California votes for school kids to be vaccinated

California lawmakers have voted 12-6 to limit school vaccination exemptions. Bill SB277 will require California schoolchildren to get vaccinated and, if passed, would join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements. The contentious Bill follows a measles outbreak at Disneyland that affected more than 100 in the US and Mexico, and has sparked impassioned, ongoing pleas from parents seeking to maintain medical choice. All school-age children who remain unvaccinated would need to be home-schooled, and the Bill would apply to elementary schools, secondary schools and day care centers. Only children with serious health problems would be allowed to opt out. Santa Monica paediatrician, Dr Jay Gordon, commented on the Bill in relation to the measles outbreak saying, “If SB277 had been in place last year, this outbreak would have proceeded in much the same manner,” as all of the cases of measles occurred outside a school environment.

CAM could be successfully used in schools to increase health and reduce absenteeism

A new study published in Adolescent Psychiatry has concluded that “Providing integrative techniques to students in the school setting has the potential to decrease barriers to accessing care, lowering treatment costs and decreasing school absenteeism by instituting care on-site.” The study aimed to explore the introduction of integrated health programs (IHPs) such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to combat stress and anxiety at three Boston-area public high schools. Teachers, parents, counselors, mental health providers and school nurses referred student participants, where they were then evaluated by clinicians to ensure they met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for an anxiety or stress condition. The program was successfully implemented and author, Nada Milosavljevic, believes that “Because utilizing these approaches involves their active participation, adolescents can acquire life-long skills that improve their ability to cope and confront inevitable life stressors.”

Concern about GM moths due to be released

Genetically engineered (GE) diamondback moths are due to be released at Cornell’s agricultural experiment station in Geneva, New York. This move has initiated a letter to be sent by environmental, advocacy and organic farming organisations to Andrew Cuomo (New York Governor), Richard Ball (Agriculture Commissioner), David Skorton (Cornell University President), and Susan Brown (Agricultural School Associate Dean). The letter urges them to inform the public of this release, and stop any outdoor trials until more adequate information is available. Concerns have already been put to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) but they were never addressed and the GE moth permit was quietly approved with no press release or public notification. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, said, “The USDA’s irresponsible management of this genetically engineered insect is putting the environment and agriculture at risk ... it sets a very poor precedent that they were released with minimal environmental review and transparency.” Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, echoed these concerns adding, “Consumers and farmers deserve much better information about GE insects that could end up in the food chain.”

Ghanaians not happy at being used as guinea pigs for Ebola vaccine

After receiving many calls of complaint, the Ghanaian Health Minister, Alex Segbefia has decided to suspend a trial for two experimental vaccines to protect against the Ebola virus. Ghana had agreed to take part in trials to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccines but the locals were not interested in being used as “guinea pigs”. Although the virus killed many people during the outbreak, the country is now free of the disease and the Ghanaians aren’t happy at risking their lives for an unnecessary experiment. However, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) believe that, "Participation in the trials will give crucial information about whether the tested vaccines are safe, well tolerated and capable of stimulating adequate immune responses in people living in Ghana." Leaders of the ruling National Democratic Congress commented, "We have cases of malaria, cholera and HIV/AIDS among others. We need vaccines or remedies for these diseases."

Health claims regulation to go ahead as it is

The UK Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA) and the Dutch NPN have lost their battle to get the permitted health claims list regulation annulled. Three years ago the two organisations made a joint plea to the European Commission to “go back and correct the flaws in its approach,” adding that the list should not have been published before all the kinks had been ironed out so that all health claims could be dealt with on equal terms. Robert Taylor, chair of the HFMA, said, “This is disappointing news for industry and consumers as it represents a total failure by the European General Court to recognise and address much of what is wrong with the flawed implementation of this regulation.” The groups describe the regulation as a “restrictive list of permitted health claims which effectively outlaws hundreds of well-established health claims on all foodstuffs including drinks, food supplements and foods,” and NPN chair, Mischa Strijder commented that “NPN will continue its efforts to have the claims regulation amended, so that, eventually, health claims and therapeutic claims based on traditional use will be treated equally in EU regulations.”

Pope Francis documents multiple GMO concerns

Pope Francis has expressed various concerns about GMOs and pesticides and has called for the financing of independent research to study them. His concerns were drafted in a major environmental document, which was reported to have been leaked on 15th June. The Pope wrote “In many areas, following the introduction of these crops, there has been a concentration of productive land in the hands of the few, due to the gradual disappearance of small producers”, and “The most fragile among them become temporary workers and many farm workers migrate to end up in miserable urban settlements. The spread of these (GM) crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and the future of regional economies”. On pesticides, the Pope wrote “looking at the world we see that this level of human intervention, often in the service of finance and consumerism, actually causes the earth we live in to become less rich and beautiful, more and more limited and gray, while at the same time the development of technology and consumerism continues to advance without limits”.

Novel food compromise approved by European Council

A proposal for the European Parliament to be granted the right to veto novel foods approvals was rejected on Thursday 11th June by the European Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper), and a final compromise text was approved. The committee believes if given this right, the Parliament would be contradicting the law’s purpose to simplify authorisation. The committee intends to make the process of introducing novel foods faster and cheaper while also safeguarding health. The European Parliament expects a first-reading vote on the text early in July. reported “Under current rules, novel foods are approved only at a national level, and only for the applicant company, but the Council’s proposal would allow EU-wide, generic approvals. This would mean that once a novel food was authorised, it could be placed on the market by any food company”, and “The proposal would also make it easier to introduce traditional foods into Europe that already have a history of safe consumption elsewhere”.


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