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GMFreeMAntonio8th July 2017

A new campaign using portratis and selfie's is letting the UK public have its say about GM crops 

 

GM Free Me is an online visual petition for people deeply concerned about the effects of genetically modified food and farming. So far, more than 2,200 people have put their faces, names and comments on the website http://www.gmfreeme.org. It is the brainchild of Pat Thomas, a former editor of the Ecologist, and to get the campaign going Pat and I toured farmers markets, health food shops, conferences and cities across the UK to find out how ordinary people feel about genetic engineering. 

Well-known supporters of GM Free Me include fashion leader Vivianne Westwood, increasingly outspoken about protecting the environment, TV gardener Alys Fowler, organic cosmetics producer Jo Woods and musicians Don Letts and Bez. Westwood commented on her GM Free Me page, “GMOs are a democratic issue. They are a massive, unethical experiment in human and environmental health. People are voicing legitimate concerns about why, if so many unanswered questions remain about GMOs, our government is continuing to try and force them on the British public."

Read more: GM Free Me

No RoundupGlyphosate, the active ingredient in the best-selling weed killer Roundup, widely used as a crop herbicide and drying agent is a carcinogen. California State agency orders danger labelling. Should the rest of the world follow suit?

 

Roundup is ubiquitous, much like fast food chains, and can easily seep into communities. On a recent trip to Corfu I saw men in hill villages staggering along shaking from head to foot, wobbling with each step. At first, I thought there might be some sort of genetic problem in the population, or that these were day-time drunks. But, as my walk into the olive groves progressed, I saw plastic canisters strung about the olive trees emblazoned with the words Roundup Gold. The containers were perforated to let the toxins leech out (see photo).  Could these damaged men be agricultural workers suffering from tremors, a sure indictor of coming into direct contact with a powerful nerve agent such as Glyphosate?

In October last year, I attended a Tribunal in the Hague to hear testimonies from all over world about the dangers of Glyphosate from academics, toxicologists and victims [1]. In April this year, after months of reviewing the evidence the Tribunal Judges found that glyphosate negatively impacts human health and the environment [2]. Their findings are a vindication for thousands of farmers, agricultural workers, their families and members of the public all over the world who claim to have suffered a range of adverse health effects, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, from even short exposures to Glyphosate.

In February 2015, Monsanto executive William Heydens emailed his staff to ghostwrite a scientific study saying Roundup is safe, and that he would tell scientists to “just edit and sign their names, so to speak.” [3]. It was a strategy that worked for their initial safety study in 2000 when Glyphosate was successfully launched onto the market. In 2017, sales of Glyphosate account for around a third of Monsanto's $15billion annual revenue. To counteract Monsanto’s safety claims, a group of leading international scientists have written a letter in support of banning Glyphosate [4]. This is an excerpt from their letter:

Read more: A Worldwide Ban Glyphosate?

26 August 2016

mwhauthor It came as quite a shock when Dr Mae-Wan Ho and her colleague, genetics Professor Joe Cummins, died within months of each other in April and January, respectively. Both were vociferous critics of GMOs, but it was Mae-Wan Ho's seminal book, Genetic Engineering, Dream or Nightmare? (1999), that flung the doors open for this unpredictable biotechnology to be hotly debated since the late 1990s.

Her funeral at London's Golders Green Crematorium was sombre and intimate: a celebration of her many achievements, culminating in the playing of Peter, Paul and Mary's 1960's political anthem, Where have all the flowers gone, when will they ever learn? Poignant lyrics by Pete Seeger, reflecting Mae-Wan Ho as a teacher and scientist on a world scale.

I first met Mae-Wan, aged 60, in 2001. She was youthful and compelling, a tiny dynamo full of intelligence, independence and a childlike charisma. Yet she inspired the respect of the white, male-dominated Western science community. I joined her Institute of Science in Society to help organise briefings in both the UK and European Parliaments, drawing attention to the threat to bees from the toxic weedkiller, glyphosate, marshalling efforts to keep GM crops out of Europe's fields and launching three groundbreaking reports: Food Futures Now, Which Energy? and Green Energies 100% Renewable by 2050 in response to the crises in food, farming and energy. And we set about circulating the radical journal Science in Society.

