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Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Rural Oregon Is a National Flashpoint in the Corporate GMO Food Wars



Oregon’s Rogue Valley will vote in May on banning GMO plants.

Photo Credit: Our Family Farms Coalition

It was a performance worthy of a political Oscar. Jordan punctuated his hour-long presentation with endless disclaimers that he wasn’t a GMO expert and his figures were best guesses. But then he declared that Measure 115-19 on May’s ballot would cost his cash-strapped county $260,000 to set up in its first year, and could cost up to $1.7 million to clean up every 20 acres of tainted soil after that. It could require police seize marijuana plants to test whether growers were using a gene-altering spray, he said, which made headlines as Oregon voters are expected to legalize pot this fall. And it even could require the sheriff to send a GMO swat team to Home Depot to remove fresh flowers.Danny Jordan doesn’t look like a hitman for corporate agriculture. But in mid-March, the linebacker-sized county administrator in southwest Oregon delivered his analysis of the costs of a proposed countywide ballot measure banning genetically modified organisms to Jackson County’s governing Board of Commissioners.
“How do you minimize contamination if we are removing carnations from Home Depot,” Jordan said in full seriousness, telling the stone-faced commissioners that the flowers can come from GMO seeds. “I don’t know that it can’t contaminate something. It’s hard for me to give us a cost estimate until we have someone present us with a case.” 
Jordan’s parade of purported horribles was seized by the measure’s opponents for their first wave of exaggeration-filled political ads. Banning GMO plants would impose cuts on the police and library budgets, they began, before making other distorted claims of government overreach. Needless to say, Jordan’s figures, which he inflated by adding items such as the $40,000 cost of the already-scheduled May election and $90,000 for unspecified administrative charges, were about as trustworthy as the name of the opposition PAC behind the ads: Good Neighbor Farmers.
That PAC, which had $536,000 in the bank as of April 15, according to campaign finance records, compared to about $31,000 for the measure’s backers, is hardly homegrown. Six agribusiness and biotech giants creating and selling GMO products—Bayer, BASF, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta—donated more than $450,000 to it in 2014. The GMO-heavy sugar beet and corn industries were the next biggest givers, topping $90,000, with a half-dozen state Farm Bureau chapters from the Great Plains also chipping in.
“Oh God, it’s such garbage information,” said Chris Hardy, reacting to Jordan’s analysis and the negative ads based on it. “It’s misinformation to confuse voters.”
Hardy, who grows herbs, vegetables and seeds, helped draft the proposed GMO ban. He said that the attorneys who wrote it paid careful attention to legal precedents to ensure it would be low-impact and low-cost. It’s similar to a GMO ban adopted in Marin County, Calif., in 2004, where Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay said this week that the law has cost very little. It’s also based on an existing Jackson County ordinance requiring fruit orchard owners to get rid of pests that could spread and harm other trees. In most cases, the county sends a notice to a landowner as a last resort, which is exactly the opposite of the opposition’s shrill messaging.
“The measure will divert taxpayer dollars away from public safety, libraries, extension programs and other county services,” their website declared, echoing their broadcast ads. “Farmers would be subject to complaints, inspections and legal fees, even if they do not grow GMO crops… Finally, the measure could also prohibit certain ornamental flowers, nursery plants, lawn seed and even some strains of medical marijuana.”
In short, southwestern Oregon’s Rogue Valley has become the latest frontier in Big Ag’s brazen efforts to extinguish any citizen uprising that rejects biotech-based farming. 
“We’re at a fork in the road,” said Hardy, who’s not na├»ve about the stakes in this fight. “We either have to chose multinational corporations as the future of agriculture, or we have to show up in May and choose Measure 15-119 as the future of agriculture in the region. They are non-compatible.”
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Oregon’s Jackson County, with the small cities of Medford and Ashland, verdant Rogue Valley and a total population of 204,000, is on agribusiness’ radar for a simple reason. If the GMO plant ban wins, it could become a crack in the legal armor protecting its profits.
Across the nation, there have been many ballot initiatives and legislation to require food makers using GMO-based ingredients to say so in their labeling. Most of these measures have not beenapproved by voters after massive, industry-led disinformation campaigns, such as in Washington and California in 2013. Labeling laws passed by state legislatures, such as in Vermont over hormones injected into cows to increase milk yields, have been thrown out by conservative federal judges who have ruled that such pro-consumer labeling infringes on corporate speech rights. That is the same legal reasoning that has kept graphic images off cigarette boxes. But 15-119 takes a different tack by trying to ban the GMO plants.
Jackson County’s measure was drafted, Hardy said, because the region was at a fork in the road. On one side, it was increasingly growing organic produce and plants. On the other side was the introduction of GMO sugar beets on several dozen parcels leased to Syngenta, a Swiss company that has been planting the seeds in the fall, letting them flower in the spring, and uprooting the young plants for resale across the U.S., said Brian Comnes, who co-wrote the GMO ban with Hardy. “Syngenta has said those plants are worth $55 million to them,” he said. “They charge $160 per plant.” 
The problem is organic crops can be imperiled by GMO pollen. That’s because a plant’s pollen—GMO or not—is carried by the wind and can taint other plant’s genetics. A well-known caseoccurred last year in Oregon with GMO wheat. That’s also the fear with sugar beets, Hardy said, which are related to chard, a leafy organic vegetable. A handful of local organic growers won’t even plant chard varieties any more, he said, fearing they would no longer be certified as organic.
“It effects us all,” Hardy said. “You have to know what it is to have pollen from a multi-national corporation trespass across your land, and then have your market broker call you up and say that he can’t sell it—they’d just tested it and they don’t want to deal with you anymore. There already is a chilling effect here in the Rogue Valley with our non-GMO farmers… Mother Nature will do what Mother Nature does. You can’t stop it.”   
