Planted not buried

September 8, 2019


Bad science scapegoats meat

September 7, 2019

Bad science is to blame for scapegoating meat:

Meat has been getting a bad rap in some parts of society, being blamed for everything from increased cancer to greenhouse gas emissions by environmental and commercial influencers. This has led to Professor Frédéric Leroy, Professor of Food Science and biotechnology at Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, to concluded that meat has effectively become a scapegoat for commercial and environmental advocates, much of which was based on bad science. Speaking at a lecture at the University of Auckland, Professor Leroy discussed how this scapegoating came about and whether it is justified. . . 

The anti-farming rhetoric is not based on the good practices followed in New Zealand where cattle, deer and sheep are raised on extensive farms, ranging free.

The anti-meat rhetoric overlooks the important part moderate amounts of beef, lamb and venison play in a healthy diet.


Be ovarian cancer aware

September 5, 2019

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions.

Know your body and learn the symptoms.

Every woman and those who care about them should know the symptoms.

If they persist for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor.

Ovarian cancer isn’t detected by a smear test. It affects one in 75 women.


Who knows best?

September 4, 2019

Former PM Helen Clark is telling us to vote yes to legalising marijuana:

. . . The recommendation comes off the back of a report released by her foundation, The Case for Yes.

“If you go back to 1994, in a speech that I gave at the time on cannabis, I took a position then that was based on what the Department of Health had been telling me, which was this shouldn’t be criminalised,” she told The Spinoff. “And so I took a stand on partial decriminalisation or partial prohibition. But my thinking has changed.”

Today, more than 80% of New Zealanders will try cannabis before the age of 25, said Clark, and irregular policing and systemic racism means it’s Māori who disproportionately suffer the most at the hands of the law. Therefore, legalisation is preferable to decriminalisation as it avoids the racial pitfalls of a system based on discretion.

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act that was passed in August goes some way in doing this, but Clark said it still has two issues.

“One, it leaves supply criminalised, and there’s often quite a fine line between possession and supply – there are plenty of people who end up in jail for supply who were actually just in possession. 

“And secondly, there’s discretion, and as our paper points out, we have a huge social justice inequity issue on discretion because we see with cannabis – as with everywhere else in the criminal justice supply chain – Māori disproportionately are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and receive custodial sentences.”  . . 

There’s a third issue – it’s decriminalisation by stealth.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. A. where several states have legalised the drug the Surgeon General Jerome Adams warns of the dangers of using it:

. . . “While the perceived harm of marijuana is decreasing, the scary truth is that the actual potential for harm is increasing,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday during a press conference to announce the new advisory.

Surveys show that an increasing number of adolescents and pregnant women use the drug, which can be eaten, smoked or vaped.

But the surgeon general told NPR in an interview that many people are not aware of just how potent the drug can be.

“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” he said. The THC concentration in marijuana plants has increased threefold between 1995 and 2014, according to the report, and concentrated products can contain up to 75% THC.

“The higher the THC delivery, the higher the risk,” Adams said.

Young people who regularly use marijuana are “more likely to show a decline in IQ and school performance [and] are more apt to miss classes,” Adams said. And frequent use of the drug can also impair a child’s attention, memory and decision-making.

In addition, it can be habit-forming.

“Nearly 1 in 5 people who begin marijuana use during adolescence become addicted,” Adams said. “That’s scary to me as the dad of a 15-, a 13- and a 9-year-old.”

Symptoms of marijuana dependency include “irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And marijuana becomes addictive “when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life,” according to NIDA. . . 

Who knows best?

A former PM who’s arguing about the theory or a Surgeon General who has evidence about the use in practice?

 

 


Are you getting enough?

August 31, 2019

It’s World Iron Week – are you getting enough in your diet?

As the amount of red meat Kiwis eat shrinks, hospitalisations for iron deficiency anaemia are on the rise. 

And it’s costing millions. 

The cost of hospitalisations – primarily due to iron deficiency anaemia – has crept up from an annual $3.2 million to $6.7m over the past 10 years, according to Ministry of Health figures released under the Official Information Act. 

Over the past three years, MOH has spent close to $20m for treatment.  . . 

For hospital-level anaemia, there’s often another underlying condition, a Ministry of Health spokesman said.  

But a lack of iron-rich foods such as red meat, seafood or leafy greens is one of the biggest risks of low iron.  . .

Iron in animal products such as red meat is generally absorbed easier than plant based iron, with two to three servings of red meat a week the recommended amount. 

But vegetarians can be healthy, with a well thought out diet.  . .


Not just meat and wool

August 20, 2019

There’s more to sheep than meat and wool:

Patients in the United States with serious tissue injuries are benefitting from medical products made from the stomach of sheep in New Zealand.

Auckland-based Aroa Biological is manufacturing wound care and surgical products from sheep rumen.

The company founder and CEO Brian Ward says its products are being used to repair difficult to heal wounds like diabetic and venous ulcers and to repair complex hernias.

The company starts with a part of the rumen that resembles chicken skin, chemically cleans it and further processes it to remove anything the body would reject.

The final, dried product resembles embossed paper. It can then be cut to size and inserted into wounds to provide scaffolding that allows tissue to regenerate.

“Cells can move into that net very easily and then they can kind of crawl along through it to lay down new tissue and so what happens over time is the patient’s own tissue completely replaces the scaffolding,” Brian says. 

Aroa’s products have FDA approval and four million of its wound care products have been used in the United States.

Surgeons there are also using Aroa’s hernia repair devices instead of surgical mesh.

