Thursday, July 30, 2009
These "shock" findings ought to wake up parents, said Ruki Sayid in Britain's Mirror, who have been shelling out extra money to buy organic because they thought it was better for their children. The study should also serve as a slap in the face to "the green lobby and high profile organic gurus like chef Jamie Oliver."
"Here we go again," said Leo Hickman in Britain's Guardian. This latest study has inspired "predictable front-page headlines implying organic food is little more than a myth and a rip-off," but the food watchdog agency has long banned organic food producers from claiming that their fare was nutritionally superior to comparable non-organic produce. But there are still plenty of reasons to go organic, including "the avoidance of pesticide residues" and the greater attention to "animal welfare" on organic farms.
And don't forget the environmental benefits of organic farming, said John-Paul Flintoff in Britain's The Times. All those pesticides and fertilizers dumped onto non-organic farms wash into our rivers and lakes. And if that doesn't convince you, consider this: If you try it, you might find that organic food simply tastes better.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
MTBE is among a group of chemicals called fuel oxygenates. Developed in the 1970's, it is added today to gasoline, replacing lead, throughout the United States to increase oxygen content and reduce harmful automobile emissions released into the atmosphere. In 1990 an amendment to The Clean Air Act stated its commitment to combat air pollution and to require reformulated gasoline (RFG) be used in certain areas of the country where carbon monoxide emissions exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Today 30 percent of RFG is sold in the United States. MTBE is added to over 80 percent of reformulated gasoline. So far so good; makes for a greener, safer environment which we all want.
Unfortunately MTBE has found its way into our drinking water. CBS television program, 60 Minutes, aired a report on January 16, 2000 about the safety concerns of America's drinking water supply and the alarming rate that MTBE has been seeping into our water supplies through leaking underground storage tanks and pipelines, watercraft emissions and marine engine spills which wind up in lakes and reservoirs. It's hard to believe but an estimated 1 million gallons of fuel are deposited into the water supply each year from recreational boating alone. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported it to be the second most common contaminant in shallow urban aquifers. Studies have shown that in areas of the country where federal RFG is mandated, the concentration of MTBE in water is five times greater than in other parts of the country.
Few long term studies have been done on MTBE and its health effects, but research that has been conducted focused on inhalation of the chemical. The results aren't good. Tests on rats have given evidence that for some of them MTBE was a likely cancer-causing agent which led Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Water to conclude that at high doses the data supports it as a potential human carcinogen. Other research indicates our immune systems might be affected as well. So, even if you're not drinking MTBE contaminated water, it can be absorbed through the skin when showering and then inhaled as a vapor in the air. Lesser possible effects of inhalation include "headaches, burning of the throat and nose, dizziness, nausea, asthma, and respiratory problems."(Elements of Health-Prescription Healing)
Research animals have also sustained the results of kidney damage when exposed to the chemical's vapors at various concentrations. EPA's Office of Water has concluded though that data is insufficient to draw conclusions about MTBE's potential health risk at low exposure levels in drinking water. They go on to say there is little likelihood there will be adverse health effects at concentrations in drinking water between 20 and 40 ppb (parts per billion) or below.
The agency is concerned however and is working with the US Geological Survey to assess frequency and occurrence of MTBE in certain geographic regions of the country and is actively involved in addressing concerns over the potential presence of MTBE in our water supplies. Though MTBE has been placed on the Contaminant Candidate List by the Office of Water, the agency has determined that MTBE needs more health effects research and data before establishing regulations. Whether or not MTBE will continue to be used is a consideration the EPA probably won't make until the year 2010.
You can be proactive and determine if your water has MTBE in it by contacting the public water system, if that is your water supply source. Ask if they monitor for MTBE and if any levels have been detected. If you have a private well, you may get your water tested by contacting your local health department. Also ask if MTBE has been found in water in your area.
To get your water tested, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) or go to http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sc... to get the phone number for your state's office that certifies drinking water laboratories. There are also a number of laboratories that will send a self-addressed container for you to fill and return for testing. The cost starts at $35 to $40 per tap and results are usually available in two to three weeks. Other information can be found at the EPA Office of Underground Storage Tanks web site (http://www.eps.gov/swerust1/).
Additional documents can be accessed from the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
To Your Health,
Deanna Dean CNHP
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch copyright 2006
Environmental Update #1, Published by the Hazardous Substance Research Centers/South & Southwest Outreach Program
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"Coke's messages were totally unacceptable, creating an impression which is likely to mislead that Coca-Cola cannot contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay," said Graeme Samuel, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). "They also had the potential to mislead parents about the potential consequences of consuming Coca-Cola."
In 2008, Coca-Cola South Pacific ran a full-page ad in a number of newspapers claiming to debunk a number of "myths" about Coke products. Kelly Armstrong, a popular Australian actress, was portrayed as the narrator in the ad, titled "Motherhood & Myth-Busting."
"Now that I've found out what's myth and what isn't, it's good to know that our family can continue to enjoy one of our favorite drinks," Armstrong said in the ad. "My boys now call me Mum, the Myth Buster!"
Claiming that Coke was perfectly "kiddie safe," the ad said it was time "to state the facts and to help you understand the truth behind Coca-Cola."
The ad identified the following popular perceptions of Coke as "myths": "It's full of added preservatives and artificial colors"; "Makes you fat"; "It was originally green"; "'Coca-Cola contained cocaine once upon a time"; "Packed with caffeine"; "Rots your teeth."
Following a joint complaint by the Australian Dental Association, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Parents Jury, the ACCC launched an investigation into the ad, eventually concluding that it constituted false and misleading advertising. As a result, Coke has been ordered to run a corrective ad in major newspapers of every major Australian city. Among other corrections, the company must include accurate numbers for the amount of caffeine included in Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.
In the initial ad, Coke falsely claimed that those soft drinks contained only one-third the caffeine of a cup of tea.
Sources for this story include: www.telegraph.co.uk.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Some of the reasons for optimism are projections of a growth market in organics, studies showing how organic farming helps keep soil nutrient rich, and the support of the Obama administration.
Organic farming advocates were encouraged by some of the pledges from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who recently appeared at the La Crosse Interstate Fair.
Vilsack said he was bringing in new staffers in the organic farming area of USDA who would work closer with farmers. He also told a rally of organic farmers, concerned about what they consider abuses of the certification rules by some large corporations, that he'll make sure USDA enforced those rules.
“We support family farmers,” said Jeff Gunderson of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service . “It was somewhat encouraging to see the secretary meet with farmers.”
The success for organic farming starts in the soil. “There are healthy microbes in the soil that do many beneficial things,” Gunderson said. “We try to take advantage of those by building the soil through the types of plants we grow, rotating our crops, utilizing what might be natural plants and animals that can keep down weeds and control pests and many other practices.”
Chemical fertilizers, over-tilling and other practices in conventional farming often deplete the soil fertility and diversity, thus making it necessary to apply more fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. It becomes a never-ending cycle and affects the quality of the food produced.
If you ask the average person what makes organic farming “green,” they’ll say it’s because no chemicals are used.