Big Ag and biotech giants know how farmers like Hardy feel and have been very busy trying to stop their no-GMO efforts. Last year, industry lobbyists were almost entirely successful in ensuring that Oregon did not follow California and Washington with anti-GMO laws. The Legislature passed Senate Bill 863, an “emergency” bill, which barred every local government jurisdictions from enacting GMO laws. The explanation given was such an important issue needed to be regulated on a statewide basis. But Jackson County’s no-GMO ordinance predated S.B. 863, so it could still be put to a vote. On the other hand, similar but newer anti-GMO measures in a handful of other counties are in legal limbo as a result of S.B. 863, such as in nearby Lake County.
The industry-led disinformation campaign against the proposed GMO plant ban has been as predictable as it is cynical. Beyond all the fiscal fear-mongering, it’s worth noting who would really be affected by a GMO ban—besides the several dozen parcels leased to Syngenta for its beet seedlings.
This is where the full bluster, hyperbole, misinformation and stakes come into clear view. According to the most recent U.S. Census reports, there are slightly under 2,000 farms in Jackson County. Most are backyard hobby operations. Only 274 earn more than $20,000 a year; 120 earn more than $50,000; 22 earn more than $500,000, Census reported.
Hardy said he has been talking to farmers for years about GMOs and that he only knows of four local farmers who admit to using GMO seeds—not leasing land. One grows corn, which is not a big local crop. One grows sugar beets, he said, and two others grow alfalfa grass. That means out of the 120 farmers making $50,000 through farming, only 3.3 percent appear to be impacted by the proposed ban. If you add those farms to the four-dozen leased-land sugar-beet operations, that makes an estimated 52 property owners out of county’s 1,976 farm parcels (according to the Census), or 2.6 percent.
“I don’t think people know that,” Hardy said, speaking of how few people are making money from GMO plants in Jackson County. “How would people know that? There are no statistics on it. You know who would know? Monsanto, Syngenta, that’s who. They make you sign contracts when they buy their seeds. They won’t tell you.”
But if less than 4 percent of Jackson County’s farms are using GMO seeds, the political coalition defending GMOs has 94 percent of the available cash to use for political ads in the final weeks of the election, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State as of April 15. The opponents have $536,000 in cash on hand, while the proponents have about $31,000—a 17-to-1 ratio. This disparity perfectly illustrates how big money can distort elections, especially at the local level, giving more power and a bigger microphone to a much smaller but far wealthier faction.
Deeper Ironies
Like any well-financed political campaign, the opposition is seasoned enough to have a local face. Lee Bradshaw is a cattle rancher who opposes the GMO measure and helped create the Good Neighbor Farmers PAC. When reached by phone, he confirmed that the only local GMO crops are sugar beets and alfalfa—where seeds are modified to make the hay grass resistant to a common pesticide.
Bradshaw complained about the proposed ordinance’s costs, citing County Administrator Danny Jordan’s report as the authoritative source. “We laid off 12 or 13 sheriffs, cut 4-H, shut our libraries,” he said, saying the county could not afford to police GMO plants.
Actually, voters in May will be considering two other ballot measures, one that would create a dedicated funding stream for libraries and another that would do the same for agricultural education. There’s also a hot county sheriff’s race—which underscores why Jordan’s inclusion of the election’s cost in his analysis of the GMO measure’s costs was not exactly honest. Moreover, Hardy said those measure’s authors support banning GMO plants, and have said that the GMO ordinance would not impact their future funding.
Bradshaw also did not choose to see the apparent contradiction that GMO pollen was already infringing on others’ land—even as he said his top issue was property rights.
“It’s kind of being pushed on us,” he said. “It’s an invasion of property rights. My family has been here since 1856. My biggest deal is private property rights. I don’t even farm. I raise livestock. I think the next thing will be crop controls.”
Bradshaw wouldn’t say what political messaging was coming before the May 20vote. But it will likely be a mix of television and radio ads, and mailers and newspaper inserts. City dwellers will likely be told they can’t buy lawn seeds, footnoted by Jordan’s report. Rural residents will hear about potential land grabs and legal invasions, if the “Myth vs. Fact” page on the opposition’s website is a guide.   
The proponents will be using their grassroots network of neighbor-to-neighbor contacts, leaving brochures on doors and other low-budget messaging. “We can continue to do what we are doing,” Hardy said, “which is asking what the future of agriculture and the future of food looks like in the Rogue Valley.” 
It’s also an open question if the county’s voters will hear about the experience of other counties that have banned GMO plants and found that doing so hasn’t cost very much. That’s been the case in both Marin and Santa Cruz counties, according to senior agricultural officials in those California locales.
“Most of our ranchers and other producers are sustainably minded; three-quarters of the dairies are organic,” said Stefan Parnay, Marin’s Deputy Agricultural Commissioner. “We’re fortunate in that sense. In Marin County, because of how it farms, it hasn’t been an issue for us.”
Santa Cruz County Agriculture Commissioner Mary Lou Nicoletti said her county grows mostly fruits and vegetables, not GMO plants such as canola, corn, “or any of the crops that are grown with genetically modified organisms.”
“To be honest, there’s a lot of [biotech] research going on with fruits and vegetables, but nothing that I know of is being marketed,” she said. “Right now, we aren’t having any cost to enforce this. Five to 10 years from now, that could be different.” 
Turning Point
As Hardy said, Jackson County is at a fork in the road, with one path pointing to organic farming and smaller-scale production, and another pointing to the GMO-based door that big ag and biotech corporations want to push open. That’s why hundreds of thousands of dollars have poured into the county to fight the GMO plant ban. That’s why the county’s conservative Board of Commissioners generated an official report they knew would delight big industry and fuel its exaggeration- and distortion-filled political ads. 
“It’s a complete misinformation campaign,” Hardy said. “There is no way for the voters to stay informed in what the truth is. They’re flooding the airwaves with all kinds of misinformation. You’ve got to do your own homework on it.”
But there still may be a ray of hope for the no-GMO side. According to Chris Walker, the county clerk and election director, the public is paying attention and the political money being spent is not the only local record that may be broken. She expects voter turnout will exceed 50 percent, compared to past primaries where it has hovered around 37 percent.
In other words, Jackson County’s voters might just take a hard look at all the corporate-sponsored propaganda and side with most local farmers, saying no to GMO.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Miracle of Tea Tree Oil: 80 Amazing Uses for Survival

