kangaroo careSometimes, advances don’t come from looking ahead, but from looking back.

When the Mother and Child Institute in Bogota, Colombia, found itself short on doctors, nurses, and incubators, Dr. Edgar Rey decided to try something new — or rather, something old.

What he came up with is known as “kangaroo care.” In this system, the mother of a premature infant puts the baby on her exposed chest.

The baby is dressed only in a diaper and sometimes a cap, is kept in an upright or semi-upright position, and has all but its head covered by its mother’s shirt.

The baby’s temperature is regulated by the sympathetic biological responses that occur when a mother and infant are in close physical contact — the mother’s breasts actually heat up or cool down.

According to the New York Times:

“Kangaroo care has been widely studied. A trial in a Bogota hospital of 746 low birth weight babies randomly assigned to either kangaroo or conventional incubator care found that the kangaroo babies had shorter hospital stays, better growth of head circumference and fewer severe infections …

A conservative summary of the evidence to date is that kangaroo care is at least as good as conventional treatment — and perhaps better.”

In related news, the FDA has issued a warning against breast milk sharing — breast milk obtained, often over the Internet, from mothers who have a surplus.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Kangaroo care is a somewhat new name for a very old tradition, one that has been followed instinctively by women across the globe since the beginning of time. Namely, it refers to holding a newborn, including those born prematurely, close to its mother’s bare chest, like a kangaroo holds its joey in its pouch.

Although it’s been used for centuries, the modern-day method is credited to Dr. Edgar Rey, the chief of the pediatrics department at the Mother and Child Institute in Bogota, Colombia, who began using kangaroo care in the 1970s because of a shortage of incubators.

Since then, such skin-to-skin contact has proven to be incredibly beneficial for newborns, so much so that in hospitals where incubators are in short supply using kangaroo care has increased low birth weight babies’ survival rates from 10 percent to 50 percent, and larger babies’ survival rates from 70 percent to 90 percent.

The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact for Newborns

Quite simply, skin-to-skin contact is probably one of the most important steps you can take to give your baby a healthy start right after birth. Just take a few minutes to watch the video below and you’ll see that skin-to-skin contact can actually make the difference between life and death.

When a mother holds her newborn against her bare skin:

  • The baby’s temperature is regulated by the close contact — in fact, a woman’s breasts will change in temperature depending on whether the baby needs more or less warmth.
  • The mother’s breathing and heartbeat helps the baby’s heart and respiratory rates to stabilize.
  • The mother produces more milk and the baby breastfeeds earlier, gaining more weight.
  • Emotional bonding is encouraged.

Babies who receive kangaroo care also show:

  • Gains in sleep time
  • Decreased crying
  • More successful breastfeeding
  • Improved oxygen saturation levels
  • More regular breathing patterns
  • More rapid weight gain
  • Earlier hospital discharge

As the New York Times reported, in one trial of nearly 750 low birth weight babies, those who received kangaroo care had shorter hospital stays, better growth of head circumference and fewer severe infections than babies placed in incubators.

A separate study also revealed that when mothers initiated skin-to-skin contact with their newborns 15 to 20 minutes after birth, the infants slept longer and more peacefully, using positions that indicated less stress.

After the contact ended, the effects of the skin-to-skin contact seemed to continue even four hours later, as the babies displayed less stressful body movements after spending several hours in the nursery.

The researchers suggested that the most dangerous and stressful events that occur during the human life cycle take place during the transition from the womb to the real world, therefore mothers who made a point of giving their infants skin-to-skin contact would help their newborn adjust to their new unfamiliar surroundings.

Kangaroo Care Encourages Breastfeeding

Outside of the temperature and breathing regulation, as well as the emotional benefits, one of the best reasons to use kangaroo care is that it increases the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.

This is important as breastfeeding offers your child lifelong health benefits, not only cutting their risk of SIDS in half, but also providing added protection against:

  • Heart disease
  • Bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease
  • Asthma, allergies, and respiratory infections
  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Eczema

Moms who use kangaroo care have increased milk supply and their babies have an easier time nursing, so it’s a simple way to encourage a positive, successful breastfeeding experience.

