Health, Science

What’s the deal with Monsanto, GMO’s and this #MarchAgainstMonsanto?

#MAMDenver #MarchAgainstMonsanto

CutThePlastic

#GMO, #Organic, #M25, #MAM #Monsanto and #Poison are just some of the tweets you may be seeing over the next few months as many are predicting that 2013 is the year of protests and marches against corporations that are proven to have track records that are not environmentally responsible.

Many people who read this may ask why.  It’s a valid question.  Is this something new?  No it’s now new.  Here’s the skinny –

Monsanto is a poison manufacturing company that has been making corn and soybean plants that survive to their poisons for over 20 years.  This began as an improvement over the types of poisons being used on farm fields before the EPA banned the use of DDT on Dec, 31 1972.   These plants are now part of our food stream and foods and animals like it are becoming commonplace without labeling and exposing the research that…

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Health, Science

Genetic Modification: What’s the big deal?

Read my latest guest post on farmfoodieandfitness.com, know what you are eating!

 

Farm, Foodie & Fitness

Genetically Modified Food: Should we be eating it?

Attempts to increase nutritional benefits and productivity of food crops with genetic modification have been made, but in reality the two main traits that have had widespread use to date are herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. Herbicide tolerance lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it. Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, in hopes of saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after harvest, saw thousands in their sheep herds die. These crops have resulted in great economic benefit to the companies that have now been allowed to put a patent on nature while farmers and the environment…

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Science

Should YOU be concerned about Monsanto?

ROUNDUP
Roundup is the brand name of a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide produced by the U.S. company Monsanto, and contains the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the USA, and Roundup has been the number one selling herbicide worldwide since at least 1980.
Roundup (glyphosate) has been found to cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro, even at low concentrations. Glyphosate is toxic to human skin cells, through causing oxidative damage.
Roundup is used widely here in the United States. Through farming applications, these chemicals are released into our air, and the runoff from its heavy use contaminates our streams, and groundwater.
GMO FOODS

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on f...

English: Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on food crops.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Initially introduced to the market in 1996, genetically modified foods or biotech foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybean, corn, canola, rice, and cotton seed, but there are many, many more. A majority of the corn and sugar beets grown in Colorado are genetically altered. They are two of the largest crops in the state.
GMO products have been linked to organ failure, brain damage, autism, gene transfer, and have been banned in many countries including Japan, China, Hungary, Venezuela, France and Ecuador . Some of these countries have gone as far as banning ALL GMO products.
Monsanto has also developed a line of “Roundup Ready” products which go hand in hand with their herbicides, including Roundup Ready corn, Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready alfalfa, Roundup Ready sugar beets and Roundup Ready canola. These products are designed to make the plants resistant to Roundup, to keep up with the ever-increasing use of herbicides which contaminate our soil, air and water.
Almost all processed foods contain GMO products, usually in the form of corn (high-fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch being two prime examples). There is a growing movement across the U.S. to label foods containing GMO products, so consumers can at least have the knowledge of what they are purchasing.
MONSANTO INFLUENCES OUR GOVERNMENT
Monsanto contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars every campaign cycle to politicians, from the federal down to the local level.  Monsanto lobbyists are also involved in the political process and are rumored to be the actual authors of the “Monsanto Protection Act”.
Former Monsanto employees are  involved in every level of government, from Obama’s recent appointment of Michael Taylor (former Monsanto vice-president of public policy) as Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (a former Monsanto executive).
This “revolving door” between Monsanto and the government leads to the easing of regulations and more Monsanto products being used both here and abroad.
MONSANTO INFLUENCES THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
Under the guise of supporting education, Monsanto contributes massive amounts of money to schools and universities, usually in the form of helping develop their agricultural programs.
Monsanto uses this monetary influence to help push their products and research into our school system, from school gardens using GMO seeds to genetic , agricultural, and chemical research at the university level.
MONSANTO HURTS LOCAL FARMERS
Monsanto has gone into countries all over the world and introduced their GMO products, leading to a huge drop in biodiversity through cross-pollination and the use of industrial farming techniques. Locally owned family farms have seen their livelihoods devastated, and the health of their people decline through spraying of Roundup and other pesticides and forcing them to buy processed, inorganic foods because all available farmland has been converted to these industrial farms.
MONSANTO KILLS BEES
Recent studies have shown a link between systemic pesticides such as Roundup and the growing problem of Colony Collapse Disorder, a malady that is resulting in the mass die-off of bees across the world. Pollen from GMO plants can also have ill effects on the bee community. Without bees to pollinate them, plants can not reproduce. Its that simple.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
In the face of a massive multinational corporation like Monsanto , its easy to feel disempowered and hopeless, but fear not!
EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE! Raising awareness about Monsanto is step one. When you’re finished reading this, tell someone about it, get online and do your own research, pass it on to someone else! It all begins with just getting the word out to the community about what this company does and the fact that they’re doing it right here in Colorado!
There are groups here in Colorado and abroad that are actively working to expose and rein in this evil corporation. Check out GMO-Free Colorado and the March On Monsanto world event on May 25, 2013.

