By Jon Queally
President Donald Trump at a White House press conference on Friday announced he was "terminating" ties to the World Health Organization, even as the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic nears 363,000 — including the more than 100,000 dead from the virus in the U.S., many attributed to his own mismanagement of the crisis.
While bashing China for "having total control" over the international organization that is based in Geneva, Trump said that because of its refusal to submit to reforms demanded by the White House, "we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs."
#BREAKING: President Trump severing ties to WHO: "We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Heal… https://t.co/mohFgeoeqs— The Hill (@The Hill)1590778675.0
Not surrounded by his Covid-19 Task Force that includes trusted public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump made the announcement surrounded by top cabinet members, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center's database, the global death toll from the pandemic sat at 362,554 on Friday afternoon just as Trump was speaking, with 102,201 of those in the U.S. — the country with the highest number of deaths, by far.
Trump has repeatedly deflected blame onto the WHO to mask his own failures, according to critics, many of whom pointed to Friday's development as the logical conclusion of what the U.S. president has been doing since the pandemic began nearly three months ago:
Now that Trump is terminating our relationship with WHO and blaming them for his own failures, here's a comparison… https://t.co/QJUdH0rgLI— Greg Sargent (@Greg Sargent)1590778668.0
"There is one rogue state in the world, and humanity would be better off if it terminated its relationship with existence," said journalist Ajit Singh in terse response to Trump's announcement.
"When every single country in the world is able to work with the WHO, except for one whose president advocates treating coronavirus with bleach and UV light," Singh added, "who do you think is at fault?"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Linda Lacina
World Health Organization officials today announced the launch of the WHO Foundation, a legally separate body that will help expand the agency's donor base and allow it to take donations from the general public.
The foundation will accept funding from non-traditional sources, including individual major donors, corporate partners and the general public. Until now the WHO has been one of the few international organizations which has not traditionally received donations from the general public.
"This is a historic step," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Media briefing on #COVID19 with @DrTedros https://t.co/j5ZoeBdBvO— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO))1590592043.0
The group's funding has gained unprecedented scrutiny in recent weeks after US President Trump has paused funding to the WHO.
While the group has a relatively modest budget for its scope ($2.3 billion, similar to a mid-sized hospital in the developed world, as explained last week), flexible funding sources have been needed for some time, said the Director-General.
The agency's funding comprises contributions from member states, which are flexible, and voluntary contributions earmarked for fixed purposes. Whereas 40 years ago, 80% of the funding was flexible and could be used at the organization's discretion, now that share has shrunk to 20%, the Director-General said recently.
"In effect, that means WHO has little discretion over the way it spends its funds, almost 80% of its funds," he said at today's briefing. "In order to improve flexibility, we need to have additional resources and un-earmarked resources."
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
The foundation has been in development since February 2018, said the Director-General, and was not created in response to the recent US funding pause. The idea surfaced through a regular 'Open Hour" session where WHO staff are encouraged to come to the Director-General and "generate crazy ideas" to transform the organization.
A COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, launched this spring, helped serve as a proof of concept for the foundation. The fund, created in response to the coronavirus crisis, has raised $214 million USD from more than 400,000 individuals and companies in just two and a half months.
The Response Fund will continue to assist the coronavirus effort, buying lab diagnostics, personal protective equipment, and funding research and development. The WHO Foundation, meanwhile, will have a broader mission, funding all elements of WHO's public health work including: mental health, noncommunicable diseases, emergency preparedness, and health system strengthening.
"The foundation will enhance and complement the global health's ecosystem by providing agility flexibility in receiving contributions and grant making, accelerating WHO-led evidence-based interventions, and focusing on high impact intervention and partnerships," explained Professor Thomas Zeltner, a Swiss physician who serves as chair of the board of the WHO Foundation.
A WHO representative will attend foundation board meetings and report to member states on its interaction with the foundation and funds received from it.
The foundation will ultimately help the WHO focus efforts on promoting good health, rather than just grappling with disease. Additional funding can help the agency invest in some of its least funded areas such as diet or air quality.
