Organic Consumers Association – Promoting Organic Lifestyles

Organic Consumers AssociationThe Organic Consumers Association (OCA) was formed as a ‘grass roots’ association of concerned people who believe in promoting, and protecting, the interests and welfare of organic products consumers all over the world. Headquartered in Finland, Minnesota , OCA affiliate branches are found in Canada, Japan, India, to name a few.

With an estimated 50 million people in the U.S. alone who purchase organic products, the association claims a membership of more than 850,000 nationwide, including thousands of business offering organic foods and products, including cosmetics.

Formed in 1998, as a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s attempt to “nationalize” organic products standards, OCA member business and interest groups maintain a constant effort to prevent the “Wall -Martization” of America’s economy, including the marketing of organic products.

OCA members deal with a number of important topics connected with organic products including genetic engineering, corporate accountability (in regards to organic issues), and the environment’s ability to sustain itself, despite the damage done to it by Mankind.

The OCA Organic Agenda Program for the years 2000 – 2015 include the following:

1. Conversion of American agriculture to be at least 30% organic by the year 2015
2. Fair trade and economic justice for smaller organic enterprises
3. A Global moratorium on genetically engineered crops and livestock
4. Phasing out of industrial or “factory farming” agriculture
5. A universal health care program with emphasis on nutrition and prevention
6. Less dependence on energy based on fossil fuels, with more emphasis on
environmentally friendly sources of energy, such as solar and hydro-electric

The OCA is non-profit, with the interests of its members clearly in mind. Its main interest it to help enable a healthy, fair, and supportable network of production for organic food products. The association puts out a weekly e-publication, Organic Bytes, and a semi-annual ‘hard copy’ newsletter, Organic View. Association members can find out all happenings concerning the association’s activities by reading these very informative publications. Sponsors include a wide variety of organic foods and products manufacturers, including Eden Organic Foods (a Coop or more than 300 family owned farms) and Earth Creations, a “made in USA” organic clothing company.

Benefits of Organic and Biodynamic Foods on Your Health

Organic FoodsThe old saying “you are what you eat” has never been more true in regards to the nutritional benefits of organic and biodynamic grown foods. Scientific studies going back more than 30 years are now proving that the advantages of naturally grown, organic farm produce, free of toxins and pesticides, not only contain more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but also have better taste.

In recent years, biodynamic foods are becoming popular with people on strict organic food diets. Originally pioneered by such organic food agronomists as Dr. Albert Howard and Lady Evelyn Barbara Balfour in Australia during the 1940’s, the science of growing organic produce incorporating biodynamic farming used natural ecosystems as models for agriculture. By studying and incorporating “nature’s way” into modern farming methods, they found that crops could be grown successfully without the use of toxins found in both pesticides and herbicides.

Modern ‘eco-smart’ methods of crop production have found to result in crops higher in vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid and iron. Biodynamic crops are found to have 47.6% more vitamin C and 33.9% more iron than conventionally grown crops.

Both organic and biodynamic grown foods have much higher levels of anti-oxidants, which help defer aging processes and cause people to actually live longer, healthier lives. Even such produce as wine is now available as 100% organic, being derived from organically cultivated grapes. Natural ecosystems, in which seasonal water supply sources, natural fertilization (compost and natural fertilizers, etc.), produce a mush better tasting produce; and this is reflected in the quality of items such as wine.

In regards to animals that have been fed organic diets, it has been found that this has resulted in better egg production, increased fertilization, and fewer stillborn young. Animals given biodynamic feed also have less illness and shorter recovery time if they become ill. Farm animals extensively used for food, including poultry, beef, lamb and pork producing animals, have healthier offspring and more flavorful meat, than those fed on commercial fodder.

Humans eating both organically and biodynamic grown foods, as well as animal products noted above, benefit from better health and well being. Bearing this in mind, it makes better sense to choose this healthier way of living by “going organic”.

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Organic Soaps Shampoos and Shower Gels

Organic SoapsOrganic products not only include food and food supplements, but an exciting range of soaps, shampoos, and cleaning products as well. A wide variety of bio-friendly products are available, containing such natural ingredients as natural olive and coconut oils, jojoba oils, cocoa butter, and extracts from large variety of herbs, including basil, rosemary, thyme, etc. Once the near exclusive products of natural products specialty stores, organic soaps and cleaning products can now be found in most supermarkets and pharmacies.

