March 20, 2009

The Iditarod: Animal Cruelty Rewarded

Kudos to New Jersey native,Kim Darst, who opted to drop out of this year's inhumane Iditarod Sled-Dog Race to save the life of one of her dogs. READ STORY HERE

The "winners" of what would be considered in most states - animal cruelty - receive a cash prize, an enormous boost to their already over-inflated egos and a stupid belt buckle claiming they ran the race. (Which is patently ridiculous, because it's the dogs who run the race.) As Ms. Darst sought care for her hypothermic dog, she stated no regrets whatsoever for her decision because her dogs come first. She said she couldn't live with herself if she'd allowed her dog to die...and for what? A stupid belt buckle?

Although I commend Ms. Darst for her decision, her initial decision to run the race in the first place casts somewhat of a pall over too much "hurrah-ing". The last bastion of publicly-sanctioned, legal, sponsored and awarded animal cruelty should have been stopped years ago according to uncountable highly credible resources. A quick check on the Internet will reveal all the horror and seedy stories regarding this race, the treatment and the lives of the dogs both before, during and after the race and the pre-ordained death sentence to puppies bred for this purpose but who don't measure up to "mushers'" standards.

March 19, 2009

Foods With Highest Pesticide Exposure

The Environmental Working Group has put out its latest list of 47 of the most popular fruits and vegetables and their ranking from highest (worst) to lowest pesticide content. You might want to ditch that peach you just bought at the supermarket...unless it's got the USDA/Organic seal slapped on it.
Here's The List.

March 16, 2009

Food Safety Group Formed By President Obama

Heralding in a new era of food safety, President Obama has formed a
Food Safety Working Group to "upgrade our food safety laws for the 21st century".

The appointments of former NYC health chief, Margaret Hamburg as new FDA commissioner and Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore’s health commissioner, as deputy were praised by the American Health Association. The [hopeful] approval from Congress of $1 billion in funds to regenerate a formerly impotent FDA and the Agriculture Department’s new rules banning all sick or disabled cattle for consumption, is another example of President Obama’s forward thinking in an effort to undo past wrongs.

“There are certain things only a government can do”, Obama said. “And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and do not cause us harm.”

If some of the more paranoid, aluminum-foil-hat crowd fear this is yet another example of Big Brotherism, then all I can say is: We’ve been too long without this Brother.

"Old" Pressure Treated CCA Lumber Isn't Safe Either

Many people are under the misconception that using "old" (an ambiguous age determination) CCA (Chromium Copper Arsenic) pressure treated lumber in a building project that would (a) come in contact with children and pets; or (b) come in contact with edibles, as in construction of a vegetable-garden bed enclosure; or (c) a compost pile is acceptable because they think the arsenic has either leached out of the lumber after a point or by placing it a pre-determined distance from edibles, the arsenic won't affect growing vegetables.


There are numerous sources of information out there on the Internet for people to research if exposing their families and themselves to inordinate measures of inorganic arsenic is important to them. Inorganic arsenic is synthesized as opposed to naturally-occurring organic arsenic found in water, soils, etc. This information sheet about CCA lumber also includes the EPA's "acceptable" limits of arsenic exposure. ( I usually take those EPA recommendations and halve them.)

Sadly, too many people are either too lazy or find it confusingly mind-boggling to type a few words in a dialog box on a search engine, like Google, and hit "Search". I fully admit I was more than a bit befuddled by this thing with the blinking cursor but I soon realized one didn't have to become a computer nerd to type and hit a key. I digress.

"Old" pressure treated lumber is perhaps as deadly or at least unfriendly as "new" pressure treated lumber. Thankfully, as of a few years ago, there is no longer any "new" pressure treated or CCA lumber being produced because the EPA in it's infinite wisdom(?) finally outlawed it, recognizing its arsenic-leaching potential as hazardous to health. Studies (again, look them up) have found that once the lumber begins to break down, the pressurizing which encapsulated the arsenic becomes compromised, thus releasing all that was soaked into the lumber....into the soil and more easily onto unsuspecting little hands and paws.

