Organic Life

tuesday

Beauty goes au naturale

Sonakshi Sinha finds beauty in natural and organic ingredients.

Who doesn’t like the freshness of teal eyes, pink luscious lips, peach cheeks and a glowing complexion?

As the beauty industry takes a step forward, there is an equal number of men and women going back to basics.

Going organic seems to be the new mantra, what with organic soaps, creams, lotions, shampoos, lip balms and other beauty products taking a haute new avatar.

Ahalya Matthan, of Ally Matthan brand of natural fragrance and fragrance-based natural and handmade products for skin, hair, bath and personal care and Areev, a nationally available bath care range explores wellness with a holistic approach.

Natural beauty

Natural skin care is really a way of life. Plant oils, shea and cocoa butters make fantastic moisturisers, aloe and chamomile are soothing and minerals work magic to get rid of makeup lines for sensitive skin.

Look for some easy-to-find organic ingredients like rosemary, almond, wheatgerm, honey and milk in your beauty range.

Chemical free

More and more people are learning about the potential skin and hair problems associated with preservatives and other suspect chemicals in cosmetics.

Chemical-based products can give you instant results, but can damage your sensitive skin and hair in the long run.

It’s a myth that synthetic skin products work marvels as they contain chemicals that are not harmful in tiny dosages, but years of accumulated usage results in damage that you cannot see.

The skin absorbs nutrients and has the ability to heal itself, so it is a logical choice to choose whether you put a chemical or a natural product on your skin.

Go organic

If you are looking to lead a healthy life in the long run, choosing a natural or organic product is imperative.

By choosing an organic or a natural product, you are using ingredients that work with the natural systems of your skin. Here’s a know how on how to go au naturale:

Organic skin care implies that the products are made of ingredients derived directly from plants that have been cultivated without the use any chemical pesticides or fertilisers and contain no synthetic preservatives or additives.

Organic products are certified such that the end consumer can trace the origin of the farm where the ingredients were cultivated.

True organic products are hard to find as the low yield of plants cultivated without fertilizers makes them commercially unviable.

On the other hand a natural skincare product simply means that the ingredients are plant derived, cultivated with or without chemical interference, or they could alternatively mean that the ingredients are molecular clones of plant derivates.

Both products deliver the promise of the best natural ingredients for specific skincare.

Article excerpted from www.deccanchronicle.com


Does eating organic food make you a jerk?

A new study finds that going organic can make you feel smug about yourself — and act nasty to others

Those who insist on organic artichokes might be more judgmental than shoppers who are content with conventional products. Photo: CC BY: SummerTomato

Buying and eating organic food makes many people feel better about themselves. (Not coincidentally, organic products often have panderingly positive names, such as Honest Tea, Purity Life, and Smart Balance.) The flip side, according to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, is that organic eaters often look down on others, and aren’t shy about expressing their derision. Does going organic turn you into a jerk? Here’s what you should know:

How did researchers study the effects of organic food?
They divided 60 people into three groups: One was shown images of organics, such as spinach and apples; one was shown only comfort food, such as brownies; the third reviewed pictures of basics like rice and oatmeal. Then all three groups were asked to read vignettes about moral transgressions, such as cousins having sex or an ambulance-chasing lawyer hunting clients in an ER, and rank how bad the vignettes’ protagonists were on a seven-point scale. The participants were also asked how much time they would be willing to volunteer for a fictitious study.

And what did they find?
The crowd exposed to organic foods judged others more harshly. On average, they put the offenses described in the vignettes at 5.5 on the seven-point scale. The people exposed to pictures of comfort food were the most mellow, with average ratings of 4.89. The organic group was also stingier with their volunteering time, offering to help out for 13 minutes, compared to 19 minutes for rice-and-oatmeal group, and 24 minutes for the comfort food crowd.

How do experts explain these results?

Author Kendall Eskine, a psychology professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, chalks it up to something he calls “moral licensing.” People do something they see as a good deed, so they start feeling self-righteous. They also feel like “they have permission, or license, to act unethically later on,” Eskine says. “It’s like when you go to the gym and run a few miles and you feel good about yourself, so you eat a candy bar.” How comforting, says Doug Berry at Jezebel. “Moral of the story: Eating cookies makes you a better person.”

Article excerpted from www.theweek.com


Can Organic Food Reverse Cancer?

When my melanoma recurred in the lymph nodes under my arm, I was told by my oncologist that chemotherapy was pretty useless for melanoma, so they’d whip out the affected nodes and we’d hope for the best.

Post-op, I was lying in my hospital bed when two — quite separate — friends gave me A Time to Heal by Beata Bishop, the story of her healing her own melanoma almost 30 years ago using the Gerson Therapy. I knew I had to do something and her book convinced me that Gerson was it.

The therapy looked like a bit of a beast to do — 13 freshly-squeezed organic vegetable and fruit juices per day plus five coffee enemas, every day for at least 18 months to two years. On the diet front everything was organic. There was a thick vegetable soup to be eaten twice daily, and lunch and dinner consisted of a baked potato and vegetables and salad. A little oatmeal was permitted at breakfast. Everything else was forbidden. I couldn’t even wear make-up (though a little beetroot juice on the cheeks helped), and any chemical household products were banned. There was also some supplementation, including potassium and Lugol’s solution, some pancreatic enzymes, niacin and injectable B12.

The purpose of the therapy, devised by Max Gerson more than 60 years ago, is to massively detoxify the body thus helping the immune system to do the job it is designed to do. Their website describes it as “naturally reactivating your body’s magnificent ability to heal itself — with no damaging side effects.”

Despite the program’s rigidity, I seemed to be able to surrender to the routine of it. I had help with the juicing. And basically it was my job for those 18 months. The Gerson people counsel rest and even discouraged any exercise back in the mid-90s when I did it. But I liked the juices, I loved the enemas (designed to detoxify the liver) and even the food was doable. I finished my 18 months full-on and six months of a reduced program and, convinced I had put paid to the melanoma for good, I went back to my life.

Unfortunately the melanoma did come back around five years later, and that was the big nasty one when it recurred in my brain, spleen, stomach and lungs.

So why didn’t Gerson work for me? And how come I am still a proponent of using natural and alternative methods to heal cancer? Well, I still agree with the principles of the therapy. (The program that subsequently did the trick 10 years ago was based on similar principles, but with way more specific and targeted supplementation). And that, for me, is the key.

Cancer shows up in a toxic body. So to clean up, nourish and encourage it to work properly still seems completely logical to me. My theory — unproven — is that over the last 60 years or so our soil has got much more toxic and less fertile — even the soil that organic produce is grown in. Graham Harvey, author of We Want Real Food, told me that in the UK the supermarkets have encouraged their large scale growers to turn over some of their land to cash in on the demand for organic produce, and this has been done by obeying the minimum rules of organic farming rather than the spirit. Soil fertility is not something quickly achieved.

That, combined with the huge array of chemicals our 21st century bodies have to contend with, makes healing cancer through food alone a harder job and why I believe intense supplementation on top of a really clean organic regime is what worked for me. I would love to hear your experiences.

Article excerpted from www.huffingtonpost.com


Austria comes out top at organic trade fair

Austria’s producers came out top in the organic stakes at Nuremberg’s BioFach trade fair over the weekend. The event in Germany which hosted some 2,400 exhibitors, 100 of whom were from Austria, was a roaring success for the country’s organic industry whose products proved hugely popular.

“Here in Germany, the whole world has been very impressed by the quality of our products,” explained Katja Huber from the organic butchers Sonnberg in Upper Austria. Companies from around the world presented their produce at the four-day fair which has long been pioneering the organic sector.

“Organic food is completely established in everyday life in Austria thanks to the producers. The entire marketplace is continually moving upwards,” said managing director of AMA (Agarmarkt Austria Marketing) Dr. Stephan Mikinovic.

The world’s organic industry saw a turnover of 45 billion Euros last year with 21 billion Euros of that in Europe, a 228 per cent increase from the year 2000 all despite economic and financial crisis. “Despite all the talk of saving and crisis, our organic industry has survived well and in fact suffered no significant losses”, said Mikinovic.

The USA and Europe are currently leading the organic market with 10 million hectares of organic farmland being worked in Europe alone. When looking at organic share in relation to available arable land, Austria is a world leader with 20 per cent. Only the Falkland Islands and Liechtenstein have a higher organic share.

Over the course of the last year Austrians spent around 304 million Euros on organic products with fruit, milk and meat products proving popular. The drive from supermarkets to create their own organic lines hugely benefits Austrian farmers, suggested Rudolf Vierbauch from Bio-Austria. “Austria would never have this organic turnover if the chains behind the strategy didn’t promote organic products,” said Vierbauch.

Despite currently being at a lower level, experts predict the areas of Middle and Eastern Europe to have the greatest growth potential in the organic market. Organic turnover in Croatia for example has increased twenty fold in the last six years.

Article excerpted from www.austriantimes.at


Organic Life in Korea

In Gangwon province, Inje city has a place named Gombaeryeong. This is a place where more than half of year is winter. And there lives a lady who consumes only nature’s gift of food and water. A true organic living. Worry-free…


A big thank you to ExploringKorea on YouTube


Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms

Using Mars-like soil taken from Atacama Desert, a study confirms Mars has organics, and Viking found them.

THE GIST

  • A reanalysis of Mars Viking experiments shows the probes did find organics.
  • The result was not initially understood due to the strong oxidation effects of a salt in the Mars soil known as perchlorate.
  •  A follow-up study on perchlorate-enhanced soil similar to what’s found on Mars revealed fingerprints of combusted organics.

The Viking 1 Lander, illustrated in this model, touched down on the western slope of Mars’ Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) on July 20, 1976.

More than 30 years after NASA’s Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt.

The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix.

Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics — the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.

“Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars,” planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. “It’s like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts.”

“If the Viking team had said ‘Well, maybe there’s perchlorate in the soil,’ everybody would have said they’re crazy — why would there be perchlorates in the soil? It was only by having it pushed on us by Phoenix where we had no alternative but to conclude that there was perchlorate in the soil … Once you realize it’s there, then everything makes sense,” McKay added.

The Viking team’s verdict that Mars lacked organics was the lynchpin argument against another Viking experiment that looked for signs of microbial life. In the experiment, a bit of nutrient-laced water was added to a sample of Martian soil.

The air above the soil was then monitored for signs that the nutrients had been metabolized. The instrument detected tracer gases the first time the experiment was done, but subsequent runs did not. The results were considered inconclusive and remain contested.

New evidence for organics on Mars does not mean Viking found life, cautions McKay.

“Finding organics is not evidence of life or evidence of past life. It’s just evidence for organics,” he said.

But if NASA had realized there were organics on Mars, there might not have been a 20-year hiatus in sending landers for follow-up studies, said Rafael Navarro-González, with the Institute of Nuclear Science at the National Autonomous University in Mexico.

“We might have had continuing missions,” Navarro-González told Discovery News.

NASA plans to launch a follow-up mission to look for organics on Mars in November.

Article excerpted from www.news.discovery.com


5 Surprising Fashion Brands Going Organic

Organic cotton t-shirt from H&M;, photo via Nitrolicious

Most of us, when looking for organic, eco-friendly clothes, know enough to skip the mall; sustainable materials and mass-produced clothes with commercial appeal hardly ever overlap. But we guarantee you’ll know these five companies, who have enough recognition and reputation to do whatever they want and yet are choosing to incorporate organic materials and sustainable practices into their most popular items. Who knows? You may even have one (or all) of these stores at your local mall.

1. Victoria’s Secret

Photo via Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret has never been an especially green company, with the tons of catalogs sent out every month and the synthetic fiber blends. But over the last few years, in addition to greening the mass mailings, the brand has also introduced beauty products made with organic ingredients from mint to coffee beans—and now offers camisoles, pajama pants, thongs, and panties made from organic cotton. While the organic products are still just a teeny-tiny part of the overall VS empire, they are a step in the right direction.

2. Target

Photo via Target

Chain stores that try to be all things to all people—selling clothes, shoes, groceries, electronics, home goods, outdoor gear, sports equipment, and anything else you can think of—generally don’t have the motivation to offer green products, especially if it means raising the prices. But at Target, organic products show up everywhere, from bedsheets to baby clothes. And with their selection of women’s cropped pants, pajama pants, tank tops, and tees, you can choose eco-friendly impulse buys.

3. H&M;

Photo via Nitrolicious

Last year, H&M; used 1,500 tons of organic cotton for its spring line—this year, the company hopes to increase that amount by 50%. While you might not expect eco-friendly pieces at the retailer’s rock-bottom prices, the change makes sense: H&M; tends toward knockoffs of the season’s biggest trends, and with green more popular than ever, we’re glad to see them jumping on board.

4. Banana Republic

Photo via Banana Republic

The other brands owned by its parent company—Gap, Old Navy, and online shoe store Piperlime—haven’t been driving forces in the green movement, but that doesn’t mean that Banana Republic—the most luxurious of the four—can’t do its part. Boxes and bags include as much as 50% recycled material; stores are putting in place energy saving measures that cut usage by 41% last year; and 100% organic offerings include denim pants and cotton hoodies. A quick scan of the site showed plenty of products made with a small percentage of organic cotton (about 5%) alongside more conventional cotton (in as much as 90%). In the future, we hope the store continues to increase the organic component and set a standard for its sibling companies.

5. Nike

Photo via Nike

Although they got a bad reputation with the use of sweatshops, these days Nike has been doing more for the planet than you might think. In addition to the Reuse-a-Shoe program, which turns old sneakers into playground turf, and Nike Considered, an attempt to trim waste from production and switch to sustainable materials, the company offers 100% organic tees and hoodies, and aims to use at least 5% organic cotton in all its products by next year.

Article excerpted from www.treehugger.com


What Are the Benefits of Using Organic Sugar?

Photo Credit disperced lump sugar and sugar-basin image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com

When used in moderation, sugar can be part of a healthy diet. Indulging in the occasional sweet treat is safe for most people. But should you use organic sugar or stick to conventional? Organic sugar may offer several benefits over conventional sugar, including health and environmental benefits. If you’re interested in the benefits of using organic sugar, choose an organic sugar that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Refined Less

Organic sugar is not refined as heavily as conventional sugar or corn syrup, according to Vegetarian Organic Life. As a result, it may contain more of the vitamins and enzymes that existed in the natural sugar cane plant, from which organic sugar is made. Also, organic sugar contains more molasses, a taste that some people enjoy.

No Pesticides Used

Organic sugar sold in the U.S. must meet the requirements of the USDA to be labeled an “organic” food. According to Wholesome Sweeteners CEO Nigel Willerton, the USDA-administered National Organic Program sets specific requirements for how organic sugar cane is raised. These include raising the sugar cane without using chemical pesticides. Sugar cane used in conventional sugar, on the other hand, is frequently treated with such pesticides as paraquat to kill insects. These pesticides may linger in the finished product.

No Animal Products Used

In addition to protecting local animal populations by not treating sugar cane crops with chemical pesticides that could damage local habitat and water supply, organic sugar protects animals by removing the use of any animal byproducts in the refining process. According to Vegan Action, conventional sugar is refined in part by using animal bone char to remove color from the sugar. On the other hand, the nonanimal product milk of lime is the only ingredient used in processing organic sugar, according to Wholesome Sweeteners CEO Nigel Willerton.

Article excerpted from www.livestrong.com

Understanding organic food labels

What do the food labels such as “organic,” “natural,” “free-range,” and “non-GMO” really mean? Understanding this terminology is essential when you’re shopping for organic foods.

