Tag Archives: health

Subversion and Perversion: Atrazine and Leverage Points

The New York Times article, A Valuable Reputation provides yet another analysis into the dichotomizing interests of science and business in providing a safer, more sustainable future. The article unfolds the collusion between scientific findings and incentivizing the necessity for action both on behalf of the Tyrone Hayes –the scientist advocating the mal-effects of atrazine– and factorial suppression by Syngenta – the producing company attempting to obscure findings to keep their product on the market.


In reading this article through the lens of systematic leverage as illustrated within Donella Meadows’ Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in A System, several subversive interconnectivities were revealed. One of the largest obstacles that Hayes faces when battling Syngenta on the issue was the effect of, as Meadows calls, the buffer. For Syngenta, atrazine is their buffer into the US corn market that stabilizes their grip on profits within the specific industry. However, as Meadows alluded to, when a buffer becomes too big it becomes inflexible, just as it has become in this case.With all of Syngenta’s focus on atrazine as this golden cash-cow corn pesticide, driving their profits within the corn agricultural system, they have become extremely defensive of the threats Hayes posed to the viability of continuation of sales within the US market. In lieu of diversifying their scope of products, this hyper-focus on one profit-driving product for an entire segment of the market has caused an extremely unstable economy in attempt of holding the market permeation of their product.

With each subsequent experiment and exposé released by Hayes came an even greater attack stemming from the increased potential litigation towards the end of use for their profit-driving product. From a business standpoint, it makes sense the steps that they took to discredit the studies emerging, however, a greater sense of confusion washes over these efforts. Instead of spending so much time (and presumably money) defending their profit-driving pesticide, why didn’t put effort into producing a new, less environmentally intrusive product?

Another great misstep on behalf of Syngenta was utilizing this time and effort to discredit their negative feedback loop, in this case, Hayes and his fellow scientists putting their chemicals into testing. Instead of simply hiring a scientist to put their stamp of approval on their product, they ended up with a scientist providing insight into the missteps of the product. Instead of utilizing this impartial, third party feedback and working towards augmenting the product to be safer for the market, or producing a new product offset to take its place within the market, they spent the entirety of their effort on perverting the truth behind the scientific findings. If they took said findings and utilized them to monitor the effects on the environment, they would realize the necessity chaging of the product’s formulation with the goal of removing the overall adverse impact of the product.

Syngenta found themselves relying too heavily on strengthening positive feedback loops with competing scientific studies skewed the reality of Hayes’ studies. Instead of an aggregation of both feedback loops, they focused only on the internal input that strengthened their stance instead of addressing the negative externalities pushing for action on behalf of the company and regulatory agencies.

Yet another problem illuminated within the two articles in conjunction with one another surrounded Meadows’ concept of, ‘the rules of the system’. As A Valuable Reputation brought forth, “The European Union generally takes a precautionary approach to environmental risks, choosing restraint in the face of uncertainty. In the U.S., lingering scientific questions justify delays in regulatory decisions.” A large problem, not limited to the scope of this specific case lies, in the US infrastructure of regulation in the chemical industry. As it stands chemical regulation in the United States takes a similar approach to the legal framework of innocent until proven guilty. In translation, the chemicals in the US market have a stamp of healthy until proven to pose a direct threat to our health, and can thereby continue along with potentially lethal products until someone like Hayes attempts to check the underlying impact of a chemical compound on human and environmental systems. If the US chemical regulation was under similar guidelines as that of the EU, we would likely not even be reading about this case.


Love me some black Mercedes lung (just kidding…)

On my walk to class this morning, I made a quick stop at Liquiteria for my favorite smoothie, Bulldozer with added strawberries and blueberries.  While waiting for my order, I looked out the window and instead of the usual dog walkers and cabs flying down 6th Ave, I saw a beautiful black C 700 Mercedes Benz waiting out front. I remembered this assignment and decided to go outside to get a closer look to see whether or not the driver was idling. Sure enough, she was texting on her phone with the AC on.  I snapped the photo above and got her license plate number and she was sitting on the corner of W 8th and 6th Ave.  It made me feel like a detective (a secret dream of mine since I was a kid) so I think I’m gonna keep this up.  Unfortunately, idling is destructive and in no way do I hope to see more of it occur. However if it does, I plan on staying aware and taking action.


Down with Big Soda!

I would like to start this post off by encouraging everybody to follow @KillBig Soda on instagram and support the movement behind the hashtag #KillBigSoda. It would mean the world to me, as well as help spread the word on these horrible big businesses and their harmful messages and products.


Alright, now let’s get into the real issues. The overall summary of the problem goes something like this: Big name sodas, such as Coca-Cola, have been marketing the fact that sugar is not bad for you. The cure to obesity is in exercise, and not a reduction of sugar intake. This, clearly, is not true. And yet so many Americans drink soda on a daily basis, which is essentially killing them. Not only has Coca-Cola been a deceptive company in the past but they continue to be.

So here is what we know, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is our current problem. The ACSM is a corporation that offers trainer certification for athletic professionals. They are seeking to be the only licensing entity for trainers in the U.S. That would mean every trainer who didn’t have their license/ certification through the ACSM would be unable to continue their business. It would be equivalent to practicing medicine without a license, and you would be subject to fines, arrest, or both. This seems legitimate right? You would assume that athletic trainers should have a level of qualification to be doing their job correctly. But here is the real problem with all of this: Coke is a major sponsor and partner of the ACSM, as is Pepsico and Gatorade. Now why is this a problem? In order for you to understand, we need to dive into a little bit of history with these companies.


