(TMU) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reaffirmed their belief that glyphosate is not a carcinogen, despite initially concluding the chemical was probably carcinogenic.
On Thursday, the EPA concluded a regulatory review of glyphosate and found that the most widely used herbicide in the United States is not a carcinogen. While the latest review reaffirms the EPA’s previous stance on glyphosate, this conclusion marks the first time the EPA has expressed support for glyphosate after several lawsuits resulted in juries ruling that the chemical was in fact responsible for cancer.
“EPA has concluded that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen,” the agency said in a statement. A Bayer spokesman told Reuters, “Glyphosate-based herbicides are one of the most thoroughly studied products of their kind, which is a major reason why farmers around the world continue to rely on these products.”
Bayer bought Monsanto and their glyphosate-based product Roundup for $63 billion in 2018 and the company has publicly maintained that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
The EPA’s ruling that glyphosate is not carcinogenic contrasts with a 2015 study by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which found that glyphosate may contribute to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, told Reuters at the time, “There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations and damaged chromosomes.”
The IARC report was published in Lancet Oncology detailing evaluations of organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. The report concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The evidence for this conclusion was pulled from studies of exposure to the chemical in the U.S., Canada, and Sweden published since 2001.
The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The report points out that the EPA had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985. The IARC Working Group evaluated the original EPA findings and more recent reports before concluding “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”
Lori Ann Burd, director of environmental health for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters that a connection between the Trump administration and Bayer/Monsanto “doesn’t change the trove of peer-reviewed research by leading scientists finding troubling links between glyphosate and cancer.” The cozy relationship between the U.S. government and the BioTech Industry (Monsanto, Syngenta) has been consistent during the Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations.
During one of the recent lawsuits against Monsanto, the relationship between Monsanto lawyers and the EPA was made clear. As Alva and Alberta Pilliod fought to prove that Roundup caused their cancer, Monsanto spokesman William Reeves admitted the corporation has regularly communicated with U.S. regulatory agencies regarding reviews of the controversial Roundup herbicide.
During that trial, lawyers representing the Pilliods played video testimony of Reeves acknowledging that Monsanto executives exchanged text messages with regulators from the EPA. More specifically, Reeves was communicating with members of the board that glyphosate was not carcinogenic for humans. The lawyers also gained access to text messages between Monsanto employees and the EPA.
The text messages show that on June 18, 2015, Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs sent a text message to former EPA toxicologist Mary Manibusan looking for help finding a contact in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Sachs was looking to communicate with someone in relation to the agency’s ongoing work developing a toxicological profile of glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient. The ATSDR had begun working on the profile after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
In another text, Manibusan told Dan Jenkins, Monsanto’s liaison to U.S. regulatory agencies like the EPA, that he may need help “trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur with this group,” in reference to the ATSDR. By June 23, 2015, Jenkins wrote to his Monsanto colleagues alerting them that Jack Housenger, director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, would put a hold on the report. “ATSDR Director and Branch Chief have promised Jack Housenger (Director of the US Office of Pesticide Programs) to put their report ‘on hold’ until after EPA releases its preliminary risk assessment (PRA) for glyphosate,” Jenkins wrote.
When questioned about these texts by the Pilliods’ lawyers, Reeves confirmed the text messages were authentic but stated, “I never heard anyone at the EPA say they were going to tell ATSDR what to do.”
When considering the EPA’s latest conclusion that glyphosate is not carcinogenic in humans, it is important to understand the full context of the relationship between Bayer/Monsanto and the government. The relationship goes back decades and should not be taken lightly.
As Reuters noted regarding the new EPA conclusion, “the EPA judgment could help bolster the case for Bayer as it faces thousands more lawsuits from Roundup users who allege it caused their cancer.” Knowing that the EPA and Monsanto are essentially on the same team, is it outlandish to think they might attempt to help Monsanto avoid more lawsuits and multi-million dollar settlements? The evidence makes it clear that Monsanto and government employees have often put their mutual interests ahead of those of the American public.
New Study Suggests Binge Drinking Could Damage Brain And Cause Lasting Anxiety
(TMU) – A recent study suggests that binge drinking alcohol could seriously damage the brain in ways that increase the risk of cognitive-behavioral issues like anxiety.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Porto, found that just ten days of binge drinking cause immune cells in the brain to destroy connections between neurons, which leads to anxiety and other mental health issues.
