March 4th, 2010 jeniii
Ahhh, the beginning of Spring. This time of season is so wonderfully refreshing! Everything and everyone starts to come out of hibernation; leaves start to grow on trees, flowers bloom and people start gardening. March usually marks the beginning of the gardening season. The weather is starting to warm up and the days are getting longer, which means more sunlight; perfect for planting. Gardening is a great way to know exactly where your fruits and vegetables are coming from, because let’s face it, who knows what kinds of chemicals and bacteria are on things these days. Plus, it’s a great hobby and stress reliever. There’s always a great fulfillment knowing that what you’re eating is what you just harvested from your own garden.
As fun as gardening in March is, not every vegetable or fruit should be planted now. Some should be planted as the weather gets warmer, depending on your location. March friendly vegetables and fruits consist mainly of; asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce (many types), onions, peppers, radishes, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries and tomatoes… just to name a few.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my thumb isn’t exactly green. In fact it’s at the total opposite spectrum. The only thing I can actually suggest is to go completely organic and start your own compost pile. Now that’s what I call knowing EXACTLY where your produce comes from!
December 1st, 2009 cate
One gift idea we really like to embrace each year during the holiday season, is food. Why? We just feel that food, provided its packaging isn’t too copious and that is not laden with chemicals, is highly environmentally responsible. For one, food is eaten which creates little actual trash unlike gifts made of, for example, plastic and pvc materials and wrapped in plastic, which all eventually piles up in city dumps then leaches their toxic chemicals into the water shed. Next, many food gifts come in containers or baskets that can be re-used or recycled.
We like offering organic, edible gifts because we think people really appreciate them and it leaves us feeling good that we haven’t contributed much to the planet’s problems. A particularly insidious issue comes from plastic toys for children. Not only are they bad for the environment because yes, at some point, they will end up in a dump – but also they’ve found many of these plastic toys encumbered with Bisphenol A, a dangerous and unhealthy chemical found in many plastics. Why would anyone risk the health of little kids by giving them these hazardous chemicals?
Here’s an idea for kids. These colorful vanilla and sugar animal cookies are certified organic (all natural, no preservatives, nut-free) and just overall fun. They are a great alternative to gifting plastic toys, and are packaged in recycled boxes.
O r d e r t h e s e n o w
March 16th, 2009 cate
Why Should You Care About Pesticides?
The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood.
Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.
What’s the Difference?
EWG research has found that people who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. The Guide helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load.
Will Washing and Peeling Help?
Nearly all the studies used to create these lists assume that people rinse or peel fresh produce. Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate
pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, rinse all produce and buy organic when possible.
How Was This Guide Developed?
EWG analysts have developed the Guide based on data from nearly
87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between
2000 and 2007 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can find a detailed
description of the criteria EWG used to develop these rankings and
the complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at our dedicated
March 3rd, 2009 cate
Tomatoes are good for you being packed with vitamins and essential nutrients but did you know that the tomatoes you eat during the winter months were probably picked by someone living in virtual slavery? It’s best to stick to a general rule: eat seasonally, eat locally.
Now, more about the politics of the price of tomatoes from gourmet.com:
“Driving from Naples, Florida, the nation’s second-wealthiest metropolitan area, to Immokalee takes less than an hour on a straight road. You pass houses that sell for an average of $1.4 million, shopping malls anchored by Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, manicured golf courses. Eventually, gated communities with names like Monaco Beach Club and Imperial Golf Estates give way to modest ranches, and the highway shrivels from six lanes to two. Through the scruffy palmettos, you glimpse flat, sandy tomato fields shimmering in the broiling sun. Rounding a long curve, you enter Immokalee. The heart of town is a nine-block grid of dusty, potholed streets lined by boarded-up bars and bodegas, peeling shacks, and sagging, mildew-streaked house trailers. Mongrel dogs snooze in the shade, scrawny chickens peck in yards. Just off the main drag, vultures squabble over roadkill. Immokalee’s population is 70 percent Latino. Per capita income is only $8,500 a year. One third of the families in this city of nearly 25,000 live below the poverty line. Over one third of the children drop out before graduating from high school.
Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.”
