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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

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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

How to Make Organic House Cleaning Products

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

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