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What are aflatoxins? Why are they a food SAFETY issue of increasing public health concern, especially in developing countries?

Good people, the month of February, 2019, is here and with it the end of the long month of January!

 It requires a multi-pronged and trans-disciplinary approach that includes creating AWARENESS among consumers and farmers and advocating for evidence based food safety advocacy with policy makers and strengthening of regulatory agencies to do their job;  starting with BELOW the soil efforts: Promoting healthy soils and soil regeneration…”healthy nutrition starts with healthy soils”… including rapping about soil! The author of this article is one of the rappers!

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As the year 2019 starts are we aware of the impending global apocalypse from antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? What factors are fueling increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and what are the solutions?

Good people, as we say goodbye to 2018 and usher in 2019, one of the top most global human existential threats is the increasing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to commonly used antibiotics and other antimicrobials.

  • Antimicrobial agents, of which antibiotics are a subset, have saved hundreds of millions of lives from infectious diseases. Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) organisms are increasing globally, threatening to render existing treatments ineffective against many infectious diseases. Drug resistance strains of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses prolong illness, increase case fatality, facilitate transmission and increase treatment costs. Varma J. et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295971/
  • Many factors contribute to the emergence, persistence and transmission of AMR. Although AMR strains arise naturally due to genetic changes in microorganisms, their emergence is accelerated by inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents in humans, animals and the environment, including self-treatment of illness by lay persons, non-indicated administration by healthcare providers, and addition of antibiotics to animal feed to “promote growth” and prevent illness among animals reared for food consumption, as  per Varma et al. But, there is another unrecognized and yet, deadly source of AMR. Read on...
  • To put the magnitude of the threat of AMR in perspective, globally, drug resistance causes an estimated 700,000 deaths each year and if current trends continue, AMR could result in over 10 million deaths per year and 100 trillion USD in lost output globally by 2050, which is equivalent to one person dying every 3 seconds if AMR is not tackled now. The evidence below:
  • https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/160525_Final%20paper_with%20cover.pdf
  • What is the proposed multi-pronged approach to address the AMR menace in Africa? The Africa CDC framework for antimicrobial resistance 2018 -2023: http://www.africacdc.org/resources/strategic-framework
  • While the Africa CDC Framework for AMR is fairly comprehensive, it fails to capture the gravity and related lack of awareness of extensive misuse of “antibiotics’ in crop farming and soil contamination from herbicides in general and glyphosate, specifically, as pertains to AMR; Misuse of herbicides like glyphosate, which is a key ingredient in Roundup Weed killer formulations, used extensively in weed control, worldwide, is documented. https://peerj.com/articles/5801/ and https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18508
  • The new study (see above references) adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. The University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors said “The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long term

What are some of the “outside the box solutions” to antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?

  • Transitioning to agroecological organic agriculture is one such a solution: Agroecology is increasingly, a viable and sustainable solution to food security, climate change mitigation, human health improvement and mitigation of AMR. Agroecological approaches discourage or minimize use of synthetic fertilizers and agrochemicals which include antibiotics and synthetic herbicides with antibiotic properties, like glyphosate: They instead promote the application of local, decentralized, farmer centered, ecological and biological methods of farming that use re-cycling of animal and plant material natural waste products, informed by time tested resilient, indigenous knowledge and practice. These approaches are validated by the latest scientific evidence as being superior to conventional industrial farming: Here are a few case studies from Brazil, Senegal and India, with findings and recommendationshttps://www.misereor.org/fileadmin//user_upload/misereor_org/Publications/englisch/synthesis-report-agroecology.pdf
  • Agro-ecological (which includes organic farming) systems which are the future of sustainable agriculture and nutrition security, have also been found to be beneficial in preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancers. Here is the some of the latest evidence showing that organic foods contribute to significant reduction in various cancers, especially non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is highly associated with use of the herbicide, glyphosate:(see previous articles in this series of blog articles): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2707948
  • In view of the evidence, what is the final word of advice as we complete the year 2018 and start the year 2019?
  • GO ORGANIC: BUY, GROW and EAT ORGANIC FOODS…by so doing you will contribute to being part of the solution to four of the greatest threats to human existence: re: conserving biodiversity and reducing global warming; regenerating soil and improving soil fertility; improving plant, animal and human health AND delaying antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

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Did you know that “photosynthesis” and soil microorganisms are key to soil health and prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

November is in sight and with it preparations for the holidays are in top gear. Increasingly, more and more people are concerned about the quality and safety of the food they consume, especially in the light of the increasing cases of non-communicable diseases; Cancer and diabetes, among others. Is there a connection between soil health and human diseases?

  • The answer to that question is YES. Not only is there a connection between soil health and human well being or lack of it, but also a direct connection with the cooling of the planet or the heating of the same. Agriculture and related activities contribute up to 30% or more of the Green House Gas(GHG) emissions: https://www.nature.com/news/one-third-of-our-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from-agriculture-1.11708
  • Increased use of inorganic fertilizers and synthetic agrochemicals, like glyphosate aka Roundup Weed Killer, are the main culprits as they destroy the soil microorganisms and bind essential minerals and hence make them inaccessible to plant root systems: file:///D:/User%20Documents/Downloads/sustainability-10-00950.pdf leading to a mineral deficiency which affects the health and nutrient content of plant roots and leaves. https://phys.org/news/2018-07-fertilizer-microbiome-ability-disease.html
  • What does soil health and climate cooling got to do with photosynthesis you may ask: the answer is best presented in a simple graphical manner: Photosynthesis is a plant leaves process that converts atmospheric carbon to biochemical energy using light energy, from the sun and releases oxygen as a by-product.

