Science in Society Archive

Science in Society #50 - Letters to the Editor

Science in Society 50

Sustainable agriculture urgently needed

Yes! Sustainable Agriculture Urgently Needed, UN Agencies Say (SiS 50) is so important right now. I am so happy to hear people are changing the ways they treat the earth and themselves. This will make a positive impact for generations to come. I’ve just started learning about organic permaculture gardening and farming in the last year and it has changed my life forever. Water and food sustainability is of vital importance and much more can be done by individuals on a grassroots level to increase these practices and encourage awareness of the need for them. Mahalo nui loa! Thank you very much!

Alea Schechter, Paauilo, Hawaii, USA

Horizontal gene transfer calls for GM ban

In the light of arguments presented in Scientists Discover New Route for GM-gene 'Escape', SiS 50, there is a strong case for banning GMOs unless a protective strategy against the horizontal transfers and the potential hazards are controlled. Thanks indeed for enlightenment on the topic.

Prof Keshava Nireshwalia, Retired prof. of biotechnology, Mysore, India

God and spirituality

Regarding Does God Have a Monopoly on Spirituality? (SiS 49), it is best to keep an open mind and to think for oneself. Religions can be used to control people. I think we (in the Western world) need to have a much greater understanding about the natural world and how it applies to our daily life, because we are too divorced from nature in our industrialised societies. I find the philosophical differences of the various religions interesting, and often they espouse good common sense, so I don’t dismiss them out of hand; I just do not want to be told, dogmatically, what to think. How we conduct ourselves in respect to the other plants, insects, marine and terrestrial animals of this planet is most important now, much more so than which religion you ‘belong’ to or whether there is a god or not. I don't see how any Homo sapiens can claim to ‘know there is a god’. Surely this statement is an interpretation or explanation of the mysteries around us. This interpretation will change with growing understanding of the world and universe. Beliefs and conscience are built on social conditioning and customs over the millennia. As an artist, I use the Buddhist and Taoist concept of “all mind, no mind” when creating some of my artwork; so in some way, my work runs on a parallel line to ‘spirituality’ in that I try to completely enter another ‘realm’. Views such as creationism or neo-Darwinism just don’t seem worth bothering about, they are too parochial.

Celia Wilson, Oxford, Canterbury,New Zealand

Emergency of new pathogen & GM crops

Thank you so much for Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops? (SiS 50). I will spread it about and encourage others to do so. I recall reading years ago about sows aborting litters when fed RR corn and/or soy exclusively. This could cause Goldman-Sachs and that ilk to buy up even more of the world's grains and hoard them for higher prices. Monsanto has a lot to answer for - let's hope there's such a thing as Karma.

Nancy Oden,, Jonesboro, Maine, USA

I am a farmer, I raise grass fed beef and pastured poultry and while I do not feed my cattle grain products, I can honestly say I noticed a definite difference in the behaviour of our broiler chickens once GMO soy (and corn) became standard fare at the feed stores (we get our grains custom ground). The chickens refused to eat the soy component of the feed, and if they did, it was eaten last when there was no choice left. And they took two weeks longer on average to reach the same weight. Commercial broilers are (sorry if I offend any chicken fanciers) as dumb an animal as you can get, and they had the brains to know something was wrong with the food. What do you think this is doing to us? When you eat anything with soy proteins or corn syrups/solids not labelled as organically certified, you are eating GMO too. They don’t want GMO labelled because people would be shocked to find out how much of it they consume on a daily basis.

Diana Austin, Misty Mt Farm, Grantsville, Wyoming, USA

Bumblebee decline

Thank you for the amazing article Plight of the Bumblebee (SiS 49). It is enlightening to see new ‘'links’' identified that add more and more scientific validity to the destructiveness of these ‘cides’ on our ecosystems.

