Thursday, June 28, 2007

Big Decertified Dairy Pulls Out of Organic

The Case Vander Eyk Dairy, which reportedly said it was seeking recertification of its 3,500 head organic herd, has decided not to pursue it after all.

The controversial dairy in the Central Valley of California had been certified by Quality Assurance International, but QAI suspended the company's organic dairy operations in May for failing to meet regulatory standards. The dairy then approached California Certified Organic Farmers about beginning the recertification process.

Peggy Miars, executive director of CCOF, one of the oldest organic certification agencies in the nation, said in an email the dairy was in "the initial review stage" for recertification. "Obviously, CCOF holds all applicants to the same strict standards and would ensure that all previous noncompliance issues are resolved."

"However, that seems to be a moot point based on my conversation with our contact at Vander Eyk," Miars continued. "He said that the Vander Eyk family is pulling out of the organic dairy business indefinitely."

The Real Dirt on Farmer John

"My family has been plowing and planting every Spring for generations. I inherited this history and I just about ended the whole thing . . ."
-- Farmer John

Meet Farmer John, a man who will turn every idea you ever had about what it means to be an American farmer, or an American dreamer, on its head. Farmer John might sit on a tractor but he's also an outrageous artist, a maverick environmentalist, a homespun rebel, a pink-boa-wearing eccentric, a playful provocateur - and the incredible human being whose inspirational story of revolutionizing his family farm and redeeming his own life has won accolades and awards at film festivals around the world in THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN.

This lovingly handmade, grassroots epic has garnered fans even in the corridors of power, with former Vice President Al Gore calling it "unbelievably special," celebrity chef Alice Waters declaring it "a charming, wonderful and important movie" and master documentarian Albert Maysles describing the film as "genuinely beautiful . . . a cause for hope."

At once funny and stirring, what drives the film's powerful appeal is the way in which it digs up "real dirt" not only about the tragedy of losing our traditional American family farms but about what really makes for an original American life - one lived, on a man's own terms, in balance with the land, through hardships and unexpected triumphs, with creativity and verve.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs contaminate the environment with 30,000 pounds of mercury each year

by Mike Adams, June 20, 2007 .

A compact fluorescent light is a type of energy-saving bulb that fits into a standard light bulb socket or plugs into a small lighting fixture, and right now, compact fluorescents seem to be gaining in popularity. But did you know they can also be toxic to your home and the environment?

Fluorescent lights are filled with a gas containing low-pressure mercury vapor and argon. Fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs of an equivalent brightness, and the efficiency of fluorescent lighting owes much to low-pressure mercury photon discharges. But fluorescents don't produce a steady light, and they burn out more quickly when cycled frequently; they also contain items such as fluorine, neon, and lead powder as well as mercury.

Measuring the environmental impact of mercury use in a particular product is more complicated than you might think. Mercury is an essential element in millions of fluorescent lamps throughout the world, and as those lamps are thrown into landfill, the mercury can escape and contribute to air and water pollution. (It can easily leach into groundwater supplies.)

Mercury (also called 'quicksilver') is a known neurotoxin, and elevated blood mercury levels may lead to retardation and deformities in children. In America, 1 in 6 children born every year have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss.

Breaking one mercury light bulb in your home can contaminate your home to such a degree that hazardous materials experts are needed to remove the mercury. (At great cost, too. A typical mercury removal effort involving the breaking of a single fluorescent light can cost several thousand dollars.) The idea of allowing mercury to be placed in an easily breakable consumer product is fraught with public safety risks. In fact, it required a special exemption from the EPA to allow mercury-fluorescent lamps to be sold to consumers in the first place.

When a fluorescent light breaks, its vapors quickly escape and can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Most compounds of mercury are toxic, especially its organic compounds (such as methyl mercury).

read more (

LED alternative to mercury-containing compact fluorescent lights

Fortunately, consumers no longer have to bring mercury into their homes through the use of fluorescent lights. One of the most eco-friendly options is LED light bulbs which are not only mercury free, they're also 300% more energy efficient than fluorescent lights (and about 1000% more efficient than incandescent lights).

LEDs produce more light per watt than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs, and have an extremely long life span (usually about 50,000 hours). One manufacturer has calculated the ETTF (Estimated Time To Failure) for their LEDs to be between 100,000 and 1,000,000 hours, mostly depending on the operating temperature.