But there's much more to it. Experts say what really makes it a “green” endeavor is biodiversity, fostered by rather sophisticated scientific research and farming techniques.
“An organic farmer is trying to maximize the benefits of biodiversity,” Gunderson said at the recent Wisconsin Farm Technology Days event near Waterloo. “He or she tries to manage what are naturally occurring processes, which can then affect water, pollination, soil fertility, disease control and many other areas.”
Gunderson and others involved in organic farming have research to back up their claims.
Western Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind, who co-chairs the organic caucus in Congress, said research is the key “to growing organics and making people in Washington listen.”
“Nothing is more powerful and convincing than evidence,” Kind said. “You’ve been laying a good foundation and need good research to continue to have it grow.”
Some research is done on the university level and some by people in the field. MOSES holds an annual Organic University, which is tied in with the annual Organic Farming Conference, held in La Crosse in recent years.
Just some of the topics covered include cover crop management for organic no-till, weed management, pest and disease management, organic fertilizer, production levels and soil health.
One such study, for example, conducted by Reg Destree of the Dramm Corporation in La Crosse, indicated that organic fertilizer from fish-based foliar spray led to more vigorous pasture growth and weight gain in cattle.
The research was done at farms in Suamico and New Holstein. Lab tests were conducted on the fertilizer to check for mercury or PCDs in the ground-up fish and no measurable levels were detected.
Another published study, conducted by Michigan State’s Sieglinde Snapp, looked at perennial grain crops as feed for livestock. “Perennial crops offer the opportunity to reduce tillage on organic production systems,” Snapp concluded, “and produce grain that has excellent quality for livestock feed, and has 55 to 90% of yield potential compared to annual wheat varieties.”
These type of studies are presented at the annual symposium and summarized in a report that is sponsored by MOSES, based in Spring Valley, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., with funds from the USDA-CREES Integrated Organic Program.
The Rodale Institute, based in Pennsylvania, also does a lot of research into organics. Tim LaSalle, CEO of the organization, told a group at the recent Kickapoo Country Fair that indications are that the use of composting and other organic practices retains more carbon in soils, thus enriching it for crops.
USDA support and maintaining the integrity of the certification process for organic farming are important for continued research. MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) has provided organic certification services to producers and processors since 1999. MOSA is based in Viroqua and shouldn't be confused with Gunderson's group, MOSES, even though the two agencies do collaborate on some projects. Various certification agencies are located around the country.
The certification process can be somewhat rigorous and costly to convert conventional farm land to organic. Some farmers need the assistance of USDA and other agencies during that transition time, Gunderson said.
Like all sectors of the economy, organic farming has been affected by the recession. Sales have flattened out after several years of growth in the 20 percent range. Yet, a study by The Rodale Institute indicated that the organic market is expected to grow and price premiums -- the extra money paid to organic farmers -- will hold until at least 2025.
Individual companies now specialize in the organic and in aiding the green practices of the farmers. Organic Valley, based in La Farge, offers farmers and the public information and assistance about organic dairy and other food.
Blue River Hybrids, based in Kelly, Iowa, had a booth at the Farm Technology Days and used the slogan: Plant Organic, Farm Better. The company makes nationwide deliveries of organic alfalfa seed, as well as organic corn and soybean seeds.
Midwestern Bio-Ag, based in Blue Mounds, increasingly has become involved in organics. It too offers organic seeds for alfalfa and corn. Foundation Organic Seeds LLC, based in Onalaska, offered 16 corn seed hybrids and five lines of organic alfalfa.
Cashton Farm Supply in Monroe County provides organic chicken feed and other products for the organic market.
Cowsmo Compost, based in Buffalo County, provides compost and potting soil for organic farms and nurseries. A&A Custom Grain Roasters in Beaver Dam offers a variety of organic feed mill services. S&D Sales of Cadott sells Lilliston cultivators and other tools for controlling weeds and saving water in the soil.
These companies, and everybody involved in organic farming, are preparing to deal with climate change. The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts recently gave some “good news, bad news” about climate change in the July/August issue of Organic Broadcaster.
Among the “good news” for Midwestern farmers were an extended growing season, fewer days over 100 degrees, increased organic matter in the soil and more vegetation and decomposition which helps the building of soil.
The list of “bad news” was longer and included more days above 95 degrees, more flooding, more weed growth and variety, new insects and disease pests, more humidity stress and dramatic changes in forest types.
The article, authored by Denise Thornton, said, “Organic farmers may be in a strong position to contend with climate change. (Iowa State’s Eugene) Takle noted, ‘Organic and natural systems have a way of working wi th the situation, and locally-adapted strains of particular crops might have more local adaptability.'”
Once again, the nurturing of the natural biodiversity is a key. “We do need to manage it,” Gunderson said. “But the goal is to allow the eco-system to provide as much as possible through natural diversity. If we allow it to do that, and enrich the soil, we can grow healthier plants, which leads to healthier animals and ultimately healthier food.”
--Hoffmann is a veteran journalist and has written on many topics for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com . He writes the WisBusiness.com GreenBiz feature monthly.
By Gregg Hoffmann
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"It's very hard to predict heart disease," Dr. Michael Shechter of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine and the Heart Institute of Sheba Medical Center, said in a statement to the media. "But doctors know that high glycemic foods rapidly increase blood sugar. Those who binge on these foods have a greater chance of sudden death from heart attack. Our research connects the dots, showing the link between diet and what's happening in real time in the arteries."
For his study, Dr Shechter and colleagues worked with 56 healthy volunteers who were divided into four groups. One group ate cornflake cereal mixed with milk, a second consumed a pure sugar mixture, the third group ate bran flakes and the last group took water (as a placebo control). Over the course of four weeks, Dr. Shechter applied brachial reactive testing to the research subjects in each group. This test, a clinical and research technique pioneered by Dr. Shechter's laboratory, uses a blood pressure type cuff on the arm that is able to visualize what happens inside arteries before, during and after eating various foods.
Before any of the study participants ate, the function of their arteries was essentially the same. After eating, however, all except the placebo group had reduced arterial functioning -- especially the research subjects who ate cornflakes and sugar. In fact, the testing documented that during the consumption of these foods high in sugar, there was a temporary and sudden dysfunction in the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line the inside of arteries and reduce turbulence as blood flows throughout the entire circulatory system.
This is a critical finding because, when repeated over time, a sudden expansion of artery walls can cause a host of negative effects on health including damage to endothelial cells. That can reduce elasticity in arteries, resulting in heart disease or even sudden death. In fact, according to Dr. Shechter, endothelium dysfunction can be traced back to almost every disorder and disease in the body.
"We knew high glycemic foods were bad for the heart. Now we have a mechanism that shows how," Dr. Shechter explained in the press statement. "Foods like cornflakes, white bread, French fries, and sweetened soda all put undue stress on our arteries. We've explained for the first time how high glycemic carbs can affect the progression of heart disease."
