Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Must be Kidding! - Monsanto Seeks Retraction for Report Linking Herbicide to Cancer
Monsanto Co, maker of the world's most widely used herbicide, Roundup, wants an international health organization to retract a report linking the chief ingredient in Roundup to cancer. 
The company said on Tuesday that the report, issued on Friday by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was biased and contradicts regulatory findings that the ingredient, glyphosate, is safe when used as labeled.
A working group of the IARC, based in Lyon, France, said after reviewing scientific literature it was classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
"We question the quality of the assessment," Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president of global regulatory affairs, said on Tuesday in an interview. "The WHO has something to explain."
Monsanto officials have asked to meet with WHO and IARC members, and Miller said the company wants a retraction.
A representative of the IARC could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Miller said the company provided scientific data to the IARC showing the safety of glyphosate, but that the agency largely ignored it.
Miller said the IARC report should not affect the safety review of glyphosate currently under way by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA, which has the power to limit or ban use of glyphosate, said it would look at the WHO report as part of the review process.
Farmers have been using glyphosate in increasing quantities since Monsanto in the mid-1990s introduced crops genetically engineered to withstand being sprayed with Roundup herbicide.
"Roundup Ready" corn, soybeans and other crops are popular because of the ease with which farmers have been able to kill weeds. But weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, leading farmers to use more herbicide.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated agricultural use of glyphosate in 2012, the most recent year available, at more than 283 million pounds, up from 110 million pounds in 2002.
The United States and other international regulatory bodies have backed the safety of glyphosate when used as directed, but the IARC report cited studies that raised concerns about glyphosate and impacts on health.
Monsanto says such studies are invalid. But critics say they merit attention.
"There are a number of independent, published manuscripts that clearly indicate that glyphosate ... can promote cancer and tumor growth," said Dave Schubert, head of the cellular neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. "It should be banned."

Veterans Hurt by Chemical Weapons in Iraq Get Apology
WASHINGTON — The under secretary of the Army on Wednesday apologized for the military’s treatment of American service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and he announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards.
Under Secretary Brad R. Carson acknowledged that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions that had been scattered around Iraq, and he vowed improvement.
He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart medal for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent, and that he expected more medals to be issued to other veterans after further review.
“To me, the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” he said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”
Mr. Carson was appointed last fall by Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary, to lead a Pentagon working group to identify service members who had been exposed to chemical weapons and to offer them medical screening and other support. The effort was in response to an investigation in The New York Times that revealed that the military had secretly recovered thousands of old and often discarded chemical munitions in Iraq.
The report found that insurgents had used some of the weapons in roadside bombs, that most of the episodes had never been publicly acknowledged and that many troops who had been wounded by the blister or nerve agents had received substandard medical care and had been denied military awards.
Mr. Carson said the working group’s new instructions, which were distributed to the military services in recent days, would ensure that hundreds of veterans identified by the services, or who had called a hotline set up at Mr. Hagel’s order, would be screened and properly treated. The steps, Mr. Carson said, would also cover troops exposed to chlorine, which insurgents repeatedly used as a makeshift chemical weapon.
“My ambition, and what I am committed to, is to make sure that any person who was exposed to a weaponized chemical or a chemical weapon is addressed through this process,” he said.
Under the guidelines, veterans identified as possibly having suffered exposure to a chemical weapon will be contacted by their military service, evaluated in a structured interview and in some cases invited for a full medical examination.
The veterans will be provided with documentation of their exposure and have their medical records updated; this information, Mr. Carson said, will also be shared with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans receive follow-up care or submit claims.

