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Archives - October 2001

October 31, 2001

Gary Brookins Halloween cartoon (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

For Halloween, we can envisage no sillier scare story to lead the day's themes than enhanced greenhouse, so:

"Experts Work on Global Warming Plan" - "MARRAKECH, Morocco - Technical and legal experts began work Tuesday on the fine points of rules to implement a global treaty on controlling climate change. Environmentalists expressed concern that some industrial countries would backtrack on their support." (AP)

"Greenpeace urges public access to climate data" - "MARRAKESH - The environmental group Greenpeace yesterday called on countries negotiating a key climate-change treaty to ensure transparency and easy public access to technical data for any accord to work.

Greenpeace insists that the Kyoto Protocol is only a first step, and far more ambitious agreements will be needed to combat the gradual warming of the Earth.

Critics say the Kyoto Protocol is a waste of money and will have little impact on climate change.

But [Greenpeace Climate Policy Director Bill] Hare disagreed, saying the five percent target was provisional. "Each five years, there will be deeper cuts," he said. The aim was to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas resulting from human activity, to 80 percent in 50 years." (Reuters)

"Don't ruin Kyoto: UN" - "AUSTRALIA has been warned by United Nations world climate experts not to spoil the Kyoto Protocol on climate change at talks in Morocco. The government was facing pressure on the domestic front not to erode the world environment agreement, but world experts were concerned about Australia's position. Russia, Australia, Canada and Japan were reportedly opposed to the wording of the protocol which described penalties for non-compliance as legally binding." (AAP)

"Greenhouse stance 'violates treaty law'" - "Australia is breaching international treaty law with its insistence on mandatory greenhouse reduction targets for developing countries, according to legal advice to conservation groups." (The Age)

"Shell sells CO2 emissions to soft drink manufacturers" - "ALBERTA, Canada – Turning a liability into an asset, Shell Chemicals has announced it has begun selling to soft drink manufacturers more than 60 percent of the excess carbon dioxide produced at one of its plants." (GreenBiz.com)

"Exxon says it is taking action on climate change" - "LONDON, Oct 30 - U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil defended its decision not to invest in renewable energy at an industry conference in London on Tuesday, and said it was focusing on energy efficiency instead. Executive Vice-president Rene Dahan said Exxon was addressing climate change by working with car makers to improve fuel efficiency in engines." (Reuters)

OK, so there weren't any juicy climate scares in today's press. Just in case anyone is troubled by previous utterances of the global warming hand-wringer brigade, here's some more rational pieces:

"Sea Level" - "Summary: In honor of Halloween, we review one of the major horror stories predicted to follow on the heels of predicted CO2-induced global warming, i.e., a predicted increase in sea level that is predicted to be so wicked (large and rapid) that it's predicted to devastate human settlements and natural ecosystems scattered throughout the world's low-lying coastal areas. Woooooooo ... now that's scary!" (co2science.org)

"Scientists complain of thick Antarctic ice" - "AUCKLAND - Global warming might be a popular worry but scientists on Antarctica's coast this southern summer are recording some of the thickest sea ice ever seen, the Antarctic Sun newspaper reported today. New Zealand's Scott Base and the US McMurdo Sound on Ross Island were blocked in by heavy sea ice, apparently the result of a vast iceberg, the paper reported in its latest edition. On the other side of the continent, a US research ship in Marguerite Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula has just managed to free itself from extensive ice fields

...By the time the US Coast Guard ice breakers arrive in December, the ice edge is typically 24 to 32 km away from McMurdo Station. But this year people wintering at McMurdo Station did not see any open water because of the ice, Dettmar said. The sea ice was now three metres thick in front of McMurdo, and three to 4.4 metres thick at the Williams Field ice runway, west of Scott Base. An ice breaker may have to cut through more than 113 km of ice to reach McMurdo.

Last year the sea ice near McMurdo was 40 per cent thicker than usual, and this year it's thicker still. Meanwhile researchers aboard Nathaniel B Palmer off the Antarctic Peninsula also found heavy ice. They were held in it for several weeks, unable to move." (AFP)

"Extreme Weather Events: How Much Worse Can They Get?" - "Summary: Climate alarmists never tire of claiming the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content will exacerbate all types of extreme weather. And why should they, when they've got the computer models to prove it? Well, maybe the models don't actually prove it, but they at least suggest it, which in a climate alarmist's mind is one and the same thing. But is it? We here describe a somewhat obscure concept which has recently been buttressed by new data that indicate the world's highly complex and sophisticated climate models are likely missing a far more simple and elegant truth that tells a very different story than the one their creators - and disciples! - like to spin." (co2science.org)

"Planetary Carbon Sequestration: Earth's Biosphere Flexes Its Muscles" - "Summary: Averaged over the globe, the anthropogenic CO2 emission rate has risen nearly 40% over the past two decades, yet the rate at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere has remained constant or even slightly declined. Why?" (co2science.org)

"More Evidence of Increases in Cloudiness and Snow/Ice Cover" - "Summary: Earth's internal system of checks and balances appears to be functioning well in its natural ability to increase the amount of solar radiation reflected back to space in response to increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases within its atmosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 5353-5368." (co2science.org)

"The Medieval Warm Period in Western Norway" - "Summary: How warm was it? The Holocene 11: 437-446." (co2science.org)

"Carbon Sequestration in CO2-Enriched Forest Understory Trees" - "Summary: Dwarfed by the much bigger trees that overshadow and shade them, forest understory trees have not been expected to contribute much to the carbon sequestering prowess of forests. However, a new study of sapling photosynthesis under conditions of intermittent sunlight and shade suggests that their role in this effort has been greatly underestimated  Oecologia 122: 163-174." (co2science.org)

The Week That Was October 27, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

"Talks To Finalize Kyoto Treaty Under Way" - "U.N. talks to seal an unprecedented climate change treaty got under way in Marrakesh with the United States taking a back seat, according to Reuters.

In "Europe's Kyoto Scam," Senior Fellow Patrick J. Michaels writes, "Kyoto would help wreck the economic engine that drives America forward while Europe lags behind. The persistent and significant differences between American and European gross economic production and unemployment are not accidents. Europe's leaders know Kyoto would 'fix' that."

Cato Institute scholars have long opposed the Kyoto treaty and have written extensively about it and global warming. In testimony before Congress, Michaels explained why the Kyoto Protocol is "a useless appendage to an irrelevant treaty." In "Kyoto's Chilling Effects," Michaels writes that the protocol has poor chances of being ratified by the United States as "both Democrats and Republicans can agree that Kyoto will wreck our economy, according to just about every credible study that uses realistic policy assumptions." Director of Natural Resource Studies Jerry Taylor agrees in "Hot Air in Kyoto," stating that "impoverishing society today to avoid a very uncertain problem tomorrow would harm, not help, future generations." (Cato Institute)

"Synchronised spinning" (Number Watch)

"FoE's 'chemicals' postcard campaign is criticised" - "An MEP has criticised a Friends of the Earth campaign which involved sending thousands of postcards with the warning "Danger? - this sample may contain risky chemicals". Labour's European Environment spokesman, David Bowe, said in the current international climate of anthrax scares, the campaign was "unfortunate and inappropriate." (Ananova)

"BT Corn Good For Growers And Consumers" - "Two years of review came to an end recently when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of genetically engineered Bt corn varieties for another seven years.

The news has been received quietly, unlike the furor that accompanied claims of harm to the Monarch butterfly or of a human allergen in the Starlink variety. But that is normal in media cycles, where the hypothetical is infinitely more interesting than daily grind of producing food that consumers may actually be interested in purchasing. Bt corn was among the first genetically engineered crops to be grown in North America, and it has been the subject of much scrutiny and controversy. A media flurry and an environmentalist uprising was sparked by a 1999 report that Bt corn pollen could harm Monarch butterflies as well as the corn pests the Bt gene was meant to target. Less publicized has been the continuing research designed to see if this could happen outside of the laboratory." (Food Safety Network)

"Gene silencing produces disease resistance in plants" - "For the first time, a technique known as "gene silencing" has produced resistance to a bacterial disease in crop plants, report researchers at the University of California, Davis. The technique holds promise for creating genetically engineered trees and vines that can stave off crown gall, a costly disease that affects many perennial fruit and nut crops, including walnuts, apples and grapes." (University of California - Davis)

"U.S. seen handing China GMO soy papers this week" - "SINGAPORE - Washington is delivering Beijing a safety certificate for genetically modified (GM) U.S. soybeans this week, which should pave the way for China to resume purchases of the U.S. oilseed, industry sources said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Biotechnology seen way to food sufficiency" - "Biotechnology is one of the most viable alternatives to the country's problem in food security even as it will enable the Philippines to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors in agricultural productivity, according to a study made by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (Amcham)." (Manilla Bulletin)

"Scientists clear GM food of health risk" - "MOST scientists interviewed by a parliamentary inquiry into biotechnology and food believed genetically modified foods posed little or no health risk.

The parliamentary report, released by the Social Development Committee yesterday, showed only a minority of scientists believed genetically modified food was unsafe. But the inquiry found that controls previously applied to agricultural trials of canola in SA were widely regarded as unsafe.

The committee reported the regulatory framework in place in Australia afforded a high degree of assurance." (Adelaide Advertiser)

"New Zealand Govt. Bans Release of GMOs, Allows Field Trials" - "WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The New Zealand government confirmed Tuesday it would legislate to stop the commercial release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) into the New Zealand environment for two more years. But it would lift a 16-month ban on field trials of the organisms, which biotech opponents have branded dangerous "frankenfoods" that should be kept in the laboratory." (Reuters)

"Way cleared for GM crops" - "New genetically modified crops will be in the ground by Christmas after the Government overruled opposition from its Maori MPs to reopen the door to field trials. The long-awaited Government response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification came as a voluntary ban on applications for field trials was due to expire today." (New Zealand Herald)

"Unfriendly words from both sides of the GE fence" - "Organic farmer Wayne Parsonson believes the GM decision represents a looming threat to his business and wholesome lifestyle. Scientist Dr Daniel Cohen expects interruptions, obstacles and added expense for his pioneering genetics research. Neither man is happy." (New Zealand Herald)

"GM Decision Keeps Options Open For NZ Farmers" - "Federated Farmers of New Zealand President Alistair Polson has hailed the Government's GM decision as a victory for science and the future prosperity of New Zealand's biological based economy.

"The Government's essentially pragmatic decision means New Zealand can continue to move forward and maintain our international competitiveness and leading edge in biological sciences, said Mr Polson." (Federated Farmers Press Release)

"Scientists' big fears vanish but investment doubts stay" - "The Government decision on genetic modification has allayed the worst fears of business and science organisations. But some still worry about its effect on investment in biotechnology." (New Zealand Herald)

"We'll rip up GE crops - activists" - "Daylight raids by protesters on genetically engineered crops look certain following the Government's announcement to allow GE field trials to proceed." (Evening Post)

"Activists could tie GM up in knots" - "Anti-GM activists could choke the genetic experiment application process and turn it into a nightmare." (New Zealand Herald)

"Scientists welcome GE green light" - "Senior scientists say the Government's "pragmatic" decision to hold back commercial releases of genetically engineered plants and animals while allowing field trials to continue will give them the certainty needed for research to continue." (NZPA)

"Fear of GE rebellion produces treaty assurances" - "Labour's Maori MPs, after walking out of caucus yesterday, nailed down an agreement that Treaty of Waitangi clauses in genetic modification legislation will be strengthened." (New Zealand Herald)

"Gene genie will rise again from ballot box" - "The GM debate is over and the decision made. Welcome to the GM debate. By allowing GM field trials with tighter restrictions, the Government has closed the first chapter in the controversy. But GM is now set to be one of the centrepieces of next year's election - and not only because key decisions have been deferred until 2003. Why? Because the Greens have been delivered recruiting and campaigning manna from Helen." (New Zealand Herald)

October 30, 2001

"The anthrax threat" - "America's outbreak of anthrax contamination continues to widen, sowing alarm and confusion. On October 29th, the Supreme Court was forced to convene away from its main building. Three people have now died from pulmonary anthrax since October 5th. This has renewed fears about biological weapons, which may not threaten mass destruction, but are proving very effective at spreading terror." (The Economist)

"Let's Not Overreact to the Threat of Bioterrorism" - "To the Editor: In regard to Dr. Scott Gottlieb's Oct. 19th editorial-page piece "Ammo for the War on Germs" some of his ideas are misleading:" (Gilbert Ross M.D., Wall Street Journal)

"Cipro for Chickens Sets Off Antibiotic Debate" - "While one division of Bayer A.G. has been negotiating with the American government over the price of Cipro, used to treat and prevent anthrax in people, another branch of the company has been locked in a conflict with the government over a sister drug used to treat other infections in animals." (New York Times)

Oh dear... "Misconceptions about the common cold are common" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29 - When it comes to the common cold, 'common knowledge' may be lacking, Harvard researchers reported here Friday at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. It seems that many families are mistaken in their beliefs about the way colds are caught and cured." (Reuters Health)

"WORK PRESSURES HELP STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, GORY VIDEOS DO THE OPPOSITE" - "COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Engaging in stressful tasks like trying to meet a deadline may strengthen the immune system while exposure to stress that must be endured passively - like watching violence on TV - may weaken it, a researcher at the Ohio State University says.

