The PON1 enzyme plays a critical role in detoxifying organophosphate insecticides. The conventional wisdom held that by age two, infants were producing as much PON1 as adults, and were therefore no more or less susceptible than adults to neurological damage following a given exposure episode.
Scientists have now shown that PON1 levels are as much as four-fold lower in children compared to adults through at least age seven, extending by five years the period during which children are at heightened risk of abnormal neurological development following OP insecticide exposures. Such exposures occur many times in most days, as documented in the Center’s March 2008 report ”Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation: The Organic Option”.
Moreover, the human population contains a variety of genotypes with PON1 polymorphisms. In short, some individuals naturally produce significantly more of certain forms of PON1, while others produce much less. Those infants and children with depressed PON1 production are at the greatest risk of sustained neurological damage from OP exposures.
Past research has already established that lower PON1 levels increases the risk of reduced head circumference, a marker for brain size and intelligence.
Work by Dr. Alex Lu, now at the Harvard University School of Public Health, has shown that a predominantly organic diet virtually eliminates exposure to OP insecticides within days. The important series of studies undertaken by Dr. Lu and colleagues are featured in the TOC report “Successes and Lost Opportunities to Reduce Children’s Exposures to Pesticides,”. The Center is currently working with Dr. Lu on future research needs focused on the impacts of pesticides on children’s health.
Source: Huen, K. et al., “Developmental Changes in PON1 Enzyme Activity in Young Children and Effects of PON1 Polymorphisms,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Online, June 9, 2009.
Oregano Oil Reduces E. coli O157 in Hamburger
High heat and prolonged cooking kills most or all of the E. coli O157 in hamburger, but increases the production of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and diminishes palatability for most consumers. A team of USDA-funded scientists working in Arizona have found that a 1% solution of carvacrol, the main ingredient in the oregano oil used in many salad dressings, reduced E. coli levels 2.5 to 5 logs – efficacy comparable to irradiation. Moreover, the reduction was achieved with cooking at lower temperatures, reducing by ten-fold the production of heterocyclic amines.
The authors also point out that carvacrol also helps control a range of other pathogens, and is but one of several natural constituents in food that could play a positive role in advancing food safety in the future.
Caloric Restriction Extends Life and Delays Onset of Disease in Monkeys
A group of Rhesus monkeys was fed 30% less calories than a control group on a “normal” diet for 20 years. The impacts on health were remarkable:
Source: Colman, R.J. et al., “Caloric Restriction Delays Disease Onset and Mortality in Rhesus Monkeys,” Science, Vol. 325, July 10, 2009.
Editor’s Note: The Center’s March 2009 report “That First Step: Organic Food and a Healthier Future” summarizes in Chapter 2 the encouraging science suggesting that resveratrol, a key antioxidant in red grapes and other fruits and vegetables, can mimic the impacts of caloric restriction on longevity and health.
Multiple studies show that organic farming substantially increases the concentrations of resveratrol in a range of foods.
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Secretary Tom Vilsack released USDA’s preliminary analysis of the economic impacts of the American Clean Energy Act (ACES) bill during testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee on July 22, 2009. The USDA press release summarizing the Secretary’s prepared remarks, and the 13-page economic analysis are posted on the USDA website. Access the report from the "Newsroom archives" on the USDA website.
The major cause of added costs to the agricultural sector from the ACES bill come through increases in energy costs…
The nitrogen fertilizer industry will…receive what amounts to a near one-half billion dollar annual subsidy…
If and as new policies are put in place to bring about climate change-driven payments, Congress and the USDA will have to adopt novel policies to assure that other farm program, and even conservation payments reinforce rather than undermine progress toward more climate-friendly farming systems.
At this point, the ACES bill dances around, or just flat out ignores, some of the most promising farming system changes, if the goal is to cost-effectively reduce net agricultural GHG emissions. These options include adoption of organic farming systems, re-inventing the nitrogen cycle on corn farms, shifting beef cattle from the feedlot back onto well-managed pastures, reducing per capita consumption of beef, and adoption of water-saving irrigation system technology, especially drip systems. If and as American agriculture gets serious about reducing greenhouse gases and as higher energy prices force changes down on the farm and in society as a whole, these will be among the changes delivering the biggest bang for the buck, regardless of who is picking up the check.
Read the full analysis on the Center’s website.
Bayer CropScience to Pull the Plug on Endosulfan in 2010
Endosulfan (Thiodan) insecticide is heavily used on fruits and vegetables worldwide and is without doubt one of the most worrisome pesticides on the market. It is a proven endocrine disruptor, and is persistent and tends to bioaccumulate.
