GMO setbacks in the EU and in the USA

The European Commission reached agreement on 12th June on the proposal brokered by the Greek EU presidency, to allow individual Member States to block GM cultivation. Promising more flexibility on national decisions about cultivation of GM crops, the proposal will give the green light to pro-GM countries such as the UK. Many critics, including ANH-Intl, have called it a Trojan horse, because it risks finally opening the floodgates to GMO crops in Europe. There are legal uncertainties over who would have the final say on each GMO crop, and Member States deciding against GMO cultivation may face legal challenges from the biotech applicant. Robert Verkerk PhD expressed concern about the proposals in a subsequent interview by

In the US, Vermont has become the first state to require labelling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients. A serious attempt to block this bill has now been made by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and three other groups, who have filed a lawsuit to challenge Vermont’s law. It is reported that the groups believe the law “violates free speech rights and conflicts with federal findings that GMOs are safe”.

Statin wars in the UK

More doctors are now warning that new guidance from the UK National Health Service (NHS) regarding statins may have worrying consequences, and is creating unnecessary additional health risk. The guidance advises 12 million people to take statins, but in a strongly worded letter to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a group of doctors warn that this advice is based on studies that have been funded by the pharmaceutical industry with “direct financial ties” to firms that manufacture statins. Prof David H. Newman of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and one of the signatories on the letter, talks about evidence found by Dr. John Abramson where in all cases, except the very highest-risk group, statins do not save lives and do not reduce the frequency of serious illness. His article goes a long way in making the statin debate a bit clearer.

To get up to speed, read Jerome Burne’s ultimate 2 minute guide.

Combined MMR and chickenpox vaccine may cause febrile seizures

According to an article in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), the combined measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine shows a slightly increased risk of febrile seizures in children, compared with the previously separate vaccines for MMR and varicella (chickenpox). The combined vaccine was developed to reduce the amount of injections young children have to receive, and although she admits that the seizures “can be extremely distressing for parents”, Dr. Shannon MacDonald, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, also says that the seizures are “typically self-limiting”, “rarely have long-term effects” and the vaccine “may improve vaccination coverage levels and decrease immunization delivery costs”. She expresses concern that the seizures “may undermine confidence in immunization programs”. The authors conclude, “Policy-makers need to balance these findings with the potential benefits of administering the combination vaccine or determine whether the choice of vaccine rests with clinicians and/or parents.” As always, we recommend that parents do their homework in order to make informed choices given the vulnerability of immature immune systems.

About time for Time magazine on saturated fat

After three decades, Time magazine has finally put right its wrongdoings over saturated fat and the “cholesterol myth”! Saturated fat has long been lambasted for its so-called association with increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, more and more studies are increasingly revealing that it is not the guilty party, and is in fact protective of the heart — a fact which many practitioners have been saying to deaf ears for too long now. A look at the respective illustrations on the front covers and the contrasting cover story teasers of the 1984 and the 2014 edition, tell the story. The edition due out on 23rd June features a story by Bryan Walsh, with the teaser: “Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong”. Hopefully governments will now be swift in their adoption of new official dietary guidelines.

Germany first with new plastics-free supermarket

A new package-free supermarket is due to open in Berlin, Germany later this year in a bid to reduce the 16 million tons of waste packaging produced in Germany each year, and create a ‘cleaner’ shopping experience. Led by Sara Wolf and Miena Glimbovski, Original Unverpackt is the product of a successful crowdfunding project and is proof again of the Germans’ proactive and positive approach to sustainability and renewables. The supermarket will reduce transportation costs and pollution by sourcing produce locally, and shoppers will bring their own containers to take the produce away, borrow reusable containers from the store or use bags made from recycled paper.

A win against the FDA for the artisan cheese community

Industry and consumers have fought back after the FDA targeted artisanal cheesemakers earlier this month saying they could no longer use wooden boards in the cheese aging process. Following petitions and much outrage expressed over social media the FDA then issued a statement stating that they “have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese”.  An article on the Forbes website points out that by claiming they didn’t change their policy, the FDA are dodging accountability and advises the cheese industry to keep a watchful eye on them as they might be planning some new regulations.

No evidence for calorie counting

When asked for evidence to back up the claim that all someone has to do to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than they expend in energy, the biggest ‘expert’ organisations in the UK came back with a big fat nothing! Zoe Harcombe asked the British Dietetic Association (BDA), Dietitians in Obesity Management (DOM), the National Health Service (NHS), the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Department of Health (DoH), the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO) for the evidence behind the calories in, calories out theory of weight loss that has become the mainstay of mainstream dietetics. The answer was the same from all 7 organisations – there is no evidence based on research that they could provide. The advice for anyone wanting to control their weight has long been based on the information that “one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose 1lb a week you need a deficit of 500 calories a day” but where has this come from? Read Zoe’s article for the full scoop – which is no doubt the same story the dietetic world over.

Protein may lower stroke risk

Findings from a new Chinese meta-analysis (study of studies) just published online before print in Neurology “suggest that moderate dietary protein intake may lower the risk of stroke”. The study, entitled “Quantitative analysis of dietary protein intake and stroke risk”, looked at 7 prospective studies involving 254,489 participants, in order to “evaluate the relation between dietary protein intake and stroke risk”. The researchers found that animal protein studies also reduce the risk of stroke. This new study helps put animal protein in a more favourable light after a flawed study caused controversy earlier this year, as it appeared to show increased mortality linked to high intakes.


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