Thursday, September 11, 2014

Admirable Strength, No Fear, Just Courage

Thirteen years ago two giant buildings collapsed on brave men and women running in- when they could have been running away.

While the visions of that morning were haunting as they unraveled in real time, the vision that etched me forever was the buildings coming down, one at a time.

For the sixty to ninety minutes before that moment we saw footage of people in business suits and ties, dresses and heels, randomly scattering in terror. Bike messengers and delivery men sprinted at full speed away from the fiery towers, the raining debris and ash. There was chaos and confusion, a situation that never was practiced or anticipated.

While most ran away from the incident, brave men and women, police, fire and medical personnel, ran toward those buildings. With helmets and radios, heavy coats and breathing gear, they worked against the flow of humanity in an attempt to liberate humanity from an inhuman consequence.

That was a brilliant exhibition of character and strength, of courage and duty. It was awesome to behold. Fueled by a drive to save trapped humans from impossible dangers, they loaded into those two burning buildings, a migration of tools and equipment, into the buildings and up into the stairwells.

And then the first tower came down. As it fell in slow deliberate motion we could still feel the fire in the bellies of the rescuers, pushing each other up ten, twenty, thirty, forty flights of stairs. We could almost hear them screaming "GO! GO! GO!". Only to stop.

But others kept swarming toward that second tower. With fresh visions of absolute calamity and knowledge of brothers and sisters gone, they pushed into that other cement and steel flaming monstrosity. To a similar end.

If there's something we needed to learn from that day, especially those circumstances, it is that sometimes the grandest challenges must be met head on with courage. Running toward that second tower in a 100 lbs of gear, with dust and heat surrounding them, bodies falling from the sky, the first tower down on the ground, the air thick with choking dust-- that is one of the most amazing instances of human fortitude I've ever seen.

Our daily hurdles are nothing by comparison. We should all remember the actions and sacrifices of those first responders. More importantly, we should learn from them and emulate them every day.

Put your daily annoyances in perspective. Never fail to accept a challenge that may help someone else, and never make a decision based on fear.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Conference to Misinform

Colorado is trying to pass a GMO labeling law, so they'll need to bring in the slate of discredited pseudoscientists to scare the credulous.  The Seeds of Doubt Conference is being held on October 11, and features an array of proven scare mongers that sell bad science.

Renowned experts!  Wow!  I can't wait to see who those might be...

The usual suspects.  Of course, nobody invited that actually presents a viewpoint based on the peer-reviewed literature.

This is no surprise.  When a ballot initiative needs to steep a population in fear and push them to vote against science, this group will be most effective.  Huber will talk about his mystery "entity" that he's cultured since 2002 and has no idea what it is (even though anyone could figure it out in a few days).  There's author and documentarian Jeffery Smith, a guy who's empire depends on scaring audiences. Seralini is well known for data that never pan out anywhere else in the world, especially in the billions of cattle that consume 100% GMO diets. 



One of the operative words here is EDUCATION.  This group will misinform a public about a perfectly safe technology.  The participants are not being educated, they are being lied to by expert manipulators that push an activist agenda.  

Having CE Credit for healthcare providers also provides a credibility to the event it does not deserve. 

I'm thinking about hosting an event across the street, a Science Kegger.  Free!  Talk about what participants just heard and how it meshes with actual science.  I just might do it.. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pardon My Logic

Every stinkin' day I read about how Bt is dangerous and a pesticide that humans should not eat, because it kills insects.  After all, it is a regulated insecticide by the EPA!!   It kills caterpillar corn pests, so it MUST kill you too...  Right?  Don't we have a right to know it is in our food?

Anti-GMO folks use this relationship to demand labels for Bt corn.  File that under Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

Now... you can read all over the internets that you can avoid roundup (glyphosate) by using vinegar as an active ingredient with epsom salts and dish soap to kill weeds.  It is a potent HERBICIDE, and is endorsed and distributed ad nauseum by those claiming that glyphosate is dangerous.  Call that Exhibit B.

Exhibit B. 
"It will kill anything you spray it on"...  Hasta la vista Bees!

So if I'm understanding this right, Bt kills a specific kind of insect and should therefore be labeled because it is an insecticide.  Don't we have a right to know?

Vinegar is the main component of a potent herbicide.  Therefore, shouldn't it also be labeled as an herbicide?  Clearly it can kill plants, so it is toxic to eukaryotic cells, just like human cells- don't we have a right to know?

And while I can't find data on it, my guess is that if you incubate testicular, placental or breast cells with it they will die at concentrations 1000x lower than glyphosate in Seralini's tissue culture experiments.

We need to be labeling all vinegar-containing products as herbicides.  Salad dressing, coleslaw, hot sauce, you name it!!!  Pickles are soaking in a deadly herbicide!!!   Do you want your kids to eat herbicides? 