Report confirms some Vietnam veterans may have been exposed to Agent Orange
A study released by the VA in January confirmed previous findings that these vets could have been exposed to Agent Orange at dangerous levels while they were flying the planes on bases in Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. But many of the vets who are sick with diseases that can be related to Agent Orange have had their VA claims denied.
More than three weeks ago now, VA Secretary Robert McDonald told senators an announcement would be coming within the week on the issue. That’s been pushed back to an unknown date, which Barbara Carson says is disappointing. She’s appealed her claim for benefits after her husband, a former reservist, died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
"You know they’ve denied this for years, and they can’t deny it anymore. They’ve got to admit to it."
The Vietnam Veterans of America have now joined with the reservists and families calling for a more aggressive response from the VA.
A VA rep said only that the VA is examining policy and legislative issues.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bipartisan Group of Senators Call on VA Secretary to Ensure Post Vietnam Air Force Veterans Receive Proper Benefits and Compensation
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Rachel Hicks (Burr)
Martina McLennan/ Ray Zaccaro (Merkley)
Josh Zembik (Blumenthal)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A bipartisan group of senators led by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today called on VA Secretary Robert McDonald to ensure that veterans long denied care for exposure to Agent Orange receive timely and proper benefits and compensation. The letter follows a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) study that provides new and compelling evidence on exposure to Agent Orange of veterans who flew contaminated aircraft after the Vietnam war.
Burr and Merkley were joined in a letter by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
The IOM study, which was published in January, found “with confidence” that post-Vietnam veterans serving on C-123 aircrafts were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of dioxin from aircrafts that were used to carry and spray Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and that were never properly decontaminated.
According to the study, an estimated 1500-2100 personnel served on the affected planes, and numerous veterans among that group have developed symptoms, including cancer, consistent with Agent Orange exposure.  
The senators pushed the VA to reverse previous decisions that have denied veterans benefits and compensation, writing:
“Despite (1) multiple Air Force reports going back to 1979 showing that the C-123s were contaminated, (2) numerous expert opinions from inside and outside the government suggesting these veterans were  exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins, and (3) a judge’s order stopping the resale of these C-123s because the planes were a ‘danger to public health,’ the VA to-date has doggedly insisted  there is no possibility that post-Vietnam era C-123 veterans might have been exposed to dangerous levels of Agent Orange.  It also has denied all but one of the C-123 veterans’ claims for benefits.”
They continued, “It is our desire to see that C-123 veterans who suffer today because of service-related exposure to Agent Orange receive the help they need. To speed the award of benefits, we ask that you provide a presumption of service connection for these veterans.”
The senators also called on the VA to immediately review all C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims, including those that have been denied and are under appeal, and to work with the Department of Defense to proactively contact all veterans who served on any C-123s previously used in Vietnam to spray Agent Orange defoliant that were subsequently assigned to Air Force Reserve units based in the United States from 1972-1982 in order to notify these veterans that they may be eligible for benefits.
The full text of the letter follows below and can be found here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

VA Continues to Deny Justice To C-123 Crews Exposed to Dioxin

March 23,  2015
No. 15-1

Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146
VA Continues to Deny Justice To C-123 Crews Exposed to Dioxin

(Washington, D.C.)– “It is an outrage that the VA, in effect, is continuing to deny these veterans justice,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “These VA bureaucrats attempting to delay justice ought to be relieved of their duties so that they can no longer abuse veterans with their tactic of ‘delay, deny, until they die.’ There is no excuse for why these worthy veterans are still not being treated with the appreciation and the respect their service warrants.” Rowan praised Wes Carter, the leader of the C-123 Veterans Association, for his spunk and spirit: “You’ve got to keep on keeping on,” Rowan urged, “and VVA will be at your side to convince the VA hierarchy that to continue to delay justice is to deny justice.”
For over five years, retired Air Force Reserve Major Wes Carter has led the fight of his life: to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge that the C-123 Provider military cargo planes which transported Agent Orange to and from Vietnam had, in fact, been contaminated with dioxin. A number of reputable scientists and epidemiologists at federal agencies have gone on record, endorsing Carter’s stance that these craft remained hazardous to the health of the 2,100 crew members, flight nurses, and maintenance workers who serviced them between 1972 and 1982. “Yet the VA, in all its wisdom, maintained that these men and women who had been exposed to Agent Orange ought not be eligible to receive the same healthcare and disability compensation benefits that boots-on-the-ground veterans of Vietnam receive,” Rowan noted.
“VVA has long supported Major Carter in his quest for justice,” Rowan said. “When the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded, in a study funded by the VA, that the planes were actively contaminated when Air Force Reservists flew them, we were as pleased as Wes Carter, who exulted, ‘We won!’ The IOM report was released in January 2015, yet Major Carter and those who have been sickened with maladies the VA concedes are associated with exposure to Agent Orange have still not received the justice they deserve. Why? Because a few bad actors in the office of Public Health & Environmental Hazards at the VA continue their attempts to delay justice despite the conclusive report by the IOM.

