Archive for June, 2013

Read this profound, intelligent and spiritual article by the author of Ectopia . This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia [3] author Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) after his death.]

“To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support—a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.

As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy, and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times.

How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?

I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture.

But let us begin with last things first, for a change. The analysis will come later, for those who wish it.

Hope. Children exude hope, even under the most terrible conditions, and that must inspire us as our conditions get worse. Hopeful patients recover better. Hopeful test candidates score better. Hopeful builders construct better buildings. Hopeful parents produce secure and resilient children. In groups, an atmosphere of hope is essential to shared successful effort: “Yes, we can!” is not an empty slogan, but a mantra for people who intend to do something together—whether it is rescuing victims of hurricanes, rebuilding flood-damaged buildings on higher ground, helping wounded people through first aid, or inventing new social structures (perhaps one in which only people are “persons,” not corporations). We cannot know what threats we will face. But ingenuity against adversity is one of our species’ built-in resources. We cope, and faith in our coping capacity is perhaps our biggest resource of all.

Mutual support. The people who do best at basic survival tasks (we know this experimentally, as well as intuitively) are cooperative, good at teamwork, often altruistic, mindful of the common good. In drastic emergencies like hurricanes or earthquakes, people surprise us by their sacrifices—of food, of shelter, even sometimes of life itself. Those who survive social or economic collapse, or wars, or pandemics, or starvation, will be those who manage scarce resources fairly; hoarders and dominators win only in the short run, and end up dead, exiled, or friendless. So, in every way we can we need to help each other, and our children, learn to be cooperative rather than competitive; to be helpful rather than hurtful; to look out for the communities of which we are a part, and on which we ultimately depend.

Practical skills. With the movement into cities of the US population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. When I was a boy in the country, all of us knew how to build a tree house, or construct a small hut, or raise chickens, or grow beans, or screw pipes together to deliver water. It was a sexist world, of course, so when some of my chums in eighth grade said we wanted to learn girls’ “home ec” skills like making bread or boiling eggs, the teachers were shocked, but we got to do it. There was widespread competence in fixing things—impossible with most modern contrivances, of course, but still reasonable for the basic tools of survival: pots and pans, bicycles, quilts, tents, storage boxes.

We all need to learn, or relearn, how we would keep the rudiments of life going if there were no paid specialists around, or means to pay them. Every child should learn elementary carpentry, from layout and sawing to driving nails. Everybody should know how to chop wood safely, and build a fire. Everybody should know what to do if dangers appear from fire, flood, electric wires down, and the like. Taking care of each other is one practical step at a time, most of them requiring help from at least one other person; survival is a team sport.

[3]Organize. Much of the American ideology, our shared and usually unspoken assumptions, is hyper-individualistic. We like to imagine that heroes are solitary, have super powers, and glory in violence, and that if our work lives and business lives seem tamer, underneath they are still struggles red in blood and claw. We have sought solitude on the prairies, as cowboys on the range, in our dependence on media (rather than real people), and even in our cars, armored cabins of solitude. We have an uneasy and doubting attitude about government, as if we all reserve the right to be outlaws. But of course human society, like ecological webs, is a complex dance of mutual support and restraint, and if we are lucky it operates by laws openly arrived at and approved by the populace.

If the teetering structure of corporate domination, with its monetary control of Congress and our other institutions, should collapse of its own greed, and the government be unable to rescue it, we will have to reorganize a government that suits the people. We will have to know how to organize groups, how to compromise with other groups, how to argue in public for our positions. It turns out that “brainstorming,” a totally noncritical process in which people just throw out ideas wildly, doesn’t produce workable ideas. In particular, it doesn’t work as well as groups in which ideas are proposed, critiqued, improved, debated. But like any group process, this must be protected from domination by powerful people and also over-talkative people. When the group recognizes its group power, it can limit these distortions. Thinking together is enormously creative; it has huge survival value.

