Monday, July 10, 2006

Environmental, Health & Agricultural News for July...

Brought to us all by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Find out more about them here.

Most important first: Due to lobbying by the big commercial food companies to make their job easier and our food less healthy and regulated, the House of Representatives has passed the National Uniformity for Food Act. This will wipe out state and local food safety laws, including laws concerning the sale of shellfish and milk, bringing everything across the country under lowest common denominator of Federal control, and making it more difficult for small family-owned farms and restaurants. The bill is now in the Senate for consideration. Please write to your Senator as soon as possible asking them to oppose the National Uniformity for Food Act. Click here to learn more about this bill and to write to your Senators.

I'm not necessarily concerned about this per se, but I do find it highly interesting. Apparently, the use of Bovine Growth Hormone to increase milk production in non-organic cows has been linked to human women conceiving twins more often than they normally would. The rate of the births of twins is twice as high in the United States than in Great Britain where the use of BGH in milk production is banned. The rate of births of twins is also *five times* higher in women who eat animal products in their diets rather than women who eat vegan diets exclusively... (Personally, I'm not sure how much I care for that statistic, since I cannot be convinced that vegetarian or especially vegan diets are necessarily healthier than balanced traditional ones. My first instinct would be to believe that women who eat animal products as a part of their diet are more fertile than women who eat vegan diets because of the proteins they get, rather than the BGH to which they *may* be exposed. I'd be more likely to believe this statistic if instead of comparing vegan women to non-vegan women, the study compared women who eat organic dairy, which does not contain BGH, to women who eat non-organic BGH-containing dairy, and the statistic was found to be the same. Because comparing vegans to non-vegans compares not only the consumption of dairy vs. those who don't eat dairy, but also the consumption of eggs, meat, etc. as well as other habits that go along with the vegan lifestyle, *none* of which are taken into account by this study.) BGH has already been linked directly to a higher rate of twin births in cows. It increases an insulin-like growth factor called IGF, a protein produced in the milk of both cows and humans, that promotes ovulation and may help early-stage embryos survive, according to the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. More information can be found here.

There are now 350 organizations who support the passing of the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), a bill to ban the use of seven classes of medically important antibiotics as feed additives for livestock and poultry that are not sick," including the Infectious Diseases Society of America. (Learn more about PATMA.) In related news, a bill funding the FDA to study the link between antibiotic use in food-stock animals and antibiotic resistence in humans was passed in the House of Representatives. It is now awaiting consideration in the Senate.

The Union of Concerned Scientists using the Freedom of Information Act has uncovered the failure of the USDA to enforce laws concerning the production of crops for pharmaceutical and industrial use. They found that the USDA did not do the manditory inspections and oversight in North Carolina pharmaceutical rice fields, even after the active hurricane season last year when other crops could have been contaminated. Read more about it here.

Two new reasons to eat your vegetables fresh and locally grown! According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, if people in Iowa ate their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day every day for just three months out of the year, eating produce that is grown in Iowa, it would mean an extra $302 million and 4,000 new jobs for the Iowa economy. Now, apply the same principle to the state you live in... Do you get where I'm going with this? You can read the entire report here. In related news, a health insurance company in Wisconsin called Physicians Plus is currently paying people up to $200 a year to subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which supplies them with local produce. Read more about Physicians Plus program here. And go here to find out more about CSA programs and locally grown food in your area.

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