Monday, September 20, 2010
Jumping wild salmon
FDA TO CONSIDER APPROVAL OF MODIFIED SALMON
By Mary Clare Jalonickap
WASHINGTON -Tinker with the genetics of salmon and maybe you create a revolutionary new food source that could help the environment and feed the hungry.
Or maybe you're creating what some say is an untested "frankenfish" that could cause unknown allergic reactions and the eventual decimation of the wild salmon population.
The genetically-modified AquAdvantage salmon
The FDA says that the AquAdvantage salmon "is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon." Of course, according to Seafood Watch, one should AVOID Atlantic Salmon: www.montereybayaquarium.org
The Food and Drug Administration hears both arguments Monday when it begins a two-day meeting on whether to approve the marketing of the genetically engineered fish, which would be the first such animal approved for human consumption. The agency has already said the salmon, which grows twice as fast as conventional salmon, is as safe to eat as the traditional variety.
Approval of the salmon would open the door for a variety of other genetically engineered animals, including an environmentally friendly pig that is being developed in Canada or cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease.
"For future applications out there the sky's the limit," said David Edwards of the Biotechnology Industry Association. "If you can imagine it, scientists can try to do it."
AquaBounty submitted its first application for FDA approval in 1995, but the agency decided not until two years ago to consider applications for genetically engineered animals -- a move seen as a breakthrough by the biotechnology industry.
Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits -- and profits -- are huge, many individuals have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.
Genetically engineered -- or GE -- animals are not clones, which the FDA has already said are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal. With GE animals, their DNA has been altered to produce a desirable characteristic.
In the case of the salmon, AquaBounty has added a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce their growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an on switch for the hormone, according to the company. Conventional salmon only produce the growth hormone some of the time.
In documents released ahead of the hearing, the FDA said there were no biologically relevant differences between the engineered salmon and conventional salmon, and there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from its consumption.
Critics have two main concerns: The safety of the food to humans and the salmon's effect on the environment.
Because the altered fish has never been eaten before, they say, it could include dangerous allergens, especially because seafood is highly allergenic. They also worry that the fish will escape and intermingle with the wild salmon population, which is already endangered.They would grow fast and consume more food to the detriment of the conventional wild salmon, the critics fear.
A wide range of environmental, food safety and consumer groups have argued that more public studies are needed and the current FDA process is inadequate because it allows the company to keep some proprietary information private. Modified foods are regulated under the same process used for animal drugs.
"It is outrageous to keep this vital information secret," said Wenonah Hauter, director of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "Consumers have a right to know what FDA is trying to allow into our food supply."
Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, says the agency is relying on too little data, much of which is supplied by the company itself.
"FDA has set the bar very low," he said.
Ron Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, countered that the company has more than addressed the concerns, and his product has come under much more scrutiny than most food.
"This is perhaps the most studied fish in history," he said. "Environmentally this is a very sustainable technology."
The company has several safeguards in place to allay concerns. All the fish would be bred female and sterile, though a small percentage may be able to breed. They would be bred in confined pools where the potential for escape would be very low.
In its environmental analysis of the fish released earlier this month, the FDA agreed with the company that there are enough safeguards in place.
Stotish says the fish would be bred in better conditions than many of the world's farmed salmon, and could be located closer to population centers to help feed more people. The company has also said the increase in engineered salmon production could help relieve endangered wild salmon populations.
The company is also arguing that the fish do not need to be labeled as genetically engineered, so the common customer would not know if they were eating the modified product or the conventional product. The second day of the FDA meeting will focus on the labeling question.
"This fish is identical to the traditional food," maintained Stotish. "The label could even be misleading because it implies a difference that doesn't exist."
At the meeting Monday, the FDA, the company and critics will present their findings to an advisory committee, which will in turn advise the FDA. A decision will come after the meeting, though it is unclear how long that will take. If approved, the fish could be in grocery stores in two years, the company estimates.
