme iron. “I think that removing heme iron from meat would make for a colon-safer product,” says Graham Colditz, a cancer researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who has no association with the groups producing lab meat.

Another thing that might be removed from cultured meat, or significantly reduced, is saturated fat, which raises the level of bad cholesterol, increasing risk of stroke or heart disease. Healthier omega-3 fatty acids could take its place. “Stem cells are, in principle, capable of making omega-3 fatty acids. If we can tap into that machinery of the cell, then we could make healthier hamburgers,” says Post, who is working on the fat content of lab-grown beef.

The good.

Unfortunately, potentially carcinogenic compounds found would be harder to get rid of. Among them are nitrites and nitrates, preservatives that are commonly used in processed meats such as ham and bacon.

According to Post, because cultured meats are sterile, they would require much less nitrate to stay safe to eat. On the other hand, nitrites and nitrates are also used to prevent oxidation in products such as hot dogs, so that they don’t lose their appealing color. Lab-grown sausages and hams, Post says, would be “very similar to regular meat” because the compounds would still be needed to preserve the meat’s appearance.

Among other things that would stay in cultured meats are heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to the WHO report, these chemicals can cause DNA damage.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to affect HAA and PAHs in cultured meat,” admits Post, who says he isn’t even sure he would “want to change that.” The reason? These substances are products of the Maillard reaction — the marriage between carbohydrates and amino acids in a slightly moist, hot environment (think grilling or roasting) that help give meat its enticing flavor.

“Maillard reactions are very important,” says Paul Breslin, a nutritional sciences professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “They are the flavor of cooking and give baked cookies, fresh-baked bread and grilled ribs their characteristic flavors, which we obviously love.”

And that’s the catch: If we remove too much fat, the meat will lose juiciness and texture. If we remove heme iron, it won’t be red but yellow — the color of the beef that Post is growing in his lab. If we add too much of the omega-3 fatty acids, the meat may get a fishy flavor.

The bad.

Though, again, not all bad, The main issues seem to stem from the processing of meat products (nitrites and nitrates). Therein seems to be your answer. Processed food is not known to be the best, to begin with (no matter what the origin ingredient), so if that is your concern, stay away from processed foods.

As for HAA and PAH’s, I can see there being varieties of each available down the road. One for the people that are willing to forgo the taste for the health benefit. And the other for those willing to roll the dice in exchange for mouth-watering goodness.

No need to commit either way.

Lab-grown meat may be better for the environment and improve on several health aspects of conventional meat. But for now, at least, it can’t be exactly like regular meat and have no potential health downsides whatsoever.

“We’re not there yet,” acknowledges Uma Valeti, a co-founder and the chief executive officer of Memphis Meats, “but in just a few years, we expect to be selling protein-packed pork, beef and chicken that tastes identical to conventionally raised meat but that is cleaner, safer and all-around better than meat from animals grown on farms.”

At that point we’ll be able to decide if it also tastes good.

Exactly. It is a work in progress.

So long as a gaggle of ideology-driven loudmouths doesn’t get in the way, the march toward sustainable meat protein will continue.

Back to the Ecowatch article.

But Halla’s PowerPoint slides didn’t mention that the Impossible Burger’s key ingredient is a genetically engineered protein called soy leghemoglobin or “heme.” The presentation also didn’t mention that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Impossible Foods that the company hadn’t demonstrated the safety of heme after it applied to the FDA seeking GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status. Despite FDA’s concerns, Impossible Foods sold its GMO-derived burger for public consumption anyway.

It should be noted that heme here is a slightly different beast than the heme as described before, in regular meat. Though both involve nitrogen, the heme, in this case, is normally associated with nitrogen feeding bacteria in the root of the soybean plants. Impossible Burger cultures the ingredient for use in its products.

Note the implications.

While it’s alright to question its usage (the FDA did indeed raise concerns about its safety, fearing it could be an allergen), this is only applicable to one proprietary product (Impossible Burger). I assume it is used due to its red color (so that the end product looks more like meat, as opposed to yellowish).

Impossible Foods produces soy leghemoglobin by genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation. The ingredient is key because it carries heme, an iron-rich molecule found in real meat.


The heme reacts (breaks down) in the same way as the heme in real meat, giving you similar results.

I encourage people to give the above article a view because it highlights another problem when it comes to this topic . . . too much private for-profit control. Much like the rest of the biotech world, even though the topic is in its infancy, it’s already looking like it will be dogged by the very issues faced by the rest of the biotech industry.

The company does not need FDA approval to sell its burger, but it still sought the agency’s safety designation of “generally recognized as safe.”

When the agency requested more data to determine factors such as whether or not its soy leghemoglobin was an allergen, the company rescinded its request for review.

Impossible Foods says its own testing shows the ingredient is not an allergen. But regulations don’t require the company to disclose those tests or even share them with the FDA.

The disagreement between the company and activists underscore the complexity of the debate over genetically modified food and the role federal regulators should play in policing new products.

The controversy comes at a time when more start-ups backed by some of the world’s richest investors are pouring resources into substitutes for meat, eggs and milk as a way of tackling industrial farming.

But these companies aren’t necessarily finding support with environmentalists eager to wean the world off its meat habit.

“The concern is that these biotech start-ups and these new companies using genetically engineered applications are rushing products to market inspired by investment and not public safety,” said Dana Perls, a senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth.

Seeing any quote from someone affiliated with Friends Of The Earth or any similar organization does raise an eyebrow. But none the less, she has a point. It is very difficult to have proper scientific research happen if those funding it are in expectation of a return. It may not be stated explicitly, but they certainly are not doing it JUST for their health.

If even Golden Rice could not escape its bad reputation after all its patents were donated to a charity, then I fear that faux-meat may run the same risks. Too many monied interests on both sides. And this isn’t even considering a possible 3ed angle of attack, mounted by monied interests in the current status quo meat production industry.

Considering asbestos, fossil fuels, tobacco and other industries that enjoyed prolonged existence due to money spent in all the right places (more, on all the right people!), never underestimate the sting of an industry that knows it’s in its final days.

Now, back to the original article.

Several audience members took Halla to task over Impossible Foods marketing its burger despite FDA concerns, short-term feeding studies, and lack of transparency about the use of the GMO ingredient.

Mark Squire, owner and manager of Good Earth Natural Foods, said he read the FDA documents about Impossible Foods application for GRAS status and was “shocked that a company could come out with a new food additive and not have it subjected to government and long-term scrutiny.”

The main reason I brought this up was to showcase the business interests once again taking their seat at the table. What are the chances that this person would ever sell this meat in their store?

But I can’t overlook the pandering.
It’s still common and accepted that foods (and many consumer products, really) can be given a more green image by just including the word “Natural” somewhere on the packaging. Something that is nothing more than a marketing phrase, being that EVERYTHING is natural. The petroleum derived laptop of which I type this on is a natural product. Nothing is NOT a natural product!

So stop being a sheep and don’t get fleeced by this marketing jargon.

Pamm Larry, director of GMO-free California, asked Halla why his company had conducted such short, 14- and 28-day rat feeding studies of the product.

“Why did you do such short feeding studies when you know the minimum industry standard is 90 days?”

Ken Ross, board member of the ProTerra Foundation and a speaker at the conference, also said that the feeding studies are unacceptable.

“A 28-day feeding study is not impeccable science. You need a two-year feeding study,” he said.

That is indeed a good question.

Lack of Transparency, Product Rushed to Market

Larry said she spoke to several restaurants that serve the Impossible Burger but didn’t know it was GMO. She also asked if Impossible Foods labels their product as GMO. Halla said his company doesn’t label the product as GMO but that information about the use of genetic engineering is on the company’s website.

Squire said Impossible Foods was not being transparent. “I don’t think people selling burgers understand (Impossible Foods’) technology. There is no transparency; there is a huge information gap. Halla said ‘everything is on our website.’ But if you go to their website, there is very little there.”

Also a good line of inquiry. I find myself of 2 minds on this.

I didn’t know that this was a genetically modified product before this. Maybe that should have been apparent to me and others, but whatever. I am not a biologist by career. One could indeed look at this ambiguousness in the product description as hiding something.  Not disclosing pertinent information.

But on the other hand, with the bad press that the whole of the GMO foods debate has in the public sphere thanks to financed disinformation campaigns (Yes, GMO naysayers, it DOES go both ways!), it’s easy to see why any new entrant to the market would want to avoid that term. Genetic modification and GMO are both poisons from a marketing standpoint.

To tell your customers what it is by name is to run the risk of hitting the GMO brick wall. To have them write it off sight unseen out of often irrational fear. However, to play your cards close is to run the risk of being shown to be hiding something. Something that the GMO naysayers are sure to pick up on and exploit.

Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Since it was brought up, let us ourselves, take a look at the Impossible Burger website. See how upfront they are about their product.


So far, I’ve learned that the closest place that I could try one of these faux-meat creations is Fargo, North Dakota. However, nothing exists on the main pages to tell a person that this is indeed a genetically modified product.

As I anticipated, however, this concern is covered on the FAQ page of the site:

Yes. We genetically engineer yeast to make a key ingredient: heme. The process allows us to produce the Impossible Burger at scale with the lowest achievable environmental impact.

We start with the gene for a protein called leghemoglobin, a heme protein that is naturally found in the root nodules of soy plants. Leghemoglobin is similar to myoglobin, the heme protein that is exceptionally abundant in animal muscles, binds oxygen and gives meat its unique flavor and aroma.

We add the soy leghemoglobin gene to a yeast strain, and grow the yeast via fermentation. Then we isolate the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast. We add heme to the Impossible Burger to give it the intense, meaty flavor, aroma and cooking properties of animal meat.

By producing our heme in yeast, we avoid digging up soy plants to harvest the root nodules, which would promote erosion and release carbon stored in the soil. This enables us to produce heme sustainably at high volume and make plant-based meat for millions of people, offsetting the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

Interesting. I’de say that more than makes up for the void of the information elsewhere on the site.

