Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

Does the Mayan Calendar Predict the End of the World?

By William Olkowski, PhD. 9.22.12

I heard the Spindrift broadcast, on Thursday 9:30 am to 10:00 on 91.9 FM, and found it lively, informative and knowledgeable.  I learned that the peak of Mayan civilization was about 910 AD, when Europe was in the midst of the dark ages.  This Mayan civilization ran from 850 BC to 1050 AD, a period of over 1000 years.  Comparatively, this was a good run by an isolated people living out of jungle ecosystems with only underground fresh water cisterns for drinking and crop irrigation.

The mythological end of the world is said to be near the end of December this year.  But as is commonly discovered with such prophecies this one is illusory.   In this case the prophecy is merely the end of their calendar records.  This so called prophecy is based on a speculative interpretation of one major surviving monument. The speculation is a an evidence stretcher due to several factors, particularly a hazy interpretation of one surviving monument.  This momument, like the whole group of structures was hidden by jungle overgrowth until the early 20th century.

The discovery of the amazing structures hidden by jungle overgrowth for a thousand years created a sensation at first and many people still are transfixed by so many great stone buildings and temples arising out of the jungle. The pyramid-like structures were rediscovered and restored by intrepid archaeologists and rugged adventurers.  New discoveries are still happening as more recovery and interpretive work is done.

Mayan monuments are called steles and were the focus of a long term decoding project by many scholars around the world. The monuments are limestone upright 4 x 6 feet structures which report on various dynasties, with records of battles, births and deaths of kings, and their families.  The glyphs displayed on these steels and buildings seemed to be Egyptian-like at first but were based on a novel language/symbol system which defied decoding for many decades.  They were finally decoded in the late 1900s. Most of the glyphs document various dynasties, roughly each about 400 years.

The written records of the civilization are largely lost due to one Spanish padre who took it upon himself to burn all 20,000 written codexes.  This is the sort of standard genocidal efforts made by the Catholic church and other conquerors on other civilizations around the world. Only three codexes survived. They were written on fig bark papers.  This catastrophe occurred during the brutal Spanish occupation in 1562.

The Mayans had two calendar systems one based on a 28 day cycle (moon), the other a 60 day cycle, the later believed is believed to  be modeled on the Venus annual circumnavigation of the sun.  An alternative explanation for the 60 day cycle is the period of maze development.

Jeanine Kitchel’s book  “Maya 2012 Revealed, Demystifying the Prophecy” promises to be a great read.  Kitchel informs us that the Mayans are still with us at 7 million strong spread out in a different Central American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, etc).  After the civilization crashed mysteriously the people scattered into the jungles where they carried on the same rituals and customs developed during their heyday.

The end date speculation is based on rather limited evidence, mostly from a broken Steele, the pieces of which were scattered in Europe andMexico. The paper and photo recreation of this steel is interpreted as announcing an end date because is reads something like: “God will descend after 13 periods (which was interpreted to mean the end of December this year); and then, there was to be a renewal.”

Commentary:

I like the idea of a renewal, it’s sort of promises a bright future for a world community.  This is something vitally needed today, but I hope not maintained by force of arms and bloody wasteful wars as our history so tragically documents. The Mayans are believed to have lost their cities about 1000 AD from a 200 year drought.

We in North America are now in a severe drought year (and trend) with large scale wildfires, dropping water levels and threatened farmers.  Drought and climate change is of vital interest today. Can we learn something from the Mayans? We don’t have a jungle to retreat into, however.  Lots of questions here that a 30 minute program cannot conceivably cover. Read the book for further details and maybe some guidance on survival.

Ice core data and other collaborating evidence shows that a long term drough sometimes lasting a 1,000 years or more occurred repeatedly in human history.  One of such long term drought almost snuffed out our species as it wandered North from Southern Africa.  Such a period can be triggered by climate change in as short 3 years.

end comment

Spindrift is hosted by Marika Davidek on 91.9 FM on the UC Santa Barbara campus (KCSB).  See the program announcement on the authors biographical notes and program description on the station website.

 

Dead Yesterday, Unborn Tomorrow,…

PAST, FUTURE AND TODAY

A Musing to Self.

By William Olkowski, PhD,  7.15.12.

Apologies to Omar Khayyam but …

this is how I remember the quote:

“Dead yesterday, unborn tomorrow,

Who cares, if today be sweet.”

I have been thinking about these lines ever since I read it.

Sure today is where the senses detect the world around each of us.

And sure, we all make whatever we will of that sensory information.

And if today be sweet who needs the past and who has time to muse about the future.  Today is where the action is.

BUT,

While I live all who I can remember live again and again as I recall them.

Sure, what I make of these memories can change and even be improved as time passes and that is interesting.  That makes even a bad experience useful, sometimes.  And sure, the past is gone, so all the more reason to live today for that is all we have, ultimately.

BUT,

Without a past, no learning is possible.  Yes, one can learn something new each day, maybe a new mix of colors, or to find a new great paint brush, even meet a new friend, which can change your life.   They can all be important.  But the past is always present, whether you recall it or not.  Its part of who you are.  Its part of who I am anyway.  Who can forget the beauties of living?  Why forget them if they can live again and again.  It’s easy to forget bad things sometimes, sort of as a deliberate act of neglect.  It’s probably a good thing too.  Why carry garbage around, why not recycle it into something useful?

BUT,

To live without a future means  you are dead already.  Plant a tree and die if you have to.  Seeds in the ground can sprout without you.  Seeds into trees leave a memory for friends.  Who planted that tree?  Someone may ask.  I will say, I did and I didn’t care who gets the fruit.  An old teacher told me: “There is no limit to the good a person can accomplish if he/she does not care who gets the credit.”  It was directed at me, I thought erroneously, but that memory popped up while I was musing about the BIG THREE today.  The Big Three, The Past, The Future and Today are intertwined; we separate them with our words, which divide up inner perceptions for focus.  It’s OK to focus as long as you remember that all three make up a life.  And as for credit, well we can see by our fiscal disaster all can be wiped out in a flash, just like your life.

So,

Like Woody Allen also says: “Whatever Works” to give some modest pleasure, grab it, cultivate it, see it for what it is, and be happy.  For this is all there is.  All life is in your hands, heart and mind.  Sing about it, paint it, mold it, store it, laugh with it all, love it all, for when you are gone, there’s nothing.  Emptiness will descend, and cover all your dreams and thoughts.  This everlasting vast moonscape will not know you or your thoughts and dreams.

“So tear your pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life;  and though you cannot make it stand still,  we will make it run.  (Another apology to Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), from To His Coy Mistress).

Khayyám at work:

 

 

HOMOPHOBIA AND THE BOY SCOUTS.

HOMOPHOBIA AND THE BOY SCOUTS OFAMERICA

By William Olkowski, posted 9.14.12

The Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its exclusion of known homosexual men from membership and as volunteer teachers.  As a former Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow, an honorary membership organization within the Boy Scouts, I am disgusted with the ignorance of the executive committee about a natural phenomenon.

Homosexuality is a natural phenomena and it is vitally needed now that our population is too high.  Homosexuals don’t have their own kids, but can help raise other people’s kids. Cutting out such people from being volunteers over the fear of pedophilia is unreasonable.  If that is the source of the fear of homosexuality it would be good to exclude all Catholics judging by the vast number of legal actions taken against the many priests of the Catholic church.

The following is excerpted from Wikipedia and tells a great deal more about homosexuality than any Christian church or any of its priests, ministers or church leaders.  Theology is not a good source for explaining natural phenomena.  This exclusion of a minority of citizens of the US is undemocratic, something the BSA should reaffirm.  Are we going to be a democracy or a theocracy?  If it’s to be theocracy get ready for the fight of our lives as history tells horrible stories about such conflicts.