“Our diabetic and venous ulcer product has been on the market for some time now and it’s changed people’s lives. I mean we have had people that had been at risk of having limbs amputated (who) had very nasty wounds that they’d had for several years that we have healed, so it’s incredibly satisfying to get those stories back from patients.”

Aroa employs 110 people in New Zealand and a sales team of 30 in the United States.

Brian says he’s in talks to introduce Aroa’s products into the market place in New Zealand.

You can listen to more about this on RNZ’s Country Life here.

This is a wonderful example of taking what was a low value product, used for pet food or tripe, and turning it into a high value product.

One factor which helped is New Zealand’s relative isolation which protects our sheep from diseases.

That’s another reminder of the importance of biosecurity controls at the border.

x


Lab meat’s unsavoury science

August 12, 2019

Nicola Dennis looks at the unsavoury science behind lab-grown meat:

. . .The process for growing meat in the lab is pretty similar to how I grew my E.coli. Cells from the muscles (myocytes) on an animal are put into a smoothie of nutrients and incubated at body temperature for days on end.

The things that like to grow in a clump of “meat” incubated at body temperature are exactly the kind of things that would like to grow inside a human and cause nasty infections. This is precisely the reason why humans invented refrigerators to cool our food.

A lonesome myocyte, outside its natural environment, is not able to defend itself. Back when it was inside the animal it was living in a very controlled environment. In its natural environment, the immune worked hard to keep it safe from any nasties.

The lab-grown myocytes are going to have to be dosed with antibiotics; there is pretty much no other safe way around it. Even then, it could be hard to maintain food safety.

Strict regulations require withholding periods after stock are given drench or medicine, including antibiotics, to ensure no residues are left in meat. Do we know what, if any, residues are left in lab-grown meat?

When an animal is butchered, there are a lot of ways that we can test if it is safe to eat. We can observe its behaviour before slaughter and we can inspect the non-meat parts of the carcase such as the lungs and liver for anything out of the ordinary.

It is much harder to tell if a bunch of cells in a flask are infected (or malformed in the case of mad cow disease). How are the lab-based meat-mush growers going to ensure that their product is safe to consume on any given day?

Also, since the cells are not exposed to natural hormones in the blood, they will have to be treated with hormones and growth promoters so that they will replicate and grow. The protocols used by the proposed lab-meat companies are proprietary and secretive. However, I was able to dig up some humble science papers on how to culture skeletal myocytes (muscle cells) for research. These were being treated with Epidermal Growth Factor, Basic fibroblast growth factor, Dexamethasone, Insulin, Penicillin, Streptomycin, and Fetuin.

Your lab-grown meat is doping up like a performance-enhancing body-builder.
And that doped up athlete ain’t exactly eating grass, either.

New Zealand stock grows naturally on pasture and crops without the assistance of hormones or any other artificial growth promotants

Now that we have ensured the myocyte’s safety, we still need to feed it. It needs to be kept in a slushy of its favourite food called “medium”, which is a rough approximation of blood. The science papers I looked at all started off with a recipe of “Dulbecco’s Modified Eagle Medium” which doesn’t include eagles, but a complicated mix of amino acids, glucose, salt and vitamins. To this, we add things like foetal calf serum and chicken embryo extract. Both of those ingredients are exactly what they sound like, pieces of cow and chicken foetuses.

Fetal calf serum and chicken embryo extract? That doesn’t sound like the sort of thing a vegan would eat.

At a conservative estimate, more than 40 ingredients are used in the juice keeping the cells alive. You would have to be severely optimistic to think that all these ingredients would be coming from sustainable and ethical sources.

But let’s just focus on the glucose in that recipe. Cultured meat is going to require a LOT of medical-grade glucose (ie: table sugar of the highest standard). Right now, the world produces somewhere between 300 and 500 million tonnes of meat each year. In contrast, global production of sugar (the ordinary kind) is about 180 million tonnes. I have no idea how much sugar is needed to make a kilogram of cultured meat, but I am sure we don’t have enough sugar to make an impact on global meat production.

Sugar is sometimes added to processed meals which include meat but pasture-raised meat is single-ingredient and sugar-free.

Pastoral agriculture is a pretty simple and slick system. We turn a natural resource that we can’t eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and milk) with grazing animals. The land we (the world) use to do this is, by and large, not suitable for the production of sugar or the other 40 ingredients needed for cultured meat. Or, for the ingredients required in the less-terrifying, but no-less-processed plant-based “meats”.

Some people can’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for their food. So be it. Let them eat cake… or felafel. But, when it comes to meat, there is no substitute for the simplicity and safety of the real deal.

Those last two paragraphs need repeating:

Pastoral agriculture is a pretty simple and slick system. We turn a natural resource that we can’t eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and milk) with grazing animals. The land we (the world) use to do this is, by and large, not suitable for the production of sugar or the other 40 ingredients needed for cultured meat. Or, for the ingredients required in the less-terrifying, but no-less-processed plant-based “meats”.

Some people can’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for their food. So be it. Let them eat cake… or felafel. But, when it comes to meat, there is no substitute for the simplicity and safety of the real deal.

Eat like our grandparents ate, the closer to nature the better; eat fresh unprocessed food; eat less sugar. This is the advice from health professionals advising on healthy diets.

Lab-grown meat is nothing like our grandparents ate, it’s far from nature, it’s highly processed and sugar is one of its many ingredients.

Simple, slick and safe is a far better recipe for healthy eating than the lab-grown alternatives.

 


%d bloggers like this: