Sunday, September 30, 2007

Only a Handful Are Lords of the Food Harvest

* By Gustavo Capdevila
Inter Press Service, September 26, 2007
Straight to the Source

GENEVA - The food and beverage industry is experiencing a high degree of concentration, with 10 distributing companies controlling 24 percent of the world market, according to a report being studied this week by workers', employers' and government representatives gathered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The same trend that is seen in sales is found in other stages of the industry, such as manufacture and transformation of food products, said the report's author, Andrew Bibby, in his presentation of the ILO issues paper being discussed by the 70 participants at the Tripartite Meeting to Examine the Impact of Global Food Chains on Employment.

Bibby said that the strategy of diversification of food supply sources is no longer a novelty in the industry, and is closely linked to the globalisation of economic and trade relations.

What is new is the emergence of integrated world food chains, which employ 22 million people and are therefore a concern of the ILO's.

At the top of the list of food and beverage companies is the Swiss company Nestlé, with 260,000 employees, followed by the Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever with 179,000 employees, and the United States' PepsiCo with 157,000 workers, Sara Lee with 137,000, and Coca Cola with 132,300 employees.

Among corporations dedicated to retail sales, the final link in the chain, the U.S.-based Wal-Mart is in the lead with 1,800,000 employees, followed by French firm Carrefour with 440,500, the U.S. company Kroger with 290,000, Britain's Tesco with 273,000 and the U.S.-based Albertsons with 234,000 workers.

This quasi-monopoly situation arises from the mergers and acquisitions of giant companies that have been accentuated in recent years.

The ILO report says that "although the largest companies are huge in terms of their turnover, the sheer size and diversity of the global food industry leaves plenty of room for further consolidation."

In 2006, Nestlé grossed 74.7 billion dollars, Unilever's business was worth 49.6 billion, PepsiCo grossed 32.6 billion, Sara Lee 19.7 billion, and Coca Cola 41.8 billion dollars.

Wal-Mart's sales in 2004 amounted to 29 billion dollars, while Carrefour sold goods for 99.1 billion dollars.

But these gross revenues pale in comparison with profit distribution. A producer of snow peas (mangetout) in Zimbabwe receives only 12 cents per dollar earned on the peas sold in supermarkets in industrialised countries. Similarly, a Kenyan producer of fresh vegetables is paid just 14 cents per dollar of produce sold.

A study of bananas exported from Ecuador to the United Kingdom found that plantation owners received 10 percent of the share of income from banana sales, while only 1.5 percent reached the plantation workers.

The processes described in the ILO issues paper, which are changing the nature of the global food industry, will also have an impact on industrial relations and social dialogue in the sector.

"There is potential for better industrial relations and higher levels of compliance with core labour standards from which both companies and workers would benefit -- particularly through greater involvement and participation of lead firms at all stages of the food supply chain," the paper says.

"The social partners in the food manufacturing industry have a record of successful collective bargaining in companies all over the world," the document says.

"To take just one example among many, Nestlé Asia-Pacific has signed collective agreements in several countries covering a wide range of issues including respect for trade union rights and protection against victimisation for union activities, equality of opportunities, and non-discrimination of grounds of age, sex, race or religion," it adds.

But workers' spokesman Klaus Schroeter of Germany's catering trade union claimed that the collective agreements mentioned in the ILO paper do not comply with national legislation in the countries concerned.

Schroeter said the report was unsatisfactory, and that it is not for the ILO to make statements in line with the views of the corporations, he said.

The trade unionist objected to the part of the issues paper that forecasts increasing demand for food products in Asia and Latin America, and said he concludes from the document that the trend is worrying analysts, who fear that a global increase in food consumption will result in scarcity on a worldwide scale.

He said he found it cynical that the ILO should express such a view when thousands of children are dying of hunger, and that the author of the report should have been aware of this.

In the three tripartite meetings he has attended, he has never seen such a bad ILO document, Schroeter asserted.

