Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think

Soybeans are the second-largest US crop after corn, covering about a quarter of US farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except  Brazil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal—it accounts for less than 1 percent of total US acreage devoted to soy. (The remaining 9 percent or so of soybeans are conventionally grown, but not genetically modified.)

Americans don't eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn't mean we're not exposed to them. After harvest, the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat; and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the US Soy Board, soy accounts for 61 percent of American's vegetable oil consumption.

Given soy's centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Chemistry are worth pondering. The authors found that Monsanto's ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to withstand its own blockbuster herbicide, contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior.

In the study, the researchers looked at samples of three kinds of soybeans grown in Iowa: 1) those grown from GM herbicide-tolerant seeds; 2) those grown from non-GM seeds but in a conventional, agrichemical-based farming regime; and 3) organic soybeans, i.e., non-GM and grown without agrichemicals.

They found residues of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and aminomethylphosphonic acid, or AMPA, the compound glyphosate breaks down into as it decays, on all ten of the GM samples—and in none of the non-GM and organic ones.

The researchers found residue levels hovering above a level Monsanto itself has characterized as "extreme."

The GMO soy had total residues averaging 11.9 ppm, with a maximum reading of 20.1 ppm—averages that are are well below the Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 20 ppm, a limit shared by the European Union. Yet as the authors note, back in 1999, Monsanto itself reported that the maximum recorded reading of glyphosate residue found on Roundup Ready soy was 5.6 parts per million—a level it called "extreme," and "far higher than those typically found."

So, the researchers found residue levels well below the EPA's limit, but hovering above a level Monsanto itself has characterized as "extreme." What to make of it?

As the authors note, the science around the effects of glyphosate at relatively low levels is controversial. By setting the residue limit at 20 parts per million, US and European regulators are endorsing a no-harm view. But some independent research, including a 2012 study (my account here) by University of Pittsburg scientist Rick Relyea, found that Roundup in water at 3 ppm induced morphological changes in frogs. And in a 2012 paper, German researchers subjected various bacterial strains typically found in the guts of poultry to glyphosate at levels of 5 ppm and lower and found that it tended to harm beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, while pathogens like Salmonella Entritidi tended to be "highly resistant" to it. The results suggest that glyphosate can shift the balance of the gut microbiota—hardly comforting, given the surge in research finding that subtle changes to the bacteria in our bodies have a huge impact on our health.

The study also found small but statistically significant differences in the nutritional quality of the soybean types: The organic soybeans had slightly higher protein levels than the other two, and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids showed no significant difference. Both fats are essential in human diets, but research suggests that US eaters tend to consume a higher ratio of omega-6 acids to omega-3 acids than is healthy.

It's worth noting that food isn't glyphosate's only pathway to our bodies. In a 2011 study, researchers for the US Geological Survey "frequently detected" glyphosate in surface waters, rain, and air in the Mississippi River basin. "The consistent occurrence of glyphosate in streams and air indicates its transport from its point of use into the broader environment," USGS stated in a press release, adding that "we know very little about its long term effects to the environment."

Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher who documented the rise in glyphosate use that has accompanied Roundup Ready crops, told me that "human dietary exposure to glyphosate is now probably the highest ever for any pesticide used in the US." When you consider the additional doses we get through water and air, the chemical stands "in a class by itself" in terms of human exposure. "I sure hope EPA is right in its evaluation of the toxicity of glyphosate," he said.

Thus a plague of herbicide-resistant weeds and a corresponding spike in herbicide use may not be the only black marks against Monsanto's blockbuster Roundup Ready crops.

Plenty of LINKS here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Weekend was Great!

We had a very pleasant Easter Weekend.  Watched our annual "The Ten Commandments" on Saturday night, and then religious movies all day on Sunday.

I did something a little different this year.  Instead of a Bone-In Leg of Lamb, I ordered a "Semi Boneless" cut.  I was shocked at the price, but was delighted with the result.  Much more meat.

I rubbed it with fresh lemon juice, plugged it with garlic, and topped with Rosemary.

Baked it on a "rack" of lemon halves.  Dumped in a box of Beef Broth on the bottom of the pan.

This makes a WONDERFUL GRAVY!  

