Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Leaked Cable: Hike food prices to boost GM crop approval in Europe

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

In a January 2008 meeting, US and Spain trade officials strategized how to increase acceptance of genetically modified foods in Europe, including inflating food prices on the commodities market, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

During the meeting, Secretary of State for International Trade, Pedro Mejia, and Secretary General Alfredo Bonet “noted that commodity price hikes might spur greater liberalization on biotech imports.”

It seems Wall Street traders got the word. By June 2008, food prices had spiked so severely that “The Economist announced that the real price of food had reached its highest level since 1845, the year the magazine first calculated the number,” reports Fred Kaufman in The Food Bubble: How Wall Street starved millions and got away with it.

The unprecedented high in food prices in 2008 caused an additional 250 million people to go hungry, pushing the global number to over a billion.  2008 is also the first year “since such statistics have been kept, that the proportion of the world’s population without enough to eat ratcheted upward,” said Kaufman.

All to boost acceptance of GM foods, and done via a trading scheme on which Wall Street speculators profited enormously.

Mass food riots in several nations ensued, as did an investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, resulting in a finding that, yes, unrestricted speculation in food commodities caused soaring prices.

In a comment at the end of the cable, the diplomat also revealed a level of pessimism about Spain’s willingness to help force GM foods on Europe:

This was a very good substantive discussion. However, it is clear that while Spain will continue sometimes to vote in favor of biotechnology liberalization proposals, the Spaniards will tread warily on this issue given their own domestic sensitivities and other equities Spain has in the EU.

That pessimism was largely unfounded, as “Spain planted 80 percent of all the Bt maize in the EU in 2009 and maintained its record adoption rate of 22 percent from the previous year,” noted a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The leaked cables, amounting to over 1,300 right now, reveal US obsession with expanding the biotech market:

  • In another leaked cable describing the potential to expand US interests in “isolationist” Austria, that nation’s ban on GM foods is highlighted.
  • According to a leaked cable from 2007, of concern was French President Sarkozy’s desire to implement a ban on GM foods in line with populist sentiment. According to GM Free Regions, France maintains its opposition to GM foods today.

More may be revealed in the remaining cables.

Profiteering Leaves World open to Future Price Manipulation
Food commodity speculation was enabled in 2000 by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.  Deregulation handyman Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) introduced the bill, coauthored by financial industry lobbyists and cosponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

Mother Jones describes the legislative climate when the bill passed:

As part of a decades-long anti-regulatory crusade, Gramm pulled a sly legislative maneuver that greased the way to the multibillion-dollar subprime meltdown….
Gramm’s most cunning coup on behalf of his friends in the financial services industry—friends who gave him millions over his 24-year congressional career—came on December 15, 2000. It was an especially tense time in Washington. Only two days earlier, the Supreme Court had issued its decision on Bush v. Gore. President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress were locked in a budget showdown. It was the perfect moment for a wily senator to game the system. As Congress and the White House were hurriedly hammering out a $384-billion omnibus spending bill, Gramm slipped in a 262-page measure called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

Not only did that Act enable the subprime meltdown that crashed the economy and put tens of millions into foreclosure, it also enabled Wall Street investors to artificially spike the price of food.
“Bankers had taken control of the world’s food, money chased money, and a billion people went hungry,” Kaufman clarified.

After a year long investigation, he confirmed that price hikes in food from 2005 thru the peak in June 2008 had nothing to do with the supply chain, but instead occurred as a result of a Wall Street investment scheme known as Commodity Investment Funds. The first to develop the idea was Goldman Sachs, which took 18 different food sources, including cattle, coffee, cocoa, corn, hogs and wheat, and created an investment package. Kaufman explains:

They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known thenceforward as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index. Then they began to offer shares.

(Kaufman summarizes his report in this June 2010 interview by Thom Hartmann, and in this July Democracy Now interview.)

Kaufman points out that also in 2008, ConAgra Foods was able to sell its trading arm to a hedge fund for $2.8 billion.  The world’s largest grain trader and GMO giant, Cargill, recorded an 86% jump in annual profits in the first quarter of 2008, attributed to commodity trading and an expanding biofuels market. The Star Tribune calculated that Cargill earned $471,611 an hour that quarter.

The investment bubble burst in June 2008 and “aggregate commodity prices fell about 60% by mid-November 2008,” notes Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy. Though the US House of Representatives introduced a regulatory bill, “legislative loopholes will exempt at least 40-45%” of such trades.  Supporting the loopholes is Cargill, among other multinational corporations. Suppan concludes:

The outlook for a sustainable and transparent financial system to underwrite trade dependent food security is not good… [T]he budget for the just launched congressional Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, scheduled to report December 15, [2010] is just $8 million.  The Wall Street lobbying budget for defeating financial reform legislation is thus far $344 million…

The final bill was signed into law in July 2010 (summarized by the New York Times), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission continues to issue new rules purportedly aimed at regulating financial markets. “But big banks influence the rules governing derivatives through a variety of industry groups,” notes another New York Times piece.

Did the artificial price hike open EU doors to GM foods?
No, in fact ISAAA noted that: “Six European countries planted 94,750 hectares of biotech crops in 2009, down from seven countries and 107,719 hectares in 2008, as Germany discontinued its planting.”

A closer look at EU member state actions on GM foods after June 2008 details some of the GM-free battle in Europe:

* In December 2008, after a ten-year hiatus, Italy agreed to open field tests of GM crops.
* The Czech Republic became the second largest grower of Bt corn in the EU in 2008, nearly doubling the acreage planted in 2007. The USDA characterized it as being an investment target not only in agriculture but also in vaccine development.
* At the EU level, “In an apparent U-turn in his attitude as one of EU executive’s most GM-wary commissioners, environment chief Stavros Dimas” wrote draft approvals for two more varieties of GM corn, reported Reuters in December 2008.
* However, by September 2008, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland had all become GM-free, and urged the UK to do likewise.
* Though pressured by the European Commission, in January 2009 Hungary refused to lift its ban on GM foods. Its sovereign right to reject GMOs, along with Austria’s, was later upheld by an EU vote with 20 member states supporting such bans.
* In March 2009, Luxembourg became the fifth EU nation to ban GM foods, following France, Hungary, Greece and Austria.
* In October 2009, Turkey banned the import of biotech products.

For updates and a more thorough history of EU actions on GM foods, see GMO-Free Europe. European states handle the issue differently than in the US, allowing regions within a nation to maintain GM-free zones. Each step a nation takes toward GM approval invariably draws regional resistance.

Biotech Crops Expand Globally in 2009
Though the strategy to hike food prices to spur European acceptance of GM foods failed, it worked elsewhere.  Globally, biotech crops expanded by 7% in 2009 over 2008 figures, according to this chart by ISAAA:

In fact, ISAAA asserted GM expansion was due to the 2008 price hikes, as noted by chairman and founder Clive James: “With last year’s food crisis, price spikes, and hunger and malnutrition afflicting more than 1 billion people for the first time ever, there has been a global shift from efforts for just food security to food self-sufficiency.”

Poorer nations hardest hit by hunger — in Africa and South America — are more vulnerable to price hikes.  But even after the geologically unusual earthquake in January, Haitian farmers rejected Monsanto’s “gift” of GM seeds.  However, the big push remains in Africa and China.

A Wary Future
Although it is now widely accepted that Wall Street speculation caused the food bubble, starving hundreds of millions, regulators have so far failed to curb the practices that allow international banksters to manipulate food prices.

Meanwhile, the biotech industry continues to repeat its mantra that GM food can cure world hunger.  This claim is not backed by the science and it seems to hold less sway in the GM food debate, especially with the Pope recognizing what many others assert: There is no shortage of food; hunger expanded because of price hikes.

Rady Ananda’s work has appeared in several online and print publications. She holds a B.S. in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture. Using years of editorial experience and web publishing, Rady now promotes the ideas and work of a select group of quality writers and artists at Food Freedom and COTO Report.

Related Article by Rady Ananda:
New Scientist Magazine Plants False Story That Pope Approves GM Crops
Leaked Cables Confirm Pope’s Distance From GMO Debate

Banksters Inflate Speculative Food Bubble


Categories: Business/Markets, Science

Scientists explain phenomenon of submortem visions

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment


42554.jpegAs a rule, people perceive near-death visions as a phenomenon that proves the existence of the nether world. Many of those people, who wake up from clinical death, say that they were traveling along a narrow dark tunnel with light shimmering at its end. Some people say that they were communicating with some luminous creature (whom they take for God) and their deceased relatives.

American scientists studied encephalograms of dying patients and discovered that the electric activity in their brains was intensifying as the moment of death was drawing near.

“We think the near-death experiences could be caused by a surge of electrical energy released as the brain runs out of oxygen,” Lakhmir Chawla, an intensive care doctor at George Washington University said.

“As blood flow slows down and oxygen levels fall, the brain cells fire one last electrical impulse. It starts in one part of the brain and spreads in a cascade and this may give people vivid mental sensations,” the doctor added.

