Is coffee a cancer risk?

First off – don’t panic. 🙂 Keep drinking your coffee while you read this.

A judge in California has ruled that coffee companies have to display a warning that coffee poses a cancer risk, due to the presence of acrylamide, a chemical produced in the roasting process.  It’s true, too…this is nasty stuff, discovered in 2002.  Lab studies have shown an increased risk of cancer, though the levels used around 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what people would be exposed to in food.  It’s not just in coffee though…it’s found in potato chips, bread, cereals, french fries, cigarettes, even canned black olives.  California has a law, though (Proposition 65) requiring consumers to be informed if the product they’re buying contains dangerous chemicals…hence this court ruling.  So…sure, acrylamide can cause cancer at high levels…but so can a lot of other things we are exposed to.

On the flip side, coffee has been shown to have positive health benefits too, being linked to a reduced risk of death from heat disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological disease, etc.  So…no need to panic, if you ask me.  Just enjoy everything in moderation. 🙂

Read more about acrylamide at the American Cancer Society if you’re interested.

My growing awareness of our diets’ impact on the environment

Last fall, I switched to a vegan diet briefly, before settling on pescatarian (a vegetarian diet, plus fish).  While I did this out of health concerns, this process has begun to open my eyes to the impact that animal-based foods have on our environment.  I’m still trying to figure out if there can be a balance, but do think it’d be better if I can get to a full vegan lifestyle.  Yeah…lifestyle.  Not just diet.  But that’s a ways off still.

So, what issues have been on my mind lately?  Well first, there was a great article in Outside Magazine about OR4, a wolf that played a large part in that species reintroduction into the wilds of Oregon.  The only real controversy regards the occasional wolf killing of livestock, sheep and cattle.  It’s rare, and farmers are financially compensated, but still, the bulk of objection to wolf reintroduction anywhere comes from that group.  It’s already been shown that wolves are beneficial to the health of the ecosystem in Yellowstone.  By having a meat-based diet and using animal products (wool), we’re indirectly having a negative impact on the health of the ecosystems we live in.

Another thing I’ve learned was just today, reading that over half (60%) of the lakes in New Zealand are deemed unsafe for humans to swim in…due to pollution from dairy farming.  Wow.  I have to assume that dairy production in the US has at least some similar effect, but I haven’t read anything about that yet, I need to learn more.

Of course, there’s the issue of methane produced by cows and its effect on global warming, too!

I’m realizing that to achieve my goal of protecting the environment to the greatest extent possible, I need to further reconsider my diet and not support industries that are directly harming it.  However, I don’t have a good sense right now of to what extent the production of plant-based foods negatively impacts the environment.  I know there are concerns about water usage (almonds, especially) and destruction of native habitat, but are there other issues I need to be more aware of?  The quest for knowledge continues.

EPA approves chlorpyrifos pesticide for use

The EPA’s own scientists found that ingesting even small amounts of the pesticide chlorpyrifos can interfere with brain development in fetuses and infants.  The American Academy of Pediatrics urged that the chemical not be made for sale.  Traces of it are already found in drinking water, and 87% of blood samples from umbilical cords had detectable levels.  Dow (the manufacturer of this chemical) seemed to even acknowledge a risk when it stopped selling it for home use in 2000.  The EPA had been pushing for a ban on this chemical, but after the EPA head (Scott Pruitt) met with Dow Chemical’s CEO, that position has been reversed, and the EPA has denied a petition to ban the chemical from being sprayed on food.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that, the “EPA has concluded that the science addressing chlorpyrifos remains unresolved.”  UNRESOLVED. To put that another way, they’re saying the science doesn’t show whether or not the chemical is safe…so they choose to APPROVE it for use on food?  Wouldn’t you want to RESOLVE that science completely before subjecting people to this?!

The power of corporations over the American government seems to know no limits.  Dow spent $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, gave $1 million to help with Trump’s inauguration celebration, and the Dow CEO was even photographed at Trump’s side at one of his infamous oval office signings.

You can read more about this at APNews.com

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

The Environmental Working Group has published their updated 2016 version of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  This guide looked at pesticide residue data from the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to rank 50 common fruits and vegetables by the amount of pesticides on them.  The results were  a bit surprising, and yet another reason why it’s better to buy organic when possible!

Here’s the full list, from worst to best:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers
  13. Snap peas (imported)
  14. Blueberries (domestic)
  15. Potatoes
  16. Hot peppers
  17. Lettuce
  18. Kale/collard greens
  19. Blueberries (imported)
  20. Green beans
  21. Plums
  22. Pears
  23. Raspberries
  24. Carrots
  25. Winter squash
  26. Tangerines
  27. Summer squash
  28. Snap peas (domestic)
  29. Green onions
  30. Bananas
  31. Oranges
  32. Watermelon
  33. Broccoli
  34. Sweet potatoes
  35. Mushrooms
  36. Cauliflower
  37. Cantaloupe
  38. Grapefruit
  39. Honeydew melon
  40. Eggplant
  41. Kiwi
  42. Papayas
  43. Mangos
  44. Asparagus
  45. Onions
  46. Sweet peas (frozen)
  47. Cabbage
  48. Pineapples
  49. Sweet corn
  50. Avocados

Until there’s proper, scientific human testing of the effects of long term exposure to pesticides as well as the combination of pesticides used on different produce…I recommend sticking with organic!

You can read more at Treehugger.

Big GMO study about to start

What is being called the ‘world’s first ever comprehensive and independent study on the safety of GMOs and their associated pesticides’ is expected to launch in 2015.  At a cost of around $25 million, this international effort will be an approximately three year study of rats with the goal of answering these questions:

  1. Are GMOs (or their associated pesticides) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
  2. Do GMOs (or their associated pesticides) cause cancer?
  3. Do GMOs (or their associated pesticides) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
  4. Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?

This is a BIG deal.  Monsanto had used a 90 day study which showed no ill effects, while a two year study by others showed tumors in the rats (only detected after around 18 months) – source.  A three year study will help address the concerns raised by that two year study, and may also lead to regulators requiring long term studies for future GM products (currently, long term studies are not required in any country).

So, great news…but we’ll have to wait three or four years to hear the results.  Read more about it here.

Farmers succeed in developing herbicide-resistant SuperWeeds

Thanks to glyphosate-resistant genetically modified seeds from Monsanto, farmers in the US have been able to vastly increase their use of glyphosate (the main ingredient in the weed-killer RoundUp), and hasten the evolution of common weeds into new, herbicide-resistant superweeds.  These SuperWeeds are out of control in areas of the midwest and Kansas.  Well done, farmers!

This is exactly the sort of outcome logic would predict, so let’s hope they intended to do that and aren’t instead just focused on their short-term profits.  Umm, yeah.  I think the only surprise would be that the weeds adapted so quickly…I’m sure Monsanto was hoping for a few more decades of profits to be had from that RoundUp/Seed combination!

Read more here: Farmers Fight Explosion of “Superweeds” – Scientific American.

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