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The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, offers North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products.

MISSIONSoybeans Growing
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices.

Our shared belief is that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms.

The Non-GMO Project works in several different capacities to ensure the availability of non-GMO products and to help support informed choice. We offer North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products. We also work to educate consumers and the food industry to help build awareness about GMOs and their impact on our health and food systems. One of the inherent risks of genetically modified crops and food items is that they contaminate non-GMO crops and foods through cross-pollination and/or contamination; so we also work with food manufacturers, distributors, growers, and seed suppliers to develop a standard for detection of GMOs and for the reduction of contamination risk of the non-GMO food supply with GMOs.

The Project began as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers who were interested in providing their customers with more information regarding the GMO risk of their products. As the Project evolved, it became clear that in order for the initial vision of standardized labeling to be possible, a 3rd party verification program was needed that would identify products compliant with a uniform, consensus-based definition of non-GMO. With the help of technical consultants FoodChain Global Advisors, and fueled by the passion of a dynamic array of industry leaders, the Non-GMO Project has successfully created a collaborative non-GMO verification program that began enrolling products in the fall of 2008. Working at every level of the supply chain, all the way back to the seeds, the Project’s role is to inspire and ensure viable non-GMO alternatives long into the future.

Read more about our history.


Why Twinkies Are Cheaper than Carrots from

Why are Twinkies cheaper than carrots? Because we as taxpayers have already paid for the ingredients!

As we move into 2012, the subject of the Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies will again come to the fore. Here’s a great video that makes the case against what has become the cash “cow” of the Big Ag world. We as taxpayers are paying for these subsidies, making these ingredients artificially cheap. About one third of the billions in farm subsidy funds go to corn alone, which is why high-fructose corn syrup is in almost any processed food we eat.

There is an additional cost to the present form of Ag subsidies: healthcare costs. Watch the video and find out more.

Visit to find out how you can take action to help defeat these subsidies.


Written by Jill Ettinger from 

Most of us consider ourselves to be kind and compassionate, and rightfully so. Humans possess a great capacity for empathy and love; and we rely on support systems of family and friends to not only help us in our times of need, but also to bring us joy and pleasure, love and happiness. For some of us, dogs and cats fit into this discussion; they are as much family members as they are companions. But hidden from our sight are the more than 10 billion animals raised and killed for food every year just in the U.S. Instead, we view cows as burgers or ice cream, pigs as ribs and bacon, chickens as nuggets, wings or eggs.

But if we could see the suffering endured by animals in the name of faster-cheaper-processed foods, we might demand better treatment, or opt out of the system entirely. Can you imagine a world where the harsh treatment of animals happened in the public eye? Could you still stomach a bite of these 7 cruelest foods?

While there is an immense variety of animals consumed around the world, these make up some of the largest animal populations to suffer in the name of the human appetite.

1.Foie Gras: This paté made from goose or duck liver is a French delicacy that has also recently become popular in the U.S. But in order to create this fatty liver spread, birds are forced to live with steel pipes rammed down their throats several times a day with excessive amounts of grain and fat pumped in so their livers bloat. Many of the animals cannot stand because of their swollen liver; they suffer injuries, tear out their own feathers and cannibalize each other from the stress. Opt instead for lentil-walnut paté, hummus or white bean puree.

2. Shark Fins: Regarded as a royal delicacy since the Ming Dynasty, shark fins have become increasingly more popular as more and more Chinese have disposable incomes. The industry has boomed to an estimated 75 million sharks killed each year, threatening the future of several important species. And the act of acquiring the fins is uncommonly cruel: After catching the sharks, their fins are cut off, rendering the great fish incapable of swimming. The mutliated bodies are then tossed back into the ocean where they bleed to death, drown or are eaten by other animals. Besides status, shark fins add little else to soups, so opt instead for a great soup loaded with veggies and herbs.

3. Veal: Because the dairy industry requires cows to be constantly pregnant in order to produce milk, that means there are lots of newborn baby cows taken from their mothers and forced into veal stalls, so tiny they cannot turn around. These intelligent and kind creatures live in darkness while their muscles atrophy from lack of exercise. After as many as five months in these conditions, they endure a traumatic truck ride to slaughter where many are trampled because they’re too weak to stand. Opt instead for seitan or tempeh.

