Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Support Organic Farming: Avoid Sewage Waste Treatment Sludge (Called BioSolids) Fertilizer

More than half of America’s sewage sludge is applied to land. But there’s a crucial difference between cow manure or humanure and modern sludge, known in the sewage industry as “biosolids.” Humanure is made from pure human excrement. It can still contain residues from pharmaceuticals that pass through our bodies, but it lacks the industrial chemicals or other contaminants that make sludge so controversial.

Sewage Sludge (Biosolids), on the other hand, can count as ingredients everything that’s dumped into our sewer system, including a mixture of domestic and industrial waste that can include heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and thousands of other pollutants—and its long-term effects on soil are impossible to predict. The main ingredient of biosolids and humanure—feces—might be the same, but when it comes to their potential to contaminate soil, the two materials are fundamentally different.

From Organic Consumers Association:

For more articles:

Center For Food Safety:

Mother Jones:

Sewage Waste Treatment, Sludge: Damage Without End, by Abby A. Rockefeller:

Organic Consumers Association, Sewage-Based Fertilizer Safety Doubted:

Organic Consumers Association, US Government Allows Toxic Sewage Sludge to Poison Farmland, the Food Supply, & Drinking Water, Crap Happens, A Grist Report on Sewage Sludge: printable article
Originally published July 9, 2009

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Sewer Sludge Fertilizer Could Breed More Super Bugs
by S. L. BakerWaste water treatment by-products, also known as sewage sludge, are frequently used as commercial fertilizer. And that means whatever this stew of sewage leftovers contains, including substances hazardous to human and animal health could potentially get into the food supply.According to research just published in the European medical journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, that exact scenario may have already happened. Scientists have recently found antibiotic resistant super bugs in sewage sludge -- and they are sounding the alarm about the danger of antibiotic resistance genes passing into the human food chain. 79 percent tested positive for super bugs.

Leena Sahlstrom, from the Finnish Food safety Authority, along with a team of scientists from the Swedish National Veterinary Institute, investigated sewage sludge from a waste-water treatment plant in Uppsala, Sweden. The researchers gathered sludge from the plant each week for four months. Out of the of 77 samples collected, 79 per cent of these tested positive for the drug resistant super bugs known as vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), enterococci are bacteria that are normally present in the human intestines and the female genital tract. They can also sometimes be found in the environment.

However, if the immune system doesn't keep these germs in balance, enterococci can gain an upper hand and cause infections of the urinary tract, the bloodstream and wounds -- and the resulting illnesses can range from mild to life-threatening. Vancomycin is an antibiotic long used to treat these infections but some enterococci have become resistant to this drug and evolved into VRE strains. Virtually all VRE infections have become resistant to high levels of several other antibiotics, including ampicillin. That means that someone with a serious VRE infection may have to undergo tests to find an antibiotic that will hopefully be effective in treating their specific VRE infection. Although many people recover from VRE infections without any treatment, the CDC reports that some people, especially immune suppressed people, are at particular risk for serious and even fatal VRE infections.

But the risk VRE strains pose by getting into the food supply isn't only related to the possibility people and animals may get infections from them. The Finnish research points out this disturbing possibility: VRE in the fertilizer-used sewage sludge may pass on their resistance genes to other bacteria, creating a host of new super bugs. "Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat in veterinary medicine and human healthcare. Resistance genes can spread from animals, through the food-chain, and back to humans. Sewage sludge may act as one link in this chain," Dr. Sahlstrom said in a statement to the media. "Our results demonstrate a need for more efficient hygienic treatment of sewage sludge, in order to avoid possible spread of antimicrobial resistance through use of sewage sludge on arable land."

For more information:

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Vitamin D3: Best Time For Sun Exposure

From September 4, 2008 - Issue 1156

Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is the most serious form of skin cancer, accounting for about three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths. New research now supports that avoiding the sun at mid-day will actually increase your cancer risk. This recommendation is based on work in England and Norway and the United States that the optimal time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is near to solar noon as possible - between 10:00am and 2:00 pm. There are 2 reasons for this:

1) You need a shorter exposure time near solar noon because the UVB is more intense.

