37 Million Bees Found Dead In Ontario, Canada After Planting Large GMO Corn Field

23 November, 2014 at 07:33 | Posted in animals, Body & Mind, Environmental issues, Food, health, Science, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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Organic Health

Millions of bees dropped dead after GMO corn was planted few weeks ago in Ontario, Canada. The local bee keeper, Dave Schuit who produces honey in Elmwood lost about 37 million bees which are about 600 hives.

“Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. While many bee keepers blame neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” for colony collapse of bees and many countries in EU have banned neonicotinoid class of pesticides, the US Department of Agriculture fails to ban insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc.

Two of Bayer’s best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees. The marketing of these drugs also coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European countries and the United States.

Nathan Carey another local farmer says that this spring he noticed that there were not enough bees on his farm and he believes that there is a strong correlation between the disappearance of bees and insecticide use.

Read more: 37 Million Bees Found Dead In Ontario, Canada After Planting Large GMO Corn Field | Organic Health

My comment: I once saw a television program about the death of bees, and there it said that one drop of dew from a GMO plant in a GMO crop field kills a bumble bee when it drinks it in the morning (as bumble bees usually do…). GMO really kills…

DIY: Natural Floor Cleaning

16 November, 2014 at 07:14 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, health, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Michael Edwards
Organic Lifestyle Magazine

Our floors are the largest surface area in our homes that require regular cleaning. If we use chemicals, we breathe them in day and night until they dissipate. There is no need to add to our indoor air pollution when we can use simple and handy, homemade cleaning solutions.

How to Clean Wood, Bamboo, and Laminate Floors

It would be so easy to clean every floor of our home with a steam cleaner. No muss, no fuss, nothing but water turned to steam. But regardless of the claims made by the manufacturers, steam cleaners can damage wood, bamboo, and laminate floors.

Laminate floors consist of layers of materials glued together. Any water, but especially steam, will break down the bonds between layers, causing them to buckle and split. Steam can strip the finish that is protecting your hardwood floor. Moisture that seeps into the wood will cause grains to swell and the wood to warp and splinter.

The primary rule for bamboo, laminate, and hardwood floors is the same: do not wet mop–dry mop (though damp mop would be a better descriptive term). After thoroughly sweeping or vacuuming your floor, use a well wrung out sponge or rag mop with plain water, water with a few drops of essential oil, or water with 1/4 cup of vinegar (added to a 2 gallon bucket). Use warm water; it will evaporate faster than cold. Buff the floors dry with a soft cloth or towel.

Perusing the net, you will find other suggestions such as 1/2 cup of lemon juice added to water. However, a manufactures’ site warns against using citrus to clean laminate flooring as it will damage the finish after repeated use.  Many sites, including a manufacturer’s site, suggest using 1/4 cup of dish soap to a bucket of water to clean sealed hardwood floors–without rinsing. But it only stands to reason that, over time, soap residue would accumulate. If you do rinse, you are using more water. Since the object is to clean with the least amount of water possible, this method doesn’t make sense.

One wood laminate manufacturer suggests mixing vinegar and water into a spray bottle. Rather than spraying the liquid on the floor, use it to dampen the bottom of your dust mop.

Another solution, claimed to be even better for wood floors than vinegar, is cleaning with tea. Brew black tea, (1 tea bag per cup of water) and either fill a spray bottle to mist the floor (a small area at a time) then follow with a damp mop, or make enough tea to immerse your mop in a bucket. As before, wring out your mop so it is as dry as possible.

How to Clean Linoleum, Tile, and Stone

Linoleum and tile floors can also be cleaned with vinegar and water. The ratios vary according to preference from 1/4 cup of vinegar to a one-to-one ratio of vinegar to water.  For a really dirty floor, try the following recipe:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap (remember to choose a natural soap)
  • 2 gallons hot water
  • Add a few drops of essential oil, if desired

Rinsing is not required, but if streaking occurs, rinse.

Do not use lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone, or travertine. To wash these floors, use a squirt of liquid soap (such as castile soap or dish soap, not detergent) in your bucket of water and wet mop. Rinse. Too much soap will cause streaking.

These floors may be the best candidates for a steam mop, but first check with the manufacturer to be sure steam mopping does not void your warranty.

All floors of all types are scratched and scarred by dirt. Mats outside and inside each entrance can help limit the amount of dirt on your floors. A shoeless house can make a tremendous difference. Remember, how often you sweep or vacuum and what you use to mop your floors will determine the longevity of your floor’s finish as well as the level of pollution in your home.

via DIY: Natural Floor Cleaning

Are wireless phones linked with brain cancer risk?

14 November, 2014 at 07:31 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, health, IT and Media, Science, sustainable development, Technology | Leave a comment
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By Ronnie Cohen

Reuters Health – Swedes who talked on mobile or cordless phones for more than 25 years had triple the risk of a certain kind of brain cancer compared to those who used wireless phones for less than a year, a new study suggests.

The odds of developing glioma, an often deadly brain cancer, rose with years and hours of use, researchers reported in the journal Pathophysiology.

“The risk is three times higher after 25 years of use. We can see this clearly,” lead researcher Dr. Lennart Hardell told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

His finding contrasts with the largest-ever study on the topic – the international Interphone study, which was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and funded in part by cell phone companies. That study, published in 2010, failed to find strong evidence that mobile phones increased the risk of brain tumors.

Even if the odds of developing a glioma were doubled or tripled, however, the risk would still remain low.

A little more than 5 out of 100,000 Europeans (or 0.005 percent) were diagnosed with any kind of malignant brain tumor between 1995 and 2002, according to a 2012 study in the European Journal of Cancer (bit.ly/1xIlQam). If the rate triples, the odds rise to about 16 out of 100,000 (or 0.016 percent).

Hardell, an oncologist from University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden, and his colleague Michael Carlberg matched 1,380 patients with malignant brain tumors to people without such tumors and compared their wireless phone use.

People who reported using wireless phones for 20 to 25 years were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with glioma as those who reported using them for less than a year, the study found. Those who used cell and cordless phones for more than 25 years were three times more likely to develop one of these tumors.

Read more: Are wireless phones linked with brain cancer risk?

Australian Scientists Find Plastic’s Toxic Footprint at Molecular Level

4 October, 2014 at 07:22 | Posted in animals, Body & Mind, Environmental issues, health, Nature, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Shar Adams
Epoch Times

SYDNEY—California has become the newest region to ban lightweight plastic bags, joining four states and territories in Australia in restricting the use of disposable plastics. The move comes as Australian researchers study the toxicity of plastics, which are polluting the marine environment at a molecular level.

The Californian ban was signed into law on Sept 30, making plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies prohibited from July 1, 2015, with convenience and liquor stores to follow a year later.

In Australia, non-biodegradable lightweight plastic bags are banned in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, but the legislation does permit the use of compostable, bio-degradable bags.

While the bans on bags represent important progress, researchers are finding the threat of plastics goes deeper than the disposable products we can see. Professor Richard Banati from the the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) says the full lifecycle of plastic is not yet understood and its degradability is questionable, particularly when litter is left to float in oceans.

The present paradigm is “the solution to pollution is dilution” but his research indicates otherwise.

“Dilution has its limits,” he said in a phone interview.