Maw used to make a "Noodle Ring", but I don't have a bundt pan, so made a noodle casserole.  Egg Noodles, beaten eggs and a little milk.  So yummy, and it brought back childhood memories.

Served some asparagus on the side. Sipped on champagne.  Dinner was a great success.

Hoping that everyone had a joyous Easter.  Wishing you love, health and happiness!

Nan and Dom

Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Fun With Keith and Lauren!

Had a great time in PCB last week.  Great friends, Keith and Lauren came over on Sunday morning.  We floundered on the beach all day, hit happy hour across the street, had a pizza delivered, had a white russian party....too much fun!  They spent the night.

Monday morning, after a nice breakfast, we hit the beach again and played "ladder golf " for a few hours.

I've known Keith for a few years, and he's my favorite beach buddy.

Just got to meet his wife last year.  We've become fast friends.  Good times!

 I was planning on coming home on Good Friday, but after listening to the weather report, Dom urged me to wait until Saturday morning. (we had HORRIBLE rain that lasted all day.

Had a nice, uneventful drive home.  (5 hours)  Picked up a bunch of Popeye's Chicken, biscuits, dirty rice and red beans for dinner.  It's good to be home!


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Susan Hammond, who is the executive director of the War Legacies Project, a Vermont based-organization that provides comprehensive support to families heavily affected by the long-term impacts of war in Southeast Asia. She wrote this last week while in Vietnam with Sen. Patrick Leahy and others.

In April 1970, my father went to Vietnam for his second tour in the Army Corps of Engineers. My siblings and I were just old enough to watch the war on TV, but most of the time the Vermont hills restricted the signal, so we remained blissfully ignorant of what was happening. My dad came home safely, or so we thought.

Forty-four years later, it is his daughter who is heading back to Vietnam. Like my father I will land at the former Da Nang U.S. airbase, now a major commercial airport. And my visit is directly related to the war. It ended nearly 40 years ago, but it still affects my family and hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese families.

When I first went to Vietnam in 1991, curious about the land that took my father away, I found a very poor country, still with many bombed-out buildings and war invalids begging on the streets. But I also found a postwar generation eager to pick up the pieces and move forward. It was a country on the verge of great change and I wanted to be part of it.

I returned to Vietnam in 1996 to study Vietnamese. I was amazed at the changes in just five years. Office towers, luxury apartments and hotels were replacing the shattered buildings. The new “Dragon” economy was booming, erasing most remnants of the war.

About this time, Vietnam returned to my father: he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. We now know that this is one of the many devastating health and environmental effects that can be attributed to Agent Orange, the herbicide U.S. forces used in Vietnam.

I have spent most of the past 15 years addressing the impacts of Agent Orange. More than 12 million gallons of herbicides contaminated with dioxin, a known carcinogen, were sprayed in Southeast Asia during the war. The Vietnamese estimate that it affected the health of up to 3 million people, including several hundred thousand children who were born with disabilities.Hundreds of thousands of U.S. Vietnam veterans and their families have also been affected.

The hard fact now is that more than two dozen dioxin “hot spots” remain at former U.S. military bases where the herbicides were stored and handled. Many are places where people walk every day. They are still exposing those born long after the war to dioxin.

For many years, the issue of Agent Orange in Vietnam was too politically charged to touch. The Vietnamese were afraid people would think the whole country was contaminated. The U.S. government thought Vietnam’s claims of damage were a propaganda ploy. The blame game derailed action on both sides.

I began to try to raise awareness about the situation and did what I could to help families caring for people believed affected by Agent Orange. Slowly, others joined the effort, including the Ford Foundation’s Vietnam country director, Charles Bailey, who took on this issue when no other donors would. Ford-funded research established that dioxin contamination was limited to former U.S. bases and outlined a remediation plan.

In late 2006, President Bush visited Vietnam and agreed with President Triet that addressing the Agent Orange residues “would make a valuable contribution to the continued development of their bilateral relations.” It will come to no surprise to Vermonters that much of the progress since then has been due to Sen. Patrick Leahy. He has ensured U.S. funding “for the remediation of Vietnam conflict-era chemical storage sites, and to address the health needs of nearby communities.”