2) When the sun goes down towards the horizon, the UVB is filtered out much more than the UVA. It’s the long wave of ultraviolet called UVA, which runs from about 320 to 400 nanometers, is highly correlated with melanoma -- whereas the UVB is the one that produces the vitamin D, and that’s from 290 to 315 nanometers. If you want to get out in the sun to maximize your vitamin D production, and minimize your risk of malignant melanoma, the middle of the day is the best time and safest time to go.

Squamous cell carcinoma is linked to lifetime ultraviolet B sun burning, whereas melanoma is linked to lifetime ultraviolet A sun burning. By telling people to put on sunscreen and avoid the mid-day sun, dermatologists were actually giving recommendations that may have led to increased melanoma. Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning but UVA penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and is thought to be a much more important factor in photoaging, wrinkles and skin cancers.Getting about 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D can help you to reduce your cancer risk by up to 50 percent! About 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D. However, most people only get 250-300 IU a day from their diet, so another source -- ideally the sun -- is essential.

Another common myth, aside from that of avoiding the mid-day sun, is that occasional exposure of your face and hands to sunlight is "sufficient" for obtaining healthy vitamin D levels. For most of us, this is a miserably inadequate exposure to move vitamin levels to the healthy range. You need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun and you need to do it for more than a few minutes. In Caucasian skin, an equilibrium occurs within 20 minutes of ultraviolet exposure. It can take three to six times longer for people with dark skin to reach the equilibrium concentration of skin vitamin D.

So, bearing in mind that you need to gradually increase your time, starting in the spring, you should be aiming toward exposing large areas of your skin to the sun, anywhere from 20 minutes at a time to two hours at a time, depending on your skin type and environmental factors. Longer exposures will be needed if sunbathing occurs at off-peak times for ultraviolet light (before 12 noon or after 3 p.m.) or at the beginning or end of the summer (April or September).In the winter months, a vitamin D3 supplement (cholecalciferol), the type of vitamin D found naturally in foods like eggs, organ meats, animal fat and fish, can be used.

Source: Advanced Experiments in Medical Biology 2008; 624: 86-88
Related Articles:
What's the Most Dangerous Part of Sun Exposure?
Sunscreens Don't Provide the Protection They Claim
Daily Sunlight Can Keep Cancer Away

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Natural vs Organic, There is a BIG difference!

Organic Bytes #180, Health, Justice and Sustainability News from the Organic Consumers Association

Who’s Killing Organics?
July 1, 2009

Horizon Sells Out Organic Farmers With New "Natural" Milk

Dean Foods' WhiteWave division has announced it will release a new non-organic "natural" version of its popular Horizon dairy products. Horizon is the largest organic dairy brand in the marketplace, and many consumers will likely alternatively purchase the Horizon "natural (conventional)” brand at a premium and at a time when organic dairy farmers are already experiencing record losses.

Dean Foods, the organic industry’s largest name brand manufacturer and agribusiness giant intends to create and entirely new, lower-priced product category called “natural dairy” aimed squarely at pirating away organic customers. If successful, Dean, the largest milk processor in the United States will add to the pain many organic farmers are feeling due to decreased sales caused by the recession.

Dean’s Longmont, Colorado division which controls Horizon, Organic Cow, Silk and other brands has launched their organic alternative “natural” label at a time when industry sales have flattened after averaging 20% per year growth rates for more than a decade. Many family farmers now producing organic milk are now facing financial ruin.

This move comes shortly after Dean’s recent decision to use “natural” (e.g. conventional) soybeans in their previously organic Silk soymilk line. The “natural” Silk products have the same appearance and product codes and also the same price. Many retailers and consumers around the country were outraged to find that their favorite organic brand had been switched to conventional somewhat clandestinely. As a result, some retailers have dropped the Silk products.

Dean is handling the “natural” Horizon label a bit differently than they handled their switch to non-organic Silk products. They are claiming that the “natural” Horizon products will be easier on the pocketbook. Many consumers do not understand green terminology and prefer the word “natural” over the word “organic”, thinking that organic is an unregulated marketing buzzword that means the product is more expensive. In reality, the opposite is true. “Natural” is an unregulated word. Organic foods must meet government standards in order to be certified.
Many of Dean’s competitors, including Organic Valley, the second-largest organic marketer, a farmer-owned cooperative, are exclusively organic. They will maintain the value and the reputation the organic label holds with their customers.