Statistics released in 2007 by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that 854 million people, or 17 percent of the world population, suffer from hunger, and that their numbers are increasing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

New Book on Biotech Foods Includes Shopping Guide

A new publication from the Center for Food Safety and Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell, Your Right to Know, is an excellent resource for those of you looking for a shopping guide and reference material that will help you avoid GM foods.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cheap Biofuel Feedstocks Take a Toll on Soil Health

By Tom Button
agcanada.com, September 13, 2007
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Biofuel experts are already looking beyond grains for cheaper feedstocks such as straw or corn stover. But there is a price to be paid when you remove biomass that normally goes back to the soil.

It can take as little as three years to effectively burn your way through most of the 50 to 100 tonnes of humified organic matter in a typical acre of Ontario's corn producing soil. Once you burn through that organic matter, however, it may realistically take three lifetimes to build it back up.

That imbalance has Canadian soil specialists shaking their heads in disbelief at some of the bio-energy concepts being touted as representing the brave new world of renewable energy.

"If it burns up your organic matter, there's nothing renewable about it," snaps a worried Keith Reid, soil and fertility specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Those concepts, based on removing whole-plant top growth from the field and not putting any organic residues back, have the potential to zap the productivity out of today's soils almost as quickly as turning off a light switch. But they aren't the only plans that have soil scientists on the alert. Even ethanol and biodiesel proposals that rely on corn and soybeans will prove damaging to Ontario's long-term agricultural productivity if high prices lure more acres into monoculture and away from sound rotations, the scientists warn.

"There's no free lunch," says Ed Gregorich, soil scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Ottawa. "Organic matter is the key to soil productivity. If we allow it to be depleted, there might be a short-term financial gain but we'll be faced with compaction, poor soil structure and a whole suite of other long-term soil quality issues."

In fact, it turns out that in order to maintain any hope of sustainability, most soils have very little cushion. Now, a team of OMAFRA extension specialists including Kevin McKague, Adam Hayes and Christine Brown, has taken a first provisional stab at calculating how much cushion exists. editor's NOTE: U.S. readers note that one metric tonne equals 1.1 U.S. tons, and one hectare equals about 2.5 U.S. acres. This means the carbon recharge rate cited here that is necessary to maintain Ontario soil productivity of 3 tonnes per hectare is about 2.2 tons per acre.

The OMAFRA team based their calculations on existing research showing it takes 3 tonnes of carbon per year to simply maintain the organic matter content of a hectare of moldboard-plowed corn soil. (Carbon is the building block of organic matter). Less carbon is needed in no-till soils, in part because of lower erosion rates, but also because the mere turning over of plowed soils exposes more organic matter to atmospheric oxygen, where it undergoes chemical processes similar to combustion. Even so, a no-till field still needs a carbon injection of about 2.1 tonnes per hectare per year.

The OMAFRA team calculates that Ontario could only afford to divert 2.7 percent of its corn stover to off-farm processing, assuming that the spent stover isn't returned to the field after processing. Even in years with growthy crops, such as 2005, the province could only export 9.5 percent of its stover.

With no-till, the stover available for harvest is higher, but if growers hope to be sustainable in the long-term, they'd be limited to selling a quarter of their corn residue, the team says.

For other crops, the outlook is even more restricted. Not surprisingly, there's essentially no room to export soybean top growth, since soybeans produce so little organic material. More surprising, though, is the team's conclusion that Ontario also cannot afford to export wheat straw off-farm for energy processing. That's because 450,000 tonnes are taken off for straw, and that's already stretching the limits.

"We need to look at the soil as a finite resource," McKague says. "We haven't got a lot of organic matter to spare."

Indeed, soil specialists generally applaud Ontario's grain farmers just for being able to hold onto current organic matter levels, following rapid declines in the '70s and '80s when many farms gave up their livestock and therefore had no manure source, and when they also aggressively moldboard plowed.

Progress has stalled, however. McKague points out that while about half of Ontario's cash-crop soils are managed with conservation tillage, less than 20 percent of cornfields are no-tilled, and that number hasn't been growing.

"We won't be doing any favors for anyone, least of all ourselves, if we damage that equilibrium just to grow energy crops," McKague says. "None of us are against using farms to grow energy. That's not what we're saying. But we do need to get it right, using minimum tillage as much as possible and not taking off more bio-materials than the soil can sustain."

Like McKague, Reid thinks farmers need to draw the line for themselves. "We're already seeing signs that some of these promoters are either underestimating, or they're completely ignoring the impact their plans are going to have on organic matter," Reid says. "Fortunately, the farmers are asking tough questions, and they're going to have to keep on asking those questions."

Indeed, Gregorich says the best outcome for everyone-farmers and consumers alike-may be to actually increase the amount of organic matter in our soils. That would have the double advantage, Gregorich explains, of boosting soil productivity and lowering the level of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Fortunately, Gregorich adds, scientists in the past decade have vastly improved their ability to provide advice about soil organic matter. Detailed studies are unraveling its complex nature, delving into the roles of each of its myriad components instead of treating organic matter, as in the past, as a single uniform substance.

"Organic matter is going to be a critical issue, one of the critical issues," McKague says. "Society is saying it needs us to help diversify our energy future, but we also need to look after the future of our soils."

This article reprinted with the permission of Country Guide (www.agcanada.com), Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stop Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR TO HIT STORES IN 2008 (scroll to the bottom of this page to take action) Background Information: American Crystal, a large Wyoming-based sugar company, who ironically have launched an "organic" line of their sugar,and several other leading U.S. sugar providers have announced they will be sourcing their sugar from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets beginning this year and arriving in stores in 2008. Like GE corn and GE soy, products containing GE sugar will not be labeled as such.

Since half of the granulated sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, a move towards biotech beets marks a dramatic alteration of the U.S. food supply. These sugars, along with GE corn and soy, are found in many conventional food products, so consumers will be exposed to genetically engineered ingredients in just about every non-organic multiple-ingredient product they purchase.

The GE sugar beet is designed to withstand strong doses of Monsanto's controversial broad spectrum Roundup herbicide. Studies indicate farmers planting "Roundup Ready" corn and soy spray large amounts of the herbicide, contaminating both soil and water. Farmers planting GE sugar beets are told they may be able to apply the herbicide up to five times per year. Sugar beets are grown on 1.4 million acres by 12,000 farmers in the U.S. from Oregon to Minnesota.

Meanwhile candy companies like Hershey's are urging farmers not to plant GE sugar beets, noting that consumer surveys suggest resistance to the product. In addition the European Union has not approved GE sugar beets for human consumption.

To take action on this issue, follow this link to The Organic Consumers Association

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Study: Industrial Agriculture Crops Are Far Less Nutritious Than Organic Crops

Crops are getting less nutritious and farming methods are partly to blame.

September 11, 2007, BOULDER, Colorado - Today's farmers raise more bushels of corn, pecks of apples, and pounds of broccoli from a given piece of land than they did decades ago. But those crops are often less nutritious, according to a new report released today from The Organic Center, "Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient levels in U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields."

"Our crops are more abundant [i.e., per acre yields are higher], but they are also generally less nutritious," said report author Brian Halweil, a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and a member of the Organic Center's scientific advisory board. Historical records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that everyday fruits and vegetables-from collard greens to tomatoes to sweet corn-often have lower levels of some vitamins and less iron, calcium, zinc, and other micronutrients than they did 50 years ago.

The most compelling data supporting the general decline in nutrient levels in crops comes from contemporary studies where researchers have grown modern plant varieties side-by-side with historic, generally lower-yielding cultivars, using similar production practices and levels of inputs, like nitrogen fertilizer. Several such studies have found that the modern-era varieties produce 10 to 25 percent lower levels of iron, zinc, protein, calcium, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients per pound of produce or grain.

For instance, looking at 63 spring wheat cultivars grown between 1842 and 2003, researchers at Washington State University found declines in the concentrations for all eight minerals studied, with an 11 percent decline for iron, 16 percent decline for copper, 25 percent decline for zinc, and 50 percent decline for selenium.

"To get our recommended daily allowance of nutrients, we have to eat many more slices of bread today than people had to eat in the past," said Halweil. "Less nutrition per calorie consumed affects consumers in much the same way as monetary inflation. That is, we have more food, but it's worth less in terms of nutritional value."

Because of the impressive and ongoing increases in per acre yields, the decline in the nutrient content per serving of food or bushel of grain has gone largely unnoticed by agricultural scientists, farmers, public health officials, and policymakers. The decline in nutrients over the last few decades has unfolded alongside significant changes in the composition of the average American diet.

