Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Scientific Research, differences in academic, pure science and commercial research

I loved academic life, I really did. So much cool equipment to play with, spending time making electron micrographs for truly important research. Well, and coeds, halter tops and shorty shorts, I was an American guy, of course I loved the academic life. But then reality overtook the fantasy world and marriage, home, family all became more important than impressing buxom coeds with statistical analysis of their, well, never mind that. And my life went in a different direction. Now, in the winter of my life, I find myself going back to those carefree days, not so much for the attraction of the opposite sex, but to learn as much as I can. The internet is an amazing thing, so much knowledge, so much research and so much information is out there, available for us to utilize with just a few quick keystrokes and in many instances (and for the very best info) membership in the elite consortium of humans that are rightfully allowed to place initials after their names. It's there that a major portion of published articles written by researchers, grad students and paid minions of the corporate world are available to be used as reference work and for the enlightenment of all. Well again, all that have initials after their name and the annual fee to allow access. It's here within these convocations of knowledge that we find the true plethora of information. We also find tons of stuff that makes us scratch our heads and go "What the Fuck?" Stuff like the thesis on the Pet Rock phenomena and the effect on society. Sheesh.

To begin, on September 17, Forbes magazine published an article that stated that the controversy over Genetically Modified Food is finally over and that there is a definitive report published in the Journal of Animal Science (Everything is wondrous report) that states that out of trillions of meals consisting of GM crops eaten by humans and production feed animals, no one anywhere has ever died or gotten sick from the Genetically Modified food. The conclusion, Genetically Modified Food is perfectly safe. That sort of thinking seems to me to be very similar to the Dr. Seuss method of logic. However, there are other indicators that for many people the GM food controversy is over, the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP site) claims that there are over 2000 scientific studies done on Genetically Modified food crops and that GM foods are the most studied, most tested, most researched products in human history. 2000 studies, and every single one concludes that the technology behind the creation of new life forms is infallible. The Genetic Food industry pays them to tell us that. Plus just the mere fact that trillions of meals consisting of GM foods have been consumed without any deaths or serious illnesses by animals and humans proves conclusively that GM foods are safe. Let me just start with this quote,
"It is often claimed that “trillions of GM meals” have been eaten in the US with no ill effects. However, no epidemiological studies in human populations have been carried out to establish whether there are any health effects associated with GM food consumption. As GM foods are not labelled in North America, a major producer and consumer of GM crops, it is scientifically impossible to trace, let alone study, patterns of consumption and their impacts. Therefore, claims that GM foods are safe for human health based on the experience of North American populations have no scientific basis."  Yeah, that's from the European Network of Scientists (ENSSER.org) It isn't proof, it is merely logic.

However, let's take this assumption a step further, and look at the health of Americans. I've been told that Americans live longer, and are healthier than ever before in the history of this country. And that probably is true, and it's also true that Americans eat more Genetically Modified food products and more meat produced via the method for meat production of feeding animals Genetically Modified food products than any other country. So with our high standard of living, why are Americans when compared to the rest of the world, only 18th in life expectancy? And why don't Americans have the lowest infant mortality in the world instead of being 34th in infant mortality? There are no clear cut answers to those questions, and even I admit that no clear definitive conclusions can be drawn from those three facts, amount of consumption and rates of death for adults and infants. It is not clear, it is simply logic. Bright glaring logic.

So now we get back to those two thousand studies showing that GM foods are safe. There's a website you can go to, (GENERA) which was built for the express purpose of cataloguing all of the research done on Genetically Engineered Organisms, a sort of repository of triumphant bravado for those scientists performing the miracles of creating new life forms. And as a big publicity notch in the belt of the GM industry, anyone can go there, anyone can get the information. It's just a little hard to utilize their search format and there is no actual "LIST" per se for anyone to just look at, and count. So I went to the FASS list which gives us one thousand seven hundred and sixty research papers about Genetically Modified crops. Now comes the tough part, none of that research has anything to do with human health. It seems that 62% are all about environmental impacts. 37% are all about actual production data for the business side of using GM feed, meaning that the reports are all about how much milk dairy cows gave depending on the percentage of GM feed is one example. Literally, there are hundreds of research papers about how little difference there is in meat, milk and egg production when feeding GM feed as opposed to feeding non-GM feeds. The actual fact is that none of those animals used for production of those products live very long. And the animals that are raised strictly for meat, live even shorter lives. So, with that in mind, less than one percent (27) are about doing specific health related studies with histopathological investigations of subject animals to determine any detrimental effects of having a GM feed diet. The scary part of this information is that over half of this small group of studies were published, in one case nine years, after the USDA approval for the GM crop was given. None were studies for longer than ninety days. The reality is that the USDA has given approval for commercial use of 47 different GM crops. Studies for nine of those crops can be found on the internet within these 27 studies. None of the feeding studies done by the corporations seeking approval of their newest creations are available to the public or to scientists anywhere in the world for any kind of systematic review. That is, if they were actually done, we don't know, we aren't allowed to see them. So what about those 27 studies, do they definitely prove one way or another the viability of using GM crops for food production or to actually feed to humans? Well no, not really. But here is what some researchers for the Elsevier Ltd group wrote about 21 of the studies. (Elsevier) It's not pretty.