The conclusion is based on a study that was designed to draw out the different effects that active and passive coping might have on the body's defenses. It presents some of the strongest evidence yet that certain kinds of stress can promote good health." (Ohio State)

What recall bias? "Nutrition: He Ate, She Ate; He Said, She Said" - "He says they dined on fried chicken; she says it was baked. She says it was 2 percent milk; he says 1 percent. She says he ate popcorn; he professes no recollection of it. Writing in a recent Journal of the American Dietetic Association, nutrition researchers who surveyed the eating habits of couples said they found repeated instances of disagreement between partners asked to describe what they had eaten in the last 24 hours." (New York Times)

"Study looks at asthma, obesity link" - "NEW YORK, Oct 29 - In the ongoing debate over the relationship between obesity and asthma, new study findings suggest that adolescents with asthma are no more likely to be obese than their non-asthmatic peers. The study, which included primarily African-American adolescents, seems to counter previous studies that found a link between the two conditions. Dr. Joel S. Brenner of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and colleagues compared 265 asthmatics between the ages of 12 and 21 years with 482 children and young adults the same age who did not have asthma. The investigators found that 20% of those in the asthmatic group were obese, compared with 17% of those without asthma--essentially the same." (Reuters Health)

Coffee 'good' today? "Caffeine 'can ease headaches'" - "A cup of tea or coffee might be able to tackle certain types of headache, say researchers. The caffeine it contains could help a higher number of people gain complete relief from "tension headaches". Caffeine is already routinely added to many painkilling medications, including some which can be bought over the counter at chemists, and the latest research confirms that it has therapeutic value against conventional headache symptoms. But researchers at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago also found that giving caffeine in isolation appeared to be as useful as giving standard pain relief." (BBC Online)

"Study raised alarm over treated wood a decade ago" - "OTTAWA - Health Canada is re-evaluating its approval of pressure treated wood for use in play structures amid concerns that harmful chemicals could be leaching from it. A report done by one of its own scientists a decade ago sounded the alarm." (CBC)

"Most Vitreous Fiber Wools Off The Carcinogen List" - "Man-made vitreous fibers in the form of wools are widely used in thermal and acoustical insulation and in other manufactured products in Europe and North America. These products, including glass wool, rock (stone) wool, and slag wool, have been in use for decades and have been extensively studied to establish whether fibers that are released during manufacture, use, or removal of these products present a risk of cancer when inhaled." (UniSci)

"Experts seek clues to frog abnormalities; Second year of study to determine whether man, nature at fault" - "In the second year of a national survey looking for abnormal amphibians across the United States, federal biologists found 33 wood frogs with deformities last summer among sample populations in three Alaska wildlife refuges from the Kenai Peninsula to Interior Alaska." (Anchorage Daily News)

"Test lawsuits filed over 'economy class syndrome'" - " LONDON - Two British air carriers are facing lawsuits from passengers who developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or "economy class syndrome," after long-haul flights. The passengers say British Airways and Virgin Airlines failed to warn them about the potential health risks." (CBC) | Airlines face legal action over DVT (BBC Online)

"Tampa, Fla.-Area Growers Say Ban on Pesticide Will Hurt Farming Profits" - "Oct. 28--TAMPA, Fla.-- Strawberry farmer Carl Grooms isn't happy about losing a potent weapon in the war against the worms and weeds that can choke the life out of his crop. "Some jackass up in Washington is making these rules," said Grooms, who farms berries outside of Plant City. "Is it going to hurt us? Of course it is."

Grooms is referring to the fast-approaching, government-mandated ban of the pesticide methyl bromide. He is feeling the pressure of rising methyl bromide prices compounded by the lack of a suitable alternative. Florida's billion-dollar winter vegetable and strawberry industries head into the growing season with a shrinking supply of methyl bromide, which government regulators targeted for elimination a decade ago. Years of research were supposed to turn up a viable replacement to offset the impact of methyl bromide's phaseout, but scientists say that hasn't happened." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"Storms lower ozone levels" - "Ozone miniholes over the North Atlantic follow the unsteady pulse of climate fluctuations." (Nature)

"Plea for Washington to reconsider position on Kyoto treaty" - "Talks to wrap up the UN's Kyoto Protocol have opened in the Morrocan city of Marrakesh, with an appeal to Washington to return to the climate-change pact it snubbed in March." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Bush urged to rethink Kyoto rejection" - "George W Bush is being urged to reconsider his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol in the wake of the US terrorist attacks. Friends of the Earth International's plea comes as politicians from around the world gather in Morocco for the next round of talks." (Ananova)

"Crucial climate meeting gets technical" - "BUENOS AIRES - Representatives of 175 countries will meet October 29 through November 9 in Morocco for a task that looks technical to the layperson, but is crucial for getting countries to meet their 2002 targets for reducing emissions of the gases responsible for global warming." (Asia Times)

"Delegates put final touches on climate deal" - "MARRAKECH, Morocco -- Security concerns were high as thousands of delegates gathered Monday to hammer out a final deal on rules to implement a climate change treaty -- the largest international conference since the Sept. 11 attacks, and the first major such meeting since then in a Muslim country." (AP)

"All Eyes on US as Climate Talks Open" - "All eyes will be on the United States delegation at a global meeting on climate change today to see whether the September 11 terrorist attacks have changed Washington's stance on an international treaty it rejected in March." (OneWorld, UK)

"U.S. Is Taking a Back Seat in Latest Talks on Climate" - "With the United States in attendance but sitting on the sidelines, more than 150 countries begin 12 days of talks in Morocco today aimed at completing the rule book for the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty requiring cuts in gases linked to global warming." (New York Times)

Better balanced than the norm: "Climate roadshow rumbles on" - "Negotiators from more than 150 countries have begun another round of talks on climate change.

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth said: "The world has rightly shown its solidarity with the people of the US after the appalling crimes of 11 September. Tony Blair must now use his influence with President Bush to persuade him to show his solidarity with the rest of the world by tackling climate change."

But Philip Stott, professor of biogeography at the University of London, UK, a longstanding climate change sceptic, sounded a different note. "Let's hope all those eager delegates who will be at COP7 actually take time to study the temperature history of where they're visiting - there's no 'global warming' at all in Morocco", he said." (BBC Online)

"Briefly Empty Skies Offer Climate Clues" - "The suspension of flights after the Sept. 11 attacks has provided scientists with a rare chance to improve their analysis of how aviation affects climate.

When the air above 25,000 feet is humid, the skies are laced with drifting streaks called contrails, created as ice crystals form on the exhaust plumes of hundreds of jets. The wind and gravity disperse the narrow contrails, which form wispy cirrus clouds.

This veil-like type of cloud allows sunlight in to warm the earth and traps some of the rising heat before it can radiate into space. This effect is thought to add slightly to a warming trend that scientists say is caused by heat-trapping gases released when fossil fuels are burned." (New York Times)

Perennial favourite nonsense: "Farewell Tuvalu" - "The world has just shifted on its axis, but not in the way you might first imagine. A group of nine islands, home to 11,000 people, is the first nation to pay the ultimate price for global warming." (Guardian)

From the Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap: "Pew Center Releases Book" - "It is the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st Century. But what do we truly know about global climate change? And what can we do about it?" (PCGCC)

"Warm spell sees nature defying the seasons" - "Global warming: As 150 countries meet in Morocco to discuss climate change, Britain's natural world responds to record temperatures." (Independent)

"USUAL SUBJECTS, USUAL SUSPECTS, CLIMATE STILL AT RISK" - "Marrakech - Australia, Canada, Russia and Japan are attempting to undermine the landmark Bonn Agreement reached last July to finalise the rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement aimed at preventing dangerous climate change that open in Marrakech today, Greenpeace warned." (Greenpeace)

"Nuclear power 'not needed' to hit green targets" - "Ministers will meet ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without having to build any more nuclear power stations, according to a government-backed report. The Carbon Trust, charged by the prime minister to persuade business to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, has told the government's energy review that the targets can be met if power is generated through other means such as hydrogen, wind and waves. Ian McAllister, who chairs the trust and is also chairman of Ford of Britain, said: "Nuclear is a red herring in this particular debate: you can achieve your low-carbon economy without nuclear. It's not necessary to meet the targets." (Financial Times)

"NO BIO-TERROR FEAR FROM BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS (BT), SAY PLANT SCIENTISTS; Rumors of anthrax-like dangers from organic pesticides and biotech plants are unfounded" - "Tuskegee, AL, Oct. 29 -- As letters containing anthrax have terrorized the U.S. in recent weeks, many assertions have been made comparing the anthrax bacterium Bacillus anthracis (Ba) to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium popular with farmers who use it as an organic spray to kill insects. However, scientists at the Agbioworld Foundation have recently discredited these rumors, stressing that there is nothing to fear from organic farming or other agricultural applications of Bt, such as biotech plants that contain a single gene from Bt." (AgBioWorld)

"Contraceptive corn, healthy tobacco: "pharming" takes root" - "In a greenhouse tucked away in Indianapolis flourishes corn being engineered to provide the active ingredients in gels that fight herpes and kill sperm. On 27 acres of Kentucky farmland grows tobacco that someday may actually help fight cancer. And in the tiny northern California farming town of Live Oak, rice laced with disease-fighting antibiotics usually found in mother's milk sprouts on a 10-acre paddy. It's called molecular farming, and it's blossoming at biotechnology start-ups across the country." (AP)

"Chudasma Endorses Genetic Cotton Seed For Its Yield" - "Former agriculture minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma has favoured cultivation of genetically engineered cotton as its quality and yield were far better than traditional cotton produced in Saurashtra and central and south Gujarat districts." (Times of India)

"EU Nations OK Some Modified Foods" - "LUXEMBOURG -- European Union governments on Monday endorsed a plan that foodstuffs and animal feeds containing genetically modified organisms be clearly labeled, but kept in place a 1998 ban on the marketing of new GMO products in the union. Retaining the moratorium was a blow for the European Commission which said it will now take ``many more years'' before new biotech foods can come on the market in the 15-nation bloc. Eleven such products were approved prior to the 1998 ban and 13 new ones await EU approval." (AP)

"No end in sight for EU block on new GM foods" - "LUXEMBOURG - European Union governments yesterday rejected the idea of lifting a three-year ban on importing and planting new genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a position a top EU official warned was illegal." (Reuters)

"Govt extends moratorium on commercial GE release" - "Prime Minister Helen Clark today confirmed the Government would extend a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically engineered organisms for two years while further research was undertaken. She also confirmed the widely signalled plan to allow GE research to continue under "contained conditions" with mandatory controls and monitoring. Miss Clark made the announcement this afternoon after the Government caucuses discussed the issues. She said the two year moratorium excluded research that provided direct benefits to human health or animal health." | Editorial: Moratorium on GM just fence-sitting (New Zealand Herald) | Full text of the Prime Minister's statement on GE

"Agro-Biotechnology For Improving Agriculture In Sub-Saharan" - "The staple foods of Africa (e.g. cassava, yam, cooking banana, plantain, cowpea) feed tens of millions of poor people daily yet receive relative little attention from the biotechnology industry, because they are not major cash crop commodities. These crops are mostly consumed in the home or villages. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) bridges this gap by linking advanced research institutions around the world to developing countries to help them share the benefits of biotechnology." (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture)

"The Future of Plant Science in Zimbabwe" - "Abstract: Zimbabwe's agricultural biotechnology research capacity is located at universities, government research institutions, and parastatal (state-funded) organizations. Projects range from those using traditional biotechnology to a few that are experimenting with genetically modified organisms." (Idah Sithole-Niang, HMS Beagle)

"Greenpeace chides Canada, grocers on food labeling" - "TORONTO, Oct 29 - Greenpeace Canada lambasted the country's largest grocery chain and Health Minister Allan Rock on Monday for failing to support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods." (Reuters)

"Row Over Cancelled GM Debate" - "The Government, Norfolk County Council and the agro-chemical industry were accused of running scared of public debate after a major GM conference planned for Norwich was cancelled.

The authority decided to cancel the conference after Lord Melchett, who is now national policy adviser for the Soil Association, Dr Sue Mayer, of GeneWatch, and Peter Riley, senior real food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, pulled out." (Norfolk-Now.co.uk)

"Nutrition Action Healthletter Cover Story: Genetically Engineered Foods: Are They Safe?" - "Using biotechnology to produce food has enormous potential: safer pesticides and less harm to wildlife, more nutritious foods, and greater yields to help feed the world¹s hungry nations. It¹s the risks of dicing and splicing Mother Nature that are harder to get a handle on. This month, we interview Doug Gurian-Sherman and Gregory Jaffe, co-directors of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter." (CSPI)

"Self-Destruct Your Moths" - "YOU'VE likely heard of using genetically modified crops to control pests - the concept has worked particularly well against caterpillars, using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in corn plants. But how about altering the insects themselves to self-destruct? The concept is called "autocidal biological control" or "self-killing," and it's been around for decades. Now the idea is being used against codling moth (CM), with the help of genetic engineering." (American Fruit Grower)

October 29, 2001

Freedom Book of the Month for October, 2001: Junk Science Judo

Someone -- it may have been Mark Twain -- once referred to three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. Most of us can identify with that sentiment, but it's still easy to be blind-sided by what purport to be "scientific" evaluations of facts or events and to make erroneous judgments based on those evaluations. (Free-Market.Net)

"The sucker front" - "AMERICA IN THESE sad and frightening days is still P.T. Barnum country, believing just about anything and paying money for it.

''Buy Our Cipro Online Package!'' shouts the advertising in one of many Web sites cashing in on the anthrax fear and offering the antibiotic for the disease at a whopping $69 for six tablets, plus a $75 charge for an online consultation. That's about $11 a pill, when drugstores charge between $4 and $5 and treatment for anthrax requires two pills a day for 60 days." (Boston Globe)

"Overdoses of Painkiller Are Linked to 282 Deaths" - "An extensive federal review of autopsy data has found that the powerful painkiller OxyContin is suspected of playing a role in the overdose deaths of 282 people in the last 19 months, more than twice the number in some previous estimates. The nation's top drug enforcement official recently called the new finding "startling." (New York Times)

Hmm... see Scare-Mongering Over 'Hillybilly Heroin' Deprives the Rest of Us (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Red-tape 'disaster' for medical research" - "The future of clinical trials in the UK will be jeopardised by a new EU directive, according to research experts. Although the directive will not come into force in the UK for two years, charities which fund research here are already worried about its consequences. They say it will radically increase how much it costs to carry out academic work, or many drug trials." (BBC Online)

"Everything gives you cancer" - "If even broccoli and strawberries have been linked to the dreaded disease, what hope do we have, asks Tim Dowling." (Guardian via Sydney Morning Herald)

"Little uranium contamination: UN" - "DEPLETED uranium (DU) shells used by NATO forces had not caused widespread contamination in Kosovo, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has said. "There was no widespread contamination," said Pekka Haavisto, the leader of a UNEP team which tested 11 sites in the Yugoslav province bombed by NATO from March until June of 1999. Haavisto said there were also no signs of contamination in the water system or the food chain." (AFP)

"Deadly fashion as young seek sun" - "TANS are back in fashion and young people are spending more time in the sun than they have in the past 10 years, the NSW Cancer Council says. The emerging trend prompted the Cancer Council yesterday to warn people against dropping their sun-protection guard this coming summer.

