First they banned irradiation of foods, then GMOs, now they are starting on nanotechnology — all life-saving technologies.

Nanotechnology Now – Press Release: “Nanostructured water treatment products to be worth $2.2 billion in 2015″

Warnings from nutritional hell, with apologies to El Bosco
We live in a world where whole organisations make comfortable incomes by demonising technology. These self-styled “technology critics” early successes included active blocking of the use of irradiation to make food safe or years. This largely unused technology is based on using electrons or radioactively generated gamma rays to kill germs.

Eleven years ago the German government vetoed the use of such radiation based technology to make food safe to eat in the EU. Odd that they should do this given that it’s a widely used and successful tool to avoid deadly infections during modern surgical operations. It could have prevented the ghastly current E. coli sproutbreak in Germany that has killed 44 and has condemned near 900 people to coping with the vile aftermath of HUS — which include kidney transplants or a lifetime of being hooked to dialysis machines. [It could also have prevented a second outbreak of sprout promoted lethal disease from the same E. coli strain now taking place in France.]

The next “success” of technology-critics was delaying and stymieing introduction of beneficial GMO foods. In this case the damage is felt mainly in developing countries. Damaging consequences of this include hundreds of thousands cases of diarrhoea and measles infections in people with poor immunity because they currently miss-out on genetically fortified vitamin A enhanced rice, and the countless thousands of Indian small-hold farmers needlessly exposed to dangerous synthetic pesticides because GM insect-protected aubergines and cabbages are unnecessarily kept out of the market by anti-GM activism in India.

Not content with these “achievements” which never seem to be included on anti-technology activist’s lists of dangers to worry about, the “technology-critics” have moved on to targeting nanotechnology (featured in this link), whatever that is.
Nanotechnology, it turns out, is used to purify water. Pure water is crucial to good health, and many developing country communities lack clean water. In China, for example, rotten village water resources are a contributory factor in high liver-cancer rates.
So civil society technology critics have now hit a deathly trifecta of tragic mistakes – which are truly a collection of warnings from nutritional hell. Unnecessary faecal contamination of food, avoidable vitamin A malnutrition-induced damage to immunity in the poor, and with the latest fear-fad of anti-nanotechnology activism, fear-mongering about a technology that gives us healthy drinking water.
Some day more mainstream journalists will wake-up to this farce and start writing  more widely about this travesty, and make  misguided activists come to their senses. Meanwhile Rachel Carson must be turning in her grave.
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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.


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16 comments to First they banned irradiation of foods, then GMOs, now they are starting on nanotechnology — all life-saving technologies.

  • Eric Baumholder

    Dr. Tribe,

    I understand that a lengthier incubation period for a pathogen makes it more virulent, i.e., a person infected can infect many more people before that person exhibits symptoms. This E. coli appears to have an incubation period more than twice as long as the earlier STEC version.

    This is alarming in light of person-to-person transmission of the new virulent strain. It’s one thing to fight a foodborne pathogen, and quite another thing when it goes person-to-person.

    It seems person-to-person is a reasonable scenario, and the evolution of this pathogen might lead strongly in that direction.

    “The death of an Arizona man who recently visited Germany may be linked to the food-poisoning outbreak in Europe, health officials said. If confirmed, it would be the first U.S. death and sixth case tied to the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there have been five confirmed cases in the United States – two in Michigan and one in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and North Carolina. All but one had recently been to Germany. One Michigan case apparently caught the illness from the other, a relative.”

    –Arizona death may be linked to European E. coli
    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MED_CONTAMINATED_VEGETABLES_US?SITE=NVLAS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

  • I don’t think a longer incubation period necessarily makes it more virulent in the sense of being more damaging to a person who gets infected, but it would probably make it more transmissible. But there are lots of other factors affecting transmission, and I have noticed some US professionals questioning the accuracy of these early estimates of things like incubation period.

  • There is another outbreak caused by sprouted seeds that contain the same strain

    Intoxication in Bordeaux: germinated seeds in question
    By lefigaro.fr
    24/06/2011 | Updated: 18:08
    Two patients are carriers of bacteria of the same strain as that which prevailed in Germany.
    Germinated seeds are the source of the poisoning bacteria E. coli that hit a dozen people in Bordeaux, announced Friday the Regional Health Agency (LRA) of Aquitaine. Five of them are still hospitalized.
    According to the prefecture, seven out of ten people affected by the poisoning took part on June 8 at a fair in Bordeaux, in a recreation center, where at least six of them have eaten sprouts, which were sprinkled on soups . These seeds, purchased from Jardiland, were germinated by the hosts of the fair.
    “The first bacteriological tests have also identified two patients for the presence of an infection with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strain O104 strain found in the context of the outbreak in Germany,” said the prefecture.
    Among the patients admitted to University Hospital Pellegrin in Bordeaux, there are three women, aged from 41 to 65 years, one of which is still in ICU. They suffer from a deterioration of renal function…continues

    More details here
    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2011/06/barfblog-again-hot-with-latest-2.html
    Seeds distributed by an English firm may be the common link. Both outbreaks could have been prevented by radiation after sprouting.

