In my previous post, besides other things, I discussed antioxidants like Vitamin C and their radiation protective properties (aka radioprotective). Ionizing radiation like the kind leaked from Fukushima can set off a free radical chain reaction in human tissue. Unattached Oxygen molecules start bouncing around as if they were the ball in a pin ball game leaving cellular damage all along it’s destructive path. This process is called oxidation and creates bad guys called free radicals. Hence, antioxidants reduce the toxic effects of free radical damage from radiation by neutralizing them.
Vitamin C and her sister, Vitamin E, work together in a synergistic manner, which actually increases the antioxidant power of this free radical scavenger team. It’s like one plus one equals three.
Some foods high in Vitamin E and its anti oxidant properties are nuts and seeds as well as the oils derived from them. Almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts are all packed with Vitamin E. But the King Of All Nuts, or King Nut, are walnuts. Their antioxidants are both higher quality and more healthful than all other nuts. That’s not just me saying this. In a scientific study just published on March 27, 2011 at the American Chemical Society Annual Meeting, it was reported that walnuts have over twice as many antioxidants than any other nut.
Dr. Vinson, from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania stated that raw nuts have more antioxidants than roasted ones, since heat destroys some nutrients. He said that all it takes is seven raw walnuts a day to get the most health benefits.
Other foods high in Vitamin E are wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and oils such as walnut, safflower and corn. Spinach, broccoli and mangoes are good choices as well.
Radioprotective properties have been discovered in members of the Allium vegetable family. The Allium family includes garlic, onions, leeks, scallions and chives to name a few. An Indian study reported garlic showed significant radio protective effects on irradiated test animals. They noted that the animals fed garlic had remarkably reduced mortality as well as increased protection against tissue damaging irradiation.
Check out Julie and I discussing garlic and other foods taped in January 2001.

Here’s my recipe for today using only organic ingredients. I am a big picture guy so you need to figure out your own quantities.
Food To The Rescue Vegetable Overture
Lightly sauté garlic, onions and leeks in safflower oil. Do not over cook. Add gently blanched broccoli and fresh spinach. Once the spinach starts to wilt remove from the flame and add some dulse (a seaweed). Sprinkle raw walnuts and sunflower seeds. For dessert serve mango and orange slices.
Julie and I purchased all of these ingredients yesterday at our local farmers market. Everything is organic at this particular one. We add fresh asparagus, tomatoes with basil and rosemary topping off the whole dish with sunflower sprouts.
Ounce for ounce this is one power packed potion for Nuke Protection. Antioxidant rich fresh organic vegetables and fruits should play a central role in your health plan.


In our over forty years of natural and organic foods experience as organic farmers, health food store owners and nutrition counselors, Julie and I have always had consistent messages about health: Food First, Food as Medicine, Foods Heal. And of coarse the 60’s favorite message, everybody, now, say it together: You are what you eat!!! And so, we hear many folks asking, “what can we eat to protect ourselves from the radioactive fall-out of the Fukushima reactor disaster?”

Since I strongly believe in Food First, that is our first line of defense against radiation. We know that the healthier a person is, the better her/his ability is to fight the ravages of toxins, be they radioactive or chemical, as in pesticides. So the main goal is to increase an individual’s health on a holistic basis. The stronger the immune system is, the increased ability to defend against the damage caused by toxins.

Foods that protect us from radiation damage are called radio protective foods. These radio protective foods are bursting with antioxidants, free radical scavengers, phyto-nutrients, and much more. I am talking nutrition powerhouses.

The Queen of all antioxidants is Vitamin C. Some people choose to get their Vitamin C from supplements, but I am a Food First kind of guy. Some foods high in Vitamin C are tomatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, rose hip tea, kale and cauliflower to name a few. Choose organic when possible. Since C breaks down from heat it is a good idea to eat these foods as close to their raw state as possible. Steaming broccoli, kale and cauliflower helps to retain vital nutrients. In a preliminary study published in August 2010, a group of scientists in Ankara, Turkey concluded that Vitamin C might play a protective role against detrimental effects of mobile phone radiation in the brain.

I know that mobile phone radiation is completely different from the radiation being released in Japan and other nuclear events. However, my point is, since all radiation causes free radical damage and Vitamin C has radio protective properties that helps defend against free radical damage, go ahead and enjoy that organic orange!

It is an unfortunate quirk of fate that Japan is the only country to ever experience atom bomb attacks and now a nuclear power plant accident. It turns out, there were people who survived the horrible effects of radiation toxicity after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Michio Kushi’s 1977 book, The Book of Macrobiotics, he describes how Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki, director of a hospital in Nagasaki one mile from the epicenter directed his staff to protect themselves and patients by consuming miso (soybean paste), brown rice, seaweed, sea salt, soy sauce and other macrobiotic foods. He did not allow any sweets. Dr. Akizuki observed that many survivors in the city succumbed to radiation toxicity, and yet, everyone in the hospital was saved.

Miso, wakame and other seaweeds, brown rice and tamari soy sauce may have radio protective properties. These foods are all from the traditional Japanese diet, made famous by George Ohsawa and then his student, Michio Kushi. They called their regime The Macrobiotic Diet.

Michio goes on in his book, about a study conducted by scientists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The scientists observed a large reduction in the absorption of radioactive strontium in mice fed the seaweed, kelp. These scientists were looking for a way to protect against nuclear fallout.

Current supplies of these Asian foods are available at organic and natural food stores. US manufactured miso is readily available so that is not such a big problem. Seaweeds are another story. The current inventories of seaweed on store shelves are fine, but much of it comes from Japan. Stores and distributors will sell out their current inventory and then need to replenish from producers in Japan. That is when we will probably not see any more imported Japanese seaweed for a while. A good substitute without sacrificing quality is seaweed gathered from the Maine coast. Organic brown rice is grown in the US and should be readily available. Kelp capsules are sold in Health Food Stores.

So enjoy that wonderful organic orange and strawberry fruit salad. Also, learn how to consume seaweed, they’re pretty good.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the following words:
I Get By With A Little KELP From My Friends!!!

COMING…Cousin Richie’s Nuke Protection Medicine Chest…Part 2…FOODS TO THE RESCUE
NEWS UPDATE…ordered Geiger counters and they have been shipped…will keep you posted

Consult a healthcare professional before taking any products mentioned or recommended. Pregnant and nursing women should consult their healthcare professionals. Kelp and other seaweeds contain iodine. Any person with hypersensitivity to iodine, hyperthyroidism or are taking a prescribed iodine medication should avoid Kelp, Wakame and other seaweed.

It was 32 years ago today the worst nuclear accident in US history occurred at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. We are still experiencing problems caused by this unprecedented release of radioactive material on US soil.
With the growing problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant in Japan, it is time for all humanity to pause in our nuclear folly.
Join me in a moment of reflection.

Below is the post I did two years ago on the 30th Anniversary of Three Mile Island.


I can’t believe it was 30 years ago today that there was a meltdown in the core of the Three Mile Island Nuclear-Power Plant. March 28, 1979 will go down as a day of infamy for all time. The nations worst commercial nuclear accident and not such a good day for Julie and Richie either.

At the time we were living peacefully on our organic farm in rural Maine far away from any dense population centers. Julie and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to get away from all the problems that city life presents and live close to the land in an unpolluted idyllic environment. We moved to rural Maine to grow our own organic vegetables and live the good life.

On March 28, 1979 a partial meltdown of the core of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Generating Station occurred and a large plume of this toxic material traveled north over Maine. We did not know about the toxic plume at the time so there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves. Luckily it happened early in the morning so we were in the house at the time. It shows that we are all interconnected and that pollution somewhere hundreds or even thousands of miles away can seriously affect us innocents downstream.

I was so angry. I wrote a song, Radiation, in 1979 to vent this anger and frustration. You can listen to my song below. It is a protest song expressing my anger. I wrote the words and music right after the incident. I got a few musician friends together and went into a small recording studio in Waterville, Maine. The song’s message is still right on target even after 30 years.

Ep-Bee-Log: The cause of the meltdown was attributed to both technical malfunctions and human error. Here we were away from it all on our organic farm in rural Maine and yet the toxic plumes found us. It goes to show that you can’t run or hide from nuclear contamination, even if it is not in your backyard.

