Fruits and vegetables improve male fertility

A new study shows that eating fruits and vegetables can improve fertility in men. Researchers from the University of Rochester compared the dietary intake of antioxidants in 10 fertile and 48 infertile men and correlated the findings with sperm motility. Infertile men were twice as likely to have a low intake of fruits and vegetables (less than five servings per day) compared with fertile men. Also, men with the lowest overall intake of dietary antioxidants had lower sperm motility than men with higher intakes. -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

UNEP’s goal: one billion trees planted in 2007

A new global campaign to plant one billion trees in 2007 was launched at the UN climate conference in November, backed by the woman who has won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees—Kenya’s Assistant Environment Minister Wangari Maathai.

Professor Maathai said the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign encourages people to “take small but practical steps to combat what is probably the key challenge of the 21st century.”

Trees absorb the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, but widespread deforestation in Kenya and across the world has allowed more CO2 to remain in the atmosphere. Planting trees is expected to help absorb the blanket of CO2 that is holding the sun’s heat close to the planet.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner says tree planting is a direct action that anyone can take that will help to cool the climate. He says the tree planting campaign will “send a signal to the corridors of political power across the globe that the watching and waiting is over—that countering climate change can take root via one billion small but significant acts in our gardens, parks, countryside and rural areas.”

Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people and entities from around the world are encouraged to enter pledges on a website: www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign.

The responsibility for tree planting will lie with the person or organization making the pledge on the campaign website. All contributing participants to the Billion Tree Campaign will receive a certificate of involvement.

Tree planters will be encouraged to follow up online so UNEP can verify that the trees have survived, in partnership with recognized certification mechanisms. The website will record the ongoing tally of pledges, and also publish photos and accounts from registered campaign members of what they have achieved.

The campaign identifies four key areas for planting—degraded natural forests and wilderness areas; farms and rural landscapes; sustainably managed plantations; and urban environments, but it can also begin with a single tree in a back garden.

The World Agroforestry Centre-ICRAF will provide advice on tree planting on the website, as well as information about reforestation and other tree-related issues.

Expanding tree cover on denuded lands will reduce pressures on remaining primary forests, helping to preserve habitats and to safeguard the Earth’s biological diversity, UNEP points out. It will also mitigate the build-up of atmospheric carbon
dioxide.

Rainforests cover only seven percent of the land on Earth but they contain nearly half of all the world’s trees and generate about 40 percent of the world’s oxygen.

In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of CO2 and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year, UNEP says, and one hectare of trees can absorb six metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. -Environmental News Service
Infants should not have fluoridated tap water warns American Dental Association
To prevent tooth damage, the American Dental Association (ADA) warned its members that fluoridated water should not be mixed into concentrated formula or foods intended for babies one year and younger, in a November 9th ADA e-mail alert.

“But who will alert parents?” asks lawyer Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF).

Two-thirds of U.S. public water suppliers add fluoride chemicals, based on a disproved theory that fluoride ingestion prevents cavities. Bottled water with added fluoride is now sold with specific instructions to mix into infant formula.

The ADA reports, “...infants could receive a greater than optimal amount of fluoride through liquid concentrate or powdered baby formula that has been mixed with water containing fluoride during a time that their developing teeth may be susceptible to enamel fluorosis.” The ADA recommends using fluoride-free water. Enamel or dental fluorosis is white spotting, yellow, and brown and/or pitted permanent teeth.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that modern science shows that fluoride absorbs into enamel topically. However, adverse effects occur upon ingestion. Further, the CDC admits enamel fluoride concentration is not inversely related to cavities.

The Environmental Protection Agency is required to consider the most vulnerable populations when setting allowable water fluoride levels. To protect babies, allowable water fluoride levels must be near zero. The Environmental Working Group analyzed government data in March 2006 and found that babies are over-exposed to fluoride in most major U.S. cities.

“This should end water fluoridation,” says Beeber. “Fluoridation is a failed concept that must be abandoned before more Americans are harmed,” says Beeber. -Organic Consumers Association, NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation

Red meat consumption increases breast cancer risk

A recent analysis from Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study II found that red meat consumption increases breast cancer risk. The analysis comprised 90,659 premenopausal women aged 26 to 46 who completed food surveys during a 12-year period. Women who consumed 1 1/2 or more servings of red meat per day had nearly double the risk of developing hormone receptor-positive breast cancer compared with those consuming three or fewer servings of red meat per week. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer and has been on the rise in recent years. -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Twenty-two states write mercury controls stricter than feds

Twenty states have adopted, or are pursuing, their own plans to address mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants because they are dissatisfied with the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule, adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March 2005.

These state plans are calling for such provisions as stronger emission limits, shorter deadlines and limitations on trading in mercury emission —measures which address deficiencies that states have identified in the federal rule.

