Vitamin A

There are many folks in the world with lousy food access. Many of them eat mostly rice. This means they don’t get a lot of what we consider essential nutrients especially if it is polished rice. At one time that also removed the B vitamins, but now we add them back in after polishing the rice. It also means you are low on IP6 or inositol hexaphospate that is reputed to help in preventing or healing cancer:

So eat that brown rice. It is good for you in many ways. (Not the least of which is that the lining of the intestine is ‘fed’ directly from fermentation of fiber and if you don’t have enough that’s a problem… and not just from constipation.)

A bright idea was hatched to use genetic modification to plant the Vitamin A gene into rice so as to prevent the Vit A deficiency related blindness seen in many poor folks, especially in Africa and Asia. This is called “Golden Rice” as it has a light gold yellow color.

Folks here know that I’m not a fan of GMOs for the simple reason that we do NOT know what we are doing, we just think we do. Genes move. It’s really that simple. In many cases folks think that the genes are fixed in placed, locked down, and not subject to moving. That just isn’t true. So those Roundup Resistance genes are already spreading to ‘related’ plants and there are a variety of weeds that are no longer bothered by Roundup.

Similarly those Bt Toxin genes in GMO corn are likely causing a variety of kinds of grief. From contributing to the demise of bees (a researcher in Europe found that bees exposed to GMO Bt pollen were then more prone to a parasite and had colony collapse) to spreading Bt Toxin everywhere in the environment pretty much guaranteeing that in a few decades we will have a huge number of Bt resistant bugs. That, then, destroys one of the few allowed biologic ‘pesticides’ for organic gardeners: a surface spray with actual Bacillus Th. that can later be washed off. Oh, and not to mention that you can’t wash the Bt Toxin out of your food as it is in EVERY cell of that food, and Bt Toxin is shown to be allergenic…

But, given all that, if any plant were to get my OK for GMO use, I’d lean toward this Golden Rice. At least until it isn’t needed for those folks who are at risk.

With that said, I’m going to propose another simple solution. Sweet Potatoes and curry.

Most folks with this dietary issue are in warm places. Sweet Potatoes grow well in warm places, and are often a staple food in those same poor tropical countries. My proposal would be to promote the sweet potato as a cheap way to get your Vit. A even in poor places.

has a nice table of Vit. A concentration in different foods. Top of the list (by gram – in a click box down that page) is liver, but it is unlikely that folks subsisting on rice will be eating animal products.

70564IU (1411% DV) per 100 grams

So that means that about 7 grams of liver per day would cover it. Or since this is fat soluble, a 100 gram portion would be enough for 2 weeks. Eat liver once a month, and only 200 grams at that, and the problem is gone.

Number three on the per gram list (and top of the main page list) is the Sweet Potato

19218IU (384% DV) per 100 grams

That makes it a 100 gram serving every third day (or about 1/4 of a medium sweet potato per day). Now maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but it seems to me that it would be a whole lot easier to get folks growing and distributing sweet potatoes in the areas with problems than to get approval for a GMO rice and get farmers all over to change what they grown and to get it distributed and sold as cheaply as regular rice. I really do think that just getting folks to understand that a small amount of sweet potato is all they need, and that it is relatively cheap, is an easier way to go. (And, for children and infants the amount is even less. A 20 lb child is going to be 1/10 the the amount a 200 lb man needs. So about one teaspoon…)

Now in between those two on the ‘by gram’ chart was a surprise for me. Hot Pepper. Not too surprising when you consider how red it is and that it is a dried product.

#2: Spices (Paprika, Cayenne, Chili Powder)
49254IU (985% DV) per 100 grams
985IU (20% DV) per teaspoon (2 grams)

Now I’m not about to go eating Cayenne Pepper by the 100 grams worth… but I can see a teaspoon in a pot of chili or curry. I mostly mention it as an example of how you can get a lot of Vit A in a deeply colored dried plant. Maybe that’s part of why folks started eating hot foods in the first place…

Oh, and honorable mention for the carrot and yellow squash. In places too cold to grow sweet potatoes, the carrot is dandy.

17033IU (341% DV) per 100 grams
7835IU (157% DV) per carrot (46 grams)

Butternut Squash
11155IU (223% DV) per 100 grams

That’s less than 1/4 cup per day for an adult for the squash.

So for a small child, that’s about 1/5 of a medium carrot cooked and mashed. Heck, you could likely mix it in with rice and not notice. Just cut a bit of the end of the adult’s carrot and everybody gets the needed dose from one little carrot. I note in passing that carrots sell for less per pound at Walmart than does rice. I know, not the same as in Bumfrick Africa… but still it’s a very cheap product.

Now, for anyone preparing for “after the fall”, you also know what to have growing in your garden or ready to plant as frozen seeds. Winter yellow or orange fleshed squash, carrots, peppers, and maybe sweet potatoes if you are in a place warm and wet enough to grow them.

The Modest Suggestion

It seems to me that a simple way to approach the problem of shortage of Vit A in poor places is to encourage the planting and eating of sweet potatoes (at least once / week). Maybe find some kind of “sweet potato curry” so some paprika can be added. Furthermore, folks who are all worked up about this problem can set up an organization to fund and distribute sweet potato plants to farmers and ship the products to the poor. I’m pretty sure that were I a dirt poor person with near starving kids and only rice to eat, I’d be more thankful for a free sweet potato a week than for being nagged into buying funny colored rice (that will undoubtedly be more expensive at the start).

