Organ Donation: You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Donate

Each year, thousands of Americans receive organ and tissue transplants as a result of disease, infection, accidents or genetic deformity. Thousands more wait on the organ transplant list for a suitable donor match. For some transplant candidates, waiting is a race against time – a matter of life and death.

Successful transplant surgery is only part of the story. The gift of life or the gift of replacement tissue, eyes, skin, and bones could not be possible without an organ donor. What’s on the horizon for organ donation and transplant surgery? How can you sign up to be an organ donor? What parts of the body can you even donate?

America Desperately Needs Organ Donors

The drastic shortage of donors is forcing scientists to look elsewhere, such as using other animals like pigs for organ and tissue transplants, a procedure scientifically known as Xenotransplantation. The idea of cloning humans for body parts sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s that same out of the box scientific thinking and experimentation that helped discover stem cells.

Which human body parts can be donated for transplant? Is there an age limit, and can an elderly person sign up to become an organ donor? How does a person even sign up to be an organ donor?

Which Parts of the Body Can Organ Donors Donate?

Kidney and liver donations are the most high demand organ donations. A single kidney can be donated from a live donor, and so can a part of the liver because it regenerates. Bone marrow can be donated and is often used to try to save cancer patients. Bones can even be donated and transplanted. Eyes, muscles, skin, intestines and blood can be donated. There is no shortage of organs that can be donated!

It’s not just single organs that can be donated and transplanted, but combination transplants are possible as well. A heart/lung transplant is one such example of a combination transplant. Refer to the website OrganDonor.gov and the page titled, “What Can Be Donated?” to see all the organ donation possibilities.

New York Times contributing writer, Lawrence K. Altman, has shared information on how far transplant surgery has evolved over time in his article :”The Ultimate Gift: 50 Years of Organ Transplants.” Altman wrote, “Since 1982, at least 416,457 people in the United States have received new kidneys, hearts, livers, lungs, pancreases and intestines to extend their lives and relieve their discomfort, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing which tracks transplants in this country.”

Know the Facts About Organ Donation

Make sure all doctors concerned have your organ donor information. Hospital medical staff follow a rigid protocol for harvesting organs, so it’s absolutely imperative that your intent is made clear well beforehand.

Here are several common myths about organ donation (highlighted in Italics) followed by the actual facts:

       Myth: A person with significant health problems can’t be an organ/tissue donor. Fact: Only a doctor can decide what organs or parts of the body are healthy enough to use after death. This is true in spite of any ailments the person may have had.

       Myth: An elderly person is too old to be a donor. Fact: There is no cut-off age for donating organs. In fact, people in their 70s and 80s have made successful donations before.

       Myth: The donor’s family pays for the harvesting surgery. Fact: Charges come from efforts to keep the patient (donor) alive. After the person is pronounced dead, there is no charge for surgically removing the donated organs/tissue.

       Myth: The person who doesn’t want to donate “everything” has no choice in the matter. Fact: Donors can specify on their donor card what they do not want to donate, and it will not be harvested.

To read more facts about organ donation, visit the MayoClinic website. The Consumer Health page on the site features an article titled, “Organ Donation: Don’t Let These Myths Confuse You.”

In the same article, you can scroll to the bottom to read the benefits of organ donation. An example from the article: “By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. And many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.”

How and Where Does a Person Sign Up to Be An Organ Donor?

Organ and tissue transplantation has progressed beyond scientific expectation, but the lack of donors means too many people die waiting for a donor. If you’d like to become a donor, it only takes a few minutes to register.

Here are three suggested places to sign up for organ donation:

1- The website OrganDonor.gov has a page titled, “Sign Up to be an Organ Donor” where a person interested can refer to his state registry for instructions.

2- The Mohan Foundation site also offers the choice of printing and signing an organ donor card. (You still need to join a state registry or designate your decision on your driver’s license.)

3- Driver’s license applicants and renewal applicants can choose to become a donor and have it designated on the license.

4- The website Donate Life America features access to individual state laws on organ donation and provides a way to sign up.