Research director Bruce Armstrong said survey results showed the generation of people aged 15 to 29 were exposing themselves to the sun more than the previous generation. "It looks like tans are coming back into fashion," Professor Armstrong said." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

"Key talks on ratifying Kyoto" - "MARRAKESH, Morocco -- U.N. climate talks on a pact to limit global warming resume on Monday with the United States the notable absentee." (CNN)

"US may be isolated at Kyoto talks - minister" - "RABAT - The United States may seem isolated at global warming talks next week at a time when it seeks global cooperation to fight terrorism, a Moroccan government minister said last week." (Reuters)

"Climate Meeting to Finalize Treaty" - "Capping a tortuous four-year effort, negotiators from more than 150 countries are heading to the Moroccan city of Marrakech to put the final touches on an accord aimed at limiting humanity's influence on the climate. The big question is how much difference it can make without the backing of a skeptical United States." (AP)

"Climate Talks Reach Climax Without Main Polluter" - "MARRAKESH, Morocco - U.N. climate talks on a pact to limit global warming resume Monday with the world's main polluter, the United States, on the sidelines. The two-week meeting in the southern Moroccan city will seek to produce a legally binding document for industrialized nations to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. But the United States, the world's number one industrial power and its biggest polluter, is unlikely to return to the four-year-old pact." (Reuters)

"'Climate saviour' EU calls world to ratify Kyoto" - "BRUSSELS - There will be no excuse for countries delaying implementation of a four-year old pact on global warming once the rules are finalised in the next two weeks, the head of the European Union delegation said last week.

The 15-country European Union has styled itself as the saviour of the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gases which the United States pulled out of in March. But the EU needs the support of most other industrialised countries to bring the deal into force." | FACTBOX - What is the Kyoto protocol? | CHRONOLOGY - The fight against global warming | FACTBOX - Science on global warming behind Kyoto pact (Reuters)

"Global Warming Talks – A Case of Misplaced Priorities?" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global warming is once again on the international agenda as delegates meet from October 29 to November 9 in Marrakesh, Morocco for yet another series of negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the dramatic change in international priorities that has occurred since September 11th, dozens of nations are returning to negotiations that seem less and less likely to secure any workable agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"The Nenana Ice Classic: Betting on Warming"  - "Alaskans have been betting on the date and time of river ice breakup at Nenana every Spring. Now the Greenhouse Industry is in on the act, with some sloppy science in `Science' in the run-up to the COP7 climate conference at Marrakech, Morocco." (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Cell implants may increase cancer risks" - "A new medical technique based on stem-cell and human–tissue research could spread viruses and cancers, scientists have warned. Supporters argue that tissue engineering could heal heart defects, treat deadly diseases and mend broken bones. But medical experts in Britain and on the continent have separately warned the UK Government and the European Commission that it poses dangers to patients." (Independent)

"GE field trials to get OK" - "The Government was set to approve genetic engineering field trials today, while extending a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms." (Evening Post)

"Government to sign off GE decision but no announcement today" - "The Government will today sign off its decision on New Zealand's genetic engineering future. However, no announcement will be made until the Alliance and Green caucuses have discussed the decision at their weekly meetings tomorrow. Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday indicated her Government believed it had found a way through what is a political minefield, believed to be that field trials of GE plants will be given the go-ahead but under strictly controlled conditions." (New Zealand Herald)

"Greens 'will live' with GM trials" - "The Green party says it will live with a decision expected from the Government this week that will end a moratorium on genetic modification field trials." (The Dominion)

"Both sides ready to claim GE win" - "Warring factions within the Government are both gearing up to claim victory when the decision on the future of genetic engineering in New Zealand is made this week." (New Zealand Herald)

October 27-28, 2001

From Professor Emeritus Philip Stott: "URGENT PROTEST" - "Please write to The Observer Sunday Newspaper to complain about their totally uncritical 'Climate Change Supplement' (28th October) published in association with the November Edition of The Ecologist: Letters to the Editor. You should keep your e-mail short. Here is the letter I have sent: "I was deeply disturbed by your uncritical publication of a climate change supplement in association with 'The Ecologist' (28 October). This was surely the near equivalent of issuing a pro-nuclear supplement in association with the nuclear power industry. There are many academics, economists and political analysts who do not accept the current science, economics or politics of climate change as represented by the supplement. It seems entirely inappropriate in a critical newspaper like 'The Observer' to ignore their voices in so biased a manner. Will you now produce counter articles arguing that the current construct of 'global warming' may be seriously misleading for both science and society?"

Thank you for any help you can give; such a supplement is entirely unacceptable in a serious broadsheet newspaper."

I have not seen the supplement in question but, given Philip's reluctance to engage in precipitous response, it must be something of a bellringer for him to request immediate reaction. I would particularly encourage our UK readers to give this matter attention forthwith.

More pre-CoP7 "enhanced greenhouse" items below.

"New Techniques in Ambulance Chasing; Why drug companies should be terrified of daytime TV." - "Princeton, N.J. lawyer John Sakson handles the usual array of personal injury suits. But he has also turned into an expert of sorts on the virtues of daytime television. It's there that his firm spends up to $80,000 a month soliciting potential plaintiffs. Some of his advertising is aimed at slip-and-fall and medical-malpractice victims. But these days he's also trawling for much bigger fish--plaintiffs for deep-pocket attacks on big corporations, especially pharmaceutical companies.

A 1977 Supreme Court decision interpreting the First Amendment opened the door to lawyer advertising. At first the TV ads were for walk-in divorce and estate work. Now, much of the time, the ads are aimed at stirring up litigation against the likes of Novartis, American Home Products and Johnson & Johnson. Last year in the top 75 TV markets, some 2,000 lawyers (out of the nation's 1 million) spent $230 million advertising their services." (Michael Freedman, Forbes Magazine)

"Don't Give In to the Anthrax Scare" - "If one aim of domestic terrorism is to instill feelings of fear and helplessness in citizens, the perpetrators of the anthrax terror hit pay dirt in Washington. They've managed to accomplish what the British tried to generate with their burning of the White House, the Capitol and other government buildings in 1814 -- what Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't deliver in 1963 -- and what the Pentagon attackers sought to but couldn't provoke on Sept. 11: a sense of vulnerability and danger so great that it disables and fundamentally alters the way the nation's capital does its business. The release of virulent spores into a healthy postal system achieved that end." (Colbert King, Washington Post)

Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"EPA finds toxic chemicals around WTC ruins" - "NEW YORK -- Toxic chemicals have been detected at levels exceeding federal safety standards in the soil and air around the still-burning rubble of the World Trade Center, according to documents compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to the dioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead and chromium found at the site, the EPA data released Friday showing low levels of contaminants had been found in the water and sediment of the Hudson River.

Officials were quick to caution people not to apply the measurements taken near the trade center wreckage to other areas of the city. "The debris pile is different from the rest of Manhattan," said Nina Habib, an EPA spokeswoman." (AP)

Should fit into the show-biz eco scene nicely: "Who give a **** about New York when whales and elephants are dying?" - "LEE RYAN from Blue has made an astonishing outburst saying the attacks on New York have been “blown out of proportion.” The stupid boy — there is no other expression for him — told The Sun that instead of feeling sorry for New Yorkers we should be worrying about WHALES and ELEPHANTS. The 18-year-old, who actually WITNESSED the September 11 tragedy, said during a visit to The Sun’s HQ: “Who gives a f about New York when elephants are being killed? “Animals need saving and that’s more important. This New York thing is being blown out of proportion ... I’m not afraid to say this, it has to be said and that’s why I’m the outspoken one from the band.” (The Sun, UK)

"50 million animals to die in poison tests" - "A European Commission plan to test thousands of chemicals for toxicity will initiate the biggest animal testing program Europe has ever seen and require the death of at least 50 million animals.

The plan, which involves testing a minimum of 30,000 chemicals found in everyday products to make sure they are safe for human health and the environment, has been condemned by animal rights groups. It has also been criticised by environmentalists, who think it doesn't go far enough, and by the chemical industry.

The sheer scale of the program being considered by the European Parliament is only now beginning to emerge." (The Sun-Herald)

At least this time animal libbers have a sound point. This "testing program" is nothing more than absurd chemical hysteria.

"Asthma vaccine hope" - "Scientists are investigating whether a vaccine based on a bacteria found in soil can protect against asthma. In previous experiments with blood cells, the bacteria has been shown to change the way immune cells recognise allergens - agents which cause allergies. If successful, the vaccine could help some of the estimated 3.4 million people in the UK with asthma, including more than 1.5 million children." (BBC Online)

"Research shows HRT safe for cancer survivors" - "Australian research shows menopausal women who have had breast cancer can safely use hormone replacement therapy. Research leader, Dr John Eden, said there is a popular misconception that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the recurrence of breast cancer in menopausal women. However, Dr Eden, of Sydney's Royal Women's Hospital, said his research has dispelled this myth." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

A little more accurate reporting from the 'Beeb': "Cancer study eases family history fears" - "Most women with a family history of breast cancer will never develop the disease, researchers have found. However, the risk does increase with each close relative who develops the disease." (BBC Online)

and Reuters: "Breast cancer risk often lower than women think" - "NEW YORK, Oct 26 - A new report from the UK confirms that women who have a sister, mother or daughter with breast cancer have an above-average risk of developing the disease themselves, but the risk is not as great as often thought.

In fact, most women with a family of history of breast cancer will never get the disease themselves, according to the report published in the October 27th issue of the medical journal The Lancet. And most women who develop breast cancer do not have a close relative with breast cancer." (Reuters Health)

A silver lining in every cloud? "Political activists, environmentalists feel chill of anti-terror campaign" - "OTTAWA - Peaceniks beware. Rabble-rousers watch out. Tree huggers stay home. The chill is on. Activists who work on environment, peace, trade and health issues say anxiety over terrorism has made it almost impossible for them to be heard.

They allege that once-acceptable political views are suddenly being treated like heresy. They complain they can't get media attention for issues that used to be taken seriously. And they fear they could be caught up in measures intended to defeat terrorism." (CP)

"Greenpeace may rethink protest tactics after Quebec-Cree agreement" - "MONTREAL -- Activists may shelve future protests against hydro projects on Quebec Cree territory now that local communities stand to benefit financially from them, says a Greenpeace spokesman. But Steven Guilbeault warned Friday that a tentative deal to dam two northern rivers and provide jobs for natives is a short-term fix that could have devastating environmental consequences.

"Dams emit greenhouse gases," Guilbeault said in an interview. "This may seem like good news for the Cree in terms of money and jobs but frankly I don't think it is." Guilbeault said the deal, which could see the Cree receive $3.5 billion over 50 years, will force environmentalists to tread carefully to avoid angering their native allies. "It would be extremely tense for Greenpeace or any other group to try and go and protest in these areas," he said." (CP)

Wassamatta? 'fraid your allies won't play nice?

"Picking holes in environmentalists' case" - "ACID rain, global warming, polluted rivers, species loss, deforestation, falling sperm counts and desertification everywhere, the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Only radical changes in our lives and major population reductions can halt the decline. Or that's what mainstream green groups tell us. But former Greenpeace member and Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg says that's nonsense. In fact, the environment is doing much better than ever before." (Roger Bate, Business Day)

"Researchers plan ocean sound tests; Experiments off Kauai gauging temperatures could start in January" - "A five-year experiment to measure the Pacific Ocean's temperature with sound waves could resume off Kauai as soon as January, its lead researcher said yesterday.

Worcester said the new data on ocean temperatures collected by sound measurements will be combined with information about climate change gathered by satellite and other methods. He said the first two years of testing proved that this method more than met hopes for its accuracy." (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

"Economic Activity Influences how Global Warming is Measured" - "Upward-trending graphs of global surface temperatures are often treated as evidence of global warming on the assumption that weather stations only record climatic changes, as opposed to, say, growth in economic activity in the vicinity of the instruments, or the deterioration of the measurement infrastructure.

To test this assumption, Ross McKitrick, a professor at Guelph University in Canada, developed an empirical model that separately identified climatic, economic and measurement effects on surface temperature records." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"U.S. appoints delegation leader for COP7 in Morocco" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will lead the U.S. delegation to the upcoming international conference on global warming in Marrakech, Morocco, the State Department announced Friday.

The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled from Monday to Nov. 9. The conference will adopt a rule book for the implementation of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol." (Kyodo)

"FOCUS: COP7 to clear path for adoption of weakened Kyoto pact" - "TOKYO, Oct. 26 - Upcoming U.N. climate talks are expected to result in an accord that will pave the way for the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, but the continued lack of U.S. participation and efforts by other countries to seek loosened regulations could mitigate the pact's environmental effectiveness." (Kyodo)

"Russia wants double its carbon sink allocation" - "TOKYO, Oct. 27 - Russia will demand it be allocated a total of 33 million tons of carbon to be soaked up by forests during U.N. climate talks to start Monday in Morocco, nearly twice as much as it was allocated during the preceding climate talks in Bonn in July, negotiation sources said Friday.

Russia has objected to the cap on the so-called carbon sinks -- carbon dioxide absorption by forests to offset emissions -- while expressing dissatisfaction over an allocation of 17.63 million tons as agreed by ministers of signatory states during the Bonn meeting." (Kyodo)

Pre-CoP7 hype getting sillier by the minute: "Global warming could melt away British traditions" - "Researchers are claiming global warming could threaten British traditions like the Sunday roast. Analysts say the Britain's psyche is so intrinsically linked to the weather that many uniquely British traits will be threatened." (Ananova)

"Bureaucratically modified science" - "John Fraser feels like a prisoner - fingers tapping and feet jiggling, waiting for the jail door to swing open.

As a professor in molecular biology, which, he says, "is essentially the ability to shuffle genes between organisms", Fraser has spent years captive to New Zealand's laws restricting the creation of new genetically modified organisms.

His quest to develop a non-harmful superantigen that could strengthen vaccines of any kind has been stymied.

