I was very pleased to read Jean English’s "Alternative Fibers for Paper—Tree Free in 2003?" in the June-August 1998 issue of The MOF&G. In this article she thoroughly summarizes comments from various speakers at the Alternative Paper Conference. She reported that one speaker, Jim St. Pierre, brought to the conference various throw-away paper products as classic examples of the wastefulness of the forest consuming pulp and paper industry. Among those paper products were paper napkins, towels and bathroom tissue from a grocery store.
I urge that your readers, when purchasing these products, purchase only those that are made from 100% recycled paper. Fort Howard Paper Co. uses only recycled paper in the production of its paper products and, to my understanding, does not use chlorine bleach.
Some of these products include "Marti Gras" napkins, "So Dri" towels, and "Soft N Gentle" bathroom tissue. The packaging on these products does not make any references to being made from recycled paper.
For further information about Fort Howard Paper Co. and its products, call toll-free 1-800-233-6749. I have no financial interest in this company but am a believer in buying recycled.
Paul M. Brown
What to Do With Waste Wool
What can you do with the part of the fleece that isn’t up to yarn standards? How about lining hanging wire pots with it? According to HortIdeas (June 1998), Wooly Bloomers ™ liners for hanging flower baskets are lined with sheep wool, which provides support, drainage, insulation, moisture retention and nutrition in an attractive, earth-toned needlefelt. For more information, call 419-687-9665.
Stretch the Garden Season
Seems like we often get a frost or two in September followed by a month or more of warm weather, and if we could just make it past that frost, we’d have a much longer growing season. Margaret Hagen of the Univ. of N.H. Cooperative Extension offered this advice in the N.H. Dept. of Agriculture Weekly Market Bulletin (9/24/97):
If only a small area is involved, cover such tender crops as peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. Use baskets, boxes or lath as frames, then drape the frames with plastic, cloth sheets or newspapers.
If your garden is large, a pile of lawn clippings or old straw kept nearby can be used as frost protection. When the weather forecast warns of impending frost, just shake some of the material over your sensitive crops. There is little or no wind to blow the cover off on frosty nights.
Water is one of the best ways to diminish frost damage. When a light frost is expected, apply a fine, misty spray many times during the evening and again in early morning to keep your plants wet until the temperature has risen above freezing.
During a heavy frost, as soon as the air temperature drops below freezing, the water on the plants begins to form ice—and to give off heat, which can keep plants from freezing.
As long as the spray is applied continuously, the plant remains above its freezing point.
In a small backyard garden, an ordinary sprinkler will be satisfactory. Commercial growers use larger irrigation systems. You must leave your sprinkler running until all of the ice has melted from the plants after a heavy frost.
If an unexpected frost occurs and no precautions were taken, plants can be preserved by immediately protecting them from direct sunshine, allowing them to thaw gradually.
Not all vegetables will be hurt by a light frost. Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other cool weather crops will withstand temperatures below 32 degrees. In fact, cold weather often improves their flavor. Pumpkins and winter squash can survive a frost but their storage life will be shortened. When a frost is predicted, both pumpkins and squash, if mature, should be picked, then piled and covered.
Keeping Birds Away from Grapes
Either soda bottles or flexible screening can be fashioned into barriers that protect clusters of grapes from ravenous birds, according to an article in HortIdeas (May 1998, originally published in Pomona, Spring 1998). Bill Dailey of Broomall, Penn., reported on cutting 1-liter, clear plastic seltzer bottles at the bottom of the neck, then slitting the bottles lengthwise. He poked holes in the bottom of the bottles so that condensation could escape. These were placed around the grape clusters when they were quite small, with the bottle closing and holding itself onto the cluster and nearest vine by itself.
Dave Sawyer of Millbrook, N.Y., cut fiberglass window screening into 1-foot squares, wrapped it around bunches of grapes and secured it with twist ties to foil the birds. As an additional benefit, he had no insect problems inside the screening.
Heavy Pesticide Exposure Is Neurotoxic to Children
Researchers at the Technological Institute of Sonora in Obregon, Mexico, led
by Univ. of
Arizona anthropologist Elizabeth A. Guillette, compared development in children who lived in a Yaqui Indian valley community, where pesticides were heavily used, with those in nearby Yaqui ranching villages where residents avoid using pesticides. The valley farmers applied pesticides 45 times per crop cycle and grew one or two crops per year; and families in this area sprayed household pests daily. Many children in these valley families were born with detectable levels of pesticides in their blood and received even more through breastfeeding.
Four- and five-year-olds from both areas were asked to jump up and down as long as possible, catch balls, drop raisins into bottle caps, perform memory drills, and draw pictures of people. The researchers reported in the June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives that children from the valley showed significantly less stamina, eye-hand coordination, 30-minute recall, and drawing ability than those from the cleaner environment.
