Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Can Diet Help Stop Depression and Violence?

By Jurriaan Kamp, Ode
Posted on August 28, 2007, Printed on August 28, 2007

The best way to curb aggression in prisons? Longer jail terms, maybe, or stricter security measures? How about more sports and exercise? Try fish oil. How can children enhance their learning abilities at school? A well-balanced diet and safe, stimulating classrooms are essential, but fish oil can provide an important extra boost. Is there a simple, natural way to improve mood and ward off depression? Yoga and meditation are great, but -- you guessed it -- fish oil can also help do the trick.

A diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids like omega-3 is the basis for physical well-being. Everybody knows that. But research increasingly suggests that these same ingredients are crucial to psychological health too. And that's a fact a lot of people seem to find hard to swallow.

The relationship between nutrition and aggression is a case in point. In 2002, Bernard Gesch, a physiologist at Oxford University, investigated the effects of nutritional supplements on inmates in British prisons. Working with 231 detainees for four months, Gesch gave half the group of men, ages 18 to 21, multivitamin, mineral and fatty-acid supplements with meals. The other half received placebos.

During the study, Gesch observed that minor infractions of prison rules fell by 26 percent among men given the supplements, while rule-breaking behaviour in the placebo group barely budged. The research showed more dramatic results for aggressive behaviour. Incidents of violence among the group taking supplements dropped 37 percent, while the behaviour of the other prisoners did not change.

Gesch's findings were recently replicated in the Netherlands, where researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen conducted a similar study for the Dutch National Agency of Correctional Institutions. Of the 221 inmates, ages 18 to 25, who participated in the Dutch study, 116 were given daily supplements containing vitamins, minerals and omega-3 for one to three months. The other 105 received placebos. Reports of violence and aggression declined by 34 percent among the group given supplements; at the s;ame time, such reports among the placebo group rose 13 percent.

Gesch is quick to emphasize that nutritional supplements are not magic bullets against aggression, and that these studies are just "promising evidence" of the link between nutrition and behaviour. "It is not suggested that nutrition is the only explanation of antisocial behaviour," he says, "only that it might form a significant part."

But Gesch is just as quick to emphasize that there is no down side to better nutrition, and in prisons in particular, the cost of an improved diet would be a fraction of the cost of other ways of addressing the problem of violence among inmates.

Still, the menu in British prisons hasn't changed in the five years since Gesch published his results, even though the former chief inspector of prisons in the UK, Lord Ramsbotham, told the British newspaper The Guardian last year that he is now "absolutely convinced that there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour, both that bad diet causes bad behaviour and that good diet prevents it."

Yet the effect of nutrition on psychological health and behaviour is still controversial, at least in part because it is so hard to study. Our moods, emotions and actions are influenced by so many factors: everything from our genes to our communities to our personal relationships. How can the role of diet be isolated among all these competing influences? That's exactly why Gesch conducted his study in prisons. In a prison, there are far fewer variables, since all detainees have the same routine. Do the results of the inmate trials reach beyond the prison walls? Gesch thinks so: "If it works in prisons, it should work in the community and the society at large. If it works in the UK and in the Netherlands, it should work in the rest of the world."

Another place improved nutrition seems to be working is in the city of Durham in northeastern England. There, Alex Richardson, a physiologist at Oxford University, conducted a study at 12 local primary schools. The research examined 117 children ages 5 to 12, all of whom were of average ability but were underachieving.

Instructors suspected dyspraxia, a condition that interferes with co-ordination and motor skills and is thought to affect at least 5 percent of British children. Possible signs of dyspraxia may include having trouble tying shoelaces or maintaining balance, for example. The condition frequently overlaps with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and is part of a range of conditions that include autistic-spectrum disorders.

Half the group of children in Richardson's study was given an omega-3 supplement for three months; the other half received an olive oil placebo. The results: Children given the omega-3 supplements did substantially better at school than those in the control group. When it came to spelling, for example, the omega-3 group performed twice as well as expected, whereas the control group continued to fall behind.

Richardson came to the study of nutrition through neurology. Her interest was sparked by the rapid rise of conditions like ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. The incidence of these disorders has increased fourfold in the past 15 to 20 years. "These disorders overlap considerably," she says, "but a real solution is rarely offered. A dyslexic child is assigned a special teacher. A kid with dyspraxia is sent to a physical therapist. One with ADHD is prescribed Ritalin. And you've got to learn to live with autism."

But as Richardson writes in They Are What You Feed Them: "There is always something that can be done. Don't ever believe it if anyone tells you otherwise." One of the things that can be done, according to Richardson, is to boost your child's intake of omega-3.