"Our focus should not be in managing disease," said the Director-General, "but in preventing it from happening and in helping people to lead a healthy life."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump on Monday sent a four-page letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the United Nations agency in the midst of a global pandemic that has made international cooperation as crucial as ever.
Trump's letter, which he posted to Twitter Monday night, repeats the president's accusations that WHO is deferential to China and says that if the organization "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization."
The president also alleged that WHO ignored early warnings about the spread of the coronavirus and made "grossly inaccurate or misleading" claims about the virus. Observers noted that much of Trump's critique of WHO's handling of the coronavirus pandemic applies to the White House's handling of the crisis, which has been condemned as fatally slow and inadequate.
"This is a phenomenally damning letter—of the president's own response," tweeted HuffPost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte. "All of those early dates? Late December and January? Were known to U.S. officials and relayed to Trump. Who did nothing."
This is the letter sent to Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization. It is self-explanatory! https://t.co/pF2kzPUpDv— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1589856927.0
Trump wrote that WHO "consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet."
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a U.K.-based medical journal, refuted the president's claim in a tweet early Tuesday.
"Dear President Trump—You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record," Horton wrote. "The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020."
Trump's letter comes just over a month after he announced his decision to temporarily halt U.S. funding to WHO, a move Horton condemned at the time as an "appalling betrayal of global solidarity" that "every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against."
Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, tweeted that the U.S. president's letter shows that he "doesn't understand what WHO can and cannot do."
"It is a normative, technical agency which needs to keep member states at the table," Sridhar said. "If he thinks they need more power then member states should agree and delegate it more. This letter is written for his base and to deflect blame."
John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and former economist at the WHO, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy In Focus earlier this month that while "WHO is far from perfect," the organization "is playing a key role in poorer countries, and its importance will only grow as the pandemic spreads in these nations."
"The story line from Reagan to Trump is the same: undermining global public health to serve narrow interests," Cavanagh wrote. "For Reagan, it was to help a few well-connected corporate backers. For Trump, it may be to help a single billionaire in particular—himself. Only now, we're in the middle of a pandemic that's only just begun to devastate the vulnerable regions that need the WHO the most. The United States shouldn't be cutting support now. We should be increasing it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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In a move roundly decried by public health experts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as his administration investigates the international body's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump claimed the agency trusted the information coming out of China in the early days of the outbreak too easily, but his actions come as he tries to deflect criticism of his own response to the pandemic that has sickened more than 600,000 in the U.S. and claimed nearly 25,000 U.S. lives. His announcement also follows a weekend that saw the U.S. death toll rise to become the highest in the world, as well as the release of a major New York Times investigation revealing Trump implemented social distancing measures weeks after his own health experts thought they were necessary. More Americans now disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus than approve, The New York Times pointed out.
"It is a transparent attempt to shift blame for the U.S. administration's own failings," Center for Global Development senior policy fellow and former U.S. Agency for International Development disaster relief head Jeremy Konyndyk told Science of Trump's decision to pause funding. He also said the freeze "leaves the U.S. and the world less safe."
President @realDonaldTrump is halting funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to asses… https://t.co/tbxfP81TuT— The White House (@The White House)1586904611.0
During a White House press briefing Tuesday, Trump claimed that WHO's early missteps had proven fatal.
"So much death has been caused by their mistakes," the president told reporters.
One of his major criticisms is that the agency accepted Chinese accounts of the virus too readily. But The New York Times pointed out that Trump himself praised the Chinese response in January while he was negotiating a trade deal with the country.
"China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," he tweeted Jan. 24. "It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!'
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts an… https://t.co/Gv3NQQlQCh— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1579900695.0
Other countries have raised concerns about the speed with which WHO responded to the virus. For example, the agency did accept the news from China in mid-January that the virus did not pass from person to person. But it also gave out warnings during that month about the new illness.
A senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, Dr. Amesh Adalja, told Reuters that while WHO may have made some errors, it still was doing vital work to control the spread of the new disease.
"It's not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing," he said.
Even other members of the administration agree. Trump made his announcement despite the opposition of top health officials, who were concerned it would hamper international efforts to fight the virus that causes COVID-19., an anonymous official told Reuters.
The U.S. is the country that contributes most to WHO. In 2019, it gave more than $400 million, around 15 percent of the agency's budget. Its funding pause comes as the agency is appealing for more than a billion in extra funds to fight the virus.
Trump said he expects his review to take 60 to 90 days, but it comes as WHO is working to fight the virus in less developed countries who are less prepared to cope with its spread. On Tuesday, the first WHO "solidarity flight" took off from Ethiopia carrying essential health supplies to African countries, Science pointed out.
"WHO is in the middle of supporting global surveillance efforts and scale-up of testing and response in low- and middle-income countries around the world," Georgetown University global health researcher Matthew Kavanaugh told Science. "Hobbling that response is not just unjust, it's incredibly bad for U.S. public health at a moment when we have all learned painfully how easily this virus moves from abroad to U.S. shores."
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By Jessica Corbett
The World Health Organization on Friday raised the global risk of the new coronavirus to its highest level and reiterated the necessity of worldwide containment efforts as U.S. President Donald Trump continued to face widespread criticism over how his administration has handled the public health crisis so far.
Since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak began in Wuhan, China late last year, it has infected more than 83,000 people globally, killing over 2,800, according to the Associated Press. A large majority of the cases have been in mainland China; however, the virus has reached more than 50 countries, with hundreds of confirmed cases in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran.
"Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained Friday during a press conference in Geneva with other officials from the United Nations agency.
"What we see at the moment are linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities," Tedros said. "As long as that's the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts."
@DrTedros @WHOWPRO @pahowho @WHO_Europe @WHOAFRO @WHOEMRO @WHOSEARO "🔟 it’s normal & understandable to feel anxious… https://t.co/6mOTB32F4L— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO))1582904766.0
Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, told reporters Friday that "this is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready."
Ryan added that it "unhelpful" to ask whether the outbreak is now considered a pandemic, because doing so would mean "we're essentially accepting that every human on the planet will be exposed to that virus. The data does not show that." However, he warned, "if we don't take action ... that may be a future that we have to experience."
As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch has predicted that the virus could ultimately infect between 40 and 70% of the global population, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging U.S. residents to prepare for "significant disruption in their daily lives."
The CDC is tracking COVID-19 cases in the U.S. on its website. The federal agency has also published information about the virus and the national containment response, which includes deploying CDC staffers to dozens of sites across the country.
Despite the agency's efforts, Trump has come under fire for his administration's response to the outbreak. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Friday that "we're looking at a serious economic downturn because of coronavirus — and the Trump administration is bungling every aspect of this crisis."
Trump announced Wednesday night that he was appointing Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration's coronavirus task force — a move that was pilloried as "utterly irresponsible" by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The congresswoman and other critics highlighted Pence's problematic track record on handling public health issues, including while he was the governor of Indiana.
Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far: -Cut winter heating assistance for the poor -Have VP Pence, who wanted to… https://t.co/pNUJzEBmRr— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1582763521.0
Pence announced early Thursday that he was appointing a global health official, Ambassador Debbie Birx, as the "White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator," a decision which Politico described as "installing a czar-like figure under him to guide the administration's response to the outbreak after a protracted public dance around how to display the power of the federal bureaucracy to the American people."
The New York Times reported late Thursday that the White House moved to "tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearances" with Pence's office, citing multiple unnamed sources. According to the Times, "Officials insist Mr. Pence's goal is not to control what experts and other officials say, but to make sure their efforts are coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials making contradictory statements on television."
However, the news generated concerns among individuals and watchdogs groups — and came amid reporting that a whistleblower from the Department of Health and Human Services has accused the Trump administration of attempting to cover up possibly exposing federal workers to coronavirus by sending them to process Americans evacuated from Wuhan without providing essential training or equipment.
