American Foods Banned In Other Countries

banned

A comprehensive and well-researched article from EatLocalGrown outlines some foods to avoid–if you live in the United States. These 10 foods are banned in other countries:

  • Genetically engineered papaya banned in the European Union
  • Ractopamine-tained meat banned in Europe, Russia, and China
  • Arsenic-laced chicken banned in Europe
  • Bread made with poisonous potassium bromide banned in Europe, China, and Canada
  • Fat imitation Olestra/Olean banned in the UK and Canada
  • Preservatives BHA and BHT banned in Europe and Japan
  • Milk made with rBGH banned in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Canada

This list offers 10 more reasons to buy organic, buy wild, buy local, read ingredients, and ignore package claims (and do your own research to take charge of your health!) Learn more about the Wellness and Equality health model here.

UPDATE: West Nile Virus vs. Pyrethroid Exposure

You can read Wellness and Equality‘s original post last week about Dallas’ efforts to combat West Nile Virus here: “Pros & Cons: West Nile Virus vs. Pyrethroid Exposure”

What’s really in the air in Dallas?

Public anxiety over the aerial spraying of insecticide in Dallas to control mosquitos has raised questions about safety, but few concrete answers.  Instead of taking the manufacturer’s word that Duet Dual-Action Adulticide is safe, the public should be provided independent studies about the contents of the product itself.  Clarke Mosquito Control, the manufacturer, has a financial incentive to stand behind their polished marketing materials and safety assurances, but what’s really behind the green label?

The insecticide is a cocktail of three active ingredients: sumithrin, prallethrin, and piperonyl butoxide.

  •  Piperonyl butoxide is listed third on the Duet Dual-Action Adulticide label, but it may be the most harmful.

What are its common uses?  Piperonyl butoxide (PBO) is not actually an insecticide itself — instead, it increases the potency of the two other chemicals.  What this means is that although the label may show “safe” levels of other chemicals, the potency of those chemicals is actually much, much stronger in practice.

How does it work? PBO is a synergist which increases the toxicity of other chemicals: the more piperonyl butoxide in a product, the more powerful the other chemicals. The presence of piperonyl butoxide makes determining true levels of the other chemicals a murkier process.  Some products contain up to ten times more PBO than insecticides themselves. Of course, manufacturers often downplay the inclusion of PBO.

Is it safe?  Piperonyl butoxide is especially harmful to the developing fetal brain. A 2011 study, conducted at Columbia University and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that infants whose mothers had been exposed to low levels of piperonyl butoxide (PBO) during their third trimester showed delayed mental development by the age of three.  You can read the full study here, or a summary here.  A more recent study by Duke University study confirmed these findings and found that the chemical also interferes with signaling in the human brain. The Duke study, which was published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, found that PBO’s disruption of the critical neurological pathway “may be the molecular basis for profound developmental defects in children exposed in utero to PBO.”

  • Sumithrin: Sumithrin, also called phenothrin, is a synthetic pyrethroid.
  • Prallethrin: Prallethrin is also a synthetic pyrethroid.

What are their common uses?  Sumethrin and prallethrin are commonly used as insecticides to kill household insects, including mosquitoes.  They appear in products such as Raid, Enforcer, Ortho, and Anvil.  One of the most common uses of sumithrin is in flea and tick products for pets.  It’s also an ingredient in head lice products for humans.

How do they work?  As pyrethroids, sumethrin and prallethrin cause nerve paralysis in the insect, effectively shutting down the insect’s functioning.

Are they safe?  Sumethrin is a known endocrine disruptor, neurotoxin, and likely carcinogen. In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoked permission to use sumethrin in flea and tick products after thousands of cats and kittens were poisoned and killed by its use.  Few long-term studies on the safety of pyrethroid insecticides exist because they have only been in widespread use since after 2000 when the the EPA phased out the use of chlorpyrifos and other organophosphorus insecticides due to risks to child neurodevelopment.  Out with the bad, in the worse?