So a drawback to this food is that without genetic modification, it’s ecological footprint rises exponentially. But I am not even sure that should be seen as a drawback. Those that are most likely to bring it up are likely just averse to GMO’s. And given the trajectory that climate change has us on (more and more food insecurity due to land loss and crop failure on a worldwide scale), I don’t know how much longer we will have the luxury of making that argument.

Some can of worms that I just opened up.

One thing I am curious about is if this product contains gluten. Being that it lists wheat, I air to the side of yes. But at the same time, it’s not directly listed, making me unsure. Though the segment for which this question applies to is fairly small, it’s very important to them none the less.

Squire said Impossible Foods was not being transparent. “I don’t think people selling burgers understand (Impossible Foods’) technology. There is no transparency; there is a huge information gap. Halla said ‘everything is on our website.’ But if you go to their website, there is very little there.”

Ross thought that Impossible Foods rushed the Impossible Burger to market due to pressure from investors.

“They call the shots and want to get the product commercialized and into the market and so they aren’t doing a 2-year feeding study and doing superficial short studies instead.”

Ross told Halla that—with its questionable feeding studies and lack of transparency—Impossible Foods is repeating the same deceptions that the biotech industry has done in the past.

“You’re speaking to an audience that has already been down that road,” he said.

Halla seemed surprised by the tough questions.

“He was clearly chastened by the reaction. I don’t think he thought he was coming into a hostile environment,” Ross said.

Amarjit Sahota, president and owner of Ecovia Intelligence, organizer of the Summit, acknowledged that Halla “received a lot of criticism after his seminar.”

“We believe the feedback and criticism Impossible Foods received will make them think twice about making claims in the future and make them more transparent about their ingredients,” Sahota said.

This surprises me a bit, him allegedly not knowing what he was stepping into. But who knows.

Look who is the source of this information.

Editor’s Note: I sent an email to Impossible Foods asking if Nick Halla could tell me his responses to the audience’s questions during the summit. I wanted to get his perspective. My email was answered by Rachel Konrad, Impossible Foods chief communications officer, who did not attend the summit.

In response to my question about Halla’s PowerPoint slides not mentioning Impossible Foods’ use of genetic engineering, Konrad wrote: “Nick talked specifically about the use of engineered yeast during his presentation.” Still, “genetic engineering” was not mentioned in any of his slides.

Regarding the short-term animal feeding study, Konrad wrote: “Our rat-feeding study was comprehensive and statistically valid; a panel of experts reviewed the study and unanimously agreed that soy leghemoglobin is safe.”

When asked about how employees at the burger restaurants don’t know that the Impossible Burger is genetically engineered, Konrad wrote that her company provides training sessions for chefs and kitchen staff: “In these sessions, we explain the ingredients—including how we produce heme through fermentation of a genetically modified yeast.”

Make what you will of that.

In conclusion, I am very curious about the progress of lab-grown or faux-meat in the future. Though many hurdles exist, this breakthrough has the potential to alleviate many of the problems that we will face in the near to distant future.

I am concerned, however, with the direction that we seem to be headed in at current. On one side, monied interests pursuing profits and market share. And on the other, ideological interests fleeing from a perceived nemesis (and some monied interests too. Don’t kid yourself). And just to make things even more interesting, an entire well-financed industry that will be rendered almost entirely redundant by the growth of this new competitor.

Interesting things are in store.

“Missouri Organic Family Farm Faces Ruin After Herbicide Drift” – (Ecowatch)

It has been some time since I have last peeled back the curtain on one of these articles to see what lies beneath.  This one seems to have all the hallmarks of one that is worth diving into.

So let us wait no longer.


Herbicide drift has been a major problem last year damaging millions of acres of crops in the U.S.

An organic farmer in Missouri has seen firsthand how destructive herbicide drift can be as it destroys his crops and threatens his livelihood and farm.

Mike Brabo and his wife Carol own Vesterbrook Farm in Clarksville, Missouri, about an hour north of St. Louis near the Mississippi River. The farm has been in Carol’s family for nearly a century. The couple and their two children have worked the farm since 2008 after Mike survived thyroid cancer.

At that time Mike gained an appreciation for organic foods but found it difficult to afford them. “It’s expensive to buy organic fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods,” he said.

Mike and Carol decided to grow their own. It wasn’t difficult to convert the farm to organic since no chemicals had been used on the land.

“There had been nothing grown on the farm but grass for 15 years,” Mike said.

Here, they have a photograph of the smiling, happy family. It’s a nice touch.

Sell Crops to 150-Member CSA

Over the years, the Brabos have grown their organic farm. A lot of vegetables can be grown on 24 acres, and the Brabos have planted more than 60 including lettuce, spinach, beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, squash and tomatoes, among others. Some vegetables are grown in four high tunnel greenhouses. They also planted an orchard with apple, peach, plum and cherry trees and fruit bushes such as raspberries. They also grow herbs such as sage, parsley and cilantro.

Vesterbrook Farm uses organic practices but is not certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Instead, Mike chose Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) as their certifier.

“Their standards meet or exceed the USDA’s,” he said. “CNG has a much greater emphasis on sustainability with planting areas that bring in wildlife and beneficial insects.”

The Brabos have seen growing success with their organic farm and CSA with sales increasing 10 percent per year.

I omitted a small part of the original text, not seeing it as necessary. But you get the pretty little picture. Things were going well, and life was good and bountiful.

Then came the menace.

Herbicides Damaged Crops, Loss of $300,000

That is until this year. In June, a conventional farmer neighbor sprayed his soybean field with herbicides. Wind blew the herbicides over the Brabos’ land.

This happened despite Mike having signs that say “Organic Farm, No Spray” signs and registering his farm with DriftWatch, a communication tool that enables farmers and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops using mapping programs.

The damage from the herbicide drift was total. “We found damage across our farm, which is 500 yards wide, including on the far north side of the property,” Mike said.

Crops damaged included peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, basil; fruit trees were also damaged. “Everything on the farm, even ornamental trees, was damaged,” Mike said.

The herbicides also killed half of the farm’s bees, an estimated loss of $12,000. Mike estimates the total loss at $300,000.

Tests revealed that the herbicides responsible for the damage were glufosinate, clethodim and metolachlor.

Their Certified Naturally Grown certification was suspended, and the Brabos must essentially start over to remove the herbicide contamination from their farm. It will take three years at an estimated cost of $1.6 million to remediate the damage and regain CNG certification. According to Mike, they will have to plant cover crops and replenish the soil with beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi.

First off, some herbicide research (since I have never heard of the 3 listed).


Though glufosinate looks to be naturally occurring by way of some bacteriums, companies (such as Bayer) appear to have synthesized it with ammonium for use in crops genetically engineered for coupled usage with the herbicide.

As for the specifics (as described by Glufosinate-Ammonium manufacturer Bayer):

The primary mode of action of Glufosinate-ammonium is the inhibition of the enzyme glutamine synthetase. This enzyme catalyzes the synthesis of glutamine from glutamate and ammonia and plays a central role in plant nitrogen metabolism



This one appears to be mostly used to keep annual and perennial grasses in check, primarily in broadleaf crops. Being a systemic herbicide, it works by moving through the structure of the plant. Though the exact mechanism is still a mystery to me.

Not for lack of digging, either.


This is an organic compound that is also used as a selective herbicide. Like Clethodim, it is a selective herbicide in that its also primarily used to control grasses.


The latter 2 herbicides appear to be fairly benign, at least in their potential impact in this instance. Being that they are selective herbicides, their target organisms are fairly niche. In this case, mainly annual and perennial grass species. Not to mention that they have a fairly short half-life cycle in terms of residual activity in the soil.

The obvious culprit would seem to be the Glufosinate. Being a broad spectrum herbicide (like Glyphosate), it takes out everything. And being that it is a combination herbicide (to be used alongside glufosinate engineered crops!), the picture looks really bad. Logic seems to dictate that if it kills where it is supposed to, it will likely also kill where it shouldn’t be either.

But let us dig a little deeper.

“Worst Case Scenario is We Lose the Farm”

Mike could grow vegetables and sell them as conventional but he refuses for fear that a customer would become sick because of the herbicide contamination.

“As a cancer survivor I’m not going to be complicit in putting something in the food supply that could make someone sick,” he said.

Keyword there. Could.

Millions (me included) are purchasing vegetables that have been grown in the very same way. No one has yet been able to link any health issues to such vegetables. Not to mention that most of this issue can literally be washed away by simply washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them.

That should be a given. It’s not just scary chemicals that can hide in fresh produce. Do you know how many people exit public washrooms without washing their hands?

Consider that next time you are thumbing through pretty much any consumer product in any store, anywhere.

For now, the Brabos are out of business for three years. “We aren’t sure what we are going to do,” Mike said. “The worst case scenario is we lose the family farm.”

The Brabos are working with attorneys to reach a settlement with their neighbor’s insurance company.

“We just want to be rightly compensated to grow healthy food for ourselves and repairing the soil and ecosystem so we can grow food for the St. Louis community,” Mike said.

Taking into account both the situation as described and the chemicals involved, I find myself picturing a giant dead zone in and around this little plot of land. A place where not even a blade of grass was spared the burning death of the chemical herbicide. I would think that , though (not finding any photographs of the damage).

I don’t doubt that the farm may have sustained some damage due to herbicide drift. A particularly problematic set of events when it comes to an organic farm (depending on the residual half-life of the various herbicides, anyway). However, I do have a couple of criticisms.

One is how they handled informing the neighboring farms. It’s all well and good to have  big yellow DO NOT SPRAY signs around the perimeter of your property line. However, that only helps if they are seen. One would ASSUME they would be. But a safer bet would be to talk to your neighbors and community and give a heads up.

When it comes to awarding damages from insurance, that one is also questionable to me. If the sprays were applied in what could be deemed questionable conditions (such as during high winds), then yes. Though good luck proving it.

And also on the subject of damages, is the produce itself. Though the veggies are poisoned (as defined by the farmers and others of such a persuasion), they are perfectly good (and salable!) by conventional commercial standards. Even if the family does not want to sell them on principle, I don’t accept that as a good reason.
It’s not contaminated by petrochemicals or radioactivity. It’s got a small amount of herbicide.

