[Market-farming] Bone meal fertilizer and vCJD?

Pat Meadows pat at meadows.pair.com
Sat Feb 10 10:55:04 EST 2007

First, some vocabulary:

vCJD - variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - the human form of 'mad cow
disease' which is transmitted by eating brain or nerve tissue from infected
animals.  It is always fatal; no exceptions.  

BSE - Bovine spongiform encephalopathy - mad cow disease (the bovine form
of the disease)

Scrapie - a similar disease in sheep

Chronic wasting disease - a similar disease in deer

Kuru - a similar disease that occurred in one particular tribe in New
Guinea; this tribe was unusual in that they were cannibals but ate their
dead relatives. (Cannibals generally eat dead enemies only.)  Only the
women and children ate the dead relatives.  Only the women and children got
the disease too.

Prion - all these diseases are thought to be to be transmitted by 'prions'
which are a type of protein. [1] Prions can survive being autoclaved,
heated to extremely high temperatures (way beyond what cooking would ever
produce)- we don't yet know any way to kill them.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy - all these diseases together are
classed as 'transmissible spongiform encephalopathies'.

The BSE problem first surfaced in the UK in cows (1986) and later young
people started dying of CJD.  It is thought to have crossed into cows
because there were fed on animal tissue, including tissue from sheep who
had scrapie. 

I read about BSE then in the news (as did everyone else), and I wondered
about bone meal fertilizer.

But I didn't have any evidence then that bone meal fertilizer could
*possibly* transmit vCJD.  I wouldn't use it.... that's for sure. But
that's really not enough to send a caution about bone meal to other people.

Since the British problem surface, there have been several cases of BSE in
North America:  'As of August 23, twelve cases of BSE have been identified
in North America. Of these twelve cases, three were identified in the U.S.
and nine in Canada.' [1]

Then recently, I was doing some research on the hazards of wood smoke. I
found 'Some of the smallest fine particles can go deep into the lungs and
can even pass through the lungs into the bloodstream'. [2]  Ah hah - here's
the pathway by which bone meal could possibly transmit vCJD.

Bone meal, I now discover, is made from the bone and tissues of 'downer'
cattle:  cattle too sick to walk to the point at which they are killed in a
slaughterhouse. [3]

I was reading a book yesterday entitled 'Deadly Feasts' by Richard Rhodes.
[3]  Rhodes tells the story of how the cause of kuru (the New Guinea
cannibal disease) was eventually discovered and how its connection with BSE
(and the other similar diseases) was tracked down.  Many medical
researchers were involved, of course, but the person probably more
responsible for solving the mystery than anyone else was an American
medical researcher named D. Carlton Gajdusek.  Gajdusek won a Nobel prize
for his work.

At the end of the book are the following paragraphs:

"You know the bone meal that people use on their roses?" Gajdusek asked me
then.  "It's made from downer cattle.  Ground extremely fine.  The
instructions on the bag warn you not to open it in a closed room.  Gets up
your nose."  The Nobel-laureate virologist who knows more than anyone else
in the world about transmissible spongiform encephalopathy looked at me
meaningfully.  "Do you use bone meal on your roses?"

I told him I did.

He nodded.  "I wouldn't if I were you."


This is good enough for me.  When a Nobel laureate advises against
something related to his own field of study, I tend to listen.

So I not would advise that bone meal fertilizer be used:  not on edible
plants, and not on any other plants either.  There are other fertilizers

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/bse/

[2] http://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/woodsmoke/healtheffects.html

[3] 'Deadly Feasts', Richard Rhodes, 1997, Simon & Schuster, New York, p.

In the Appalachian Mountains in northern Pennsylvania
Blog:  http://www.entire-of-itself.blogspot.com

'Every one of us can do something to protect and
care for our planet. We should live in such a way
that makes a future possible.' - Thich Nhat Hanh

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