Just the Facts
Organ Donations Up
Organ donations rose 5.6 percent in 1998 to 5,479, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The new figure is still far short of the 60,000 people waiting for new organs. The solution lies in better methods for achieving advance consent for donation and in preventive methods to reduce the need to replace ailing hearts, livers, kidneys, and other organs.
Advertising Pushes Doctors' Drug Choices
Advertising works. Certain blood pressure drugs—calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors—are not supposed to be used until after diet, exercise, diuretics, and beta-blockers fail. But ads for profitable calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors quadrupled in 1996, making them the most heavily advertised drugs, and doctors' prescriptions have quickly followed suit.
Wang TJ, Ausiello JC, Stafford RS. Trends in antihypertensive drug advertising, 1985-1996. Circulation. 1999;99:2055-2057.
Genetically Engineered Foods Quietly Take Over
You can kiss old-fashioned corn or soybeans good-bye. Monsanto and other biotech giants are marketing genetically engineered crops that have spread like an epidemic before the public noticed what was happening. The crops contain viral genes intended to make them resistant to insect damage or other adversities. But what effects these viral genetic components have as they enter the human body is unknown.
The American Soybean Association estimates that genetically engineered soybeans are now grown on 40 million acres, or 55 percent of the total U.S. crop. Genetically altered corn is close behind, at 35 percent. Organic soy and corn products, if you can find them, are not genetically altered.
Sumo Officials Fed Up with Fat
Sumo wrestlers have finally gotten too fat, according to the Japan Sumo Association, which began regular weight checks in May after 500-pound grand champion Akebono missed three tournaments due to a back injury. Wrestlers fatten up with bowl after bowl of chanko, a fattening stew of chicken, fish, pork, or beef, along with tofu, vegetables, and rice, washed down with plenty of beer.
Animal Cruelty Predicts Later Violence
Psychiatrists have long known that children who are cruel to animals are more likely than others to be violent as adults. The pattern showed itself again in the recent slayings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In the wake of the carnage, students revealed that killers Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, had previously spoken to friends of mutilating animals. Cruelty to animals is only a misdemeanor in many states and is often ignored by prosecutors.
Milk-Drinkers Get Rabies Shots
On November 12, 1998, Massachusetts state virologists diagnosed rabies in a six-year-old dairy cow in Worcester County who had died four days earlier. Sixty-six people who had drunk her unpasteurized milk got rabies shots. On November 10, another rabid cow was euthanized, and 14 people who had drunk her milk lined up for rabies vaccines.
Kosovo Refugees Get Vegetarian Meals
More than one million pounds of food were shipped from Dover Air Force Base to Albania in April to feed Kosovar refugees. The meals were vegetarian to avoid clashes with recipients' religious practices.
Schools Trade Mystery Meat for Veggie Sushi
Sodexho Marriott, the nation's largest school food-service provider, has scored a major hit in California cafeterias. Students can't get enough of its new healthy vegetarian sushi made with avocado, carrots, cucumbers, and Japanese radish. Unlike mystery meat, veggie sushi needs no cooking. And demand for the once-exotic meal is now coming from schools as far away as Nashville.
Environmental Groups Walk Out on Gore
Al Gore first ran afoul of environmentalists and animal protection groups with his High Production Volume chemical testing program, which will kill hundreds of thousands of animals to test the "safety" of turpentine, rat poison, and other chemicals, rather than taking action on banning and regulating any chemicals. Then, he was denounced by leading environmental groups for breaking promises for action on global warming. And on April 27, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups walked out of a Gore-created committee within the Environmental Protection Agency that was appointed to look into the dangers of pesticides. The environmental groups became convinced that the Vice President was using the committee to stall regulations that agribusiness groups opposed.
Antibiotics used in livestock feed are encouraging the growth of resistant bacteria. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, 12 percent of E.coli, 34 percent of salmonella, and 86 percent of campylobacter samples were drug resistant.