Last Fall Coca-Cola was exposed by the New York Times for paying scientists to expel the “myth” that eating to much, and sugary drinks, were the leading cause of weight gain. They wanted to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet.

This was Coca-Cola’s response to the science of obesity coming out to the public and a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools, and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent. So Coca-Cola’s idea was to start an organization called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) whose website administration was registered to Coca-Cola Headquarters. Since 2008, Coca-Cola had been providing millions in funding for various projects to two of the GEBN members to essentially shape obesity research in their favor, and stifle criticism of it’s products. Thankfully, the GEBN was disbanded in late 2015.


So what is happening now? Well, after Coca-Cola was outed by the New York Times they wanted to reassure the public that they were still a “trustworthy” company and vowed to be more transparent about their funding. Coke has vowed to act with “More Transparency” and disclose a list of health and well-being partnerships and research activities they have funded in the past five years, one of which being the ACSM. If we tally up the seven entries found in the Coca-Cola database, we find that Coca-Cola has paid the ACSM Foundation at least a total of $865,000 in the past five years. But that’s not all. Coca-Cola can also influence the ACSM by targeting its officials, not just by funding the organization directly. BlairFor example, former ACSM president Steven Blair is on the advisory board of Exercise is Medicine (EIM), a joint ACSM-Coca-Cola partnership. EIM is an initiative focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients. Sound familiar? it should, because this is identical to Coca-Cola’s previous campaign scandal. Steven Blair was personally paid $4,626,000 by Coca-Cola.


BUT, that still isn’t everything yet. It only get’s worse with this so called “transparency” act Coca-Cola came up with. We know from the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 2013 tax forms that the majority of Coca-Cola’s donations to health and fitness went to organizations outside the US and Canada. Coca-Cola’s money that goes to ACSM officials or programs outside of the US is not listed in their transparency listings. Judging by the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 2012-2013 tax returns this exclusion may hide a significant amount of Coke funding. Meaning Coke would have paid closer to $240 million, not a merely $120 million, to health scientists and organizations over the past five years.

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Now that we have one company out of the way, we have to talk about Pepsico which is the owner of Gatorade. They are another sponsor of the ACSM. The ACSM isn’t looking to good right now, is it?

Gatorade as a beverage contains just as much sugar as Coca-Cola, and that isn’t even it’s biggest problem. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low. This happens when your body is overly hydrated. The American College of Sports Medicine advocates the amount of fluid intake for an athlete should be “the maximal amount that can be tolerated.” Gatorade advocates, “at least 40 oz. of fluid an hour.” Neither of which are true. The average water bottle is 16oz. That would be equivalent to drinking 2.5 bottles of water every hour. After at least 17 preventable deaths, Gatorade and ACSM officials finally confessed to both counts of false advertising. People had to die before these companies came out about their wrong doings. Athletes should just drink ad libitum, or when they feel like it. Humans possess an effective mechanism for preventing hyper-hydration and severe dehydration: thirst. Gatorade leverages its relationship with the ACSM to influence coaches’ and athletes’ drinking practices. Gatorade, and its owner PepsiCo, are quite open about this. Gatorade has spent the last four decades and billions of dollars misleading athletes and coaches about hydration, and they continue to do so with their “Beat the Heat” campaign.


Now, if the ACSM gets the power to be the sole licensing agency for athletic trainers false information will be given to public at an alarmingly fast rate. Our ideas of fitness and nutrition will be governed by big business and greedy CEOs. I myself am an athletic trainer and will not stand for this. America already has an alarming obesity percentage as well as poor physical education requirements. Let’s not add to the problem,  but stand up against it. Please join me in the fight and KILL BIG SODA!!

If you would like to view my presentation again, Click Here!

The link to my Instagram page is up top, but here it is again if you missed it! Click Here! 🙂

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Shifting Baselines of Serving Sizes

It is no secret that throughout the years our country has undergone inflation of the prices of our food, appliances, automobiles, and everything in between. However we  have also undergone inflation of our bodies. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of obesity has increased exponentially from 1999 to 2014. This can be mostly attributed tot the growing portions sizes amongst the average American’s diets.

Here is a diagram demonstrating one of the many examples of portion distortion that has occurred over the years:


A lot of the reason many American’s haven’t noticed this large change in portion sizes throughout the years is because they have slowly shifted year by year. The baseline has been set by many wide reaching corporations like Mcdonald’s. These companies set the standards for the amount of food and beverage that comprises a ‘single serving’. As corporations like these find ways to cut corners and produce more food for cheaper, they are able to draw costumers in with their ‘bargain meals’. The truth is, however, that these meals often contain upwards of the daily recommended caloric intake.


This phenomenon has a lot to do with the theory of changing baselines. The idea of shifting baselines is described clearly on www.shiftingbaselines.org a website founded by Randy Olson an environmental activist and filmmaker. His website and organization attempts to draw attention to the shifting baseline phenomenon, in particular in regards to the degradation of our environment. The mission statement on his website states:

“Shifting Baselines is a “media project” — a partnership between ocean conservation and Hollywood to help bring attention to the severity of ocean decline. We are not an action group and we do not have any membership to join. If we have done our job well and you are motivated to help protect the world’s oceans, then PLEASE join one, some, or all of our PARTNER groups. They are the people really doing things. They have the “Get Involved” buttons, the Action Plans, and the Grassroots Activities. They need your help and are seeking donations.”

The notion of shifting baselines do not just apply environmental issues and should be acknowledged as a effecting many facets of our daily life: especially our serving sizes. Junk food is bad enough for our bodies, why just accept the shifting baseline of serving sizes and continue shoveling mass amounts of food into our stomachs?