Dallas is not alone.  Almost all cities across the United States use insecticides to control mosquitoes and other summertime insects.  The New York Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene advises the public — especially anyone with asthma or respiratory sensitivity — to remain indoors during spraying, close vents and turn off fans and air conditioners to reduce indoor exposure, remove children’s toys and outdoor furniture from outside and/or wash them before using again, wash all produce, and wash skin and hair if exposed to the pesticide.  These are fine recommendations, but my concern is that most people are unaware of the spraying schedules in their cities.

Do you know if and when your city sprays these toxic chemicals?

Pros & Cons: West Nile Virus vs. Pyrethroid Exposure

In Dallas, Texas, it’s raining synthetic pyrethroid Duet Dual-Action Adulticide — 2,000 gallons of it, according to some estimates.  To contain the mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus, airplanes will wash at least twelve cities in Texas with the toxic insecticide.

If you think this issue only affects Texans, think again.  In parts of California and Florida, aerial spraying of toxic insecticides has been a routine response to summertime mosquitos. Whether to respond to cases of West Nile Virus with aerial spraying will soon be a question faced by other areas of the United States as well. This week, an increasing number of West Nile Virus cases were recorded in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

As of this past Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 693 cases of West Nile virus in 32 states. 336 of those cases were reported in Texas. In all likelihood, many more unreported, symptom-free cases exist.

The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that, even when applied according to the label, synthetic pyrethroids pose “slight risks of acute toxicity to humans” and at higher doses “affect the [human] nervous system.” Some Dallas area doctors are advising patients with asthma or respiratory sensitivity to leave areas that are being sprayed.

Do officials really believe the aerial spraying is safe?  After all, many officials live within the limits of the regions that will be sprayed.  The answer, it seems, is that aerial spraying is safe for the public — but not safe for government officials.  According to several news sources, pilots were asked to avoid spraying former President George W. Bush’s home with the toxic insecticide.

Which is worse?  Exposure to West Nile Virus or exposure to Duet Dual-Action Adulticide?

West Nile Virus Facts:

  • 80% of those who contract West Nile Virus experience no symptoms and clear the virus without treatment.
  • 20% of those who contract the virus will experience flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, swollen lymph glands).
  • If infected, you have a less than 1% chance of dying from the disease.
  • 1 in 150 people will have a severe reaction to the virus which could result in permanent damage or death.
  • Humans do not generally transmit the virus to one another, and are considered “dead-end” hosts.  (The virus can, however, be transmitted through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and breastfeeding.)

For comparison, what are the chances of experiencing side effects from pyrethroids? The truth is, we don’t know for sure.  When it comes to approving the use of chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency behaves much like our judicial system: Chemicals are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — and by that time, it’s often too late for those exposed.

Synthetic Pyrethroids (Insecticide) Facts:

  • Pyrethroids are used as insecticides because they kill insects, fish, and other invertebrates by interfering with, and rapidly shutting down, basic nerve cell functioning.
  • The EPA has classified pyrethroids as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” if swallowed, inhaled, or otherwise ingested via the mouth.
  • Pyrethroids are a known endocrine disruptor.  Their estrogenizing effects include lowered sperm count in men, and the development of abnormal and cancerous breast tissue in both male and females.
  • Pyrethroids are a known neurotoxin.  Symptomos of neurotoxicity from pyrethroids in humans include nausea, headaches, tremors, seizures, lack of coordination, and elevated body temperature.
  • Pyrethroids are significantly more damaging to the developing systems of children than to adults.
  • Pyrethroids are significantly more harmful to cats than to dogs. (This is one reason manufacturers must make separate flea control products for canines and felines — cats’ livers are unable to handle the higher doses that dogs are able to survive.  Always explore non-toxic flea control for your pet before resorting to chemical products.)  UPDATE 8/19: View the Pet Poison Helpline’s list of pyrethroid toxicity symptoms in cats and dogs by clicking here.

Pregnant women, as is almost always the case, are most at risk to both disease and to chemical exposure since developing fetuses are more sensitive to toxins of any kind.  (On a side note, did you know that babies born in late summer and fall are more likely to develop asthma?  This outcome is generally attributed to pollen season cycles; however, in light of the knowledge that aerial insecticide spraying is most common during the summer months, could there be a link to third trimester insecticide exposure?)

So what can you do?  Unfortunately, there is little you can do to avoid pyrethroid exposure once your city has made the decision to approve aerial spraying without avoiding the area altogether, but there are natural ways to limit the mosquitoes around your home.

