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.

Disinformation ruins the conversation on fertilizer policy, MPs say

The National Observer Pervasive disinformation around Canada’s voluntary fertilizer reduction plan makes it hard to have a rational discussi...