Whether you want to be an organ donor or not, it’s important that you make your decision known to others. Tell family members, a caregiver, or a close friend. Speaking up now might save someone’s life later. Carry your organ donor card when you’re away from home because every second counts if organs are to be safely transplanted. Document your request in your living will and other advance directives. These legal documents can speak for you in the event of accident or illness.

Recent advancements in transplant techniques and drug research have made hand transplants and face transplants a promising reality, though there is still much work to be done in those areas. The concept of whole limb transplants is also on the horizon.

Please note that we are not attempting to convince you to be a donor. We understand that this is a personal decision, and one that is frowned upon by some religions. However, it’s important that you make an informed decision based on the facts.

Related CE Article: UN Panel Discusses ‘White Helmets’ Criminal Activities, Organ Theft & False Flag Terrorism

Today’s Use of Technology: How Far Is Too Far?

In today’s society, technology has enhanced our interactions to a more efficient level. But it has created a sense of urgency when things aren’t as quick as we want them to be, and our psyches have become used to that ‘immediate gratification’ mentality.

Everything is available at our fingertips, and it’s all just a click or a finger swipe away. This has increased our effectiveness, our adaptability, and our ability to communicate thanks to new connections and networks that would be impossible without the internet or media devices. The question here is: How much does technology help humans, and how much could it potentially hurt us?

Technology Becoming Too Essential

Over 77% of Americans utilize technology on a daily basis. Nearly 94% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 use the internet. The data suggests that technology is not only popular amongst younger generations, but it’s mandatory. Most bloggers on the Web are aged 21-34, most users of Facebook are under the age of 21, and the most commonly used form of communication by teens is instant messaging and texting, nearly making phone calls and emailing obsolete.

The number of ways we can be contacted instantly aids in the immediate retrieval of information at a more constant rate. However, outside our screens and social networking, the effort for real, face-to-face interaction with other humans becomes much harder.

Face-to-Face Interaction Is Becoming Scarce

In any given situation, if you were to contact someone, your first instinct would not be to jump in a car and visit them, nor would it be to write them a letter and mail it. And rarely, unless the news was really stunning (or perhaps extremely urgent), would you even call them first.

Back in the day, a letter that was sent two weeks beforehand was what was considered a normal use of communication. But today, letter writing is nearly obsolete. Why write a letter when you can text the person within seconds or write them an email within minutes? Most young adults’ first instinct would be to type a Facebook message or text the person. In our modern society, this has become a social norm.

Destroying Basic Courtesies

Technology has made it easier to keep in contact with people, but it’s also nearly destroyed basic relationship courtesies that were once accepted and expected to be kept.

In fact, the digital age has almost made us too social. We’re constantly updating, searching, reading, responding, linking, sharing, connecting, and texting; it’s basically made us technology zombies. Outside our screens of social networking, the effort for real conversation and real interaction with other humans face-to-face is becoming scarce, even for people who claim they aren’t technology savvy.

So How Do We Know How Much Is Too Much?

The fact that technology is common presents an issue: how far is too far? Digital communication minimizes distance at a macro level, making it easier for people across the country to connect and share, but it creates space on a micro level. It may make it easier for people to simply just connect over the internet but it eliminates the need for a voiced, face-to-face conversation. It’s faster to connect with people instantaneously over the internet, but sometimes we need to disconnect in order to reconnect with ourselves and others.

Technology should continue to be a bridge to better our connections, but not a “final destination” for social interaction. When we become overly dependent on technology, it can be detrimental to individual relationships.

Not to mention the potential health effects of cell phones and too much internet and technology usage. You can read this article on the connection between cell phones and different types of tumours to learn more. We are constantly being bombarded by EMFs, and it’s crucial that we take measures to mitigate the amount we’re exposed to.

Conclusion: Keep It In Balance

Without a doubt, technology has in fact helped us in many ways. We’re a more advanced and connected society thanks to all the digital gadgets most, if not all of us, now possess. But what do we do to keep our daily lives at a more “real” level, rather than virtual? Living totally without technology, at least in the Western world, is not an option. But making efforts to keep our lives on a face-to-face, voice-to-voice level will prove to be beneficial.