Cancer link to weed killer raises questions over US-backed spraying of Colombia cocaine crops
BOGOTA, Colombia — New labeling on the world's most popular weed killer as a likely cause of cancer is raising more questions for an aerial spraying program in Colombia that underpins U.S.-financed efforts to wipe out cocaine crops.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a French-based research arm of the World Health Organization, on Thursday reclassified the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen that poses a greater potential danger to industrial users than homeowners. The agency cited what it called convincing evidence that the herbicide produces cancer in lab animals and more limited findings that it causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans.

The glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup is a mainstay of industrial agriculture worldwide, and it's a preferred weapon for killing Colombian cocaine harvests. More than 4 million acres of land have been sprayed over the past two decades to kill coca plants, whose leaves produce cocaine.
The fumigation program, which is partly carried out by American contractors, long has provoked hostility from Colombia's left, which likens it to the U.S. military's use of the Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War. Leftist rebels, currently in negotiations with the government to end a half-century conflict, are demanding an end to the spraying as part of any deal.
Daniel Mejia, a Bogota-based economist who is chairman of an expert panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy, said the report is by far the most authoritative and could end up burying the fumigation program.
"Nobody can accuse the WHO of being ideologically biased," Mejia said, noting that questions already had been raised about the effectiveness of the spraying strategy and its potential health risks.
Mejia's own research published last year found higher rates of skin problems and miscarriages in districts targeted by herbicides. It was based on a study of medical records from 2003 to 2007.
Colombia's ombudsman office said it would seek suspension of the spraying program if the WHO results prove convincing.
But U.S. and Colombian government officials argue that cocaine does more health damage than aerial spraying.
"Without a doubt this reopens the debate on fumigation and causes us to worry," Colombia Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told The Associated Press on Saturday, referring to the WHO findings.
But Gaviria argued that the need to suppress cocaine harvests "transcends" other considerations.
Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate-based products strongly rejected the WHO ruling. They cited a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the herbicide was safe.
Colombia already has scaled back use of aerial herbicides in favor of more labor-intensive manual eradication efforts, partly in response to criticism by farmers.
Colombian officials say aerial spraying last year covered 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres), down from a 2006 peak of 172,000 hectares (425,000 acres).
Critics of the program concede that the government has improved safety standards, such as by avoiding herbicide flights during strong winds, and installing GPS devices on fumigation aircraft that keep records of plane movements and help investigators to determine the validity of farmers' compensation claims.
In 2013, Colombia agreed to pay Ecuador $15 million to settle a lawsuit over economic and human damage linked to spraying along their common border.
Gen. Ricardo Restrepo, commander of the anti-narcotics police, said he had not seen the WHO warning, and Colombia's herbicide spraying was proceeding as usual.
"My job is to carry out the strategy," he said.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