Our country was founded on the separation of church and state largely because of the ferocious conflicts at that time from competing religious belief systems.  They are all divisive; each thinks they have the direct word from God, so they can’t all be right.  In fact, I think they are all wrong.  So, I can’t be proud to be a former boy scout and I say good riddance.  But I do so reluctantly as my memories were formative for me.   But I can see now what used to be a fine experience for young boys being changed into another religious institution.  We already have too many religious institutions; we need a secular non-demonized democratic educational organization with an emphasis on camping and knowledge of the natural world, just as its originator desired.

Homosexual behavior in animals refers to the documented evidence of homosexual and bisexual behavior in various (non-human) species. Such behaviors include sexcourtshipaffectionpair bonding, and parenting among same sex animals. A 1999 review by researcher Bruce Bagemihl shows that homosexual behavior has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them.[1][2] Animal sexual behaviour takes many different forms, even within the same species. The motivations for and implications of these behaviors have yet to be fully understood, since most species have yet to be fully studied.[3] According to Bagemihl, “the animal kingdom [does] it with much greater sexual diversity – including homosexual, bisexual and nonreproductive sex – than the scientific community and society at large have previously been willing to accept.”[4] Current research indicates that various forms of same-sex sexual behavior are found throughout the animal kingdom.[5] A new review made in 2009 of existing research showed that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species.[6]Homosexual behavior is best known from social species. According to geneticist Simon Levay in 1996, “Although homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.[7] One species in which exclusive homosexual orientation occurs, however, is that of domesticated sheep (Ovis aries).[8][9] “About 10% of rams (males) refuse to mate with ewes (females) but do readily mate with other rams.”[9]

The observation of homosexual behavior in animals can be seen as both an argument for and against the acceptance of homosexuality in humans, and has been used especially against the claim that it is a peccatum contra naturam (‘sin against nature’).[1] For instance, homosexuality in animals was cited in the United States Supreme Court‘s decision in Lawrence v. Texas which struck down the sodomy laws of 14 states.[10]

 

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RESPONSIBLE RESPONSE TO WEST NILE VIRUS.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE WEST NILE VIRUS SITUATION?

By William Olkowski, PhD. 9.14.12

Part of this report was aired on 91.9 FM, KCFM, on the University of Santa Barbara, CA, on 9.6.12. This update was created on 9.14.12.

It’s a simple formula: The more fear the less knowledge, and the corollary is also true: More Knowledge Less Fear.  This relationship occurs again and again across many issues.  Today we have a great example in the  West Nile Virus disaster and today our main story is this formula and how it applies to understanding how best to manage West Nile Virus.

First Some Facts:

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, different species in different areas

West Nile Virus was first found in theUSin 1999, and has since spread across the US.

The virus reservoir is birds, possibly horses and probably other wild species.

The origin is believed to be Africa.

WNV, was introduced to US, in 1999, probably in an infected bird.

Most cases are mild and undetected.

Old sick people mostly die from this disease; everybody else has probably been exposed and has at worse mild flue like symptoms if they exhibit at all.

In all cases of reported disease occurrence one must account for improved monitoring and reporting before assuming rising case numbers indicate an epidemic.  The word epidemic should be reserved for epidemics.

===========

Like all invading organisms the first reactions are severe because the natural systems which would normally stop or reduce the invader are compromised or the invader is preadapted for exploitation in the new ecosystem.

=============

From CDC website:

Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in theUnited Stateshave been reported as getting sick withWest Nilevirus. Infected mosquitoes spreadWest Nilevirus (WNV) that can cause serious, life altering disease.

201 2 West Nile Virus Update: as of August 21, 2012.

Thus far in 2012, 47 states have reportedWest Nilevirus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1118 cases ofWest Nilevirus disease in people, including 41 deaths, have been reported to CDC. Of these, 629 (56%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 489 (44%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 1118 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the third week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in theUnited Statesin 1999. Approximately 75 percent of the cases have been reported from 5 states (Texas,Mississippi,Louisiana,South Dakota, andOklahoma) and almost half of all cases have been reported fromTexas.

  • Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
  • wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.

==============

When a new invader is identified is when the first level of FEAR originates.  The FEAR is well founded as people who are stricken and die do so in a terrible manner.  But as ecosystem and health responses developed to the invading virus, things get better.  These natural factors do not usually fix the problems from the invader but lessen its impacts.  Time is needed for adequate responses to develop. This view is confirmed by a long series of invading organisms.  Some further background on mosquito control:

Throughout theUSalmost every county has a mosquito abatement district.  These are called MADs, a curious acronym to be sure, but it’s not mad to have these public agencies.  They were developed when the country was heavily beset with malaria, which was eliminated back in the 1940s and 1950s.  This is, by the way, an example of publically supported pest control which has paid massive dividends by first eliminating malaria and subsequently helped control various other pests like biting flies, rats and mice, and in some places snakes and other wildlife.  Do not fall prey to those who want to reduce government spending wholesale as this sort of simplistic thinking will certainly chop indiscriminantly MAD budgets.  With lower budgets for MADs the real effect will be loss of trained personnel resulting in more wholesale spraying.  Wholesale aerial applications will kill many things besides mosquitoes.  And such spraying will kill many species that eat mosquitoes.

Recently, the news was full of a large scale aerial spraying for WNV inTexasaround theDallasarea.  Something like 20 or so deaths occurred with a few hundred cases when aerial spraying was started on over 50,000 acres.

Now, as any good MAD manager knows aerial spraying is a last ditch approach to managing mosquitoes.  In the old days when I was a kid we used to have regular DDT fogging during mosquito season.  Us kids used to run through the fog, we thought it was fun.  I am glad today when people are alarmed about aerial spraying as it is probably ineffective, but ignorant political types want to do something to help out and this tactic is easy as there are always people who want to spray.

Today, being much wiser, MAD managers know that the first line of defense is what is called source reduction.  This means having inspectors respond to public calls about excessive mosquito numbers, they go out and find mosquito breeding sources and treat those before adults emerge to begin biting people.  Female mosquitoes bite for the protein rich blood source we and other animals provide.  Female mosquitoes do the biting so they can produce eggs as the protein is vital.  The males feed on flowers.

I joke that the males in characteristic fashion get all the perks.  They don’t have to brave a host who may swat them and do all the hard work to propagate the next generation.

End joke.  Its hard to imply a joke via just the written word so that is why I have made this ending.

So I wondered why aerial spraying was chosen and suspected something was amiss.

Recent reports fromHoustonindicate that the city has now made the effort to install a very competent IPM type program, emphasizing house inspections, trapping and virus sampling of mosquitoes, and spot treatments, along with ground treatment of known infested areas.  The question of just what is happening about the large scale aerial spraying has not been seen in the news since then.

==========

Large scale spraying kills all sorts of living things, to say nothing about effects on humans.  So any large scale pesticide applications must include public assessments to obtain permissions.  It’s our right to know, especially if we are to be subject to a mass spraying episode.  Whether it is worthwhile to treat such a large area, and if this is the best way to approach this situation are two questions which need answers before going further should be provided to the public.

So what can be done now.  First we need to get SMART, and that is not the name of an old spy TV comedy but an educational and communication challenge.  Knowledge pushes against FEAR.  Mo

Knowledge and Fear are Inversely Associated

Knowledge means less FEAR, and less FEAR means rational thought can gain an entry to decision making.

