Organic Food from China: Widespread Fraud

Buy your organic food from local sources whenever you can. Why? Read below.

Link: Organic, With Pesticides, BusinessWeek

…for years now, Chinese farmers have fed soaring global demand for organic foods. China’s organic exports totaled $350 million in 2005 (the most recent data available)—up from $150 million the previous year—according to China’s largest organic food certification agency. The country now represents 5% of global trade in such products, up to this level today from 1.2% in 2004. And that share is bound to grow as more land is converted to chemical-free farming. China now ranks third worldwide in organic farmland, after Australia and Argentina, up from 45th in 2000.

Organic produce from China isn’t turning up at supermarkets stateside just yet. Organic vegetables and fruits don’t travel well, so most of China’s organic produce is shipped to closer markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. But organic soybeans, rice, and other grains, along with frozen vegetables and fruit concentrate from China are all making their way into processed organic foods that wind up on store shelves in the U.S., food brokers say. U.S. government agencies don’t collect data on the value or country of origin of organic food imports.

In light of the recent toothpaste and medicine scandals, Americans might rightly wonder what passes for organic in China. While falsely labeled organic foods are a problem all over the world, in China the situation is murkier than just about anywhere. Not only are there two rival clean-food standards, Green Food and Organic Food, backed by different government ministries, there also 21 separate agencies that claim the right to certify food as organic.

Even some global heavyweights have been duped. Wal-Mart (WMT) began several years ago procuring organic produce from a large-scale "organic" farm near Beijing to sell in Supercenter branches around China. Last year, Wal-Mart had to pull the produce from its Chinese stores after a surprise inspection revealed that the supplier was selling vegetables treated with pesticides.

Still, some unscrupulous companies in China clearly have tried to con their way into the U.S. market. Haobao Certified Organic Farm cultivates vegetables and raises chicken, cows, and sheep on a small farm in Yunnan province. OFDC-certified Haobao supplies the Parkson and Trust-Mart supermarket chains in Kunming with organic vegetables and recently signed on to supply Wal-Mart supercenters.

Founder Ming Yi says he was once approached by a farm in northeastern China that exports vegetables to the U.S. under the Ministry of Agriculture-backed Green Food standard, which is less stringent than organic. The outfit wanted to buy 10 kilos of Haobao’s produce and submit it to the OFDC for inspection as if it were its own.

Food for Thought

Link: The Cat’s Meow’s Inspirational

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."
         
— Albert Einstein

"Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe."
          — Buckminister Fuller

"Those that set in motion the forces of evil cannot always control them afterwards."
          — Charles W. Chestnutt

"Don’t let us make imaginary evils, when you know we have so many real ones to encounter."
          — Oliver Goldsmith

"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty."
         — Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
          — Teddy Roosevelt

Bamboo: Versatile, Sustainable, and Ecological

Be careful planting bamboo — my wife the gardener warns that bamboo can be very invasive. Bamboo expert Kathryn Grace says that clumping bamboos pretty much stay put, so if you want a contained bamboo garden, choose a clumping variety.

Link: Realizing Ordinary by Kathryn Grace

bambooUsed worldwide for food, medicine, clothing, furniture, housing, bicycles, weapons, boats, packaging, kitchen and household utensils, bamboo is the eco-wonder of the world.

Stronger than hardwood, and touted as the fastest growing plant on the planet (some species grow 1-3 feet a day), bamboo is a highly renewable resource. Resilient and persistent, bamboo is reported to have survived the bombing of Hirsohima, according to the Florida Caribbean Chapter of the American Bamboo Society.

But that's not all. Bamboo consumes carbon dioxide and soil toxins and returns 30 percent more oxygen to the atmosphere than trees. Because of its rapid growth and root structure, it can stabilize soil destroyed by overgrazing and over-building.

And if all that weren't enough, bamboo is just plain beautiful.

Read more at Realizing Ordinary

11-year old Starts Recycling Business

An 11-year old green entrepreneur — some good news from Virginia.

Link: Galax Gazette – Galax, VA

HILLSVILLE – One of Carroll County’s youngest entrepreneurs, an 11-year-old recycler, received recognition from local government officials Tuesday.

Typically, businesses owners recognized by the Carroll Board of Supervisors have more longevity than 11-year-old T.J. Stroupe, who collects old cell phones and printer cartridges from about 73 businesses and government offices in the Twin Counties for recycling.