If the farm were to go after the insurance company to make up for lost revenue in having to sell the produce as conventionally grown (as opposed to the more labor-intensive and profitable organic), I could see that. But wasting the produce was not necessary.

To close, this story was not what I suspected it was, for once (fortunately). It wouldn’t be the first time that I looked into one of these farmer as a victim articles, only to find questionable actions and narratives beneath (Monsanto suing over GMO crop drift, anyone?).

While I do have some criticism for the Brabos family, they do seem to be the victims of an unfortunate situation. And as such, I wish them all the best. One certainly shouldn’t lose their farm over holding to their personal principals.


Someone set up a crowdfunding campaign in benefit of the Farm. Do whatever you may with this link.


“Top 17 ​Health Problems That Improved In People Who Switched From GMO To Organic Diets” – (Ecowatch)

It has been awhile since I last looked into the material coming from Ecowatch. This seems as good a place to start as any. So away we go.

A peer-reviewed article released Tuesday in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine and conducted by the Institute for Responsible Technology revealed that the health of all of the participants improved after switching to a non-GMO diet or simply reducing the amount of GMO foods they ate.


First off, sources.

The International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine’s website does not say all that much at first glance. It seems like a legitimate journal to my eye. Though that is not saying much.
I know that many so-called scientific journals will publish almost anything if the price is right, so as such, I will for now remain neutral in opinion. If you have further information, I welcome it in the comment section.

As for the study’s conductor, the Institute for Responsible Technology, their bias is blatantly obvious at first glance.  The most notable part of the site is this article from July of this year, the organization (and the anti-GMO movement in general’s) get out of jail free card.
The allegation is that Monsanto has a paid Army of trolls who’s only job is to berate and otherwise harass scientists and ordinary people conversing about the dangers of GMO’s anywhere in the public sphere. It’s a bit like the phrase “FAKE NEWS!” to political ideologues. Even legitimate opposition does not have to be weighed. Because they (we!) are all being paid to suck the Monsanto dick.

Having picked apart a few questionable articles on this topic (out of curiosity initially!), this bothers me. I don’t overly care if individuals come here and copy paste some message identifying me as a Paid Troll. Be a full-blown ideologue all you want. I can’t be bothered to get my hands dirty in those pointless interactions anymore.

What IS bothersome, however, is how the paid lobbying from BOTH sides is muddying the water for the entire debate. Very likely whole point.
Big Biotech pours money into helping their wares (even if not the most efficient methodology!) keep their market share. Big Organic pours money into growing their share of the marketplace. At BEST, it is a case of many feeling that the ends justify the means.

What is left, is a tangled mess. You have two sides offering various flavors of The Truth for those inclined to absorb information with little critical analysis. But for those in the middle that often just want some semblance of unbiased nuance, it’s often difficult to come by. Short of learning how to comprehend complicated scientific documents.

Capitalism as the main driver to these areas is not helpful to anyone in neither the short or the long term. Indeed, no, that is not likely to change anytime soon. However, its always good to know where you stand.

Paid troll!”

Yeah . . . bye. Show me you used your brain, and I’ll use mine on your retort.

Anyhow, back to the article.

The results, from more than 3,250 people, mostly in the U.S., closely matched reports by physicians around the nation who have seen similar results when their patients change to largely non-GMO and organic diets.

Participants reported improvements in 28 conditions; digestive problems was the most often cited at 85.2 percent. The vast majority said their conditions were significantly improved, nearly gone or completely recovered.

Health problems that improved include:

1. Digestive: 85.2%

2. Fatigue, low energy: 60.4%

3. Overweight or obesity: 54.6%

4. Clouding of consciousness, “brain fog”: 51.7%

5. Food allergies or sensitivities: 50.2%

6. Mood problems, such as anxiety or depression: 51.1%

7. Memory, concentration: 48.1%

8. Joint pain: 47.5%

9. Seasonal allergies: 46.6%

10. Gluten sensitivities: 42.2%

11. Insomnia: 33.2%

12. Other skin conditions (not eczema): 30.9%

13. Hormonal problems: 30.4%

14. Musculoskeletal pain: 25.2%

15. Autoimmune disease: 21.4%

16. Eczema: 20.8%

17. Cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure: 19.8%

This confirms the reports from hundreds of healthcare practitioners and thousands of individuals. When people from all walks of life eat less GMO foods, a significant percentage get better quickly.

Alright. This seems a good basis from which to start from.

Here is one source that seems to have a fairly balanced assessment of the pros and cons of an organic diet. It’s worth a read.
One common thread with this particular line of inquiry is the number of articles outlining consumer confusion in regards what constitutes healthy food in this day and age. I completely understand, being that I can generally recognize misinformation and propaganda (and otherwise bullshit), but still can get lost where this topic is concerned.



Organic, non GMO and all natural are now big business



But (as I outlined earlier) I suspect it is all purposeful. Though there is mass consumer confusion, there is no shortage of sources of information that have all the answers you are looking for. It took some creative queries just to get past it all and actually find something for me to work with.

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, study finds


A team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

The popularity of organic products, which are generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones, is skyrocketing in the United States. Between 1997 and 2011, U.S. sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for these products. Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts.

Although there is a common perception — perhaps based on price alone — that organic foods are better for you than non-organic ones, it remains an open question as to the health benefits. In fact, the Stanford study stemmed from Bravata’s patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products. She didn’t know how to advise them.


It reminds me a bit of the gluten-free craze. People assume a product is better just due to its price point and lack of a given ingredient, even though that is often times not the case. When it comes to food marketing, nothing surprises me anymore. Hence the common sense rule of thumb that we should all follow . . . READ THE LABEL!

I have even heard Dr. OZ admit to being fooled (live on his show!) due to not using this simple rule. He wondered why he couldn’t sleep very well for a few nights. He later figured out that he was drinking a vitamin water beverage which (unknowingly to him) contained caffeine.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the man.

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Smith-Spangler, who is also an instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

Having a medical school instructor say that is quite telling of the state of information with regard to this topic.

Another interesting finding:

The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits. Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear. Additionally, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is also unclear.

Despite these findings, they are clear about their intentions. The goal is less about dissuading people from purchasing organics than it is about educating the public. Along with a dash of common sense.

“Our goal was to shed light on what the evidence is,” said Smith-Spangler. “This is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.”

She also said that people should aim for healthier diets overall. She emphasized the importance of eating of fruits and vegetables, “however they are grown,” noting that most Americans don’t consume the recommended amount.

While that covered organics, it didn’t cover GMO’s.


So are GM foods safe?

I know you want to know — and I sympathize. GM ingredients and additives are used in so many of the foods we eat.

To begin with, there are 1500 published studies indicating that GM foods are safe. But I’m not going to rest a case on them. There are some animal studies that might raise red flags, but I won’t cite those, either.

Because here’s reality: While most scientists believe GM foods are probably safe, science will never prove it 100 percent unequivocally. 

The answer is much more complicated than “yes or no,” “pro- or anti-.” 

We need to get beyond that, to stop throwing studies at each other.

Nothing can be proved to be absolutely unequivocally safe. Pick anything, and somebody has died from it.

So let’s explore the grown-up questions and gray areas, and think about what trade-offs we’re willing to make, in a scientifically informed and literate way.

For instance:

  • What aspects of GM technology could be really good for the world? Why?
  • Which aspects should we be cautious about? Why?
  • What do we know to be true (or is probably true), and what is speculation? What’s the evidence?
  • How much is our discomfort with the unfamiliar driving the fears?
  • Are we correctly assessing risk and reward?
  • What’s an acceptable level of risk to get the benefits?

As a scientist, I would love people to embrace science, evidence, and the joy of discovery. Scientists grapple with some very difficult and complex questions. And most of them just want to make the world a better place.

What to do next

Short of going back to school for a Ph.D. in biology, what can you do right now?

1. Elevate your thinking game.

Almost no scientific question is about good versus evil. Even spacetime bends occasionally. Recognize that issues are complex.

2. Be a critical consumer, learner, and listener.

Contrary to what the mainstream media might lead you to believe, the biggest threats posed by GMO crops on the market today are not to your individual health, and they’re not even specific to GMOs.

Picking a side — and assuming the other side is unreasonable — makes real communication impossible. Scientific findings presented as the “final word” are probably being misinterpreted; be wary of anyone who tells you something is “100 percent true” about GMOs.

Even as sciencey folks ourselves, we’re not going to give you The Big Definitive Answer either. Because there isn’t one.

3. Address specific issues. Don’t mix them up.

With GMOs and other food safety and regulatory issues, it’s important to think critically about our concerns.

  • Are you against pesticides? Great! But that’s different from being against GMOs, and to focus on GMOs here is to ask the wrong questions.
  • Want GM foods to be labeled as such? Great! But the importance of food labeling goes way beyond GMOs.
  • Worried about large companies controlling our food? I get that. Be against Big Food, not GMOs.

Both conventional farming and GMOs use herbicides and pesticides, narrow the genetics pool, and increase the risk of catastrophic loss of crops. Conflating these issues means change will never happen.

4. Focus on the big picture and real-life priorities.

The fourth-largest cause of death in the United States is accidents. Wearing your seat belt will lower your risk of early death much more than worrying about GMOs. (And quit texting and driving. You know who you are.)

Other leading causes of death are largely due to the toxic combination of sedentary lifestyles, stress, and poor nutrition. Never mind GM vegetables — people aren’t eating vegetables, period.

That excerpt was written by Helen Killias, a scientist working for Precision Nutrition, a nutritional coaching company based in Toronto. While not the study or scientific paper that one would expect (or at least that I would normally cite), I have to agree with Helen with this.

Genetic modifications and Genetically Modified Organisms are not all Frankensteins and bad news. Somewhere within the simultaneous smoke screens created by vested interests in Big Biotech AND Big Organic (not to mention the mainstream food companies playing both fields) lies the truth. Though finding that truth in this debate can be a challenge for the best of us, it might not even be inherently necessary.

