Anti-Science From 'Whine' Country

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California is ranked 47th in the U.S. in science education. So, it is not terribly surprising that the Golden State is making some rather poor choices in wine (whine) country, and looking mighty foolish in the process.

BACKWARDSHere's a fact you need to know: California ranks 47th out of 50 states in science education.

I cannot think of any other way to explain the 2+ decades of bungling by a number of counties in wine country in the northern part of the state. It's about plants, and it's mind-boggling. It would seem that the people there seem to want weeds, but not food.

The circus began in 2004 when Mendocino County wrote a law to "prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically modified organisms in the county." The law, which was called Measure M contained 2,071 words. Here are 24 of them:

"DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid means a complex protein that is present in every cell of an organism and is the `blueprint' for the organism's development."

See the problem? If not, here's a hint: DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid means a complex protein...

Uh, that's not precisely correct. Or even a little correct. There is no protein in DNA, and there is no DNA in protein. Anyone who ever got within 50 yards of a chemistry, biology or biochemistry classroom should know that. duh

The proposed law was turned down by a wide margin in November 2004, but only because one of the committee members pointed out this mistake to a reporter, who then wrote that the law was doomed because of this, and was probably also unconstitutional.

A number of other counties in the area did pass laws that banned GMOs.

Ten years later, this nonsense was still going on. Enter the Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt, which introduced an initiative measure that was designed to "prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County ... as a public nuisance." In November 2014, the ban was passed by a wide margin.

I think the public nuisance was misidentified.

And, the folly in the the northern part of "state 47" continues. In 2016, nearby Petaluma decided to give glyphosate the last Roundup. The long-used weed killer was no longer welcome in the city, which suspended is use.

Glyphosate is about as non-toxic as a chemical can be. Other common chemicals with similar "lethality" include alcohol, salt, and baking soda. Acetaminophen is about three-times more toxic, and caffeine about 25-times more so. Yep — terrible stuff.

But, it's a carcinogen, right? That depends on when you ask. Even a brief glance at the in vitro and animal models of cancer shows nothing that even suggests carcinogenicity. The EXTOXNET database, a collaborative effort between University of California, Davis, Oregon State University, Michigan State University, Cornell University, and the University of Idaho, discusses glyphosate extensively. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Chronic toxicity in animals: No effects, even after two years, in any animal.
  • Reproductive effects: Rare, and even then, only in some animals at high doses.
  • Mutagenicity assays for DNA damage: Negative.
  • Carcinogenic effects: None. Not expected to be a human carcinogen.

Yet this didn't stop the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO) from declaring glyphosate a probable human carcinogen last year. What did stop this foolishness, at least for now, was the WHO itself, which last week swatted down its own agency, stating that "[glyphosate is] unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet ..." But, do not sell IARC short. It has a supernatural ability to declare things carcinogenic, regardless whether they are or not. Sausage, hot dogs, and corned beef recently went on the list. Of the 989 items on the IARC list, exactly one is in group 4 — Probably not carcinogenic to humans.

Perhaps Petaluma should take notice. The city cheerfully marched in the "organic lemming parade," and switched to "natural" fatty acid weed killers which are sold under the brand names of Finalsan and Suppress. How's that working out?

Ron DeNicola, parks and landscape manager for the city of Petaluma said, “We’re not entirely happy, we’re not entirely unhappy."

DeNicola does not quantitate "entirely," but given the following, perhaps you can:

  • Finalsan costs 18-times more than Roundup
  • It needs to be applied more often, since it does not kill the roots of the weeds
  • Workers need to wear a bodysuit and use a respirator, since Finalsan is "extremely pungent," and causes eye and respiratory problems.

It would seem that Mr. DeNicola got a little chemistry lesson from this experience.

It’s frustrating being out there using something labeled as organic,"he said, "but you have to be out there in a bodysuit and a respirator.”

Go organic. Just wear a spacesuit.