Here are some green mosquito control solutions:

  • Inspect the outdoor areas around your home and remove standing water (bird baths, puddles, etc.) since stagnant water sources are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
  • If you plan to be outside, cover up – wear long pants and long sleeves.
  • Avoid applying scented lotions and perfumes to your body, which can attract insects to you.
  • Consider introducing natural mosquito predators to your backyard, such as mosquito fish or species of fungus. (To learn more about this method, look up “biological pest control.”)

Do you have any other green suggestions?  Please leave a comment below.

UPDATE 8/19: The rain in Dallas has slowed, though not halted, the aerial application of Duet Dual-Action Adulticide.  Given the response to this post, I wanted to provide two additional resources. To view the Pet Poison Helpline’s list of pyrethroid toxicity symptoms in cats and dogs, click here.  To read a sample label of Duet Dual-Action Adulticide, click here.  According to this label, the insecticide’s active ingredients are sumithrin, prallethrin, and piperonyl butoxide.

Read our updated analysis of Duet Dual-Action Adulticidie’s safety by clicking HERE. 

Image below shows geographical West Nile Virus infection. Via.

Vote Yes on Prop 37: The California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

A few facts about GMOs:

  • A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered to include a new gene or set of genes.  An example is a transgenic organism, an organism that has received DNA from a different species (one example: cows that have been engineered to produce human breast milk.)  Transgenic animals have been used in medical experiments, but they were not approved for human consumption until recently.
  • Many countries around the world have already banned GMOs due to lack of testing and long term studies of human health.
  • Most studies of GMOs suggest that the ill effects are more pronounced in the second and third generations of GMO-consumers, meaning we simply haven’t had time to conduct thorough studies yet on humans.
  • Currently, American food manufacturers are not required to disclose to the public when they use GMOs — which means there is no way to know whether you are eating genetically-modified plants or animals.

If you’re not familiar with genetically modified food, take a look at this corn or this salmon, and read this.

GMOs are a relatively new part of the human diet so the evidence against them is still mounting. Despite evidence that GMOs could be harmful to humans, the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA went ahead and approved GMOs — without labeling — for human consumption. Do you think the lobbyists at Monsanto (producer of most of the world’s genetically modified crops) had anything to do with it?

Until now, food giants like Monsanto have managed to crush all initiatives to label GMOs so that they never made it to the ballot.  But Americans finally have a chance to vote for labeling.

Want to take action without spending a penny?  

On November 6, 2012, if you are a California resident, you have the power to change the course of the obesity epidemic.  Support the California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.  Vote for the right to know what you eat. Vote Yes on Prop 37.  

Wellness and Equality supports Prop 37.  You can watch this short video to learn about some of the implications that reach far beyond your plate:

Here is a video from the group behind the ballot initiative:

Why should you buy organic corn?

Dow Chemical Company has given us another reason to buy organic corn.  Dow Chemical Company is the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world.  Dow’s first products were poisons: bleach and potassium bromide.  Eventually, Dow expanded to include agricultural chemicals like herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.  But a problem arose: the chemicals Dow had created were not only killing and mutating insects; they were killing and mutating farmers’ crops as well. (See photo above.)

So Dow entered the food industry and genetically engineered seeds to produce plants and bear fruit that appear healthy even after exposure to Dow’s chemical toxins.  Their most recent creation, Dow Corn, is resistant to 2,4-D, the powerful herbicide that was a major ingredient in Agent Orange.

Why do we need corn to be resistant to 2,4-D if we no longer use it on crops because we now know it’s so damaging to human health?

Because we’re spraying crops with it anyway.

Read this New York Times article and decide for yourself:  “Dow Corn, Resistant to a Weed Killer, Runs Into Opposition.”

Photo via: Corn exposed to Dow’s herbicide 2,4-D.  Dow’s new GMO corn is able to withstand the same exposure — but show no physical mutations.

Could Small Businesses Improve Your Health?

A new study published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society has found communities which rely on small businesses — not large companies — have fewer problems, and their residents have fewer health problems.

Why?