Ingredients in many popular soaps and shampoos have been found to be harmful to peoples’ health, and some ingredients are even carcinogenic, or cancer causing. By substituting harmful ingredients with organic ones, people not only improve their own health and well-being, but that of the environment as well.

To give you a better idea of the benefit of ‘natural’ ingredients, some of these are noted here, together with each one’s own beneficial qualities.

Basil: known not only for a flavorful herb in many food dishes, but for its detoxifying and energizing qualities.
Cardamom: antiseptic, cleansing and invigorating
Geranium: body toning, rejuvenating and uplifting qualities
Lavender: soothing, healing and tension relieving
Lemon Grass: detoxifying, deodorizing, anti-stress relief
Pine: antiseptic and physically elevating
Rosemary: stimulating, revitalizing, illuminating

In addition to herbs, a wide variety of natural essences, many made from plants and flowers, add to the benefits received from using these products.

Virtually no modern shopping mall is without at least one bath and body soap shop selling natural soaps, bath oils, and shampoos. Soaps offered in these shops, along with their wonderful scents and colors make these stores a true “garden of earthly delights”.

Along with personal body products, the harsh, abrasive, and even dangerous compounds found in most commercial preparations are resulting in many people turning to organic home cleaning products. Though more expensive than the commercial ones, the manufacturers of these products claim that they do not contain the caustic ingredients that can today be found in even the most well known dishwashing and laundry detergents. There is still some speculation as to whether organic cleaning products are really 100% bio-friendly. But even so, a growing number of people prefer to trust these products more and more.

Organic ‘soapless soap’ products come in a wide array of colors and fragrances. Ranging from aloe vera to sea weed, these products are found in virtually every modern home. To be assured that the ingredients are indeed from organic sources, one should examine the label carefully to make sure the product does not contain various ‘additives’ usually call “red………..” or “yellow………..” to disguise various chemicals which are definitely not from organic sources.

To be sure these products meet acceptable standards, they should have the logo for Organic Standard Soil Association, or one displaying the Good Shopping Guide for Ethical Companies.

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Organic Trade Association: Your ‘Partner’ In The Organic Products Industry

Organic Trade AssociationFounded in 1985, the Organic Trade Association acts as both a forum and helpful partner for all people involved in the organic field; from agriculture sources to the retail store.

Formed to promote and protect trade in organic products, the OTA has a mission to help farmers, store owners, and consumers regarding all phases in organic products becoming an important part of everyone’s daily lives. The OTA is involved in lobbying in government agencies to bring about changes in agricultural policies concerning organic farming.

One of the most important duties of the OTA is to protect organic standards in order that organic products offered are of the highest quality. The association is also helps insure that governmental legislation affecting organic products will be in the industry’s interest, and not towards bodies who are not ‘eco-friendly’.

In addition to an informative and useful website, the OTA issues frequent press releases, and a media newsletter entitled: What’s New in Organics. All of the latest information regarding organic foods and products, new farming techniques, and other informative information can be read in this newsletter, published three to four times a year.

The OTA is also involved in publishing directories of organic product manufactures and suppliers, and is also actively involved in promoting trade shows. A more recent addition to the OTA is the Organic Center, established in 2002. This independent organization promotes scientific research into organic products and their benefit for human health.

An important and informative reference section of the association is the organic facts, which gives useful information on all aspects of organic farming and production, including a Q & A section. It also notes U.S. organic standards and compares them to organic standards around the world.

Annual membership fees are based on annual gross organic revenues, and run from a minimum of US$ 300, based on annual revenues of U.S. 100,000. Associate, non-voting memberships are available, and give all to benefits of a regular membership except for voting rights on various issues affecting the organic products industry.

Michael Pollan Nature’s Spokesman

Michael Pollan Nature's SpokesmanHuman dietary habits, particularly in today’s modern ‘fast food’ culture, need to heed to advice – and warnings – by such people as Professor Michael Pollan (University of Berkley, Ca.) who’s writings and lectures concerning nutrition and proper foods are well known. An intense advocate of organic and natural foods, Pollan’s works include those dealing with human eating habits; especially those whom he categorizes as being omnivorous, i.e. those who eat both meat products as well as vegetables. His concern towards the American meat producing industry, in which a number of growth stimulating feeds and supplements are fed to cattle and other animals grown for food, creates an imbalance in the natural relationship between Man and his environment.