Learn to live with contradictions. These are dark times, these are bright times. We are implacably making the planet less habitable. Every time a new oil field is discovered, the press cheers: “Hooray, there is more fuel for the self-destroying machines!” We are turning more land into deserts and parking lots. We are wiping out innumerable species that are not only wondrous and beautiful, but might be useful to us. We are multiplying to the point where our needs and our wastes outweigh the capacities of the biosphere to produce and absorb them. And yet, despite the bloody headlines and the rocketing military budgets, we are also, unbelievably, killing fewer of each other proportionately than in earlier centuries. We have mobilized enormous global intelligence and mutual curiosity, through the Internet and outside it. We have even evolved, spottily, a global understanding that democracy is better than tyranny, that love and tolerance are better than hate, that hope is better than rage and despair, that we are prone, especially in catastrophes, to be astonishingly helpful and cooperative.

We may even have begun to share an understanding that while the dark times may continue for generations, in time new growth and regeneration will begin. In the biological process called “succession,” a desolate, disturbed area is gradually, by a predictable sequence of returning plants, restored to ecological continuity and durability. When old institutions and habits break down or consume themselves, new experimental shoots begin to appear, and people explore and test and share new and better ways to survive together.

It is never easy or simple. But already we see, under the crumbling surface of the conventional world, promising developments: new ways of organizing economic activity (cooperatives, worker-owned companies, nonprofits, trusts), new ways of using low-impact technology to capture solar energy, to sequester carbon dioxide, new ways of building compact, congenial cities that are low (or even self-sufficient) in energy use, low in waste production, high in recycling of almost everything. A vision of sustainability that sometimes shockingly resembles Ecotopia is tremulously coming into existence at the hands of people who never heard of the book.

Now in principle, the Big Picture seems simple enough, though devilishly complex in the details. We live in the declining years of what is still the biggest economy in the world, where a looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire. It is intent on speedily and relentlessly extracting the maximum wealth from that carcass, impoverishing our former working middle class. But this maggot class does not invest its profits here. By law and by stock-market pressures, corporations must seek their highest possible profits, no matter the social or national consequences—which means moving capital and resources abroad, wherever profit potential is larger. As Karl Marx darkly remarked, “Capital has no country,” and in the conditions of globalization his meaning has come clear.

The looter elite systematically exports jobs, skills, knowledge, technology, retaining at home chiefly financial manipulation expertise: highly profitable, but not of actual productive value. Through “productivity gains” and speedups, it extracts maximum profit from domestic employees; then, firing the surplus, it claims surprise that the great mass of people lack purchasing power to buy up what the economy can still produce (or import).

Here again Marx had a telling phrase: “Crisis of under-consumption.” When you maximize unemployment and depress wages, people have to cut back. When they cut back, businesses they formerly supported have to shrink or fail, adding their own employees to the ranks of the jobless, and depressing wages still further. End result: something like Mexico, where a small, filthy rich plutocracy rules over an impoverished mass of desperate, uneducated, and hopeless people.

Barring unprecedented revolutionary pressures, this is the actual future we face in the United States, too. As we know from history, such societies can stand a long time, supported by police and military control, manipulation of media, surveillance and dirty tricks of all kinds. It seems likely that a few parts of the world (Germany, with its worker-council variant of capitalism, New Zealand with its relative equality, Japan with its social solidarity, and some others) will remain fairly democratic.

The US, which has a long history of violent plutocratic rule unknown to the textbook-fed, will stand out as the best-armed Third World country, its population ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-educated, ill-cared for in health, and increasingly poverty-stricken: even Social Security may be whittled down, impoverishing tens of millions of the elderly.

As empires decline, their leaders become increasingly incompetent—petulant, ignorant, gifted only with PR skills of posturing and spinning, and prone to the appointment of loyal idiots to important government positions. Comedy thrives; indeed writers are hardly needed to invent outrageous events.

We live, then, in a dark time here on our tiny precious planet. Ecological devastation, political and economic collapse, irreconcilable ideological and religious conflict, poverty, famine: the end of the overshoot of cheap-oil-based consumer capitalist expansionism.