What about the cases, when a person feels like leaving the body during the moment of death? Those who had such a near-death experience say that they were moving in the “astral body,” going outside and even visiting their friends. Some people also said that in an astral state they could know the things which they never knew when living in a physical body. They knew where to find something that they were looking for, they could describe what some person was doing at one particular moment or what he or she was wearing during that moment, etc.

Scientists and parapsychologists conducted many studies in an attempt to find an explanation to the mysterious phenomenon. US researcher Charles Tart conducted a series of laboratory experiments at the end of the 1960s. Tart cast his patients into sleep while sensors were registering their eye movements, brain biocurrents, blood pressure and electric resistance of the skin. The scientist placed a cart with a five-digit number on the shelf above the patient’s bed. In order to see the number on the card, a patient had to look at it from above. After the tests, several volunteers said that they were hovering in the room above their beds – they named the numbers on the cards correctly.

In Russia, the phenomenon of near-death experience was explored by psychiatrist Vladimir Raikov. He conducted his experiments with the participation of an extrasensory individual, who could voluntarily generate an “astral twin.” The phantom could be visible, but it would only obey his master’s orders. The psychic ordered his own “ghost” to move to the room next door. In that room, Raikov had another patient – a hypnotized trance. The other patient has never seen the psychic and did not know how he looked. However, when she was asked to describe the appearance of the “astral twin,” the woman provided the detailed description of the psychic. In addition, Raikov asked the woman to jab the phantom with a needle: the “original” could feel the jabs every time they were made.

Professor Alexander Chernetsky also received interesting results in his research. Employees of his laboratory used a sensor to measure the electric tension during the research. The device showed reactions to the fields around biological objects. A sensitive (a human possessing extrasensory abilities) was building their own phantom with the power of mind. The sensor showed considerable changes taking place in the biological field of the person.

Swiss scientists have recently made a sensational discovery. The electrical stimulation of one of the zones of the human brain gives the out-of-body feeling to a person. A female patient, suffering from epilepsy, was subjected to electric stimulation of her brain, a angular gyrus in the right part of the brain, said that she could see herself falling down from a high altitude and then hovering above her own body.

It is not ruled out that people will develop the out-of-body technology some time in the future. At present moment, it is clear that the phenomenon is of the psychological nature and is closely connected with the activity of the human brain.

Irina Shlionskaya


Categories: Science

Did the universe exist before the Big Bang?

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Big News (IANS)     Tuesday 30th November, 2010

Scientists may have uncovered evidence that the universe existed before the Big Bang.

Concentric circles discovered in cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) – the after-effects of the Big Bang – display evidence of events that took place before most scientists believe the universe came into being.

The controversial finding points to the existence of a universe that did not begin 13.7 billion years ago, as is generally accepted, but is instead a cycle of so-called aeons.

The discovery has been posted online by Professor Roger Penrose from Oxford University and Professor Vahe Gurzadyan from Yerevan State University, Armenia, the Daily Mail reports.

Most scientists believe the universe was created in the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago. Stars and galaxies started to form around 300 million years later.

Our sun was born around five billion years ago, while life first appeared on the earth around 3.7 billion years ago. The CMB dates to 300,000 years after the Big Bang and has now cooled to around -270 degrees Celsius.

But Penrose and Gurzadyan argue that evidence unearthed by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotophy Probe in the CMB shows imprints in the radiation that are older than the Big Bang.

They say they have discovered 12 examples of concentric circles, some of which have five rings, meaning the same object has had five massive events in its history.

They believe the circles are imprints of extremely violent gravitational radiation waves generated by supermassive black hole collisions in a previous aeon before the last big bang.

Penrose believes that his new theory means that black holes will eventually consume all the matter in the universe.



Categories: Science

Mind Blowingly Massive Star Cluster Discovered

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Scientists aren’t usually given to hyperbole but the discovery of a galaxy cluster 7 billion light years from the Earth has astronomers gushing.

Image of a massive galaxy cluster located 7 billion light-years from Earth. Galaxies with “old” stellar populations are circled in yellow; galaxies with “young” stellar populations are circled in blue.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Brodwin (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

“This galaxy cluster wins the heavyweight title. It’s among the most massive clusters ever found at this distance,” said Mark Brodwin, a Smithsonian astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The discovery, announced in the current issue of Astrophysical Journal., is especially cool because astronomers got a chance to peer through their instruments to see the cluster as it looked when the universe was half as old as now and our solar system didn’t exist yet.