4. Eggs: The majority of eggs come from nearly 300 million chickens living in what are called battery cages. Roughly just 18 by 20 inches, these cages will typically hold between 5 to 10 birds. The normal wingspan of the intelligent, curious and playful bird is 32 inches, which means they never experience spreading their wings while in captivity. The stress leads them to episodes of fighting and cannibalism, and they also often endure major injuries and illnesses. Opt instead for organic tofu omelets, use chia or flax seed gel for baking, or secure a super small-scale local source of free-range, organic eggs that you can verify are sourced humanely.

5. Pork: Any dog lover knows that they’re intelligent, curious and emotional creatures. Pigs have shown to be even more intelligent than dogs, but because we see them as food, we dismiss their personalities and force them into unimaginable suffering. Mother pigs live in what are called gestation crates, which are so small they cannot even turn around, or in some cases even completely stand. Constantly impregnated until their bodies give out, their newborn piglets are taken away from loving mothers after just the bare minimum of nursing. Without pain relief, tails are docked, male pigs are castrated and sharp teeth are broken off with pliers. Opt instead for plant proteins like beans, lentils and nuts, tempeh bacon and Tofurky sausage.

6. Dairy: We think of milk as the most wholesome food there is; however, the secret behind the dairy industry is anything but. In order to produce milk, mammals must be pregnant, so cows are constantly and forcefully inseminated. Their young babies are taken away and many become veal. The majority of cows are not milked by hand; they’re tethered to harsh mechanical machines that often infect their udders and cause great pain. Opt instead for coconut, almond or rice milks, or source from a vetted small-scale local organic dairy producer that treats their cows ethically.

7. Lobster: Considered a staple indulgence for seafood lovers, these intelligent and social creatures can live to be 100 years old if they’re not one of the 20 million killed each year for food. A captured lobster forced into a tank can suffer a great deal of stress, and their complex nervous systems are very sensitive to pain. Whether being cut open while alive or dropped into a scalding pot of hot water, lobsters captured for food rarely live out their remaining days free from suffering. Opt instead for fungus—like the lobster mushroom—which is meaty and buttery with a slight hint of seafood.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger


Image: Tambako the Jaguar


Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label — A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle

Find out which major national brands, produced by giant corporate agribusiness, but hiding behind the façade of familiar “green” names (Mothers, Kashi, Peace Cereal, etc.), are romancing their “natural” labels while force-feeding their customers pesticide-contaminated grains and Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms.

Watch the YouTube video, linked above.

Find the full story and report on 

by Claire Suddath

If you eat meat, the odds are high that you’ve enjoyed a meal made from an animal raised on a factory farm (also known as a CAFO). According to the USDA, 2% of U.S. livestock facilities raise an estimated 40% of all farm animals. This means that pigs, chickens and cows are concentrated in a small number of very large farms. But even if you’re a vegetarian, the health and environmental repercussions of these facilities may affect you. In his book Animal Factory, journalist David Kirby explores the problems of factory farms, from untreated animal waste to polluted waterways. Kirby talks to TIME about large-scale industrial farming, the lack of government oversight and the terrible fate of a North Carolina river.

What exactly is a factory farm?
The industrial model for animal food production first started with the poultry industry. In the 1930s and ’40s, large companies got into the farming business. The companies hire farmers to grow the animals for them. The farmers typically don’t own the animals — the companies do. It’s almost like a sharecropping system. The company tells them exactly how to build the farm, what to grow and what to feed. They manage everything right down to what temperature the barn should be and what day the animals are going to be picked up for slaughter. The farmer can’t even eat his or her own animals. People who grow chickens for Perdue in Maryland have to go down to the market and buy Perdue at the store.

We collectively refer to these facilities as factory farms, but that’s not an official name. The government designation is CAFO, which stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Basically, it’s any farm that has 1,000 animal units or more. A beef cow is an animal unit. These animals are kept in pens their entire lives. They’re never outside. They never breathe fresh air. They never see the sun.

What are the health and environmental hazards of CAFOs?
For one, you’re often no longer feeding animals what they’re genetically designed to eat. CAFO cows eat a diet of milled grains, corn and soybeans, when they are supposed to eat grass. The food isn’t natural because they very often put growth hormones and antibiotics in it. That becomes a problem when you put that manure on the ground.

And the fact that there are thousands of animals packed into one farm is also a problem.
Oh, definitely. There are simply too many animals in too small of a place. In a traditional farm, a sustainable farm, you grow both crops and animals. There is a pasture, and you have a certain number of animals per acre. But when you have 2,000 cows per acre instead of two, you have a problem. You can’t fit them in a pasture — you fit them in a building. You can’t grow enough crops to feed them — you have to ship in their feed. You don’t have enough land to absorb their waste. It has nowhere to go.

