High Court Hears Arguments In First-ever Case on Genetically Engineered Crops

States, Scientists, Organic and Conventional Farmers, Food Companies, Exporters, and Legal Scholars File Briefs in Support, Oppose Monsanto

Today the Center for Food Safety (CFS) faces off against Monsanto in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of farmers and public interest environmental organizations. Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, 09-475. is the first case involving genetically engineered crops that has ever been heard by the Supreme Court.

All the lower courts agreed that the planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa must be stopped because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had failed to analyze the crop’s impacts on farmers and the environment. Although it remains undisputed that USDA violated environmental laws, and that it must rigorously analyze the genetically engineered crop’s impacts before deciding whether or not to approve it for sale, Monsanto is arguing that the lower courts should have allowed the planting of the illegal crop to go forward in the interim.

It was announced last week that the Center’s case has brought out an unprecedented range of interests – from farmers’ unions and food companies to scientific experts and legal scholars – which have filed briefs in support of CFS and opposed to Monsanto. The seven briefs, filed by more than sixty individuals, companies, organizations and three states’ attorneys general – can be viewed at

“Today we will have the privilege of speaking on behalf of family farmers, the environment, and the protection of an organic alternative,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The law and the facts are on our side and we look forward to presenting our case before the Court.”

The genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa seed at the heart of the dispute has been engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup. CFS filed a 2006 lawsuit against USDA on behalf of a coalition of non-profits and farmers who wished to retain the choice to plant non-GE alfalfa. Pointing to contamination incidents that have already occurred, organic and conventional farmers anticipate widespread contamination from Monsanto’s patented GE alfalfa, because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can cross-pollinate GE and conventional plants separated by several miles. Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S. and a key source of dairy forage. Similarly, contamination of feral or wild alfalfa, ubiquitous across the country, would ensure an ongoing and permanent source of transgenic pollution in wild places akin to that of invasive or exotic species.

Monsanto intervened in the case on behalf of USDA; however in 2007 the district court found in favor of CFS.. Following that, CFS won two appeals in the federal Court of Appeals, in 2008 and again in 2009. In January the Court agreed to hear the case over the opposition of both CFS and the U.S. government.

Farmers and food companies have taken note. Organic businesses and trade groups, including Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, the Organic Trade Association, Annie’s, Clif Bar, Eden Foods, United Natural Foods, and Nature’s Path Foods, voiced their deep concerns of the threat to their businesses posed by contamination from biotech crops in an amicus brief. The burgeoning $25 billion-a-year organic foods industry, the fastest growing food sector, is at particular risk from the effects of contamination. The organic industry brief warns that “widespread planting of RR (Roundup Ready) alfalfa imposes massive risk and uncertainty on the continued viability of organic dairy farming” and that overturning the lower courts would “irreparably harm” their ability to grow and sell organic food. Conventional farmers and exporters filed a similar brief, warning of lost overseas alfalfa markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East that reject biotech-contaminated crops. GE contamination of conventional rice and corn crops in the past decade have cost U.S. farmers billions in lost markets. In Canada, the introduction of GE canola destroyed the nascent organic canola industry in that country.

In addition, the Attorneys General of California, Oregon and Massachusetts, which filed a brief on behalf of their citizens supporting the Center, have emphasized the “States’ interests in protecting their natural resources and their citizens’ rights to be informed about the environmental impacts of federal actions.” They further noted “immense” ramifications for all environmental protection should Monsanto prevail, which would damage the States’ interest in “protection of wilderness, habitat preservation for endangered species, watershed protection, [and] air quality.” A range of legal scholars, former government officials, scientists, and environmental groups have also filed briefs in support of the Center and against Monsanto.

A 2009 study showed that the cultivation of genetically modified crops, the vast majority Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” varieties, has over the last 13 years caused a dramatic increase in herbicide use, by 383 million pounds, and concomitant harms to the environment and human health.

from Center For Food Safety

GMOs Alter the Genetic Make Up of Our Healthy Bacteria

Friday, April 23, 2010 by: Kim Evans, citizen journalist

(NaturalNews) Although GMOs have infiltrated our food supply, the results of human feeding trials have only been published on one single occasion. Unfortunately, that occasion offered some pretty disturbing findings. It found that the genetic code of GM soy can infiltrate the genetic code of the healthy bacteria in our guts - and change the genetic makeup of the healthy bacteria inside us. Nobody knows how these mutant bacteria will function inside us - yet given the proliferation of GM soy, most of the population probably already has them inside of them.

Mutating the genetic code of our healthy bacteria is incredibly dangerous because these healthy bacteria live inside us for a reason. They are our first line of immune defense and they keep us well by crowding out many harmful bacteria, fungus, and pathogens that cause innumerable diseases. But when their genetic structure is changed, who knows if they'll be able to do this job effectively? Who knows if they'll even be beneficial anymore? More than likely they won't.

Because GM soy transfers its genetic code into our healthy bacteria, it's possible that our own healthy bacteria will now produce abnormal GM proteins inside us for the rest of our lives. Mad cow disease is one example of a problem that abnormal proteins cause.

Proteins are created by our DNA and if you've never seen how beautifully complex our DNA functionality is, you should watch this video. Afterward, ask yourself if you trust another human being to mess around with this process.

It gets worse because other GM genes may also insert themselves into our healthy bacteria and keep replicating too - and some GM genes, like those in GM corn, are responsible for creating concentrated pesticides. It's very possible that they're also transferring this genetic programming into the formerly healthy bacteria inside you - and creating a living pesticide factory in your gut. We can only imagine the destruction this will cause, but because most diseases are created over a period of years tracing the cause may be next to impossible.

GMOs have been found to change the genetic structure of bacteria in the soil too, which provides more evidence that GM genes can easily insert themselves into bacterial genes. Earthworms have also been found to have incorporated GM genes into their cells - and who's to say this isn't happening in humans too? This is one place that those independent, long-term safety trials would have come in handy. Unfortunately, they never happened.

Unlike any historical human being, you'd be rare not to have consumed any GMOs in your lifetime. GMOs are in most processed foods and their DNA is found in most farm animals and dairy, because many animals are fed GM crops. Unless for the last fifteen years you've been vegan, haven't eaten any processed foods, haven't eaten at restaurants that use corn or canola oil, and have avoided all corn, soy and products containing them, you've almost certainly been exposed and contaminated. If you have any kind of "normal" diet, you're probably eating GMOs several times a week - and possibly several times each day.

Netherwood et al, "Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract," Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.
Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, Jeffrey Smith
Consumer's Guide To Probiotics, S.K. Dash


Can this be why the number of babies with sever allergies is increasing? That the actual genetic makeup of our guts is being altered and passed on to our newborns? This is extremely shocking!

So what can we do? Sign petitions, email your senator, congressman and anyone that will listen that you are not ok with this experiment. Talk to others about it... ask questions. If you can't tell if it has prob does. Ask the clerk or email the company....and buy organic! Organic is the only real way to go to be sure you are not eating gmos. You have a vote every time you purchase something. ~nancy

popsicles & summertime snack ideas

the weather has been warming up and my mind is turning to hot weather treats for my little allergy guy and the other kids. popsicles are always a huge favorite, but i am dismayed and shocked every time i check the labels on the store brands. they all contain 4-5 sources of corn syrup or corn sugar, regular sugar and dye. that's it. not a trace of real fruit unless you buy the really expensive, 'natural' ones and they still have 2-3 sources of hidden corn. so we just make our own, it's easy and fun!

we buy fresh fruit and try to come up with flavors that sound good. a big hit is apples and berries. we also love oranges with a dash of cinnamon. nectarines with white grapes and a dash of ginger. if you want heartier popsicles with chunks of fruit, make the flax seed and fruit smoothies in my recipe collection on this site, and freeze in popsicle molds. if you want a fudgesicle, make the homemade chocolate coconut milk ice cream also in the recipe section here and freeze in popsicle molds. if you want a fruit and cream type popsicle, juice up some fruit and mix with coconut milk.

we have an industrial juicer and pick fruits that are easy to juice and not too costly which yield a lot of juice for their size. we don't really measure amounts, per se - we just keep juicing and tasting until we fill the pitcher, then pour into the popsicle molds. larger chain grocery stores (like target, walmart, etc...) should carry these seasonally - but i LOVE the ones at - that's where i got the ones in this pic).

you can also just use ready made juices form the health food store - but if you have severe corn allergy, be warned there are *very* few that are truly without corn. the orange mango juice by whole foods (brand name 365) has one ingredient that usually indicates hidden corn: natural flavoring. we use it occasionally and my super sensitive corn allergy toddler seems to be okay with it so far, but anything with ascorbic acid, vitamin c or citric acid, we can't do - he reacts to it.

in the pic, we have apple blueberry, orange mango and lemon raspberry popsicles.

another favorite for my allergy guy when the other kids are enjoying sunbutter and fruit spread sandwiches is shown here. we use the safe rice cakes i mention under 'snacks' in my recipe lists and i top it with a safe fruit spread and banana coins. another huge favorite is banana coins, thin apples slices and honey drizzled over it on a rice cake!