A vaccinated and therefore immunocompromised  baby additionally poisoned by a plant product doused in a deadly herbicide. 


Let's look at the MSDS for acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Toxicity to Animals:
Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 3310 mg/kg [Rat]. 
Acute dermal toxicity (LD50): 1060 mg/kg [Rabbit]. 
Acute toxicity of the vapor (LC50): 5620 1 hours [Mouse].
Chronic Effects on Humans:
MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast. May cause damage to the following organs: kidneys, mucous membranes, skin, teeth.
Other Toxic Effects on Humans:
Extremely hazardous in case of inhalation (lung corrosive). Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, .
Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive).
Special Remarks on Toxicity to Animals: Not available.
Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans: May cause reproductive effects based on
animal data.  No human data found. (UNTESTED!!!)

Compare to Glyphosate:

ACUTE ORAL TOXICITY  Oral LD50 (rat): > 5,000 mg/kg  (less toxic than acetic acid)
ACUTE DERMAL TOXICITY  Dermal LD50 (rat, male): > 5,000 mg/kg  (less toxic than acetic acid) 
ACUTE INHALATION TOXICITY  Inhalation LC50 (rat): > 7.03 mg/L 
EYE IRRITANT   None to Slight 
SKIN IRRITATION  None to Slight 
SENSITIZATION   Guinea pig – Non-Sensitizer 
ACGIH: Not listed 
IARC: Not listed 
NTP: Not listed 
OSHA: Not listed 
MUTAGENIC DATA: No evidence of mutagenic effects during in vivo and in vitro assays. 

What? Organic pickles soaking in an herbicide?  I thought they didn't use herbicides? 

Wow.  That just nails it.  Anti-GMO has been whining about natural insecticides that can't harm humans for a decade, and at the same time pitch a chemical that is by their definition more deadly to plants than roundup.   

Time to label anything containing vinegar as a containing a potentially deadly herbicide.

And ditch those old Massengill products.  No herbicides in the hootenanny.

We have a right to know

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"But it's NATURAL...."

Good old generalizations, the stuff of crummy memes and skim thinking. 

I put a little illumination on Michael Pollan's astute comment, "If it comes from a plant, eat it, if it was made in a plant, don't." 

It sure sounds nice until we remember that for millennia plants have been one of Mother Nature's key weapons in her War on Humanity.  

Glad On Demand Dietitian took that as intended! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

GMO Corn, Insecticide, and Your Vote

Yes, GMO corn contains a compound recognized by the EPA as an insecticide.  Why?  Because it kills a certain insect.  Genetic information has been installed into every cell of corn to produce a protein  that targets Lepidopteran pests, the larvae of a specific family of insects. It is a protein that does not affect non-insects, and there is limited evidence that it affects even non-target insects.

The use of this technology has dramatically cut insecticide use.  Depending on the crop, location and other crop stressors, the decreased use ranges between 30-70%.  This is a very good thing for farmers and the environment.

But look how this almost miraculous approach is warped in the anti-GM or pro-labeling rhetoric:

The intent is not to inform, it is to deceive.

Bt corn is regulated by the EPA as an insecticide because it kills a kind of insect.  That has potential to alter ecology and populations of specific insects.  That's why it is regulated as an insecticide. 

Ironically, the same people making the claim that it is regulated as an insecticide are the same people that will tell you that there is no regulation and that government agencies provide no oversight and lots of rubber stamps. 

Here's the part that should bother you.  Here Oregon Right to Know is actually misinforming the public. The implicit claim is that the added anti-larval protein in corn is somehow dangerous to humans, and without a label, how do you know if you are eating it?  

This clear intent to deceive instead of educate should be a red flag to anyone taking interest in this campaign. 

Truth be told, plants make a variety of insecticidal compounds, naturally.  They are what plants use to defend themselves from insect pests. Bt is an interesting natural compound that targets a specific insect species.

As usual, biotech opponents say that we have a right to know, but then fail to teach.  Worse, they generate misinformation. It is manufacturing implied risk, not speaking accurately about science and technology.

Even the campaigns create confusion and lend no scientific evidence to the labeling discussion. That should tell you exactly how to vote-- always vote against any initiative that uses deception and fear to motivate your decision.

Friday, August 29, 2014

At Least Your Arteries Won't Collapse

I don't know if I've ever eaten at a Hardee's.  I'm not a fan of fast food and this place always seemed like they were constantly reaching out to explore new ways to jam high-caloric slop between a couple of buns and call it sustenance. 

Now the have even outdone themselves, marrying mystery meat with synthetic cheeze substitute, frying it, and putting it over a (likely lard-based) biscuit. 

