Archive for July, 2011

Dead Zones, Obesity,Cancer, Heart Disease, ONE SOLUTION

July 28, 2011

Near record oxygen dead zones are expected before the summer concludes in both the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Dead zones are primarily caused by over use of fertilizer to grow field corn, which is used to feed animals in CAFOs, to produce sugar used for among other things sugary drinks. Almost 3 times (uptake efficiency of corn is .37) more fertilizer is applied to corn in a normal rainfall year than the crop can use, much more in a drought year. Fertilizer is also used extensively to produce refined grains. Last week it was announced that every State in the U.S. had reached an obesity rate exceeding 25% of the population. Dead Zones and obesity are directly connected since the products that use most of the Nations fertilizer in the production process are the same as those causing obesity (see video of Harvard U. report). In addition the CAFOs which produce red meat use most of the corn. Beef, pork, and lamb overconsumption plus processed meat is causing our epidemics of cancer and heart disease. It is past time to enact recommendations made in 2000 by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force (see Texas A&M update) and reduce fertilizer application rates Nationwide. This will not only go a long way toward restoring our water resources but will help restore the Nation’s health.

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OBESITY-Poor Choices or Poor Food System

July 23, 2011

Last week’s announcement that obesity in the U.S. has increased and that now every State and The District of Columbia is officially classified as obese with an obesity rate over 25% begs the question WHY? Harvard University (see video) in announcing their long-term study of obesity referred to poor food choices. The foods cited were; corn oil impregnated chips and fries, hi-fructose corn syrup based sugary drinks, refined grains, corn fed meat and corn fed processed meat*. In addition World Cancer research studies and Harvard studies of heart disease and diabetes also implicate corn fed red meat in these diseases. Corn and other grains have been heavily subsidized by U.S. agricultural policy since the 1960’s. Corn based products and refined grains dominate supermarket shelves and fast food outlets. A scientist involved in monitoring our Choptank watershed recently said that water pollution was analogous to human nutrition and waste disposal. He is right. Short cuts in soil management and over fertilization of corn have destroyed half our Corn Belt topsoil and caused the nutrient contamination of almost every river and Estuary East of the Rockies including the Gulf and Chesapeake Bay. Are poor individual choices responsible for us being among the unhealthiest most natural resource impaired Country in the world or is it Government Farm policy and the resultant dominance of bad food on supermarket shelves, at the ballpark, and at the fast food outlets?

*Also refer to The Harvard and Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health websites accessible from our reference page for further information.

Congressman Harris-Right For A Change

July 22, 2011

Congressman Harris has been a strong voice impeding the restoration of Chesapeake Bay since he joined Congress. He has consistently sided with the Agribusiness Lobby led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute and the Corn Growers Association. So it is a shock to hear him talk about the Bay as a National Treasure and creator of jobs in recommending the NOAA study of algal blooms. I asked two experts on Bay pollution for an opinion about this research. There responses follow:

It is our perspective that there are important things in the world of toxic algal blooms and hypoxia that remain to be studied; that federal assistance for such studies is appropriate and necessary; and that NOAA is the appropriate agency to receive the funds for such studies, particularly in salt and estuarine aquatic environments. However, the need for additional studies must not be used as an excuse to preclude action on what we do know.

Studying algal blooms from space (aerial photos or high res satellite imagery), calibrated with in situ observations, is a valid approach to substantiate the spatial/temporal extent and location of poor water quality. Showing where blooms occur can help point to the terrestrial nutrient sources that fuel the blooms. However, this research shouldn’t get funded by diverting funds from much needed reductions of N and P losses from land (septic/wastewater plant upgrades, winter cover crops, buffers, fertilizer restrictions, etc.).

Both join in urging Congressman Harris to get behind current efforts to implement the TMDL program which shows great promise in reducing Bay pollution and is opposed by the Agribusiness Lobby.

Chesapeake Bay Sediment All time Record

July 18, 2011

Last March 2011 sediment intrusion into Chesapeake Bay reached an all time high as shown on the attached (click to see the aerial photograph and accompanying dialog). The dialog supplied by The Chesapeake Bay Foundation implies that urban storm runoff is relatively equal to farm fields as the cause and that the latter can be alleviated with buffer strips.  A little common sense coupled with our experience with sediment runoff alleviation success at the headwaters of LaTrappe Creek causes us to disagree with the alleged source and buffers as a proposed fix.

USGS calculates the area of farming in the Susquehanna watershed as 2% of land use versus 29% of land use for farming. Urban development has been required to retain impervious surface runoff on site for  60 to 100 year storms for decades. The same picture shows the Delaware Bay, a primary urban watershed, with very little sediment runoff. So it is likely that unprotected farm fields are the primary source of  sediment. We have found that winter cover crops (roots in the ground) are the only effective solution to farm field sediment runoff. We have also found that buffer strips of any width do not drop out significant amounts of sediment in stream flow. Grassed field trenches are effective in eliminating trench erosion but will not do much to remove sediment already in suspension. An adjacent farmer simply stopped retrenching field trenches. He lost some yield but slowed sediment runoff considerably. We have also found that installing a small retention pond at the end of every field trench is somewhat effective for small rain events but is no match for the amount of water we had last Spring. An aerial survey of unprotected tilled farm field trenches in the Susquehanna watershed would confirm the true source.

Cooking Meat Cancer Cause?

July 15, 2011

Epidemiological studies including, the National Cancer Institute Study (our ref. # 16) and World Cancer Research Fund studies archived under cancer, have established that there is a relationship between red meat and processed meat consumption and the risk of certain cancers but the biological mechanism underlying this association has yet to be established.  A recent study by the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University looks at two known carcinogens produced by cooking meat as a possible cause. Click here for the study .

July 15, 2011

More On Harvard’s Obesity Study

July 9, 2011

The most surprising finding to the writer was that sugary drinks, refined grains, and meat were all equal negative factors to long- term weight gain. While it was expected that sugary drinks were problematic, I did not expect that hamburger rolls, white bread, pasta, pizza, and the hamburger patty itself were equal causes of obesity. The study did not differentiate between red meat and chicken. I contacted Walter Willett the head of the department of nutrition and epidemiology who said that definitely all meats and all vegetables were not equal and that they would publish a clarification paper shortly.

A local dentist has been involved in the study since 1986. He reports that the attention to detail is incredible. The School often calls him after he fills out his questionnaire every 4 years to clarify detail. This is impressive to him considering there are 121,000 participants.