The major manufacturer, Bayer, announced in Australia that it will phase out global manufacture of endosulfan in 2010. While an important step in ending the use of this insecticide, many other smaller companies hold registrations for the chemical and can, and likely will continue manufacturing it.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/action/printArticle?id=636349
Editor’s Note: The only way to end most uses of endosulfan is a coordinated campaign to revoke all U.S. and international (Codex) tolerances governing endosulfan residues in food. Now that Bayer has decided to no longer fight to keep endosulfan on the market, the U.S. EPA should initiate steps to revoke all tolerances in early 2011.
Monsanto Projects that Over Two-thirds of National Corn Acreage will be Planted to “SmartStax” GE-Corn Varieties
In a conference call with investment analysts, Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer predicted that “SmartStax” corn would eventually be planted on 50 to 65 million acres of corn annually. These varieties combine eight GE-traits covering resistance to two herbicides and expression of several different forms of Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt) for protection against the European corn borer and corn rootworms.
Several “SmartStax” varieties are likely to sell for over $300 per bag (about 80,000 seeds, or enough to plant about 3 acres). In the 1980s, corn farmers spent perhaps $25 per acre on seed.
Source: Jeffrey Tomich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2009.
Editor’s Note: “SmartStax” corn costs so much because of the eight GE-trait “technology fees” embedded in each seed. Yet no farmer needs nor will benefit from more than a few of these traits.
In addition, corn varieties genetically engineered to express multiple novel traits pose new sorts of risks, yet there has been no change in the science reviews undertaken by the government prior to approval. Regulators in USDA and EPA have essentially accepted the industry argument that each individual trait should be evaluated separately in terms of food safety or environmental risks, and that there is no reasons to expect any new or unanticipated risks from the combination of the genetic material and promoters needed to activate eight unique traits in a single variety.
Imagine a pharmaceutical company arguing to the FDA that a pill with eight drugs should be approved with no further testing, as long as each of the eight drugs is approved for human use in its own right. Fortunately, the FDA is aware of the possibly dangerous consequences of drug interactions, and requires a set of studies and rigorous clinical trials to assure that combination drugs will be both safe and effective.
“A Tale of Two Films” Reviews Food, Inc. and Fresh
Two new documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh, have injected new energy into the national dialogue about what we eat and how we grow food in America. The two movies cover much of the same ground, but differ greatly in tone. Food, Inc. strives to leave viewers alarmed and eager for change, while the stories in Fresh about people creating healthier local and regional islands within the larger food system are uplifting and hopeful.
The Center has prepared an in-depth joint review of these films, accessible on the Center’s website. The review includes an overview, “Two Takes on Scale, Efficiency, Food Safety, and How to Change the Food System“, and discussion of how the films address the key issue of whether organic farming can feed the world.
Information is also posted on how to access and view the films, as well as scientific resources that delve more deeply into the topics covered in the films.
People consuming significant amounts of Great Lakes sport fish contaminated with DDE, the major breakdown product of the insecticide DDT, were over seven-times more likely to be diabetic, compared to people with low-levels of DDE in their blood.
Source: Turyk, M. et al., “Organochlorine Exposure and Incidence of Diabetes in a Cohort of Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumers,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 117, No. 7, July 2009.
There are about 26,000 stillbirths annually in the United States – one in every 160 pregnancies.
Source: Washington Post, July 7, 2009.
Acres USA Interview Traces the Roots of Organic Farming in the U.S.
Events include a new networking opportunity, The Entrepreneur’s Open Forum, held 10:00am – noon at Numi Tea Garden in Oakland. The open forum will feature an informal discussion of today’s most important issues impacting organic and sustainability. Discussion leaders include Walter Robb, Whole Foods Market; Michael Funk, UNFI; Samantha Cabaluna, Earthbound Farm; Linda Gerwig, Hain Personal Care; Ahmed Rahim, Numi Tea; Jeff Mendelsohn, New Leaf Paper; Alex Petrov, Better Living Brands Alliance; Brent Knudsen, Partnership Capital Growth Advisors; and other Bay Area organic business leaders.
The evening reception, held 6:00 – 9:30 pm at Clif Bar’s headquarters in Berkeley, will feature top area business leaders, delicious organic food and beverages, live jazz music, a brief talk with Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm, and the “15-Minute Organic Film Festival!” Cost is $25 and includes both events. Sponsors include O Organics, Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Valley, Horizon, Partnership Capital Growth, Be Green Packaging, and Whole Foods Market. To register, visit www.organic-center.org or call 303-499-1840.
Core Truths on the Major Benefits of Organic Food and Farming
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© 2008, The Organic Center. All rights reserved. Permission for reproduction of these materials for educational purposes will be granted by contacting The Organic Center at email@example.com.
Editor: Chuck Benbrook, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Organic Center
Design: Karen Lutz Benbrook
Circulation: Matthue DeYarus
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TOC Board Chair: Michelle Goolsby, Consultant to Dean Foods
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