The Miracle of Tea Tree Oil: 80 Amazing Uses for Survival

Gaye Levy
Activist Post

Essential oils have been used for healing and medicinal purposes for centuries and most certainly long before we had pills, capsules and big pharma to take care of our medical woes. And while there is a place for manufactured pharmaceuticals in our survival medicine kit, there exists the possibility that none will be available or that they will be in such scarce supply that they should be reserved for only the most dire of circumstances.

For that reason, many preppers and individuals seeking self-reliance are learning to use essential oils to manage the both routine and not-so-routine maladies that occur in daily life. There are about a dozen or so essential oils that belong in every survival kit including tea tree, peppermint, lavender, clove, rosemary and lemon among others. All of these essential oils have healing properties but today I would like to focus on just one, tea tree oil.

A Brief History Of Tea Tree Oil

It is believed that the Aborigines of Australia have been using the leaves of the indigenous Malaleuca Tree (whose leaves are used to make tea tree oil) in their medications for centuries. They inhaled the oils from the crushed leaves to treat coughs and colds, sprinkled crushed leaves on their wounds and used an infusion of soaked leaves to treat sore throats or skin ailments.

Use of the oil itself, as opposed to the un-extracted plant material, did not become common practice until researcher Arthur Penfold published the first reports of its antimicrobial activity in a series of papers in the 1920s and 1930s. In evaluating the antimicrobial activity, he found that tea tree oil was 11 times more active than phenol.

The commercial tea tree oil industry was born shortly thereafter although interest in tea tree oil ebbed after World War II, presumably due to the development of effective antibiotics and the waning image of natural products. Interest was rekindled in the 1970s as part of the general renaissance of interest in natural products.


For thousands of years, the derivatives of the Malaleuca Tree have been effective in treating a wide variety of ailments. Here are 80 reasons why you should use it, too!

Abrasions & Minor Cuts: After cleaning the area well, apply a few drops of the oil directly. If a bandage is needed, allow a few drops of the oil to penetrate a cotton ball, then lay it face down on the wound with a bandage on top.

Acne: Add a drop to your normal cleansing routine or dab a very small amount on acne breakouts. You can also add 20 – 40 drops of the oil to your regular face wash.

Air Freshener: Keep a supply of cotton balls soaked in tea tree oil packed away in a plastic bag or tin. When confronted with foul smells from cooking, musty orders from dampness or even the medicinal smell in a sick room, take a few out the freshen the air and remove the nasty smell.

Allergies: Use topically by massaging into the chest, abdomen or the reflex points of the feet.

Arthritis: To help reduce pain associated with the swelling of arthritis, add 20 drops of tea tree oil to 2 ounces of grapeseed or other carrier oil. Massage into affected area 2-3 times a day.

Asthma: Add a few drops of oil to a pan of water and heat on stove. When cooling, drape a towel over head and breath in for a few minutes.

Athletes Foot: Clean feet thoroughly, especially between toes. Add oil directly to feet every two weeks, dusting with corn starch after. Or add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp of grapeseed or other carrier oil and massage on feet and between toes daily.

Baby Care: Keep your diaper pail clean and fresh with a spray of tea tree oil mixed with water.

Bacterial Infections: Use topically, either massaging into the reflex points of the feet, adding several drops to a bath or cautiously applying over an infected site.

Bad Breath: Rinse with 1 ounce water and 1 drop oil. Do not swallow!

Bladder Infection: In a shallow bath, add 10 – 15 drops of oil. Sit and wash area carefully.

Blisters: Wash area carefully, then apply as for cuts and wounds.

Boils: Apply a warm washcloth for a few minutes. Then apply a drop or two of oil to the area – the infection should rise to surface and eventually be released.

Bronchial Congestion: Use as directed for Asthma. Add 5 – 10 drops to 1 ounce of carrier oil, and massage into chest and throat 2 – 3 times daily.

Bronchitis: Add 1-2 drops to a pan of hot water and breath in the steam, or massage the oil over the chest.

Bruises: After icing, apply oil as directed for Arthritis.

Bunions: Massage area with 5 drops oil to 1 tbsp. of carrier oil.

Burns: Run icy cold water on area. After a few minutes, add a mix of 5 drops oil with 1 tsp. raw honey. Repeat 3 – 5 times daily.

Calluses & Corns: Massage area with 5 drops oil to 1 tbsp. of carrier oil. Repeat 2 times daily. Once the corn or calluses have become soft use tweezers to remove, and apply a few drops of tea tree oil and cover with bandage.

Canker Sores: Apply a drop or two of oil directly to infected area with a cotton swab, 2 times daily. Also, rinse as directed for bad breath.