This is from their conclusions,"The majority of studies reviewed lacked a unified approach in their methodology and results making it impossible to properly review or repeat these studies. Furthermore such lack of detail makes it difficult to generate evidence based guidelines to aid in the delivery of an optimum safety assessment for GM crops for animal and human consumption."

I don't know, I like the Elsevier Group, somewhere back in the dark and dusty annals of their archives is a little read (and rarely purchased) copy of a thesis about mushroom substrate alkalinity for which the publishing of gave to one internet blogger the ability to put two initials after his name. And access to a lot of information as well. But, that aside done, we need to address the statement from the beginning of this bit of drivel. What is the the basis for scientific research? There are three types of research, academic, research done by geeks that is generally about getting grants from corporations and done to further a career of get those initials after your name. Like the stuff I did. Pure theoretical science, stuff like delving into the make up of atoms at Cern. Or like the stuff those guys on The Big Bang Theory TV show do, although that might be classed as academic as well. And then there is Commercial research. This is stuff done at labs owned by corporations or contracted out to private labs by corporations and pretty much all of it is done for the express purpose of achieving regulatory approval for a specific thing, be it crops, drugs or food additives. Virtually all commercial research is done knowing what the results are going to be even before the research starts. Academic research is done generally with the intent to gain new knowledge. Both cost a lot of money.

What is the true basis of scientific research? Science, research, is all about getting money to pay the bills. Yeah, draw your own conclusions about that from the available data and what you personally believe people will do for money. Me, I believe in the reality of greed. This is a very different aspect of research, but the big drug companies have been in hot water with the FDA to the tune of 30 billion dollars in fines for among other things, the falsifying of data in their research; just since 2000. I'm not really sure that sort of blatant greed is limited to the pharmacology industry. Not when the manufacturers of GM crops spend millions and millions of dollars to sway the voters to stop labeling of their products. But ultimately it's up to each of us individually to believe what we feel is right for ourselves.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The weirdest crap you've never heard of before. Chlor-Alkali

Chlor-Alkali is more of a common name for a group of products that are used for industrial purposes rather than what you might use at home. Well, other than bleach and drain cleaner, both of which are examples. Industry uses lots of those things and the process for making them goes all the way back to 1895 with two guys Hamilton Castner and Karl Kelliner getting together and perfecting the process first patented by Charles Watt way back in 1851 for electrolyzing brine to make Hydrogen gas, Chlorine gas, Hydrocloric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide. Those two came up with a process they called the Mercury Cell and it worked fairly well and was very economical to operate. And the process is still used today to manufacture these important industrial chemicals. If you took chemistry in high school you probably remember electrolyzing water into Hydrogen and Oxygen. You passed an electrical current through salt water and at the anode you collected gas bubbles into a test tube then lit it on fire when it was partially full and you removed it from the water, hopefully without getting a shock. Fun, and it demonstrated a well known principle of science that is used everyday in the industrial world. Electrolysis.

