Hollywood, FL, March 26, 2011, Rally for the R...

Hollywood, FL, March 26, 2011, Rally for the Right to Know (Photo credit: MillionsAgainstMonsanto)

In reviewing the many battles raging on the food we eat and products we use, it appears that the right to know laws [1] are the sticking points in these controversies.  The current right to know laws are weak and effective in terms of addressing food and product ingredients. [2]   While the majority of consumers presume that consumer protection laws are designed to guard individual rights, the reality is that the purpose of most consumer protection laws is to promote the well-being of the population.  This renders their focus to social concerns, as opposed to legal protection.  This often is in direct conflict with the green movement, which acknowledges the damages to the environment by human action and proposes changes in past behaviors to alter the course of destruction.  The green movement seeks to adopt long-term effective solutions to problems of global warming and climate change and their impact on people and specifically on the food supply, while many other concerns seek immediate and often questionable solutions to problems such as world hunger.

This issue clearly can be seen in the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  In an effort to ensure an adequate food supply, large companies, such as Monsanto and DuPont, design seeds that are resistant to drought, disease and other adverse weather conditions that lead to soil erosion and depletion of nutrients.  The general perception is that research on these projects is undertaken with such a sense of urgency that caution generally is  thrown to the wind, and the quality of food and potentially harmful effects of GMOs have been considered less important than the quantity of food produced.  The consumers’ right to know the hazards of GMOs has been ignored largely through the refusal to even note on packaging that products contain genetically modified ingredients.  The outcry of environmentalists and supporters of the green movement is often criticized, based on the notion that GMOs represent the quickest solution to address the issue of crop failures and the resulting threat to the food supply.  The alternative of organic farming is considered  too costly, unpredictable and incapable of producing enough food to feed large populations.

A second area of concern over the ingredients in food can be found in numerous articles on the Internet denoting the “horrible” ingredients contained in food products.  The bad contents in food run the gamut from insect parts to carcinogens and unlisted animal byproducts.  Many of these ingredients are harmful to the body while others simply represent a violation of choices we are free to make, i.e., vegans and vegetarians have the right to not eat animal byproducts.  Refusal to label the contents of food ingredients violates the public’s right to know the contents of these foods.

The course of action needed to address the issue of labeling is twofold–legal and economic.  The legal solution is to revise the consumers’ right to know the contents contained in food.  Currently, food labeling laws address nutritional content, particularly in terms of calories, fat, cholesterol and other substances, such as sodium and percent of daily requirement of certain predetermined nutrients and vitamins.  The law in this regard desperately needs to be expanded to include other ingredients, which are unproven as to their safety, such as GMOs, or those that may be distasteful to certain people or deemed not in accordance with certain lifestyles.  This really is no different from stating that products contain ingredients that are known allergens, such as milk or peanuts.  The second course of action involves consumers using their buying power to speak for them.  This process starts with each of us educating ourselves on the reputable businesses that insist on selling products that label ingredients.  While these products may be more expensive now, that will change when they become the norm, rather than the exception.

Browsing the Web is a good place to start to learn about unacceptable ingredients in food.   Whole Foods has a great site with a list of unacceptable foods. [3]  Also, contact your legislators and voice your concern over the issue of food labeling and its importance to your family’s health.  We have to fight for our right to know the ingredients in our food and other products of daily living.  To do so is to live green, be green.


1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_know
2.  http://businessethicsblog.com/2010/10/01/consumers-right-to-information/
3.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/unacceptable-ingredients-food

The LEAD stuff from pencil case

The LEAD stuff from pencil case (Photo credit: Christoffer Mørch)


Over the past few decades, the issue of lead paint poisoning generally has been associated with low-income, multi-ethnic urban families; however, recent data indicate that this problem has migrated to middle and upper classes, and now is characterized as a “silent epidemic“.  The  focus on the troubling health problems associated with lead poisoning has prompted new efforts to alert parents of the mechanisms and dangers of lead exposure and actions needed to prevent lead exposure in children, as well a to detect and treat children who have been affected.


A major project in the works to provide information on lead paint poisoning currently is being undertaken by Tamara Rubin, a film director, whose upcoming film documentary, MisLEAD, “aims to dispel a long-standing misconception that lead poisoning is confined to low-income communities and to children who eat paint chips”.  Ms Rubin, who also is the executive director of the nonprofit, Lead Safe America Foundation, notes the importance of educating all parents, particularly  those in the middle and upper classes, on the realities of lead poisoning and dispelling the perceived stigma and shame often connected to lead paint exposure.  This, in turn, will encourage parents to discuss this issue with their pediatricians and to insist on tests for their children to rule out lead paint exposure.


