Keep eating that organic food…

Another piece of news that validates the precautionary principle:

Are Contaminants Silencing Our Genes?

By Bette Hileman and Environmental Health News Some chemicals may leave people vulnerable to diseases like cancer and diabetes, not by mutating genes but by turning them off or on at the wrong time

Each of us starts life with a particular set of genes, 20,000 to 25,000 of them. Now scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence that pollutants and chemicals might be altering those genes—not by mutating them, but by sending subtle signals that silence them or switch them on at the wrong times.

Last week, several dozen researchers and experts convened by the National Academies tackled this complicated topic, called epigenetics, at a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C. They discussed new findings that suggest chemicals in our environment and in our food can alter genes, leaving people vulnerable to a variety of diseases and disorders, including diabetes, asthma, cancer and obesity. They also considered whether regulatory agencies and industry should start testing the thousands of chemicals in use today for these effects.

The question is: how can our existing power structures, so heavily indebted to the false promises of the present economy, come to grips with this new reality?

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Keep eating that organic food…

2 thoughts on “Keep eating that organic food…

  1. JBWalker says:

    How easy it is for the faith based, organic movement to suggest conventional farming chemicals produce gene changes. What scap of evidnce is there for this. Organic farming whch prevents the use of well tested and carefully applied agrochemicals yet allows use of copper fungicidesfor example which are more poisonous to humans and wild life. To suggest that a molecule of synthetically produced urea is dangerous yet a molecule fro a cow is OK , shows the illogicality of the organic proponents. 95% of westen conumers have been eating conventional foods with agrochemicals for 50 years or more with the result of longer healthier lives. Have I got it wrong?

  2. JB:

    Thank you for your comment.

    I agree that a certain portion of the organic food movement present themselves as “know-nothings” or “faith based”; that is unfortunate, because they have some very legitimate concerns. They are perhaps reflexively distrustful of official stories from the “health establishment” remembering how, for a long time, health risks associated with smoking and radiation were downplayed.

    You are right to note that Western countries have seen increased life expectancies. Perhaps though, comparing our life expectancies of today with those of 1900 is not using a very ambitious yardstick. I would instead ask: Is our health as a society as good as it can be? * By that more ambitious measure, we are lacking: cancer rates are up for many types of cancer from their 1900 levels (although they are lower for certain types, e.g. stomach cancers) and overall cancer mortality increased from 1900 to 1993. In 1993 it started to show its first declines, declines due to improved treatment, not lower rates. And remember these treatments are fantastically expensive (as an architect who has done a lot of healthcare work, I have some acquaintance with this) We need cheap prevention, not expensive cures.

    50 years is a very short time frame–long for an individual’s life perhaps–but very short in terms of evaluating whether we are building an ecosystem that is both healthy and sustainable, with our chemical and pesticide dependent farming infrastructure.

    These are scientists who are researching this issue, not organic food advocates. They are finding mechanisms for observed increases in cancers and other health problems. This is not the tinfoil hat crowd. If it were, I wouldn’t have covered the story.

    Much of modern pollution is airborne or waterborne, and we cannot isolate ourselves from it for long. In that sense, my title for this post was too simplistic. Decreasing mercury output from coal-powered electricity plants is an example of low hanging fruit for decreasing epigenetic stresses, and has nothing to do with organic food directly.

    * See a very similar point I’ve made here (always pick the best metrics!):

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