COMING TOMORROW…Cousin Richie’s Nuke Protection Medicine Chest

Two if by sea…Three if by food…

Nuclear radiation, aka nukes, is coming our way. In fact it has already been detected in places far from Japan. Last Friday it was reported that “miniscule amounts” of radioactive elements so small that they “pose no health concern” were found in samples taken in San Francisco, Seattle and Anaheim.

On Wednesday, March 25, 2011, tiny traces of nuclear fallout reached Iceland and were expected to reach Europe shortly. Both French and German authorities were expecting miniscule amounts of radioactive fallout some time on Wednesday. Austrian officials said weather conditions could bring more radioactive material inland rather than out into the Pacific. Looks like nuclear containment is easier said than done.

The pollution is in the air and on the move both near and far depending on the wind currents and other weather factors. The fallout knows no geographic or political boundaries and it never goes away. Once the nukes are in the air they may eventually find their tiny destructive way back to Mother Earth. What goes up must come down. Nuclear pollution may fall into the oceans, rivers, streams and lakes; spreading contamination to our fish, seafood, seaweeds, hatcheries and reefs.  Nukes may settle on our cities, towns, and rural communities in the countryside and on farms. Fallout may settle on our food.

People living close to the Fukushima disaster area may have many health and other concerns to deal with. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Japanese people who are most impacted in dealing with this unprecedented human tragedy.

Because only small amounts of radioactive mater have been released the immediate danger is not great. But on the other hand, these small releases have in fact increased the total amount of global radiation we will all be living with. Fukushima has increased the global background radiation levels forever. The levels can only go up from here. This is now the new global radiation baseline. The new starting point. Our children, grandchildren and all of the world’s flora and fauna will inherit the results of our nuclear folly.

Different geographical regions will be exposed to different radiation levels. In some areas radiation readings will be higher than other areas. While there will be places experiencing virtually no impact at all. We will all be at the mercy of Lady Luck.

Besides geographical regions we also have a multitude of other factors, which influence the specific levels of radiation in any given area. It will be impossible to check every place for answers to questions like, when the radioactive plume was over your location did it rain? Snow? Dew? What was the barometric pressure at the time? Was the plume over a city? Over crops? Did it settle on beehives? Pollinating bees? Children out in the schoolyard playing? And on and on.

So when you hear someone say the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima catastrophe will not have much impact, we must in return ask; what are the long-term health and environmental consequences of Fukushima? The weakness with our question is we will not see many negative health and environmental issues surface for 10, 20 or more years. Even then, at the rate humanity is going, we will not have enough brains to link the increased rates of cancer and other diseases to this increase of background radiation.

The more I think about the title of this post it becomes more and more obvious the title is totally inaccurate. The Nukes are Coming…The Nukes are Coming…should read:

The Nukes Are Here…The Nukes Are Here…


This Monday, March 28, 2011 will be the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island Disaster.

Please read my blog post from two years ago, on the 30th anniversary of Three Mile Island

COMING…Cousin Richie’s Nuke Protection Medicine Chest

With all the issues facing Japan and the world regarding radiation spreading globally I wanted to have a way to check my produce and groceries for any traces of radiation contamination before bringing it home. No one wants his or her Romaine lettuce contaminated with radiation, no matter how miniscule. Being an ex-grocer, that’s just how I think. For me, the answer is using a Geiger Counter, GC for short.  Allow me to explain why I think it’s essential for everyone to own one and how to use it.

These noisy instruments can come in handy at a time like this. A GC measures radiation. Unfortunately, right now, it’s very difficult to find one. So I would place the ad on an Internet or Social Networking site to find a GC.

My classified ad would read like this:

Wanted: Hand Held Geiger Counter. Looking to purchase six portable hand held Geiger Counters. Must be small, about the size of a deck of cards, easily fits into a pocket. Must have way to shut off sound.

Once I’m lucky enough to find and then purchase said instrument, I can then set about checking any food items I may want to get. Here’s my quiet plan. Carry my GC into a grocery store with the sound off. Very discretely check the products I am interested in purchasing. Romaine, tomatoes, kale, garlic, apples will each be tested in my secretive way. Low radiation levels:buy. High levels:bye bye! In this way I can be an informed consumer and watch out for my family. All information is between me and my GC. I would always follow the prime directive: never bring attention to me or my Geiger Counter.

If you think you may be interested in following my footsteps, there’s a bit more Geiger Counter info you need to know about. Specs are pretty simple, about the size of a deck of cards and small enough to fit into a pocket. Must have sound control with digital or needle gauge. If no earphone jack, then it needs a volume shut off. Price: $ 200- $500.

To be even safer, I would suggest food stores also get their own GCs and test their food deliveries. The food distribution warehouses should immediately start monitoring produce on the loading docks. The earlier in the distribution pipeline the better. Before the warehouse accepts a delivery, a GC must be used to scan the pallet. If it passes, accept delivery. If it fails, refuse it right there on the dock. Label the produce: Certified Geiger Counter Tested. Look for the CGCT label (I just invented this new certification term, what do you think?). I would buy produce with this new label. The CGCT label would become a way to communicate that the produce has been tested and is free of any radioactive materials.

This is not crazy stuff. Reuters reports that an upscale Japanese restaurant in Taiwan is offering radiation checks for its diners

Finally, we come to the end of my GC wanted ad:

Price not to exceed $500 including freight.

Motivated Buyer

By Richie Gerber

solar_farm“Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise. And put up a parking lot.” Famous lyrics from the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell. How do these lyrics relate to Solar Farms you might be asking yourself?

Whenever we hear solar power brought up we all burst out in green Goosebumps because it is touted as a clean and sustainable energy source. As a mater of fact much of the new energy legislation being pushed by government relies heavily on solar power. I would like to shed some light on the dark side of Solar Power since nobody is really talking about this. Even environmentalists are split on this one.

Let The Sunshine

Most of the big money and interest in solar power is being bet on huge solar farms.  Enormous government dollars are being given to big players in the Solar Farm industry. Billions of our dollars are going to big energy corporations invested in this technology. Many solar farm projects are being considered to be located on government land. But there are lots of other projects slated for private land as well. Most are in remote areas such as the Mojave Desert. Just to see how huge this is, the Bureau of Land Management in California is reviewing applications for permits utilizing over 1 million acres in the Mojave Desert for solar farms alone. There are hundreds of projects for huge solar farms around the US as well as Canada. They are mostly in remote areas and take up vast amounts of land since the solar arrays are designed to have the largest amount of surface area to increase efficiency.

I’ve been to the Desert on a Horse with no Name

Let’s take the Mojave Desert for an example. Most people hear the word desert and think it is barren and junky land, of no useful value. Most folks don’t realize that it is a wonderful and diverse eco system, which has evolved over millions of years. It has a multitude of animals, plants and other living things adapted to this unique environment. Since it is not very hospitable to humans, which diminishes its ability to be developed, we have labeled it as junk land. Just like here in Florida, at one time some called the Florida Everglades a swamp, not realizing its diverse eco system that also provides water to the entire South Florida Region.

When Sunny Get’s Blue

In a Solar Farm the dozers come in and make roads to the remote tracts. Then they scrape the huge land areas and smooth out the surfaces. So now vast tracts of virgin land have been changed for all time forward. Metal racks are erected to hold the solar arrays. These solar panels absorb sunlight but also give shade to the land underneath them. Now we have millions of acres of historically sun caressed land put into the shade. This must have an enormous effect on the sensitive and diverse eco system. Now repeat this scenario hundreds of times all over the country.

I Am a Lineman for the County

In order to deliver the power from these remote regions to the population centers large transmission lines must be constructed through these remote areas. Huge amounts of water are needed as well to help cool the turbines, which convert the sun’s heat into electricity. Remember that some of these areas like the Mojave Dessert do not have that much water to spare. That’s why it is named the Mojave Dessert! If this is not a shock to the environment then I don’t know what is. All we talk about is global warming and carbon footprint while sometimes missing the larger picture that sometimes the cure is as bad or worse than the problem.

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Mans Floor

Even the governor of California has shown his lack of sophistication on this subject by not realizing the value of the Mojave Dessert. Governor Schwarzenegger said in a speech last year at a Yale University climate-change conference: “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.” Maybe he will start to understand that even this desolate dessert is a unique and valuable eco system, which needs protection. Even Governor Ah-nold doesn’t have a clue.