Not only are consumers getting less nutrients per serving of food today, many people are also consuming a far larger share of their daily caloric intake from highly processed junk foods high in added fat, sugars, and salt. According to The Organic Center's Chief Scientist Dr. Charles Benbrook, "Less nutrient-dense foods, coupled with poor food choices, go a long way toward explaining today's epidemics of obesity and diabetes."

Reversing Nutrient Decline

Plants bred to produce higher yields tend to devote less energy to other factors, like sinking deep roots and generating health-promoting compounds known as phytochemicals. Farming practices have worked hand-in-hand with plant breeding in setting the stage for nutrient decline. Modern conventional agriculture production practices, such as close plant spacing, heavy use of chemical fertilizers, and reliance on pesticides, tend to produce fast-growing, high-yielding crops, but also plants that do not absorb a comparable quantity of many nutrients, and often have poorly developed and unhealthy root systems.

The good news is that recent research shows that existing varieties of a given crop often vary widely in terms of their mineral and vitamin content, so it should be possible for crop breeders to draw on the genetic diversity within plant species to make our food more nutritious.

Moreover, backing a bit back down the yield curve through strategic changes in farming systems should help reverse the decline in nutrient content. For instance, although organic farming results in somewhat lower yields in many cases, studies show that it also tends to produce crops with higher concentrations of micronutrients, phytochemicals, and other health-promoting compounds.

Organic sources of soil nutrients, like manure or cover crops, offer more balanced mixtures of nutrients, and tend to release nutrients more gradually. As a result, according to Benbrook, "Plants develop more robust root systems that more aggressively absorb nutrients from the soil, and produce crops with higher concentrations of valuable nutrients and phytochemicals."

"This intimate relationship between soil quality, crop yields, and food nutritional quality is farming's equivalent of no free lunch," Benbrook continued. "This study highlights the benefits of building soil quality in improving crop nutritional quality, whether on organic or conventional farms."

The nutritional advantage of organic food ranges from a few percent to sometimes 20 percent or more for certain minerals, and on average, about 30 percent in the case of antioxidants. Some studies have reported even more dramatic differences in concentrations of specific phytochemicals-for example, nearly twice as much of two common antioxidants in organic tomatoes compared to conventional tomatoes.

"This advantage will vary depending on the crop, soil quality, and growing conditions," said Halweil. "And there will be some cases where conventional crops have higher nutritional quality than nearby organic crops, especially as organic farmers find ways to push yields to or above the levels on conventional farms."

Improving the nutritional quality of our crops on a per serving basis will be an important part of addressing larger nutritional and health problems, particularly as the baby-boom generation ages. This report and others from the Center have stressed the benefits of food that delivers more nutrition per calorie consumed.

According to Alan Greene, M.D., chair of the Center's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, "For many of our most costly and common health problems in the years ahead, progress in reducing the frequency and severity of disease will depend increasingly on improving food nutritional quality and patterns of dietary choice, rather than simply an ever-widening dependence on drug-based therapies and surgery."


Editor's Note: ­ The Center can provide photos and additional information, and arrange interviews with key scientists. Contact Dr. Charles Benbrook at 541-828-7918, or via email cbenbrook@organic-center.org.

About The Organic Center: The Organic Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to understanding the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming systems. The Center's program of sponsored research strives to better understand how organic farming can improve food safety and quality in order to:

· Document and quantify the current benefits associated with organic food and farming systems;

· Expand the scope and increase the frequency of existing benefits; and

· Create new benefits in the future.

The reports of the Center, including "Still No Free Lunch," are accessible free of charge on our website: http://www.organic-center.org/ . For more information on the work of The Organic Center, contact 303-499-1840.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Top 20 Things That are More Dangerous to Children than Lead Paint in Mattel Toys

* NewsTarget/Truth Publishing, Sept 5, 2007
Straight to the Source

The mainstream media is amusingly irrational when it comes to reporting scare stories. The latest example involves the lead content of Mattel toys made in China. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a third recall of Mattel toys involving over 700,000 toys containing unacceptably high levels of lead paint (over .06 percent lead). Irrational parents are rushing back to retailers in droves, turning in their Mattel toys to "save their children" from the dangers of lead paint. Mattel, for its part, is being rightly blasted in the media for selling shoddy products made with toxic heavy metals.