Dr. Shechter agrees with natural health advocates who have long advised staying away from highly processed, high glycemic foods and eating a diet rich in low glycemic whole foods such as oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. In addition to helping protect your heart, this style of eating has other advantages. According to the Harvard School of Public Health web site, these healthy foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
On the other hand, white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods tear down instead of build health -- they contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. As reported earlier in Natural News, processed foods have also been linked with an increased risk for cancer (http://www.naturalnews.com/022025.html) and recent studies indicate many processed foodstuffs, from bread to candy bars, may be contaminated with toxic mercury, too (http://www.naturalnews.com/025442_m...).
For more information :
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Keep it positive. Stay upbeat. Talk about the good news!
I think that's a great idea, actually. So this weekend, I'm publishing ten pieces of good news about America's future, based on the very same financial numbers contained in my "dark" story (actually, a factual report of America's financial demise) published yesterday (http://www.naturalnews.com/026693_d...).
So for those who want to be happy, here's a list of the top ten things that are really positive about America's future!
The top ten good news things about America's futureGood News Item #1) When the stuff hits the fan, Americans will awaken from their slumber and remember their roots! Americans eventually do the right thing, after all, but only after trying every other alternative first. The spirit of ingenuity and self-reliance hasn't been snuffed out of American culture; it's just been buried under a torrent of bureaucratic stupidity. When Big Government goes broke and Americans are forced to rely on themselves, their neighbors and their communities for support, they will rediscover the same spirit of resourcefulness that once made America great (and can make it great again, under new management).
Good News Item #2) Your health is in your hands. You have near-total control over your own health. You don't have to wait for some government to mandate a new system of forced health care coverage at rip off prices. You can create your own health care plan right now by changing your diet, boosting your exercise and upgrading your lifestyle.
Good News Item #3) Gold, land and food will always be worth something. Wondering where to put a few dollars to protect them from the coming changes? Gold, land and food will always be worth something. These things have value that persists regardless of systems of currency or debt. (Hint: If you don't own gold, land or food, you might want to reposition your assets in the near future...)
Good News Item #4) When the U.S. government goes bankrupt, so will the FDA! And that means an end to the tyranny and oppression against the natural health industry. Remember this: U.S. government employees are but one paycheck away from disloyalty. There's a whole universe of knowledge about natural remedies just bursting to emerge once the heavy hand of oppression is lifted.
Good News Item #5) When the U.S. currency suffers hyperinflation and becomes worthless, it will remind people of what's really important in life: Health, family, a roof over your head and a piece of land with a garden on it. All the jobless Americans will have more time with their families! (This is not said in satire. I'm serious about this. Less time working and more time with family improves quality of life.) Besides... since when did working more hours ever make anyone happier?
Good News Item #6) The financial demise of the U.S. government will bring down Big Pharma, too, resulting in a new age of natural health remedies becoming more readily available across North America. Why is this the case? Because Big Pharma relies primarily on government revenues to stay in business, and once Big Government goes broke, Big Pharma will have no easy way to extract revenues directly from the people. They only get away with it now because they can lobby Washington to steal taxpayers' dollars and transfer them to drug companies.
Good News Item #7) America's military imperialism will soon end. Why? Because America can't afford it. Paying to send soldiers, tanks and bombs to other countries costs a fortune, after all. When the U.S. military stops paying soldiers, we will have an outbreak of sudden peace.
Good News Item #8) The age of complacency in America is coming to an end, too. Those who are complacent will not do well in the coming economic, cultural and political turmoil. They will be forced to adapt and learn new skills. People who are adaptable, self-reliant and determined will find plenty of success in the Next Society that follows the fall of America.
Good News Item #9) Mother Nature will prevail. Whatever humanity throws at Mother Nature -- through pollution, species extinction, climate change or deforestation -- nature will eventually recover and regain its health (with or without humans).
Good News Item #10) You have more options than you think! You are not stuck in any particular job or health status. You can change your circumstances by making new, better decisions. You have the resources within you to set a new course for the rest of your life.
BONUS Good News Item #11) As long as you can read this, there is still hope for freedom! As long as you can still reach "freedom" websites (even ones you don't agree with) like NaturalNews, Rense.com, Alex Jones or other similar sites, there's still a glimmer of hope for true freedom. The internet, of course, remains the last bastion of free thinking in modern society. Help keep it free, and you'll help protect the tools of communication that can let freedom ring throughout the world. (This is one reason to oppose so-called "hate crime" laws, by the way. The purpose of hate crime laws is to outlaw any non-conforming speech by categorizing it as "hate.")
So you see, there's actually a whole lot of good news in America. It's not as dark as you might think. Unless, of course, you believe national debts don't matter, or that your government will save you, or that socialized health care will solve your personal health problems. People who believe those things will find those beliefs rudely shattered. For them, the future may be quite dark, indeed.
But for those who have a grip on reality, the future looks very bright! The future, after all, is what we make of it, and those with the brightest minds and the deepest determination hold most of the power in shaping our collective future.
And the best way to have a bright future is to accept the reality of what's coming and then prepare for a more challenging future ahead. By preparing for big changes, you turn a potentially negative situation into a positive opportunity. So, you see, even bad news can be good news... especially if you deal with it instead of ignoring it.
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Monday, July 27, 2009
Cats Claw's main medicinal use comes from the harvesting of its inner bark and root. This soft inner material contains a plethora of curative chemicals that have had a long history of treating ailments that include asthma, cirrhosis, rheumatism, various types of inflammation, diverticulosis, as well as degenerative diseases which include, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and various types of cancer. Since Klaus Keplinger's initial studies in the 1970's in Austria it can be fairly stated that Cats Claw is one of the most studied Amazonian plants of the 20th Century. The documented research into Cats Claw can be divided into three main areas of study: immuno-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumorous or anti-cancerous. The majority of study has focused on two groups of chemicals, oxidole alkaloids and quinovic acid glycosides. The unique synergy of these two groups of chemicals constitutes most of the remarkable curative factors of this plant.
In the research that Klaus Keplinger conducted in the 1970's as well as more resent supporting research done in Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Peru and the United States it has been found that the oxidole alkaloids in the whole cats claw extract can create an increased immuno-response of up to fifty percent. Other in vitro studies conducted in Italy and Sweden have shown that the oxidole alkaloid properties of cats claw can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells by up to ninety percent as well as inhibit the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cells. The studies done on the quinovic acid glycosides within cats claw have found that they can greatly reduce inflammation up to eighty nine percent. These phytochemicals have shown promising results with the reduction of the inflammatory responses in Arthritis, rheumatism, Irritable Bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers as well as having anti-viral properties. A lesser known alkaloid in cats claw called rhynchophylline has shown that it prevents blood clots and thins the blood.
Cats claw has been a natural staple in South American Medicine for generations and its healing factors have been well documented. As the use of this plant becomes more common in mainstream society as a method of primary and complementary treatment the benefits of it's impact will speak for itself. If you are interested in learning more on cats claw please refer to the references below. If you are thinking of taking cats claw for curative purposes please make sure that you consult your doctor as the blood thinning and immuno-stimulant properties can have side effects if you are already on either a blood thinning or immuno-suppressant medication.