Yes, it’s good to keep in contact with family and friends. Yes, it’s great that we use computers and technology to enhance our work output. Yes, technology has helped us. But if we don’t make the effort to keep everything in balance, by either limiting our virtual interactions or monitoring the time/exertion we put into it, technology could very well destroy the positive elements we share as a society and keep us malnourished from the real interactions we need with our fellow humans in order to thrive.

If we can keep in mind that the ultimate goal of technology is to help us achieve efficiency without replacing human interaction, we will be better off.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Kids From Online Pedophiles & Predators

As internet use explodes among teenagers and young children, the threat and dangers of coming into contact with internet predators and pedophiles increases. Children begin using computers and having internet access at a younger age, making them prime targets. Before internet on cell phones and free public wi-fi became normalized, parents could easily monitor their children’s internet activity while sitting at the desktop in the living room.

With the advancements in modern technology and easy access, ensuring children’s and teenagers’ internet safety is a challenge. Setting parental controls and content filters on personal computers and cell phones is a possibility; however, these measures alone are not enough to keep kids safe.

Establish Internet Safety Rules

Establishing internet safety rules for children and teenagers is essential. They might try to break or push the rules and there is no guarantee they will follow the rules when they are away from home. However, establishing the rules early on will help ensure they follow them and understand the reasoning.

Basic internet safety rules for children and teens include:

1 – Never give out personal identification information over the internet. This includes full name, address, telephone number, school location, photographs, schedules, parent information, and other identifying information.

2 – Never ask or agree to meet up with someone online; not even in a public place.

3 – Limit chats and online conversations to real-life friends and family only or to a parent-approved friends list.

4 – Use the internet in a parental supervised space so they can monitor online activity.

5 – Report to parents any and all inappropriate online activity or uncomfortable conversations.

6 – Use of internet is restricted to designated times, locations and/or internet websites that are parental approved.

7 – Try to build trust within the family. The hope is that if children ever feel threatened online, they’ll come to their parents first.

Additional rules may be added based on the family situation and preferences, child’s age and maturity level, and past activity. Review the internet rules with children on a regular basis and make sure they know them. Have them repeat the rules back to you. If they cannot remember the rules or are caught breaking any of them, you could limit or remove the child’s internet access as punishment.

Monitor Kids’ Internet Use

Kids whine about needing their privacy and will often complain that parents do not respect their privacy and are always looking over their shoulder. Kids do need privacy but not in all aspects of life. It is the parent’s responsibility to know what their kids are doing and whom they are talking with. This is not an invasion of privacy or a trust issue, it is ensuring their safety.

Allow designated times for internet use

Approve all websites, chat rooms, forums and message boards

Monitor the child or teen’s instant messenger, Facebook and social networking friends lists

Talk regularly with the child or teen about their online friends so you know who they are

 If you believe your child is in danger, read their messages, emails and other online communications including text messages, or review their internet browser history. This is an invasion of privacy, but it could save their life.

It is essential that the child knows you, the parent, will be monitoring their activity and why. Keep an open line of communication and trust and do not be sneaky about monitoring internet use. Establish the monitoring as part of the internet rules, but you need to recognize that you cannot monitor everything. Children will find unmonitored internet access away from home, and they deserve the opportunity to build trust with you.

Discuss the Real Dangers of the Internet

Help your child understand the real safety issues and dangers of internet predators and pedophiles. It is often difficult for parents to discuss these issues with their children because a parent’s instinct is to protect and hide these dangers from their kids. Do not avoid the talk to prevent uncomfortable discussions. How much you tell your children depends on their age and maturity level, but do not underestimate their ability to process information.

It is not enough to tell kids “it’s not safe to give out personal information” or “sometimes bad people do things to kids.” Explain to the child what internet predators are, how pedophiles lure children, and how to identify an online predator or pedophile. Discuss with them the common characteristics of pedophiles and predators.

One conversation is not enough for kids to really understand and process these issues. Make the discussion ongoing and informative, and be prepared to answer your child’s questions in an honest and open manner.