It is important to note that these were not human studies, as the test subjects were mice, but these types of experiments typically give significant insight into how different substances affect the brains of humans.
Study co-author João Relvas, told Inverse that, “[We] don’t have any reason to believe that the same mechanisms will not be operating in the human brain. Even for a short period of time, excessive drinking is likely to affect the brain, increasing the level of anxiety, a relevant feature in alcohol abuse and addiction.”
“The dangers of alcohol drinking, especially amongst the younger population, have been widely underestimated and excessive alcohol drinking is socially relatively well tolerated. Increasing public awareness and education of the young can, together with other measures, change the way society looks at alcohol intake,” Relvas added.
In the study, the researchers broke the mice off into two groups. One group was given alcohol over a 10 day time period, while the other group was not. Half of the mice were given 1.5 grams per kilogram of ethyl alcohol each day, which is the equivalent of five drinks for an adult human that weighs 165 pounds.
After 10 days, the researchers looked at the mice’s brain tissue and found that the mice who consumed alcohol had significant damage to the area of the brain that controls complex cognition and decision making, which resulted in increased anxiety.
The researchers also determined the process that caused this damage in the brain. They believe that alcohol boosts the production of an inflammatory molecule called TNF.
In further experiments, they used a drug called pomalidomide to block TNF and found that it prevented anxiety and reduced the impact that the alcohol had on the brain.
The symptoms are “ultimately driven by increased secretion of TNF by microglia, as we show that reducing its production either pharmacologically or genetically can prevent synapse loss and anxiety,” Relvas says.
Relvas also said that this drug could potentially be used to treat alcohol addiction.
“This study suggests that regulating the levels of TNF might eventually be useful when treating alcohol addiction,” he said.
However, the team does not recommend that anyone use TNF inhibitors while binge drinking, because further studies need to be done to confirm the safety and efficacy of the drugs for the purpose.
Furthermore, TNF inhibitors would not prevent any of the other damage that alcohol can do to the rest of the body.
“Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of disease with a massive impact on human life and should be treated as so,” Relvas says.
His team’s findings were published earlier this month in the journal Science Signaling.
Otherwise healthy man suddenly dies from overdose of Black Licorice candy
(TMU) – In a tragic and unpredictable turn of events, a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts died after his heart stopped beating from eating too much black licorice candy. The man’s sudden death at a McDonald’s in 2019 had doctors clueless, and became the focus of a study by senior medical researchers.
We all have our guilty pleasures and vices: it could be that we like to butter our toast on both sides, drink a pot of coffee daily, snack on moonshine cherries, or the common problem of compulsive eating as we sit in front of the TV. And no doubt, these vices do carry a health cost – but the cost of this man’s black licorice habit turned out to be far beyond anything imaginable.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 54-year-old man didn’t have a history of heart problems. His doctors attested that he regularly took his dog out on walks and was fit enough to meet the physical demands of his job as a construction worker.
However, his relative fitness wasn’t enough to contend with his fatal habit of consuming one to two large bags of black licorice every day for three weeks – a problem which, without any warning, had a massively detrimental impact on his health.
According to the report, the habit resulted in a precipitous drop in his potassium levels, causing his sudden heart failure at the McDonald’s. After suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing, the man never regained consciousness and died 24 hours after arriving at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We almost didn’t believe it when we figured it out,” Dr. Jacqueline B. Henson, who treated the man while she worked at the hospital, told New York Times. “We were all shocked and surprised.”
Doctors soon discovered that the man had a generally poor diet and consumed at least a pack of cigarettes a day, according to friends and family. Yet none of those factors could explain his death. As it turned out, his death could be traced to his sudden switch from red to black licorice three weeks prior to his death.
Officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have announced that consuming two ounces of black licorice for 12 days can result in an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia for people aged 40 and over, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.
Medical practitioners are generally taught that black licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a common plant extract used to sweeten candies and other foods that can dangerously reduce potassium levels when consumed in high doses.
