Friday, October 31, 2014

Research Suggests Our Past, Prolific Use Of The Insecticide DDT May Still Be Contributing To A Scourge Of Modern-Day Diseases Related To Obesity.

Is a world-wide ban now the only ethical thing to do?

by Larry Powell

Did your parents farm In Canada in the years following World War 11, as mine did? If so, little would they have dreamed of the health dangers lurking within the popular chemical, DDT, which they might well have been spraying on their fields.

The product was applied widely (some say indiscriminately) back then to kill bugs that were consuming food crops and forests and spreading human diseases like typhus and malaria. Just as common were assurances from government and industry that “all was well.”

But DDT was banned in North America in the 70’s after Rachel Carson exposed it in her book,“Silent Spring” as the culprit in massive die-offs of birds and fish and as a “definite chemical carcinogen.”

DDT made a significant resurgence in the early 2000’s, however. 

That’s when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization began promoting programs to control malaria, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. DDT is sprayed indoors and used to treat bed nets to protect people from malaria mosquitoes. It is now estimated up to 5 thousand tonnes are applied yearly.

But the degree to which DDT can harm not only those directly exposed, but their offspring several generations later, has only recently become better understood.

Late last year, a research team at Washington State University (WSU), published a study with a disturbing finding; “The biohazards of DDT are significantly greater than anticipated.”

In experiments with laboratory rats, the team discovered that the chemical seems to have the ability to cause serious ailments related to obesity (metabolic disease) in offspring born to parents directly exposed, even though those offspring had no such exposure, themselves. They include diabetes, diseases of the liver, kidney, heart and reproductive organs, male infertility and a shorter life.

DDT thus joins a growing list of substances such as jet fuel and dioxins with the same dubious ability.

So the researchers now believe that, while diet and lifestyle  are playing a role,  the DDT applied during its heyday, too, is still contributing to the deadly epidemic of obesity that has been sweeping this continent for years.

“No known genetic mechanism could explain the rapid increase in the incidence of obesity in the last 30 years,” observes the WSU study.   
Queens University in Ontario estimates that 57 thousand Canadians died of obesity-related ailments between 1985 and 2,000. And Memorial University in Newfoundland has concluded that obesity rates “tripled between 1985 and 2011.”

A biology teacher at WSU, Michael Skinner (above), headed that study. In an e-mail to PinP, Dr. Skinner confidently defends his team’s research results.

“In the 40s and 50s, all of North America and the entire population was exposed to DDT. We are now three generations from the 1950s, when the obesity metabolic disease frequency was around 5% and today is near 40% of the population. So, yes, some of the disease today is due to these ancestral exposures.”

Some researchers now believe DDT should be banned, worldwide.

This summer, WSU did a follow-up study, this time with unusual input from the its School of Philosophy. It examined the ethical and moral implications of DDT’s continued use, in the wake of last year’s disturbing revelations. “Current day exposures need to now be considered in light of the transgenerational actions of DDT,” the team concludes. As Prof. Skinner puts it, a worldwide ban is now a matter of “environmental justice. There are alternatives with shorter half-lives that need to be considered.”

But convincing the world that a total ban is needed, may not be easy.

In 2009, the Annual Review of Entomology reported that, after some two decades of DDT application, the death rate from malaria had plummeted. In 1900, it was claiming more than 19 lives per ten thousand population; in 1970, fewer than two. The Review calls that “a massive reduction.” And the Gates Foundation claims its program has helped reduce the death toll from malaria by more than 40 percent over the past dozen years or so.

But the WSU ethics paper poses some convincing arguments of its own; Health implications uncovered by the recent research are endangering individuals "who are not able to have any voice in the decision to use the pesticide." So we must now balance the number of lives being saved from malaria, against the implications that its continued usage will surely have. “There are now many accounts of socially disadvantaged, ethnic groups and the poor, suffering the ill effects of environmental degradation,” states the report. “DDT use in the developing world looks set to be yet another case in that sad history. The harm will only fully emerge over the course of a number of generations.”