It would take a lot of space to detail how the Mercury Cell works and most people reading this wouldn't care, but for those interested, Wikipedia has a cool description (Wiki ) It's interesting to note that in America today the Mercury Cell is used to manufacture a little over 10 million tons of Sodium Hydroxide and Hydrochloric Acid annually for industrial uses. (US EPA) And that the EPA itself tells us that the largest industrial user of Mercury in the world today is this process for manufacturing these chemicals. And that all of them, meaning all the Chlor-Alkali products, are contaminated with Mercury. Not such a bad thing you might say, I mean in reality you pour bleach into the washer and it goes down the drain and the washer rinses that minute amount of chlorine into the sewer. Same with the drain cleaner, out into the sewer. And of course we all know what happens to it then, the municipal waste water treatment plants all over the country remove all the wastes from the sewage water and dump it back into the waterways and the environment. I mean it is a tiny amount of Mercury. And it just gets flushed out into the ocean, which is pretty big. And the US FDA tells us that tiny amounts of Mercury are not harmful in any way. That's why the flu vaccines contain up to 25 micrograms of Mercury per dose. That's a lot like eating 12 pounds of swordfish in one sitting, or eleven cans of tuna. Which the same US government tells us we should avoid.

I haven't figured out the rationale for that yet. probably won't ever either.

But back to the other problem with Mercury, there is a little tiny bit in all of that Sodium Hydroxide and Hydrochloric Acid that comes out of the Mercury Cell process for manufacturing them. The EPA tells us that for the most part, 80% of these products are still manufactured using the much much cheaper process of Mercury Cells rather than the more expensive Membrane Cell process. Hey, it's cheaper, isn't that what making money is all about? I think I learned that the first week in business class in college, if you can make or buy things cheaper than your competition, all things being the same otherwise, you'll make more money. So industrial users of Chlor-Alkali products prefer to buy the cheaper, Mercury contaminated products over the more expensive, non-Mercury stuff.It's just business, cheaper means greater profits. So, back in the middle part of lhe last century, one of the big agricultural food processors figured out how to make corn syrup. The process is pretty impressive, they take corn, corn cobs and grind it all up and process the stuff with sodium hydroxide and then use enzymes to convert the starches and cellulose structures into fructose and glucose. Then to neutralize the sodium hydroxide, they bathe it in hydrochloric acid. Both are Chlor-Alkali products. As a side note here to the main story, the FDA recently upheld the claim of the Corn Processors Association that High Fructose Corn Syrup is an "All Natural" product. I haven't figured out the rationale for that yet either. and again, probably won't ever.

So back to our story, back in 2003 an FDA inspector by the name of Renee Dufault in the course of her job took samples of High Fructose Corn Syrup and sent them as marked and numbered samples only to a lab that the FDA utilized for testing such stuff. Almost half the samples contained Mercury. As a professional, she reported this information to the heads of the FDA. The response was to stop the investigation into Mercury content of the largest sweeteners used in the food processing industry.today. More than 3 billion dollars worth of High Fructose Corn Syrup was manufactured in 2005. That translates into about 150 billion dollars worth of processed food products, everything from Poptarts to Manwich, to Coke and Pepsi and pancake syrup. Anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup as an ingredient.

We know that Mercury is a cumulative toxin. If you, or any living organism consumes anything containing Mercury, that Mercury pretty much stays in your system and accumulates in your brain and nervous system along with muscle and fat tissues in your body. That's why the US FDA and the US EPA recommend that we humans don't eat any fish that are high up on the food chain, swordfish, shark and tuna, because these guys eat small fish that ate smaller fish that ate little crustaceans that had a small amount of Mercury in them. The higher up the food chain, the higher the concentration of Mercury.

In 2012 we see that 80% of all Chlor-Alkali products are still manufactured using the hundred and nineteen year old process called Mercury Cell technology. The FDA still ignores this fact.

It's just business after all, big business.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What do people do for money and what does it really cost you?

I work for myself, and have for quite some time now. I'm also a very moral man, one who believes in Karma, the Universal Consciousness and live my life according to the virtues needed for life on this plane of existence. For me, this question is pretty simple. For many, it might be a little difficult to answer. But, here we go. "What would you do for a LOT of money?"  By a lot, I mean, say a hundred thousand dollars. And by what would you do for it, I mean would you go to the produce section of the grocery store and put a drop of fecal matter on some lettuce. Not a bad thing, some sucker gets the runs, you get a hundred grand.

Would that really happen?