Of course, Omega-3 is not the only answer to ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia or other psychological or behavioural disorders, which also include Alzheimer's disease. Studies like Richardson's suggest, however, that it may play an important role in stimulating the brain, keeping it healthy and helping it ward off debilitating conditions.

And it looks like we need all the help we can get. Behavioural dysfuntions like ADHD are currently the fastest-growing type of disorder worldwide. Twenty years ago, no one had even heard of ADHD. Today, everyone knows a kid who is taking Ritalin.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of people with psychological disorders will double by 2020 -- and that around that time, depression will surpass heart and vascular disease as the No. 1 most preventable cause of death. The WHO adds that psychological disorders account for four of the 10 most common causes of disability and that a quarter of the general population will be affected by them at some point in their lives.

Diet could well play a central role in all this. The quality -- and quantity -- of the food we eat has increased dramatically over the past century or so. But we are eating more and more processed foods, which contain less and less of the essential minerals, vitamins and fatty acids that appear to be so crucial for mental health. Tomato juice, for example, contains 64 percent less vitamin C, 49 percent less carotene and 17 percent less niacin than a fresh tomato.

Gesch says we "seem to have made unprecedented changes to human diets in recent years with little or no systematic evaluation of the effects on our brain or behaviour." He wants to reverse "high-calorie malnutrition" by encouraging nutritionists, physicians and educators to concentrate not just on calorie intake but on the consumption of nutritional components like vitamins, minerals and fatty acids as well.

In our distant evolutionary past, we all had much more varied diets. Research among native tribes in remote areas suggests that our hunter-gatherer forebears consumed between 100 and 150 different types of plants during the course of a year.

Nowadays, our grain consumption is heavily dominated by wheat. Soy oil accounts for more than 80 percent of the fat Americans consume. Health authorities recommend a minimum of 400 grams (14 ounces) of vegetables and fruit each day, but lots of people don't even come close to that. And even those who do eat lots of fruit and vegetables often don't get the full nutritional benefit because intensive farming has depleted the soil of key minerals.

So what's a consumer to do? Eat fish. Working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), American physician and psychiatrist Joseph Hibbeln compared data on fish consumption with figures on depression and murder in a large number of countries around the world. Fish are a rich and ready source of omega-3. In countries in which fish consumption is low, Hibbeln found the likelihood of suffering from depression was up to 50 times greater than in countries where it is high.

Some 6.5 percent of New Zealanders suffers from severe depression; these citizens also eat very little fish. In Japan, where fish consumption is high, 0.1 percent of the population suffers from depression. Manic depression (bipolar disorder) is rare in Iceland, which has the highest per capita fish consumption in the world, but is quite common in Brazil and Germany, where people don't eat as much fish. Hibbeln also found that, on average, the risk of being murdered is 30 times greater in countries where fish consumption is low compared to countries where it is high.

Cultural and other factors certainly influence these statistics, but the comparisons are nevertheless illustrative. Overall, in subsequent trials, Hibbeln found that depressive and aggressive feelings diminished by about 50 percent after taking fish-oil capsules for two to four weeks.

Based on this and other research, the WHO concluded in a report last year: "Certain dietary choices, including fish consumption, balanced intake of micronutrients and a good nutritional status overall, also have been associated with reduced rates of violent behaviour."

How can something like omega-3 have such an impact on behaviour and psychological health? Communication between the nerve cells in the brain depends on the circulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Low serotonin levels are associated with an increased risk of suicide, depression and violent behaviour.

Omega-3, a long, flexible molecule, appears to facilitate the circulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain, thus boosting communication among nerve cells. And nerve cells that talk a lot with each other make new connections in the brain, a process crucial for learning. Less flexible fatty acids than omega-3, though, do not as efficiently support the chatter.

Hibbeln's work has shown that the brain tissue of Americans is different from that of the Japanese. American cell membranes contain much higher levels of the less flexible omega-6 fatty acids; Japanese cell membranes are significantly richer in omega-3. Processed foods happen to be rich in omega-6, and Americans eat a lot of them. These omega-6 fatty acids seem to have displaced the omega-3 fatty acids found so abundantly in fish, of which the Japanese are so fond.

Other studies have found that depressed patients and children with ADHD and autism are deficient in omega-3. So some scientists speculate that this change in the fatty acids contained within our brains could be causing the modern rise in psychological disorders.

