The “Dirty Six” pesticides remain available in the EU

Six of the most dangerous endocrine disrupting chemicals were not even discussed at the meeting of the Standing Committee of DG SANTE on the 11th December. The “Dirty Six” are Amitrole, Flumioxazin, Flupyrsulfuron, Isoproturon, Pymetrozin and Flutianil, which have all been shown to have serious harmful effects on health – including cancer, organ abnormalities and developmental effects. The Pesticide Action Network claim DG SANTE has done little to protect the health of citizens or the environment, instead focusing on wording and rules to delay action. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently backed glyphosate but questions are now being raised on whether there is enough public support for an industry blacklisting despite the EFSA ruling.

UK government is looking for air pollution levels to be lowered

Despite the recent world-first in Paris – a global agreement on how to tackle climate change – recent papers obtained by ClientEarth show the UK is pushing for relaxed limits on air pollution. Current limits for nitrogen oxides in cars in the EU are 80mg/km but the UK government is pushing for carmakers to exceed this limit in response to motor industry lobbying. Around 50,000 people die annually because of air pollution in the UK, so this calls into question the government’s commitment to reducing air pollution, and brings plans for an ultra low emission zone in London into question. Alan Andrews, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said, “The decision to water down vehicle emission standards was a political stitch-up by the commission and an unelected committee of technocrats that will force us all to breathe illegal levels of air pollution for years to come. These rules are illegal and should be vetoed by the European parliament.”

GM chickens to be used to produce an enzyme for treatment of rare disease

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved a drug, which is to be produced in eggs laid by a genetically engineered chicken. Kanuma is marketed by Alexion Pharmaceuticals and will replace a faulty enzyme in people with a rare, inherited condition that stops the body breaking down fatty molecules. The disease, lysosomal acid lipase deficiency, causes fat accumulation in the liver, spleen and vasculature and is quickly fatal in infants; there was previously no treatment addressing the underlying cause. The GM chickens are not to enter the food supply. This is not the first drug to be produced by GM animals (also known as ‘farmaceuticals’) - with an anticoagulant produced in GM goats milk approved in 2009.

Scientists propose group meditation as a solution to societal stress

Last week, an international alliance of concerned scientists, the Global Union of Scientists for Peace, “published an Open Letter to Presidents Obama, Hollande and Putin--and to the leaders of all nations--proposing a scientific alternative to the conventional approach of creating peace through force or violence”. Extensive published research reveals that the practice of meditation “by a significant sub-portion of a population (even 1%)” has been shown to “reduce societal stress, leading to substantially reduced violent crime, psychiatric crisis calls and other indicators of acute societal stress”. When such advanced meditation practices are done in large groups, an even more powerful societal effect has been found.

The letter, entitledA Scientific Solution to Terrorism and Conflict” outlines sound and relevant research and proposes that such “powerful, stress-reducing, peace-promoting technologies” should be “implemented immediately —ideally by establishing one permanent group of 16,000 peace-creating professionals to create a sufficiently powerful influence of coherence to neutralize the buildup of social stress on a global scale”.

Obesity in women should be treated as a ‘national threat’

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said this week that obesity in women should be treated as a ‘national threat’, putting it at the same level as terrorism and natural disasters. She also mentioned the threat to future generations from women who are obese during pregnancy. Her report, ‘The Health of the 51%: Women’, was the first to specifically focus on women, and revealed that in 2013 62% of women aged 45-54 were overweight or obese. Professor Davies said "Obesity has to be a national priority. Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women's lives and affecting their quality of life.” The report also aimed to end the myth that women should eat for two when pregnant, and gave numerous other recommendations to improve women’s health including sex and relationship guidance at schools and training to help medical staff recognise FGM (female genital mutilation).

New targets for vaccines in Italy spark protest

Plans by the Italian government to boost vaccination rates and introduce new vaccines to the population have prompted protests by health professionals. Some physicians are worried that they will be punished if they don’t fully cooperate with the government’s National Vaccination Plan for 2016-2018 (PNPV); the need for some vaccines and the role of industry in the decision has also been questioned. In Italy less than 86% of children now receive the measles vaccination so Italian health minister Beatrice Lorenzin claims that the new plan is a “matter of national security and public health”. Some of the authors of the PNPV have declared conflicts of interest due to financial and personal ties to the pharmaceutical industry, meaning they could have much to gain from the planned increase in spending on vaccines to €620million.

French supermarkets to give away all unsold food

French MPs are to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, and they instead must give it away. It is hoped that the new laws will slash food waste in the country and the legislation was described by the house as a “crucial measure for the planet”. Individuals may now set up organisations to collect and distribute food that would have previously been destroyed (sometimes by soaking in bleach). Arash Derambarsh who campaigned for the law has said it is a “historic victory”, but the next move should be to persuade other EU countries to adopt this law. In France 7.1 million tonnes for food is wasted every year, 11% of this by shops. This comes after Morrisons supermarket in the UK promised to donate unsold food to community projects.

Three genes determine children’s varying response to sweet taste

The response to sweetness varies in children, and it has now been revealed that genes may have a strong influence over this. Two sweet taste genes were isolated in an experiment by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Pennsylvania, and a third bitterness receptor gene was identified by researchers. Changes in any of these three genes vary the sensitivity to taste stimuli, including sweet taste. Sugar sensitivity is linked to changes in the bitter receptor, rather than two sweet taste receptors, and the children most sensitive to bitter taste were those most sensitive to sweet. These children (sensitive to strong sweet or bitter taste) were likely to have a higher proportion of their diet comrpised of sugar and even higher body fat. Lead author of the study, Paule Valery Joseph, claimed this could provide insights into future inititives to reduce children’s sugar consumption and improve their health. They said, “our ultimate goal is to bring the assessment from bench to bedside to create tailored interventions using ‘precision nutrition’ for both children and adults”.