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Friday, January 27, 2012

Morgellons Disease Probably a Delusion, Feds Say

Erin Allday, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Morgellons disease - a creepy illness that leaves patients with painful lesions, gives them a feeling that bugs are crawling all over their body, and has them seeing colorful, threadlike fibers poking through their skin - isn't infectious and probably isn't caused by anything in the environment, according to the first government study of the condition.

Rather, Morgellons is likely to be a mental illness and should probably be treated with the same drug and psychiatric care that works for people who suffer delusions, researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

"There were some possibilities of what could be causing this, and we've taken a couple of the big ones off the table. That's a really big step forward," said Dr. Mark Eberhard, director of the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria and a lead investigator in the study.

Seeking acknowledgement

The study focused on patients in the Bay Area, where a cluster of Morgellons cases have been reported over the past several years. Patients all complained of the same strange, often horrifying symptoms, and they became increasingly angry and frustrated that physicians weren't taking their condition seriously.

Just getting the research done was a major coup for Morgellons sufferers, who had been clamoring for a serious scientific study of their illness for years. But by ruling out infectious and environmental causes of the disease and suggesting it's a delusional condition, the CDC report was disappointing, patients said Wednesday.

Most of them aren't ready to accept that the mysterious illness that plagues them is all in their head.

"We just want to be acknowledged. This is not a delusion," said Cindy Casey, 49, who worked as a nurse in a Bay Area intensive care unit for 16 years before she went on disability from Morgellons. She now lives in Texas, where she runs a foundation for Morgellons research.

"We would really love to understand the etiology and be able to hope for some kind of treatment," Casey said. "A cure is really too much to ask for at this point, but to be able to manage the symptoms would be good."

Casey said she suffers from lesions all over her body and a "popping and tingling" sensation, primarily in her legs. She itches all over, so badly that it's painful and she has trouble sleeping, she said.

The symptoms can be so maddening, she said, that she has no doubt that many Morgellons patients come across as "crazy" to doctors - and it's not surprising that she and others are labeled as delusional, she admits.

'We don't really understand'

Dr. Raphael Stricker, a Lyme disease specialist who treats about 60 people in the Bay Area whom he says suffer from Morgellons, agreed that his patients often seem delusional. "If you had these fibers coming out of your skin, wouldn't you go a little nuts?" he said.

But he's convinced that Morgellons is not a mental illness and has done his own research to try to find a cause, or at least an explanation for the strange filaments he's seen growing out of and under patients' skin.

"I want to commend the CDC for doing this study and trying to get a handle on this disease, which has baffled many people and is a big problem," Stricker said. "But the only thing it really tells us clearly is that we need to do more work, because we don't really understand this disease."

The CDC study focused on members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, using patient records to find people who suffered from symptoms commonly associated with Morgellons. They found 115 such patients, most of them middle-age white women. That worked out to about 4 cases per 100,000 Kaiser members, making the condition very rare, Eberhard said.

While there was no doubt that the patients were all sick, the cause of their illness was unclear, researchers found. More than two-thirds of patients reported chronic fatigue, and about 60 percent had cognitive problems, often related to memory or their ability to concentrate.

Fibers blamed on clothing

All of the patients had complained at least once of some kind of threadlike filament growing out of their skin. Most patients identified the filaments as fibers, but some referred to them as worms, "fuzz balls" or larvae. The CDC researchers examined filaments taken from 12 patients and found that they were most likely fibers that came from clothing and had stuck to the skin.

"Clearly these people have something that's very impactful on their health," Eberhard said. "But a number of those problems can be treated. We really think there's the potential to significantly help a fair number of these folks."

E-mail Erin Allday at

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Senator Pushes for GMO Labeling in Washington State

Regardless of whether the Republicans or Democrats occupy the White House, federal regulatory officials continue to disregard concerns about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and stonewall all efforts to mandate proper GMO labeling. As a result, individual states are having to craft their own GMO labeling legislation, including a new bill recently introduced in Washington State that would mandate GMO labeling beginning in 2014.

The Epoch Times reports that Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase has sponsored a new bill that would require both raw GMOs and processed foods containing GMOs to be properly labeled beginning July 2014. Any food product containing GMOs will have to bear a list outlining which ingredients are natural and which ingredients are GMO. Several other GMO labeling bills have also been introduced in the state legislature.

"People have the right to know what they're eating," said Sen. Chase about her bill. She has reportedly been working for years to address the GMO labeling issue, noting that it is a "question of transparency and accountability."