Knowing that much of this topic is often shrouded in grey (as often contrasted by the black and white representations of the fringes) is arguably half the battle. As is knowing that consuming a GMO food (or many, as is likely the case) is not the end of the world, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, by being so paranoid of GMO’s, are you missing other potential threats?

Though this does not involve GMO’s, an example that comes to mind is A&W’s switch to hormone-free meat sources. Many people (including people I know) applauded the decision, even saying they would give them more business.

a.) People can eat where ever they want

b.) It IS a good thing on the part of A&W

I am not swayed much by this change, however. After all, fast food containing hormones and fast food containing no hormones is still fast food. I suspect the hormone aspect is negligible in comparison to the other nutritional factors at play.
Another example that I realized myself a couple years back, were problems with rice alternatives to GMO corn containing baby foods (arsenic). I wrote a piece criticizing another Ecowatch article for essentially scaremongering mothers. Though I didn’t mention it in the baby food piece, it came to mind last year when writing this one about China rejecting tons of Alfalfa due to literally TRACES of a GMO variety being found within it.

To quote me:

Rice is known to often times have MEASURABLE amounts of arsenic. To the point where it is recommended to severely limit the intake of rice and processed rice foods for children. Because very little (particularly for processed foods) can put them at (or above) the recommended limit.


Though I am not 100% sure how the arsenic content of rice and rice based foods compares to the amount of genetically modified genes that constitutes 0.1% of an alfalfa shipment, im almost certain that were talking more then traces. Just by the measurements.

An entire shipping container, verses a bowl of cereal, a few rice cakes or a quart of rice milk.

As always, context is everything.



“Is This Nuclear Plant To Blame For Soaring Thyroid Cancer Rates In New York?” – (Ecowatch)

I came across this article rather alarming headline today. I figure it deserves some attention. So here goes.

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate.

First off, some graphic representation. Since I and most others are likely unfamiliar with the layout of New York State.

Above is a map of NY counties and districts (click to enlarge if necessary). You can see the 5 boroughs of New York City at the very bottom of the map (in pink). The 4 counties noted are just above on the mainland (the lower part of the red section).

The following is a map of where Indian Point is in relation to these counties (and New York City). The source bias is blatantly apparent, but none the less, it does the trick.

In the past (around 2011 to be precise) I had worried about this plant and its proximity to one of the biggest cities in the world. For an obvious reason (the worlds worst nuclear accident following Chernobyl had just occurred). But it’s been awhile since it’s been on my radar.

However, looks like it won’t be an issue (well, at least a continually operational issue) for much longer. More on that later.

Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That’s according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-’70s.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.

The first thing I was curious about was wind patterns in New York State.  I got some prevailing wind information from a National Centers For Environmental Information PDF outlining the climate of New York in detail. The PDF can be found HERE, on page 7.

The prevailing wind is generally from the west in New York State. A southwest component
becomes evident in winds during the warmer
months while a northwest component is
characteristic of the colder half of the year.
Occasionally, well-developed storm systems moving
across the continent or along the Atlantic coas
t are accompanied by very strong winds, which
cause considerable property damage over wide areas of the State. A unique effect of strong
cyclonic winds from the southwest is the rise
of water to abnormally high levels at the
northeastern end of Lake Erie.

This information seemed important since it should give us a general idea of where any released radioactive particles are likely to end up.  Though 2 of the counties seem to match up, the 2 westernmost counties (Orange and Putnam) seem like outliers, being UPWIND for the majority of the time. Of course, I am not a climatologist. There may be other factors at work that I am not considering.

One thing that does occur to me, however, is that radioactive fallout releases have a tendency of traveling LONG distances from their point of origin. Chernobyl was famously discovered when workers at a Sweedish Nuclear plant were found to be bringing radioactive contamination INTO the plant from outside.
And even this year, something similar happened (with many also suspecting the origin being somewhere in Russia or Kazakstan). Either would make perfect sense, being that:

1.) It’s Russia.

If they accidentally created a black hole that slowly swallowed the world, we wouldn’t find out until large portions of their nation and population start mysteriously vanishing into the abyss

2.) Kazakstan (among other former Soviet satellite states) holds a lot of the legacy technology from that Era. Not to mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Red still has a lot of influence over affairs. Particularly these days, with the west being increasingly undermined by its own shortcomings.

Either way, to bring it back, these releases tend to go a long way. Given the typical wind patterns, I would suspect releases (and thus, cancer rates) would not just be picked up in neighboring counties, but also in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, and other downwind sections of the NY tristate area.

While again just speculation, I think it is built on a solid foundation of past anecdotes and incidents.

I next want to focus on one sentence of the article that sticks out.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer

This one has to be highlighted because it is somewhat disingenuous.

While most sources outline symptoms and causes (explanations of the medical jargon), few give much insight into what could be driving those changes. Possibly because so little is known (it’s better not to speculate). Web MD has this to say.

Experts don’t know what causes thyroid cancer. But like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older.

People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroidcancer.

A dental X-ray now and then will not increase your chance of getting thyroid cancer. But past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest (especially during childhood) can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer.


The Mayo Clinic explanation seems more or less in agreement.

Factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include:

  • Female sex. Thyroid cancer occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation. Examples of exposure to high levels of radiation include radiation treatments to the head and neck and fallout from sources such as nuclear power plant accidents or weapons testing.
  • Certain inherited genetic syndromes. Genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer include familial medullary thyroid cancer and multiple endocrine neoplasia.


Also in the explanation from the Mayo clinic is this.

Although thyroid cancer isn’t common in the United States, rates seem to be increasing. Doctors think this is because new technology is allowing them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past.

Maybe a factor in the overall picture? I guess we will see.

Let’s bring it back to upstate New York and the 4 counties in question. The Ecowatch article is based on a study (co-founded by the author of the article) that claims an increase in cancer cases both above background and taking the rising national average into consideration. Here is the abstract of the study itself:

Thyroid cancer incidence has risen steadily in the US for several decades. While any cause of this trend has yet to be clearly identified, most analyses have concluded that there are factors other than improved detection accounting for the increase. Since exposure to radioactive iodine is the only acknowledged root cause of thyroid cancer, a review of temporal trends in incidence since the late 1970s near the Indian Point nuclear power plant, just 23 miles from the New York City border, was conducted. Rates in the four counties closest to Indian Point, where virtually the entire population resides within 20 miles of the plant, were compared with national trends in the US. The relative ratio in the local area was 0.778 in the period 1976-1981, or 22.2 percent lower than the national rate. This ratio increased steadily, to 1.579 (57.9 percent greater than the US) by the period 2000-2004, which slightly declined to 1.515 (51.5 percent greater) in the latest period available (2010-2014). Significant increases occurred for both males and females, and in each of the four counties. Annual new cases diagnosed among residents of the four counties increased from 51 to 412 between 1976-1981 and 2010-2014. Because the two large reactors at Indian Point began operations in 1973 and 1976, and exposures to radioiodine isotopes can manifest as cancer from five years to several decades after exposure, iodine emissions from Indian Point emissions should be considered as a potential factor in these trends. More studies near Indian Point and other nuclear installations should be conducted to further explore this potential association.


One thing that comes to mind is how the numbers compare to cancer in populations around other nuclear plants.

According to this paper (see page 26), many studies of this type of risk have been done in many countries involving many different types of population density and types of nuclear facilities, with all of them coming back with many different conclusions. Some found positive correlations to being in proximity to said facilities, though none were ever linked directly to the facilities. I am not surprised by this since the cancer variant is so misunderstood, to begin with.

Another interesting set of statistics to consider (also from the paper cited previously):

  • Approximately 1 million people lived within 5 miles of operating nuclear plants in 2010; over 45 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 116,000 people lived within 5 miles of USNRC-licensed operating fuel-cycle facilities in 2010; over 2 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 210 people lived within 5 miles of a USNRC-licensed operating in situ recovery or conventional uranium mill recovery facility in 2010; about 11,000 lived within 30 miles.

Millions live within a stone’s throw of such facilities. Do you?
That is just generalized stats. Maybe there is something wrong with this plant itself which would make it an outlier of sorts.

It looks like the plant does indeed have a bit of a troubled history, particularly since 2012.

The plant has had 40 “safety events”, “operational events”, and shutdowns since 2012. The shutdowns have exposed apparent fragility in the nuclear facility’s workings: in December 2015 the plant was shut down for three days after droppings from a “large bird” caused an arc between power lines and a transmission tower. In April 2016, Entergy admitted it had found that bolts holding together the interior of one of Indian Point’s reactors were damaged and, in some cases, missing.


Ah, humans. If greed isn’t what gets us, then it will be laziness. Also worth noting was some drama over the possibility of running natural gas lines on land very close to the facility.

Entergy also came under fire in 2016 after the Guardian published a safety assessment of proposed natural gas pipelines to be built by energy pipeline company Spectra on Indian Point property. The assessment, provided to the Guardian by engineer Paul Blanch and obtained through a freedom of information act (Foia), was partly hand-drawn and did not adequately account for the damage to the plant that could result from a breach of the lines.

One would think we would have been beyond such oversights with Fukushima in our rearview. But then again . . . humans.

The last part, however, brings to mind another possibility. Maybe the days of nuclear (like the days of this plant’s operations) are numbered.
Nuclear has always been a nemesis, but Fukushima certainly didn’t do the industry any favors. Though the plant does not seem to have any major infractions associated with it, just having such a facility so close to so much population is problematic on its own, even without the operational history. I suspect a combination of the increasing costs of running such a facility (particularly in the face of cheaper alternatives like natural gas and renewables) and bad public image of both the plant and nuclear energy in general as the deciding factors here. Having uncontrolled releases into groundwater sources nearby certainly didn’t help things either.

Either way, I wandered somewhat from the outset of this piece. That said, there is not much more to say on the topic. Did the plant result in a spike in the cancer rates in close proximity?

I don’t know. However, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Though the authors of the study (and the article) claim legitimacy, I can’t help but question the bias. I will not disagree, however, that more studies can’t hurt. The more information that is available, the better off everyone is.

In conclusion, overall, I am not a big fan of nuclear energy.

