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Month: April 2013

What’s the Harm? Studies Show GMOs May Cause Plenty


Written by:  Lee Ann Rush

Recent legislation dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” has put the controversy over genetically engineered (GE) foods* back into the headlines, as research continues to identify more and more negative effects resulting from the proliferation of these “Frankencrops.”   GE foods are those which have had their genetic composition altered in order to add a “desirable” trait or eliminate a less-desirable one.   The most common GE foods are herbicide-resistant and pest-resistant crops such as corn, alfalfa and soy. These crops have been designed to produce proteins that kill insects but, it is claimed, cause no harm to mammals, and also to withstand weed-killing herbicides without crop damage (are we all headed for the last Roundup?).  Not surprisingly, the major architects of GE foods are multi-national corporations such as Monsanto and DuPont.

Concerns about the safety of GE foods range from their potential toxicity, which may cause cancer and increase food allergies, to issues of compromised nutritional value, increased antibiotic resistance, and damage to the environment. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have both given GEs their stamp of approval, claiming that they are just as healthful and nutritious as traditional crops, many experts beg to differ.  The argument has become quite heated, as personally witnessed by television’s Dr. Mehmet Oz.  On a recent Dr. Oz program discussing the pros and cons of GE foods, there was such acrimony between the two sides that they couldn’t even appear onstage at the same time to debate the issue!

A recently-published French study monitored lab rats which were fed a diet of genetically engineered herbicide-resistant corn.  The rats developed massive tumors and suffered early deaths, ostensibly caused by the GE corn containing traces of herbicide; rats fed a “traditional” diet fared better and lived longer. Proponents of GE foods have, predictably, panned the French study, claiming flawed research and biased implementation.  What is clear is that more research on the long-term effects of GE foods on humans is essential, and that meanwhile, Americans must be given a choice as to whether or not they want to risk consuming genetically engineered products.

Many European countries, including the UK and Russia, have already banned certain GMOs for human consumption and require the labeling of products containing them.  The citizens of California will soon vote on a bill requiring that GE foods be labeled as such.  Still, though, the FDA insists: “{While} we recognize and appreciate the strong interest that many consumers have in knowing whether a food was produced using bioengineering, FDA supportsvoluntary labeling (emphasis added) that provides consumers with this information and has issued draft guidance to industry regarding such labeling.”

*According to scientists, the commonly-used term “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) is technically incorrect, because, whether in the fields or in a laboratory, all organisms have been genetically modified in some manner.

Earth Day 2013

Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. The Founder of Earth Day is Senator Gaylord Nelson. Prior to that the state of our environment was not an issue in the politics of our country. Senator Nelson approached President Kennedy with his beliefs regarding environmental issues. Despite the President going on a conservation tour, the idea still was not implemented, but the germ of the idea ultimately flowered into Earth Day. The day was to be a worldwide day in observance of environmental problems facing our world. Earth Day was first officially recognized in 1970. It became a day that people would organize and unite to address environmental issues and ways to help the cause at hand.

April is the time where more than 192 countries come together to celebrate Earth Day. It is estimated that one billion people worldwide will participate in activities for Earth Day April 22nd. Many of the activities will consist of different festivities, but most importantly is the efforts made to help us live a greener life and contribute to the green movement of our planet. Although we should try to be aware of environment on a day to day basis, there are many ways to get involved in Earth Day. They can include: Attend an Earth day event, Organize an Earth Day Event, Pledge an Act of Green, Sign the Earth Day Petition, or join an Earth Day campaign. With access to the internet, local functions are also available.

Solatube International Inc. , is a worldwide manufacturer and marketer of Tubular Day lighting Devices(TDD’s), supporting Earth Day and will join in the celebration “The Face of Climate Change”, it also continually supports our environmental needs by changing the way people think about how to utilize daylight for the benefit of the environment. Earth Day is organized annually by Earth Day Network, and is the largest civic observance in the world with more than one billion people participating. The company has introduced the new Solatube Smart LED System, which offers homeowners the chance to save up to 94% in energy lighting savings. It harnesses the sun’s (free) daylight during the day and transitioning to energy and thus cost efficient LED Lighting at night. Every year on Earth Day Solatube Daylighting Systems help turn off the lights in buildings and homes throughout the United States. On Earth Day of 2012, their International Dealers installed enough products to reduce over 17 tons of carbon emissions for the year.

Planting trees is a great way to contribute to our green movement. Trees and forests are closely linked with weather patterns and also the maintenance of a crucial balance in nature. This has become a global affair, and on Earth Day many countries have implemented tree planting to honor the special day. In Dubai, youths from all over the UAE will be planting trees at the Jebel Ali Landfill Project with the support of the Dubai Municipality, taking place on Saturday April 20, 2013 in celebration of Earth Week 2013. They belong to a group called Synergy. The chairperson of this group makes people aware of the evil necessity that are landfills. If we can plant trees near landfills to give more oxygen in the area and thereby reduce the effects of gases emitted by the trash. Participants will also pledge their support for the campaign toward environmental awareness and sustainable development. In Lahore, Pakistan, The World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan will hold its Tree Plantation Drive 2013 that will include hospitals and schools as a part of the International Earth Day Campaign. The goal is to plant 50,000 trees across the country by April 22nd Earth Day. Trees also protect humans from harsh weather, provide shelter and help people breathe easy in that country.