Review of Antiviral and Immunomodulating Properties of Plants of the Peruvian Rainforest with a Particular Emphasis on Una de Gato and Sangre de Grado
Alternative Medical Review Vol. 6, No. 6, December 2001
Una de Gato: Fate and Future of a Peruvian Forest Resourse
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: pgs 217-224
Leslie Taylor, 2005
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Sunday, July 26, 2009
She believes as many organic shoppers do: Trust the farmer, trust the food.
But what if the farmer is a stranger who works a thousand miles away? The demand in Georgia for organic food far exceeds the number of producers, so most of it comes from outside the state. How can you be certain that food that is labeled organic is truly organic?
The familiar green and white “USDA Organic” stamp means that the U.S. government certifies this food. Behind that label, however, is a federal agency with about 15 staff members who watch over an industry that sold $23 billion in food in the U.S. last year.
“I think it is largely effective but ... there are flaws,” said Will Harris, who owns a certified organic beef farm in southwest Georgia called White Oak Pastures. Harris is especially concerned that the companies that inspect organic farmers do not apply the federal standards uniformly. Some are stringent and some lax, Harris said, and that can throw the program into question.
“The (National Organic Program) needs to be overhauled, quickly, before too many questions about the integrity of the program diminish its credibility,” said Harris, who is also president of the organic industry advocacy group Georgia Organics.
Consumer watchdogs say the National Organic Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agency charged with the greatest share of oversight, is overworked and understaffed. They assert, in addition, that the system of farm inspections raises concerns about conflicts of interest.
For example, to be labeled organic, the farm must be inspected by a certifying company. The farmer selects the certifier and also pays for the inspection.
“There could be a conflict of interest. If a [certifier] gives a company or farmer a bad audit, they may not get asked back,” said Mike Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. “Is it the fox watching over the chicken house?”
Ensuring the authenticity of organic food is important for many reasons. Shoppers pay up to double the price for organic food. They also put great faith in the “USDA Organic” stamp, believing the food is better for them and the earth.
Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, according to federal regulations. Meat and eggs must come from animals raised on organic feed, and farmers may not give those animals growth hormones or antibiotics.
“It just tastes better,” said Barrington as she strolled through the Morningside market, which specializes in organic food.
She believes her organic diet helped her beat back cancer.
“If it weren’t for organic food, [I] probably wouldn’t be standing here,” she said.
In the larger, more impersonal organic marketplace, farmers and industry advocates say the programs in place for monitoring food are effective.
Each year, private certifying companies, working on behalf of the federal program, inspect organic farms and food producers. The inspectors want to see documentation, and lots of it, farmers say: What are you planting, what nutrients are you putting in the soil, where are your receipts for the organic seeds, where are your records of crop rotation, how big is your buffer area from the next farm?
“It is a lengthy, involved process,” said Bill Yoder, who runs the Yoder Family Farm in Canton. “The first year I did it, they found a piece of wood on my property. They said if this is treated wood, you can’t have any around.”
Organic food producers represent just a fraction of Georgia’s giant agriculture industry. State agriculture officials point to a number of challenges, including a strong tradition in conventional farming and the difficulty of growing organic crops among the many bugs in South Georgia.
Still, organic food production is growing. Georgia has 196 certified organic farms and other organic food producers, such as those that make jams and jelly and coffee, a jump of 75 percent since 2005.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture plays a relatively minor role in watching over organic food and farming. The department requires producers to register annually and also to file a production plan.
Beyond that, oversight falls to the National Organic Program.
The NOP, as it is known, has too much to do and not enough people to do it, said Urvashi Rangan, a policy director at Consumers Union, the watchdog group.
To inspect and certify the organic farms and producers, the NOP works with 54 certifying companies in the U.S. and another 44 around the world. The agency audited these companies once every five years until last year, when it cut that interval to about every two years.
NOP acting director Barbara Robinson said she believes the agency does an adequate job. “You do the best you can with the budget you have,” she said. She noted that President Barack Obama has proposed nearly doubling the agency’s budget to $6 million.
Last year, 15 of the 30 certifying companies that the program inspected had their requests for renewals deferred until they address “outstanding issues or proposed corrective action,” NOP spokeswoman Joan Shaffer said.
The process of inspecting farms and producers also raises some eyebrows.
Doyle, the food safety expert at UGA, pointed out that the organic inspections do not check for food pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. There is no educational requirement for the inspectors, nor is there a mandate that inspectors actually test the food to verify that it is organic.
As for the concerns about conflicts of interest during inspections, growers and advocates say that certifiers who break the rules risk their federal accreditation.
“It’s a fair and complete system. ... There is integrity behind the [organic] label,” said Vernon Mullins of the Georgia Crop Improvement Association, a major certifier in the state.
In the seven years since the federal organic standards took effect, the NOP has canceled the accreditation of two certifying companies in the U.S.
Some watchdogs also see too much wiggle room amid the organic regulations.
Growers may shop around for an agreeable certifier, said George Boyhan, a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, which has a large agriculture program. “If you don’t like something in the rules, call around and see if somebody else has a different interpretation of the rules,” he said.
When trouble arises, Georgia agriculture officials help the feds investigate. But the Georgia Agriculture Department has a two-fold mission: It not only enforces the law in regard to agriculture, it also promotes the agriculture industry.
Oscar Garrison, the state agriculture’s deputy commissioner for consumer protection, said that enforcement workers are a separate division from promotions workers to avoid conflicts of interest.
Many of the small organic farmers sell at a handful of food markets around metro Atlanta, and their business is fostered by their personal relationships with shoppers.
David Bentoski, who runs the organic D & A Farm in Zebulon, said his business depends on his reputation.
“If I don’t do what I’m saying I do, I will cost myself the business I worked so hard to build,” he said.
Tips for buying organic food
Organic food can cost up to twice the amount of conventional food. Here are some tips to help you get your money’s worth.
● Look for the green and white circular “USDA Organic” label.
● If you are buying at a local farmer’s market, ask the farmers how they avoid using harmful fertilizers and pesticides.
● Ask the farmer’s market manager about the integrity of the farm.
● Grow organic food yourself.
● Turn to the Georgia Organics Local Food Guide , which has phone numbers to find organic growers and descriptions of farms and farmer’s markets.
Source: Georgia Organics
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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First, you should know the difference between “Certified Organic” and “Farm Fresh”. Certified Organic means the farmer has specifically applied for and passed organic certification through the rigorous standards of the NOP (National Organic Program), created to enforce the rules of Certified Organic farming. The costs of Organic Farming are higher because there is more “spoilage” due to natural causes. “Farm Fresh” refers to all other farm processes; some may closely follow organic regulations and then call their product “natural” or use a more commercial approach and therefore only be fresh from the farm, but without the same oversight.