So what happens to it?
The manure is liquefied. It gets flushed out into an open lagoon, where it is stored until farmers can use it on what few crops they do grow. There’s just so much of it, though. I’ve seen it sprayed into waterways and creeks. These lagoons filled with waste have been known to seep, leak, rupture and overtop. This stuff is untreated, by the way. We would never allow big, open cesspools of untreated human waste to just sit out on the ground near people’s homes and schools. And yet because it’s agriculture, the rules are different.

You write at length about North Carolina’s Neuse River. What happened there?
Hundreds of massive pig farms came into North Carolina in the 1990s. In Animal Factory, I tell the story of Rick Dove, a former Marine who retired and bought a fishing boat. One day he noticed the fish were dying in really weird ways. First there were the algae blooms. Algae creates oxygen during the day through photosynthesis and expels carbon dioxide at night. When that happens, there’s literally no oxygen in the water. Everything comes crawling up to the shore in the shallowest part of the river, trying to pump water through their gills. By the morning, they’re all dead. Everything — shrimp, crab, little fish called menhaden, eels, bass. People call it a “fish jubilee,” ’cause they can just wade into the river and pick up free food.

Soon after this started happening, Rick Dove noticed the menhaden fish were developing round red circles on their flanks. They’d go into what was called a “death spiral.” They just start swimming into little circles and just die. Nobody knew what was causing this. Pretty soon after that, the fishermen, including Rick and his son, noticed they were getting round red sores on their skin in the parts that touched the water. Then they’d get very disoriented. Fishermen would forget where they lived or where they’d docked their boats. Rick started to do some research. One day he read in a science magazine about pfiesteria, this very odd plankton that emits toxins that stun a fish so it can suck the fish’s blood. That’s what the lesions were. But the toxin also gets in the air, and that’s why fishermen were getting disoriented.

Rick wanted to know the source of this problem, so he went up in an airplane. That’s how I open Animal Factory, with him looking down at these massive pig farms. Sometimes you can even see the waste runoff going directly going into the water. Other times they’re out there spraying night and day because nobody is watching them. You can’t see this from the road. There are very few inspectors, and they’re not going to go out there and monitor everyone.

People probably assume this kind of stuff is regulated, but it’s not. Or at least not enough. What should the government be doing?
A lot of the laws are on the state and county level, so it depends on the political will and political culture of the individual state. That doesn’t mean Democrat or Republican. That means agriculture state vs. a state with not a lot of agriculture. What kind of laws have agriculture-friendly states passed? Some states say that if a company spills its manure, it doesn’t have to pay to clean it up. The taxpayers pay. If you try to pass pollution standards, the industry complains that they’re already too heavily regulated. They claim that if you force them to reduce how much they pollute, they’re not going to be able to operate. They’re essentially saying they can only make money by polluting and breaking the law. That should be unacceptable to everybody.

You spent three years reporting this story. What stands out?
One time I visited a pig farm, a regular farm — not a factory farm — in Illinois. Right across the street was a hog CAFO. The owner didn’t live there, of course. There’s no farm house on a factory farm, just business offices. At night, all the workers would leave, and all I’d hear as I was trying to fall asleep was the sound of the pigs fighting each other, biting each other, squealing, screeching all night long. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before in my life, and it just didn’t stop. It sounded like kids being tortured over there. I’ll never forget that sound. It was very sad.

Read more:,8599,1983981,00.html#ixzz1SMu1NAMb

In the debate over vaccines and children, it can be hard to know what to do. Here, we show you what to consider when weighing the options for your child.

By Cynthia Ramnarace

Parents make decisions for their children every day, ranging in importance from what to bring for snack time (applesauce vs. banana) to what preschool they should attend (Montessori vs. Waldorf). But lately, no topic has been the focus of as much heated discussion—among parents, physicians and the media—as the debate over whether to immunize children, on what schedule and with what vaccines.

Although the federal government recommends one standard immunization schedule for all children, concerns over the safety of vaccines have more and more families questioning the national standard and instead opting either to vaccinate on their own schedules or avoid any inoculation at all. Physicians and parents alike are divided on this issue. Supporters of the government-approved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approach to vaccines call anything that diverges from that protocol irresponsible. But skeptics say there simply isn’t enough research to prove that vaccines are safe. Ultimately the decision falls on the parents, who may choose the standard path of immunization, follow a delayed vaccination schedule or opt out entirely.