To control mosquitoes means reduce their numbers before they become pestiferous.  Spraying late is what we call REVENGE TREATMENTS.  It is not desirable and impossible to eliminate all mosquitoes as they are key elements in many, many food chains.  Fisherman know that fish eat mosquito larvae – also called wigglers. Fish would starve without mosquitoes as food.  Frogs, birds, toads, bats, dragon flies, all sorts of things feed on mosquitoes.  Indiscriminate killing mosquitoes, as with large scale aerial attacks, kills these beneficial organisms and guess what, this makes things worse.  Education about the biology of the natural world must come first in managing mosquito problems.

Next is teaching people to avoid mosquito bites.  This can be done by inspecting homes to find water sources, close holes in window screens, fix screened doors to exclude the little biters, and use repellents when going out at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes like to bite.  This requires detailed attention, certainly possible, but more difficult than ordering a massive aerial spraying program.

When I was a mosquito inspector around WilmingtonDelaware, after graduating college back in the 1960s we were always finding mosquito breeding sources on people’s property.  We were responding to complaints, which usually took the form of “It’s the creek, pond, or some other nearby water body that is the problem”.  But a careful walk around the house and property would find, old tires, kids toys, and other containers, bad drainage areas harboring small bodies of water after rains, clogged gutters, unfilled tree holes, etc., right on the property.

Cemeteries were one of our favorite places to search for flower urns as people put flowers on graves with a few cups of water to keep the flowers fresh longer.  It was tedious work and we usually did an hour or so and quit after finding a few.  One such container can produce thousands of mosquito larvae and the adults can fly, sometimes a mile or so, even longer distances.  An old abandoned outhouse was a great source, millions and millions, like stars in the universe, can populate the local universe for months until discovered.

So there’s a rational way to go about mosquito control and then there’s the wayTexaswas going, but now appears to have changed direction.  My Fear, until further knowledge surfaces, is that many other cities and states will react just like the pesticide companies want.  Shoot first and ask questions later.  But now with thisTexasexample, the way to fight WNV intelligently seems to be developing.  This is good news.  Good news seldom sells papers.

I am watching the Texas struggle and will continue reporting on it.

Some New Thoughts on the WNV Situation

Since writing the above I have continued to log onto WN news via Google searches.  Now I am developing another idea which still needs further work, requiring interviews with people on the ground, so to speak.  I have my experiences and attitudes and opinions and just how these hold up against realities needs further checking.  With that reservation here is my new thought.

West Nile Virus is now endemic in the US.  That means there is a smoldering but tiny fire going that occasionally flares up.  The reports of a few people dying here and there over theUS, means the public health system is working just right.  We are getting reports of infections, mortalities and cases.  Great.  The trouble may be with the media and how this phenomena is  being reported to a widely ignorant fearful audience.  Why do I say this?

Consider the fact that each year an average of 36,000 people die of common flu.  In comparison, that mortality rate is hundreds of times higher than WNV.  Yet, WNV is new and everybody pays attention to new things, especially if you can die from contracting the disease.  We all know that mosquitoes carry the virus.  We then assume the main problem is mosquitoes and therefore go about killing them with as much as money, time, and intelligence we can  muster.

An alternative view is that since WNV kills mostly old, infirm and compromised individuals it may be that these old sick people just get an WNV infection and it pushes them over easily. Or they had it as a mild infection but something else pushes them into fatal disease.

Meanwhile excessive spraying makes the real situation worse as it damages whatever forces exist to reduce mosquito populations.  Just why and who is dying needs to be understood.  Read the best source about WNV, which is on Wikepaedia.  Its better than the write up on the CDC website.  It has the history and from that information it is clear that WNV infections are normally mild, widespread and mostly benign, certainly tolerable, like a mild case of the flu.  This view is contrary to fanning the flames, adding fuel to a smoldering fire, as the media is wont.

With such a view what can be added to a treatment program?  Yes, mosquitoes must be managed, but not in a helter skelter manner spraying thousands of acres because two people die who are near death anyway.  It’s a waste all around and can make things worse.  Prventative work is needed by trained people who understand the biology of mosquitoes.  Publically supported systems need augmenting and oversight.  Forget cutting governent programs, better to redesign them to function better.  We need government, but maybe less foreign military action.

Next I want to interject a systems view which is usually difficult for most to understand.  If old compromised people are mostly the victims, just how they acquire the infections needs to be understood.  Are they alone and people rush to their help after things have already gotten hopeless? What could be done to prevent the conditions which predispose such people to the virus, in addition to mosquito control?  Why are their immune systems compromised? Is it HIV, other virus systems, hypertension, etc.  These other causal factors need focus and treatment.  Old trees die from multiple accumulations of conditions and pathogens.  The pathogen is easier to understand.

And then part of this analysis is what can be done to improve their immune systems?  Here traditional medicine fails as their focus is primarily on use of drugs, which in the largest view are similar to pesticides as they are mostly molecules which interfere with various biochemical processes.  Consider the suffix added to most drugs: “anti”.  For example, antihypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-coagulants, etc.  It seems we know gobs about how to stop and slow things down, but not how to improve immune systems.  Certainly anything which interferes with our immune response should be suspect.

Now comes a fact which could illuminate some dark places.  GMO crops are reported to affect the immune system.  This is not so far fetched as it may seem.  There are reports of massive increases in allergies when GMO soybeans were introduced into the UK.  If true, and I believe Jeffrey Smith (Genetic Roulette, 2007) then we have something we can alter.  We don’t need anything in our diets with such a threat, especially as it is unnecessary.  We can produce all the food we need without GMO crops, notwithstanding the lie campaign developing from the GMO companies with their massive bank accounts.

In any case all the toxicants humans in the US are exposed to in their foods, and their daily environments need to be examined.  Remember you can’t see toxicants with the naked eye, you have to see it with your mind.  In contract, nuclear disasters are visible, and so is climate change, toxicants are the most difficult to understand.

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SEEDS, TYPES, WHY WORRY, and Heirloom Seeds.

Notes for a radio broadcast on 91.9FM, KCSB,

9.13.12, program Spindrift, 9:30 am PST.

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

BY Marika Davidek and William Olkowski, PhD. 9.13.12

Announcements

This quote is by the political philosopher, George Kennan, (from the biography by Ronald Seal, 2004).

THERE IS NOTHING IN MAN’S PLIGHT that his vision, IF HE CARED TO CULTIVATE IT, could not alleviate.  THE CHALLENGE IS TO SEE WHAT COULD BE DONE, and then to have the heart AND THE RESOLUTION TO ATTEMPT IT.”

Please keep this quote in mind as we explore the subject of seeds in today’s broadcast.

WHY ARE WE SELECTING SEEDS FOR TODAY’S PROGRAM?

The GMO companies, led by Monsanto have taken over 67% of the world’s supply of seed.

This means that most of the seed sources for most of the world’s food is in corporate hands, and we have no control over these companies.

This is direct threat to the world’s food supply.

1) SEEDS ARE THE ULTIMATE SOURCES OF OUR FOOD and Food SUSTAINS OUR LIVES,  and,

2) WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THESE CORPORATIONS.

Two aspects are important with these facts:

1) Why is this happening?  and,

2) What about the remaining 1/3rd of the world’s seeds?

1) Why is this take over happening?

LET ME EXPLAIN:

The attempted take over of the commercial seed industry has only occurred recently and is primarily aimed at pushing Genetically Modified Seeds.  This is done by monopolizing all seed sources available to farmers, but only selling the GMO seeds.  The farmers who don’t participate are sued when the pollens from the genetically altered crops are blown onto their crops which then become contaminated.  These contaminated crops are then subject to patent law infringement and the farmer is sued.  This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate farmers by threat so they will only buy GMO seeds.

Certainly this is an unethical practice, but if you have only money in mind, ethics will always be dammed.

For thousands of years seeds have been passed from generation to generation ever since the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago.