If you don’t know where you’ve been, you have small chance of understanding where you might be headed. So let me offer a capsule history for those who, like most of us, got little help from textbook history.

At 82, my life has included a surprisingly substantial slice of American history. In the century or so up until my boyhood in Appalachian central Pennsylvania, the vast majority of Americans subsisted as farmers on the land. Most, like people elsewhere in the world, were poor, barely literate, ill-informed, short-lived. Millions had been slaves. Meanwhile in the cities, vast immigrant armies were mobilized by ruthless and often violent “robber baron” capitalists to build vast industries that made things: steel, railroads, ships, cars, skyscrapers.

Then, when I was in grade school, came World War II. America built the greatest armaments industry the world had ever seen, and when the war ended with most other industrial countries in ruins, we had a run of unprecedented productivity and prosperity. Thanks to strong unions and a sympathetic government, this prosperity was widely shared: a huge working middle class evolved—tens of millions of people could afford (on one wage) a modest house, a car, perhaps sending a child to college. This era peaked around 1973, when wages stagnated, the Vietnam War took a terrible toll in blood and money, and the country began sliding rightward.

In the next epoch, which we are still in and which may be our last as a great nation, capitalists who grew rich and powerful by making things gave way to a new breed: financiers who grasped that you could make even more money by manipulating money. (And by persuading Congress to subsidize them—the system should have been called Subsidism, not Capitalism.) They had no concern for the productivity of the nation or the welfare of its people; with religious fervor, they believed in maximizing profit as the absolute economic goal. They recognized that, by capturing the government through the election finance system and removing government regulation, they could turn the financial system into a giant casino.

Little by little, they hollowed the country out, until it was helplessly dependent on other nations for almost all its necessities. We had to import significant steel components from China or Japan. We came to pay for our oil imports by exporting food (i.e., our soil). Our media and our educational system withered. Our wars became chronic and endless and stupefyingly expensive. Our diets became suicidal, and our medical system faltered; life expectancies began to fall.

And so we have returned, in a sort of terrible circle, to something like my boyhood years, when President Roosevelt spoke in anger of “one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed.” A large and militant contingent of white, mostly elderly, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant right wingers, mortally threatened by their impending minority status and pretending to be liberty-lovers, desperately seek to return us still further back.

Americans like to think of ours as an exceptional country, immune through geographical isolation and some kind of special virtue to the tides of history. Through the distorted lens of our corporate media, we possess only a distorted view of what the country is really like now. In the next decades, we shall see whether we indeed possess the intelligence, the strength, and the mutual courage to break through to another positive era.

No futurist can foresee the possibilities. As empires decay, their civilian leaderships become increasingly crazed, corrupt, and incompetent, and often the military (which is after all a parasite of the whole nation, and has no independent financial base like the looter class) takes over. Another possible scenario is that if the theocratic red center of the country prevails in Washington, the relatively progressive and prosperous coastal areas will secede in self-defense.

Ecotopia is a novel, and secession was its dominant metaphor: how would a relatively rational part of the country save itself ecologically if it was on its own? As Ecotopia Emerging puts it, Ecotopia aspired to be a beacon for the rest of the world. And so it may prove, in the very, very long run, because the general outlines of Ecotopia are those of any possible future sustainable society.

The “ecology in one country” argument was an echo of an actual early Soviet argument, as to whether “socialism in one country” was possible. In both cases, it now seems to me, the answer must be no. We are now fatally interconnected, in climate change, ocean impoverishment, agricultural soil loss, etc., etc., etc. International consumer capitalism is a self-destroying machine, and as long as it remains the dominant social form, we are headed for catastrophe; indeed, like rafters first entering the “tongue” of a great rapid, we are already embarked on it.

When disasters strike and institutions falter, as at the end of empires, it does not mean that the buildings all fall down and everybody dies. Life goes on, and in particular, the remaining people fashion new institutions that they hope will better ensure their survival.