This natural biological process has informed the 4 per 1000 Initiative

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What does gene editing, GMOs, glyphosate in Roundup formulations have to do with what you eat and the festive season?

The month of December is here and with it the festive season …and the feasting…for many, December is a celebratory month – the celebrations, invariably, include eating and drinking – the question is, what does gene editing, GMOs, Roundup and its various formulations have to do with our stomachs that should concern us?

  • There is increasing evidence that “ (healthy) food is medicine” and that unhealthy food causes disease” …the same “Father of Modern Medicine” Hippocrates, in 431 B.C, is said to have made this less known quote: “ all disease begins and ends in the gut”….
  • Here is the increasing evidence that bacteria and other “germs” in our gut aka stomach and intestines respond positively or negatively to what we eat, including during this festive season. https://www.nature.com/news/gut-microbes-can-shape-responses-to-cancer-immunotherapy-1.22938
  • What is gene editing and how is it related to GMOs? Gene editing is a new GMO technology: A good example is CRISPS cas9 which manipulates natural gene sequences, at DNA level, to change the sequences and combinations, using laboratory techniques, with the intent of achieving certain desired traits or outcomes in plants, animals and human beings.
  • The latest application of these technologies is the GMO mosquitoes, under the Target Malaria Project, discussed in some detail here: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/5/31/17344406/crispr-mosquito-malaria-gene-drive-editing-target-africa-regulation-gmo
  • If you think that GMO “madness” has spared modification of human beings, think again! Our worst fears have been confirmed - using CRISPR cas9, a gene editing technology has been used to manipulate human cell lines to create “patented designer babies”… a rogue Chinese researcher has “genetically engineered” via in-vitro fertilization(IVF) two twin babies, supposedly resistant to HIV!! This is the culmination of what we have been cautioning about the safety(and risks) from GMOs(and gene drives) – there is urgent need to apply the Precautionary Principle (CBD,Cartegena-Nagoya Protocols) on these genetically designed organisms(GDOs)– that someday, some reckless scientist will do the unthinkable – that is, play God:That day has happened! Here is the evidence. https://sustainablepulse.com/2018/11/27/global-anger-erupts-after-chinese-scientist-claims-first-gene-edited-babies/#.XAKbP9szbIX
  • Are GMO foods safe and healthy to consume? Their toxicity and harm to human health is well documented (refer to previous articles on the OCA blog series).
  • Do we have any evidence of damage to our guts from GMOs? Plenty. GMOs are patented and owned by global multinational seed and chemical corporations (e.g Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta-ChemChina) with power and control of the food system as the intent. They serve as “Trojan Horses” for toxic herbicide use: HT GMO maize, for example, is manipulated to be tolerant to glyphosate aka Roundup formulations which are the most widespread trait of GMOs crops on the global market. Needless to state, the driving force is higher profits from higher sales(in billions of dollars!) and not health and safety.
  • The evidence? Here it is: https://www.gmoevidence.com/dr-judy-carman-evidence-of-gmo-harm-in-pig-study/
  • More evidence of the damage GMOs and Roundup formulations, in herbicide residues. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4392553/

Way forward?

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Did you know that threats to Biodiversity and Ecosystem services are threats to Food Security, Environmental Health and Human health?

The month of October is here and with it an increased focus on matters environment and how the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) impact on food security and human health.

  • Let us start by asking the question; what is biodiversity and ecosystem services?

http://www.fao.org/agriculture/crops/thematic-sitemap/theme/biodiversity/en/

and https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-services-is-it-the-96677163

  • In summary, glyphosate aka Roundup weed killer, transgenic plants(GMOs) and gene editing techniques, like CRISPR, are key threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • What is the way forward? Increase awareness and educate stakeholders who include; policy makers, farmers and consumers, on the need to avoid these types of farm inputs and related chemical-industrial-monoculture-farming and food production systems which are a threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services and instead embrace agro-ecological organic food production and consumption systems (SDG no. 12); these increase and preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, which in turn, promote environmental and human health.

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Going Organic in East Africa

What's causing cancer?

organic farmers
 

Organic Farmers

This is just a few names and contacts of organic farmers who work closely with OCA.

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Organic Markets

The retailers buy thei food from the organic farmers and sell them at various organic

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Restaurants

OCA works closely and directs traffic to the only organic restaurant in Nairobi so far.

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Processors

OCA closely works with one processor whose products are certified organic.

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About Us

Organic Consumers Alliance (OCA) focuses on promoting and creating awareness on

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ICIPE Complex, Kasarani Road

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Contact Us

P.O. Box 2398-00200
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 20 2610863
Cell: +254 722 435 758
Email: info@organicconsumers.co.ke