Beyond the Visible

There is no doubt that on a visible pollution level plastic is a huge problem. Scientists have found evidence of plastics choking or smothering many marine animals and ecosystems.

In a report released last month, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found plastic constituted most of the rubbish floating along Australia’s coastline, with densities ranging between a few thousand pieces of plastic per square kilometre to more than 40,000 pieces.

“About three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic,” said CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty after collating data from survey sites every 100 km along the Australian coastline. “Most is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities.”

Professors Banati’s work, however, looks beyond the visible. Using nuclear scientific methods he is examining a more insidious interaction – plastic contamination at the molecular level.

Following the results of an earlier collaboration with biologist Dr Jennifer Lavers, who was researching plastic in shearwater birds, the two scientists found that when plastic interacts with sea water, it absorbs heavy metals, becoming more toxic as it degrades. Looking at shearwater feathers at the molecular level they have identified the presence of plastic particles.

“Micro plastic particles are perfectly bite sized pieces for things like krill, zoo plankton, filter feeders and all of the marine creatures at the very base of the marine food web,” Dr Laver said.

Professor Banati is now collecting a larger sample for further research, conducting his own survey from Hobart to Sydney Harbour.

His aim is to identify the full life cycle of plastic, its impact on marine life and the food chain.

The forensic method, he said, will make plastic traceable and in that respect make producers and consumers accountable.

It is the increasing use of plastic on a mass level that is the concern. Identifying the full life cycle of plastic will allow for a better understanding for industry and government of how and when it can best be used.

“Traceability will allow us to make policy decisions,” he said.

via Australian Scientists Find Plastic’s Toxic Footprint at Molecular Level

China Stumbles Into Future of Genetically Modified Food

29 September, 2014 at 07:23 | Posted in Body & Mind, China, Environmental issues, Food, health, Science, sustainable development | 6 Comments
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Despite health concerns authorities push GMO, without fully admitting what they are doing

By Zhang Hong
Epoch Times

On Aug. 17 safety certificates for genetically modified GMO varieties of corn and rice were due to be renewed by China’s Ministry of Agriculture, but the deadline came and went with no action being taken.

The failure to act was apparently not an oversight. Huang Dafang, a researcher from the Biotechnology Research Institute and a member of China’s Biosafety Committee, told state-run Xinhua news agency on Sept. 4 that the central authorities have an attitude of “active research and careful promotion” of GMOs.

Because local authorities fear public opinion against GMOs, Huang said, there was “a very slow procedure in getting approval” and the Aug. 17 deadline was missed.

The failure to act in this case amounts to a de facto approval. The curious handling of these safety certificates fits a general pattern of the Chinese regime moving toward a broad adoption of GMO food without publicly acknowledging this is happening.

Although authorities have never approved the commercial distribution of GMO rice in China, the environmental group Greenpeace reported that GMO rice was found in 4 of 15 samples bought by activists in randomly chosen supermarkets in November 2013 in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province.

Last year, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reported that 27 countries in Europe have found GMO-contaminated rice among Chinese exports, including 46 shipments in 2010, and 19 shipments in the first 10 months in 2011. According to People’s Daily, although all of the shipments were returned and supposedly destroyed, they were actually sold on the domestic Chinese market.

On July 31, China News published an article headlined, “GMO Rice Grown in Hubei on a Large Scale, Growers Refuse to Eat It Themselves.”

According to the article, farmers who grow GMO rice sell all of it, refusing themselves to eat it. Instead, they grow a small amount of conventional rice for themselves and their families. As a result, GMO rice has taken over.

A rice farmer named Dong Kejiang told China News, “It is now difficult to find conventional rice seeds.”

Not Just Rice

The Economic Observer, a magazine in mainland China, reported in June 2011 that a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences said at a forum hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture that GMO crops such as corn and rice have been illegally grown in China for a long time.

GMO corn varieties were found all over the country including in the provinces of Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, Liaoning, and Jilin, according to the Economic Observer.

Much of the GMO food consumed in China is imported.

Professor Sun Wenguang from Shandong University Department of Economics told Epoch Times the Communist Party imports large quantities of GMO crops to alleviate food shortages, since GMO foods are relatively inexpensive. The Party intentionally conceals data such as the varieties of and lab results for GMO foods, according to Sun.

According to China-based Science Net, Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said China imports over 70 percent of its soybeans and more than 90 percent of its vegetable seeds, and most of them are genetically modified.

The extent to which the state is pushing GMO food can be seen in budgetary figures mentioned in a 2010 report.

China-based Science and Technology Daily quoted a member of the National People’s Congress who is also a director of a research institute for rice as saying that the central government had approved 30 billion yuan (US$4.9 billion) for the research and development of GMO crops, but only 180 million yuan (US$29 million) for non-GMO crops.

The state’s official data doesn’t reveal the extent of the use of GMO in China.

According to the data published by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2013, China has issued GMO Safety Certificates for eight domestically developed, genetically modified crops, including varieties of tomato, cotton, petunia, sweet pepper, chili pepper, papaya, rice, and corn.

However, according to the Plant Genetic Engineering Center in Hebei Province, a government-funded research center, the Ministry of Agriculture has in fact issued as many as 1,110 certificates since 1996.

This plunge into GMOs may have presented Chinese society with a fait accompli.

“GMO has entered so many areas of society, it’s almost impossible to ban it now,” said Li Guoxiang.

Safety

The GMO rice whose safety certificate expired on Aug. 17 is named Bt Shanyou 63. It has a protein called Bt added to it, which helps the rice resist pests.

Dr. Wang Yuedan of the Department of Medicine at Beijing University noted that Bt is a type of bacterial protein that kills insects and bugs by dissolving and “melting” their intestines.

“The Bt protein is not a natural component of rice,” Wang said. “It is a bacterial protein. There have not been sufficient laboratory tests on the safety of this variety of rice.”

“We do not yet know what possible effects eating this variety of rice will have on human physiology, especially when this bacterial protein is absorbed into the blood stream,” Wang said. “This bacterial protein, when fully integrated into the human body, may cause allergies and may weaken the immune system.”

After Wang injected his lab rats with the Bt protein four times over a four-month period, he found their immune systems became abnormal, their spleens atrophied, and their white blood cell counts changed. He said this shows the Bt protein seriously affects mammals.

Yuan Longping is an agricultural scientist and popularly known as China’s “father of hybrid rice.” He is also a critic of the Bt rice.

During the China Development Forum 2014 Yuan told Xinhua, “A number of transgenic, insect-resistant rice varieties contain a toxic protein. If insects die after ingesting it, what happens when humans eat it? We have to be especially careful.”

Fudan University life sciences professor Yang Jinshui recently told Shanghai Daily, “The bacteria genes in GMO rice cannot be completely metabolized and eliminated.” Yang is a member of the genetic research team at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

“Rice is the staple food of the Chinese,” Yang said. “If [GMO rice is] industrialized and commercialized on a large scale, there is no turning back in our country. So we have to be extremely careful.”

via China Stumbles Into Future of Genetically Modified Food

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7 Ways GMOs are Destroying Humanity and the Planet

8 September, 2014 at 07:49 | Posted in Environmental issues, Food, Nature, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Jonathan Benson, contributing writer to Natural News

No matter what personal views you might have on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), these relatively new biological creations are wreaking havoc on both the environment and human health, as thoroughly demonstrated in the scientific literature. And here are seven concrete examples of why:

1) GMOs lead to superbugs and superweeds. There is no denying the massive ecological changes that occur as a result of GMOs and their respective growing chemicals. Farmers all across North America now face a steadily increasing onslaught of “superweeds” and “superpests” that have spawned as a direct result of biotechnology.