If Your Hospital Doesn’t Suggest Kangaroo Care, Ask for It

Or rather, demand it. Many U.S. hospitals are now using some form of kangaroo care, even in their NICUs, but it is far from a standard of care. As a new parent, be sure you make it clear that you want to spend as much time as possible engaging in skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, including, and especially, if your baby is born premature.

Whether you are giving birth in a hospital or at home, let your obstetrician or midwife, as well as the nursing staff, know that you want the baby placed on your chest immediately after delivery. And for those who are wondering, dads can take part in kangaroo care, too.

The process is actually incredibly simple. Place the baby, wearing only a diaper and if you like a hat, on your bare chest. Then cover the baby with a blanket or gown, and enjoy the bonding time together.

And that’s all there is to it. A simple and instinctive practice that will give both you and baby a warm, secure start to your new life together.

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obesity surgeryAn advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a request by the medical company Allergan to significantly lower how obese someone must be to qualify for surgery using the company’s Lap-Band device.

The FDA has already indicated that it believes people in the proposed new weight range who had the band experienced significant weight loss.

The New York Times reports:

“If the agency approves the change, the number of Americans eligible for the Lap-Band operation could easily double, ensuring more sales for Allergan and probably more insurance coverage for such operations.

But the proposed change, sought at a time when the obesity epidemic in the United States seems intractable, still leaves some people uneasy, in part because of side effects and failure rates.”

About 70 percent of patients experienced those side effects, which include vomiting and pain, during a trial. A certain number of patients also simply die within 30 days of having the surgery.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Sales of Allergan’s obesity products, particularly the Lap-Band, fell 4 percent in the first nine months of 2010, according to the New York Times. So their request to the FDA to lower the weight cut-off for the Lap-Band operation is very well-timed; it could double their potential market if the FDA approves the request.

Currently, in order to qualify for weight loss surgery you must have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above, or 35 if you have a related health problem like diabetes. Allergan’s request would lower the cut-off for Lap-Band surgery to 35 with no health problems and 30 with a health problem.

To put this into perspective, an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 or higher is considered obese. So this pushes the limit of those who qualify for weight-loss surgery to those who have just barely crossed the line into obesity.

Clearly this will push a whole new group of Americans — numbering in the millions — to begin to consider surgery as a solution for their weight loss — a dismal and downright dangerous proposition.

88 Percent of Lap-Band Patients Experience Side Effects

If you are significantly overweight, losing weight is a key cornerstone to health, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and a host of other diseases. But this doesn’t mean you should take the drastic step of going under the knife to do so.

Gastric banding consists of surgically inserting a band around the top section of your stomach, and cinching it into a small pouch. Short-term, the lap band does produce significantly greater weight loss compared to lifestyle modification.

The procedure limits the amount of food you can consume, and the rapid weight loss is clearly the natural effect of this forced starvation.

But in exchange for this rapid weight loss, the health risks are VERY high, and long-term safety and effectiveness are questionable at best.

According to LapBand.com, one American clinical study that included a three-year follow-up reported that a staggering 88 percent of gastric banding patients experienced one or more adverse events, ranging from mild to severe.

Common complications from gastric banding included:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux, 34 percent
  • Band slippage and/or pouch dilation, 24 percent, (which means you’ll need another surgery)
  • Stomach obstruction, 14 percent
  • Esophageal dilation and reduced esophageal function, 11 percent
  • Difficulty swallowing, 9 percent
  • Leaking or twisted access port into the stomach, 9 percent
  • Band eroding into the stomach, 1.3 percent, which requires band removal

The complications are often so debilitating that patients opt to have the bands removed completely. In the study noted above, 25 percent of the patients ended up getting the lap band permanently removed, two-thirds of them due the adverse events suffered.

So after having the surgery, the side effects were so severe that one in four chose to have the bands removed!

Serious Complications and Death Can Result

Would you be willing to give up your life to lose weight? This is a serious question as the surgery does at times end up in death. As stated directly on Lap-Band’s safety information page:

“You should know that death is one of the risks. It can occur any time during the operation. It can also occur as a result of the operation. Death can occur despite all the precautions that are taken.”