The ingredient is also common in other foods and drinks that contain licorice root, such as jelly beans, licorice tea, certain types of chewing gum, popular anise liquors like ouzo, raki, arak, and anisette, and a number of Belgian beers. Sweet-flavored chewing tobaccos also commonly contain licorice.
However, overconsuming these products cause our potassium levels to plunge, throwing off the balance of sodium and potassium that’s necessary for a healthy functioning heart. When our potassium levels drop, sodium levels skyrocket – resulting in arrhythmia and boosting our blood pressure.
The Massachusetts case, however, is an extreme one and far from the norm, noted Dr. Henson, who said that the occasional licorice treat shouldn’t be confused with poison.
“It’s fine taken in sort of small amounts, infrequently,” Henson said. “But when taken on a regular basis, it can lead to these issues.”
Ann Arbor becomes latest city to decriminalize “magic” mushrooms and other natural psychedelics
(TMU) – The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has effectively decriminalized psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms along with other natural psychedelics in the latest sign that public opinion across the U.S. is continuing to turn against prohibitionist policies.
On Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that would make it the city’s lowest-ranked law enforcement priority to the investigate or arrest anyone planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, using or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds.
The resolution applies to all psychedelics derived from plants and fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote and other substances with hallucinogenic properties deemed illegal under state and federal law.
The council also requires the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to halt the prosecution of those involved in the use of entheogenic plants and plant compounds.
Ann Arbor now joins a growing list of cities including Denver, Colorado, and the California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland that have decriminalized all entheogenic plants. Other cities including Chicago and Austin are considering similar measures. A ballot measure that would legalize the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings will also be voted on in the state of Oregon this November.
The move to de-prioritize law enforcement around psychedelics was spearheaded by the efforts of local grassroots advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor, or DNA2.
At the beginning of the year, councilmembers were skeptical about any move to decriminalize psychedelics. Since then, they’ve found themselves convinced by evidence of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of psychedelics, including for mental health treatment and treating addiction, reports MLive.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman cited the opening of a $17 million psychedelic and consciousness research center by Johns Hopkins Medicine as proof of “the tremendous potential of these future medicines.” The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently conducting clinical trials to find out whether the drug is suitable as a prescription drug for the U.S. market.
Councilmember Jack Eaton described the council’s unanimous backing for the decriminalization resolution as carrying on the city’s legacy of backing the local decriminalization of m******** during the 1970s, when the plant was still illegal under state and federal law.
The resolution doesn’t allow for the commission of crimes or any significant violation of state or federal law, and any use of entheogenic substances that pose a threat to public health and safety could require intervention by law enforcement bodies.
In the resolution, entheogenic plants are defined as the full spectrum of plants and fungi that contain indole amines, tryptamines and phenethylamines “that can benefit psychological and physical wellness, support and enhance religious and spiritual practices, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
The resolution also states that psychedelic substances can be used to address substance abuse problems, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, grief, cluster headaches and other debilitating conditions.
“The use of entheogenic plants, which can catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth, have been shown by scientific and clinical studies and traditional practices to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these conditions,” it states.
Psilocybin mushrooms are currently considered a Schedule 1 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, psilocybin – the main chemical component of the mushrooms – was designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA in 2019 due to the positive results of psilocybin in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health problems.
Studies have also shown how a microdose of psilocybin—far from the level needed for a full-blown trip—actually increases the creativity and empathy of participants.
Other researchers have also found that psilocybin has provided effective help to patients struggling to quit other addictive substances such as cigarettes.
The newfound recognition of psilocybin therapy as a valid treatment has eroded old stereotypes of psilocybin as some intoxicating and hallucination-inducing party drug that drives its users insane – a reputation that largely grew out of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s when they were widely known as “psychedelic” or “magic” mushrooms.
The resolution further notes that entheogenic plants have been the basis of spiritual practices by human cultures for thousands of years, yet those who seek them for the sake of improving their health and wellbeing must risk arrest and prosecution to obtain them.
“Decriminalization of naturally occurring medicines is necessary for progress,” councilmember Jeff Hayner said in a press release from DNA2 last week, reports Detroit Metro Times. “We can no longer turn a blind eye towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and the bounty the earth provides. I have been moved by the testimonies of those who have found profound relief from the use of entheogenic plants.”
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