So, today, the corporate policy of about 10 companies controls the largest proportion of the world’s seed and thus the main proportion of the world’s food supply.  And these companies are polluting the human food supply with strange genes never before found in most foods. This is an unprecedented TAKE OVER FOR THE sole PURPOSE OF MAKING MONEY FOR THESE COMPANIES.  We were doing fine before these companies existed.

THESE COMPANIES use GENETIC technology to pollute the sources of the human life everywhere.

IN THE PAST SUCH MONOPOLIES WERE BROKEN UP BY GOVERNMENT ACTION.  TODAY, with deregulation being the zeitgeist, such action cannot be expected for the foreseeable future.

Let me explain further with some botanical facts.

A seed is the result of a pollination process which is a sexual means of reproduction.  Sexual reproduction is a genetic means for suppressing mutations and for creating variation without mutations.  Most mutations are deadly.

Only 10% of flowering plants are pollinated without animal assistance.[3]  The most common form of abiotic pollination is wind pollination.  This form of pollination is predominant in grasses, most conifers (LIKE PINES), and many deciduous trees.

Plants can also be propagated vegetatively, but this just extends the same genetic combinations without suppressing mutations.  It’s asexual reproduction, strawberry runners are an example.

The most important animals responsible for sexual reproduction in plants are insects, particularly bees, but others also occur, such as bats and birds.

The results of such pollination are seeds.

So seeds are a plant’s method to reproduce itself.  It is also a storage and dispersal agent. Many seeds require a certain period of incubation and some sort of weathering.  Seeds need to be stimulated to send out its stems and roots to produce the first true leaves.

In the human past since agriculture started about 10,000 years ago, seeds were passed from generation to generation by farmers.  These seeds are open pollinated varieties, which are now called heirloom seeds.  Being open pollinated means the normal pollination process was in effect.  This means either wind or insect pollination, although there are seeds pollinated by bats and birds.

In 1950’s hybrid seeds were developed and seed companies sold these as ways to create bigger yields.  Hybrid seeds usually do not produce the same benefits in the second season, because pollination of these hybrids create uncommon genetic mixes, called “throwbacks”, which means the orginal parental genes are expressed.  And they can have good and bad aspects.

To get stable safe passage form year to year one needs open pollinated varieties.

SEEDS NEED THREE THINGS TO GERMINATE: WATER, LIGHT AND THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE.

Knowing a little bit about seeds makes you a better gardener and farmer by helping you to make conditions right for your food plants and to discourage weeds.  For example, to discourage weeds from sprouting, don’t disturb the soil as turning will bring up seeds.  If you must condition compacted soil turn it at night when the light conditions are low.  Weed seed needs light to germinate, besides moisture.

Most of the vegetable seeds of WHATEVER THE TYPE can be planted in the spring in the soil, add watered each day to keep the area wet, and presto, you will see a small stem pop up through the soil surface.  A small root also is formed and grows downward.

Some seeds however need some more help.  That’s because they normally require passage through the stomach of a bird or another animal.  Seeds don’t have legs so have been cleaver in figuring out how to get dispersed in the environment.  Some require cold temperatures, some hot, even fire to sprout.  Some have special hooks and sticky stuff so they can attach to an animal which will carry them around, which is how they can expand their ranges.

Scarification is the term used to describe any process for treating seeds to speed up their germination.  Sometimes a shallow knife scrap, or a light filing or a rub or two on sandpaper will open a hard protective seed coat.  Sometimes just a few weeks in a cold refrigerator, sometimes a chemical can stimulate germination.

Pests of Seeds

All sorts of organisms destroy seeds.  Of course birds eat enormous numbers of seeds as just a few minutes of BIRD observation will show.  Many insects eat seeds, milkweed bugs feed on the pods and seeds.  But when you want a seed to germinate and you put it into the ground sometimes they do not come up.  This is more covert. Fungi in the soil are always present and with the right temperature and moisture they will eat the seed before it can make it up into the light.  Many seed companies therefore treat their seeds with a fungicide.  With the growth of organic agriculture the seed community has developed seeds without these fungicides, so to get food without poison look for untreated seed, they are now common and are clearly labeled.

Heirloom Seeds

Fortunately, TODAY ABOUT 1/3 rd of the seed sources are not owned by Monsanto and their ilk.  So these sources are a force to push against these rapacious corporations.  There are many seeds still passed from generation to generation by farmers and seed savers.  One can learn about these sources by getting seeds from Heirloom sources.  These people are having a gathering in Northern California called the Heirloom Seed Expo.

This second annual conference in Petaluma, CA is expected to draw over 20,000 people.  There will be lectures, films, discussions and information exchanges at the Solano County fairgrounds from Tuesday the 11th to the 13th of September.  Many speakers from all over are coming to this little town formerly famous for its chicken ranches.  Also, the fairgrounds will be displaying over 3,000 heirloom varieties, some available to taste.

An heirloom seed is one that breeds true from seeds and is at least 50 years old in passage from season to season.  The heirloom seed industry is big in Europe and is just starting to grow here in the US as more and more people are starting home and community gardens.

Heirloom seeds, unlike genetically altered seeds, can be saved and replanted year after year. These open-pollinated seeds depend on nature’s pollinators for fruiting and evolving, whereas genetically modified seeds have been tampered with in the lab and are often treated with pesticides and herbicides.

The fear in the heirloom seed industry is that genetically modified seeds, which are patented and cannot be saved and replanted from year to year, will dominate, pollute and diminish the biodiversity of any given area.

The GMO crops are already known to pollute weeds, hybrid and organic crops by wind blown pollens.  This pollution is used by the Monsantos of the World to sue farmers claiming they have stolen their patented product.  UNBELIEVABLE.

When you own the supreme court and populate it with biologically ignorant lawyers what do you expect?  We could do a lot better.

The Heirloom seed industry is part of the pure food movement which got its start as a trade movement in the 1870s. Made up of food industry members, its primary mission was to advocate for a federal law against food adulteration.  But this idea is only now coming back to the US.

More information about the festival at

www.festivaloffruit.org.

A friend, Amigo Bob Cantisano, is one of the speakers and he will be talking about an early seed saver named Felix Gillet.  We visited a site about 10 years ago around Nevada City, in Northern CA where many American Chesnut trees are still living.  The American chesnut was devastated when a pathogen called Chesnut Blight was accidentally introduced to North American many years ago.  The chesnut blight virtually destroyed the entire Native forest of Chesnuts.

Bob showed me a stand of these trees and at the time I was wonder stuck for I thought they were all gone.  I also found a large American chesnut up in Oregonon a friend’s farm at another time.  This means we could bring back the American chesnut from such sources, something akin to restoring a long lost species like we are doing with the condor, for example.

Remember the quote at the start of the broadcast?  I paraphrase it as: If we had the vision there is nothing we could not do to alleviate man’s condition.  So lets have a vision of restoration.  With such a vision, heirloom seeds will play a big part.

Confirmed speakers include Bob Hornback speaking about Luther Burbank, Amigo Bob Cantisano speaking on Felix Gillet, and Ram Fishman talking about on Albert Etter. John Preece, Research Leader at the Davis Germplasm Repository of the USDA, will speak about the extensive fruit collection at Wolfskill experimental farm, including heirlooms from around the world. Axel Kratel, a fruit collector who has grown over 500 varieties of apples, and other deciduous and subtropical fruits, will speak on his experience with European heirloom cider and fresh eating apples.

WHAT TO DO NOW?

1: Get GMO labeling passed in California.  As California goes so goes the Nation.

2: Grow your own food and learn how to save seeds.