But here's the interesting part in all this: Parents directly poison their children every day with products far more dangerous than Mattel toys. Don't believe me? I'll name twenty things in this article that are far more dangerous to children than Mattel toys. It doesn't mean Mattel toys are safe, of course. They apparently do contain unacceptably high levels of lead, and there's no question about the toxicity of lead. But children don't eat toys nearly as often as they eat some other toxic substances given to them by their parents, and even as parents are herding back into retailers to refund their toxic lead-laden toys, they're returning home and poisoning their children with many other products that are far worse.

The press, of course, reports nothing about these other toxic products. And why? Because they're made in America.

American products poisoning American children

American products, you see, are often given blanket immunity by the U.S. press. While the media is happy to jump on toxic lead found in Chinese products, they completely ignore (for example) the toxic mercury that dentists continue to place into the mouths of young children all across the country. Why is it considered highly dangerous for a child to merely touch a toy with .06 percent lead paint while it is considered perfectly safe for a child to chew on a filling made with 40 percent mercury? Mercury is far more toxic than lead in many ways, yet the media has nothing to say about the mass poisoning of children through the outmoded dental work still being performed on children today. Mercury fillings were invented before the Civil War, and they're just as toxic now as they were then!

Of course, if dental fillings were made in China, the U.S. press would be screaming about their toxicity! But since they're installed by crazed U.S. dentists -- many of whom still manage to seem convincingly sane -- there's zero coverage in the mainstream media.

Reporting the truth about dangerous chemicals, heavy metals and other threats to children is extremely selective. The public never hears the real truth about what's dangerous -- they only hear what the media want them to think is dangerous!

But I've had it with popular media distortions. Here, I'm going to reveal the top 20 things that are more dangerous to children than the lead paint in Mattel toys. Interestingly, most of these are things that parents intentionally give their children (or feed to them!). If you're worried about lead paint, you should be far more worried about these 20 things...

The top 20 things that are more dangerous to children than lead paint in Mattel toys

1. Mercury fillings

Often called "silver fillings" to hide the fact that they're made from mercury, these highly toxic fillings are placed directly into the mouths of children where they are inhaled (mercury vapor) and swallowed, causing systemic mercury poisoning to the child and leading to long-term neurological damage. Visit www.IAOMT.org and watch the "Smoking Teeth = Poison Gas" video to learn more.

2. Vaccines

Think vaccines are safe? You've been hoodwinked by the popular media parroting drug company propaganda. Vaccines are preserved with methyl mercury, one of the most dangerous chemical forms of the toxic heavy metal. This mercury is injected directly into the bodies of children where it causes severe neurological damage. And yes, it does cause Autism, despite what you've read in the dumbed-down press. Only a fool would inject their child with mercury-preserved vaccines.

3. Hot dogs

Hot dogs are made with horrifying processed meat parts (click here to see shocking photos of processed meat products, then preserved with a cancer-causing ingredient called sodium nitrite. As detailed in my book Grocery Warning, this ingredient causes brain tumors in children, not to mention leukemia, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and other cancers. Hot dogs are far more dangerous to a child's health than lead paint in my opinion, and yet parents keep feeding them to their children!

4. Antibacterial soap

How about a little nerve toxin in your soap? That's what's found in antibacterial soap. It's a toxic cocktail of chemicals designed to kill life. That's how it kills bacteria. The problem is that it also harms people -- especially infants and children who are trying to develop healthy nervous systems. Avoid all products claiming to be "antibacterial." You're better off using natural soap (like Dr. Bronner's soap, www.DrBronner.com ) and letting your child's immune system fight off common bacteria. The world isn't sterile, after all. You can't turn your house into a germ-free bubble.

5. ADHD drugs

Would you give your child street drugs like speed or meth? Probably not, but what if your doctor wrote you a prescription for speed and said your child needed it because he was ADHD? If you're like most parents, you'd fall in step and start giving your child speed. But wait, you say: ADHD drugs are not speed, are they? But of course they are. They belong to a class of drugs called amphetamines. They used to be illegally sold as speed. Now they're prescription drugs, and they're given to children in schools all across America (and elsewhere). Psychiatrists and drug companies are making a killing dosing up kids and infants on substances that used to be considered illegal street drugs (and that have no legitimate medical use whatsoever).