Soy Vey! Non-Organic Veggie Burgers Contain Neurotoxin


Sure this veggie burger is tasty. But is it toxic? Photo: Stephen Cross's Flickr photostream/CC

This just in: not all veggie burgers are created equal.

While vegetarians certainly earn eco-points by choosing non-meat substitutes for the grill, opting to save a few bucks and chow down on the non-organic variety isn't harmless. According to a report from the Cornucopia Institute, most non-organic and "natural" veggie burgers contain hexane, which also happens to be on the E.P.A.'s list of air pollutants and neurotoxins.

Hexane, better known as a byproduct of oil refinement, is used in soy products to strip the bean's oil from its protein in order to lower the fat content of the food. It's bad for the environment—grain processors were responsible for two-thirds of the hexane emissions in 2007—but it's also dangerous for the factory workers processing the beans. According to Mother Jones, which first reported about Veggie BurgerGate earlier this week, hexane exposure can lead to "skin and nervous system disorders."

So for those of you planning that long-awaited first BBQ of the summer, it's worth shelling out the extra cash for the organic version of your favorite faux meat product. All of the biggies—Amy's, Boca Burger, Gardenburger, Morningstar Farms, Trader Joe's—use hexane in their non-organic patties. And remember: just because something is labeled "natural" doesn't mean it's actually, you know, from nature.

Hexane use extends beyond veggie burgers, to soy milk and tofu and a host of other soy-based foods. Cornucopia's got a detailed rating system that's worth consulting before your next trip to the grocery store.

from Take Part

It's shocking to me where we find the violations of our food industry especially when they promote their product as the healthier alternative. Being vegetarian but still missing meat we have relied a lot on soy based products to get us through the week. Fortunately now after reading this husband's pay cut this past year we've had to rely a lot on rice and beans. Soy products are very pricey many times more expensive than meat.

What gets me about this report is that the hexane is also used in processing soy beans for baby formula. Where do they get off thinking this is ok?

If you eat soy products make sure to read the full Cornucopia Institute study.

Please support the causes that make our food safer by learning more about what goes into your food. Follow the trail, sign petitions... talk about what you learn. Passing the word along is really the biggest thing you can do to make a difference.

Things will change once we wake up and start to challenge our leaders to do the right thing. ~nancy

BPA Spin: That’s What Persists and Accumulates

Posted by Richard Wiles in BPA, Featured Articles on March 30, 2010

If the consequences weren’t so serious, it would be entertaining to watch the chemical industry’s top lobbyists scramble to defend the signature toxic chemical of the new millennium, bisphenol-A (BPA). This is a chemical with some serious toxic muscle. It’s not just that BPA is a clear and insidious threat to human health. BPA has triggered a seismic change in the field of toxicology, providing overwhelming evidence that it is not just the dose, it is the timing of exposure – in this case a very tiny pre-natal exposure – that is the key to a bad outcome. Bye bye Paracelsus.

But why talk about that? So when Lisa Jackson put BPA on the agency’s most wanted list, the American Chemistry Council went into full scramble mode. The strategy: talk about what BPA isn’t. Sigh. So BPA is not persistent in the environment and does not bioaccumulate. Well thank God, because if a chemical as toxic as BPA were persistent and did build up in living things (such as people), we’d really be up the creek.

Let’s take a minute to remind the ACC gang that toxicity matters too. I’m sure that they remember the organophosphate pesticides (OPs). Derived from Nazi nerve gas chemistry, these super-toxic bug killers were the mainstay of American fruit and vegetable pest control until the children’s protection mandate of the Food Quality Protection Act slashed their use dramatically over the past decade. Like BPA, these pesticides didn’t persist or accumulate up the food chain. Instead, they were a menace to children’s health at very low doses when exposures occurred during critical periods of brain development. And as with BPA, children were exposed to OPs every day.

Thanks to pesticide reforms that targeted children’s health, not persistence or some other chemical characteristic, children today are protected from the highly toxic organophosphate insecticides.

Any chemical that threatens children in the womb, or other vulnerable groups, needs to be the top priority in reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act. Some will be persistent, others may bioaccumulate, still others will “just” be toxic. But in an era of true TSCA reform, all threats must be treated equally.

from EWG

I get such a sinking feeling when I read about how the industry defends it's usage of toxic chemicals. They are invisible to us... well no... they are only apparent in our kids reactions/behaviors but once it's much too late to do something about it. I just ordered "Chasing Molecules" by Elizabeth and can't wait to read it...actually I'm kind of dreading it. ~nancy

Yay... one signature at a time!!!

Congress has introduced the Safe Chemicals Act!

More than 85,000 concerned activists signed the petition supporting the Kid-Safe Chemicals Campaign. We hand-delivered your signatures to Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

To see pictures click here

This is a huge accomplishment! It's great to see results on something so important... and yes it happened one signature at a time! Thanks to all that signed the petition. ~nancy

The Health Risks of Industrialized Shrimp Production

This is the most extensive information I have found so far on shrimp. If you eat shrimp you must read this information to make the best choices possible. Knowledge is power. ~ nancy

Suspicious Shrimp


Whether dipped in cocktail sauce at a party, sizzling in butter at a tapas bar, or topping a salad on a lunch break, shrimp has become the most popular seafood in the United States. The typical American eats three-and-a-half pounds of shrimp a year – surpassing even canned tuna, our long time former favorite.

Driving this surge in the consumption of shrimp is a method of intensive production that began expanding in the 1970s. Rather than being caught at sea, large quantities of shrimp are grown in man-made ponds containing a mix of ocean and fresh water along the coasts of Southeast Asia and South or Central America. Unfortunately, this industrial-scale shrimp production, often with hefty doses of antibiotics and pesticides, creates a series of food safety concerns.

The negative effects of eating industrially produced shrimp may include neurological damage from ingesting chemicals such as endosulfans, an allergic response to penicillin residues or infection by an antibiotic-resistant pathogen such as E. coli.

What is Shrimp Farming?

Shrimp farming itself is not new , in Asia, it‚ been practiced since at least the 15th century. But those earlier traditional farms used low densities of shrimp that sometimes coexisted with other species, such as milkfish. By working in balance with the ecosystem, farmers sustained small crops of shrimp indefinitely. Only recently has shrimp production become a large-scale industrial operation.

In the 1970s and 80s, intensive shrimp production became big business. Shrimp farmers, with the backing of corporate investors and international development banks, began building new ponds and stocking them with more and more shrimp to produce bulk quantities for export. People with no experience in the field were lured by generous loans and the promise of a quick profit to start their own ponds. While traditional shrimp farms yield up to 445 pounds per acre, these concen-trated shrimp operations may produce as much as 89,000 pounds per acre. In 2007, Thailand alone exported about $1. billion worth of shrimp to the United States. In total, the United States imported a staggering $3. billion dollars worth of shrimp that year.