Although more and more research underlines the importance of nutrition for psychological wellness, these findings have not been widely translated into action. "Politicians, policymakers and business leaders keep asking for more research involving thousands of people, like the trials done for every new drug," Richardson complains. "But I say, We have done the uncontrolled experiments now [in the general population] for quite some time." Pharmaceutical firms have few incentives to organize their own studies, since omega-3 is derived primarily from fish oil -- and you can't patent fish.

This frustrates many scientists in the field. "Do we want to wait for more studies that confirm these findings, or do we want to do something today about the level of crime and aggression in our societies?" asks Stephen Schoenthaler, a sociologist at California State University at Stanislaus, in Turlock, California, who has studied the link between food and behaviour for the past 25 years and led several studies among prisoners and schoolchildren showing the social benefits of a healthier diet.

It's not all good news, though. Consumers should watch out for manufacturers that make exaggerated claims about these nutritional supplements. "Never use supplements as a substitute for a good diet," counsels Richardson. "The key thing that most people seem to have forgotten is that food is not just fuel, it is nourishment. Food is not just a source of energy that one can consume on the run. A healthy diet needs to provide a minimum of essential nutrients in a dosage recommended for daily use."

A multivitamin and mineral supplement is a good "insurance policy," Richardson says, and 500 mg of omega-3 every day is not a bad idea either. But buyer beware: Not all supplements are good supplements, so seek the advice of a qualified professional before deciding which supplement, if any, is right for you.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but research is beginning to confirm that vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can reduce aggression and improve psychological well-being. That could be a simple recipe for a more peaceful world.

Jurriaan Kamp is a the co-founder and editor of Ode magazine.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/60874/

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Genetically Modified Foods: Toxins and Reproductive Failures

By Jeffrey M. Smith
From his newsletter "Spilling the Beans"

Rhetoric from Washington since the early 1990s proclaims that genetically modified (GM) foods are no different from their natural counterparts that have existed for centuries. But this is a political, not a scientific assertion. Numerous scientists at the FDA consistently described these newly introduced gene-spliced foods as cause for concern. In addition to their potential to produce hard-to-detect allergies and nutritional problems, the scientists said that “The possibility of unexpected, accidental changes in genetically engineered plants” might produce “unexpected high concentrations of plant toxicants.”[1] GM crops, they said, might have “Increased levels of known naturally occurring toxins, . . . appearance of new, not previously identified” toxins, and an increased tendency to gather “toxic substances from the environment” such as “pesticides or heavy metals.” They recommended testing every GM food “before it enters the marketplace.”[2] But the FDA was under orders from the first Bush White House to promote the biotechnology industry, and the political appointee in charge of agency policy was Monsanto’s former attorney—later their vice president. The FDA policy ignored the scientists’ warnings and allowed GM food crops onto the market without any required safety studies.

From the few safety tests that have been conducted, the results are disturbing—lab animals fed GM diets show damage to virtually every system studied. Reports from farmers are even less encouraging—thousands of sick, sterile and dead animals are traced to GM feed.[3]

GM diet shows toxic reactions in digestive tract

The very first crop submitted to the FDA’s voluntary consultation process, the FlavrSavr tomato, showed evidence of toxins. Out of 20 female rats fed the GM tomato, 7 developed stomach lesions.[4] The director of FDA’s Office of Special Research Skills wrote that the tomatoes did not demonstrate a “reasonable certainty of no harm,”[5] which is their normal standard of safety. The Additives Evaluation Branch agreed that “unresolved questions still remain.”[6] The political appointees, however, did not require that the tomato be withdrawn.[*]

According to Arpad Pusztai, PhD, one of the world’s leading experts in GM food safety assessments, the type of stomach lesions linked to the tomatoes “could lead to life-endangering hemorrhage, particularly in the elderly who use aspirin to prevent [blood clots].”[7] Pusztai believes that the digestive tract should be the first target of GM food risk assessment, because the gut is the first (and largest) point of contact with the foods; it can reveal various reactions to toxins. He was upset, however, that the research on the FlavrSavr never looked passed the stomach to the intestines. Other studies that did look found problems.

Mice were fed potatoes with an added bacterial gene, which produced an insecticide called Bt-toxin. Scientists analyzed the lower part of their small intestines (ileum) and found abnormal and damaged cells, as well as proliferative cell growth.[8] Rats fed potatoes engineered to produce a different type of insecticide (GNA lectin from the snowdrop plant) also showed proliferative cell growth in both the stomach and intestinal walls (see photo).[9] Although the guts of rats fed GM peas were not examined for cell growth, the intestines were mysteriously heavier; possibly resulting from such growth.[10] Cell proliferation can be a precursor to cancer and is of special concern.