Breaking the Organic Monopoly and the "Natural" Foods MythWhole Food Market and United Natural Foods, Inc.: Undermining Our Organic Future

After 40 years of hard work, the organic community has built up a $25 billion "certified organic" food and farming sector. This consumer-driven movement, under steady attack by the biotech and Big Food lobby, with little or no help from government, has created a healthy and sustainable alternative to America's disastrous, chemical and energy-intensive system of industrial agriculture.

However, the annual $50 billion natural food and products industry is threatening to undermine the organic movement by flooding the marketplace with conventional products greenwashed with "natural" labeling. "Natural," in the overwhelming majority of cases, translates to "conventional-with-a-green-veneer." Natural products are routinely produced using pesticides, chemical fertilizer, hormones, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge. "Natural”, “all-natural" and "sustainable," products in most cases are neither backed up by rules and regulations, nor a Third Party certifier. These are label claims that are neither policed nor monitored. For an evaluation of eco-labels see the Consumers Union Eco-Label website.

For example:
* Tests Show Widespread Presence of GMOs in so-called "Natural" Foods.
* Dozens of "natural" and "made with organic" personal care and household cleaning products contain known carcinogens such as 1,4 Dioxane. Just about the only personal care products you can trust are those bearing the "USDA Organic" label.
* 90% or more of the vitamins and supplements now on the market labeled as "Whole Foods," "natural" or "food based" are spiked with synthetic chemicals.

Despite the massive popularity and demand for certified organic products, retailers like Whole Foods Market, and wholesalers like United Natural Foods Inc., continue to push "natural" products at a premium price, while, in effect slowing down the growth of organics with their near market monopoly. In fact, the majority of products sold and distributed by Whole Foods Market and UNFI are not certified organic, but rather so-called "natural." Meanwhile, independent and cooperative grocers often offer more certified organic products at competitive prices.

Contact Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods Inc today and tell them that you will buy only certified organic products for you and your family.

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Is Your Organic Food Really Organic?

August 30, 2008 - Issue 1154

The USDA has announced that they are putting 15 out of 30 federally accredited organic certifiers they audited on probation, allowing them 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation. At the heart of the problems were imported foods and ingredients from other countries, including China.

Chinese imports have made headlines for contaminated pet food, toxic toys, and recently, certified organic ginger contaminated with levels of a pesticide called aldicarb that can cause nausea, headaches and blurred vision. Are those store-bought “organic” veggies from China truly organic? The recent actions by the USDA indicate there’s probably a 50/50 chance they don’t meet organic standards.

Attitudes toward organic foods have recently shifted, and this is a direct result of big business jumping into the fray. America’s largest corporations, eager to gain market share in the natural foods movement, have begun mass-producing “organic” foods, and as a result are slowly deteriorating the meaning and health benefits upon which the organic label was founded.

Buy Local and Organic

Buying local is therefore quickly becoming the “new organic” because it supports many of the things that the organic label once did, such as:
*Fresher, tastier and more nutritious food
*Supporting small, local farmers within your community
*Improved food safety
*Environmentally-friendly, sustainable farming practices (provided the grower is using organic growing practices, regardless of whether or not they’re accredited USDA organic, which can be a costly process)

Shoppers at the growing number of farmers markets around the United States has helped spur the rise in farmers markets, includes principles beyond just pesticide-free food. It’s also about supporting small farmers and ensuring that food is produced in an environmentally-friendly manner, by workers who are paid fair wages.

Permaculture is another growing movement – a grown-up version of the organic, locally-grown food movement – which I believe is the real future of healthy food. Michael Pollan, the New York Times author who wrote the book Omnivore's Dilemma, does a great job of explaining in this video. At its roots is a focus on the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat -- and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems. Permaculture strives to mimic the natural ecologies found in nature, and food that is grown by these natural laws will inherently be healthy.

High-Quality, Healthy Food Shopping Guidelines
Whatever food you’re looking to buy, whether imported organic or locally-grown, from either your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, here are the signs of a high-quality, healthy food:
*Grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (some non-organic foods also fit this description)
*Not genetically modified
*Contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
*Does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
*It is fresh
*It did not come from a factory farm
*Grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
*Grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)

Most often, the best place to find these foods are from a sustainable agricultural group in your area.

Healthy Resources
For more information on where to find wholesome food from community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, check out this link, and for a list of grass-fed beef ranchers in the U.S. where you can find good-quality meats, please review my previous article The Selling of Organic.

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