Although it is possible to build sustainable shrimp farms in land-based facilities completely closed off from the environment and equipped to recycle their water, such operations are still an anomaly in the industry, in large part because they require more start-up capital and do not generate immediate profit. The ponds do, but not without a price: polluted water and, often, shrimp infected with disease and parasites. Indeed, many shrimp producers in Asia and South or Central America use hefty doses of antibiotics, disinfectants and pesticides, many of which are illegal for use in the United States. Most consumers are not aware that there may be traces of this chemical cocktail in the shrimp they eat.

Who Grows It? Who Eats It?

The United States and Japan import more shrimp than any other country, and Europeans also consume a fair amount. In 2006, more than 90 percent, about 868,265 tons, of the U.S. shrimp supply was imported. Thailand is the leading ex-porter of shrimp to the United States, followed by Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico and Vietnam.

Industrial shrimp production has harmed the environment of these countries. Coastal mangroves, which provide habitat for a variety of marine species, are frequently chopped down to make way for shrimp ponds. These shrimp facilities pollute the surrounding land and water and deplete the freshwater supply. Then, after an average of seven years, the ponds become so polluted with shrimp waste and chemicals that shrimp producers move on to build new ponds, leaving behind abandoned wastelands.

U.S. consumers often have no way of knowing where the shrimp they purchase was produced. Under the federal Country of Origin Labeling Law, also known as COOL, labels on fresh seafood are required to tell consumers where the fish was farmed or wild-caught. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of the shrimp found in grocery stores have no label because they have been processed , boiled, breaded or added to a seafood medley , and thus are exempt from labeling requirements. Stores that carry only a small amount of seafood are also exempt from COOL, as are restaurants. Even if a label isnt apparent, consumers still can ask about the origin of their seafood.

Crowded Shrimp are Sick Shrimp

With millions of shrimp crammed together in ponds, diseases can run rampant, in some cases severely enough to kill off entire ponds and even a country‚ entire shrimp industry. On average, an intensive shrimp operation only lasts for seven years before the level of pollution and pathogens within the pond reaches a point where shrimp can no longer survive.

In 1988, Taiwan, then the top producer of industrial shrimp, lost 75 percent of its harvest to a virus called Monodon bacu-lovirus. The industry has never recovered, and Taiwan is no longer considered a significant producer of shrimp. China then became the top producer, until it was hit with disease caused by hypodermal and hematopoietic virus. In 1999, Ecuador lost half of its crop to Taura syndrome and white spot syndrome virus. The shrimp industries of Indonesia, India, Honduras and Mexico also faced significant disease outbreaks in the 1990s.

Even before a country‚ industry collapses, shrimp producers face constant battles with disease in their ponds. The World Bank estimates that about $3 billion worth of shrimp is lost each year to disease. According to one survey, 96 percent of shrimp producers interviewed in Northwest Mexico combated disease in 2001.

White spot syndrome virus is currently the leading disease that reduces shrimp yields. White spots appear on shrimp flesh and their bodies steadily decompose in as few as 10 days. White spot is usually accompanied by vibriosis, which is caused by Vibrio bacteria. These bacteria exist naturally in coastal waters and infect shrimp when they become stressed by problems like poor water quality, another disease or crowding. A devastating outbreak of the white spot syndrome virus struck the shrimp farms of southern Iran in 2005. The previous year, Iran exported $2. million worth of shrimp to the United States. The year after the outbreak, it exported only $178,547, and by 2007 the country was not exporting any shrimp to the United States. Vibrio bacteria are especially problematic: if humans eat the infected shrimp, they can become sick with gastroenteritis (caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus), cholera (caused by Vibrio cholerae) or suffer from fatal septic shock (caused by Vibrio vulnificus).

Shrimp on Drugs

In an attempt to stave off disease, shrimp in many foreign farms are given daily doses of antibiotics, either mixed in with feed pellets, dumped directly into pond water or both.

Oxytetracycline and ciprofloxacin, both of which are used to treat human infections, are two of the most common drugs in shrimp farming. The use of chloramphenicol, penicillin and other antibiotics pose serious health risks , such as susceptibility to antibiotic-resistant bacteria , to consumers if residues of the drugs remain in the shrimp.

(For a complete list of most commonly used antibiotics, see Appendix B)

It is illegal to use antibiotics in U.S. shrimp farms, but because most of the shrimp eaten in the United States is produced elsewhere, this law does little to protect most consumers. In a 2003 survey of Thai shrimp producers, 74 percent reported using antibiotics on their shrimp. To make matters worse, producers knew little about applying the drugs, leading to serious overuse. Many tried using antibiotics to treat viruses – without knowing that antibiotics dont kill viruses.

Bacteria Fight Back

A population of bacteria repeatedly exposed to an antibiotic can develop antibiotic resistance, the ability to survive even in the presence of the drug. This means that a person infected with bacteria resistant to penicillin, for example, could take the drug indefinitely without getting better.

According to the National Institutes of Health, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria and childhood ear infections have all become more difficult to treat than they were a few decades ago because of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant E. coli infections, which cause diarrhea and urinary tract infections, have grown increasingly common around the world.

How does it happen? When first administered, an antibiotic drug kills a significant portion of the bacteria population. However, some of the individual microorganisms may survive. They rapidly reproduce, increasing the number of organisms that can resist the antibiotic. This process continues for as long as the bacteria are exposed to the drug. The weaker organisms get killed off, and only the strong survive. The more frequently a drug is administered, the greater the percentage of the bacteria in the shrimp facility that will be antibiotic-resistant.

Additionally, bacteria have the habit of trading pieces of their genetic material, called plasmids, with each other. Thus, if a bacterium has the ability to resist a specific drug, it can pass that trait along to other microorganisms, increasing the speed and ease with which a population develops antibiotic resistance.

To make matters worse, a trait that helps bacteria resist one antibiotic may allow it to be resistant to other types, as well. One study found that bacteria exposed to oxolinic acid also became resistant to flumequine and oxytetracycline.

Resistance in the Pond…

The daily feeding of antibiotics to shrimp encourages antibiotic resistance in the ponds. On average, shrimp eat only 20 percent of their feed. That means the other 80 percent, including the antibiotics it contains, end up in the water and on the muddy pond bottom. Many antibiotics are not biodegradable and persist in the surrounding environment, where they fight against bacteria that continue to develop resistance. Studies of shrimp ponds in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Mexico have found relatively high levels of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, especially Vibrio bacteria.

…and at the Dinner Table: Bacteria Gourmet

Any time you handle or eat raw or undercooked shrimp, you run the risk of getting food poisoning. However, when the shrimp you eat were grownwith large quantities of antibiotics, you take on the additional risk of getting food poisoning from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which by definition is much more difficult to treat.

The three major Vibrio bacteria that cause illness in humans are V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus and V. cholerae. V. parahaemolyticus is the most common cause of food poisoning from seafood in the United States. It causes typical gastroenteritis: diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache and fever that last an average of two and a half days. Most cases do not require hospitalization.

In healthy people, V. vulnificus has the same effect. However, for those with chronic illness (such as liver damage, diabe-tes, asthma or cancer), V. vulnificus can cause septic shock, resulting in death in about half of the cases. Disturbingly, in a 1996 study of frozen shrimp imported into Denmark from mostly tropical countries, 7 percent were contaminated with V. vulnificus.

V. cholerae is the bacteria that causes cholera, an intestinal illness that can be mild or severe. The latter is characterized by watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps, which can lead to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. (See “Cholera in Ecuador”)

Salmonella bacteria are also found in shrimp. Even though shrimp accounted for only 22 to 24 percent of seafood imports between 2003 and 2006, it amounted to almost 40 percent of the imports refused because of Salmonella contamination. One third of human cases of Salmonella infection worldwide are resistant to five or more antibiotics.

S. enteriditis causes salmonella gastroenteritis. The initial symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache and fever. After three to four weeks, the infection may cause chronic arthritis. Scientists have suggested that antibiotic-resistant Salmonella from fish or shrimp facilities in Asia likely caused several outbreaks of salmonella infections in Europe and the United States in 2000 and 2004.