GM diets cause liver damage

The state of the liver—a main detoxifier for the body—is another indicator of toxins.

* Rats fed the GNA lectin potatoes described above had smaller and partially atrophied livers.[11]

* Rats fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 corn, engineered to produce Bt-toxin, had liver lesions and other indications of toxicity.[12]

* Rabbits fed GM soy showed altered enzyme production in their livers as well as higher metabolic activity.[13]

* The livers of rats fed Roundup Ready canola were 12%–16% heavier, possibly due to liver disease or inflammation.[14]

* And microscopic analysis of the livers of mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans revealed altered gene expression and structural and functional changes.[15] Many of these changes reversed after the mice diet was switched to non-GM soy, indicating that GM soy was the culprit. The findings, according to molecular geneticist Michael Antoniou, PhD, “are not random and must reflect some ‘insult’ on the liver by the GM soy.” Antoniou, who does human gene therapy research in King’s College London, said that although the long-term consequences of the GM soy diet are not known, it “could lead to liver damage and consequently general toxemia.”[16]

Higher death rates and organ damage

Some studies showed higher death rates in GM-fed animals. In the FlavrSavr tomato study, for example, a note in the appendix indicated that 7 of 40 rats died within two weeks and were replaced.[17] In another study, chickens fed the herbicide tolerant “Liberty Link” corn died at twice the rate of those fed natural corn.[18] But in these two industry-funded studies, the deaths were dismissed without adequate explanation or follow-up.

In addition, the cells in the pancreas of mice fed Roundup Ready soy had profound changes and produced significantly less digestive enzymes;[19] in rats fed a GM potato, the pancreas was enlarged.[20] In various analyses of kidneys, GM-fed animals showed lesions, toxicity, altered enzyme production or inflammation. Enzyme production in the hearts of mice was altered by GM soy.[21] And GM potatoes caused slower growth in the brain of rats.[22]

Reproductive failures and infant mortality

In both mice and rats fed Roundup Ready soybeans, their testicles showed dramatic changes. In rats, the organs were dark blue instead of pink (see photo).[23] In mice, young sperm cells were altered.[24] Embryos of GM soy-fed mice also showed temporary changes in their DNA function, compared to those whose parents were fed non-GM soy.[25]

More dramatic results were discovered by a leading scientist at the Russian National Academy of sciences. Female rats were fed GM soy, starting two weeks before they were mated.

* Over a series of three experiments, 51.6 percent of the offspring from the GM-fed group died within the first three weeks, compared to 10 percent from the non-GM soy group, and 8.1 percent for non-soy controls.
* “High pup mortality was characteristic of every litter from mothers fed the GM soy flour.”[26]
* The average size and weight of the GM-fed offspring was quite a bit smaller.[27]
* In a preliminary study, the GM-fed offspring were unable to conceive.[28]

After the three feeding trials, the supplier of rat food used at the Russian laboratory began using GM soy in their formulation. Since all the rats housed at the facility were now eating GM soy, no non-GM fed controls were available for subsequent GM feeding trials; follow-up studies were canceled. After two months on the GM soy diet, however, the infant mortality rate of rats throughout the facility had skyrocketed to 55.3 percent (99 of 179).[29]

Farmers report livestock sterility and deaths

About two dozen farmers reported that thousands of their pigs had reproductive problems when fed certain varieties of Bt corn. Pigs were sterile, had false pregnancies, or gave birth to bags of water. Some cows and bulls also became sterile. Bt corn was also implicated by farmers in the deaths of cows, horses, water buffaloes, and chickens. [30]

When Indian shepherds let their sheep graze continuously on Bt cotton plants, within 5-7 days, one out of four sheep died. There was an estimated 10,000 sheep deaths in the region in 2006, with more reported in 2007. Post mortems on the sheep showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver (as well as enlarged bile ducts). Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin. . . . most probably Bt-toxin.”[31]

Dangerous denial

The warnings of the FDA scientists appear to have come true. But we were not supposed to know about their concerns. The agency’s internal memos were only made public due to a lawsuit. Instead, we were supposed to believe the official FDA policy, claiming that the agency is not aware of information showing that GM foods are meaningfully different. This statement, crafted by political appointees, directly contradicts the scientific consensus at the FDA.