The report concludes that the burden of proof must now shift back to those advocating for its continued use. And the worst thing that could happen would be to carry on with the status quo without careful consideration of the consequences.
Postscript: I asked the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization for comments on this some time ago. I am still waiting for their responses.
(This article is also posted on "OpEd News," where it drew about a dozen comments! Please read them here.)


Canada's Farm Protections a Remaining Hurdle to Major Trade Deal: U.S.

Winnipeg Free Press

WASHINGTON - Access to Canada's tightly controlled agriculture market is among the main remaining hurdles to a historic 12-country free-trade deal, the U.S. administration said Thursday. Story here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Livestock Die As The Caribbean Gets Hotter

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Oct 8 2014 (IPS) - Livestock farmers in the Caribbean are finding it increasingly difficult and expensive to rear healthy animals because of climate change, a situation that poses a significant threat to a region that is already too dependent on imports to feed its population. Story here.
A cow skeleton in Canada. PinP photo.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stop Cruel & Wasteful Fishing Practices - PLEASE SIGN!

Hi Larry,
I just wanted to check whether you saw my email from the other day, containing shocking footage from industrial tuna boats?
Already an incredible 103,000 emails have gone to Princes and John West, demanding they clean up their tuna.
The campaign is taking off - will you add your name too? 
For the oceans,

Spring Heat Wave In Australia Breaks Records Across The Country


Australia’s summer doesn’t start until December, but the country is still baking in a record-breaking spring heat wave. Story here.

Bye Bye Bees? Not If We Can Help It!

Pesticide giant Bayer wants to introduce ANOTHER bee-killing pesticide into Canada.

We have just one week to convince Health Canada to stand up for the bees. Tell them not to approve this new pesticide!
Larry --
Pesticide giant Bayer wants our government to approve ANOTHER new bee-killing pesticide -- and we have just one week to convince Health Canada to stand up for the bees. 
If approved, this new pesticide will likely wreak further havoc on our bees, which are already dying in record numbersLast winter, almost 30 percent of Canada's bee colonies were devastated, and strikingly, we lost over half of our bee colonies in Ontario alone. Judging by Bayer's deadly track record, this new pesticide could speed up the complete decimation of the local bee population, which would have catastrophic effects on Canada's food supplies. 
The final decision lies in Health Canada's hands, and we have until November 1 to make our voice heard. If we want Health Canada to stand up to Bayer, it needs to hear from us now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Confirmed: California Aquifers Contaminated With Billions Of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater

The California State Water Resources Board has confirmed that at least nine sites were dumping wastewater contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants into aquifers protected by state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Story here.

Fertilizer Warning: Don’t Pay $12-An-Acre For ‘Foo-Foo Dust’

Manitoba Co-Operator

Buyer beware, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency no longer tests fertilizers for efficacy and quality. Story here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UN Agencies Launch New Joint Initiative Targeting Elimination of Global Food Waste

UN News Centre 
Larry Powell P in P photo.
The world wastes enough food to feed an estimated two billion people, the United Nations said today. Story here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

U.S. Tribes To Canada: Please Don’t Allow Tar Sands Pipeline To Pollute Our Waters


The leaders of several Pacific Northwest Native American tribes are asking Canadian regulators not to approve a huge expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, saying approval would result in a huge increase of oil tankers coming through tribal waters every day, increasing the risk of a devastating spill. Story here. 

There’s a Surprisingly Strong Link Between Climate Change and Violence

The Washington Post
Earlier this year, when a study came out suggesting global warming will increase the rates of violent crimes in the United States -- producing "an additional 22,ooo murders, 180,000 cases of rape," and many other crime increases by the year 2099 -- it drew widespread criticism. Story here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Harper Named World's 'Worst Climate Villain' After Damning Report

Huffington Post
Canada does well at many things. Earlier this year, Canadian cities were listed among the world's top places to live. The country ranks high with the best when it comes to wealth and it's been praised for emerging from the financial crisis in decent shape. But there's one category in which Canada ranks dead last among industrialized nations: its efforts to combat climate change. Story here.

Foreign Scientists Call on Stephen Harper to Restore Science Funding, Freedom.

