Friday, March 24, 2006

Wishart vs. Cresswell

Following on from Clark's comment that Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart is a "creep", PC gave his own opinion on him calling him a scandal monger and fundamentalist nutbar et al. Wishart is now threatening to sue him for defamation,
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Now I’ve avoided Investigate magazine after seeing time and time again headlines I’d expect to see in a tabloid, and rather empty musings like this.
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His own blog makes banal assertions like:

“There is more evidence for the existence of Christ and a contemporaneous belief of his deity than there is for virtually any other historical figure of his time.”
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Well we know people believe in Christ, but that clever use of language doesn’t get you very far. Christ may well have existed, but just because people believe in the ghost doesn’t mean IT exists. The notion that there is MORE evidence for the existence of Christ than others “of his time” is ludicrous. More than Cleopatra or Caesar? This is like saying that there is more evidence for Churchill than of Stalin or Hitler.
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So I thought I’d read a bit of Wishart, particularly an initially alarming story about hormones in New Zealand beef and lesbian seagulls (bound to excite environmentalists and adolescents alike).

The end of the articles states:

“Increasingly, scientists suspect environmental hormone pollutants caused by human agriculture and industrial waste are working into the animal food chain and creating more instances of so-called “gay behaviour” by animals. The question is, what are the hormones doing to humans?”
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Well the only case cited is of seagulls, and before that of a WWF zoologist more generally concerned about the effects of hormonal contaminants on animals. Fair enough, but the implication here is that hormones we consume through pollution or food could be making people gay. So how is this relevant to New Zealand? How valid are these concerns, or are they just scandal mongering with a joining of the dots as noted by PC?
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It starts with:

"Hormone Growth Promotants .... Known in the industry as HGPs, the official line is that the sex hormones implanted into the ears of cattle are natural or nature identical substances that simply replicate nature, mimicking the hormones lost through castration and equating to other natural dietary sources of hormones such as eggs or soybeans. But how do New Zealanders feel about growth promoting hormones implanted in their meat patties?"
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The "official line" well no Ian, it's the line of the farmers and the producers. You have a better explanation than this? He effectively rubbishes fact by implying the "official line" is like some press statement from Belarus, then "how do New Zealanders feel" should be the test? Well Ian, after reading articles like this, they will feel scared because you were remarkably selective.
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“Compudose is implanted only in the skin immediately beneath the ear of a cattle beast. Disposal of ears of implanted cattle is an issue. NZFSA says they are discarded as waste, rendered or used in gelatin production.”
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Ok so the main issue is that the ears may be used in gelatin, though the hormones spread through the beef. Nothing much more is said on this and then...
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A further issue is the use of antibiotics. Elanco acknowledges that the implant may be dusted with the antibiotic tetracycline. Derek Moore is unsure if the New Zealand version contains any antibiotic. He suggests that perhaps the implant is coated in talcum powder.”
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Ohhhhh “unsure” and “perhaps” smells of a cover up now, scandal, especially since...
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“In the United States the needle used to insert the implant is also often coated with an antibiotic. Vet Services in the Hawkes Bay are adamant they do not use antibiotics to cleanse needles. But either way the trace use of an antibiotic for non-therapeutic purposes is concerning.”
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Says the non-scientist – even though there isn’t evidence it is used in New Zealand and no evidence of it being harmful if it was used, as the article itself states. The facts are hear, but with a sprinkling of skeptical fear pepper makes it taste a bit foul, so all you non-scientists can go – whoa I don’t use antibiotics unless I’m ill, something wrong here – except by now you’ve forgotten that there is no evidence antibiotics are used in New Zealand at all for this process. In addition...
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“Elanco says it has yet to be demonstrated that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics has a detrimental effect on humans.”
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BUT that’s ok, the whole tone is “can’t be too careful” and you can't trust industry can you now? You know what THEY are like.
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Then we have the comfort that if you really are concerned about it, you can take this advice:
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“New Zealand Beef and Lamb Marketing Bureau advises consumers to look out for their red tick of hormone-free approval. Seager Mason, tech-nical director for BioGro says organic food by definition is free of additives. “The whole point of organics is the system for monitoring the producers. Food producers should always declare the means of manufacture.” He comments that any decision on the safety or otherwise of food ingredients should be made by the consumer not the ‘vested-interest’ producer.
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So first you can avoid beef with hormones in it, then you have an organic producers claiming that producers have vested interests, as if organic producers don’t have a vested interest in raising questions about the safety of their competitors’ typically cheaper products? No, that isn’t even raised. However, organic producers like to raise issues with non-organic produce, especially scaring people into believing what is "really in their food". The whole industry is based on scaring people into thinking non-organic food is bad for you, so why should you be surprised? Wishart ignores this.
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So why are HGPs used?
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“The industry calls them ‘quality enhancers’. In a local trial cattle treated with Compudose had an average weight increase of 23.5% (9). Cattle treated with HGPs grow faster enabling them to be sent to the works in shorter time, lowering the farmer cost of beef raising. It’s estimated that for every dollar spent on an HGP there is a five-dollar return.”
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The first sentence drips of a huge "yeah right" by saying the "industry calls them" and quotation marks around 'quality enhancers', rather than simply explaining the rest of the point. So it produces bigger cattle at lower cost - anything to complain about there?
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Then he makes sense:
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“Consumer choice is promoted as the ultimate freedom. It is the market that must test the validity of claims in support of HGPs. It is the market that must sort out whether consumers really want to eat meat grown with growth promoting hormones.”
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It sure is, as long as the market is free and informed by fact, not fear. The organic sector provides this choice, as to other farmers explicitly growing beef without HGPs - no problem then..
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So what about those lesbian seagulls?
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“A University of California, Davis, study by avian toxicologist Michael Fry in the 1980s determined that estrogenic pollution lay behind the “lesbian behaviour” of seagulls. Significantly, to test their theory, they injected normal seagull eggs with estradiol, the additive being pumped into some New Zealand and Australian beef.
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Pumped into? Injected into ears – but then hyperbole sells more magazines.
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“To connect these effects with estrogenic pollutants, Fry and his colleagues conducted a number of experiments during the 1980s. In one, they injected eggs of contaminant-free gulls with estradiol…When the hatchlings emerged, they exhibited the same array of feminized sex organs as DDT-contaminated Western gulls on Santa Barbara Island, off the coast of California.” The estradiol, and a range of other estrogenic pollutants like DDT, effectively “chemically castrated” the males, Fry says.
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So there you go, because some seagull eggs were injected with estradiol and were chemically castrated, and some NZ cattle use HGPs and this is the same substance, it could chemically castrate your children, maybe turn them (horrors!) gay! See the "joining the dots" that PC mentioned? That is what you may surmise.
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So what ABOUT these hormones anyway? Well they actually are about increasing the amount of naturally occurring hormones in cattle that may be reduced due to castration. This article below from Clemson University South Carolina claims that no residues remain in cattle treated with it through the ears.
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The US Department of Agriculture states:
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“The amounts of estradiol, progesterone and testosterone in animals raised using hormones as growth promotants are extremely low compared with their production in humans. Even a young boy would need to eat more than 7000 grams (about 16 pounds) of beef raised using estradiol daily in order to produce a one percent increase in his production of this hormone. A 500-gram portion of beef raised using estradiol contains approximately 15,000 times less of this hormone than the amount produced daily by the average man, and about nine million times less than the amount produced by a pregnant woman.”
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or how about:
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"A one pint glass of milk from an untreated cow contains about 9 times as much estradiol as a 250 gram portion of meat from a steer raised using hormones"
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Or is Ian going to claim that the USDA is in league with the producers of these drugs?
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Well no, the article does contain a link to the NZ Food Safety Authority which defends the use of HGPs here.
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So what does it all mean? It means that you've been eating beef with HGPs in it with no ill effects, your body produces far more estradiol than you consume through beef. That is the fact, but could you sell magazines by claiming that chemicals used in agriculture are harmless? No - people like scandals. A bit like implying that the Clark government is all about some covert gay agenda and was going to decriminalise cannabis - chance would be a fine thing!
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