How Predators Lure Kids

First and foremost, internet predators and pedophiles work to gain the trust, sympathy and understanding of children and teens. Conversations start out casual and with information gathering. Over time, the conversations become more personal as the child begins to feel safe and confident. The predator or pedophile quickly looks for sympathy and gains trust by revealing his past history and through stories of his childhood or current life situation.

Internet predators and pedophiles occasionally lie about their age initially, but at some point, they often reveal the truth out of guilt. Otherwise, they are generally honest and convincing in explaining how they feel, the troubles they are going through, and their feelings toward the child.

In addition to gaining trust and sympathy, internet predators and pedophiles often solicit the help of the child. They need something that only the child can help with. They engage in conversations that reveal the types of relationships children have with their peers and with their parents. They go out of their way to convince the child they are the person the child needs and attempt to create a close bond with the child.

Once the bond between predator and child is well established, children will often agree to meet face-to-face. Many times, it is the child or teen that initiates the meet-up conversation, often thinking the person is someone else. Most online predators are convincing not only to the child, but to the parents as well. They are experts at manipulation and it can be impossible to identify an internet predator or pedophile through online conversations.

Help and Resources for Young Victims and Parents

Contact local law enforcement immediately if you suspect your child or teen is in contact with an online predator or pedophile. Remove the child’s internet access and stop all communication with the person. Do not delete or remove communication between the child and suspected predator. Save all correspondences for law enforcement to investigate and take photos of it.

A great number of resources are available online for parents and teens to find out more information and to report suspected online predators and pedophiles. You could also look for local support groups and counselling services offered in your area.

Drugs In The Environment: The Importance of Properly Disposing Unused Medications

Scientists have found evidence that common methods of household prescription drug disposal can contaminate the environment and produce unwanted effects in wildlife.

Recent studies have shown that chemicals associated with the breakdown of prescription drugs have been found in surface water and groundwater. According to this article published on the PBS website, scientists currently believe that this contamination does not pose a threat to people, but that it does have detrimental effects on wildlife.

Even though all releases of pharmaceuticals cannot be controlled, individuals can take precautions to dispose of unused or outdated prescription drugs properly in order to reduce their overall impact on the environment.

Pharmaceuticals Enter the Environment Through Household Waste

Homeowners have been told for years that toilet flushing was the safest way to dispose of unused or outdated prescription drugs; however, this is no longer the case. When medicine is flushed down the toilet, the waste enters the sewage system and is transported by pipeline to the local public wastewater treatment facility. These facilities are not designed to treat or remove pharmaceutical chemicals.

There are two waste streams generated at public sewage treatment plants. The first is treatment plant sludge. This material is composed of dewatered solids removed from the sewage entering the plant.

Sampling studies have confirmed that pharmaceutical chemicals are common in sewage treatment plant sludge. Usually this sludge is disposed of in local landfills, but in some cases, the sludge may be reused as fertilizer on local farms.

When sludge is deposited in landfills, the movement of rainwater through the landfill can pick up chemical contaminants and transport them to underground aquifers. When used as fertilizer, the sludge is exposed to storm water runoff that can move contaminants into local streams and rivers. Either way, pharmaceuticals end up contaminating the environment.

Currently, sludge used as fertilizer is required to meet specifications for nutrient content, metals content, and bacterial content. There are no specifications for pharmaceutical contaminants.

The second waste stream from public sewage treatment plants is the release of treated water into streams or rivers. In this case, since treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceutical chemicals, those chemicals end up being released directly into the environment.

Treatment plants are required to meet specific requirements for the release of treated water; however, testing for pharmaceuticals is not one of those requirements.

Adverse Effects of Pharmaceutical Contamination

The effects of pharmaceuticals on wildlife were first documented by researchers in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. Since then, researchers all over the world have been studying this problem.

So far, the greatest effect has been seen in fish, primarily related to contamination by estrogenic compounds associated with birth control pills and female hormones. Male fish found downstream of wastewater treatment plants have failed to develop sperm and instead develop eggs.

Other studies have shown detrimental effects on fish and frogs by chemicals associated with antidepressant medications and on aquatic insects by anticonvulsant medications.

In addition, scientists are particularly concerned about the increase of antibiotics in the environment and the creation of resistant bacterial strains. This is already a huge issue within factory farming, as these animals are commonly fed antibiotics, which in turn are consumed by those who eat meat.

Environmentally-Friendly Disposal of Household Prescription Drugs

The National Office of Drug Control Policy has published guidelines on proper disposal of pharmaceuticals. These guidelines state that medicine should not be flushed down toilets or drains unless the label contains that specific instruction. The preferred method of disposal is through community drug take-back programs or household hazardous waste collection events.

Through these programs, medicine is collected from the public and taken to regulated hazardous waste incinerators. If one of these programs is not available, medicine should be placed in the garbage, mixed with coffee grounds or kitty litter, and then placed in sealed containers or plastic bags.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Prescription Drug Take-Back Programs

Consumers should contact their local public recycling program office to find out about household hazardous waste collection. In some areas, collection sites are open on a regular basis, either every business day or for a couple days each week. In other areas, special collection events are held once or twice a year on weekends. The local recycling program office should be listed in the telephone book.

To locate availability of take-back programs, consumers can consult the Product Stewardship Institute. Another source for information is the National P2D2 Network Prescription Drug and Drug Disposal Program Network.

Sponsorship and development of local collection programs makes a great activist project for communities or school groups. Such groups can partner with large retail outlets or pharmacies. The Northeast Recycling Council Inc. of Vermont has published a guide for local communities called “Holding an Unwanted Medication Collection for Community Pharmacies.” This booklet is available in PDF format on the Product Stewardship Institute’s website. A community-sponsored event could even make a great Earth Day project!

It’s also important to question why so many people are disposing of drugs without having taken them. Are we as a society too reliant on pharmaceuticals? Are we being given more than we need to help us, or to help grow profits for Big Pharma?

Sources :

Epa.gov : How to Dispose of Medicines Properly

Fda.gov : Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

 

Can Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease be Predicted and Prevented?

With an aging population comes increasing fear of a disease that may be more frightening to many people than cancer or heart disease. Both of those diseases—formerly death-sentences if diagnosed—are showing improving survival rates due to breakthroughs in research and improved diagnosis and treatment methods.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the scourge of the elderly and near-elderly. Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia can sometimes reduce high-functioning adults to little more than large-sized two-year-olds, robbing them of language, problem-solving abilities, reasoning, memory, and other cognitive functions.

The threat of losing dignity, independence, and self-sufficiency of basic human needs is a great fear for those approaching their elder years. Some rationalize that those with severe dementia may lack the sufficient mental acuity to realize the full extent of their illness, preventing some victims from recognizing that they even have dementia.

Is Dementia Inevitable?

According to Alzheimer’s Disease Statistics, an estimated 5.7 million people in the United States have dementia, with twenty-five percent of those suffering severe dementia. Though common in older people, dementia is not thought to be a normal result of aging, as many in their 90’s and above are symptom-free. However, the causes of dementia are not known at this time.

Everyone has moments of forgetfulness or so-called ‘senior moments,’ such as the inability to find the right words, difficulty remembering names, forgetting where things were placed, and the classic frustration felt when you’ve gone purposefully into a room only to realize the purpose has been forgotten. These normal moments of forgetfulness can trigger fear that dementia is approaching.

Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?

Alzheimer’s Disease is one form of dementia, a general term for diminished mental capabilities. There are many classifications of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is characterized by clumps of protein called plaques and tangled fibers inside the nerve cells of the brain. Other forms of dementia affect the brain differently. Dementia cannot be cured; however, there is growing evidence that steps can be taken to delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

A comprehensive dementia report on WebMD describes some of the factors apparently offering some protection or delay against the onset of dementia. These include maintaining tight control of glucose levels and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities or mind exercices. Scientists hypothesize that intellectual activity increases the brain’s ability to compensate for the physical changes associated with dementia.

Other factors being studied with potential impact of preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia include lowering blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, increasing exercise, and obtaining higher education.