So I look to a long-term process of “succession,” as the biological concept has it, where “disturbances” kill off an ecosystem, but little by little new plants colonize the devastated area, prepare the soil for larger and more complex plants (and the other beings who depend on them), and finally the process achieves a flourishing, resilient, complex state—not necessarily what was there before, but durable and richly productive. In a similar way, experiments under way now, all over the world, are exploring how sustainability can in fact be achieved locally. Technically, socially, economically—since it is quite true, as ecologists know, that everything is connected to everything else, and you can never just do one thing by itself.

Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans’ political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them.

Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go.

All things “go” somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi—the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it.

There is beauty in weathered and unpainted wood, in orchards overgrown, even in abandoned cars being incorporated into the earth. Let us learn, like the Forest Service sometimes does, to put unwise or unneeded roads “to bed,” help a little in the healing of the natural contours, the re-vegetation by native plants. Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth.




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Regarding GMO or GE Foods, Lawrence Kushi, associate director and nutritional epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif. said, “Part of the problem from an epidemiological perspective is that it’s difficult to actually study this question because people don’t know whether they’ve actually consumed [GMOs].” http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/104/7/498.full
Next this article states, “He said a recent report indicating GMOs may lead to cancer in rats has been discredited by the scientific community.” This is false, not only was the study published in a peer reviewed journal, hundreds of scientists have wrote in support of it. http://gmoseralini.org/introduction-to-scientists-support-seralini/ http://independentsciencenews.org/health/seralini-and-science-nk603-rat-study-roundup
What is also being ignored is that more than half of the few relevant long term studies(using GE foods people consume, relevant health parameters and mammals as subjects) suggest some negative effects of the mammals fed GE foods. The article next states, “I encourage people to be skeptical, but these companies don’t have to assure consumers that these products are safe,” he said. “We have safety assessments coming from FDA” This is inaccurate. The FDA specifically states, “FDA established an informal process by which firms can inform the Agency that they have completed a food or feed safety assessment.”http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm112927.htm As well as, “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Biotechnology/ucm096095.htm
Hundreds of scientists in a UN report have stated, “The concepts and techniques used for evaluating food and feed safety have been outlined (WHO, 2005b), but the approval process of GM crops is considered inadequate (Spök et al., 2004).
Under current practice, data are provided by the companies owning the genetic materials, making independent verification difficult or impossible.”

Biotech Crops’ Seal of Safety Does Not Convince Skeptics

Biotech Crops’ Seal of Safety Does Not Convince Skeptics


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Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; Final Second List of Chemicals and Substances for Tier 1 Screening
AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Notice.
This document announces the final second list of 109 chemicals identified for Tier 1 screening under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).
The EDSP is established under section 408(p) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), which requires EPA to devel op a chemical screening program using appropriate validated test systems and other scientifically relevant information to determine whether certain substances may have hormonal effects.