This project is very personal for Ms Rubin as she had to confront lead paint exposure in her family following a home renovation project that included the removal of old paint.  Two of her children became violently ill, and it took their pediatrician a long time to entertain the thought of lead paint poisoning in the differential diagnoses.  Additionally, due to the lack of awareness of lead poisoning, Ms Rubin never considered the possibility of lead paint poisoning in her children or the need to get them tested.


Ms Rubin’s experience is not unusual in that many older homes in middle class neighborhoods containing old lead paint in walls, pipes, etc., are now occupied by wealthier Americans.  This paint, which was used many years ago because of its durability, is now deteriorating and creating “a new wave of lead exposure that wasn’t happening 10,20, 30 years ago”.  Exposure to lead paint typically occurs during renovation and rehabilitation processes or during rebuilding projects that disturb the soil, which often contains accumulated leaded gasoline from automobile exhaust.  Another noted source of lead exposure is realized from many products that we use everyday, including, but not limited to, “pipes, crystals, shoes, jewelry and car keys“.


Studies show that lead poisoning usually affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls decision-making and compulsive behavior.  Over the years, lead paint poisoning has been associated with higher crime rates, lower test scores by students, ADHD, and even autism.  These health problems occur in children from all economic sectors.  Simply stated, lead paint poisoning does not discriminate.  Currently, we see families who have to rely on pharmacological “treatment” for their children’s symptoms, with the realization that these products mask symptoms, rather than cure the problems and often cause adverse side effects.


Detection of lead levels in the blood is done through blood testing.  Results showing lead levels above 5-micrograms-per deciliter are indicative of lead poisoning in a child.  It is imperative that all parents request that their children be tested for lead poisoning, regardless of their economic status as neurotoxic conditions arising from lead poisoning can be devastating to children’s physical and emotional health and development.  The first line treatment for lead poisoning is avoidance of the exposure, which often is enough to reduce the lead levels in the blood.  In the home, this can be accomplished with lead abatement projects.  With detection of lead poisoning, doctors are able to treat children with a number of therapies, including chelation therapy, which involves administering medications that binds with the lead so that it is excreted in the urine.


A great place to start to get information on the important issue of lead paint poisoning is MisLEAD.com.  Next, consider a discussion with your child’s pediatrician for guidance on this issue.  Please remember that the protection of our children from environmental toxins is tantamount to our effort to live green, be green.


Sources for this article:


1.  https://www.facebook.com/MisleadMovie.
2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/lead-poisoning-children-middle-class_n_2880619.html?utm_hp_ref=green.



Here on LGBG we talk, rather frequently, on the intertwined relationship of the green movement and housing development. What we have not mentioned however is how to finance potential green improvements to your home. That is, not until now.

I recently came across an article in the English paper The Telegraph which detailed how some U.K. residents are taking out “Green Loans” to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of their homes. In the United States, homeowners often take out a Home Equity Loan in order to make improvements to their house, which ultimately may increase the value of the house when it comes time to put it on the market. Home Equity Loans are typically used to add an extension to your house, or to create a finished basement. Now however, one has the ability to obtain a Green Loan in order to reduce emissions, and create greater energy efficiency while subsequently adding to the aforementioned value of the homeowner’s residence; so long as the house is inspected by a Green Deal assessor.

These assessors, who work for the government, “…Provide home owners with reports containing a list of possible improvements, and how much these will cost against estimated annual savings on gas and electricity bills.”[1] The rationale is that, despite having to pay for the home improvements (which may cost tens of thousands of dollars) homeowners are better off in the long-run as energy usage will be more efficient, and the resulting green friendly label of the house will aid in boosting the building’s value.