T.J.’s mother, Tina, gave him a recycling startup kit for his 11th birthday, which fulfilled his dream of owning his own business, a dream he’s had since he was age 7.

Stroupe has said he would use the money he makes from recycling the e-scrap on his home schooling education and saving up for an acre of land that he and his mother could live on.

Instead of throwing away cell phone and ink cartridges, so they end up in the landfill, Stroupe has convinced more than 70 businesses to turn over their old items to him.

“It’s kinda tellin’ other people, ‘Hey, don’t just throw them away – you can give them to me,’” he said recently. “Every year people throw millions and millions of these things away.”

Cell phone batteries leak in the landfill making them “dangerous to the earth,” Stroupe said.

The recycling business has at least encouraged people to think about what they throw away.

A web site for his company has been posted at http://tjsrecycling.com.

via Journey Reflection

Nuclear Power Is Clean Energy?

Rebecca Solnit at Orion magazine describes some problems with nuclear energy that you won’t hear on TV.

Link: Nuclear Power the Solution to Climate Change? | Rebecca Solnit | Orion magazine.

…when it comes to the mining of uranium, which mostly takes place on indigenous lands from northern Canada to central Australia, you need to picture fossil-fuel-intensive carbon-emitting vehicles, and lots of them—big disgusting diesel-belching ones. But that’s the least of it. The Navajo are fighting right now to prevent uranium mining from resuming on their land, which was severely contaminated by the postwar uranium boom of the 1940s and 1950s. The miners got lung cancer. The children in the area got birth defects and a 1,500 percent increase in ovarian and testicular cancer. And the slag heaps and contaminated pools that were left behind will be radioactive for millennia.

If these facts haven’t dissuaded this person sitting next to you, try telling him or her that most mined uranium—about 99.28 percent—is fairly low-radiation uranium-238, which is still a highly toxic heavy metal. To make nuclear fuel, the ore must be “enriched,” an energy-intensive process that increases the .72 percent of highly fissionable, highly radioactive U-235 up to 3 to 5 percent. As Chip points out, four dirty-coal-fired plants were operated in Kentucky just to operate two uranium enrichment plants. What’s left over is a huge quantity of U-238, known as depleted uranium, which the U.S. government classifies as low-level nuclear waste, except when it uses the stuff to make armoring and projectiles that are the source of so much contamination in Iraq from our first war there, and our second.

Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel was supposed to be one alternative to lots and lots of mining forever and forever. The biggest experiment in reprocessing was at Sellafield in Britain. In 2005, after decades of contamination and leaks and general spewing of horrible matter into the ocean, air, and land around the reprocessing plant, Sellafield was shut down because a bigger-than-usual leak of fuel dissolved in nitric acid—some tens of thousands of gallons—was discovered. It contained enough plutonium to make about twenty nuclear bombs. Gentle reader, this has always been one of the prime problems of nuclear energy: the same general processes that produce fuel for power can produce it for bombs. In India. Or Pakistan. Or Iran. The waste from nuclear plants is now the subject of much fretting about terrorists obtaining it for dirty bombs—and with a few hundred thousand tons of high-level waste in the form of spent fuel and a whole lot more low-level waste in the U.S. alone, there’s plenty to go around.

Bottom line:

…every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle is murderously filthy, imparting long-lasting contamination on an epic scale; that a certain degree of radioactive pollution is standard at each of these stages, but the accidents are now so many in number that they have to be factored in as part of the environmental cost; that the plants themselves generate lots of radioactive waste, which we still don’t know what to do with—because the stuff is deadly . . . anywhere . . . and almost forever.

via Dave Pollard

Karmic Boomerang

We reap what we sow….

Link: GreenBiz News | E-Waste Could Return to Haunt Us.

Some of the toxic jewelry imported from China could made from U.S. electronic waste, recent research suggests.

Ashland University Professor Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer plans to publish two papers in the journal Chemosphere detailing his analysis of jewelry pieces, most of which were imported from China.

He found that some of the samples were composed of lead, tin and copper and concluded that they could have been made from scrap electronic solders from electronic waste and old car batteries. The U.S., he contends, is a likely source of these materials.

"Unfortunately, this appears to be a case of us reaping what we have sown," Weidenhamer said in a statement released Tuesday. "Recent news paints a picture that China is exporting all kinds of horrors to us, yet our research suggests that we are part of a circle of poison – with our own hazardous waste not only harming the Chinese, but also being recycled into products coming back to harm our children."