Among 13 major pests examined as part of a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, five of them were found to be completely immune to the poisons genetically implanted into Bt corn and cotton, for instance. And more recently, Brazilian farmers have reported that GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests.

2) GMOs are killing off our pollinators. GMO proponents often argue that, without biotechnology, the world would starve. But weedkillers and other chemicals applied to GMOs are killing off bees, butterflies and other pollinators that are vital in the production of one-third of the world’s food crops.

According to the latest data, honeybees, which are responsible for roughly 80 percent of the pollinating duties, are dying off at a rate of 30 percent per year. Neonicotinoids and other pesticides leave residues on crops, which are then picked up by pollinators, destroying their insides and causing them to eventually die. German professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz told SPIEGEL ONLINE that GMO crop chemicals appears to alter bees’ intestines, making them highly susceptible to parasites and infections.

3) GMOs allow corporations to control life. With natural seeds, farmers are free to save and reuse them year after year in self-sufficiency. But GMOs require seeds to be repurchased year after year, placing control of food and life into the hands of a select few transnational corporations, who, since they maintain an oligopoly, can charge high prices and keep farmers in their servitude.

4) GMOs cross-contaminate natural crops. If GMOs could exist in their own private, agrarian bubbles, their threat to humanity might be containable. But because they grow in the open air alongside other natural and organic crops that require pollination, the threat of cross-contamination is almost certain, which means the entire global food supply stands to eventually become contaminated.

5) Accidentally growing GMOs is a crime. Believe it or not, biotech corporations like Monsanto have actually sued non-GMO farmers whose crops were damaged as a result of genetic drift. This is because GMOs are patented intellectual property, meaning they can’t be grown without permission and payment.

6) GMOs place an unmanageable burden of debt on farmers. Farmers are typically lured into growing GMOs based on empty promises of increased yields and fewer crop losses. But when this doesn’t pan out, they become locked into a system of debt that, especially in poorer countries, often leads to total bankruptcy. This is part of the reason why some 1,000 Indian farmers now commit suicide every month, as they are left with no way out but to pay the piper money that they don’t have.

7) GMOs destroy biodiversity, the life-force of our planet. The viability of our planet is dependent upon a rich stock of plant life that is varied, abundant and well-balanced within the confines of a biodiverse ecosystem. But GMOs are the antithesis of all this, perpetuating a system of unsustainable monoculture that breeds soil erosion, mineral loss and, ultimately, death.

via 7 Ways GMOs are Destroying Humanity and the Planet

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New Study Finds 5 Days Away From Electronic Devices has Dramatic Effects on Children

26 August, 2014 at 14:02 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, IT and Media, Science, sustainable development, Technology | 1 Comment
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PsyBlog

Children who spend five days away from their smartphones, televisions and other screens were substantially better at reading facial emotions afterwards, a new study has found.

The UCLA study suggests that children’s social skills are hurt by spending less and less time interacting face-to-face (Uhls et al., 2014).

Professor Patricia Greenfield, who co-authored the study, said:

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs.

Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs.

The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

Read more: Why You Should Take a Week-Long Break From All Screens

 

China’s Environmental Catastrophe

14 August, 2014 at 09:08 | Posted in Body & Mind, China, Environmental issues, health, Nature, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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China's Environmental Catastrophe

By Hong Jiang

China’s environment has been so thoroughly assaulted by urban and industrial development that pollution in air, water, and soil has reached alarming levels. “It’s on a scale and speed the world has never known,” according to Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center. What do we know? What can be done?

‘Airpocalypse’

Beijing’s air pollution reached a level so dramatically high in January 2013 that a new word, “airpocalypse,” was coined for it. The word has since been used to refer to the alarming air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Beijing’s PM2.5 level reached beyond 500 in January 2013, with the high index recurring in 2014.

The smog-choked city experienced a visibility so low that it put schools and work at a halt.

World Health Organization (WHO) measures PM2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, as a health indicator, as it can penetrate the blood stream and enter the lungs, causing respiratory disease, lung cancer, and various other ailments. Safe exposure to PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter annually, and 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period—called PM2.5 index 12 and 25, respectively.

A research report released by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in February 2013 ranked Beijing as the second worst in living environment among 40 major cities in the world, according to the Daily Mail. The study considered Beijing “barely suitable” for living due to its severe air pollution.

Smog is especially severe in northern Chinese cities during the winter heating season when coal burning adds to air pollution. In October 2013, the northern city of Harbin had the record PM2.5 index of 1,000, with visibility reduced to less than 50 meters, according to data from China’s environmental protection agency.

China’s unbridled and coal-dependent development serves as the direct cause of air pollution. China consumes half of the coal in the world, used to fuel the world’s second-largest economy.

Air pollution has caused great harm to human health. Based on a “2010 Global Burden of Disease” study published in December 2013 in The Lancet, a British medical journal, air pollution led to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, which is about 40 percent of the global total.

Air pollution has reduced life expectancy by 5.5 years in Northern China, according to a study done by researchers from China, Israel, and the United States and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year.

China’s airpocalypse not only chokes the Chinese cities, but also affects other countries through long-range transport of air pollutants. About 40–60 percent of fine particulate pollution in Japan comes from China, said Hiroshi Tanimoto at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies to New York Times. The effect on Korea is even greater. Pollutants have crossed the Pacific to affect the western part of the United States.

China’s airpocalypse goes hand in hand with China’s rank as the top emitter of greenhouse gases, aiding the driver of global climate change and the threat of global warming.

Water ‘Too Dangerous to Touch’

If air pollution is bad enough, water pollution is an even worse problem and more difficult to resolve, said a report by The Economist.

“There are large parts of the urban water supply which are not only too dangerous to drink—they are too dangerous to touch,” said John Parker, globalization editor at The Economist, in a video interview. “You cannot even wash in them.”

Data from the Chinese government in 2011 shows that over half of China’s large lakes and reservoirs were too contaminated for human use. Groundwater, which accounts for one-third of China’s water resources, suffers similar pollution. Of the more than 4,700 groundwater-quality testing stations, about 60 percent showed “relatively bad” or worse pollution level. Half of the rural population lacks safe drinking water.

Chemical, pharmaceutical, and power plants spew pollutants into waterways, creating dead zones where they flow. A notable example is central China’s Huai River, pronounced dead by Elizabeth Economy in her well-known 2004 book on China’s environment, “The River Runs Black.”

If China’s air pollution makes airpocalypse, water pollution has created incidents that attract international attention. In 2007, Lake Tai suffered from a heavy carpet of blue-green algae that is cancer-inducing, and its gruesome images have circulated on the Web. The 2006 incident of a chemical spill contaminated Songhua River in Northeast China, and the government cover-up was widely criticized. Many more incidents, however, go under reported.

Some incidents of water pollution can be sadly surreal. Urban waterways in the eastern city of Wenzhou were so polluted by chemicals that a lit cigarette set the water on fire, as reported in the Daily Mail earlier this year. This is not the first time a river was on fire, and other images of water pollution show water turning black or red or orange, or carpeted with algae or dead fish.