I have no doubt that obtaining a Green Loan to improve the carbon footprint of one’s house is, on the whole, mutually beneficially in the long-run. Yet, banks and lenders also have a responsibility not to take advantage of would-be borrowers by charging exorbitant interest rates, or making the terms and conditions of the loan onerous to pay. Governments can positively influence green behavior by providing subsidies for borrowers who are looking to green-proof their homes directly (which already happens to a certain extent when homeowners purchase solar-panels for example and receive a tax credit) or indirectly to banks by providing them incentives, such as lowering reserve requirements, to lend out money at a low interest rates. Similarly, checks and balances need to be put in place so that borrowers are indeed using the loan to modify their house in green ways and not to pay off other debts or in ways otherwise non-tangential to improving energy efficiency in one’s home. In this way, both banks and borrowers win in the mutual goal of reducing homeowners’ carbon footprints, while also helping to promote a future in which we all live green, and be green.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/greenproperty/9924717/Eco-living-could-you-take-out-a-Green-Deal-loan.html

Inside a Barn on a Chicken Factory Farm

Inside a Barn on a Chicken Factory Farm (Photo credit: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project)


The Vatican’s election of Pope Francis hopefully will signal an era of increased awareness and activism that will culminate in the end of factory farming.  Taking the name of Francis, after St.Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, the new pope has set the stage for his agenda, which features compassion for animals and a commitment to the poor.


This attention to the plight of animals is needed desperately in light of the cruel practices of factory farming, whereby animals raised for food are crammed together in close quarters, barely able to move.  Chickens and turkeys raised for market spend their entire lives on beds of excrement, while pigs, cattle and calves are raised on slatted floors, which permit their feces to drop below into manure pits.  These environments are toxic, with the resulting ammonia fumes from the animals’ waste circulating the enclosed environment, weakening their immune systems and burning their respiratory tracts.  Also, penning animals in close quarters results in fighting with pecking and biting, causing injuries, sores and infections. This whole scenario is indicative of the extreme cruelty to animals and deserves the attention of the world and the passage of laws to end these practices.


Additionally, the practice of factory farming, with its inherent contaminated and toxic environment, poses an ever-present threat of disease, necessitating the routine use of antibiotics to treat animals.  This is particularly alarming at a time when there is a major concern about the overuse of antibiotics by humans, which is suspected to lead to antibiotic resistance and the development of mutant virulent strains of bacteria and viruses.  Permitting the commercial marketing of meat products laced with antibiotics for human consumption is hazardous to human health and should not be outlawed.


Pope Francis also has voiced his commitment to the poor and the Church’s need to address the issue of poverty all over the world.  It is noteworthy that factory farming practices are more likely to impact the poorer segments of the population because these individuals are less likely than their wealthier counterparts to have access or means to meat and poultry raised organically, largely due to cost.  Nutritionally insufficient diets have been identified as a major contributor to poor health, and the ingestion of products of factory farming clearly is a part of this cycle.


With this new era in the Catholic Church, social activists, farm animal welfare activists and environmentalists look with optimism to Pope Francis and the Vatican to lend a voice to the need to protect animals and humans by adopting the necessary legal measures to end factory farming.  To do so is to live green, be green.

Sources For Article:

1.  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sue-cross/antibiotic-resistance-veganism_b_2874898.html?utm_hp_ref=health-news&ir=Health%20News.
2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/16/pope-says-wants-poor-church_n_2889991.html.
3.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi.


Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whole Foods has stepped into the ring in the fight between consumers and the government over food labeling of GMOs.  The company recently announced that by 2018, “all products in U.S. and Canada stores must be labeled if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)”.

This announcement to require labeling of GMOs speaks loudly to the food industry and the government on industry practices.  A clear message is being sent that people have the right to know the contents of their food they purchase and that a company which markets food as being certified organic has a duty to assure the truth of any such statements to that extent.  Without mandatory labeling, it is impossible for stores such as Whole Foods to guarantee non-GMO products to their customers; however, forging business relationships with companies who are willing to truthfully disclose the contents of food products will go a long way to identify and support worthy businesses.  This is not to say that a product cannot contain GMOs.  Rather, they will not be sold at Whole Foods.  There are some people who do not even read food labels or show concern for such issues, and there still will be places for them to shop.

Recent efforts to require GMO labeling in California was defeated, largely as a result of millions of dollars in advertising against the ballot measure by corporate proponents of GMOs, namely Monsanto and PepsiCo.  It is difficult to understand the controversy over food labeling and the government’s failure to require labeling on foods containing GMOs.  Additionally, it is puzzling that the government opts to block the consumers’ right to know what is contained in the food they purchase.  To this end, Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt and chairman of the Just Label It campaign noted that “there are . . . lots of reasons to label these foods:  health and environmental concerns, ethical/religious views or just people want to know”.  Statistics on the need to know whether or not foods contain GMOs indicate that an overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) want food labeling.