Another type of Salmonella, S. typhi, are the bacteria that cause typhoid fever, a potentially fatal illness involving high fever, abdominal pain, rash and an altered level of consciousness. Outbreaks of typhoid that are resistant to the antibiotics chloramphenicol, ampicillin and trimethoprim have occurred in South and Southeast Asia. In fact, there is such a high level of resistance to chloramphenicol among S. typhi that the drug is no longer considered useful in treating the disease.

Illegal Residues

In addition to the dangers of antibiotic resistance, there is the risk of consuming shrimp that still have antibiotic residues in their flesh. The U.S. government is aware that shrimp facilities in other countries use antibiotics but still does little to prevent contaminated product from entering the U.S. marketplace. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does test some imported shrimp for residues of chloramphenicol, nitrofurans, quinolones and oxytetracycline – but not enough of it. In 2006, only 1.34 percent of seafood shipments were given a sensory examination and only .59 percent received a more thorough laboratory inspection. If any residue is detected during inspection, the importing company chooses whether to send the shipment back to the country of origin or destroy it. Between 2003 and 2006, the number of countries with refusals of entry for seafood with veterinary drug residues went from four to more than 10. Shrimp has accounted for anywhere between 15 (in 2006) to 84 percent (in 2003) of the seafood shipments refused because of veterinary drug residues. Because the percentage of seafood shipments collected for any type of inspection is so low, and the budget for inspecting foreign seafood processing facilities has been cut to zero, it is highly likely that contaminated shrimp are reaching U.S. consumers.

The issue of antibiotics in imported shrimp made headlines in Europe and subsequently in Japan, Canada and the United States when, in late 2001 and into 2002, European Union food authorities detected unacceptable levels of chloramphenicol and nitrofuran antibiotics in imported shrimp from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India. These antibiotics are banned for use in food animals in the United States and Europe because nitrofurans are potentially carcinogenic, and chloramphenicol can cause aplastic anemia.

In 2007, increased monitoring of imported seafood from China led FDA to issue an import alert concerning farmed shrimp and several other types of seafood. Between October 2006 and May 2007, the agency tested 89 samples of seafood imported from China and found that 25 percent contained drug residues. These residues included nitrofurans in shrimp; malachite green (a pesticide) in dace, eel and catfish; gentian violet (an antifungal) in eel and catfish; and flouroqui-nolones (an antibiotic) in catfish. FDA stated that clear scientific evidence indicates that the use of these drugs and chemicals in aquaculture can lead to an increased antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens and that prolonged expo-sure to some of these chemicals has been shown to have carcinogenic effects.


Chloramphenicol is a drug of last resort to treat typhoid fever and meningitis in humans. It is generally not used when less toxic drugs are available. Unfortunately, the drug also is used in industrial shrimp production. Although many countries restrict the direct application of chloramphenicol, it is still often applied illegally or indirectly by mixing it with the shrimp feed. According to analysis of FDA data Food & Water Watch obtained by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, 39 shipments of shrimp failed import inspections due to the presence of chloramphenicol between 2003 and 2006.

The drug is used sparingly in human medicine because it can cause aplastic anemia, a condition in which bone marrow stops producing red and white blood cells and platelets, which are essential for carrying oxygen and for a healthy immune system. Aplastic anemia is often irreversible and fatal, and onset may occur three weeks to 12 months after exposure. Chloramphenicol is only partially deactivated by cooking. In one study, shrimp cooked for 30 minutes at 212º F still retained 71 percent of the antibiotic. Even less chloramphenicol was destroyed when the shrimp was cooked for a shorter, more typical length of time.

Allergies: Not Just Sneezes

Even common drugs that are generally considered safe can be deadly for those with serious allergies. In fact, 2 to 5 percent of hospitalizations are caused by allergic reactions to antibiotics. Most concerning is the use of penicillin-like drugs in aquaculture. Penicillins cause more fatal allergic reactions than any other group of antibiotics. The common allergic response to a penicillin-like drug is a skin rash and facial swelling. However, 2 to 4 percent of people with penicillin allergies will go into anaphylactic shock and can die without immediate medical treatment. When a person goes into anaphylactic shock, their air passage constricts and their blood pressure drops, causing them to pass out.

To prevent anaphylaxis, individuals with penicillin allergies will seek out alternative medications. However, there is no warning label to inform consumers that their shrimp could contain penicillin residues. It raises the question: could some patients hospitalized for what a doctor might assume to be a shellfish allergy actually be reacting to antibiotic residues? This is an area that merits further investigation.

Pesticides: Poisons on Your Plate

In addition to antibiotics, shrimp producers often use large quantities of chemicals to kill fish, mollusks, fungi, plants, in-sects and parasites in their ponds. Some of these chemicals can remain in the shrimp, which is then served to consumers, potentially causing human health impacts. A sampling of the chemicals is described in the following pages.

The cumulative effects of pesticide consumption, including cancer and neurological damage, develop slowly. Pesticides accumulate over a lifetime and may cause problems long after the first exposure. However, outside of a laboratory setting, it is often difficult to trace the origin of cancer to one specific carcinogen.

All but one of the pesticides used globally in shrimp production are banned for use in U.S. shrimp farms. Only a diluted form of formaldehyde, called formalin, is approved for U.S. shrimp farms. Formalin is also a potential carcinogen.

FDA is capable of testing imported shrimp for residues of 360 different pesticides and can refuse shipments of shrimp that are over the legal limit. With such limited seafood inspections, it is likely that shrimp contaminated with the following illegal pesticides are entering the U.S. marketplace.


Organophosphates are a group of pesticides widely used in shrimp farms. These chemicals can be toxic to the neurological system.

Exposure to an organophosphate, such as carbaryl, can cause a reaction called cholinesterase inhibition. Immediate symptoms include nausea, vomiting and blurred vision. The air passage can constrict and the victim can go into a coma. Exposure to small amounts of the chemical over a long period of time can cause headaches, memory loss, muscle weakness, cramps and loss of appetite.

Malachite Green

Malachite green is often used to kill fungus on shrimp eggs. This chemical is popular among shrimp producers because it is cheap, effective and widely available. However, it is also a potential carcinogen that has been found to cause tumors in laboratory mice and rats. Once it has been used, malachite green will stay in the flesh of shrimp for a very long time , more than 200 days in water that is 50º F.


Rotenone is used to kill off fish living in the pond before it is stocked with young shrimp. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory paralysis. It has also been found to cause characteristics of Parkinson‚ disease in laboratory rats.

Organotin compounds

Prior to stocking a shrimp pond, organotin compounds are used to kill mollusks. These compounds are endocrine disruptors: they interfere with the activity of hormones, often by mimicking a hormone such as estrogen. Research suggests that these chemicals have caused decreased fertility in humans. Another study suggests that organotin exposure could alter hormonal function to predispose people to chronic obesity.

Uncharted Waters

Unfortunately, there is a lack of concrete data about the quantity and frequency of use for each chemical in shrimp facilities. In studies, producers have only characterized their use of different substances in vague terms no more informative than “a lot” or “not too much.” Another largely unanswered question is how these chemicals might interact with one another to create new compounds. Although scientists do not always fully understand the nuanced activity of each chemical, as many as 13 products are regularly dumped into a typical shrimp pond. Appropriate testing has not been done to determine how much pesticide residue is left on shrimp that enter the marketplace. Scientific research has not caught up with the increase in production and consumption around the world.

Filthy Transport: Shrimp with a Side of Cockroach

Food safety is further compromised during transport to the United States if shrimp are not kept adequately cold or in sealed containers. Fresh and frozen shrimp have been turned back at the border by FDA inspectors for being decomposed, infected with Salmonella or “filthy.” A shipment of shrimp is classified as filthy once inspectors find a specific amount of filth- a classification that includes dirt, insect fragments, rodent hair and other foreign material- after inspecting six different 2- to 3-pound samples of shrimp. (See Chart 1) Shrimp accounted for only 22 to 25 percent of seafood imports between 2003 and 2006, but 26 to 35 percent of refusals for filth were in shrimp shipments.