Second, what, if any, taste difference is there between Organic and “Farm Fresh”? Taste is subjective and personal but most people note that Certified Organic does have a “fuller or richer” taste. This is opinion and not officially tested, yet. You may be accustomed to “Farm Fresh” and find the taste of Certified Organic stronger or more pronounced than the Farm or grocery version of the same food. You can do a tasting of sorts; it can be fun, simply buy 1 fruit or vegetable from a Certified Organic, a “Farm Fresh” and Grocery store then invite some friends to a blind taste test. Serve each one at a time and have the guests write characteristics they notice and list notable differences then compare lists and revel the food source at the end of the test. Then you can decide for yourself, which you prefer.An excellent way to approach your local market is to pretend you are a tourist. Take photos, taste things and make a list of available foods. Take note of the price differences as well as size and quality differences between vendors. You should also pay attention to specialty items such as hand made cheeses, raw milk, grass fed meats, etc., and consider if you would actually use them. Once you have done your first walk-through, take a moment to consider what items you might use this week at home, then use your list to choose those items to stock up. This may seem excessive but you will find some markets are more difficult to navigate than others are and a list will keep you on budget and prevent you from buying things you will never use.
By Vera Lewis
LA Farmers Market Examiner
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Saturday, July 25, 2009
Take the scary case of the sugar beet, which more than half of U.S. sugar supplies are made from.
Since the turn of the 20th century, warmer states have been growing sugar beet as a profitable crop rotator. "Beet Fever" is as high as ever with Monsanto's Roundup Ready beet seed — which is genetically engineered to resist glyphosphate herbicides, use of which has skyrocketed.
Growers can apply 96 ounces of the herbicide per acre without harming the beets, where non-genetically modified vegetables would not tolerate such levels.
In 2008, Roundup Ready beets accounted for 58 percent of the total U.S. crop. However, nearly 90 percent of this year's Western Sugar Collaborative crop, which represents 1,400 growers in four U.S. states, has been planted with the modified seed, according to the collaborative.
Growers are thrilled because the highest yields per acre are predicted for 2009, and the success of the crop is being attributed to the modified seed. With sugar prices having plummeted 15 percent in mid-2008 and constant threat from cheaper sugar imports, growers saw 2008 record yields in Colorado, Montana and other states as welcome news.
However, high yield of a GMO crop does not bode well for food safety advocates that question use of the product pervading countless, unlabeled foods. Concerns include:
Genetic contamination to organic sugar beet and sugar markets since the crop is wind-pollinated.
Vast increases in water quality impacts and herbicide residues in sugar product due to increased herbicide application.
Threat to crop sustainability by reducing biodiversity to one seed manufactured by one company.
Emergence of superweeds that resist increasingly toxic herbicides due to wholesale adoption of Roundup Ready GMO.
In 2008, Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and others to overturn the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 2005 decision to deregulate Roundup Ready sugar beet seed and are asking that production, sale and use be banned. The groups argue that USDA has not conducted extensive research on the seed's safety and its impact on public health and the environment and are calling for National Environmental Policy Act review.
Several companies have signed a Non-GM Sugar Beet Registry, online at www.seedsofdeception.com/includes/services/nongm_sugar_beet_registry_display.cfm.
This week's Green Quick Fixes are realizing how pervasive GMO sugar is becoming, checking labels and supporting the manufacturers that signed the registry. It's a daunting task considering that sugar is a key ingredient in millions of food products.
For more information on GMO activities, go to www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
Other uses for sugar beet
Sugar beet molasses or beet juice, a byproduct of the sugar-making process, is being tested in Ohio, Washington D.C., and elsewhere as a green alternative for conventional, freshwater-polluting road deicer. Combinations of beet juice and rock salt can make winter roads safe to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a report by Mother Nature Network published earlier this year.
This is good news because high concentrations of rock salt hamper many cold regions' abilities to comply with federal clean water standards.
Another use for sugar beet may be in ethanol production, and it's possible that it may prove to be higher yield than corn. In a 2006 study, the USDA determined that processing sugar beet and refined sugar for ethanol production would be feasible, though costly because factories would have to be converted. The American Crystal Sugar Company is also studying the trend, and nations like Ireland and Brazil are also considering.
Andrea Fox, a Beverly resident, has been writing about environmental sustainability and eco-topics for nine years. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a watershed protection advocate in Salem Sound Watershed.
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Those were my words, Feb. 8, 2008. It’s time for a “depression watch” update.
Unfortunately, it’s mostly bad news. While another 12-year depression still isn’t inevitable, the post-financial-crisis policy blunders of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt are being re-enacted with eerie similitude by the current president.
Hoover devastated America’s exporters by signing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, triggering a devastating trade war. President Obama triggered retaliatory tariffs from Mexico when he appeased his Teamster supporters by blocking Mexican trucks from entering the United States, unilaterally repudiating NAFTA. He also elicited retaliatory tariffs from Canada (other countries will follow) by inserting a “buy American” clause in his “stimulus” bill. As in the 1930s, international trade is collapsing today. Foreigners suddenly find themselves earning fewer dollars to buy American products. Nor can they buy as much American government debt as before.
Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corp., which interfered with needed economic adjustments by channeling federal dollars to various money-losing businesses, was reincarnated as the Bush/Paulson TARP program, which continues under Team Obama.
Both Hoover and Roosevelt crippled economic activity by raising income tax rates. In addition to the massive tax hike already scheduled for next year when Bush’s tax cuts expire, Obama seeks additional tax hikes on higher-income taxpayers.
FDR burdened poor and middle-class Americans with higher excise taxes on everyday purchases—milk, gasoline, check-writing, stamps, beer, etc. Today, Obama wants to saddle Americans with the mother of all excise taxes—the cap and trade tax on coal, oil, and natural gas. This will raise the price of driving cars, heating and cooling homes, and powering businesses. Most other prices will rise, too, since energy is used to produce almost everything we consume, including food, clothing, and shelter.
During the Great Depression, runaway federal spending and ballooning deficits diverted capital from private investment into government programs. Today, private credit is again contracting as the U.S. Treasury absorbs capital (an astounding $1,442.8 billion in recent months). In the name of “stimulus,” Obama is asphyxiating the private sector by hogging all the economic oxygen—capital.
Obama shares FDR’s overt hostility to private, profit-making firms. FDR forced businesses into government-regulated cartels. Obama simply nationalizes them. FDR plundered corporate treasuries with his “undistributed profits” tax; Obama is targeting corporations’ offshore earnings. FDR persecuted successful businesses by threatening them with criminal prosecution for alleged antitrust violations. Obama’s Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Christine Varney, is making similar noises today. FDR crippled economic expansion and job creation by creating a climate of fear and uncertainty among the business community. Obama’s unfortunate diatribes against profits are having the same chilling effect today.
Like FDR, Obama doesn’t trust or doesn’t want the private sector to create jobs. The only “good” jobs are government jobs, such as low-paying, taxpayer-funded, weather-stripping jobs instead of high-paying, private-sector, oil-extraction jobs. Obama is replicating FDR’s strategy of adding workers to the federal payroll (Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Progress Administration, etc.) through such measures as tripling the size of AmeriCorps and adding the Serve America Act. Just as FDR’s New Deal programs failed to reduce employment below 14 percent throughout the 1930s, Obama’s federal jobs will siphon resources from the private sector, thereby exacerbating overall unemployment. Team Obama even wants to regulate, control, and stifle those great incubators of private jobs—venture capitalists—even though the VC firms did nothing to cause our country’s financial mess.