Labeling is first because the election is coming up rapidly and this labeling requirement can be accomplished by passage of a proposition here in CA.  Over a million people signed the petition to place the proposition on the ballot.  And when CA passes the proposition (37) other states will follow.  Then by knowing which foods contain genetically modified ingredients one can make a choice.  Now most of the main sources of calories in theUS(corn, soy beans, sugar beets, canola oil, others) are contaminated with GMO genes and their derived proteins which have not been tested for safety.  Roughly 80% of our food supply is already contaminated.

The deregulation push and some careful insertions of people from the GMO industry helped the regulatory agencies (FDA, EPA, USDA) skip over the testing requirements.  The assumption is that these products were safe.  It’s regulation by neglect.  The widespread contamination of the food supply and its associated genetic pollution is part of the payback for deregulation. 

We don’t need DEREGULATION WE NEED BETTER REGULATION.

With labeling we will be in a position to avoid buying any seeds or products sold by these companies (see list below).  Over 50 countries have already adopted such laws.  Only Canada and the US have not passed a labeling law

NEXT, START TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD, STARTING WITH VEGETABLES.  I have been teaching and practicing this for over 40 years.  Now this idea is rising to become a reality as thousands of people are now starting to grow their own foods.  By growing your own vegetables you get pesticide free food, at little cost, and can begin to save your own seeds.  Plus there is no transportation cost.

==============

The following extract from The City People’s Book of Raising Food (by H. andW. Olkowski, now out of print but to be republished again in the spring).  This book is instructive about saving seeds.

“We have had particular luck with saving our own seeds from peas, beans, carrots, onions (leave them in the ground over winter, they will flower the second season), lettuce, coriander, New Zealand spinach, chard, cooking celery, parsley, upland cress, and tomato. 

With most of the above you can either collect the seed from the dried flower head, or, as in the case of chard, keep the entire branchlet of seed pods stored for the winter.  With tomatoes you’ll need to mash away the pulp from the seeds.  Then dry them thoroughly, spread out on a paper towel or screen, before you store them away.”+

Chaos Gardening – The Lazy Man’s Way

The lazy man’s way to grown your own seed is to let plants go to seed in the garden.  For example, just let a lettuce plant go to seed.  Then you can harvest seedlings to eat directly or weed them out where you want to plant something else.

In my SB garden, for example, I let borage, sweet allysum, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, and fennel seed in, but pull them out where I don’t want them to grow up.  Borage is a good bee plant, sweet alyssum feeds the beneficial insects, cherry tomatoes taste good right off the vine, nasturtiums flowers are edible and fennel is a nice spice and feeds a beautiful swallowtail butterfly.

THE URBAN AGRICULTURALIST IS IN A GOOD PLACE TO LEAD THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW SET OF LAND RACES IN COMPETITION TO THE GMO SEED COMPANIES OF THE WORLD.

===========

FINALLY WE LEAVE YOU WITH THE FOLLOWING STORY FROMRUSSIA.  Would you think seeds are worth human lives to defend?  The following true story raises this idea in a most dramatic way.

It’s a story we can gain courage and direction from:

This story is one of courage in the face of totalitarianism from the Nazi disaster which arose inGermanyin the 1930’s.

Most botanists and geneticists know the name Vavilov because he identified the centers of origin of cultivated plants.  His full name was Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov -1887 – 1943).

Vavilov was an outspoken critic of Lysenko, a scientist elevated by Stalin to dominate Russian agricultural policy.  Lysenko’s ideas have subsequently been shown to be false, but not until they ledRussiaon a many decade farcical, miserable agricultural policy.  For his criticism of Lysenko, Vavilov was arrested and died in prison in 1943 near the end of WWII.  So he gave his life for his scientific beliefs.

Vavilov is famous for discovering the origin of the main centers of cultivated crops.

By the early 1940s inSt. Petersburg (formally calledLeningrad) then the focus of one of the turning points in WWII, Vavilov had created a seed bank which had in its vaults almost 400,000 seeds gathered from all over the world. While the city starved under siege from the Nazis, Vavilov’s staff barricaded themselves in the seed bank, protecting this precious resource from both the starving citizens ofSt Petersburg and their invaders. Over the 28 month period of the siege, twelve of those scientists starved to death while literally surrounded by food. Why? Because they believed that saving those seeds for future generations, was more important than their own lives.

end

 

 

URBAN AGRICULTURAL NOTES: GMOs and Seed Savings

URBAN AGRICULTURAL NOTES:

GMOs and Seed Savings

By William Olkowski, PhD, 9.9.12.

The take over of the seed industry documented below has only occurred recently and is primarily aimed at pushing Genetically Modified Seeds.  This is done by monopolizing all seed sources available to farmers but only selling the GMO seeds.  The farmers who don’t participate are sued when the pollens are blown onto their crops which then become contaminated.  These contaminated crops are then subject to patent law infringement and the farmer is sued.  This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate by threat so farmers will buy the GMO seeds.  Certainly this is an unethical practice, but if you have only money in mind ethics will always be dammed.

What is most puzzling about this whole situation is that farmers are not suing for having their crops contaminated.  I know that farmers can’t afford the costs of suing, even if they thought they could win against such big corporations.  And I suspect there are no laws comparable to the patent laws, which involve property rights.  Property rights must be superior to pollution rights, especially in an era of deregulation.

In any case the world food supply is threatened by these seed monopolies and the GMO crop take over strategies.

What To Do Now?

First, don’t buy any seeds or products sold by these companies (see list below), and hope California passes the label GMO proposition 37.  If CA labels the rest of the US may follow.  But note that only Canada and the US have not passed a labeling law.  50 other countries have done so.

Next, start to grow your own foods, starting with vegetables.  I have been professing this for over 40 years and now all is becoming clearer and thousands of people are now starting to grow their own.  By growing your own vegetables you get pesticide free food, at little cost, and can begin to save your own seeds.

The following extract from The City People’s Book of Raising Food (by H. and W. Olkowski, out of print but to be released again in the spring) is instructive about saving seeds.

“We have had particular luck with saving our own seeds from peas, beans, carrots, onions (they will flower the second season), lettuce, coriander, New Zealand spinach, chard, cooking celery, parsley, upland cress, and tomato.  With most of the above you can either collect the seed from the dried flower head, or, as in the case of chard, keep the entire branchlet of seed pods stored for the winter.  With tomatoes you’ll need to mash away the pulp from the seeds.  Then dry them thoroughly, spread out on a paper towel or screen, before you store them away.”

All seed, whether bought or saved from your own garden, should be kept in a cool, dry place.  This is essential as you want seeds that will germinate with vigor the following season. Be attentive to selecting seeds from an individual plant that is vigorous, or earliest and most productive.  Mark it with a ribbon or marker, so as not to harvest it by mistake.

We have also been successful in letting many different plants go to seed in the garden and harvest seedlings to eat directly or weed them out where you want to plant something else.  I call it chaos gardening and have developed a philosophical essay to support the concept (to see this essay tune into the entomological philosopher.com, my blog, search under chaos.

The urban agriculturalist is in a good place to lead the development of a new set of land races in competition to the seed companies of the world.  Good luck and good night.

SEED INDUSTRY DATA 2007

History

Originally seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders.
Corp take-over

Gene Giants have used intellectual property laws to commodify seed supply – a strategy that aims to control plant germplasm and maximize profits by eliminating Farmers’ Rights.

Seed Market

In 2007 the global proprietary seed market was valued at US $22B which constituted 82% of the worldwide commercial seed market (According to Context Network).
The proprietary seed market is even bigger.  This includes brand-name seed that is subject to exclusive monopoly, i.e. intellectual property.  In 2007 total commercial seed market was valued at $26B (does not include farmer-saved seed).

The World’s Top 10 Seed Companies

2007 seed sales (US$ millions) – % of global proprietary seed market (Source: ETC Group).