Production Problems: Environmental And Social Consequences

In addition to endangering consumer health, industrial shrimp production is environmentally destructive and has caused dislocation of people from coastal areas, as well as job losses. Building a shrimp farm might bring in $8,000 a hectare (2. acres), but it will destroy natural resources that have been estimated by the World Resources Institute to be worth $35,000 a hectare.

Mangrove Ecosystem Destruction

The construction of shrimp ponds is considered the world‚ largest cause of coastal mangrove destruction. Prized for their ability to absorb the force of storms, provide habitat for countless plant and animal species, prevent erosion and filter pollutants, mangrove forests are among the most important ecosystems on earth. By producing staggering amounts of food, fuel, medicines and building materials, mangroves provide sustenance for millions of people around the world. Shrimp facilities are also built in ecologically important salt flats and marshes, but intensive production almost always requires large-scale removal of coastal mangrove forests. Over the last 50 years or more, anywhere from five to 80 percent of mangrove areas in various countries have been lost. A report released by the United Nations Environment Program uses pictures of coastal areas taken from outer space to reveal the rapid increase of shrimp farms in Honduras, Ecuador, Thailand, and India/Bangladesh and the corresponding destruction of mangroves. Many environmentalists say that it‚ a serious problem in Mexico, as well.

Wild Fish Populations Decline

According to a 2006 study in Science, all commercial fish and seafood populations will be depleted by 2048.

Unfortunately, industrial shrimp production only exacerbates the pressure on wild fish stocks. About 70 percent of commercially valuable fish and shellfish in Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico,56 and 33 percent in Southeast Asia are dependent on mangrove ecosystems. Studies conducted in Mexico have shown that for every acre of mangrove forest destroyed, approximately 675 pounds of commercial fish are lost. Cutting down forests to create shrimp ponds trades the long-term availability of wild fish for short-lived industrial development.
Additionally, diseases in shrimp facilities can threaten wild shrimp and other sea life. Pond water is regularly discharged into the ocean, allowing diseases to spread to wild shrimp populations. In the Philippines, Thailand and Mexico, wild shrimp catches have declined while shrimp-facility output has increased.
Feeding shrimp is also wasteful and inefficient. Shrimp feed is made of fishmeal produced from wild-caught fish. In some cases, producing just one pound of industrially farmed shrimp can require 2.8 pounds of wild fish in feed.

Water Pollution

Industrial shrimp operations discharge polluted water and waste products directly onto surrounding lands and into nearby waterways without any treatment. One study estimates that 155 square miles of shrimp ponds in Thailand produce more phosphorous waste than three million people. A spokesman for the Committee for the Defense and Development of Gulf of Fonseca Flora and Fauna in Honduras says that the nutrients from shrimp feed and waste have led to a decline in local water quality.

Sadly, shrimp operations not only pollute the water, they can destroy natural mechanisms for eliminating waste in the environment, as well. Mangrove forests serve as filters to clean the polluted waters from homes, factories and shrimp farms.

For years, community leaders near shrimp facilities have been reporting that residents, especially children, complain about unexplained and unusual symptoms, including sore throats, burning eyes and skin rashes. Unfortunately, no long-term studies have been done to determine the precise causes of these symptoms and how they might be related to shrimp production.

Water Depletion

Up to 40 percent of pond water is exchanged with fresh water every day in some shrimp farms in order to remove pollution and to maintain the necessary levels of salinity. Water that was once available to the local communities is pumped instead into shrimp operations.

Sometimes so much groundwater is extracted that not only is the water supply depleted directly, but as more and more water is pumped out of the ground, saltwater seeps in to replace it, causing salt contamination of the land and fresh water. Surrounding lands become salty, making the production of other agricultural crops virtually impossible. In the worst cases, extreme depletion of aquifers has caused the land to sink, turning the ground level of buildings in Taiwan into the basement.

Communities Torn Apart

Industrial shrimp production robs local communities of basic access to food, water and meaningful livelihoods. When mangroves are clear-cut, residents can no longer gather crabs, clams, oysters, fish and other seafood that once lived there. Access to traditional fishing areas in the sea is cut off by the physical placement of the shrimp facilities. Saúl Montufar, a spokesman for the Committee for the Defense and Development of Gulf of Fonseca Flora and Fauna says: “There has been marginalization and expulsion of fishing families in the shrimp farming areas, a loss of access to traditional fishing sites and a decline in the fish catch.” Fisherwomen around Guayaquil, Ecuador could once pull up several hundred shellfish in a morning, but now they’re lucky if they find $3 worth of clams in a day. According to one of the women, “This isn’t for profit. It’s for survival. With this we can buy basic medicines for our children, but it‚ just the bare necessities.”

Many of the shrimp farms in Asia have been established in areas that did not previously have clear property distinctions. These coastal areas were legally claimed by the state but were inhabited by communities that, in some cases, had existed there for centuries. The prospect of building shrimp farms gave the land economic value that it had never been thought to possess, leading governments to sell it to investors. They then moved in to expropriate and enclose the land and some-times violently dispossess the communities. This is not restricted to Asian shrimp farms. Leder Gungara, the director of an Ecuadorian environmental group says: ‚In the beginning the industry was very hostile Everybody had a handgun. Because of that we were very much afraid and the local people, as well, were very afraid of standing up to the shrimp farmers, because they did carry weapons and many of us have been beaten up, unjustly jailed, treated unfairly by the justice.”

Sadly, local areas rarely see any of the profits from shrimp farms. According to Leder, there are no schools, hospitals, or roads in the communities where shrimp farms are built. All of the profits leave Ecuador in the hands of foreign investors.

Shocking Labor Rights Violations

A report released in April 2008 by the Solidarity Center adds another reason to oppose imported industrially produced shrimp: labor abuses. Based on interviews with workers in Bangladesh and Thailand, the report describes hideous condtions , a dangerous and unhealthy environment, abusive employers, long hours, low pay, informal work and the vulnerability of migrant workers. This occurs at the shrimp processing factories in response to pressure put on factories by both producers and importers and the demand for affordable shrimp products. In interviews conducted by partners of the Solidarity Center, Thai shrimp processing workers complained of forced overtime, hazardous working conditions, non-payment of wages if production quotas were missed, regular exposure to harsh chemicals and lack of medical care. Interviewers heard shocking stories from workers at Ranya Paew, where Thai police and immigration authorities raided a shrimp processing factory in September 2006. They found squalid conditions and long hours, in addition to physical, emotional and sexual intimidation and abuse. Some workers said that if they attempted to escape the factory, take sick leave, or even if they made a mistake on the factory line, they might be beaten, sexually molested or publicly tortured. The Solidarity Center noted that small subcontractors operate many of the processing facilities in both Thailand and Bangladesh. The short term or “contract” employees working through subcontractors are not covered by labor laws or noted in official statistics. The Solidarity Center also reported unsafe conditions with long workdays, low pay and a lack of health care in Bangladesh. In addition, it calls attention to the industry‚ dependence on child labor and exploitation of women workers.

The report identified nine U.S. supermarkets that sell shrimp processed in Thai factories with substandard working conditions: Costco, Cub Foods, Giant, Giant Eagle, Harris Teeter, IGA, Tops Markets, Trader Joe‚ and Wal-Mart.

In addition to the ethical implications of substandard labor conditions, research has linked health and safety problems to food safety risks, as well. Reports have shown that many factory workers who might be infected with bacterial and fungal infections are not provided with gloves when they handle shrimp.