It’s also likely not going to be the only one out there astronomers find.

Brodwin noted that this cluster is full of ‘old’ galaxies, which likely came together early in the universe’s history, or roughly within the first two billion years. The work was carried out as part of a larger project underway at the South Pole Telescope.

The survey hopes to eventually come up with a sufficiently representative sample of massive galaxy clusters to allow scientists to better measure dark energy. The Center for Astrophysics estimates that most – 95 percent – of the energy in the universe is of unknown origin, which is classified as either “dark energy” or “dark matter.”


China to explore deep space

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth...

Image via Wikipedia

Sunday 3rd October, 2010

Big News (IANS)     Saturday 2nd October, 2010

China will set up its own deep space communication network in three to five years which will help in the exploration of the solar system, a top scientist has said.

With the new system, which includes a network of large antennae and communication facilities to support interplanetary missions and astronomical observations by radio and radar, ‘there will be no problem for China to carry out an exploration of the solar system’, said Qian Weiping, chief designer of Chang’e-2 mission’s tracking and control system.

He said that Chang’e-2, China’s second lunar probe which was launched Friday, will test the X-spectrum telemetry, tracking and control system, a key technology in the deep space network, according to China Daily.

‘If the test succeeds, it means we have mastered the technology of using the X-spectrum to fulfil functions like orbit determination and the remote control of spacecraft in deep space,’ he said. ‘With this technology, we only need to build larger antennae to explore planets in deep space.’

As part of the network, two ground tracking stations with large antennae are currently under construction in the country – one in Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the other in Jiamusi in Heilongjiang province, the scientist said.

Deep space usually means 1.5 million km from the earth, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration programme.

He said since the moon is 400,000 km away from the earth and there is no large celestial body between 400,000 km and 1.5 million km, the new lunar mission is considered as the starting point for the exploration of deep space.

According to Wu, the technology used in the lunar mission can be applied in exploring other planets including Mars and Venus.

‘So it would be possible for us to explore Mars and Venus in the foreseeable future, as the two planets are the closest to the earth,’ he said.


Back from the dead: One third of ‘extinct’ animals turn up again

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Derbyshire Environment Editor
Last updated at 9:10 AM on 29th September 2010

An okapiAn okapi: Tracks were seen by researchers five years ago for the first time since 1959

Conservationists are overestimating the number of species that have been driven to extinction, scientists have said.

A study has found that a third of all mammal species declared extinct in the past few centuries have turned up alive and well.

Some of the more reclusive creatures managed to hide from sight for 80 years only to reappear within four years of being officially named extinct in the wild.

The shy okapi – which resembles a cross between a zebra and a giraffe – was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1901.

After increasingly rarer sightings, it vanished from the wildlife radar for decades from 1959, prompting fears that it had died out.

But five years ago researchers working for the WWF found okapi tracks in the wild.

Other mammals ‘back from the dead’ include the rat-like Cuban solenodon, the Christmas Island shrew, the Vanikoro Flying Fox of the Solomon Islands, the Australian central rock rat and the Talaud Flying Fox of Indonesia.

The revelations come as the world’s leading conservationists prepare for a major United Nations summit on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, next month.

Many scientists believe the world is going through a new ‘mass extinction’ fuelled by mankind – and that more species are disappearing now than at any time since the dinosaurs vanished 65million years ago.



  • The Australian central rock rat (pictured)
  • The rat-like Cuban solenodon
  • The Christmas Island shrew
  • The Vanikoro Flying Fox of the Solomon Islands
  • The Talaud Flying Fox of Indonesia

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 22 per cent of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction. In Britain, more than two plant and animal species are being wiped out each year.

But while the report does not play down the threat from deforestation, overfishing or habitat destruction, it raises questions about the way species are classified as extinct.

Dr Diana Fisher, of the University of Queensland, Australia, compiled a list of all mammals declared extinct since the 16th century or which were flagged up as missing in scientific papers.

‘We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500,’ she wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

‘In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered.

More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered.’

Mammals that suffered from loss of habitat were the most likely to have been declared extinct and then rediscovered, she said.

Species spread out over larger areas were also more likely to be wrongly classified as extinct.

The mistakes cannot be blamed on primitive technology or old fashioned scientific methods.

‘Mammals missing in the 20th century were nearly three times as likely to be rediscovered as those that disappeared in the 19th century,’ Dr Fisher added.

Share this article:

Add your comments

Comments (122)

Here’s what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have not been moderated.