The industry says their job will be to counter the common impression that the modified salmon are "frankenfish."
"In the story of Frankenstein it was the fear of the people driving it, it wasn't the monster that was evil," says Edwards of the Biotechnology Industry Association. "If you look at the science and the safety and you look at the benefits, they become very exciting products."
See full article from DailyFinance: srph.it/bOc9DZ
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Many of you know that I began my solo 3-month road trip this summer on May 18 sitting at the feet of the master, Mary Oliver, at one of her readings in Fayetteville, AR. I see her as one of my teachers on the Path. In the Yogic tradition, there is only one initiating teacher, the "diksha guru," but there can be many other teachers along the way (shiksha gurus). Mary Oliver is one of my "shiksha gurus."
TRYING TO BE THOUGHTFUL IN THE FIRST BRIGHTS OF DAWN
I am thinking, or trying to think, about all the
imponderables for which we have
no answers, yet endless interest all the
range of our lives, and it's
good for the head no doubt to undertake such
meditation; Mystery, after all,
is God's other name, and deserves our
consideration surely. But, but -
excuse me now, please; it's morning, heavenly bright,
and my irrepressible heart begs me to hurry on
into the next exquisite moment.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Friday, September 10, 2010
When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.
Think of it...always.
-- Mahatma Gandhi
Photograph taken at a candlelight vigil outside the
firehouse of Squad 18, NYFD, September 11, 2001.
Return to the most human,
nothing less will nourish the torn spirit,
the bewildered heart,
the angry mind:
and from the ultimate duress,
pierced with the breath of anguish,
speak of love.
Return, return to the deep sources,
nothing less will teach the stiff hands a new way to serve,
to carve into our lives the forms of tenderness
and still that ancient necessary pain preserve.
Return to the most human,
nothing less will teach the angry spirit,
the bewildered heart;
the torn mind,
to accept the whole of its duress,
and pierced with anguish --
at last, act for love.
~ May Sarton ~
(Collected Poems 1930-1993)
Friday, September 10, 2010
Do you remember the movie "Stand and Deliver" about an inner city teacher in East LA who motivated his kids to excel? That teacher was the late Jaime Escalante (he died at 79 in March from cancer), and this KarmaTube story gives credit where credit is due!
In the midst of this trouble-laden world, stories like this give me courage to continue (Stevie Wonder's image of the "joy inside my tears").
The word for the determination, discipline, and hard work that leads to success that Jaime Escalante used with his students is translated as "ganas" in Spanish. For decades, he taught math in the tough neighborhoods of LA -- and again and again succeeded with students others had given up on. His untiring commitment and passion now lives on in the work of his many grateful students.
This will bring a smile to your face and perhaps a tear to your eye:
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Once again, one of my teachers, Eknath Easwaran, has captured an important truth that either propels me toward, or gets in my way of, success on the weight loss journey...and in LIFE in general! Cheesecakes in the bakery case or vegetarian sushi in the refrigerator case, movies instead of exercise, staring at a monitor or jumping on my bike...all great opportunities to train the senses!
Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs, the wise can draw in their senses at will.
â€“ Bhagavad Gita
What a marvelous simile! Just imagine a tortoise being approached by a group of school children with sticks in their hands. He sees the children coming, and the command is given to the limbs, "Retire"â€ť Immediately, the head, the tail, and the four legs withdraw into the shell. The children come; they tap on the shell with their sticks, trying to get the tortoise to come out. He is safe inside.
After the children leave and all is quiet, the tortoise ventures to stick his neck out, then his tail and legs. He continues his journey, unconcerned. He goes where he likes.
If we want to live in freedom, we must train our senses. We learn when to welcome an experience, and when to withdraw for our own safety. We become masters of our lives. Then we will be like the giant tortoise I saw at the zoo â€“ wandering freely while all the other animals were in cages. A notice on his back read: "I am free. Donâ€™t report me to the management."
-- Eknath Easwaran
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