Carbuncles: Add a drop or two of oil to cotton swab and apply directly to carbuncle. Repeat twice daily.

Chapped Lips: Add 1 or 2 drops of oil to lip balm. Apply to lips as necessary.

Chicken Pox: Apply a drop of oil directly to blisters. Allow to dry, then dust with corn starch. Repeat every few hours or until blisters disappear.

Chigger Bites: Apply a drop of oil directly to bites.

Cold Sores: Apply a drop or two of oil directly to the sore with a cotton swab. Re-apply 2 – 3 times daily.

Coughs: Use as directed for bronchial infections. For a vaporizer, add 10 drops to steamer and leave on 5 – 10 minutes.

Dandruff: Add 20 – 30 drops oil to any shampoo. Apply a few drops to scalp and massage after washing.

Dermatitis: Add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp of grapeseed or other oil and massage into affected areas. Repeat 2-3 times daily.

Dry Skin: Add 5 drops oil to 1 tbsp sweet almond oil. Massage into skin.

Earache and Infection: Add 2 – 3 drops of oil to 2 tbsp warm olive oil. With a dropper, drop a small amount into aching ear, tilting head to one side for a moment. Use cotton swab to absorb oil. Repeat 2 – 3 times daily.

Eczema: Add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp grapeseed oil or coconut oil and massage into affected areas. Repeat 2-3 times daily. Also can be applied undiluted.

Emphysema: Use as directed for bronchial infections. For a vaporizer, add 10 drops to steamer and leave on 5 – 10 minutes.

Flea Bites: Apply a drop of oil directly to bites.

Gout: Add 10 drops of oil to 2 tbsp of carrier oil; massage into affected area 2-3 times a day.

Gum Disease: Create a mouthwash with purified water, 1 drop of peppermint oil and 1 drop of tea tree oil.

Head Lice: Add 20 drops of oil to 2 tbsp shampoo. Massage into scalp and hair, leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse. Repeat 3 – 4 times daily, until eggs are gone.

Hives: Add 10 drops of oil to 4 tbsp of witch hazel. Apply with cotton ball. Or, mix with coconut oil (which is naturally healing and soothing itself) and gently apply to the infected areas.

Homemade Mouthwash: Make a simple homemade mouthwash with purified water and tea tree oil.

Household Cleaning: Can be used aromatically or added to homemade cleaners to kill germs and prevent the spread of colds and flus. You can make a general tea tree cleaner by combining 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake to blend and use for household cleaning tasks. This is especially good in the bathroom and in toilets.

Immune System: To stimulate the immune system, diffuse through the air on a regular basis, massage into the soles of the feet to increase your immune response.

Infected Wounds: Adding the oil to steaming water, hold the infected area over the steam. Or dilute 1 drop of tea tree with 1 cup of water and rinse the infected area 1-2 times a day, as needed.

Inflammation: Massage over the inflamed areas, gently and always toward the heart, or diffuse and inhale the tea tree oil directly or indirectly.

Ingrown Hairs: Add 1 – 2 drops of oil directly to area. Repeat every 2 hours or until signs of infection disappear.

Insect Repellant: Add 15 drops to a quart of water and use as an effective insect repellent.

Jock Itch: Apply 10 – 15 drops of oil to 2 tbsp of carrier oil. Apply 2 times daily. Dust with corn starch, to reduce chapping.

Laryngitis: Add 5 – 10 drops of oil and pinch of sea salt to 1 cup of warm water, gargle 2-3 times a day. Do not swallow!

Laundry Helper: Add 1/2 teaspoon tea tree oil to your laundry for towels and other fabric prone to getting moldy.

Mildew and Mold Remover: Spray an all-purpose cleaner made with 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water on growing mold and mildew. Shake well before using and do not rinse.

Mosquito Bites: Apply a drop of oil directly to bites.

Muscle Aches and Pains: Add 10-15 drops of oil to half cup Epsom salts, and dissolve in bath. Add 10 drops of oil to 2 tbsp of carrier oil. Massage well.

Mumps: Massage over the body and into the feet, and diffuse through the home.

Nail Fungus: Add 1 – 2 drops of oil directly to nail and the surrounding tissue. Allow to dry completely on hands before touching anything. Repeat morning and night for a week.

Pest Control: Household ants and other pests dislike Tea Tree Oil, so a few drops put at the point of entry will deter them. Wipe cupboards out with an oil and water solution to keep ants away.

Plantar Warts: Apply oil undiluted to affected area 2-3 times daily.

Psoriasis: Add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp carrier oil and massage into affected areas. Repeat 2-3 times daily. Also can be applied undiluted.

Rashes: Mix with coconut oil and massage over the affected areas.

Rheumatism: To help reduce pain associated with rheumatism, add 20 drops of tea tree oil to 2 ounces of carrier oil. Massage into affected are 2-3 times a day.

Ringworm: Apply a drop or two of oil undiluted, repeat 2 times daily. Can also mix 1 drop of tea tree oil with 1 drop of lavender oil for added benefit.

Rubella: Dilute as needed and massage into the affected areas.

Scabies: Apply 1 – 2 drops of oil directly to area in the morning and at night.

Sciatica: Add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp carrier oil and massage into affected areas. Repeat 2-3 times daily. Also can be applied undiluted.

Seborrhea: For skin: Add 10 drops oil to 1 tbsp of carrier oil and massage into affected areas. Repeat 2-3 times daily. For scalp: Add 10 drops of oil to 2 tbsp shampoo. Massage into scalp and hair, leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse. Repeat 3 – 4 times daily. Bath: Add 10-15 drops of oil to bath.