Table 2.—Final Second EDSP List of Chemicals For Tier 1 Screening
Chemical Name CAS Reg No. SDWA PAI
1. 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane 630-20-6 X
2. 1,1,1-Trichloroethane 71-55-6 X
3. 1,1,2-Trichloroethane 79-00-5 X
4. 1,1-Dichloroethane 75-34-3 X
5. 1,1-Dichloroethylene 75-35-4 X
6. 1,2,3-Trichloropropane 96-18-4 X
7. 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene 120-82-1 X
8. 1,2-Dichloroethane 107-06-2 X
9. 1,2-Dichloropropane 78-87-5 X
10. 1,3-Dinitrobenzene 99-65-0 X
11. 1,4-Dioxane 123-91-1 X
12. 1-Butanol 71-36-3 X
13. 2-Methoxyethanol 109-86-4 X
14. 2-Propen-1-ol 107-18-6 X
15. 4,4′-Methylenedianiline 101-77-9 X
16. Acetaldehyde 75-07-0 X
17. Acetamide 60-35-5 X
18. Acetochlor 34256-82-1 X X
19. Acetochlor ethanesulfonic acid(ESA) 187022-11-3 X
20. Acetochlor oxanilic acid (OA) 194992-44-4 X
21. Acrolein 107-02-8 X X
22. Acrylamide 79-06-1 X
23. Alachlor 15972-60-8 X X
24. Alachlor ethanesulfonic acid (ESA) 142363-53-9 X
25. Alachlor oxanilic acid (OA) 171262-17-2 X
26. alpha-Hexachlorocyclohexane 319-84-6 X
27. Aniline 62-53-3 X
28. Bensulide 741-58-2 X X
29. Benzene 71-43-2 X
30. Benzo(a)pyrene (PAHs) 50-32-8 X
31. Butylated hydroxyanisole 25013-16-5 X
32. Carbon tetrachloride 56-23-5 X
33. Chlorobenzene 108-90-7 X
34. cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene 156-59-2 X
35. Clethodim 99129-21-2 X X
36. Clofentezine 74115-24-5 X
37. Clomazone 81777-89-1 X
38. Coumaphos 56-72-4 X
39. Cyanamide 420-04-2 X
40. Cyromazine 66215-27-8
41. Denatonium saccharide 90823-38-4 X
42. Di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate 103-23-1 X
43. Dichloromethane 75-09-2 X
44. Dicrotophos 141-66-2 X X
45. Diuron 330-54-1 X X
46. Endothall 145-73-3 X X
47. Epichlorohydrin 106-89-8 X
48. Erythromycin 114-07-8 X
49. Ethylbenzene 100-41-4 X
50. Ethylene glycol 107-21-1 X
51. Ethylene thiourea 96-45-7 X
52. Ethylurethane 51-79-6 X
53. Etofenprox 80844-07-1 X
54. Fenoxaprop–ethyl 71283-80-2 X
55. Flumetsulam 98967-40-9 X
56. Fomesafen sodium 108731-70-0 X
57. Fosetyl-Al (Aliette) 39148-24-8 X
58. Glufosinate ammonium 77182-82-2 X
59. HCFC-22 75-45-6 X
60. Hexachlorobenzene 118-74-1 X
61. Hexachlorocyclopentadiene 77-47-4 X
62. Hexane 110-54-3 X
63. Hexythiazox 78587-05-0 X
64. Hydrazine 302-01-2 X
65. Isoxaben 82558-50-7 X
66. Lactofen 77501-63-4 X
67. Lindane 58-89-9 X
68. Methanol 67-56-1 X
69. Methyl tert-butyl ether 1634-04-4
70. Metolachlor ethanesulfonic acid (ESA) 171118-09-5 X
71. Metolachlor oxanilic acid (OA) 152019-73-3 X
72. Nitrobenzene 98-95-3 X
73. Nitroglycerin 55-63-0 X
  74.-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone 872-50-4 X
75.N Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) 62-75-9 X
79. Oxydemeton-methyl 301-12-2 X X
80. Oxyfluorfen 42874-03-3 X X
81. Paclobutrazol 76738-62-0 X
83. Pentachlorophenol 87-86-5 X X
84. Perchlorate 14797-73-0 X

85. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) 1763-23-1 X
86. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) 335-67-1 X
87. Picloram 1918-02-1 X X
88. Polychlorinated biphenyls 1336-36-3 X
89. Profenofos 41198-08-7 X X
90. Propionic acid 79-09-4 X
91. Quinclorac 84087-01-4 X
92. Quinoline 91-22-5 X
93. Quizalofop-P-ethyl 100646-51-3 X
94. RDX 121-82-4 X
95. sec-Butylbenzene 135-98-8 X
96. Styrene 100-42-5 X
97. Terbufos 13071-79-9 X X
98. Terbufos sulfone 56070-16-7 X
99. Tetrachloroethylene 127-18-4 X
100. Thiophanate-methyl 23564-05-8 X X
101. Toluene diisocyanate 26471-62-5 X
102. trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene 156-60-5 X
103. Trichloroethylene 79-01-6 X
104. Triflumizole 68694-11-1 X
105. Trinexapac-ethyl 95266-40-3 X
106. Triphenyltin hydroxide (TPTH) 76-87-9 X X
107. Vinclozolin 50471-44-8 X X
108. Xylenes (total) 1330-20-7 X X

