web analytics

Tag Archive | "EarthTalk"

EarthTalk®


E – The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that, despite the popularity of organic foods, clothing and other products, organic agriculture is still only practiced on a tiny percentage of land worldwide. What’s getting in the way?

Larry McFarlane, 

Boston, MA

 

Changing perceptions about just how much healthier organic foods are than non-organic foods are impacting the growth of the sector. But even if the personal health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant or clear, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture still make the practice well worth supporting. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Changing perceptions about just how much healthier organic foods are than non-organic foods are impacting the growth of the sector. But even if the personal health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant or clear, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture still make the practice well worth supporting. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Organic production may still represent only a small fraction of agricultural sales in the U.S. and worldwide, but it as been growing rapidly over the last two decades. According to the latest global census of farming practices, the area of land certified as organic makes up less than one percent of global agricultural land—but it has grown more than threefold since 1999, with upwards of 37 million hectares of land worldwide now under organic cultivation. The Organic Trade Association forecasts steady growth of nine percent or more annually for organic agriculture in the foreseeable future.
But despite this growth, no one expects organic agriculture to top conventional techniques any time soon. The biggest hurdle for organics is the added cost of sustainable practices. “The cost of organic food is higher than that of conventional food because the organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food,” reports the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). “The intensive management and labor used in organic production are frequently (though not always) more expensive than the chemicals routinely used on conventional farms.” However, there is evidence that if the indirect costs of conventional food production—such as the impact on public health of chemicals released into our air and water—were factored in, non-organic foods would cost the same or as much as organic foods.

Other problems for organic foods include changing perceptions about just how much healthier they are than non-organics. “Many devotees of organic foods purchase them in order to avoid exposure to harmful levels of pesticides,” writes Henry I. Miller in Forbes. “But that’s a poor rationale: Non-organic fruits and vegetables had more pesticide residue, to be sure, but more than 99 percent of the time the levels were below the permissible, very conservative safety limits set by regulators—limits that are established by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.”

He adds that just because a farm is organic doesn’t mean the food it produces will be free of potentially toxic elements. While organic standards may preclude the use of synthetic inputs, organic farms often utilize so-called “natural” pesticides and what Miller calls “pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer” that can also end up making consumers sick and have been linked to cancers and other serious illnesses (like their synthetic counterparts). Miller believes that as more consumers become aware of these problems, the percentage of the agriculture market taken up by organics will begin to shrink.

Another challenge facing the organic sector is a shortage of organic raw materials such as grain, sugar and livestock feed. Without a steady supply of these basics, organic farmers can’t harvest enough products to make their businesses viable. Meanwhile, competition from food marketed as “locally grown” or “natural” is also cutting into organic’s slice of the overall agriculture pie.

Organic agriculture is sure to keep growing for years to come. And even if the health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture—which are, of course, also public health advantages—make the practice well worth supporting.

 

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off

EarthTalk®


E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are there healthy, green-friendly mouthwashes? I’ve heard that some contain formaldehyde and other nasty substances.                     — Marina Sandberg, Albany, NY