Shingles: Add 10-15 drops of oil to half cup Epsom salts, and dissolve in bath. Add 10 drops of oil to 2 tbsp of grapeseed oil or coconut oil and massage well.

Shock: Massage tea tree oil into the soles of the feet as needed.

Sinusitis: Use as directed for bronchial infections. For a vaporizer, add 10 drops to steamer and leave on 5 – 10 minutes. Also add 2 drops to a neti pot.

Sore muscles: Fill your bathtub with warm water. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to the water to relax tight muscles.

Sore Throat: Add 2 drops of oil to 1 cup of warm water with pinch of sea salt, gargle 2-3 times a day. Do not swallow!

Staph Infection: Best used topically, rubbed into the soles of the feet to increase the immune response and fight infection.

Stye: Add 5 drops oil to a pan of steaming water. Drape towel overhead and steam 5 minutes. Apply warm compresses directly to stye.

Sunburn: Mix 1 TB coconut oil with 1 drop of tea tree and 1 drop of lavender and gently apply to to sunburned areas.

Tattoos: Apply after tattoos to avoid infection. Use undiluted, diluted with coconut oil or as a spray with purified water.

Thrush: Gargle with sea salt, warm water and 1 drop of tea tree.

Ticks: Apply a drop or two directly to the tick and the surrounding area.

Toenail fungus: Rub the tea tree oil directly onto the affected toenail and underneath the tip of the nail. Apply 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil. Apply the oil once a day, preferably at bedtime.

Toothbrush Cleaner: Apply oil directly to toothbrush 1-2 times a week to kill bacteria.

Tonsillitis: Inhale from steaming water with tea tree, gargle, and massage into neck and soles of feet.

Vaginal Infection: Add several drops to the bath water.

Viral Infections: Diffuse tea tree oil throughout the home or inhale from steaming water.

Warts: Apply undiluted directly to wart. Use morning and night, until wart begins to disappear. Dilute if necessary for sensitive skin.

Wounds: Soak wounded area in water with tea tree oil, or spritz from a bottle of water with several drops of oil. Depending on the wound and your own sensitivity you may be able to apply directly.


In order to effectively use essential oils – not just tea tree oil – it is often necessary to dilute the essential oil in another oil so that it can be easily spread or massaged on the affected area. These oils are called “carrier” oils. Common carrier oils include coconut oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, olive oil and others.

Fractionated coconut oil [remains liquid] and grapeseed oil are favorites because they are odorless and in the case of fractionated coconut oil, immune to rancidity. In practical use, any oil can be used if you do not have one of these more therapeutic oils on hand.

The properties of the various carrier oils is beyond the scope of this article but my favorite? Easy. Fractionated coconut oil. Is is relatively inexpensive, odorless and has a long shelf life making it perfect for the survival kit.


My first experience with tea tree oil occurred in the '80s when I was faced with a nail fungus that would not go away. The pharmaceutical solutions at the time (and for all I know, even now) were harsh and required frequent monitoring of liver enzymes. For a simple, non-life threatening nail fungus, I chose to pass. After using a topical application of tea tree oil for three months, the fungus was all but gone.

I then became interested in aromatherapy (which uses essential oils). I read every book I could get my hands on and dabbled at creating synergies (a combination of two or more oils that create a chemical compound that is greater than the sum of its individual components). My bible then, and even now, is The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood.

Since then I have used essential oils off and on for a variety of woes and have never been disappointed. My recommendation is that you pick up a few essential oils – and especially some tea tree oil – and start to use them now to supplement any other remedies that you are using to keep your family and your home in tip top shape.

Read other articles by Gaye Levy here.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Gaye started Backdoor Survival to share her angst and concern about our deteriorating economy and its impact on ordinary, middle-class folks. She also wanted to become a prepper of the highest order and to share her knowledge as she learned it along the way. She considers her sharing of knowledge her way of giving back and as always, we at Activist Post are grateful for her contributions.

If you would like to read more from Gaye Levy, check out her blog at http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/.  You can also visit her Facebook page or sign up for updates by email by clicking on Backdoor Survival Updates.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The 10 Best (and Worst) States to Eat Local

The 10 Best (and Worst) States to Eat Local

The third annual Locavore Index includes some surprises.

The 10 Best (and Worst) States to Eat Local: The Locavore Index
(Photo: Monica Itziar Aya Cuesta/ Getty Images)

April 10, 2014
Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Eat local,” they say—but where is local eating the easiest?

A Vermont-based group has released its annual ranking of states based on the availability of local food to the average citizen. It’s the third annual Locavore Index to be compiled by Strolling of the Heifers (here's a hint for the complete story on where that quirky name came from: It’s a play on Pamplona’s running of the bulls).

How does a relatively small nonprofit tally the availability of local food nationwide? It’s pretty clever, really. The index comprises four publicly available statistics per state:

• Number of farmers markets
• Number of CSAs
• Number of food hubs (i.e., “facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region”)
• Percentage of school districts with farm-to-school programs
The first three are divided per 100,000 residents. Farmers markets and CSAs are weighted at 30 percent each, while food hubs and farm-to-school programs are weighted at 20 percent.

That gives you a pretty decent idea of which states are most convenient when it comes to buying and eating locally grown and raised food, although it’s worth noting that the model doesn’t measure per capita consumption (that is, ranking access to local food doesn’t equate with ranking how much of it is being bought—a difficult thing to evaluate, to be sure).

