Big Food sues over GM labelling, GM Golden Rice fiasco, obese children, Ghana says yes to herbal medicine, lack of exercise worse than smoking, undiagnosed coeliac disease rates, and male infertility
Big Food to sue over Vermont GMO labelling law
As predicted, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has announced it is going to start legal proceedings following the labelling law for genetically modified foods being passed in Vermont. The law requires that any GM ingredients in products have to be included on the label, and was signed in by the Vermont Governor on Thursday 8th May 2014. The food industry groups continue to profess that GM is totally safe, labelling will only increase the cost of food, and that there is no need to inform consumers of its presence. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said, “I can make no predictions or promises about how the courts will ulitmately rule but I can promise that my office will mount a vigorous and zealous defense of the law that has so much support from Vermont consumers.” It is expected that a website will be set up to raise funds for the legal challenge, and Sorrell has promised that he’ll “…put the A-team on the case”.
GM pro-lobby lands another low blow to grassroots opposition groups
A report from the University of California states that while Golden Rice has been sitting around ready to be launched since 2000, opposition from anti-GM activists has meant that 1.4 million life years have been lost! Because of this report media coverage is spilling out sensational headlines such as “Golden rice refusal kills millions”. GMWatch points out that it is “…basic research and development problems that mean GM golden rice still isn't ready, even after swallowing millions in development funds and two decades' worth of work”, not GM opponents. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reports that as of March 2014 research on golden rice continues, and states on its website that the research is likely to take another “…two to three years.” Unfortunately yields were “…lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers” and the IRRI are unsure “…whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.” On this basis, the delays are warranted until the full health impact of releasing Golden Rice into the food chain is known.
Nutritional deficiency rife in morbidly obese teens
Cinncinati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s new study raises the question whether nutritional deficiency could be a factor fuelling morbid obesity in teens, rather than only being seen in teens who’ve had bariatric surgery. The study shows that severely obese teens are at risk of nutritional deficiencies whether they’ve had weight loss surgery or not. The paper, presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, British Columbia, reports on teens and young adults at risk of deficiencies such as low iron, anaemia, and a low vitamin D status. The study looked at 79 obese teens who either received weight loss surgery or were evaluated but didn't receive surgery. Lead researcher Dr. Stavra Xanthakos said, “We knew there were nutritional difficulties in teens who had undergone bariatric surgery, but everyone thought it was primarily the surgery that caused these problems since gastric bypass excludes the portion of the small intestine where many nutrients, especially iron, are most absorbed.” She believes that “…severely obese patients should be screened for nutritional deficiencies, regardless of whether they've undergone weight loss surgery.”
Ghana to integrate herbal medicine into healthcare system
Torgbuiga Yaka IV, the Registrar of the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, is keen for herbal medicine to be included fully in the Ghanaian healthcare system. He believes the Ghanaians deserve a choice of alternative healthcare but stresses that herbs must be integrated with conventional medicine, and emphasises the importance of quality assurance. Ghana already has 15 pilot centres in public health institutions but the Registrar wants these expanded so that more people have access to herbal medicine, not just those that can get it privately.
Lack of physical activity worse risk for women over 30 than smoking or obesity
Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health has shown that a physically inactive lifestyle poses more risk to women over 30 than smoking, obesity or high blood pressure. The study has tracked the health of more than 32,000 women born in the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1970s, and has created sufficient concern for public health authorities around the world to take notice. The bottom line is that living a sedentary inactive life is a major contributing factor to heart disease, amongst many other chronic diseases. Smoking came out as being the highest risk factor for women up to the age of 30, and once in their 30’s physical inactivity took over. Researchers involved with the paper estimated that if women between 30 and 90 years were able to partake in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate weekly exercise, then the lives of 2,000 women could be saved every year in Australia alone. Its been suggested that exercise be a much higher priority for public health authorities.
The gluten time-bomb — only 24% of coeliacs currently diagnosed
Research carried out by the University of Nottingham has shown that half a million people in the UK are living with coeliac disease and are unaware that they have the condition. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder triggered by eating gluten, a protein commonly found in cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and triticale, and widely used in bread making, pasta, and sauces etc. Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, Sarah Sleet, says this is “….a shocking statistic that needs urgent action.” On the research she commented, “This latest research shows that nearly a quarter of people with coeliac disease have now been diagnosed and gives an up to date picture of the diagnosis levels across the UK.” In the US the figures are slightly better – it is estimated that 17% of US citizens go undiagnosed. The NHS website points out that “Currently screening for coeliac disease is not routinely carried out…” and “...is usually only recommended for people at an increased risk of developing the condition, such as those with a family history of the disease.” Considering that many people (and the number is rising) have some sort of intolerance to wheat that could develop into full-blown coeliac disease, the case for better screening is surely unequivocal?
Everyday products behind a rise in male infertility
Research at Copenhagen University Hospital has shown that one in three common household, so-sold as non-toxic, chemicals have a direct impact on human sperm and therefore impact infertility rates. Items such as toothpaste, soap and plastic toys were found to significantly affect the potency of sperm cells by, in some cases, mimicking female sex hormones or sabotaging the ability for sperm to ‘swim’ effectively. Of most concern, is that only relatively low concentrations are needed to have an adverse effect. The study also highlighted that there could be a “cocktail effect”, i.e. where a number of chemicals work together for an increased effect. This concerns Professor Niels Skakkebaek as it shows that “…some endocrine-disrupting chemicals are possibly more dangerous than previously thought.” The study aimed to mimic real life by looking at numbers of very low dose, supposedly non-toxic, chemicals. Researchers were surprised by the results which showed “…large and sizeable responses in sperm.”