Hardee's, a name that ironically defines the state of post-meal coronary arteries.

I think someone should call the Food Babe on this one.  The unholy juxtaposition of these healthy gems just might make her big pez-dispenser head explode. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not Happy with Kauai GMO Ordinance Decision

I was at the Lihue Farmers' Market on a beautifully warm morning in July.  The sun was bright and chickens meandered among shoppers' feet, all with the lush green backdrop of lovely Kauai.  I was visiting on the request of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, there to help answer public concerns about transgenic (GMO) technology. I was there with Dr. Steve Savage, along with Renee and Kirby Kester (from HCIA) and a local television guy. It was the first day with new people that would become life-long friends (not so much the camera guy).

I had wonderful interactions with farmers as well as those opposed to GM technology.  Those unhappy with biotech on the island were clearly identified by their red shirts that urged support for County Ordinance 2491, a local initiative that would impose tough (almost impossible) restrictions on the seed companies that shared the island.  Kauai is an off-season nursery for mainland seed production.

After sampling the sweetest pineapple I ever ate, I was introduced to Joanne Yukimura, a woman serving on the Kauai County Council, and one of the seven people that would be voting on the ordinance. She was tiny in stature with a great smile and sharp gray hair that went down just below her ears-- and it took only seconds to see that she was kind, bright and articulate.   I was glad to meet her and schedule a lunch meeting to discuss the science.

She attended a public forum where Steve, Kriby and I spoke on transgenic crops. We had lunch the next day we all had lunch together.  She asked great questions and seemed pleased with our answers. We shared email back and forth a few times.  She seemed to hold an intense desire to understand the science and I was confident that she'd base her decisions and cast her vote in a manner consistent with evidence and reason.

At the public hearings she was tuned in intently to every single story, every comment, and stayed focused through that 14 hour run of three minute testimonials better than the rest.  She asked questions, listened and responded.

It's 1:45 in the morning.  The crowds are gone and a few hold outs hear the last shreds of public testimony. Councilwoman Yukimura is the seated all the way to the right. 

When I completed my science-based testimony she asked me, "One word answer-- Did the Seralini control rats also get tumors?"

"Yes", I said.


When it came time to vote for Ordinance 2491 she voted in favor of it.  She voted for more restrictions against the island's biotech corporations.


Disappointed.  Here was someone that clearly took the time to understand the science, but let politics, emotion, and bad science (more on this later) sway her decision.  The vote passed with her assistance.

Dr. Savage and I share a mystery beverage late in the night, after about 13 hours of continuous public testimony. They had a loudspeaker outside, so we could hear everything from a nearby area. 

Now that day is more than one year in our rear-view mirror, and we sit more than a week after the ordinance was supposed to start. Yesterday a federal circuit court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional.

I hate that decision too.

The ruling was that the ordinance unfairly singled out a specific industry, and that state laws were already in place that had more power and application than the new county ordinance, superseding the need for new laws at a county level.

Why this bothers me.  This is not a scientific victory.  It is not cool heads discussing and debating the data and evidence.  It is not about ensuring public safety, educating the public, and building trust.

When I was over there I enjoyed conversations with workers that had great jobs in the companies.  I also spoke to people everywhere that opposed the companies and wanted them off the islands.  They all shared the common thread of concern for the environment, concern for their families, and an interest in sustainable farming.

They were separated by a dearth of information and shirt color. This morning, the sun will rise on an island  divided even more than ever before.

Councilwoman Yukimura's decision to vote against science and reason, and the Council's massive expenditures to pass and defend this flawed governance are unconscionable.  The fact that a circuit court had to spend a year overturning it is a disgusting waste of time, money and resources.

What is the solution?

If we could just get together and talk, let science guide decisions, and build trust--  that's the way to develop sound guidance that will serve the citizens and environment of Kauai, and promote coexistence with the biotech companies that employ 10% of the island's population.

This court decision will just build new heights of suspicion and allegations of the companies' deep tentacles into judiciary influence. It will breed more anger and turmoil, more raised fists and division.

It breaks my heart because I met warm and concerned people wearing the red shirts in favor of the law, and blue shirts opposing the law. I understood all of them, and all of their concerns.  This is a place for reasoned education and outreach, not a time for bigger divisions and court orders.

As I stated in that testimony, science is not a democracy. Trust is not built on legal wrangling, fear-based lawsuits and corporate restrictions. It comes from education and information.

Yesterday's ruling was an unfortunate necessity, a legal decision that reversed a bad social decision. It was not a victory for science and reason.  It was not a trust building moment.  It leaves a wonderful place with kind people more divided than ever, and the calming sobriety of science even further out of reach, and nobody seems to be reaching for it.