I’d also suggest that perhaps some kind of dried sweet potato could be produced for use in off seasons and / or shipping more easily to remote places. Perhaps a kind of non-hot pepper can be found with Vit A levels similar to paprika and then putting 100 grams of it into a pot of rice would not be quite the challenge ;-)

So that’s my proposal. Simply push the understanding that a little bit of yellow / orange stuff a week is all you need and help make it available cheap. (Squash is also good at “11155IU (223% DV) per 100 grams” and anyone who has grown squash can attest to how hard it is not to have too many squash without even trying…)

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, Plants - Seeds - Gardening, Science Bits and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Vitamin A

  1. Power Grab says:

    I was trying to remember where I had read that conversion of beta carotene to true vitamin A requires the presence of dietary fat, and also requires some multiple of beta carotene to yield a certain amount of vitamin A. I found these two articles:

    The first article reminded me of the first research paper I ever wrote (as a college freshman, no less!). It was titled “Feeding the World” and I remember I found a lot of material in the library that discussed the pros and cons of expecting to be able to use soy to “feed the world”. One of the biggest hurdles was it was considered “poverty food” and was unpalatable. Even starved people resisted using it, it was so nasty.

    Of course, our factories these days are able to produce so-called “health foods” from it and sell them at a premium to people who expect it to improve their health. Of course, they don’t tell everyone that Buddhist monks use it to reduce their libido. Also, prisons mix it with beef (so there is at least 30% soy) so the inmates will be less prone to violence. They might talk a lot more, but they are less prone to act out.

    Of course, you weren’t talking about soy here. Sorry go to OT!

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    Another vegetable that has some vitamin A content and a surprising amount of Vitamin C is the bell pepper allowed to ripen fully. One cup diced, has about 157% of the daily required Vitamin C and 16% of Vitamin A it also goes well with many dishes.

    As you mention a bit of select usage of the proper food crops could dramatically improve the nutrition of the poor.

    In a time of famine there is also a lot to be said for a good multivitamin supplement as part of an emergency food stash, or to augment a subsistence diet. I have problems swallowing the huge vitamin pills that they like to sell now days so I crush these large vitamin tablets and add them to a large bottle of juice, and that avoids the hard to swallow issue completely.

    Fact is a full daily vitamin tablet does not need to be bigger than a small pill like an 81 mg aspirin tablet but they add lots of fillers now to make them bigger for marketing purposes.

    If folks grew sweet potatoes or carrots and other high vitamin vegetables, they could also greatly extend their storage time by grating or slicing them and drying as well. Common salt in a sealed container will hold a moisture level inside the container near 3% humidity.
    Sun dried fruit and vegetables stored in a mason jar with a small packet of table salt which has been oven dried will allow the long term storage of these food far beyond how long they could be kept as whole vegetables.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    I don’t expect many folks would want to do this sort of self sufficient intense agriculture but this little video shows what is possible with high density planting and raised bed gardening even in a city.

    Same could be done in 3rd world cultures once you get past assumptions of traditional small plot gardening and teach them the concepts for high density agriculture.

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve got a layout something like that. Not raised, but flat or maybe even slightly sunken. I’d started with raised beds, but then some of the boards around each square got rotted. It was after taking a couple out that I realized the ‘sunken beds’ kept the water in place better. Here where it’s dead dry, raised beds just dry out faster. Now I just lay down paver stones and turn over the dirt in the squares between them. Starts out a bit sunken, but over time rises up to stone level Maybe I’ll post a picture…

    I’d also “done the math” on intensive square foot gardening. I can feed us just on the available dirt if needed. About 25 foot by 50 foot or 1250 sq. feet in back and a bit more out front. Call it about 3500 total. As an acre is 44,000, that makes a 1/10 acre 4,400. And since now I’m only trying to feed 2 folks, that’s “doable”. Biggest issue is just that in a real disaster (as opposed to an economic issue) that nice city water supply is not going to be a reliable thing.

    Oh, and I do list multi-vitamin pills in my crisis kits. Always have about a years worth laying around. Much easier in an “aw shit” to grow bulk “whatever” with calories than to make a balanced vitamin source via the garden. (But still not hard… as I have a citrus tree out front for the Vit-C).

    @Power Grab:

    Nice links. They did a much more depth review of the issues than I did. I’d not realized that there was significant Vit-A in the part of brown rice that gets milled off. Yet another reason to eat brown rice… It also has some rice oil in the embryo, so helps with the Vit–A absorption.

    Interesting that we both came to very similar conclusions. Even the quote of the Indian person pointing out their 200 kinds of greens that solves the problem too. (FWIW, the leaves of green beans can be cooked and eaten as a ‘pot herb’ and is so treated in Africa. Anyone who has planted a few pole beans knows just how much bean growth you get darned quick… and we don’t even eat the greens. Well, I have, just to test them. A bit bland, but quite tolerable. Yet spinach and chard have nothing to fear from them. In ‘hard times’ I’d eat them. Or if I came up with a better way to prepare them than plain boiled…)

    Per Soy:

    I’m pretty open on topic width. This is a ‘food posting’ so anything food goes. And anything GMO. And anything related to nutrition and / or how the body works. And… well, you get the idea.

