25May2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

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Insects Could Save our Lives

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

There are no pests, no weeds, in nature. There are beings who get in the way of humans growing food, or destroying the habitat in order to take up residence and make service centres for these human populations. Billions of insects are killed by pesticides alone for this purpose.

Human beings have used insects as medicine in different human cultures throughout the world, but very little research was done to convert local use into proven, standardized medicine. Entomotherapy is a branch of science that uses insects for medicine. The rise of antibiotic resistant infections has forced pharmaceutical research into looking for new resources. Many insects, used in alternative medicine, are now being tested for mainstream medical products. FDA, for instance, recently approved the flu vaccine, Flublok, which is derived from cells taken from the ovaries of the fall armyworm moth.

One insect alone, the honey bee, provides honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and an anti-inflammatory peptide melittin. Honey is applied to skin to treat scar tissue, rashes and burns, and as an eye poultice, for digestive problems and as a general health restorative. It is taken hot to treat colds, coughs, laryngitis, tuberculosis, throat infections and lung diseases.

Apitoxin (honey bee venom) is applied through direct stings to relieve arthritis, rheumatism, polyneuritis and asthma. Propolis, used by bees as a hive insulator and sealant, is said to have antibiotic, anaesthetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Royal jelly is used to treat anaemia, ulcers, arteriosclerosis and hypertension. Bee pollen is eaten as a health restorative.

Over a thousand protein families have been identified in the saliva of blood-feeding insects; these may provide useful drugs such as anticoagulants, vasodilators, antihistamines and anaesthetics.

Here are some lesser known insects who are used in human medicine :

1. The University of Miami is researching the use of the venom of the South American Devil Tree Ant in rheumatoid arthritis. Half the patients were injected with venom extract. The other half with placebos. Those who received the venom derivative showed dramatic reduction in the number and intensity of inflamed joints, and marked increases in their freedom of motion. Patients who received the placebo showed no improvement. A U.S. patent is pending on the chemical.

Many native healers use ants. Black Mountain Ant extracts dilate blood vessels that supply the penis. The venom of the Red Harvester Ant was used to cure rheumatism, arthritis and poliomyelitis. The South American tree ant, Pseudomyrmex sp., commonly called as the Samsum Ant’s venom can reduce inflammation, inhibit tumour growth and treat liver ailments.

Even 3,000 years ago the mandibles of soldier ants were used as stitches. The ant was agitated, and when it opened its jaws , it was placed around the wound to be stitched and the mouth allowed to close. The ant's body was then pinched away, leaving the head holding the wound together.

2. Several African cultures use poultices made from ground grasshoppers as pain relievers for migraines. Neurologists hypothesize that grasshopper toxins stimulate the human central nervous system, and dilate blood vessels, increasing circulation. Powdered, sun-dried, grasshopper is turned into a tea for the treatment of asthma and hepatitis.

3. Across Southeast Asia, healers have capitalized on blister beetles’ healing powers since ancient times. Also known as “Spanish Fly,” the beetles represent humankind’s first remedy for erectile dysfunction. Blister beetle secretions reduce burning pain sensations commonly associated with urinary tract infections, insect bites, kidney problems, and burns.

Blister beetles secrete cantharidin, which is effective in treating severe viral infections, because it prevents viral cell reproduction, and may be useful in treatment of cancerous tumours resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. A number of research papers have been published confirming that cantharidin has multiple effects on cancer cells.

4. Emerging science suggests that silkworm extracts may have benefits, as dietary supplements, for patients with heart disease and circulatory disorders. Preliminary studies indicate they reduce serum cholesterol, and dissolve vascular plaque. Boiled silkworm pupae  have been used by Chinese medicine to treat apoplexy, bronchitis, convulsions and frequent urination. A bacteria that lives in the digestive system of silkworms contains a substance known as serrapeptase. This substance appears to offer pain relief for people with back injuries. There are studies underway to see if they can also help with sports injuries.

5. Traditional Asian practitioners use centipedes to treat tetanus, seizures, and convulsions. Centipedes are dried, ground into a paste, and applied topically to sores and carbuncles. 

6. Ayurveda uses termites, and their mounds, for ulcers, rheumatic diseases, anaemia, and pain. In Africa Termites are used in asthma, bronchitis, influenza, whooping cough.

7. Spider silk is an ideal material to use in skin grafts, or ligament implants, because it is one of the strongest known natural fibres, and triggers little immune response. Spider silk may also be used to make fine sutures for stitching nerves, or eyes, to heal with little scarring.

8. The Jatropha Leaf Miner, a moth who feeds on the Jatropha plant, is an example of an insect considered a pest who has medicinal value. The larvae of the insect are harvested, boiled, and mashed into a paste which is administered topically and is said to induce lactation, reduce fever, and soothe gastrointestinal tracts.

9. In southwestern Nigeria, an infected foot is treated by smearing and rubbing mashed mole crickets on it.

10. Locusts are eaten in post childbirth anaemia, lung diseases, asthma and chronic cough.

11. The May Beetle is used as a remedy for anaemia and rheumatism. The Peanut Beetle for asthma, arthritis, tuberculosis and the Palm Beetle for earache.

12. Cicadas are crushed and applied to migraine headaches and ear infection.

13. The Red Velvet Mite is eaten in urogenital disorders, and paralysis.

14. A mass of boiled Mealybugs was ingested to alleviate the affects of poisonous mushrooms and other fungi, or diarrhoea, and to clean the teeth and in the treatment of caries.

15. In the heads of cockroaches are chemical compounds that can kill Escherichia coli (E. Coli) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), two harmful bacteria that are resistant to most drugs. It was discovered that tissues, taken from the brains and nervous system of the insects, killed off over 90% of MRSA infections and E. coli.

16. Scientists from the Institute for Biomedical Research, Barcelona, have carried out successful in vitro tests, using wasp venom, to kill cancer cells. Wasp venom contains Polybia MPI (from venom of the wasp Polybiapaulista), which shows anti tumour activity and kills only cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells around it.

17. Studies on caterpillar venom show that cecropins, which are a group of peptides isolated from the caterpillar blood of the Giant Silk Moth Hyalophoracecropia, have anti-microbial activity, and have been used as a potent anti-cancer agent against a variety of tumour cell lines. Cecropins are active against several mammalian lymphomas and leukaemia, and may offer novel strategies for the treatment of bladder cancer.

18. In 1993 Margatoxin was synthesized from the venom of the Central American bark scorpion. Patented by Merck, it has the potential to prevent bypass graft failure. Scorpion venom extract has been shown to be able to detect and spotlight cancer cells, under a special light used during surgery.

All these insects are being killed in the millions everyday as pests. Unless we take action to protect and develop our environment sustainably, and get rid of pesticides/herbicides and poisons that kill them and us, the window of chance for the discovery of new medicinal agents will be closed forever. One day we will find that the millions of insects we have killed, through pest control, could have saved our lives. By then it might be too late for them and us.

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Actual Science of Whom an Egg Eater Kills

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

I came across a blog by an Indian software engineer, who claimed that he had not eaten eggs because he was a Hindu vegetarian but, since he was curious about “actual facts”, he did some research and has come to the conclusion that eating eggs is ok, because no chicks are killed in the process and that, since eggs are not animal flesh, they were vegetarian. This was his reasoning to start eating eggs and yet be called vegetarian. “Laying eggs to a chicken is similar to the menstrual cycle for a women. This means that hens do not need to be pregnant to lay eggs. Every chicken lays a certain number of eggs each week and peaks for the first 2-3 years after which it slowly drops off but still continues until 5 years which is its life expectancy.” He ended by saying that he demanded science over religion. Unfortunately every word he wrote was rubbish.

So, here is the actual science of whom an egg eater kills every time he eats an omelet :

The eggs we eat come from hens in giant industrial hatcheries. But when fertile eggs hatch to produce these hens, 50% are male—and the egg business has no use for male chicks.

Layer hens and their chicks are different to chickens that are bred and raised for meat production. Layer hens are bred to produce eggs, whereas meat chickens are bred to grow large breast muscle and legs.

At the layer-hen hatcheries, supplying the egg industry with layer hens, the eggs are developed in industrial incubators. Once hatched, the newborn chicks pass down a production line to be sexed and sorted. Small or weak female chicks, and all male chicks, are separated from the healthy female chicks and then killed.

Male chicks are an unwanted byproduct: they cannot lay eggs and they are not suitable for chicken-meat production, as they don’t grow fast enough (broilers or chickens grown for meat are killed in six weeks). 7 billion male chicks are killed annually. They are mashed and fed to the female chicks, or used as feed for other animals.

A chick is put on a conveyor belt as soon as it is born. It is picked up manually and a “ chicken sexer” ( this is actually a human’s job !) squeezes this little baby’s anus ( anal vent also called cloaca) so that its faeces comes out and he can see whether the chick has a small bump inside. If so, this is a male chick and it is put aside to be killed. (By the way, the salary for a chicken sexer in England is Pound 40,000 but hardly anyone applies. 'What does papa do?' He looks at baby chick anuses the whole day). The average life of a male chick, in the egg industry, is one day.

The forms of killing are:

1.    The chicks are thrown into gas chambers and then gassed with high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Gassing results in gasping and head shaking and, depending on the mixture of gases used, it may take up to two minutes for the chick to die. Remember how the world objected to Hitler doing that with people. He probably learnt it from the poultry industry.