I receive referrals from allergists/immunologists and pulmonologists to audit the homes of people who cannot explain their illness. Anecdotally, I am observing the same phenomena in humans who store or are exposed to pesticides, herbicides, cleaning solvents and artificial scents within the home. These same toxins, when used with a plethora of surfactants, appear to be increasing the sensitivity of humans. These sensitivity related illnesses lead to a growing number of immune system symptoms.

One observation is that there seems to be a direct correlation between the explosion of newly developed ‘designer’ surfactants and heightened sensitivities over the past 5-10 years. These chemicals increase the absorptive capacity of plants and animals by factors of 10s and 100s. Their sole purpose is to deliver an increase in the effects of toxins directly to the target and to allow their actions to linger.

 In humans, it seems that this mechanism is intensifying the response of the nasal tissue and upper respiratory tract to invasive mycotoxins, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Some cases have included autonomic nervous system effects that I have not seen before in California, such as hallucinations, intense headaches, transient paresthesia, etc.

These pathogens were previously handled by an effective immune system, and now they are allowed absorption via inhalation and the skin in levels that overcome the body’s defence mechanisms. The United States has been particularly culpable as a result of the ‘dismantling’ of the very agencies that would oversee the chemical industry….Maybe the Bumblebee will save us.

Gene Sperling, Pharmacist, CalCerts Building Analyst, Newbury Park, California, USA

Prof. Joe Cummins replies

Thank you for pointing out the problem of surfactants in pesticide formulations. The so called inert substances in pesticide formulations have been inadequately tested and the actual chemicals have been given trade secret status. The organic authority comments: “current pesticide regulation in North America requires that all pesticides for sale be labeled with specified information, either by the EPA (United States) or the PMRA (Canada). Pesticides must be labeled with the total percentage of active ingredients, and provide an itemized list of the active ingredients. Pesticide manufacturers and retailers, however, are not required to provide an itemized list of inactive ingredients, but are only required to list them as a bulk percentage. This makes it difficult or impossible to determine what ingredients are actually included in different pesticide formulations.”

The FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) law governing pesticide use defines pesticide as a “mixture” of substances intended to kill a pest. But ‘inert’ substances in pesticides are not tested and their actual makeup is allowed to be held secret. Neonicotinoid pesticides often include surfactants such as organosilicone surfactant, which have been found to impair mammalian sperm.

Article first published 28/02/11

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David Llewellyn Foster Comment left 21st May 2011 15:03:02
I recommend The Idiot Cycle a French-Canadian documentary about chemical pathogens in society. It is still available to watch in 2 parts on Russia Today (documentaries) I sent the following email (I have made subsequent minor corrections) to the film makers on March 30th to request a clarification of an apparent contradiction between their description and some content in the film: Dear friends - First off, my heartfelt congratulations on your excellent documentary that I first viewed on Russia Today. Could you not ask Al Jazeera English to screen it as well, and also BBC 4? Although this is not intended as anything but a constructive criticism, I noticed on your website in the section "about the film" you state the following: "It is thought that of the about 100,000 chemicals in heavy commercial use worldwide, between 2-5% do not have full toxicologial profiles." However, in the sequence about the Ramazzini Foundation's methodology and (their) bio-assay protocols in the film, the featured individual states most emphatically, that in fact we only have hard (ie robust) data on a mere 2% of all known chemicals. I can only conclude that the 2-5% you describe must be either a misquotation, or an inverse statistical error on your part, as it clearly implies that at least 95% of known substances do have toxicological profiles. This is refuted and contradicted however, by what the Ramazzini bio-technician is suggesting. Perhaps you could clarify this inconsistency. I (also)strongly suggest you contact Dr Mae-Wan Ho at the Institute for Science In Society (I-SIS) about future screenings and sales of the DVD in the UK..... As I did not get a response, perhaps an I-SIS correspondent can watch the film & contribute an opinion? For, unless I have completely misconstrued what I believe I heard, this dramatically inadequate "data-base" constitutes a huge statistical lacuna of scandalous, indeed, criminal proportions.