Read more: Tribute to Dr. Mae-Wan Ho (1941-2016)

The World Health Organisation intends to integrate traditional medicine into national health systems globally. This is an opportunity for building safe, affordable and effective national health systems, especially for Third World countries rich in both medicinal plant resources and traditional knowledge. It is time for governments to fund research into holistic health models instead of squandering more billions on ‘health genomics’ which will increase intervention and iatrogenic damages to health.

herbalistThe World Health Organisation (WHO) unveiled its first Global Strategy for Traditional and Complementary Alternative Medicine (TM and CAM) 2002-2005 in January this year.

Still clouding what could be clear horizons for health practices that go back thousands of years, are questions and concerns over policy, regulation, evidence, biodiversity, and preservation and protection of traditional knowledge.

Dr Yashurio Suzuki, WHO’s Executive Director for Health Technology says, "TM & CAM are victim of both uncritical enthusiasts and uniformed sceptics", and "this Strategy is intended to tap into its real potential for people’s health and well-being while minimising the risks of unproven or misused remedies".

Problems may arise from the incorrect use of TM, as in the documented case of a Chinese remedy, meant for treating respiratory problems in the short term, which was misused as a long-term diet-aid in the USA, resulting in several deaths.

These isolated cases pale into insignificance, however, compared with adverse reaction to prescribed conventional drugs and treatments that makes it the third leading cause of death in the United States (Box 1).

Read more: Global Strategy for Traditional Medicine

Visits to Complementary Alternative Medicine practitioners throughout Europe outnumber those to doctors by two to one. Government figures show UK citizens spend £70 million per year on nutritional supplements and about 20% of the population use vitamins and minerals in their diets. But European Parliament Directives passed in March 2002 will ban food supplements, in a bid to re-classify them as medical drugs.

herbsCriticism is mounting for what is seen as an "over the top" move by pharmaceutical companies to take firmer control of the lucrative health promotion and disease prevention markets. More than 6 million people have protested against these Directives (see box) by signing the largest on-line global petition ever (http://www.vitamins-for-all.org/), demanding continued freedom to access natural remedies.

Fears that high-strength multivitamins and minerals will only be available on prescription are not unfounded. A spokesperson from the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) said, "the freedom of consumers to make their own informed choices is massively reduced."

Present regulations governing high-dose vitamins for long-term use are governed in the UK by the Department of Health and advised by Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the Expert Panel on Vitamins and Minerals. Long-term use is essential for many needing extra vitamins and minerals, as in the case of osteoporosis, a debilitating bone disease that affects 1-3 women and 1-12 men at some point in their lifetime. Key minerals boron and sulphur are amongst those targeted by the Directives. Boron boosts vitamin D production and is combined with calcium for bone maintenance, while sulphur eases joint stiffness and arthritic pain.

Read more: Hands Off Vitamins and Herbs

Sam Burcher reports on a nutritional hypothesis with possible implications for prevention and treatment of the global pandemic

SeleniumDuring the last decade, research has indicated an important geographical link between regions of selenium deficient soils and peak incidences of HIV/AIDS infection. AIDS disease appears to involve a slow and progressive decline in levels of the trace element selenium (Se) in the blood along with CD4 cells, which are both independent predictors of mortality.

AIDS infection in Africa has reached pandemic proportions with over a quarter of the population said to be suffering from the disease in some areas, although there is debate over how the WHO has extrapolated their statistics (see "African Aids epidemic?" SiS 22). Figures from Harvard in the United States put infection rates as follows: Zimbabwe 25.84%, Botswana 25.10%, Zambia 19.07%, South Africa 12.91%, Côte D’Ivoire 10.06%, Tanzania 9.42%, Ethiopia 9.31%, and Congo 4.31%.

But Senegal in West Africa has the lowest numbers of AIDS prevalence at 1.77% in the general population, and 0.5% in antenatal clinic attendees along with the highest levels of selenium-enriched soil. Geologically, Senegal is situated in the desiccated or dried up Cretaceous and early Eocene Sea, and the land is formed from sedimentary rocks from dissolved minerals in the evaporating seawater. Consequently, calcium phosphates are one of the country’s mined mineral products used for fertilizers, and are derived from the selenium rich phosphorite. Senegal can also claim the lowest level of cancers on the African continent.

Read more: Selenium Conquers AIDS?

Antibiotic resistant infectious diseases have created a public health crisis worldwide. The conventional reductionist approach is failing to cope. Sam Burcher and Mae-Wan Ho argue for the revival of traditional healthcare systems, and for the many safe and effective anti-microbials now documented among indigenous plants that have been tried and tested for millennia.