Nearly every independent animal feeding safety study on GM foods shows adverse or unexplained effects. But we were not supposed to know about these problems either—the biotech industry works overtime to try to hide them. Industry studies described above, for example, are neither peer-reviewed nor published. It took lawsuits to make two of them available. And adverse findings by independent scientists are often suppressed, ignored, or denied. Moreover, researchers that discover problems from GM foods have been fired, stripped of responsibilities, deprived of tenure, and even threatened. The myth that GM crops are the same safe food we have always eaten continues to circulate.

With the overwhelming evidence of problems since their introduction in 1996, however, it is likely that GM foods are contributing to the deterioration of health in the United States. Without human clinical trials or post-marketing surveillance, we can’t tell which worsening health statistic may be due to these foods. But we also can’t afford to wait until we find out. GM foods must be removed from our diet immediately. Fortunately, more and more people are making healthy non-GM choices for themselves and their family. To learn which foods are genetically modified and how to protect yourself, visit www.GeneticRoulette.com.

[*] Calgene had submitted data on two lines of GM tomatoes, both using the same inserted gene. They voluntarily elected to market only the variety that was not associated with the lesions. This was not required by the FDA, which did not block approvals on the lesion-associated variety. The FlavrSavr tomato has since been taken off the market. After the FlavrSavr, no other biotech company has submitted such detailed data to the FDA. And the superficial summaries they do present to the agency are dismissed by critics as woefully inadequate to judge safety.

[1] Edwin J. Mathews, Ph.D., in a memorandum to the Toxicology Section of the Biotechnology Working Group. Subject: Analysis of the Major Plant Toxicants. Dated October 28, 1991

[2] Division of Food Chemistry and Technology and Division of Contaminants Chemistry, “Points to Consider for Safety Evaluation of Genetically Modified Foods: Supplemental Information,” November 1, 1991, www.biointegrity.org

[3] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007

[4] Department of Veterinary Medicine, FDA, correspondence June 16, 1993. As quoted in Fred A. Hines, Memo to Dr. Linda Kahl. “Flavr Savr Tomato: . . . Pathology Branch’s Evaluation of Rats with Stomach Lesions From Three Four-Week Oral (Gavage) Toxicity Studies . . . and an Expert Panel’s Report,” Alliance for Bio-Integrity (June 16, 1993) http://www.biointegrity.org/FDAdocs/17/view1.html

[5] Robert J. Scheuplein, Memo to the FDA Biotechnology Coordinator and others, “Response to Calgene Amended Petition,” Alliance for Bio-Integrity (October 27, 1993) www.biointegrity.org

[6] Carl B. Johnson to Linda Kahl and others, “Flavr Savr™ Tomato: Significance of Pending DHEE Question,” Alliance for Bio-Integrity (December 7, 1993) www.biointegrity.org

[7] Arpad Pusztai, “Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?” June 2001 Action Bioscience www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html

[8] Nagui H. Fares, Adel K. El-Sayed, “Fine Structural Changes in the Ileum of Mice Fed on Endotoxin Treated Potatoes and Transgenic Potatoes,” Natural Toxins 6, no. 6 (1998): 219–233.

[9] Stanley W. B. Ewen and Arpad Pusztai, “Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine,” Lancet, 1999 Oct 16; 354 (9187): 1353-4.

[10] Arpad Pusztai, “Facts Behind the GM Pea Controversy: Epigenetics, Transgenic Plants & Risk Assessment,” Proceedings of the Conference, December 1st 2005 (Frankfurtam Main, Germany: Literaturhaus, 2005).

[11] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,” Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84.

[12] John M. Burns, “13-Week Dietary Subchronic Comparison Study with MON 863 Corn in Rats Preceded by a 1-Week Baseline Food Consumption Determination with PMI Certified Rodent Diet #5002,” December 17, 2002 www.monsanto.com/monsanto/content/sci_tech/prod_safety/fullratstudy.pdf

[13] R. Tudisco, P. Lombardi, F. Bovera, D. d’Angelo, M. I. Cutrignelli, V. Mastellone, V. Terzi, L. Avallone, F. Infascelli, “Genetically Modified Soya Bean in Rabbit Feeding: Detection of DNA Fragments and Evaluation of Metabolic Effects by Enzymatic Analysis,” Animal Science 82 (2006): 193–199.

[14] Comments to ANZFA about Applications A346, A362 and A363 from the Food Legislation and Regulation Advisory Group (FLRAG) of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) on behalf of the PHAA, “Food produced from glyphosate-tolerant canola line GT73,” www.iher.org.au/

[15] M. Malatesta, C. Caporaloni, S. Gavaudan, M. B. Rocchi, S. Serafini, C. Tiberi, G. Gazzanelli, “Ultrastructural Morphometrical and Immunocytochemical Analyses of Hepatocyte Nuclei from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Cell Struct Funct. 27 (2002): 173–180

[16] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007

[17] Arpad Pusztai, “Can Science Give Us the Tools for Recognizing Possible Health Risks for GM Food?” Nutrition and Health 16 (2002): 73–84.

