Glyphosate Finally Recognized as Cancer-Causing, in California

California’s Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will list glyphosate — a widely used herbicide dangerous to people and linked to the dramatic decline of monarch butterflies — as a chemical known to cause cancer. Earlier this year the World Health Organization found that glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, was a probable human carcinogen based on extensive research.

“California’s taking an important step toward protecting people and wildlife from this toxic pesticide,” said Dr. Nathan Donley, a staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “More than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are used each year in the United States, and the science is clear that it’s a threat to public health and countless wildlife species. It’s long past time to start reining in the out-of-control use of glyphosate in the United States.”

World usage of glyphosate is at an all-time high. Its use increased more than 20-fold, from 10 million pounds in 1990, largely due to the widespread adoption of crops, particularly corn and soy, that are genetically engineered to withstand what would otherwise be fatal doses of glyphosate. Accordingly, glyphosate residues are now found on 90 percent of soybean crops. In addition to being carcinogenic, recent research indicates, chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate can lead to liver and kidney damage.

“The spike in usage of glyphosate is really concerning because more use equals more exposure,” said Donley. “It’s nearly impossible for people to limit exposure to this toxin because it is just so widespread. That’s why we need much tighter controls on its use.”

Recent studies have pointed to glyphosate as one of the leading causes of the decline in monarch butterflies because it destroys milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source. The ever-increasing use of Roundup on genetically engineered crops has nearly eliminated milkweed from midwestern agricultural fields, with devastating consequences for monarchs. Monarch butterflies have declined by more than 80 percent in the past 20 years — the same period of time during which glyphosate use has grown exponentially.

Last year the Center filed a petition to protect monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act because of the population declines associated with glyphosate. In June the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to analyze the effects of glyphosate on 1,500 endangered species in a historic settlement agreement with the Center.

This proposed listing from California under Proposition 65 will also include tetrachlorvinphos, parathion and malathion, three other pesticides with demonstrated carcinogenic potential.

Tastier Tomato Rediscovered

New Jersey’s Rutgers University has developed a new tomato variety that combines the nostalgia-inducing flavor of an heirloom with the durability of supermarket varieties.

The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) has tested hundreds of  plants to try to create a new version of its tasty original Rutgers tomato that was popular from the Depression through the 1960s.

“What people remember as the Jersey tomato was really the Rutgers tomato,” said Tom Orton, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology. “It was ubiquitous. People grew it in their backyards. It had a high flavor that explodes in your mouth and makes you say ‘wow, that is really good.’’

Now as the university’s 250th anniversary approaches, a team of researchers are working to create a new and improved Rutgers tomato, reviving a variety that was thought to be lost to history.

Since the project began in 2010, researchers have narrowed their search down to three possibilities. The public will get its first chance to taste the contenders for the new Rutgers tomato Aug. 15 during an open house at the EARTH Center in South Brunswick, home to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County.

The varieties being considered will be also available to sample Aug. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Margate Farmer’s Market and during the Great Tomato Tasting at Snyder Farm in Pittstown on Aug. 26.

Although the official name of the new tomato has not been chosen, it will be selected to honor Rutgers’ 250th anniversary, said Orton, who oversees the university’s tomato breeding program as a specialist with NJAES.

The new Rutgers tomato, bred for home gardeners and New Jersey farmers, is being grown and tested around the state. The seeds are expected to be released for sale starting in January.

The experiment station works closely with New Jersey growers to develop new plants as part of its mission to boost local agriculture and share Rutgers’ research with the public. Orton is also working to develop a version of the new Rutgers tomato suitable for large-scale commercial farmers that should be ready in 2018.

The project to recreate the Rutgers tomato was made possible by the discovery eight years ago that Campbell’s Soup Co. had retained derivatives of the original Rutgers parent seeds. The original tomato was released in 1934 as the result of a collaboration between the Camden-based company and the university.

The firm, red, round, flavorful tomato proved more resistant to rot than its predecessors and became a staple ingredient in tomato products such as soup and ketchup and was popular on American dinner tables.