He's far from the only scientist in this position, but his experiences at the often confusing cutting edge of genetic modification offer an insight into the GM debate and how it has affected scientists here." (New Zealand Herald)

"GM Food: Fact Versus Myth" - "Ignore the stories. Food-crop genetic-engineering technology is sound; safety checks work

WORLD FOOD DAY just ended. If you live in Hong Kong, you may have run into some of the people pictured below, Greenpeace protesters who had been slapping warning labels on supermarket products they claimed were made from genetically modified ingredients. Each year, the anti-GM-food lobby gains more converts, even in Asia. They succeed through stunts like this one, and by perpetuating myths that are unwittingly embroidered with each telling. With each new convert, the greater is the delay in introducing more GM food with its lower cost of production. And this only hurts the poor, many of whom live in Asia. Allow us, then, to attempt to clear the air." (Far Eastern Economic Review)

"Combating The - Green Menace" - "Within a few days we will know the degree to which the government has been captured by the Greens.

Its response to the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification is likely to be cautious to the point of delaying GM field trials by a further two years. The report itself is so laden with environmental bureaucracy and political correctness as to make any moderate free-enterpriser throw up.

The government, with the help of National and Act New Zealand, easily has the numbers to carry out the report's recommendations but Labour and Alliance are slowly turning green.

The irony is that the report, far from giving GM free rein, locks the research and development community in a green straitjacket from which there is no obvious escape." (National Business Review)

"Clean, green and untrue, say dairy ads' foes" - "Genetic science? Never heard of it.

That's what the dairy industry wants British consumers to believe, but anti-GM groups say New Zealand's richest industry is telling big fibs.

Greenpeace and the Auckland Anti-GE Coalition say billboards advertising Anchor butter all over Britain are "completely hypocritical".

They depict New Zealand cows grazing on rolling green paddocks above the words: "Modern farming? We're 75 years behind, thank goodness".

Greenpeace campaigner Annette Cotter says: "It just shows the hypocrisy when [the dairy industry] is aggressively promoting genetic engineering for animals and animal feed here in New Zealand." (New Zealand Herald)

"Employers urge green light for GM" - "New Zealand cannot afford to be held to ransom by a minority of MPs over the genetic modification (GM) issue, according to the Employers & Manufacturers Association. "The decision due this week must be the Government's view, not one based on opinion polling, or keeping the Green Party on side," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive." (New Zealand Herald)

"NZ govt to end ban on GMO field tests" - "The New Zealand government will next week end a 16-month ban on new "field" trials of genetically-modified organisms (GMO), despite opposition from a key political party, government sources said on Friday. A moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs into the environment would be extended for two years, with a few exceptions for very low-risk applications, the sources said." (Reuters)

"Govt depts differ on Gujarat Bt cotton row" - "NEW DELHI -- EVEN as the controversy over illegally grown Bt cotton in Gujarat rages on, there is another storm brewing with interested ministries taking contradictory stands on how to handle it.

Today, department of biotechnology secretary Manju Sharma spoke strongly in favour of ''protecting'' the interests of farmers.

What is interesting though is that she was not talking compensation (that, she said was an issue for the state government to worry about) and added in the same breath that Bt. cotton with Cry 1 A (C) gene was ''perfectly safe.''

However the ministry of agriculture is clear that with India being free from transgenic crops, there was no other option but to destroy the cotton crops in Gujarat." (The Economic Times)

"BT Cotton Mix-Up Shows Difficulty of Controlling GM Crops" - "MUMBAI, India, Oct 25, 2001 -- Three years ago, Indian farmers angry at illegal trials of transgenic Bt cotton torched fields in southwestern Karnataka state. This time, the fields are being burned by the Indian government, which recently discovered thousands of hectares that had been planted with transgenic cotton without the government's knowledge or approval." (Inter Press Service via COMTEX)

"Rutgers' Food Policy Institute Awarded 2.5 Million From USDA For Food" - "What do we know about how the public perceives biotechnology, and to what degree does our understanding help to guide policy makers, regulators, consumers, farmers, food firms, and those in the biotechnology industry?

Unfortunately, the answer is, "not much," says Dr. Bill Hallman, principal investigator of a $2.5 million project to evaluate consumer acceptance of biotechnology in the United States. The USDA awarded the grant to the Food Policy Institute, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional institute based at Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station." (Ascribe News)

"Resolving Thorny Gmo Debate Requires Confidence, Patience, Education" - "Policymakers are gearing up for a treacherous and lengthy feud with the European Union over genetically modified (GM) foods, with the central problem being European consumers' mistrust of food regulatory agencies.

According to a European Commission delegate in Washington, D.C., raising European consumer confidence is the only way GM food will have a market in Europe. "If there is no restoration of consumer confidence, GM food is dead in Europe," said Tony Van der haegen, the minister-counselor in the EC's Washington delegation responsible for consumer affairs and food safety. The EC is an institution within the EU that consists of 20 members from 15 countries who submit policy proposals to the EU's two legislative bodies: the Council of the European Union, which consists of the ministers of the 15 member countries, and the European Parliament, whose members European citizens directly elect." (E&E Publishing)

October 26, 2001

"Health Officials Not to Blame in Anthrax Deaths" - "The tragic deaths of two postal workers this week from anthrax has pushed us into the ugly world of finger-pointing." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Post Offices to Install Devices to Destroy Deadly Organisms" - "The Postal Service said last night that it would buy devices that would use powerful beams of high-energy electrons to kill anthrax or other deadly organisms in sacks of mail collected and delivered to mail-processing centers. The technology, often known as ion beam sterilization, is already used in the food and medical-device industries." (New York Times)

"Poll shows Americans not overwrought over anthrax" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 25 - Most Americans are not gripped by anxiety over the anthrax attacks that have killed three people this month in the United States, according to an ABC News poll released on Thursday." (Reuters)

Gary Brookins comment (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"Don't Panic. We Can Fight Smallpox." - "As frightening as the threat of anthrax has been, the nightmare scenario for biological warfare calls for another pathogen—one which, unlike anthrax, can be transmitted from person to person.

Smallpox fits this description well. It is spread through face-to-face contact, by means of infected saliva or respiratory droplets, usually in a closed setting. It can also be spread by infected linens or clothes: It was probably first used as a biological weapon during the French and Indian Wars by British soldiers who deliberately gave blankets that had been used by smallpox patients to American Indians.

Smallpox is fatal in approximately 30% of cases. As a virus, it is not treatable by antibiotics. No American civilian has been vaccinated since 1972, and it is likely that those who were before that have little, if any, immunity left.

Is this cause for panic or resignation, born of a grim reality that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves? No, not at all. A review of medical and historical realities should give us confidence that if the unthinkable occurs, we could mount an effective campaign against the biological terrorism of smallpox." (Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, Wall Street Journal)

"America the sensible" - "TO JUDGE by some accounts, especially in the foreign press, America is shivering on the edge of hysteria. The grandes dames of Georgetown's dinner-party circuit are holed up in safe rooms, their children and servants decked out in nice new gas masks. The Pooh-Bahs of the New York media are dosed up on Cipro and psychotherapy. And the masses are too terrified to do anything other than pop pills and watch television. Quite unlike the Brits, who cheerfully endured the Blitz while singing choruses of “Knees up Mother Brown”, America is suffering a collective nervous breakdown. The truth is much more interesting." (The Economist)

"Hands-free phones still distracting for drivers" - "NEW YORK, Oct 25 - Laws that restrict the use of hand-held cell phones may do little to make roads safer, since drivers using hands-free phones are just as likely to miss traffic signals and have slow reaction times as drivers who use hand-held phones, researchers report. The results of a new study indicate that the phone conversation itself, not just holding or dialing the phone, can keep drivers from focusing on the road." (Reuters Health)

"vCJD 'epidemic' might be waning" - "The total number of cases of vCJD caused by eating BSE-infected beef - could be far fewer than previously thought, says a new study. A research team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say that their estimates show that the total numbers likely to die from vCJD is likely to be no more than a few thousand - rather than the tens of thousands currently predicted." (BBC Online)

Yep - if vCJD is actually a new disease rather than a newly identified old disease and if it is actually caused by consumption of BSE infected beef then alarmist claims of looming epidemic could still be vastly overblown.

"Breast cancer does run in the family, major study finds" - "Women are nearly twice as likely to contract breast cancer if they have a mother, sister or daughter who has fallen victim to the disease, according to a landmark new study published. If women have two affected relatives, they are three times more likely to develop the disease than other women, and the risk quadruples if three first-degree relatives are affected." (Independent)

Well, yes... but. The "but" in is this case is that roughly nine-tenths of cases appear in women with no family history of the disease at all while fewer than one in five women with even two affected first-degree relatives will develop breast cancer before age 80years (one in eight for one affected first-degree relative). Having a family member with breast cancer is not exactly a sentence and not having such relatives is hardly a "get out of jail free" card with a rate of one in thirteen.

Hmm... another "let's scare consumers about pesticides" promo from  - you guessed it - Fenton Communications: "NEW ECO-LABEL GREATLY REDUCES GROWERS’ USE OF TOXIC PESTICIDES" - "In response to growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products, Protected Harvest, a new eco-label that reduces the use of pesticides by farmers, is now being introduced into grocery stores. Protected Harvest is a collaboration between farmers, scientists, and environmental advocates." (Fenton Communications)

"More Green bans?" - "When reports of the following email exchange and subsequent press releases started turning up they were thought apocryphal but, no, apparently this did occur. For your enjoyment: Greens Support Ban On Water! Press Release by New Zealand National Party, 25 Oct 2001." (New Zealand National Party, Green Party, et al)

"Alaska Ice Contest Helps Scientists" - "ANCHORAGE, Alaska - For 84 years, winter-weary Alaskans have amused themselves every spring by placing bets on when the ice on the Tanana River will break up. Now those years of data have helped climate researchers conclude that spring is arriving earlier. The study by Stanford University scientists in Friday's issue of the journal Science relied on records from the Nenana Ice Classic, an annual guessing game held in the community 230 miles north of Anchorage.

The researchers analyzed contest records and discovered that, on average, the Tanana River breakup is occurring 5.5 days earlier in recent years than it did in 1917. The findings are in line with historic temperature data from Nenana and Fairbanks, about 40 miles away." (AP) | Betting on climate change: Alaskan gambling contest yields treasure trove of scientific data (Stanford University)

Isn't this a surprise. A quick glance at the 1917 figure on the US temp track may even suggest a reason.

"Radiocarbon Level In Corals Yields Record Of El Niño" - "University of Arizona Earth scientist Warren Beck is using radiocarbon levels in corals to derive long records of El Niño variability in the equatorial Pacific. He suggests these results are also useful for tracking variations in carbon dioxide emissions from the equatorial Pacific, an important region for controlling releases of this potent greenhouse gas." (UniSci)

"What’s in Store at Next Week’s Global Warming Conference" - "Delegates from 178 countries meet next week for the third time in less than a year to work out more details of the rules and bureaucratic apparatus for the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 global warming treaty." (James K. Glassman, Tech Central Station)

Pre-CoP7 "we're all gonna drown/dry/freeze/broil/something bad": "Global warming alert issued for U.S. Gulf states" - "Conflicts over fresh water are in the future for the five U.S. states that border the Gulf of Mexico, a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts." (ENN)

"UN gears up for climate change talks in Marrakech" - "Four years after the first drafting of the Kyoto Protocol on the global reduction of greenhouse gasses, what may be the final round of discussions starts in Marrakech next Monday. The UN Framework on the Convention on Climate Change 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) will take place "despite suggestions that it should not," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the Convention, speaking at a press briefing in New York Monday morning." (Earth Times)

"Tokyo eyes EU help over protocol" - "The government is to step up cooperation with the European Union in an effort to bring Washington around to joining the Kyoto Protocol, officials said Wednesday. The administration of George W. Bush has pulled out of the global warming pact. Environment Ministry councillor Hironori Hamanaka told a Liberal Democratic Party meeting on the environment, ``We will have serious discussions with the EU about how to get the U.S. back on board.'' (Asahi Shimbun)

"German VDEW rejects mandatory emissions trading" - "FRANKFURT - German power industry association VDEW yesterday rejected European Union plans to stipulate the trading of pollution right certificates from 2005, saying its voluntary climate protection measures would suffer." (Reuters)

"Expert Panel Report On Biotechnology And Foods: Institute Of Food Technologists" - "In an effort to contribute to a meaningful dialogue on scientific issues and consumer concerns about rDNA biotechnology, the Institute of Food Technologists conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence related to biotechnology and foods." (Institute of Food Technologists)

"INTERVIEW: NZ Green Party Wants Ban On GMO Field Trials" - "WELLINGTON -- New Zealand's Green Party wants the minority government to impose an indefinite ban on field trials of genetically modified organisms. Jeanette Fitzsimons, the party's parliamentary Co-leader, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday, her party fears that if the government gives the greenlight to permitting field trials of GMOs, that might irrevocably damage the organic farming sector in the short-term. It could also, she said, damage the country's long-term potential to fully cash in on New Zealand's ''clean green image'' among overseas food consumers, many of whom are increasingly wary of genetically modified food, she added." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"Sharad Joshi Tells Farmers To Protect Bt Gene" - "The Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sangathan has rallied support for cotton farmers in Gujarat who are being threatened that their standing crops would be destroyed because they had used an unapproved hybrid variety of genetically engineered seeds." (Times of India)

"This Corn Isn't Fatal" - "It's important to be concerned about ecological and environmental matters. But it's at least as important to apply reason and balance to such concerns. Consider, as an instance, the widely publicized assertion by many advocacy groups that genetically engineered corn crops pose a significant threat to the population of the handsome monarch butterfly." (The Providence Journal)

"European Plan Threatens GM Food" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 24, 2001 -- A European Union proposal requiring labeling and tracing of genetically modified foods is part of a protracted feud with the United States that is based on cultural attitudes and European distrust of its own regulatory process, experts said Wednesday. The EU proposal was adopted by the European Commission this summer and is pending in the European Parliament. It is widely expected to pass and be implemented by 2003." (United Press International via COMTEX)

October 25, 2001

Reminder: "Prominent Thinkers Gather in New York to Debate the Future of Science And Fear, October 26-28" - "NEW YORK, Oct 24 -- With growing worries about bioterrorism and mounting hostility in some parts of the world towards the West over the global expansion of Western commerce and ideas, never has there been a greater need for a serious debate about the uses and abuses of science and technology, the backlash against progress, and the emerging culture of fear.