    My niece can not eat soy in any form. Causes a lot of problems for her. Interesting enough, my allergy to corn started not too long after GMO corn started being made (though I’m pretty sure it was related to a fever episode and not GMO ness… but …) while her reaction to soy came about the time loads of GMO soy started being made. Between the estrogen analogs in it, and the anti-nutrient factors, it really needs a fair amount of processing to be made edible. Tofu making is not a simple process. Any non-converted soy is more an anti-nutrient than food, IMHO. With that said, I’m quite happy with a bit of tofu and a bowl of edemame beans from time to time, and don’t think I’d be happy without soy sauce in my BBQ marinade. Just don’t put soy grits in my burger…

    When we get together for shared meals at holidays it can be interesting. I’m “no corn”. She is “no soy”. The Old College Roomie is “no wheat”. Add in a couple of vegans and vegetarians and it’s a real challenge. Still I managed to pull off a Thanksgiving Dinner for all for a decade or two. I can make corn bread without wheat, and a non-corn bread with millet for me. Gravy thickened with non-wheat starch. Stuffing made with non-wheat bread cubes. Etc. etc. It takes a lot of rice, some millet, and the occasional odd bits like arrowroot and potato starch, along with some palm oil and canola oil or safflower oil. I’ve also used sorghum flour sometimes and a bit of xanthan gum when more ‘stick’ is needed and eggs are not allowed. One year I had stuffed portabella mushrooms for the vegetarian side with turkey for the meat eaters. Both turkey and vegetarian mushroom gravies. Two “corn” breads, one with real corn ( I used blue corn so it was clear that I was not to eat that one… blue corn bread is very interesting ;-) The family traditional “scalloped corn” is a real challenge as it has wheat and corn both in it. Made one with corn and rice crackers and another for me where I swapped a legume in for the corn. Not quite the same, but close enough. Ah the joys of a food sensitivity extended family ;-)

    Oh, and one of the group had kidney stones, so I’ve got to work in the low oxalate angle too. No to spinach and such…

    I found it an interesting challenge, but other folks thought it was getting way too complicated for a one man show. The family decided to simply things and each bring what they needed the last couple of years. While a lot easier, It’s not quite the rush of doing it all on a tight schedule from sunup to just after noon service…

    But, back to this topic:

    I’ve grown the 8 Ball (rond du Niece) in a small tub next to the entry sidewalk. Even in a non-ideal place with semi-sun, I got more squash that I could use. Nice deep green ones, so will have some Vit-A in them. I didn’t look up the amount, but IMHO it would be nearly trivial for anyone to grow such a small tub of green / yellow vegetables. Pots and dirt are not hard to come by, especially if you can live with scrounged things like old cans. Add a few seeds and some “critter poo” from time to time and you can have a nice addition to that rice.

    The Indians used the seeds for a kind of high protein flour and for roasted “nuts” too. Frankly, between a pot of green beans and a pot of squash, you can cover a lot o’ what ails folks.

  5. Petrossa says:

    just a sidenote about the bees: no such explosion of sudden bee death exists…

  6. punmaster52 says:

    Add in a couple of vegans
    What they normally eat on Vega is hard to come by here on Earth?

    Something as simple as growing sweet potatoes does not require a massive government aid program.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    IFF my thesis is correct (that the colony collapse disorder is stimulated by GMO pollen) then there ought to be a large problem in the USA and little to none in EU land where GMO is not big.

    Add in that in the USA we have a massive take over by Africanized bees underway (most of the ‘desert southwest’ up to about 1/2 way point of California and the bottom half of Florida) with resultant destruction of bee hives and, well, “It’s a problem”…

    In my back yard, I used to see a fair number of honey bees doing the pollination. Now it’s mostly the big California carpenter bees. (No bother for me, as I like them. I put pictures up in a posting here. The male is a large golden bee while the females are jet black. It’s a wonderful display when a half dozen of them are working the runner beans or sage blossoms…)

    toward the bottom has pictures of the male. At the time I was not aware they were to gender forms of one bee. Further down in comments there’s the Ah Ha moment and load of links to more pictures.

    I’m not worried about the hype over honey bees. North America had plenty of natural pollinators before Europeans brought their bees over. I watch them in the garden each year. From some interesting small wasps to giant Gold Carpenter Bees and the occasional hummingbird.

  8. Paul Hanlon says:

    Great link Larry. My “allotment” is coming on now a good bit more. It is 8m x 10m (about 800sq ft). So far I have 6 of an eventual 14 beds dug up, filled with compost and topped over with soil. I could start a small quarry with the amount of stones I’ve dug up. I’m using them for the pathways. I’ll probably get ten beds dug up and planted out this year. My intention is just to grow a variety of stuff and see what takes.

    Then next year when I have some clue as to what I’m doing I’ll be more adventurous, aiming for the more expensive sorts of vegetables. I’ve also formed a border around three sides and I want to grow the taller types of plants (tomatoes, beans, raspberries, etc) around that.

    Leaving aside the monetary benefits, it’s been a wonderful thing to do healthwise. Now that I’m a programmer, I could feel my fitness levels declining a lot, and I put on nearly a stone and a half. I’ve now lost about a stone of that so far, and I’m much more energised. It’s a lot better than driving to a gym and losing the weight that way. Once all the heavy digging is done, it will only take a few hours a week to keep it maintained.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul Hanlon:

    The first “double dig” (that was really a triple dig of three shovels depth… but they were modest length shovels…) was very hard. Adobe mixed with what looked like the stone used in concrete. I suspect part of my yard had been used as the cement mixing spot during the construction of the neighborhood… back in the post WWII era when they mixed cement locally for things like sidewalks and foundations… The soil was like soft brick.

