VACCINE PR CAMPAIGN
The new year began with a well coordinated campaign against vaccine safety activists, with articles lambasting critics in the Washington Post and New York Times. With front page headlines, the British Medical Journal published an editorial written by a freelance journalist alleging “elaborate fraud” by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield—who found the measles virus in the guts of autistic children, thus linking the condition with vaccinations—even though other scientists had made similar findings. CNN spent an unprecedented thirty three minutes of uninterrupted coverage reporting on the British Medical Journal editorial, even though it contained nothing new except an array of allegations. This media onslaught was coordinated with the launch of two new books, Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-vaccine Movement Threatens Us All and Seth Mnookin’s Panic Virus about the same topic and then followed with coordinated TV appearances by Bill Gates and Paul Offit on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report.” In addition, Salon.com retracted Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s 2005 article, “Deadly Immunity.” A January article in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The Age-Old Struggle against the Antivaccinationists,” described those who oppose vaccines as “simply ignorant about science (or ‘innumerate’—unable to understand and incorporate concepts of risk and probability into science-grounded decision making) to a radical fringe element who use deliberate mistruths, intimidation, falsified data and threats of violence in efforts to prevent the use of vaccines and silence critics.”—a wonderful example of the pot calling the kettle black (New England Journal of Medicine, January 13, 2011, 97-99). This massive propaganda campaign coincided with an international meeting held in Montego Bay, Jamaica January 3-8 to discuss current vaccine science and policy safety concerns. Delegates from around the world included senior scientists and physicians, editors of scientific journals, experts in vaccine regulation, social science and health policy, consumer child health advocates, legal experts and members of the media. The meeting was held in response to acknowledged significant increases in immune and inflammatory diseases in children and adults ranging from asthma and neurodevelopmental disorders to the emergence of previously rare but serious autoimmune health conditions during the past three decades. The concern of delegates paralleled those of 89 percent of recently polled parents in the U.S., who place vaccine safety as their number one medical research priority, while health consumers in other developed countries are also questioning vaccine science and policy. Representatives of federal agencies responsible for vaccine regulation, promotion, and safety declined to attend even though they were invited over two months prior to the meeting—enough time for them to organize an vaccination media campaign. (For more information about speakers and presentations, visit www.vaccinesafetyconference.com.) Just recently, new evidence has emerged showing a financial arrangement between Merck and the British Medical Journal and The Lancet whereby these publications provide “educational services” for Merck, which manufactures the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. This financial arrangement at the very least constitutes a serious conflict of interest and at the worst renders them virtual mouthpieces for Merck corporate policy, not the prestigious independent peer-reviewed journals they purport to be.
Tufts nutrition professor Alice Lichtenstein has sided with the food processing industry throughout her career. In a recent press release, Lichtenstein declares that it is fine to reformulate real foods like meat and milk into lowfat versions “because you are focusing specifically on taking out saturated fat. But for other products such as cookies and brownies, it’s not that useful.” In other words, it’s okay for consumers to consume lots of industrial fats and oils in baked goods, but not the natural fats in cheese and meat. When the industry removes the fat from processed foods, they usually need to replace it with refined carbohydrates—manufacturers are also looking into replacing fat with protein. “Lowfat” is too simplistic a message, says Lichtenstein. Reformulation of high-fat foods is not always appropriate (www.foodnavigator.com, February 18, 2011).
Small changes in consumer eating habits can add up to large headaches for the food industry. The MasterChef series in Australia, which has aired many recipes featuring copious amounts of butter, led to a 9.3 percent increase in the sale of butter in 2009 and the Diet Dictocrats are not happy. “MasterChef could be slowly killing off its audience,” warned the Australian Heart Foundation. The agency is pleading with chefs, magazine editors and celebrity cooks to use margarine in their recipes instead of butter. “When we ask people what’s the reason for using butter,” says Susan Anderson, healthy weight director for the Heart Foundation, “they say it’s because that’s what the recipe says.” Butter is bad, she says, because it contains more saturated fat, more salt and more trans fat than margarine—thus tarring the natural and healthy trans fats in butter with the black brush of industrial trans fats. “Simply using margarine instead of butter on your toast could eliminate almost 3 kg of saturated fat from your diet in a year,” Anderson said (The Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2010).
Elizabeth Buhler, the oldest Canadian, recently died just before her 112th birthday. Born in Ukraine in 1899, she emigrated to Canada with her husband where they worked a Manitoba farm. News reports credit her long life to her cheerful, positive attitude and “a deep desire to help others.” But she obviously consumed farm food most of her life and continued to the end in some “guilty pleasures,” including one that concerned her doctors—she ate lard. “Lard is always bad,” said her doctors.
So many dietary myths out there!
The Weston A. Price Foundation will confront the myths
that cholesterol, saturated fat and salt are bad, and that
high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified foods
are safe, at Wise Traditions 2011.
GOVERNMENT PUSH FOR GE CROPS
The Obama administration has endorsed genetically engineered agriculture on more than fifty national wildlife refuges, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new plan is designed to insulate refuges from environmental court challenges in the wake of a lawsuit recently won by PEER and other groups which halted GE agriculture in all Northeastern refuges. The plan includes thirty-one refuge units across eight midwestern states, twenty-five refuge units in twelve southeastern states and an unspecified number in the Rocky Mountain region. This follows USDA’s decision to plow ahead with deregulation of GE Roundup Ready alfalfa despite being informed of serious health concerns in the first genetically engineered perennial crop.
