Monsanto’s Roundup system threatens extinction of monarch butterflies .


Reuters / Michael Fiala

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready system – a potent herbicide combined with genetically-modified seeds that can withstand it – has decimated the monarch butterfly’s only source of food in the Midwest, putting it on the edge of extinction, according to a new study.

Biotechnology conglomerate Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup has become the most common herbicide in American agriculture today, used in tandem with the company’s genetically-engineered Roundup Ready crops.

Since its heavy proliferation began in the 1990s, glyphosate has been a leading killer of 99 percent of milkweed in the Midwest’s corn and soybean fields. Glyphosate-sensitive milkweed plants are the only spots where monarchs lay eggs, as the plant is the only food source for monarch larvae.

According to the Center for Food Safety’s new report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America,” these conditions have contributed to a drastic 90-percent drop in population for monarchs in their main habitat, crop fields in the Midwest.

“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety.

“To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

As Monsanto is on the precipice of receiving US government approval for its next generation of the Roundup Ready system, the report raises the question of how much longer will the monarch survive?

“Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” said Dr. Martha Crouch, a biologist for the Center for Food Safety and a co-author of the report.

“Very few of us fully understand the ecological impacts of our food system, but we need to pay attention. The decline of the monarch is a stark reminder that the way we farm matters.”

The Center for Food Safety said it was presenting the new report “to Congress today at an expert briefing on the decline of monarchs.”

In December, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said it may designate the monarch as a threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act. The agency review comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus).

Disregarding their natural beauty, monarch butterflies play an important role in ecology. They carry pollen from plant to plant, helping fruits and flowers to produce new seeds. In their caterpillar stage, they are a food source for birds, mammals, and other insects.

While milkweed can grow away from main cropland, there is an increasingly low amount of habitat that can support monarchs. Herbicide spraying over corn and soybeans fields that dominate the Midwestern Corn Belt leave monarchs to search for milkweed in other areas like roadsides and pastures, according to the report. Monarchs also produce four times more eggs per plant on milkweed growing in a crop field as opposed to milkweed sprouting elsewhere, the Center for Food Safety claimed.

Monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl, and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to these threats.

The report said that as monarch population sinks, they will likely become more susceptible to remarkable weather events.

The Center for Food Safety listed a host of policy recommendations in the report, including that the US Department of Agriculture should “reject applications to approve new herbicide-resistant crops, and [US Environmental Protection Agency] should deny registrations of herbicides for use on them, unless or until appropriate restrictions are enacted to ameliorate their harms to milkweeds, monarchs and pollinators.”

“Glyphosate is the monarch’s enemy number one. To save this remarkable species, we must quickly boost milkweed populations and curtail the use of herbicide-resistant crop systems,” said Bill Freese, a co-author of the report.

As RT reported last month, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved Monsanto’s new GMO cotton and soybean plants. The company now awaits approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for it latest herbicide – a mix of the formidable chemical dicamba and glyphosate, which the company has developed for use on the newly-approved GMO crops.

The new GMO crops – coupled with the dicamba/glyphosate cocktail – make up what Monsanto has dubbed the ‘Roundup Ready Xtend crop system,’ designed to trump super weeds that have evolved along with its Roundup biocide.

For its part, Monsanto says it is seeking alternatives for the monarch.

“At Monsanto, we’re committed to doing our part to protect these amazing butterflies. That’s why we are collaborating with experts from universities, nonprofits, and government agencies to help the monarch by restoring their habitat in Crop Reserve Program land, on-farm buffer strips, roadsides, utility rights-of way and government-owned land.”

Shocking statistic: 96% of pro football players suffered from brain disease before death.


Published time: October 01, 2014 20:38
Edited time: October 02, 2014 04:52

Reuters / David Stobbe

Nearly all of the former professional football players examined as part of a recent study were found to have had suffered from a degenerative brain disease that’s increasingly being linked to America’s favorite sport, a new report reveals.

According to the study — first reported on Tuesday this week by journalists at the PBS programFrontline — 96.2 percent of deceased pro footballers had the condition, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, before dying.

Researchers at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository in Bedford, Massachusetts were limited with regards to the number of samples available, but nevertheless studied the brains of 79 ex-National Football League athletes and soon determined that all but three — 76 of the 79 — showed evidence of CTE.

Jason Breslow reported for Frontline that researchers studied the brain tissue of 128 footballers in all who played semiprofessionally, in college, in high school or for the NFL before dying and determined that 101 athletes, or 80 percent of the entire sample, tested positive for CTE. With respect to pro athletes, the statistic is closer to nine-out-of-ten.

Reuters

Reuters

“Obviously this high percentage of living individuals is not suffering from CTE,” Dr. Ann McKee of the Mass. brain bank told PBS. “Playing football, and the higher the level you play football and the longer you play football, the higher your risk.”

The latest report couldn’t have come at a worse time for the NFL, which is in the midst of responding to a lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players who say the league hid links between football and CTE. Those potential class-action plaintiffs have until October 14 to decide if they will agree to a settlement proposed by the NFL.

According to the Boston-based Sports Legacy Institute non-profit organization, athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma are prone to being diagnosed with CTE, which involves the building-up on the brain tissue of an abnormal protein called tau. Although CTE can only be diagnosed with a post-mortem examination, athletes who lived with the disease can show symptoms that include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and progressive dementia before death.