1. Trump is now requiring PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS and SCIENTISTS to clear their statements about the Coronavirus wit… https://t.co/NCFmdirAFW— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1582834446.0
"There's nothing wrong with a coordinated process inside the federal government to make sure it is sending out clear, fact-based information about the widening coronavirus epidemic," said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "But there's every reason to suspect something else is happening — that public health experts are being instructed to stay silent because they are sharing truthful information that the Trump administration finds inconvenient or that contradicts the random musings of the president."
"As we have seen in China's response to the outbreak, muzzling public health experts at a time of a potentially emergent public health crisis is reckless and endangers the public," Carmone added in his statement Thursday. "It should be obvious to the Trump administration, though perhaps it is not, that silencing truthful information about the coronavirus is likely to speed — not stop — its spread."
Trump and his allies, meanwhile, continue to tout the administration's efforts and dismiss critiques as politically motivated attacks. Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday characterized news coverage of coronavirus as "an attempt to bring down the president" and downplayed its threat level. As Common Dreams reported, some critics responded by charging that Mulvaney was the one politicizing the crisis at the expense of American families.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Infants less than a year old should not be exposed to electronic screens, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
Issuing its first such guidelines, the United Nations health agency said that older children, aged two to four, should be limited to one hour per day sedentary screen time.
The guidelines also covered sleep and exercise. Among the findings were that:
- Infants under one should interact in floor-based play — or "tummy time" — for at least an hour each day and avoid all screens.
- Children between one and four should spend at least three hours in a variety of physical activities spread across the day, with no more than an hour of screen time.
- Children shouldn't be restrained in a pram or high chair, or strapped to someone's back, for more than an hour at a time.
The WHO said under-fives should be physically active and getting plenty of sleep, and that this would establish healthy habits through adolescence and into adulthood.
"Healthy physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep habits are established early in life, providing an opportunity to shape habits through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood," the WHO stated in the guidelines to member states.
Sedentary screen time includes watching television or videos, and playing computer games.
Being inactive is a "leading risk factor" for mortality, and is fueling a global rise in overweight and obesity, the agency said. Being excessively overweight can lead to diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and some types of cancer.
In a report from 2017, the WHO said the number of obese children and adolescents globally had skyrocketed tenfold to 120 million inside the past 40 years. It added that the rise was accelerating in low- and middle-income nations, especially in Asia.
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ricardo / zone41.net
The new study, conducted by journalism organization Orb Media and researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia, has already prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.
For the study, researchers tested 259 individual bottles across 11 brands purchased from 19 locations in nine countries. Using fluorescent tagging with Nile Red dye, the scientists found that 93 percent of the samples had some sort of microplastic contamination, including polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The bits ranged in size from the width of a human hair to a red blood cell.
One bottle showed an excess of 10,000 microplastic particles per liter. Only 17 bottles had no contamination.
An average of 10.4 microplastic particles was detected per liter, or about twice as much contamination discovered in the group's previous study on tap water.
The survey involved leading international brands, such as Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestlé Pure Life, and San Pellegrino, as well as major national brands such as Aqua (Indonesia), Bisleri (India), Epura (Mexico), Gerolsteiner (Germany), Minalba (Brazil), and Wahaha (China).
People "have a right to accurate and relevant information about the quality and safety of any product they consume," Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Orb. "Since consumers are paying a premium for bottled water, the onus is on the bottled water companies to show their product is worth the extra cost."
"Please name one human being on the entire planet who wants plastic in his or her bottle," added Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. "They will all hate it."
Other studies on microplastics have found the pervasive particles in ice cores, in the deepest parts of the ocean and on every beach worldwide. An unsettling UN News article once put the problem this way: "As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles—500 times more than stars in our galaxy."
A WHO spokesman told the Guardian that while there is not yet any evidence on the impacts of microplastics on human health, the organization noted it's an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO will "review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment."