[18] S. Leeson, “The Effect of Glufosinate Resistant Corn on Growth of Male Broiler Chickens,” Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, University of Guelph, Report No. A56379, July 12, 1996.

[19] Malatesta, et al, “Ultrastructural Analysis of Pancreatic Acinar Cells from Mice Fed on Genetically modified Soybean,” J Anat. 2002 November; 201(5): 409–415; see also M. Malatesta, M. Biggiogera, E. Manuali, M. B. L. Rocchi, B. Baldelli, G. Gazzanelli, “Fine Structural Analyses of Pancreatic Acinar Cell Nuclei from Mice Fed on GM Soybean,” Eur J Histochem 47 (2003): 385–388.

[20] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,” Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84

[21] R. Tudisco, P. Lombardi, F. Bovera, D. d’Angelo, M. I. Cutrignelli, V. Mastellone, V. Terzi, L. Avallone, F. Infascelli, “Genetically Modified Soya Bean in Rabbit Feeding: Detection of DNA Fragments and Evaluation of Metabolic Effects by Enzymatic Analysis,” Animal Science 82 (2006): 193–199.

[22] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,” Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84
[23] Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007

[24] L. Vecchio et al, “Ultrastructural Analysis of Testes from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” European Journal of Histochemistry 48, no. 4 (Oct–Dec 2004):449–454.

[25] Oliveri et al., “Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7–10, 2006.

[26] I.V.Ermakova, “Genetically Modified Organisms and Biological Risks,” Proceedings of International Disaster Reduction Conference (IDRC) Davos, Switzerland August 27th – September 1st, 2006: 168–172.

[27] Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

[28] Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007

[29] I.V.Ermakova “GMO: Life itself intervened into the experiments,” Letter, EcosInform N2 (2006): 3–4.

[30] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007

[31] “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp

Spilling the Beans is a monthly column available at www.responsibletechnology.org. The website also offers eater-friendly tips for avoiding GMOs at home and in restaurants.

Permission is granted to publishers and webmasters to reproduce issues of Spilling the Beans in whole or in part. Just email us at column@seedsofdeception.com to let us know who you are and what your circulation is, so we can keep track.

The Institute for Responsible Technology is working to end the genetic engineering of our food supply and the outdoor release of GM crops. We warmly welcome your donations and support.

Go to www.responsibletechnology.org or click here if you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation. Click here if you would like to become a member of the Institute for Responsible Technology. Membership to the Institute for Responsible Technology costs $25 per year. New members receive The GMO Trilogy, a three-disc set produced by Jeffrey Smith (see www.GMOTrilogy.com).

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Take Action on USDA Decision on Almonds

Use this link to TAKE ACTION NOW through the Organic Consumer's Association.

Under pressure from industrial agriculture lobbyists, the USDA has quietly approved a new regulation that will effectively end distribution of raw almonds, while putting many family farmers out of business. The regulation is scheduled to go into effect in just a few short days on Septmeber 1st, unless thousands of consumers take action now.

The rule requires pasteurization of almonds, including organic, yet allows those same almonds to continue to be labeled as "raw". Nutritionists point out that raw, organic almonds are far superior, in terms of nutrition, than pasteurized almonds.

One of the FDA-recommended pasteurization methods requires the use of propylene oxide, which is classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

Organic and family-scale almond farmers are protesting the proposed rule, saying it will effectively put them out of business, since the minimum price for the pasteurization equipment is $500,000.

The agency claims pasteurization is necessary, since there have been two food contamination incidents with raw almonds since 2001.

But both of these incidents, in fact, were the result of blatant mismanagement on large industrial-scale almond farms.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Judge Sides With Whole Foods on Deal for Wild Oats

August 17, 2007

In the end, the online ramblings of Rahodeb didn’t scuttle the plans of Whole Foods Market to buy Wild Oats Markets.

Yesterday, Judge Paul L. Friedman of Federal District Court in Washington refused the Federal Trade Commission’s request to block the merger of the grocery chains.

The federal agency had argued that the merger would limit competition in the market for natural and organic food and increase prices, and it used the words of Whole Foods’ chief executive and co-founder, John P. Mackey, to support their argument, including remarks he made using an anonymous online pseudonym, Rahodeb.