Prominent scientists, authors, and public intellectuals will gather in Manhattan this weekend to debate the future of progress and ask, ``Have we gone too far?'' (PRNewswire)

"Virtual anthrax" - "WASHINGTON - Terrorists are planning attacks at shopping malls on Halloween. Nostradamus predicted the Sept. 11 attacks. A deadly virus is being spread via the mail in blue envelopes.

How do I know all this? E-mails.

Since Sept. 11, people have spoken of reordering priorities. It's time to start. The next time you get one of these e-mails, put aside pointless worries - and hit the delete key." (Howard Fienberg, Christian Science Monitor)

"U.S. Postal Service to Irradiate Mail" - "WASHINGTON, DC, October 24, 2001 - The U.S. Postal Service will begin irradiating mail as of November 1 in an effort to wipe out deadly anthrax bacteria, Postmaster General Jack Potter announced today. The irradiation is part of a tough new set of measures Potter has introduced to protect postal workers and the public from anthrax in the mail. "This new technology won't be cheap, but we are committed to spending what it takes to make the mail safe," Potter said. Irradiation, which consists of bombardment of the mail with electrons, is already being used to kill bacteria in some foods." (ENS) | Electron beams could be used to irradiate post (New Scientist)

"Authorities feed public panic, says security expert" - "VANCOUVER - Authorities shouldn't be surprised that anthrax fears are growing when the public sees them appear to panic in the face of a potential risk, says a security expert. Health officials in Vancouver are reporting large numbers of people heading to their doctors' offices demanding to be tested for anthrax, despite having had no possible exposure." (CBC)

"Biological monsters in our closets will scare us to death" - "Terrorism and anthrax are the world's new bogymen, but our anxieties are proving more potent than either, writes Catherine Keenan.

The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear has an object. Consequently, said German theologian Paul Tillich, it can be faced, analysed, endured and, often, overcome. Anxiety, in contrast, is fear without an object - it blots out the sun and leaves us floundering in the dark, feeling infinitely vulnerable.

This goes some way towards explaining the massive over-reaction to the threat of anthrax. On the strength of three deaths in the US there have been hundreds of scares and evacuations from Australia to Finland. People are spotting suspicious white powder on everything from envelopes to Danish pastries." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Scientists Advise Calm in the Wake of the Anthrax Exposures" - "New York, NY—October 24, 2001—Americans should remain calm in the face of the anthrax exposures reported in Florida, New York, Washington, and other areas, advised the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a public-health group directed by more than 350 leading scientists and physicians.

"This is not to say that we should let our vigilance lapse. Indeed, all we should maintain a heightened sense of awareness to possible biological threats," said Gilbert Ross, M.D., ACSH's medical director.

"But the danger of bioterrorism should not be blown out of proportion. The preparedness exhibited by the public health authorities should serve to reassure the public that all responsible actions are being taken to protect our health." (ACSH)

Also from ACSH: Precaution (of a Sort) Without Principle (Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko) | Biting Movement: Animal-Rights Trespassing and What Some Critics Are Saying About It (Stephanie Mason) | Ultraviolet Can Make You Blue (Susan L. Narod) | The Semantically Tangled Web of 'CAMpaigning' (Jack Raso)

Media and politicians notwithstanding: "Public Bounces Back After Sept. 11 Attacks, National Study Shows; Confidence levels at 30-year high" - "Americans responded with resilience to the events of Sept. 11, registering large increases in their feelings of national pride, confidence in many institutions, and faith in people, according to the National Tragedy Study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago." (NSF News)

"Perennial author of policy fiascos" - "Canada is now on record around the world as a patent-breaker. The news made the front page of The New York Times over the weekend and the front page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal, which noted that Canada had "decided to strip the patent on Bayer's flagship product," the anti-anthrax drug Cipro. For this we can thank Allan Rock, Minister of Health and perennial author of world-class policy fiascos

The Health Canada decision to override Bayer's patent in favour of a copycat antibiotic produced by Canadian generic drug maker Apotex turned out to be a major gaffe. It was illegal, unnecessary, uninformed, misleading and inappropriate. As a result, the Apotex contract will now apparently be cancelled, threats of lawsuits are in the air, Canada's international reputations is under water and Mr. Rock is running for cover. In classic form, he implausibly shuffled ministerial responsibility off to "junior bureaucrats" in his department." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"Trial Lawyer TV: NBC Announces New Erin Brockovich Program" - "NBC said this week it will feature Erin Brockovich in a pilot for a one-hour syndicated talk show that could begin airing as soon as early next year. NBC’s parent company, it is worth noting, is General Electric.

Brockovich was a legal assistant for trial lawyer Ed Masry in a law firm that successfully pressed a class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on behalf of the residents of Hinkley, Calif.

A PG&E plant was fingered for leaking a rust-inhibitor called hexavalent chromate, or Chromium-VI, into the water near Hinkley. The lawsuit claimed elevated Chromium-VI in drinking water caused cancers as disparate as breast, uterine, prostate as well as other tumors. As Brockovich put it, the leaks "damaged the health of countless people who lived in and around Hinkley, Calif."

The corporate Goliath caved to the tune of $333 million -- while seemingly altruistic trial lawyer Davids racked up over $100 million in fees. Brockovich walked off with a couple million dollars and, more importantly, a narrative she could milk for the rest of her days, including the stylish movie about her activities.

The problem is, as the Hudson Institute’s Michael Fumento has documented in meticulous and exhaustive detail , the suit against PG&E was based on shoddy science and hysteria." (Dr. Sallie Baliunas and Nick Schulz, Tech Central Station)

"Food myths can go back into the meat safe" - "Hands up everyone who thinks it's unsafe to refreeze meat that's been thawed. Well, you're wrong. It's safe, says the nation's food industry body, which set out yesterday to debunk a whole series of myths about what we eat. Among the great food myths that need exposing, it says, are: that chickens are fed growth hormones; that oysters are an aphrodisiac; and that red food colouring makes children hyperactive. At a forum organised by the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the meat question was the highest ranking food myth, believed by 85 per cent of 500 consumers surveyed." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Estrogen doesn’t prevent second strokes: protective effects of hormone replacement therapy challenged" - "Estrogen hormone replacement therapy does not reduce the risk of stroke or death in postmenopausal women who have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), according to a report from the first randomized, controlled clinical trial of estrogen therapy for secondary prevention of cerebrovascular disease." (NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

"Blame North America megafauna extinction on climate change, not human ancestors" - "Even such mythical detectives as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot would have difficulty trying to find the culprit that killed the mammoths, mastodons and other megafauna that once roamed North America.

Scientists have been picking over the bones and evidence for more than three decades but can not agree on what caused the extinction of many of the continent's large mammals. Now, in two new papers, a University of Washington archaeologist disputes the so-called overkill hypothesis that pins the crime on the New World's first humans, calling it a "faith-based credo" that bows to Green politics." (University of Washington)

"Sticking to our place in the sun" - "TWO decades on, we still haven't got the message to slip, slop and slap. Fewer than half of Queenslanders wear a hat or sunscreen, a survey shows. Its findings come all this time after we were first urged to slip on a T-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. One in two Queenslanders is likely to develop skin cancer sooner or later. Queensland Health's latest Sun Smart Survey of 1500 people did reveal a minor increase over the past decade in people wearing hats or sunscreen in sunny weather, and a decrease in those staying out in the sun to get a tan. However, most people remained complacent." (Courier-Mail)

And therein lies the cause of altered skin cancer rates. No point looking for bizarre excuses like "ozone depletion" or anything else. People live much longer now, they have vastly increased leisure time, they've changed fashions in order to expose much more flesh to UV radiation and they like to get out in the sunshine. Guess what? Sun worshippers show increased cumulative skin damage. Duh!

If you really want to blame something and someone then try reduced working hours and high wage rates allowing increased leisure time (sue unions for melanoma rates?) and/or fashion houses for the increased skin exposure to solar radiation (maybe we should sue fashion designers?). On top of this, Ol' Sol, our sun, has been pumping out more UV over the last century or so (perhaps we should litigate against Sol for recovery of healthcare costs?).

Rather than looking at where causation may really lie, we reacted with the Montreal Protocol. The UN claims stratospheric ozone is being depleted due to release of various anthropogenic gases, although no one knows what level of stratospheric ozone is "normal" or even what cycles it undergoes. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency says stratospheric ozone has actually increased due to increased solar irradiance in the ozone-creating bandwidths, blaming this for at least some of the apparent increase in global temperature since 1880. Despite not knowing very much about stratospheric ozone, despite knowing that people have significantly altered lifestyle and fashion and hence their UV exposure, and that they are now living long enough for consequent ill-effect to manifest itself, we've indulged in a witch-hunt, going after the chemical industry and some of society's most useful compounds.

Go figure.

"EU Makes its Move to Ratify Kyoto Protocol" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 23, 2001 - All 15 member countries of the European Union should ratify the Kyoto climate protocol by mid-June next year, the European Commission said today in a legislative proposal. This would see the global climate agreement legally bind the bloc by the close of next year's world sustainability summit in Johannesburg, scheduled for September." (ENS)

"New Pew Center Report Highlights Lessons Learned from Corporate Efforts to Verify Greenhouse Gas Emissions" - "WASHINGTON--As international negotiators gather in Marrakech, Morocco, this month for the latest round of talks on climate change, the issue of how to count, track and verify greenhouse gas emissions will be a key focus. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, leading companies throughout the world are developing a range of innovative approaches that hold critical lessons for the development of emissions verification regimes at all levels." (BUSINESS WIRE)

"Paring cost of CO2 cuts priority" - "Although the Kyoto Protocol establishes reduction goals for emissions of greenhouse gases by advanced industrialized nations, the target figure of each nation does not have to be achieved within its borders. Advanced nations can include in their quota some reductions achieved through projects they implement in developing nations." (Asahi Shimbun)

"ANALYSIS - UK polluting more thanks to shift to coal" - "LONDON - A shift towards burning more coal in Britain's power stations is threatening to derail government plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seen by many scientists as contributing to global warming.

"Emissions have increased for the second year running, above levels when the government first came into office (1997) and this is largely due to increased coal-burn," said Colin Godfrey, managing director of CLG Energy Consultants.

The government's target of cutting noxious emissions by 23 percent on 1990 levels by 2010 was partly based on the assumption electricity producers would continue to embrace clean-burning gas fired power stations.

But the "dash for gas" - a defining characteristic of the last decade which saw gas-use shoot up - has stalled in the face of soaring wholesale gas prices. Instead electricity generators are turning to cheaper, but dirtier coal as they struggle with falling electricity prices." (Reuters)

"Cross-industry group urges slow down on Kyoto" - "Slow down on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol was the message to Government from a cross-industry group which met today to discuss climate change issues. The workshop, hosted by the Forest Industries Council, the Greenhouse Policy Coalition and Federated Farmers, allowed a range of industry sectors to share knowledge and concerns on this matter, prior to the Government’s consultation forum, to be held in Wellington [New Zealand] tomorrow." (Press Release)

"Greens propose carbon tax" - "The Greens party has proposed a carbon tax for greenhouse polluters, as a key plank of its environment policy. The policy aims to tax stationary greenhouse emitters at the rate of 25-dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Australia's Tinker Bell political party, the Greens, with their plan to have all Australian industry relocate to Third World countries. Aren't they such clever little vegemites? They are not, however, the only dills to be found "Down Under."

"Grudging vote for carbon tax" - "The McLeod tax review gives tepid endorsement to the idea of a carbon tax. It is sceptical about the magnitude of the global warming problem, and emphatic that New Zealand should not get ahead of the international pack in addressing it. But, it says, if the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, a carbon tax would be a better instrument for transmitting the cost to the economy than a system in which individual companies trade in emissions on the international market." (New Zealand Herald)

Speaking of 'bullshit' taxes: "Farm pollution: Beckett puts her foot in it" - "MARGARET BECKETT, Environment Secretary, inadvertently provoked mirth in her first keynote speech yesterday by proposing that acid rain emissions caused by ammonia might be brought under control on farms for the first time. No one among her retinue seemed to have appreciated what controls on ammonia might consist of. It is a gas largely produced by the livestock industry, in particular by livestock's ordure. It could prove to be Labour's first tax on "bullshit", her audience of environmentalists at the Royal Agricultural Hall in London were quick to point out." (Telegraph) | A heap of tax on manure (The Times)

"O Pioneers!" - "Before the country united in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, embryonic stem cell research was one of its most divisive issues. Religious activists see those cells as future babies, while to scientists they are medical magic. President Bush stepped into the fray in August. In a decision disliked by both sides, he approved a limited amount of stem cell research.

But outside of this spotlight -- and far from the bitter debate over embryos -- there is great hope for stem cells taken from another source: mature, or "adult," tissue. Recent developments suggest that medical fixes born of adult stem cells might be ready for use in as little as three years' time. At least three such regenerative treatments are being tested on humans right now." (Law.com)

"Of public interest?" - "So what has happened to Frankenstein's monster? Has the CSPI abandoned the potential for whipping up hysterical reactions to 'tinkering with nature' and creating 'environmental catastrophe'?" (Social Issues Research Centre)

"Prominent New Zealanders Call On Government To Implement Royal Commission Report" - "More than 850 prominent New Zealanders have endorsed a Communique calling on the Government to implement the Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

The Communique was delivered to the Prime Minister in Wellington this afternoon. 'The Report of the Royal Commission was a balanced, thorough and informed examination of the strategic issues inherent in the use of genetic modification in New Zealand,' the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network Dr William Rolleston, said this afternoon.