Diagnosing Dementia – A Dementia Test

After eliminating diseases and physical injuries that can cause dementia-like symptoms, doctors arrive at a dementia diagnosis if two or more brain functions are significantly impaired. Impaired brain functions might include memory loss, loss of language skills, impaired perception, dramatic personality changes, and impaired problem-solving, reasoning, and judgment.

Normal memory loss can be frightening, as one may fear the onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. There may now be an easy means of calming one’s fears or helping to confirm the worst. Scientists at The Ohio State University Medical College have developed a self-administered dementia test called SAGE, which they claim can identify mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early dementia. The test, which is available for free download, takes about fifteen minutes and includes self-scoring instructions.

Protection Against Dementia

Though Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia are widely feared due to the impacts they have on mental functioning and maintaining self-sufficiency, there is promise that the onset of dementia can be prevented or delayed by exercising the mind, physical exercise, and making other healthy lifestyle choices. The SAGE dementia test may ease the minds of those concerned that dementia is beginning.

How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

If you are trying to conceive, you can take charge of the process. Fertility awareness or natural family planning can increase your odds.

The Fertility Awareness Method uses basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position to determine a woman’s most fertile days. Unlike the Rhythm Method, Fertility Awareness does not assume every woman’s fertility fits a predetermined mold. Every woman is unique, and not every cycle is the same, even for the same woman.

Understanding Ovulation

A woman’s menstrual cycle begins on the first day of her menstrual period. According to Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH, the average cycle lasts 24 to 35 days. Ovulation usually occurs between days 11 and 21. However, a woman is fertile only two days during this time. Knowing when is fundamental if you are trying to conceive.

During ovulation, four hormones come into play. The first is Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone tells about 20 eggs it is time to mature. Each egg is held in a follicle. The follicles produce the second ovulation hormone, estrogen. Once a follicle is large enough to break through the ovary, ovulation occurs.

The egg breaks free of the ovary aided by the third hormone, Luteinizing Hormone, and is swept up by the fimbria, the end of the fallopian tube, and taken into the tube. After this occurs, the follicle that released the egg becomes a corpus luteum, which releases progesterone. The progesterone does three things:

 • Inhibits the release of any more eggs during that cycle.

Causes a thickening in the uterine lining.

Causes a change in waking temperature (basal body temperature), increase in cervical fluid, and change in cervical position.

On occasion, a woman may naturally release two eggs during ovulation due to the release of higher than average levels of FSH. The result, if conception takes place and both embryos are viable, is a set of fraternal twins. More often than not, one is spontaneously miscarried or reabsorbed, a phenomenon known as vanishing twin syndrome.

Monitoring for Fertility

To monitor for ovulation, you will need a calendar and a basal thermometer. Each morning, check your awakening temperature and chart it on your calendar.

Preovulatory temperatures are lower due to higher estrogen levels. As progesterone is produced, awakening temperatures increase.

Normally, a woman’s basal body temperature is about 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit before ovulation. Postovulatory temperatures are around 97.6 to 98.6 degrees. The day of a sudden jump in temperature signals ovulation.

Cervical fluid also increases greatly the day of ovulation. The function of cervical fluid is to help the sperm survive and aid in their journey to the fallopian tube. Therefore, an extreme increase in fluid is another sign of ovulation.

To monitor for this sign of ovulation, check the vaginal opening for moisture. Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, describes the fluid at ovulation as resembling raw egg white.

The third sign of ovulation is a soft, high cervix. Checking your cervix is an optional step in monitoring your fertility. After and just before menstruation, the cervix is firm, closed and dry. Around ovulation it softens, opens and becomes extremely wet.

Some other signs of ovulation are:

   • spotting

   • pain or an ache around the ovary, known as Mittelschmerzen (German for middle pain)

   • increased sexual arousal

   • increased energy

   • higher sensitivity in breasts and skin

If you are trying to conceive, grab your calendar and thermometer. It may take a month or two to learn your body, but if you have no underlying fertility issues, you should be able to get pregnant before a great deal of time passes.

Source:

Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

 

Certified Naturally Grown – An Alternative to the USDA National Organic Program Certification

Organic food standards are still met but small farms don’t face the level of paperwork and expense that the USDA requires. Consumers are assured of quality products.