CBC News

Open letter warns about effects of Canadian science policy on international collaboration. Story here.

Does CETA Offer Any Real Value to Canadian Farmers?

Manitoba Co-Operator.

Trade agreements may offer negative outcomes for Canadians. Story here.

Related: "Free Trade: Path to Prosperity - or Back Road to Corporatism?" 

These Two World Leaders Are Laughing While the Planet Burns Up

New Republic

Meet earth's worst climate villains; Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Story here.

New Canadian Legislation Will Make Absolutely Clear the Right of Farmers to Save Seed - Agriculture Minister Vows

The Co-Operator

The government has introduced amendments to its Agricultural Growth Act to make the language around seed saving clearer. Story here. 

Larry Powell P in P photo.

Cree Nation Occupies Hydro-Dam in Manitoba

Council of Canadians

More than 100 people from the Cross Lake First Nation (Pimicikamak Cree Nation), located north of Lake Winnipeg, occupied the grounds of the Jenpeg hydro-dam last week. Chief Catherine Merrick said the First Nation is taking control of its traditional territory and evicting Manitoba Hydro. Story here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise in 2013: Troubling Sign for Climate Goals

Union of Concerned Scientists

In a troubling sign, data from the Energy Information Agency released today show that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.5% in 2013. This increase comes after two years of declining emissions. Story here.

Larry Powell P in P photo.

‘It Will Never Be The Same’: North Dakota’s 3.5 Million-Litre Oil Spill One Year Later

One year ago, when more than 20,000 barrels (3,528,000 Litre) of crude oil spilled from a pipeline and soaked a wheat field in Tioga, North Dakota, the public almost never knew about it. After the spill was discovered by a lone farmer, it was not reported for nearly two weeks, and only after reporters from the The Associated Press asked about it specifically. Details here.

Genetic Modification Trails Conventional Breeding By Far

Institute of Science in Society

Researchers have created conventionally bred varieties tolerant to drought and low nitrogen soils that can reduce poverty in 13 African countries by up to 9 %, far outperforming anything that genetic modification has achieved Prof Peter Saunders
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Monday, October 20, 2014

A Government of Canada Report on Deforestation by Oil, Gas Industry Not Out Until After Next Election


The latest government information about the scope of deforestation by Canada's oil and gas sector - predominantly the Boreal Plain forest destroyed by Alberta oilsands mining and production - will not be published until a year after the next federal election, according to information from the federal Natural Resources department. Story here.

Companies Pulling Out of Canadian Tar Sands Oil

Living on Earth

With crude prices sharply down and the future of the Keystone XL pipeline in doubt, energy companies are dubious about investing in oil from the Alberta Tar Sands. OnEarth writer Brian Palmer discusses the problems facing the industry with host Steve Curwood.  Story here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) Condemns Approval in the U.S. of Dow "Enlist Duo" Herbicide

Organic Consumers Association

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final approval this week, over the objections of more than a half-million citizens, of Dow AgroSciences' Enlist Duo, an herbicide made from a combination of 2,4-D (one of the active ingredients in Agent Orange) and glyphosate (the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide).  Story here.

Crop-duster. Larry Powell P in P photo  

Related: New GMOs Doctors Are Warning About.

Agroecology: The Capitalist Elephant in the Room

Our Food Future

The benefits of agroecological methods are extremely broad, from the human health benefits of eating food grown in healthy and biologically diverse soils, to drastically reduced input costs for farmers... Story here.

Related: The Solution Is the Soil: How Organic Farming Can Feed the World and Save the Planet 

A farmers' market on the farm. 
Larry Powell P in P photo.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scientists Mull Change Of Epoch To Reflect Human Impact On The Planet

Huffington Post
BERLIN (Reuters) - Scientists from around the world met this week to decide whether to call time on the Holocene epoch after 11,700 years and begin a new geological age called the Anthropocene - to reflect humankind's deep impact on the planet. Story here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From Cabinet to CropLife: Ted Menzies Avoids Ethical Scrutiny Over New Job as Top Canadian Pesticide and GMO Lobbyist

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Since last Nov., John Bennett of the Sierra Club has been raising the alarm....Story here.
Studies show chemicals which some of Croplife's 
member companies peddle, contribute to the decline of 
insect-eating birds. (r.) An insectivorous bird, the purple 
martin, which is in decline.  P in P photo. 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Canadian Government Memo Criticized Top Biologist For Comments On Alberta Oilsands

Huffington Post

One of Canada’s top biologists says he will not stop talking to the media after a government memo accused him of bias and speaking out of turn about the environmental impact of Alberta’s oilsands. Story here.

