aspartame - ecologist (sep 2005)
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DESCRIPTIONAspartame - Ecologist (Sep 2005)
WHAT DO~. x
AND DIET COKEHAVE IN COMMON?
ASPARTAMEThe shocking story of
ON A WINGAND A
PRAYERthe beginningof the end forcheap flights
DECLINE ANDFALL OF THEAMERICAN EMPIRE...will the US be a thirdworld economy by 2024?
ARE WE ALL TELEPATHIC?
AaronNoteWeak photocopy source document. Fast sloppy OCR.
ecologistEditor Zac Goldsmith
Editor 's Assistant Layla DayaniManaging Editor Harry RamDeputy Editor Jeremy Smith
Associate Editor Matilda LeeSub-editor Ben Skelton
Health Editor Pat ThomasScience Editor Peter Bunyard
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Researchers Daniel Glass, Frankie Mullin,Marietta Sandilands, Freddie Ventura,
Clemency WellsPublisher Tyler Moorehead
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E E T O R A L
To describe China as a 'sleeping giant' is wishful thinking. Chinais wide awake, and is set to dominate in every sense. So much sothat Chinese nannies (I'm told) are now going for a premium inWashington, with wealthy businessmen eagerly looking to boost theirchildren's chances in life with early Mandarin lessons.
No serious investor today can afford to ignore China. Jim Rogers,co-founder with George Soros of the Quantum Fund, begins his latest book by warningthat 'when China sneezes, the rest of the world will be reaching for aspirin'. For him,we are on the verge of a commodity boom. It's hard to disagree.
China is currently laying out plans for 16 underground railway systems, whichwould he comparable to anything in Europe. The implications for steel and copperalone are staggering. And there are plans to build a road infrastructure larger than thatin the US - except China hopes to accomplish in years what the US took decades topull off.
Already, we're seeing the effect on 'soft commodities' of China's expansion. It hasbecome, for instance, the world's second largest oil consumer and the world's biggestsoya bean importer. It became a net importer of food for the first time last year. Rogers'prediction of a new boom looks solid. And that's wonderful news for some investors.
But it's the worst possible news for the environment. It's true that an economichiccup in China will send prices temporarily tumbling, but they will recover along withdemand. And it's usually true that high commodity prices will lead to general belt-tightening - although that doesn't appear to be happening yet in relation to oil.
Fundamentally, China's growth means more mines, more deforestation, morepressure on resources. Ibis, combined with the fact that China's own bread basket inthe country's northern plains is shrinking as a consequence of climate change, meansstill greater pressure on the world's natural riches.
The global economy, then, is being reshaped by China in a way that is obviousto everyone - except, apparently, EU leaders. The recently rejected (but far fromabandoned) EU constitution goes well beyond providing a framework for decision-making. It actively enshrines a commitment to accelerated trade liberalisation andglobalisation. In effect, it is a manifesto. At its heart is the assumption that acceleratedtree trade with China is a sustainable policy. It's not.
Look at textiles. The World Bank predicts that China's share of the world tradeintextiles could jump front 17 per cent today to more than 50 per cent in the next fouryears. As a result, some analysts predict the loss of more than a million EU jobs beforethe end of next year. The effect in poorer countries, like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka andPakistan, will be many times worse. And textiles aren't the only area under threat. TheMcKinsey Global Institute issued a report last month predicting that nearly 10 millionUS service jobs are at serious risk to China.
The scale of China's expansion is almost impossible to take in. But that's whatour leaders have to do. It's no longer possible to hold the view that countries gainmore than they lose when they open their borders and seek comparative advantagein a specialised economic sector. China enjoys, or is coming to enjoy, comparativeadvantage in virtually every sector. We cannot compete with China. And we shouldn'tattempt to do so any more than we should force, as a condition of overseas aid, loansand debt relief, poorer nations to enter a competition they cannot win.
Globalisation and free trade are still regarded by our leaders as evolutionary forces.But the rise and rise of China will change that. And it may be that France and Holland'srejection of the EU constitution will one day be recognised as the beginning of thatvital shift.
THE ECOLOGIST SEPTEMBER 2005 005
Aspartame is the most controversial food additive in history. The
most recent evidence, linking it to leukaemia and lymphoma,
has added substantial fuel to the ongoing protests of doctors,
scientists and consumer groups who allege that this artificial
sweetener should never have been released onto the market
and that allowing it to remain in the food chain is killing us by
degrees. PAT THOMAS REPORTS
nce upon a time, aspartamewas listed by the Pentagon as abiochemical warfare agent. Todayit's an integral part of the moderndiet. Sold commercially under
names like NutraSweet and Canderel, aspartamecan be found in more than 5,000 foods,including fizzy drinks, chewing gum,table-top sweeteners, diet and diabetic
foods, breakfast cereals, jams, sweets, vitamins,prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Thismeans that there is a good chance that you andyour family are among the two thirds of theadult population and 40 per cent of childrenwho regularly ingest this artificial sweetener.
Because it contains no calories, aspartameis considered a boon to health-consciousindividuals everywhere; and most of us, ifwe think about it at all, think it is safe. Butindependent scientists say aspartame canproduce a range of disturbing adverse effectsin humans, including headaches, memory
loss, mood swings, seizures, multiple sclerosisand Parkinson's-like symptoms, tumours andeven death.
Concerns over aspartame's toxicity meantthat for eight years, the US Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) denied it approval,effectively keeping it off the world market. Thiscaution was based on compelling evidence,brought to light by numerous eminentscientists, litigators and consumer groups,that aspartame contributed to serious centralnervous system damage and had been shown tocause cancer in animals. Eventually, however,political muscle, won out over scientific rigour,and aspartame was approved for use in 1981(see timeline for details).
The FDA's about-turn opened the floodgatesfor aspartame's swift approval by more than70 regulatory authorities around the world.But, as the remarkable history of the sweetenershows, the clean bill of health given to it bygovernment regulators whose raison d ' etreshould be to protect the public from harm issimply not worth the paper it is printed on.
036 THE ECOLOGIST SEPTEMBER 2005
Searle applies for FDAapproval and submits over100 studies it claims supportaspartame's safety. Neither thedead monkeys nor the mice withholes in their brains are includedin the submission.
Before aspartame can reach themarketplace, Dr John Olney, James Turner (attorney,consumer advocate and former 'Nader's Raider' whowas instrumental in removing the artificial sweetenercyclamate from the US market), and the group LabelInc (Legal Action for Buyers' Education and Labeling)file a formal objection to aspartame's approval with theFDA, citing evidence that it could cause brain damage,particularly in children.