Dr. Gary Freed, chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, wholeheartedly supports the CDC’s recommended inoculation schedule. “Vaccines have prevented hundreds of thousands of cases of life-threatening diseases that parents simply do not have to worry about anymore,” Dr. Freed says. The irrefutable evidence that vaccination works is indeed hard to deny. Since the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in 2000, the U.S. meningitis rate has plummeted 78% in those under age five, saving an estimated 9,800 lives. Polio, a disease that struck fear in the hearts of our grandparents, now only appears in third-world countries.

Because the diseases that vaccines protect against are most dangerous in infancy and early childhood, Dr. Freed also disagrees with delaying a child’s shots. In regard to the argument that infants’ immune systems are too fragile to handle vaccination, he cites a lack of evidence that their bodies are overwhelmed. “It is worse for their immune systems if they contract polio or meningitis,” he says.

On the other hand, some parents fear that by agreeing to a vaccination, they are subsequently injuring their children. Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatrician and a producer of the DVD Vaccinations: Assessing the Risks and Benefits, advises parents to wait until children are at least one or two years old before allowing them to be inoculated. According to him, only one shot—DTaP for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis—is truly necessary at all, because pertussis, or whooping cough, can be devastating in infants and children.

The serious nature of many vaccines’ potential side effects is reason enough to delay or even avoid vaccination, Dr. Gordon says. The heavily researched link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) shot has received a lot of attention lately. Theories started flying in 1998, when a British researcher linked 12 cases of autism in children to intestinal inflammation that might have been triggered by the measles component of the MMR vaccine. Since then, some researchers and many vocal parents have theorized that something in the measles vaccine, likely when combined with some as-yet-unknown environmental or genetic factor, triggers intestinal inflammation which leads to the brain inflammation that may be the culprit in autism. The CDC, which has extensively studied this debate, states that no relationship has ever been found between the two. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine have also refuted any direct link.

In fact, the CDC believes that unnecessary concern about a link between MMR and autism is putting the population at risk. Earlier this year 64 people were sickened with measles, and 14 of them were hospitalized. Nearly all of them were unvaccinated, including 13 infants under age one who were too young to receive the vaccine. This outbreak highlights the concern presented by falling MMR vaccination rates: An unvaccinated public puts those most vulnerable to the disease’s ill effects at risk, namely infants and those with compromised immune systems.

Still, uncertainty about vaccination abounds in both parents and physicians. Until a definitive cause for autism is discovered, medical professionals like Dr. Gordon have decided to proceed with caution. “If there is a family history of autism, I don’t want to vaccinate,” he says. “The same goes for a history of diabetes or arthritis. When there is a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease, leave the immune system alone at least for a while, and maybe leave it alone forever, to let it develop naturally.”

In addition to the autism/MMR debate, questions have recently arisen regarding the possible effects of additives such as aluminum and formaldehyde in vaccines. Many shots contain aluminum, including the vaccines against haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) and hepatitis A. Some argue these levels of aluminum could be toxic. Formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen in its inhaled form, is used as a preservative in the polio and hepatitis B shots, albeit in trace amounts.

In the vaccination debate, one thing on which parents and physicians do agree is the need for more research. Not only is the possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism still up in the air, but risks presented by vaccine additives have not undergone sufficient scrutiny. Longitudinal studies involving thousands of children, with control groups of unvaccinated children, have not taken place. Because of all this, researchers still know relatively little about vaccinations’ possible negative effects.

Here, we profile three families who have taken different courses of action: the government-recommended vaccination schedule, a modified vaccination schedule and no vaccinations at all.

Vaccinating as Recommended
Jessica Williams grew up the ultimate granola girl. Her food was organic, her remedies herbal, and nothing short of a broken bone would warrant a doctor’s visit. As a child, she received no vaccines until entering elementary school.

Williams still subscribes to many of the values her mother instilled in her. But when the time came to decide whether or not to vaccinate her own children, Williams and her husband opted to follow the federal guidelines to the letter. “We did a hailstorm of research and put our pediatrician under the microscope,” Williams says. “We felt that the likelihood of something going wrong was slim and that it was an infinitesimally small risk to take for the protection we hope vaccination gives.”

Both five-year-old Joaquin and one-year-old Amaya have received all their scheduled vaccines but one. They skipped the hepatitis B shot, which they will receive closer to the teen years when they are more at risk. Williams and her husband believe this approach not only benefits their kids, but the public at large. “If all children are vaccinated, then it will help prevent the resurgence of things like polio,” she says.