'Many New Zealanders are concerned that the Government should not restrict our opportunities for responsible and cautious use of this new technology. The prominent New Zealanders who have endorsed the Communique speak on behalf of a much wider community,' concluded Dr Rolleston." (New Zealand Life Sciences Network)

"Rethink on GE cleanup" - "HortResearch's plan to sterilise the site of genetically modified tamarillo trials at Kerikeri is on hold. The cleansing has been put off while the Government decides whether to pay for analysis to show whether DNA from the tamarillos has been transferred to soil organisms. Last week, HortResearch said it would fumigate the site with the teargas chemical chloropicrin to ease community concerns about GE. But Port Waikato Opposition MP Paul Hutchison asked Environment Minister Marian Hobbs to pay for the analysis, claiming that to sterilise the site without evidence would be "environmentalism gone mad." (New Zealand Herald)

"Agriculture a Clear Victory" - "Chalk one up for science. The dispute over genetically modified foods must be considered over. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to allow farmers to continue growing modified corn, expressing confidence that it does not pose risks to human health or the environment. Environmentalists on the fringe have been fighting tooth and nail to ban this important advancement in food technology. They cutely labled it "Frankenfood" and managed to incite irrational fear in people throughout Europe." (The Florida Times-Union)

"Consumer Trust in Government Is Key to Policies on Genetically Modified Food - On Both Sides of the Atlantic" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 -- The United States and Europe appear to be on a collision course over the regulation of genetically modified food, according to senior government policy advisors speaking today at a Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology dialogue entitled ``Are the US and Europe Heading for a Food Fight Over Genetically Modified Food?'' (PRNewswire)

"Will Genetic Modification Bring in a New "Race" of Edible Products?" - "MONTREAL -- "Mom, can you put blue tomatoes in the salad, pleeeaaase?" Mom smiles and opens the fridge. She picks out some genetically modified protein-enriched tomatoes, blue due to the added blueberry genes to attract the younger consumers.

Sounds like a scene from a science-fiction movie? Don't be so sure. We may be closer to this kind of situation than most people would like to think. But today, the main reasons for the genetic engineering of food correspond to increased crop yields and a decrease in the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, by enhancing the plants' own abilities to fight pests and weeds." (U-WIRE)

"Three Environmental Groups Lobby Against Use of Genetically-Altered Fish" - "Oct. 22--Three environmental groups are asking seafood retailers across the United States to pledge not to sell genetically engineered fish and to oppose their commercialization. Citing potential negative human health effects and a threat to the genetic purity of wild salmon, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, and Clean Water Action announced a new campaign on Oct. 18 that aims to prevent the commercialization of genetically engineered fish. Transgenic fish of various species of salmon, tilapia, channel catfish and others are being actively investigated worldwide as possible new food producing varieties." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"How biotech can engineer corn contraceptives, edible vaccines" - "BIOTECHNOLOGY researchers may yet enter unchartered realms of reality turning biologists’ flights of fantasy to matters of now and here, while daring visionaries to dream, defying imagination to transcend barriers of time, space and substance.

In the pipeline are bacteria that detect land mines, spider silk made from goat’s milk, fish that sniff out pollutants and, lo and behold, swaying fields of corn that may one day assist in arresting the uncontrolled population explosion among humans.

Looking down the road at what is in store from this powerful technology, one never ceases to admire the myriad of novel traits and the innumerable benefits that they can bestow upon this planet, all calculated to enhance the quality of life without a wee bit compromising on biosafety or sustainability of the environment." (Gurumurthy Natarajan, Economic Times)

"Colorado Group Concerned About Genetically Modified Organisms" - "BOULDER, Colo. -- Hinting at the possibility of a referendum initiative to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a small group of local environmentalists said Monday they would be watching closely the county-appointed advisory committee charged with monitoring the use of GMOs on a small but growing percentage of county-owned open space.

The group calls itself Citizens Promoting a Healthy Environment. On Monday members spoke at the Boulder County (Colo.) Courthouse where county commissioners meet.

"We're here to advocate for greater citizen involvement in land-use decisions for public lands in Boulder County," said Ann Krohn Rick of Longmont, Colo., a member of the group. "Our concerns were brought to the (forefront) by the introduction of an untested, radical new technology -- genetic engineering -- in agricultural crops. Perhaps we need to bring this issue to the ballot box in the future." (U-WIRE)

"Australia overrides NZ on labels" - "The mandatory labelling of food containing genetically modified ingredients has been postponed for a year after Australian health ministers overrode New Zealand's desire to introduce the new rule in December. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority, made up of nine Australian ministers and New Zealand Health Minister Annette King, decided 18 months ago that consumers had the right to know whether food contained genetically modified products. They told food manufacturers they had to comply with a new labelling system by December 7. But during a teleconference yesterday, the group decided to give manufacturers a further 12 month breathing space, meaning stock already on the shelf would not have to be removed or re-labelled. Only food bought, manufactured or imported after December 7 would be affected." (New Zealand Herald)

"Greens call for changes to food authority" - "A decision allowing unlabelled genetically engineered foods to remain on shop shelves for up to a year has prompted renewed calls from the Greens for changes to the authority which regulates food." (NZPA)

October 24, 2001

"Scientists attempt to dispell misinformation about biological warfare" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Hoping to discourage would-be bioterrorists, a global organization of nearly 500 germ banks removed some details about anthrax from its Internet database and added information on controls for dangerous agents. The recent steps were also intended to help members of the World Federation for Culture Collections counter misperceptions about access to lethal germs at research labs, officials said Tuesday. "It's very difficult to get dangerous products from collections," insisted WFFC president Jean Swings, a professor at Ghent University." (AP)

"Anthrax: pre-publication and special issue" - "Recent events have confirmed that bioterrorism is no longer a threat but a reality. To provide wide-ranging access to the latest scientific information about anthrax and other potential bioweapons, Nature has put together a special online focus on this issue. This focus includes the pre-publication of two research papers on anthrax toxin, as well as a collection of research, news and feature articles from our electronic archive. Because of the heightened interest in this area, among both the scientific community and the general public, all material in this feature has been made freely available." (Nature)

"Irradiation Explored As Answer to Anthrax; Process Used on Food Could Be Adapted To Rid Mail of Pathogens, Industry Says" - "It's already done with chicken, spice, ground beef and baby bottle nipples. The U.S. mail may be next. And soon. In the midst of the growing anthrax scare, the government is exploring the possibility that irradiation or other state-of-the-art sterilizing technology might be used to cleanse the mail of pathogens." (Washington Post)

"Health Group Urges Irradiation to Protect Mail" - "October 23, 2001. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) urges the U.S. Postal Service to consider using irradiation technology to sanitize mail and thus protect workers and the public from bioterrorism. ACSH is a public health consortium of over 350 leading physicians and scientists.

Just in the last few days, finding anthrax spores in a letter sent to Senator Tom Daschle led to the closing of both houses of Congress temporarily. Two postal workers have died of inhalation anthrax, and many more are being tested. Clearly, since other pieces of mail in New York City as well as Washington, DC, are known to have carried anthrax spores, the situation warrants rapid action to guard against further contamination and exposure.

The technology exists to safeguard the mail—irradiation." (ACSH)

"Cutting the cost of fall-out from Chernobyl 15 years after the world's worst nuclear accident" - "Chernobyl has made a chilling contribution to medical history, accounting for the largest group of human cancers associated with a known cause on a known date, ECCO 11 - the European Cancer Conference heard in Lisbon today. (Tuesday 23 October) Nearly 2000 cases of thyroid cancer have been linked to the world's worst nuclear accident which occurred in Ukrainian city 15 years ago - and the number is still rising." (Federation of European Cancer Societies)

Hmm... see The Truth About Chernobyl Is Told by Zbigniew Jaworowski. Jaworowski, a former chairman and current member of UNSCEAR, is unimpressed by claims of significant effect from Chernobyl.

"Immune to Reason" - "Nineteen days ago a man in Ohio showed signs of what doctors believe is diphtheria. With all the anthrax news, the case was barely news. And normally, given this country's vaccine successes, the odd case of diphtheria isn't a concern. But thanks to an easily intimidated public-health system, we now must worry about illnesses we thought we'd defeated.

Over the next few months, millions of American infants may not receive their DTP vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Some of these children may die as a result. The reason is an all-too-familiar tale of public-health officials chasing phantom risks, and of the consequences of such irresponsible behavior." (Wall Street Journal)

"Rock backs down in drug dispute" - "OTTAWA - Allan Rock, the Minister of Health, was forced yesterday to seek an out-of-court settlement in a dispute over an anthrax drug to avoid an embarrassing and costly lawsuit, senior government officials say." (National Post)

Uh-oh, coffee bad again: "Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women" - "Nutrition, lifestyle, and genetics may all contribute to the decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) that comes with aging and leads to osteoporosis, a major cause of fractures in the elderly. Previous research implicated caffeine in increased risk for hip fracture and poor calcium retention. As part of a larger long-term study of osteoporosis, Rapuri et al. compared the BMD of women in high and low categories of caffeine consumption to examine the interaction between caffeine intake, genetic type, and osteoporosis. They found that women with high caffeine intakes had significantly higher rates of bone loss at the spine, and that women who were homozygous for a mutation in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene were at greater risk for caffeine-related bone loss." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

but chocolate-coated veggies are in: "Cocoa and dark chocolate show positive effects on LDLs – But don't shun veggies" - "University Park, Pa. -- A Penn State-led study has found that a diet high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate had favorable effects on LDL ("bad" cholesterol) when compared with a diet that limited or excluded other flavonoid sources such as tea, coffee, wine, onions, apples, beans, soybeans, and orange and grape juices.

Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, Penn State distinguished professor of nutrition and leader of the study, says, "Cocoa and chocolate are ‘fun foods' and I think these results show that they can contribute to a healthy diet – especially if they are used in forms that don't include large amounts of fat and sugar. However, cocoa and chocolate shouldn't be considered significant sources of flavonoids in the same category with fruits and vegetables which also have fiber, vitamins and minerals." (Penn State)

"Unique UNC study confirms suspected worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity" - "CHAPEL HILL – Twenty-five of every 100 U.S. children are either overweight or obese, but children from other major nations are beginning to weigh too much as well, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes. Sixteen percent of Russian youths are overweight or downright fat, and the figure for Chinese children is 7 percent." (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

"Genes More Important Than Environment for Asthma" - "NEW YORK - Genetic makeup appears to play a more important role than environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, pets or dust in the development of asthma in young children, according to a report.

They calculated that genes account for 68% of asthma prevalence, while exposure to similar allergens accounted for just 13% of asthma prevalence." (Reuters Health)

"Canadian workers 'depressed,' having fewer children: study" - "CALGARY - Researchers at a conference on health and the workplace say Canadian workers are depressed and stressed out and they say more people are opting out of parenthood or having fewer children as a result." (CBC)

Oh... poor things. Perhaps they'd like to swap places with some of the two billion people on the planet who don't have reliable electricity supplies, food security, safe water and no employment enabling them to afford such commodities even were they available.

These "researchers" seem intent on treating the populace in the manner of overly indulgent grandparents pandering to tantrum-throwing preschoolers.

Stressed? Depressed? Sheesh! No generation in history has had comparable incomes, leisure time and leisure opportunities. You've got a good life - an easy life. Now stop whingeing about it, stop wallowing in fear and self-pity, get off your butts, get on with your jobs, get on with your lives and appreciate what you have! (What's the bet I've just been precluded from any warm-and-fuzzy social science faculties' shortlists.)

If you're that desperate for something to worry about, try this: "Pumpkin dearth hits US" - "A combination of heavy rain early in the year and a dry summer has left slimmer pickings this fall in pumpkin patches across Michigan, one of the nation's largest pumpkin suppliers.

"It's going to be a terrible year for pumpkins," said Paul Forte, owner of Harvest Time Farm Market in Oxford Township. "They're going to be much smaller than normal, and the yield is going to be way down."

Mr. Forte increased his pumpkin price from 30 cents to 35 cents a pound this year, which would be $6 to $12 for a nice-size carving pumpkin. Some retailers are selling them for as much as 39 cents or 45 cents a pound, he said." (AP)

But for a little perspective: "Energy: The Challenge of Expanding Supplies to 2 Billion People" - "BUENOS AIRES, Oct 22 - The lack of access to electricity by one-third of the world population is the biggest challenge facing suppliers, oil industry representatives and government officials from more than 60 countries, meeting in the Argentine capital, agreed Monday. Around two billion of the world's six billion people have no access to energy, underlined participants in the 18th World Energy Council Congress, which opened Sunday and runs through Thursday in Buenos Aires with the participation of more than 3,000 delegates." | Need for Power Pits Fossil Fuels Against Cleaner Energy (IPS)

"Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions Could Dramatically Increase Global Agricultural Production By Thwarting the Adverse Effects of Ozone Pollution" - "Summary: As the air's carbon dioxide content continues to rise, great political pressure is being brought to bear upon the nations of the world to reduce their CO2 emissions in response to the stated goal of curtailing global warming. Such actions, however, are tantamount to biting the hand that feeds us; and they will be our downfall if vigorously pursued." (co2science.org)

"Snowfall in Asia Is Starting Earlier and Lasting Longer" - "Summary: Does that sound like a logical response to unprecedented global warming? Geophysical Research Letters 28: 551-554." (co2science.org)

"Two Centuries of Temperature Change in Rural Norway" - "Summary: Where urban influences are absent, much of the earth seems to have reached a temperature maximum sometime in the 1930s (above which it has not subsequently risen) in the course of the planet's recovery from the global chill of the Little Ice Age. Climatic Change 48: 201-218." (co2science.org)

"Cloud Cover Over the Indian Ocean" - "Summary: The author of this study says climate model calculations suggest that cloud cover over the northern Indian Ocean should have "significantly decreased over the past several decades." Real-world data, however, tell a radically different story, as earth's climate system flexes its negative feedback muscles. Geophysical Research Letters 28: 3271-3274." (co2science.org)

"Green Alert, October 22, 2001 Vol. 1, No. 8" - "The world over, woody plants encroach upon arid and semiarid grasslands, and savannas. This natural phenomenon has been going on for a century or longer (Idso, 1995) and has been driven – at least in part – by the rise in the air’s carbon dioxide concentration (Knapp and Soule, 1998; Soule and Knapp, 1999). Could this be the phenomenon responsible for much of the planet’s so-called missing carbon? The rate at which the atmosphere’s concentration of CO2 should be rising has been less-than-predicted when taking into account known sources and sinks. Is carbon sequestration by woody plants an unidentified and growing repository of organic matter that explains why? New research into the subject suggests the answer is "Yes." (GES)

"Eyes on EU, Russia for Climate Talks" - "UNITED NATIONS - All eyes will be on Russia and the European Union when governments meet in Morocco to reach a final deal over rules to implement the climate change treaty already abandoned by the United States. Since the United States abandoned the 4-year-old Kyoto Protocol, the support of the Russians and the 15-member EU is critical because the treaty must be ratified by a majority of those industrial nations responsible for global warming to take effect." (AP)

"EU Unveils Plan for Kyoto Pollution Market" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission (news - web sites) proposed a first international market in the right to pollute on Tuesday as part of a U.N. plan to combat global warming that has been shunned by the United States. The Commission also said it wanted the 15 EU states to ratify the so-called Kyoto protocol on curbing greenhouse gases, agreed by more than 180 states in July, before a world environment summit in Johannesburg in September 2002." (Reuters)

"Germany's econ minister questions emission targets" - "BERLIN - German Economics Minister Werner Mueller this week warned against ambitious national climate targets, calling them a potential burden on the economy and security of energy supply." (Reuters)

"Belgium says climate deal at risk if challenged" - "BRUSSELS - The Belgian European Union presidency cautioned this week that a landmark U.N. pact to limit global warming would be in jeopardy if countries sought to renegotiate key details at talks this month. "A deal is a deal. We won't renegotiate," Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze told a news conference ahead of the 180-nation talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, from October 29 to November 9 to agree final details of the Kyoto protocol." (Reuters)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT October 23, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 41" - "That the human race faces environmental problems is unquestionable. That environmental experts have regularly tried to scare us out of our wits with doomsday chants is also beyond dispute.

