Monday, July 28, 2014

Are We Too Clueless to Understand GMO Labeling?

If GMOs mean more and better food to feed more people, why not label products as such?

As if there isn’t enough malaise about government already, here’s a great way to get the American people to feel their elected officials aren’t serving them: Tell them that they’re stupid and their opinions don’t matter. Which raises the question: Who are they serving? But I’ll come back to that in a moment.


The House of Representative’s Committee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture recently convened to discuss the benefits of biotechnology. The subject of whether genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs, in our food should be labeled – they currently are not – was on the table. One of the experts asked to testify was David Just, a professor at Cornell University. However, he's apparently not an expert on GMOs, but rather on behavioral economics in child nutrition programs, whatever that means. His opinion was that GMO foods should not be so labeled because people don’t understand about GMOs.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) asked him, “What is the biggest drawback? Is it the ignorance of what the product is, just from a lack of education?” To which Just replied: “It is ignorance of the product, and it's a general skepticism of anything they eat that is too processed or treated in some way that they don't quite understand.” In simple English, we’re too stupid to understand this complex subject. The entire Committee, made up of six Democrats and seven Republicans, agreed. In this case, it simply means that seeds are inserted with genetic material from other organisms. It doesn’t take a PhD or the word Congressman or Congresswoman before your name to understand that. That’s astounding when the Internet has allowed people to research and become conversant in countless complex topics. Plus, there has been enormous media coverage of the subject.

Regardless of whether GMOs are dangerous to people and to crops in the long run – that’s a whole other discussion – why would the people who run Monsanto and other companies that make GMOs and the manufacturers who use them in their food products be opposed to labeling? After all, their position is that GMOs mean more and better food to feed more people and decreased use of pesticides. Labeling would simply allow people to chose to consume such foods or purchase other products without GMOs. We already have that choice with organic products. Why not with GMO products? It’s worth noting that the European Union has mandated that GMO products be labeled, and six member nations have banned them outright.

So who are many of our elected officials serving? Could it be that that Monsanto, other chemical companies and big food companies regularly fill the coffers of our elected officials to fund their reelection campaigns? Just wondering. And by the way, guess whose payroll Just is on? That’s right. He’s a consultant to Monsanto. We’re not too stupid to understand that implication.

Many Good Links Here

Major Advances in Alzheimer’s, Colon Cancer, Multiple Myeloma, and Sleep Apnea Testing, and in Maternal-Fetal Health Research to Be Highlighted at 2014 AACC Annual Meeting

CHICAGO – The groundbreaking scientific studies featured at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will include research on a blood test for Alzheimer’s that uses biochip technology, a new test to diagnose colon cancer early, a more accurate method for determining multiple myeloma prognosis, a less stressful test for sleep apnea, and the development of a bank of biospecimens from pregnant women that could prove crucial for women’s health research.

Diagnostic work-ups for Alzheimer’s disease are time-consuming and costly, combining a neuropsychological review with an expensive brain scan or painful lumbar puncture. At the AACC annual meeting, Michael Veitinger, PhD, a research associate at the Institute of Physiology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria, will present his findings that biochip array technology has the potential to reliably diagnose Alzheimer’s disease using blood samples. In this study, Veitinger demonstrates that a biochip can detect multiple Alzheimer’s biomarkers—molecules whose presence indicates a condition or disease—in platelets, which share many biochemical similarities with neurons and have been shown to reflect changes in the brain. This research could lead to a cheap, simple Alzheimer’s blood test that can be performed right in a general practitioner’s office.

Given that the 5-year survival rate for stage I colon cancer patients is 74%, but only 28% for stage IIIC patients, the urgent need for tests that can catch colon cancer before it is too far along to be successfully treated is clear. At AACC’s annual meeting, Chuan-xin Wang, MD, PhD, director and professor of clinical laboratory medicine at China’s Shandong University, will present the results of a study to find new colorectal cancer biomarkers. Wang identified four microRNAs in the blood that were highly accurate in diagnosing colorectal cancer and were able to differentiate stage I and II patients from healthy controls. This discovery could enable doctors to diagnose patients when they are in the early stages of the disease and most likely to respond to treatment.