Sociologists theorize that given their ties to the community — which creates a sort of built-in accountability — small businesses are more likely to care about the well-being of their employees, customers, and other local citizens.

To me, this is a surprising, albeit welcome, finding.  As I understand it, the lack of large businesses in poor urban neighborhoods is one reason for the existence of food deserts.  (Food deserts are communities with limited or no access to fresh produce).  The disadvantage of a community served by small business grocers alone is that mom-and-pop shops have more difficulty absorbing the cost of unsold foods with short shelf lives that are more likely to spoil or expire before selling.

Could supporting small businesses really improve your health?  It sounds plausible in the case of restaurants.  No matter how many poor quality ingredients your corner store is loading onto your sandwich, it’s probably still a sandwich.  The same cannot be said of sandwiches from fast-food chains, which more closely resemble chemical cocktails.

There’s little question that supporting small businesses is good for the health of our economy — successful small businesses have always been the engine of America — but could they be better for your personal health, too? 

What do you think?  Is supporting small businesses healthier?

Read the full study HERE.   Read The Atlantic‘s summary, “Towns With Small Businesses Have Healthier People,” HERE.

What’s In Your Fitness Supplement?

In today’s New York Times article, “Army Studies Workout Supplements After Deaths,” Peter Lattman and Natasha Singer write about the Defense Department’s inquiry into the safety of dimethylamylamine (also known as DMAA), a common ingredient in workout and fitness supplements sold at GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe.

The ingredient has been implicated in the sudden deaths of two young soldiers, aged 22 and 32, who died of heart attacks while exercising.  The Army’s safety review is currently underway, but the Defense Department has already removed all products containing dimethylamylamine from stores on military bases.

I admire the Army’s swift action.  When civilians question the safety of a product, their concerns are followed by debates, petitions for recall, paperwork, studies, lawsuits, and — if all goes well — eventually, action.  Military bases are a different story; the military has long functioned as more of a bureaucratic establishment. The military does not live and breathe by funding from pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers, much like so many of our elected officials.  When the Army bans an ingredient from its military bases, the public should take note.

In addition to the untimely deaths of the two soldiers — whose toxicology reports both noted the presence of DMAA — the army had also received “reports of liver and kidney failures, seizures, loss of consciousness and rapid heartbeat in other military personnel who have used products containing DMAA,” according to the article.  USPLabs, the maker of DMAA, compared the effects to those of caffeine.

If the effects of DMAA are like those of caffeine, then why are fitness buffs and the manufacturers of fitness supplements choosing DMAA over caffeine? Here’s why:  Because the effects of DMAA are more like those of methamphetamine. DMAA was first developed my pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.  When doctors noted that its effects were amphetamine-like — and medical literature reported that its effects were more powerful than heart-stopping ephedrine — Eli Lilly stopped marketing it as a pharmaceutical, and DMAA quietly resurfaced as a dietary supplement.

Let’s examine what went wrong here.

Who is regulating the safety of dietary supplements?  The answer, in short, is no one.  In 1994, the FDA decided to consider anything labeled a “dietary supplement” as a special category of food, not as a drug.  As the FDA explains, under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), “the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed.”  In fact, the safety of dietary supplements is only regulated by those who stand to benefit from their sale: the manufacturers. The DSHEA was a major boon for lobbyists of the manufacturers of dietary supplements, who had engaged in a massive campaign intended to bring about this legislation.  The New York Times called the act “ill-conceived” and “a formula for covering up problems.”  A Time magazine article described the act as giving manufacturers “virtually free reign to market products defined as dietary supplements, while severely limiting the FDA’s ability to regulate them.”

Does this mean that all dietary supplements are harmful?  Absolutely not.  What this means is that you must research the safety of your dietary supplements on you own — because our government is not doing it for you.