What else is buried on the Lap-Band safety page? Disclaimers letting you know that along with the laundry list of possible complications, there’s a chance you may not lose any weight at all:

“Complications can cause reduced weight loss. They can also cause weight gain .  It is possible you may not lose much weight or any weight at all.”

So weight loss surgery, which includes gastric banding and the more invasive gastric bypass, may seem like a simple quick fix, but it is NOT a safe solution because of the many negative long-term health consequences inherent with both of these surgical options.

Over 40 percent of weight loss surgeries result in major complications within six months, including black-outs, malnutrition, infection, kidney stones, bowel and gallbladder problems, liver failure, and, again, an increased risk of death.

All surgeries have inherent risks, but bariatric surgeries seem to have a much higher ratio of complications. In fact, you are far more likely to suffer an adverse event from these types of surgeries than not.

Despite this, and the fact that no long-term studies on the health and longevity of bariatric surgery patients have been published, the FDA is even considering approving gastric banding for teens aged 14 to 17!

Looking for a One-Two Diet Punch to Shed Pounds Fast?

If you have even considered surgery for weight loss, it’s likely because you’re at a point where you’re ready to make a change. You want to lose weight and get healthy . now you just need to know where to start.

First, know that you don’t have to risk serious health complications and death to lose weight. You can do this on your own by making some very straightforward changes to your lifestyle, starting with your diet.

Eating a diet based on processed foods is a well-known way to do two things that are nearly guaranteed to make you pack on the pounds:

  1. Interfere with your body’s ability to regulate insulin
  2. Interfere with your body’s ability to regulate leptin

This is why avoiding processed foods and eating according to your nutritional type is THE one-two diet punch that can finally make a dramatic difference in your weight and health.

Virtually all processed foods contain fructose, and it is very clear that fructose is the leading culprit for our obesity epidemic. That includes fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), other added sugars, and natural fructose found in fruit and fruit juices.

Avoiding fructose means severely limiting or eliminating sodas, sugary drinks, and nearly all processed foods from your diet, as they are loaded with HFCS.

Fructose diminishes your feelings of fullness because it does not stimulate a rise in leptin, one of the most powerful hunger- and fat storage regulators in your body. Fructose also reduces the amount of leptin crossing your blood-brain barrier by raising triglycerides.

Additionally, whereas glucose suppresses ghrelin (also known as “the hunger hormone,” which makes you want more food), fructose, again, does not.

Fructose also increases your insulin levels, interfering with the communication between leptin and your hypothalamus, so your pleasure signals aren’t extinguished. Your brain keeps sensing that you’re starving, and prompts you to eat more.

For the sake of your health, I strongly advise keeping your fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, but this is virtually impossible if you eat a lot of processed foods.

When you eat for your nutritional type, meanwhile, you eat the foods that are right for your biochemistry, and these are the foods that will push your body toward its ideal weight. You will not be hungry and you will not feel deprived . only truly satisfied and energized.

If you want a step-by-step dietary approach, follow the advice in my comprehensive nutrition plan and use these seven tips to wean yourself off processed food.

Two More Steps to Achieve Your Ideal Weight

As you master your new dietary approach, there are two more factors that need to be addressed: your activity level and your emotions.

When you’re trying to lose weight, a casual walk here and there is not going to cut it. Ideally, you need to exercise each and every day, and you need to do so at a challenging intensity.

Fortunately, there’s a highly effective exercise strategy that can dramatically reduce your workout time and maximize your weight loss; it’s called Peak Fitness, and I highly recommend you start using it, and its Peak 8 exercises, today if your goal is to lose weight.

Next, you need to keep your stress levels under control, as for many emotional eating is the driving force behind their weight gain. If you’re feeling overly anxious, depressed, lonely or bored, these emotions can lead you to overeat or binge on unhealthy foods if you’re not tackling them directly.

So be sure you have a solid outlet for your emotions, like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), so you’re not attempting to improve your emotional health with food.

And there you have it. A tried-and-true plan that will help you to lose weight and get fit — without risking your health and your life with an invasive weight loss surgery.

