Daily Archives: June 28, 2011

Scientists reject human experiments with genetically modified wheat

GM food products had been shown to be prone to having multiple effects, including damaging the health of animals

SMH | Jun 27, 2011

by Belinda Tasker

A group of prominent scientists and researchers from around the world has urged Australia not to go ahead with human trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat.

The CSIRO is carrying out a study of feeding GM wheat grown in the ACT to rats and pigs and could extend the trial to humans.

The modified wheat has been altered to lower its glycaemic index in an attempt to see if the grain could have health benefits such as improving blood glucose control and lowering cholesterol levels.


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But eight scientists and academics from Britain, the US, India, Argentina and Australia believe not enough studies have been done on the effects of GM wheat on animals to warrant human trials.

The CSIRO has dismissed their concerns, insisting no decision has been made on if or when human trials will begin.

In a letter to the CSIRO’s chief executive Megan Clark, the scientists expressed their “unequivocal denunciation” of the experiments.

“The use of human subjects for these GM feeding experiments is completely unacceptable,” the letter said.

“The experiments may be used to dispense with concerns about the health impacts of consuming GM plants, but will not in fact address the health risks GM plants raise.

“The feeding trials should not be conducted until long-term impact assessments have been undertaken and appropriate information released to enable the scientific community to determine the value of such research, as against the risks.”

Among the signatories were Dr Michael Antoniou, of the gene expression and therapy group at King’s College London School of Medicine, and Professor David Schubert, from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California.

The scientists said they were concerned that the CSIRO had inadequately described the biological and biochemical make-up of the GM wheat being used in the trials.

They said that, based on previous research, GM food products had been shown to be prone to having multiple effects, including damaging the health of animals which had eaten them.

They believed the CSRIO’s animal feeding trials of up to 28 days were “completely inadequate” to assess such risks.

But CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan said animal trials of the GM wheat, which began in 2005, were still continuing.

“No decision has been made as yet to undertake human trials,” he told AAP.

“It’s still something that we are considering.”

Mr Morgan said many studies carried out in the past 15 years had shown GM foods had no detrimental impact on human health.

The CSIRO’s trials were trying to determine whether the new type of GM grain had health benefits for people with conditions such as colourectal cancer and diabetes, he said.

Greenpeace food campaigner Laura Kelly said GM experts recommended that long-term animal feeding studies of two years should be carried out before human testing to evaluate any carcinogenic, developmental, hormonal, neural and reproductive dysfunctions.

“This is the first generation of Australian children that will be exposed to GM in food for a lifetime,” she said.

“If Julia Gillard doesn’t stand up to foreign biotech companies, soon they’ll be eating it in their sandwiches and pasta, even though it has never been proven safe to eat.”

Gulf oil spill cleanup workers report medical problems; lawsuit filed

Cleanup workers shovel and bag oiled sand on the beach in Or­ange Beach on June 15, 2010, after the oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Some workers have joined a lawsuit after reporting health prob­lems. / Advertiser file

montgomeryadvertiser.com | Jun 25, 2011

by Mary Sell

The three didn’t have much in common before April 2010.

Gary Stewart of Mobile grew up on the water. After the explo­sion on the Deepwater Horizon rig and the subsequent oil spill, the company he captained a boat for signed on to help with the cleanup. He didn’t know until the day he left for a 28-day assignment that his boat would be spreading a chemi­cal dispersant near the site of the destroyed oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. For more than a month, he says, he worked and lived without a respirator.

Ricky Thrasher of Orange Beach answered an ad on Craigslist and got himself on a shrimping boat that was rounding up oil in the Vessels of Opportunity program. He saw it as a chance to do some good, and make some good money.

“I was out there for six days, and I had to call them to come get me, I was so sick,” Thrasher said. He’s still sick. Among his list of symptoms are as many as 16 bowel movements a day.

Robyn Hill of Foley worked as a greeter of sorts to the tourists on Gulf Shores’ beaches. It was the greatest job, she said. After the oil began coming ashore, the tourists had to share the beach with environmental­ists, hazardous materials teams and the media. But her job didn’t change.

“We were still in our shorts and T-shirts, greeting people.”

Until she passed out on the beach one day in June.

They didn’t have much in common before last year. Now Stewart, Thrasher and Hill are unemployed, unin­sured, in debt and in pain. They say they can’t work; they can barely function.

They say they used to be healthy. Now they’re not.

They say they had no clue what they were working with and were being exposed to during the oil spill cleanup process.

And they want someone to make it right — to make them right.

The three are now part of a multidistrict litigation filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. Plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and puni­tive damages and medical screening and monitoring. Defendants include BP, which owned the oil well and was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig, and Nalco Co., the company from which BP purchased chemical dispersants to use in the cleanup.

Full story

Polar temperatures hit Buenos Aires

buenosairesherald.com | Jun 27, 2011

A polar wave of low temperatures hit Argentina today as the thermometers considerably descended in what is expected to be one of the coldest winters of the decade, announced the National Meteorological Service (SMN) last week.

Low temperatures might even bring some snow to the capital and suburban areas, a rare event as the one registered in 2007 when the snow took porteños by surprise after 89 years without the phenomenon.

This morning, according to the National Meteorological Service, 13 provinces registered below zero Celsius temperatures. The coldest one was registered at around 7 am at Villa Reynolds, San Luis province, where thermometers hit – 8.6 below zero.

The SMN reported that around 7 this morning Mendoza, Santiago del Estero, San Juan, Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Jujuy, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Catamarca, La Pampa and San Luis showcased below zero temperatures. In Malargue, Mendoza province, thermometers marked a – 7, 2 temperatures. However, the wind chill factor hit 10,1 Celsius below zero. Santiago del Estero, San Juan and Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña (Chaco province) registered a -5,8, -5 and -4,6 respectively.

In Cordoba province, SMN measured 4,5 degrees celsious in Laboulaye, 4 degrees below zero in Pilar, – 3,4 in Rio Cuarto and – 2, 8 at the Cordoba’s Observatory. However, at the city centre and downtown wind chill factor reached -6,2 Celsius.

Paso de los Libres, Corrientes province, registered -4, La Quiaca and Jujuy, – 3,8. At the capital, Buenos Aires, thermometers marked 2 degrees Celsius at 7 am with wind chill factor of -0,2 below zero.

Brazil’s southern cities also experienced a sudden drop of temperatures. The states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul reported snow and below zero temperatures. According to Brazil’s National Meteorological Services (Inmet), snow was reported in the cities of  São Joaquim and Bom Jesus. More snow and freezing cold temperatures are expected for this week. Regions bordering Argentina are expected to hit – 2 Celsius below zero.

Temperatures are expected to stay significantly low up to Wednesday.