The most important point to remember is that “natural” does not equal organic. “Natural” is an unregulated term that can be applied by anyone. Only the “USDA Organic” label indicates that a food is certified organic.

USDA Certified Organic Food Labels

When you’re shopping for organic foods, look for the “USDA Organic” seal. Only foods that are 95 to 100 percent organic can use the USDA Organic label.

  • 100% Organic – Foods that are completely organic or made with 100% organic ingredients. May display the USDA seal.
  • Organic – Foods that contain at least 95% organic ingredients. May display the USDA seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients – Foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Will not display the USDA seal. May list specific organic ingredients on the front of the package.
  • Contains organic ingredients – Foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients. Will not display the USDA seal. May list specific organic ingredients on the information panel of the package.

Meat and dairy labels: other terms you need to know

The organic label is the most regulated term, but when it comes to meat, we often see many other terms used. In order to make informed choices, it is helpful to know what some of these terms mean.

  • Natural – This label means “minimally processed” and that the meat can’t have any artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or any other artificial ingredients in it. Animals can still be given antibiotics or growth enhancers. For example, this term can be applied to all raw cuts of beef since they aren’t processed.
  • Grass fed – This term means that the animals are fed solely on a diet of grass or hay. These animals have access to the outdoors. Cattle are naturally ruminants that eat grass, so they tend to be healthier and leaner when fed this way. In addition, grass fed beef has been shown to have more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Free-range – This means that the animals weren’t confined to a cage and had access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, the animal density can still be very high and the animals may have only short periods outside in an area that’s quite small. It is difficult to tell exactly what free-range means when you see it on meat packaging. You can contact the producer directly for clarification.
  • No hormones added – This term is allowed when animals are raised without the use of any added growth hormones. For beef and dairy products it can be helpful, but by law, poultry and pigs cannot be given hormones, so don’t pay extra for chicken or pork products that use this label.

What does “Certified Organic” mean?

Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations. When shopping at a farmers’ market, for example, don’t hesitate to ask the vendors how your food was grown.

Source: Organic.org

Article excerpted from www.helpguide.org


Set It and Forget It! Plant Garlic Now, Enjoy It Next Summer

image: lowjumpingfrog

This just in from my lunch break: I put in next summer’s garlic crop. You can too! Here’s what you need:

  1. Garlic
  2. Digging tool

In most of North America, now’s the time to plant garlic and other bulbs. They will establish some roots before the ground freezes, then sleep all winter to emerge in spring.

What kind of garlic should I plant?

Obviously, you’ll want to plant organic. Not only is it better for you and for the soil, but non-organic garlic is often treated with an anti-sprouting agent that will keep it from growing in the first place.

I recommend seeking out an heirloom variety, ideally a hardneck “true” garlic. Though it can be tempting to pick up elephant garlic for its huge bulbs, elephant garlic is actually more closely related to the onion, and can have trouble if you plant it too late in the fall. True garlic has smaller cloves, but they’re much more potent. For my garlic patch, I picked a Chesnok Red that I picked up from a local permaculture nursery.

Where should I plant it?

Someplace it’ll have good sun, in well-draining soil. You don’t want your bulbs to rot.

If you live someplace that gets very cold with little snow cover, mulch it with straw after the first hard frost. Otherwise, it should survive the winter just fine.

How much should I plant?

Are you kidding? Garlic is delicious. Plant as much as you can. Bury one clove of garlic every foot or so (advice varies on this, but one foot seems a safe distance even for hungry bulbs). Each clove should divide into a new bulb, and will flower in early summer.

How do I plant it?

Dig a hole and put a clove of garlic in, pointy side up. For small cloves, put them about one inch deep — that is, they should have an inch of dirt over their heads. Bigger bulbs like elephant garlic should go deeper, up to 3 inches.

After you’ve planted it, water it in by drenching the soil completely.

Now, you wait. Begin watering in the spring, and you’ll harvest your garlic crop in the summer.

And that’s garlic, and that’s how I spent my lunch break! Speaking of which: Got a few cloves left over? Whip up a batch of organic bistro garlic fries.

Article excerpted from www.organicauthority.com

It’s not hard to plant the garlic and we should start to plant it at our garden. This will be one way to save money and we will have a healthy exercise too by planting the garlic.  Once garlic crops have been harvested, don’t forget to try out the organic bistro garlic fries recipe.


How to Make Organic House Cleaning Products

Organic products are a good choice for cleaning your home.

Many people want to know how to make organic house cleaning products. Using organic and natural products to clean your home means you aren’t spreading chemicals around–making it safer for you, your family and the planet.

The Basics of How to Make Organic House Cleaning Products

If you are looking for ways to bring more natural products into your cleaning routine, there are a few basics you will want to have on hand at all times. All of the following items should be available at your local organic grocery store:

  • Baking soda: This baking basic is a powerhouse of cleaning and deodorizing. It can be used in homemade cleaning solutions, as a paste or sprinkled directly on a surface.
  • Borax: A naturally occurring compound made of boron, sodium, oxygen and water, borax is a great cleaner, especially for laundry.
  • Cornstarch: Great for cleaning carpets and rugs, cornstarch can also be used in place of baby powder.
  • Lemon juice: A natural whitener, lemon juice can also remove grease and other stains, especially on aluminum and porcelain.
  • Salt: Abrasive but gentle, salt is great for scouring.
  • Washing soda: This is different from baking soda and is a good choice for general cleaning, cutting grease and disinfecting. You can find it on the laundry aisle, but it may not be an organic product.
  • White vinegar: Another great general-purpose cleaner, white vinegar is good for removing mildew, grease and other stains. It is also a great choice for washing windows and making metal surfaces shiny.

Organic House Cleaning Recipes

Some basic recipes for how to make organic house cleaning products will give you a good idea how to use these products in your home. The most basic home cleaning recipes involve baking soda. Just add four tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of water and use it as a spray or scrubbing soda. Or, make a paste out of about three parts baking soda and one part water. Allow this to sit on stubborn spots to deep clean.

You can also use three tablespoons of washing soda in a quart of water as a general purpose cleaner. Washing soda may also be used in place of regular laundry detergent.

To boost your laundry with borax, add half a cup of borax along with your organic laundry detergent to each load of laundry.

Organic furniture polish is made by combining three parts olive oil with one part vinegar or lemon juice. Just wipe on with a soft cloth.

A combination of two tablespoons cornstarch, a cup of white vinegar and a gallon of water is a good choice for washing windows. To get even more natural bang for your buck, use your newspaper to wash down the windows. This helps eliminate streaking and saves you from having to buy paper towels.

A cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water is also a good way to clean linoleum floors. Add a quarter cup of baking soda for an even more powerful cleaner. A cup of vinegar microwaved for a minute or two will also loosen up any cooked-on food and make the microwave easy to clean.

Salt is a great way to deal with stains and spills in the oven or the sink, and a combination of baking soda and borax is a great sink cleaner that won’t scratch porcelain. You can also make a cleanser out of two ounces of borax and two cups of water to wash walls and other dirty surfaces.

Cleaning with Organic Products

Now that you know how to make organic house cleaning products, it is important to note that while all of these are great alternatives to the chemical-laden products you can buy at the store, none of them work as quickly as those chemicals.

Patience is necessary for seeing the best results with these cleaning products. You might need to put in a little more elbow grease or let things soak a longer period of time than you might be used to, but it is well worth the effort to get conventional cleaning products out of your house.

Article excerpted from www.organic.lovetoknow.com

All the ingredients to make an organic house cleaning products are easy to get. It will also save more money by using all theses ingredients to clean your house because it is a common ingredients where you can found in your house kitchen.


12 Things You Should Definitely Buy Organic

By now, we all know there’s a benefit to buying some stuff organic. But these days you’re faced with the option of getting everything organic — from fruits and veggies to mattresses and clothing. You want to do right by your body, for sure, but going the all-natural route en masse can be pricey.

So we wondered: What’s really essential for our health? That’s why we came up with this definitive list. Here’s what should be in your cart — and what you don’t have to worry about.

Beef

You’ve probably read plenty of stories about the risks of eating chicken. But the most important protein to buy organic may well be beef. “Research suggests a strong connection between some of the hormones given to cattle and cancer in humans, particularly breast cancer,” says Samuel Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

Specifically, the concern is that the estrogen-like agents used on cattle could increase your cancer risk, adds Ted Schettler, M.D., science director at the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Though there are strong regulations about the use of hormones in cattle, “not all beef producers are following those regulations strictly, and some studies continue to find hormone residue in cattle,” Dr. Schettler says.

When you buy beef that’s been certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you’re not only cutting out those hormones, you’re also avoiding the massive doses of antibiotics cows typically receive, which the USDA says may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in people.

Strawberries

Strawberries may be a superfood — but they pose a potential risk unless you go organic. In addition to having up to 13 pesticides detected on the fruit, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis, conventional “strawberries have a large surface area and all those tiny bumps, which makes the pesticides hard to wash off, so you’re ingesting more of those chemicals,” explains Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and author of “What to Eat.”

If you can, also skip conventional peaches, apples, blueberries, and cherries, which are typically treated with multiple pesticides and usually eaten skins-on.

Cookware

Your pots and pans are just as crucial to upgrade as the food you cook in them: “Most nonstick cookware contains a fluorochemical called PTFE that breaks down to form toxic fumes when overheated,” says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the EWG. “Those fumes can coat the inside of the lungs and cause allergy-like symptoms.”

Tests commissioned by the EWG showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with nonstick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating emits toxic gases. Switch to stainless steel, ceramic, or cast iron cookware.

Popcorn

The linings of microwave-popcorn bags may contain a toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is used to prevent the food from sticking to the paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFOA is a likely carcinogen.

“We don’t know all of the hazardous effects of PFOA yet, but we have some evidence of a link to cancer, as well as to effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems,” says David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.

Pick up an air-popper or make your popcorn in a pan on the stove top.

Yard Pesticides

Some lawn and garden pesticides contain suspected carcinogens, according to EPA data. Long-term pesticide exposure may be related to changes in the brain and nervous system, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reports.

“Not only are you breathing the chemicals in, but you bring them indoors and onto carpets via your shoes,” says McKay Jenkins, Ph.D., a journalism professor at the University of Delaware and author of What’s Gotten Into Us?

Healthier brands like BurnOut and EcoClear are made from vinegar and lemon juice, and are effective weed-killers. To find less-toxic lawn-care companies in your area, go to Health.com/lawn-care.

All-Purpose Home Cleaners

Time for spring-cleaning? Using common household cleaners may expose you to potentially harmful chemicals. Ammonia and chlorine bleach can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. And some cleaners contain phthalates, some of which are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with normal hormone activity, says EWG senior scientist Becky Sutton, Ph.D..

Although there’s no definitive proof that phthalates cause problems in humans, “the greatest concern is how early-life exposure will affect male [reproductive] development,” Dr. Carpenter says. There’s weaker evidence, he adds, that phthalates affect the nervous and immune systems.

Go natural with the cleaner you use the most frequently and in the most places, such as kitchen-counter spray — look for brands approved by Green Seal or EcoLogo, two organizations that identify products that have met environmental label guidelines.

Water Bottles

You’ve probably heard that many hard, reusable plastic water bottles could be bad for you because they may contain BPA, or bisphenol A, another endocrine disruptor according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“For adults, the biggest concern with BPA is that it may increase the risk of breast cancer in women and reduce sperm counts in men,” says Dr. Carpenter, who explains that BPA can leach out into the water in the bottle. To be safe, sip from an unlined stainless steel or BPA-free plastic bottle.

Food-Storage Containers

BPA strikes again: Many food-storage containers are made of the hard, clear polycarbonate plastic that may contain BPA. As is the case with water bottles, the BPA can leach out of the plastic in these containers and seep into your leftovers.

“The leaching is increased during heating, but it also leaches to a smaller degree even when cold foods are stored,” Dr. Carpenter explains. Glass containers are your safest — not to mention planet-friendly — bet. Both Rubbermaid (at left) and Pyrex make glass ones with BPA-free plastic lids.

Milk

The milk you’re drinking may not be doing your body good: Dairy products account for a reported 60 to 70 percent of the estrogens we consume through our food. If that seems like a shockingly large number, it’s mainly because milk naturally contains hormones passed along from cows.

What worries some experts is that about 17 percent of dairy cows are treated with the hormone rBST (or rBGH), which stimulates milk production by increasing circulating levels of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

“Elevated levels of IGF-1 in people are associated with an increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer,” Dr. Schettler explains. In fact, the use of rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada. Although research has yet to definitively conclude whether drinking rBGH-treated milk increases your IGF-1 levels high enough to cause concern, Dr. Schettler says it’s advisable to buy milk that hasn’t been treated with it. So pick up milk that’s labeled rBGH-free, rBST-free, or is produced without artificial hormones.

Celery

When researchers at the EWG analyzed 89,000 produce-pesticide tests to determine the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, celery topped the chart. “In terms of the sheer number of chemicals, it was the worst,” says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the EWG.

Celery stalks are very porous, so they retain the pesticides they’re sprayed with — up to 13 of them, according to the EWG analysis. Lunder also advises buying organic bell peppers, spinach and potatoes because they scored high for pesticides, as well.

Tomato Sauce

When picking up tomato sauce or paste, choose the glass jar or box over the can. “The lining on the inside of food cans that’s used to protect against corrosion and bacteria may contain BPA,” explains Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., a professor of carcinogenesis at MD Anderson Cancer Center and past president of the Society of Toxicology.

In 2009, Consumer Reports tested BPA levels in a variety of canned foods and found it in nearly all of the brands tested, suggesting that the chemical leaked in. “What can happen is that BPA in the lining can leach into the food,” Walker explains.

Mattress

Some regular mattresses may have been treated with potentially toxic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been linked to learning, memory, and behavioral impairments, according to Lunder.

Though PBDEs were phased out of mattresses in 2005, they can still be found in other household items, including carpet padding and some electronics. The EWG advises opting for products that haven’t been treated with brominated fire retardants and choosing less-flammable materials, such as wool.

Article excerpted from www.huffingtonpost.com


5 Surprising Things You Don’t Have to Buy Organic

Credit: Getty Images

Avocados

You’re pretty safe with fruits and vegetables like avocados, which have a thick skin that you don’t eat. Just remember to wash the peel before cutting into them to get rid of any residue.

Credit: Getty Images

Eggs

Chickens as a rule are not given growth hormones. And research has shown that factory eggs don’t have higher quantities of contaminants than organic eggs.

Credit: Corbis

 Frozen food in plastic bags

The risk of leached chemicals is heightened by heat, and frozen produce is, well, as cold as ice. As long as you’re not boiling in the bag, the chance of ingesting harmful chemicals from these is low.

Credit: Corbis

Spices

“Even when you’re using spices liberally, you’re consuming such small amounts of each that the risk is minimal,” says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the EWG.

Credit: Getty Images

Clothing

While there’s no question that organic cotton is excellent for the environment, the benefits it has on your personal health are unclear—it’s unlikely that pesticides remain in clothing in quantities large enough to seep into our bodies. The one possible exception is clothing treated with flame retardants (the label will tell you if that’s the case).

Article excerpted from www.health.com

Organic foods and stuffs doesn’t come cheap. We just need to buy organic things that really helps and benefits to us. Go organic with a wise choice without a penny wasted.