In response to the study, several brands questioned the methodology or said that the amount of plastic was overstated.
Nestlé criticized the analysis, telling CBC that using Nile Red dye could "generate false positives."
Danone, which sells Evian and Aqua, told Orb it is "not in a position to comment as the testing methodology used is unclear. There is still limited data on the topic, and conclusions differ dramatically from one study to another."
The American Beverage Association, which represents Nestlé, Evian, Dasani and Aquafina, told Orb that "the science on microplastics and microfibres is nascent and an emerging field ... We stand by the safety of our bottled water products and we are interested in contributing to serious scientific research that will ... help us all understand the scope, impact and appropriate next steps."
Minalba told Orb that it abides by the Brazilian government's quality and security standards. Biserli and Wahaha did not respond to Orb's request for comment.
Microplastics Pose Major Problems for Ocean Giants https://t.co/lcBWdD434h #Microplastics @PlasticPollutes @Oceana… https://t.co/wKuncYvPUJ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517853475.0
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The agrochemical and seed giant Monsanto, one of the world's most controversial corporations, is attempting to take down a World Health Organization (WHO) agency that in 2015 linked the Monsanto product glyphosate to an increased risk of cancer in humans. That year, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that the widely used herbicide is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The decision was a major blow to Monsanto as its most popular product, Roundup, is glyphosate-based. Following the IARC's decision, the European Union began to consider banning the product altogether, potentially depriving Monsanto of a significant stream of revenue. Monsanto, which is seeking the EU's renewal of the chemical's license for the next 10 years, is now also fighting a high-profile court case attempting to bring IARC's 2015 decision—as well as the agency itself—under scrutiny.
Central to Monsanto's case is its argument that the IARC failed to consider two studies that found glyphosate to be safe. The first was conducted by the German-based Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), which concluded in 2015 that "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans." The second is a study from "independent" German scientist Helmut Greim, who conducted a meta-analysis and found that "glyphosate's carcinogenic potential is extremely low or non-existent."
Monsanto has claimed that IARC's lack of consideration for these two studies proved that the agency's findings were an "outlier" in linking glyphosate exposure to cancer. Their failure to include these two studies, according to Monsanto's vice president of strategy, Scott Partridge, shows that the IARC "was corrupted apparently with individuals who have an agenda" and warrants an external investigation into the workings of the agency and its leadership.
Partridge told Politico in an interview that "When an organization such as IARC is given authority, with that comes a responsibility … to be objective, transparent, thorough and fair. IARC has violated each and every one of those responsibilities and that should be troubling to anyone who is interested in preserving sound science."
Though Monsanto's reasoning may be considered sound be some, there is clear evidence that the studies that form the base of Monsanto's legal argument are hardly "sound science" themselves. The first study conducted by BfR, for instance, in drawing conclusions contrary to those of the IARC, relied heavily on unpublished papers provided to its authors by the Glyphosate Task Force—an industry lobbying group, working to relicense the herbicide in the EU, whose website is run by Monsanto UK.
The meta-analysis conducted by Helmut Greim is little different. According to the declaration of interest found within the study, all of Greim's co-authors are employed by either the Glyphosate Task Force or Monsanto. Greim himself was funded by Monsanto "as an independent consultant for his expert contributions to this manuscript." Other work by Greim, including one entirely funded by Monsanto, lists him as having previously served as an independent consultant for Monsanto and for the Glyphosate Task Force.
This amounts to Monsanto calling for an investigation into the credibility of an international agency after it refused to consider studies either funded by Monsanto or written by Monsanto-linked employees with a vested interest in glyphosate's reapproval by the European Union.
As Anton Safer, an independent scientist at the University of Heidelberg who has done extensive research into the standards of industry-funded scientific studies, told Politico: "IARC only looks at studies of quality and sorts out all studies that are deemed not reliable, at least to a certain degree. The claim from industry is that 'we are perfect and we are working to good laboratory practices.' The truth is that there are violations which could lead to major questions arising of the studies used by industry."