On an individual level, one of the most important things we can do to combat Monsanto is DON’T GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY! Boycott Roundup and other Monsanto products, try to avoid buying processed foods and commercially grown vegetables, start buying your produce at local farmers markets and organic food stores instead of the big chains.
RESISTANCE IS FERTILE! Instead of buying anything at all, grow your own veggies at home, or at a community garden.
SAVE YOUR SEEDS! When growing your own food, make sure to use organic, heirloom seeds that can re-germinate and be used over and over. One of the ways Monsanto has forced out small farmers is to genetically modify their seeds so they don’t reproduce, forcing farmers to buy new seed for every crop. By saving seeds and sharing them with other farmers and gardeners, we can make sure that we maintain the thriving biodiversity this world so desperately needs.

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Science

Astrophysics & the American Decline

English: Apollo insignia. Italiano: Stemma del...

Apollo insignia.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Astrophysics is a specialty of physics that deals with the explanation of celestial objects. This study of space has sparked many great minds and fueled the imagination of generations. The United States government has decided to abandon the quest for space exploration, but what will this mean for the imaginations of future generations? Does the study of space have more implications for our societies ability to be innovative than we think?

The term “astrophysics” first appeared in the 1860’s when spectrum analysis was applied to the study of the stars. The earliest elucidation of astrophysics came in the 1880’s, as the theoretical and observational study of the physical condition of the sidereal universe. Astrophysics has changed along with new theoretical and observational tools from physics, namely, spectrum analysis, photography, photoelectric photometry, radiometry and colorimetry. In the 20th century astrophysics was influenced by interpretive skills from mechanics, optics, kinetic theory of gases and thermodynamics, electromagnetism, atomic physics, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics and particle physics. Some have stated the best way to examine the origin and development of astrophysics is understand how its practitioners have defined their work in the production of journals, institutions, and modes of practice.  (DeVorkin, 2000).

image for S:An Annotated Bibliography of the A...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The exploration of space and what could lie beyond what one can see has sparked the imagination of countless children to become scientists, astronomer and astronauts. One of the most recognizable faces of astrophysics, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, was also one of the children that were inspired when he looked into space. Tyson credits his desire to become a scientist and specialize in studying the universe to a visit to Hayden planetarium in New York at the age of nine, a pair of binoculars, and a friend that told him to look up with them. Tyson continues to explain that he thought if everyone looked up the way that he did everyone would want to study the universe. (Wagner, 2004).

In 1961, then President John F. Kennedy announced the Apollo program, and galvanized a nation with the words, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Kennedy’s speech was not simply just a call for advancement or achievement it was also a battle cry against communism. This has been the pattern of space advancement in the US, in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik from the Soviet Union the US was spooked into joining the race for space. Today instead of the Soviet Union it may be China that fuels a new race toward achievement. China has released an official strategy that outlines their ambitious plan to advance its space capabilities such as launching space laboratories and having manned spaceships and freighters. Tyson wrote in a paper titled, “The Case for Space: Why We Should Keep Reaching for the Stars”, In 2010 President Barak Obama articulated his vision for the future of space exploration, which included a manned mission to Mars. Tyson continues, “If the United States commits to the goal of reaching Mars, it will almost certainly do so in reaction to the progress of other nations- as was the case with NASA, the Apollo program and the project that became the international space station. For the past decade, I have joked with colleagues that the United States would land astronauts on Mars in a year or two if only the Chinese would leak a memo that revealed plans to build military bases there.” (Tyson, 2012). While Tysons’ comment is said in a joking fashion it is telling of a deeper issue in American society, the need to keep off with the Joneses so to speak when really more focus needs to be spent on education so that future generations will be the innovators of new technology or scientific theories not just trying to expand or improve existing technology.