109. Ziram 137-30-4 X

**** Please refer to EPA and EDSP Document for complete list  – several listed chemicals did not transpose over
For further information or for technical information contact:
Hannah Holsinger, Office of Water, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001 (MC-4607M); telephone number: (202) 564-0403, e-mail address: holsinger.hannah@epa.gov
Pat West, Office of Science Coordination and Policy, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001 (MC-7201M); telephone number: (202) 564-1656, e-mail address: west.pat@epa.gov

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Evolutionary Psychology: A House Built on Sand

By Peter Saunders

In R. M. Lerner & J. B. Benson (Eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior. Embodiment and Epigenesis: Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Understanding the Role of Biology within the Relational Developmental System Part A: Philosophical, Theoretical, and Biological Dimensions. Academic Press, New York, 2013, pp 257–284


While Darwinism has contributed much to our understanding of the living world, it has not given us an adequate account of why organisms are the way they are and how they came to be that way. For that we will need all of science, not just a single algorithm. The crucial contribution of Darwinism to biology is that it explains how we can have functional physical traits without a creator. This is less important in psychology because no one is surprised when people behave in ways that work to their advantage. Evolutionary psychology nevertheless follows the Darwinian model. It assumes from the outset that the brain is largely modular and that human nature is made up of a very large number of functionally specialised psychological mechanisms that have been constructed over time by natural selection. How much confidence one should have in its conclusions depends very much on how far one accepts its premises.

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No Genes for Intelligence in the Fluid Genome

By Mae-Wan Ho

In R. M. Lerner & J. B. Benson (Eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior. Embodiment and Epigenesis: Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Understanding the Role of Biology within the Relational Developmental System Part B: Ontogenetic Dimensions. Academic Press, New York, 2013, pp. 67-92.


Revolution is brewing belatedly within the heartlands of the genetic determinist establishment still in denial about the fluid genome that makes identifying genes even for common disease well-nigh impossible. The fruitless hunt for intelligence genes serves to expose the poverty of an obsolete paradigm that is obstructing knowledge and preventing fruitful policies from being widely implemented. Genome-wide scans using state-of-the art technologies on extensive databases have failed to find a single gene for intelligence; instead, environment and maternal effects may account for most, if not all correlation among relatives, while identical twins diverge genetically and epigenetically throughout life. Abundant evidence points to the enormous potential for improving intellectual abilities (and health) through simple environmental and social interventions.

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Post Cited from: A Longitudinal Approach to Assessing Urban and Suburban Children’s Exposure to Pyrethroid Pesticides  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570056/

Chensheng Lu,1 Dana B. Barr,2 Melanie Pearson,1 Scott Bartell,1 and Roberto BravoEnviron Health Perspect. 2006 September; 114(9): 1419–1423. Published online 2006 April 26. doi:  10.1289/ehp.9043

We conducted a longitudinal study to assess the exposure of 23 elementary school–age children to pyrethroid pesticides, using urinary pyrethroid metabolites as exposure biomarkers. We substituted most of the children’s conventional diets with organic food items for 5 consecutive days and collected two daily spot urine samples, first morning and before bedtime voids, throughout the 15-day study period. We analyzed urine samples for five common pyrethroid metabolites. We found an association between the parents’ self-reported pyrethroid use in the residential environment and elevated pyrethroid metabolite levels found in their children’s urine. Children were also exposed to pyrethroids through their conventional diets, although the magnitude was smaller than for the residential exposure. Children’s ages appear to be significantly associated with pyrethroids exposure, which is likely attributed to the use of pyrethroids around the premises or in the facilities where older children engaged in the outdoor activities. We conclude that residential pesticide use represents the most important risk factor for children’s exposure to pyrethroid insecticides. Because of the wide use of pyrethroids in the United States, the findings of this study are important for both children’s pesticide exposure assessment and environmental public health.

