News snippets on BPA, GM, healthy snacks, vitamins, the International Year of Family Farming and meditation in schools
New study shows foetal BPA exposure increases risk of prostate cancer
The results of a study carried out at the University of Illinois, Chicago, USA indicate that foetal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) may greatly increase the risk in humans of developing prostate cancer. The carbon-based synthetic compound BPA is commonly used to make plastic goods, such as baby and water bottles, and for industrial purposes like lining water pipes. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of many food and beverage cans. There has been ongoing concern about the effects of BPA, and this is the first direct evidence that links BPA to an increased risk for prostate cancer in humans. However, it's important to note that this was an animal study with an experimental protocol: it looked at human prostate stem cells that were mixed with rat cells and then grafted onto the kidneys of mice, before growing into what the authors term "humanized prostate-like tissues". More work is clearly necessary to confirm these results.
German supermarket removes sweets from checkout
German supermarket, Lidl, is a common sight throughout Europe. Like most supermarkets, sweets are also a common site at the checkout counters. However, following complaints from parents who are trying to encourage healthy eating in their children, Lidl has decided to replace the sweets with healthy snacks instead. Following a successful trial in December 2013, their Healthy Checkouts initiative will remove sweets, chocolate and unhealthy snacks from January 2014, and will hopefully urge other supermarkets to follow suit.
Vitamins – a waste of money or victims of bad science?
Frustrated by the publication of studies with inaccurate conclusions, nutritional therapist Patrick Holford takes a look at the controversial field of vitamin science. Focusing on two such studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2013, he reports how the studies were poorly conceived, with subjects dropping out, factors being overlooked and confounding variables being ignored - it's almost as though they were set up to fail…!
Farmers abandoning the use of genetically modified seeds
Genetically modified (GM) seeds have long been touted as the answer to world hunger. However, more recently, farmers have been discarding GM seeds and using non-GM instead, and it's not due to an underlying dislike for the GM industry. They are switching for the simple reason that non-GM seeds are proving themselves to be more profitable and more productive. As Mother Nature adapts and weeds become resistant, non-GM seeds cost less to buy, produce bigger yields, require less herbicide and earn the farmer more when sold.
Hawaii sued over groundbreaking GM bill
In December 2013, Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi made it illegal for any biotech companies to operate on the Big Island and prohibited farmers from growing any new GM crops. Now, three of the largest agrochemical companies, Syngenta, Dupont and Agrigentics Inc., are suing to get the law overturned. The law requires large agricultural companies to disclose pesticide use and GM crop plantings while establishing buffer zones around schools, homes and hospitals, action that the suit claims are unconstitutional. Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser believes that the big companies do not want Hawaii to set a precedent that other communities might follow.
GM food labelling law passed in Maine
Governor Paul LePage has now signed into law Maine’s GM food-labelling bill. Maine is now the second state in the US to pass into law a bill that will require the labelling of foods containing GM ingredients. However, as with Connecticut, the bill will not go into effect until other states adopt similar measures. Such proposals have been introduced in nearly 30 US states. Ballot initiatives in California and Washington state have been mightily opposed by big biotech, big agribusiness and big food, with millions being spent to defeat them.
ANH-USA warned yesterday that the Farm Bill could seriously undermine GM labelling laws: “The House version of the Farm Bill still includes the destructive and possibly unconstitutional King Amendment (a.k.a. the Interstate Commerce Amendment), which could undo state-level GMO labeling and animal rights laws—even those that have already been passed”. US citizens —please take the urgent action urged by ANH-USA.
International Year of Family Farming 2014 for hunger reduction
The United Nations has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), to highlight the importance of family and smallholder farmers. Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva, said: "Nothing comes closer to the sustainable food production paradigm than family farming. Family farmers usually run non-specialized, diversified agricultural activities that give them a central role in securing environmental sustainability and preserving biodiversity". The value of the small farmer is being increasingly recognized — and is in stark contrast to frequently touted claims that key solutions lie with GM crop monocultures. However, da Silva added that key technologies need to be placed within their reach, so let’s hope that they don’t intend this to include GM!
In the Bahamas, inspirational backyard organic farmer Luckner Timothee works hard to feed his family. They eat well and shave hundreds of dollars off their grocery bills each year. It’s a way of life we endorse at ANH-Intl, and we hope that 2014’s IYFF encourages many more to do the same.
Meditation – improving the lives of US students
It’s been reported that several San Francisco middle and high schools now regularly practice meditation as a stress reduction technique. During the twice-daily ‘Quiet Time’, the students shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. Studies have shown that the integration of meditation into a school’s daily routine is able to markedly improve students’ lives. Visitacion Valley Middle School (in an area where shootings are common) was the first US school to adopt the programme, in 2007. At the time, students were “largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers”. A recent California Healthy Kids survey has found that pupils from this school now report the highest happiness levels in San Francisco. There are positive results in three other schools that observe the ‘Quiet Time’.