Professor Pollan considers humans to be grouped in three main categories: those who eat a largely vegetable and grain based diet; those who eat a mixed commercial vegetable and meat omnivorous diet; and those who hunt and gather for food. The relationships between the natural ‘food chain’ sequence, beginning with the photosynthesis of plants and ending in the consumption of meat by humans is a very import issue for Pollan as he feels that the modern “agribusiness” of commercial farming has lot touch with the inter-relationships of plants and animals by destroying import ecological relationships between plants and animals.

According to Pollan, both plants and animals have special relationships with each other, and in order for proper nutrition to be achieved, more organically friendly farming methods must be used. Too much emphasis is placed upon taste and appeal, and not enough on overall nutrition, he believes. In one of his essays, Unhappy Meals, Professor notes that most commercially produced foods are too much dependant on additives and taste enhancers. He mentions the American fast food business, which is causing too many people to become obese and susceptible to heart disease and cancer. Too much fatty meat products and not enough fish are being consumed, with the unfortunate result creating a society of overweight, unhealthy people.

Genetic engineering, that process of genetically manipulating growth processes in plants and animals, is too much the norm these days, according to Pollan. He believes that Man and Nature need to become more harmonious with each other; otherwise, the result will be nothing short of nutritional and ecological disaster for Americans. While some forms of genetic engineering may be good (for flowers, etc) those forms that incorporate the use of hormones and growth stimulants may be going against the existing laws of Nature.

Many of Dr. Pollan’s works can be found in archived editions of several newspapers and academic journals, as well as via the Internet.

Herbicides and Pesticides in Intensive Farming

Herbicides and Pesticides in Intensive FarmingEnvironmental dangers from over use of herbicides and pesticides in commercial, intensive farming has been known for years. One of the first warnings of damages from the use of pesticides in modern agriculture came from American novelist Rachel Carson in 1962 with her book The Silent Spring. Ms. Carson’s thought provoking book portrayed a bleak future in regards to birds and other wildlife that were being killed or mutated due to the over use of both pesticides and herbicides by farmers. Though written more than 40 years ago, she predicted that the ongoing effects of these chemical agents would be so far reaching that people might one day experience ‘silent springs’ devoid of song and migratory birds that herald the changing of the seasons.

Though Ms. Carson’s warnings have not completely come to pass, the use of carious chemical agents, not only by agriculture but also by many people on their own lawns and garden plants, eventually find their way into the water that we drink, resulting in health hazards ranging from birth defects to cancer. Many studies have been made relating to environmental damage caused by these chemicals, some of the more common ones being sulfonylurea (SU) and atrizine types of herbicides which are used by farmers as ‘weed killers’ for crops such as corn and soybeans – both important food crops. These herbicides eventually find their way into ground water aquifers, and have been shown to cause a number of health problems in humans ranging from learning disorders to over aggressive behavior patterns. A well known pesticide, DBCP, was once wide used in American states such as California and Iowa. This pesticide, though now banned in most places still causes a number of diseases and health disorders, including male infertility (the main effect it was supposed to have on insects, rodents, and other pests).

In Iowa, for example, a study made in 1966, only four years after the publication of Ms. Carson’s book, it was found that more than half of that state’s ground water was already contaminated by weed killers. The situation in many other states in America is as bad or worse as intensive commercial farming methods still use many of these chemical agents in order to increase crop yields.

Organic farming methods, though still on a much smaller scale than that of commercial agriculture, is showing a better way to grow crops without causing harm to the environment. By changing to an organic lifestyle, including the care and maintenance of one’s own lawn and garden, people can help contribute to preserving our environment and improving our health as well. It’s a small start, but by eliminating insect sprays and weed killers on our own properties we can contribute to improving our planet’s eco-system.

Olive Season – The Organic Way

Olive Season - The Organic WayLike many other Mediterranean countries, Israel is blessed with the climate suitable to grow an array of fruits indigenous to the region as well as the land’s history. Olives are one of the oldest fruits known to man and have been mentioned in biblical texts all the way from the story of Noah in the Book of Geneses: “And lo, the dove returned to Noah, this time with a freshly plucked sprig of olive branch in her mouth”. Both the fruit as well as the oil are used extensively, not only in Israel, but all over the world. The benefits of using non-saturated olive oil in cooking is well known; and is gaining in popularity everywhere, despite the higher price for it, as compared to vegetable oils made from soy beans, corn, peanuts, and even canola. Olive oil was used to anoint kings in many ancient lands, and was used extensively by the ancient Greeks as both a protection against sunburn as well as to make their bodies ‘glisten’ during athletic competitions.