With those two remarkable sentences, Denis Dutton opens a Sunday, October 21st, front-page Washington Post "Book World" review of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. A Danish former Greenpeace member, Lomborg jauntily clings to his left-wing academic credentials while exposing as hype virtually every environmental gloom and doom scenario, and scary claim, of the last twenty-five years.

Lomborg, a statistics professor, set out with a team of academicians to disprove the late Julian Simon’s claim in Wired magazine that fears about overpopulation, animal species dying by the hour, and deforestation are hysterical nonsense. On the way, they discovered Simon was right. According to Dutton, a philosophy professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, "Lomborg found on close analysis that the factual foundation on which the environmental doomsayers stood was deeply flawed: exaggeration, prevarications, white lies and even convenient typographical errors had been absorbed as unchallenged into the folklore of environmental disaster scenarios." Add to that list, apocalyptic climate change." (GES)

"Taxpayer dollars help fund many environmental groups" - "A major investor is helping The Nature Conservancy -- America's largest environmental group -- buy land and protect species across the United States.

The same benefactor is providing financial aid to the World Wildlife Fund for international conservation. It is spending heavily to help other groups, from the American Farmland Trust to Trout Unlimited, hold conferences, post Web pages, restore habitat and sway public opinion in favor of protecting the natural world.

Few philanthropists, in fact, have ever showered money so broadly across the environmental community.

Who is this conservation-minded patron?

You -- and every other taxpayer in the United States, that's who." (Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee)

In a welcome shift from flaky scare campaigns: "Consumer group backs genetically modified foods" - "WASHINGTON - A consumer advocacy group has come out in defence of genetically modified foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the current GM products on the market are safe to eat." (CBC)

"U.S. Wins Asian Approval for Agricultural Biotechnology" - "SHANGHAI, China, October 22, 2001 - Heads of government meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Sunday endorsed a proposal by the United States to establish a new high level policy dialogue on biotechnology. The APEC leaders are expected to "exchange views and pursue cooperative activities on a wide range of issues relating to biotechnology development, regulations governing new products, implications for trade, and effective communications strategies." APEC officials plan to hold the first session of the biotechnology dialogue in Mexico City in February 2002." (ENS)

"FSA rejects EU's GM derivative labelling" - "The government is on a collision course with Brussels and consumer groups over EU plans to introduce stringent new labelling requirements for foods containing or derived from, GMOs. Under proposals drawn up by EU food safety commissioner David Byrne and agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler, GM derivatives would have to be labelled, whether or not the final products contain genetically modified DNA." (Hoover's)

"AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL"  - "Opportunistic Attack on AgBiotech - Anthrax Connection, Bt Sprays, Bioweapons, Bioterrorism and Luddites" (AgBioView)

"UPDATE - US-China soybean trade tiff resolved-US farm group" - "WASHINGTON - A trade dispute between the United States and China over genetically modified foods has been resolved, opening the door for renewed sales of U.S. soybeans to China, a U.S. farm group official said this week." (Reuters)

October 23, 2001

"A Dose of Anthrax Reality Behind the Hysteria" - "We're watching history in the making. Bar none, this is our nation's single greatest mass hysteria. It's the reaction to the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast times 1,000. Nobody, it seems, wants to be the last kid on the block to call 911 to report a suspicious powder." (Michael Fumento, National Review Online)

"Bleak anthrax forecasts stoke hysteria" - "Dire warnings that anthrax attacks could kill hordes of people are largely responsible for public hysteria about a highly treatable condition that federal officials now seek to quell." (Frank J. Murray, Washington Times)

"Anthrax Offers Lessons in How to Handle Bad News" - "In recent decades, social scientists have learned much about how government authorities can best inform and reassure an anxious public faced with a new and unfamiliar threat. But in their initial handling of the anthrax crisis, government leaders did almost everything wrong, according to psychologists and other researchers." (New York Times)

"Without Bayer, We’re Bare to Bioterror" - "If you have been exposed to Anthrax, what’s it worth to save your life?

How about $4.31 a pill?

That’s what Drugstore.com lists as the retail price of Cipro, an antibiotic developed and patented by Bayer, AG, the German-based drug and chemical company. In the midst of all the fear about anthrax, we should be exceedingly thankful that this disease, usually fatal if untreated, can be cured at a reasonable price.

And Cipro just got cheaper. In response to public fears over anthrax, whose bacterial spores have been spread by terrorists through the mail and have killed one person and sickened about a half-dozen others, Bayer is tripling production– from 20 million tablets a month to 200 million tablets over the next three months – and is selling pills to the government at just $1.83 each, or roughly $220 for the recommended two-a-day dosage for two months. Less than what most workers must pay for parking in central cities.

But a New York Senator, Democrat Charles Schumer, isn’t satisfied. He wants to throw out Bayer’s patent." (James K. Glassman, Tech Central Station)

"The real nature of bioterrorism" - "America's House of Representatives is due to resume business on October 23rd, after closing for several days because of concerns about anthrax contamination. A postal worker in Washington DC is now seriously ill with respiratory anthrax but there are nevertheless signs that American panic about bioterrorism is starting to subside a little." (The Economist)

"Guns in the Sky: Why James Bond Would Approve Today" - "...Since America’s airline pilots were first required to undergo body and luggage screening at airports in 1987, they’ve been unable to carry protective handguns on-board or in the cockpit. This singular vulnerability of disarmed crews made the calculations of the terrorists in Sept. 11’s tragedies less complex and far more certain of success. No one layer of protection against terrorism will ever prove enough. But more layers of protection raise the uncertainty of success and so lessens the likelihood terrorists will try to do anything." (Sallie Baliunas, Tech Central Station)

"Second Sight" - "In 1996 the legal scholar Dan Polsby wrote an essay for Reason magazine in which he suggested what might happen if the Second Amendment ever achieved "the status of normal constitutional law." Instead of arguing about whether the amendment has any practical force at all, he said, we would have to start exploring the contours of the right to keep and bear arms.

Thanks to a recent decision by a federal appeals court, that process may have begun. By declaring unambiguously that the Constitution protects an individual right to possess firearms even while upholding an exception to that right, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has invited both sides in the gun control debate to get serious." (Jacob Sullum, Reason)

"Irradiated food products still on sale" - "Health food companies have ignored a series of warnings that they are breaking the law by selling irradiated products, a report claims. Supporters of food irradiation say it is a safe way of killing harmful bugs, such as E. coli. But critics say that - like genetic modification - its effects are unproven and the technique could be used to mask poor quality food." (BBC Online)

"Food-mood link more complex than ads suggest" - "ST. LOUIS, Oct 22 - Certain foods can indeed affect our brains, and for some people dietary changes can help fight depression, but the idea that a single food can help boost everyone's mood is a vast oversimplication, according to a Florida researcher. "The idea that you can modify just one (food item) and somehow fix the whole problem is extremely naive," said Dr. Nick Hall, director of the Wellness Center at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. Speaking at the American Dietetic Association's annual meeting Sunday, Hall noted that many so-called functional foods are being touted as a means of boosting mood or helping treat depression." (Reuters Health)

"Child obesity increases in the East" - "The problem of obesity in children has spread beyond the West with Russia and China experiencing an alarming increase in the number of overweight youngsters, a new study reveals. One in four children, aged between six and 18, in the United States are now overweight or clinically obese. But the same trend has been identified in developing nations where overeating and high-fat diets among affluent children are to blame. In Russia, 16 per cent of youngsters are overweight or clinically fat and in China, seven per cent weigh too much. The research, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, comes after the World Health Organisation called for an urgent analysis of childhood obesity." (Independent)

"Ear infection linked to childhood obesity" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 22 - Parents of babies and small children with ear infections may be overfeeding them to soothe their ear discomfort, unknowingly contributing to childhood obesity, a public health official said Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting here. Dr. Mary C. Darken, of the New Orleans Health Department in Louisiana, and her colleagues decided to study the connection when they noted that many overweight children seen in city clinics had ear infections." (Reuters Health)

"Fur seals venture a little further north each year" - "Scientists researching the migratory patterns of New Zealand fur seals say their range is extending further north every year, with regular spring sightings on the mid north coast of New South Wales. National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Martin Smith says the animals seen off the Coffs-Nambucca coast are usually yearlings that have been weaned and are becoming adventurous." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

What? No hand-wringing about dreaded global cooling as these Antarctic creatures head ever closer to the equator?

"Marrakesh Talks Seen Paving Way to Kyoto Approval" - "UNITED NATIONS - A U.N. official predicted on Monday that talks beginning next week in Marrakesh, Morocco, would reach agreement on a set of rules to make the Kyoto pact on global climate change fully operational. Approval of the rules package would pave the way for governments to ratify the 1997 Kyoto treaty and bring it into force, ultimately leading to reductions in the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming." (Reuters)

"Germany's econ minister questions emission targets" - "BERLIN - German Economics Minister Werner Mueller yesterday warned against ambitious national climate targets, calling them a potential burden on the economy and security of energy supply." (Reuters)

"Latin Officials: Green Issues Eclipsed by Attacks" - "RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Environmental initiatives could be another casualty of the Sept. 11 attacks on America, Latin American officials warned on Monday. Almost 10 years after world leaders pledged to save the planet at the watershed Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the officials say few promises have been kept and those that have are losing momentum as the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan mounts." (Reuters)

"The time is ripe for edible vaccines" - "Early data from the first human trials of a potato-based edible vaccine against hepatitis B are encouraging says the vaccine's developer Hugh Mason, plant geneticist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. Unpublished data reveal promising levels of antibodies in volunteers, Mason told BioMedNet News. The commercially available, injectable vaccine for hepatitis B is expensive to produce and requires refrigeration during transport and storage. Plant vaccines are cheaper, can be grown locally, and bypass the need for needles, making them particularly suitable for use in developing countries." (BioMedNet News)

"Apec line on GE the 'way for NZ to go'" - "New Zealand farmers yesterday jumped on the Apec leaders' endorsement of biotechnology as further reason for the Government to adopt a pro-GE policy. Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson said the Apec leaders' reference to recognising the benefits of biotechnology was "a sensible conclusion." (New Zealand Herald)

"Western Canadian Farmers Growing More GM Crops" - "According to Canola Council of Canada statistics, farmers in Western Canada appear to be following the international trend of growing more genetically modified crops, with 61 per cent of the 9.9 million acre canola crop in the west this year GM, up from 55 per cent in 2000 and 53 per cent in 1999.

Joanne Buth of the Canola Council of Canada was quoted as saying, "Since the initial release of GM canola in 1996, its use has increased dramatically. We did a survey on why farmers are growing more transgenic crops and the primary reason is weed control. Both of the available varieties of GM canola are herbicide tolerant so farmers are seeing some real benefits with hard to control weeds." (The Leader-Post - Regina)

Shiva, again: "India urged to halt gene cotton field trials" - "AHMEDABAD, India - Indian environmental activists called yesterday for suspension of field trials and production of gene-modified cotton until further studies were conducted on possible health and environmental hazards. The call for a 10-year moratorium follows the detection of large-scale illegal planting of genetically modified (GM) cotton in India's western state of Gujarat. The government ordered the destruction of the GM cotton last Friday." (Reuters)

"Good Science, Not Emotion" - "LABOUR governments have always prided themselves on their willingness to innovate. When Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Cabinet make their decision on the future of genetic modification in the next few days, they should remember that tradition, and not allow themselves to be spooked by the Luddite hysteria of the Greens." (The Dominion)

"Parasitologists' puzzle: How not to kill the messenger" - "September 12 was not the best day for an international meeting, and the timing doomed a conference in London about genetically modifying vectors to control parasitic diseases. But when discussion resumes next month at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta, it will confront a critical unanswered question: When and how to test these vectors in the field." (BioMedNet News)

October 21-22, 2001

"Hoarding Cipro Won't Cure Anthrax Scare" - "Anthrax scares ignited a run on ciprofloxacin (Cipro), a drug used to treat infection. Thousands are seeking prescriptions just in case they might need it some day. Bayer, which makes Cipro, plans to increase production 25 percent. It's time for a Cipro time out. Hoarding the drug and taking it on your own is not smart, say experts on infectious disease." (Detroit News)

"Experts Say Cipro Overuse Could Lead to Problems" - "Infectious disease experts are increasingly concerned that overuse of the antibiotic Cipro by people worried about anthrax may cause a second wave of health problems. These problems include side effects for people taking the drug and the possibility that a surge in Cipro use may exacerbate bacterial resistance to the drug and undermine its usefulness in the future." (New York Times)

"Facts often obscured in uncertainty of anthrax scare" - "WASHINGTON - The facts trickled out at first, and then came downstream fast as the public tried to understand what anthrax was and how scared they should be. Much of the information has been misleading or wrong. It took more than a week for health authorities to share the stage with politicians, who typically are more willing to talk but more likely to give out inaccurate information." (AP)

"Keeping Panic at Bay" - "LOS ANGELES -- The essence of terrorism is to kill or injure opponents in ways specifically designed to cause fear, and thus to disorganize the opposing society to a degree far out of proportion to the number of victims. Whether this strategy is used in wartime or against a nation at peace, the desired effect is the same. The German V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets launched against London in 1944 killed civilians in each attack, but their psychological effect on the population was far greater than the number of dead might suggest.