How to Make Homemade Organic Soap

If you appreciate organic beauty products or enjoy making things from scratch, then learning how to make homemade organic soap will likely be a rewarding and fun experience for you. Here we provide an introduction to soap science, and a step-by-step recipe to help DIY soap-makers start simply.

Soapy Basics: Science

Soap comes in many different forms, but it all comes from a basic chemical reaction:

Fat or Oil + Lye = Soap

Of course, you can’t just mix them together and get a body bar; there are different processes involved. But that’s the basic gist of things. How many, and what types, of additional ingredients you add are what determine moisture and create the hundreds of great scents out there. If you want to show off to your friends, memorize the word “saponification.” That’s the scientific term for this chemical reaction.

Soapy Basics: Method

There are two different methods of making soap; at least as DIY projects are concerned:

  1. Cold Process is the most common type of soap-making method. Contrary to its name, this process does involve heat. You’re basically heating up and combining your ingredients (and scents), pouring the mixture into molds, and then letting the soap harden and cure for up to a month. With this method, saponification happens while the soap is curing.
  2. Hot Process is a variation on cold process, where instead of just heating up the ingredients, you fully cook the soap, triggering saponification during the active process itself. The soap is then spooned into molds and is basically ready to use as soon as it cools.
Things Needed
  • Blanket
  • Butters
  • Electric Hand Mixer
  • Essential Oils
  • Eyes Protection Device
  • Herbs
  • Lye
  • Natural Scents
  • Plastic Pitchers
  • Purified Water
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Smock
  • Soap Molds
  • Solid Vegetable Oils
  • Stainless Steel Pots
  • Stainless Steel Spoons
  • Thermometer
Instructions
  1. First of all, you need to go to the market and get all the ingredients that you will require for making organic soap.
  2. Next, you need to set your scale to zero and measure all the ingredients correctly. This is because for making organic soap, you need to take the exact quantity of every ingredient.
  3. Take a stainless steel pot, put lye in it and mix with spring water. The mixture will give as much as 200 degrees of heat in a short span of time, so use it with extreme care, lest you end up burning yourself.
  4. Keep aside the lye mixture and let it cool down to about 100 degrees.
  5. Take a stainless steel pot and put solid organic vegetable oil and butters in it. Heat them to 100 degree temperature and take off flame only when the solids have blended together.
  6. Now, add exotic oils to this mixture and also put in water and lye solution, after the latter has cooled down to 100 degrees.
  7. With the help of a hand mixer, blend the mixture thoroughly, which should now be looking like whipped pudding.
  8. Next, add herbs, botanicals and essential oils.
  9. Pour the mixture into soap molds and cover with blanket, to insulate it, for 24 to 48 hours.
  10. Take out the soap from the mold and give it any shape you want. Let it dry out and harden for at least a month.
  11. Your organic soap is ready!

Organic soap that didn’t contain any chemical ingredients will help to cleanse your skin properly and save you from the harsh chemicals. Making your own organic soap is very easy and not too expensive also.


Health Benefits of Organic Coffee

If you’re a card-carrying member of the caffeine club, then there’s likely one reason, and one reason alone, why you drink coffee.  Your morning cup of Joe is designed to wake you up and allow you to face the day with some semblance of a functional brain.  Also, it tastes great (and the smell is enough to pull you from your 6 am stupor).  But did you know that in addition to providing your morning wake-up call, drinking coffee can actually be good for your health?  In fact, coffee, especially of the organic variety, has several health benefits that will make you happy you decided to add it to your daily routine.

For starters, organic coffee is a lot better for you than the regular fare.  Not only do you get 100% of the flavor of the bean, untainted by chemical additives, you’ll also enjoy a product that puts no toxins into your body upon ingestion.  In case you didn’t know, organic coffee is grown without the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and so.  This is good for the Earth and the surrounding ecosystems, but it is also great for your body.  Since some of these chemicals have been known to store in fat cells and remain in the body for years, you’re making a health-conscious choice with organic coffee.

But there are a host of other reasons you might want to drink organic coffee.  It’s chock full of antioxidants, which many people have begun to turn to as a way to preempt diseases like diabetes and certain cancers (since antioxidants are known to counteract free-radicals that can cause tissue damage and lead to a number of diseases and disorders).  It also helps to regulate blood sugar with minerals like chromium and magnesium.  Best of all, you can get these benefits from both caffeinated and decaf versions of your favorite flavor of coffee.

And that’s not all.  Studies have shown that people who incorporate 1-2 cups of coffee a day into their diet are more likely to lose weight.  Of course, adding cream, sugar, and a donut to the mix will counteract the positive effects, but in and of itself, coffee is around 5 calories per cup.  The caffeine in a cup of coffee will serve to both suppress appetite and increase your energy expenditure, helping you to eat less and burn more calories.  It’s no miracle cure (the effects are short-lived), but it’s better than downing a can of diet soda, which is packed with chemical additives (like aspartame, for example) that are known carcinogens.  Can you even read the ingredients on that label?  Here’s what’s in organic coffee: water and coffee.  Sounds a bit healthier, doesn’t it?

Adding organic specialty coffee to the menu is a no brainer.  The health benefits of drinking coffee, especially from beans that eschew the use of chemicals, cannot be overstated.  As with everything, you should drink in moderation, since a ton of caffeine will no doubt make you jittery and possibly even affect your sleep schedule.  But a cup of java in the morning will get you out of the house refreshed and ready to face the day.  And organic beans will simultaneously assure your continued good health.

Article excerpted from www.solar-power-your-home.com

Organic coffee doesn’t come cheap. However, organic coffee is good for our health such as helps to regulate blood sugar and lose weight. You might think that organic coffee might burn a hole in your pocket, but when you get into sickness, you will have to pay more for the medical fees. Go organic to stay healthy.


Top 3 Homemade Organic Tomato Facial Masks

Have you ever wondered what tomatoes can do for your skin other than adding pizzazz to pizzas? Tomato offers many amazing beauty benefits that go beyond its distinctive red skin and appealing taste. It holds the secret to radiant youthful-looking complexion, thanks to the presence of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

One study reported volunteers who consumed 5 tablespoons (about 55 grams) lycopene-rich tomato paste daily for 3 months had a lower risk of sunburn. The team of researchers found significant improvements in the skin’s ability to protect itself against harmful ultraviolet rays in these individuals.

Lycopene, a carotenoid pigment which is also found in other red fruits – watermelon, pink guava, and pink grapefruit – is able to neutralize free radicals that can accelerate aging and protect the skin from photodamage (or sun damage). Excessive UV exposure will result in fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration and textural changes, and even skin cancer.

Another benefit of eating a lycopene-based diet is that it helps boost collagen production. Collagen is a protein that keeps skin strong, smooth and supple. Without enough amount of collagen to support structures of the skin, your face will begin to show signs of premature aging – dry, dull-looking, saggy and wrinkly.

That said, studies also show that lycopene is better absorbed by the body from cooked or processed tomatoes (for example, tomato sauce or tomato soup) than from raw tomatoes. And, because lycopene is fat-soluble, your body absorbs lycopene more readily if you add a little oil.

You can also benefit from lycopene by applying it directly to the skin. There is a wide range of lycopene-enriched skincare products in the market that you could purchase, but they don’t come cheap. The next best solution is make tomato face masks at home. These homemade tomato facials will help to minimize the appearance of creases and wrinkles, plump up the skin while restoring your complexion’s radiant glow.

How to Make Tomato Mask

Note: Always use organic tomatoes and select the redder ones as they contain more lycopene. Also, make sure you don’t have a tomato allergy.

Tomato Honey Home Facial

Nourishes and rejuvenates aging skin, or dry skin. Also help fade dark spots and blemishes naturally to reveal brighter and whiter skin.

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon organic tomato pulp, 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon plain yogurt.

1. Wash your face with a mild facial cleanser. Make sure to remove all traces of makeup, dirt and grime.

2. In a small bowl, mix together all the above ingredients until well combined.

3. Apply tomato paste on your face and neck. Lie down and relax for about 20-30 minutes.

4. Wash off thoroughly with lukewarm water. Tone and slather on your favorite moisturizer.

Tomato Cucumber Face Mask

Soothes sunburned skin and reduces skin pigmentation caused by sun exposure. Also refreshes tired skin and add a healthy glow to your complexion.

Ingredients: ¼ peeled and seedless organic tomato, 3 teaspoons unflavored yogurt, 1 teaspoon peeled and grated cucumber, 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel and 3 teaspoons of finely ground oatmeal.

1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix until well combined.

2. Spread tomato mixture on your face and leave on for about 10 minutes.

3. Rinse off with lukewarm water. Apply toner and moisturizer.

Tomato Sugar Facial and Scrub

Ingredients: 1 organic tomato and 1 teaspoon fine granulated sugar

Deep cleans pores and helps remove black heads. Also double up as a gentle face scrub, leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth.

1. Slice the top off tomato. Sprinkle sugar on a small plate, and dip tomato slice into it.

2. Use the sugar-coated tomato slice to gently exfoliate your face, in a circular motion. Pay extra attention to areas prone to blackheads – T zone (forehead, nose and chin).

3. Once your face is evenly covered with tomato scrub, relax for 10 minutes before rinsing it off completely with water.

4. Pat dry with a soft towel and follow up with an astringent and moisturizer.

Article excerpted from www.nichetopics.info

This is an interesting topic and I can’t wait to share with all of you after I read it. It is a good idea to make a handmade mask because it is cheap and easy to do. Try at your own risk because each different skin type will have different effects. Let us know if this this mask is useful to you.


What Is Organic Skin Care?

Organic is a term that is used a lot lately and has become very popular.  However, not everyone knows what organic actually means.  Organic means that the plant is grown in soil that is free from pesticides, fertilizers or hormones that are chemically based.  It has to be free from artificial products for at least three years.  This means the resulting product does not even contain trace amounts of these chemicals.  Because this is deemed healthier, many people are starting to use them.

In organic skin care, the ingredients used in the products are grown without any chemical additives.  The ingredients come from a variety of sources.  Herbs, trees, bark, flowers, oils and extracts are all used in the production of skin care products.  The benefits of using organic skin care products include the lack of adverse side effects.  They also have many curative properties that have been proven throughout the ages.  Blemishes, skin conditions and pigment issues can be cured using these products.

Organic Skin Care is Gaining in Popularity

Because natural and organic products have gotten a lot of media attention lately, more of the general public has become aware of the benefits.  Many people are turning to organic products in many things from food to their skin care products.  It is a safer and healthier choice.

Both the face and body can benefit from the healthy effects of organic skin care products.  Many products contain ingredients such as aloe vera, jojoba, lavender, rose oil and other natural extracts.  The organic skin care market is growing continually and for those who are looking for a potential business investment, this is an ideal choice.  The industry is only growing inpopularity.

People are starting to realize that natural is better.  The popularity of such is on the rise because people are becoming more health conscious.  They don’t want to use chemically treated products that may be harsh on the skin.  Many physicians recommend organic products over chemically enhanced ones so they do not harm the skin and the general public is listening to this advice.

The organic products are not a quick fix but with regular use they will help promote healing and stimulate the skin’s natural abilities to heal.  With the use of organic skin care products, there is a much less risk of side effects.  Skin irritations, rashes and allergic reactions are much less common.  There is a vast line of organic skin care products available.  Cleansers, scrubs, toners and moisturizers are all available in organic products.  Men and women can take advantage of the healing properties nature affords us.

Article excerpted from www.healthportalonline.com

Live an organic life is not all about eating or using organic products, most importantly is living a healthy style. You could just live an organic life by off to bed early & wake up early in the morning, exercise, eat healthy foods, don’t but unnecessary things and many more.  Stay healthy.


Apple and Samsung rumored to be evaluating organic solar powered devices

We all know that Apple is pro-environment, boasting environmentally friendly materials used for the construction of their products, so despite the fact that there are now rumors that Apple and Samsung are looking into building solar powered devices, we can’t say that it’s not too big a stretch of the imagination.

According to Digitimes, it seems that both companies have been “evaluating” solar technologies to power future products, focusing particularly on organic photovoltaic cells, a technology that yields a lower sunlight-to-electricity conversion ratio than large solar panels, but at the same time can be fitted into small gadgets, which we’re guessing won’t require a huge amount of power anyway.

Samsung already has a couple of solar-powered devices, most recently with their Android-powered Replenish smartphone and their upcoming NC215S netbook. Apple on the other hand does not have any solar-powered products yet but have a couple of patents filed away with concerns to solar technology.

No word on when we will start seeing this technology being implemented, it is noteworthy that given the organic nature of photovoltaic cells, the degradation may cause the cells to lose their efficiency over time, which could in turn affect the warranty of the device.

Article excerpted from www.ubergizmo.com

Looks like Samsung is a step ahead of Apple in the solar industry. Anyway, the degradation may well mean that these products would have a shorter life span (as if they are not short enough these days). Definitely the right approach when it comes to being (or going) green. Heads up!


Natural and organic, for real?

Cancer scares, rising allergies and global warming concerns are driving the boom for ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ personal care products. But how do consumers know if they are for real?

IT all started with a personal quest to source for Malaysian-made natural and biodegradable products for my family. For the past three years, more so after I became pregnant, I was adamant to steer clear of harmful chemicals commonly found in mass-market personal care and household cleaning products. Besides, we are trying our best to tread lightly on the already fragile environment.

I have no qualms about forking out a little more for imported natural or organic-certified products since Malaysia does not have the legislation or a local certifier that governs the manufacture or import of such items. Hence, products slapped with labels of accredited and internationally recognised certifiers such as Ecocert from France, BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics Seal (Germany), NaTrue (Europe’s natural cosmetics industry lobby group) or USDA (US Department of Agriculture) do carry some weight and assurance. However, certifications have varying standards and loopholes, and are usually costly, which in turn trickle down to the price of the products.

So why not support local brands, certified or not? I found a small Selangor-based company that produces supposedly “100% pure natural ingredients” shampoo and body wash. The labels list the ingredients – mainly fruit extracts, foaming agents, natural chemicals derived from plants and natural preservatives. They also mention the nasties to avoid, like paraben, petrochemicals, artificial fragrance and sulphates. Good to know they are trying to educate the public. Plus, customers enjoy a discount if they bring back the original bottle for a refill.


Safer and better: Malaysian consumers are clamouring for organic and natural products, and some local companies are meeting that demand.

After two years of using the products, I have not experienced any side effects like skin irritation. But can I say for sure if the products are truly natural? Nope. And the brand distributor could not answer my questions either.

Peeling back the labels

How do consumers wrap their heads around labelling claims and the not-so-straightforward world of certifications? Even a chemistry geek who can decipher complex scientific names for product ingredients can’t tell if manufacturers are revealing everything.

In theory, the manufacturers have to abide by the Guidelines for Control of Cosmetic Products in Malaysia, issued by the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau. But you download the form online, fill it and wait for your certificate of notification from the Health Ministry.

“This is where abuse can happen but this is similar to most countries around the world,” says Jonathan Horsley, marketing and export director of I-Green, a Kuala Lumpur-based company that manufactures organic-certified skincare for adults. “The enforcement for checking what is on product labels needs to be improved. But to be fair, this seems to be a problem faced more in the natural and organic realm.”

Another Kuala Lumpur-based natural skincare manufacturer adds: “No one’s really checking on us so it’s basically self-regulated.”

To some extent, certified organic products do provide some level of comfort and assurance, according to Amarjit Sahota, founder and director of London-based Organic Monitor, a research and training company focusing on ethical and sustainable industries.