    Dug out the top layer and set aside. Dug out the second layer and set aside. Dug out the third layer and set aside. (Any sudden collections of rocks, all about thumb sized, sorted out and put in a far corner I didn’t like ;-) Then the top layer was put back in, grass down. Then the second layer back in upside down. Then the third layer now put on the top. Compost and top dressing added. Next year, did the same. MUCH easier dig and far fewer stones to sort out.

    Third year, I started to dig one square and found it was just nice soil and easy to work. After a couple of years more, it’s like composted loam all the way down. Nice worms in it too should fishing call ;-) Now I rarely fully turn a square. Only if I’ve let it run to weeds and want to bury them far enough to guarantee they don’t resprout.

    For several years I’d used a regular mower and put clippings on the street for collection. Then the penny dropped. Set aside a spot in the back yard for the compost pile. Garden got even better. Now I have a “mulching mower” and everything just stays where it grows in the lawn. Only the garden trees and garden itself contribute to the compost.

    Start with things that have large seeds and with some kind of easy to grow bean. This is going to enrich the nitrogen of your soil and large roots deal with rough hard soil better. Beans, corn, squash, that kind of thing. Move to smaller seeds like cole plants and carrots once you have the big ones working well. If warm enough, try a tomato…

    I call that “plant it and see what works” my “Darwin’s Garden ™” ;-) Where “The survivors will be eaten!” (c) Just plant some stuff and if it doesn’t work, plant something else and try again later. Starting things in pots is VERY helpful. I use a large plastic tub (a mortar mixing tub about 6 inches deep) and set the pots in that with an inch of water in the bottom. Avoids drying out. Seeds are started in pots (from the first year when you bought them started by the nursery ;-) and when something is ‘big enough’ find a spot for it in a square. That way the squares are always busy and fairly successful. You also can have a lot more productivity if the little ones spend a month or two starting in pots and only use a square for main growth and productivity.

    Oh, and of course radishes are a good thing to try for your first small seeds. Up and done in 25 days, so you get rapid feedback… and feed… ;-)

    Oh, and nothing fixes soil issues quite like Miracle Grow. Get the water nozzle on a quart sized dispenser thing. Use once or twice a week to water everything. Things that are not doing well will suddenly take off.

  10. M Simon says:

    “We don’t know what we are doing” – of course not. And nature is even worse. It performs all kinds of random experiments and yet we don’t test them the way we do GMOs. Back when radiation was an accepted way of producing genetic modifications none of that was tested. And as far as I know it still isn’t outlawed.

    And in fact natural background radiation isn’t currently outlawed. But maybe we can stop GMOs.

    What if – “horrors” – natural radiation turns a plant gene into an animal gene. We will be eating animals with unknown consequences. No testing is being done to make sure our food is kept pure from natural genetic contamination. Let us bring back Purity Of Essence as a viable social organizing principle. That will keep us safe.

    Test every grain of rice.

    It is not just man made GMOs that we need to be protected from.


    Kindly brought to you from the proponents of weaponized /sarc

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @M. Simon:

    There is a gigantic difference between natural point mutations (caused by radiation or not) and natural recombinations within related species and the strange process of GMO production.

    For example, just putting the Bt Toxin in every single cell of a plant. You can’t wash it off, and can’t get rid of it. Further, it is being put into several species at once (not a natural act). AND it is a shown allergen. As someone who is prone to food allergies I take very seriously the FACT that I might wake up one day and be unable to eat any of the major food crops. I’ve already had that happen with corn (one of the first Bt targets…) and my niece has had the same thing happen with Soy.

    So you can sarc away, but this is not a “silly walk” worry.
    It’s real, extant, and in your face right now.

    Then, orthogonal but related to that kind of issue with GMO alone, we have this amplification effect where the R.R. GMO crops drastically increase the consumption and use of RoundUp and related mixes. That, then, has a very real potential to take exposure to those very un-natural chemicals over a threshold to being damaging. That, too, is not a hypothetical. And no, one need not test every seed and every crop. Just stop doing the stupid things in the first place.

    BTW, we do test many non-GMO “experiments”. There was a potato produced via normal plant breeding. Pushing for pest resistance. In later testing they found that the toxin they had increased also was bad for the consumer, and the spud got scrapped. For thousands of years gardeners have grown various plants. Discarding the ones that made folks sick and selecting the ones that were better for us. As the process was slower, the testing could be much slower too (and yes, done on “the public”, but one garden at a time, not whole continents in one go). So we have potatoes with lower solinine, carrots that are not poison like Queen Anns Lace, beans largely lacking toxins (though Kidney Beans must be boiled or you get sick… so no slow cooker chili..). Over time the “folklore” of how to deal with the toxic bits builds up and spreads with the food plant. That doesn’t happen with massive GMO introductions.

    So please consider that your knee-jerk defense of GMO is rather unthinking, and your defense of toxins added to your food in large quantity via spraying is even more odd… sarky or not.

  12. M Simon says:

    I have a friend ( deeply into Fusion and a science fiction writer ) who is also into bees. He says that colony collapse is wildly exaggerated. It affects between 10% and 30% of colonies and was not unknown before GMOs.

    And if the plants with the BT in it would develop BT resistance in “pests” why hasn’t that resistance already happened from natural BT?

    Round up the usual suspects.

  13. M Simon says:

    So you can sarc away, but this is not a “silly walk” worry.It’s real, extant, and in your face right now.