Pyrethroids, a group of synthetic insecticides, were manufactured in the 1970s after the removal of organochlorine insecticides, such as DDT, from the consumer market. The synthetic pyrethroids not only inherit the biologic activity (ability to kill insects) from their natural counterpart, pyrethrin, which is found in chrysanthemums, but are also improved in their environmental stability. Pyrethroids are widely used in agriculture, forest, textile industry, and public health programs worldwide (

Although individual pyrethroid insecticides share some common physical and chemical properties as a group, their toxicologic mechanisms, unlike those of OP pesticides, vary in mammals. Pyrethroid insecticides are subject for review as potential developmental neurotoxicants because of their mode of action on voltage-sensitive sodium channels (

In brief, 23 children 3–11 years of age were recruited from local public elementary and Montessori schools for a 15-consecutive-day sample period in summer 2003, with repeated samplings in fall 2003 and in winter and spring 2004. This report discusses results of urinary pyrethroid metabolites only for the summer 2003 sampling period. Results from other sampling periods will be reported when they become available. Subject eligibility for enrollment included children exclusively consuming conventional diets and spending most of their time in one residence. Household pesticide use information was obtained via an in-person interview during an in-home appointment before the field sampling. Written consent was obtained from parents and older children who can read the consent form, whereas oral assent was obtained from younger children. The University of Washington Human Subject Committee approved the use of human subjects in this study.

Results from the linear mixed-effects model demonstrated that both residential pyrethroid use and diet are significant contributors to both PBA and trans-DCCA levels in the urine. It is evident from this model that the effect of self-reported residential pyrethroid use is more important than that of diet

We conclude that residential pesticide use represents a very important risk factor for children’s exposure to pyrethroid insecticides. This conclusion is supported by the fact that only seven of the 23 families reported residential pyrethroid use, yet such use accounted for more of the variability in the urinary pyrethroid metabolites than did the dietary intervention. The results from the mixed-effects model indicated that residential use of pyrethroids remains a more significant predictor of both urinary PBA and trans-DCCA when different diets were taken into account. The data clearly demonstrate that children who lived in households where pyrethroids have been used for pest control purposes have experienced much higher pyrethroid exposures than those whose parents reported no pyrethroid use in their homes. Four of the five highest pyrethroid metabolite levels were found in these seven children. An extreme case was that of a 4-year-old child whose parents used permethrin on the furniture, including beds. Several urine samples collected from this participant have the highest DVWA PBA and cis– and trans-DCCA levels. Other children who lived in homes where pyrethroids were used were continuously exposed to this group of insecticides throughout the 15-day study period. Notably, our pesticide use survey asked whether pesticides are used in and around the home and, if so, when the last application occurred. Thus the continuous exposure to these pesticides throughout the 15-day study period likely reflects residual sources.

Children were also exposed to pyrethroids through diets, although the magnitude was smaller than the residential exposure. Results from studies conducted in Germany have suggested that exposure to pyrethroids in the general population is caused by uptake with the diet (

Accordingly, most of the children’s exposures to pyrethroid metabolites are likely to have come from the environment.

In this study, age is a significant predictor for pyrethroid exposure. We found that older children, 8–11 years of age, experienced higher pyrethroid exposures than did children 3–7 years of age. This finding is not consistent with results from other studies, which suggest that younger children tend to have higher pesticide exposure than older children. Younger children are more vulnerable to adverse health risks resulting from pesticide exposures because of the difference in their physiologic functions relative to older children and adults. However, it is difficult to draw an absolute conclusion that younger children have higher pesticide exposures, particularly exposures from residential environment, than older children. Although common characteristics of young children, such as hand-to-mouth behaviors and close proximity to the floor, put them at higher risk of pesticide exposure, it is the pesticide residues found in the environment that serve as the prerequisite for exposure and the subsequent oral ingestion. In this study, we identified residential use as the primary source of the children’s pyrethroid exposure; however, this risk factor itself does not explain the age effect because age accounts for more variability in urinary metabolites than does residential use in the expanded mixed-effects model. One plausible explanation for this finding is that, as reported by their parents, many older children in this study were engaged in outside sports activities, such as swimming or playing tennis, in a neighborhood country club and parks during this sampling period. Pyrethroids used in those facilities may have led to increased pyrethroid exposure.