2.    Being thrown, fully conscious, into macerating (high speed grinding ) machines. “Mechanical destruction” is an approved method of “culling chicks and ducklings”.

3.    In smaller poultries the chicks simply have their necks broken. The sexers check the anus and then twist the baby’s neck and throw it into a heap of dead bodies. The industry calls it “ cervical dislocation”. This is recommended by the American Veterinary Association, God bless them. So is “thoracic compression”, which means that the man squeezes the chest till the heart stops.

4.    Electrocution. The chicken is thrown into water through which a current passes and it writhes till it dies. At the end of the day the current is switched off and the dead bodies taken out. If it is a large poultry a high-speed vacuum sucks chicks through a series of pipes to an electrified kill plate.

5.    Another common way is to throw the live chicks into plastic bags and, when it is full, seal them so that the chicks slowly suffocate. This is usually done to pipped eggs. A pipped egg, or pip, is one where the chick has not been successful in fully escaping the egg shell during the hatching process, but is alive inside it and no one in the egg factory is bothered to help it out (after all its only a chick and time is short).

All these methods are legal internationally. According to the British Egg Industry (BEIS) spokesman “The practice of culling male chicks has been in place as long as the industry has been there anywhere in the world”.

In 2016 the United Egg Producers, which represents the egg industry in the United States, announced that it was committing itself to new technology that would stop the killing by 2020. This was after intense pressure from animal welfare organizations in the US and Europe. In 2015, a video went viral of an Israeli animal rights activist shutting down a chick shredding machine and challenging a police officer to turn it back on. Farm Forward challenged Unilever, which buys 350 million eggs annually, with a video of chicks being rolled on industrial conveyor belts and dropped down garbage disposals. More than a million people saw it. No US company did anything for four years.

However, a new technology could put an end to the annual live-shredding of billions of male chicks worldwide – by not letting them be born. German and Dutch scientists have found a way to detect male eggs.

Some years ago scientists at the University of Leipzig discovered that female eggs contain a hormone, called estrone sulfate, which appears when the egg is just 9 days old (it takes 21 days to hatch ) and developed a chemical marker like a pregnancy test.

Dutch technology company Hatch Tech has made an automated machine to conduct this test in egg hatcheries which is easy to use, scalable, precise, hygienic and, above all, fast – the eggs can’t be out of the incubator for more than two hours.

A laser beam burns a 0.3mm-wide hole in the shell. Then, air pressure is applied to the shell exterior, pushing a drop of fluid out of the hole which is tested for the hormone. The process takes one second per egg. The patented process is called Seleggt. The 9 day old male eggs are processed into animal feed, leaving only female chicks to hatch.

In November 2018 a Berlin supermarket starting selling these eggs. These No Kill eggs are called Respeggt and they will go on sale all over Germany in 2019 and Europe by 2020. By determining the chick’s sex long before it hatches, producers can make sure that almost every single chick that’s born is female. The goal is 100% female chicks,

The project was funded by the government of Germany – unlike the Indian government, whose poultry scientists' main achievement, in CARI Bareilly, has been proving that eggs that are boiled in salt absorb it, so people don’t have to buy more salt !

As we stand now in India, every egg eater eats the bodies of male chicks. Don’t be fooled by labels like “Humane” - it is impossible to buy eggs that haven’t been part of a male-chick killing process. “Cage-free” only means the chickens are not in cages. But they are crowded into windowless sheds, with thousands of birds on the floor and little room to move. Male chicks are still killed. “Free range” means the same. Even the term “certified organic” only guarantees that animals are raised without hormones and antibiotics.

And, male chicks aren’t the only victims of the egg production process: hens are typically slaughtered in a year when their egg laying rates start to decline, even though their normal lifespan is 15 years.

They have their beaks cut to ensure they do not peck at each other. They live on a diet of cardboard, corn, hormones and the crushed bodies of their own brothers. 50 billion chickens are killed annually. Everyone who eats an egg has taken part in the killing. There are so many films on You Tube. You should see them if you are an egg eater. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Gelatine Companies in India Have No Excuse

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

New things are happening on the food front that are exciting and potentially earth saving. From clean meat, which is real meat made by multiplying cells instead of using animals – which will remove the millions of animals that are grown and tortured for food – to milk that is made in the same way. One company has started making real yolks without chickens.

And now comes gelatine.