The decision by Whole Foods to require labeling foods if they contain GMOs is a major step forward for the green movement and for people who insist on making informed choices on food purchases.    This decision also reinforces the commitment of stores such as Whole Foods to sell food that is organically grown.  This plan offers much-needed support to the suppliers of certified organic products.  It is a clear indication that the proponents of healthy living will not be dominated or defeated by big corporations on the issue of right to know and to choose the food they want to eat.  Hopefully, many more companies will join Whole Foods and manufacturers, such as Stonyfield, in supporting consumers’ right to know whether or not their food contains GMOs.  To do so is to live green, be green.


Source for this article:

1.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/whole-foods-gmo-labeling-2018_n_2837754.html?utm_hp_ref=green.
2.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/product-faq/gmos.
3.  http://justlabelit.org/.

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (Photo credit: Tapio Kaisla Photography)

Today is International Women’s Day, and LGBG is proud to celebrate this day and to salute women all over the world for their hard work and accomplishments to improve the world.

International Women’s Day (IWD) was first celebrated in 1911 in four European countries.  It originally commemorated working rights protests of female garment workers.  While these protests actually began on March 7, 1857, the movement became more organized in 1908, where on March 8th, more than 15,000 women marched in New York City, “demanding better pay, voting rights and an end to child labor”.  In the ensuing years, IWD observances took place on varying days in March.  In reaction to a horrific fire at the Triangle Waist Company building in New York City on March 25, 1911 in which 146 women (mostly immigrants) were killed, a movement was organized to bring attention to the inhuman working conditions of female industrial workers.  This effort led to the creation of the Factory Investigation Commission and the passage of laws that mandated “safety standards, minimum wage, unemployment benefits and financial support for aging workers”.  In 1975, the United Nations designated March 8th as the official day of observance for International Women’s Day.  Over the years, IWD observances have evolved to include observance of  advances of women in human rights and discussions of the ongoing challenges women face in all areas of life, including, but not limited to, politics, education, labor and health.

LGBG is especially proud to salute two organizations recently spotlighted on its site.  First up is No Water-No Life, directed by photographer Alison Jones.  NWNL is a globally focused project that employs photography to document the availability of fresh water resources, raises public awareness and provides education to stakeholders to foster partnerships globally.  With a profound understanding and beautifully conveyed message that water is the key to life, NWNL is a dynamic force and important asset to the green movement.

Our second IWD salute goes out to Africa Inside, directed by Lori Robinson.  This project promotes wildlife conservation and environmental protection in Africa.  LGBG is proud to partner with Africa Inside on its program to eliminate pollution by plastic bags in Africa.  With its exchange program, African citizens receive a reusable shopping tote for every 25 bags retrieved from the countryside.  To date, this exchange program has been an overwhelming success in not only cleaning up the countryside, but also in educating the citizens on the value of their natural resources and the need to protect them.

LGBG congratulates women globally for their tireless work to make our world a better place to live.  We thank you and wish you a Happy International Women’s Day!

Sources for this article:

1.  http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Tech-Culture/2013/0308/What-is-International-Women-s-Day-video.
2.  http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2012/0308/International-Women-s-Day-How-it-s-celebrated-around-the-globe/Asia-Pacific?nav=638983-csm_article-promoLink.
3.  http://nowater-nolife.org/index.html.
4.  http://africainside.org/.


pope and me

pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)

With the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the upcoming enclave to elective a successor Pontiff, it is paramount that the College of Cardinals remain mindful of the environmental legacy of Pope Benedict and the need to continue and advance his work.

Pope Benedict XVI, John Ratzinger, is a strong champion of the environment as evidenced by his words and actions.  In his speeches and writings, he called for both Catholics and people of “good will” to care for creation.  He prompted the installation of solar panels on the roof of Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, and he authorized the Vatican’s bank to purchase carbon credits through funding of a Hungarian forest, resulting in Vatican City being the only country that is totally carbon neutral.  Additionally, Benedict adopted the use of the hybrid, partially electric Popemobile.  Pope Benedict’s commitment to the environment is based on spirituality, as well as morality, thereby making his mission a universal one and prompting the environmental community to acknowledge the Catholic Church as an ally in the green movement.

It is noteworthy that Pope Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, also was committed to the environment.  In many of his speeches and writings, he remarked on the principle of “stewardship” and the consequences of failure to address “problems stemming from globalization of the economy and the worsening of the ‘ecological question‘ “.