Epp-Bee-Log: I don’t want to appear that I am a negatively charged electron with no ideas. So I would like to tell you my positively charged proton plan in my next posting. I call it: Cousin Richie’s Here Comes The Sun Solar Power Plan. So let’s not Take Paradise and put up a Solar Farm until you hear me out.

Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me


farmed fishThe waiter opens with, “Tonight’s seafood special is a fillet of lightly grilled Organic Maine Salmon in a USDA Organic Reduction Sauce consisting of the essence of Organic Lemon and Organic Artisanal Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Messina region of north east Sicily and finished in the oven…” I stopped listening at the Organic Salmon part. “What is Organic Salmon and who says its Organic?” I ask. He replies, “our highly renowned fishmonger, of course”. I placed my order for the “Organic Salmon” all the while questioning myself on how a fish could be certified as organic.

So what really is “Organic Salmon”? And who besides this “highly renowned fishmonger” certifies that this Salmon is organic? Please note that I have been involved in the organic movement since owning an organic farm in Maine in the 70’s. Then in the 80’s-90’s I owned the Bread of Life Natural Foods Markets, which evolved into the largest Natural and Organic Supermarket in the Southeast U.S. My Plantation, Florida store was voted Store of the Year in 1996 by Whole Foods Business Magazine. I ultimately sold my three stores to Whole Foods Markets in the late 90’s and remained on as the Regional Vice President for several years. This gives me some street cred when it comes to all things organic.

All of us are very familiar with the green and white circle USDA Organic Seal on many products. It is an outgrowth of the Natural Organic Program (NOP) created by congress in the 1990’s. In 2002 only agricultural products that were grown following verifiable organic methods and certified by a qualified certifier were permitted to use the USDA Organic Seal.  This is no child’s play either; the law was very strict which made me happy. I did not want to see scammers getting into the biz trying to make a quick buck and destroying the movement’s credibility. As a matter of fact the law had some very sharp teeth, “A civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each offense can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels as organic a product that is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organics Program’s regulations.” These standards applied to produce, meat and poultry, not seafood. In other words there is no USDA organic standard for fish and seafood. Something is starting to smell fishy to me!!! How about you?

Most of the Salmon today is farmed raised. Fish farms. Aquaculture, the fish version of agriculture is the largest producer of commercial salmon.  So what are these fish farms like and what’s the problem? The first problem I see is the physical properties of a fish farm. They consist of large pens in the ocean that keeps the salmon inside. It keeps predators out as well.  Picture thousands of salmon all living in a pen in the ocean. They are constantly eating and pooping. Some say that the currents flush out the debris from the pen. It looks s like it needs lots of flushing. Since there are so many fish together in one concentrated area the farmers feed them feed pellets that are laced with antibiotics in order to prevent a bacterial infection or sea lice from wiping out the crop of fish like a Salmon Flu. Some of these farmed fish escape from their pens which can cause harm to the wild salmon population.

 Most of the pellet food the salmon is fed is not organic. Take for comparison organic chicken. They must be fed exclusively organic feed. Antibiotics are not permitted in the feed. The birds must have access to open areas, the so-called free-range organic chicken. When fish are raised in pens one realizes the lack of sustainability in the system. Although the pens are moved from one area to another there is still toxic effluent left in the wake. The pollution can be devastating to whole areas of the ocean as well as other fish and fauna.

Again I ask you, “What is an Organic Salmon?” Is it a fish that is fed pellets of non-organic feed possibly laced with antibiotics?  Does it spend its entire life closed in a pen, squished in with thousands of genetically alike fish? Is it raised in a small concentrated pen teeming with bacteria and other possible toxins? Well here is my answer to the pressing question, “what is organic salmon?” THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ORGANIC SALMON. PERIOD!!! This beast does not exist yet. It is a marketing ploy and has the potential to harm the great work of the current organic standards that exist under the NOP. It can only add confusion. The term “Organic Salmon” must not be used until the USDA creates standards under the NOP.

Take note that farmed raised salmon appears very red in the fish case at the store. At first you may think this means it is better or fresher than the less red wild caught. In fact, wild caught salmon has a natural red color whereas farm raised salmon  gets it red color from red food dyes because farm raised is naturally very pale. The deep reds you see in the fish case at the store is because the producers add red food color to the farm raised fish to make them more marketable to customers since customers relate red to salmon. I am not a fan of additives to mask things. Many shoppers select salmon because of its healthful omega friendly fats. In fact, the farm raised salmon has very low levels of these healthy oils, which are found in high quantities in wild salmon.

Wild Salmon is a much better choice in my humble opinion. It contains high levels of the healthy omega-3 fish oils, which everyone is looking for these days. It was not fed some antibiotic feed pellets. It does not have any red dye food color to enhance its appearance. So when I am at the store I try to go to the wild side and avoid the “Organic” hype in the fish case.

Epp-BEE-Log: If you remember three things you will never be thought of as gullible or dumb. 1) There is no Santa Clause. 2) There is no Tooth Fairy. 3) And there ain’t no such thing as “Organic Salmon”.

By Richie Gerber

chinese drywall2Most of us have heard all the stories on U.S. Water Boarding. But have you heard about the Chinese Wall Boarding of thousands of US citizens? Outrageous you might be saying but please hear me out. Thousands of US citizens are truly being tortured by Chinese Wall Boarding today, which is destroying their health, wealth and future.

Chinese Wall Boarding was most prevalent from 2004-2007.  It has its basis in the housing boom as well as several “acts of god”. These “acts of god” were the active 2004 hurricane season in Florida and then in 2005 the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana. The combination of these events created a huge building boom that in turn swelled the demand for wallboard, a key component in buildings, beyond the production capacity of U.S. producers. Builders started importing Chinese Wallboard in order to meet the booming demand.

So what is the connection between water boarding and Chinese Wall Boarding you may be asking? Torture!!! At this very minute hundreds of US citizens have been living a tortured life in buildings that have Chinese Wallboard aka drywall, sheetrock, gypsum. Victims have been crying for help and yet most Americans do not even know what is going on. The U.S. Government is not acting swiftly or effectively to end the torture. I think the EPA has a plan to make a plan. When Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) wrote a letter on this mater to the EPA in early February he did not receive a reply back until almost two months later! I guess they were planning to make a plan on how to write a letter to a Senator.

This Chinese Wallboard is different than its American Counterpart. Homeowners in as many as 16 states from Florida to Louisiana to Virginia and Washington, DC have been affected–over 100,000 homes nationally with almost 50,000 in Florida alone. All these homes were built using Chinese Wallboard and the victims have very similar complaints–a strong smell of “rotten eggs”, chronic health problems, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing problems as well as financial hardships. Is this starting to sound like torture yet?

Health complaints from victims include frequent nosebleeds, recurring headaches, asthma attacks, respiratory distress as well as skin and eye irritation. As a mater of fact some pediatricians have requested parents keep kids out of these toxic homes. Imagine how you would feel finding out that your dream house is in fact toxic to you and your kid’s health.

The smell of sulfur permeates these homes. Many Chinese Wallboard homes smell like “rotten eggs” because the wallboard has sulfur in the gypsum. Think of wallboard as a sandwich. An outer layer of heavy paperboard with a filling of the mineral gypsum sandwiched in between them. It appears that the gypsum used in this Chinese Wallboard has a higher amount of sulfur. Hence the “rotten egg” odor.. Air quality tests by the EPA have also found organic compounds similar to acrylic paint as well as Strontium. It appears that in damp and humid conditions this Chinese Wallboard offgases creating a cacophony of toxic gasses.

Another problem that many of these affected homes have is the unusually high deterioration of A/C equipment, plumbing and electrical systems. Many of these homes have gone through multiple A/C units as the condensers and compressors rot out. In this day and age this type of equipment should last for years and years but some people have replaced theirs multiple times. Typically copper turns green with age, which is natural. In these homes the copper water pipes, electrical wires turn black and then rot out. You can see how dangerous this is.