A report on chinadialogue indicates that in 2012 over half of China’s cities had water of “poor” or worse quality. Ma Jun, an environmentalist who heads a Beijing-based green NGO, told chinadialogue, “Tackling water pollution is as serious and worthy a challenge for the authority as combating air pollution … water pollution poses a bigger health threat to about 300 million people living in rural areas.”

Polluted Soil and Food

China Daily, an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese regime, ran an editorial stated, “Soil contaminated with heavy metals is eroding the foundation of the country’s food safety and becoming a looming public health hazard.”

Nearly one-fifth of China’s farmland is polluted, according to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Resources. Chemicals such as cadmium, nickel, arsenic, lead, and mercury poison the soil, as they are dumped into waters used for irrigation.

Early this year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection admitted that there are 450 pollution-related “cancer villages” in China. Prior to that, soil pollution and its threat to health and food received limited media attention, and the Chinese government had kept data on soil pollution as a “state secret.”

The change was partly brought about by a recent scandal of cadmium in rice that set off a Hunan rice scare. According to the mainland business magazine Caijing, the city of Guangzhou inspected local restaurants and found excessive cadmium level in 44.4 percent of rice and rice products. Most of the rice came from Hunan Province.

According to Caixin’s New Century Magazine, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other institutions had reported on cadmium pollution in 2009. They sampled 100 rice paddies near mines throughout Hunan Province, and found that 65 percent of the samples exceeded the cadmium safety limit. The contaminated rice had entered the local and national market.

WHO’s website states, “Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal, and the respiratory systems.” The heavy metal is leached from mines and chemical factories in Hunan.

Also under the spotlight are Hunan’s new cancer villages, among which, Shuanqiao. China Youth reported that 26 people in Shuanqiao died of cadmium poisoning. Soil samples there showed cadmium content 300 times the permitted level, and 509 of its 2,888 villagers were tested positive for cadmium poisoning. The chemical came from the Xianghe Chemical Plant, whose pollution villagers have complained about since 2006. This example is just the tip of the iceberg of chemical poisoning in China.

Worrisome ‘War Against Pollution’

Facing catastrophic environmental pollution, the Chinese government has become alert. Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced early this year at the National People’s Congress, “We will declare war against pollution.” Li said, “Smog is affecting larger parts of China, and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

The Chinese government has plans to clean up the environment. In September 2013, the government launched a $280 billion plan to clean up the air, and early this year, it announced an investment of $300 billion to tackle water pollution. Experts are uncertain, however, whether these investments will change the situation.

What is worrisome is the regime’s persistent attitude of a “war against nature,” that has rendered past investments in the environment limited in their effect. In Mao’s war against nature, draconian actions in agriculture destroyed the fabric of the rural ecosystem. Post-Mao pursuit of economic development has only trumped the past trend with unprecedented pollution in air, water, and soil from industrial and urban growth.

Experts on China believe the root of China’s environmental problems lies with the top-down control by the Communist Party, which has been trapped in corruption and a lack of political accountability and rule of law. Economic incentives for officials have continued to leave pollution unchecked. As some polluting factories are closed, others pop up.

“Environmental problems are one of the main outcomes of a one party-ruled, corrupted, non-humane government,” said Ahkok Wong, a university lecturer in Hong Kong, to the ROAR Magazine.

Environmental pollution has increasingly become a source of discontent and protest in China. In the 1990s, rural protests in China already included pollution-related land loss. Since the 2000s, large-scale protests expanded to cities where citizens reject polluting factories and plants. According to a Pew survey, environmental issues accounted for half of the protests in 2013 in China.

Short of fundamental changes in the political system, it is hard to foresee major environmental improvements.

As Mao obliterated traditional Chinese belief of harmony between human beings and heaven, and as the post-Mao communist regime continues to favor development over the environment, the moral foundation of the Chinese people has also been eroded, aiding corruption and disregard for others and the environment.

Without a rebuilding of a moral system, the Chinese environment will continue to suffer, along with the Chinese people.

Hong Jiang is associate professor and chair of the geography department at University of Hawaii at Manoa. She specializes in China’s environment and culture.

For more photos: China’s Environmental Catastrophe

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Why You Should Reduce Cellphone Radiation Risk for Children and How You Can – The Epoch Times

10 July, 2014 at 10:46 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Environmental issues, health, IT and Media, Science, Society, sustainable development, Technology | Leave a comment
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By June Fakkert
Epoch Times

NEW YORK—Scientists don’t all agree about how much electromagnetic radiation risks cellphones and other devices pose to fetuses and young children, but governments, health organizations, and insurance companies are advocating precautions.

The rapid development of a baby in the womb is a stunningly delicate process, and disruptions to it can have life-long repercussions.

“We know that exposures that occur during pregnancy can have life-long impact due to these window periods of vulnerability that occur as the brain grows and develops,” said Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, an integrative pediatric neurologist board-certified in adult and child neurology and pediatrics. She spoke at a recent press conference for the BabySafe Wireless Project, an initiative to raise awareness about risks of electromagnetic exposure in young children.

Children have smaller brains, thinner skulls, softer brain tissue, and a higher number of rapidly dividing cells, which makes them more susceptible to damage from cellphone exposure than adults, Dr. Shetreat-Klein said.

“Disturbing scientific data continues to be revealed regarding the effects of cellphone radiation on developing brains.”

One such study was lead by Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.

Researchers put cellphones in the cages of pregnant mice, turned some of the cellphones on continuously during the pregnancy, and kept others completely off. The young mice whose mothers were exposed to radiation from the activated cellphones were more hyperactive and had poorer memories than the young mice whose mothers lived with the powered-off cellphones.

“They were running around these cages bouncing off the walls, not a care in the world, something that in our eyes resembles attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children,” Taylor said at the press conference.

Electromagnetic Fields and Common Sense

Underlying the debate about the risks of electromagnetic radiation is the fact that electromagnetic fields can be natural—such as the build-up of ions in the air before a thunderstorm, as well as manmade—such as the energy of a microwave oven that boils your tea water in two to three minutes.

The frequency of an electromagnetic field determines its effect on the human body. So while we aren’t afraid of being exposed to pre-storm air, common sense (and manufacturer safety mechanisms) stop us from sticking our hands into an active microwave to see if our water is hot.

The frequency of the radiation emitted by cellphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi routers falls somewhere between storm air and microwaves, and their safety profile is a murky gray area that requires consumers to stay informed and aware, and to take precautions—even if the science isn’t conclusive.

Cellphone Safety Standards

A reason researchers aren’t likely to definitively prove that cellphone radiation harms children is that it would be unethical to conduct necessary studies. Such experiments would require test and control groups, and no parent would sign up their child to be in the test group, Dr. Devra Davis points out.

Davis is the president of Environmental Health Trust and award-winning author of “Disconnect: The Truth About Cellphone Radiation, What the Industry Is Doing to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family.”

According to Davis, cellphones were originally tested on full-grown men and have never been tested on women and children.

Cellphone safety standards have also not been updated in 17 years, since smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, and the sight of a radiation-emitting device in a child’s hand became common.

Now toy manufacturers produce plastic teething cases with colorful plastic bells and whistles that allow the youngest babies to get really close to their screens, reminding Davis of the baby suits that were once made with asbestos fibers.