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medical mistakesEfforts to make hospitals safer are proving ineffective. A large study conducted between 2002 and 2007 found that harm to patients was still common, and that the number of incidents was not decreasing over time.

Identified preventable problems included severe bleeding during an operation, breathing trouble caused by an improperly performed procedure, a fall that caused nerve damage and a dislocated hip, and vaginal cuts caused by a vacuum device during a birthing procedure.

The New York Times reports:

“… [I]nstead of improvements, the researchers found a high rate of problems. About 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care, some more than once, and 63.1 percent of the injuries were judged to be preventable.”


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

One of the reasons why I am so passionate about sharing preventive health strategies with you — tips like eating right, exercising and reducing stress — is because they can help you to stay out of the hospital.

And as much as possible, the hospital is a place you clearly want to avoid at all costs, except in cases of accidental trauma or surgical emergencies (such as appendicitis).

Over the last 10 years, hospitals have been well aware of their dismal patient safety ratings and unacceptable rates of injury and errors. But efforts meant to improve patient safety have fallen way short.

It’s Common to be Harmed by Medical Care in Hospitals

The latest study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that from 2002 to 2007, harm to patients at 10 North Carolina hospitals (hospitals that were involved in programs to improve patient safety) was common and did not decrease.

Instead, 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care (some repeatedly) and over 63 percent of the injuries could have been prevented. In nearly 2.5 percent of these cases, the problems caused or contributed to a person’s death. In another 3 percent, patients suffered from permanent injury, while over 8 percent experienced life-threatening issues, such as severe bleeding during surgery.

Most often, patients suffered complications from medical procedures or drugs, or came down with a hospital-acquired infection. Other problems also occurred because hospitals failed to prevent infections and mistakes caused by urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries.

In all, there were over 25 injuries per 100 admissions . a frighteningly high statistic for a health care system that demands more than twice the amount of spending as health care in other developed nations.

Research on Hospitals Paints a Grim Picture

The New England Journal of Medicine study only adds to the growing roster of evidence highlighting the sad state of safety in many U.S. hospitals.

The HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, released in March 2010, found that “patient safety incidents,” which is a nice way of saying “preventable medical mistakes,” are common in U.S. hospitals. In all, over the years 2006-2008, there were nearly 1 million incidents among Medicare patients, and one in 10 of them were deadly.

The HealthGrades report pointed out that “the incidence rate of medical harm occurring is estimated to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.”

You read that right: 40,000 medical mistakes a day!

Further, in the United States, more than 2 million people are affected by hospital-acquired infections every year, and 100,000 people die as a result. In one of the largest nationally representative studies to date, released earlier this year, it was found that 48,000 people died due to sepsis or pneumonia caused by hospital-acquired infections alone!

The saddest part is, virtually every one of these infections could likely have been prevented with better infection control in hospitals.

Recent studies have shown that hospital-acquired infections are not a normal side-effect of caring for the seriously ill, but are generally caused by poor medical care. This includes not only contaminated medical devices but also spreading germs from patient-to-patient.

Doctors and nurses not washing their hands prior to touching a patient is the most common violation in hospitals. According to findings by the Seattle Times, in the worst cases, as few as 40 percent of staff members comply with hand-washing standards, with doctors being the worst offenders.

But even the best hospitals had no better than 90 percent compliance — which means one out of 10 practitioners may have contaminated hands even under the best circumstances.

U.S. Ranks Last for Unnecessary Deaths and 49th for Life Expectancy

The U.S. now ranks LAST out of 19 countries for unnecessary deaths — deaths that could have been avoided through timely and effective medical care. Additionally, one-third of adults with health problems reported mistakes in their care in 2007, and rates of visits to physicians or emergency departments for adverse drug effects increased by one-third between 2001 and 2004.

The United States also now ranks 49th for male and female life expectancy worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950.

Among the most likely suspects for Americans’ declining health were not obesity, traffic accidents, murder or other “big killers” you might suspect. Rather, researchers pointed to unnecessary medical procedures and an uncoordinated system with fragmented care, where patients rely on numerous providers to treat various bits and pieces of a problem, rather than seeking out one provider who will treat them as a whole.