1.Monsanto (US) –                    $4.9B – 23%
2.DuPont (US) –                       $3.3B – 15%
3.Syngenta (Switzerland) –               $2B      – 9%
4.Groupe Limagrain (France) –         $1.2B  –  6%
5.Land O’ Lakes (US) –             $917m – 4%
6.KWS AG (Germany) –            $702m – 3%
7.Bayer Crop Science (Ge) –     $524m – 2%
8.Sakata (Japan) –                   $396m – <2%
9.DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) –   $391m – <2%
10.Takii (Japan) –                    $347m – <2%
Top 10 Total –                          $14.785B – 67% (2/3 )of global Proprietary Seed Market

Adding up, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta account for 47% of the worldwide proprietary seed market.
Monsanto’s biotech seeds and traits (including those licensed to other companies) accounted for 87% of the total world area devoted to genetically engineered seeds in 2007 (ETC Group).
Monsanto licenses its biotech traits to 250 companies
< 48% of DuPont’s seed revenue came from products that carried a biotech trait.
Global value of GM crops in 2007 at $6.9 billion (Cropnosis).

end

94 Fold Increase in GMO Crops in US

94 FOLD INCREASE IN GMO CROPS in US from 1996-2011.

Crops include: soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets (main source of sugar), squash, alfalfa (main source for meats and milk), and papaya.

50 countries already have labeling, including Russia, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia.

This is a major problem because a 94-fold increase in GMO hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares in 2011 makes biotech crops the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.  More than half the world’s population, 60% or 4 billion people, live in the 29 countries that are currently planting biotech crops. These numbers are expected to grow. In some countries, GMO crops count as the majority of all soy, corn, cotton, and canola grown. Other GMO crops include sugar beets, squash, alfalfa and papaya. Everything including bread, cereal, frozen pizza, soup, soda—all sorts of processed foods—now contain GMOs. One concern is that we do not know whether GMOs are safe for humans to eat because the studies have not been done.

In 1998, a loud outcry among consumers in the European Union resulted in mandatory labeling of foods containing GM ingredients. Over the past 15 years the list of countries that require some form of labeling has grown to include Russia, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, India, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Australia and New Zealand.

Read More:

http://www.downtoearth.org/blogs/2012-09/environment/gmo-foods-should-be-labeled-part-iii

Book Review: Body Toxic

Book Review: Body Toxic, How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens our Health and Well Being.

by Nena Baker. 2008. Nort Point Press, N.Y.277 pp.

Reviewed by William Olkowski, PHD.

Two areas of this book are of critical import for human and environmental health: 1) regulation policy and 2) body contamination updates for those of us unfamiliar with existing toxicological research.

Part 1: Our Toxic Substances CONTROL (TSCA) Act Does not Control Anything

The biggest issue raised by this book is the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA- pronounced ”Tos-ka”).  This has been known for many years but with the government run by business lobbyists who think regulations are always excessive no change will come soon unless more people get concerned and change the law.  This Act is just what the chemical industry wanted – what a laugh – there is little control in the toxic substances control act.  This is another case where we the people have lost control of our democracy.

This act has many aspects which demand change, most of which have been discussed for years.  For example in reports by the government watchdog agency GAO, the EPA itself, the National Academy of Sciences and the Office of Technology Assessment, none of which are rabid left wing liberals nor dreaded environmentalists, by the way.

Dose Response Testing and Other Mistakes

TSCA is based on only data submitted by the chemical producer, itself alone undermines the veracity of the Act.  From that data, dose response tests are extrapolated downward to estimate the lowest tolerable contamination level – the so called no effect level.  This assumes a linear response to the dose. This assumption, built into our regulatory systems, in effect says that there is a low dose below which no effects will occur.  This is a big false assumption, it turns out.  A better approach is “better safe than sorry” (see below).

The No Effect Level is an assumption that misses many low level effects.  Recent information using DNA detection systems shows that there is no dose without effect.  For example, with the worldwide contaminant herbicide atrazine, the no effect level for drinking water is set by the EPA at 3 ppb (3 parts per billion).  No tests actually specify this level, however, just the extrapolation.  But there is research to indicate that atrazine affects genes below this level. Since everyone in the US has this herbicide in their bodies it means that this is affecting everybody’s gene expression to some unknown degree.  And it has been so for decades.  Besides, long term effects are not tested per se.

The state of affairs in the US is that existing chemicals are considered safe until found guilty even if they are found in breast milk, in every human body, food chains around the world and even while toxicological evidence accumulates indicating dire health impacts.  If found below the tolerance level the assumption is that there is no threat to health.  Some toxicants, for example, exhibit non-linear responses. This sort of response was unknown and unexplored back in 1976.

More importantly all the 62,000 chemicals in existence when the 1976 TSCA act was passed were grandfathered in – given a blanket approval.  No hazard information nor health evaluation tests were required FOR THESE 62,000 CHEMICALS!!!  They were just approved.  This law was another legacy from the criminal-above-the-law Richard Nixon and his gang of GOP-CIA rejects and retreads.  Today more than 80,000 chemicals are registered with EPA.  These old 62,000 chemicals without hazard data now constitute 99% (by volume) of the chemicals used today. Unbelievable?!!!  Poisons are tolerable, right?  Note that combinations of poisons are not tested, but combinations of pesticide is the common situation in humans and the environment.

Redesign The US: Start with TSCA

Further, the EPA charged with administering this act cannot restrict a chemical unless the benefits of so doing are not more costly to business and society than the costs of pulling the chemical.  This means that if the chemical producer says it will cost too much, say $10 million to pull the chemical, and the savings are less, then nothing is done.  This occurs even when less toxic alternatives are available.  While the cancer estimates or other health impact costs are lower than the costs of pulling, there is no change.  Placing too low a cost estimate on tolerable cancer rates is what it turns out to be the critical factor.  How much should your cancer cost to treat?  Everything you have, right?

Since TSCA passed only really excessive bad actors have been pulled: PCBs, asbestos, dioxin, arguably the most toxic substance produced by humans, hexavalent chromium which should never have been registered in the first place and the ozone eating CFCs (chlorofluorcarbon refrigerants).  Finding out that the world is contaminated with a particular chemical and then acting is not logical as a regulatory process.  Regulation should prevent problems.  This means we need a new Toxic Substances Prevention and Control Act (TSPC). Toss TSCA, follow the example of Europe.

There’s worse.  Registrants are required to provide results of hazardous testing when they apply for registration.  No other tests are run by government during this time to validate or challenge these results.  That’s like the farmer asking the fox to prove he will not eat the chicken he has in his mouth.

For example, TSCA requires that chemical manufacturers report any problems with their products.  Great, the fox is going to tell the farmer that he is about to eat the chicken.  Does this sound like regulation or stimulation to lie?   When years later somebody discovers a big problem, like DDT and PCBs, it takes years of hearings to get rid of the stuff, and these are still in our bodies even though they are banned.  What is the industry response? “Wow, we didn’t know it was a carcinogen”.  And then the reported the chemical identity remains a confidential business secret.  The public be dammed.

Better Safe Than Sorry – A Superior Alternative in Effect in Europe

In contrast to our OBSOLETE TOSCA, the European Union has instituted a program called REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemical Substances.  This far ranging and progressive change augers for innovations that will put the European Chemical Industry far ahead of its backward US competitors.  What the BOTTOM LINE primitives in the U.S.business community who only call for lifting regulations don’t know, is that innovation is what is needed if we are ever going to come out of this toxic policy fog while also maintaining economic viability.  Few people know or understand these problems and it takes too much time and effort to educate oneself so, its business as usual.  One by one various toxicants rise up as health threats and a big fight between EPA, the chemical company responsible, and the public ensues, largely through the work of many non-profit environmental groups, and finally begrudging congressional action.  The projects takes years- to decades even career times so one has to persist for the years it takes to finally get some change.  Corporations are potentially immortal not like us who suffer death and disease, and they live forever and have the money for the lawyers.