When consumers look for environmentally friendly living options, organic food is often a top priority. In the United States, only those farms which have been certified by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program may use the organic label.

Small farms finding it difficult to get and maintain organic certification may opt for Certified Naturally Grown membership, which requires them to maintain USDA standards, but involves less paperwork and overhead costs. Consumers buying Certified Naturally Grown products are able to support small sustainable businesses and be assured of the quality of the food they purchase.

USDA Organic Certification Favors Larger Farming Operations

A look at the requirements for receiving organic farming certification from the USDA makes it clear why many small organic food businesses are not certified. The level of ongoing record keeping alone is difficult for them to maintain. Fees and assessments add to the difficulty of getting and maintaining organic business status.

Why Many Small Organic Farms Are Using the Certified Naturally Grown Option

The organic food movement was begun at the local level. Farmers opted to stop using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, becoming some of the earliest green businesses. Many of these same sustainable businesses are now finding it difficult to comply with the fees and paperwork required by the USDA.

Certified Naturally Grown, a Participatory Guarantee System, is a grassroots alternative that remains true to the environmental and human health principles the early organic farmers lived by. Many of the small farms that went organic 28 years ago are now members of CNG.

The Participatory Guarantee System is used to develop organic farming standards in many countries under the guidance of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

CNG farmers are asked to donate annually but they determine the level of that donation. Farmers must also conduct at least one certification inspection of another Certified Naturally Grown farm and their own farms must be inspected at least once every 16 months. Basic records that a small sustainable business would be likely to keep are also required.

The core of Certified Naturally Grown is the cooperation between small organic farm owners. Members of this all-volunteer organization help each other improve their organic farming techniques and share resources, unlike USDA inspectors who are forbidden to give advice to farms seeking organic certification.

What the Certified Naturally Grown Label Means to the Consumer

For the US consumer, the CNG label offers another source of quality organic products. CNG farms adhere to the USDA Organic Standards and are regularly inspected. This means that if a product is locally grown and Certified Naturally Grown it is likely healthier, and more environmentally sustainable, than organic foods from large producers who ship all over the country.

The Takeaway

It’s great to see these efforts come about, because these days, it’s getting really hard to trust government food administraions. They’ve been overseeing everything for years, and to think that they have their hands in the organic movement is worrisome. It because you question whether or not if some stuff out there that’s labelled organic, but you just have to do your research, support movements like the one discussed in this article, or grow your own food.

Boy or Girl – Baby Gender Selection Issues

Some parents have the possibility to opt for gender selection; however, being able to decide whether to have a baby boy or girl is a controversial issue.

Many couples expecting a baby do not think it’s a big issue whether they have a boy or a girl; however there are several medical, social, and personal reasons that could influence parents to recur to some form of gender selection.

Like many other controversial practices, the legality of gender selection, also known as sex selection, varies from country to country.

The Legality of Baby Gender Selection

The United States has perhaps some of the most relaxed laws regarding baby gender selection in the world. Most European countries and Australia, on the other hand, have bans on sex selection and only allow it for medical reasons. For example, if a parent is a carrier of a mutation or gene with more chances of manifesting itself in a certain gender, baby gender selection is valid. However, if parents simply wish to balance the ratio of boys and girls in their family, they are not allowed to recur to sex selection.

This has generated a form of medical tourism in which couples from countries where gender selection is illegal, like the UK, travel to the US in order to be able to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl.

On the other hand, sex selection is illegal in the two most populated countries on Earth, China and India. In these countries, baby gender selection has been performed clandestinely for many years and for reasons other than family balancing or avoiding genetic diseases. In these societies, having a baby boy is preferred mainly for cultural and economic reasons. Parents believe that boys have better chances of earning income and eventually support them when they reach an old age.

Methods of Baby Gender Selection

There are two major types of gender selection methods: the first one is called sperm sorting, and involves separating X-chromosome sperm from Y-chromosome sperm by flow cytometry, a purification technique in which chromosomes are suspended in a stream of sperm and identified by an electronic detector before being separated. Intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization can then be performed with the enriched sperm. The success rates for this method vary from 80% to 93%.