Who owns these homes? Young couples, some with kids some without, retirees, singles, and all kinds of folks like you and me, that’s who. What do you do if you start to feel sick or the doctor tells you to keep your kids out of that house? You can’t abandon it since you have your life savings tied up in it and the bank expects to receive your mortgage payment in a timely fashion. You purchased the house at the top of the market and now the market is at the bottom so you risk loosing your shirt if you sell now. You must disclose to any potential buyer the problems associated with the house. Having a “rotten egg” smell does not make it any easier to sell either. And what bank is going to put out a new loan on a place that has recurring mechanical problems. These innocent victims are being Chinese Wall Boarded.

I have an idea! How about shutting the A/C’s, turning on all the fans and opening up all the windows. This will air out the place over time. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! In fact opening up the windows makes the situation even worse. Can you imagine that these people should not open their windows since that will increase the humidity and exacerbate the problem? So now the torture victims are confined to a stinky, toxic environment and cannot let fresh air into their torture chamber since that will make things worse. They have to watch as their physical, emotional and financial health rot away.

Epp-BEE-Log: The US Government has not identified this as the tragedy it is. The Consumer Products Safety Commission and the EPA have been dragging their feet and using all of the typical gobbledy-gook lingo to explain why they have not acted swiftly. Where is FEMA? Where is the outrage? Where is the help? Right now at this very moment, as you read this article fellow Americans are suffering from Chinese Wallboarding.

© Richie Gerber

© Richie Gerber

By Richie Gerber

Can you guess the connection between Bees and Headaches? Most people can’t. Here is my first hint: aspirin. Can you now guess the connection? Probably not so here my second hint: Bayer. Still don’t know? Then here is the final giveaway hint which will make the connection obvious, neonicotinoids? Clothianidin aka Poncho® ? Imidacloprid aka Gaucho®? Humm…not as easy as I thought.

Give up? Here is what Bees and headaches have in common. Bayer, you heard me correctly. Bayer, the aspirin people with global sales of $45 billion, owns a subsidiary call Bayer CropScience AG that manufactures herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides (mentioned above) as well as treated seeds. CropScience alone does $8.8 billion in global sales that is about 20% of Bayer’s business. The EPA in a fact sheet issued 5/31/2003 has described Bayer’s Clothiantin, one of who’s trade names is Poncho® a pesticide from Bayer’s CropScience division, as follows: “ Poncho® is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis (LD50 > 0.0439 µg/bee). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of Poncho® residues in nectar and pollen. In honeybees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen.” Is this starting to give YOU a headache? It sure is for me. It’s even worse for the bees.

In May 2008 Germany banned the use of Poncho® when German beekeepers reported loosing over 50% of their hives after a Poncho® application was linked to the deaths of millions of bees in the Baden-Württemberg region. Bayer responded that the toxic effect was an isolated incident caused by an “extremely rare” application error. So Poncho® is banned in Germany where Bayer was founded in 1863 and has its global headquarters. After the “extremely rare” application error people started to link Poncho®with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD has been ravaging bee populations and nobody knows its cause. Beekeepers thought they had the smoking gun.

So why does the EPA still allow the use of this insecticide in the US even though they described it in 2003 as “highly toxic to honeybees”? And why does the EPA still allow the use of this insecticide when its use has been banned in Germany where Bayer was founded 146 years ago, and has its global headquarters? Sure beats me. The EPA issued a Press Release on 7/1/08 stating its position on the subject. They state, “EPA believes this incident in Baden-Württemberg is not related to CCD. Although pesticide exposure is one of four theoretical factors associated with CCD that the United States Department of Agriculture is researching, the facts in this case are not consistent with what is known about CCD.” So for this specific incident the EPA does not see a connection between Poncho® and CCD. I am fine with their position that for this specific incident Poncho®, a “highly toxic” pesticide to bees, caused widespread bee deaths and that the Baden-Württemberg incident was not consistent with CCD. OK, I’ll buy that.

Then in August 2008 the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the EPA to disclose studies of the effect of  Poncho®  on honey bees. They believe that the EPA has evidence of the link between CCD and pesticides, which it has not made public. So far the EPA has not responded to the NRDC’s request for information. This is quite strange indeed. It appears to me that “everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey”.

Numerous theories have been floating around regarding the cause of CCD but none has been proven. Some of the challenges facing bee populations are: parasites such as Varroa mites, bacterial or fungal disease, commercialization and industrialization of beekeeping, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, climate and more. I believe that it may be a combination of several or all of these factors as well as others we do not even know about at this time.

I always told my Maine neighbors as well as my Bread of Life customers, I try not to eat food that has been treated with stuff whose instructions are: wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants, gloves, hat and respirator. Do not inhale or get in contact with skin or eyes. Then they dump this stuff on their food and EAT it. No way Jose!!! But those are pretty much the instructions for the application of Poncho®.

Epp-BEE-Log: I think the name Poncho® for an insecticide is cool. That is why I used it so much in this article. Great marketing! The EPA needs to redouble its efforts to analyze many of the substances on the market to see if they are part of the CCD problem. Maybe it might be a combination of chemicals. Maybe one farmer is applying chemicals while a nearby field is being pollinated. The EPA must also release any and all information on chemicals that are being applied to our food so we can see what is going on. All I can say to the EPA is, take two aspirin and call me in the morning!

By Richie Gerber


Back in the mid eighties, when I owned The Bread of Life Natural Foods Stores, Paper vs. Plastic was the controversy of the day. Until then I only offered paper bags. All of us health food guys resisted going to the dark side: plastic. It was at a time when the Natural Products Industry started going through the growing pains of modernization. Gaining wider appeal in the mass-market ignited a wave of new customers to the Health Foods Industry and the need to adopt new ways in order to make them feel more comfortable shopping at our stores.

I started giving people a choice of paper or plastic bags. It became the hot topic of the day. Petro chemical, mass-market environmental hazard, non-recyclable, non renewable and unnatural were a few examples of the phrases going around describing the plastic bags. Several very committed customers expressed their displeasure with me offering plastic bags. Several even stopped shopping at my store.  Later they returned because all the stores started giving the same choice.

My rap was, and still is the following; EVERYTHING has consequences. Although paper had several positive aspects, especially that it is biodegradable among other things; there were negative problems that were not being talked about. It really is not a black and white issue. Here are several of the problems regarding paper bags. If you have ever seen a bundle of 1/6 Barrel Bags you would know what I am talking about. They are the brown paper shopping bags everyone loves to double up on, with or without handles. One bundle of these bags probably weighs over 10 pounds and they take up huge amounts of space. Critters love to live in and/or eat the paper and the glue that holds them together so who knows what happens in the distributors warehouse in order to prevent infestation. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

The transportation impact of fuel used to transport both favors plastic.  It is much lighter and more compact. So you can fit more plastic bags on a truck. It would take two trucks to carry the paper bags compared to one truck to carry the same amount of plastic bags, and the plastic bags weigh less, which burns less fuel to transport as well. And again, in real life people love to have their groceries double bagged. It’s part of the beast. Recently several environmentally conscious companies eliminated plastic bags altogether. No more choice.

Well actually they do give a choice of paper or BYOB (bring your own bag). BYOB is by far the best solution to this decades old dilemma.  I commend these forward thinking companies for bringing this issue back to the forefront. Reusable bags are hands down the BEST SOLUTION.

Julie and I always have canvas bags with us when we go grocery shopping. This is one very easy feel good act. Sometimes we are out and about and end up with a plastic bag. My tip for the day, use these plastic bags as garbage bags. They work great and you use less store bought trash bags.

Epp-BEE-Log: When it comes to the paper vs plastic debate the best answer is neither. They both have good and bad points, which tends to minimize or even equalize these two. If you are looking for the REAL answer it has to be BYOB.

By Richie Gerber

ProduceIt happens to me every time I go to a party or gathering with Julie. Someone always brings up some permutation of an issue regarding the alternative lifestyle in order to, “pick my brain”. I guess these issues are all over the media, making people wonder about them. That’s great. At a recent gathering I was surrounded by several couples that wanted my point of view. They wanted to know which produce, local or organic, was better for the environment. The discussion heated up very quickly as I realized I was being ambushed. They were all Local Yokels and I am an Organic Fanatic.

Being a highly trained orator and forensic debater I immediately started to shower them with personal attacks and insults spiced with profanities (only kidding). I have been outnumbered before in similar situations so this did not faze me one bit. Here is what I told them.