To minimize the risk of vaccinations, Williams ensures her children only receive the bare minimum of shots at once. In addition, all the vaccines they do receive, including influenza, are thimerosol-free and therefore lack potentially toxic mercury preservatives.

Williams says both her children are healthy and she feels confident the decision she made was the best one for their overall well-being. “If there is anything I can do to try to protect my kids, I want to do it.”

Following a Delayed Schedule
When Megan Tietz first became a mother, she took a “doctor knows best” approach to her daughter Dacey’s vaccination. So up until her first birthday, Dacey received all vaccines as recommended by the CDC.

But when her pediatrician started talking about the MMR shot, Tietz got skittish. Her youngest sister has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum, and in the 1980s her family was part of a successful class-action lawsuit blaming a bad batch of MMR for her sister’s disabilities. Tietz worried that the MMR vaccine could also negatively affect her daughter.

After researching and discussing the issue with her husband and her father, who has a master’s in public health and (despite his daughter’s Asperger’s) is a vaccine advocate, Tietz adopted a delayed vaccination schedule based on Stephanie Cave’s book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations. “I am highly suspicious and concerned about the schedules they put together,” says Tietz. “Your pediatrician won’t tell you there is another way to do vaccines—I had to decide for myself what was best.”

Dacey received the MMR shot at 15 months instead of 12. Tietz’s second child, Aliza Joy, never received the hepatitis B vaccine, and rather than having her first round of shots at two months, she was four months old for her first inoculations—Hib and polio. Because DTaP is a three-in-one vaccination for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, that shot is never given at the same time as any others to avoid taxing the child’s immune system. For the MMR shot, Tietz has found a manufacturer that offers it as three separate shots, and she plans to hold off on the measles portion until Aliza Joy turns three.

“I do believe that vaccines are an important issue in terms of public health,” Tietz says. “I just do not think we have to put all of this in these tiny babies at the same time.”

Going Vaccine-Free
Dr. Nancy Massotto is a confessed research junkie. She has two master’s degrees and a Ph.D., plus she is the executive director of the Holistic Moms Network, a group for families devoted to healthy lifestyles. When she became pregnant with her first son seven years ago, she read every book she could find in order to make sure he arrived as healthy as possible.

As part of that research, Dr. Massotto studied up on childhood vaccination. Even before Michael was born, she and her husband decided to follow a delayed vaccination schedule. While many different delayed-vaccination options exist, for the Massottos this meant following their own schedule in order to avoid overloading Michael’s brand-new immune system with the large number of vaccines recommended for infants by the CDC.

So Michael passed his first birthday without receiving a single shot. Then, at 18 months, he showed signs of severe environmental and food allergies. Considering that the flu vaccine contains chicken eggs and that gelatin is found in certain brands of MMR, chicken pox and DTaP vaccines, the Massottos believe that by opting out of vaccines they saved their son from exposure to potentially dangerous allergens.

Since so much is still unknown about inoculation, the Massottos have decided against vaccinating both Michael and their two-year-old son, Dominic. Because they live in New Jersey, they were able to obtain a religious exemption for school-required immunization. Religious exemptions are provided in all states except Mississippi and Virginia. Every state allows for a medical exemption. Philosophical exemptions, the most lenient type, are available in 18 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. To find the law in your state, visit the National Vaccine Information Center at

Massotto is glad such exemptions exist because it empowers parents to make the choice they think is best for their children. If vaccine manufacturers could guarantee their inoculations had no side effects, families could stop belaboring the issue, Dr. Massotto says. But until they know more, she believes parents should stay vigilant.

“You should not have to vaccinate out of fear, and you should not have to refuse out of fear,” Dr. Massotto says. “You should become educated, weigh the pros and cons for your family and make the decision that works for you.”

What Should You Do?
As it stands, parents must weigh the evidence themselves and make their own decisions. Do your research. Ask questions. And, as so many parents say, follow your instincts.

Ever wonder if the organic-labeled milk you’re drinking is really organic? If you purchased it at Target, it might not be. The Cornucopia Institute, a food and agriculture watchdog group, announced Tuesday that it has filed formal complaints with USDA’s organic program accusing Target Corporation of organic food fraud. And in the midst of HuffPost’s No Impact Week no less! From the group’s press release:

The complaints are the latest salvo into a growing controversy whereas corporate agribusiness and major retailers have been accused of blurring the line between “natural” products and food that has been grown, processed and properly certified organic under tight federal standards.