That is why I am in Vietnam again. Along with Leahy and Vermont’s Rep. Peter Welch, I will witness the “power-up” moment in which a U.S.-built plant starts heating dioxin-contaminated soil at Da Nang to 635 degrees F, breaking the toxin down into harmless molecules. By 2016, the site will no longer threaten the nearby population. By then, work will also have started at the Bien Hoa base and, with luck, at other contaminated sites.

Thanks again to Sen. Leahy, the U.S. has begun to provide assistance to affected people in Vietnam. Some U.S. funding gives “direct assistance for disabled persons in areas that were heavily sprayed with Agent Orange or are otherwise contaminated with dioxin.” One USAID project serves people in Da Nang with disabilities “regardless of cause” and has helped several hundred children go to school or receive physical therapy. Dozens of people have been helped to start a small business or get vocational training.

Progress on this issue was made possible when all sides agreed to drop the blame game and just address the human need. But much remains to be done. Many children and young adults with severe disabilities live in rural areas with limited access to services. Their families struggle to survive, unable to both work and care for them. Thanks to our donors, my organization and its Vietnamese partners help provide medical care, prosthetic limbs and scholarships, or livelihood training in things like animal husbandry, but it’s not enough. This is the population U.S. funding needs to reach.

Those who have been affected in Vietnam are not asking for much, just acknowledgement that they have been harmed by Agent Orange, in the ways that hundreds of thousands of American veterans like my father were harmed.

I will applaud as the dioxin remediation project starts up in Da Nang, and I will thank Sen. Leahy for all he has done to get us to this historic moment. But the United States needs to do more on the human health side of the problem for our own veterans and for those in Vietnam who have been affected. It is time for the real healing to begin.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

19 Common Side Effects if Chemotherapy

Cancer cells divide more quickly than healthy cells, and chemotherapy drugs effectively target those cells. Unfortunately, fast-growing cells that are healthy can be damaged too. There are many different chemotherapy drugs with the potential for many different side effects. These effects vary from person to person and from treatment to treatment.

Chemotherapy drugs are powerful enough to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, but they also can harm perfectly healthy cells, causing side effects throughout the body.

The Side Effects of Chemotherapy on the Body

Cancer cells divide more quickly than healthy cells, and chemotherapy drugs effectively target those cells. Unfortunately, fast-growing cells that are healthy can be damaged too. There are many different chemotherapy drugs with the potential for many different side effects. These effects vary from person to person and from treatment to treatment.

Factors that play a role in side effects include other ongoing treatments, previous health issues, age, and lifestyle. Some patients experience few side effects while others feel quite ill. Although most side effects clear up shortly after treatment ends, some may continue well after chemotherapy has ended, and some may never go away.

Chemotherapy drugs are most likely to affect cells in the digestive tract, hair follicles, bone marrow, mouth, and reproductive system. However, cells in any part of the body may be damaged.

Circulatory and Immune Systems

Routine blood count monitoring is a crucial part of chemotherapy. That’s because the drugs can harm cells in the bone marrow, where blood is produced. This can result in several problems. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues. Anemia occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, making you feel extremely fatigued. Other symptoms of anemia include:

*pale skin
*difficulty thinking
*feeling cold
*general weakness

Chemo can lower your white blood cell count, which results in neutropenia. White blood cells play an important role in the immune system: they help fight infection and ward off illness. Symptoms aren’t always obvious, but a low white blood cell count raises the risk of infection and illness. People with an immune system weakened by chemotherapy must take precautions to avoid exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other germs.

Cells called platelets help the blood clot. A low platelet count, called thrombocytopenia, means you’re likely to bruise and bleed easily. Symptoms include nosebleeds, blood in vomit or stools, and heavier-than-normal menstruation.

Some chemo drugs can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in cardiomyopathy, or disturb the heart rhythm, causing arrhythmia. This can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Some chemo drugs can increase the risk of heart attack. These problems are less likely to occur if your heart is strong and healthy at the start of chemotherapy.

Nervous and Muscular Systems

The central nervous system controls emotions, thought patterns, and coordination. Chemotherapy drugs may cause problems with memory, or make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. This symptom sometimes is called “chemo fog,” or “chemo brain.” This mild cognitive impairment may go away following treatment, or may linger for years. Severe cases can add to anxiety and stress.