The take-home message is one of precaution—that every parent can limit young children’s electromagnetic exposure.

You can keep yourself updated on Twitter with #knowyourexposure

Below is a summary of what some concerned parties say about radiation and exposure to children:

Governments

The United States government does not acknowledge known risk of using cellphones that have a specific absorption rate (SAR—the amount of radio frequency absorbed by the body) of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) or less.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland rated the Apple iPhone 4 at 1.07 W/kg and the Samsung SGH-E330 at 1.17 W/kg. Nokia and Motorola phones tested lower, according to the report.

The European Parliament recommends that schools and classrooms “give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises.”

French law requires that all cellphones sold in the country have SAR clearly labeled as well as the recommendation that users limit cellphone exposure to their heads by using a headset. It also bans advertising cellphones to children under 14 years old and bans giving or selling any device specifically designed for children under 6 that emits radio frequency.

Israel has banned Wi-Fi in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and limited the Wi-Fi to an hour a day in first- to third-grade classrooms.

Belgium has banned the sale of mobile phones to children under 7.

Organizations

The World Health Organization reports that so far “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”; however, it also cautions that “the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

High priority on the World Health Organization’s research agenda is developing a better understanding of the effects of radiation in utero and on young children.

The German Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents limit children’s use of mobile phones.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that children “are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cellphone radiation,” in a letter last year urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt radiation standards that protect children. The AAP also recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2.

Insurance Companies

In the past, Lloyds of London and Swiss Re, two major re-insurers, have both refused to cover cellphone companies for health-related lawsuits filed by cellphone users.

In 2010, Lloyds wrote that “EMF cases could be more complex than asbestos claims” and in its 2013 report on emerging risks, Swiss Re put the “unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields” in the highest impact category for 10 years down the road.


10 Ways to Reduce Your Wireless Exposure

BabySafeProject.org gives the following tips:

1. Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body (that is, in a pocket or bra).

2. Avoid holding any wireless device against your body when in use.

3. Use your cellphone on speaker setting or with an “air tube” headset.

4. Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains, or elevators.

5. Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.

6. Whenever possible, connect to the Internet with wired cables.

7. When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect.

8. Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to Wi-Fi routers.

9. Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use (that is, at bedtime).

10. Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (“smart” meters) as possible.

via Why You Should Reduce Cellphone Radiation Risk for Children and How You Can – The Epoch Times

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Happy Bees and the Garden

9 July, 2014 at 15:44 | Posted in Environmental issues, Nature, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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Kristina:

Bees are the most important thing… Without bees, very little food… Or you have to do like in China where so many bees have disappeared because of pollution, the have to do it manually. But, they are many people…

Originally posted on GARDEN OF EADY:

Do you have a bee-friendly garden?
The lovely bees are looking for 2 things in your garden: nectar and pollen. If you think that your garden does not need bees, you might be wrong. You may know that some plants are pollinated by birds, butterflies, moths and wasps, but the most of the work is done by bees.

How can you make your garden bee-friendly? It is very easy.
Here are a few tips for you.

• It is recommended to plant several colors of flowers. Bees love especially white, yellow, blue, purple and violet.
• You can plant flowers of different shapes
• Do not use pesticides because they might kill bees too
• Choose plants which are flowering through spring, summer and fall
• Grow flowers in clumps
• Plant herbs like: bee balm, borage, catnip, coriander, fennel, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme
• Use native plants (bees…

View original 61 more words

5 Worst American Food Additives

20 September, 2013 at 16:27 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, Food, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Paul Darin
Epoch Times

Scientific debates continue to rage over these food additives. Many claim they pose no threat while others cite evidence to the contrary. Here’s a list of America’s five most controversial food additives.

1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancing food additive found in snack foods, Chinese takeout, ramen noodles, and a variety of other foods. It’s been controversial since the 1960s when people complained about headaches, chest pain, sweating, and a variety of other symptoms from eating it. According to Yale Scientific Magazine, no negative effects have been found. But, it does appear that a minority of the population does experience some of these symptoms from ingesting MSG. Ancient Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, and Chinese used MSG.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Made from genetically modified corn, this sugar substitute is found in nearly every soft drink and many candies in America. The artificially produced sugar does not exist in nature and is 20 to 70 percent cheaper than sugar. Like sugar, it doubles as a food preservative. However HFCS, according to the Global Healing Center, has a high risk of leading to hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, liver damage, and mercury exposure. The center also cited a Princeton University study that found that mice that ate HFCS gained fat 300 percent faster than those who ate fruit sugar.

3. Trans Fats

A polyunsaturated fat that does occur in nature is artificially produced on the commercial scale for snack foods like baked goods and chips. Controversy abounded during the fat-free craze during the 1980s and 1990s when this fat was used in reduced-fat foods.

In the body, trans fat acts much the same way as saturated fat does and can be even worse than saturated fats including lowering good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol. More controversy arose when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the labeling of zero trans fats on food packaging when the product contained less than half a gram per serving, according to NBC.

To avoid trans fats, avoid products that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients.

4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

According to Fox News, GMO crops have been on the market since 1995 and include corn, soy, cotton, and canola, which are called the “big four.”

Additionally, Fox cited research about GMO consumption done on different animals, which found intestine, lung, kidney, and liver problems, and inflammation of the colon. Anti-GMO lobbyists have consistently fought a losing battle in the United States to get GMOs labeled on food packaging. The EU requires labeling for GMOs.

5. Aspartame

Found in most diet sodas and chewing gum, this sugar substitute and artificial sweetener inspired backlash as a toxic chemical hastily approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aspartame was an accidental discovery when in 1966 a scientist licked his fingers after touching the chemical by accident after it spilled out of a flask, according to the FDA.

The controversy is about its approval by the FDA despite its toxic effects. According to a letter written to the FDA by the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center, the chemical has several negative side effects:

In the 1970s tests on infant primates consuming aspartame in milk resulted in five out of seven experiencing grand mal seizures.

Another test concluded that the chemical caused brain damage in lab mice. In the FDA’s defense, the letter said some of these effects were purposefully kept from the FDA until after its approval.

via 5 Worst American Food Additives » The Epoch Times

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Not Even Good Enough for Dog Food: Imported Food From China Loaded With Chemicals, Dyes, Pesticides and Fake Ingredients

17 September, 2013 at 07:28 | Posted in Body & Mind, China, Environmental issues, Food, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

….

By Mike Adams
Naturalnews.com

NaturalNews – Do you really know what’s in all the food you’re eating that’s imported from China? If you don’t, you’re actually in good company: The FDA only inspects 1% – 2% of all the food imported from China, so they don’t know either. Even when they inspect a shipment, they rarely test it for heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs or other toxic contaminants.

Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, added emphasis to this point as he testified this week in The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, saying, “We don’t trust, for good reason, the Chinese to supply ingredients for our dog and cat food. Why should we trust Chinese exporters for the food that we are feeding our children and families?”

It’s a good question. Especially when, as Kastel adds, Chinese food is being routinely found to contain “unapproved chemicals, dyes, pesticides and outright fraud (fake food).”

