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Earth Talk
EarthTalk®
Written by E - The Environmental Magazine   
Tuesday, 29 March 2011 08:03

Dear EarthTalk: I understand a recent government report concluded that our global food system is in deep trouble, that roughly two billion people are hungry or undernourished while another billion are over consuming to the point of obesity. What’s going on?  -- Ellie Francoeur, Baton Rouge, LA

EarthTalkFoodSystems
Economic inequality among nations and other factors have contributed
to a global food system whereby two billion people are seriously under-
nourished while another billion are substantially over-consuming.Credit:
Left to right: Dr. Lyle Conrad; Digital Vision, Courtesy Thinkstock

The report in question, the Global Farming & Futures Report, synthesized findings collected from more than 400 scientists spanning 34 countries, and was published in January 2011 by the British government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills. Its troubling bottom line conclusion is that the world’s existing food system is failing half of the people on the planet.

Economic inequality among nations and other factors have contributed to a global food system whereby a billion people are hungry (lacking access to sufficient amounts of macronutrients, e.g. carbohydrates, fats and proteins), another billion suffer from “hidden hunger” (lacking crucial vitamins and minerals from their diet), while yet another billion are “substantially over-consuming” (spawning a new public health epidemic involving chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and widespread cardiovascular disease).

 
EarthTalk®
Written by E - The Environmental Magazine   
Monday, 21 March 2011 10:03

Dear EarthTalk: Recent news reports have revealed the discovery of previously unknown species inhabiting the deepest parts of our oceans. Is anything being done to protect this habitat before humans have a chance to fish it to death or otherwise destroy it? -- Matthew Polk, Gary, IN

DeepSeaFish
Scientists speculate that some 10 million different species may
inhabit the deep sea. Pictured: a ghostly grenadier on the
Davidson Seamount, an undersea mountain 75 miles off the
coast of Central California. The seamount is 7,480 feet tall,
yet its summit is still 4,101 feet below the sea surface.Credit:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Unfortunately it may already be too late for some of the deep sea’s undiscovered life forms. Advances in so-called “bottom trawling” technology in recent years has meant that fishing boats now have unprecedented access to deep ocean habitats and the sea floor itself where untold numbers of unknown species have been making a living for eons. Scientists speculate that upwards of 10 million different species may inhabit the deep sea. This is biodiversity comparable to the world’s richest tropical rainforests.

 
EarthTalk®
Written by E - The Environmental Magazine   
Monday, 14 March 2011 13:54

Dear EarthTalk: Instances of people with thyroid problems seems to be on the rise. Is there an environmental connection?         -- Dora Light, Waukesha, WI

EarthTalkPesticidesThyroid
The nonprofit group Beyond
Pesticides warns that some
60 percent of pesticides used
today have been shown to
affect the thyroid gland’s
production of T3 and T4
hormones. Commercially
available insecticides and
fungicides have also been
implicated. Women are most
at risk.Photo courtesy Getty
Images

The American Cancer Society reports that thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that have been on the rise in recent decades, with cases increasing six percent annually since 1997. Many researchers, however, attribute these increases to our having simply gotten better at detection. Regardless, exposures to stress, radiation and pollutants have been known to increase a person’s risk of developing thyroid problems.

Thyroid disease takes two primary forms. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormones that regulate metabolism. This can cause a racing heart, weight loss, insomnia and other problems. In cases of hypothyroidism, the body produces too few hormones, so we feel fatigued and may gain weight, among other symptoms. According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), many people with thyroid problems don’t realize it, as symptoms can be mistaken for other problems or attributed to lack of sleep. Thyroid problems in children can delay or impair neurological development.

Doctors are not sure why some people are prone to thyroid disease while others aren’t, but genetics has much to do with it. One recent UCLA study found that genetic background accounts for about 70 percent of the risk. However, researchers have begun to find links between increased risk of thyroid disease and exposure to certain chemicals, especially among women. “Pesticide Use and Thyroid Disease among Women in the Agricultural Health Study,” published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2002, found that Iowa and North Carolina women married to men using such pesticides as aldrin, DDT and lindane were at much higher risk of developing thyroid disease than women in non-agricultural areas. According to Dr. Whitney S. Goldner, lead researcher on the study, 12.5 percent of the 16,500 wives evaluated developed thyroid disease compared to between one and eight percent in the general population.

It’s not just farm women who should worry. Trace amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers most certainly end up in some of the food we eat. The nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides warns that some 60 percent of pesticides used today have been shown to affect the thyroid gland’s production of T3 and T4 hormones. Commercially available insecticides and fungicides have also been implicated.

 
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