The problem is complex, but as it stands, due to poor safety procedures, inadequate staffing and training, and more, you risk being harmed any time you enter a hospital. Among the top mistakes and mishaps to be aware of are:

How to Stay Out of the Hospital

By nourishing your physical and mental health with the proper tools, you can drastically lower your chances of needing to go to the hospital. You will need to take control of your health to do so and avoid becoming another sad statistic.

Remember, some of the best ways to improve your health are very inexpensive. Some are even free. Below I’ve listed a number of these basic strategies you can use to avoid getting sucked into the current disease-care paradigm.

Following these guidelines will be a powerful way to avoid premature aging, and improve your health, no matter what your age, so you can avoid having to take your chances in a hospital.

What to do if You Have to go to the Hospital

In the event that you need to spend time in a hospital, you need to be your own patient-safety advocate, and also ask a family member or friend to act as one for you when you’re not able.

Remember, first and foremost, that your life is in the hands of your health care providers, and you have every right to be informed about every procedure that is performed on you. So be vigilant in asking questions about medications, medical procedures and surgery before they are given to you or performed.

You will also want to ask your physicians and nurses to double-check their orders before injecting a drug into your IV, administering radiation, hooking up medical tubing or performing surgery to make sure they have the right body part, procedure, tube, dosage, etc. You can also ask your providers to wash their hands when they come into your room.

The HealthGrades 2010 report also found major discrepancies in medical errors between the hospitals at the top of the list and those at the bottom, so if you have a choice of hospitals, do your research first. You can find patient-safety ratings at hospitals across the United States from the HealthGrades Web site.

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The BP oil disaster might end up shifting the entire global energy paradigm — IF the public is aware of the situation and its consequences. Here are some of the long term effects of the disaster.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

It’s been just over seven months since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, leading to the worst oil spill disaster in history. For nearly three months, hundreds of millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico as BP scrambled to cover up and hide the environmental devastation from media.

At this they succeeded wildly, as news of the oil spill has all but disappeared from the public radar. It seems many have already forgotten the spill — the spill that is, by far, the worst oil spill, and possibly environmental disaster, in human history.

The Exxon Valdez disaster spilled “only” 12 million gallons of oil — and that ended up taking a much more complex environmental toll than toxicologists initially predicted.

It’s essential, for the sake of the environment, the health of the people and workers in the Gulf — and to prevent this tragedy from reoccurring in the very near future — that this disaster does not get swept under the rug as BP has hoped .

How Did BP Get Rid of the Massive Amounts of Oil?

A large part of why the public has “forgotten” the BP oil spill already is because we never really saw the true destruction.

There were a few photos of oil-slicked beaches and birds, but by early August the New York Times reported that the oil patches were “largely gone,” and “Radar images suggest that the few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.” They went on to report, “The slick appeared to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected.”

Around that same time, a government report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey similarly implied that the oil in the Gulf was quickly disappearing and that environmental effects were well under control.

So the largest oil spill in history was largely cleaned up in just a few months, according to the media and the government. The seafood was miraculously safe, the air clean and the environmental effects a mere blip on the radar.

Of course, this is a physical impossibility.

There’s no doubt in my mind this disaster will take DECADES to clean up, if it’s at all possible, and the worst-case scenario is pointing to major devastation on all levels of marine life, from coral reefs and plankton to fish and air-breathing mammals.

So what happened to all that oil?

Toxic Dispersants Eliminated Oil While Turning the Gulf Toxic

BP sprayed more than 1 million gallons of chemical dispersants into the Gulf since the oil spill began, and cleanup workers have been complaining of dizziness, nausea and other symptoms ever since.

The chemicals in dispersants Corexit 9500 and 9527 are toxic. The New York Times reported:

“Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.”

According to Carys Mitchelmore, a researcher at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the detergent-like brew of solvents, surfactants and other compounds are known to cause a variety of health problems in animals, including:

  • Death
  • Reduced growth
  • Reproductive problems
  • Cardiac dysfunction
  • Immune suppression
  • Altered behavior
  • Carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects

The chemical dispersants, by the way, are not a silver bullet to miraculously make oil disappear. Oil spill dispersants only alter the chemical and physical properties of the oil, making it more likely to mix with seawater than deposit on the shoreline.

