November 10, 1999 |
Corn that has been genetically modified to kill a destructive insect may not be as harmful to the monarch butterfly as was feared. But it clearly poses some level of risk that needs to be better understood. That was the broad but inconclusive message from a scientific symposium last week near Chicago sponsored by Monsanto Co., DuPont Co., and other companies that have staked their future on the development of genetically engineered crops. Those companies scrambled to fund additional research after Cornell University entomologist John E. Losey reported in May that monarch larvae in laboratory studies ate less, grew more slowly and died more quickly after eating pollen from genetically altered corn.
May 28, 1999 |
Last week's report in the journal Nature indicating that genetically altered corn is toxic to monarch-butterfly caterpillars came as no surprise to Shepherd Ogden. In his newly revised book on vegetable gardening, Straight-Ahead Organic, the eloquent president of the Cook's Garden mail-order kitchen-garden seed and supply firm, warns of the dangers of messing around with nature - especially when profit is the goal. The corn story illustrates Ogden's point. In their quest to protect major farm crops from pests - and, not coincidentally, to sell more seeds - seed companies have developed a strain of corn that contains genes from the organic microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, which kills corn borers and related insects.
May 14, 1999 |
The warm weather has caused grass and tree pollen to hit allergy sufferers suddenly in the last seven days, a leading local allergist says. It could have been worse. The pollen season started two weeks later than usual, said Donald V. Dvorin, and the pollen being measured in the air is less than in the worst of recent years. Dvorin is a physician with the Asthma Center, which has offices in Center City and four New Jersey and Pennsylvania counties. The center is one of two collectors of pollen counts in the Philadelphia region for the National Allergy Bureau in Milwaukee.
October 26, 1998 |
Thanks to the damp spring and the dry summer, it's been a bad year for allergy and asthma sufferers. "It's been terrible," said Myra Sarubin, a computer engineer from Mount Laurel, Burlington County. "I've always had allergies," she said. "I've had asthma on top of that since the late '60s. " And with that background, she said, this year has "definitely been the worst that I've experienced. " Sister William Catherine Brannen, a second grade teacher in Bryn Mawr, has been allergic to ragweed for three decades.
May 14, 1998 |
Last Thursday, when Ian Riley started sneezing and could not stop, his parents called allergist Donald Dvorin for an appointment. Yesterday, Dvorin managed to squeeze him in at his Mount Laurel office. The physician gave the Cherry Hill teen a couple of squirts of Astelin, a nasal spray, and the sneezing stopped. "This is the worst allergy season in my life," said Riley, 14. If it feels like the worst allergy season to Riley, that is only because it very well might be one of the worst allergy seasons in decades, certainly in many allergists' memories.
April 6, 1998 |
Pollen isn't just the stuff that coats our windshields with a fine powder and makes some of us sneeze uncontrollably in the warm weather months; it's also pure male sex. The birds and the wheeze, if you will. Pollen is "tiny little grains which represent the male half of the fertilization process," said Dr. Michael Phillips, a professor, clinician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's allergy and immunolgy department. "It's spread to the female half, where fertilization takes place.
April 6, 1998 |
Thank your lucky pollen grains if you don't suffer from seasonal allergies. For those who do, life in the spring and summer can be unbearable. Molly Damian, 26, who used to commute from Philadelphia to her job in Plymouth Meeting, remembers how debilitating her allergies could get. "One time my allergies were so bad that my eyes were almost swollen shut," said Damian, a registered nurse who now works in a Port Richmond dialysis unit. "The thought of driving on the Schuylkill and not being able to see didn't thrill me. I called in sick.
April 6, 1998 |
El Nino is making us el sicko. The world's best-known climate confuser, responsible for our mild winter, is also putting allergy sufferers under the weather. "Due to the unusual effects of El Nino, with the warm and moist winter, plants have survived well, resulting in more pollen and an earlier and longer allergy season," said Dr. Michael Phillips, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's allergy and immunology department. We're going to be hit with a higher than normal amount of pollen because some of the buds on trees and in grass and weeds are usually killed as a result of cold weather, especially ice storms, said Phillips, who divides his time at Penn teaching, performing research and treating patients with allergies.
March 9, 1998 |
What else can we blame on El Nino? "This [is becoming] a very tough year for sinus allergy sufferers," Dr. Donald J. Dvorin, an allergist at the Asthma Center in Philadelphia, said from his Cherry Hill office. "We are expecting an earlier peak of the spring pollen season," Dvorin said, "because of the warm weather and, of course, [because] the rain and moisture have been tremendous. " What does Dvorin call it? "The El Nino effect. " This is the earliest that he has seen evidence of pollen in the air since he came to Philadelphia in 1985.