FDR discouraged business activity by ignoring contract law when he unilaterally voided the gold clause in private contracts. Recently, Obama made corporate bonds—an important source of business financing—less attractive by abrogating bankruptcy law when he expropriated the property of secured creditors and gave it to his UAW allies.
Like FDR, who championed the 1935 Wagner Act (which led to massive work stoppages, lost profits, and fewer jobs), Obama seeks special privileges for labor unions. In addition to the UAW handout and the Teamsters favor, Obama supports the Employee Free Choice Act that would scrap secret ballots and make it easier for union-organizing intimidators to “persuade” workers to unionize. He even threatened California Gov. Schwarzenegger with withholding $7 billion in federal stimulus money unless legislated wage cuts for unionized health-care workers were restored. To the degree that Obama strengthens unions, the result will look like the ‘30s—higher unemployment.
President Obama seems determined to be the second coming of FDR. This is economically irrational. Government couldn’t spend us out of economic depression in the 1930s, nor can it today. But runaway government spending and intervention do have the potential to create the worst depression that money can buy.
For the Obama/Pelosi/Reid axis to ignore history, and instead repeat the policy errors of the ‘30s, brings to mind Einstein’s remark about the insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If Team Obama persists in defying the inexorable laws of economics, it will inflict great hardship on Americans. This unnecessary tragedy is still avoidable, but only if we wake up in time and alter our course.
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Since this petition is opposed by a number of large corporations that would like to continue using solvent-extracted, conventional soy lecithin in organic foods (which is cheaper than the organic version), it is crucial that the NOSB hear our voices again as it prepares to cast its final vote on this important issue.
Take a look at the bar of organic chocolate in your desk drawer or the carton of organic ice cream in your freezer, and you’ll likely see a little-known but very common food ingredient: lecithin.
Lecithin is an important minor ingredient in many processed foods. It is used as an emulsifier to prevent separation of oil and water, and is especially common in chocolate to improve its texture and increase its shelf life.
Unless the ingredients list specifically states “organic soy lecithin,” the lecithin was processed from hexane-extracted soybeans, which were grown conventionally and likely sprayed with pesticides in the fields – ”in organic food??? Hexane is a neurotoxic chemical byproduct of gasoline refinement.
Currently, food manufacturers can legally add conventional soy lecithin to organic foods because, in the past, an organic version was not available.
To be labeled “ORGANIC,” and to carry the USDA organic seal, food has to be made up of at least 95% organic ingredients. The only non-organic ingredients are ones that are unavailable organically and cannot make up more than 5% of the product.
When the organic standards were developed in 1995, organic soy lecithin was not commercially available. But times have changed.
Over the years, one pioneering organic company has not only developed a truly organic soy lecithin, but has invested in the manufacturing capability to supply the organic version to every food manufacturer that needs it. Organic soy lecithin is not extracted with the use of hexane, a toxic and polluting solvent prohibited in organic production. And the organic version comes from organically grown, non-GMO soybeans (genetically engineered ingredients are also banned in organics).
Now that organic lecithin is commercially available, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the expert citizen panel that Congress set up to decide these issues, needs to determine whether to recommend removing lecithin from this list of conventional substances that are allowed in organic foods. This is the first time in organic regulatory history that a food ingredient has been petitioned to be removed from the National List.
The Cornucopia Institute urges members of the organic community to tell the NOSB members that you support the removal of lecithin from 205.605 and 205.606. If lecithin remains on the list, food manufacturers have no incentive to opt for the truly organic lecithin, and many will continue to put hexane-extracted, conventional lecithin in your organic foods – it’s cheaper.
There is more at stake than simply the type of lecithin you can expect to find in your organic foods in the future. If the regulations do not change when companies innovate and develop new organic ingredients, why should anyone bother investing in the expensive research and development that gives rise to the availability of new organic ingredients?
We need to send a strong message to the NOSB members and the USDA that we stakeholders in the organic industry expect the regulations to evolve with the times. And change should be in the interest of organic consumers and innovative organic companies. By Cornucopia.org
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But it turns out the change is costing WhiteWave in reputation among some of its consumers.
The Organic Consumers Association has called for a boycott of WhiteWave products, which also includes Colorado’s Horizon Organic-brand dairy.
Horizon and Silk represent the nation’s leading brand of organic milk and the best-selling soymilk brand.
“Dean Foods has just declared war on the organic industry,” said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog.
Soon after the shift to natural Silk Soymilk, WhiteWave announced it planned to introduce a natural dairy product to the market under the Horizon Organic label. It will mark the first non-organic product that Horizon has produced.
Industry advocates argue the introduction of natural products by leading organic companies blurs the line between natural and organic.
WhiteWave spokeswoman Sara Loveday said the company wanted to be able to continue offering its products at a competitive price, and is diversifying to meet changing consumer demand, which has been gravitating towards lower-priced, conventional milk in a broader recessionary trend of “trading down.”
At the same time, higher fuel prices and other factors have made organic soybean production less attractive, while profit potential for conventional soybean production has improved.
Organic soybean prices had increased to $28 per bushel last year, while conventional soybeans fetch $12 per bushel, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The combination with an economic downturn created an unsustainable cost structure for WhiteWave, but the company doesn’t think its betrayed organic consumers.
“We really don’t feel like we’re moving away from organic products,” Loveday said. “We feel like we need to diversify and answer some of the consumer demand. Natural is a large, growing industry.”
After more than five years of double-digit growth, the organic food industry is experiencing a flattening in demand. Organic food sales are expected to dip 1.1 percent to $5.07 billion this year, according to Mintel, a Chicago-based research firm.
But after a major push by food and consumer product companies in recent years to introduce products labeled as “natural,” eco-friendly,” “fair trade,” “sustainable” and dozens of variations, consumers are more confused than ever about what the claims mean.
“Many consumers do not understand green terminology,” said Suzanne Shelton, whose firm, the Shelton Group, recently released a national survey examining consumer perceptions on food labels. “They prefer the word ‘natural’ over the term ‘organic,’ thinking organic is more of an unregulated marketing buzzword that means the product is more expensive. In reality, the opposite is true.”
The USDA requires that producers of certified organic products meet certain standards, while other terms like “natural” are not regulated. Natural food is considered food that are minimally processed and don’t contain additives, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has discouraged the food industry from using the term because of its ambiguity.
WhiteWave says it partners with Conservational International to ensure its soybeans are grown without genetic engineering and are sourced in a sustainable, socially responsible and ethical manner.Denver Business Journal
by Kimberly Morrison Jacksonville Business Journal
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Do you have any idea what those are? Most people don`t, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency`s website, the first two are the chemical names for DEET and the other two for Picaridin.
The EPA`s own study of DEET in 1998 found that it poses no specific risk to humans provided it is not worn for long periods of time and is used as a topical repellent only. Their tests of both DEET and Picaridin show them to only be "slightly toxic" when ingested.
This could be worse, but if you`re not interested in even slightly exposing your family to questionable chemicals--especially if a proven alternative exists--then there are ways to avoid them. Why expose yourself or your children to potentially toxic chemicals if you don`t have to?