Ironically, if IARC had considered these two industry-funded studies that are laden with conflicts of interests, it would have undermined their scientific credibility to the point where Monsanto would have a genuine cause to complain.
This is just the latest attempt on Monsanto's part to attempt to convince regulatory bodies and governments that its flagship product is safe and not a danger to human and environmental health. Monsanto itself has known for more than 36 years that glyphosate is linked to cancer in humans, yet continues to hope that aggressive legal tactics, coupled with industry scientists on its payroll, will serve to rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of one of the world's most controversial and unpopular companies.
Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.
The drinking water that is causing nearly 500,000 deaths a year is contaminated with feces, causing cholera, dysentery, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, typhoid and polio.
The most serious threats are in impoverished and developing areas. Although there has been a push for safe drinking water by the UN General Assembly, which led to a 4.9 percent increase in budgets worldwide, most countries say it is not enough.
The report found that 80 percent of countries are not adequately meeting the UN standards. In a statement WHO said when people can't provide the most basic necessities, like repairing infrastructure, water safety and reliability is sacrificed first.
"This is a challenge we have the ability to solve," Guy Ryder, chair of UN-Water and director-general of the International Labour Organization, said. "Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind."
This is a heavy burden on local communities, but as Ryder said, it is possible. To really meet UN standards, the world budget for drinking water would have to triple, that's $114 billion annually, to provide underserved areas. Governments can also step up their game by increasing and sustaining WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) access for vulnerable groups, especially in rural areas.
This graphic shows budget for WASH funding worldwide. Photo credit: World Health Organization
By Nadia Prupis
More than 90 percent of people on the planet live in places where air pollution levels are dangerously high, and millions of people are dying as a result of the exposure, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO) released Tuesday.
A polluted Christmas Day at Anyang Normal University, China.V.T. Polywoda / Flickr
Using an air quality model based on satellite data and other ground and air monitors in 3,000 locations, the WHO found that fully 92 percent of people worldwide live in regions where the pollution exceeds the organization's safety limits.
"To date, air pollution—both ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor)—is the biggest environmental risk to health, carrying responsibility for about one in every nine deaths annually," the report states. "Air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, and affects economies and people's quality of life; it is a public health emergency."
The organization created an interactive map showing where in the world, both in rural and urban areas, the air is contaminated by toxins that can seep into the lungs and cause cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer, among other illnesses.
Screenshot of WHO's interactive map of global ambient air pollution.World Health Organization
The majority of those locations are in developing counties, largely in the regions of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, with "vulnerable populations" at a particularly high risk, the report states. More than 6 million people die every year due to exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution, according to an International Energy Agency study released in June.
"Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations—women, children and the older adults," said WHO assistant director general Dr. Flavia Bustreo. "For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last."
Much of the pollution is human-caused, created through household waste and fuel burning, inefficient transportation, industrial activities and coal-fired power plants, the report states. Particulate matter that emanate from those activities like black carbon, sulphates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, and mineral dust and water can penetrate and coat the lungs and cause health issues with even short-term exposure. (Other air pollution can have natural causes, such as dust in the air in regions near deserts.)
Map Shows Where Toxic Air Pollution From Oil and Gas Industry Is Threatening 12.4 Million Americans https://t.co/1pDbjG2oqB via @EcoWatch— Simon Mainwaring (@Simon Mainwaring)1466031617.0
Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director of the Department of Public Health, Environment, and Social Determinants of Health, said the new data confirms there is no time to waste to address toxins in the atmosphere.
"Fast action to tackle air pollution can't come soon enough," Neira said. "Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions."
50% of EU Residents Could Be Generating Their Own #RenewableEnergy by 2050 https://t.co/T8mBjrj3em— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1475001969.0
The new data follows recent studies linking air pollution to everything from Alzheimer's to economic slowdowns. In the U.S., air pollution is especially high in minority and low-income communities, which a study published in Social Science Research last year referred to as "sacrifice zones."