Judge Friedman’s 93-page opinion remained under seal, but Clifford H. Aronson, a lawyer for Wild Oats who had quickly read the decision, said the judge simply did not believe that there was a unique market for natural and organic foods, as the F.T.C. had argued. He said the online postings from Mr. Mackey did not sway the judge.

“It was a sideshow, but it doesn’t make an antitrust case,” Mr. Aronson said.

The judge’s ruling was a major victory for Whole Foods, which has been on the defensive since the F.T.C. filed its case in June. Whole Foods announced its intentions to purchase Wild Oats for $565 million in February.

“This obviously has got to be a setback for the F.T.C.,” said William J. Baer, a Washington antitrust lawyer and a former director of the trade commission’s Bureau of Competition. “I think they thought this was a slam-dunk.”

Whole Foods officials argued that the merger was necessary because, as the market for organic and natural foods has grown, the chain’s competition had expanded to include everyone from Wal-Mart to conventional grocery stores like Safeway. Whole Foods and Wild Oats need to combine forces to remain competitive, company officials maintained.

“The district court’s ruling affirms our belief that a merger between Whole Foods and Wild Oats is a winning scenario for all stakeholders,” Mr. Mackey said in a statement.

But Jeffrey Schmidt, the director of the Bureau of Competition, said in a statement that the court’s decision was a loss for consumers and competition.

“We respect the court’s decision, which we are currently reviewing,” he said. “We brought this challenge because the evidence before us showed that the merger would most likely result in higher prices and reduced choices for consumers who shop at premium natural and organic supermarkets.”

The companies have agreed not to close the deal until at least noon Monday, giving the F.T.C. time to file an appeal, and perhaps to obtain a stay pending the outcome of the appeal.

Shares of Whole Foods were up $3.33 in after-hours trading, to $44.40.

As the anonymous Rahodeb, Mr. Mackey was a regular on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board for a period of seven years, usually extolling the virtues of Whole Foods and on occasion, blasting its longtime rival, Wild Oats.

Last month, Whole Foods said federal regulators from the Securities and Exchange Commission and its own board were investigating the postings. At that time, Mr. Mackey issued an apology for his “error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards.”

Federal Trade Commission Reveals 'Confidential' Whole Foods Plans to Dominate Market

  • FTC reveals 'confidential' Whole Foods plans
    Retailer now investigating 'apparent improper release' of confidential business info
    The Associated Press, Aug 15, 2007
    Straight to the Source

From the New York Times:

Federal regulators filed court documents Tuesday that revealed confidential details about Whole Foods Market Inc.'s proposed $565-million purchase of Wild Oats Markets Inc.

The Federal Trade Commission, which opposes the merger on antitrust grounds, outlined concerns that stores in competitive markets would close and consumers would face higher prices for organic and natural foods if the deal goes through.

The FTC documents disclosed that Whole Foods plans to close 30 or more Wild Oats stores, a move that the company believes would nearly double revenue for some Whole Foods stores.

The agency also revealed how Whole Foods negotiates with suppliers to drive up costs for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Regulators also discussed the company's closely held marketing strategies.

A judge is considering whether to block the deal temporarily.

Many of the details in the documents, which FTC lawyers filed electronically, were not meant to be released publicly, but words intended to be redacted were actually just electronically shaded black. The words could be searched, copied, pasted and read in versions downloaded from court computer servers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

" Ah Nuts!" ....Re-posted for those of you that have recently inquired about this:

Tell USDA Not to Allow Companies to Process Almonds with Toxic Chemicals & High Heat & Label Them 'Raw Almonds'

In response to two outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 traced to raw almonds grown in California, the Almond Board of California and the USDA have quietly developed a new regulation mandating that all almonds undergo a sterilization process that includes chemical and/or high-temperature treatments.

The plan is angering many small-scale farmers, retailers, and consumers. This new rule is controversial for many reasons. It could force family farms out of business, ignores the underlying systemic problems with conventional agriculture that cause food contamination, and is upsetting to consumers seeking organic and raw foods.

Truth in Advertising, or Greenwashing Questionable Technology?

While the USDA generously describes the new almond treatments as pasteurization, the most common treatment method expected to be used fumigates almonds with propylene oxide. In lab experiments, the chemical leads to gene mutation, DNA strand breaks, and neoplastic cell transformation. The U.S. EPA has classified propylene oxide as a probable human carcinogen. Its use in treating food for human consumption is banned in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and most other countries.