The beige stucco house at 209 South Seventh Street is remarkable only because it is in better repair than most Immokalee dwellings. For two and a half years, beginning in April 2005, Mariano Lucas Domingo, along with several other men, was held as a slave at that address. At first, the deal must have seemed reasonable. Lucas, a Guatemalan in his thirties, had slipped across the border to make money to send home for the care of an ailing parent. He expected to earn about $200 a week in the fields. Cesar Navarrete, then a 23-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, agreed to provide room and board at his family’s home on South Seventh Street and extend credit to cover the periods when there were no tomatoes to pick.
Lucas’s “room” turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas’s pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.
But when Lucas—slightly built and standing less than five and a half feet tall—inquired about the balance, Navarrete threatened to beat him should he ever try to leave. Instead of providing an accounting, Navarrete took Lucas’s paychecks, cashed them, and randomly doled out pocket money, $20 some weeks, other weeks $50. Over the years, Navarrete and members of his extended family deprived Lucas of $55,000.
Taking a day off was not an option. If Lucas became ill or was too exhausted to work, he was kicked in the head, beaten, and locked in the back of the truck. Other members of Navarrete’s dozen-man crew were slashed with knives, tied to posts, and shackled in chains. On November 18, 2007, Lucas was again locked inside the truck. As dawn broke, he noticed a faint light shining through a hole in the roof. Jumping up, he secured a hand hold and punched himself through. He was free.
What happened at Navarrete’s home would have been horrific enough if it were an isolated case. Unfortunately, involuntary servitude—slavery—is alive and well in Florida. Since 1997, law-enforcement officials have freed more than 1,000 men and women in seven different cases. And those are only the instances that resulted in convictions. Frightened, undocumented, mistrustful of the police, and speaking little or no English, most slaves refuse to testify, which means their captors cannot be tried. “Unlike victims of other crimes, slaves don’t report themselves,” said Molloy, who was one of the prosecutors on the Navarrete case. “They hide from us in plain sight.”
And for what? Supermarket produce sections overflow with bins of perfect red-orange tomatoes even during the coldest months—never mind that they are all but tasteless. Large packers, which ship nearly $500 million worth of tomatoes annually to major restaurants and grocery retailers nationwide, own or lease the land upon which the workers toil. But the harvesting is often done by independent contractors called crew bosses, who bear responsibility for hiring and overseeing pickers. Said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, “We abhor slavery and do everything we can to prevent it. We want to make sure that we always foster a work environment free from hazard, intimidation, harassment, and violence.” Growers, he said, cooperated with law-enforcement officers in the Navarette case…”
Read the rest of this article
January 26th, 2009 cate
“We all love to eat, but the ugly reality is that some foods can make you sick. We’re not talking about salmonella here; none of what’s listed below should send you directly to the hospital with a debilitating illness, though Jeremy Piven recently claimed to have mercury sickness from a diet too rich in sushi. While the verdict is still out on Piven’s poisoning, certain foods, when eaten too frequently, can pose a very real health risk over time (especially if you are thinking of having a baby or if you are feeding a small child).
The dangers of these foods range from PCBs in certain fish, to large trace amounts of pesticides on fresh fruit and veggies. This past year, the National Institutes of Health even linked long-term pesticide exposure to diabetes. To avoid these health risks, we came up with a list of ten foods to beware, both for your health and for the health of the environment.
1. Farmed Salmon
Tim Fitzgerald, a scientist with the Oceans Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, says, “Salmon is the third most popular seafood in the US, so people are eating a lot of it and most of what they’re eating is farmed. As a result of the feed salmon are given, they are very high in PCBs and environmental contaminants. For reasons of health, the environment, and popularity with consumers, farmed salmon is at the top of the list of seafood to avoid.” The average dioxin level in farmed-raised salmon is 11 times higher than that in wild salmon .
2. Conventionally Grown Bell Peppers
Even though pesticides are present in most food at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented, and certain produce carries a greater risk. According to a report done by the Environmental Working Group, sweet bell peppers are the vegetable with the most pesticides detected on a single sample (as many as 11 were found on one sample). In addition, bell peppers are the vegetable with the most pesticides overall with 64 different pesticides found on samples. Better to buy organic and eliminate this risk.
3. Non-Organic Strawberries
In order to increase sweetness, some growers of non-organic strawberries are said to irrigate the plants with water laced with the artificial sweetener NutraSweet. And that luscious red color is caused by the fungicide captan, recognized by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen. Do you really want to eat something bathed in a chemical sweetener and doused with a likely cancer-causer? Probably not.
4. Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean sea bass, otherwise known as Patagonian toothfish, lives for a very long time and grows to a large size; both are automatic warning bells for being high in mercury. Fitzgerald says, “We have some pretty comprehensive data that Chilean sea bass are extraordinarily high in mercury and not something you want to eat very often. When you factor in the very serious environmental issues with illegal fishing and bycatch, it’s definitely a double whammy for us.”
“That said, we don’t want to give the impression that if you eat one piece of fish with mercury, you’re going to get mercury poisoning. But if you continually eat fish with a lot of mercury over an extended period of time, that’s when you’re going to see more serious issues like unexplainable fatigue, memory problems, and tingling or numbness in your extremities,” Fitzgerald says.
5. Non-Organic Peaches
Peaches aren’t just juicy and delicious, they’re magnets for pesticides, often topping the Organic Center’s consumer’s pocket guide for pesticide-riddled produce. The Center’s chief scientist Charles Benbrook says, “Peaches top the list because their skins get soft at the end of their season on the tree and the last pesticide spray can move right through that skin and get into the tissue of the fruit in a matter of hours. That’s why it’s easy to find peaches with ten different pesticide residues in them.”
Benbrook adds, “The last thing that we want to do is scrooge people from eating fresh fruits and vegetables. If anything, we want people to eat two to three more servings of produce a day. But the science is irrefutable. If the average family sought out organic versions of the top four fruits and vegetables they eat the most often, they could eliminate 90% of their overall pesticide exposure.”
6. Genetically Modified Corn
If you read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, one of the more shocking truths is the amount of corn found in the American diet. Corn is in everything from frozen yogurt to ketchup, from mayonnaise and mustard to hot dogs and vitamins. Unless specified as organic, the corn you’re ingesting is likely genetically modified. Genetically modified organisms have not been tested thoroughly enough for long-term consequences, but a series of studies has found significant health risks in animals tested, and an increase in certain allergies for humans.
7. Bluefin Tuna
Maybe it’s a good thing that not everyone has the luxury of eating a lot of toro at the sushi bar, because bluefin tuna is in grave danger from a population perspective. It’s also one of the more dangerous fish for mercury consumption, making it both a bad eco choice and a health risk for mercury exposure. Fitzgerald says, “The bluefin tuna is in such horrible shape right now. There are some populations that may go commercially extinct in the near future if we don’t ease up on the fishing.”
8. Industrially Farmed Chicken
While there has been much debate over chickens and hormones, there exists a great deal of misinformation. Poultry is not allowed to be given hormones in the United States, so while reports have existed for years that schoolchildren are experiencing early puberty due to excess hormones traced to chicken, there have not been enough studies done to prove this conclusively .
What we do know is that tests done by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found arsenic in conventional chickens. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and contributes to other diseases including heart disease, diabetes and deterioration of mental faculties. In addition, a study conducted in 2002 for the Sierra Club and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria in brand-name poultry products . Scientists believe antibiotic use in animals raised for food contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria transferred to humans, mainly through contaminated food, resulting in drug-resistant infections. In order to avoid poultry that’s been dosed with antibiotics or given feed laced with arsenic, better to opt for an organic chicken at the grocery store.
9. Non-Organic Apples
“Apples come with a red flag based on the sheer amount of apples in our diet and the reliance of pesticides in humid parts of the country,” says Benbrook. Apple skins contain higher pesticide residues. Higher risk apples are grown in the humid mid-Atlantic states and Michigan: They use more pesticides than California, Oregon or Washington state. A lot of those pesticides seep into the skin of the apple, so it’s always good to peel it. Unfortunately, approximately 1/3 of the nutrients come off with the peel, according to Benbrook.
10. Cattle Treated With rBGH
The use of genetically engineered drug rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is widespread among the cattle industry in the United States. Banned by all European nations and Canada, U.S. dairy farmers continue to use the synthetic hormone which escalates production of the cow’s own hormone ICF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). This hormone does not break down when humans consume milk from those cows and has been traced to higher risks of certain cancers, including breast cancer, and hormonal disorders. The only guarantee against ingesting these dangerous excess hormones is to buy milk labeled “no rBGH.” [source]