So which states make it easiest to eat local? Here are the top 10:

1. Vermont
2. Maine
3. New Hampshire
4. Oregon
5. Hawaii
6. Rhode Island
7. North Dakota
8. Wisconsin
9. Montana
10. Iowa

That Strolling the Heifers’ home state of Vermont ranks No. 1 for the third year in a row might raise some eyebrows (though I guess the numbers don’t lie), but there are some other surprises here too. You go, Rhode Island and North Dakota! For all the lament that the nation’s farm belt has been given over to mega crops of transgenic corn and soybeans, it’s also heartening to see Iowa make an impressive showing.

As for two big, generally progressive states where enthusiasm for local food would appear to be strong, New York (home to all those quaint Hudson Valley farms) ranks a decidedly middling 23, while California (hello, Alice Waters) comes in at a fairly shocking 38. [still doesn't answer why CA was so low, just that it was...]

That doesn’t quite land the Golden State in the list of the 10 worst states for access to locally grown food. Those are

1. Texas
2. Nevada
3. Arizona
4. Louisiana
5. Arkansas
6. Oklahoma
7. Mississippi
8. Illinois
9. Utah
10. Alabama

This just adds to the list of embarrassing No. 1 rankings for Texas, alongside things like being the execution capital of the country and providing the worst health care.

The premise behind Strolling the Heifers’ Locavore Index is even more interesting to consider in light of Walmart’s surprise announcement that it’s “rolling back” the price of a hundred or more organic items big-time. As Forbes reports: “Walmart’s new Wild Oats organic products—including kitchen cupboard staples like olive oil and black beans—will cost about 25 percent less than those sold by competitors, based on price comparisons of 26 national brands.”

The move is being hailed as another boon for the already burgeoning organic food industry—but therein lies the rub. Since the USDA came up with a legal standard for just what the “organic” label means more than a decade ago, consumer interest in organic food has soared (sales growth of organic products has routinely outpaced conventional groceries in recent years, often by double digits).

Yet that’s transformed organics into an industry, which critics say more or less misses the point: Food produced on an industrial scale doesn’t necessarily (or even likely) support local farms, nor does it address environmental concerns such as carbon pollution. Those organic bananas still have to be shipped all the way from Central America.

So as Walmart seeks to go head-to-head with Whole Foods, it seems “local” today may very well be what “organic” was a decade ago.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How They Cull the American Herd for Fun and Profit

10 Horrifying Fast Foods That Should Not Exist


Come on America, how many ways can we inject molten fake cheese into everything?


I love fast food so much that my feelings for it are probably illegal in Georgia. It's objectively disgusting, of course, but I truly love it. Give me a BK Double Stacker or a Big Mac or literally anything from Popeye's and I'm a happy (and gastrically-distressed) camper. But really, never has the tag for these articles been more apropos than with some of the mad science experiments these companies come up in their never-ending war over who can do more unspeakable things to nacho cheese. I don't fault someone for eating fast food, ever (that would be hypocrisy on a level that would stagger even the talking heads at Fox News), but I feel like the existence of each and every one of these items has to be the result of a dare taken WAY too far.

1. Doritos Locos Tacos — I swear to God I thought this was a joke the first time I saw an ad for it. Then, after I thought about it for a while, it started to make sense. See, the Doritos Locos Taco is the Caligulan orgy of the Pax Americana. Centuries from now, historians will look back at the Doritos Locos Taco and conclude that such decadence heralded the inevitable decline of our once-mighty society. Truly, they will surmise, we were brought low by our need to insert chemical-flavored nachos into every foodstuff. Well, that and the whole supply-side economics thing. But we both know its really the Doritos Locos Tacos.

2. Skyline Chili — I know I've done Chili before, but Skyline really deserves its own entry. It's basically gastrointestinal distress in a bun. Chili sucks enough when it's done "right," so just imagine how terrible it is when you serve a concoction that could best be described as Soylent Brown atop a probably-raccoon-meat tube that I know for a fact was chipped off of a giant frozen block of similar tubes earlier that week. Of all the things Cincinnati should damn well be embarassed about and begging forgiveness for (and it's a long list), Skyline Chili ranks right near the top. And yet, Skyline is this weird point of pride for that city. Even Cleveland thinks you're terrible, Cincinnati. You are the literal fucking worst.

3. Subway's Turkey, Bacon & Avocado — I'm pretty sure Subway got its name from the fact that every sandwich from there tastes like it was scavenged from next to a third rail, but this sandwich really wins points for the layers of its failure. I've already talked about my belief that there is some sort of demon-creature living inside every Subway toaster oven, so that's the bread. The turkey is pretty much your garden variety meat-like slimegasm, and the less said about it the better. The avocado is what really pushes it over the top, though. Look, I know what avocado tastes like, Subway. You can't fool me by mashing up a failed taxidermy experiment and flavoring/coloring it with peat moss. And the bacon...man, I just feel bad for the bacon. It didn't ask for this. It never really did anything wrong. It just fell in with a bad crowd, and needs the pig product equivalent of Edward James Olmos to unlock its inner potential. I think this entry got away from me about two sentences ago, so let's just move on.

4. McGriddles — A recurring theme throughout this entire list is "things that sounded really delicious when you were high at 3 AM," and the McGriddle is kind of the ultimate exemplar of that principle. I'm sure that after enough bong hits to incapacitate Tommy Chong, coming up with "fuck it, let's just wrap the syrup-logged pancakes around the breakfast sandwich" made one extremely hungry McDonald's exec feel like the guy who first conceived of the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, but in the cold light of day, everyone except that guy would look at that idea and go "what the fuck was I thinking? That was even worse than last year's post-Bonnaroo Eggplant Ice Cream fiasco!" That guy, though? He forged ahead to manifest his disgusting, pancake-sandwich destiny, and people fucking went for it, because this is America, dammit, and there is nothing too gross for us to eat if it's 7 AM and we haven't had our coffee yet.