“For a long time Rutgers was known by gardeners and vegetable farmers for the Rutgers tomato,’’ Orton said. “It ushered in the world of mechanized food processing. It is a variety that is our namesake and went on to change the worlds of agriculture and food processing.’’

But like many innovations of the era the Rutgers tomato was developed without a patent, and seed companies made changes to it over time.

“The Rutgers tomato carried our name, but the university had no control over it after it was released to the industry,’’ Orton said. “It wasn’t a tribute anymore to the work that went into to it. We want to create a new variety that is named for the institution, retain control over it and maintain its quality.’’

Rutgers researchers are working to develop the tomato with the perfect balance of acid and sugar. The new variety will provide fruit earlier in the season. It also will have a higher yield, a uniform color and be more resistant to cracking.

“We are retracing our history and hope to come up with something better,’’ said Peter Nitzsche, an associate professor and agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension who has been working with Orton on the project.

“A lot of the fruit in the grocery store is picked green and ripened during long distance shipping,’’ Nitzsche said. “While other breeding programs put a priority on firmness and the ability to ship, we have been narrowing the field based on flavor.’’

Food lovers will notice the difference when they get a chance to taste the new Rutgers tomato, Orton said.

Once the new Rutgers tomato is released, when someone asks what ever happened to the flavorful Jersey tomato they remember from summers past, Orton will have his answer ready, “If you grow this one in your backyard you will have it.’’

Heat-Tolerant Beans Essential for a Climate-Changed Planet

Amidst fears that global warming could zap a vital source of protein that has sustained humans for centuries, bean breeders with the CGIAR global agriculture research partnership announced today the discovery of 30 new types, or lines as plant breeders refer to them, of “heat-beater” beans that could keep production from crashing in large swaths of bean-dependent Latin America and Africa.

“This discovery could be a big boon for bean production because we are facing a dire situation where, by 2050, global warming could reduce areas suitable for growing beans by 50 percent,” said Steve Beebe, a senior CGIAR bean researcher, who shared the findings at a development conference organized by the German government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Incredibly, the heat-tolerant beans we tested may be able to handle a worst-case scenario where the build-up of greenhouse gases causes the world to heat up by an average of 4 degrees Celsius (about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit),” he said. “Even if they can only handle a 3 degree rise, that would still limit the bean production area lost to climate change to about five percent. And farmers could potentially make up for that by using these beans to expand their production of the crop in countries like Nicaragua and Malawi, where beans are essential to survival.”

CGIAR researchers had previously warned that rising temperatures were likely to disrupt bean production in Nicaragua, Haiti, Brazil, and Honduras, while in Africa, those warnings had focused on Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the most vulnerable, followed by Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.

“As a result of this breakthrough, beans need not be the casualty of global warming that they seemed destined to be, but rather can offer a climate-friendly option for farmers struggling to cope with rising temperatures,” said Andy Jarvis, a CGIAR climate change expert.

Many of the new heat-tolerant beans developed by the CGIAR scientists are “crosses” between the “common bean”–which includes pinto, white, black, and kidney beans–and the tepary bean, a hardy survivor cultivated since pre-Columbian times in an area that is now part of northern Mexico and the American southwest.

Often called the “meat of the poor” for the affordable protein it provides, the crop is a vital foundation of food security for more than 400 million people in the developing world. Beans are a highly nutritious food, offering protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and other micronutrients. In addition to heat tolerance, CGIAR experts are simultaneously breeding for higher iron content to enhance the beans’ nutritional value.

Unlocking the Potential of Humanity’s Key Crops

The new beans are a landmark result of urgent efforts by CGIAR to develop new crop varieties that can thrive in drastic weather extremes. The bedrock of this research is CGIAR’s “genebanks,” which preserve the world’s largest seed collections of humanity’s most important staple crops. Using new genomic tools, plant breeders are now better able to unlock the potential of the genebanks’ vast genetic diversity by probing nearly 750,000 samples of cereals, legumes, roots and tubers, trees, and other important food crops–along with their wild relatives–to identify genes with traits like heat, flood, and drought tolerance or resistance to pests and disease that can help farmers adapt to environmental stresses.