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Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science

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A study published in the September issue of Environmental Health Perspectives finds that low-dose, short-term exposure to esfenvalerate, a synthetic pyrethroid pesticide, delays the onset of puberty in rats at doses two times lower than U.S. EPA’s stated no observable effect level (NOEL) of 2.0 mg/kg/day. Synthetic pyrethroids are used for everything from lawn care and household insecticides, to mosquito control and agriculture. There are currently 348 pesticide products registered by the U.S. EPA.

The researchers conclude:“Although the exact mechanism of action is unknown at this time, we observed the effects at dosage levels below the NOEL established through chronic dietary exposure studies in rats. The U.S. EPA (1998) http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-PEST/1998/April/Day-29/p11372.htm stated that ‘There is no evidence of additional sensitivity to young rats or rabbits following pre- or postnatal exposure to esfenvalerate.’ The present study shows that immature female rats exposed to 1.0 mg/kg/day are sensitive to this pesticide, as evidenced by their delay in the onset of puberty. Delayed pubertal onset in humans has been associated with low bone mass density (Ho and Kung 2005), and estrogen is necessary for bone mineral acquisition in both girls and boys (Yilmaz et al. 2005). Importantly, a lowered endogenous estrogen level in females is one factor associated with bone fragility (Hoffman and Bradshaw 2003).

“This could potentially affect current established exposure levels for humans, because the reference dose for [esfenvalerate] of 0.02 mg/kg/day is based directly on the rodent NOEL of 2.0 mg/kg/day.”

With the phase-out of most residential uses of the common organophosphate insecticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon, home use of pyrethroids has increased. Pesticide products containing synthetic pyrethroids are often described by pest control operators and community mosquito management bureaus as “safe as chrysanthemum flowers.” While pyrethroids are a synthetic version of an extract from the chyrsanthemum plant, they are chemically engineered to be more toxic, take longer to breakdown, and are often formulated with synergists, increasing potency and compromising the human body’s ability to detoxify the pesticide. Pyrethroids may affect neurological development, disrupt hormones, induce cancer, and suppress the immune system. Researchers at Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find that residential pesticide use represents the most important risk factor for children’s exposure to pyrethroid insecticides.

According to Ohio State University, esfenvalerate is one of over 75 commonly used pesticides that are highly or moderately toxic to bees. It has also been used on Christmas trees in North Carolina. Esfenvalerate has replaced fenvalerate, whose uses were voluntarily withdrawn from the market by varfious manufacturers, including The Scotts Company, from 2003 to 2008, although existing supplies can be sold off.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ factsheet on synthetic pyrethroids.

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Monsanto’s Toxic Herbicide Glyphosate: A Review of its Health and Environmental Effects

By Andre Leu  Organic Producers Association of Queensland,

Glyphosate is the active ingredient of some of the most common herbicides used in farming and gardening. These products have been promoted as quickly biodegradable and non toxic. People believe that they are so safe that you can drink a cup of these herbicides without any ill effect.

Consequently, it is sprayed on roadsides while people are driving, on footpaths when people are shopping and in schoolyards and sports fields, exposing children to drift and residues. People buy it from supermarkets or garden shops and use it without any protective clothing because it is deemed ‘safe’. It is sprayed in national parks and other environmentally sensitive areas in the belief that it is not toxic and or residual.
I continuously hear Primary Industries officers and other agricultural specialists telling farmers that it is not necessary to wear any protective clothing because it is harmless.

Unfortunately, the facts show that this is not the case. While pure Glyphosate has a low acute toxicity (the amount needed to cause death), when it is sold as a commercial herbicide it is combined with surfactants and other ingredients to make it more effective at killing plants. Studies show that the commercial products, such as Round Up, can be three times more toxic than pure glyphosate. (more…)

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