Displaced Communities
In the Nellore district in the Andhra Pradesh state of
India, more than 2,000 families in five coastal villages
became “shrimp refugees” just a few years after
investors moved into the area and started converting
the landscape into shrimp operations. Construction
of the 15,000-acre shrimp complex began in 1992.
The facility was shut down in 1995 after a deadly viral
disease killed off the shrimp crops.
After just three years of industrialized shrimp production,
groundwater supplies used for drinking, household
purposes and crop irrigation had become unusable
due to saltwater and chemical contamination
from the shrimp ponds.
The Andhra Pradesh state government evacuated
more than 10,000 inhabitants of these fishing villages
because the water was poisoned. Beginning in 1998,
the removal of the five coastal villages forced the
inhabitants to move many kilometers from the seashore.
Village fishermen are now walking more than
10 miles daily to get to the coast to fish in the sea
that once lay at their doorsteps. Families were separated
because local land shortages made it impossible
to relocate everyone together in one location.73

Responsible Purchasing: How to Decode Shrimp Labels

Increasingly conscious consumers are searching for shrimp with fewer negative impacts on their health, the environment and indigenous communities. In response to this demand, certification schemes have been developed to label farmed shrimp as “eco-friendly,” and companies such as Wal-Mart and the parent company of Red Lobster have announced plans to partake in environmentally responsible sourcing of shrimp. The large number and variety of labels can be confusing for consumers, leaving them to wonder about each label‚ meaning and credibility. Unfortunately, most industrial shrimp production is really the antithesis of sustainable production, and many of these la-beling schemes serve mainly as attempts to ‚greenwash” the industry.

The ideal accredited label would not be run by private industry and would have clear objectives, transparent standards and independent oversight. It is essential that the certifier be an independent body, separate from the standard-setting body, in order to avoid conflicts of interest. The United States Department of Agriculture, administrator of the National Organic Program, is set to develop standards for organic production of farm-raised seafood in the near future. Confusingly, some imported seafood products already are labeled as organic by certifiers who grant that label based on their own standards. Consumers should be wary of any “organic” seafood they find in the United States, because it is not yet USDA certified. California and Georgia laws prohibit organic labels on seafood until USDA sets a standard. In the meantime, use the following guide for information on existing labels:

Global Aquaculture Alliance‚ Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) from the Aquaculture Certification Council

Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is a powerful industry consortium that developed a set of standards known as Best Aquaculture Practices and uses the Missouri-based Aquaculture Certification Council as its exclusive certifying body. Their process combines annual site inspections and discharge sampling, but allows for the use of antibiotics and chemicals. Although GAA‚ standards are more measurable than others, they have received criticism from several organizations, including Mangrove Action Project and Environmental Justice Foundation, for purportedly using flawed standards that fail to adequately protect mangrove ecosystems. In addition, the adaptation of ACC standards has forced many small family shrimp farmers, who lack the funds to pay for certification fees and upgrades, out of the market, leaving more space for the big players.*Most recently. the Solidarity Center has criticized the BAP program for alleged inadequacies in terms of labor standards and workers rights: “Overly simplistic, with little grasp of the complexity of the industry, the standards treat labor issues almost as an afterthought.” Wal-Mart and Darden Restaurants (the parent com-pany of Red Lobster) are set to use BAP-certification for all imported farm-raised shrimp. GAA does not claim on its website that BAP-certified shrimp are organic.


Naturland, based in Germany, began certifying shrimp as organic in 2001. They too have received criticism for their certification process. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation conducted field studies in Indonesia and reported that certified shrimp bearing Naturland labels was coming from farms that not only used chemicals and antibiotics, but also failed to live up to either environmental criteria or Indonesian law. In 2007, the National Coordinating Association for the Defense of the Mangrove Ecosystem, an Ecuadorian environmental group, released a report on the destructive and illegal practices taking place on the six shrimp ponds certified by Naturland in Ecuador. According to the group, the ponds lack permits, agreements, management plans and environmental licenses. Moreover, their certification sets a precedent for the shrimp industry to continue to damage mangrove forests, contaminate water and land and displace ancestral communities. The group asks how Naturland can give a stamp of approval when the destruction and contamination that the ponds are responsible for is plainly visible. Adding to Naturland‚ lack of credibility is the fact that it has its own certification body.

In writing, but apparently not always in practice, the label does prohibit the use of all chemicals and genetically modified fish or feed, encourage the protection of adjacent ecosystems, and seek to avoid conflict with others who use aquatic resources. Although Naturland-certified shrimp products are not found in many U.S. grocery stores, they are available at Wild Oats, which was recently purchased by Whole Foods. Blue Horizon Organic Seafood Co. is the prominent Naturland-certified brand in the United States. Naturland claims that its certified shrimp are organic.

GLOBALGAP Shrimp Standard

GLOBALGAP (formerly know as EUREPGAP), a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe, has come under fire over its standards. Its goal is to establish one standard for Good Agricultural Practice with different product applications. Because GLOBALGAP is a business-to-business (producer-to-retailer) label, it is not directly visible to consumers. Wal-Mart, McDonald‚ Corp. and Wegmans Food Market Inc. are members of GLOBALGAP. American farmers who are eager to sell to the European market are also getting involved. In April 2008, GLOBALGAP launched a Shrimp Standard, which it announced as being based on demand for sustainable sources and focusing on food safety, animal welfare, environmental and social sustainability. When the standards were proposed, World Wildlife Federation questioned their credibility, saying that they would not reduce or eliminate the key negative environmental and social impacts of shrimp farming. WWF‚ comments on the draft standards faulted them for not being measurable and for being managed by GLOBALGAP instead of an independent and credible third party. The comments also said that the standards would not be finalized based on consensus from multiple stakeholders. These standards do not ban chemicals and drugs, but call for “Judicious use of antibiotics, which is defined as the use of an antibiotic to maximize its therapeutic effectiveness while at the same time minimizing the selection for antibiotic resistant bacteria.” The standards do not include a limitation on the amount of fishmeal or fish oil that can be used in feed. The checklist for compliance with GLOBALGAP standards allows checkpoints to be rated as minimum musts, maximum musts and recommendations. It is only a minor must that shrimp operations have action plans and precautions in place to prevent and monitor salt accumulation and minimize the direct impact on soil, ground water and natural water flows. What‚ more, it is only recommended that farms take efforts to optimize energy use and minimize waste. In addition, certain standards are based on national standards or requirements of the “competent authority.” For instance, nitrate and phosphate levels in drain waters are based on national standards (of the country in which the operation is located); water abstraction and discharge must meet requirements set by the competent authority; and operations only have to have an environmental or biological parameter as a guideline for surrounding water if it is required by authorities. In other words, operations are required only to meet national or international laws for these standards, but not to go beyond the status quo to achieve sustainability.

Quality Certification Services

Quality Certification Services is a private certification company that offers organic certification to farms, processors, handling operations and aquaculture facilities. Despite USDA‚ not yet ruling on organic aquaculture standards, QCS has pushed ahead with organic labeling for shrimp farms. Although the company avoids using USDA‚ seal for certified organic products, the fact that other products it certifies are USDA-accredited as organic can be very misleading for consumers. QCS bases aquaculture standards on applicable portions of USDA organic livestock standards with three additional rules: the origin of aquatic animals must be consistent with a recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board, fish meal standards must be consistent with NOSB task force recommendations, and phosphates must be prohibited. The recommendations made by the NOSB have not been finalized or adopted at this point and are likely to be modified before USDA implements a program for certifying organic aquaculture. The fish feed standards that QCS follows could lead to a depletion of wild fish stocks by allowing farmed fish to be fed fishmeal with too high a percentage of wild-caught fish.

QCS has certified five shrimp companies and is working on several more certifications. Three of the five companies operate shrimp farms outside the United States.

The current model of foreign industrial shrimp production , often heavily reliant on antibiotics, pesticides, and crowded conditions , is unsustainable and unhealthy in most cases, even when private eco-labels might suggest otherwise. Policymakers must ensure that the U.S. shrimp supply is safe and that consumers have the necessary information to choose between domestic or imported and between wild-caught or industrially farmed seafood. Consumers should insist that pol-icy makers provide them with information to make informed decisions and ask questions in grocery stores and restaurants about the origins of their shrimp.

Recommendations for Policymakers

• Congress must increase funding for inspections of imported shrimp and other seafood.

• The Food and Drug Administration must significantly increase physical inspections and testing of imported seafood and develop a similar process to the one USDA has for meat.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress should close the loopholes in Country of Origin Labeling rules to include all seafood , whether processed or fresh, at every store and restaurant.