Increasing and improving studies of dangerous air pollution, particularly in low-income areas, is "crucial" to curtailing its toxic impacts, the WHO said. And strengthening the capacity of developing cities to "monitor their air quality with standardized methods, reliable and good quality instrumentation, is key," the report concludes.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
IARC Scientist Reaffirms Glyphosate’s Link to Cancer as Monsanto’s Requests to Dismiss Cancer Lawsuits Denied
Dr. Kurt Straif, a section head with the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), appeared in an interview with euronews defending the agency's assessment that glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans.
"Our evaluation was a review of all the published scientific literature on glyphosate and this was done by the world's best experts on the topic that in addition don't have any conflicts of interest that could bias their assessment," Straif said.
"They concluded that, yes, glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans based on three strings of evidence, that is clear evidence of cancer in experimental animals, limited evidence for cancer for humans from real-world exposures, of exposed farmers, and also strong evidence that it can damage the genes from any kind of other toxicological studies."
In March 2015, the IARC concluded that glyphosate is a "probable human carcinogen," touching off an international row on the health and safety of the widely applied herbicide. However, this past May, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a different regulatory body from the WHO issued a joint report concluding that the ingredient is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet." Unsurprisingly, the different opinions about the controversial herbicide were "welcomed" by Phil Miller, Monsanto's vice president for global regulatory and government affairs.
UN Says Glyphosate 'Unlikely' to Cause #Cancer, Industry Ties to Report Called Into Question https://t.co/VeprImTxGs https://t.co/bQpkWVMkym— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1463499367.0
During the euronews interview, Straif explained why the conclusions from the IARC and the FAO/WHO about the weedkiller seem to be contradictory.
"Our classification of the cancer hazards of glyphosate still stand," he said. "We are the authority to classify cancer substances worldwide for the WHO, and it was then this other panel that looked at a very narrow angle of exposure from daily food, and then came up with the conclusion on how much of that may be safe or not."
Basically, the IARC assessment focussed on "hazard" while the other looked at "risk." David Eastmond, a toxicologist at the University of California, Riverside, explained to Wired how the terms are different: "If you have people gawking at sharks swimming around a tank in an aquarium, the sharks are a hazard, but they pose little risk. If you have a surfer on the beach with a shark, now that shark is both a hazard and a risk."
During the interview, the euronews host asked Straif which body of the WHO she should trust as a "consumer, as a farmer, as an occasional beer drinker, as somebody who likes to sit in parks that have been treated with glyphosate."
He replied, "I think it's important to understand the literature that our assessment that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans still stands, and then you have to look at the other assessments for the specific scenarios, and that is not my authority to comment on these evaluations."
Straif also hinted at possible conflicts of interest from the FAO/WHO report. When the euronews host asked the senior scientist if he was "disturbed" by credible reports of the FAO/WHO scientists allegedly receiving payoffs by Monsanto for a favorable glyphosate review, Straif replied, "It is an important topic that needs important scrutiny, yes."
Will Monsanto have to face the music about its weedkiller? Roundup cancer lawsuits have been mounting against the company, as EcoWatch reported last week, the agribusiness giant has not been able to legally run away from the growing thorn.
Mother-of-Three Sues #Monsanto Claiming #Roundup Caused Her #Cancer https://t.co/7qqPNHs5WH @nongmoreport @FoodDemocracy @food_tank @EWG— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467379973.0
In court documents obtained by EcoWatch, at least one court from Hawaii and two from California have rejected Monsanto's attempts to dismiss the respective lawsuits.
For instance, last week, U.S District Judge Michael Seabright denied Monsanto's request to dismiss a lawsuit by Christine and Kenneth Sheppard, former owners of Dragons Lair Kona Coffee Farm in Hawaii.
The Sheppards claim that Monsanto falsely masked the carcinogenic risks of glyphosate and is responsible for causing Christine Sheppard's cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
As detailed by Courthouse News Service, one reason Seabright decided to reject Monsanto's dismissal considers the 2015 designation [of Roundup as a probable carcinogen] by the WHO.
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