“Major food processors have recognized the meteoric rise of the organic industry, and profit potential, and want to create what is in essence ‘organic light,’ taking advantage of the market cachet but not being willing to do the heavy lifting required to earn the valuable USDA organic seal,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia.

The Wisconsin-based farm policy research group discovered Target nationally advertised Silk soymilk in newspapers with the term “organic” pictured on the carton’s label, when in fact the manufacturer, Dean Foods, had quietly shifted their products away from organics.

This is not the first time Target has been tainted by such accusations. In September 2007, the USDA threatened to revoke the organic status of Aurora Organic Dairy, a Colorado farm that supplies Target, and other stores, with milk.

This has been a big season for organic outrage — after Whole Foods CEO John Mackey declared his store sells “a bunch of junk,” he penned a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed attacking Obama’s health care plan which resulted in activist outrage and a series of boycotts.

The Huffington Post | Lila Shapiro

Americans assume that chemicals used to make ordinary products are tested for safety and health impacts — but they are not. With each new scientific report linking toxic chemical exposure to a serious health problem, it becomes more obvious that the law intended to keep harmful chemicals in check — the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 — is not working.

Congress continues to delay taking action, but increasingly, states are passing new laws to phase out or restrict chemicals that threaten children’s health. In fact, in the last eight years, both the number of state chemical laws and the number of states passing toxic chemical reforms have tripled.

SAFER States and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, have released a new report – Healthy States: Protecting Families from Toxic Chemicals While Congress Lags Behind-that highlights 18 states that have passed 71 chemical safety laws in the last eight years by an overwhelming margin with broad bipartisan support.

Among other things, the report also cites memorable remarks of support, like this one from Bob Sump, Washington State Representative (R), in his House floor speech on final passage of the Children’s Safe Products Act, February 18, 2008:

“Voting against this bill is like voting against brakes on a school bus.”

State laws targeting specific chemicals and products that threaten children’s health received the greatest attention and support. Sixty-six laws banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby and toddler products (with 98% support), phased out toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) in home products (93%), reduced children’s exposure from common products containing lead (88%) and cadmium (86%), and promoted green cleaning (88%).

The report release marks the failure of the 111th Congress to pass pending legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) in the face of relentless, well-funded opposition from the chemical industry.

“The states will continue to respond to public demand for safer products that won’t harm their family’s health,” said Sarah Doll, National Coordinator of SAFER States. “We expect to see legislation to restrict toxic chemicals in products proposed in as many as 25 states next year.”

Do you live in one of the 18 states that has taken action to protect children’s health from toxic exposures? Isn’t it time it was the status quo?

By Janelle Sorensen

Read more:

Life has improved significantly since 1975, the year Captain & Tennille topped the charts and super-curly perms and pantsuits were everywhere. The US has made tremendous advances in scientific research and medicine (and, as many would argue, in fashion and music, too).

What hasn’t improved, however, is children’s health. Kids under age 18 are unhealthier than they were 35 years ago, reports the Foundation for Child Development in New York City. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades. Twenty-five percent of kids under 5 years old are now at risk for developmental and behavioral problems, while one in five children already suffers from a mental health problem—such as autism or bipolar disorder—that interferes with day-to-day functioning. What’s more, one in two kids now struggles with a chronic illness such as asthma or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Doctors would have us believe Americans have the best health in the world, but take a good look at the facts,” says Jared Skowron, ND, a naturopath in Wallingford, Connecticut, and author of Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics (CCNM Press, 2009). “Thirty-three percent of children between the ages of 15 and 18 are obese—that’s the most of any industrialized country. How bad do things need to get before we stop, stand up, and fight for what is right?”

As the mom of two preschoolers who face modern dangers, I’m planning to make my children healthier by adopting these simple solutions, provided by Skowron and other natural-health experts.

Pitfall #1: Too much technology
Thanks to feel-good advertisements with peppy music, we can’t help but believe that high-tech devices are good for us. But US kids are now plugged into screens, such as computers, video games, and TVs, for an astonishing average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, reports a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The study also found that 47 percent of kids who are heavy media users don’t do well academically; a separate report recently published in Psychological Science found that young boys who own video-game systems perform worse in school than boys who don’t play video games. And a new Iowa State University study, which analyzed 130 research reports on more than 130,000 subjects worldwide, found conclusive evidence that playing violent video games makes kids more aggressive. Even “safe” media such as educational websites can have harmful effects on socialization and creative development, says Rita Bettenburg, ND, dean of naturopathic medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine. “Watching flashing lights on-screen is passive learning, and it influences neurological patterning for the rest of kids’ lives,” she says. “They’re unable to process information in the most effective way.”