A major obstacle in treating multiple myeloma is that almost all patients who achieve remission eventually relapse. Most of these relapses are due to undetectable minimal residual disease (MRD), which is the persistence of small numbers of myeloma cells in a patient’s body following successful treatment. John Mills, PhD, a clinical chemistry fellow at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, will present his findings at AACC’s annual meeting on a highly sensitive mass spectrometry method known as miRAMM for detecting MRD in patients with multiple myeloma. Mills’ method uses blood samples, a more reliable test than traditional MRD tests that use bone marrow samples—because not all myeloma cells are confined to the bone marrow. This new method could increase survival rates of multiple myeloma patients by identifying those who need treatment for MRD.

Obstructive sleep apnea in children can lead to behavioral difficulties, learning disabilities, pulmonary/systemic hypertension, and decreased growth. However, the current gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea—the overnight sleep study—is labor intensive, expensive, and limited by availability, in addition to being a potentially traumatic experience for children. At the AACC annual meeting, Trevor Pitcher, PhD, a clinical chemistry fellow at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, will report the results of research showing that an immunoassay can effectively detect in urine the stress-coping peptide urocortin 3, which is significantly increased in children with sleep apnea. This urine test could serve as a psychologically easier alternative to a child spending a night in a strange bed in a sleep clinic.

A need exists in the research community for serum, urine, cord blood, placenta, and other tissue samples from pregnant women in order to study disorders that affect both the mother and fetus. 2011 AACC President Ann Gronowski, PhD, who is director of pathology and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, will present the results of a successful effort to create a bank of biospecimens collected from women throughout all stages of pregnancy. Over the course of 6 years, this biobank has gathered nearly 45,000 samples. Thus far, 4,700 of these samples have been distributed to 11 scientists from five different university departments to aid their research, while the rest have been stored for future studies.

In addition to this breaking science, 2014’s plenary sessions will feature expert presentations on the importance of newborn screening, the biologic basis of obesity, and the latest advances that could lead to a cure for HIV.

“The cutting-edge science being presented at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will help meet the critical needs of patients dealing with a wide range of diseases and conditions,” said AACC CEO Janet B. Kreizman. “These studies, as well as the headlining plenaries, showcase the impressive strides laboratory medicine makes in improving patients’ ability to get the treatment they need to lead healthier and longer lives.”

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Drug May Aid Multiple Myeloma Patients Who Suffer from Low Platelet Counts

Medication reverses side effects of cancer drug bortezomib

Newswise — (SALT LAKE CITY)—A University of Utah School of Medicine-led study has identified a previously unknown but crucial component in the process to make platelets, a discovery that could help spare multiple myeloma patients from a dangerous side effect of the primary drug (bortezomib) used to treat their cancer.
In a July 25, 2014, article in The Journal of Clinical Investigation online, the researchers show that when the proteasome, which is a protein complex that breaks down the proteins that regulate cellular processes, is pharmaceutically inhibited platelet production in human and mice cells was blocked. Platelets are cells that bind together and help induce clotting to stop bleeding. The researchers also show that Fasudil, a drug approved for use outside of the United States but not in this country, restored platelet counts in adult mice whose proteasome activity had been suppressed by administering bortezomib and by knocking out a particular gene.
Andrew S. Weyrich, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine, Attilio D. Renzetti Jr. Presidential Endowed Chair and a corresponding author on the study, says giving Fasudil to multiple myeloma patients could prevent their platelet counts from dropping dangerously low, a condition known as thrombocytopenia, that’s caused by bortezomib, the drug considered to be the standard of care for the blood cancer.
“A low platelet count is a big issue for people who receive bortezomib for this cancer,” Weyrich says. “When platelet levels drops too low, it can mean interrupting treatment to allow the platelet count to recover. Fasudil potentially could help keep platelet counts normal while multiple myeloma patients receive bortezomib.”
Dean Y. Li, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and vice dean for medicine at the U of U School of Medicine, is also a corresponding author on the study. First author Dallas Shi is a student in the medical school’s M.D./Ph.D. program, which Li directs and is aimed at developing physician-scientists who possess superb clinical skills and receive rigorous scientific training.
The researchers found that when the proteasome was blocked by bortezomib, platelet production was prevented in both human and mouse megakaryocytes, the cells that make platelets and their predecessor proplatelets. Megakaryocytes isolated from mice lacking the gene that encodes the proteasome also failed to produce proplatelets.
Further study showed that the megakaryocytes’ inability to make platelets was caused by the hyperactivation of RhoA, a small protein that helps megakaryocytes maintain the proper shape to produce platelets. But when the researchers gave the mice Fasudil, which inhibits RhoA, platelet production returned to normal ranges.
Although it’s not approved in the United States, Fasudil is used in Japan and elsewhere to treat cerebral vasospasms, or constricted arteries that arise as a complication of brain aneurysms. It also is in U.S. clinical trials for treating high blood pressure, diabetic macular edema and other health issues. Currently, however, no clinical trials for treating low platelet counts are taking place with Fasudil.
“If the Food and Drug Administration did approve Fasudil for use by multiple myeloma patients, it could, in principle, be moved to the clinic relatively fast in the United States,” Weyrich says.
That still could mean several years before the drug would be available on the market. But if human clinical trials bear out the results of this study, the drug probably could be made available for use by multiple myeloma patients much faster than the normal timeframe.
Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that develops in bone marrow and affects plasma cells, which produce antibodies to help protect against infection. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that in 2011, 83,367 people in the United States were living with multiple myeloma. The NCI also estimates that 24,050 new U.S. cases will be diagnosed in 2014 and that 11,090 people will die of the disease.
Other institutions involved in the study include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Harvard Medical School, and Children’s Hospital, Boston; Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald, Germany; The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, Canada; and the Sichuan Academy of Medical Sciences & Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital, Sichuan, China.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOS

If you don’t know whether or not you’re eating genetically modified organisms, you’re not alone—at least in the U.S. Despite the many petitions and appeals for state or federal regulations on labeling foods that contain GMOs, none have passed. And that means companies still don’t have to disclose whether or not a product includes genetically modified organisms. What’s the big deal, you ask?

More than 60 countries require GMO labeling (or ban GMOs altogether) for a number of reasons. While there are many, these are some of the most common concerns:

1. Are they safe? Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow—they’ll all tell you their GMO products have met safety requirements, but the truth is, long term studies haven’t been done on their impact to the human body. USDA approval requires several processes that prove safety, but GMOs have only been in our diet since the mid-’90s, so it’s difficult to know what the long-term health impacts truly are.

2. Known health risks: What we do know is that when genetic modification happens, genes are forced to express certain traits (including pesticides). To do this, the scientists “turn on” all the gene’s components, which can mean releasing allergens that would normally not be expressed in a non-GMO variety. Experts like Jeffrey Smith suggest this is directly related to the rise in health issues.

3. Heavy use of toxic pesticides and herbicides: By design, genetically modified seeds require pesticides and herbicides. While some manufacturers have claimed the pesticide use would decrease over time, it’s only increased, according to a peer-reviewed 2012 study.

4. Pesticides and digestive health: The main function of herbicides and pesticides is to kill unwanted plants and insects. Glyphosate—the most common herbicide used on GMO crops—has been shown to negatively impact the gut bacteria of humans.  Jeffrey Smith’s recent film Genetic Roulette highlights the parallel of GMOs in our diet and the rise in digestive health issues and food allergies.

5. Cancer: Both pesticides and GMOs have been connected with an increased risk of certain types of cancer. There are additonal health concerns too including reproductive issues, autism and even heart disease.

6. Environmental impact: GMO crops and their companion pesticides and herbicides wreak havoc on the environment including polluting air, water and soil. Glyphosate—marketed by Monsanto as the herbicide Roundup—is in effect, an antibiotic, which can destroy soil quality and thus impair the plant’s nutritional value as well. Cross-polination between GMO and non-GMO crops is common as well, and can destroy natural plant varieties in the wild.

7. Superbugs and superweeds: Despite the claims that pesticides and GMO crops can relieve farmers of crop-destroying insects and plants, the opposite is showing to be true. Farmers in the Midwest are now battling superbugs and superweeds resistant to pesticides. They’re damaging crops and farm equipment and costing the farmers more money in having to apply heavier doses of toxic pesticides.

8. Patent issues: At the core of the GMO industry is the corporate ownership of seed and seed patents. Companies like Monsanto are notorious for suing small farmers for saving seeds or if GMO crop drift pollinates on their land.

9. Corporate protection: Earlier this year, the U.S. government passed a bill nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” In essence, it grants biotech companies immunity from the courts, even if a judge determines it’s unlawful to plant GMO crops, the companies can do it anyway.

10. Prolific presence: Whether or not GMOs are safe has yet to be determined, yet every day, millions of Americans eat them unknowingly due to the lack of labeling requirements. Are you a lab rat?  Don’t you at least have the right to know what you’re eating?

This article was originally published on www.NaturallySavvy.com

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