PCC Natural Markets reports that legislators from both sides of the aisle in Washington State are in support of several farmer-authored GMO labeling bills. After all, farmers trying to sell non-GMO crops, especially overseas, bear the brunt of not having GMOs labeled because their foreign market potential becomes greatly limited.

Of particular concern is the potential future approval of GM wheat, much of which would be grown in Eastern Washington. Farmers there are concerned that, if approved, GM wheat will ruin their foreign market potential since most other industrialized nations require GMO labeling, or flat out reject GMO imports. Japan, for instance, has already said it will reject GM wheat from the US, should it be approved.

Back in early 2011, more than 1,200 Eastern Washington farmers signed a petition brought before the state legislature to require GMO labeling. This "Committee to Safe Farm Markets" has tried for years to get the attention of legislators about GMO labeling, but to no avail.

As we reported previously, similar GMO labeling efforts are currently underway in California. Backed by a coalition that includes Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, Nature's Path, Eden Foods, Lundberg, Organic Valley, and United Natural Foods, a GMO labeling initiative in California is moving forward with roughly 80 percent support among polled Californians.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Monsanto Spent $2.46 Million Lobbying Government in First Quarter


Monsanto Co. spent $2.46 million in the first quarter to lobby the federal government on a proposed changes to U.S. patent law and other agricultural issues that could affect the world's largest seed company, according to a disclosure report.

Patent issues are of vital concern to Monsanto because the company develops and sells patented genetically engineered crops. Monsanto's use of patents is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. At issue is whether Monsanto has violated antitrust laws though its tight control of patented genes.

Monsanto's lobbying expenditures are up from the $1.28 million the company spent during the same period last year, but down slightly from the $2.53 million the company spent in the fourth quarter of 2009, after the DOJ launched its investigation.

Monsanto also lobbied the federal government on litigation surrounding the USDA's approval of genetically engineered crops, according to the report filed April 19 with the House clerk's office.

In the January-to-March period, Monsanto lobbied Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the report.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Class Action Lawsuit Against Monsanto Proceeds after Mediation Fails

Georgina Gustin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


A class action lawsuit against Monsanto alleging that the company is responsible for contaminated homes and schools near a chemical plant in West Virginia heads toward trial next week after mediation efforts failed.

Residents of Nitro, where a Monsanto plant produced chemicals and herbicides for more than five decades, claim their properties were polluted by dioxins, a highly toxic class of chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases. The plant in Nitro produced, among other compounds, 2,4,5-T, an ingredient in the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, widely used in the Vietnam War. Dioxins are a contaminated byproduct of the manufacturing process.

The lawsuit, filed in 2004, is seeking medical monitoring and regular testing for as many as 80,000 residents. A separate class action also is seeking damages.

Stuart Calwell, the Charleston-based attorney in the class actions, also is representing 200 or so residents of Nitro in personal injury suits, which allege that the dioxins from the Nitro plant led to disease, including cancer.

At least seven lawsuits alleging similar links between Monsanto's plant in Sauget and area residents are pending in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

In 1984, a federal jury found the company was not legally responsible for dioxin poisoning at the Nitro plant but found that dioxin contributed to some of the plaintiffs' health problems.

Monsanto said Thursday afternoon that it could not comment on the litigation because of a court order prohibiting either side from talking with the media without court consent.

Monsanto Co., based in Creve Coeur, has distanced itself from what it refers to as the "original Monsanto" and the environmental legacy of its chemical manufacturing business.

The company once consisted of three core businesses -- agricultural herbicides, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In 2000 the company merged with the pharmaceutical company Pharmacia, and a new Monsanto, based on the agriculture business, was spun off in 2002. The chemical business was spun off as Solutia in 1997, at which point Solutia agreed to absorb the liabilities associated with the chemical business.

Solutia filed for bankruptcy in 2003, later emerging in 2008. In 2008, Monsanto agreed to "assume financial responsibility for certain tort litigation and environmental remediation" related to the chemical business.

Jury selection in the class action will begin Tuesday.

Calwell said in an interview Thursday that the action is designed to monitor residents to catch diseases so they can be treated early.

"This really morphs into a grand exposure experiment," Calwell said. "To see how long it takes to develop disease."

He couldn't be reached later that evening to comment on whether the court had restricted him from speaking on the case.


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Class action lawsuit against Monsanto for Agent Orange pollution while Dow seeks deregulation for Agent Orange resistant corn