Many mainstream mouthwashes contain ingredients that you definitely don’t want to swallow, or even put down the drain. According to the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia’s (EHANS’s) “Guide to Less Toxic Products”—a free online resource designed to help consumers choose healthier, greener everyday products—conventional mouthwash is often alcohol-based, with an alcohol content ranging from 18-26 percent. “Products with alcohol can contribute to cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat when used regularly,” the guide reports, adding that a 2009 review in the Dental Journal of Australia confirmed the link between alcohol-based mouthwashes and an increased risk of oral cancers.
And you might want to avoid mouthwashes with fluoride (aka sodium fluoride). While fluoride may help fight cavities, ingesting too much of it has been linked to neurological problems and could be a cancer trigger as well. Common mouthwash sweeteners have also been linked to health problems: Saccharin is a suspected carcinogen while sucralose may trigger migraines. Synthetic colors can also be troublesome.
Some brands contain formaldehyde (aka quanternium-15). According to the National Cancer Institute, overexposure to formaldehyde can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat as well as coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers formaldehyde a “probable human carcinogen” and research has shown an association between long term workplace exposure and several specific cancers, including leukemia. Few of us are exposed to as much formaldehyde as, say, morticians, but does that mean its okay to swish it around in our mouths every day?
Other problematic ingredients in many conventional mouthwashes include sodium lauryl sulfate, polysorbate, cetylpyridinium chloride and benzalkonium chloride, all which have been shown to be toxic to organisms in the aquatic environments where these chemicals end up after we spit them out.
So what’s a concerned green consumer to do? EHANS recommends the following mouthwashes that do not contain alcohol, fluoride, artificial colors or sweeteners: Anarres Natural Candy Cane Mouthwash, Auromere Ayurvedic Mouthwash, Beauty with a Cause Mouthwash, Jason Natural Cosmetics Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash, Dr. Katz TheraBreath Oral Rinses, Hakeem Herbal Mouthwash, and Miessence Freshening Mouthwash. Besides these brands, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database also lists Tom’s of Maine Natural Baking Soda Mouthwash, Healing-Scents Mouthwash, and Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender and Myrrh Mouthwash as least harmful to people and the environment.
You can also make your own all-natural mouthwash at home. Eco-friendly consumer advice columnist Annie Berthold Bond recommends mixing warm water, baking soda or sea salt, and a drop of peppermint and/or tea tree oil for a refreshing and bacteria-excising rinse. Another recipe involves combining distilled or mineral water with a few dashes of fresh mint and rosemary leaves and some anise seeds; mix well and swish! A quick Internet search will yield many other down-home natural mouthwash formulas.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Posted in HealthComments Off

EarthTalk®


E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I drink diet soda but I’m told it’s bad for me and linked to health problems. Is this true and if so can you suggest any healthier alternatives?    – Mitchell James, Ronkonkoma, NY
While rumors have circulated for years that diet sodas are unhealthy, researchers have found no direct links between such drinks and specific human health problems. Aspartame (also known as NutraSweet) is the sugar-alternative of choice for most diet soda makers. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar but contains no significant calories and does not promote tooth decay. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved aspartame in 1974, though health advocates held up its widespread use for over a decade.
Over half of Americans consume aspartame regularly in soda and other foods—all told, diet varieties accounted for some 29 percent of the soft drink market for the top 10 sodas in 2010, according to Beverage Digest—so it is certainly reasonable to be concerned about any potential health effects. However, initial reports that implicated aspartame in seizures, headaches, depression, anxiety, memory loss, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, methanol toxicity and even cancer turned out to be false (even a hoax), according to a wide range of reputable, peer-reviewed studies and clinical and epidemiological research.
Another concern that has been voiced about aspartame is that it produces methanol when metabolized, which converts to formaldehyde (and then formic acid) in the body. But studies have shown that the amount of methanol in aspartame is less than that found in natural sources such as fruit juices, citrus fruits and some fermented beverages, and that the amount of formaldehyde generated is also small compared to that produced routinely by the body from other foods and drugs.
While aspartame and diet sodas have not been linked directly to specific health problems, researchers who surveyed the eating, drinking, smoking and exercise habits of some 2,500 New Yorkers between 2003 and 2010 did find that those who drank at least one diet soda per day had a 61 percent higher risk of so-called vascular events (e.g. heart attack or stroke) than those who avoided Diet Coke and other products with aspartame. “If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” reported the study’s lead author, Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami School of Medicine.
But others say that such a finding constitutes a link, not proof of cause and effect—and that those who have switched to diet sodas may be replacing the calories they used to get from regular sodas with other unhealthy foods that may be increasing their risk of heart attack or stroke.
The takeaway should be that those who drink soda regularly, diet or otherwise, should be sure to exercise and eat right otherwise. Or, better yet…give up the soda entirely. According to Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist with the Mayo Clinic, healthier choices abound. She suggests starting off the day with a glass of 100 percent fruit juice and then drinking skim milk with meals. “Sip water throughout the day,” she recommends. “For variety, try sparkling water or add a squirt of lemon or cranberry juice to your water.”
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Posted in Featured, HealthComments Off


advert

LOCAL Advertisers

Bryne Electrical
The POST

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!