    But neither is the worry that some natural mutation might have a similar effect. If it is a worry we need to be vigilant about everything. We have no idea what “natural” mutations are doing to our food supply.

    As to allergies? I believe it is in part due to our exaggerated interest in sanitation. Places that are too clean prevent early exposure. Early exposure seems to prevent allergies. Or maybe it just kills off the susceptible. If that is the case there is very little that can be done.

    Nature seems to work like government. Once you start fixing things you need fixes for your fixes. Still. It seems like a better alternative than “nasty, brutish, and short”.

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    What I have always wanted to try for garden soil is to try and replicate terra preta.
    It would seem that if you took some common el-cheapo BBQ charcoal (the kind that did not have any starter chemicals added) and broke it up to small pieces and dust and added it to the soil you could end up with extremely fertile soil at bargain rates. The charcoal is supposed as often used in filter media absorb all sorts of useful trace minerals and keep them readily available to the plants. The only question is if common BBQ charcoal (the cheap stuff) would classify as high temperature or low temperature char. Given you comment above, perhaps a presoak by marinating the charcoal in miracle grow would be a workable way to get things off to a running start.

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    additional info on charcoal manufacture — not sure about the coal addition to the natural wood fraction.

    I guess the only sure way to find out is do some in a few pots and find out how the plants like it.

  16. Petrossa says:

    @chiefio: same thing about USA even better actually. And don’t forget commercial beehives as being used today are cultured with little genetic diversification. Logically if an outside agent would attack such as a mite infection it would spread fast. As of now pesticides have more upsides than downside imho. but this is a sidetrack.. sorry

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @M. Simon:

    Yes, CCD was known prior to GM and Roundup, but it was at a much lower level. We’re talking “occasional and odd” compared with “all the time and threatening the industry”. (At least here in the USA where GMO is ubiquitous and Roundup flows like water…)

    Per Bt resistance: The reason is rather simple and very well understood. Prior to GMO Bt, the toxin was only to be found in the cultures of Bacillus Thurengensis that were used by organic food growers to protect their crops. This was a very tiny part of all crops grown, and even then only rarely used. These bacteria were sprayed on a very small part of any given crop at that (only if a patch showed bugs present) and would be washed off with the next rain / watering. Total bug exposure to Bt was near nil on a population basis, so near nil pressure toward selection for resistance. There is a constant counter pressure to lose any unnecessary metabolic activity as it sucks energy and produces no gain. In that context, any Bt resistant form would have more pressure to lose the gene than keep it.

    That same process, BTW, is why we need Vit C. In many / most animals it is a product, but being nearly everywhere in the diet, it was not needed to make it ourselves, so we lost that bit of metabolism. Cats have lost the ability to make taurine via the same process as it is at high levels in carnivore diets. This is a very well known process.

    Now compare today. MASSIVE quantities of Bt toxin. Not just in a few bacteria, but in megatons of crop, crop wastes, roots left in the grown, pollen deposited on every surface for a thousand miles around (corn pollen coats everything during tasseling season in Iowa…), feed mills, shipping and trucks, dinner plates and garbage dumps. Any bug that CAN’T survive some Bt is under significant stress. Any bug that develops Bt toxin resistance will have a much higher reproduction rate that the others. It is inevitable that in the context of near ubiquitous and massive exposure bugs will be strongly selected for Bt tolerance. This process, too, is well known and well understood. Synthetic pesticide toxins have frequent rates of generation of resistance from just such over use.

    So, you see, it is nothing to do with the toxin per se, but everything to do with the over use of the toxin by putting it nearly everywhere in all sorts of crops at all times.

    (I grew up in farm country and went to an Ag school. This kind of stuff was common talk of the day and often ag examples were used in class. Perhaps that background difference is why I’m more aware of it. I was ‘pre-med’ when I entered and had chem and biochem along with upper division genetics before I took a job in a hospital and decided I didn’t like spending all day working with sick people…)

    Per the variation in mutation worry level:

    It is very different to have a natural point mutation vs having engineered changes that influence an entire continent wide planting. For starters, most point mutations go exactly nowhere. Founders stock seeds are used to grow out a seed crop. Founders stock is very highly scrutinized and any off type seeds removed. This is the “gold standard” that the seed company keeps exceptionally pure. The seed crop is multiplied to make the product. Now you have, maybe, a couple of dozen seeds with that point mutation (assuming it happened in a Founders Stock seed that got sent on for multiplication). Heck, call it 100 with that mutation. This is then sold as planting seed and goes to making product that is sold. Now you might have 1000 to 10,000 grains with that mutation expressed. Mixed in and diluted by the millions of tons of non-mutated seeds and destined to be eaten, not planted.

    Compare with GMO stock. EVERY seed has the change. It is NOT a point mutation in one or two nucleosides of DNA. (BTW, the codon of 3 nucleosides codes for the amino acid to use, but it has redundancy, so many point mutations change one nucleoside to a different one, that codes for the same amino acid and the same protein…) A GMO has had a whole block of genes shot into it. WHERE a gene is also matters. Wrapped around all these genes are control sequences that determine what is done, and when. Shooting in that block has several potential very bad effects. It can knock out a whole bunch of other genes (as it gets whacked into the middle of them) or the control structures around them. It also has it’s own control structure that is “locked on” to assure those genes get expressed. It is possible for that “lock on” control to extend to other gene fragments in the chunk where this gene gets inserted. So now you have:

    1) Viral gene used to make the insertion carried forward into the new genome.
    2) Lock On control genes causing who knows what to be constantly turned on.
    3) Damaged original genes that can do anything from “nothing” with a non-coding sequence to “frankenfood” production of completely alien proteins if the broken gene codes for something bizarre, to “lethal” as that gene was really important to the plant to live.
    4) The “package” of toxin producing genes forced locked on making loads of toxin all the time in every cell of the plant where it can not be washed off or removed like surface sprays.
    5) And a few more bits, but that goes into complicated areas and not going to make sense to a lot of folks, plus isn’t all that informative. The epigenetics land, for example.

