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Re: [GreenYes] Compostable plastics
On what basis are you inferring that starch-based polymers are better than a
petroleum-based polymers? Is it because they break down better? Or is it
because they have no negative health effects?

They may use less petroleum, but that is far from the whole story.

All polymers start off as a "natural" material. Being of natural origins
does not bestow qualities of safety or biodegradability. Just as with
petroleum-based polymers, there are other toxic ingredients included in the
starch-based polymers. Without even getting onto the additional toxic
ingredients of starch-based polymers, let's explore where the starch comes
from. In order to obtain a true image of the source of starch, one must
study the inputs of modern farming, otherwise know as the Green Revolution,
now the Gene Revolution.

Both Green and Gene Revolution Farming require massive amounts of
energy-intensive chemical inputs, such as gas, coal, and oil. These chemical
inputs are having a disastrous effect on the environment. The polymerization
process itself is also extremely energy intensive and toxic. And even more
potentially dangerous are the completely untested genetically engineered
(GE) crops such as corn. In spite of industry hype that the GE industry is
the most highly regulated industry in history, it is quite the opposite.
There has been  **no**  long-term testing of any GE crop in spite of the
growing prevalence of them. Warnings of scientists have been muffled and
ostracized by the GE industry.

One of the largest sources of starch is corn. Most corn doesn't come from
small sustainable organic family farms. It comes from enormous farms in the
Midwest that grow one crop--corn--as far as the eye can see. This is the
image of today's agribusiness. It started with the so-called Green
Revolution. Because one crop is grown exclusively for hundreds and thousands
of acres, it is a haven for pestilence and disease. Industry hype says it is
a more efficient method of producing more for the world. And it has
increased production, but in an entirely unsustainable and highly toxic way.

The justification of this type of farming is not economy because the true
costs are not included. The cost of degradation of the environment, the
cancers, birth defects and reproductive abnormalities are not included.
These costs have been externalized by the pesticide companies. The costs are
paid by us, the consumers and taxpayers. What it does is control costs and
removes quite a bit of the controls that farmers enjoyed for eons. They were
the breeders and knew what was best for their land.

Single crop farming, or monoculture farming was invented as a means for the
chemical and farm equipment industries to continue selling their toxic
chemicals and machines after WWII ended. Sarin is a nerve gas invented by
Hitler's scientists for WWII. He wanted something that would kill thousands
of soldiers... but slowly, so that other soldiers would need to carry the
sick ones, thereby taking others out of action. The US manufactured its own
toxic war chemicals as well. At the end of WWII, the US chemical industry
needed a new product to continue its profits. Many Green Revolution farm
inputs were offshoots of this wartime chemical industry, and were based on
the chemical makeup of Sarin. They are an essential part of Green Revolution
farming because of the inherent weaknesses of monoculture farming.

Millions of tons of many thousands of pesticides--which includes herbicides,
rodenticides, fungicides, and all the rest of the 'cides'-- are pumped onto
crops and land each year in an attempt to control all the problems it has
created. One interesting point is that not one single pest has been made
extinct by pesticides in more than a half century that they've been used.
And crop losses have not decreased either. In some cases, crop losses have
actually increased dramatically. The point being that they don't work for
very long.

So now the 'Gene Revolution' has brought us genetically engineered 'Bt' and
'Roundup Ready' (RR) corn. They've have been propagated on a wholesale basis
throughout this country and others to the point where a very large
percentage of the total corn crop is genetically engineered. Bt corn has the
toxin, bacillus thuringiensus engineered into each and every one of its
cells. From tip of root to tip of tassel it is toxic. A recent study in
Quebéc found that the sediment of the St. Laurence River contained 5 times
more Bt toxin residue in it than in drainage waters and sediments near
agricultural land growing the Bt corn.(1) Bt toxin harms butterflies and
kills worms that would normally keep the soil aerated.

Roundup has been linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer,(2) and
the inhibition of the creation of steroids (it's an endocrine disruptor).(3)

More than 100 million acres of the world's most fertile farmland were
planted with genetically modified crops last year, about 25 times as much as
just four years earlier. Wind-blown pollen, commingled seeds and black
market plantings have further extended these products of biotechnology into
the far corners of the global food supply -- perhaps irreversibly, according
to food experts.(4)

Another crop that is genetically engineered to withstand Roundup is canola.
In many states of the US and in Canada, weeds surrounding the canola crops
have taken on the trait of being resistant to Roundup from the canola crops,
making them nearly impossible to kill. One study showed that something like
ten times the normal amount of Roundup was used and the weeds survived.
Again, the point is that it doesn't work for very long.(5)

(1) Gravel, P. GMOs Pollute the St. Laurence River Bt Corn Toxin
Concentrations High in Sediment. Le Devoir (Montréal, Québec) 18dec01

(2) Hardell, L. A case-control study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and exposure to
pesticides. Cancer v.85, i.6 12mar99

(3) Walsh, L., et al. Roundup Inhibits Steroidogenesis by Disrupting
Steroidogenic Acute Regulatory (StAR) Protein Expression. Environmental
Health Perspectives v.108, n.8 Aug00

(4) Barboza, D. Non-biotech fields reveal contamination. New York Times
10jun01

(5) Hall, L. Pollen flow between herbicide tolerant canola (Brassica napus)
is the cause of multiple resistant canola volunteers. WSSA Abstracts, 2000
Meeting of the Weed Society of America, Volume 40, 2000


From: "don hughes" <djhughes@mailbox.syr.edu>
To: "Julie Daniel" <julied@bringrecycling.org>
Cc: <greenyes@grrn.org>
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2001 9:01 AM
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Compostable plastics


> Dear Julie-
> I feel i must correct some misunderstandings about "plastics" and
> "polymer".  The term plastic is commonly used to refer to the
> petroleum-based stuff we are all familiar with.  (Actually, most plastics
> are derived from natural gas as the starting material.)
> The term "polmer" is a chemical term referring to molecules which are made
> up of repeating subunits (monomers).  Polystyrene is made from thousands
of
> styrene molecules strung together; same idea for polyethylene, polyvinvyl
> chloride, etc.  Starch is also a polymer, made from repeating glucose
> (sugar) units.  Celluose, the basis for all plant life, is also a polymer
> based on glucose.
> In my opinion, the biggest problems with traditional petroleum-based
> plastics are: 1) they don;t break down in the environment, and 2) they
come
> from a non-renewable resource.  By switching back to carbohydrate-based
> products (e.g. starch) we can produce materials that do break down and can
> be grown rather than pumped out of the ground.  Of course it is essential
> that the claim of biodegradability be demonstrated thoroughly.  Some
> "biodegradable plastic" produced some 5-10 years ago turned out to be a
> hoax--it did not degrade any faster.  But i think that we have to go back
> to crops if we are to get off our addiction to oil and have a truly
> sustainable economy.

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