“The payoff we are seeing from these bean breeding efforts underscores the vital importance of investing in CGIAR’s genebanks–a front-line defense in the race to adapt crops to climate change to protect the staple food supplies of poor farmers and consumers and avert food crises around the world,” said Jonathan Wadsworth, a CGIAR Executive. “The development of these heat-defying beans also highlights what can be achieved when we invest in modern science to find solutions to urgent challenges, with expected economic benefits vastly exceeding the costs of investment in the research.”

The heat beaters emerged from the methodical and exhaustive testing of more than 1,000 bean lines, work that originally started as an effort to develop beans that could tolerate poor soils and drought. The focus turned to heat-tolerance following an alarming 2012 report from CGIAR scientists warning that heat was a much bigger threat to bean production than previously believed.

Led by CGIAR researchers, a team of the world’s leading bean experts quickly moved to cultivate test plots on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where they deliberately exposed beans to night-time temperatures well above what they can normally tolerate. Scientists also established greenhouses so that temperatures could be dialed up on demand.

“We confirmed that 30 heat-tolerant lines are productive even with night-time temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius (about 72 degrees Fahrenheit),” Beebe said. “Normally, bean yields start to falter when the temperatures exceed 18 or 19 degrees Celsius (about 64 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit).”

Among the beans found to be especially heat tolerant was one that was recently introduced into commercial production in Nicaragua, chiefly because of its performance in drought conditions. Tested in dry conditions in Costa Rica, it yielded more than twice the amount of beans compared to what farmers were currently cultivating. Beebe said scientists now have evidence that the superior performance was due not just to drought tolerance but also heat tolerance.

“What this shows us is that heat may already be hurting bean production in Central America far more than we thought and farmers could benefit from adopting the new heat-beater beans right now,” he said.

Better Beans for Better Nutrition

To provide a sustainable and cost-effective way to combat hidden hunger, caused by diets low in key vitamins and minerals, CGIAR researchers embarked more than a decade ago on a pioneering program to improve the nutritional content of staple food crops that the poor rely upon.

Some of the heat-tolerant beans identified by Beebe and his team have also been deliberately bred through conventional methods to be higher in iron in an effort to tackle malnutrition. In developing countries, deficiencies of this essential micronutrient afflict one out of every two preschool children and pregnant women, making them highly susceptible to anemia and compromising children’s growth and cognitive development. While beans are already high in iron, these new varieties could eventually provide up to 60 percent of daily iron needs for women and children–almost twice the iron of non-improved beans.

“A couple of years ago, when climate change experts warned that rising temperatures could be devastating for bean production, we were asked how this would affect high-iron beans,” said Beebe. “Now, I am confident that we can confront this challenge as well. We can develop more iron-rich beans that are also heat tolerant. These beans would deliver even greater benefits than expected because they could be grown more widely.”

NASA & NOAA Find 2014 Hottest Year on Record

The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

2014 temp chart showing it to be the hottest
2014 Hottest on record


The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

“NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”

Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year.

“NOAA provides decision makers with timely and trusted science-based information about our changing world,” said Richard Spinrad, NOAA chief scientist. “As we monitor changes in our climate, demand for the environmental intelligence NOAA provides is only growing. It’s critical that we continue to work with our partners, like NASA, to observe these changes and to provide the information communities need to build resiliency.”

Regional differences in temperature are more strongly affected by weather dynamics than the global mean. For example, in the U.S. in 2014, parts of the Midwest and East Coast were unusually cool, while Alaska and three western states – California, Arizona and Nevada – experienced their warmest year on record, according to NOAA.

The GISS analysis incorporates surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. This raw data is analyzed using an algorithm that takes into account the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the calculation. The result is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but a different baseline period. They also employ their own methods to estimate global temperatures.

GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites, as well as airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

Related links:

NASA Earth Observatory has posted a somewhat different temperature summation at:

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center’s summary is at:

Additional commentary about the 2014 temperature anomaly is provided by Dr. James Hansen of Columbia University at:

The data set of 2014 surface temperature measurements is available at:

The methodology used to make the temperature calculation is available at:

Vega One & Sports Performance Protein Mix Recall

Sequel Naturals Ltd., maker of the popular Vega One vegan whole food supplement has initiated an immediate voluntary recall of a number of Vega products, including nutrition shakes and sports performance drinks that have tested positive for, or that may potentially be contaminated with trace amounts of the antibiotic chloramphenicol.

Sequel Naturals Ltd. and a number of other companies were supplied contaminated enzyme preparations by Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies that were then used in making their natural health products. As a result, products from these companies are at risk of contamination with chloramphenicol.

Chloramphenicol is a potent drug and should only be used under medical supervision after careful consideration of the risks associated with its use. It is associated with a rare risk of aplastic anemia and many other serious side effects. In laboratory animals a dosage of 2500mg can be fatal.

The antibiotic was first discovered in 1947 as a natural product secreted by the bacterium Streptomyces venezuelae, which is found in soil and compost. It was used successfully in treating typhus outbreaks in Bolivia and Malaysia in 1948 and remains widely used in many third-world countries.

Consumers wanting more information on the recall can contact Sequel Naturals Ltd. at 1-866-839-8863. Health Canada has posted a full list of affected products being recalled in Canada by various companies supplied with contaminated enzyme preparations.

Soil Microbes Essential for Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that is also responsible for destroying the ozone layer.  INRA research scientists in Dijon have shown that the ability of soils to eliminate N2O can mainly be explained by the diversity and abundance of a new group of micro-organisms that are capable of transforming it into atmospheric nitrogen (N2). These results, published in Nature Climate Change underline the importance of microbial diversity to the functioning of soils and the services they deliver.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is one of the principal greenhouse gases, alongside carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4); it is also responsible for destruction of the ozone layer.  Terrestrial ecosystems contribute to about 70% of N2O emissions, at least 45% being linked to the nitrogen-containing products found in agricultural soils (fertilisers, slurry, manure, crop residues, etc.).  “In order to lower emissions of N2O and develop more environmentally-friendly agriculture, it is important to understand the processes involved not only in its production but in its elimination”, explain the scientists.  This elimination can be achieved by micro-organisms living in the soil that are able to reduce N2O into nitrogen (N2), the gas that makes up around four-fifths of the air we breathe and which has no impact on the environment.

INRA scientists, working in collaboration with Swedish and Irish colleagues, have analysed 47 soil samples collected throughout Europe and demonstrated very considerable differences between these soils in terms of their capacities to eliminate N2O. Unlike other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4), the ability of soils to eliminate N2O and thus act as a sink for this greenhouse gas has been very little studied hitherto.

Their work has shown that this variability is linked to a new group of N2O-consuming micro-organisms. These organisms had been identified by the same research teams in 2013, but had never previously been taken into account in studies aiming at understanding N2O emissions.  “We have discovered that it is both the diversity and the abundance of this new group of N2O-consuming micro-organisms that are important to the ability of soils to eliminate N2O”, explains Laurent Philippot, an INRA researcher in Dijon.

This study has also helped to clarify the influence of the physicochemical properties of soils on the development of these micro-organisms.  Thanks to a metagenomic approach and the analysis of several hundreds of thousands of DNA sequences, the scientists were also able to identify several groups of micro-organisms that could act as bioindicators for the capacity of European soils to transform N2O into N2. The team is currently working on identifying farming practices that could stimulate this new group of N2O-consuming micro-organisms, in order to ensure sustainable agricultural production.

Additional research is needed to identify how industrial agricultural and the massive use of herbicides is impacting the soil’s ability to cope with greenhouse gases.

All these findings underline the importance of the biodiversity of soil micro-organisms to the functioning of soils and the services they deliver.