6. Sports drinks

For some reason, parents irrationally believe sports drinks are healthy because they contain the word "sports." Didn't they notice the neon green artificial coloring? Sports drinks are, in my opinion, a nutritional joke. Made from salt water, processed sweeteners and petrochemical coloring, many of their ingredients are actually harmful. Drinking water would be smarter, and feeding your child some healthy trace minerals would be even better. Low on potassium? Eat a banana.

7. Cough syrup and over-the-counter medicines

Nearly all children's over-the-counter medicines contain multiple toxic substances such as chemical sweeteners, preservatives and additives. Cough syrup, in particular, has been scientifically proven to be absolutely worthless in preventing coughs. Many "children's" medicines are actually more toxic than their adult counterparts because they're sweetened up and cosmetically enhanced with artificial colors made from petrochemicals. Yet parents poison their children every day with over-the-counter medicine.

8. Sunscreen

The sunscreen industry is a huge scam. Most popular sunscreen products actually cause skin cancer due to the numerous toxic chemicals they contain (which are quickly absorbed into the skin where they cause DNA mutations that lead to cancer). Even worse, sunscreen blocks the UV radiation that allows the skin to manufacture all-important vitamin D -- the most powerful anti-cancer nutrient yet known to modern science. It prevents over a dozen different cancers, yet parents block it by slathering toxic sunscreen on their children, all while mistakenly believing they're "protecting their children from cancer!" What a scam.

9. Fluoride in the water

I've always found it amazing that city water officials were dumb enough to actually buy a toxic waste substance and arrange to have it dripped into the public water supply where it would be ingested by infants and children. The result? Mass fluorosis and toxicity to children everywhere. Didn't these people realize that fluoride only works topically? (That is, it only works if you rub it on your teeth, then spit it out, and even that only works if you're using natural fluoride, not the chemicals spit out as byproducts of the fertilizer industry, which is what city water departments are buying and dripping into the water supply.) Click here to see my CounterThink cartoon on this topic.

Whoever heard of drinking a topical medication in the first place? It's like swallowing sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Even worse, putting this into the public water supply effectively mass medicates everyone with a bioactive chemical substance that no one has been given a prescription for. This is all done with no regard for the level of natural fluoride children might already be ingesting from other sources. The situation is so crazy that it's difficult to find a more insane example of medical tyranny than the mass fluoridation of public water supplies. The fact that doctors and dentists so vehemently support it demonstrates just how crazy they really are.

10. Processed milk

Children as young as 10 years old are now being diagnosed with heart disease and clogged arteries. Ever wonder how it happened? It's due in part, I believe, to all the processed milk children are swallowing these days. Not only is the milk contaminated with pus, blood and detectable levels of pesticides and other chemicals, it's also homogenized, meaning the fats are artificially modified in a way that makes them stay in suspension. This homogenization also makes milk fats dangerous to cardiovascular health. While I support the consumption of raw, unprocessed milk, I think that consuming processed, homogenized milk is dangerous to the health of infants, children and adults alike!

11. Fast food

Fast food is extremely unhealthy for children. Not only are the foods often fried, homogenized, hydrogenated and otherwise altered, they're also laced with chemical additives, taste enhancers, processed sugars, petrochemical food coloring and other unhealthy substances. Strangely, many parents actually reward their children for good behavior by buying them unhealthy fast food meals, thereby creating a psychological association between good feelings and junk food. (Fast food restaurants further exploit this psychological link by building playgrounds and running feel-good advertisements that emphasize friends and fun, then link those good vibes to their food products.)

12. Antidepressant drugs

Children as young as six months old are now being put on psychotropic drugs such as SSRIs (antidepressants). These drugs, we now know, cause suicidal thoughts and violent behavior, especially in young boys. They imbalance brain chemistry and even alter the body's metabolism of sugar, promoting diabetes and leading to rapid weight gain. These drugs are so dangerous that feeding them to children should be considered a crime. Every single school shooting involving a child in the United States in the last 15 years has been linked to antidepressant drug use. Need I say more?