For the most part, what pass for “scientists” today do 95% of their “research” on a computer and only rarely get out in the world to see what’s actually going on. “Hottest Year on Record” for 2009 is one example. When you reduce the temperature measurement stations from 20,000 to under 2,000–and only KEEP those near heat islands like large cities where they’re easiest to reach in the “researchers'” BMWs, it’s no surprise that you get marginally higher temp readings than you may have before. When environmental “scientists” have a vested interest in “crises” because they’re what drive research grants, how interesting that we’re warned of crisis after crisis when none, in fact, exist. I’ll believe these “climate scientists” when they (1) admit that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax or (2) admit that we’ve been shipping SUVs and running them day and night on Mars and THAT accounts for their 30-year shrinking ice caps.

– Pappadave, Oklahoma City, USA, 02/10/2010 04:21

Click to rate Rating   (0)

Report abuse

science is an inexact art…environmental science is also inexact…anyone with a PhD can postulate a theory, test it and get results that support the theorem… what i find most interesting is that many people trust scientists, but have we done many studies to find how often scientific ideas and data analysis are inaccurate??? i think we would find that many commonly-agreed-upon, science-based beliefs are no more than guesswork…as a species we have moved so far away from our roots in such a short time that it wouldn’t surprise me to see a massive population shift…humans will, however, survive at some capacity until the day a space-borne calamity intervenes… 🙂

– daveugber, kansas – USA, 02/10/2010 02:01

Click to rate Rating   3

Report abuse

Hey Kurtiss, Concord

90%+ of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. They all went extinct long before man came along. “It’s nature, s*#t happens”.

– RobertT, Louisville,KY, 02/10/2010 01:09

Click to rate Rating   14

Report abuse

@Jack Kinch(1uncle)

The old population bomb farce. Overpopulation is a myth. If all 6.5 billion people on Earth were given 1/3 of an acre, it would fill up just over 1/2 of Australia. If those 6.5 billion people were given 3 sq. feet of space we would only fill up Rhode island. They want the number of us lowly serfs reduced to a manageable population neatly contained within walls while the elites spreading all these lies have their massive tracks of land to use for themselves.

– RCT, Free Earth, 02/10/2010 01:04

Click to rate Rating   10

Report abuse

By the time mankind is able to realize the damage being done by “”production”while greedily trying to use every possible inch. natures wetlands Rain forest,mountains etc for they’re own self gratification. Who knows how many things will be extinct or have never had a glimmer of a chance to be enjoyed or discovered.It is a Shame.

– Tanny Shonk, Clinton twsp.Michigan,USA, 01/10/2010 23:52

Click to rate Rating   24

Report abuse

Are we saying that these Conservationists and the collected “brain trust” that publish journel after journel on endangered species don’t really know what’s going on on every inch of this planet? Because they sure do act like they know! I bet there is some PHD clubbing a DoDo Bird just to make sure they stay on the extinct list!

– bjz, Philadelphia, PA USA, 01/10/2010 23:45

Click to rate Rating   21

Report abuse

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

Add your comment

Your name and location will appear next to your comment.
You have 1000 characters left.
We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our House Rules.
For information about privacy and cookies please read our Privacy Policy.

Read more:


Categories: Environment, Science

Mystery force stops spacecraft from travelling farther

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Big News     Wednesday 22nd September, 2010

A force in space is hindering the journey of a NASA spacecraft.

A force in space is hindering the journey of a NASA spacecraft.

Scientists have been baffled by a mysterious phenomenon that has prevented the craft from moving further into outer space.

Described as a force that defies all laws of nature, they have said gravity laws may eventually need to be changed.

Defying all previously-known theories about the universe, the strange force that gently pushes spacecraft away from outer space was discovered last year when the spacecraft Pioneer 10 was stopped in its path by the unknown phenomenon.

Researchers for NASA have said the force could be a totally new phenomenon that does not fall under familiar titles such as gravity or electromagnetic power.

A tangible scientific explanation has not been put forward for the fact that the Pioneer 10 left the solar system to start its voyage in a space where there is no solar radiation or planets to attract it toward their orbits.

Pioneer 10, which travels more than one million kilometres per day, started slowing down in an area where it is not supposed to meet any obstacles.

Pioneer 10 is the first spacecraft to have taken close photos of Jupiter, which it passed in 1973.

In 1978, it traveled towards Pluto and reached it in 1983.

It then left for a region called the Asteroid Belt, which is occupied by several irregular-shaped minor planets.

The spacecraft, which is currently 11 billion kilometers away from earth, now only travels at 25 centimetres every day, going backwards.


Categories: Science