This work was carried out in the context of the European EcoFINDERS project, with support from the Burgundy Regional Council and the French Embassy in Ireland.


SaskHealth Tells Whopping Lies About Fluoride

Fluoride is good for you, right?

Absolutely, positively WRONG. The science proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Yet, SaskHealth claims: “Water fluoridation benefits all residents serviced by community water supplies regardless of their age, social or economic status.”

This is simply a big fat lie and one that causes serious and widespread harm to the people exposed to fluoride.

TRUTH: Fluoride is more toxic than Lead and slightly less toxic than Arsenic. It is such an effective toxin that it has long been used in pesticides but has been recently banned because the residues in food pose a risk to human health. It is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body and causes brain impairment, organ damage and cancer. At higher concentrations it can cause crippling skeletal fluorosis and dental fluorosis.

TRUTH: A peer reviewed and published study by Harvard University funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that children exposed to fluoridated water have lower IQ scores than those who live in areas with no or very low fluoride. 24 Other studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals has also shown that fluoride reduces intelligence.

TRUTH: Most of the rest of the rest of the world recognizes fluoride as the toxin it is and would never consider adding it to drinking water.  Less than 5% of the world’s population drinks fluoridated water.

TRUTH: Children are especially at risk from fluoride and should not be exposed to it.

Why does the government of Saskatchewan & Canada want a less intelligent and less healthy population?

Bees Infected With Mutated Plant Virus?

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honeybees and could help explain their decline, researchers in the U.S. and China report.

The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses “resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees,” says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” says lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

“We already know that honeybees, Apis melllifera, can transmit TRSV when they move from flower to flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another,” Chen adds.

Notably, about 5% of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and thus potential sources of host-jumping viruses. RNA viruses tend to be particularly dangerous because they lack the 3′-5′ proofreading function which edits out errors in replicated genomes. As a result, viruses such as TRSV generate a flood of variant copies with differing infective properties.

One consequence of such high replication rates are populations of RNA viruses thought to exist as “quasispecies,” clouds of genetically related variants that appear to work together to determine the pathology of their hosts. These sources of genetic diversity, coupled with large population sizes, further facilitate the adaption of RNA viruses to new selective conditions such as those imposed by novel hosts. “Thus, RNA viruses are a likely source of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases,” explain these researchers.

Toxic viral cocktails appear to have a strong link with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady that abruptly wiped out entire hives across the United States and was first reported in 2006. Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV), Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), Deformed Wing Bee Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are other known causes of honeybee viral disease.

When these researchers investigated bee colonies classified as “strong” or “weak,” TRSV and other viruses were more common in the weak colonies than they were in the strong ones. Bee populations with high levels of multiple viral infections began failing in late fall and perished before February, these researchers report. In contrast, those in colonies with fewer viral assaults survived the entire cold winter months.

TRSV was also detected inside the bodies of Varroa mites, a “vampire” parasite that transmits viruses between bees while feeding on their blood. However, unlike honeybees, the mite-associated TRSV was restricted to their gastric cecum indicating that the mites likely facilitate the horizontal spread of TRSV within the hive without becoming diseased themselves. The fact that infected queens lay infected eggs convinced these scientists that TRSV could also be transmitted vertically from the queen mother to her offspring.

“The increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses is associated with a gradual decline of host populations and supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival,” these researchers conclude. Thus, they call for increased surveillance of potential host-jumping events as an integrated part of insect pollinator management programs.

Tasmania Extends GMO Ban

Tasmania is the only Australian state to have to a blanket ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The ban started as a moratorium 10 years ago and was instituted to protect its farmers who serve a market that is increasingly demanding GMO-free food.

While the government will allow some exemptions for scientific trials of GM crops and has not ruled out lifting the ban in the future, the ban has strong support from Tasmanian farmers and consumers and is expected to remain in force for the foreseeable future.

Agro-Chemical companies claim that their crops are perfectly safe but the science clearly shows otherwise and thousands of scientists and environmentalists have been calling for a moratorium on the unleashing of GMOs until they can be proven safe.