Organic Almonds Might Be Safer but Will Not Be "Raw"

The only exemptions to these new regulations will be organic "raw" almonds, which will not be fumigated, but will undergo the steam-heat treatment, and small-scale growers who can sell truly raw almonds but only direct to the public from farm stands. Almonds that have heat treatment will deceptively still be labeled as "raw," despite having undergone surface sterilization treatments.

Family Farmers Could Be Squeezed Out of Business

The costs of the chemical and heat treatments, in addition to the costs of transporting and recording the new procedures, will be especially onerous on small-scale and organic farmers. The equipment to pasteurize almonds is very expensive. A propylene oxide chamber costs $500,000 to $1,250,000, and a roasting line can cost as much as $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. Smaller, family-operated handlers that buy almonds from small, family-owned almond growers and cater to the organic and natural foods markets, are concerned that they will not be able to afford such expensive equipment and will be forced out of the almond business.


Unlike milk, eggs, and meats, for which real pasteurization or cooking offers an important protection from food-borne illness, no scientific evidence exists to show that almonds are an inherently risky food. In fact, Salmonella contamination of almonds can only occur when livestock manure or fecal matter is inadvertently transferred to the nuts through contaminated water, soil, or transportation and handling equipment. Almonds may also be infected by poor employee sanitation either on the farm or in processing facilities.

While two outbreaks may bring bad publicity and economic losses to the almond industry, it does not prove that almonds are inherently unsafe. Is it justified to impose these onerous regulations on an entire industry, impacting all consumers, because of two relatively small outbreaks, one of which has been traced to Paramount Farms, a giant, industrial-scale farming operation raising 70,000 of acres of nut crops, that is by no means representative of the industry as a whole?

Rule Status

The rule is set to go into effect on September 1. The Cornucopia Institute has formally asked the USDA to re-open the regulatory proceeding to allow for additional public input and review. Only 18 public comments-all from the almond industry-were received on the draft rule when it was open for public comment in early 2007. Unlike consumers, retailers, or other organizations concerned with food safety, all almond handlers received a personal letter or fax from the USDA alerting them to the sterilization proposal and inviting their comments. It's time other stakeholders-consumers and retailers-have an opportunity to have their voices heard in this matter.

We urge all concerned consumers, retailers, and farmers to contact the USDA and demand that the new rule mandating "pasteurization" of almonds be re-opened for public comment and review. Cornucopia has a comprehensive fact sheet on the almond issue on its web page, and a sample letter for interested individuals to send to the USDA can be found at http://cornucopia.org/index.php/238.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good news from Jeffrey Smith and Mercola.com

Spilling the Beans, (delayed) July 2007 [To view this newsletter on the website, click here]

The July newsletter was delayed so that we could share this exciting news. Donations to our Institute are being matched dollar for dollar right now, by www.mercola.com, one of the world’s largest health-oriented websites. To have your donation or member fee matched by The Mercola.com Foundation, go to www.responsibletechnology.org/donate.

Subscribe to e-newsletter Spilling the Beans

For a more in-depth look at 65 health risks of GM foods, excerpted from Jeffrey Smith's comprehensive new book Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Monday, August 6, 2007

Grocery giant switching to milk free of synthetic hormones

The Associated Press, August 5 2007

ST. LOUIS - One of the nation's largest retail grocery chains has announced plans to switch to milk free of synthetic [genetically engineered] hormones.

The announcement Wednesday from Kroger Co. is another blow to Monsanto Co., which already had been reducing inventory of its milk production-boosting hormone as Starbucks Coffee Co. and other retailers rejected it.

Monsanto markets the hormone rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin, under the brand name Posilac. The Food and Drug Administration and the company insist the hormone is safe.

Kroger said consumer preference prompted its decision. The retailer began moving toward rBST-free milk this year in Louisiana and Texas stores. By February, Kroger plans to sell only milk certified as free of synthetic hormones at the 2,458 stores it operates in 31 states

Friday, August 3, 2007

Monsanto Goes GMO-Free - in its Cafeteria

Web Note: Speaks for itself, doesn't it? For more commentary on this news item, click here. To see OCA's compilation of Monsanto's various despicable activities, visit our Millions Against Monsanto page.

UNITED KINGDOM. From now on, staff at the British headquarters of biotech giant Monsanto will be eating only non-genetically modified products on their lunch breaks. Foods containing genetically modified soy and corn are no longer available in the company cafeteria. Granada Food Services, which manages the canteen, is said to be concerned about health risks. Monsanto's press department contends the action was not the result of a boycott initiated by worried employees of theU.S. multinational.