Heavily contaminated food from China

As Natural News has already reported, food from China is frequently found to contain alarming levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) and other contaminants. Politically, China is a communist dictatorship where freedom of speech is completely outlawed. Environmental regulations are virtually never enforced. The culture is one of total deception where lying, cheating, stealing or committing fraud to get ahead is considered completely acceptable — because that’s how government is operated there. The moral decay of China is directly reflected in the alarming dishonesty of the food supply. (Yes, a country’s food exports will reflect its cultural and political philosophies. Freedom produces healthy food. Oppression and communism produces deceptive, deadly food.)

And yet, even with all this being widely known, Chinese farms are rarely inspected by organic certifiers. “U.S. certifiers are unable to independently inspect farms and assure compliance to the USDA organic food and agriculture standards that are required for export to the U.S.” explained Kastel in testimony. “These imports should not be allowed to reach our shore until and unless we have a system in place to assure consumers they are getting what they pay for. Just like U.S. grown organic commodities, the safety of these products must be rigorously overseen by independent inspectors.”

Read Kastel’s full testimony here.

Counterfeit ingredients are the new norm in China

Also testifying at the hearing was Patty Lovera, the Assistant Director of Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch. The news on food fraud out of China “is a steady stream of controversies ranging from adulteration with counterfeit ingredients like melamine in dairy products, to widespread outbreaks of animal diseases like avian flu, and high levels of pesticide residues,” Lovera testified. “Just last week, news reports described a Chinese government campaign to break up a fake meat operation, leading to arrests of more than 900 people accused of passing off more than $1 million of rat meat as mutton.”

See Natural News coverage of the fake rat meat scandal here.

You are eating far more food from China than you think

Why does any of this matter? Because you’re eating far more food from China than you probably think.

Not only do retailers like Whole Foods sell “certified organic” food grown in China, the vast majority of superfood powders sold in North America use raw materials purchased in bulk from China. Nutritional supplements, herbs and vitamins are often made using materials from China.

Not everything from China is bad, but in our own lab tests here at Natural News, we’ve been shocked to discover just how frequently products from China are contaminated with metals, chemical solvents and pesticide residues. We have rejected dozens of suppliers in our own search for clean ingredients to use in our product formulations, and we’ve even had to send back product that showed up at our warehouse and simply didn’t meet our stringent quality control requirements. (True fact: We recently had to return several thousand pounds of goji berries to one supplier after discovering the product failed our quality control review.)

But here’s the even scarier part in all this:

I am repeatedly told I’m the ONLY person asking these questions

When I talk to suppliers of raw materials, I am repeatedly told that I am the only person asking them for heavy metals tests, pesticide tests and product samples to send to our own lab.

This happens over and over again. From this, I have learned there is virtually NO due diligence being conducted by natural products retailers. Most retailers simply buy and sell, shipping boxes and moving product while turning a blind eye to the truth about what they are buying and selling. They literally do not care whether their products are contaminated with heavy metals. They just want to sell, sell, sell!

Even more shockingly — and I seem to be the only journalist reporting this jaw-dropping fact — there are currently NO LIMITS set by the USDA for contamination of certified organic foods. A product may be USDA organic and still contain deadly levels of mercury, arsenic or lead. The USDA does not test or even regulate heavy metals in foods via its organic certified program!

So you can be shopping at a famous natural products retailer and you might pick up a product carrying the USDA Certified Organic logo, thinking, “This is certified healthy and safe by the U.S. government.” You are being lied to. That product could be grown in China in a field of mercury runoff from an industrial factory. It could contain ridiculously high levels of mercury, arsenic, PCBs and even chemical solvents. You could be eating pure death while paying a premium for it!

This is not an attack on the USDA, by the way. Their organic certification program is surprisingly good for the scope of what it attempts to accomplish. But understand that USDA organic certifies a process, not a result. At the farm level, it means foods are not intentionally grown with pesticides and herbicides, but it does not say anything whatsoever about heavy metals contamination of food production fields in China.

Massive organic food FRAUD

In truth, what’s really happening right now on a global scale is a massive organic food fraud. Food is grown in China and certified organic even though no U.S. inspectors even visit the farms. That food is then imported into the U.S. and almost never inspected. It’s packaged and sold at top dollar in natural foods retail stores, emblazoned with the USDA Organic label.

But nowhere along the way — except in extremely rare cases — is that food ever tested for heavy metals or other contaminants. This is why Mark Kastel correctly states this food can’t even be trusted “for dog food,” much less to feed yourself and your family.

Make no mistake about it: China is a nation full of immoral, unethical liars and deceivers. (Taiwan, on the other hand, is very different and has a much stronger moral code as well as basic human decency.) Remember: I speak Mandarin Chinese. I’ve lived in the Chinese culture. I’ve traveled throughout Asia and even given numerous public speeches to Chinese audiences. At the same time, I’ve investigated and written about food and food safety for more than a decade. Very few people are as qualified to tell you the truth about what’s really in your food coming out of China, and I can tell you that I don’t trust it.

In fact, the only way I will eat anything from China is if I subject it to extensive testing and verify that contamination levels are acceptably low. There are some great products out of China that are completely safe and healthy. Certain medicinal mushrooms, for example, are produced in China and are very clean. Some producers of goji berries are very honest and clean. There are no doubt organic growers who are producing very clean products in China, but these would be the exception, not the rule. By default, we must all now assume that anything from China is heavily contaminated.

Almost universally, food grown in North America is cleaner and less contaminated. This isn’t true 100% of the time, but usually so.

Toxic Chinese agriculture puts honest U.S. farmers out of business

The sad part about all this is that food from China is economically displacing U.S. and Canadian farmers who are generally far more honest and ethical in their farming practices. So while U.S. farmers are being put out of business for following the rules set by the EPA, FDA and USDA, the Chinese farmers are selling us contaminated, toxic “organic” food frauds produced by breaking all the rules!

That’s why I say grow local, buy local and eat local as much as possible. And until China cleans up its act on food contamination, do your best to avoid food from China. I don’t trust it unless EVERY BATCH is comprehensively lab tested and those lab tests are made public.

Props to Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel for having the courage to lay a lot of this out in congressional testimony. Rest assured Congress will never ask me to testify on food contamination because I would describe a truth so horrifying that people would stop eating for days…

P.S. The reason all your dogs and cats are dying from diabetes and cancer these days is because you’re giving them highly toxic pet treats imported from China. They are loaded with toxic solvents and industrial chemicals that cause permanent liver and kidney damage, among other devastating side effects. You can find these toxic, colorful pet treats sold at all the major pet store retailers. They are selling you PET DEATH and making a tidy profit doing so.

Originally published by http://www.naturalnews.com

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/040266_food_fraud_china_heavy_metals_contamination.html#ixzz2egbiWg

via Not Even Good Enough for Dog Food: Imported Food From China Loaded With Chemicals, Dyes, Pesticides and Fake Ingredients » The Epoch Times

Mindfulness Training Helps Reduce Stress for Teachers

16 September, 2013 at 07:07 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, meditation, Society, Spirituality, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Rosemary Byfield
Epoch Times

How teachers cope with demands in the classroom may be made easier with the use of “mindfulness” techniques, according to new US research.

Learning to pay attention to the present in a focused and non-judgemental or mindful way on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course helped teachers in the study to feel less stressed and to avoid burnout.

Dr Richard Davidson, chair of the Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, is the study co-author. “The research indicated that simple forms of mindfulness training can help promote a certain type of emotional balance, leading to decreased stress,” he said in an interview on the Centre’s website.

“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.