Fluorescent tubes, in contrast, are typically rated at about 10,000 hours, but in practical application, they only last about 2,000 - 3,000 hours. Incandescent light bulbs typically burn out every 1,000 hours. LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than with the abrupt burnout of incandescent bulbs.

LED lights contain absolutely no mercury or toxic chemicals, and conventional LEDs are made from a variety of inorganic semiconductor materials. They don't generate RF wavelengths that cause radio interference, or emit ultraviolet (UV) light -- so LEDs will not readily attract bugs and other insects.

Seafood Mercury Warning

cartoon by Mike Adams,

Clothes for a Change

Cotton, which is native to Southern Africa and South America, is grown on over 90 million acres in more than 80 countries worldwide. The millions of tons of cotton produced each year account for 50% of the world's fiber needs (wool, silk and flax together account for 10%) and is widely used as livestock feed and in food products such as salad dressing and crackers. The United States is the second largest cotton producer in the world after China. In 1997, approximately 19 million bales (enough to make 9 billion T-shirts) were grown in 18 states.

Despite cotton's image as being a natural and pure fiber, conventional cotton farming takes an enormous toll on the air, water, soil and people who live in cotton growing areas. In the United States, 1/3 Pound of agricultural chemicals are typically used in the production of a single cotton T-shirt.

Just 2.4% of the world's arable land is planted with cotton yet it accounts for 24% of the world's insecticide market and 11% of sale of global pesticides, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet. The pesticides used by farmers not only kill cotton pests but also decimate populations of beneficial insects such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Because their natural enemies have been eradicated, these target insects, which were once only minor nuisances for farmers, become greater problems and ever-increasing quantities of toxic chemicals must be sprayed to keep them in check. Farmers then become stuck on what is known as the 'pesticide treadmill'.

Organic Cotton shirts, socks & towels at Organic Connection

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Heavy pesticide exposure linked to brain cancer

Agricultural workers with extensive exposure to pesticides may have an elevated risk of brain cancer, new research suggests.

In a study of nearly 700 adults with or without brain tumors, French researchers found that agricultural workers with the highest level of exposure to pesticides were twice as likely to be diagnosed with brain cancer as those with no occupational pesticide exposure.

There was also evidence that people who treated their house plants with pesticides had an elevated brain cancer risk.

Past studies have linked pesticide exposure among farmers to adverse effects on the brain, such as a higher risk of Parkinson's disease.

Read more (Reuters)

Label Watch: Annie's Homegrown and the "it's-too-hard-to-find-organic-ingredients" defense

Time has expired on the USDA's attempt to allow 38 non-organically grown ingredients as exceptions in certified organic food when their organic counterparts are unavailable.

Among the most objectionable items that were under consideration: conventionally grown hops for organic beer (thanks to whining from Anheuser-Busch, which says supply is too limited - or else doesn't want to pay the premium).

That most of the rest of the other ingredients were "natural" colors and flavors used in processed food has not escaped skeptics. The reason that companies are asking for exceptions is that the organically grown supply of things like elderberry juice (for turning foods red or purple) falls far short of what Big Organic needs to meet skyrocketing demand.

Annatto, one of the ingredients on the USDA's list, provides an illuminating example of what's wrong with the motivations behind approving these exceptions.

Annatto is a natural food coloring derived from the reddish pulp surrounding the seed pods of Bixa orellana, also known as achiote, which grows in tropical zones. John Foraker, CEO of Annie's Homegrown company - famous makers of boxed pasta products for kids - argued in his change-the-rules petition letter to the USDA that "Organic annatto is not readily available and does not deliver the same cheese color. Making orange colored macaroni and cheese is an important element of our offering. Without annatto, our macaroni-and-cheese products would be white" (as quoted in the Times; the USDA does not seem to have posted the comments it's received on this change, as it often does).

Boycott the Shameless Seven - Factory Farmed 'Organic' Milk

While USDA bureaucrats drag their feet on closing key loopholes in national organic organic standards, retailers, wholesalers and major "organic" brands are continuing to sell milk and dairy products labeled as "USDA Organic, even though most or all of their milk is coming from factory farm feedlots where the animals have been brought in from conventional farms and are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture.

The Organic Consumers Association is expanding its boycott of Horizon and Aurora organic dairy products to include five national "private label" organic milk brands supplied by Aurora, as well as two leading organic soy products, Silk and White Wave, owned by Horizon's parent company, Dean Foods. Its time to turn up the heat on the "Shameless Seven.