As these Pontiffs have set the stage for the inclusion of the environment in the work of the Vatican, it is so important that this legacy continues and grows.  This could be especially beneficial to the Catholic Church in light of its status in the world today.  Faced with distractions from its good work by criticism of its handling of sexual abuse and pedophilia within its realm and corruption extending into its inner circle, the Vatican needs a game changer.  Inasmuch as the younger generation (millennial) appears to be more committed to the green movement (as evidenced by their greater efforts as compared to older generations to recycle, buy local and to reduce their ingestion of meat), the election of a successor Pope strongly committed to the environment presents an excellent opportunity for outreach to young people g
globally, who have left the Catholic Church.  Additionally, the issue of the environment is a global one, which also tends to be more attractive to the younger generations, particularly in the United States, which has witnessed an increased apathy of young people towards many institutions in America, such as church and government, largely due to the toxic state of politics in this country.

The Catholic Church is the one organization that has a global presence.  Whether Catholic or not, we all listen to the messages and doctrines coming from the Vatican, and we look to the Church for guidance on most issues.  This acknowledgment of the Church as a major player in world matters positions the it to be not just a voice on the environment, but also to be a leader in this effort.  We hope this will be recognized by the College of Cardinals in their election of their new leader.  Having a green Pope at the helm of the Catholic Church definitely inspires us to live green, be green.

Sources for this article:

1.  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130228-environmental-pope-green-efficiency-vatican-city/.
2.  http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0264jm.htm.
3.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/opinion/meditations-on-the-legacy-of-pope-benedict-xvi.html?_r=0.

Seal of the United States Department of Agricu...

Seal of the United States Department of Agriculture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a media frenzy with repeated disclosures on the commingling of horsemeat with beef in frozen food products distributed in Europe and possibly here in the United States; (3) however, the real discussions on the problems of horsemeat production with the details of trickery, cruelty and greed—  have been noticeably absent.  We have been given the names of some of the perpetrators in these violations of public trust, namely Nestle, Sodexho, Ikea, Burger King and Tesco, but there are many more out there yet to be identified.  It is important to note that to date, U.S. officials state that they doubt that horsemeat has been sold in any beef products in the United States. 

Aside from the deception by not revealing the contents of these food products, the more heinous act here is the introduction of a product into the food system that is not intended to be consumed by humans and, in fact, is deemed unsafe for human consumption.  Horses, after all, are “raised to be companions, competitors or work partners.” (1)  They routinely are administered medications that are toxic to people, including wormers, fly treatments and pain-killers.  All of these products contain chemicals that are prohibited for food ingestion by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  Additionally, many of the drugs routinely given to humans have never been tested.  It appears that this problem of commingling horsemeat with beef is not merely a sleight of hand and harmless trickery of consumers.  Rather, it is a criminal violation to knowingly taint the food supply, and it is done simply for the purpose of financial gain, constituting pure greed with no regard for the health and safety of the consumer.  Simply stated, in the United States, commercially marketed meat is monitored and inspected by the federal government (USDA) and horsemeat is not approved for human consumption.

Another issue here is that of horse slaughterEd Sayres, President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that there is little demand for horse slaughter in the United States, and horses are trucked to Canada and Mexico for such purposes.  He states, “These trips involve slipping, trampling injuries and death for many horses.  Those who survive then must suffer at the hands of the butcher.”  In other words, this is a very cruel industry.  Inasmuch as many of the horses that go to slaughter are not “aging, unwanted or sickly”, this abhorrent industry is simply making money while ignoring the suffering it causes to the horses and now it presents a threat to the health of humans.

It has been disclosed that the USDA intends to move forward to process pending applications on file for horse slaughter operations in the United States.  We here at LGBG say that this is not who we are as Americans.  We totally oppose this effort and support the ASPCA in its fight to spread the word about this effort which is gaining momentum and which must be stopped.  All eyes should be on Roswell, New Mexico, which is expected to be “ground zero” for this industry.  We urge all of our readers and supporters to unite to fight to ban the horse slaughter industry in America.  Also, please be particularly mindful of the meat products you buy and do not give your money to companies which participate in this practice.  Let’s advocate for a ban on horse slaughter.  To do this is to live green, be green.

Sources for this Article:

1.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ed-sayres/moving-in-wrong-direction_b_2790418.html
2.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-01/usda-says-horse-slaughter-plants-may-open-after-ban-lifted-1-.html
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/business/horse-meat-passes-through-texas-advocacy-groups-say.html?_r=0