The first step in keeping mosquitoes from biting is to not have them around in the first place. Your home, place of business, etc. might be a mosquito breeding ground. Drain or clean up any standing water.
If you have ponds or non-chlorinated pools, consider a circulation system to keep them fresh and clean.
Keep the gutters around your home clear of debris.
Two other attractants are evergreens (especially the heavy foliage types) and dark clothing. Consider using a natural insect killer like diatomaceous earth (DE) to treat your trees and shrubs. Finally, avoid dark clothing if possible, as it`s a natural visual cue for mosquitoes.
There are a lot of natural insecticides you could turn to for help in keeping the pesky mosquitoes away as well. Many are available as topical oils and creams for ready use off the pharmacy or health store shelf. Others can be quickly (and easily) made at home from essential (non-dilute) oils.
Citronella Oil is commonly seen in sprays off the shelf, as candles you can burn to keep mosquitoes at bay, and even as scented hangers that react with the air to exude the scent. Most types of flying insects dislike the smell of citronella and will avoid it. Beware of allergies to this oil, however, and make sure to try only small amounts on a "test area" before applying whole hog.
Lemon Eucalyptus is another extremely popular essential oil. It can be found in many off-the-shelf sprays and creams. The base oil can be purchased and diluted in water. A 6oz spray bottle of water can have a few drops (maybe 8-12) of lemon eucalyptus added and sprayed on as a repellent.
Lemongrass Oil is another, similar repellent that can be used as lemon eucalyptus above. Cinnamon, Peppermint, Clove, Rosemary, and Castor oil are also popular alternatives, readily available in health food stores and pharmacies.
Many others are also available and popular, with varying degrees of success. Many oils can be mixed to create a pleasant scent to go along with the repellent as well.
There are many natural alternatives to spraying or rubbing on combination repellent/sunscreen as well, all of which can be just as effective as the chemicals in the commercial sprays. Be aware that mixing repellents with sunscreen, diluting with rain or sweat, and even time can reduce their effectiveness. If you`re using sunscreen as well as your natural repellent, put the repellent on clothing and use the sunscreen to protect your skin.
Make sure to have fun and enjoy the outdoors this summer, and stay protected too!
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Thursday, July 23, 2009
Guests were mesmerized, too. They remarked that this water condensed from air was greatly refreshing. Yup, we nodded, smugly: It were good. And there was enough for all of us to drink, with some leftover every day for the pets and for cooking.
Being big water drinkers, we were suckers for this technology. So we tried to think critically. What was the downside? Like Pooh, we thought and thought. Were we taking water that we shouldn’t? No, we decided, we were really just hopping on the water cycle a little earlier, before the rain hit the ground, fed the municipal system, was piped back to our house. Like capturing sun energy with solar panels.
Was this water as good as that filtered by our refrigerator? With more filtration, including a reverse osmosis filter in the AWG it should be more pure.
So we tried the Ecoloblue machine for four months. Here’s how it worked and what we learned:
- We were happy with the output. Here in North Texas, which is not humid Houston, nor the desert Southwest, we had no trouble getting a full tank of water every day. The readout on the machine showed we were running between 45 percent and 60 percent humidity this spring and summer. At times, we scrambled to use all the water - stashing it in the fridge, watering the dogs and pet rats and trying it out on a tomato plant.
- This is not the Culligan man. You do your own maintenance, with the help of a technician on the phone. Yeah, we are all tired of the growing number of household items that must be maintained via technicians on the phone. But happily we were able to troubleshoot our two issues, which was really one issue. (See below.)
- Home tests showed that this water contained no chlorine or nitrates, two chemicals that turn up in tap water, albeit usually in technically “safe amounts.” If you are concerned, however, about long term chemical exposure, it’s nice to be free of these chemicals. (For comparison we tested our tap water: Nitrates were at “safe levels” per the EPA. But given the growing problems with fertilizers contaminating watersheds, rivers and aquifers…we’re paranoid enough to worry that nitrates could further infiltrate our drinking water, or accumulate in our bodies. We also don’t like chlorine. So this was a big plus in favor of using this water filtration system.)
- We didn’t have any issues with the air conditioning rendering the AWG unit unable to collect water, but then we lightly air condition. People who use more air conditioning, which dehumidifies the air, might see a reduction in production. Our house is generally at 80 degrees or higher. People who keep it chillier might have a different experience, or need to place the unit near an open window at night.
- I hate manuals, so we had a teenager assemble the unit and help clean it. No sweat. We can truthfully say a 14-year-old can do it.
- The one seemingly serious issue we had involved a Zeolite filter in the unit’s bottom water collection tank. The filter contained loose carbon and Zeolite and apparently the Zeolite caused a film to build up in the lower (and initial) water collection tank. This buildup eventually impeded the water flow by clinging to that filter, causing a back flow of water, or in layman’s terms, a leak. A spokeswoman explained that this resulted from the Zeolite not having been rinsed properly at the factory, a problem that has since been solved. Zeolite is commonly used in water filtration because it effectively removes dirt and contaminants and deodorizes water, according to manufacturers. (It’s used in swimming pools.) We didn’t much like the thought of any buildup. However, the glitch has been fixed and we were advised how to clean the tank (with peroxide) by the service department. The unit was back in action within an hour.
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The problem is that phthalates suppress male hormones and sometimes mimic female hormones. As I’ve written before, chemicals called endocrine disruptors are believed to explain the proliferation of “intersex fish” — male fish that produce eggs — as well as sexual deformities in animals and humans. Phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are among the most common endocrine disruptors, and among the most difficult to avoid. They’re even in tap water, and levels soar in certain plastic water bottles.
They probably are not harmful to us adults, but it is another story for children. In girls, some research suggests that phthalates may cause early onset puberty. Most vulnerable of all, it seems, are male fetuses in the first trimester of pregnancy, just as they are differentiating their sex. At that stage, scholars believe, phthalates may “feminize” these boys.
“Commonly used phthalates may undervirilize humans,” concluded a study by the University of Rochester. The study, which was small, based its conclusion, in part, on measurements of “anogenital distance” — the distance between the anus and the genitals, which is typically twice as long for males as for females. Some scholars believe that shrinkage of this distance reflects “feminization” of male anatomy.
The researchers found that pregnant women with higher levels of phthalates delivered babies with a shorter anogenital distance. It’s possible this won’t cause any complications. But baby boys with shorter anogenital distance were more likely to have undescended testicles and less penile volume, and phthalates have been linked in humans to problems with sperm count and sperm quality.
In China, researchers found that female rats given phthalates gave birth to males with a penis deformity called hypospadias (in which the urethra exits the side or base of the penis, not the tip). Many other animal studies around the world have found similar results.
Some endocrinologists refer to the “phthalate syndrome,” including hypospadias and undescended testicles.
“Accumulating human epidemiological data point to a relationship between adverse fetal development and phthalate exposure,” concluded an article this spring in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Just last month, the Endocrine Society — composed of thousands of doctors in the field — issued a powerful warning that endocrine disruptors including phthalates are “a significant concern to public health.”
