|Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 02:30 pm: |
This is the only time I'll ever say, "Please do read what I've written."
A perfect storm of dots: Health, disease, transplants, and "the century of biology"
|Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 09:53 pm: |
When I read this, I can't help thinking, would I rather die young of bird flu, or live to grow old and die in the world the way it's going to be in 50 years?
That isn't meant to be flippant at all. Just a groan of despair. Maybe Nature's gearing up to kick us kids out of the house before God gets home and sees the mess.
As for transplants, even putting aside the (very worrying) issue of diseases, I'd feel much less grossed out having replacement parts made of human embryonic stem cells in my body than sundry bits of pork offal.
|Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 02:51 pm: |
er, I didn't mean this as a prediction of how things are going to be, but a call to stop a trend and encourage others. After all, we don't have to raise chickens in the manner that created the bird flu problem now. We don't have to feed animals with antibiotics to make them grow faster, with the side-effect of creating antibiotic resistance problems globally. We don't have to encourage (and passiveness is encouragement) one strand of human activity, especially when there are good others to foster. That movie that's too dumb for smart people to admit they like--a movie I really do like--had a saying in it smarter than Deepak Chopra's any thought in his whole overrated life: "No fate but what we make."
So I've failed utterly if all I did was create a sense of despair. I wanted to create a sense of involvement in an issue that isn't.
And I was hoping that some writers might be inspired. I only touched the tip of the iceberg.
|Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 07:59 pm: |
Sorry to have gasped the Eeyore end of the stick. I think I needed to hear some possible solutions/courses of action from the get-go. As you say, it isn't being made an issue of. I didn't actually know that bird flu developed because of bad poultry farming practices. To air the dirty laundry of my ignorance, I thought it was just another plague that came along for no particular reason.
I did like the 'make me a hipporoo' section. I would like one of Patrick Woodroffe's elephant snails.
|Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 10:44 pm: |
I didn't mean to put you down, and yes, I should have been more forthcoming on positive alternatives to practices that I've lost my sense of humour about. Stem cells, regardless of the setbacks from that fraud in Korea, are a positive way to go. Artificial blood is another. Seaweed is something that Australian scientists are working on. There are alternatives to the chimera approach.
Both the BSE/Mad Cow debacle and the bird flu problem now were caused by fleshfood production methods that demand the most flesh for the least put into making it. Human growth hormones socked into other species that we eat is one example of this folly. Europe has banned it, but other countries such as the US and Australia and China don't see a problem.
|Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 11:00 pm: |
This is an example of a way to go. Today's story in The Scotsman: "The prospect of laboratory-grown human organs has come a step closer after scientists revealed success in the first patients to receive bladders produced from their own cells.
Seven youngsters in the United States who suffered serious bladder problems caused by a birth defect have benefited from a pioneering tissue engineering technique ..."
|Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 11:08 pm: |
My eeyore family thanks you, however. They like their end of the stick fought over by their own sharp sets of teeth. What a beautiful silver highway an elephant snail would make!
|Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 09:09 pm: |
Do you know what led to the bans in Europe? Public protest, consumer power, pressure from green parties, plain old sane leadership...?
|Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 03:28 am: |
I don't know for sure, but I think the ban in Europe probably came as a result of sane leadership, crazy as it seems. Maintaining or setting new standards in food production and consumption seems to be one of the more effective things the EU has done. No doubt the BSE outbreak would have been a big incentive for introducing stricter measures.
EU rules on food sometimes have comical consequences, much to the ire, above all, of the British. Famous examples include the banning of straight bananas. A law was introduced stating that bananas sold within member states had to be bent (you can imagine the fun the tabloids had with that one). A ban on certain flavours of crisps (or potato chips) full of brain-rotting chemicals produced outrage in Britain because one of the outlawed flavours was tomato, a great favourite, apparently, with the British public. These are extreme cases of what is arguably the best thing the EU has done since it was formed.
I think I'm right in saying that one thing about the EU, as opposed to individual governments of individual countries, is that there is strong representation by non-political party groups who have more of a hand in actually deciding EU policy than they normally would at a purely national level. ANd then, of course, the EU actually creates organisational bodies with no political allegiances but with significant power, whose function is to serve the interests of, well, people I suppose. The organisation for dealing with food safety is based in Parma, Italy. Here's the web address.
|Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 05:03 am: |
"After all, we don't have to raise chickens in the manner that created the bird flu problem now."
Aren't you making some wholly unproven assumptions about the source of bird flu, here? It's nothing to do with the manner in which the birds are raised, rather their population density. The birds, in the Asian countries from which it originated, are kept in just the same way as those people have been keeping them for centuries. In fact, factory farming, which is obviously the one you're objecting to, is precisely the method of farming you need to use to prevent the spread of this disease.
|Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 03:23 pm: |
Neal, I wrote that sloppily, so thanks for calling me on it. Factory farming has indeed, become a fact of food production in both chicken and duck farming in China as well as SE Asia. See, for instance, this posting in Effect Measure.