13. Chemical laundry detergents

Parents are shown fancy ads on television depicting how wonderful and clean their clothes will be if they wash them in brand-name laundry detergent. What they're not shown, however, is the toxicity of all the synthetic chemicals that go into most laundry detergent products. The fragrance chemicals alone are often carcinogenic, and they're just as bad for the environment as they are children's health. A new alternative has appeared, however: Soap berries! It's laundry soap that grows on trees. We offer it at www.BetterLifeGoods.com

14. Flame retardant chemicals

Did you know that new mattresses for infants and children are often sprayed with extremely toxic flame retardant chemicals? These are easily absorbed through the skin of infants and children where they contribute to numerous neurological disorders and immune suppression. Many clothing products are also sprayed with flame retardants, as are some carpeting products. In the push to make everything fireproof, state regulators (who have mandated the flame retardant chemicals in states like California) have created a toxic environment for everyone. I suppose if you're a politician, it's always better for a million people to die of a mysterious disease that can't be linked to you than to have one baby burning up on the evening news with fingers of blame pointed directly at you.

15. Soda

Aside from directly promoting diabetes and obesity, sodas also contain high amounts of phosphoric acid, a substance that dissolves bones and causes a loss of bone mineral density. This causes massive tooth decay as well as a shrinking jaw bone and overall skeletal fragility. Diet sodas are even worse, since they contain chemical sweeteners linked to neurological disorders and learning disabilities.

16. Air fresheners

Air fresheners contain cancer-causing chemicals. Unleashing them in the house exposes children to these chemicals, promoting asthma and other respiratory problems. If you value the health of your children, avoid air freshener products and just use essential oils or citrus peels instead. (Peel an orange and hang the peel in your kitchen.)

17. Synthetic vitamins

Many children's vitamins are made with cheap, synthetic "vitamin" chemicals that actually harm people who take them. Plus, many are loaded up with artificial colors, sucrose and chemical sweeteners. Avoid cheap, store-bought children's vitamins or anything containing cyanocobalamin (a toxic form of vitamin B12). Quality children's vitamins are available through sources like Nordic Naturals (fish oils) and www.IntegratedHealth.com (also check www.WellnessResources.com for high-quality supplements).

18. Dryer sheets

Most popular dryer sheets and fabric softeners are made with toxic synthetic chemicals that are not safe to use on children's clothing. The fragrance chemicals alone are often highly carcinogenic, and the other chemicals contribute additional toxicity to the clothing. Children's clothes should never be washed or dried in chemicals. Only use natural detergents and fabric softeners, or avoid the fabric softeners altogether.

19. Bacon

Most bacon and sausage are processed meat products made with sodium nitrite (like the hot dogs, above) and contaminated with various chemicals lodged in the animal fats. Conventionally-raised beef, pork and chicken products are, in my opinion, extremely toxic to the human body and contribute to colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and many other diseases and disorders. If you make meat for your children, shop for 100% organic, free-range, antibiotic-free meats that have no nitrites or nitrates.

20. Shampoo and bath products

Virtually all popular shampoo and bath products sold on the market contain cancer-causing chemicals. The ingredients read like a top-40 list of toxic chemicals. Virtually none of these chemicals have ever been tested or approved for use on humans (they are simply ignored because the FDA astonishingly believes the skin won't absorb chemicals). If you want healthy products, use the shampoo I recommend: Pure Essentials Fragrance-Free Shampoo from Earth Science (www.TheNewES.com)

Keeping your health priorities straight

So that's the list of 20 items that are more dangerous to the health of children than the lead paint in Mattel toys. Most parents have no concern whatsoever for any of these 20 things, but they're going ape-shoot-crazy over the tiny amounts of lead in their Barbie toys and Elmo stuffed animals. It all just goes to show you that the sheeple will think anything the mainstream media tells them to think (and they'll ignore everything else).

It's classic American contradiction: Returning a Mattel toy at the local toy store while taking your child to a dentist to have mercury implanted in the cavities caused by all the soda the kid consumed at home (because the parents keep buying Coke and Pepsi). If it all weren't so downright tragic, it would almost be funny.