The other method, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, consists in generating several embryos through in-vitro fertilization, which are then genetically tested to determine a baby’s gender. The chosen embryos can then be implanted. This method has a success rate of almost 100%; however, it can be quite expensive, costing up to $15,000.

Issues Regarding Baby Gender Selection

While there are few objections against baby gender selection when it is performed for medical reasons, it has become a highly controversial issue when it is used for balancing the number of boys or girls in families. Some people raise the obvious ethical question of whether people who opt for gender selection are “playing God” by manipulating whether to have a baby boy or girl. Others believe that new parents will raise a baby more appropriately if he or she belongs to their preferred gender.

Gender Imbalance Caused by Baby Gender Selection

Gender selection has caused demographic concern in China and India since it has contributed to generate a gender imbalance in the populations of those countries. In some regions of China, for example, the sex ratio for newborns is 118:100, boys to girls. This phenomenon has in turn been associated with social problems such as an increase in violence and prostitution.

It seems like a logical solution for governments around the globe to legalize baby gender selection but to analyze the personal reasons why each couple intends to select a baby boy or girl. Gender selection for medical reasons should even be encouraged, since it could prevent serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and Haemophilia A. Balancing the gender ratio of a family should be accepted if by doing this, a healthy family environment is created. On the other hand, China and India have shown that baby gender selection as a result of a bias towards a particular gender can not only create a gender imbalance in the population, but contribute to social problems as well.

Organic Certification: What the USDA Organic Label Means

Don’t get conned by fraudulent claims of “natural” or “organic.” Learn what to look for, and why it’s important, to ensure you’re getting the quality you are paying for.

The industrial age of the 20th century brought about changing agricultural practices that have generated increasing alarm about the effects of these practices on the environment and health. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, irradiated and genetically altered food and fiber products has created a groundswell of rightful concern. It has led to the growing demand for non-toxic, organic products that many are willing to pay a higher price for to ensure the healthful purity of food and clothing provided for their families.

With such profit opportunities, it’s little wonder that the lucrative organic product market has suffered abuse with so-called “organic” labels being fraudulently placed on products that have not earned the right. As a result of pressure from farming and consumer groups, legislation for the standardization of organic certification was introduced in the 1980s. It has been updated to include more vigorous enforcement and control methods since, with the current standards established in 2002 by the USDA.

The Standards of USDA Organic Certification

Specific standards must be met in order to legally claim a product as USDA certified organic. Organic producers must utilize methods that conserve water, maximize soil health, and reduce air pollution. The specific standards to earn USDA organic certification include:

Free of synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and additives

Free from irradiation and genetically modified organisms

Agricultural products grown on land that has been free of prohibited substances for a period of three years

Animals used for meat, eggs, milk or other animal products must be exclusively fed foods that are organically grown, may not be given antibiotics or hormones, and must have access to outdoors.

Clean and sanitized harvesting and processing equipment throughout the process from harvest to finished, packaged product

Detailed chain-of-handling records from the field through final sales

Physical separation of certified organic products from non-organic products throughout the process of production

Regular on-site inspections from USDA-approved inspectors to ensure compliance

Understanding the Certified Organic Label

Once the rigorous process of certification has been completed, organic producers may place the USDA certified organic seal on their products. Currently, there are four levels of certified organic products, with a specific definition of the percentage of organic ingredients the final products contains. They are as follows:

• 100% organic: all production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic.

• Organic: at least 95% of the production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• Made With Organic Ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• No organic wording or seal: less than 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic and no claims may be made on the front or back of the product.

Manufacturers or producers who knowingly label a product “organic” when it does not meet the USDA standards are subject to fines up to $11,000 per violation.

Why Organic Certification is Important

When you see the official USDA organic certification seal on food, clothing, and bedding products, you can be assured that these products have met the meticulous standards required and are free of chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and hormones. When you see the USDA certified organic label, you will understand the value of the higher priced organic products as compared to non-organically produced products.

With the current stringent organic certification requirements enforced by regular inspections from USDA accredited agents, the USDA certified organic label has great meaning and importance to the consumer. Look for the label to know that you are getting the quality you are paying for.