Recommendations for Consumers

• Consumers should contact their member of Congress and government agencies that regulate shrimp:

Tell USDA to tighten Country of Origin Labeling to include all seafood at every store and restaurant.

Tell Congress to increase funding for seafood inspections.

Take action at

• Shrimp-lovers should avoid foreign industrially produced shrimp. Instead, they should:

Ask at grocery stores and restaurants where their seafood comes from and if it is wild-caught.

Choose wild-caught domestic shrimp.

Choose shrimp that have been farmed in the United States by a more environmentally responsible closed-system shrimp operation.

click to enlarge

from Food and Water Watch

Recipe eggless mayonnaise

1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp mustard powder
6 TBLspn oil
1/2 cup water
3 TBLspn fresh lemon juice
2 TBLspn ground flaxseed
1/4 tsp salt

place ground flaxseed and water in blender. blend until frothy. add in lemon juice and spices. continue blending until whipped well. lastly, gradually (and slowly) add in oil.

natural deodorant challenge

many of the natural-minded mamas i know have been talking about using natural deodorants lately. i listen attentively and nod but haven't tried to switch yet. don't get me wrong, i'm all about the natural products for mamas. i have been using the keeper menstrual cup for over 8 yrs now and love to point out to hubby how much money i've saved us in disposable feminine products - not to mention how much landfill waste i've prevented. i also use cloth pads at night and post-partum. i'm totally down with the natural products for us ladies. but i just really didn't think natural deodorants would work for *me*.

to start with i'm sicilian. no offense to my fellow italian-americans, but i've seldom met another ethnicity more suited for extra strength deodorants! on my sicilian father's side, we all have the same sour and bitter bite to our sweat that is detectable for several feet when we're actually sweating. to make matters more intense, i'm still nursing a toddler and a preschooler. if you've ever breastfed a baby, perhaps you will recall the prickly armpit sensation that can often accompany letdowns and the thirst and the warming up of your upper body that happen. then imagine it x2. sometimes a long nursing session can leave me feeling as warmed up and humid under the arms as a brisk walk on a warm day! love the calorie burning effects of breastfeeding despite the perspiring, though!

so when my mom friends would tell me this or that natural deodorant works great for them, i'd smile and nod and think 'well, there's no way she smells as strongly as i do, it would never work for me!' and i never bothered to try. i felt it was a public service to continue using my arrid xxtra dry, even though i hated the thought of all the aluminum, paraben and harsh alcohol i was using so close to my hard-working breasts. not to mention the fact that it didn't work that well, either!

well, recently an online group i'm in began discussing what natural deodorants worked for them. i was amazed to hear that most of us felt our own body odor was fouler than anyone else's - (and that none of our husbands seem to smell badly, even when going a day or two without showering!). i was also surprised to hear most of us assert that *our* particular ethnicity surely cornered the market on smelliest B.O. ! now i'm beginning to suspect that:

a. mothering hormones have played a role in making us perceive ourselves as smellier than other people and/or than we used to be. there are a lot of hormonal changes involved in pregnancy, birth, lactation and even raising young children and the stress levels that accompany doing it!
b. perhaps we really don't smell as badly as we think we do
c. if natural deodorants can work for these other moms who perceive themselves the same way i do, they might work for me and i can dump the breast-cancer related chemicals!

so i decided to do a natural deodorant challenge for myself. for several weeks now, i've been using only natural deodorants, 1 brand per week. i started with the tom's of maine brand, my least favorite. it went on slimy and never worked very well for me though i loved some of the scents they had, like 'bay-lime', 'lemongrass' and 'woodspice'. but we try not to waste in this house, so i didn't just throw them out - my big boys are 10 and 8 1/2 now and just starting to get funky and these deodorants are perfect for them. they keep the guys fresh all day and through the night until morning showers. hubby also really likes the 'woodspice' scent and i think having underarm hair makes the slimy factor a non-issue.

for me, there are several tests a deodorants has to pass:
will i make it to bedtime without being offensively stinky on an uneventful, non-strenuous day?
will i make it through at least 3 long tandem nursing sessions without smelling ripe when i give myself a sniff test?
will i make it through at least 1 adrenaline spike like a child falling down the stairs, a child running toward a street or a child choking without having that bitter, acrid fear-smell clinging to my underarms after?
will i make it through 1 afternoon of either arguing with the insurance company about a wrongful charge, describing the current cable problems to the cable company or arguing with hubby about whose turn it is to do what with which kids?

for the tom's of maine brand, i could make it to bed on a good day and be only moderately offensive. not bad enough to have to shower, but pungent enough that i hoped hubby wasn't feeling frisky that night. i could make it through about 2 nursing sessions and then i didn't like how i smelled. if there was an adrenaline spike or very frustrating afternoon, forget it, i needed to shower and reapply by dinner or i was making my own eyes water, it was like the deodorant went rancid after enough hormonal/adrenaline exposure. out of a confidence level of 10, i give the tom's of maine a 4.

for the next brand, i chose nature's gate and i loved the 'mandarin orange & patchouli' and 'lemongrass & clary sage' scents. this brand goes on a lot nicer than tom's of maine - more waxy/dry and not slimy at all. on an uneventful day, i could make it to bedtime not smelling detectably ripe but by morning, it was definitely not effective any longer. it held up through my 3 long nursing sessions but only as long as there were no adrenaline-provoking events as well. if there were, it quit working and i'd have to wash and reapply before dinner. if there were adrenaline-provoking events (and there always are with 5 kids aged 10 and under, trust me) before long nursing sessions, it could last for 2 of them before going rancid. out of a confidence level of 10, i give the nature's gate brand a 6.

next i chose a naturally fresh deodorant crystal. i didn't like this much at all. you have to get it wet and then rub it on. i have very sensitive skin, so it often stung and burned. i couldn't tell if i was getting enough on. if you reapplied a layer without washing 1st, i (and several other moms) noted that it absorbed our armpit odor and was essentially ruined. if i applied it right out of the shower, didn't shave right before using it and blow dried my armpits on cool to help with the slimy feeling, it did hold up pretty well, though. for sheer performance and odor-elimination, i'd have to give it a 7 out of 10 because it did pass all my little tests, but for being a convenient and confidence-inspiring product, i'd have to give it a 3.

after that i was told by a mom friend about thai liquid crystal. let me just say right now that this stuff gets an 11 out of 10. i can't believe i never knew about this stuff. never in my whole entire life have i found anything that works so well. not even in the 80's when i was helping to create the hole in the ozone layer with aerosol spray cans of deodorant that were like shellacking my underarms. it's a non-aerosol pump that sprays a mist like water. you give a few pumps under each arm and it dries fairly rapidly. if you're like me and you hate the wet feeling until it does, you can give it a couple hits with the blow dryer on cool. not only did it pass all my criteria with flying colors, but we had a virus in the house when i was trialing it and i went 2 days without showering. i thought i'd burned my sinuses out permanently when i kept sniffing and not smelling a thing. i actually had to ask hubby to confirm my findings and he concurred - after 2 days of being sick myself without showering and caring for 5 sick kids, i *still* didn't have B.O. ! other moms who've tried it in my group reported similar results and were just as amazed.

one mom did let us know that you can google how crystal is processed and you will find that aluminum is somehow used in the processing... but the manufacturer and label claim that the resulting liquid itself is aluminum free, so you might want to research this issue for yourself before trying if you're really trying to avoid every trace of aluminum.

even though i'd found my dream deodorant, there was one last one i wanted to try. funk butter from in 'black cedar fig' scent. a mom friend raved about it and i had to try some. i'm so glad she told me about it, this stuff is like smelling a little piece of heaven. seriously, it smells like you could eat it, it's a cream texture that becomes more of a powder as it dries. it also exfoliates, so if you're very sensitive like me, you might want to do your shaving at night and apply the deodorant the morning after. this deodorant passes most of my tests, but can feel a bit damp and clingy after a few of the stressors i use as criteria. using a confidence level of 10, i give it a 9. but it definitely wins the 'best scent' award, hands down !