For the last five years I have been trying to get the Government to make a law, asking for all medicine capsules to be vegetarian. Millions of people, like me, can’t eat medicines because the capsule is made of ground animal bone from cows and pigs. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) made a number of committees. Presentations were made, issues discussed and, finally, he agreed that capsules should be vegetarian. Then the gelatine industry started feeding the press, and their lobbyists got into the act,…it would make them expensive, vegetarian alternatives were not available, all not true.  Then the political order came that this was not to be done as it would have “political repercussions close to the elections” – meaning that some politician’s friend was in the gelatine industry. So, we are back to where we started after five years, and I am really sad.

Gelatine is a flavourless, colourless, gelling and thickening agent made by throwing animal skin, bones and connective tissues into an acid, or alkaline, bath and dissolving them.

The animal parts, used commercially, are pig skin, cow hide, cattle bones, fish skin.

Gelatine dissolves in hot water and gels when it cools, and creates a texture and bite in confectionary such as sweets, marshmallows, desserts, cakes and jellies. It is used to simulate the “mouthfeel of fat” in low fat foods and to create volume in foods ranging from ice cream, all Chinese food, soups, cream cheese, gummy bears, wine, beer, apple juice and vinegar , pill capsules, frosted cereals, yogurts, dips and even some frozen vegetables. It’s what gives them their chewy, rubbery strength.

Food & beverage is the biggest market for gelatine, followed by nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetics such as face creams,  shampoos, hair sprays, soaps and nail polishes.

There are vegan alternatives to gelatine : agar agar, pectin, starches, gums. But companies using gelatine say that they do not have the same chemical and mechanical properties. They are also slightly more expensive.

But, now a company, Gelzen, has been founded in 2015 to produce animal-free gelatine, for use in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products, in a new way. Gelzen co-founders are  molecular biologist Nick Ouzounov, Phd, and Alex Lorestani, Phd, who studied medicine at Rutgers, and bacterial pathogenesis. While studying at Princeton they asked themselves the question: Why has the consumer goods industry still not benefited from synthetic biology to the extent that medicine has? We no longer have to slaughter a pig and take its pancreas to get insulin, so why should we do it for gelatine and collagen?

Geltor (previously known as Gelzen) is a California based company that seeks to disrupt the gelatine market by providing the same gelatine – except that it is animal free. It creates designer vegan collagen for the best skincare products, and in 2018 it won the CEW  Beauty Innovation Award. CEW is Cosmetic Executive Women - 8,600+ beauty industry professionals who know the best cosmetics in the market.

The San Francisco-based company seeks to supply the overwhelming demand for gelatine. By taking the machinery that builds collagen in animals and moving it into microbes, Gelzen can make a customizable, cost-competitive, safe, animal-free and environmentally friendly product. Gelzen explains the simple logic behind the cruelty-free gelatine on its website: “Scavenging essential products from animals presents urgent economic problems, environmental problems, public health problems, and, for many, moral problems.” Gelzen has been heavily invested in by food and tech investors.

Most people don’t know they are munching on a sweet containing fish or pigskin. But, if they did, I am sure they would not buy the product – even if they are meat eaters. It’s not just religious (halal/kosher/cow/pig issues) but also about animal diseases. The vegetarian/vegan market is growing and there is a significant demand for a vegan alternative that can precisely replicate the unique qualities of gelatine. The current market for gelatine has been estimated at 3 billion dollars (current price is about $8 dollars per kg),so there is great potential for a cost effective alternative. People are already paying four to five times this amount for gelatine substitutes.

What Geltor has done is, it has taken microbes and genetically engineered them to produce collagen from which gelatine is derived via a fermentation process, without using or harming animals. Gelzen’s scientists program bacteria and yeast with the same genetic information as in animal tissue that produces gelatine. They then use these biological strains to ferment gelatine.

According to Lorestani: “We start with a suite of microbes that naturally produce proteins but we give them a set of instructions for making collagen [from which gelatine derives] in the form of genes. We are basically programming them to build collagen for us. The process can also be customized so we can make gelatin with a specific stiffness or beer clarifying agents with a particular property.”

Geltor’s animal-free collagen (N-Collage™) launched in April 2018. Their aim is to have significant commercial quantities available by 2020, but they have already started selling.

The use of animals as edible proteins is now fast becoming archaic. Once all these companies, with alternative production systems, come on the market, people will wonder twenty years from now why they ever ate meat and got all their diseases. Why they let millions of acres of land be devastated for animal grazing, why they let 70% of the water be used for animals, why they allowed greenhouse gases to be emitted by animals.

For the 400 million vegetarians and vegans in the world the suspect presence of gelatine in foods often means going without pudding, or having to read endless number of labels. It also means that many companies lose customers. Now, with Gelzen in the field with safe, sustainable, and no animal cruelty in its real gelatine, the gelatine companies in India have no excuse at all.

If you want to be a distributor here are the contacts:

Contact Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone Number : 415-325-3560 

San Leandro, California, United States

  • Written by Denis Giles
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