    Now comes the fun part.

    Those transgenic seeds are sprouted and grown out. Most of them die from the damage. Those few that can survive form the core of the development stock that is used to make the founders stock. After enough grows and trials, a founders stock is produced that has managed to shake off the ‘self lethal’ changes and most of the ‘truly bizarre’ unexpected changes and is more or less close to type for the desired product (so those with lousy flavor or a tendency to grow roots in the air get removed…) and after a few ‘trials’ to show acceptable yield and such go on to be Founders Stock. That, then, is used to produce the planting seed stock where every single plant expresses that constantly locked on Bt production in every single cell. This gets planted on millions of acres of land that all gets soaked in repeated doses of chemicals that are systemic (so also pervade the plant) and shown to be bad for animals. This is what you eat.

    See the difference?

    Per Allergies:

    These are one of the adaptations to Malaria. (Did a posting on that once…) This might be it:

    or this related one:

    This is another story about Favism and malaria for another example:

    Essentially, humanity has developed 3 different ways of dealing with the malaria parasite as we try to mutate and adapt to it. One in Africa, sickle cell, when from both parents is an sickness, but when only one copy is present, confers some resistance. Favism from the middle east makes you more sensitive to cell oxidative stress (that also kills the malaria buggers) and so fava beans kick off a bad reaction. Better in that it doesn’t tend to kill off as many folks and they can avoid fava beans… Finally, in Europe, was the innovation of IgE, immunoglobulin E. It’s the fast acting shock troops of the immunity world. Take a long time to train (need very long exposures to develop a reaction) but once mobilized, any new contact with the stimulus protein causes an overwhelming immediate response. Better in that you have nobody dying from a drippy nose, but worse in that it tends to misfire on all sorts of other things and has you miserable lots of times for no reason.

    So those of us with allergies have an added immunoglobulin that is especially useful for dealing with long term persistent exposure to low levels of a protein that otherwise would not cause a response. Exactly the profile of what parasitic organisms try to do.

    So not a sanitation link.

    (I grew up in farm country up to my eyeballs in dirt. We used to go swimming in the drainage ditch / pond under the train bridge downstream of the cow pastures… that was bit stagnant and sometimes had “interesting” odors… It it was a dirt or disease or whatever in the area, I was exposed to it at some time. At about 4 years old one of my older sisters made a ‘mud pie’ and challenged me to eat it… wasn’t bad, but the few grains of sand in it were a bit gritty… Even now I dig in the garden each year and deal with mixing “bunny poo” into the pots, often by hand. I’m not bashful about dirt. Oh, and I worked in hospitals for a few years breathing whatever walked in the door… “To sanitary” is not the issue…)

    Now, where there is a link, is that folks have this great system all set up to do battle with parasites and no parasites to kill… so it gets busy attacking something. After all, there MUST be a parasite somewhere. That is what it is made to do. Seek out the hidden. There is some interesting work showing that folks with too much allergy problem can have that reduced by introducing a parasite, such as hookworm, so the IgE system has something to keep it busy.

    Personally, having grown up in a place where there historically was malaria ( N. California) and where a case happened in Yuba City about 12 miles from my home near a river I’d swim in about the time I was living there… I’m rather willing to accept my sniffles instead of malaria…

    OK, now put it together:

    Some proteins are more likely to trigger an IgE reaction than others. This is by design. They are classed as “known allergens”. Bt Toxin is one of them.

    Bt Toxin is now to be found all over the place. Blowing on the wind with corn pollen. In just about any food with corn products in it (that include the solid fraction). And it is not just corn, but Bt is being put into ever more species every year.

    Being constantly exposed to an unusual protein is what causes the IgE system to mobilize, so in those of use with that system, ubiquitous Bt exposure will eventually cause an IgE reaction (that is what the system is designed to do. NOT react to the ‘one off’, but when that strange stuff is around for years, figure it is a parasite and not just a strange food you ate during one week of the season).

    WHEN that happens, and it is a when, not an if, that person will be unable to eat foods with the Bt Toxin in them. Remember it is in every cell on the membrane surface and can NOT be removed. WHEN that is the majority of all commercial foods, that person will find it very hard to eat.

    Now I can’t say for sure what caused my corn reaction. I think it was the result of exposure to corn chowder while having a fever of 105 F or so ( all Ig reactions get hyped up with fevers), but it is possible that at the same time was about when Bt was being added. What I can say is that any attempt to eat corn by me “ends badly”. I now get to read every label on every package I buy and inspect the bottom of every bun, roll, bread loaf, etc. for those horrid little corn grits So the consequences of such a reaction are NOT a theoretical.

    So that is why adding a known allergen to most of the food supply is a Very Bad Thing. And entirely different from some point mutation in one codon somewhere in a seed that makes all of one plant.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    I just put the lid on the BBQ when done cooking and let the coals damp out from oxygen starvation. Then later when cool at the stuff and ashes to the compost heap. Having been heated in use, it has had any nasty stuff cooked out (coal tars from the ‘coal’ portion in “char” “coal”… yes, the standard briquette is a mix of powdered coal and wood char… only the fru fru kinds are all wood…) and mixed with the compost heap has plenty of minerals and such to soak up. Or you can buy the wood kind and crumble without use, then water in with the Miracle Grow (no need to soak in it…)

    Oh, and do remember that coal is just old squashed cooked wood… All the “nasties” in it like Uranium and such started in the wood… Cooking wood releases a lot of stuff too. Creosote is not exactly mild stuff (though it was used to treat various infections and inhaled to cure tuberculosis in the old days…)


    Thanks! Nice to see the graph. Puts things in a better context.

    Saw an interview with a bee keeper that showed that number of hives might be a poor statistic. He was talking about the need to ‘divide the hives’ at a much higher rate to make up for losses. As a hive collapses, a non-collapsed hive gets divided in two to replace it. Due to more hives collapsing, more divisions must be done. Those new hives don’t make excess honey until they have something like 30,000 new bees, so are less productive overall. The net-net of it was that costs were going much higher from all this replacement activity and productivity was down.

    From that I’d generalize that more HIVES is not necessarily more BEES and that it can be a symptom of hive collapse that you need more new hives to make up for it… It is an interesting question about how to interpret the graphs. ( I’d lean toward what the bee keepers were saying about increasing colony collapses as they are dealing with it all the time… at least until there was some evidence they were not being honest about their observations…)

    For me, I”m not all that worried as there are lots of other pollinators. In my garden, mostly the Carpenter Bees and a few bumble bees, along with some other odd bugs. (Flies looked like the pollinator for my parsnips when I let them run to seed one year… and wasps do figs and some others.) The notion that we have no squash without honey bees is broken. I get plenty (including viable seeds) and mostly see big black bees crawling into the flowers ;-) So I’m not real worried about it ( i.e. no panic) just more curious about “what? and why?”.

  19. sabretoothed says:

    This Beta Carotene myth regarding Vit A is a Vegan myth, as 40% of the population has a problem converting. Also if you are hypothyroid, you will not be able to convert.

    Beta-Carotene 15,15′-Monooxygenase turns beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Genetic mutations may decrease conversion rate. Affected individuals may turn orange if they eat too many carrots, and may be vitamin A deficient in spite of adequate beta carotene intake. These individuals may benefit from supplementation of real Vitamin A as retinyl palmitate.
    BCMO1 rs4889294:T>C.
    BCMO1 R267S rs12934922:A>T.
    BCMO1 A379V rs7501331:C>T.

    You need to get vitamin A from Fats, like Butter, Ghee, Cod liver oil not carrots :P

    Vitamin A, Exercise and Zinc improve cellular response to Thyroid Hormones

    Repletion studies in VA- and iodine-deficient animals suggest: 1) primary hypothyroidism in animals with concurrent moderate VAD and ID does not reduce the efficacy of high doses of oral VA; 2) VAD does not reduce the efficacy of dietary iodine to correct pituitary-thyroid axis dysfunction due to iodine deficiency; and 3) given alone, without iodine repletion, high-dose VA supplementation in combined VAD and ID may reduce thyroid hyperstimulation and reduce risk for goiter.

    “The conversion of beta carotene into vitamin A is dependent on thyroid hormone. In a low thyroid state, conversion stagnates and beta carotene builds up, causing a yellow tint in palmar and plantar surfaces. The lack of immune-boosting vitamin A may lead to chronic respiratory, nasal, pharyngeal and ear infections.”. Also my tongue has the scalloping. (pics)

  20. sabretoothed says:

    Watch this as well, Copper and Magnesium are the most important elements.

    Vitamin A is critical to make Ceruloplasmin

    And Vitamin D lowers Vitamin A, which in turn causes drop in Ceruloplasmin

    When Ceruloplasmin drops, then you become both copper toxic, and also copper deficient. This makes the Zinc drop, but its dropped because there is too much unbound copper.

    Most antibiotics can put you into a copper dsyregulation state.

    Magnesium is needed to regulate ACTH, to protect the adrenal glands from stress, as adrenals can also reduce the amount of ceruloplasmin that is working.

  21. E.M.Smith says:


    Yet even a link sympathetic to the assertion of poor conversion does, in fact, find conversion happens:

    First, vitamin A is only found in animal foods. It’s a myth that plant foods are high in this nutrient. Instead, fruits and vegetables are high in a family of phytonutrients called carotenoids. The body must convert three of these compounds—beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin—to vitamin A. But in humans, this conversion is quite inefficient, with about 10 to 20 molecules of carotenoids needed to make one of vitamin A. In addition, 80 percent or more of natural vitamin A from animal sources is absorbed, but only three percent or less of carotenoids from plant foods are absorbed.

    So yes, it’s inefficient. But it does convert. Similarly, the wiki says:

    Newer research has shown that the absorption of provitamin-A carotenoids is only half as much as previously thought. As a result, in 2001 the US Institute of Medicine recommended a new unit, the retinol activity equivalent (RAE). Each μg RAE corresponds to 1 μg retinol, 2 μg of β-carotene in oil, 12 μg of “dietary” beta-carotene, or 24 μg of the three other dietary provitamin-A carotenoids.

    So we have about a 12:1 or at worst 24:1 ratio. OK, how much Vit-A (animal) is needed?