SOLUTION: Create boundaries
Computers aren’t all bad. They can be useful teaching tools, as can certain television programs—and some video games even encourage creativity and physical fitness. Plus, completely unplugging kids from the gadgets their friends use can lead to social isolation and give these items a “forbidden” quality that makes screen time even more appealing. The key is putting these tools back in the box when they’re finished, Skowron says. Encourage other hobbies such as playing music, drawing, or taking photos. Limit all electronics time to less than two hours daily, says Kathi Kemper, MD, author of Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010). TVs should be kept out of kids’ rooms and turned off when the family is eating. Finally, Bettenburg suggests, spend time with your kids when they are watching TV, going online, or playing video games—and then bring out a book to read together or a soccer ball to kick around as a family.

Pitfall #2: Processed foods
Consider that, thanks in part to the fat in processed foods, 24 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls now have high cholesterol, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fast-releasing carbs in processed foods can also cause sugar cravings and increase the risk of weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, explains Patrick Holford, a British nutritionist and author of Optimum Nutrition for Your Child (Piatkus Books, 2010). What’s more, sugar cravings are associated with delinquency and behavior problems such as ADHD. And several studies, including one published in the journal The Lancet in 2007, link artificial food colorings to hyperactive behavior. “Processed foods also have fewer essential fats and B vitamins and less zinc, vital for brain function and intellectual development,” Holford says.

SOLUTION: Get real

Buy real food instead of packaged food products. Wheel your grocery cart around the perimeter of the store, selecting fresh items like wild-caught salmon, Greek yogurt, and organic fruits and vegetables. (The pesticide chlorpyrifos, used on conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, was recently linked to physical and mental developmental delays in young kids in a report published in the American Journal of Public Health.)

Don’t buy soda, and instead of serving juice at every meal and snack time, serve water (filtered at home) or diluted cherry or berry juice (high in antioxidants), Holford says. “If they want a fizzy drink, add seltzer water,” he suggests. When you do turn down the grocery store aisles, select rolled oats, granola, rice cakes, organic popcorn, and other products with the fewest possible and simplest ingredients.

By lowering kids’ sugar intake and giving them protein paired with a slow-releasing, low-glycemic-index carbohydrate, such as a handful of almonds with a plum, you’ll help them avoid developing a sweet tooth, Holford says. “With the slow-releasing carbs in the plum, you don’t get such big blood-sugar peaks or lows. The protein in almonds takes longer to digest, enabling sugar in the plums to be released gradually from the gut into the blood. And all of this leads to fewer sugar cravings.” And that benefit is worth any extra monetary or time cost. “Optimally nourished children are brighter, calmer, more adaptable, and better able to make friends,” Holford says. “And they look and feel healthier, too.”

Pitfall #3: Sedentary lifestyles
Today’s culture values test scores over recess and television’s Dora the Explorer over exploring the outdoors—and the results are profoundly troubling. A study by the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan found that kids spend half as much time outdoors today as they did in the early 1980s—50 minutes per week versus 1 hour and 40 minutes per week.
For many kids, even 50 minutes may be a stretch. A 2009 study published in Child Development found that preschoolers spend 89 percent of their day-care time doing sedentary activities. This inactivity has long-lasting effects: A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed that obesity causes late onset of puberty in boys, while New Zealand researchers discovered that kids who don’t get enough exercise have difficulty falling asleep at night. And as Richard Louv writes in Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin Books, 2005), nature-deficit disorder is preventing kids from thriving. Kids who don’t get nature time, he writes, seem more prone to obesity, depression, and attention disorders.

SOLUTION: Start moving
“Set aside a specific time of day every day to be outside,” Skowron says. The National Wildlife Federation calls this the Green Hour, an essential part of kids’ happiness and health. Ideas for Green Hour include backyard scavenger hunts, games of freeze tag, and making dandelion chains (remember those?). Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found physically fit children do better in school, so create your own physical-fitness test for children to perform, or sign up for a road race that also has a short kids’ run. Further research reveals that kids who engage in creative and active play grow up to be healthier adults and have stronger bonds with their parents. Don’t wait for sunny weather; invest in good boots and other outerwear for the family and make activity as automatic as brushing teeth. “Kids need to be running around until they drop,” Bettenburg says.