In its favor, it is carbon neutral (or very close, anyhow). And it may function as a good stepping stone between the age of fossil fuels and renewables (since uranium is also finite).
That being said, it could also be seen as insanity, being the risk involved. Indeed, meltdowns and accidents are fairly few and far between. But we still have not figured out a permanent solution to radioactive wastes that will long outlive our civilizations.

Fortunately, the fact that these things are prohibitively expensive to build and operate will deter many new installations.  But those that do should consider the consequences.

Imagine a world with half the overall population (say a pandemic wiped us out), but the same number of nuclear facilities to oversee. Without constant inputs and attention, spent fuel ponds run the risk of going dry and dumping massive amounts of radioactivity into the enviroment.

Not something I considered during my freakout in 2010, or even 2011 (when the nuclear industry had the world on edge). Though possibly a good thing.

I may not have ever slept again.

Let Women Abort Babies for Being the Wrong Sex, Says Top Medical Ethicist – (Breitbart)

Today I will do something I haven’t ever done before. Well, I have checked articles for accuracy from a small variety of sources. But nothing from Breitbart, the now infamous favored platform of president #45’s administration.

Let us begin.


Women should be able to abort their babies simply because they are the “wrong” sex, a leading ethicist at Britain’s doctors’ union has said.

Professor Wendy Savage, a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association, said women should be able to have an abortion at any stage of pregnancy for whatever reason, even when the child would be able to survive outside of the womb.

She also said that abortion pills should be available online without the need to see a doctor or nurse.

I am curious as to what is entailed by this vague term.

The first thing that comes to mind is the morning after pill. Is this what they mean? I know people that have found themselves needing to fetch the pill after a night of “Shit happens!”. I’m sure most of us can relate in some way.

As for pills that work further into the pregnancy, I think that at least a doctor visit would be advisable. But I would not mandate it. The responsibility is fully on those involved with the situation, after all.

There has been growing concern in Britain that an increasing number of women are seeking abortions simply because they do not want girls, leading to some hospitals refusing to tell parents the sex of their babies.

However, Professor Savage told the Mail on Sunday: “Because of this sort of anxiety some places won’t tell the woman the sex of the foetus, which is outrageous.

“It’s her body and her foetus, so she should have that information… If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her [to go through with the pregnancy] is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”

I agree. Though that is indeed a controversial stance to have . . . it shouldn’t be.

To put it another way, if you are looking into getting a pet and have a dislike for dogs for whatever reason, are you going to love and cherish that dog as much as you would a cat (if that were your true preference)?
Indeed, you will likely learn to love the pet none the less (so the cliche goes). But even so, there may well still be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction, possibly even eventual hostility. Call it horrible all you want from your high horse . . . its not like going to a restaurant and being stuck with a food you don’t like because they are out of your preference. Its more like your 2ed choice is all that is going to be available for at least 2 decades MINIMUM.

To ignore the fact that this may well lead to drastic measures is frankly, to bury your head in the sand. Not to mention that this does not necessarily make abortion the only option available. However, one should not be chastised if this (sex selection) is the main reason for such a decision.

In terms of ethics of medical procedures, its almost hilarious that THIS issue would still be so polarizing. Were moving into an age of potential designer babies. Think about that . . . you might be able to CONTROL many (if not all) characteristics of your future children.
A common argument against abortion is “they do not have a say”.
One should note that suicide is generally also frowned upon in our culture (WHICH IS IT?!), but I digress.

The argument will remain the same (“They do not have a choice!”). But the context will shift from Life V. Death, to . . . gay or straight, male or female, athletic or not, intelligent or not, white or other.

I may be an outlier, but personally, THESE questions are/should be of much more importance than “abort or not abort”. With one, the organism never developed in ANY way into anything even close to a person, so nothing is known. And if nothing is known, then nothing is lost!
With the other, you could have a developed person with a dissatisfaction in who they are. Yes, that is common even now. But the big difference is no one is directly blameworthy with the genetic lottery.
If it was the result of parental influence on the other hand . . . a COMPLETELY different story.  This could potentially tear families apart.

If people are this bent out of shape over just the abortion question . . . boy do they have a shock in store.

She previously caused outrage after signing a letter claiming sex-selective abortion is not “gender discrimination” because that only applies to “living people”.

She then doubled down on those views, claiming the unborn child is not really a person.

“The foetus is a potential human life at that stage [in the womb]; it is not an actual human life… I think you’ve got to concentrate on the [rights of the] woman.”

I agree!

Gotta say, I like this women. She has balls.

Pro-life campaigners have branded her comments “utterly abhorrent”, with Conservative MP Mark Field saying: “To have someone like Wendy Savage with her extreme views at the heart of the BMA is a very worrying sign. The majority of people in this country, even those who support abortion, think sex-selective abortion is a step too far.”

“Effectively we have abortion on demand nowadays, and all the safeguards we are supposed to have are being ridden roughshod over,” he added.

For starters, if many hospitals refuse to reveal the sex of the child as a policy, no, the safegaurds that are a joke to begin with, are not being run roughshod over.
But more importantly, what the majority thinks . . . is irrelevant. Most people are idiots. Easily distracted by flashy and jarring information that makes sense on its face, but falls apart after even minor scrutiny.

In conclusion . . . Really?! That’s it?!

This is more anti-climactic than ordering a Bieber blowup doll and receiving a Trump one instead.

“Is GMO Corn Safe To Eat?” – (Ecowatch)

​Straight to the point with this title. Though authored in the very first days of the year, this stuff does not have an expiration date (unlike the millions of pounds of food our civilization wastes annually). So lets begin.

2016 yielded yet another study on genetically modified corn. Or more accurately, Monsanto’s NK603.


Lets see what the findings are now. Even before I start, I bet I know their answer to the question posed by the title of the article.

Hint: BOO!

A unique new study published in December 2016 in the scientific journal Nature has used molecular profiles to reveal major differences in composition between a GMO corn and its non-GMO parent. These findings question industry and regulatory position of “substantial equivalence” and have serious safety implications.

The peer-reviewed study led by Dr. Michael Antoniou at King’s College London describes the effects of the process of genetic engineering on the composition of a genetically modified Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603.

“Our study clearly shows that the GM transformation process results in profound compositional differences in NK603, demonstrating that this GMO corn is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart,” Dr. Antoniou said. “The marked increase in putrescine and especially cadaverine is a concern since these substances are potentially toxic, being reported as enhancers of the effects of histamine, thus heightening allergic reactions and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines with nitrite in meat products. Our results call for a more thorough evaluation of the safety of NK603 corn consumption on a long-term basis.”

Overall, the findings of this study disprove industry and regulatory agency claims that NK603 is “substantially equivalent” to its non-GMO counterpart and suggest that a more thorough evaluation of the safety of consuming products derived from this GMO corn on a long term basis should be undertaken.

First off, some chemistry.

Putrescine (butane-1,4-diamine) and cadaverine (pentane-1,5-diamine) are foul-smelling compounds produced when amino acids decompose in decaying animals. They are also found in small amounts in living cells. Putrescine is formed by the decarboxylation of ornithine and arginine; cadaverine by the decarboxylation of lysine


Putrescine is a four carbon diamine produced during tissue decomposition by the decarboxylation of amino acids. Polyamines, including putrescine, may act as growth factors that promote cell division; however, putrescine is toxic at high doses.


Already, 2 things are clear. Its apparent why these 2 chemicals could be useful in the context of bio engineering. But it is also apparent why they have a significant “BOO!” factor attached to them.

On that “Boo!” factor . . .

Biogenic amines and polyamines have been reported in variety of foods, such as fish, meat, cheese, vegetables, and wines, and are described as organic bases with aliphatic, aromatic, and heterocyclic structures (Lorenzo and others 2007).

Polyamines, such as putrescine, cadaverine, agmatine, spermine, and spermidine, are naturally present in food and are involved in growth and cell proliferation (Hernandez-Jover and others 1997; Kalac 2009; Kim and others 2009). These amines in the presence of nitrites can be potential carcinogens when converted to nitrosamines (Kim and others 2009). Nitrosamines from polyamines may not necessarily pose a health risk as toxicity is reached only after consumption of large amounts, more than expected in a daily meal (Kalac 2009).

The aromatic biogenic amines, tyramine, and 2-phenylethylamine have been reported to be initiators of dietary-induced migraine and hypertensive crisis (Stratton and others 1991). Tyramine, 2- phenylethylamine, and putrescine are versoactive amines and increase blood pressure that can lead to heart failure or brain hemorrhage (Til and others 1997; Kalac 2009; Mohan and others 2009).

Boo indeed. Ill never eat anything again.

Oral toxicity levels for putrescine, spermine, and spermidine are 2000, 600, and 600 ppm, respectively. The acute toxicity level for tyramine and cadaverine is greater than 2000 ppm. The no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) is 2000 ppm for tyramine, putrescine, and cadaverine; 1000 ppm for spermidine; and 200 ppm for spermine (Til and others 1997). Tyramine alone at high levels can cause an intoxication known as the cheese reaction, which has similar symptoms to histamine poisoning.

Fortunately for us (at least in the developed world), this is primarily a problem of food spoilage (and as such, can be kept generally at bay with careful food handling procedures).

The formation of biogenic amines is associated with food spoilage, suggests poor hygienic practices, and may therefore indicate other food safety issues. Any attempts to control biogenic amines must take into account the factors leading to the formation of the biogenic amine and ensure other food safety issues are not being overlooked.


Now, onto the research itself.

The objective of this investigation was to obtain a deeper understanding of the biology of the NK603 GM maize by molecular profiling (proteomics and metabolomics) in order to gain insight into its substantial equivalence classification. We began by undertaking an unsupervised exploratory analysis of variance structure. We integrated metabolome and proteome profiles of the NK603, cultivated either with or without Roundup, and its isogenic counterpart, into a two-step multiple co-inertia analysis (MCIA) process.

The transgenic feed samples NK603 and NK603+Roundup are separated from the non-transgenic control (Isogenic) along the first component (horizontal axis). This clustering accounts for most of the variation (percentage of explained variance of 56.7%). The NK603 maize sprayed with Roundup separates from the unsprayed NK603 maize on the second component (vertical axis, percentage of explained variance of 16.6%).

I feel ya.

I know this is pertinent. I want to understand. But all that comes to mind is . . . meta-prota-WHAT?!

Fortunately for scientific illiterates like me, the study authors are merciful. They provided a diagram. We may not be able to comprehend it, but at least we can see it!


(A) The first two axes of MCIA represent metabolome and proteomic datasets. Different shapes represent the different variables which are connected by lines, the length of these lines is proportional to the divergence between the data. Lines for each sample are joined at a common point at which the covariance derived from the MCIA analysis is maximal. (B) Pseudo-eigenvalue space showing the percentage of variance explained by each of the MCIA component. Each barplot represents the absolute eigenvalues. (C) Protein or metabolites (colored dots) are projected on a 2-dimensional space. In this panel, a protein or a metabolite that is particularly highly expressed in a maize variety will be located on the direction of this variety. (D) Pseudo-eigenvalues space of all datasets, indicating how much variance of an eigenvalue is contributed by the proteome or the metabolome for cultivations 1 and 2.

What comes next is a little bit more clear cut (a little . . .) , and another graph.

We next conducted a statistical evaluation of the biological differences resulting from the GM transformation process, as well as from the spraying of Roundup, by pairwise comparisons in order to identify proteins and metabolites associated with possible metabolic alterations. The list of proteins and metabolites having their levels significantly disturbed is given in Additional files 5 and 6, respectively. Figure 3 shows the statistical significance of differential protein/metabolite levels by volcano plots along with respective fold changes. While only one protein is newly produced as a result of the transgene insertion, a total of 117 proteins and 91 metabolites have been altered in maize by the genetic transformation process and insertion of the EPSPS-CP4 cassette (Isogenic vs NK603 panel, Fig. 3). One protein (B4G0K5) and 31 metabolites had their expression significantly altered by the spraying of the Roundup pesticide (NK603 vs NK603+Roundup (R) panel, Fig. 3).

Volcano plots show the log 2 fold changes and the −log10 adjusted p-values in protein or metabolite level induced by the GM transformation process (isogenic vs NK603, isogenic vs NK603 + R) or by the pesticide spraying (NK603 vs NK603 + R). Data were selected at the cut off values adj-p < 0.05 and fold change >1.5. Red dots represent protein or metabolites having their level significantly altered in the different samples.

And next, the the meat. Or Corn, as is stands.

The most pronounced differences between the NK603 GM maize and its isogenic counterpart mostly consisted of an increase in the amounts of numerous polyamines. The levels of N-acetyl-cadaverine (2.9-fold), N-acetylputrescine (1.8-fold), putrescine (2.7-fold) and cadaverine (28-fold) were increased in NK603. The metabolome profile also highlighted an impairment of energy metabolism. While metabolites from the first part of the TCA cycle had their levels increased (α-ketoglutarate by 1.65-fold and citrate by 1.49-fold), metabolites from the second part of the TCA cycle had their levels decreased (malate by 0.59-fold, fumarate by 0.60-fold, succinate by 0.80-fold). Additionally, while proteins associated with glycolysis were overexpressed, carbohydrate metabolism is depleted in several metabolites (glucuronate by 0.63-fold, glucose 1-phosphate by 0.56-fold, maltohexaose by 0.28-fold, maltopentaose by 0.51-fold). Differences due to the pesticide spray were subtle: phenylpropanoid such as 4-hydroxycinnamate (0.63-fold), ferulate (0.59-fold) and sinapate (2.9-fold) were significantly changed. While alterations of the shikimate pathway were not detected, intermediates from aromatic amino acid metabolism (PEP derived) had their level increased (phenyllactate by 1.60-fold, phenylpyruvate by 2.71-fold, N-acetylphenylalanine by 2.24-fold and xanthurenate by 1.82-fold).

And the part that has the Eco-based fake news sites in a gay ole tizzy.

In this report we present the first multi-omics analysis of GM NK603 maize compared to a near isogenic non-GM counterpart. Based on analysis conducted by the developer Monsanto Company, NK603 maize was scored as ‘substantially equivalent’ to its isogenic control, which was a major contributor to this product being granted market approval for animal and human consumption in the European Union, United States, Brazil and several other nations. Although NK603 had comparable nutritional and compositional profiles when originally accessed by the developer company upon registration of their product, our analysis at a detailed, in-depth molecular profiling level shows that NK603 grains, with or without Roundup spraying during cultivation, are not equivalent to isogenic non-transgenic control samples.

The concept of substantial equivalence has long being used in safety testing of GMO crops, but the term and the concept has no clear definition35. In 1993 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the “concept of substantial equivalence embodies the idea that existing organisms used as food, or as a source of food, can be used as the basis for comparison when assessing the safety of human consumption of a food or food component that has been modified or is new36. The vagueness of this term generates conflict among stakeholders to determine which compositional differences are sufficient to declare a GMO as non-substantially equivalent. However, the Codex Alimentarius Commission37 makes it clear that a safety assessment of a new food based on the concept of substantial equivalence “does not imply absolute safety of the new product; rather, it focuses on assessing the safety of any identified differences so that the safety of the new product can be considered relative to its conventional counterpart.” Thus, the concept of substantial equivalence should not be used as a proof of safety.

Keep going.

However, it could be used as a first tier in risk assessment to detect any unintended effects of the GM transformation process. Unintended effects can be understood as the effects that go beyond the primary expected effects of the genetic modification, and represent statistically significant differences in the GMO compared with an appropriate control38. Unintended effects during transgenesis include rearrangements, insertion, or deletions during the genetic transformation or during the tissue culture stages of GMO development39,40. A comprehensive characterization of the GM plant at the molecular level could facilitate identification of unintended effects in GMO crops and could be used as a complementary analytical tool to existing safety assessment procedures41,42,43,44.

In general, our study design further highlights the importance of restricting comparison to the GMO crop and non-GMO isogenic comparator and cultivation of the two at the same location and season when the objective is to evaluate the effect of the GM transformation process. This is obligatory in order to reduce effects on plant metabolism arising from differing environmental conditions, which can make it difficult to attribute differences that are observed to the procedure of transgenesis.

In general, our study design further highlights the importance of restricting comparison to the GMO crop and non-GMO isogenic comparator and cultivation of the two at the same location and season when the objective is to evaluate the effect of the GM transformation process. This is obligatory in order to reduce effects on plant metabolism arising from differing environmental conditions, which can make it difficult to attribute differences that are observed to the procedure of transgenesis. However, even though our experimental design takes into account the effect of the growing season, further experiments made under different environmental conditions would be needed to determine the full range of effects of the GM transformation process on NK603 phenotype. Indeed, virtually all traits are influenced by genotype–environment interactions. Neither genetic differences nor environmental variations alone can account for the production of a particular phenotypic variation.


Going back to the original article that brought me here, there is not much else really to cover (its essentially an overview of the study. AKA what I just finished plowing though). But there is one thing that sticks out. Both in its absence from the paper I just finished with, and in the familiarity of the name associated with it.

5. Rats fed this GMO corn over 2 years presented signs of a higher incidence of liver and kidney damage (Séralini et al., Environmental Sciences Europe, 26:14) compared with controls.

Ah yes, this asshole. Gilles-Eric Séralini.

Bowing to scientists’ near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper claiming that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats, after the authors refused to withdraw it.

The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 20121, showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”, said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study mean that “no definitive conclusions can be reached”. The known high incidence of tumours in the Sprague–Dawley strain of rat ”cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups”, it added.

Today’s move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal’s editor-in-chief Wallace Hayes threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper. Elsevier retracted the paper shortly after a press conference in Brussels this morning, in which Séralini protested his innocence.

And there is more. Butthurt brings out the tinfoil.

He and his team stand by their results, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal’s editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years.

“The magazine reviewed our paper more than any other,” says co-author and physician Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, who is also president of the Paris-based Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), which collaborated in the study. The retraction is “a public-health scandal”, he says.

The study found that rats fed for two years with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize (corn) developed many more tumours and died earlier than controls. It also found that the rats developed tumours when glyphosate (Roundup), the herbicide used with GM maize, was added to their drinking water. (See ‘Rat study sparks GM furore‘).

And now, why it matters.

At the 28 November press conference, Corinne Lepage, a Member of the European Parliament and former French environment minister, said that Séralini’s paper asked “good questions about the long-term toxicity of GMOs [GM organisms] and the Roundup herbicide”. Retraction of the paper “will not make these questions disappear”, added Lepage, who is also a co-founder of CRIIGEN.


To conclude, this article is not bad, considering the source and the topic. Not entirely fake news. However, the rat part was an interesting addition. One that was not utilized in the main referenced study. Because it was debunked.

I agree that these findings should indeed trigger more study. Study of these things should be constant anyways (if for nothing else, to try and calm the GMO hysteria).

…Did The CDC Silence A Vaccine Malpractice Whistleblower? – The Answer May Not Surprise You

​Yep. You read that correctly. 


Today I will look into a piece that makes some startling allegations. 

Let us begin.

Thomas Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), has blocked CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, from testifying on scientific fraud and destruction of evidence by senior CDC officials in critical vaccine safety studies regarding the causative relationship between childhood vaccines and autism. 

My eyebrow is raised. 

Attorneys Bryan Smith and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., of Morgan & Morgan, have been seeking to have Dr. Thompson testify in a medical malpractice case to explain how the CDC committed scientific fraud in a series of studies, which found no link between vaccines and autism.

In denying the request, Dr. Frieden said, “Dr. William Thompson’s deposition testimony would not substantially promote the objectives of CDC or HHS [Health and Human Services].”

Dr. Thompson, a 19-year veteran at the CDC and former senior vaccine safety scientist at the agency’s Immunology Safety Office, is the co-author of four key studies that the CDC widely touts to exonerate the MMR vaccine and vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, from being linked to autism. Thompson is currently employed at the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

I am listening. 

He is employed by the very organization that he is claiming gagged him? Also interesting.

Dr. Thompson, a 19-year veteran at the CDC and former senior vaccine safety scientist at the agency’s Immunology Safety Office, is the co-author of four key studies that the CDC widely touts to exonerate the MMR vaccine and vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, from being linked to autism. Thompson is currently employed at the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

In August 2014, Dr. Thompson revealed that the data underlying CDC’s principle vaccine safety studies demonstrated a causal link between vaccines and autism or autism symptoms, despite CDC’s claims to the contrary. According to Thompson, based upon interpretation of the data, “There is biologic plausibility right now to say that thimerosal causes autism-like features.” Dr. Thompson invoked federal whistleblower protection in August 2014. 

A casual link. What exactly does that mean? 

This apparently:


r. William Thompson is listed as author or co-author on the principal studies—Thompson, et al. 2007, Price, et al. 2010, Destefano, et al. 2004—most widely cited to “debunk” the link between autism and vaccines. Thompson said that his bosses, including the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office Branch Chief Frank Destefano, specifically ordered him and three other CDC scientists to destroy data demonstrating vaccine induced autism in CDC’s seminal 2004 study—Destefano, et al. 2004. The data unexpectedly showed a 250 percent increase in autism among young black males who received the vaccine on time—before their third birthday—compared to those who waited until after their third birthday. The data also showed a significant link between the vaccine and isolated autism (autism in normally developing children with no other medical problems), the kind suffered by Yates Hazlehurst, who is mentioned below. According to Thompson, Destefano called his four co-authors into a room and ordered them to dump the damning datasets into a giant garbage can. The published study omitted those data sets. That study, now cited in 91 subsequent papers on PubMed as proof of vaccine safety, is the principle foundation stone of the theology that vaccines don’t cause autism.

In a series of taped statements, a deposition to Congressman William Posey of Florida and in statements issued through his personal attorney, Thompson confirmed that the data underlying the seminal 2004 Atlanta study, Destefano, et al. 2004, showed a causal association between MMR and autism for both African-American boys and for children suffering isolated autism. Thompson also asserted that CDC’s leading thimerosal studies, rather than demonstrating thimerosal’s safety, have consistently showed a causal relationship between thimerosal and tics, a family of grave neurological injuries that are a well-established feature of autism.

That should be about enough. Let’s begin.

I will first utilize a piece from Forbes.


I won’t quote the piece, but I recommend all give it a quick read. According to the article, it seems that the issue is the CDC (Well, the studies author’s)  removing data about a cohort of African American children showing positive correlations of having developed autism VIA the vaccine. He is quoted (in Congress!) in saying that a big garbage can was literally brought in and all associated documents were discarded. Though (quite conveniently) Thompson himself allegedly held onto hard copies and digital versions of related documents. Though he release until 2014 apparently. 

All the studies other authors (but 1) remain at the CDC, none of which have commented but for one made on their behalf by the CDC (essentially No Comment). I suspect they were dragged just as unwillingly into this mess as the CDC was. 

Some background aside, lets get to some meat.

The result was a truly incompetently performed “reanalysis” of DeStefano et al purporting to show a 3.4-fold increased risk of autism attributable to MMR vaccination in African American boys. Of course, it showed nothing of the sort, and Hooker’s paper was later retracted 


Retracted? Yep.

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.


That about covers it, ide say.

Ecowatch recycled an old story from 1 and 2 years past as news (judging by the date of publication of many of these sources). And it turned out to be a banquet of bullshit. Nothing new really, considering the source. But going against vaccination now? 

GMO and Biotech propaganda is one thing. Potentially turning the ignorant against life saving technology is quite another. 


“Canada Approves GMO Salmon” – (Ecowatch)


Though not my reaction, I am guessing that is what they were going for. As is the typical MO of these people.

Anyway, as one can guess, the article is exploring the shocked outcry and outrage with Health Canada’s decision to approve AquaBounty Technologies new GMO salmon. Already, the US has banned import of the fish (though the USDA also approved the fish, its import is pending on getting GMO labeling standardized thoughout the US). And many stores on both sides of the boarder are also beginning to vocally refuse to sell the fish.

Though the approval of this salmon is news, I have heard of this salmon before (maybe a year or 2 back). I am not sure if I did a piece here, but I think I did a small explaination on facebook.

The company started with a typical Atlantic Salmon. To its 40,000 genes, they added a growth hormone regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook Salmon, and a promoter from an ocean pout.


Atlantic Salmon


Pacific Salmon


Ocean Pout

Being that Atlantic Salmon has a much slower growth rate than its Pacific counterpart, the gene that makes the diffrence was added, and put under the control of the ocean pouts promoter. A promoter being a sequence of DNA that turns on the expression of a gene.


The FDA, Health Canada (and likley more to come) have found the fish to be safe for human consumption. Not surprising, being that it does not contain anything we are npt already likley consuming. The requirments also mandate strict control so as there is little to no chance of escape into the wild. They can not be kept in ocean pens as some varieties are. In fact, the fish are only allowed to be cultivated in 2 locations. 1 in Canada (where breeding stock are kept), and one in Panama (where eggs from the Canadian facility are grown and shipped to market).

As mandated, and and checked VIA inspection by the FDA.

So, with the education out of the way, lets see what the fear mongers are saying. First off, we have this quote.

“Health Canada’s approval is irresponsible and disappointing. But regardless of this approval, there is no market for genetically engineered salmon,” Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., said. “Consumers don’t want to eat it and grocery stores won’t sell it.”

Thanks for speaking for me.

You are right in assuming that many stores won’t sell it. They don’t want to lose money by driving away the increasingly large fear mongering moron demographic.
But not all consumers “do not want it”. I personally do not give a fuck about this fishes status as GMO. I would eat it. Just as I consume soy, alfalfa, corn and who knows what else.

Seventy-five percent of respondents to a New York Times poll said they would not eat genetically engineered salmon and 1.8 million people sent letters to the FDA opposing approval of the so-called “frankenfish.”

This is why so many stores are talking a stand. Good PR.

I am not surprised that a majority of respondants told the NYT that they would not eat this salmon, and that millions more wrote to and bitched out the FDA.

I would be far more impressed by these numbers if only those that had a good grasp on how this stuff even works were refrenced and counted. I even count MYSELF out of that catagory. Let alone the rest of these social media drones.

“Canadians could now be faced with the world’s first GMO food animal, approved with no public consultation and no labeling,” Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, said

The labeling thing could be seen as a valid argument (though these days, I see it as doing more harm than good).

But public consultation? Really?

For one thing, if the public had its way, we know exactly what would happen. It would go the same way as the noisy sunchips compostable chip bag.
And for another, since when does the food (or any other) industry consult the public before making an offering available?
An argument can be made for this process. But being its not standard, its not really honest to demonize a company for just, following a typical business custom.

A growing body of science suggests that GMO salmon may pose seriousenvironmental and public health risks, including potentially irreversible damage to wild salmon populations.

“GM salmon production threatens the future of wild Atlantic salmon,” Calinda Brown of the Ecology Action Centre said. “Retailers can protect consumers and the environment by making sure this GM fish never makes it to grocery store shelves.”

It is true that there are concerns about what affects this fish will have on outside species, should escape occur. But this has all been taken into consideration in the construction of the facilities.

The canadian facility is not open at all. And the Panama facility is in an inhospitable environment for salmon survival (waterways are to warm).
Indeed, the process of shipping eggs, than fish, is energy intensive. But it is a minor kink that needs to be worked out. In fact, a kink that may not even exist if it were not for all of this extreme fear over nothing.

Overall, there is not much to see here. Just a fish, with genes of 2 other fish. Both of which are considered edible on their own.

A perfect example of the mere accrynum of GMO creating a reactionary debate.

Non GMO – The New Standard


Today we learned that yet another 2 brands have caved to consumer pressure.
Due to a new GMO labeling law coming to fruition in Vermont soon, Dannon and Hershey have become the latest food conglomerates to dump GMOs in favor of more natural ingredients. Or as is worded in a part of the article that made me laugh (since it was talking about chocolate), more healthy ingredients.

Its a business decision.

Its to much of a hassle to manufacture a tiny little batch of chocolate or yogurt for Vermont distribution (and same for any future states that hop on board the labeling trend). So best just streamline the whole process now, and be better placed for future legal changes involving products and labels.

Such a decision is a gift that keeps on giving, because its great for marketing. I’ve been sensing that Non-GMO is fast becoming the new gluten free. So may as well hop on board early in the game.

Genetic modification is a gigantic topic, one with branches into some scary areas. But it also has brought about much more efficacy in some areas than can be said for traditional organic farming practices.
If utilized properly by the right minds (people over profit, being rule number 1!), forms of genetic modification may well help us combat the upcoming challenges of things like climate change. If you can design plants that are more hearty to the coming extremes, all are better. Hell, if one could design plants/trees that are super efficient with sucking up carbon from the atmosphere (since the world has a hatred of hemp), genetic modification may become part of a solution.

Which is why having a new non GMO standard is worrying.

I get that many are worried about various chemicals ending up on their plates. Of course, im sure that many do not consider that absorbing all sorts of crap that the system was never meant to process is but a byproduct of life in a modern civilization that relies on chemicals for everything. Even strictly organic and non-gmo consumers cant escape this.

And then there is the absolute panic over oven TRACE amounts of GMO protein, in comparison to other foods with (seemingly) bigger problems.
For example, China landfilling whole shipping containers of food over finding 0.01% GMO protein after testing.
This compared to rice. A product that many recommend you limit consumption of (particularly to children) due to its arsenic content. Were talking a bowl of cereal or a few rice cakes VS an entire shipping container of Alfalfa.

There is nothing wrong with attempting to be conscious of what you are taking in, self limiting your chemical exposure. And it is concerning to be finding pesticides in finished goods like bread or bagels.
But even if that is the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the GMO acronym, that is but a part of a bigger picture.

This is one of those situations that has made me hate social media in recent years. All it takes is a few people with a skewed understanding (OR malicious intent) to breed an atmosphere of fear to the consuming public. A public often ignorant of the fine nuance needed to understand various aspects of science or social phenomenon, yet to stupid to research what they hear. Or if they do any research, its not information from people in the trades concerned. Its bloggers, easily debunked quack scientists and doctors, or youtube layman.