We Americans are now experiencing terrorism for the first time on American soil, as well as forms of terrorism new in world history. But the phenomenon of terrorism itself is ancient. What can we learn from the past that could help us cope?" (Jared Diamond, New York Times)

"Preparing America for the Reality of Germ Warfare" - "AMERICA is overreacting. Lost in the pandemonium over the recent anthrax attacks is good news: experts say the tainted letters are easy to detect, their effects easy to treat and their origins relatively easy to trace. Simple precautions involving the delivery and opening of mail, they say, can prevent further infections with the lethal germ." (New York Times)

"This is a psychological emergency!" - "As the anthrax scare swirls about him, a panicky Allan Rock has been urging everybody to remain calm. Just about everything Mr. Rock has done and said since anthrax and bio-terrorism became hot news topics has been devoid of credibility. Yesterday, in a typical performance, he repeated his scary incantation: "I want to emphasize how important it is to keep these risks in perspective, to remain calm."

Remain calm -- but get out of the way here, this is an emergency, clear the road, we've got to stockpile drugs and we'll take them from anywhere. To hell with patents, to hell with the law. Whatever it takes. Move it!" (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

Sigh... "Drug Makers Wrestle With World's New Rules" - "WITH fears of bioterrorism growing by the day, the nation's pharmaceutical companies are facing a quandary — trying to show that they are patriots, not profiteers, even as they protect their way of doing business.

In the last two weeks, as consumers and public health officials have scrambled to procure enough antibiotics to treat anthrax, the drug industry — especially Bayer of Germany, which makes Cipro, the antibiotic most in demand to fight the disease — has had its ethics questioned.

It has watched as the patent system, the bedrock of its business, has come under renewed attack, not as something that merely causes higher drug prices but as a threat to national security itself. On Thursday, Canada said it would ignore Bayer's patent on Cipro and buy one million tablets of a generic version from another company, saying it could not be assured of getting enough from Bayer. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, has urged the American government to follow Canada's lead." (New York Times)

And drug companies will invest hundreds of millions developing new drugs and bringing them to market just so they can't make a profit on them - just like you and me eh? Actually, having just rummaged through my loose change, I seem to be short several hundreds of millions just to develop even one, so, take care of that tab would you?

"The real nature of bioterrorism" - "Although dozens of Americans have now been exposed to anthrax, only a small number of people have contracted the disease. That has not stopped alarm about bioterrorism spreading across America, and around the world. Yet the real threat may be panic, not poison or disease." (The Economist)

"The real danger from terrorists" - "Back in 1979, people all over the world were gripped with fear at the news that a space station called Skylab was about to fall out of orbit, hurtle through the atmosphere, and crash into Earth, where it might squash someone. Experts insisted that the risk was minimal, but the anxiety didn't subside.

So one entrepreneur offered a novel protective device: hats made of aluminum foil. His sales pitch was that though your chances of being hit by Skylab were low, your chances of being hit by Skylab while wearing an aluminum-foil hat were even lower.

Right now we could use some aluminum-foil hats to allay the widespread fear of being killed by terrorist mayhem. The danger is real, but judging from all available evidence, it's also very small." (Steve Chapman, Washington Times)

"Genetic clue to asthma" - "Genes could play more of a part in asthma than previously thought. A study found that identical twins were more similar in their rates of asthma than the non-identical pairs. The research, from the Institute of Psychiatry, London, suggests genetic factors are more important than environmental factors, such as air pollution in regard to asthma rates." (BBC Online) | Genes have a much greater role than environmental factors in asthma (BMJ release)

"No 'cancer explosion' predicted" - "A leading cancer expert says the perception that the world faces an enormous surge in cancer cases is misleading. Professor Julian Peto, head of Epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, was speaking at the opening of a major cancer conference in Lisbon. While the total numbers of cases was increasing, he said, this was due largely to population increase, an ageing population and the elimination of "competing diseases". He said: "Take away the cancer deaths caused by tobacco and the reality is that deaths from cancers linked to other causes are stable or falling." (BBC Online)

Worldwide Font of Nonsense cranking up the chemical hysteria: "Pesticide regulations come under fire" - "Dozens of pesticides banned by countries that consider them dangerous are legal in Canada, says the World Wildlife Fund, one of the country's largest environmental groups." (Globe and Mail)

"CO2 output up two years running" - "Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activities totaled 486.09 million tons last year, marking the second consecutive year of increase, the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) said Friday." (Japan Times)

"Environmental groups slate Liikanen over delays on EU climate package" - "Liikanen accused of kow-towing to national interests" (Helsingin Sanomat)

Dear oh dear! Fancy putting national interest before an apparently unfounded scare campaign.

"Superstorms will raise flood threat" - "BRITAIN faces a growing threat from superstorms that could bring at least 10% more rain than today's worst downpours, greatly increasing the risk of flooding. A study funded by the government and the water industry suggests that Sussex, Cornwall, south Wales and the west coast of Scotland will be worst hit. Last year more than 7,500 homes suffered flood damage." (Sunday Times)

The Week That Was October 20, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

"War Effort Pushes 'Green' Issues Aside; Environmental Groups Rethink Agenda As Nation Focuses on Anti-Terror Fight" - "For nearly five years the Environmental Protection Agency complained that air force F-16s flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Kosovo were releasing a gas that was punching holes in the Earth's ozone layer and posing a long-term threat to public health. The agency tried to persuade the Pentagon to eliminate the gas by changing the fire suppressant in the fuel tanks.

But when the Pentagon stepped up its missions over Iraq and dispatched F-16s to defend the skies over Washington and New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks, EPA officials dropped their objections and abruptly closed the case. A senior EPA official said that with the country at war with Afghanistan and battling anthrax terrorism at home, "it's not an issue worth worrying about." (Washington Post)

"Children blinded by Greenpeace!: Co-founder ready to organize protest against Greenpeace" - "Earlier this week, Greenpeace activists in Paris successfully prevented me from speaking, from Vancouver via videoconference, to 400 delegates of the European Seed Association. The Greenpeacers chained themselves to the seats in the Cine Cite Bercy auditorium and threatened to shout down the speakers. The conference organizers decided to retreat to the Sofitel Hotel, where many of them were staying. The auditorium is in a very important building and they did not want their conference to be associated with an incident there. As the Sofitel does not have videoconferencing capability, my keynote presentation was cancelled." (Patrick Moore, National Post)

"Modified bananas could deliver anthrax vaccine" - "SHANGHAI - Genetically modified fruit and other food could be used in future to deliver medicine, including a vaccine against anthrax, an Australian bio-technology fund manager said on the weekend." (Reuters)

Raining on somebody's parade? Over the weekend of September 29-30, I featured and commented on:

"Spaceguard UK opens observatory" - "Spaceguard UK, the organisation which has spent years lobbying the government to take the threat of asteroid impacts on Earth more seriously, opens its Spaceguard Centre in Knighton, Powys, on Saturday." (BBC Online)

This caused exactly two correspondents to take umbrage. One initiated a sequence of e-mails pointing out that the risk of impact from >1km diameter asteroids is assessed at 1 per 100,000 years. They also stated: "Believe it or not, but your statistical risk of dying from an asteroid impact is higher than that of dying from an airplane crash (compare that risk assessment to the billions spent on airline safety)."

Is it true? Well, not exactly. This is a statistical fudge comparing a given individual's flight risk with a planet year impact risk - sounds impressive but is irrelevant. The comparison of interest is event frequency. According to airsafe.com, there have been some 271 fatal crashes of commercial airliners since 1970 (this does not include military or private aircraft), giving an event frequency of approximately 1:42 days. Compared with a frequency of 1:36.5million days for major asteroid impact it should be fairly obvious why money is spent on addressable items such as air safety since the likelihood of someone dying from an air crash is roughly a million times greater than the chance of the sky falling on our heads.

Another correspondent wonders which of the estimated millions of items of space debris has Earth's name on it (probably lots of them - over sufficient time span). There's often talk of NEOs (Near Earth Objects) and PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Objects) and certainly they exist - have done so for millions of years. Less frequently mentioned is the infrequency of significant Earth impacts.

The same correspondent has written again highlighting: Asteroid Discoveries May Outpace Ability to Assess Threat to Earth from space.com, finding "On Oct. 8 of this year, for example, an asteroid thought to be between 50 and 100 meters in diameter zoomed by our planet at little more than twice the distance to the Moon -- a whisker by the standards of our solar system's size. The object was first detected just two days prior. Its path was determined only the day before the close encounter." most pertinent. Fair enough, they should also note from the same item: "Astronomers stress that there is almost no immediate threat that the planet will be hit. Any large asteroids bearing down on Earth would likely be discovered decades in advance, experts say. But smaller objects often go undetected and could destroy a city. And no one can say if or when a surprise impact might occur."

Now we've burrowed down to the crux of the matter - the big stuff doesn't need special projects to look for them since they're likely to be picked up by other astronomy projects and the smaller debris won't be picked up by NEO or PHA projects, at least not in time for us to do anything about it anyway.

Do I think we should be distracted from real-world risks by worrying about whether the sky is going to fall on us? Get real!

October 20, 2001

Haruspicy? "Month of birth may be linked to risk of developing Crohn's disease" - "Month of birth may be linked to the risk of developing Crohn's disease in later childhood according to a research pointer by Sorensen and colleagues. They studied the pattern of annual cyclical variation in month of birth for people who were born in Denmark and in whom Crohn's disease was diagnosed at age 20 years or younger. They found that the highest risk was in the second half of the year, which is the opposite of what has previously been reported in Britain. The authors suggest this may be because of different causal factors, such as an infective agent." (BMJ)

Relative risk (RR) less than 2.0 is no risk at all, it could easily be pure chance, in fact, esteemed epidemiologist Ernst Wynder even said that relative risks less than 3.0 are suspect ["Workshop on Guidelines to the Epidemiology of Weak Associations," Preventative Medicine, 1987, pp. 139-141]. Here, Sørensen, et al, report a pathetically weak statistical association [RR 1.30 (95% CI 1.04-1.55)] between Crohn's Disease (CD) and birth month in the second half of the year. Last year, Haslam, et al [Gut, 47:801-803], after trawling UK data, quite correctly noted:

... There were marginal differences between the birth dates of the CD patients and those predicted from the general population. Further analysis of both season of birth and year halves revealed a very weak association with the first half of the year [RR 1.14 (95% CI 1.01-1.30)]. There was no association between developing CD and birth during measles epidemics between 1951 and 1967.
CONCLUSIONS: In utero or perinatal exposure to seasonal environmental factors are unlikely potential aetiological agents in the later development of CD.

And there you have it. There is no hemispheric difference between seasons in the UK and Norway and, given the amount of human movement within the region, no plausible difference in exposure to infective agents. Studies conducted either side of the North Sea find associations, albeit weak ones, between CD and birth month in opposing halves of the year. Haslam, et al, note the unlikelihood of seasonality being a factor, which tells you all you need to know about the featured item.

Readers not understanding relative risk factors should see Steve Milloy's new book: Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams for everything you need to know but were afraid to ask about this sort of nonsense. Just why BMJ gave the featured item print space is a mystery.

See also Number Watch (October 2001) for additional coverage.

Uh-oh... "Cancer death shock for breast screening" - "Mammography screening for breast cancer does not prevent deaths and should not be recommended, according to an exhaustive international review by high-ranking researchers. Their conclusion upsets the basis for one of the most costly and widespread public health programs in the developed world. And it has ignited a slanging match, including an allegation that the world's most prestigious medical research organisation tried to censor the results." (Sydney Morning Herald) | Analysis: Mammograms Don't Cut Cancer Death Risk (Washington Post) | Cochrane review on screening for breast cancer with mammography | Associated Commentary (The Lancet)

Whoops! Someone's gravy train getting a little wobbly? "Cancer council encourages women to ignore Danish research" - "Australian women have been warned to ignore Danish research which claims breast x-ray screening programs do not save lives. The warning comes from the Cancer Council of Australia." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Who hates the drug industry now?" - "Now that everyone on Capitol Hill is popping antibiotic Cipro pills like they were Altoid mints, it is worth reminding our prescription-clutching public servants that their precious drugs don't grow on government trees. Somebody in the private sector invented these miracle products. Somebody invested in them. Somebody tested them, somebody manufactured them, and somebody jumped through years of regulatory hoops to get FDA approval for them." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"Venison probably not to blame for brain disease" - "NEW YORK, Oct 19 - When three young adults who regularly ate deer or elk meat developed a fatal brain-wasting disease that usually strikes much older people, public-health officials became concerned that the patients might have contracted the disease from animals. But when researchers scrutinized the three cases, they did not find strong evidence to prove that the disease passed from elk and deer to humans, according to a report in the October issue of the journal Archives of Neurology." (Reuters Health)

"Inquiries launched into BSE blunder" - "There has been scathing criticism of UK Government scientists checking for possible BSE in sheep after they admitted they had carried out their tests on cattle brains by mistake. The Food Standards Agency said it was stunned by the blunder and called for more research. However, it also insisted that all current evidence suggested British lamb was safe to eat." (BBC Online) | Labour 'buried report of BSE inquiry' (Independent) | Beckett in firing line over brains fiasco | Worry over giving lamb to children (The Times)

"Conflicting data on asthma-obesity link: studies" - "NEW YORK, Oct 19 - The rising rates of asthma among children in affluent nations have perplexed scientists, who have blamed everything from declining rates of breast feeding to greater exposure to cigarette smoke and other pollutants. Now, two new reports in the November issue of Thorax offer conflicting conclusions about the role of body weight, another possible risk factor for the disease." (Reuters Health)

Today's mercury hysteria: "Link between d