One of the conundrums for scientists and journalists alike is how to call prudent attention to murky and uncertain risks, without sensationalizing dangers that may not exist? Increasingly, endocrinologists are concluding that the mounting evidence is enough to raise alarms.
Indeed, there has also been a flurry of scientific articles questioning whether endocrine disruptors are tied to obesity, autism and allergies, although the evidence there is less firm than with genital abnormalities and depressed sperm count.
The American Chemistry Council argues that phthalates are not a problem, that they do not migrate out of products easily and that they quickly break down in the body. The chemical industry has noted an apparently reassuring study in the Journal of Urology finding that hypospadias does not seem to be increasing in New York State (although different studies showed increases both in the United States and in Denmark).
James Yager, a professor of toxicology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agrees that there are huge uncertainties but says that pregnant women and children should be cautious. “When my wife was pregnant, we worried about drinking or smoking,” Professor Yager said. Now, he said, he would be more focused on exposure to chemicals such as phthalates in baby bottles.
Dr. Theo Colborn, the founder of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, goes further. She tells researchers working with her to toss out plastic water bottles and use stainless steel instead. “I don’t have plastic food containers in my house,” she added. “I use glass.”
Certain phthalates have been banned from new toys sold in the United States, but kids continue to be exposed to these chemicals from the moment they are conceived. Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network says that the way regulators examine risks — studying the impact of one chemical at a time — is bankrupt, for we’re exposed to a cocktail of them daily. Regulation is so pathetic that there’s not even disclosure when products contain phthalates.If terrorists were putting phthalates in our drinking water, we would be galvanized to defend ourselves and to spend billions of dollars to ensure our safety. But the risks are just as serious if we’re poisoning ourselves, and it’s time for the Obama administration and Congress to show leadership in this area.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
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Of the 90 million cows living on America soil, only a small number live their lives on open ranges. That unlucky majority exist in cramped conditions---in unhealthy feedlots where close confinement breeds disease.
Nutrition professionals like Kelley Herring sing the praises of eating organic grassfed beef. In “Enjoy Grass-fed Steak…With a Side of Spinach," she remarks, “Choose ONLY grass-fed: Grass-fed beef is 300-400 percent higher in conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) - a natural fat that promotes weight loss and reduces the risk of cancer."
In another article entitled, “Meat: Lean, Clean and Green,” Ms. Herring includes this information in the section on farming methods. “It’s absolutely essential to choose 'green' meats free of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides. These compounds are powerful endocrine disruptors in our food supply - and even 'cutting back' does not safeguard against their effects.” Here again, she recommends grassfed beef.
Food Revolution.com, in its lengthy article on grassfed beef, relates this piece of good news for organic carnivores: “A sirloin steak from a grain-fed feedlot steer has more than double the total fat of a similar cut from a grass-fed steer.” The article further points out that grazing cattle pass along healthy omega-3s as well as nearly four times higher the amount of vitamin E than conventionally-raised, feedlot cattle.
And, finally, this comment from activist Michael Pollan:
"We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine."
Be sure to mark off a few minutes to view Dr. Alan Greene’s YouTube video on grassfed beef.
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In light of the obvious problems, and the reluctance for real change from a top down approach, a lot of people have started wondering what they, individually, can do about these problems that seem larger than any one of us. Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions that, in their own ways, address many of the problems above.
One of those answers is composting, or turning your kitchen and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil. Composting is a fun project, and it`s one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do.
Composting works on environmental problems on a number of levels.
The truth is: if you eat a fresh fruit and vegetable oriented diet, recycle all you can, and compost all you can, there really isn`t much left to send to the landfill. If you`re already recycling, and simply start composting, many families can reduce the amount of trash leaving the house by half or more.
By composting instead of sending the waste to the landfill, you`re actively reducing the amounts of greenhouse gasses created in the landfill, and the compost itself pulls the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the air.
It`s estimated that a fifth acre garden with compost tilled into the top 8 inches of soil can remove 19,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. That offsets about one and a half years of an average American`s carbon emissions.
When your compost has finished, you can use it to fertilize your yard - and end the use of store bought or chemical fertilizers. This makes your yard (and the air around your home) safer for you and your family, while feeding optimal nutrition to the Earth and creating an optimal growing environment. It`s said that well composted soil helps with every growing problem, including pests and drainage.
Once your soil has been brought to life with your nutrient-dense compost, you might be encouraged to plant a few fruit trees, vegetables, or herb bushes to regularly provide fresh pesticide-free foods for your family in a sustainable manner.
While composting isn`t the whole answer, it`s a great start in the right direction. Another big improvement is to simply avoid plastics whenever possible. Plastics, particularly plastic bags, aren`t easily recyclable. In fact, each grocery store plastic bag costs only 1 cent to make, but far more to recycle. That`s why so many of them are floating up near the North Pole.
How to Compost
For the uninitiated, composting might seem overwhelming, but once you know the basics, it`s simple. Here`s a quick run down on the basics of composting.
One of the most important things is that you need about 1/3 greens to 2/3 browns for it to be successful. But, what does this mean? Generally speaking, greens are from your kitchen and anything green from your yard. Brown is anything brown from your yard (including dried grass and leaves), and can also include cardboard, paper towels, and newspaper. Waste from a cat or dog should not be added to the pile.
If you don`t have enough browns your nitrogen balance will be off and you`ll know this because your compost will start to smell, which is undesirable. The green brown ratio doesn`t need to be exact, but keep in mind that you`ll need more browns than greens. And if it starts to smell, just add more browns, mix it up, and it should become fine.
All fruit and vegetable waste is fair game for composting, but don`t use processed foods, dairy, egg, or meat remains; they`ll rot (in a bad way) or attract animals. Egg shells are fine. They add calcium, but if you use them, rinse and crush them; they take a while to decompose. If you want to speed your results, cut up your kitchen remains before adding them to your compost pile.
You`ll need an area of your yard for composting or a compost bin. You can buy a professional bin, or make one with a container you already have. Either way, the size should be in line with the amount you`ll be composting. It should be kept in a warm place that ideally is a little away from your house.
Once your bin or composting area is all set up, just toss everything in and mix it up. Then toss in some dirt to give it the microbes needed to start the decomposition process. Then add a layer of browns to the top, which will trap the heat inside and discourage pests.
Your compost should be a little damp, but not soaked which can lead to fungal growth. Your compost should also have access to air, as opposed to being sealed. You can and should "turn" or stir your compost somewhat regularly, at least every week or two. Turning your compost will give it air and speed the process along. After turning it or adding more greens, add a light layer of browns to the top.
The length of time it`ll take to decompose depends on a couple of factors, including the temperature of the compost, the size of the pieces, how often you turn it, the size of the compost, and more. Depending on these factors, it can take anywhere from a month to several months to completely decompose.
Some people keep two bins going simultaneously. One can be added to on a continual basis while the other is left to compost without new materials being added. When the fully composted material is finished and used, a new batch is started, and the pile that was previously the "add to" pile becomes the pile that just sits to compost.
Keep in mind, there are many different approaches to composting out there. The above is the down and dirty for the beginning composter, and should be enough to get you started.
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