An excellent paper on this is from Dr. Linda Chalker Scott of Washington University, which you can read here.

When dealing with these "old" timbers people are also of the mindset that if they dispose of them (please, please do not burn these carcinogenic creations) that they will wind up in a landfill and spread their poisons there. This is quite true. Therein lies the conundrum of what to do with the stuff. Having been in that same place and faced the same predicament, I found other uses for them which were as out of harm's way as possible and certainly no where near my vegetable garden. One can be creative. After all, that's one of the finer points of being an organic gardener: working out safer methods to otherwise hazardous problems.

"Faux-Organic" Or "The Art Of Greenwashing"

As more and more greedy entrepreneurs slither into the organic market, it was inevitable the word "organic" would come to be synonymous with "100% USDA Organic-Approved". In order to legally attest to that claim, a product must bear the little green and white circular logo symbolizing its certification by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Board) using the standards set by the NOS (National Organic Standards/Substances).Organic Labeling

Consumers are historically duped by misleading claims and customized marketing (*see: enhanced-to-downright-phoney*) to target specific consumer desires. But now, it's entered the organic market. No longer a niche consumer group, the word "organic" or "natural" on a product can mean big bucks for any manufacturer who can spell the words. Nowadays a well-intentioned consumer must not only read a label's nutritional information but must be alert to products claiming to be "100% Organic" or "Natural"...and learn to interpret those claims. Not all that glitters "organic" is organic gold.

An excellent aid for consumers to research food labels and products they currently have at home is Greener Choices Eco Labels

Originally, the USDA National Organic Program required that all substances used in organic production meet National Organic Program standards. The USDA has since narrowed the definition of "substance " to "ingredient used in organic production". Basically, what this means is that: if a substance used in processing should leave or cause to leave organically-unapproved or even questionably toxic residues - and that residue is not actually an initial, intentional ingredient in the final product - that potentially toxic residue does not have to have USDA approval. In other words, it gets a pass. Albeit a pass through the back door of regulations, but a pass nonetheless which is "passed" on to that unsuspecting, unknowing, well-intentioned consumer. It's not all that dissimilar to the obfuscation of "free-range chicken" definitions which allows that as long as a chicken has access to a 4x4 outdoor enclosure for 10 minutes a day, it’s considered “free range”. You could cram 500 chickens into a 4X4 enclosure, open a window and make that claim and still get that "free-range pass".

Is it any wonder, then, why so many small & large family organic, sustainable farms have regretfully abandoned the USDA’s organic certification because of the whoring of true organic criteria and More diluted standards.

"Natural" doesn't mean it's good for you. Many "natural" elements or plant-derived products can be quite toxic. Cyanide is natural, but I wouldn't want it in my morning coffee. This is yet another misuse and abuse by greedy greenwashers of a common term meant to dupe an unsuspecting public.

"Organic" simply means "derived from living matter". Yet it has become a commonly accepted colloquialism to mean: "grown without chemicals or synthetics" in 100% Organic Approved. This wolf is very well concealed in greenwashed-sheep's clothing thanks to that common consumer misconception and the deceitful profiteers who promulgate it. Add to that alleged "organic" magazines and venues which promote products like Scotts Miracle Gro Organic Choice as a true organic alternative. Neophite organic gardeners often look to these sources for guidance and that guidance can - at least - be quite questionable. People should never stop asking questions. If they do, that's how lemmings are born and we become a nation of "sheeple" (*sheeple: People who flock and herd together and blindly follow a dominant leader* ). Sure maybe Scotts MG OG may be an improvement over regular ole Miracle Glop (which isn't saying much). However, for as long as I can remember, organic advocates and leaders have held companies such as Scotts and Monsanto in the lowest possible regard and consistently decried their synthetic/chemical agendas. So it would seem that their support and advocacy should be better spent toward other up-and-coming companies with less nefarious pasts and true organic ideals. with so much in this world, it's ultimately all about the money. And big companies like Scotts brings in big advertising bucks. End of story.