5. The Double-Down — I wouldn't actually believe the Double-Down was real if I hadn't eaten one for myself. Also, my kidneys wouldn't creak when it rained and I would probably still have full vision in my left eye. Everything on this list is gross, but the Double-Down deserves special consideration for the fact that its the only food I've ever eaten where I could literally feel the years being subtracted from the end of my life. The Double-Down is the fast food equivalent of The Ring, only you have to live what little remains of your time on Earth with the knowledge that you watched the video knowing damn well the girl would crawl out of your TV and give you a massive heart attack.

6. 7-11's Cheeseburger Big Bite —If you're not familiar with the Cheeseburger Big Bite, pretty much just take a hamburger, roll it up into a six-inch long cylinder, somehow infuse it with molten American cheese (I have no idea how this process was accomplished, but I feel like it would involve an enormous syringe and the lamentations of the innocent), and slap it on the most disgusting rotating grill you can imagine for like six hours. Full disclosure: I have eaten A LOT of these things in my life — when I would come home from my old job around 11 PM, 7-11 was the only place still open. Eating these things practically every night was like being trapped in a loveless marriage, only with more problematic poop habits.

7. Burger King's Satisfries —I am distinctly unsatisfried. They are decidedly unsatisfrying. I am filled with dissatisfraction. They are doubtless the cause of much satisfriction in the workplaces and homes of America. They force me to contemplate the satisfrailty of the human condition. Ok, I think we're done here.

8. Chipotle Sour Cream —What the fuck is this shit and why is it the consistency of soup? When you told me your shit was "locally-sourced" I didn't think you meant the sour cream was gleaned from the drain run-off in the alley behind the fucking store. If you couldn't theoretically spear a giant chunk of your sour cream with a fork, you done fucked up sour cream.

9. Balogna — This isn't technically fast food, but I don't care; it's the Taco Bell of deli meats, and that's close enough for me. Anyway, my Balogna has a first name, it's V-O-M-I-T. My girlfriend's parents bought high-class Balogna once (it exists, apparently) — you knew it was fancy because it had an Italian name and everything. Spirited attempt, Italians, but that's like throwing a bag of glitter at a used litter box. Not even the mighty culinary powers of Italy can make Balogna palatable.

10. Ham Salad — Again, not technically fast food, but since it's significantly more disgusting than anything else on this list, we're going with it. I've yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for why Ham Salad exists. Who first looked at a perfectly good ham and thought, "this would be greatly improved by mayonnaise and joylessness"? I have no problem with mayonnaise, but there are limits to what mayonnaise is capable of. Ham Salad exists somewhere over that mayo event horizon, where Sam Neill has no eyes and where you don't need taste buds to throw up. Ham Salad is the only thing in the world that could actually make me want to keep Kosher. I hate all the foods I list in these articles, but this is one of the very few that actually makes me question the existence of God. 

Purveyor of stupid, hyperbolic food rants since 2013. Follow on Twitter: @EyePatchGuy

5 Popular Home Products That Can Be Surprisingly Toxic



If you thought you were safe from pollutants around the house, think again.


Photo Credit: Mikele Dray / Shutterstock

April 8, 2014  |
We love the convenience and the comfort they bring us, but some of our most popular consumer products can come at a heavy price to our personal health. We all try being careful, removing the known hazards from our households, yet there are many products that you likely have in your home that you probably didn't know were toxic. Here are five that might shock you:

1. Candles.Few things are better at adding atmosphere to a room than candles. But as those candles fill the room with warm light, they're also filling it up with harmful gases and sediments. And it doesn't always matter whether the candle is paraffin, vegetable oil, or beeswax based. During combustion, all candles release some soot carbon particles that can lead to respiratory problems.

But paraffin wax comes with its own problems. It starts out as a byproduct of petroleum, coal, or shale. After it's extracted from the mix, the paraffin bathes in industrial-strength bleach to give it its signature whiteness. However, this also infuses paraffin with dioxins. Another chemical, Acrolein, a compound linked to the risk of lung cancer from cigarette smoke, is added to paraffin as a solidifying agent.

While the candle industry insists that the final product is inert, studies have shown that the burning of paraffin candles releases benzene and toluene — both known carcinogens — into the atmosphere. And even if you buy a high-end candle, it doesn't make it any safer. The vast majority of candles from retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Yankee Candle Store, and Crate & Barrel are mostly made from paraffin.

To add to all this, artificial dyes and synthetic fragrances are often added to candles, especially those used in aromatherapy. The recipe varies from candle to candle, but the fragrances and dyes — which are often synthetic — can contain toxic plasticizers and solvents, which should be avoided. Also, those extra ingredients also burn, which means additional soot.

If you can't live without your candles, consider those made of beeswax or vegetable oils, and with natural dyes and perfumes.

While most candles have all cotton wicks, a small percentage still have metal wire cores. Before 2003, many of those metal-cored wicks contained lead, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead in wicks that year. Today, these wire cores are mostly contain zinc. But if you're worried that you have an old candle with a lead-core wick, try this test: Take a piece of notebook paper and rub it at the top of the unburned wick. If it makes a mark resembling that of a graphite pencil, it's likely has lead. Otherwise the wick itself is likely safe.

2. Dryer Sheets. There are few scents as addictive as warm laundry pulled from the dryer, thanks to the olfactory magic of fabric-softener sheets. They're simple enough products, nothing more than thin polyester sheets coated with chemicals to soften fabric fibers and give clothes that irresistible scent.
But like with candles, the fragrance found in sheets from brands such as Downy and Bounce might pose health risks, as toxins can permeate those sheets and transfer to your clothes and skin. It is also released into the air from dryer vent emissions, which are not regulated. And because the fragrances the manufacturers use are trade secrets, have no way of really knowing exactly what they contain.