Earth Day 2013 has many activities that will take place all over the world. Such a good cause that unites people together trying to accomplish the same goal. That being the awareness of our destruction of our environment from the lowest level on up.

Lost in a Sinkhole

The Tampa Bay Area has recently been plagued with deadly and dangerous sinkholes. A recent death in the news has brought to light the ongoing problem that central Florida has been dealing with forever. Most home owners require special insurance on their property to protect from the possible major damages that can be made by sinkholes. Sinkholes are a naturally occurring geological feature which are common and one of the predominant landforms in Florida. Their increase in frequency can be linked to the accelerated development of ground-water and land resources. There are as many as 150 reported sinkholes each year in Florida, and many not reported in areas which have low population and development.

A sinkhole is defined as a natural depression or hole in the Earth’s surface caused by karst processes. They can be formed gradually or also suddenly, they are worldwide but very common in Florida due to how the ground is formed in this region. The ground below that makes up Florida is basically all limestone and has a thin covering which is usually very loose sand, and in part part of the state, thick clay. These sediments kind of mantle the limestone, but this can be temporary. Limestone tends to be very soluble. As water moves through it, small holes become larger ones, once the hole gets large enough that the sediments cannot hold and in turn collapse into it. Urban sinkholes are devastating to a community’s infrastructures and homes. New sinkholes can sometimes cause serious damage and cost a lot of money to insurance companies and business or home owners.

In Florida, sinkholes are a common naturally occurring geological feature. They pose a threat to the environment because they can contaminate the water system via aquifers. An aquifer is an underground layer of water bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt) where ground-water can be extracted using a water well. Florida is impacted by aquifers because the vast majority of public water systems use ground water as their source. Surface water flows through sinkholes into the underlying limestone layers of this aquifer system, which is the major source of drinking water in the state of Florida. It is extremely important to protect sinkholes from pollution. Sinkholes threaten water and environmental resources by draining lakes, streams and wetlands, they also create pathways for transmitting surface waters directly into these underlying aquifers. In areas where these pathways are developed, movement of surface contaminants into the underlying aquifer systems can persistently degrade ground-water resources. Sinkholes can also be used as storm-drains where contaminants must also be kept free of the area.

Periods of drought make the tendency for sinkholes to form following event s that produce large amounts of rainfall worse. The cavities underneath the Earth’s surface are less likely to bear the weight of flood water without collapsing. The use of conservation buffers around sinkholes and not allowing sinkholes to become convenient sites for dumping are simple steps to help reduce pollution created through sinkholes. People moving to Florida must be aware of the dangers of sinkholes to their property and possibly health. The continued development of ground-water resources in Florida play a critical role which is complex to the long-term management of water resources and eco-systems of Florida’s Wetlands. Sinkholes are way more common then we can imagine, all over the world, one is probably happening somewhere while you are reading this article.

Is Whole Foods the New Franken-Market?

An issue near and dear to most of us in the Green movement, and everyone else who believes that you truly are what you eat, is the safety and quality of our food supply here in the United States.  We’ve already discussed the food processing giants at length; their manipulation of the American palate to boost their corporate bottom lines has been well-documented, as has the resulting surge in obesity rates and chronic diseases across the country.  The Green response has been to avoid processed foods, grow your own produce where possible, patronize local farmers, and shop for organic and natural foods.

Whole Foods Markets is frequently cited as a good source for healthful, natural foods.  Their website features a list Core Values of the company, and the top two items read as follows:  Quality Standards:  “We carry natural and organic products because we believe that food in its purest state – unadulterated by artificial flavors, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives – is the best tasting and most nutritious food available.”  Organic Farming:  “…farming without the standard array of modern toxic and persistent chemicals used in conventional food production … it’s actually farming with our future at heart.”  Values such as these are the primary reason that health-conscious consumers pay the higher prices charged at Whole Foods (“Whole Paycheck” to some detractors); after all, how can you quibble about a few extra bucks when your family’s well-being is at stake?

Why, then, did Whole Foods make a pact with the devil?   Executives from Whole Foods Markets, along with those of other organic movement leaders Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley, have sold out, publicly admitting that, “The policy set for GE {genetically engineered} alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well.  True coexistence is a must.”  Who is behind the production of GE alfalfa and other crops?  Why, Monsanto of course, the biotech behemoth that has given us such favorites as Agent Orange, DDT and PCBs, the same Monsanto that Congress recently gave carte blanche to continue growing their “Frankenproduce” even though courts have deemed it dangerous.   Once this GE alfalfa permeates the cattle feed supply, there will be no more organically-raised meat because none of this stuff is labeled, and organic farmers won’t have much choice.  Yes, in its infinite wisdom, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that, wait for it, “genetically modified products are safe and {therefore} the agency doesn’t require that they be labeled.”  There’s a ton of evidence to contradict the FDA’s pronouncement, and we’ll look at some of it next time.

Whole Foods, meanwhile, announced recently that, by 2018, it will label all foods it sells that contain GMOs.  2018 is a long way away.  Pardon my lack of applause.

Author: Lee Ann Rush

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