Some chemo drugs can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). Muscles may feel tired, achy, or shaky. Reflexes and small motor skills may be slowed. It’s not unusual to experience problems with balance and coordination.

Digestive System

Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy involve the digestive tract. Mouth sores and dry mouth can make it difficult to chew and swallow. Sores also may form on the tongue, lips, gums, or in the throat. Mouth sores can make you more susceptible to bleeding and infection. Many patients complain of a metallic taste in the mouth, or a yellow or white coating on the tongue. Food may taste unusual or unpleasant.

These powerful drugs can harm cells along the gastrointestinal tract. Nausea is a common symptom, and may result in bouts of vomiting. However, anti-nausea medications given in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs can help alleviate this symptom.

Other digestive issues include loose stools or diarrhea. In some people, hard stools and constipation can be a problem. This may be accompanied by pressure, bloating, and gas. Take care to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Side effects involving the digestive system can contribute to loss of appetite and feeling full even though you haven’t eaten much. Weight loss and general weakness are common. Despite all this, it’s important to continue eating healthy foods.

Hair, Skin, and Nails (Integumentary System)

Many chemotherapy drugs affect the hair follicles and can cause hair loss (alopecia) within a few weeks of the first treatment. Hair loss can occur on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, and body. As troubling as it can be, hair loss is temporary. New hair growth usually begins several weeks after the final treatment.
Some patients experience minor skin irritations like dryness, itchiness, and rash. You may develop sensitivity to the sun, making it easier to burn. Your doctor can recommend topical ointments to soothe irritated skin.

Fingernails and toenails may turn brown or yellow, and become ridged or brittle. Nail growth may slow down, and nails may crack or break easily. In severe cases, they can actually separate from the nail bed. It’s important to take good care of your nails to avoid infection.

Sexual and Reproductive System

Chemotherapy drugs can have an effect on your hormones. In women, hormonal changes can bring on hot flashes, irregular periods, or sudden onset of menopause. They may become temporarily or permanently infertile. Women on chemotherapy may experience dryness of vaginal tissues that can make intercourse uncomfortable or painful. The chance of developing vaginal infections is increased.

Chemotherapy drugs given during pregnancy can cause birth defects. In men, some chemo drugs can harm sperm or lower sperm count, and temporary or permanent infertility is possible.

Symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and hormonal fluctuations may interfere with sex drive in both men and women. So can worrying about loss of hair and other changes in appearance. However, many people on chemotherapy continue to enjoy
an intimate relationship and an active sex life.

Kidneys and Bladder (Excretory System)

The kidneys work to excrete the powerful chemotherapy drugs as they move through your body. In the process, some kidney and bladder cells can become irritated or damaged. Symptoms of kidney damage include decreased urination, swelling of the hands and feet (edema), and headache. Symptoms of bladder irritation include a feeling of burning when urinating and increased urinary frequency.

You’ll be advised to drink plenty of fluids to flush the medication from your system and to keep your system functioning properly. Note: Some medications cause urine to turn red or orange for a few days. This isn’t cause for concern.

Skeletal System

Most people—and especially women—lose some bone mass as they age. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause calcium levels to drop and contribute to bone loss. This can lead to cancer-related osteoporosis, especially in post-menopausal women and those whose menopause was brought on suddenly due to chemotherapy.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women who have been treated for breast cancer are at increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture. This is due to the combination of the drugs and the drop in estrogen levels.

Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures and breaks. The most common areas of the body to suffer breaks are the spine and pelvis, hips, and wrists.

Psychological and Emotional Toll

Living with cancer and dealing with chemotherapy can exact an emotional toll. You may feel fearful, stressed, or anxious about your appearance and your health. Some people may suffer from depression. Juggling work, financial, and family responsibilities while undergoing cancer treatment can become overwhelming.
Many cancer patents turn to complementary therapies like massage and meditation for relaxation and relief. If you have trouble coping, mention it to your doctor. They may be able to suggest a local cancer support group where you can speak with others who are undergoing cancer treatment. If feelings of depression persist, professional counseling may be necessary.

Original Article, Sources and Graphics HERE