Aurora Organic supplies milk for several private label organic milk brands, including Costco's "Kirkland Signature," Safeway's "O" organics brand, Publix's "High Meadows,"Giant's "Natures Promise," and Wild Oats' organic milk. Aurora Organic received a failing grade from the Cornucopia Institute's survey of organic dairies for its practice of intensive confinement of dairy cows. For pictures of Aurora Organic's operations, follow this link. The Cornucopia Institute recently blew the whistle on Aurora Organic's greenwashing and its bogus certification of animal welfare.

Additionally, its been revealed that much of the soy for Dean Food's White Wave tofu and Silk soymilk products are sourced abroad, primarily from Brazil and China. Environmental standards and workers' rights are routinely violated in these two countries.

Take Action

Transforming School Food

UK celebrity chef JAMIE OLIVER talks about the state of childrens health and school food in the UK. Also features Alice Waters and Kelly Brownell.

watch video

911 - Dangerous Chemicals

In April, the Department of Homeland Security finalized temporary regulations intended to protect Americans from more than 15,000 chemical plants storing dangerous quantities of acutely toxic chemicals like hydrochloric acid or chlorine gas. A single accident or deliberate release of these toxics could kill or seriously injure thousands.

Unfortunately, these regulations are far too weak and were adopted at a stiff price - they headed off stronger, comprehensive chemical security legislation aimed at protecting communities in the danger zones around these plants.

For more than five years, the chemical industry and its allies have derailed chemical security bills, winning weak regulations after backroom negotiations that preserve a dangerous status quo.

Above all, the new regulations ignore the most effective way to make chemical plants safer and more secure, which is to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives where feasible. Fortunately, Congress already has a blueprint to establish a more protective program.

U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) are looking for firefighters, medical personnel, law enforcement and health professionals to sign our coalition letter. You can also help by forwarding this message to any first responders you know.

Take Action (U.S. PIRG)

Help Organics to Grow

Are you satisfied with having just 3% of the fruit you eat free of potentially dangerous pesticides? How about 2% of vegetables? Or less than 0.02% of corn?

Right now, those are the percentages of organic produce available in grocery stores. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) Action Fund is working with Congress to make sure organic farmers get their fair share of federal funds to improve access to healthy alternatives. You can help right now by signing our their Grow Organics petition.

Despite terrific gains in organic farming, the numbers are just too small to lessen agriculture's impact on public health and the environment. By signing the petition, you will be urging Congress to:

  • Improve your family's access to safe food that is free of harmful pesticides and hormones.
  • Help more farmers make the transition to organic farming.
  • Level the playing field for the organic industry by devoting a fair share of resources to organic pest control and crop nourishment

Sunday Jazz at The OC

Have an enjoyable afternoon at Organic Connection this Sunday with the Diamond Jubilators playing their jazzy music that will have you singing, smiling and tapping your feet. 2:30pm-4:30pm.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Factory Farm Producing "Organic" Milk Loses Certification

After a seven-year-long battle between organic farmers and consumers and the USDA, the first of a handful of industrial-scale dairies, producing what they claimed was organic milk, has been shut down by regulatory authorities. It was announced today by an organic industry watchdog group that a 10,000-cow feedlot dairy, near Fresno in central California, was found to be operating outside of the organic law and has had their certificate to produce organic milk suspended.

The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group based in Wisconsin, which acts as an organic industry watchdog, announced that the Case Vander Eyk Jr. Dairy in Pixley, California, has been forced to suspend selling organic milk. In early 2005, Cornucopia filed the first of a series of formal legal complaints with the USDA against large factory-farm operators, including Vander Eyk, alleging that the mammoth "factory farms" were violating the spirit and letter of the organic law by confining their animals to pens and sheds rather than grazing them.

According to governmental regulators the dairy lost its ability to ship organic milk last month after receiving a notice of suspension from its USDA-accredited certifier, Quality Assurance International (QAI), for serious questions surrounding the record-keeping such as assuring that cows are actually managed organically (without antibiotics and hormones), fed organically produced feed (without toxic pesticides and herbicides), and are allowed to graze rather than being confined in a feedlot. View Video - R.I.P. Organic Dairy

read more...(The Cornucopia Institute)

USDA may relax standards for organic foods

The agency is considering a list of 38 nonorganic spices, colorings and other ingredients that would be allowed in products it deems 'organic.'
By Scott J. Wilson, Los AngelesTimes Staff Writer, June 9.

With the "USDA organic" seal stamped on its label, Anheuser-Busch calls its Wild Hop Lager "the perfect organic experience."

