UK MPs back a tax on sugary drinks

The UK Commons Health Committee have suggested this week that they would support a tax on sugary drinks as there is now “compelling evidence” this, along with crackdowns on marketing and advertising, would reduce consumption. The government has said that the tax is part of a range of “bold and urgent” measures to tackle childhood obesity. Unsurprisingly, food industry representatives argue that the tax disproportionately affects the availability of choice for poorer families. The committee report points to success in Mexico, which saw a 6% reduction in consumption after introducing the tax and an increase in water consumption. Opponents highlight the failed attempts in Denmark and California (which have closer consumption patterns to the UK). The ‘fizzy drink tax’ is not a new debate. As far back as February 2013 we published an article outlining a combination of measures to combat childhood obesity with 10 practical action points at the end. These action points have not changed in 2-years, but increasing evidence suggests that that sedentary lifestyles in children (and adults) can damage blood vessels. As well as lowering sugar consumption, getting kids active has to be a number 1 goal in any anti-obesity campaign.

Oil companies provided with confidential TTIP information

Although much of the information surrounding the TTIP deal has been deemed too sensitive to be released to the EU public, it appears the US oil giant ExxonMobil has been given access to confidential material. Previous document leaks suggest the EU is pressing for a guarantee that the US will allow free export of oil and gas to Europe (for which the infrastructure would cost $100billion and the subsequent emissions would severely affect EU ability to mitigate climate change). The new documents seem to show a worryingly close link between the EU and the oil industry, as one refinery association was asked for “concrete input” into text, amongst other apparent breaches of confidentiality. The Green MEP Ska Keller said, “The documents reveal a shocking closeness between business interest groups and the commission I am now wondering who actually writes the EU’s draft texts. It seems to be big corporations who only have profits on their mind. The commission needs to stop being the executive arm of the business lobby”. The EC denies sharing confidential information with Exxon.

FDA sued over GM salmon decision

The Center for Food Safety and additional plaintiffs plan to sue the Food and Drug Administration over its approval of the sale of GM salmon for consumption. The salmon will also not have to show a GM label. Millions of consumers, supermarkets and over 300 environmental and civic organisations have voiced concerns over the implications of the FDA’s decision. US supermarkets such as Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target have said they will not sell the salmon, produced by Massachusetts company, AquaBounty. Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety said, "The fallout from this decision will have enormous impact on the environment. Center for Food Safety has no choice but to file suit to stop the introduction of this dangerous contaminant".

EPA retracts approval for Enlist Duo herbicide

The Environmental Protection Agency is withdrawing its approval of Dow Chemical Co.’s herbicide, Enlist Duo. New information suggests the weed killer (which contains glyphosate) is more toxic than previously thought. Enlist Duo is designed as a weed killer for use on GM crops and had previously been approved by the EPA in 9 states in 2014. However, various environment advocacy groups, including Earthjustice, then sued the EPA over claims they had not taken possible health risks into full consideration. This week the EPA said it had new information not previously provided by Dow, that the chemical could be more harmful than previously thought. In particular there are concerns over surrounding plants that may have to be protected against Enlist Duo more than formerly thought. A spokesperson for Dow said that, “We expect that these new evaluations will result in a prompt resolution of all outstanding issues”. Glyphosate has been much in the news recently. Despite the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) findings that glyphosate is a “probably carcinogen”, licences for use still keep being approved. In July 2015 we highlighted why it’s one of the most controversial active ingredients in herbicide use today and why consumers should be pushing for a moratorium.

FDA approves controversial squalene flu jab for over 65s

A Food Drug Administration (FDA) news release published last week announced the US approval of the “first seasonal influenza vaccine containing an adjuvant”. The vaccine, known as Fluad, contains the controversial adjuvant squalene, which caused controversy after the 1991 Gulf War, when researchers suggested that it was responsible for ‘Gulf War Syndrome’, affecting as many as 275,000 war veterans. In addition, a study published in The American Journal of Pathology in 2000, found it to be responsible for autoimmunity in rats. The FDA explain “Adjuvants are incorporated into some vaccine formulations to enhance or direct the immune response of the vaccinated individual”. Nevertheless the FDA describe Fluad as “a safe and effective influenza vaccine in people 65 years of age and older”. It has already been used in Europe, and Canada, but the British Medical Journal published a study earlier this year entitled “Deaths after Fluad flu vaccine and the epidemic of panic in Italy”. The US National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has recently highlighted concerns.

Meanwhile in the UK, where the ‘Fluzone’ vaccine is used, a headline in the Mail Online last week claims that “44,000 die after ineffective flu vaccine causes the number of excess winter deaths to TRIPLE - the highest level this century”. If you’re considering having a flu vaccine we urge you to find out what’s in it first.

Australia’s “No Jab, No Pay” amended to include young adults

A quiet and disturbing amendment to Australia’s very controversial “No Jab, No Pay” vaccine law has recently come to light. Reported by Real News Australia the new 11-page Social Services Legislation Amendment document contains details of a crucial amendment to the age group affected by the 2015 Act. The Amendment Schedule 1 text makes clear that rather than just children under 7 having to meet the immunisation requirements detailed in the Bill (originally widely reported in the press), it is those under 20 who will be required to do so “in order to receive family tax benefits and payments”. It appears that the full extent of this Bill remains widely unreported, though the information had earlier been publicised on the website of the Hon Teresa Gambaro MP, the Federal Member for Brisbane.

Séralini wins defamation and forgery court case on GMO research

Professor Séralini’s team has won “defamation and forgery court cases on GMO and pesticide research”. The molecular biologist’s website has announced the win, which they say marks a second victory for their team. They said “On 25 November 2015, the High Court of Paris indicted Marc Fellous, former chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission, for “forgery” and “the use of forgery”, in a libel trial that he lost to Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini. The Biomolecular Engineering Commission has authorised many GM crops for consumption”. Séralini’s website wrote that a source close to the case told GMWatch that “Fellous had used or copied the signature of a scientist without his agreement to argue that Séralini and his co-researchers were wrong in their reassessment of Monsanto studies”. We have kept a close eye on Seralini’s findings, which first hit the headlines 2-years ago, and subsequent challenges meant he was forced to retract his findings. This latest move marks a victory not just for Gilles-Eric Séralini, but also for the scientific process, which has been so abused by corporate lobbies of late.