Another alarming trend in the US is the lack of interest in science. This lack of interest leads the country to lose ground in every measure of technical proficiency with the rest of the industrialized world. Many foreign nationals that come to the United States to earn their graduate degrees are no longer staying in the US to work after graduation partly due to the combination of anti-immigrant sentiment and increased opportunity in their home country. (Tyson, 2012). Space is the last frontier and losing the desire to explore it is a far reaching thought, The US needs to teach the importance of math and science to our youth and that innovations come from dreaming. Space exploration must remain important; it fuels the dreams of our youth.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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References

DeVorkin, D. (1982). The History of Modern Astronomy and Astrophysics: A Selected, Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland.

Tyson, N. (2012). The case for space: Why we should keep reaching for the stars. Foreign Affairs, 91(2), 22-33. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/9232142025/accountid=35996

Wagner, C. (2004). Visionaries. The Futurist, 38(6), 68-68. Retrieved from http://proquest.com/docview/218606764?accountid=35996

 

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Science

The future of plastic?

Waste bags made by bioplastics and other biode...

Waste bags made by bioplastics and other biodegrable Plastics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The popular “green” movement has increased the interest in research and development of bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from renewable resources. Some plastics are compostable such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and starch-based blends. These plastics are becoming prevalent in the food service sectors and consumer packaging.
Several renewable chemical companies are targeting the $1.3 trillion global polymers market with chemical building blocks such as succinic acid, acrylic acid, levulinic acid, sorbitol, ethylene, ethyleneglycol (EG), butanediol (BDO), adipic acid (ADA), furan 2,5 dicarboxylic acid, propanediol, and glycerin. According to Jim Lunt, managing director of a US consulting firm, there are several properties for durable plastics that cannot be met by compostables. Jim Lunt continues to say, “There is increasing demand for bio-based, semi-durable and durable products for household goods that is driving increasing activities in making the building blocks for existing plastics and some new materials from renewable resources, Braskem’s sugar based polyethylene is just the first step. If oil prices stabilize around $90/bbl., which is where people believe [they] should be, then all these technologies for bioplastics have potential.” (De Guzman, 2010).

Plastic Ocean

Plastic Ocean (Photo credit: Kevin Krejci)

Conventional oil-based plastics remain cheaper for the time being, but bioplastics will be applied in more and more sectors and industries over the course of the next few years. The head of European Bioplastics, Kristy-Barbra Lange, explains, “Huge potential lies within the fields of consumer electronics and automotive. If certain challenges are met- such as availability of material- prices of bioplastic products will presumably adjust to a comparable level with conventional plastics.” A Brazilian company, Braskem, has already committed to make products for Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and the Japanese cosmetics company, shiseido. Proctor & Gamble will use the green PE in a pilot project for its brands, Pantene Pro-V, Cover Girl and Max Factor. The need for lower cost petrochemical-based polymers alternatives has become the focal point for the development of renewable-based monomer building blocks. While the green factor is an added bonus, renewable-based chemicals, especially plastics, must be cost-competitive or even priced lower than traditional plastics in order to survive in the market. Debra Darby notes, “While we find that bioplastic costs remain the biggest challenge facing brand owners, in some cases, brands can still absorb the cost increase as part of a program to increase appeal of their products.”  (De Guzman, 2010).
The apparent benefit of switching to bioplastics is well accepted but now the industry is faced with the challenge to balance the cost of using them versus using traditional plastics. As research and development continues in this emerging field hopefully scientists can discover how to make production more cost effective so more companies will be inclined to switch to “green” packaging for their products. The future impact our society will have on the environment hinges on the ability to find solutions to the pollution from the packaging on the endless amount of products consumed.

References

De Guzman, D.. (2010, October). Bioplastics R&D intensifies. ICIS Chemical Business, 278(14), 28-29. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2179198001).

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