"In today's world of artificial flavors, preservatives and factory farming, knowing what goes into what you eat and drink can just about drive you crazy," the Wild Hop website says. "That's why we have decided to go back to basics and do things the way they were meant to be naturally."

But many beer drinkers may not know that Anheuser-Busch has the organic blessing from federal regulators even though Wild Hop Lager uses hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides.

(Picture: Shawn Moebius loads beer bottles at Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, which has been making beer with 100% organic hops since 1996. By comparison, less than 10% of the hops in Anheuser-Busch's two new organic beers are actually organic.)

The Plastic Poisons That Surround You

Phthalates are plasticizers, chemicals that make our pipes more flexible and our upholstery more comfortable.

But phthalates are also one of about 70 suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in products ranging from makeup to detergents to children's toys. EDCs are now present in the bodies of every man, woman, child and fetus in the United States.

Pioneer zoologist Theo Colborn, in her book Our Stolen Future, reported countless examples of reproductive disorders among wildlife. Colborn traced the disorders to chemical exposure, and suggested that EDCs profoundly affect the endocrine system by mimicking natural hormones and blocking their uptake to the receptor sites.

This can disrupt everything from development and behavior to reproduction and immunity.

Even the tiniest hormone variation at certain critical points in fetal development can affect a child's future health. Two years ago, a study showed that pregnant women with higher urine concentrations of phthalates were more likely to give birth to sons with incomplete male genital development, a disorder that previously had been seen only in lab rats.

read more (

Governor Creates Food Policy Council

Governor Eliot Spitzer today announced that he has signed an executive order establishing a New York State Council on Food Policy. The Council will coordinate state agriculture policy and make recommendations on developing food policy that will help ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers, especially low income residents, senior citizens and children. The Council will look at ways to increase sales of New York agricultural products to New York consumers, with a special emphasis on expanding the consumer market for organic food.

read more (

Organic Dairyman: The Farmer

Jon Bansen believes that since he converted his farm over to being organic and sustainable, he's becomes a much better farmer, and built a better business. In this story, there may be important lessons for both farmers and the American Public.

watch video

The Corn Conundrum - How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor

by C. Ford Runge & Benjamin Senauer, Chronogram Magazine, May 30.

Now, thanks to a combination of high oil prices and even more generous government subsidies, corn-based ethanol has become the rage.

The push for ethanol and other biofuels has spawned an industry that depends on billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies, and not only in the United States.

The industry's growth has meant that a larger and larger share of corn production is being used to feed the huge mills that produce ethanol. According to some estimates, ethanol plants will burn up to half of US domestic corn supplies within a few years.

The enormous volume of corn required by the ethanol industry is sending shock waves through the food system. In March 2007, corn futures rose to over $4.38 a bushel, the highest level in 10 years. Wheat and rice prices have also surged to decade highs, because even as those grains are increasingly being used as substitutes for corn, farmers are planting more acres with corn and fewer acres with other crops.

This might sound like nirvana to corn producers, but it is hardly that for consumers, especially in poor developing countries, which will be hit with a double shock if both food prices and oil prices stay high. The World Bank has estimated that in 2001, 2.7 billion people in the world were living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day; to them, even marginal increases in the cost of staple grains could be devastating. Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn-which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. By putting pressure on global supplies of edible crops, the surge in ethanol production will translate into higher prices for both processed and staple foods around the world. Biofuels have tied oil and food prices together in ways that could profoundly upset the relationships between food producers, consumers, and nations in the years ahead, with potentially devastating implications for both global poverty and food security.

read more (Chronogram Magazine)

FTC to Block Whole Foods, Wild Oats Merger

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Tuesday it will file a lawsuit to block Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s proposed acquisition of its smaller rival Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

"We are very disappointed by this decision and we intend to vigorously challenge the FTC in court," said John Mackey, Whole Foods' chairman and chief executive officer. Both Whole Foods and Wild Oats said they will fight the legal challenge.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods agreed to acquire Wild Oats in February for $18.50 a share, or roughly $565 million. The deal was expected to close in April, but the transaction was delayed by FTC requests for more information.

The FTC will ask the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to enter a temporary restraining order that would prohibit Whole Foods from completing its acquisition of Wild Oats pending a ruling on its request for a preliminary injunction.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

More local suppliers come online this week

We're expecting to have an excellent selection of early season vegetables this week as four more regional farms commence their harvest.

