EFSA declares glyphosate non-carcinogenic

Despite the World Health Organization’s declaration that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, EFSA has concluded otherwise. An expert group consisting of EFSA scientists and EU state risk assessment bodies have finalised their re-assessment of glyphosate, a chemical found in pesticides. They have concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to cause genotoxic or carcinogenic threat, but propose new safety measures, which tighten the control of levels in food. One wonders if EFSA is preparing itself should evidence on the herbicide's risks make it untenable for the agency to claim safety in the future. The European Commission will use this decision to decide whether to include glyphosate in its list of approved active substances. The report also contained the first Acute Reference Dose for glyphosate – 0.5mg/kg body weight - this is the estimated chemical intake over a short period that EFSA deems to cause no harm. We'd love to see the EFSA scientists responsible for this decision consume 30 mg of glyphosate daily in a RoundUp capsule to be had with their breakfast, lunch or dinner, and are considering presenting them with this as a challenge.

Will the UK government stop GPs prescribing homeopathics?

British GPs who prescribe homeopathic treatment have long been in the cross-hairs of skeptics, despite homeopathic medicines having been shown, even in randomised trials which eliminate other effects including those mediated by the physician-patient relationship, to elicit small, specific treatment benefits. A consultation is expected in 2016 to help ministers decide whether they should ban homeopathic treatments from being prescribed by GPs. Supporters of homeopathy claim it can help a variety of illnesses, including asthma, eczema and depression. Critics, who are generally biased against homeopathy because they do not understand or accept its mechanism of action, say patients are taking nothing but a sugar pill without any proven effects, which is why the NHS should blacklist it. A decision against prescription of homeopathic medicines would run contrary to the view of the Swiss government that claimed in 2012 that homeopathy not only works but is more cost effective than conventional medicine. It would also go against the UK government's previous position which determined that patients and doctors are in the best position to judge.

Norwegian government U-turns over private food supplement imports

The Norwegian government announced on Monday that it had done an about turn on banning the private import of vitamins, minerals and herbs at doses higher than those permitted in Norway. Norwegian food supplement users had been recently campaigning about the draconian restrictions, which treated imported vitamins and minerals as medicines even when the nutrients were at dosages permitted internationally, or elsewhere in Europe. The restrictions had come into effect ‘overnight’ on October 1st 2015. The campaign group Vitaminaksjonen had said “Thousands of Norwegians are now worried that they may have to move to other countries – to become food supplement refugees,.. or that they will become law breakers when traveling to get what they need – in order to continue to remain healthy”. They had reported, “Norwegian Customs has been given additional resources to destroy or return all food supplements that do not adhere to Norwegian Law”. Thousands of Norwegians had responded to the restrictions by demonstrating in front of Parliament on 17th October.

Potassium-rich diets could help protect the kidneys of patients with Type II diabetes

In 2014, the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated at 9% of the adult population. A figure that the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) expects to double in the next 20 years. Obesity is a major factor for Type II diabetes; amongst other dietary risk factors meaning a low calorie and sodium diet is often recommended. Potassium is recognised to prevent hypertension and stroke in the general population, and has roles in cell function, nerve conduction, body rhythm regulation (heart, muscles). The kidneys ensure potassium is maintained at the correct levels. New research shows that a diet rich in potassium could help protect patients’ kidneys from end-stage renal disease, which is much more likely in Type II sufferers. The results showed that higher levels of potassium in the participants' urine indicated a lower risk of renal dysfunction and cardiovascular problems. Sodium excretion, on the other hand, showed no correlation.

Prague’s campaign to turn homeless people into Wi-Fi hotspots

The Prague-based charity WiFi4Life recently “announced a campaign to turn homeless people into wireless Internet hotspots”. It was reported that the charity want “to equip Prague's homeless population with portable routers, so they can wander the city's center offering free internet to passersby”. In doing so, they would receive perks, “including food, accommodations, clothing, and even a haircut”. But the initiative has been called “exploitative of a global crisis”, with critics said to be expressing outrage on Twitter. The charity’s earlier Indiegogo crowdfunding effort was a flop, and having been recently relaunched, it looks set fail again. Wi-Fi 4 Life’s chairman, Luboš Boleček, has reportedly said, “he may proceed if this campaign is unsuccessful, as the Prague city government has expressed interest in the program”.

Mothers sue NYC over flu vaccines

Five mothers in New York are suing the city in response to a mandate on under 5s receiving the flu jab. The law was passed under Mayor Bloomberg and has come into effect this flu season; joining New Jersey and Connecticut states which already require a vaccine for those aged between 6 months and 5 years. The mothers argue it is illegal because the Health Department rather than lawmakers passed it and they do not want their children vaccinated. The mothers’ attorney argues that getting vaccinated is a personal choice and said the parents don’t have any issues with the state’s other vaccine requirements. The city released this statement regarding the lawsuit: "We are confident that the Board of Health has the authority to require flu vaccinations, which protect children and the broader public from serious illness." Dr Greg Yapalater - a pediatrician in NYC told Fox News that flu is highly contagious and at its most deadly for under 5s. Live vaccines have consistently shown to give the most efficient protection from the virus to children under 7 and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises all those over 6 months to get a vaccine every season.

Study shows increased risk of bovine TB on intensive farms

A study by the University of Exeter has shown that farms with herds of over 150 cattle (intensive farms) have a 50% increased risk of tuberculosis (TB) outbreaks. Other factors such as silage use and hedge removal were also linked to increased risk of TB – showing that small herds reared on natural grass diets are healthier and more likely to resist TB. The authors suggest less intensive farming methods could be better, especially in areas with a high incidence of TB. Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association said, “For thirty years or more, successive governments and farming leaders have avoided any discussion about how changing farming systems, and particularly more intensive and ever larger herds, may be increasing the incidence of bovine TB. This ground-breaking research should change the debate about this devastating disease, and put how we farm and care for farm animals firmly at the centre of discussions.”

First commercial order for all-natural pesticide

A UK terpene-based natural pesticide, has received its first commercial order. Eden Research, based in Oxford, was earlier given approval for its encapsulated terpene product, 3AEY, by EU authorities. The order was received from the firm’s partner Lachlan, after approval was received for its use in Kenya. Among its key intended targets is the Botrytis fungus on grapes. It’s been reported that “Eden’s pesticide will be used initially to treat an area equivalent to the size of 1,250 rugby pitches, targeting vegetables such as peas, beans, cucumbers, squashes and melons, before it expands into the cut flower market”. The Chief Executive Officer of Lachlan saidwe have been very impressed with its safety profile and efficacy. Marketing trials with customers have confirmed this, and we are pleased to now be in a position to get this product into a market which is demanding zero pesticide residues, especially on exported fresh produce to Europe”.