“[Teachers] perceive greater ability to remain present in the classroom for their children and less likely to respond to children with anger,” Davidson said.

Stress, burnout, and ill health are increasing burdens experienced by teachers in schools leading to absenteeism and prematurely leaving the profession.

“This is an area where mindfulness may be particularly important and interesting,” he said.

“We wanted to offer training to teachers in a format that would be engaging and address the concerns that were specifically relevant to their role as teachers,” said lead researcher Lisa Flook in a statement.

Researchers trained 18 teachers to use MBSR techniques designed to handle difficult physical sensations, feelings, and moods and develop empathy for pupils in challenging situations.

Randomly assigned teachers practised a guided meditation at home for at least 15 minutes per day and learned specific strategies for preventing and dealing with stressful factors in the classroom. These included “dropping in”, a process of bringing attention to breathing, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations; and ways of bringing kindness into their experiences, particularly challenging ones.

Mindfulness originates from Buddhist meditation but was developed for secular use in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts in the United States.

“The most important outcome that we observed is the consistent pattern of results, across a range of self-report and objective measures used in this pilot study, that indicate benefits from practising mindfulness,” Flook said.

Study participant and teacher Elizabeth Miller found that mindfulness could be practised anywhere, and at any time.

“Breath awareness was just one part of the training, but it was something that I was able to consistently put into practice,” Miller said.

“Now I spend more time getting students to notice how they’re feeling, physically and emotionally, before reacting to something. I think this act of self-monitoring was the biggest long-term benefit for both students and teachers.”

In Britain, teachers Richard Burnett and Chris Cullen developed the Mindfulness in Schools project, “.b” or “Stop, Breathe and Be!” programme. After experiencing the benefits of mindfulness themselves they wanted to teach it in the classroom. Their course is now taught in 12 countries.

via Mindfulness Training Helps Reduce Stress for Teachers » The Epoch Times

New World Chocolate, With a Conscience

14 September, 2013 at 07:35 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, Food, Nature, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Channaly Philipp
Epoch Times

Biodynamic chocolate business lets nature rule, and the results are world-class

The cacao farmer felt he had no choice. He called Santiago Peralta, the man who normally bought his cacao, and offered to sell him his land so he could move to the city.

Peralta asked, “What are you going to do in the city? Beg for money?”

He went to meet the farmer, who said his back caused him pain and he couldn’t carry the bags of cacao anymore.

The solution? Peralta gave the farmer $120 so he could buy a donkey.

That was four years ago. The farmer has carried on with farming cacao, and he never went into the city to beg for money.

Instead a donkey trend caught on. “Everyone started getting donkeys, just like that,” Peralta said.

Peralta, 41, makes some of the best chocolate on Earth, working with 3,000 farming families in his native Ecuador. Pacari Chocolate, which he and his wife Carla Barbota launched in 2008, swept last year’s International Chocolate Awards, taking home 23. These awards are where the world’s finest chocolates are put to the test through blind tastings.

If there was ever the notion that exceptional chocolate could only come out of Europe’s strongholds of culinary achievement, that victory proved the idea wrong. An increasing appreciation for regional authenticity has meant regions that used to be completely off the radar are coming into their own in the most surprising ways.

Just like a bottle of wine, a chocolate bar can reveal its provenance, its terroir, and even when it came about, as long as its flavor remains true to the cacao beans that were used.

Generally, in a mass production process, those flavors are flattened and standardized through over-processing and over-roasting and result in chocolate bars each as predictable as the next. Take a Hershey’s bar, for example.

The business of staying true to the bean is completely different. Pacari’s “tree-to-bar” production, for example, oversees every stage, from the cacao trees to the finished product, in the process creating income for all along the chain, from farmer to packager.

Origins

Ecuador has been producing cacao for hundreds of years, becoming the world’s largest cacao exporter in the late 19th century. Its production made fortunes, and played a crucial role in securing its independence from Spain, with farmers seeing the allure of being able to sell not only to Spain, but to other nations as well.

Its geography is particular: a small country, where jungles, deserts, mountains, and volcanoes all juggle for space, with climates ranging from desertic to monsoonic.

Peralta points out different characteristics of single-origin Pacari chocolate bars, tying region and flavor: floral and fruity from the Manabi region, which is dry, and caramel notes from the Esmeraldas region, which is rainy and green.

Then there is the spectacular limited edition Nube bar, which won the gold at the chocolate awards. Peralta won’t reveal the location of the cacao trees whose beans yield a chocolate that’s unbelievably floral—the aroma smacks of roses. It’s all in the terroir and the specific year. These results can’t be engineered; they are happy surprises from nature.

Nature’s Hand

You could call it an accident, but Peralta is willing to partner with Nature and let her have her way, resulting in incredible flavors.

“It’s like love,” he muses. “You don’t control things in life. I have a friend, he’s a great chocolate producer in a company in the U.K. called Booja-Booja, who says, ‘Relax: Nothing is under control.’ Relax! You have nothing to do with it. You’re trying to go one way but the flow is the other way. You don’t control anything.”

Peralta is pushing the envelope as far away from mass production methods as possible. All his chocolate is already organic, and he pays double the market price, a premium far above the going Fair Trade rate, which he said pays 6 percent above the market price (he has little to say that is complimentary about the labeling scheme).

And he’s also making biodynamic chocolate, using an agriculture approach that takes into account the rhythms of nature, pioneered by Rudolf Steiner. The Demeter biodynamic seal took four years to obtain.

Biodynamic means power, you accept the forces, you act with the forces, you go with the flow, you don’t produce 24/7 – Santiago Peralta, co-founder, Pacari

“Biodynamic means power, you accept the forces, you act with the forces, you go with the flow, you don’t produce 24/7.” He became familiar with biodynamic concepts while living in Germany for a year. And he’ll admit, there are some strange practices, but he says they work.

For example, one practice calls for a cow horn filled with a mix of cow waste and silica, buried in the ground. As the concept goes, the silica powder acts as conductor for light and energy, sending concentrated energy underground, benefiting the cacao trees.

Only about 20 grams per hectare of the mixture is used for the cacao trees. There are no fertilizers, no pesticides.

Or when there’s a drought, a refreshing biodynamic mixture is applied over the trees.

“Just a tiny amount. Can you imagine?” asks Peralta. “Normally you need to pump oil from the Amazon, passing the mountains, to Esmaraldas port, passing Panama, going to Germany to make [oil] into a chemical, coming back, taking a truck” to then apply half a ton of chemicals per hectare, which would take someone a week to do. With the biodynamic method, one person covers eight hectares a day with a pump, just walking around.

“This is sustainable. And the cacao is stronger, you can tell it’s stronger.” The crushers that crack the cacao beans had never stopped in years of production. But the first year cracking the biodynamic cacao beans, it happened.

“But just taste it, it’s better,” he adds.

The biodynamic methods were used to make Pacari’s Raw chocolate bar, which has won multiple awards. The chocolate is minimally processed, at low temperatures, and is the only biodynamic chocolate in the world.

“It’s a special chocolate where you see a lot of flavors, every time you try it, you get something different. It’s not a chocolate, which is a nice chocolate, which is gone. It’s still in your mouth. It’s there—boom, aggressive. It has personality, tannic, like wine.”

The flavors evolve as the chocolate melts on your tongue, in turns dry, woodsy, fruity.