Meanwhile, Don Huber, a veteran soil scientist from Purdue University, has written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning of a newly identified pathogen linked to the herbicide Roundup that might be implicated in livestock fertility problems, as well as diseased corn and soybean crops. Huber coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System. According to Huber, the “electron microscopic pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings” and likely is connected to glyphosate, the major ingredient in Roundup. Huber described the pathogen as appearing to be a micro-fungal organism found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distiller’s meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas. He said laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. “The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20 percent, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45 percent. . . We have veterinarians very concerned about enough animals, just replacement animals, for our beef and dairy herds.”
MAD SOY DISEASE
“Mad Soy Disease” has been spreading in Brazil, causing yield losses of up to 4 percent, most notably in the states of Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Goias. The prime suspect for spreading the disease is a black mite found in stubble when soybean is grown in no-till, Roundup Ready-dependent production systems. The disease delays the maturation of infected plants indefinitely; the plants remain green until they eventually rot in the field. Pods that do form are abnormal, with fewer beans (www.i-sis-.org.uk/madSoyDiseaseStrikesB razil,php). Brazil has 24 million hectares planted in soybeans, three-quarters of which are genetically engineered. Scientists are scrambling for a pesticide to solve the problem, ignoring the real solution, which is pasture-based meat production. Poor results of the Brazil soy crop are undoubtedly a factor in soaring food commodities prices, although you are unlikely to read about this in the major newspapers.
The idea is so horrendous, one cannot imagine anyone taking it seriously. But in early January, George Lundberg, MD, editor of MedPage Today wrote a serious opinion piece entitled “Should We Put Statins in the Water Supply?” This follows a call, in May 2008, by renowned cardiologist Professor Mahendra Varma, for adding statins to drinking water. This in the teeth of a new Cochrane review, which examined data from fourteen different drugs trials involving thirty-four thousand subjects and found evidence of “short-term memory loss, depression and mood swings,” in statin takers, which in the past had been deliberately undervalued by the drug companies funding the research. Statins have also been linked to greater risk of liver dysfunction, acute kidney failure, cataracts and muscle damage. Statins in drinking water would be imbibed by young women of childbearing age making them at greater risk of spontaneous abortions or producing offspring with abnormalities. Cholesterol-lowering drugs in drinking water would bring us closer to the Brave New World described by Aldous Huxley: “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods.” Fortunately, you can’t fool all the people all of the time.
FIGHT BAC ATTACK?
A key part of the U.S. government’s “Fight Bac” campaign involves the use of anti-bacterial soaps—dispensers can be found in schools, offices and airports. Some hotels even supply packets of antibacterial wipes for guests to use before touching the telephone! But the FDA has acknowledged that the antibacterial chemical triclosan, used in these soaps, is no more effective than regular soap and water at preventing infections. The agency also expressed concern about the development of antibiotic resistance from using antibacterial products and triclosan’s potential long-term health effects. What’s more, animal studies have shown that triclosan can interfere with hormones critical for normal development and function of the brain and reproductive system, resulting in altered behavior, learning disabilities or infertility. Not limited to antibacterial soaps, triclosan can be found in some body washes, shaving creams, powders, makeup, toothpastes and other products (http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/04/08-5). FDA has said it will be moving forward on additional regulatory action in the future, but gave no indication of that it would abandon its “Fight Bac” campaign in favor promoting superfoods that build natural immunity, like raw milk and cod liver oil.
As fear of saturated fat sinks ever deeper into the collective consciousness, a meta-analysis of prospective studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jamuary, 2010) found no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease or coronary vascular disease. This finding has not deterred food manufacturers from their continued efforts to replace saturated fats in food products, even when the lowfat alternatives are more expensive. According to a food industry report, since 2005, United Biscuits of the UK has renovated its snacks and biscuit recipes to reduce the levels of saturated fat, a project that has cost about twenty million pounds. Efforts to reduce saturated fat profiles has centered on switching to “healthier” oils such as sunflower oil instead of palm oil. This has given the industry the desired results in snack foods but a desirable result, low in saturated fat, for biscuits was “significantly more challenging.” Nestle has worked at reducing overall fat content of its products; the company aims to work for “a global saturated fat reduction policy” in which “food and beverage products containing high levels of fat and/or saturated fat will be required to undergo a reduction in these nutrients.” (FoodNavigator.com, February 21, 2011).
DIET FOR VIOLENCE
The new dietary guidelines translate into severe restriction of fats, especially saturated fat, in school lunches, but no restrictions on sweeteners. Children receive highly sweetened breakfast cereal, sugar-laden baked goods, fruit in heavy syrup and flavored milks—which contain as much sugar as soft drinks, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. A study out of the U.K. indicates just what we can expect from feeding children this way. The Cardiff University study involving over seventeen thousand people found that ten-year-olds who ate sweets and chocolates daily were significantly more likely to have a violence conviction by age thirty-four. The study found that 69 percent of the participants who were violent at the age of thirty-four had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42 percent who were nonviolent. The link between sugar consumption and later aggression remained even after controlling for other factors, such as parenting behavior, the area where the child lived, and not having educational qualifications after the age of sixteen. According to Dr. Simon Moore, study head, “Our favored explanation is that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want.” A better explanation is that regular consumption of sweets leads to undernourishment of the areas of the brain involved in impulse control (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8281147.stm).