What was a mild nuisance before, has now become a formative threat. Since this false science and fear mongering can spread like wildfire with ease, effectively forcing a new standard. A standard that you are either bullied into following at the risk of your livelihood, or a standard that you can exploit.

Setting a new standard could be seen as a win for all consumers. If this standard helps correct some existing and unnecessary bad habits of the food industry, we all benefit. What bothers me, is how were getting there.

Setting aside the whole consumers as pawns argument, your left with the science. As great as Organic and traditional is in terms of image, footprint and perceived health benefit, it might not be the best option going forward. Stay on the path of least chemicals and additives. But also keep on researching, tinkering, making better plants.

Your life may depend on it.

“Over 5 Million Nigerians Urge Government to Reject Monsanto Crops” – (Common Dreams)

Its been awhile since I last waded into the depths of the Anti-GMO propaganda machine. Its also been awhile since ive come across anything really worth reading, any original nonsense. Fortunately for us however, the ideologues are still at it. Because there is no better use of ones time than to ensure that the poorest and the least nourished among us are protected from, the food they require. If you can’t eat organic, you may as well not eat at all!

Is this their line of thinking? This mind wonders . . .

But, on to the meat.


Monsanto is poised to begin planting genetically modified varieties of corn and cotton in Nigeria, provoking the outrage of millions

Shocking revelation. To showcase legitimacy of the cause?

Cohorts can be a funny thing. Tear up a Quran and publicize that video on YouTube, I can guarantee you will also get millions outraged.

This does not mean they have a strong argument. It just means that someone has the wits not to care about their sacred cow.

In response to the biotech behemoth’s application for the release and marketing of the GMO crops in the West African nation, 100 non-profits representing over 5 million Nigerians on Monday presented the government with a formal objection (pdf).

The non-profits advocate for Nigerians from a wide swath of society—from teachers, pastors, and artists, to farmers, environmentalists, and domestic abuse survivors, among many others. The vast range of groups objecting to the Monsanto application, which was submitted last month, testifies to extent of the distrust toward genetically modified food in Nigerian society.

Notably absent from that list (for the most part) being, anyone with a professional background that would put them in a position to evaluate the situation at hand. And why mention domestic abuse survivers? How does that bear ANYTHING in the conversation?

Indeed, this does represent quite a cross section of Nigerian society. Likely a mixture from all over the economic and education ladder. But I am still unimpressed.

1.) The poor and often ignorant will believe whatever you tell them, because they likely could not fact check even if they wanted to.

Its not so much education and protection as it is, evangelization. As if the people of Africa need another group of jerk offs selling them a way of life.

2.) Wealth and/or an education in fields outside of those concerned do not ensure someone is competent enough to form a legitimate opinion on, anything outside of that range.
An engineer may know how to build and inspect bridges, buildings and other major infrastructure. But that does not mean they can not still hold other unscientific stances (anti-vaxxer and total GMO alarmist).

Even access to the internet does not guarantee safety from false or stupid opinions. Sure, the information to fill most epistemological gaps is there to be had (but for the obvious unknowns of the world). Its not always as easy to find as one would like, but its there usually.

But these days with social media, its not always as much about the facts as it is with the popular narrative. You may not know what the HELL you are talking about on any given topic, but if you can make a good argument that is easy for intellectual lightweights to grasp, you can find a following.
The anti-GMO movement has this, PLUS an aspect of scarceness (“DID YOU KNOW THAT THIS FOOD IS DANGEROUS AND UNTESTED!!). Its no wonder that it takes up so much space now.

The groups “are particularly alarmed that [Monsanto’s] application has come so close after the dismal failures of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso,” wrote the environmental think tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), which played a central role in drafting and organizing the objection.

Let’s check this out.

But Bt cotton hasn’t been a blessing for everyone.

The inferior lint quality of Bt cotton has caused severe economic losses for Burkinabè cotton companies. This has prompted a complete phase out of all Bt cotton production over the next two years. Company officials and Monsanto representatives cite two problems with lint quality.

1) Bt varietals produce shorter, less desirable lint. The shorter length means poorer quality, which in turn means a lower price on the international market.

2) Even though cotton yields are up, the amount machines are able to extract from the picked cotton has diminished. In other words, Bt cotton produces both less cotton lint, and lint of an inferior quality.

Inferior lint quality is not a big deterrent for farmers, who sell their cotton at a guaranteed price to the cotton companies. But it is a critical issue for the companies themselves. The combination of shorter staples and lower lint quantities substantially undermines profits.

These cotton companies also control the provision of seeds and inputs to farmers and were able to unilaterally phase out Bt cotton. This is much to the dismay of many Bt cotton farmers.


The final part was interesting. The farmers were getting their moneys worth, but it was not working out at the production end of the spectrum. Being that this end is the end that control’s Burkina Faso’s seed distribution, its no surprise that they became the first to reverse utilizing this biotechnology.

From what I can see, its not a failure. Its just not as much of a moneymaker for the textile industry of the area as conventional cotton varieties. But a kink to be ironed out.

Don’t toss the baby with the bathwater.

Bt cotton is a bollworm-resistant variety of GMO cotton invented and patented by Monsanto, and after the biotech seed decimated Burkina Faso’s cotton industry that country decided this winter to phase it out of production.

Considering they first started trials in 2003 and have only (fairly) recently quit using Bt cotton, this insinuates that these people let their economy and industry remain decimated for a decade. Never mind the people . . . the cotton industry players themselves (being in control of the seed supply)!

But, why not throw in a lie when most will not call you on it anyway. Right?

The losers were the industry players, getting (seemingly) less material for their buck. This is a problem. But its not disaster.

If this were truly disastrous, I would not be writing this piece. I would not be writing this piece because, farmers (and industry!) do not continue to invest in activities that have no hope of profitability, EVER. It would not have taken a decade to figure this out.

Monsanto is requesting that Nigeria now allow it to be cultivated there, along with its so-called “Roundup Ready” version of weedkiller-resistant corn.

HOMEF director Nnimmo Bassey said, “We are totally shocked that [Monsanto’s application] should come so soon after peer reviewed studies have showed that the technology has failed dismally in Burkina Faso. It has brought nothing but economic misery to the cotton sector there and is being phased out in that country where compensation is being sought from Monsanto.”

Bassey went on, “Since our Biosafety Act has only recently entered into force, what biosafety legislation was used to authorise and regulate the field trials in the past in accordance with international law and best biosafety practice?”

“Former President Goodluck Jonathan hastily signed the National Biosafety Management Bill into law, in the twilight days of his tenure in office. Further worrying is the apparent conflict of interests displayed by the Nigerian regulatory agencies, who are publicly supporting the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria whereas these regulators (the NAMBA) are legally bound to remain impartial and regulate in the public interest,” HOMEF writes.

Nigeria isn’t the only country where government officials expected to remain impartial lobby on behalf of corporate interests, of course. The entry of GMOs into Africa was one put in place and advocated for by U.S. State Department officials, as Common Dreams reportedback in 2013.

1.) While it would not surprise me to see a corporation attempting to sweeten its way into emerging markets, you have to take these claims with a grain of salt. There is a BIG difference between lobbying on behalf of company A, and just lobbying the technology in general.

If (say) Vodafone steps in and offers to bring broadband technology to the nations of Africa, and governments are simply lobbying for the technology, is this really a form of corporate lobbying? Yes, the corporate entity benefits financially. But so to does the people it serves and connects.

I don’t know how close Nigerian officials are with any of the company’s involved. But I would need to know this to make a judgement.

2.) The US State department did what?!

I will need to see the cables that back this allegation. Context is everything. At least to some of us.

The non-profits also point out in their objection that Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” corn requires the toxic Roundup herbicide whose core ingredient, glysophate, is known to be extremely harmful to human health and theenvironment.

The statement from HOMEF described the threats Monsanto poses to Nigerians’ health, environment, and food system:

Monsanto’s application deceitfully provides no discussion on the potential risks of glysophate use to human and animal health and the environment. Apart from the potential of contaminating local varieties, the health risk of the introduction of genetically modified maize into Nigeria is enormous considering the fact that maize is a staple that all of 170 million Nigerians depend on.

The groups are urging the Nigerian government to reject Monsanto’s applications out of hand. They note with disquiet that there is a serious lack of capacity within Nigeria to adequately control and monitor the human and environmental risks of GM crops and glyphosate. Further there is virtually no testing of any food material and products in Nigeria for glyphosate or other pesticide residues, or the monitoring of their impact on the environment including water resources.

“Recent studies have linked glyphosate to health effects such as degeneration of the liver and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” added Mariann Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth International’s food sovereignty co-coordinator. “That NABMA is even considering this application is indeed unfortunate and deeply regrettable, knowing full well about the uncontrolled exposure that our rural farmers and communities living close to farms will be exposed to.”

And again with the fear.

Results from standard studies with these materials also failed to show any effects indicative of endocrine modulation. Therefore, it is concluded that the use of Roundup herbicide does not result in adverse effects on development, reproduction, or endocrine systems in humans and other mammals. For purposes of risk assessment, no-observed-adverse-effect levels (NOAELs) were identified for all subchronic, chronic, developmental, and reproduction studies with glyphosate, AMPA, and POEA. Margins-of-exposure for chronic risk were calculated for each compound by dividing the lowest applicable NOAEL by worst-case estimates of chronic exposure. Acute risks were assessed by comparison of oral LD50 values to estimated maximum acute human exposure. It was concluded that, under present and expected conditions of use, Roundup herbicide does not pose a health risk to humans.


As stated before, the internet has the answer to most questions. But its not always on a neat little web page. Sometimes you have to dig a little.

But, in closing, what we have here, is nothing new really. Just another in a long line of bogus claims and faulty logical claims from an inept crowd.

What else is there to say? Besides, never take what you see at face value.

Though this link wasn’t really usable in this piece, I recommend it. From Slate, its written by a journalist that actually took a fairly in-depth look into the whole anti-GMO circus. And the results were not at all surprising.