Tag Archives: united nations

U.N. official’s tour explores impact of extreme poverty in the United States

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Omar Bárcena via Flickr

During a two-week U.S. fact-finding tour, Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said he observed scenes of suffering from coast to coast: in homeless encampments in California, in storm-ravaged enclaves in Puerto Rico, and in marginalized communities of the deep South and West Virginia.

A shortage of healthcare, infrastructure and sanitation services in low-income and minority communities are taking a serious toll, Alston said during a Dec. 15 press conference in Washington, D.C., at the conclusion of the tour. Continue reading

Canada takes Monsanto, Dow’s word on safety

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Martin Mittelstaedt of the Toronto Globe and Mail looks into the Canadian government’s approval of “one of the most complicated genetically engineered plants ever designed,” a strain of feed corn stuffed with eight different sets of foreign genes.

Photo by WayTru via Flickr

The super-corn will resist numerous common pests as well as the popular herbicide Roundup. The problem, Mittlestaedt reports, is that Canadian health agencies never assessed the new plant’s safety and instead relied on the plant’s developers to make sure it was safe.

The health agency said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail that it didn’t have to do so, because it is relying on the two companies making the seeds, agriculture giants Monsanto Co. and Dow AgroSciences LLC, to flag any safety concerns. But the companies haven’t tested the seeds either, because they say they aren’t required to.

Monsanto and Dow have, however, tested each of the eight characteristics individually, a precaution which some experts say doesn’t go far enough and may not detect allergens or other dangerous consequences of mixing so many traits in one place. Likewise, Mittlestaedt says that UN food safety guidelines recommend that the foreign genes be tested in combination as well as independently.

(Hat tip to Andrew Schnieder on Cold Truth)

UN: Africa plagued by counterfeit malaria/HIV pills

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A recent assessment by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that weak and or/useless drugs have proliferated across Africa and Asia, with malaria-ridden West Africa being the hardest hit (102-page PDF). Smugglers, organized criminals and shady manufacturers in more developed countries are getting rich at the expense of individuals and countries with little capacity to distinguish between fraudulent pharmaceuticals and the real thing.

From the accompanying press release:

As much as 50-60 per cent of anti-infective medicines tested in Asia and Africa have been found to have insufficient amounts of the active ingredients. Medicines with low levels of active ingredients pose a greater hazard than those with none, because substandard antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs can promote the development of drug resistant strains, or “super bugs” that can spread beyond the region.

The UN report calls for immediate action, including the naming, shaming and banning of companies producing the faux pills and stronger government regulatory efforts.

(Hat tip to VOA News)