USDA Approves "Untested, Inherently Risky" GMO Apple
On Friday, February 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first genetically engineered apple, despite hundreds of thousands of petitions asking the USDA to reject it.
According an article in Politico, the USDA said the GMO apple “doesn’t pose any harm to other plants or pests.”
Great. But what about potential harm to the humans who consume them?
The Arctic Apple (Golden Delicious and Granny varieties), developed by Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruit, shockingly doesn’t require approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Association (FDA). The FDA will merely conduct a “voluntary review” before, presumably, rubber-stamping the apple for use in restaurants, institutions (including schools and hospitals) and grocery stores—with no meaningful long- (or even short-) term safety testing for its potential impact on human health.
Here’s why that should concern every consumer out there, especially parents of young children.
In April 2013, we interviewed scientists about the genetic engineering technology used to create the Arctic Apple, whose only claim to fame is that it doesn’t turn brown when sliced. The benefit to consumers? Being able to eat apples without having any sense of how old they are?
Here’s what we learned about the technology, called RNA interference, or double strand RNA (dsRNA), from Professor Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Sarah Agapito-Tenfen (from Santa Catarina University in Brazil) and Judy Carman (Flinders University in South Australia), all of whom said that dsRNA manipulation is untested, and therefore inherently risky:
Given that the dsRNA from our food, and presumably the Frankenapple, will enter the bloodstream and cells of consumers, safety research should be done BEFORE this GMO apple is put on the grocery shelf to prove that the dsRNA that enters consumers' bodies will not harm them. To date, no such research has been reported, so the Frankenapple is flying in the dark.
On the contrary, recent research has shown that dsRNAs can transfer from plants to humans and other animals through food. The biotech industry has always claimed that genetically engineered DNA or RNA is destroyed by human digestion, eliminating the danger of these mutant organisms damaging human genes or human health. But many biotech scientists say otherwise. They point to evidence that the dsRNA present in food survive digestion in the stomach and intestines and actually enter the bloodstream and tissues of the body, where it can influence the functioning of the eater's cells.
Some of the scientists also pointed out that GMO apples will likely lead to even greater use of pesticides, on a product that (unless it’s organic) already tests positive for 42 pesticides, according to the Pesticide Action Network’s analysis of the most recent USDA data.
Here’s why. Turns out the chemical compound that is shut off in the engineered fruit through RNA manipulation, in order to make it not oxidize or brown, is a chemical compound that also fights off plant pests. What happens when the apple’s ability to fend off insects is compromised? Growers will need to spray greater amounts. Those pesticides will eventually find their way into our bodies, either because we ingested the fruit, or breathed the air or drank the water where the pesticides were sprayed.

Nearly 170,000 people no longer exposed to dioxin
Nearly 170,000 people living near the Bien Hoa airbase in the southern province of Dong Nai and in the vicinity of Phu Cat airbase in the central province of Binh Dinh no longer face potential risks of dioxin exposure.

The result was announced by the Office of the National Steering Committee (Office 33) at a workshop held in Hanoi on March 19 for the project “Environmental remediation of dioxin contaminated hotspots in Vietnam” funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam.
Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Environmental Administration and General Director of Office 33 Nguyen The Dong said the project has achieved its designed objectives and made significant scientific and practical contributions to researching and overcoming the complicated and long-term consequences of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam.
The project, implemented since 2010 with more than US$5 million in funding, aims to minimise the disruption of ecosystems and health risks for people in the contaminated hotspots of Bien Hoa, Danang and Phu Cat airbases.
The project’s results have been handed over to the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Dong Nai Department of Natural Resources and Environment and a number of relevant organisations and authorities for future maintenance and management in accordance with their functions as assigned by the Government.

Ridgefield yard to be sampled for dioxins

RIDGEFIELD, WA – Surprise and concern overtook Stephanie Proudfoot when she learned the soil around her Ridgefield home may have been contaminated by a long-shuttered wood treatment plant.
“I have a small child and baby on the way, and I want to know they’re OK playing in the backyard,” Proudfoot said during a March 10 meeting at the Ridgefield Community Center to discuss high dioxin levels in a residential area of downtown Ridgefield.

The six-block neighborhood lies between Maple Street, Mill Street, Railroad Avenue and North Main Street. It includes about 39 parcels, and about half a dozen of its residents attended the meeting.
Officials found high dioxin levels in soil samples taken on right of ways next to the area’s streets, and they hope to test adjacent yards this Spring. So far, no samples have had enough dioxin to pose immediate health risks, officials at the Tuesday meeting said, but the samples are high enough to warrant further investigation.       
“That’s good news,” Department of Ecology Site Manager Craig Rankine said of the low health risk. “But they’re still high enough we need to look at it.”
The contamination is believed to be from the former Pacific Wood Treating facility, which opened on property leased from the Port of Ridgefield in 1964. It operated until the Pacific Wood Treating’s bankruptcy in 1993.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Long overlooked historical information on Agent Orange and TCDD following massive applications of 2,4,5-T-containing herbicides, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
from Betty Mekdeci, Executive Director of the Birth Defect Research for Children