If everybody in a community has to abide by the same regulations                               the playing field is leveled and innovations can be stimulated.  For examples of least toxic type products see the annual issue of the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Practitioner, a publication we founded decades ago.  Each year over 200 companies are quizzed for their least toxic products according to the different pests they work against.  And least toxic innovations are what is needed to keep the pest control industry functioning into the future.

But maybe the chemical industry should just die.  After all, who needs most of their stuff, the PCB’s, the DDTs, the Teflon coated pots, plastic bags, the smelly stuff on popcorn bags that migrates into your body and stays there forever, the house dust that we breathe and eat that never decomposes, and the rest?  There is no doubt that chemical pesticides are overused whether you look in agriculture, urban, or medical categories. Certainly implementing real Integrated Pest Management programs rigorously could help reduce unnecessary use of the existing materials, but that has not been adequately embraced by voluntary efforts. The more they sell the more money they make.

In this case making the law specifying that any registrant for a chemical must show that it is harmless before registration can be granted would eliminate the kinds of problems that TSCA misses.  And this new European Law includes all the already existing chemicals.  This is in contrast to our 30 plus year old TSCA that tolerates a great number of possible threats to health for decades.

When the act was passed DDT was the biggest problem.  If DDT did not help win WWII by reducing mortality and morbidity from infections diseases maybe it would have not been so difficult to get it banned.  Even though DDT was found as a world wide contaminant in 1949 and banned in 1972, it and its metabolites still contaminate world food chains including virtually universal human body contamination.  And notice the decades between when it first was known as a worldwide contaminant and when it was banned.  It took decades and long hours of hearings to get it acknowledged as a BIG problem.  Approaching regulation one chemical at a time after it threatens our health is not effective regulation.

Did You Know That:

The chemical industry is the largest user of fossil fuels.  It uses 7% of US petroleum products and 12% ofUSnatural gas?

In 2004 the US Chemical Industry produced more than 138 billion pounds of seven bulk chemicals: ethylene, propylene, butylenes, benzene, toluene, xylenes and methane.  These are the starting chemicals for thousands of products.  That’s a lot of plastics.  And there was good life before plastics.

Today everyone on the planet including newborns carries persistent organic pollutants in their bodies.  Some samples indicate up to 200 substances.  One sample from a series of umbilical tissues indicates over 100 chemicals are found in the bodies of newborns.  Can you connect the dots?

The UN has a program to ban some of the so-called “dirty dozen”, mostly organochlorines, including DDT, PCBs, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, and hexachlorobenzene, dioxins, and furans.  If you want to make something toxic and long lasting just use chlorine somehow in its fabrication – that’s a chemists advice to me years ago.

A chemical plant blew up in India in 1984 which produced the raw material for various “cides”, called methyl isocyanate, releasing poison into the air, killing 3,000 people and seriously injuring 500,000 people.  We, in the US have 13,300 chemical plants scattered here and there.

Cancer is now the number 1 cause of death in the US.  Leading cancers include breast and prostate.

Pesticides are seldom found alone, but occur in combinations, none of which have been tested for effects.

Part 2: Examples of Serious Toxic Substances of Current Concern

This second aspect of importance in this paperback covers specific toxicants including:

1)  Atrazine: This herbicide affects sex development in frogs and amphibians by castration and feminization via aromatase induction, producing hermaphodism among other effects.  Atrazine is a worldwide contaminant which should have been banned decades ago.  60% of theUSpopulation is exposed daily via lawns and food, and its many metabolites were not considered when assessing exposure levels.  We don’t need lawns, for starters.  Atrazine was banned by Europeans in 2005.  76 million pounds are used each year in the US, mostly on corn, sorghum, and many other crops, plus lawns and golf courses.  Golf is the most toxic recreational activity, it turns out.

2)  Phthalates (“thal-ates): This is a family of plasticizers linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity.  The 27 countries ofEuropebanned dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) from personal care products in 2004.  Our FDA, responsible for the safety of cosmetic products (over 22,500 products) has taken no action on the big three phthalates, including the widely used diethyl phthalate (DEP) in addition to DBP and DEHP.  The beauty industry includes toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, hair color, moisturizer, perfume, lipstick, nail polish, and eye and face makeup – products used up to 20-25 times per day by average adults.  And baby care products are particularly bad with young people showing high levels of the 6 or so major phthalates in their bodies. Californialead the effort to remove these poisons from toys and other playthings.  Evidence has accumulated to show how these substances disrupt normal sex development, particularly in males, and both sexes in utero, at levels 100 times lower than the so called safe level set by EPA.  Senator Feinstein lead the charge at the federal level with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  Now we need new laws that encompass all toxic substances.  Phthalates will still be with us for many more years as they break down slowly.

3)  Lead in candy and lipsticks: A battle royal is on-going as watchdog agencies pressure the FDA to do something besides clap for industry self management.  The massive 60 $billion Beauty Industry has responded with voluntary programs and the usual resistance.  One would think that such an industry would welcome a clean bill of health via a good regulatory system.  No, its business as usual: we are making money and piss on the consumer.

4)  Polybrominated diethyl ethers (PBDEs): This is another familiar problem caused by fire retardants widely incorporated in TVs and other electronic devices including computers, mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation, car trim, carpet pads and drapes.  They leak out and contaminate the air so are inhaled via house dust in our homes among other places.  Cloths dryer lint is a major source.  Levels are rising rapidly and build up in fatty tissues.  Infants get the worse via breast milk but also from ingestion of house dust.  House cats, which show high proportions of feline hyperthyroidism, are our canaries.  This disease is associated most strongly with indoor cats, showing 20 times the levels found in humans.  Cats and humans are the only mammals that have a high incidence of hyperthyroid disease.  Toxicity data on human PBDE exposures does not exist but animal studies show developmental effects including brain, thyroid, and liver at levels found in humans.  A gradual loss of 1-3% in IQ is correlated with geometrical increases in body burdens.  This could be why our political systems are so dysfunctional-besides being managed by industrial ethics and their money via political campaigns for ignorant politicians.  U.S. tissue samples for PBDEs are 10 times higher than those found inEurope.  These substances are similar to the banned PCBs showing neurological damage in animal experiments.  If risk equals exposure times toxicity, even a mild toxicant can have catastrophic effects if it, like PBDEs, are virtually found in everyone.  Besides viable alternatives are available.  So it’s a matter of being safe rather than sorry.

5) Bisphenol-A:  This is the starting substance for polycarbonate plastic used for reusable food and beverage containers and a epoxy resin that lines most food cans.  It is also found in baby bottles, bicycle helmets, eyeglass lenses, water cooler jugs, and bullet-resistant barriers, reusable food storage containers, bottle caps, water supply lines, electrical equipment, and adhesives.  This chemical mimics the female hormone estrogen, leaches from these resins into foods.  Nearly all of us have this poison in our bodies at levels within the range predicted to be biologically active.  Animal studies show associated body burden levels with increases in breast and prostate cancers, increases in urogenital abnormalities in male babies, declines in semen quality in adult men, early onset of puberty in girls, metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes and obesity and ADHD. Canada banned it in 2008.  This chemical also shows an inverted dose response curve making the usual method of setting lowest no effect levels inadequate.  Animal studies show effects at 200 times lower than the regulatory no effect level.  Boiling water placed in polycarbonate containers leaches at 50 times greater rates than room temperature liquids.  Latest studies indicate the Bisphenol-A may cause similar effects to the banned DES which caused such terrible birth and developmental effects passed to children and grandchildren before being banned.  These effects include endometriosis and uterine fibroids which are the leading causes of the 600,000 hysterectomies preformed in the US each year, and other effects including mental retardation, miscarriage, and congenital defects.  It has also been shown at low does to affect epigenetic programming altering expression of more than 200 genes involved with how the brain gets wired, how cells multiple and how metabolism is regulated.  Switch back to glass.