“State and local clean air agencies are deeply concerned about the serious public health and environmental dangers posed by power plant mercury emissions, and are determined to put in place programs that will provide an adequate measure of protection to the citizens they serve,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, NACAA.

Becker says 22 states have adopted or are pursuing programs more stringent than the federal rule, 24 state programs are largely consistent with the federal model, and the remainder are uncertain or are not required to participate.

Among the more stringent state programs, 15 states call for greater reductions—most in the 80-90 percent range, as compared to 70 percent under the federal rule; 18 will require the reductions to be obtained years sooner; and 17 will prohibit or restrict trading of emissions, which is allowed by the federal rule.

States that have adopted or are pursuing more stringent programs are: Arizona, California Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. -Environment News Service

Got chocolate? Study shows it’s heart-healthy

A daily dose of dark chocolate may help reduce the risk of blood clotting, suggests new research. A team of John Hopkins University scientists led by Professor Diane Becker studied the effects of chocolate on platelets, tiny particles in blood that stick together.
Platelets can form clumps that eventually turn into clots. This condition can cause blockage in blood vessels that ultimately can lead to a heart attack. The typical preventive treatment is aspirin, which thins the blood.

Investigating the effect of chocolate on platelets was not the original purpose of the study; it was designed to analyze the effect of aspirin. However, some of the participants did not stop eating chocolate as they were instructed to do.

The scientists decided to take advantage of the aberration by comparing the blood of those who quit eating chocolate to the blood of those who did not. They found that the chocoholics’ platelets took longer to clot.

Chemicals in cocoa called “flavonoids” have an effect similar to that of aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, the researchers concluded. Dark chocolate is said to contain more flavonoids than any other food—including green tea, black tea, red wine and blueberries.
Two tablespoonfuls of dark chocolate a day—with minimal sugar and butter—could be enough to keep clotting problems at bay, the scientists suggested. -John Hopkins University and Daily News Central

2007 organic research funding increase still in limbo: new Senate will need to hear from you

The US Department of Agriculture budget for Fiscal Year 2007—which started October 1, 2006—has not yet been completed by Congress. As a result, increased funding is stalled for organic farming research, certification cost-sharing, and enforcement of organic standards. When the 110th Congress convenes and takes up the unfinished work in January, organic farmers will have the opportunity to communicate with legislators about these budget issues.

The 2007 appropriations bills have three key organic items that are in play: research, enforcement of standards, and the certification cost-share program. The most important item from OFRF’s perspective is the proposed increase in funding for organic farming research and education. Thanks to Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) the House appropriations bill increased funding by $3.145 Million for USDA’s organic research competitive grants. The Senate Appropriations Committee only recommended an increase of $93,000.

When the full Senate acts on the USDA Appropriations bill, OFRF and other groups will seek an amendment that matches the increase passed by the House. Several key Senators have indicated interest in supporting such an amendment, or at least demonstrating Senate support for the House-passed increase when the House and Senate negotiators meet to work out the final bill. For more information on the organic research program and the proposed increase, go to http://ofrf.hopto.org:81/CT00005303MTAyNwAA.HTML. OFRF’s press release about the amendment is at: http://ofrf.hopto.org:81/CT00005304MTAyNwAA.HTML.

A funding increase is also slated for the National Organic Program (NOP), the office that writes the organic certification rules and oversees the certifiers and the National Organic Standards Board. The budget line for organic standards and enforcement is set to go from $2 million to $3.1 million. These numbers are the same in both the House bill and the Senate committee’s package.

However, the Senate committee version requires that USDA use $500,000 of the NOP increase to continue funding the certification cost-share program. This program provides reimbursement to organic farmers up to $500/year for the cost of getting certified. Without new funding, most states will run out of funds this year. Since the House bill does not mention the cost-share program, and USDA says it needs the whole NOP increase for enforcement and writing standards, the Senate language appears to be the only way to ensure that the cost-share will continue.

A summary chart of organic provisions in the Agricultural Appropriations process is at: http://ofrf.hopto.org:81/CT00005305MTAyNwAA.HTML. The website for the National Organic Program is at: http://ofrf.hopto.org:81/CT00005306MTAyNwAA.HTML.
Look for more updates and specific action alerts as the new Congress convenes in January.

To sign up for OFAN go to their online subscription page: https://ofrf.org/subscribe/ofan.html. -Organic Farming Research Foundation

Quick facts

  • The biotech industry has officially celebrated the planting of the billionth acre of genetically engineered crops.
  • Seventy-five percent of the world’s genetically engineered crops are grown in the U.S. and Argentina.
  • More than 90% of world’s genetically engineered seeds were developed and sold by the Monsanto Corporation (planted predominantly with Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, cotton, soybean and canola seeds).
  • Monsanto’s GE seed sales alone brought the company over $4 billion last year. Outside of GE seeds, Monsanto’s past and present product-line has included Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, rBGH and aspartame.
  • Notable historic quote: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” - Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, “Playing God in the Garden” New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998. -Organic Consumers Association