The good news is that plenty of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and herbs fall under this category as well.  One example is Stevia.  Stevia, also called “sugarleaf” and “sweetleaf,” is an herb related to the sunflower family.  Stevia has been available as a sweetener around the world for decades, and has been widely used in Japan since the 1970s.  In powder form, the naturally sugar-free, calorie-free herb, which has little effect on blood glucose levels, was an obvious answer to the United States’ sugar addiction.  Unfortunately, due to the FDA’s close ties to the manufacturer’s of artificial sweeteners, stevia was not approved as a food additive.  However, through the DSHEA loophole, stevia was available in health food stores as a dietary supplement. (In 2008, the FDA approved a chemical extract of Stevia, known as rebaudioside A, as a food additive; the approval just so happened to coincide with Coca-Cola’s launch of Truvia and PepsiCo’s launch of PureVia, two highly-processed forms of rebaudioside A with additional non-Stevia additives and flavors.  Truvia and PureVia are extremely different from true Stevia, and many side effects have been reported.)

The onus to research dietary supplements falls on you. In the United States, the fact that you can legally purchase a substance labeled as a “dietary supplement” has absolutely nothing to do with its safety.

How can you avoid dimethylamylamine and DMAA?  In a health safety alert to athletes, the U.S. Anti-Doping Association warns of the effects of dimethylamylamine and advises athletes to:

  • Avoid the following substances: methylhexaneamine, a 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA), dimethylpentylamine (DMP) 4-methylhexan-2-amine, Geranamine, geranium oil, geranium extract, geranium stems, geranium leaves
  • Avoid the following products: Jack3d (USP Labs), Lipo-6-Black and Hemo-Rage Black (Nutrex), Spriodex (Gaspari Nutrition), F-10 (Advanced Genetics), Clear Shot (E-Pharm), 1.M.R. (BPI Sports), and many others.
  • Avoid products with names or marketing performance terms such as “stacked,” “muscle,” “mass,” “tren,” “bol,” “anabolic steroid,” “legal steroid,” “power,” “blast,” “energy,” “stimulant,” and others.
  • Use your best judgement.  Unfortunately, due to the extremely permissive regulation of dietary supplements, the U.S. Anti-Doping Association notes multiple “instances where a supplement actually contained ingredients that were not listed on the label.”

If you must supplement your workout, keep it simple: Drink a cup of coffee.  Since we know the human body responds differently to extracts than to ingredients in their natural form, avoid caffeine-containing supplements as well.  Better yet, let the workout itself raise your heart rate, and skip the stimulants altogether.  Your only have one heart; your next fitness shake, drink, pill, or supplement, could be your last.

Still unconvinced? Visit Supplement Safety Now.

Photo Credit: William P. O’Donnell for The New York Times

Update: What’s In Your Orange Juice?

UPDATE: Trader Joe’s has confirmed that their orange juice is not sourced from Brazil. I first wrote about the presence of carbendazim in shipments of orange juice to the United States earlier this month, and recommended that consumers purchase only 100% Florida orange juice to avoid the unregulated levels of carbendazim in foreign shipments. You can read my original post here.

In an email to Wellness and Equality, a representative from Trader Joe’s writes:

 Presently, all Trader Joe’s refrigerated, fresh orange juices are made with oranges sourced from Florida, Mexico and California. Our vendors regularly perform third-party quality assurance audits. In light of recent concerns related to orange juice concentrate, our orange juice suppliers are currently conducting additional testing. Two of our refrigerated orange juice labels state they are from USA, Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica. However, our suppliers have confirmed that the oranges currently used in our product are actually from Florida.

What’s In Your Orange Juice?

Early this month, the FDA announced that shipments of Brazilian-sourced orange juice contain carbendazim, a fungicide that has been linked to infertility, testicular damage, and birth defects.

Carbendazim is not approved for use as a fungicide in the United States.  In 1996, a US Supreme Court awarded Donna and Juan Castillo $4 million after Donna was inadvertently sprayed with the fungicide while pregnant with their son, John. John was born with no discernable eyes.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that John’s severe birth defects were a direct result of Donna’s exposure to carbendazim.

Coca-Cola has admitted “its [brands] and its competitors’ brands” of orange juice have been contaminated with carbendazim — but refused to name specific brands.  Coca Cola is the owner of Simply Orange and Minute Maid; Tropicana and OceanSpray are owned by Coca-Cola’s competitor, PepsiCo.  The FDA has admitted that contaminated juice is currently on grocery store shelves in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that carbendazim levels up to 80 parts per billion are not considered harmful.  However, the FDA has declined to state whether they will follow the EPA’s recommendations regarding safe levels of the fungicide.  “We are saying that if we find any juice that presents a safety hazard, we’ll take steps to remove it from the market,” FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey told USA Today. 