Indochine Natural soaps being packed.

“Certified products give a guarantee to consumers that natural and organic personal care products do not contain potentially harmful substances,” says Sahota.

In Malaysia, I-Green is the first and only Malaysian company, so far, to receive Ecocert’s stamp of approval. Founded in France in 1991, Ecocert tests and certifies food products as well as cosmetics, detergents and textiles. They inspect about 70% of the organic food industry in France and up to 30% worldwide. Today the company has presence in 15 countries and conducts inspections in over 80 countries.

Briefly, Ecocert requires 95% of the ingredients in a product to be of natural origin and restricts what is allowed in the remaining 5%. And for a product to be labelled organic, 95% of the plant ingredients must be of certified organic origin.

“All of our products are 100% free from petrochemicals but we are allowed to add carefully selected safe and mild preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (derived from salt of acids, these are food-grade preservatives generally regarded as safe worldwide),” explains Horsley who has a background in chemical engineering. “As for fragrance, we use specially blended essential oils from France. On average our products are 99.8% natural.”

100% natural, or not?

But is there such a thing as a 100% natural product, and does it matter?

“It’s nearly impossible to make 100% natural skincare products on a large-scale commercial business model,” says a Klang-based formulation pharmacist who declined to be named. “For boutique business, yes, it is possible.”

Preservatives are used to prevent spoilage due to contamination from bacteria or fungus. Without preservatives, the shelf life of a product will be months if not weeks, the pharmacist explains.

There are natural preservatives like grapefruit seed extract and essential oils but compared with synthetic preservatives, their antimicrobial activity is lower and they cover a smaller spectrum of microbes.

“So using a natural preservative will require good knowledge of the product,” explains the pharmacist. “For example, if you use single-use delivery systems (containers) like ampoules, you may not need preservatives at all.”

There are also other compounds that are used to prevent products from spoiling or oxidising, such as antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin C. The pharmacist says these antioxidants are natural but come in synthetic forms like Buthylhydroxyanisole (BHA) or Tert Butyl Hydroxy Quinone (TBHQ) and can be found in ointments or lotions. “Again, it’s possible to use natural antioxidants but it can get very expensive as you require higher quantities of the ingredient.”

But Penang-based Indochine Natural, a company that churns out handmade natural soaps, body wash and shampoo for local and international markets, did away with preservatives by sticking to old-fashioned soap recipes.

The germicidal action of soap has been known for a long time. Natural soaps are alkaline – a characteristic that favours the destructive effect of soap on micro-organisms. Scientific research from the 1920s has shown that soaps loose their germicidal action at pH7 or more acid conditions.

“Indochine soaps (as well as shampoo and body wash) have a pH of around nine and are formulated with 100% pure essential oils, many of which have documented anti-microbial activity,” says managing director and founder Dr Mike Thair, a trained chemist. “Therefore, the combined effects of the soap itself, the pH, and added essential oils make it unnecessary to use any form of preservatives.”

Beyond certification

Natural or organic certification is not the be all and end all in ensuring consumer confidence as companies like Indochine and Alive Group, a Kuala Lumpur-based organic products manufacturer, demonstrate. Indochine’s production facility implements a quality system that conforms to the cosmetic guidelines of Asean, Japan, the European Union and the United States.

For their raw materials, Alive imports only those certified as organic. “Before every purchase, all the organic certificates provided by the suppliers or growers are examined,” says Alive nutritionist Sai Chia Chin. “We also do random lab tests on the raw materials to ensure they meet the required organic standards.”

Like I-Green and Indochine, Alive follows Good Manufacturing Practice standards to ensure product safety for its consumers. Alive personal care products are not certified but it is a member of Organic Alliance Malaysia which is working with the Department of Agriculture to enhance the competence and credibility of the organic sector.

In the field of certification, there is no shortage of mudslinging, accusations of false labelling and debates over mutual organic standards. Which explains Indochine’s reservations about applying for certification.

“It’s something we have deliberated over long and hard as currently there is a cloud hanging over many of these certifications,” admits Thair, whose company operates under Fair Trade principles as defined by the World Fair Trade Organisation. “We have decided to take a wait-and-see approach.”

An anomaly amongst manufacturers who guard their secrets zealously, Indochine practises an open-door policy at its factory in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

“We are happy to show customers the entire production process plus all of the quality documentation and certificates of analysis for our ingredients and products,” says Thair. With the exception of essential oils, all the raw ingredients used by Indochine are sourced locally. These include turmeric, powdered lemongrass and vegetable oils.

“Our distributors from France, Switzerland and the US have visited and did thorough audits of our company’s production and work practices in order to satisfy quality standards,” he adds. Indochine’s Japanese distributor has had a third-party audit done on its finished products, which included laboratory analysis for 22 potential contaminants.

“At the end of the day, we welcome rigorous quality testing and auditing as a means of ensuring consumer confidence,” says Thair.

One thing all three companies – Indochine, I-Green and Alive Group – have in common is they are committed to strong research and development, strict quality control and reaching out to their consumers through awareness campaigns, education and consumer fairs.

Responsible retailer

The role of ensuring safe skincare products lies with retailers, too. Organic retailer Justlife, for instance, gives priority to certified organic and certified natural personal care products.

“It is very important that all the ingredients, from the base to active ingredients, are from natural sources such as extracts from plants and natural minerals from earth. Products should be free from any synthetic and harmful ingredients, petrochemical derivatives and animal ingredients,” explains chief executive officer Callie Tai.

“We do not promote products made of animal ingredients because animal farming is one of the industries that exhausts the world’s natural resources and causes global warming,” Tai adds.

Justlife’s team of technical staff, including biochemists, evaluates all new products and reviews them from time to time based on latest findings.

So do Malaysian-made natural and organic products measure up against international brands?

“Definitely, the local brands are growing steadily, with very promising future potential,” says Tai, who founded the Justlife chain in 1999. “Brands such as I-Green and Indochine are already making inroads by penetrating the overseas market and getting good feedback.”

As for Yours Truly, I’m still none the wiser when it comes to sifting through so-called natural products.

Maybe it’s time to raid the kitchen pantry and whip up some home-made beauty remedy.

Article excerpted from www.thestar.com.my


Go organic on the cheap

An organic lifestyle could not only save your health, it should save your wealth, too.

That thinking led one Black Hills merchant to stock his shelves with affordable organic items.

“Organic food should be cheaper,” said Vinny Alessi-Narr, who owns and operates Swan’s Organic Market in Hill City with his wife, Karen Swan.

The couple expanded their trading post a few years ago to include organic bulk products, produce, herbs and supplements. The Hill City business also features a small Internet café that sells organic eats.

Alessi-Narr maintains eating organic is possible without breaking the bank. He strives to make it so by pricing his inventory in a way that doesn’t stick it to customers.

Some items are hard to discount.

“But mainly, the basic stuff, we try to discount,” he said. “There’s almost no markup to encourage everybody to eat organic.”

If customers can purchase more for less, Alessi-Narr figures he’ll make up the difference through higher sales volume.

“Everybody will come in and buy more often,” he said.

Alessi-Narr, who is originally from Germany, said he believes everyone deserves to eat organic. But he finds the price tag often gives it an unfair rap.

“Organic has a bad reputation of being expensive,” he said.

Organic food generally costs more than conventional food because farms that avoid chemicals must employ more labor-intensive practices.

Even if consumers do have to pay a little more to eat organically, Alessi-Narr said, they’ll come out on top in the long run. He argues organic food offers buyers more bang – in the form of higher nutrients – for their buck, which translates to better health and fewer medical expenses over time.

“At the end of the day, you save money to eat organic,” he said.

One key to buying organically on a budget is searching out alternatives to the supermarket. Small niche shops such as Swan’s are one option.

Buying in bulk also keeps costs down. Bulk shipments save money, and those savings are passed on to the customer.

Breadroot Natural Foods Co-op in Rapid City offers an extensive organic bulk section.

“Our bulk area takes up over half of the store,” said Jessica Kerlin, a manager at the Main Street business.

Breadroot sells natural foods and household supplies to the general public and members. The store’s $20 annual membership fee includes a 5 percent discount, voting privileges and shares of stock in the co-op.

Members qualify for further discounts by helping out with everything from cleaning to cashiering.

The co-op’s REACH program additionally offers a dozen “super foods” available at cost.

“Our board of directors many years ago chose a few essential items – staples in your home that are nutritious and usually available every week,” Kerlin said.

These vital goods include raw almonds, apples, dried plums, flax seeds, grapefruit, kale, dried navy beans, Romaine lettuce and short-grain brown rice.

Bulk purchases may not be as attractive to shoppers with limited storage. If your pantry shelves can’t hold a year’s supply of dried fruit, consider sharing an order with friends. People who order through Breadroot can offer to split cases of goods with other members.

Save more money by buying in season. Seasonable fruits and vegetables are more affordable.

Breadroot and Swan’s try to support local farmers.

“We get the community bringing in local produce,” Kerlin said.

They also offer these tips:

Go online if you don’t know what’s in season. A quick Internet search should help you determine what to buy when.

Make in-season purchases go even further by looking for recipes that incorporate seasonable items.

Cooking, rather than reaching for costlier convenience foods, pinches pennies. Processed organic products are easily available, but buying them is a pricey approach to going organic.

Consider making meals from scratch. Fill your grocery cart with staples and minimally processed foods. With a little prep, some planning and the right recipes, you can whip up healthy meals that don’t bust the budget. “People say they have no time to cook,” Alessi-Narr said. “Sometimes you have to show them that stuff doesn’t take more time.”

If you’ve got the time, consider growing your own organic produce. Don’t have space for a garden? Try using containers. A packet of organic seeds costs more than regular seeds, but harvesting your own is cheaper than splurging on the fruits of someone else’s labor.

Ask for help if you don’t know where to start. Alessi-Narr said he’s helped more than one customer make over his or her refrigerator and pantry. “We can replace pretty much everything,” he said. “We sell everything organic, from the toilet paper to the cleaning supplies.”

The transition requires some commitment, but cost shouldn’t keep people from adopting an organic diet.

“Our main goal is for everybody to eat healthy,” he said. “It should not be only for the rich.”

Article excerpted from www.nwitimes.com


8 easy ways to go organic in Seoul

Change your pet’s menu. Eat ice cream. Going au natural doesn’t have to be a chore thanks to these city shops and restaurants

Converting to an organic way of life in Seoul isn’t as challenging as it once was. These days, it’s as simple as making a few tweaks to some of the things you’re already doing on a daily basis.Here are eight easy ways to give your organic street cred a boost.

1. Get your pet in on the act

Grace Hospital

One of the two office cats at Grace. He doesn’t appear to be too fond of the color pink.

There’s no shortage of 24-hour animal hospitals in Seoul’s Nonhyeon neighborhood. But the kind staff at spacious and eco-conscious Grace Animal Hospital make things a little easier when it comes to choosing where to take your furry friend for all its basic necessities.Organic food brands such as ANF and Natural Balance are sold here, as well as the adorably packaged Wagatha’s dog biscuits. Grace also offers all the typical animal hospital services including grooming, vaccinations and medical checkups.Consider putting Snowball up for a night or two in their pet hotel while off on holiday. Dogs run

₩15,000/night while cats are ₩20,000/night.

122-20 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu (서울시 강남구 논현동 122-20); +82 2 3442 5554; www.grace-ah.co.kr

2. Change your shampoo

Ontree

Ontree’s products are tailor-made for men, women and babies.

If Sephora had an eco-conscious long lost baby sister in Korea its name would be Ontree. Stocked with nothing but organic brands — mostly from Europe — this cosmetics chain has shops all over the peninsula.You can find products for man, woman and baby including shampoo, anti-aging solutions and baby lotion.159-7 Hyundai Dept Store B1, Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu (강남구 삼성동 159-7 현대백과점 B1.);  +82 2 3467 8880

30-33 Hyundai Dept Store B2, Cheongjeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu (서대문구 청전동 30-33 현대백과점 B2); +82 2 3145 2260

620-69 Lotte Plaza Jeonnong-dong, Dongdaemun-dong (동대문구 전농동 620-69 번지 롯데철량리 플라자); +822 3707 1004 

3. Go carb crazy

VeggieHolic

Veggie Holic, a popular organic brunch café.

There are very few restaurants in Seoul where carnivores and vegans can eat in harmony. Veggie Holic is one of them.A self proclaimed “vegetable and organic brunch café” located in the art and design school district of Hongdae, this is the perfect place to load up on carb filled favorites.Brownies, cookies and muffins are there to temp sweet tooths (₩2,000-₩6,000), but not all of them are vegan so be sure to double check with the staff for each item.

They also have a dairy-free ice cream that could fool anyone into thinking otherwise, as well as tea and coffee.

Open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. 204-59 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 동교동 204-59); +82 70 4114 0458; www.veggieholic.co.kr

4. Get a caffeine fix

Episode #3

Episode #3 is not just organic, but cute too.

The interior of Seoul café Episode #3 is just too darn cute. There are little cubby seating areas reminiscent of childhood bunk beds and a cave-like room in the back that makes this the perfect place to sip coffee over a little business talk.Their coffee is not only organic but the coveted hand-drip style, made with beans from all over the world.Other organic offerings include 12 cold/hot variations of Rishi teas and espresso drinks. Waffles, toast and beer are also sold at Episode #3, but are not organic.

813-9 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu (강남구 역삼동 813-9); +82 2 553 9545; Open daily, 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

5. Eat a buffet dinner

Chung Mirae

Chung Mirae offers one of Seoul’s only organic buffets.

Buffets have been gaining popularity in Seoul for a while so it was only a matter of time before an organic Korean food buffet popped up on the scene.Enter Chung Mirae, where lunch is ₩15,000, dinner ₩20,000 and ₩10,000 won for kids. There are over 70 items on the buffet, including hot dishes, sides, pickled vegetables, soups and of course rice.

22-1 Lake Tower B1, Samjeon-dong, Songpa-gu (송파구 삼전동 22-1 레이크타워 지하1층); +82 2 422 0567; Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: 5:30-9 p.m;  www.chungmirae.net

6. Get your groceries delivered

Heuk Salim

Heuk Salim’s organic endeavors are legendary in Seoul.

Heuk Salim started its environmentally friendly agriculture practice 20 years ago and these days is bringing its organic groceries directly to households all around the country.Offering a welcomed counterpart to the more (in)famous jelly of the month clubs found in Western countries, Heuk Salim will carefully deliver a box of assorted organic and seasonal goodies on a weekly (₩100,000/month), bi-monthly (₩50,000/month) or monthly (₩30,000/month) basis.

Expect to get some leafy things, fruit, eggs, a dairy product and a snack-like item ( i.e. wafer cookies, cereal, etc).

+82 43 212 0935; heuk.or.kr

7. Hit the spa

Park Hyatt Seoul

The treatments at Park Hyatt’s Park Club Organic Spa feature organic-only products.

Park Club Organic Spa, located in the 5-star Park Hyatt Seoul, is a far shout from your neighborhood Jjimjilbang. What it lacks in bra and panty clad ajummas armed to scrub the hell out of your skin it more than makes up for in eco-friendliness and class.The Park Club Spa uses the organic Italian brand Comfort Zone for its treatments. Try 70 minutes of a full body massage, facial or body scrub for ₩180,000 each, or shell out ₩290,000 and get a two full hours of all three.