Lucky Dog Farm was the first regional grower to supply our Home Delivery business that we commenced five years ago. Located in Hamden (in the Catskills), Richard Giles and his team produce an excellent array of vegetables that simply exude vitality.

Last year, Lucky Dog Farm was hit by a heavy flooding (the farm is on river flat) that completely wiped out all their crops. Let's hope for a luckier dog this season so we can look forward to:

  • Baby arugula
  • Lolla Rossa Lettuce
  • Magenta Lettuce
  • Baby Turnips
  • Spinach, &
  • many lovely asian-style greens

Large-scale switch to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 5.

Organic food has long been considered a niche market, a luxury for wealthy consumers. But researchers said at a UN conference in April that a large-scale shift to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger while improving the environment.

Crop yields initially can drop as much as 50 percent when growers trade the chemical fertilizers and pesticides of industrialized agriculture for organic methods. While such decreases may even out over time, the figures have kept the organic movement largely on the sidelines of discussions about feeding the hungry.

Researchers in Denmark found, however, that food security for sub-Saharan Africa would not be seriously harmed if 50 percent of agricultural land in the food exporting regions of Europe and North America were converted to organic by 2020.

read more (Chicago Tribune)

Michael Moore Wants to Reform Health Care

Big Pharma is already girding for battle against the filmmaker's latest effort, due in theaters this month. Will the new flick spur change in the U.S.?

By Ron Grover, Business Week, June 4.

He's rumpled, a little coarse, and shoots from the hip. But Michael Moore, the irreverent force behind such politic-bending documentaries as the gun control manifesto Bowling for Columbine and the anti-war anthem Fahrenheit 9/11, knows how to stir the pot. Just wind him up, and ole Michael will fire away at entrenched political or corporate interests, no matter their size.

Little wonder then that the health-care establishment is bracing itself for the release of Moore's next film, the decidedly anti-medical industry Sicko. Moore will begin stumping for his film this week, with a June 5 appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show and then late night chats with David Letterman and Jay Leno. The movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters June 29, wowed audiences in Cannes last month, even reducing some to tears during a heartfelt scene in which an infant dies because she can't get medical care.

Now, the big test: Can 113 minutes of sharp-edged film help change the U.S. health-care system for the better? Fierce political debates over health-care reform have accomplished virtually nothing in recent years, but Moore is determined to make sure this time is different. "Do you know of anyone who hasn't had a problem with the insurance company, or getting some procedure covered?" he asks. "Anyone who sees this film will understand exactly the mess we're in right now."

read more (Business Week)

Industrial chemicals in mothers and daughters: The pollution we share and inherit

The unique bond between a mother and daughter starts in the womb and evolves over a lifetime, as each adapts and grows with the other in an elaborate interplay of nature and nurture. Shared bonds of common genetics and a common environment - their home, the air they breathe, and the food they eat - inextricably link daughters and mothers. Now, new laboratory tests of mothers and their daughters show that these same two facets of nature and nurture - genetics and environment - combine to create another, unwanted aspect of the ties that bind: a common body burden of industrial chemicals.

Tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group of four mothers and their daughters found that each of the eight women's blood or urine was contaminated with an average of 35 consumer product ingredients, including flame retardants, plasticizers, and stain-proof coatings. These mixtures of compounds found in furniture, cosmetics, fabrics, and other consumer goods, have never been tested for safety.

read more (Environmental Working Group)

We "Will Fight to Keep Meatpackers from Testing for Mad Cow Disease"

from, May 31.

The argument for free market economics-though we here at Mother Jones may have, on occasion, doubted its virtuosity-goes like this: Competition encourages innovation, and customers decide which innovations are worth keeping and get what they want in the process. Here's a case in point: A small business called Creekstone Farms Premium Beef proposed testing all of its cows for mad cow disease. Customers have long been skittish about mad cow disease, and testing would likely cause Creekstone's business to spike.

Innovation? Check. Benefit to consumers? Check. Fostering small businesses? Check. But the USDA has intervened to block Creekstone from conducting the tests. The rationale? It's not fair to agribusinesses, which buy, sell, and butcher so many cows that they couldn't possibly conduct the expensive test on all of them. The USDA also alleged that "widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry."

read more (

Sunday Jazz at The OC

This coming Sunday is the second Sunday of the month, and that means.....

The Diamond Jubilators are back playing their jazzy music that is not just fun and entertaining but designed to be uplifting as well.