Neurotoxicologist David O. Carpenter of the State University of New York at Albany was quoted in Science News (June 6, 1998) as saying, "I know of no other study that has looked at neurobehavioral impacts—cognition, memory, motor ability—in children exposed to pesticides... The implications here are quite horrendous..." The valley children showed no obvious symptoms of pesticide poisoning, yet their drawings of people, for instance, were typically mere scribbles and unidentifiable as people, while those by children from the foothills clearly had arms, legs, heads, eyes, mouths, noses, etc.
Guillette says that she thinks the kids’ exposures might be similar to those occurring in other agricultural areas, even in the United States. (Editor’s note: I know of no agricultural areas in Maine—or in most of the United States—that are treated with pesticides 45 to 90 times a year.)
Source: "Picturing Pesticides’ Impacts on Kids," by Janet Raloff, Science News, June 6, 1998.
Exports of Hazardous Pesticides from U.S. Ports Increase
Toxic pesticides that are banned or otherwise forbidden in the United States were shipped from U.S. ports at a rate of more than 14 tons per day in 1995 and 1996--a total of more than 21 million pounds—according to a new report by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). The report, based on U.S. Customs shipping records, documented that in 1995 and 1996, more than 1.2 billion pounds of pesticide products were exported.
Presently, U.S. policy allows the export of banned pesticides, as well as "never registered" pesticides—pesticides that have never been evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FASE found that approximately 9.4 million pounds of "never-registered" pesticides were exported in 1995 and 1996--a 40% increase since the period from 1992 through 1994. The United States also exported more than 28 million pounds of pesticides designated as "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization, representing a 500% increase since 1992.
Many of the pesticides shipped from U.S. ports are destined for developing countries.
"Workers in developing countries often have no idea of the concerns that exist in other countries about the pesticides they are using," said Barbara Dinham, International Projects Officer at the UK-based Pesticides Trust. "Pesticides are applied by farmers who have no protective equipment, nor access to medical facilities."
FASE pointed out that trade agreements may be creating pressure for developing countries to increase their use of outdated, inexpensive and hazardous products.
"Because of the liberalization of trade, the influx of hazardous pesticides is a very big problem," stated Dr. Grace Ohayo-Mitoko, Executive Director of Health and Environment Watch, an NGO in Nairobi, Kenya. "Because of trans-shipments, we are not able to know exactly where these chemicals are coming from. Some of the products that come from the U.S. come in through Belgium and other countries."
The report recommends changing U.S. policy to eliminate double standards of safety; prohibiting the export of banned pesticides from the United States and requiring that full data on all pesticide shipments be made available through a publicly accessible records system. FASE points out that these changes would be consistent with existing U.S. environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969, which was created to "prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man."
The entire report, "Exporting Risk: Pesticide Exports from U.S. Ports 1995-1996," is available online at www.fasenet.org or from Carl Smith, Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, 4801 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 215, Los Angeles, CA 90010; 213-937-9911; fax 213-937-7440; email email@example.com.
Source: Pesticide Action Network North America (firstname.lastname@example.org) reporting on the Sustainable Agriculture Network, May 26, 1998. To subscribe to the Sustainable Ag.
Network, email email@example.com with the command "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".
Sustainable Farming Info On-Line
The national sustainable farming information center called ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) is located at the University of Arkansas and is accessible over the Internet. At its home page (www.attra.org), visitors can learn about ATTRA operations and can obtain 12 ATTRA informational pieces featured on the website and request many others via email. The sample publications cover topics ranging from organic fruit production and producing dairy products on-farm to alternative marketing and sustainable beef production. Also listed on the homepage are sustainable agriculture organizations and publications; internships, apprenticeships and curricula in sustainable agriculture; and university programs and contacts in sustainable agriculture.
Archived issues of the quarterly ATTRAnews offer glimpses into developments at ATTRA since 1993. The website’s frequently asked questions section explains operational details about the organization.
Visitors to the website can also gain an understanding of how America’s agriculturists have put ATTRA information to use in their farming pursuits. Poultry farmer Bob Bowen of Brooksville, Maine, for instance, tells how he used ATTRA information to diversify and increase profits while running an environmentally sound farm.
The newest publications on ATTRA’s website are:
Compost Teas for Plant Disease Control & Soil Inoculation
Disease Suppressive Potting Mixes
Organic Potting Mixes
Worms for Composting
Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories
Sources for Organic Fertilizers & Amendments
Alternative Nematode Control
ATTRA’s free quarterly newsletter can be ordered by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to ATTRA, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville AR 72702 (Tel. 800-346-9140).