995-14 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu (강남구 대치동 995-14); +82 2 2016 1234; Spa open day, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.;www.seoul.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/pure/spas

8. Change your sheets

Le Style

Le Style’s bedding is both Très chic and eco-friendly.

Le Style, suitably located in Seoraemaul, the French village of Seoul, is a furniture and home store that stocks a selection of 100 percent organic cotton bedding sets.Cotton production accounts for a huge percent of pesticide usage in the United States, one of the world’s top producers, so making this small change can actually make a big difference.

73-1 Samdeol Building 1F Seoraemaul, Banpo 4-dong, Seocho-gu (서초구 반포4동 서래마을 73-1 삼덜빌딩 1층); +82 2 796 1220; www.lestyle.co.kr

Article excerpted from www.cnngo.com


5 Best Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate Bars

Whether you’re a dark chocolate lover or a milk chocolate fiend, one thing’s for certain – almost everyone loves chocolate. Over the last few years we’ve even convinced ourselves that it’s good for us, as dark chocolate is filled with flavonoids, which “keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries” (thanks for the medical jargon, WebMD).

The claims go back even further than that, of course, with the Mayans and the Aztecs attributing fatigue-fighting powers, and even longer life, to the drinking of chocolate-based beverages. Today, however, there’s an easy way to enjoy the taste of chocolate and feel good about it at the same time – the new wealth of organic and fair trade chocolate companies that are flooding the marketplace.

Just because a chocolate bar is organic that doesn’t mean that it has miraculous healing powers, however, so you’re probably still best to enjoy it in moderation. If you want a chocolate fix with a natural, feelgood, spiritual high, then we’d suggest checking out the following:

1/ Theo.

Okay, I may be biased in favor of this Seattle-based brand – but they still produce some of the most interesting and unusual chocolate bars around, and their dark chocolate is truly wonderful too (and very, very dark). Bonus points are given for being both Organic and Fair Trade. The more adventurous will want to try the Spicy Chile or Coconut Curry chocolate bars, but their classic flavors deliver as well – plus their single origin series now offers a 91% cacao dark chocolate, one of the darkest on the market.

2/ Divine.

The only Fair Trade chocolate company that’s 45% owned by the farmers, Divine also lives up to its name when it comes to the flavors on offer. Their Dark Chocolate with Raspberries makes for a perfect pairing, while those of you who prefer a milkier chocolate should check out the Coffee Milk Chocolate – your morning pick-me-up in a bar.

3/ Pacari.

An Ecuadorian organic chocolate company, Pacari is particularly notable for its Andean Flavors range, offering everything from Lemongrass to Salt & Nibs. If your tastes are a little more conservative, they also produce the minimally-processed Raw range, including a 100% cacao bar. Not for the faint of heart.

4/ Equal Exchange.

Another organic-and-fair-trade combo, Equal Exchange offers many products, of which chocolate is just the tip of the sugar mountain. Not only do they have the bonus of being widely available in shops and grocery stores, but their chocolate is excellent too – the new Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt comes highly recommended.

5/ Endangered Species.

They’re one of the most common organic chocolate bars to see in stores, but they don’t disappoint on quality either. Many of their bars are all-natural rather than organic, but with flavors like Goji Berry, Pecans and Maca on the organic menu they still have plenty to offer. Their commitment to both social responsibility and conservation is admirable as well.

(These recommendations are based on personal preferences and numerous tastings, and we offer opinions on the quality of the chocolate bars only, not the ways in which they’re produced or sourced. Please feel free to leave comments below if you have other recommendations to make, or want to comment on individual companies – we’re all about the chocolate!)

Article excerpted from www.culturemob.com


Can Farmed Fish Really Be Considered Organic?

When food is labeled “organic,” you expect that it was produced in a way that is good for both the environment and your health. Unfortunately it seems that up in Canada, that accountability might not be the case for much longer.

The Canadian General Standards Board is considering certifying some net cage-raised salmon (aka farmed salmon) as organic. But here’s the problem: The net-cage method of raising salmon oftentimes harms marine life and aquatic ecosystems. Other animals can get caught in the nets, farm-raised salmon can escape and mate with wild salmon (messing up their genetics), and the nets allow waste from the farm back out into the ocean, which pollutes the water.

There are other issues with certifying farmed salmon as organic, too. Under the proposed guidelines, cage-raised salmon could still be labeled organic even if producers use synthetic pesticides in the fish’s water. These harmful pesticides would inevitably spread out into the ocean, threatening wild animals like lobsters. “Organic” farms would also be allowed to feed the salmon non-organic feed consisting of wild fish, which could deplete the ocean of wild fish populations, further exacerbating already-struggling wild fisheries.  Non-organic wild feed can also contain toxins, which may pose a threat to consumers. Under traditional standards, none of these practices would be allowed on a certified organic farm — they fly in the face of the organic movement’s core principles.

There’s still time to save the future of organics, though: These standards need to be amended before they’re approved and slapped on that nice fillet you’re looking to buy at the grocery store. A public comment period is open until May 31st, and that gives us time to take action.

The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) is asking for your help in convincing the Canadian General Standards Board that organic should mean the same thing for salmon as it does for everything else. CAAR is a coalition with 10,000 supporters on four continents working to protect wild salmon, coastal ecosystems, coastal communities, and human health from destructive fish-farming practices.

The alliance recently started a petition a Change.org so that you can write directly to board members and let them know that organic standards need to mean something. The proposal “to certify net-cage farmed salmon is not only illogical when you consider the principles of organics, but it also creates the illusion that use of net cages for salmon aquaculture is somehow sustainable,” says Bronwen Barnett, Communications Coordinator at CAAR. “Basically, a Canadian organic label would greenwash net-cage farmed salmon.”

That greenwashing would not only impact Canadia consumers, it would affect U.S. diners. America is currently the largest market for Canadian farmed fish. Until the U.S. passes its own organic aquaculture standards, supermarkets could sell this greenwashed salmon as organic in Canada and America.

You can help stop that from happening. Sign CAAR’s petition, and let the Canadian General Standards Board know that you want organic labels to reflect organic values. These proposed rules for farmed fish just don’t cut it.

Photo credit: Lori_NY via Flickr

Article excerpted from http://news.change.org


Does Going Organic Give You Peace of Mind?

Before I was a mom, I could live off Ramen noodles, cheese food products, diet soda,and Sweet N Low, but sometime between reading 20 “what to expect” pregnancy and infant care guides and feeding my girls their first foods, I started to care about what I, and more importantly, what they were eating.

It seems that we are constantly finding links between our food, sweeteners, food coloring, aluminums and plastics, and obesity, early onset of puberty, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, tumors, etc. In one month, overwhelmed by all the bad news I was finding, I switched artificial sweeteners three times.

Switching to organic products was a choice I made to help alleviate some of those knee-jerk reactions I was having to every news byte about food consumption links to disease. As I increase my awareness about organic food productions versus the use of chemicals and pesticides, I feel more confident about what I’m feeding my children, and that’s a little peace of mind I could really use!

According to the USDA National Organic Program, to be “organic”, food must:

  • come from animals that have not been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • be grown without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge (ew!), bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

Additionally, animals raised for meat, dairy or eggs must spend a majority of their lives grazing in pastures or be considered “free-range.” Government inspections must show that the farm is following the rules to meet USDA organic standards.

You don’t need to look far to find information about how organic foods are healthier for you and your family. According to Men’s Health Senior Editor Matt Bean, benefits from organic foods include:

  • More nutrients. Studies show that organic foods may have increased levels of nutrients like antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Organic meat, milk and eggs have more vitamins and less cholesterol.
  • Fertility health. Pesticides found in conventionally grown foods have been shown to reduce fertility.
  • Immune system protection. The chemicals in non-organic foods may also harm your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness and some forms of cancer.
  • Unknown effects of GMOs. Many people are concerned about genetically modified foods, especially since many of them have never been tested on humans. Organic foods are never genetically modified.

Once I made the decision that choosing organic foods would be worth any extra costs, I discovered that with some products, particularly produce, the price is not far off from the non-organic products. This week, my organic apples cost a penny less than their pesticide-treated counterparts. With grocery stores getting on the organic bandwagon, it is fairly easy to find organic produce, frozen foods and dairy product lines in any major store.

Bean suggests that if you’re going to go organic, start with the basics: meat/poultry, milk, eggs, and veggies/fruits. From a cost perspective, I decided to ease into organic eating, starting with milk and eggs. The grocery store brands of milk costs about 1 1/2 times the cost of regular milk, while organic eggs are about twice as expensive as non-organic.

Unfortunately, grocery store brand organics have received criticism from the farm policy research group, The Cornucopia Institute, because when asked, they would not reveal from which farms they got their milk. This makes it difficult to determine if the farms’ practices are in fact, organic, and therefore, these stores received a poor rating on the institute’s dairy scorecard. Likewise, these stores would not comply with the questions being directed at them for the institute’s egg scorecard, and again, received poor ratings.

I’d hate to think that the milk and eggs for which I’ve come to accept the added expense was not truly organic. For this concern alone, I’d consider switching my shopping to one of the store’s that the report shows as being trustworthy and transparent in their organic practices:

  • According to the dairy report, Harris Teeter “gets 70% of their milk from the country’s largest “organic” factory farm shipped in from Texas. The balance comes from family-scale farmers.”
  • Wegmans is said to “have a discernible commitment to local and organic food and went out of their way to procure the milk for their private-label brand from a cooperative of family farmers.”
  • Whole Foods responded to the survey by stating that its 365 Organic Everyday Value milk “is produced and distributed regionally throughout the United States as close as possible to the communities in which it is sold.  It comes from a cooperative of organic family farmers dedicated to pasture-based dairy production and to preserving and expanding family farming as a way of life and a viable system of production.”

So while I’m having a grocery store loyalty crisis, I’m going to spend my summer perusing the local farmers markets, where I can meet the farmer that raises the chickens that lays the eggs that end up on my family’s plate.

Article excerpted from lakeridge.patch.com


Obesity: Blame organic food?

yogurt, eat, woman, istockphoto, 4x3 (Credit: istockphoto)

(CBS) Can organic food make you fat? It’s a question some people are asking, in light of a new study showing that consumers often assume – incorrectly – that organic fare contains fewer calories than conventionally produced versions of the same foods.

In the study, 144 people at a shopping mall were asked to compare what they thought were “regular” and organic versions of chocolate cookies, plain yogurt, and potato chips, according to a statement released by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). In fact, all of the foods were organic – only the labels were different. Using a nine-point scale, the shoppers rated each food on 10 different attributes, including how it tasted and how much fat and how many calories it contained.

The foods labeled “organic” were perceived to lower in calories and higher in fiber and overall more nutritious. That raises at least the possibility that people who seek out foods bearing the “organic” seal may be eating more than they would if they bought “regular” versions of the same foods. More research will be needed to confirm that hypothesis.

The study may reflect the “halo effect.” That’s the term psychologists use for the phenomenon in which how we perceive a particular trait of a person influences our perceptions of other traits of the same individual, according to the statement. For example, people are sometimes assumed to be intelligent just because they are good-looking.

This isn’t the first study to show that the halo effect can apply to food as well as to people. Previous research showed that people tend to consume more calories at fast-food restaurants that claim to serve healthy fare than at typical burger-and-fry joints.

The study, conducted by Wan-chen Lee, a graduate student at Cornell University, was scheduled to be presented on April 10 at an FASEB conference in Washington, D.C.

Article excerpted from www.cbsnews.com


Study: “Organic” Label Automatically Means Food Is Healthy

041111coke.jpg
Sounds healthy! (Via NextNature)

A new study from Cornell University graduate student Jenny Wan-chen Lee [pdf] either shows that the label “organic” creates some sort of placebo effect in which people are convinced they’re eating healthier, or that people can be really stupid. Maybe it’s a little of both? In her study, 144 volunteers were asked to compare “organic” and “regular” samples of yogurt, cookies and potato chips, rating them on taste, estimated fat content and estimated calorie content. However, all of the samples were in fact organic. Take a wild guess what happened.

Volunteers almost unanimously preferred the taste of the perceived “organic” samples, which they believed to be more nutritious and worth more money. And these perceptions were consistent across all the samples. Lee refers to this type of thinking as a “halo,” akin to “judging an attractive person as intelligent, just because he or she is good-looking.” For another example of the organic “halo,” check out this Penn & Teller video in which “organic” food doesn’t even taste better anyway (start around 1:45):

Article excerpted from www.gothamist.com


Couchsurfing With an Organic Farmer in Malaysia – Day 108

Tomatoes, yum.Heading to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia was originally about escaping the heat of Kuala Lumpur and getting some much needed hiking in.  As is the norm in travel, it turned out to be something completely different.With the plan set to head to the Cameron Highlands, I decided to send a message to a local CouchSurfing host, and with a positive response, I was set.

My bus from Kuala Lumpur (35RM, $10CDN) only took meThe tractor through to Tanah Rata, the main town in the Cameron Highlands, while my host was still 20km away in the small village of Kampung Raja. I caught a second bus for that leg, and after arriving in Kampung Raja, called my host from a payphone to pick me up.  A short while later Tien Khuan arrived and took me to his home to stay with his family.

My host is a former Physics lecturer turned organic farmer here in the Cameron Highlands.  The first farm, only 1 acre, was started in 2002 and a 6 acre organic farm followed 4 years later.  Farmable land is at a premium here in the highlands, and every bit of land that can be is used to its most.

The original acre of land is used for a niche crop called pea sprout, while the newer area is organic vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, several kinds of spinach, lettuce and many more.  When driving by other farm areas nearby, you can see a difference even in the look of the soil, with his looking rich and dark brown in comparison.  Tien Khuan credits the use of a technique called Biodynamics created by Austrian Rudolf Steiner about 90 years ago for much of the his current success, though the process is continually being tweaked for better yields and product.

Tien Khuan photographs the soil and vegetables frequently to document the changes & improve techniquesProtecting the crops is important and more difficult without the convenience of just spraying a chemical on them.  The clear plastic coverings you can see are to keep the rain off the crops, while the green netting is to keep the fruit flies out of the tomato, cucumber, gourd and zucchini crops.  The learning process is also tough, as there are virtually no others in the area farming as he does.  Tien Khuan has traveled to Australia on a few occasions to visit other organic farms and bring their tips and techniques back to Malaysia for use on his farm.  It was just recently after several unsuccessful attempts at growing tomatoes that he found that this type of netting would keep the insects out but still allow the crops to grow.

The farm is staffed by 22 mostly migrant workers from Burma & Nepal who live on site at the farm.  They pick the crops and maintain the farm, while shipping approximately 40000kg most of which is actually pea sprout.


Migrant workers in the field

I was fortunate to sample his vegetables on a several occasions, including 2 meals at a local Chinese restaurant where you can bring your own veggies and even fish to be cooked for you.  We also ate spaghetti with sauce made from fresh tomatoes, and right on the farm I ate fresh cucumber and carrots picked that very second.  Verdict: excellent.

Organic farming in Malaysia is still in early stages but there has been interest from other local farmers in Tien Khuan’s farm and the techniques used.  Like elsewhere, the vegetables sell for more than their pesticide-sprayed counterparts, but the cost is time, and in Tien Khuan’s case, 4 years of trial and error to get where he is today.  It’s a work in progress.


Channeling my inner botanist

Article excerpted from www.skinnybackpacker.com


Daily Pampering: Organic resort spa opens in Malaysia

spaThe Chateau Spa and Wellness Resort, the world’s first organic wellness destination spa resort, will open on April 28, 2011 in a 150-million-year-old tropical rainforest in the Berjaya Hills, Malaysia.

Modeled after an 18th century medieval ‘Haut Koesnigburg’ castle in Alsace, France, The Chateau has 210 rooms and suites. The Chateau offers three, five, and seven night packages that are specially designed for guests and include accommodation in The Chateau’s spa rooms, daily meals created by their very own dietician, and complete daily fitness and wellness programs.

The five star deluxe spa resort is the first to offer the use of illusive European thermal facilities, which include a herbal infused sauna chamber, salt grotto or mud chamber, and a soap brush/aquaveda heated bed with automatic body scrub facilities. Each guest meets with a member of the spa personnel to create personalized therapies and programs that are designed to meet individual needs and health goals. Use the therapies to work on pampering, beauty, anti-stress, body cleansing, fitness, weight loss, and more.The spa’s unique products are created from The Chateau’s very own ecologically grown gardens. The Chateau also has an array of fitness and wellness activities to experience, including mountain biking, horse riding, trekking, yoga, dance classes, bowling, as well as an 18 hole award winning golf course.

Article excerpted from www.gadling.com



Connoisseurs going for organic wines

Organic wines have now found their place among connoisseurs.
NOT too long ago, organically labelled products were somewhat a curiosity on the shelves. These days natural products that were once sold in specialist shops have gone mainstream, thanks to a more health-conscious consumer.

We now abide by the mantra, “we are what we eat”. Purity and freshness is what consumers want. What has happened to peanut butter and honey has also made the transition to wine: More folks now want organic wine.


Artisanal grappa at VinoVinoVino, the wine exhibition in Italy, that features environmentally-friendly biodynamic wines and liquors.

But not many consumers know that wineries were serving up organic wine back in the 1970s, long before it became trendy. Connoisseurs, however, stayed clear of these wines then. The truth was that many of these food producers were more eco-friendly and pesticide-adverse than they were capable winemakers.

Without the addition of a preservative, sulphites, in the wines, the alcohol quickly turned into vinegar. Because of the short shelf life, organic wines then also cost more.

Fast forward to the present. Organic and natural wines now have a respectable place in the world of wine. Wine connoisseurs won’t blink an eye at reaching for an organic bottle because it tastes good. Some even believe it’s healthier.


Among the more unusual offerings at the exhibition was this biodynamic sake. – Photos by ED SOON

But what brought on this change?

Working with the environment for one. Wineries started employing natural methods, vines grown on soils fertilised by organic compost. The compost is made from organic materials ranging from animal manure to seaweed. Over time, the vines developed a situation-responsive immunity to attack by pests and diseases. With this resistance to diseases they grew healthier. The end result is better-tasting organic wines now.

In 2004, Fortune magazine turned the thinking of organic wines on its head when it released the results of its blind tasting. Wine experts, including a Master of Wine and head sommeliers, blind-tasted 10 biodynamic wines (similar to organic, read on for explanation) and 10 conventionally made wines. The conclusion was nothing short of a coup for organic wineries around the world: The experts pronounced that nine of the biodynamic wines were indeed superior to their conventional counterparts. The rest is history.

So what’s the difference between natural, organic and biodynamic wines? To many, they may all mean the same thing – wine made without the addition of chemicals.

The difference is in the approach.

Natural wine is a general description that encompasses the making of wines using organically grown grapes. In addition, during the production process, there can be no additives. In essence, no sugar or sulphur is added and the wine is not even filtered. It is thus made in the most natural way, as nature intended.

Organic wine refers to wine made from grapes on which synthetic pesticides, herbicides and/or synthetic fertilisers are not used. During the winemaking process, sulfites (preservative) are not added although the wine may contain up to 20ppm (parts per million) sulfites that occur naturally during the fermentation process.

Biodynamic, however, goes one step further and grows, nourishes and harvests the grapes in accordance with the earth’s natural rhythms, such as the cycles of the moon, for example. We will look at the fascinating subject of biodynamics in more detail in a future column.

For those who haven’t yet tasted wines made the natural way, I encourage you to give it a try. Personally, I find the wine flavours cleaner, clearer, more intense and with more texture and liveliness. I call this the soul of the wine.

Recently, I went to two natural wine exhibitions for a tasting.

The first was a small exhibition in Burgundy, France, called l’Essence des Sens.

There, 35 growers from Burgundy, Beaujolais and the Jura regions showcased their wines. I tasted a Sylvain Pataille Marsannay, redolent with white flowers, fruits and sweet fruit; a Domineque Cornin Macon with intense sweet fruit; a De la Bonne Tonne Morgon with bitter sweet cherries and soft velvety texture; and a Chateau de Chavanes, Savagnin, all nutty with mushroom nuances. They were all excellent wines.

Chatting with the group of super-friendly producers, I soon realised that for many of them, it was the first time they had met someone from South-East Asia!

Next, came the VinoVinoVino exhibition in Italy. This exhibition has been held yearly since 2004 when a group of four small organic winemakers got together with friends to exhibit their wines. Today, more than 100 wineries from around the world take part in this exhibition. Some are biodynamic, others are in the process of getting their organic certification. Exhibitors come from all over Europe.

Many of the wines here were very appealing too. To name a few: the soft, lively and lightly sweet Morella “Mezzanotte”; the honeyed saline Costadica “Prosecco”; the nutty and ethereal Guccione “Veruzza” Trebbiano; the multidimensional Occhipinti “il Frappato”; and the complex Cascina Ulivi, Montemarino Bianco Monferrato.

They were all unforgettable – not least a biodynamic sake made by a Japanese photographer specialising in wine countryside scenes!

Just how popular is the demand for naturally-made wines nowadays? Well, judging by the number of fairs sprouting up around the world, I’d say demand is on the upswing. There’s the Millesime Bio Organic Wine Fair in Montpellier, France, and the Five Bio Spanish Organic Wine Fair and the Biofach in Germany. At Biofach, one can not only explore wines but also foods of the organic type.

Article excerpted from www.thestar.com.my

Also check out our previous post on organic wine and the environment here.


Vinho Verde

Is organic wine really better for the environment?
By Brian Palmer

I’ve been seeing more and more wines labeled “natural,” “organic,” and “biodynamic.” And just when I finally learned the difference between pinot noir and petit syrah! Are any of these wines demonstrably better for the environment?

Zinfandel Grapes. Click image to expand.The environmental benefits of organic wine are hard to measure

The Lantern sympathizes with your plight. Reading a wine label is about as easy as deciphering a Mayan hieroglyph. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution for oenophiles looking to minimize their eco-footprint. Many factors contribute to an individual bottle’s overall environmental impact, including growing practices, packaging size and type, and shipping distance and method.

First, a basic overview of the terms. There’s a difference between organic wine and wine grown with organic grapes. Wines carrying the “made with organic grapes” label constitute the majority of certified wines in the United States. It means the viticulturalist—the person who grew the grapes—used no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. But the winemaker may have added sulfites, which kill off unwanted wild yeast and bacteria, and chemical clarifiers. Wine that is labeled simply “organic” is made with organic grapes and has no added chemicals.

Winemakers can also obtain “biodynamic” certification through Demeter, a company that has trademarked the term. Biodynamic wines must satisfy the same requirements as wines made with organic grapes. Unlike the “organic” label, however, biodynamic certification is not backed by the federal government. Demeter also imposes a variety of other standards. Biodynamic winemakers use natural pest controls, like ladybugs, and must supply a certain amount of their fertilizer from within the farm itself. The idea is to make the vineyard a biologically active, self-sustaining operation. Biodynamic wines may contain sulfites, but not synthetic clarifiers. (They’re also fermented using wild yeast, for terroir enthusiasts.)

“Natural” wines have earned a certain cachet in the wine world. They’re supposed to involve as little human intervention as possible. However, because the term is completely unregulated, it’s very difficult to determine what role synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or winemaking chemicals played in the growing, fermenting, or bottling processes.

With all other factors held equal, wine that is organic, made with organic grapes, or biodynamic is better for the environment than its industrial shelf-mate. But the impact difference is smaller and more variable than you might think—and somewhat difficult to measure.

Organic winemaking practices have only a small impact on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2009 paper in the Journal of Wine Research—in large part because organic growers still need some kind of fertilizer. Instead of synthetics, they use composted manure or plant matter, and a lot of it. Researchers at UC-Davis compared organic and conventional chardonnay grapes planted in Sonoma Valley. They found that the organic vines required about 80 times [PDF] as much fertilizer, by weight, as their conventionally-grown counterparts [PDF]. All of that material has to be shipped in from beef and dairy operations or nearby farms, which usually takes as much or more energy as manufacturing and delivering the synthetic stuff. (Because biodynamic winemakers can import only a certain amount of fertilizer, they may have a lower carbon output. Unfortunately, there has not yet been a systematic study, because there are only around 70 certified producers.)

There’s more to organic farming than minimizing greenhouse-gas emissions, though. And organic techniques do offer some substantial environmental benefits—they’re just tough to quantify. The Michael Pollan fans out there know that an organic vineyard supports a thriving ecosystem of birds, bugs, and other critters, while a conventional field has been cleared of anything but the precious grapes. Conventional wine growing can also expose local waterways—as well as farm workers—to fungicides, fertilizers, and pesticides. Unfortunately, because it’s tough to put a number on these effects, greenhouse-gas benefits tend to dominate environmental analyses.

The most reliable way to minimize wine-related emissions is to avoid bottles that have traveled by air. If possible, choose bottles that spent more time in a boat than in a truck. Since container ships handle most intercontinental wine transport, Americans who live east of Nebraska are better off buying a wine from Bordeaux than one from Sonoma—the California wines would have taken a very long overland journey. Magnums are better than standard-sized 750-milliliter bottles, because there’s less packaging mass per mouthful of wine. For the same reason, try to find producers that ship their wines across the ocean in bulk stainless steel containers and bottle close to the point of consumption. (If your local wine merchant can’t identify these vintners, ask for the distributor’s contact information.)

The good news it that many of the world’s wine grapes are produced organically, even if the bottle doesn’t say so. Traditional vineyards in places like Burgundy, Languedoc, Piedmont, Mosel and elsewhere often stay in the same family for generations. Many of these vintners have stuck to organic farming practices, but don’t bother with the expense and bureaucracy of certification.

Marketing also plays a role. Consumers often assume that organic dairy and produce are superior to the conventional stuff, and they’re willing to pay a premium for them. Wine snobs, on the other hand, tend to perceive organic wine as substandard because pioneering organic vintners had trouble overcoming the challenges of shipping and storing wines without added sulfites. (Advocates now insist these problems have been solved.) Even if they would qualify, many high-end producers don’t seek organic certification for fear that wine snobs will sneer at their fermented hippie juice. So ask your local wine merchant about any particular bottle. It may be covertly organic.

Prepare to do a spit-take, wine snobs. Oenophiles should care deeply about the environment, as the American wine grape may soon be an endangered species. While regions like Mosel and Loire stand to gain from a little global warming, one researcher estimates that climate change could wipe out 81 percent of premium wine-growing area in the United States by the end of the century.

The Green Lantern thanks Jim Fullmer of Demeter USA, Pablo Paster of TreeHugger.com and HARA, and Jonathan Russo of Organic Wine Journal.

Article excerpted from www.slate.com



All for a green life

Organic practices have now become desirable and chic. GEETA PADMANABHAN takes a look at what goes into an organic lifestyle.

PHOTOS: P.V. SIVAKUMAR and K. ananthan

Stay close to Nature:Shift to organic products.


It is a reasonable wish. You want to eat food that doesn’t come soaked in dangerous chemicals, drink water whose ingredients will not poison and maim, wear clothes not made in factories that smothered farming livelihoods, breathe air that won’t choke the lungs. Simply, you hope for a life that will leave an environment for your kids to stay healthy. You want what is now labelled an “organic” life. Happily, it is becoming increasingly doable. That is, if you’re willing to learn its rules.

Eco-wedding

One who can rattle them off is Vellore Srinivasan, the green foot soldier of the Vellore fort. Turning his wedding into an eco-event, he’s DVD-ed it for public campaigns. “I was on auto-pilot during my wedding,” he laughs. “Can’t remember going through the rituals, I have to marry again,” he said.

For Srinivasan, an Ashoka awardee, this was one more successful campaign to prove that living with least damage to nature is not impossible. His bride wore ahimsa silk (“I checked!”). All the decoration including banana trees and thoranams went to feed local cattle. Garbage was segregated into organic and inorganic waste for disposal.

Guests were given a bundle of a jasmine sapling, vermi-compost, sachets of seeds and printed instructions for composting and rainwater harvesting.

This is probably obsessive, but green practices are now desirable chic. Speakers are given tulsi plants as gifts, shoppers carry purchases in paper or cloth bags, wedding invitations go online, children take a vow not to fire crackers, gas cylinders carry green labels. There’s a wobbly willingness to segregate garbage. Organic food and farming are everyday phrases. Celebrities talk of “doing their bit” on TV, anything organic gets column space. Together, these seem significant though small, steps out of a plastic-coated world.

“Our ancestors saw organic life as wholesome life,” said K. Vijayalakshmi and A.V. Balasubramaniam at the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, which advises farmers on organic practices and connects their products to consumers. “It’s living in peace with nature and other humans, giving back what you take from surroundings, not eating away the capital. This perception changed in the post-industrial society. We are all children of this phenomenon.”

A wholesome life

Living this “wholesome” life are the Cariappas: Vivek, Julie and kids on their 30-acre Krac-a-Dawna organic farm in HD Koda taluk, Mysore. “Without Malathion, lindane, DDT, or Roundup”, the Cariappa family profitably grows 30 different kinds of crops using principles of seed-saving, multiple cropping, integrated and inter-dependent animal and soil husbandry, optimal utilisation of animal and plant-waste, vermi-composting, small-scale food-preservation and storage. Going directly to the consumer, they sell grain as flour, fruit as jams and jellies, sugarcane as jaggery powder, coconuts as cold-pressed coconut oil soap. “This takes effort and imagination, but it has improved our economic viability and our sustainability in the market society,” said Vivek. Their organic cotton is spun separately, woven by traditional weavers, coloured by vegetable dyes extracted on the farm and stitched into dresses. Buyers are nearby families and eco-shops around India.

Aurobindo Ashram’s Gloria Land (GL) has replaced inorganic fertilizers and pesticides with mulch, cattle dung and a carefully chosen mix of crops. Plants like sesbania help with nitrogen fixation. Jenda Medu, a 100 per cent organic farming village near Udhagamandalam uses advice from experts and has built a check-dam and water storage tanks to combat water shortage.

“Interdependence, without disturbing the rhythms of nature,” Balasubramaniam defines the green philosophy. “We must preserve bio-diversity, build on local availability of resources. Buying readymade bio-products is not sustainable.”

AVB wants mass training for organic farming by the Directorates of Agriculture; financial help for farmers from banking and credit institutions; inclusion of organic methods in agricultural education. “Chemical fertilizers/pesticides are subsidised. Why not subsidy for those using green manure and in-house seeds? Are earth-enriching products like neem-seed cakes available freely? If we trust farmers, change will come,” says Vijayalakshmi.

Varun Gupta, of Pro-Nature Organic Foods, also sees organic life as being conscious of how closely we’re tied to our environment. He concedes we can’t all go the Julie-and-Vivek way, but if we “ensure that we consume less than what is our rightful share of nature’s bounty, we are leading an organic life.” He made the switch because he “fell in love with the “organic concept” while working for a food company. “Organic does not have any strong well-established brand, yet more and more are willing to consider it as an alternative. There is also increased awareness of environment issues.”

A mindset

“An organic life is a mindset,” say Vivek and Julie who home-school their two boys. They liberate the phrase to mean “necessary social change” – through free thinking, sensible land-use, gender equality, equal opportunities, a diversity-based inclusive approach. “Organic practices are woven into our lives,” Julie says. “It’s about mental strength, making determined decisions,” agrees Srinivasan.

They fear commercial enterprise hi-jacking the concept. “Organic food cannot be a “boutique” affair adopted by affluent consumers,” says Balasubramaniam. Processes and practices must reach all retail shelves. “We need to link what we buy to the grower/maker,” emphasises Vivek. “The consumer has a vital responsibility to change the system.”

“Start small,” suggests Vijayalakshmi. “Go organic one day of the week.” Remember, the decisions you make at supermarket aisles could make a significant difference.

The first hurdle is the label mix-up. Are “all-natural” foods organic? No. Such food products may not have anything artificial in them, but their basic ingredients were probably grown by unsavoury methods. Terms such as “pesticide-free” and “residue-free” can also be misleading. Organic packaged foods contain no additives and must be processed in a clean, chemical-free environment. The best way to make sure you’re buying organic is to look for “certified organic”.

The next is the cost. “Organic is not expensive if we consider the indirect cost attached to “regular” food; health and nutrition, environment and social,” said Varun. “There will always be a cost attached to buying “pure and healthy”. However, the fast-growing market will help in bringing down the prices.”

To stay within your budget, buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables in season. It saves transportation costs. Buy lasting items in bulk. Walk when you can. Turn down lights, volume. And grow greens on the terrace. Go to bed without feeling guilty about the future of your kids.

Article excerpted from www.hindu.com


Nairobi criminals dump old ways and go organic

Crime, poverty and festering raw sewage are fertilising one of the most unlikely projects in Nairobi’s Kibera slum: an organic farm run by former criminals.

Nairobi criminals dump old ways and go organic
Nairobi criminals dump old ways and go organic

The gang of ex-criminals, mostly petty offenders, now toil in a greenhouse in one of Kibera’s most dangerous districts, producing organic vegetables from a converted dumpsite.

Three months of hard labour in 2008 is what it took the group of around 40 farmers to clear the piece of land, measuring half a hectare (1.2 acres), of its decades-old heap of refuse and transform it into an arable plot.

“We then dug it one metre (yard) deep and brought new soil. Sunflowers were planted to suck up any heavy metals that might have been left,” said Erick Ogoro Simba, one of the project leaders.

Last year, the group set up the greenhouse, which lies along the Nairobi-Kampala railway running through Kibera, and have since been able to produce a dozen crates of tomatoes daily as well as other vegetables which they sell to local residents.

“Without the farm, I always think that I would have been dead or in prison or something like that because we have lost most of our friends and brothers in crime,” said 25-year-old Victor Matioli.

Kibera residents appreciate buying the vegetables at a cheaper price, but such benefits are only shared within Kenya’s biggest slum as well-off Nairobi residents are loath to consume anything grown there.

Although laboratory tests have certified the farm’s produce as suitable, the small plot still borders a garbage heap, kept at bay only by a barbed-wire fence and where homeless children rummage about for food.

The farm is run under Youth Reform, a local organisation for young people in Kibera, where it has also built three water tanks and toilets with funding from foreign donors.

Still, the reputation of the Kibera farmers overshadows their attempts to cultivate a new image.

“There are some people who are still sceptical. They think it is like a curtain (behind which we are hiding) and that we are still doing bad things,” head of farm production Alamin Ibrahim said.

But the group ambitions to inspire and sway other young people from a life of crime remain in focus, and project leader Simba said they planned to convert several slum dumpsites into organic farms.

“In the next five years we’ll be engaging with other slums, other communities because our young men have already been trained so we want to use them,” Said Simba.

“We want that knowledge to get out there. We have more dumping sites than homes in the slums so we want, if it is possible, to transform other dumping sites into farms.”

Former violent robber Hussein Haroun, 25, said he was perturbed to see many teenagers turning to armed robbery as a short-cut to material satisfaction.

“Youth just want Western lifestyle; go to the club, own a car, nice clothes. They find the work we are doing here tedious.”

Article excerpted from lifestyle.malaysia.msn.com


Choosing Organic Milk Could Offset Effects Of Climate Change

Wetter, cooler summers can have a detrimental effect on the milk we drink, according to new research published by Newcastle University.

Researchers found milk collected during a particularly poor UK summer and the following winter had significantly higher saturated fat content and far less beneficial fatty acids than in a more ‘normal’ year.

But they also discovered that switching to organic milk could help overcome these problems. Organic supermarket milk showed higher levels of nutritionally beneficial fatty acids compared with ‘ordinary’ milk regardless of the time of year or weather conditions.

The study, which is published in this month’s Journal of Dairy Science (January 2011), leads on from previous research undertaken nearly three years ago which looked at the difference between organic and conventional milk at its source – on the farms.

“We wanted to check if what we found on farms also applies to milk available in the shops,” said Gillian Butler, who led the study. “Surprisingly, the differences between organic and conventional milk were even more marked. Whereas on the farms the benefits of organic milk were proven in the summer but not the winter, in the supermarkets it is significantly better quality year round.”

There was also greater consistency between organic suppliers, where the conventional milk brands were of variable quality.

“We were surprised to see obvious differences between the conventional brands, with the more expensive ones not necessarily better,” said Mrs Butler. “Some brands – which promote their suppliers as wholesome and grazing on fresh pastures – actually sold milk that appeared to be from very intensive farms.”

Low levels of omega-3 and polyunsaturated fatty acids were discovered in some of these brands, which are indicative of a diet low in fresh grass. These samples also showed evidence of the cows being supplemented with a saturated fat product derived from palm oil.

Mrs Butler puts the differences down to a lower reliance on grazing and fertiliser suppressing clover on conventional farms. “The results suggest greater uniformity of feeding practice on farms supplying organic milk since there were no brands which differed consistently in fat composition,” she said. “This implies a fairly uniform approach to feeding practised across these suppliers.”

Organic dairying standards prescribe a reliance on forage, especially grazing, and, in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser, tend to encourage swards of red and white clover, which have been shown to alter the fatty acid intake and composition of milk.

While protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and some mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk are considered beneficial, saturated fatty acids are believed to have a negative effect on human health.

“We’re always being told to cut down on the saturated fat we consume and switching to organic milk and dairy products provides a natural way to increase our intake of nutritionally desirable fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants without increasing our intake of less desirable fatty acids,” said Mrs Butler.

“By choosing organic milk you can cut saturated fats by 30-50 percent and still get the same intake of beneficial fatty acids, as the omega-3 levels are higher but omega-6 is not, which helps to improve the crucial ratio between the two.”

While undertaking their research into the differences between organic and conventional milk, the researchers discovered the surprising link between milk quality and our changing climate. Their results suggest that if we continue to have wetter, cooler summers then farmers may have to rethink their current dairy practices.

There was a considerable difference between the milk bought in the first sampling period (July 2006 and January 2007) and corresponding times a year later. The second set of samples, following a particularly wet summer in 2007, was higher in saturated fat and lower in beneficial fatty acids.

“We didn’t expect to find differences between the sampling periods,” said Mrs Butler. “But this is likely to be down to the impact of the weather on availability and quality of forage.”

In North East England, for example, the summer of 2007 was particularly wet, with approximately 30 per cent higher recorded rainfall and 12 per cent lower temperatures compared with 2006.

“These conditions may affect the cows’ behaviour, reducing grazing intake and milk output,” said Mrs Butler. “Farmers also often increase supplementation with concentrated feeds or conserved forage to maintain milk yields in these conditions.”

During the region’s main silage making period (late May until the end of July) rainfall in 2007 was three times higher than the previous year, which also made for poorer quality silage and therefore the need for greater supplementation to compensate in winter diets.

“If these weather patterns continue, both forage and dairy management will have to adapt to maintain current milk quality,” said Mrs Butler. “The higher levels of beneficial fats in organic milk would more than compensate for the depression brought about by relatively poor weather conditions in the wet year.”

The researchers, who are part of the University’s Nafferton Ecological Farming Group and its Human Nutrition Centre, looked at the quality of milk in supermarkets across North East England at varying times of year over a two-year period.

They concluded that organic brands of milk available in supermarkets are higher in beneficial fatty acids such as CLA and omega-3 fatty acids in summer (as in their previous research) and winter (where previous research showed that the difference in the winter was not as noticeable).

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, said: “This groundbreaking research proves for the first time that people buying organic milk will be benefitting from the higher levels of beneficial fatty acids in organic milk through the whole year.”

Article excerpted from www.medicalnewstoday.com


Research — Palm oil as bio-diesel

The Malaysian government is refocusing the use of palm oil to the production of bio-diesel to cater for the huge demands from European countries; it has encouraged the building of bio-diesel plants. This is due to the higher prices of fuel and increasing demand for alternatives sources of energy in the Western world.

The plants, which will start operating middle of next year and produce 100,000 tonnes of bio-diesel annually. Strong demand for bio-diesel from Europe as well as Colombia, India, South Korea and Turkey was fuelling the industry’s growth, as more countries sought to reduce their reliance on oil.

Malaysia has already begun preparations to change from diesel to bio-fuels by 2008, including drafting legislation that will make the switch mandatory. From 2007, all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% palm oil. Being the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil, Malaysia intends to take advantage of the rush in finding cleaner fuels.

With the growth of emphasis on bio-diesels presenting a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels its important to recognize that these benefits are partly negated when forest is cleared to make room for bio-diesel crops such as oil palm. NGOs are now alerting the international arena to the fact that despite millions of hectares of land standing unplanted in Indonesia there is still clearance of tropical hardwood forest for palm oil plantations. Furthermore, as the remaining unprotected lowland forest dwindles, developers are looking to peat swamp for conversion, which causes a draining of the peat and this not only unlocks the carbon in the surface covering of trees, but begins an oxidation process of the carbon in the peat reserves which can be between 5,000 to 10,000 years worth of carbon locked into the ground. Drained peat is also at very high risk of forest fire, and there is a clear record of fire being used to clear vegetation for palm oil development in Indonesia.

Article excerpted from www.earthandgarden.com


Organic Cotton Baby Clothes

One can hardly raise a finger against cotton when it comes to its usefulness as a clothing material. It is light, it is smooth, it is soft, it is an excellent absorbent and it is non allergenic. But is that all? Are not you missing something? Yes! You are! You will be shocked if I tell you certain facts regarding this so seemingly harmless cotton.

Did you know that cotton is one of the most polluted crops, that is, it absorbs maximum of the pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers (all chemicals and all toxic) given to it and it really needs them because cotton is one of the crops that is most prone to pest attacks. Further, it is subjected to extensive chemical bleaching, dyeing, printing, washing and other chemical treatments until it comes out as a finished product. Where do these toxic chemicals go? They remain stored in cotton and ultimately enter our body when we use cotton clothes. If these chemicals are harsh and toxic enough to inflict heavy damages to adult skin, just imagine what harm they can do to babies whose skin are more porous, more delicate and more sensitive than that of adults. What is to be done then? Switch over to some other fabric? But then they are not as comfortable as cotton either. The answer lies in cotton only, but one that is grown and processed very differently and called Organic Cotton. You can use Organic Cotton Baby Clothes for your baby safely. They have no chemicals and have no adverse effects of babies (even adults should use Organic Cotton Clothes). Let us have a look at the cons and pros of these clothes.

Definition: Organic Cotton Baby Clothes are the baby clothes that are made from Organic Cotton. That is, cotton grown without using any chemical fertilizer or pesticide. Only organic manure and natural pesticides are used on them. Further, after harvesting, this cotton does not undergo chemical bleaching, dyeing, printing and detergent washes. No insecticidal solutions are used on them either.

High Price: Organic Cotton Baby Clothes are much costlier than the normal cotton baby clothes. The reason is that production of organic cotton is much less than non organic cotton. Cotton, being very prone to pest attacks, calls for rigorous monitoring and care if it grown in the organic way. Still, the crop is often ruined by pests (as pests are often resistant to organic pesticides), attributing to its less production. Further, processing of cotton in organic way is a costly affair (chemicals are far cheaper) too. These things and various other factors such as maintenance, shorter shelf life of these clothes etc. contribute to the high price or Organic Cotton Baby Clothes.

Low availability: Due to the reasons discussed in the paragraph above and also due to lack of awareness towards Organic Cotton Baby Clothes, these clothes are not available easily and everywhere. If they are not available in your city, you can bring them from other cities or can order for them over internet and phone.

Impact on Health: Organic Cotton Baby Clothes are excellent for health. They are the purest and most natural clothes you can get. They have all the goodness of cotton such as high absorbing capacity, light weight, softness, smoothness and ventilation without the harms of toxic chemicals. Use them and your baby will remain safe from a number of skin problems and toxicity.

Impact on Environment: These clothes come as good news for the environment too. Since no chemicals are used in its cultivation (no chemical fertilizers or pesticides) and in its processing (no chemical bleaches, dyes, colours, disinfectants or insecticides); therefore no water, land or air pollution takes place throughout its complete processing. Being made of natural fiber, these clothes ultimately decompose and become compost. Encouraging these Organic Cotton Baby Clothes will be noble step towards saving the environment for the future generation.

Future: Future of Organic Cotton Baby Clothes is certainly bright as more and more people are getting aware of the benefits of these clothes and more and more scientific techniques are being invented for higher production of organic cotton.

Certifications: Since organic cotton cannot be distinguished from normal cotton unless tested in a lab; you must look for the certificates of genuineness of these organic clothes attached with them. These certificates can be of three types. First one certifying that these clothes are hundred percent organic, which means that every bit of these clothes is organic. The second one tells you that these clothes are organic, which means at least ninety five percent of the raw materials used in these clothes are organic. The third type of certificate says that the clothes contain organic material, which means that at least seventy five percent of the raw materials used in these clothes are organic. But when the whole issue is about organic, then you should buy only the “Hundred Percent Organic” clothes, because anything lesser will mean that it is ultimately non organic. The standards of certification discussed above may differ in different continents and nations, but more or less they remain close. Look for the list of certifying agencies in other articles on organic products in this site.

Care: Since these clothes do not contain any toxic chemical, they are very prone to attacks from insects and fungi. So, they call for proper care. Using Moth Balls or insecticidal solutions or disinfectant liquid on them is not a good idea because these activities will not leave them “Organic” anymore. You may try using natural insecticidal liquids or fumes, plain water wash, proper drying and proper sun drying. Showing them some strong sun is highly recommended because it the best natural way to protect these clothes from germs, insects and fungal growth.

Although this article is not enough to make you an expert, but I believe it serves the purpose and enables you pick up the best Organic Cotton Baby Clothes for your beloved baby.

Article excerpted from www.organicfacts.net


10 Good Reasons To Go Organic

1. Organic products meet stringent standards
Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.

2. Organic food tastes great!
It’s common sense – well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.

3. Organic production reduces health risks
Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water that sustain us.

4. Organic farms respect our water resources
The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.

5. Organic farmers build healthy soil
Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.

6. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature
Organic agricultural respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.

7. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research
Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

8. Organic producers strive to preserve diversity
The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.

9. Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy
USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.

10. Organic abundance – Foods and non-foods alike!
Now every food category has an organic alternative. And non-food agricultural products are being grown organically – even cotton, which most experts felt could not be grown this way.

Article excerpted from www.ota.com


What is Organic Chicken?

Organic chicken is becoming a popular and healthy alternative to farmed meat fed with GM food and drugs to make them fatter for market.

We all know about organic fruit and vegetables but did you know that you can now buy organic chicken?

People must have heard about the nasty conditions which broiler chickens – which are bred for their meat – are raised in? These chickens have no more floor space than a sheet of A4 paper. Chickens are over-fed to reach slaughter weight in six weeks, when it would normally take four months.

Modem intensive systems of poultry production have produced cheap meat for the consumer – but at a price. Inside the intensive chicken houses, which are appearing in increasing numbers in the countryside, up to 40,000 birds are crammed, at 2 birds to the square foot, into a single windowless building, with almost continuous low levels of artificial light, they are then given drugs to speed up their rate of growth. Keeping so many animals packed together in such a stressful environment can only contribute to their rates of infection. It seems logical that the Chinese flu infections that we were seeing transmitted to humans comes from this same intensive farming. It isnt necessary to produce food in this way.

Organic farmers do a number of things to ensure that chickens are reared as naturally as possible. For starters, antibiotic growth promoters cannot be used but sick organic birds must be treated with appropriate veterinary medicine, so they can be given antibiotics if they’re very poorly. But they cannot be given drugs on a regular and routine basis, something that almost all non-organic poultry have to endure. Organic poultry is reared on a specially formulated feed containing only cereals, vegetable protein, a small amount of fish meal, and a vitamin/mineral supplement. These chickens are often guaranteed to be fed on feed which is free from genetically modified feedstuffs (GMOs). To be fully organic, chickens must be fed a diet containing grain which has been grown organically, without artificial fertilisers or sprays. Such feed is expensive, and therefore organic chicken is more expensive as well.

Also, on Soil Association registered farms, the number of chickens housed in a single shed is restricted to 1,000. A non-organic intensive chicken farm may have as many as 40,000 in the same shed. Organic birds are kept free-range, having continuous daytime access to clean pasture, except in adverse weather. Non-organic birds are almost always locked up night and day.

In addition, the Soil Association insists on full and clear labeling of processed chicken products. They are able to trace back to the farm all ingredients used in any Soil Association chicken products. Their organic certification standards state that food must undergo as little processing as is practical.

Organic standards are legally binding. All organic businesses must be licensed by law, and are fully inspected at least once a year. So if you want to see for yourself how organic animals are reared, why not visit an organic farm?

Article excerpted from www.buzzle.com


Antibiotics in Our Food

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are substances used to destroy specific types of bacteria and other microorganisms for the treatment of infection. They are often created and synthesized from other microorganisms, while they are found to act on the vital processes inside the cells of bacteria, interfering in the creation of bacterial proteins, thus leading to the destruction of the harmful elements.

Each antibiotic has its own spectrum of bacteria which are susceptible to damage by its action. But there are also strains of bacteria that become resistant to a certain antibiotic. In case that occurs, the treatment should be changed to a different type of antibiotic. This is the reason why a bacterial culture is usually recommended to people whose bacterial infection is of unknown cause. Identification of the actual bacteria causing the disease is vital for diagnosis especially in determining which antibiotic to be prescribed for treatment. On the other hand, too much of the wrong antibiotic in the body may lead to the formation of resistant strains of the same bacteria.

Antibiotics in our food

In modern conventional farming, animals such as cows, pigs, and chicken are given antibiotics and hormones to promote the growth thereof. Unfortunately, this can cause resistant bacterial strains to occur. The utilization of growth hormones can also cause the animals to wear down earlier than expected. As a consequence, the milk from cows undergoing antibiotic growth therapy will show elevated levels of growth factor. This growth factor has been shown to be elevating the risk for cancer for milk drinkers.

The increase in the number of pathogenic bacteria that are resistant to bacteria is already becoming a major problem. This can mostly be accounted for the giving of antibiotics to animals in farms. Its contribution to the problem is even greater than the excessive prescription of antibiotics to humans by physicians. These animals are given these antibiotics in order to enhance their growth as well as prevent diseases from occurring in stressed, jammed farm animals. Studies have shown that farm animals use more than half of all the antibiotics used in Australia as compared to people. For this reason, the World Health Organization has suggested a decrease in the antibiotics use in agriculture.

The Organic Alternative

In organic farming, the need to enhance the growth of animals is answered by taking better care of the farm animals by providing their needs, keeping their barns clean and other maintenance procedures. Some even go to the extent of making them feel at home wherein they let them graze in the mountains instead of staying indoors all day. Here, antibiotics are also used but only when necessary.

It is always important to take care of oneself by eating the right amount and kind of food, especially the processes wherein certain foods undergo. It is saddening to know that not all the food that we eat is really natural and nutritious as we like to think they are. Advances in agriculture and science, specifically the creation of antibiotics, have helped in ensuring the health of a majority of living organisms, but these also pose a threat to our general welfare if they are misused or abused.

Article excerpted from http://www.goorganic.com.au



Top 10 Best Organic Beer Brands

Organic Beer Brews Are Beneficial for Health & the Environment

Elliott Bay Brewing Company was the first brewer of certified organic beer in King County, WA. The company has been involved in recycling programs since 2006 when it began an initiative toward 100 percent composting and recycling at their brewing facility. To further offset their energy consumption, the company purchases wind power credits and continues to find new ways to help sustain the environment both locally and globally. Most all of the beer brewed is made with 100 percent organic ingredients certified under the USDA. Its award-winning Organic Hop Von Boorian blend is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale with “through-the-roof hoppiness.”

Eel River Brewing Company, the true American pioneer in organic beer brewing, first set up shop in 1995 at the former site of the Clay Brown Redwood Lumber mill yard in Fortuna, CA. Soon after, ERB received the Gold Medal for their Climax California Classic brew — named after the Climax Engine, a steam locomotive that used to carry logs out of the forest. Many awards later, the microbrewer became the first in America to brew with 100 percent organic ingredients. ERB eventually turned the old lumber mill brewing site into a Tap Room & Grill, and moved its brewing operation to another historic mill in Scotia, CA. The new brewing site now operates with biomass power, using mill leftovers such as wood chips, bark, scrap lumber and clippings. The company offers many types of unique, award-winning infusions like the famous Organic California Blonde, Organic India Pale Ale, and Organic Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout — a dark Russian beer made with the finest Pacific Northwestern hops, designed to keep you warm during those long winter months.

➢Located in Maine, Peak Organic is a small brewing company with a selection of distinctively delicious ales, handcrafted with quality artisan ingredients. Co-founder Jon Cadoux began perfecting his craft at home back in the 1990’s, seeking out the best ingredients from local organic farmers. Years later, the company was established by Cadoux and a few of his friends in Portland. In 2009, Peak financially helped Maine farmers harvest organic hops on a commercial scale for the first time since 1880. What really sets Peak apart from other organic brewers is the creativity and care behind their blends. From their original Maple Oat Ale with real organic maple syrup and Maine-grown organic oats, to their King Crimson Imperial Red with malt and pine tones, this organic brewer is a great choice for those looking to help the planet without sacrificing good taste.

Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown organic ale is crafted with organic wet hops and barley grown at the brewery in Chico, CA. The company normally does not produce organic brews, although this one is its specialty — and for good reason. The Estate Ale is a delectable blend with earthy, grapefruit-like notes and a savory, crisp quality. Sierra Nevada not only provides delicious, artisan brews, but also focuses on lowering its environmental impact by recycling, generating their own electricity with a large solar array, and treating wastewater with a proprietary two-step anaerobic treatment system, as well as fueling their boilers with the leftover methane from that system. An excellent choice for beer and environmental advocates alike.

➢Berkley, CA-based Bison Brewing began using organic ingredients to do their part in helping the environment. Bison encourages organic farming because it saves around 50 percent more energy than conventional farming, nourishes plants and soil, and prevents water pollution attributes to pesticide runoff. According to their site, the EPA attributes 70 percent of the pollution in America’s rivers and streams to conventional farming methods. The brewery offers a wide variety of award winning brews, from the most popular year-round Chocolate Stout blended with cocoa and organic malts, to the seasonal Gingerbread Ale seasoned with roasted barley, caramel, chocolate and black malts. Not to mention, the company has started a “Drink Neutral” program which encourages organic beer lovers to reduce their environmental impact by filling out a pledge to make a small contribution to help offset their beer consumption. Beer reviews and more can be found on Bison’s website.

Pinkus Organic homebrews has roots in the Northern Germany town of Munster, when the founders Johannes Muller and his wife Friederika Cramer set up shop in 1816. The fifth and sixth generation of the family now own and operate the famous Pinkus-Muller Pub/Brewery. Dedicated to quality brews, Pinkus began brewing organic beer in 1980 and was the world’s first brewery to use organically-grown barley malt and whole hop blossoms. The company brews Organic Münster Alt (or Ale), Organic Ur Pilsner, Organic Hefe-Weizen, and Organic Jubilate — a rich, dark lager with a hop finish.

➢Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery started out as a small brewpub in 1988 and has been brewing tasty, handcrafted ales ever since. Its first beers were Black Butte Porter, Bachelor Bitter and Cascade Golden Ale. Since then, the company moved locations and now operates with a 50-barrel traditional gravity brew house and a 131-barrel Huppmann brew system from Germany. Deschutes currently has only one organic brew, the award-winning Green Lakes Organic Ale, which is the first beer brewed with Salmon-Safe certified hops. Using 100 percent organic malted barley and a mixture of Liberty and Sterling hops, this home-grown concoction is both smooth and satisfying. The company is also involved in many community organizations and contributions to promote a healthy and happy planet.

➢Located in Olympia, WA, Fish Tale Organic Ales are a line of completely organic, deliciously handcrafted beers using the finest hops and barley available. Dedicated to both health and environmental sustenance, this brewer works hard to supply a product that is pure and natural — completely free of pesticides or chemicals. Fish Tale has a wide variety of award-winning organic blends available: Organic India Pale Ale; Organic Amber Ale; Organic Blonde Seasonal Ale; Winterfish Seasonal Ale; Soundkeeper Organic Pale Ale; and Organic Wild Salmon Pale Ale.

Butte Creek Organic Brewing Company – located in Chico, California – boldly designates itself as “the official beer of planet Earth”. In 1998, the brewer decided to experiment with sustainability and released its first organic offering: the Summer Organic Ale. With the success launch of its seasonal blonde, Butte Creek now offers organic brews year-round with its delicious handcrafted pale ales, pilsners and porters. To boot, the seasonal Spring Run Organic Pale Ale has a portion of its proceeds donated to Chinook salmon restoration efforts.

Lakefront Brewing, located in Milwaukee, WI, has a large selection of award-winning brews with one organic blend and even a gluten-free option for those with wheat allergies. Organically-brewed Lakefront Organic ESB is an extra delicious British-style Extra Special Bitter blend with citrus and malt tones, and the distinctive New Grist beer is gluten-free –brewed with sorghum rice flour instead of wheat.

Article excerpted from http://www.renewable-energy-news.info



How is organic “Eco-friendly”?

How does Organic Farming and the consumption of Organic Food links to the Eco movement? How is it eco-friendly?

Here are a few points to ponder:

1. Energy
Currently, we use around 10 calories of fossil energy to produce one calorie of food energy. In a fuel-scarce future, which experts think could arrive as early as 2012, such numbers simply won’t stack up.

On average, organically grown crops use 25% less energy than their chemical cousins. When these savings are combined with stringent energy conservation and local distribution and consumption (such as organic box schemes), energy-use dwindles to a fraction of that needed for an intensive, centralised food system.

2. Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
The production of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, which is indispensable to conventional farming, produces vast quantities of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential some 320 times greater than that of CO2. The techniques used in organic agriculture to enhance soil fertility in turn encourage crops to develop deeper roots, which increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, locking up carbon underground and keeping it out of the atmosphere.

3. Water Use
Agriculture is officially the most thirsty industry on the planet, consuming a staggering 72 per cent of all global freshwater. Organic agriculture is different. Due to its emphasis on healthy soil structure, organic farming avoids many of the problems associated with compaction, erosion, salinisation and soil degradation, which are prevalent in intensive systems.

4. Localization
Food transport accounted for more than 30 billion vehicle kilometres, 25 per cent of all HGV journeys and 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2002 alone. The organic movement was born out of a commitment to provide local food for local people, and so it is logical that organic marketing encourages localisation through veg boxes, farm shops and stalls. As we enter an age of unprecedented food insecurity, it is essential that our consumption reflects not only what is desirable, but also what is ultimately sustainable.

5. Pesticides
A spiralling dependence on pesticides throughout recent decades has resulted in a catalogue of repercussions, including pest resistance, disease susceptibility, loss of natural biological controls and reduced nutrient-cycling.

Organic farmers, on the other hand, believe that a healthy plant grown in a healthy soil will ultimately be more resistant to pest damage. Organic systems encourage a variety of natural methods to enhance soil and plant health, in turn reducing incidences of pests, weeds and disease.

6. EcoSystem Impact
Organic farms actively encourage biodiversity in order to maintain soil fertility and aid natural pest control. Mixed farming systems ensure that a diversity of food and nesting sites are available throughout the year, compared with conventional farms where autumn sow crops leave little winter vegetation available.

Biodiversity is enhanced at every level of the food chain under organic management practices, from soil micro-biota right through to farmland birds and the largest mammals.

7. Food Biodiversity
Seeds are not simply a source of food; they are living testimony to more than 10,000 years of agricultural domestication. Tragically, 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost over the past 100 years. Modern intensive agriculture depends on relatively few crops – only about 150 species are cultivated on any significant scale worldwide.

Seed-saving and the development of local varieties is a key component of organic farming, giving crops the potential to evolve in response to what could be rapidly changing climatic conditions. This will help agriculture keeps pace with climate change in the field, rather than in the laboratory.

Article excerpted from http://www.askorganicwongs.com



Preventing Damping Off

Have you ever sown seeds indoors and no seedlings appeared, or seedlings appeared only to suddenly collapse and die? The culprit may have been damping-off. Damping-off is a term that describes the death of seedlings due to rot. There are several species of fungi that may attack seedlings and lead to damping off. Rot can occur soon after germination—so soon that the roots are killed and no stem appears. Damping-off may also occur just after the stem appears, or after seedlings have put on some healthy-looking growth. The seedling may suddenly wilt, or it may keel over from its base.

The best protection against damping-off is an ounce of prevention. Here are some easy-to-follow measures:

+ Ensure good drainage in seedlings’ pots and trays.
+ Ensure good air circulation where the seedlings are growing. Set up a small fan to keep the air moving.
+ Ensure good light to promote strong growth, whether seedlings are in a window or on a light stand.
+ Use clean seed-starting equipment, including containers and sterile seed-starting mix.
+ Water from below by placing the pots or trays in a container of water or on a capillary mat. The water will soak up through the drainage holes. Once the top of the soil looks moist, remove the pots or trays from the water.

When sowing seeds, cover them only to the depth recommended on the packet, and no deeper. Instead of covering them with your seed-starting mix, cover them instead with sphagnum moss, coarse sand or chicken grit. These materials are less likely to host fungi.

Once seedlings appear, mist them daily with weak chamomile or clove tea, and/or dust the soil surface (one time only) with ground cinnamon or powdered charcoal.

Article excerpted from http://www.hortmag.com


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