AntibioticResistanceInfectious diseases are responsible for one-quarter of all the deaths in the world, second only to cardiovascular diseases [1]. They are associated with the new strains of bacteria and viruses emerging within the past twenty-five years, which are also highly resistant to drugs and antibiotics. Infections become more difficult to treat, the severity of illness increases, as does the duration of infectiousness, adverse reactions, the length of convalescence and costs.

Drug and antibiotic resistant infectious diseases have created a public health crisis worldwide, and this was the subject of a series of high level international conferences in 1998, such as the World Health Assembly and the European conference "The Microbial Threat".

In Britain, the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technologies and the Standing Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) each produced a special report on antimicrobial resistance [2]. These resulted in an Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy and Action Plan in June 2000 [3], which will cover work for the next two years and will be advised by the new Expert Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Read more: Radical Solutions Needed for Antibiotic Resistance

The “mass medication” of UK's drinking water with a listed poison will cost London's health authorities alone more than £21 million

Fluoridation for all

Fight-Against-Fluoride-456x300Fluoridation was introduced into the UK in the 1960s when areas in and around Birmingham and Newcastle were fluoridated, along with the Republic of Ireland, making up 11% of the UK population. The Government has now decided to introduce fluoride into public water supplies throughout Britain, with target areas of Inner London, North-West England and Northern Ireland, with the aim of reducing tooth decay among children in “deprived” areas.

Under the Water Act 2003, water providers will be obliged to add fluoride to their supplies. According to a letter from health minister Hazel Blears and environment minister Elliott Morley to the deputy PM John Prescott, “those who remain adamantly opposed would be able to use water filters that remove fluoride or buy bottled drinking water”.

Campaigners opposed to fluoride include the National Pure Water Association (NPWA), The Green Network and The Green Party. Green Party spokesperson Martyn Shrewsbury says, “The general trend in the world is against fluoridation.” He pointed out that the risk of tooth decay in fluoridated Gateshead and non-fluoridated Liverpool is the same.

Read more: No to Fluoridation

21 st Century maternity care is in crises as ‘actively managed' hospital births create unnecessary suffering for mother and baby.

babiesIn the Republic of Ireland, efforts are increasing to centralise births to hospital wards in and around city centres. Womens groups, unhappy about this , argue that these proposals would put thousands of womens lives at risk. The Medicinal Manpower Forums , which is responsible for the decision, plans to reduce maternity services up to one half by relocating Dublin's two main labour wards to hospitals on the outskirts of the city. They also propose the closure of nine baby units around the country.

These closures evoke memories of the death of a baby girl born on the roadside in an ambulance in December last year. Her labouring mother was turned away from Monaghan General Hospital, whose maternity unit has been closed, with tragic consequences.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has echoed calls by the National Birth Alliance for no closures after they were forced to withdraw their services from Monaghan and Dundalk Hospitals in the face of fierce local protests ; and no other maternity facilities have replaced these suspended obstetric services.

Removing services from rural and community settings to larger centralised units began in Ireland in 1976. The decisions were based on national figures of 2 000 annual births and the allocation of one labour ward bed per three women per twenty-four hour period to begin with. Therefore, all pregnant women, regardless of their general state of health, were required to register with consultant obstetricians in big hospitals. Between 1976 and 2000 , 83% of Irelands' smaller maternity units run by midwives and GPs were closed.

Read more: No Place for Birth

Deaths and adverse events in Uganda

Nevirapine LThe United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) began studies on mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Uganda in 1997. A single dose of nevirapine was given to labouring mothers and to their newborn child. Those studies were reported to have lowered transmission of HIV by 50% [1].

But by 2002, problems with the US-funded drug trials had been disclosed by an NIH auditor, medical experts and Boehringer Ingelheim, the makers of nevirapine [2].

The NIH hired Westat-Corp, a professional medical auditing firm to audit the Ugandan testing sites. Westat-Corp's report stated [3], “It appears likely in fact, that many adverse events and perhaps a significant number of serious adverse events for both mother and infant may not have been collected or reported in a timely manner.” The “adverse events ” included 14 deaths and thousands of severe reactions that went undisclosed. The NIH subsequently recorded all deaths and the majority of adverse reactions, but blamed them on the poor health of the patients, not on nevirapine.