    Trace-back of food and seed lots needs to be vastly improved in the European vegetable food chain

  • Bill Marler as usual is incisive on this

    Bad Seeds – Again – This time E. coli O104:H4
    http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/bad-seeds—again—this-time-e-coli-o104h4/
    POSTED BY BILL MARLER ON JUNE 25, 2011

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13918692
    A spokeswoman for Thompson and Morgan “We are very confident the problem is not with our seeds. People can still grow these seeds and use these seeds with absolute confidence,” she said. They sell seeds used to make sprouts that are suspects in Freanch E. coli outbreak

    http://news.indialocals.com/read/2011/06/26/L2IwBJAuLmH0KmD2Zwt0ZN==/full-story-france-should-pay-if-e-coli-warning-wrong–british-mep
    France should pay if E.coli warning wrong: British MEP
    BORDEAUX, France | Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:22pm IST
    (Reuters) – A British MEP called on France to pay compensation if a British company linked by the French government to an E.coli outbreak in Bordeaux turned out not to be responsible.
    “If the French have got this wrong, pre-emptively coming out in the public sphere and the link is not proven, then they must be held responsible for what could be hundreds of thousands of pounds of further damage to the vegetable and to the salad market from East Anglia and Britain,” European parliament member Richard Howitt said in a statement on Sunday.
    http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/french-e-coli-outbreak-appears-linked-to-germany-and-to-british-seeds/
    French E. coli Outbreak Appears Linked to Germany and to British Seeds
    POSTED BY BILL MARLER ON JUNE 26, 2011
    According to a press release by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), French authorities have reported 10 cases of patients suffering from bloody diarrhea in the Bordeaux region of the country, five of them diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Preliminary bacteriological tests found the E. coli strain O104:H4 to be present in two of the cases. French officials said this was the same strain as that responsible for the outbreak in Germany associated with bean sprouts. They said an epidemiological investigation found that seven patients, who live in close proximity to each other, had attended a recreational center in Bègles near Bordeaux on 8 June. Six of those were said to have eaten bean sprouts scattered on various dishes at the center.
    French authorities said the sprouts had been grown from seeds bought from a shop supplied by Thompson & Morgan. According to Thompson & Morgan the seeds were sourced in Italy and packaged and sold from Ipswich, England.

    • http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/110625.htm
      EFSA stands ready to provide scientific assistance to European Commission and Member States on French E.coli outbreak
      News Story 25 June 2011
      Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are closely monitoring the latest E.coli outbreak in the Bordeaux region of France and preparing to provide scientific support to the European Commission in the analysis of scientific data related to this outbreak.
      EFSA scientists are liaising closely with staff at the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and are in touch with food safety authorities in Member States, in particular France and Germany.
      French authorities have reported 10 cases of patients suffering from bloody diarrhoea in the Bordeaux region of the country, five of them diagnosed with haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be caused by Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC).
      Preliminary bacteriological tests found the E.coli strain O104:H4 to be present in two of the cases. French officials said this was the same strain as that responsible for the outbreak in Germany associated with bean sprouts. They said an epidemiological investigation found that seven patients, who live in close proximity to each other, had attended an open day at a recreational centre in the commune of Bègles near Bordeaux on 8 June. Six of those were said to have eaten bean sprouts scattered on various dishes at the centre.

    • That is very bad public policy to threaten nations (or anyone) with civil damages if health warnings issued in good faith during a health crisis turn out to be mistaken.

  • thomas fix

    The whole EHEC Story ist a puzzle. The so called main culprit has the domain:
    http://www.gaertnerhof.org. As they write they tested on 24th May and even on the 6th of June all probes for EHEC negative.
    As they write they dont use any manure only green compost and no fungi-pesti-herbicides.
    I contacted prof Baljer from the university og Giessen in Germany who gave an interview and mentioned that he has been working on this topic for over 20 years. He told me that he would prefer the selection of resistence as the main cause of EHEC. Antibiotics for the treatment of diarrhea at cows who has just given birth is his hot topic.
    But the organic farm did not use manure at all and water contamination has been excluded so far???

  • Thomas,

    There is no mystery.

    The contamination came in the seeds which were not grown at the farm. The contamination took place at the farm where those seeds were grown. The methods for eliminating prior to sprouting contamination are ineffective at killing germ INSIDE the seeds. These procedure were badly designed. E. coli can survive for about a year inside the seeds. Any treatment that does not kill the seeds will not kill these internal E. coli. The seeds sprouted therefor the internal bacteria were not exposed to sterilising heat.The sprout farm should have known about this but the training in hygiene and microbiology was inadequate. Clearly from the farm managers public statements he did not understand this scientifically obvious risk.

    • What should have been done

      1. Don’t eat raw sprouts.
      2. Cook the sprouts.
      3. Radiate the sprouts.

      There are no other options that are safe and practical

      • From David Tribe
        This is a real worry.

        SWEDEN reports first domestic EHEC case
        28.jun.11
        The Local
        http://www.thelocal.se/34618/20110628/
        For the first time, a Swede with no connections to Germany has been infected with the virulent enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria that has claimed dozens of lives across Europe, Swedish health authorities reported on Tuesday.
        “This means that the source of the infection is in Sweden, which is a lot worse, because it might mean that there is some form of infected food product in circulation that we haven’t yet identified, “ said Sofie Ivarsson, epidemiologist at the institute to news agency TT.

  • Eric Baumholder

    In the US, one popular way of consuming sprouts (bean sprouts) is from a steel can. Canning involves enough heat to kill any microbe in the contents. After this treatment, the sprouts still have a nice crunch.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    Ewww: Canned sprouts.

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