6)  Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs, PFOAs): One of the biggest uses of these long lived materials is in making nonstick Teflon coated cookware.  These substances are also found in paper products including one of the most toxic – popcorn bags used in microwave popping.  That’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Read about how the major producer of teflon, DuPont, reacts to the information that these substances migrate into foods from coated pots and pans and treated papers.  They paid the fines and settled many class action suits to protect their $1 billion in sales (out of $27 billion).  Poor DuPont.

Final comments:  When I read such a book I conclude that we need to redesign our civilization, including the need to change our regulatory systems, and protect our political systems from business bias and corporate influences.  Neither will be easy.  Does money constitute the primary status symbol, or are there other ways to address social status?  Can businesses also serve their communities rather than just milk them for money?  Does this challenge our way of life?  Yes it does.  But does business as usual produce the highest good for most people?  I don’t think so.  Could that be a criteria to judge our products and behaviors?  How about reducing pain and suffering?  That’s a goal I am sure the religious right and us lefties could agree on.  Now I have great reservations about our country and its path in the world.  These chemical tragedies are only one of the symptoms of a declining civilization which I am sorry to see go this way.  Of course these tragedies are being exposed by watchdog groups and many people, but not enough, publically supported scientists.  Science, properly conducted, without political bias, is our best guide.  Forget prayer to illusory persons, including relying on corporate person-hoods that can’t be placed in jails.  That’s a good place to start, getting the hogs out of the water, first, as Jim Hightower says.  They wont come voluntarily, they need to be pushed out.  Voting for proposition 37 (labelling genetically modified food) in the 2012 election in CA could be a good start.

Some sources of further information and political action

Pesticide Action Network (PAN):

http://www.panna.org/

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

http://www.ewg.org/

http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/existingchemicals/pubs/actionplans/pfcs.html

 

Tags: TSCA, Toxic Substances Control Act, atrazine, DDT, PCBs, Chemical Regulation, European Union, REACH, EPA, FDA, Perfluorinated Chemicals, PFCs,  PFOAs, Biphenol-A, dirty dozen, CFCs, chlorofluorcarbons, refrigerant

 

A Pertinent Quote by Thomas Jefferson

A Pertinent Quote:

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was a relentless critic of the monopolizing of economic power by banks, corporations and those who put their faith in what the third president referred to as “the selfish spirit of commerce (that) knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.  He had it right.

As July 4, 1826 approached, he was invited to appear inWashingtonfor a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Age and infirmity preventedJeffersonfrom attending the event. But he sent a message — his last political statement — which read:

“May (July 4) be to the world, what I believe it will be — to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all — the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form (of government) which we have substituted restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately….”

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GMOs and Seed Saving

GMOs and Seed Saving

By William Olkowski, PhD, 8.29.12.

The take over of the seed industry documented below has only occurred recently and is primarily aimed at pushing Genetically Modified Seeds.  This is done by denying all seed sources available to farmers and thereby only selling the GMO seeds.  The farmers who don’t participate are sued when the pollens are blown onto their crops which then become contaminated.  These contaminated crops are then subject to patent law infringement and the farmer is sued.  This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate by threat so farmers will buy the GMO seeds.  Certainly this is an unethical practice, but if you have only money in mind ethics will always be dammed.

What is most puzzling about this whole situation is that farmers are not suing for having their crops contaminated.  I know that farmers can’t afford the costs of suing, even if they thought they could win against such big corporations.  And I suspect there are no laws comparable to the patent laws, which involve property rights.  Property rights must be superior to pollution rights, especially in an era of deregulation.

In any case the world food supply is threatened by these seed monopolies and the GMO crop take over strategies.

What To Do Now?

First, don’t buy any seeds or products sold by these companies (see list below), and hopeCaliforniapasses the label GMO proposition 37.  If CA labels the rest of the US may follow.  But note that only Canada and the US have not passed a labeling law.  50 other countries have done so.  I take it as another example of how the US has slipped backward.

Next, start to grow your own foods, starting with vegetables.  I have been professing this for over 40 years and now all is becoming clearer and thousands of people are now starting to grow their own.  By growing your own vegetables you get pesticide free food, at little cost, and can begin to save your own seeds.

The following extract from The City People’s Book of Raising Food (by H. and W. Olkowski, out of print but to be released again by Viva Publishers, Berkeley, CA in the spring) is instructive about saving seeds.

“We have had particular luck with saving our own seeds from peas, beans, carrots, onions (they will flower the second season), lettuce, coriander, New Zealand spinach, chard, cooking celery, parsley, upland cress, and tomato.  With most of the above you can either collect the seed from the dried flower head, or, as in the case of chard, keep the entire branchlet of seed pods stored for the winter.  With tomatoes you’ll need to mash away the pulp from the seeds.  Then dry them thoroughly, spread out on a paper towel or screen, before you store them away.”

All seed, whether bought or saved from your own garden, should be kept in a cool, dry place.  This is essential as you want seeds that will germinate with vigor the following season. Be attentive to selecting seeds from an individual plant that is vigorous, or earliest and most productive.  Mark it with a ribbon or marker, so as not to harvest it by mistake.

We have also been successful in letting many different plants go to seed in the garden and harvest seedlings to eat directly or weed them out where you want to plant something else.  I call it chaos gardening and have developed a philosophical essay to support the concept (to see this essay tune into the entomological philosopher.com, my blog, search under Chaos Gardening.

The urban agriculturalist is in a good place to lead the development of a new set of land races in competition to the seed companies of the world.  Good luck and good night.

SEED INDUSTRY DATA 2007

History

Originally seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders.

Corp take-over

Gene Giants have used intellectual property laws to commodify seed supply – a strategy that aims to control plant germplasm and maximize profits by eliminating Farmers’ Rights.

Seed Market

In 2007 the global proprietary seed market was valued at US $22B which constituted 82% of the worldwide commercial seed market (According to Context Network).

The proprietary seed market is even bigger.  This includes brand-name seed that is subject to exclusive monopoly, i.e. intellectual property.  In 2007 total commercial seed market was valued at $26B (does not include farmer-saved seed).

The World’s Top 10 Seed Companies

2007 seed sales (US$ millions) – % of global proprietary seed market (Source: ETC Group).
1.Monsanto (US) –                     $4.9B – 23%
2.DuPont (US) –                        $3.3B – 15%
3.Syngenta (Switzerland) –       $2B      – 9%
4.Groupe Limagrain (France) – $1.2B  –  6%
5.Land O’ Lakes (US) –             $917m – 4%
6.KWS AG (Germany) –            $702m – 3%
7.Bayer Crop Science (Ge) –     $524m – 2%
8.Sakata (Japan) –                     $396m – <2%
9.DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) –     $391m – <2%
10.Takii (Japan) –                       $347m – <2%
Top 10 Total –                          $14.785B – 67% (2/3 )of global Proprietary Seed Market

Adding up, Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta account for 47% of the worldwide proprietary seed market.

Monsanto’s biotech seeds and traits (including those licensed to other companies) accounted for 87% of the total world supply of  d genetically engineered seeds in 2007 (ETC Group).

Monsanto licenses its biotech traits to 250 companies
< 48% of DuPont’s seed revenue came from products that carried a biotech trait.
Global value of GM crops in 2007 at $6.9 billion (Cropnosis).

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