The nutritional profile is particular, too: Antioxidant counts are through the roof.

Direct Trade Cacao

Maricel Presilla, a chocolate judge, culinary historian, and chef in Hoboken, N.J., as well as a winner of a James Beard Award, has seen the benefits that a direct-trade approach has had on farmers. She herself comes from a family of farmers in Cuba, where her grandparents were cacao farmers.

She has seen stark differences between farms that were using biodynamic methods and ones that weren’t. During a dry spell, the biodynamic farm’s trees were full with cacao for harvesting. “Next door,” which wasn’t biodynamic, “they had nothing.”

“People begin to care a lot more about the land,” she said. “They see the land as alive, in tune with the seasons.”

Not only that, but cacao, she said, is a “generous plant that likes to live with other plants” so it’s not rare for farmers to also grow coconuts, bananas, and coffee, for their own use. “A typical sight on a cacao farm is to see a farmer carrying plantain, yucca, something like that.”

When Peralta started working with farmers, he began working with farming families. “We believe in family relations in southern countries. It’s very important.”

Peralta wanted high quality, organic cacao, which wasn’t a hard sell for the farmers. “A lot of people don’t believe in chemicals—a lot of people don’t have the money to pay for chemicals.”

He started offering prizes for the best cacao among the farmers he was working with, and also came up with practical, simple, and more importantly, cheap solutions to improve the quality of the cacao.

Some had social consequences, for example, cacao used to be packaged in 100-pound bags, which only strong men could carry. Now, the bags were smaller, able to hold 50 pounds at the most, which opened the door for women to work.

“The women are more clever with money,” Peralta said, so the way the money is spent has shifted too. When men used to get paid, their friends would wait around on payday, hoping for a round of drinks. “Just one stupid thing. We saw it, we changed it, and now life has changed for these people.”

There are small adjustments like these and larger community initiatives, but all of these come about because of direct relationships with farmers.

Peralta spends about a third of his time in the field. The farmers are his friends, his associates, he says.

Presilla says something as simple as paying a premium for cacao has a huge effect on the life of farmers.

Both Peralta and Presilla are members of a relatively new organization, Direct Cacao, formed last year in Honduras. “We have the best chocolate makers from Europe and America involved,” she said. It will open to new members this month.

The goal is to establish a direct network between farmers and chocolate makers, as exemplified in Peralta’s work. There will also be educational programs, and a first international conference in the Dominican Republic.

Ever since the practices in the Ivory Coast were exposed, large companies have been careful. “Even companies that seem to be gigantic do something that is good. Mars, for example, pours millions of dollars in research.” Still, she said, “You cannot have great chocolate inexpensively.”

In the normal chocolate production chain, the divide is wide and long between raw material and finished product. The history of chocolate production is rife with exploitation and in the Ivory Coast, infamously spawned child slavery and human trafficking years ago.

In Ecuador, there are cacao farmers who had produced cacao generation after generation, but had never tasted chocolate.

“We gave them chocolate for the first time in their lives,” Peralta said. “They said ‘It’s sweet! It’s really nice.’ Can you imagine? Your grand-grand-grand grandfather was growing cacao [and you’re growing cacao] and you never have tried it. They are very proud. We have the best chocolate, we have the best cacao on Earth.”

via New World Chocolate, With a Conscience

Propylene Glycol and Tea? 8 Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Were Eating

13 September, 2013 at 07:11 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, Food, Science, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Marc Sahr
Epoch Times

Many health-conscious people read labels, checking for the customary, relatively easy-to-understand elements: the amount of sodium, sugar, vitamins, calories, carbohydrates, and so on. A skim through the ingredients list can also be informative, but for the majority of consumers the ingredient names don’t really provide a clear picture of what they’re eating.

How many people know what dipotassium phosphate is? How about propylene glycol? Monosodium glutamate? This latter one is more commonly known as MSG, but would not likely be labeled as such.

Here’s a look at some of the ingredients you may not know your eating.

Propylene Glycol

Considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, propylene glycol is used in antifreeze.

While the version used in cars is ethylene glycol, propylene glycol nonetheless is an anti-freeze. What’s so surprising about that? Well it is also found in cake mixes, salad dressings, deodorants, and dog food.

This ingredient is used to preserve food.

So what effect will it have on your body? If you are allergic, you will develop a rash if you ingest it—or in the case of a deodorant, if you put it on your skin.

Hand sanitizer often contains propylene glycol.

Dipotassium Phosphate

Like pesticides or fertilizers? Well this ingredient, found in Coca Cola and non-dairy creamers is also found in many pesticides and fertilizers. Yummy! Originally used to slow the growth of bacteria, it also acts as a coagulant for foods such as pudding. It is used in pastas and cereals to reduce the cooking time.

It is also used in waterproofing, disinfecting and sanitizing products.

Untreated phosphate at the Marca factory in the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.

Castoreum

Love raspberry or vanilla flavoring? Chances you may have eaten castoreum, which is a gland that beavers use, along with urine, to mark their territory. This gland is very popular as it is used in perfumes as well as in some food flavorings. It qualifies as a “natural” ingredient in all-natural foods.

Two North American beavers at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Aug. 29, 2012.

Monosodium Glutamate

We have mostly heard about MSG because many American-Chinese restaurants used this

extensively, and unless you see a sign that says “no MSG,” generally it is assumed MSG is used. While not recognized as unsafe by the FDA, people have been known to have adverse reactions from high blood pressure to heart rate problems. Most people do not experience any symptoms.

Fast food restaurant KFC lists the ingredients in all of its dishes online; monosodium glutamate appears 61 times in total.

Mercury

While it’s not really an ingredient, mercury is nonetheless present in some fish people consume, especially swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel. In these fish, the mercury level is generally higher than 1.1 parts per million (PPM), and they should be avoided by pregnant, or nursing women and young children.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the mercury in these fish could affect the nervous system of both mother and unborn child.

Swordfish

Some Ingredients You May Recognize, But Should Watch Out For: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Almost everything we eat and drink these days has this ingredient. Especially if you order out often from fast food restaurants.

Sugary sodas, such as Fanta, contain as much as 52 grams of sugar. Many people now go out of their way to actually buy the Mexican version of sodas that contain real sugar to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The prevalence of this ingredient in American food has been identified as a cause of obesity and type II diabetes.

Sodium

While not a deadly item if used in moderation, sodium has become a staple additive that Americans have used extensively. Sodium holds excess water in the body. The body requires a certain amount of sodium for the muscles and nerves to function properly, and to control blood pressure and blood volume, according National Institute of Health.

Too much sodium, however, causes high blood pressure, heart diseases, and kidney disease.

Foods containing excessive levels of sodium include cereals, salad dressings, crackers, and bread.

Trans Fats

Don’t be misled by some labels on products that state “0 trans fat.” According to an article on Health.com, a labeling loophole allows foods with up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled “0 trans fat.”

Generally when the ingredients list partially hydrogenated oil, the food contains trans fats. In New York City, trans fat has been outlawed in restaurants—but the NYC Department of Health also allows for 0.5 grams per serving.

The ban in New York City restaurants does not apply to sealed packages, such as crackers, made with shortening or partially hydrogenated oil.

Why are trans fats bad? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Trans fat raises your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol.”

via Propylene Glycol and Tea? 8 Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Were Eating » The Epoch Times

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