So what the dispersants do is re-direct the oil, making its impact perhaps less so on birds and shore-dwelling animals, but more so on fish, coral reefs, oysters and other marine life that live in the deeper waters.

It essentially “hides” the oil out of view, below the surface where news cameras can’t see it.

As Sayer Ji, founder of InformationToInspireChange.com, stated:

“Dispersing the oil into the water column accelerates the poisoning of all marine life, deep throughout the water column and seabed. Ultimately it results in “covering-up” the extent of the disaster on the surface, while amplifying the damage within our oceans.

Also, when the dispersants mix with the crude oil, a third far more toxic product is produced called “dispersed oil.” Dispersed oil has been shown to be more toxic than the sum of its parts.

Dispersing simply keeps the oil deeper in the water column so that it will not surface, into the light of public scrutiny.”

Sadly, the oil and dispersant mix is so toxic that I strongly caution you to STAY OUT of the Gulf of Mexico. In my opinion, it’s simply not safe to swim there.

Remember also that children are far more prone to experiencing health problems from this type of toxic exposure than adults. So please, keep your children safe. Do not allow your children to swim or play on the Gulf coast beaches.

Make no mistake . even though you can’t always see the oil, it’s still there, just in an experimental, and toxic, dispersed form.

BP Wants You to Forget About the Oil Spill

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was far from the “unavoidable accident” BP claimed it to be, driven by a reckless pursuit of profits and recklessly selfish disregard for our planet.

In CNN interviews, “workers described a corporate culture of cutting staff and ignoring warning signs ahead of the blast. They said BP routinely cut corners and pushed ahead despite concerns about safety.”

Then after the explosion, BP denied there was a leak until it became painfully obvious. When they could no longer hide that fact, they low-balled the estimate of the leak at 5,000 barrels a day, which is probably low by a factor of 20.

And instead of taking responsibility, they made the environmental disaster even worse by dumping unprecedented amounts of dispersants into the Gulf in a reckless effort to make the oil “disappear” from public view.

At the same time, BP bought up popular search terms on Google, so that when you search for “oil spill” you’ll be directed to BP’s damage control page that shows the company’s “Gulf of Mexico Response” and cleanup efforts, instead of the massive amounts of damage that is still ongoing.

In addition, as Stephen Lendman pointed out, for nearly two months BP officials:

  • Obstructed cleanup efforts and didn’t provide proper equipment to do it
  • Suppressed vital information
  • Told cleanup workers they’d be fired if they spoke to the media
  • Lied from day one about what really happened and its severity
  • Denied adequate compensation to Gulf victims
  • Withheld respirators and other protective gear from cleanup workers, many now ill from flu-like symptoms, including severe headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, chest pains, and trouble breathing that may persist, become worse and, for many, be long-lasting or permanent
  • Ordered workers showing up with respirators and other protective gear to remove it or be fired
  • On June 17, BP CEO Tony Haywood stonewalled the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation by refusing to provide information he knows as chief operating officer

This is not surprising as BP is no stranger to environmental crime. Over the past two decades, BP subsidiaries have been convicted of three crimes in Alaska and Texas, including two felonies. BP also holds the dubious honor of receiving the stiffest fine in history for work safety violations.

So they are familiar with how to work the system . as much as BP would like to appear as a concerned and noble corporation, doing all they can to repair the damage and listen to the concerns of the American people, this is nothing but a front.

BP wants you to forget so they can get back to business as usual . business that could easily lead to subsequent disasters that are equal to or worse than the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Time is Ripe for Change!

Even though the majority of Americans are not living with the immediate effects of the oil spill — the exposure to the toxic chemical dispersants, the loss of livelihood to fishermen, the stench of oil and physical reminders of tar balls on the beaches — as those in the Gulf are, we mustn’t forget!

You may not be able to see hundreds of millions of gallons of oil pooling on beaches, but that oil is still very much in the ocean and surrounding waterways, where it is causing untold environmental damage.