A study, published in the August 2011 issue of the journalAir Quality, Atmosphere and Health, indicates that scented laundry items can contain numerous carcinogens, including acetaldehyde and benzene.

It's probably best to ditch the dryer sheets altogether, but there are less toxic options if you insist on using them. Seventh Generation makes dryer sheets out of chlorine-free recyclable paper, instead of polyester. The company also discloses all the ingredients of their sheets, which includes a plant-derived softening agent. They contain no fragrances or masking agents.

3. Baby Wipes. Not only are baby wipes used by most parents to help keep their kids clean and comfortable, they've become a staple in many households without small children and used for many things, such as a toilet paper substitute, makeup removal, and to clean personal electronics screens.
While there is a lot of misinformation and panic posted on Internet sites about the actual ingredients of wipes, there are also some real causes for concern. Some baby wipes contain the compound Bronopol, which is also found in shampoos and other personal-care products. Bronopol, used in place of alcohol, is as an antimicrobial agent that can release low levels of formaldehyde as it breaks down. A volatile organic compound, formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and throat and cause headaches and dizziness. It has also been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Baby wipes may also contain phthalates, a common family of household chemicals often used to soften plastics. You'll often find phthalates in many plastic household products and toys, but they're also used in some baby wipes to help soften the lotion and support the fragrance. As the manufacturers of wipes don't need to disclose all their ingredients, its difficult to pinpoint which ones contain phthalates. However, SafeMama.com suspects those that contain perfumes (notably some styles of wipes from Pampers, Huggies, Johnson's, Rite Aid, and Publix) also contain phthalates.

The chemical industry maintains that there are no studies to suggest that routine phthalate exposure presents adverse health effects, but many consumer, environmental, and medical advocates disagree. Studies over the years have raised red flags. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, and unlike adults, infants do not have developed endocrine systems. Even more disturbing, researchers have found phthalates in the urine of infants whose mothers used baby products containing the chemical.

The Environmental Working Group, environmental health research and advocacy organization, has safer alternatives to baby wipes and other infant-care products on its Skin DeepCosmetics Database. They point to Water Wipes, Honest Wipes, gWipes, Kinder By Nature, and Treehouse Natural Wipes as being far less toxic. They also give high marks to VADA Wet Wipe Solution, which can be used with organic cotton wipes.

4. Markers.Permanent and dry-erase markers from manufacturers like DriMark, Sharpie, Prismacolor and Crayola are both a favorite tool and toy in many households. But that pungent aroma they might emit can be a hint to their toxicity. Markers are often rich in chemical solvents, including xylene, which is a neurotoxic aromatic hydrocarbon that can leave people feeling sick even after exposure to trace amounts. You've probably noticed how it can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat when you first remove the marker's cap. Other common complaints are headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness and brain fog after exposure to markers, even those that are labeled as “Non-Toxic.”

Xylene is a byproduct of petroleum and coal tar. Beyond its use in markers, it's used as an industrial solvent. It's also found in gasoline, rust preventatives, and some paints and varnishes. It's rapidly absorbed by the lungs and enters the blood system almost immediately after exposure.

Long term effects from low-concentrations xylene exposure aren't as clear, but it's recommended that pregnant women should avoid exposure to markers or other products that emit xylene fumes.

5. Carpets.As much as you may love that “new carpet smell” when it's first installed, that famous scent is actually the carpet off-gassing hazardous volatile organic compounds including toluene, bromine, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, and acetone. Routine exposure to these chemicals are known to cause headaches, throat and eye irritation, allergies, confusion, and drowsiness. Synthetic carpets that contain nylon and olefin fibers are typically the worst offenders.

Regular exposure to significant levels of these toxins can pose long-term problems, including learning and memory impairment, birth defects, decreased fertility, and diseases of the liver, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. Benzene is a well-known human carcinogen and formaldehyde is probable human carcinogen. Some new carpets also contain the moth-proofing chemical naphthalene, which is known to produce toxic reactions, especially in newborns. Also, found in some carpets is p-Dichlorobenzene, a carcinogen also known to produce fetal abnormalities when tested on animals.

But it's not just new carpets that cause a problem. While older carpets no longer off-gas these chemicals, over time dust mites and their droppings begin to permeate the nap. The droppings cause severe allergic reactions in many people, and researchers are just beginning to correlate dust mite exposure to asthma. Household dust can also have high levels of lead, as the heavy metal still permeates our soil from the days of leaded paint and gasoline. We also add toxins into our carpets when we walk on them with our shoes, tracking in contaminated dirt and pesticides from the outdoors. Also, almost any toxic substance we use at home, from paints, to bug sprays, to candle or fireplace soot, can settle into carpet fibers and stay trapped there for years.

If you're not yet inspired to get rid of your carpeting, investing in a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner can help remove a lot of the toxins without throwing them back into the air.

You can also buy carpeting certified as “Green Label Plus” by the Carpet and Rug Institute, which evaluates them for low emissions of volatile organic compounds. However, those carpets tend to be on the expensive side. But a good alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting is to use area rugs made of natural fibers such as hemp and corn husks that can be removed from a room to be washed or beaten outdoors. And you don't have to go to a specialty retailer for these rugs. Large retailers such as Wayfair, Overstock.com, Home Depot, and Staples sell both types of rugs.

Cliff Weathers covers environmental and consumer issues for AlterNet. He is a former Deputy Editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers.