Bits and Pieces

Bits and pieces of stories in the news in 1980, including a method of manufacturing Interferon developed by Biogen S.A., the negligable share of government aid that goes to small farms, the side effects of Depo-Provera, and more.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1980
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In 1979 a congressional task force set up to help family farms found that 80% of total farm assistance payments went to just 17% of all agricultural operations, and 70% of what were then considered "small" farms benefited from only 5% of USDA extension activities.
ILLUSTRATION: FOTOLIA/ARTENOT


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DANGEROUS DOCTORS? Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Illinois, contends that we'd be better off if 95% of the doctoring (not just surgery) in this country were to stop! Furthermore, he supports his claim with statistics which show that the death rate declines during doctors' strikes, then goes back to its "normal" level when the physicians return to work.

WORK-A-LONG: If you have an office skill and are feeling nomadic, Olsten Temporary Services can provide a fee-paid job (and, if you're interested, accommodations) in each city along your route.

A POTENTIAL CANCER FIGHTER: Biogen S.A., a Swiss firm, has announced the development of recombinant DNA technology which would enable Interferon—a naturally occurring human protein that's shown great promise as a cancer cure—to be economically manufactured by genetically altered bacteria. (The drug is currently extracted from human white blood cells . . . and is produced in such minute quantities that a pound would cost an astronomical $22 billion!)

BIG GOVERNMENT/ BIG FARMS: A Congressional Family Farm Task Force, organized to redirect federal policy away from large-scale factory farming, reports that the 70% of what are considered "small" farms benefit from only 5% of USDA extension activities . . . while 80% of total farm assistance payments go to just 17% of all agricultural operations.

 "FRIENDLY FIRE"? Years ago, while the movie The Conquerors was being made in St. George, Utah, radioactive fallout from a Nevada atomic test blanketed the town. Later, stars Susan Hayward, John Wayne, Dick Powell, Agnes Moorhead, and Pedro Armendaris—plus the movie's art director, production manager, and wardrobe mistress—all contracted cancer . . . perhaps as a result of their exposure to the radioactivity.

THE OLD-FASHIONED CATTLE DRIVE is making a comeback, and—even though the animals "walk off" weight when moved in such a way—apparently transportation costs are now up enough to make the poundage loss easier to take than the hauling charges would be.

UNACCEPTABLE AT ANY LEVEL! An objective of the Resources Conservation Act of 1977 is to reduce erosion on cropland that loses topsoil at a rate exceeding 14 tons per acre per year . . . to an "acceptable level" of five tons per year!

LEPROSY MAKES A COMEBACK: Brazil, which spends an insignificant proportion of its national budget on public health, is reporting a new case of leprosy every 48 minutes, and estimates indicate that 70 million out of a total of 110 million Brazilians suffer from either leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, or a blood disorder called chagas.

OOPS! According to a Belgian scientist, there's been a series of ice ages in the past million years, each of which lasted between 90,000 and 100,000 years, interrupted by warm interglacial periods—such as the present one—which last some 18,000 years. (The last ice age, which took only 20 years to materialize, ended just about 18,000 years ago.)

DESPITE FDA APPROVAL, Bendectin, the most commonly prescribed morning sickness remedy for pregnant women (which is produced by Richardson-Merrell . . . the same company that distributed thalidomide in the U.S.) may be responsible for a number of crippling and/or fatal birth defects.

AND THE BIRTH CONTROL "SHOT", DEPO-PROVERA, has been shown to cause long- and short-term infertility, possible sterility, severe menstrual disorders, hair loss, excessive weight gain, and depression in human patients . . . and uterine cancer in monkeys. Women who have received a contraceptive by injection at any time should write to: National Women's Health Network (2025 I Street N.W., Suite 105, Washington, D.C. 20005).

RURAL AMERICAN WOMEN, a 28,000-member coalition, hopes—among other things—to establish funding sources which women can use to purchase land, to act as a legislative advocate to protect women's rights to own and inherit land, and to eliminate discriminatory tax laws.

THE LARGEST MIGRATORY MOVEMENT IN HUMAN HISTORY is taking place in Third World countries, as 75,000 people every day move from rural to urban areas .... A Dutch scientist has found NO SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN CARIES when fluoride users and nonusers have been carefully compared .... Forests, which now cover about one-fifth of the earth's land surface, are shrinking by 5O ACRES FOR EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY .... The use of new harvest machinery on California produce farms will ELIMINATE AT LEAST 40,000 JOBS by 1982 . . . . FULLY 25% OF THE GLOBE'S POPULATION IS HUNGRY or undernourished, and one person in eight suffers from debilitating malnutrition .... Thirty-three million American households planted food gardens last year (an increase of two million over 1978) and HARVESTED PRODUCE WORTH $13 BILLION. The average cost per garden was $19, with an average yield of $387 . . . . Just one of the U.S.'s 31 Poseidon submarines carries more explosive power than was detonated IN ALL OF EUROPE AND JAPAN IN WORLD WAR II.


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