My view of the Local vs. Organic question is as follows: If the Local produce is Organic then it is a moot point. Local Organic produce is the best. Local Organic is a no brainer as the number one choice since it supports organic farmers in your local community as well as reduces the negative impact of toxic chemicals on the environment, farm workers and your family.

So that narrows the real argument to Local Conventional Produce vs. Organic. Here is “Richie Gerber’s” produce hierarchy from most desirable to least:

 1. Local Organic= best

 2. Organic= great

 3. Local Conventional= avoid

Pretty simple. In my opinion the position for Local is very myopic. Its highest and best value is the reduction of greenhouse gases because of the reduced transportation impact on shipping the produce. It has less of a carbon footprint than Organic produce trucked in from other places. Reducing the carbon footprint is the most popular hot button environmental issue of the day. This is a valid point. I fully agree. But I have one caveat. Since EVERYTHING has consequences, we need to determine what, if any, consequences Local has. In my humble opinion: many. First off, this carbon footprint thing is a trade off issue that has other consequences, which I will explain shortly. On the other hand Local earns bonus points for supporting neighbors and local farmers. This is a very big deal so that it a big plus.

Remember, EVERYTHING has consequences. Local Conventional farming relies heavily on cides. I say, don’t take cides, eating Herbicides, Pesticides, Insecticides and Fungicides is committing suiricide. Don’t Take Cides. All these cides leave their everlasting residue on our land, in our rivers, in our streams and in our bodies! If that’s not enough, the Local produce could be grown from seed altered with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). And if that is not enough to freak you out get this one. Drum roll please. The produce could be irradiated!!! Watch Out, that tomato you are about to eat is a pesticide ladened, gene spliced nuked nightshade. I admit this is extreme but it is definite that some of the above has happened to your tomato.

Earlier I gave Local produce bonus points for supporting neighbors and local farmers, a huge and noble act. Here is where we part ways. I think health is the highest and greatest issue. Health overrides everything. Your family’s health, farm workers health and the health of our planet trump everything. Everything.

 All the gains from reducing the carbon footprint for Local are totally washed out with the horrible chemical residues damaging our environment and the health of the people who eat these products. I should throw in the exposure of these toxic chemicals on the agricultural workers as well. Toxic chemical residues on our food as well as runoff into our streams and lakes are a cause for alarm. Children are more susceptible to the dangers lurking in chemical produce. I finished up with my usual over the top inflammatory statement to nail my point.  “I would rather give up a few feet of glacier in the ant-arctic than feed my kid poison for dinner tonight”.

You can probably imagine that I was the most popular person at the party. I know it is a crude statement but it does crystallize this argument as well as personalize it. Questions and discussion flowed back and forth after I expressed my unconventional point of view. Everyone was shaken out of their comfort zone and now had more information to think about. I also wanted everyone to understand that I did not want to throw the Local farmers under the bus. I explained to the partiers the need to educate our Local farmers on the benefits of Organic agriculture. Help them cut off their dependence on chemical agriculture. Show them safer methods of farming from their agricultural extension service or other agencies involved in alternative agricultural methods. Help them become part of the solution.

Epp-Bee-Log: EVERYTHING has consequences. This is not a black or white issue. Even though global warming might be helped, adding more toxic chemicals to the world is not a sustainable solution. So, as I said before, I will gladly say again, don’t take cides, eating Herbicides, Pesticides, Insecticides and Fungicides is committing suicide. Don’t Take Cides!!!

So count me in on the Organic Side.


News Flash: 10 Billion Bees descend on California’s Central Valley!

Bee on Richie's Mango Tree ©Richie Gerber

Bee on Richie's Mango Tree ©Richie Gerber

This might sound like an alarm or call to action but in fact it is a yearly occurrence. It is the largest migration of “workers” in the US, actually in the world. Every February over 2,200 18-wheelers carrying more than 1.2 million hives from all parts of the US descend on California with their 10 billion bees. No, it is not Woodstock for the bees! The 10 billion bees descend on California in order to pollinate the almond crop.  It’s nuts, literally. That is equal to lining up 2,200 trucks end to end from Midtown Manhattan to Greenwich, Connecticut 30 miles away.

California’s Agricultural Industrial Almond Complex yields over 80% of the world’s almonds. This makes almonds the number one horticultural export crop in the US and generates over 2 billion dollars in income. It is also California’s #1 agricultural export. Over 1,100 square miles in central California are devoted to almonds. 700,000 acres with about two hives per acre dot this area every February.

For about three weeks in February ¾ of all the nations commercial honeybees are working in the almond groves of California. Just to put things into perspective next year the almond growers will need to increase the number of hives from 1.2 million to 2 million because of new trees maturing as well as increased acreage. This means that the need for honeybees to pollinate the almond crop will increase from 10 billion bees to over 16 billion bees in just one season for just one crop, for just three weeks. Astounding!!! Bee-yond Bee-lief.

After the three week almond bloom is over and the trees have passed flowering the beekeepers pack up the hives with their special forklifts and load them back onto their flatbed tractor-trailers. Than they deliver the hives to the next crop to bloom. After that, the next crop bloom and on and on; apples in Washington State, cranberry bogs in Cape Cod, blueberries in Maine, citrus in Florida, watermelons, cantaloupes, melons, cucumbers, squash, mangos, avocado, cherries, pears etc.… This is the life of the migrant bee, over worked, under paid and underappreciated. 

Bees have always been primarily prized for their honey, which has been a food staple since prehistoric times. Since the advent of modern agricultural industrial methods the relationship of bees and food production has changed dramatically. The role of the bee has grown from a producer of food to a pollinator service provider.

The commercial beekeeper harvests his honey but that has become a smaller percentage of his income compared to renting out his bees. The almond farmers pay about $165 per box (hive) for the three-week bloom. If a beekeeper ships his 30,000 hives for the almond bloom he or she can expect to receive $500,000. Yes, you heard me right, a half a million dollars for THREE WEEKS. Don’t get me wrong; I am not criticizing the beekeeper for making money. I think that is wonderful. It is hard work and with hive loss etc. it is a very risky business. The same goes for the farmer. It is a tough and risky business. 2008’s bumper crop produced 1.5 billion pounds of almonds. 2009 will probably be about 1/3 less because of weather conditions as well as weak pollination. So both the farmer and beekeeper must deal with the age-old feast or famine dilemma. I respect them both immensely.

Bees, you can live with them but you can’t live without them.

Bees have been around over 25 million years. In today’s world they have become an essential part of our agricultural food production industry. While they pollinate one third of the food we eat we have been oblivious to their buzz for help. They are exposed to all sorts of toxic herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and other toxic substances. Each different agricultural area and crop requires it’s own unique chemical cocktail. Although the crops are never sprayed during the pollination season they are certainly treated before the bees arrive. There must be some residue remaining on the plants, which may be toxic to the bees.

Epp-BEE-Log: Since modern woman/man has changed the job description of the noble bee from food producer and added on pollinator service provider we must be more conscious of how bees are treated. Trucking them tens of thousands of miles a year to various agricultural areas with diverse climates and crops must take some toll on them. They also are exposed to more toxic substances living this nomadic life.

Let’s heed their buzz. All we are saying is,” GIVE BEES A CHANCE’.

There is much more to this story that I will cover in future articles. 

* California Almond Board


Bee-ware of Frankin-scents!

Bee-ware of Frankin-scents!

Fragrance can be composed of dozens if not hundreds of chemicals, which are not disclosed on the label–a dirty little secret supported by the US Government. Think of Fragrance as a Frankin-scent monster lurking in your shampoo. You may be thinking: how can that be? The FDA rules only require the word “Fragrance” on the label even though Fragrances are actually a huge cocktail of numerous chemical components. Many of these chemicals come with some very negative baggage. For example, the benzene family of chemicals tends to have a sweetish aroma that is very popular among perfumers. The benzenes are petroleum-based, so they’re cheap, easy to come by and a known cause of leukemia. Again, the guiding factor is CHEAP!!! Not health. And the government turns a blind eye to this game.

One of the most alarming, and most common chemicals found in Synthetic Fragrances is phthalates, which have been scientifically linked to a number of degenerative diseases. The scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives has published a study finding that women of reproductive age (20-40 years) were found to have significantly higher blood levels of monobutyl phthalate than other age/gender groups. Phthalates have been found to be a reproductive and developmental toxicant in rodents. * This is largely attributed to the vast array of phthalates in skin care and cosmetics that women in this age bracket expose themselves to daily. Synthetics Fragrances are cheap and essential oils are expensive which is why so many companies choose to use a synthetic Fragrance instead of the much healthier essential oil alternative. They are addicted to cheap. Avoid products that list “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum” as ingredients. This should alert you that the manufacturer is only interested in profit because he is using cheap and toxic ingredients.

Phthalates are plastics used as industrial plasticizers to impart flexibility and resilience to plastic, among other uses. Recent studies have discovered that phthalates can interfere with the normal sexual development of a fetus or infant. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is most often used as a fragrance ingredient in perfume, cologne, deodorant, soap, shampoo, lotion, and other personal care products (Environmental Working Group 2003; Wolff 2007). Exposure to diethyl phthalate occurs through direct use of products containing this chemical, as well as through inhalation of contaminated air (Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 2005).

In September 2000, scientists from the CDC conducted the first accurate measurements of human phthalate exposures, and reported finding phthalates in every one of 289 people tested.

Phthalates have recently been banned from toys in California, which is great, but how about personal care products, laundry detergents, household products, air fresheners? Phthalates are now everywhere thanks to the ubiquitous use of Fragrance.

Epp-Bee-Log: We can all limit our exposure to Fragrances. Just read labels and look for the “F” word. Even if you see some non toxic words like “natural” connected to it, do not be deceived. No mater which way the label says Fragrance you now know it is a trick word that is meant to hide the truth. Manufacturers that use Fragrance are not the exception in personal care product manufacturing. Almost all manufacturers use these chemical Fragrances. Driven by cheap ingredients the use of Fragrances is actually the norm. My tip of the day is don’t let the Frankin-scent Monster into your home.

*Source: Environmental Health Perspectives: Levels of Seven Urinary Phthalate Metabolites in a Human Reference Population www.ehponline.org/members/2000/108p972-982blount/blount-full.html


Central Park First Earth Day ©Richie Gerber

Central Park First Earth Day ©Richie Gerber

Julie and I go back to the first Earth Day celebration in Central Park in the early 1970’s. Since 1980, Earth Day was always a major event at our Natural Foods Stores, Bread of Life. In 1992 we gave away over 600 Laurel Oak Trees to customers and local municipalities, which proved to be a big local media event. We have always expressed our concern regarding the environment.

That first Earth Day celebration was an event by the counter culture to focus people’s attention on the challenges facing Mother Earth. We are truly amazed that this counter culture event has crossed over to become a yearly mainstream ritual. Maybe it is not so amazing. Since Earth Day has become such a huge global media frenzy some individuals, companies and organizations have learned how to game the event to position themselves as upstanding stewards of the environment when in reality they are huge polluters as well as massive hypocrites.

Back in the 60’s we had words like “co-opted” and “sell out” for people who were using counter culture ideas for personal gain. Don’t get me wrong; I am not against profit or personal gain. I am against hypocrites who are only in it for the money.

What I mean by the hypocrites are companies who produce the most toxic substances in mass quantities but use the media to project an image of being extremely green and environmentally friendly. You can see any number of these ads on TV and in newspapers or magazines. In the ads they praise themselves for their exemplary environmental stewardship, when in fact we all know they are involved in huge amounts of pollution. They produce products that are detrimental to the environment as well as use negative manufacturing practices that pollute.

Last night I had a dream about how one of these companies, let’s call it TOXIC INC., might go about doing a snow job to cover up their polluting ways. Welcome to my nightmare, here it is:

TOXIC INC. hires a Madison Avenue PR and ad company to produce a major image changing campaign. Please note that 99% of TOXIC’s business has a negative impact on the environment. They want to convey an Earth friendly corporate image to the public while continuing its detrimental business practices. In order to do this they must downplay the toxic 99% of their business and focus on the less than 1% of their business that is Earth friendly.  Let’s call the Madison Avenue PR company SnowJob PR Inc. They first need to create an Earth friendly project to promote. TOXIC decides that since they are destroying large tracts of land in remote areas they will put sod over the depleted areas once they are done destroying them. We must remember that neither the TOXIC INC. executives nor the SnowJob PR guys really know or care about the environmental issues involved as long as they can promote and exaggerate their green initiative. They are only interested in presenting a new clean and green look for TOXIC INC.

So here is the plan. Since this is for such a worthy cause they commission the world-renowned environmental installation artist, GreenGo, to create a huge installation. GreenGo creates a work, which will wrap the entire continent of Antarctica in green polypropylene floating fabric for six days. GreenGo picked Antarctica to highlight global warming as well, in order to get more bang for the buck since it is such a hot issue. Speaking of more bang for the buck TOXIC INC pays to have celebrities endorse the art installation as well as hail TOXIC for its wonderful environmental commitment.

The project is a major hit. The media is all over it. Two hundred celebrities fly to the opening ceremony in 200 private jets, not commercial airlines in order not to inconvenience them and make the experience an easy in and out. Thousand of volunteers prep the material for distribution from airplanes. The entire project is executed flawlessly. The event is in the news for weeks. People all over the world are now raving about TOXIC INC and their commitment to the environment. GreenGo is once again hailed as the great environmental installation artist of our time. Even SnowJob PR  is acknowledged as THE cutting edge Madison Avenue PR Company. Meanwhile TOXIC INC continues to pollute the environment in 99% of its business but has created a false image of being grand environmental stewards.

In order to give some balance one can argue that the 1% green program is the first step in the right direction, which I agree with. When we are talking about huge companies changing even a little on such a massive scale it does have a positive impact. We need to help corporate America increase that 1% to a much higher percentage as soon as possible.

Epp-BEE-Log: I know this is crazy stuff but that’s how dreams are. Some things do ring true though. There are many large polluters who manipulate the media and public opinion in order to convey a false image of being environmentally friendly. My dream for this Earth Day is that more and more people see through this hypocrisy and demand an increased proactive approach to environmental issues from corporations or else my dream will turn into a nightmare. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.






lavender-fragrance-pic6A few years ago, when I started my personal care company, BeeCeuticals Organics, I contacted several manufacturers to produce products according to my specs. I was interested in using only natural and organic ingredients. Our discussions about the ingredients were going well until the subject of scent came up. Scents play an important role in skin care products by working together with the other ingredients. As I learned later on, scents can be harmful too; it all depends on the source.

When one of these manufacturers began to explain what he did to enhance the aroma of his products I almost jumped out of my organic skin! Let’s call him Dirty Larry. I wanted the aroma of Lavender in one of my facial creams. Dirty Larry was happy, he said that Lavender, which he called Lavender Type Fragrance, was readily available and cheap to use in manufacturing. But, wait a second, I said to myself: what did he mean by Lavender Type Fragrance?

He described to me how the practice of using Fragrances is accepted in the cosmetic industry.  And then he specifically defined what he meant by Lavender Type Fragrance by showing me the list of chemicals that, when mixed together smell like Lavender. Following you can read it for yourself:

Ingredients: 4-(40Hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanone, 3-hodroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone, 4-hydroxy-3-methylbenzaldehyde, a-Ionone, Methyl Sulfide, 2,5-Dimethyl-N(2-pyrazinyl)pyrrole


I was stunned!! What happened to using the essence of Lavender flowers? For two decades I owned Natural Food stores and was aware of Essential Oils being used for their scents and therapeutic qualities.  As it turns out, Essential Oils are a lot more costly than cheap Fragrances and not the scent of choice for most personal care companies. Of course I did not do business with Dirty Larry, but I did learn a lot about how most cosmetic companies operate. Here are some of the facts I learned about the stench of Fragrance:

Many companies including so-called “natural” companies use synthetic Fragrances, especially some of the biggest names and widely used brands. Many even put “natural Fragrance ” in their ingredient list. THER IS NO SUCH THING as a “natural Fragrance “! This is a lie. A natural scent is imparted to a product only by essential oils and would read on the label as “essential oil of…” If you see the word “Fragrance”, you know that product contains nasty chemicals as shown in the above example of Lavender.

Fragrance oils and perfumes are blends of synthetic chemicals that give a distinct aroma to a product. These chemicals do not have to be accounted for in the ingredients list individually. A perfume can consist of a hundred different synthetic chemicals and be listed as “Fragrance” even on a so-called “natural” product. This is so deceptive. One little “F” word can actually represent a hundred different synthetic chemicals!

A few things you should know about “Fragrance”:

·        A fragrance can contain upwards of 150 undisclosed chemicals and yet only be labeled as “fragrance” in the ingredient listing. Companies are allowed to keep the ingredients in a fragrance a secret and claim it is proprietary information.

·        Recent studies have found nearly 100 Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC’s) at high levels in products containing fragrance. Some of those VOC’s include acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4 dioxane which has been linked to cancer!

·        One of the most alarming and most common chemicals found were phthalates, which have been scientifically linked to a number of degenerative diseases

·        Fragrances are unregulated

·        According to the American Academy of Dermatologists most allergic reactions from skin care products are due to synthetic fragrances. I remember customers coming to my stores with masks on their face or calling in orders that they would pick up outside the store so they did not come in contact with people wearing perfume.


In a laboratory analysis, one popular perfume was found to contain more than forty chemicals classified as hazardous to the liver, and yet the FDA still does not require perfume manufacturers to warn consumers about the toxic chemicals found in these products.

Epp-BEE-Log: This is such a stinky subject. Remember when you see the word FRAGRANCE on a label it can be hiding many unlisted synthetic and toxic chemicals. We must all say NO to personal care products that say FRAGRANCE.



sheep-lanolinBy Richie Gerber


There’s a dirty little secret lurking in your “all-natural” lip balm as well as other balms. It’s called Lanolin. Touted for its moisturizing properties, lanolin has been included in a number of body and skin care products over the years. Some companies even go far enough to brag about it on the front of the bottle. However, while lanolin is considered to be a “natural” product since it is not technically a petrochemical, there is controversy as to exactly how it is gathered.


So What is Lanolin?

Lanolin is a wax from a sebaceous gland in sheepskin. In ancient times they discovered that this wax is moisturizing on the skin and good for softening leather as well. It really is a very effective moisturizer, which is absorbed efficiently on the skin. The ancients knew this and we old time health foodies know it as well. Another great quality of Lanolin is it is a wonderful transporter of other materials, which are mixed with it. So if you add some Calendula to it you would see the Lanolin and Calendula absorbed rapidly.


Sounds Great So What’s The Problem?

Currently, Lanolin is removed from the wool with chemical scouring. In conventional wool production, the wool is dipped in pesticides to kill any mites and parasites, and then it is chemically scoured to remove the lanolin. It is then put through a centrifuge, and then it undergoes a distillation process, which yields the finished lanolin. Conventional lanolin that you would find in your “all-natural” lip and body balm has been through this chemical cocktail processing. Current regulations call for it to contain less than 40 parts per million (ppm) of pesticide residue in order to be applied topically, but who is watching? The Organic Monitoring Research institute admits that it is not clear who is monitoring this 40 ppm of pesticide residue for compliance. You and I both know the answer: NOBODY!!! As of today, there are no International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) standards for lanolin production.  It is a free-for-all and nobody is paying attention to the safety of the finished product.


Lanolin is exposed to a number of pesticides when the wool is dipped. A few of them are: Organochlorine, organophosphate, pyrethroid. Residues of these toxic pesticides in lanolin are well documented. Sheep also ingest low levels of dieldrin. Studies show that the pesticides bind to the lanolin due to its waxy consistency rather than to the wool fiber itself. The pesticides become concentrated in the lanolin. As I said before Lanolin is a great and effective transporter of other materials. So you can be sure that the pesticide laden Lanolin transports all the pesticides into your body in a most efficient way. This is really scary stuff. Imagine finding an excellent carrier of pesticides and adding it to your body and lip balms. Not only do you absorb these toxic substances through your skin you also ingest them in your lip balm.

Because lanolin is a wax it degrades slowly and the pesticides residues are slow to degrade as well. So it is like a time-release dose of toxins. To extract the lanolin from the wool, processers use Methyl chloride as a solvent. There are numerous studies to the toxic effects of this chemical.  Who wants any of that in their body or lip balm?


A strange but true fact, lanolin is currently allowed in Organic Agriculture and has been at the center of some heated debates. Should lanolin be allowed to be used on the teats of organically raised cows?  This would introduce pesticide residue on milking cows and cows feeding calves. This pesticide residue would contaminate the organic milk and milk products. How can you call the milk organic after it has been exposed to these toxic substances? Beats me.

Ep-BEE-Log: Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes? The debate is still ongoing, but for me it is a no brainer. The use of pesticide laced Lanolin should be outlawed and they should stop trying to fool us by putting this Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing!!!

 By Richie Gerber

Me in my No Nukes Shirt...1979
Me in my No Nukes Shirt…1979. Copyright Richie Gerber

I can’t believe it was 30 years ago today that there was a meltdown in the core of the Three Mile Island Nuclear-Power Plant. March 28, 1979 will go down as a day of infamy for all time. The nations worst commercial nuclear accident and not such a good day for Julie and Richie either.

At the time we were living peacefully on our organic farm in rural Maine far away from any dense population centers. Julie and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to get away from all the problems that city life presents and live close to the land in an unpolluted idyllic environment. We moved to rural Maine to grow our own organic vegetables and live the good life.

On March 28, 1979 a partial meltdown of the core of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Generating Station occurred and a large plume of this toxic material traveled north over Maine. We did not know about the toxic plume at the time so there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves. Luckily it happened early in the morning so we were in the house at the time. It shows that we are all interconnected and that pollution somewhere hundreds or even thousands of miles away can seriously affect us innocents downstream.

I was so angry. I wrote a song, Radiation, in 1979 to vent this anger and frustration. You can listen to my song below. It is a protest song expressing my anger. I wrote the words and music right after the incident. I got a few musician friends together and went into a small recording studio in Waterville, Maine. The song’s message is still right on target even after 30 years.

Ep-Bee-Log: The cause of the meltdown was attributed to both technical malfunctions and human error. Here we were away from it all  on our organic farm in rural Maine and yet the toxic plumes found us. It goes to show that you can’t run or hide from nuclear contamination, even if it is not in your backyard. 


Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

Courtesy of Lynn Cohen Cole

By Richie Gerber

Just when you think things can’t get worse…the esteemed Congresswoman from Connecticut, Democrat Rosa DeLauro introduced H.R. 875 in February. H.R. 875 is called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, but a more accurate name is THE END OF MOM AND POP FARMING IN AMERICA 2009 aka DEATH TO ORGANIC FARMING.

As you can see I am fuming mad. Julie and I have been involved in the organic movement since the early 70’s with our organic farm in Maine.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s we sold huge amounts of organic produce in our Bread of Life Natural Foods Stores & Restaurants. We help pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) by educating our customers of its importance. DSHEA has been instrumental in giving people access to supplements.

So what’s the problem with H.R. 875 you may ask? It establishes a “Food Safety Administration” within the Department of Health and Human Services. This new department would “protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”

The bill defines a “food production facility” this way:

The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

So that would include…

*All organic farms

*All small farms

*All family farms

*Even small family gardens if you sell any produce to your neighbor

The effect of this bill is to make it extremely difficult if not impossible for small family farmers to comply with the new bureaucratic set of laws. Mountains of paperwork as well as new fees put a huge burden on these Mom and Pops farmers. Even if they just want to sell some tomatoes at their roadside stand or in the local farmers market. The legislation favors the large agro-industrial complex since they have the people to file the paperwork as well as the money needed for the additional fees.

Who is Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and why would she introduce HR 875? Her husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto, one of the giant multi-national agro-industrial complex corporations who are in favor of this bill. Is this starting to smell like manure yet? Some of the other giant players like ADM, Sodexo and Tyson are for the bill as well. Here is what Wikepedia says about Monsanto, “The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup”. Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 18,800 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of USD$11.365 billion reported for 2008.[2]”

This stinking legislation would add additional costs and headaches to every farm, some fishing boats, slaughterhouses, processing plants, CO-OPs and anyone else associated with growing, storing, transporting or processing plants to name a few. Violators can face multi-million dollar fines. It’s true. I am not kidding.

In Maine Julie and I used to buy our eggs from a small farmer with a couple dozen hens. We bought our milk from a farmer with a handful of cows. Our honey and maple syrup came from some small farmer as well. Now all these small Mom and Pops will have to fill out piles of paperwork online and pay the fees. You and I know it is virtually impossible for the small guy to survive in this environment. Only the large corporations can fully comply with these unusually high and unfair extra burdens.

Ep-BEE-Log: We all need to yell and scream to our congressmen and elected officials. We need to let everyone know that we disapprove of this horrible legislation. Please make your voice heard before it is too late. Now is the time: Let’s Panic-Or No More Organic!!!




Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

By Richie Gerber

Fort Lauderdale: Venice of America. What a beautiful slogan for this wonderful city in paradise. Over three hundred miles of waterways connect all parts of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Restaurants, hotels, homes and more can be reached by boat in this city of lovely canals.


About a mile or so north of Port Everglades, we stumble on what some call “the worst disaster to the Florida Reefs in history”. As you will soon see it was a recipe for ruin. A stupid idea, supported by stupid science and stupid scientific experts, combined with stupid local and national governmental agencies with stupid leaders, created devastation of immense proportions. Stupid businesses donated stupid money to get publicity and then the stupid media made sure everyone knew about this “wonderful project”. This horrible “reef building” experiment was lauded as a grand step forward for artificial reef building. What were they smoking?

In the spring of 1972, over two million tires were strapped together in bundles of 10 and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean in order to form an artificial reef.

Starting to sound fishy already, right?

The idea was twofold. Create an artificial reef where fish can thrive as well as increase the coral population. Snorkelers, divers, fishermen and more from around the world will come to Fort Lauderdale and frolic around in this man made underwater marvel. It also solves the problem of what to do with 2 million mosquito-infested tires in landfills while creating a man made underwater wonder. Win-win.  The old adage, out of sight out of mind, played a part in all this as well. I would edit the adage to fit into this reality, out of sight out of your freaking mind.

So, on a beautiful spring day in 1972 a Goodyear blimp dropped a gold painted tire into the ocean to “christen” the site. Goodyear also helped bind and compress the tires. In their press release at the time they said the reef would “provide a haven for fish and other species”, as well as lauding “the excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material.”  Over 100 private boats loaded with tires and volunteers set out in a flotilla to dump the first load of what would eventually end up as over 2 million tires off Fort Lauderdale’s pristine beach. Even to this day, over 35 years later, plants and coral refuse to grow on the tires. Fish refuse to swim and frolic near the tires in what was supposed to be a haven for them. It is considered by many to be a “dead zone”. Nothing. Nada. It is a desolate and eerie moonscape of a tire dump at the bottom of the ocean. A disaster.

Many of the nylon or steel straps used to belt together the tires into bundles of 10 have broken so now we have lots and lots of loose tires shifting with the currents. When the seas are rough as well as during storms and hurricanes the tires shift and travel far and wide. So the disaster is growing. Tire sprawl. Over the years the disaster site has grown. Tires are shifting in all directions spreading destruction and devastation to the neighboring reefs. The problem keeps expanding doing more and more harm to the reefs as well as leaching toxic chemicals from the breakdown of the tires. No fish, no divers, no snorkelers, no fauna can be found at this constantly expanding “Dead Zone”. It is our own underwater Chernobyl.

Ep-Bee-Log: Some efforts have been made to collect the tires but no real headway is in sight. The reason is that they might gather up a few thousand tires. Then we get a storm or rough seas and many of the remaining millions of tires just fill back in as if nothing has happened. The State of Florida along with the Army Corps of Engineers has implemented a full-scale salvage project to run through 2010 at a cost of $3.4 million. It is a very time consuming job and will produce in my opinion questionable results. I for one think they are just spinning their tires in the sand.


 Photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection


2233726895_7675aa00afBy Richie Gerber

I haven’t seen Bob and his wife Sally for over 38 years. These are not their real names since I promised to protect their identities. You will see why shortly. Bob and I taught at Newport Junior High School in Newport, Maine back in the 70’s. It was a six-class schoolhouse. Bob was the science teacher. He always teased me about my bean sprout sandwiches back then and even now. I have been a vegetarian since 1970 so Bob and I had lots of lunches together in the teacher’s room. Trust me; nobody else in the school was eating bean sprout sandwiches on my wife Julie’s homemade bread.

After recently finding me online, Bob and I scheduled a lunch at the Whole Foods Market in Plantation, Florida. I love this store. I built it back in the 1990’s and sold it to Whole Foods in 1997. I always like to visit this very special store. Bob arrived with his wife and after a few minutes of small talk we loaded up at the salad bar and sat in the café for lunch and some catching up. We talked about what everyone was doing. Some of the old names were not doing much since they passed away. We had a great deal of fun remembering and catching up.

I decided that these two old teacher friends could help me with an unscientific survey. Bob and Sally have more education than the majority of Mainers so I thought they were the perfect candidates. That morning I had posted the first entry on my blog– “Compact Florescent Lights, a dim-witted idea”, the prequel to this post, and I wanted to get some sense of reality from these very kind and sincere folks.

Here we are eating lunch like the old days when I bring up the subject of garbage in Newport, Maine. An unusual question indeed, but they remembered that I was always different. I explained that I had recently posted my first blog and wanted some information from them. They were very kind to put up with talking trash at lunch.

We had a general conversation on how this small New England town deals with its trash. I then started to focus on my specific objective: Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs). I asked Bob about his experience with these bulbs. I use his story because I think it is very universal. Here is Bob’s experience with CFLs.

About two years ago Mainers were flooded with discount coupons and rebates to purchase as many CFLs as they want for twenty-five cents each. It came as a form of a partial discount and a mail in rebate, however, a quarter is a quarter. They considered it a sort of free give away. He counted out loud and told me he bought over 30 CFLs at this reduced price. He had two reasons for the purchase: they were almost free and he would save money on energy. Being a retired science teacher he was able to figure out the estimated dollars he would save while doing a good deed for the country and planet. That is how Bob thought. It was a noble win-win scenario.

I then asked Bob about the results of his switch to CFLs. He and his wife both shook their heads and seemed a little apprehensive to answer any more questions, but I kept on drilling. In the less than two years that he had the new bulbs, three of them “blew”. Not in the sense of exploding but rather they failed. That is a 30% failure rate in less than two years. These three twenty-five cent bulbs had to be replaced with nine-dollar bulbs since there were no more discounts coupons or rebates. So now Bob is starting to feel some economic pain after spending almost thirty dollars on three bulbs.

Here is where the fun begins. I requested an honest answer. I asked Bob and Sally how they disposed of the three defective bulbs. They became so quiet that you could hear my tofu salad wilt. As I said in the opening of this piece this is a true story but the names have been changed and here is why. They threw each of the three defective bulbs in the trash! What? You heard right. They threw all three mercury filled bulbs in the trash! No separate bagging. No special stop at the proper recycling area. Nothing. Just threw them in the trash.

Bob and Sally were so embarrassed. Bob being an ex-science teacher understood the negative impact on the environment these mercury filled bulbs have. The US government called mercury “the world’s gravest chemical problem.” I could see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. They knew it was wrong. They are both educated, retired teachers. Bob was always a role model, coach and mentor to lots of kids. He donated his time to charities and to kids in need. They are both noble folks trying to do the right thing. They told me how they participate in a communal organic garden and use only recycled plastic bags when grocery shopping. Bob and Sally are people of high moral character and should not be judged on this, but they do teach us a lesson and, in fact, add strength to my point that these CFLs are an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. People are not disposing of these bulbs properly and probably never will. It’s like trying to un-pop popcorn–once the toxic mercury is released into the environment it is too late.

Americans have very low participation rates for recycling. Even my eco-conscious friends missed an important opportunity–three times. We need to face up to reality and realize that huge amounts of the mercury containing bulbs will be released on our over stressed Spaceship Earth.

Ep-BEE-Log: And where is our government? In Newsday’s article, “U.S. calls for treaty on mercury reduction” the government describes mercury as the, “world’s gravest chemical problem.” Yet in the article there is not one mention of mercury filled light bulbs. Not one word on the impending silent spring we are unleashing on ourselves in the guise of protecting our environment. It seems like there is a huge disconnect. Someone needs to complete the circuit. Connect the dots and stop supporting bad ideas. We all need to say no to bad ideas, even when they are the most popular ideas of the time. Even all the King’s horses and all the King’s men will not be able to put this together again. Lights out!!!