Secret statin research unit, smart meters, Neil Young supports organic cotton, police action over veg garden, seed library, GM, and pharmaceuticals in the sea
'Independent' secret statin research unit received £268 million from big pharma
Last week, we mentioned Jerome Burne’s blog outlining the outcome of the UK 'statin saga'. We had been told that an independent investigative report had criticised statin promoter Sir Rory Collins, who was unsuccessful in his bid to secure the retraction of 2 papers criticising statins in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The report had made it clear that it was unacceptable for all the statin data to be kept unshared and under wraps in the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists (CTT) research centre in Oxford, which Collins heads, and that it “may contribute to uncertainty about the risks and benefits of the drugs”.
But observant nutritionist and whole food campaigner, Zoe Harcombe, studied the supplementary information that accompanied the report. It revealed that grants from industry to the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU - a parent body of CTT) and Epidemiological Studies Unit for the research covering the past 20 years and more totalled £268 million! A whopping £217.5 million of this was received from Merck. Yet, in March this year, Collins had told the BMJ “CTSU’s coordination of the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration (CTTC) has been funded by the Medical Research Council and British Heart Foundation, without any commercial funding”. A statement that should put Collins’ hardline attempt to secure the retraction of the papers, that warned about patient side effects, under the spotlight. As Harcombe hints, side effect data may well be hidden away in Collins’ secret statin data bank, too. Jerome Burne elaborates further in his recent blog.
$15 million dollars to be spent removing Smart meters in Canada
Safety concerns have led to the removal of all105,000 Smart meters in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It’s been reported that they are being recalled, and will be replaced with the original meters that had been removed. SaskPower halted rollout of the controversial meters during July, after six of them caught fire.
Minister Bill Boyd, responsible for SaskPower, said “I think the concerns about safety are paramount here, the concerns are significant enough, anytime families are at risk in Saskatchewan, actions have to be taken and that’s why we’ve directed SaskPower accordingly.” He added, “I don’t know whether there was enough testing done. We’ll certainly be conducting, along with SaskPower, an internal review of the procurement procedures around the safety concerns people had”, and “We want to determine when these were originally ordered, if there were safety concerns known at that point in time, so we have a lot of questions we’re going to be discussing with SaskPower about how this came to be”.
Rocker Neil Young urges fans to shun non-organic cotton
Neil Young, the Canadian singer-songwriter with near cult status and a career now spanning 45 years, has made a stand against non-organic cotton, urging his fans to boycott. Described on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website as “one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers", the number of Young’s fans is well in the millions.
On the homepage of his website, he writes, “Today, I have taken the steps to remove sales of non-organic t-shirts and other products that damage the Earth from my concerts and my web stores. I vow to speak up & to do what I can to PROTECT EARTH… Cotton is second for most pesticide use of all crops & it uses 25% of all of the petrochemical based pesticides, fungicides and herbicides globally... These chemicals absorb into the soil which can affect nearby crops, get into water supplies and rivers and affect many lifeforms downstream”. In addition, we know that most of the non-organic cotton grown in India and in the US (and also in China, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, and Columbia) is genetically modified to contain BT toxin, or engineered to be herbicide tolerant.
Iowa vegetable grower threatened with police action
A man from Cedar Rapids in Iowa was threatened with police action after he turned two demolished property lots into a free organic vegetable garden for the community. Four years ago, Ed Thornton noticed that the city-owned lots next door to him were overgrown and weed-ridden. He bought seeds and turned them into vegetable plots. The area now contains 92 plant varieties, including beets, sunflowers, corn, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables. The produce from the garden is given free to the local community. The city ordered Thornton to destroy the vegetable garden or face action for trespassing by 6 August.
By way of an update on 11th August, Thornton reported that the city have agreed a ‘stay of execution’ for the bulldozing of the vegetables — until the end of the growing season in October. Thornton had argued, “There’s a lot of hard work that went into this and a lot of food that could be harvested”. The community supported Thornton over the moves against the garden. One of them, Sofie Hundley, wrote, “I think it’s a really good use for vacant property. It’s being well-kept and it’s providing food for the whole neighborhood”.
The US Department of Agriculture has shut down a seed library in Pennsylvania as it violated the Seed Act of 2004. The Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania has been running a successful seed library to help protect lines of seeds from extinction. Supporters are able to borrow seeds from the library, plant them and then offer them back to the library to start the process over again — a practice has been going on successfully for many years and overseen by David King of the L.A. seed library. The Department of Health has said that even though the library was not selling the seeds, it still fell under the purview of the state department and “as a regulatory agency, it is our charge to protect commerce, and also protect the library from any liabilities.” Following a discussion between the Department of Health and the Association of American Feed Control Officials, it has been decided that the library “could still provide labeled packets of seed that are for the proper growing season, but it could not accept seeds that were unlabeled, seeds that were past the sell-by date and seeds that were not for the growing season.” A (pricey) get-around of this protocol would be to accept loose seeds if those seeds are tested by a laboratory that follows testing rules set by the Association of Official Seed Analysts Inc.
US GMO risks panel predisposed to endorse GM crops
An open letter has been submitted to the US National Academy of Science’s National Research Council (NRC) criticising the make-up of a GMO risks panel. The letter written by scientists, researchers and professionals expresses concern “that the slate as currently configured does not contain the necessary expertise required to fully answer the questions outlined in the study’s statement of task. Without the necessary expertise and balance, the committee will be unable to fulfill its duties." The panel are due to complete a new NRC study, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects” but as Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) points out, “NRC’s creation of a panel appears predisposed to endorse GE crops, without undertaking a balanced and evidence-based assessment of the real-world impacts of the technology.” The letter suggests the inclusion on the committee not only of researchers from the biophysical sciences, but also rural and development sociologists, political economists, law and public health professionals, international development experts and ecologists trained in diversified farming systems.
Mexican judge bans GM
A positive move in the genetically modified (GM) arena; a district judge in the state of Yucatán, Mexico, has ruled co-existence between honey production and GM soybeans not possible and therefore overturned a permit allowing Monsanto commercial planting of Roundup-ready soybeans. The permit was issued by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and its withdrawal shows the judge’s concern about the scientific evidence provided regarding the threats presented by GM crops to honey production. Mexico is the world’s six biggest producer and third largest exporter of honey so GM crops could have a devastating effect on the important European export market for Mexican beekeepers. Sale of honey within the European market has been restricted following a decision in 2011 by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which barred honey derived from a GM crop unapproved for human consumption – which includes some soy and other animal feeds – from sale in the EU. Respected national newspaper, La Jornada, has criticised Sagarpa saying “the government’s stated ambition of eliminating hunger is incompatible with its decisions to increasingly allow multinational companies such as Monsanto to introduce GM crops.” The paper also described the Mexican food and agricultural authorities attitude as “clearly inappropriate and irresponsible” for having granted the permit in the first place.
Common drugs are ending up in the sea
An estimated load of around 400 kg of Diclofenac, a common anti-inflammatory pain killer, ends up in the Baltic Sea annually says new report. The Baltic Sea is the final basin of pharmaceutical residues consumed by more than 80 million people. Results of the HELCOM BASE study show that current waste water treatment processes are insufficient and the impact that this drug will be having on living organisms is likely to be negative. The harmful effects of pharmaceuticals in waterways are a growing concern and therefore the report suggests corrective steps such as an improvement of technology, consuming less pharmaceuticals, or substituting persistent substances with greener more environmentally friendly ones.