So, come on and hear them this Sunday - 2:30-4:30.

Quoted about The Diamond Jubilators: "Your music philosophy has depth, your hands-on approach provides quality, and your sincerity makes you our friends"

More about The Diamond Jubilators

Saturday, June 2, 2007

First Local Vegetable Supply

Warm conditions for growing have helped bring the first local harvests to market. We're expecting the following items this week from Little Seed Gardens:
  • Baby Arugula
  • Baby Bok Choy
  • Baby Turnips
  • Pea Shoots, &
  • Salad Mix

Little Seed Gardens is an eighty-five acre family run farm in the town of Chatham in Columbia County. Claudia Kenny and Willie Denner tend vegetables, cover crops, and pasture. They are committed to ecological agriculture practices that protect land and human resources, build biological diversity, and produce quality food for regional markets.

Ethanol Booms, Farmers Bust

By Lisa M. Hamilton, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

From the news these days you'd think farmers have never had a better friend than ethanol. Headlines holler that corn prices are soaring and that at this moment farmers are planting more acres of corn than they have in the last 50 years. Reporters writing about the ethanol boom are throwing around words like gold rush, jackpot, and nirvana. But if you actually are a farmer, ethanol and the high corn prices it brings is looking less and less like a blessing -- and more like a curse.

In concept, corn ethanol could benefit American farmers. Anytime we as a country look to them to supply our daily needs, it's an opportunity for rural communities to win. The problem is that the boom is taking place in the same old agricultural economy, which works to the benefit of those on top: landlords, processors, and companies selling inputs like seeds and fertilizers. It's agribusiness as usual, and like always, farmers will finish last.

read more (AlterNet.Org)

In Honeybee Mystery, Plot Thickens And Suspect Emerges

By Amy Ellis Nutt, Newhouse News Service

Bees are among the most sensitive and hardest-working creatures in nature.

A mysterious ailment, however, is causing the great pollinators to lose their way home. The disorder, called "colony collapse,'' has resulted in the deaths of millions of honeybees worldwide and up to half of the 2.5 million colonies in the United States.

The chief suspect, say many scientists, is the most commonly used insecticide on the planet: imidacloprid.

Launched in 1994 by Bayer, the German health care and chemical company, imidacloprid is used to combat insects such as aphids that attack more than 140 crops, including fruits and vegetables, cotton, alfalfa and hops. Sold under various brand names, such as Admire, Advantage, Gaucho, Merit, Premise and Provado, imidacloprid also is manufactured for use on flowers, lawns, trees, golf courses and even pets in the form of flea collars.

read more (Newhouse News Service)

Bio Shield Paints

The BioShield collection of paints, stains, thinners and waxes is made primarily from naturally-derived raw materials including citrus peel extracts, essential oils, seed oils, tree resins, inert mineral fillers, tree and bee waxes, lead-free dryers and natural pigments.

With BioShield products you no longer have to wonder what combinations of synthetic chemicals generate the puzzling, all-too-familiar smells that come from household products. The mild fragrance that is unique to BioShield products will enhance your painting, finishing, and cleaning activities, and help to create a serene environment at your home, business, or school.

BioShield Paints and Wood Finishes are now available in the Eco-Home Department at Organic Connection.

Tell FDA Not to Weaken Labeling for Irradiated Foods

What if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule that would intentionally hide information you rely on to make decisions about what to feed yourself and your family?

Or if FDA proposed changing food labeling information to something the agency knows to be misleading to consumers?

Well, FDA has announced just such a rule to weaken labeling of irradiated foods.

Currently, irradiated food must be labeled as "Treated with irradiation" or "Treated by radiation" and have on them the irradiated symbol. But now, in yet another attempt to appease industry at the expense of the public, the FDA has proposed a new rule that would allow irradiated food to be marketed in some cases without any labeling at all. In other cases, the rule would allow the terms "electronically pasteurized" or "cold pasteurized" to replace the use of "irradiated" on labels. These terms are not used by scientists, but rather are designed to fool consumers about what's been done to their food.

read more (Center for Food Safety)

Soap, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

In a recent bizarre encounter between the punk rock band, The Germs, and law enforcement officials in California, it was discovered that standard field drug testing kits could distinguish the difference between soap products that are made from natural and organic ingredients and products that may claim to be organic but really contain synthetic detergents made in part or entirely from petroleum. Watch this humorous short clip to see if some of your favorite so-called natural or organic "soaps" may actually be synthetic.

Watch: (from