Olive oil comes in many varieties, and flavors, ranging from more acidic (and bitter) natural varieties, to the more refined types which foreign households are accustomed to using.

Today, one sees olive trees all over Israel; and many parks, private homes, and apartment buildings have olive trees gracing their lawns and gardens. Olives are ‘in season’ from mid-September to late March, depending on location and type of olives picked. The most popular type of olive is the round Maraschino which is grows in most locations as ranges anywhere in size from around 1 cm to 2 1/2 cm in length. These olives are either picked green or ripe, and can either be found in cans, jars, or in barrels in many grocery stores and open air markets. My favorites are the extra large Greek olives, most of which are imported either from Greece, Turkey, or Cyprus. They have a unique taste that appears to be from secret recipes handed down from generation to generation. One of the favorite types more indigenous to Israel and the Middle East is the Syrian olive which is longer and more pointed than the Maraschino. It is often found in open air markets and is usually ‘cracked’ or partially broken during processing to enhance its flavor, together with the addition of lemon wedges and garlic cloves.

I like to process my own olives, which, if done properly, taste better than the commercially processed ones. A simple recipe involves taking about two kilograms of freshly picked olives and soaking them in water for about two weeks, changing the water daily. After this process, place the olives in clean jars with intermittent layers of salt, lemon wedges and garlic cloves. Olive leaves can be added as well for both taste enhancement and eye appeal. Fill with water until full. Before closing the jars, add a layer of olive oil on top to enhance the flavor and prevent mold from forming. Place the filled jars in a dark place like a pantry for a minimum of 2-3 months before opening. It’s a good idea to write the date when the jars were filled so as not to open them too early. Olives not stored long enough will have a bitter taste.

Olive production has been recently hampered by pests like the Med-fly, which damages and deforms the fruit. For this reason, especially if you are ‘going organic’ and want olives from unsprayed trees, you will probably have to ‘cull out’ at least 20% or more of what you pick. The results are worth it, for you will not only have the pleasure of eating home processed organic olives, but the satisfaction of partaking in a tradition that is as ancient as the Bible itself.

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Breast is Best

Breast is BestToday’s modern mother, who divides her time between pursuing her career goals as well as taking care of her family, often regards breast feeding as something out of the archaic past. Many women in today’s society, do not even have their own mothers to turn to on this subject, as even their mother, if not grandmother, has not breastfed any of her children. Clinical studies on the subject of breast feeding are making new ‘discoveries’ on the subject yearly, and are concluding that not only is nursing more healthful and crucial to a child’s physical development, but very important psychologically as well.

Working mothers especially are faced with the ‘dilemma’ of breastfeeding baby once they return to work after maternity leave, which can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months after giving birth. Most workplaces are simply not suited for Mom to bring baby along and feed him or her during the work day. This problem has been more difficult in America than in Israel, where mothers are allowed to leave work early to go home to take care of such matters. Some companies, especially high tech ones who appreciate the contribution that the working mother is giving to the company, provide special sections within the premises for not only breastfeeding, but caring of small children who are cared for by hired nannies while Mom is at her work station.

Relating back to studies made on the benefits of breastfeeding over using formulas such as Similac and other preparations based on cow’s milk and an array of vitamins and minerals, it has been found that the natural vitamins and other substances in mothers’ milk far surpass any commercially made baby formula produced to date. The horrific results of the 2003 ‘baby formula tragedy’ which occurred in Israel, that left 3 infants dead and more than a dozen others incapacitated for life, clearly indicates the results of relying on these preparations instead of what comes naturally. In this instance, the product known as Remedia, lacked the B1 vitamin, or thiamin, which is essential to a baby’s nervous system development. The product, especially manufactured for use for orthodox Jewish mothers, due to complying with strict laws of Kashrus, did not contain milk solids at all; not to mention the omission of the B1 vitamin additive. Mother’s milk has been found to contain the perfect ‘balance’ of fats, nutrients and essential vitamins necessary for a child’s development. While it is true that some babies are either allergic to or cannot digest preparations containing lactose, this problem is much less prevalent with mother’s milk.

Israeli women who either do not have enough of their own milk or for some reason cannot produce their own (known as ‘dry up’) can obtain frozen mothers milk by consulting either their own pediatrician, or by consulting organizations such as the local equivalent of the La Leche League, as well as the “Tipat Halav” (mother and child clinic) in their own Kupat Holim Sick Fund.