A makeshift memorial for Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher is seen outside his mother's home in West Babylon, New York December 4, 2012 (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

A makeshift memorial for Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher is seen outside his mother’s home in West Babylon, New York December 4, 2012 (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

The release of the latest CTE report comes just as its being made public that Jovan Belcher, a former linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs NFL team, suffered from the disease ahead of a December 2012 murder-suicide that claimed his life and his girlfriend’s.

“The Chiefs knew he and his significant other were having major domestic violence issues and he had a major concussion two weeks before this happened,” Ken McClain, an attorney who is suing the Chiefs over the incident, told Fox News.

Responding to requests for comment concerning the just released Belcher autopsy, the NFL told FX this week that the league “has a long history of a changing the rules of the game to make it safer on the field, providing players the best medical care, and updating protocols on diagnosing concussions, treating concussions and returning to play after a concussion.”

In January, ESPN reported that a Harris Poll found professional football to be the most popular sport in America among adult fans.

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Inmate’s family sues Ohio after ‘agonizing’ execution with untested drug protocol — RT USA


 

Reuters / HandoutConvicted killer Dennis McGuire struggled noticeably for his life during a lengthy lethal injection procedure in Ohio on Thursday, and now his family plans to sue the state for violating his Constitutional rights.

A press conference is scheduled for Friday, where the executed man’s children, Amber and Dennis McGuire, and their attorneys will argue the state violated their father’s right to be free of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In what amounted to an unusually long time for a lethal injection, it took McGuire about 25 minutes to die after being injected with an untested combination of drugs that had never been used before in an execution in the United States.

For about 10 minutes, the controversial cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone resulted in McGuire “struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds that lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clenched. Deep, rattling sounds emanated from his mouth,” as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

Soon after McGuire’s death, his attorney Allen Bohnert called the execution “a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.”

“The court’s concerns expressed earlier this week have been confirmed,” Bohnert added, according to the Associated Press. “And more importantly, the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names.”

Last week, Bohnert tried to argue that McGuire was at risk of “agony and terror” since the new drug combination could cut off his air supply as he died, but the plea ultimately failed as judges ruled in favor of the state.

The use of midazolam, in particular, has been called into question in the past, as critics believe it leaves inmates aware of their surroundings and in extreme pain as they die.

Dennis McGuire.(AFP Photo / Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)Dennis McGuire.(AFP Photo / Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)

“I watched his stomach heave,” said Amber McGuire in a statement, according to the Dispatch. “I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fist. It appeared to me he was fighting for his life but suffocating.”

McGuire was originally convicted of raping and killing a pregnant Joy Stewart back in 1994. His pleas for clemency had been denied, and Stewart’s family issued the following statement on the situation surrounding McGuire’s death.

“There has been a lot of controversy regarding the drugs that are to be used in his execution, concern that he might feel terror, that he might suffer. As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her.”

The behavior of Ohio and other states that condone the death penalty have come under fire since most of the companies that traditionally manufacture the drugs used in lethal injections – generally based in Europe and which are against capital punishment – have halted sales to state correctional departments.

In an effort to replace diminishing supplies of sedatives and paralytics, many states have begun experimenting with alternative drug mixtures, including products typically used to euthanize animals.

As the AP noted, Bohnert has urged Ohio Governor John Kasich to place a moratorium on executions following McGuire’s death. According to the Dispatch, at least one judge, Gregory L. Frost of the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, cast suspicion on the state’s behavior concerning executions in 2013.

“Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms,” he wrote in an unrelated case last year.

 

Death row inmates now executed with drug cocktail used to euthanize animals.


San Quentin Prison execution chamber, US (AFP Photo)

Compounding pharmacies, which create specialized pharmaceutical product meant to fit the needs of a patient, have begun producing the drugs for state authorities.

But because of the lack of transparency around the production process – one compounding pharmacy was responsible for a fatal meningitis outbreak in 2012 because of poor hygiene – prisoners argue that risky drug cocktails put them at risk of being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited under the US Constitution.

Earlier this month three Texas-based death row prisoners filed a lawsuit arguing this type of pharmacy is “not subject to stringent FDA regulations” and is “one of the leading sources for counterfeit drugs entering the US,” the lawsuit reads, as quoted by AFP.

“There is a significant chance that [the pentobarbital] could be contaminated, creating a grave likelihood that the lethal injection process could be extremely painful, or harm or handicap plaintiffs without actually killing them,” it adds.

“Nobody really knows the quality of the drugs, because of the lack of oversight,” Denno told AFP.

Michael Yowell, who was convicted of murdering his parents 15 years ago, was executed in Texas Wednesday. He became the first inmate to be executed in Texas with pentobarbital since European nations halted production for this purpose. His lawyers unsuccessfully tried to stop him from being killed, saying the compounded factors in pentobarbital make the drug unpredictable and there have not been enough trials to guarantee the death is painless.

The states in question may find an applicable replacement for the short-term but, Denno argued, this development could be an indication that capital punishment is on the wane.

“How many times in this country can they change the way they execute?” she said. “There were more changes in lethal injections in the last 5 years than in the 25 preceding years.”