The Solution Is the Soil: How Organic Farming Can Feed the World and Save the Planet


One man, backed by many, marches on Washington to tell lawmakers and the world that 'there is hope right beneath our feet.' Story here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

NOAA: Record Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Linked To Its Staggering Loss Of Land Ice

NOAA said in a news release Tuesday that “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.” Details here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Understanding the Evangelical Mission of Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

Andrew Nikiforuk - The Tyee

Signs mount that Canada's government is beholden to a religious agenda averse to science and rational debate. Story here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Inventors Of A ‘Revolutionary’ Climate Solution Just Won A Nobel Prize


Three men who together helped increase the energy efficiency of lighting systems across the world have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciencesannounced Tuesday. Story here.

Scathing Report Details Canada’s Environmental Shortfalls

The Globe and Mail
Larry Powell - P in P photo.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions, fight climate change and regulate oil and gas emissions, a series of audits from a federal watchdog have found. Story here.

Feeding the 1 Percent


Since the global food crisis of 2008, there has been a massive wave of private sector investment in agriculture. More money flowing into agriculture means more innovation and modernisation, more jobs and more food for a hungry planet, say the G8, the World Bank and corporate investors themselves.

But does it? Story here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Herbicide Resistance a Global Food Threat

Laura Rance - Winnipeg Free Press
Ground sprayer. Larry Powell - P  in P photo.
For decades, the experts have treated the growing problem of herbicide-resistant weeds as something solvable by the next new chemical or biological breakthrough. Now, more are stepping back and acknowledging it as a symptom of a much bigger issue in agriculture. Story here.

Volcano Shows Japan Needs a Green Revolution

By: William Pesek - Winnipeg Free Press
With the discovery of a 47th body on the slopes of Mt. Ontake, the volcano’s eruption is now Japan’s deadliest in 88 years. It’s impossible not to worry about an even bigger volcanic threat that lies just 90 miles from Tokyo: Mt. Fuji (above). All this has both seismologists and anti-nuclear activists asking anew whether the most earthquake-prone nation in the developed world should be restarting its 48 nuclear reactors.... Story here.

Canadian Scientists Rail Against Imposed Ignorance

A group of Toronto scientists makes a successful foray into the realm of public 
advocacy. Story here.

Efforts Fail to Save Mersey Biodiversity Centre in Nova Scotia, Canada

The Queen's County Advance
Lake whitefish. Image via NYSDEC.
The holding ponds used to raise salmon were filled in with gravel by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans earlier this year. The fish hatchery cannot run without them. Story here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good News For St. Lawrence (Canada) Belugas… at Least, For Now

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society
Photo credit: W. Klenner
Last week, we had good news (albeit temporary) about one of Canada’s most threatened wildlife species – the beautiful beluga whales of the St Lawrence Estuary. Story here.

How the Effects of Climate Change in Arctic Canada are Shrinking Polar Bears

The Globe and Mail

Polar bears are an international symbol of Canada and a barometer for what is happening in the climate-sensitive North. And according to wildlife experts now monitoring the impact of global warming in greater detail, the big bears aren’t as big as they used to be.  Story here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Becoming Hezbollah's Air Force

Chris Hedges

Those who use violence to shape the world, as we have done in the Middle East, unleash a whirlwind. Our initial alliances -- achieved at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead, some $3 trillion in expenditures and the ravaging of infrastructure across the region -- have been turned upside down by the cataclysm of violence. Thirteen years of war, and the rise of enemies we did not expect, have transformed Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, along with Iran, into our tacit allies. Story here.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...