Biotech Is Not the Answer to the World’s Food Problems
Tom Campbell, Lecturer in Environmental Studies at Kimmage Manor, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, has listed six reasons why biotechnology, contrary to Monsanto’s and others’ promotion of their "imaginative chemistry," will not feed the world’s hungry. They are:
1. A lack of technology is not the reason for hunger; lack of access to food and to income to buy that food is. Poverty and hunger have structural causes that must be addressed.
2. The mentality of monoculture agriculture that depends heavily on engineered seeds and their associated packages of herbicides, fertilizers, irrigation systems, etc., will not be affordable to the majority of Third World farmers.
3. Biotech companies have traditionally been among the largest polluters.
4. By promoting monocultures that use reduced genetic pools, biotechnology reduces diversity. Sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, promotes multicropping.
5. Biotechnology encourages biopiracy—gaining control over local genetic resources by manipulating genes that cultures have selected for generations and patenting these genes.
This can erode local rights to biodiversity and devalue indigenous knowledge systems, possibly weakening sustainable agriculture in Third World areas.
6. Biotech research to date has benefited agriculture in the North, where farmers can afford the higher input costs, and has been aimed at consumer niche markets, such as the extended shelf life of the FlavrSavr tomato. "The world’s starving do not make good customers," says Campbell.
Campbell concludes, "A fraction of the money that has been poured into biotechnology research could have a far greater impact if it was invested in strengthening and promoting the huge variety of sustainable and alternative agriculture possibilities that already exist in the world."
Source: Sustainable Agriculture Network, May 15, 1998, submitted by Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of All Genetically Engineered Foods, 500 Wilbrod St., Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2, Tel. 613-565-8517; fax 613-565-1596. To subscribe to the Sustainable Ag. Network, email email@example.com with the command "subscribe sanet-mg-digest". For more information about Wolfson’s campaign, see http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html.
FDA Sued Over Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
By not requiring that genetically engineered foods be labeled as such, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is violating citizens’ free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to a lawsuit filed against the FDA on May 27. The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court by a coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs and was coordinated by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity and the International Center for Technology Assessment, both nonprofit organizations.
The suit also alleges that allowing genetically altered foods to be sold without testing and without labels violates the FDA’s mandate to protect public health and inform consumers about their foods. Such foods may have allergens "engineered" into them inadvertently, or previously nontoxic elements may become toxic after plants are engineered.
The suit challenges the 33 engineered whole foods—potatoes, tomatoes, soy, corn, squash and others—that are on the market today, either as whole foods or in processed foods, such as soy-based baby formulas and some brands of corn chips.
Reporting on the religious aspect of the suit, Ronnie Cummins writes: "Many Jews and Muslims need to avoid foods with substances from specific animals, while devout vegetarians want to avoid substances from any animal. Additionally, a considerable portion of the population is religiously motivated to avoid all genetically engineered foods in order to separate themselves from an enterprise they view as (a) based on anti-theistic assumptions and (b) carried out in a way that is irresponsibly and arrogantly disrupting the integrity of God’s creation." Cummins quoted Rabbi Harold White, Director of Jewish Chaplaincy and Lecturer in Theology at Georgetown University: "We must resist the irresponsible and irreversible sundering of the natural cross-breeding barriers through which genes from bacteria and animals are being permanently fused into every cell of our grains, fruits and vegetables in ignorance of the full consequences.
Since the dawn of life on earth, Divine intelligence has systematically prevented such combinations. Limited human intelligence should not rush to make them commonplace."
Source: Food Bytes, a monthly electronic newsletter published by Ronnie Cummins, Pure Food Campaign/Save Organic Standards, 860 Hwy 61, Little Marais MN 55614;
Genetically Engineered Foods—They’re Different; Oh, No They’re Not...
"One of the ironies of this issue is the contrast between the enthusiasm of food producers to claim that their biologically engineered products are different and unique when they seek to patent them, and their similar enthusiasm for claiming that they are just the same as other foods when asked to label them."
Julian Edwards, Director General of Consumers International, a network of 235 consumer organizations in 109 nations, during a speech in Ottawa, Canada, at which the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission, delegated by the GATT World Trade Organization, was trying to formulate international labeling requirements for food products. Codex ended up bowing to pressure of the United States and its closest allies to delay deciding whether all genetically engineered foods must be labeled.
Ronnie Cummins in Food Bytes #9, June 2, 1998.
Terminator Technology May Threaten Ecosystems
"Terminator Technology" is the name applied to genetic engineers’ recent manipulation that prevents crop plants from producing viable seeds. Will this trait be able to spread to wild relatives of crop plants from cultivated "terminator" plants? That is what some molecular biologists are worried about. The "infection" would occur when pollen from "terminator" plants traveled to nearby weedy relatives or to nearby food crops. The gradual spread of sterility could have a widespread, domino-like effect throughout the environment.
Source: Geri Guidetti, The Ark Institute, reported in sanet-mg-digest #372, June 11, 1998. To subscribe to Digest, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".