Read more: NIH-Sponsored AIDS Drugs Tests on Mothers and Babies

The corporate takeover of reproduction started with the medicalisation of childbearing and childbirth. This is now reaching its logical conclusion with the spectre of human cloning and germ line genetic manipulation.  Women everywhere can regain control of the reproductive process and more, by holding on to their midwife.

Midwife vs. doctor

The 'mid' in 'midwife' originates from the German word, 'mit', meaning 'with'. A midwife is literally the woman who is with the wife for the birthing of her child.

Midwife vs doctor

midwifeWhen a woman lets go of her midwife, she is letting go of womanhood, and turning her back on a tradition that respects and values her womanhood and the infant she brings into the world. She is relinquishing responsibility and control of her own life-process that is also part of the cycle of renewal and regeneration of the community to which she belongs. Most of all, she loses an essential support system that helps to bring gestation to fruition, that nurtures mother and child both before, during and long after birthing.

Conversely, as the woman places herself in the hands of the medical doctor, she becomes a passive instrument of reproduction, to be invaded and probed by an increasing armoury of other instruments, to be mutilated in the name of efficiency and progress. Her 'labour' turns painful and unproductive until it becomes an illness that has to be treated. She is rendered unconscious while the child is wrenched from her birth canal with forceps, or straight from her cut-open womb. Mother and 'newborn' are registered in the official statistics, and, except for further medical tests and interventions, abandoned to their own devices.

That is the powerful message in Naomi Wolf's new book [1], written from her personal experience of motherhood in the United States. The trend towards making childbearing and childbirth a medical condition in industrialised countries has been spreading to the Third World with devastating consequences.

Read more: Hold on to your midwife, here comes the doctor

The anti-HIV drugs, AZT and nevirapine, are known to be highly toxic and to cause serious side effects. Despite this, they are still being used in clinical trials involving some of the most vulnerable members of society, pregnant women and newborn babies in Africa, and orphans in the United States.

Profile of toxic drugs

azt 3AZT was the first antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV positive men in the US at the start of the global pandemic. By 1994, at the height of the use of AZT, AIDS related deaths in the US had risen from eleven thousand in 1986 to nearly fifty thousand. The toxic effects of AZT or zidovudine have been documented as haematological toxicity (blood poisoning), severe anaemia (blood loss)[1], and symptomatic myopathy (muscle wasting ) [2]. AZT is a nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) that suppresses cell division and the formation of new blood in the bone marrow, which can cause anaemia and bone marrow death. AZT is reported to have caused death in pregnant mothers, birth defects, pancreatic failure, spontaneous abortion, developmental damage and death in children and adults [3]. AZT is also implicated in cancer [4].

Closely associated with AZT is a newer antiretroviral drug called nevirapine or viramune. Its documented side effects are potentially life threatening hepatoxicity (liver poisoning) [5] and a severe skin reaction known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome [6]. Nevirapine is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) that binds directly to reverse transcriptase to prevent RNA conversion to DNA and is used in conjunction with other drugs.

HIV orphans force-fed drugs

On 30 November 2004, the BBC screened a documentary that exposed drugs trials of AZT and nevirapine on the orphan population of HIV-positive children in New York City. The film, Guinea Pig Kids , by BBC reporter Jamie Doran, identified Glaxo- SmithKline as one of the companies supplying the drugs used on children as young as three months old.

Read more: Guinea Pig Kids in AIDS Drugs Trials

Teenage mums especially need a healthy diet.

eatingfortwoUK teenage pregnancy rates are the highest in Western Europe. Over 56,000 babies are born to teenage mothers annually, double the number in Germany, three times that in France and six times that in the Netherlands. Young, pregnant women also tend to have diets that are nutritionally deficient for them as well as their unborn babies.

The Maternity Alliance and The Food Commission interviewed 46 under 18-year-olds about their diet for a report on teenage pregnancy. They found that young women faced huge obstacles in obtaining an adequate diet, especially when living away from home.

Nutritional samples taken from a number of participants in the study showed that their food intake did not even match their energy requirements. The standard fare consisted of high levels of saturated fats and salt from crisps, bagged snacks, along with high levels of sugar from breakfast cereals and carbonated drinks. Fruit and vegetables were crucially lacking from their daily diet, resulting in a deficiency of vitamin A, C, magnesium and zinc.

Read more: Eating for Two Badly