Even highly trained toxicologists can only guess what the full extent of the damage will be, and it’s likely it won’t show up in full for years or decades.

Only by remembering this disaster and pushing for the truth to be brought to the surface – the truth about what BP has been hiding — can we prevent a similar event from occurring in the future. Now is also the ideal time to strengthen efforts to transition to a cleaner energy future, one that is not dependent on oil and corrupted corporations like BP.

But this can only happen if we all stay with this story, and recognize that the consequences have yet to be truly realized. Please do your part by sharing this information with your friends, family and social circle so we can keep the momentum for change rolling.

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genesReversing a longstanding policy, the U.S. federal government has ruled in a legal brief that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents. This could have an enormous impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.

It is not yet clear if the new policy will be put into effect by the Patent Office. If it is, it is likely to draw protests from biotechnology companies.

According to the New York Times:

“The issue of gene patents has long been a controversial and emotional one. Opponents say that genes are products of nature, not inventions, and should be the common heritage of mankind. They say that locking up basic genetic information in patents actually impedes medical progress.”


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued thousands of patents on genes over the last few decades, including on about 20 percent of human genes. Biotechnology companies are among the leaders in seeking such patents to create diagnostic tests and drugs that are tailored to individual genes.

Because the genes are isolated from the human body, proponents say they are eligible for patents. However, the U.S. government recently changed its position on this issue and said that genes, whether human or otherwise, should not be eligible for patents because they are a part of nature.

The brief states that simply isolating a gene does not change its nature enough to make it patentable.

Why Continuing to Patent Genes Could be Risky .

It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Patent Office will stop issuing gene patents as a result of the brief, but doing so may be an important step in protecting the future of medicine.

As those who oppose gene patents point out, as a part of nature genes should be left as “the common heritage of mankind,” as the New York Times put it. When private corporations begin to control this gene pool, it puts limits on who can and can’t develop emerging treatments.

For instance, epigenetic therapy, which is essentially the curing of disease by epigenetic manipulation, involves changing the instructions to your cells — reactivating desirable genes and deactivating undesirable ones to prevent and treat disease. This emerging field, now in its infancy, may represent the future of medicine, which is why biotechnology companies are scrambling to patent as many genes as they can.

The government’s new position actually came as the result of two gene patents — for BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) — held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. Myriad performs an analysis on these genes to help determine women’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers — a test that costs over $3,000 a pop.

A lawsuit was filed to challenge the patents and the judge ruled they were in fact invalid. As the Times reported, this prompted the government to review their stance on the issue.

Will This Change the Future of GM Seed Patents?

Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, far more than any other company. But Monsanto is not only patenting their own GM (genetically modified) seeds. They have also succeeded in slapping patents on a large number of common crop seeds, in essence patenting life forms for the first time — without a single vote of the people or Congress.

By doing this, Monsanto has become the sole owner of many of the very seeds necessary to support the world’s food supply . an incredibly powerful position that no for-profit company should ever hold.

Farmers are now increasingly forced to use GM seeds simply because there are so few alternative sources of seeds remaining. The effect of this is that we’re losing renewable agriculture — the age-old practice of saving and replanting seeds from one harvest to the next.

As mentioned in The Ecologist, one solution to this growing problem would be to make patenting seeds, plants, and genes illegal. As it stands now, each GM seed is patented and sold under exclusive rights. Therefore, farmers must purchase the GM seeds anew each year, because saving seeds is considered to be patent infringement. Anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to actually re-sow them!

This, of course, results in higher prices and reduced product options.

Unfortunately, the new briefing is not likely to apply to patents for GM seeds because they involve man-made manipulations of DNA, and therefore are not considered a part of nature. It may, however, put a stop to placing patents on genes that are not modified, only isolated, which is a step in the right direction.

At the very least, however, let’s hope the course that GM seed patents are taking — and threatening to hand over control of the food supply to a handful of giant corporations — may make regulators think twice about continuing to allow patents on natural genes as well .

No one should “own” portions of the human (or any animal or plant) genome aside, perhaps, from their original creator . and no matter what your beliefs on that topic may be, I think we can all agree that the biotechnology companies currently scrambling to buy up these patents are NOT it.

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