Despite everything, including all the stories of all those insecticides, food additives, and even tar and nicotine from cigarettes finding their way into human milk, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the inconveniences and other problems connected to this truly natural way of giving one’s precious baby a good “head start” in life. Regarding cigarettes, its much better not to smoke at all; whether one is breast feeding or not!

Watching Your Yin and Yang – Natural Healing Through Macrobiotic Diets

Watching Your Yin and YangNatural healing, or letting one’s own body heal itself through harmony in lifestyles, diet, and other factors, is becoming more and more practiced these days. One of the world’s most authoritative persons on the subject of natural healing, Micho Kushi, wrote a very informative book on natural healing through macrobiotic diets.

Professor Kushi, of Japanese origin, and connected with the Abraham Lincoln School of Medicine at the University of Illinois, became interested in macrobiotic eating and its connection with fighting diseases. Kushi theorized that a person’s health and ability to fight disease coincides with a ‘balance’ in the Yin and Yang (or right and left) hemispheres of his physical harmony. All different kinds of medical dysfunctions, including various types of cancer, were noted by Professor Kushi; as well as his macrobiotic way to treat them.

Most people have diets which have an imbalance of Yin and Yang hemispheres. Foods compatible to each hemisphere, Yin or Yang, and how they should be prepared, and even consumed, have been subjects of intense research of macro biologists like Kushi.

For example, he noted that meats and dairy products, both Yang category foods, should be avoided by persons suffering from most forms of cancer. He also noted that foods which are allowed to be eaten should be cooked rather than eaten raw; and that one should chew each mouthful between 30 and 50 times before swallowing. The reasoning for this is not only does the thorough chewing make the food more digestible but the additional saliva and other body fluids are actually beneficial to ridding the body of the malignancy; a very important part of the body’s natural healing.

In other words, as per the time-worn expression goes, “you are what you eat”; and the diet consumed is very important in regards to the macrobiotic way of life. For this reason, it’s easy to see why people living in eastern Asian countries, including men, live long lives; with average life spans into the mid 80’s being considered normal. In countries like Japan, it’s quite common to see people still alive there up to age 100!

Source: Natural Healing by Michio Kushi, pub. 1978 by East West Publications, Boston Mass.

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The Tulsi Plant: India’s Wonder Herb

Tulsi PlantThe Tulsi plant is a basil-like herb originating in ancient India; and has been used as an integral ingredient in organic medicinal products for thousands of years by holistic and homeopathic health practitioners who understand and appreciate the medicinal qualities of this sacred or holy basil. This amazing herb is now available in a number of quality organic medicinal products and food supplements, enabling you to maintain better health and improved quality of life. Tulsi users swear to the miraculous healing qualities that this “queen of herbs” has given them; and can do the same for you as well.

The most sacred herbs of India include Soma, Tulsi and Lotus, and of these Tulsi, no doubt, inspires the most personal devotion to the Vishnu, or Lord Krishna. Tulsi is considered to be a Goddess connected with Krishna. One legend notes that this Goddess was incarnated after spending a lifetime as a very close devotee of Krishna, becoming the herb Tulsi, which leads to one of Tulsi’s many names, Vishnupriya (the beloved one of Vishnu). There are some followers of Krishna who have such a high regard for Tulsi that they would never dream of actively consuming Tulsi as a medicine, but rather choose to passively receive her healing power from her presence alone, which explains why many temples in India, as well as private homes, are adorned with Tulsi plants.

India is well known for its natural diets, particularly since the majority of its population are Hindu, and as such are not meat eaters. Supplements liker Tulsi and other herbs help Indians to add variety to what would otherwise be very bland and uninteresting foods. Curry, that Indians call the ’spice of life’ also features prominently in their diets as well.

Tulsi has traditionally been used in India as a medicinal herb to treat everything from coughs and bronchitis, to skin diseases and malarial fever. It is also recommended to help increase sexual stamina, and is mentioned in the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian book on love and sexual expertise. It is said that offering a young damsel a mixture of Tulsi leaves and betel nuts, is an expression of deep affection for her.

Modern uses for the Tulsi leaves and flowers include drinking them as a tea to counteract negative environmental effects on the body; and to rid the system of toxins.

The plant itself if rich in antioxidants, as well as vitamins A and C (if eaten fresh).

Types of Tulsi plants can differ, due to their natural habitat due to climate and moisture variations, as well as acid or alkaline content of the soil. For this reason, Tulsi plants harvested from different areas have different medicinal and food supplemental uses.

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