Is Non-Organic a No-Brainer?

A Stanford University analysis of over 200 nutritional studies found little evidence that organic food is better for you than conventional food. But health is affected by more than vitamins and minerals; for example by the chemical chlorpyrifos, which was banned for indoor use but continues to be sprinkled on our food crops. In California’s Salinas Valley, which grows greens for the entire nation, children exposed to chlorpyrifos and other pesticides are, well, stupider. As Elizabeth Grossman writes on The Pump Handle, “the higher the exposure, the lower the IQ score.” Researchers observing effects within the brain noticed “thinning in some areas and abnormal enlargement in others.” But there are bigger issues than brain damage surrounding organic food and well-being. On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk writes “what we really need is an agriculture that isn’t saturated in fossil fuels. […] Small scale, sustainable, mostly organic may be the only way we can avoid starving the world.”

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Booze and Brain Damage

There are many factors that can drive an organism to drink. Some might have a genetic predisposition—others might want to poison a parasitic wasp before it consumes them from the inside out. On ERV, new research shows “the epigenetics of the cells in the brains of alcoholics is messed up;” specifically, alcoholic brains express transposable genetic elements (such as endogenous retroviruses) more frequently. Smith writes “the authors think that ERVs are not just a marker of the damage caused by alcoholism, but that the ERVs are actively contributing to the brain damage due to alcoholism.” But does the expression of ERVs encourage alcoholism, or vice versa? Meanwhile, on Brookhaven Bits & Bytes, new research shows that dopamine receptor D2 can prevent alcohol-induced brain damage. Justin Eure writes, “mice without those dopamine receptors experienced brain atrophy overall and shrinkage of the cerebral cortex and thalamus. […] The corresponding regions of the human brain are critical to processing speech, sensory information, and forming long-term memories.” Eure continues, “Previous studies indicated that the absence of dopamine D2 receptors also increases the odds of alcohol addiction – meaning that without D2, alcoholism is both more likely and more dangerous.”