Carbendazim belongs to a class of fungicides that fight a fungus called eyespot.  Eyespot causes dark, round spots on fruit, making it unattractive to consumers.  Ironically, fungicides are considered the least effective solution to eyespot, since eyespot quickly becomes resistant.

Orange juice, whose popularity in the United States was influenced by our need to get Vitamin C to American soldiers serving overseas during World War II in a product with a long shelf life, has an interesting history.  Today, consumers are faced with many choices: concentrate, not-from concentrate, Vitamin D-fortified.

Here’s are some quick tips to purchasing healthy, natural orange juice:

1.  Buy 100% Florida Orange Juice.  In this case, the affected orange juice is from Brazilian groves.  Some would argue that the legal pesticides used in the United States are in some cases even worse than those that are illegal; however, in the case of orange juice, the United States has tighter regulations than Brazil.  Most orange juices sold in the United States are a blend of Floridian and Brazilian juices, so check the label to be sure you’re purchasing orange juice harvested only from American groves.

2. Skip Calcium & Vitamin D-Fortified: Increasing evidence shows that our bodies do not process added vitamin supplements in the same way that we process those vitamins when consuming the foods that naturally contain them.  If you are short on calcium and Vitamin D, eat foods rich in calcium (dairy products, broccoli, almonds, brazil nuts, and leafy greens) and take a 10 minute stroll outdoors (for your daily dose of Vitamin D).  In fact, supplemental calcium and Vitamin D from unnatural sources have no demonstrated benefit and could even be harmful.

3. Skip Not-From-Concentrate: Or don’t.  Whether you’re purchasing From Concentrate or Not-From Concentrate orange juice, your juice is heated, pasteurized, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year in million gallon tanks, and then re-flavored with a cocktail of flavor-enhancing chemicals that the FDA does not require be listed as ingredients.  Some juices, such as Whole Food’s 365 brand, buck this trend and do not allow the use of “flavor packs,” which are standard in the orange juice industry.  On the other hand, orange juice from concentrate undergoes this process and is stripped of its water content, which is re-added before packaging.  Concentrating the orange juice is one small step among many — and the least concerning from a health standpoint.  If you prefer the taste, go ahead and buy not-from-concentrate.  If you don’t have a preference, save yourself the extra dollar.

5. Eat an orange instead: Avoid the empty sugar rush of fruit juice by treating yourself to the fruit itself.  The fiber in an orange helps slow down your body’s processing of fructose, which is less jarring for your body and mind.  Drink a tall glass of water and eat an orange.  Compared with juice, the whole fruit always has fewer calories, less sugar, and more fiber.

5. Buy Fresh-Squeezed or Organic: If you can afford it, buy fresh-squeezed or organic orange juice.  The pasteurization process strips orange juice of its flavor, which is why chemical flavor packs are used to compensate.  Fresh-squeezed orange juice bypasses this problem altogether.

Orange you glad you read this post?

Update 1/18: Since I do my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I have sent a Product Information Request to Trader Joe’s, asking whether their orange juice has been affected by the contaminated shipments from Brazil. You can read Trader Joe’s response to me here. 

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Improved Sutures & Prosthetic Limbs

If the poor reputation of genetic engineering is leaving you depressed, you have to read this: Notre Dame professor Malcolm Fraser’s team of researchers is using their transgenically-engineered silkworms to produce silk that is strong enough for “sutures, artificial limbs and parachutes.”  That’s the power of genetic engineering in the right hands!

Although silkworms lend themselves to farming, we have long known that spiders have the strongest silk — with tensile strength comparable to steel!  But spiders’ sprawling webs are unwieldy when compared with silkworm’s dense cocoons, and spiders tend to be cannibalistic and territorial, making farming difficult.  Try as they might, no one had found a commercially-viable way to harvest spider silk.

So Fraser’s team engineered silkworms with both silkworm and spider proteins to produce the best of both worlds.  If the transgenic silkworms’ silk is used to create parachutes, this story of genetic engineering could prove — literally — uplifting.

Watch the video here.