I didn't say "factory production" because that factory production and the kind in, say, the Netherlands, looks quite different, and there hasn't been an abuse of antibiotic use and flu vaccine use in flocks in the Netherlands.
So I should have said that, yes, population density is one factor. Lack of reporting is another. Lying is another. Pressure to produce the most for the least amount of money put in is another, which is why there has been the use of antibiotics to increase growth, something widespread in China now and being pushed to developing nations around the world.
"Industry (Big Pharm) often argues that routine antibiotic growth promoters in animals' feed is essential for food production - and thus peoples' nutrition in the developing world." - from a December 2005 paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases (a US journal for Infectious Diseases Physicians).
Resistance is a growing problem around the world, and is a problem in China both caused by the use of antibiotics (not a traditional practice) and the abuse of flu vaccine (often human)by farmers all over China.
Then there are the problems with breeds. The modern chicken, and you can bet that Chinese farmers are not wasting their time with any 'traditional' breeds, is a wonder of a rotten bird. Its life is short because it can't be long. It lives too fast. I've had these birds, and they are not healthy. They are wonderful disease sinks, given the chance. That's why they need factory farming, with as much protection from wild birds as possible. But that doesn't always work, does it? These inherently sick birds (look at the modern turkey and what they've done to it) are, excuse the expression, sitting ducks.
But at least we don't have to worry about China.
It reported just a couple of weeks ago, China Stamps out Bird Flu Outbreaks.
New Scientist runs a good bird flu site, here.
And apologies for my sloppiness, Neal.
|Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006 - 05:02 pm: |
Alistair, wow: that actually does sound like sane leadership. Even on the issue of the tomato-flavoured crisps. I have eaten those things and I would be inclined to ban them too.But what do they do with the straight bananas? Not just throw them out, I hope. Is there a straight banana heaven?
Re the non-political groups that have a say in the EU, would that be the European Communities (EC and Euratom)?
|Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 07:45 am: |
Actually, Kirsten, they use the surplus straight bananas to make banana boats that have a nice even keel, though some of them don't always conform to EU fishing regulations. No, that's not true! Actually, I don't know. I think the serious issue underlying it may have been that straight bananas had been genetically modified to be straight, but I canít remember the details, and why they should be modified to be straight Iíve no idea. My immediate thought is that it would be easier to pack more of them into boxes or maybe to make them look bigger to fool the consumer. Itís been a long time since Iíve seen a straight banana, though, so I suppose the people responsible for importing them into EU countries have to select them on a bent-ones-only basis. And the growers maybe tailor their bananas to suit the EU market, too.
As regards the way the EUís organised, the non-partisan bodies mainly fall under the European Commission, which works alongside the parliament of elected members (the European Parliament) and the European Council (consisting of representatives from constituent governments). The parliament and the European Council are responsible for passing laws but, if I remember rightly, itís the European Commission who are the body responsible for devising or introducing laws (which the elected bodies must pass or veto) and who are also there to ensure that laws which are passed get implemented properly. The EC is meant to be non-partisan and is there to serve a whole variety of interests for the good of everyone as a whole. And I think all the other bodies are sub-bodies of the EC. The likes of Euratom and the EU food safety body I linked to above would fall under the European Commission, I think. So, as you can see, there are a whole lot of bodies interacting vigorously, which makes Europe the great big magnificent orgy of bureaucracy that it is.
Basically what all this boils down to is that, even while the parliament and the council have the power to pass or veto the laws, the EC has a lot of clout (the mandate, the expertise and so on) to influence parliamentary decisions in a way that similar bodies on a national level donít. Iím speaking generally , of course, but the ban on meat treated with human growth hormones that AnnaT mentions above is a good example of where the EU has acted in a way that national governments, on their own, probably wouldnít. When, for example, the ban was introduced, it included a ban on imports from the US. As a consequence, the US introduced sanctions against Europe which resulted in a loss of millions across EU countries. Not even being cynical, itís difficult to imagine, say, Britain introducing such a ban on its own(especially given its relish for food stuffs smothered in chemicals that make you go mad). A government acting alone would normally put economic interests ahead of what it would perceive or pass off as a low-risk health issue.
Phew. I think I need a beer after that. And it's Saturday. A nice Belgium beer, perhaps. The taste of Brussels, just to be topical.
|Posted on Monday, April 10, 2006 - 05:00 pm: |
Alistair - thanks! If we ever happen to meet, I will buy you a beer, Belgian if you like.
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 06:38 am: |
That would be lovely, Kirsten. Belgium beer would do just fine. I'm glad you survived the post above. If you ever have trouble sleeping, pop back and read it and you'll be out like a light in no time.