From 1961-1971, The Air Development Test Center, Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, developed, tested, and calibrated the aerial spray systems used in support of Operation RANCH HAND and the US Army Chemical Corps in Vietnam. Twenty major test and evaluation projects of aerial spray equipment were conducted on four fully instrumented test grids, each uniquely arrayed to match the needs of fixed-wing, helicopter, or jet aircraft. Each of the grids was established within the boundary of Test Area 52A of the Eglin Reservation.


Don't Drink the Agent Orange!
In June of 1964, helicopters from the U.S. Geological Survey began spraying an herbicidal chemical along the Gila and San Carlos rivers. The chemical herbicide was used to remove salt cedars along the rivers so that water runoff from the rain would be maximized for commercial and industrial water use in lakes, rivers and streams. Salt cedar, an invasive plant species, was brought to the area from the Mediterrean and African regions. It grows along waterways and uses a lot of water in order to maintain its life.
This odorless herbicide’s scientific names are 2-4-5-TP or 2-4-5 D, but it’s commonly known as Agent Orange, one of the worst chemicals ever known to mankind. The herbicide was used to spray salt cedar on the San Carlos River and indigenous peoples in other parts of the world.
It was popularized during the Vietnam War when the United States sprayed this chemical on the high canopy tree stands of the Vietnamese forests to kill vegetation. Even U.S. veterans were victimized by this chemical, and to this day, those who had contact with Agent Orange have become sick with many types of diseases and cancers that were unknown prior to the creation of this dangerous chemical. Diseases associated with Agent Orange contamination include Type 2 diabetes, liver and heart disease, birth defects (two row teeth, cleft pallet) spina bifida, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others.
In 1969, areas near Kellner Canyon and Ice House Canyon near the Pinal Mountains were also sprayed for five years, and the San Carlos and Gila Rivers were contaminated. After the spraying in the off-reservation town of Globe, residents who were contaminated sued Dow Chemical, the makers of the Agent Orange, and the government of the United States. The case, Shoecraft V. Dow Chemical, went before the U.S. District in Phoenix and was settled out of court in the early 1980s. On the other hand, San Carlos Apache tribal members have yet to receive redress of their grievances, harm to health, and deaths that have been perpetuated by this witches brew.
Who are the makers of such witches brew and what it does?

Monday, March 16, 2015

VA: No date set for Agent Orange C-123 decision
WASHINGTON – The VA said Friday no date has been set for a decision on whether to award benefits for Agent Orange exposure to Air Force reservists who flew C-123 aircraft contaminated with the herbicide.
The department is weighing the issue after a recent study confirmed the possibility of health risks as well as lobbying from veteran groups and former crew members. But it did not plan to make an announcement this week, despite an earlier indication by VA officials, spokeswoman Meagan Lutz said.
There is no definite timeline for a decision, she said.
Veterans say herbicide residue left inside the aircraft from service during the Vietnam War sickened them and they deserve the VA health care coverage for Agent Orange-related conditions extended to nearly all servicemembers deployed to the war zone.
The C-123s were used to spray during Operation Ranch Hand and were later brought back to the United States and repurposed as military cargo aircraft. About 1,500 to 2,100 personnel flew and trained on the C-123 aircraft from the early 1970s to the 1980s.
An Institute of Medicine study stoked the debate in January when it found that herbicide residue inside the planes could have exposed reservists to the disease-causing dioxins found in Agent Orange.
“It is plausible that, at least in some cases … the reservists’ exposure exceeded health guidelines for workers in enclosed settings,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, some reservists quite likely experienced non-trivial increases in their risks of adverse health outcomes.”
VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey told Stars and Stripes last week that the department had planned to announce a decision on the benefits but was delaying it until Tuesday or Wednesday, though that never materialized.