** updated ratings: now that it's may, we've had a taste of hot weather here and there and i finally got a chance to get out and do some strenuous yard work and really test my top 2 choices again. for performance and odor control, i have to give them both an 11 - the funk butter absolutely works just as well as the thai liquid crystal for me... but i have to deduct a couple points from the funk butter for convenience because i've discovered that it leaves a beige or tan discoloration on white or very light clothing that sits right up in the underarm. what i do now is use the funk butter for all colored clothing and use the thai liquid crystal when wearing whites and lights that come up to the underarm.

i found all of these at local health food stores with the exception of the funk butter, which i got from the oyin website ( we'd love to hear feedback from any mamas that have your own natural deodorant brands you love - or if you try these and want to chime in on my opinions about them. we love feedback and comments! and a big thank you to my mama group of nami oldies, i never thought i'd be so pleased to have stinky friends! ;-P

Contaminated Without Consent Movie

Contaminated Without Consent Website

Everyday Science: The Chemistry of Cleaning

by Christopher Gavigan
Tuesday, April 06, 2010

When you break it down, all of life is science. Whether you were good or bad at science in school, you use it every day. You reap the benefits of scientific ingenuity when you drive a car or visit the doctor’s office and you perform your own scientific experiments when you cook and clean.

I was reminded of this elemental reality upon touring the formulating and manufacturing facilities of Earth Friendly Products in Southern California (a cleaning products company dedicated to delivering neutral pH products). There we discussed some basic facts about pH, and how the pH of our homes, as well as the cells of our bodies, affect our overall state of health - either cleanliness or filth.

Here’s a quick everyday science lesson in understanding pH to make cleaning easier.

According to Wikipedia:

“In chemistry, pH (short for potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration) is a measure of the acidity or basicity of a solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are said to be basic or alkaline.”

The pH scale ranges from 0.0 to 14.0 and it’s important to understand that it’s a logarithmic scale. This means that a change of one pH unit indicates a ten-fold increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions. For example, if we begin with a solution that 
is pH 7 neutral, when the alkalinity of the solution is increased to 8, the strength is now
10 times stronger. Increase the pH to 9 and the solution is 100 times 
stronger than it was at 7. This rapid intensification continues 
until pH 14, which is 10 million times as alkaline as pH 7. It is the same going the other direction on the scale - a pH of 0 is 10 million times as acidic as pH of 7.

Human blood is very near to neutral (roughly 7.4) and human skin is a little more acidic to prevent bacterial growth (roughly 6.0). An infant’s skin is nearer to 7.4 and quickly decreases as they age to have the normal acidity for bacterial protection. You should be trying to use cleaners (and other products) that are close to your own pH. Anything too acidic or alkaline can be irritating or caustic and you’ll need to take precautions.

Note: the performance of a cleaning product cannot be determined simply by knowing the pH of the product. Just because a solution is more acidic or more alkaline does not mean it has superior cleaning capabilities. What really happens in cleaning is an attempt to "neutralize.”

Acids: Acids include coffee, cola, vinegar, and lemon juice. In cleaning products, acids help break down things like rust or mineral deposits. Some common cleaning products that have an acidic pH are: hard water/mineral deposit removers, toilet bowl cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, and mold solutions.

Bases: Bases include baking soda, Borax, ammonia and bleach. They’re useful for removing fatty and oily soils from surfaces. Some common cleaning products that have a basic pH include: oven cleaner, all purpose cleaners, and laundry detergents.

The pH of the stain you are attempting to remove combined with the type of the surface you are addressing should dictate the pH of the cleaner that you are using. Here are general recommendations based on an industry fact sheet on the chemistry of cleaning:

Choosing the right cleaner begins by analyzing the soil and matching it to the cleaner best designed to remove it. Some of the common forms of soil best removed by one of the basic cleaners are as follows:

Acids - mineral deposits, such as: iron, lime buildup, uric acid stains, rust, scale, water spots, soap deposits
Alkalis - most common forms of soil including dirt, soot, fats, cooking oils, food stains, baked on grease
Neutral - light-duty cleaning

Choosing the right cleaner also demands an analysis of the surface to be cleaned. The three basic cleaners are designed on different surface areas. The surfaces commonly cleaned by the basic cleaners are as follows:

Neutral - all water washable surfaces, floors coated with finish
Alkalis - resilient flooring metal, porcelain, china, fabrics, formica, vinyl, concrete, quarry tile, removing floor finish films
Acids - vitreous china, metal, glass cement, quarry tile, plexiglass, glass

Read More:

Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

from Healthy Child Healthy World : Know More. Worry Less. Live Better.

New York Times Opens Up to Seafood Sustainability

It was exciting to see a recent article in the New York Times that featured sustainable seafood – in this case, wild Gulf-caught shrimp. Shrimp is the most popular seafood item in the U.S., but many are unaware of the ecological effects and consumer health implications of imported farm-raised shrimp.

Usually farmed along the coasts of southeast Asia and South America, development of shrimp farms frequently requires the wholesale destruction of important mangrove ecosystems – a dense, shrubby habitat that occurs naturally at the border between water and land along many tropical coasts, which a wide variety of marine creatures (including fish, birds, turtles and many mammals) call home. Mangroves play an important role in coastal ecosystems, and their absence in parts of Southeast Asia may have contributed to the severity of the 2004 tsunami in that region, as mangroves can act as a protective buffer.

Choosing U.S. caught or produced seafood can help consumers eat healthier and more sustainably. Photo by Rob Owen-Wahl.

Aside from these environmental concerns, shrimp farms in other countries may also produce products that are harmful to human health. The shrimp are often so closely packed together that diseases can run rampant, and the way that shrimp farmers often address this is with daily doses of antibiotics in their feed, or sometimes even dumping the drugs directly into their ponds.

Many of the drugs used in international shrimp farms – like oxytetracycline and ciprofloxacin – are an essential component of human medicine. When these antibiotics are released into the environment regularly, it can result in the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – which is of huge concern to consumers! The World Health Organization is very concerned with the possibility of antibacterial resistance in humans, and notes that the misuse of antibiotics – such as in the open environment, and for prophylactic purposes – is a huge risk to future medical treatments.

Making matters worse, there are also a handful of dangerous chemicals used in international shrimp farms for a variety of purposes – often to kill undesired creatures that may appear in a shrimp pond such as fish, mollusks, fungi, plants and insects. One example of a chemical that’s been in the news in recent years is malachite green, which is often used to kill fungus on shrimp eggs. This chemical is popular among shrimp producers because it is cheap, effective and widely available. However, it is also a potential carcinogen that has been found to cause tumors in laboratory mice and rats. Once it has been used, malachite green will stay in the flesh of shrimp for a very long time: more than 200 days in water that is 50˚ F.

With all of these environmental and health-related concerns surrounding international shrimp production, it’s no wonder that the author chose U.S. wild shrimp as a sustainable alternative! Choosing U.S. caught or produced seafood can help consumers eat healthier and more sustainable fish because our environmental, health, safety, and labor standards are much more stringent than many other countries. And with the FDA inspecting less than 3% of seafood imports, choosing domestic products simply makes more sense.

For more guidance on choosing sustainable seafood – which isn’t always easy – check out our Smart Seafood Guide that makes recommendations on how to select healthier and more sustainable seafood, and offers alternatives. (Note that there are regional guides as well as our national guide, so you can choose local seafood sustainably, too!) You’re also welcome to post a comment on this article to let us know of any questions you have about selecting smart seafood!

And for those of you looking for more delicious ways to cook seafood – even on a budget – take a look at this year’s Fish & Tips recipe cookbook, the product of an annual competition in which fans of Food & Water Watch submit their favorite recipes for seafood from our Smart Seafood Guide. Now it’s time to reap the fruits of your knowledge about sustainable seafood – go ahead and give one of these recipes a try for dinner tonight!

Marie Logan, Researcher & Policy Analyst

from Food and Water Watch