Pitfall #4: Anxiety and stress
The days when stress belonged only to adults are long gone. The American Psychological Association’s 2009 Stress in America survey found that 26 percent of kids ages 8 to 12 reported more worry than in the previous year; 30 percent of these tweens said they get headaches, and 49 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 said they have trouble sleeping due to anxiety. Lack of sleep, in turn, can trigger the high blood sugar that precedes diabetes, scientists note in a recent issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. And it’s not just the onslaught of media, war, or the rocky economy causing anxiety, Bettenburg says. It is also a result of “helicopter parenting”: moms and dads working so hard to prevent frustrations and failures that they actually deny their children valuable lessons and problem-solving skills. “Kids are stressed because they perceive themselves as powerless,” she explains. “They have no concept these days of how to solve problems, so if it’s not the way they want it, it’s scary.”

SOLUTION: Open communication
You may not know why your children are stressed, but you can do something to relieve their anxiety. “Create a nurturing, loving environment by playing outside with them or teaching them how to cook a healthy meal,” Skowron says, adding that engaging kids in a relaxing activity makes them more likely to tell you about their problems. But kids also need to learn how to fail. “Parents have been socialized to feel that they shouldn’t allow their children to feel pain,” Bettenburg explains. “Kids have to get frustrated—they need to have limits, and they need to be allowed to fail in a supported way.” So if your middle schooler flunks a math test or her team loses another soccer game, there should be no rewards or trophies. Instead, talk with her about what she can learn from the experience. Meanwhile, reduce stress by engaging in creative play and exercising regularly. Such strategies will bring about a natural calm that can help fend off kids’ everyday worries about the world at large.

By Sarah Tuff

Natural cleaners are tough on grime but gentle on your family and the planet.
By Linda Mason Hunter

Conventional cleaning products are among the most harmful items ever to hit the home. If common warning labels like “Danger,” “Hazardous” and “Caution” don’t scare you away, remember that these products redden hands, make eyes water and irritate your respiratory system during use. The problem lies in their industrial-strength ingredients—much too potent for household use. These ingredients include chlorine, benzene and optical brighteners. Chlorine is found in bleaching agents and some toilet cleaners and may contribute to reproductive, endocrine and immune-system disorders. Benzene appears in some oven cleaners and is a known carcinogen, while optical brighteners show up in laundry soap and other whitening products and can cause skin allergies. These toxic synthetic chemicals pollute indoor air, harm your family’s health, and wreak havoc on the environment.

The good news is that synthetic chemical cleaners are completely unnecessary. You can make gentler alternatives from earth-friendly ingredients, many of which you may already have in your cupboard. Eco-cleaners are worth the extra effort to protect you, your family and the environment from unnecessary toxins.

Labels 101
Not a mixologist? If you prefer to purchase cleaners instead of make your own, carefully read the labels to find the safest options. This can prove tricky because, unlike food labels, cleaning-product packaging is not required to list all ingredients. Wording, too, can easily trip you up. For example, the words nontoxic, natural and eco-friendly have no legal usage guidelines, so they mean very little on a label. Even organic means one thing when applied to food and another when applied to chemistry: organic food has been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, while organic in chemistry means an item is carbon based.

The best cleaners will have these buzz phrases on the label:

* Plant-based
* Readily biodegradable
* Concentrated
* Does not contain dyes or synthetic fragrances
* No petroleum, phosphates, chlorine or solvents

DIY Recipes
Counter Cleaner
Liquid castile soap
1/4 cup baking soda

Add enough liquid castile soap to the baking soda to make a creamy mixture. Use a sponge to clean the surface, then rinse well.

Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar
1 quart water

Dissolve baking soda and vinegar in boiling water. Pour the solution down the drain, cover with a drain plug for several minutes, then flush with hot tap water until the clog breaks.

2 quarts organic apple-cider vinegar
2 handfuls each dried lavender, rosemary, sage, rue and mint

Put apple-cider vinegar in a jar with a screw-top lid. Add lavender, rosemary, sage, rue and mint. Mix and allow to sit for at least four weeks. Strain out the herbs, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray germ-heavy places such as telephone receivers, handrails and doorknobs.

Carpet and Rug Stain Remover
Club soda

Clean up spill immediately. After you carefully lift off any solids, liberally pour on club soda and blot with an old rag until the spill is absorbed. The soda’s carbonation should bring the spill to the surface, and salts in the soda will thwart staining.

Porcelain and Tile Cleaner
Baking soda
Kosher salt

Keep bathroom surfaces clean and odor free by dusting with baking soda, then scrubbing with a moist sponge or cloth. For tougher grime, add kosher salt to the mix.


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