    A sample vegan diet for one day that provides sufficient vitamin A has been published by the Food and Nutrition Board (page 120[12]). On the other hand, reference values for retinol or its equivalents, provided by the National Academy of Sciences, have decreased. The RDA (for men) of 1968 was 5000 IU (1500 μg retinol). In 1974, the RDA was set to 1000 RE (1000 μg retinol), whereas now the Dietary Reference Intake is 900 RAE (900 μg or 3000 IU retinol). This is equivalent to 1800 μg of β-carotene supplement (3000 IU) or 10800 μg of β-carotene in food (18000 IU).

    Or about 10 Milligrams…

    Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, as each 100 g serving of raw carrots provides 8,285 mcg of this nutrient. According, you need just 1,800 mcg daily to maintain healthy levels of vitamin A, so 100 g of carrots provides more than enough beta-carotene to do so. Beta-carotene is fat-soluble, meaning that you need to eat it with a source of fat in order for your body to properly absorb the carotenoid.

    So about 130 GRAMS of carrot will give you enough for the day. I’ve been known to eat about 4 times that in one sitting of “mashed roots” (mixed carrots and spuds) with butter on them. Swapping the great animal source of A of butter to a vegetarian margarine source would reduce the total A, but still provide the fat needed for good absorption. Or just frying them in oil instead of boiling (even in poor countries frying is common – see Asian stir fry prevalence…)

    Yes, it would be better if they were eating fried eggs and ham. But a plate of stir fried yams and greens will still provide plenty of vitamin A post carotenoid conversion.

    BTW, I’ve also got an existence proof. Out of the 6 family members (ours and spouses twin) there are 2 vegetarians and 2 vegans. ALL of them have fine night vision. They have been vegetarians for a decade or more now, so it’s not matter of stored Vit-A. They have zero symptoms of any Vit-A deficiency. QED.

    Yes, for folks living on bare minimum subsistence, having only low levels of beta carotene would be sub-optimal. But it is better than zero and is “good enough” for the portion of them getting a little fat in the diet.

    In general, I’d caution that what I read in your tone is an absolutist approach to a relativist problem. “you will not be able to convert.” “You need to get vitamin A from Fats, like Butter, Ghee, Cod liver oil not carrots”, etc. When the reality is that while some folks with metabolic problems have difficulty converting beta-carotene, it isn’t zero, and while I agree that animal sources are more efficient, carrots are quite adequate for many. There needs to be more awareness of the “range and scale” and less absolute “does not”… I’d rather save the 60% who have no issues at all with conversion than have the 40% with some conversion issues prevent any action. (Then again, I was steeped in population medicine early… and saving most while losing a few is one of the accepted dogmas…)

    Also, per the iodine deficiency issue:

    For folks in that state, have them put some iodized salt on their mashed roots and rice. No, really, China made it a criminal act to sell non-iodized salt and figures that alone will boost national average IQ by something like 10 points. (Back in the remote parts folks made salt from relatively iodine deficient sources and there were significant problems there. This fixed it.) The USA had iodine deficiency problems in the earlier years, also now gone from iodized salt. It’s an easy thing to do at the national level for both advanced and developing countries. So don’t fret over the issue, fix it.

    That makes my position simply this:

    You are fretting over details that are correct, but not dominant. Important after the first pass of gross provision of beta-carotene (or other carotenoids) but not significant enough to stop that step. It’s a triage thing. First fix the majority case of simply zero Vit-A source, then worry about the next tier of folks with metabolic issues, low iodine / thyroid issues, and other minor cases. Eventually work on the overall raising of income levels so they can have that eggs and ham…

    Per mineral balancing and the rest:

    Yes, the metabolism is a strange, wondrous, and intricate thing. Generally we just have to give it plenty of what it needs and ignore it. Sometimes the details are interesting. On very rare occasions the details are highly important. You can spend your whole life exploring the details…

  22. sabretoothed says:

    The problem is nobody measures their beta carotene. My Vit A levels are quite low, yet my beta carotene levels are 3 times out of the range. So basically not converting well. I think the animal one is the most important one, the other one exists, but this one has been overpumped by the Vegan cheerleaders.

    With salt, the problem is its potassium iodide. Your body needs iodine and iodide.

    In USA bromide has replaced iodine in bread.

    Iodine = Breast, Prostrate and Stomach

    Iodide = Thyroid, Breast, Salivary Gland, Skin

    TSH rises with Iodine use – Iodine Sodium system is stimulated by the TSH to allow the Iodine into the cells. Can stay elevated up to 16 months. TSH will drop once thyroid starts working properly again.

  23. sabretoothed says:

    But seriously, just watch this, its more to do with magnesium and copper and how taking zinc actually could be not that good. As copper has bound and unbound forms and a special enzyme.

    Synthetic Vit C and A are toxic basically and useless. You need Cod and real Vit C from whole foods with the full copper molecule attached

    With Vitamin C the molecular power comes from the whole molecule, which includes the copper parts tryosinase especially.

    Supplementing with Ascorbic acid doesn’t work properly

    Tyrosinase is a copper-containing enzyme present in plant and animal tissues that catalyzes the production of melanin and other pigments from tyrosine by oxidation, as in the blackening of a peeled or sliced potato exposed to air.[2] It is found inside melanosomes which are synthesised in the skin melanocytes. In humans, the tyrosinase enzyme is encoded by the TYR gene

    The same with synthetic retinol. People get toxicity as missing the whole complex, if you consume cod oil its highly unlikely and works properly.

Comments are closed.