Well, sort of. If you owned a bunch of cattle and kept them in a big lot to feed them and get them a bit fatter before you sell them and let's say that it would cost you a hundred thousand dollars to set up a correct completely safe disposal system for all the cattle waste. Or you could just wait and dump it into a big pond and when it rained hard the runoff would wash most of it out into the environment. Away from your place and then it wouldn't be your problem. Would you spend the money? It is perfectly legal to allow all that shit to flow away, the Second Circuit Court of the United States has decreed that owners of feed lots do in fact need to make a plan and provide for handling the huge piles of animal wastes, but that should rain wash it all away into local waterways and ultimately into fields of produce, or even into local municipal water supplies; then that's okay. If you don't believe me, check out this page on the EPA website (EPA CAFO) where they interpret the Circuit court ruling for everyone. And it's interesting to note on page two, the Court rejected the premise that zero discharge needed to be enforced in areas with high rainfall.

All this leads us into the information as stated in the title. What is the TRUE and REAL cost to you? You can buy cheap burgers, cheap chicken sandwiches, cheap meat really, pretty much everywhere. But the question truly is, what is the true cost. If we START here at the end, we begin to see how so much of the costs of cheap meat are passed onto all consumers and in fact are one of the main reasons for increases in cost of living for each and every citizen and illegal alien living in this country today. Yeah, strong statement, but let's start to look at the hidden costs of cheap meat and how everyone pays the ultimate cost for it.

Waste disposal at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) should be simple. Food is brought in, some of it goes into meat, the rest is manure. That manure should be removed in the same manner that the food is brought in. It isn't. Sustainable farming techniques show us how beneficial it is when the manure is put back on the soil. Yet in today's world of agrigiant commercial farming, the manure is a waste product and is treated as such, meaning as little money as possible is spent on removal and disposal of the stuff. That's why so much of produce that is grown commercially is contaminated with animal fecal matter and has bacterial contamination. It happens every week, the FDA recalls foods, especially produce. Here is the FDA recall site that is updated DAILY with recalls for contaminated food products. (FDA Recall) Corporate savings for not treating manure would be hard to estimate. I've never read anything about it. However the cost to the people for the corporate agrigiants refusal to spend the money is astronomical
  • From 50 to 70 million cases annually of illness from exposure to bacterial contamination such as salmonella, listeria, e.coli and others less well known generally from produce and meats. (CDC)
  • 22,000 deaths annually from that exposure and illness (CDC)
  • Economic costs such as lost wages and lost business range up to 40 BILLION annually (USDA ERS)
  • Just this one aspect of producing cheap meat raises costs of healthcare, healthcare insurance, life insurance and drug costs. That being because most of the bacteria causing these illnesses are now antibiotic resistant and newer stronger ones are needed, costing us money
One of the ways that agrigiant corporations make money on raising cheap meat is through the process known as farm subsidies. Since 1995 the federal government has paid around 260 billion dollars in farm subsidies to generally large corporate agrigiants growing primarily crops used for, animal feed. Everything from direct payments to offset costs of production to payments for crop insurance. Think about that for a second, does the federal government pay for your health insurance?
  • Farm subsidies have cost taxpayers 260 billion dollars in the past ten years
  • I have no idea what that cost is per burger or chicken sandwich
  • But it is about a hundred bucks a person each year
Green house gas emissions go up dramatically because of the modern industrial agrigiant corporate model for raising cheap meat. And no, it isn't because cows fart out a lot of methane, which they do, but that's only a small part of the problem.
  • Sustainable farming methods where the manure is returned to the soil and helps capture carbon dioxide and reduces greenhouse gases as opposed to the current agrigiant model of allowing the manure to ferment and decay in ponds or in worst cases, flow out into waterways in rain storms
  •  Degradation of soil due to extensive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides keeps the natural cycle of carbon dioxide capture from occurring 
  • The manufacture of chemical fertilizers, pesticide and herbicides all use huge amounts of petrochemicals and increase greenhouse gas emissions
  • The corporate drive for ever greater quantities of cheap animal feed has led to corporate agrigiant farms in South American countries like Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Peru where native forests are being stripped away and soy farms take their place
  • This removes huge tracts of land of forests upsetting the world wide ecosystem and increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • This also increases the use of petrochemicals not just for the production of the feed, but for the transportation of that feed to the meat production facilities in the US and Europe
These costs are incalculable. How do we put a dollar amount of global warming, increased healthcare, untimely deaths of our fellow citizens, the uselessness of drugs to treat infections and the destruction of our way of life. The big question is what would you do for money. We know what corporate leaders as well as their paid minions in our government will do, they will slowly kill us all.