Organic agriculture is known for its avoidance of pesticides and chemical fertilizers,
but biodynamic agriculture and its certification system is even more stringent.
Biodynamics grew out of a series of lectures by Austrian scientist and philosopher
Rudolf Steiner in 1924. "Biodynamic agricultural principles emphasize
living soil, the farm as a wholistic organism, and note both the visible
and invisible forces that create a healthy eco-system" (www.demeter-usa.org).
By observing and respecting the interconnection of the mineral, plant, animal,
and human kingdoms as well as following the basic principles and rhythms of
nature and cosmic forces, those who work with biodynamics produce plants that
are "full of vitality and deeply nourishing."
The "vitality" of the soil is especially important according
to the biodynamic view. Composting and biodynamic preparations (composted "recipes" developed
by Dr. Steiner) play key roles in biodynamics. According to www.demeter-usa.org,
Dr. Steiner's preparations have been scientifically verified to stimulate
soil life and to encourage photosynthesis in plants.
The Demeter Association is an international network of 19 individual organizations
that certify biodynamic farms (www.biodynamics.com). Demeter's certification
standards are very strict. Unlike other organic certifiers, Demeter certifies
the "self-contained farm organism," not isolated crops. The farm
is viewed wholistically, as a self-contained organism whose dynamics hold the
solution for whatever problems arise; and it must follow biodynamic principles
of soil husbandry and composting.
These farms depend upon manure from their own livestock to enrich farm soil.
According to Demeter standards, 80% of the food for the livestock must come
from the farm that the animals inhabit. (Demeter has excused some horticultural
operations from this requirement.) Unlike other organic certifiers, Demeter
does not permit bone, blood, hoof and horn meal, or manure from animals fed
bone, blood meals to be used as fertilizer. In the case of livestock, Demeter
requires that all livestock, including chickens, have outdoor access. Some "certified
organic" eggs come from chickens that live indoors and never scratch
at grass or nibble on chickweed. Organic certifiers also permit de-beaking,
tail cutting, and dehorning. Demeter does not.
www.demeter-usa.org lists farms and horticulturalists who have Demeter certification.
The coffee of Café Altura, the grains in Eden Foods' pasta, and
the flowers used in Flower Essence Services' products are all grown
biodynamically. The website also provides resources for those who wish to deepen
their wholistic view of their farm (or garden) and work with nature on a deeper
I recently had the very good fortune to buy biodynamically-grown oranges from
my local food co-op. The oranges tasted pleasantly sweet without a hint of
acidity. Even the white membranes and inner skin that adheres to the orange
sections was enjoyable to eat! It was neither tough nor bitter. If the quality
of those oranges is typical of biodynamically-grown produce, I am eager for
"What is Biodynamic¨ Agriculture?" & "What
is Demeter Certification?"
In August 2002, Gaia Herbs announced that it had completed Phase I of its multi-year
Echinacea research study, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.
The study, under the direction of Dr. Xiping Wang, aims to develop horticulture,
extraction, and delivery standards for Echinacea used in federally-sponsored
trials. Gaia Herbs, located in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina,
has a 250-acre herb farm with a 40,000 square foot manufacturing facility
on the same property. The farm and the manufacturing facility have been certified
organic by Oregon Tilth.
In its Phase I study, Gaia analyzed the chromosomes and morphology of 143
different lots of Echinacea seeds. A little over half of the seed lots came
USDA's National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, and the rest came from
13 commercial seed companies. The researchers have established "definite
distinguishing criterion" for E. purpurea and E. augustifolia. They
also identified and purified seven isobutylamide and four phenolic compounds
in Echinacea, which makes it possible to standardize Echinacea extracts. Researchers
also discovered that drying E. augustifolia root at or above 70°C causes
a "significant amount" of loss of the known bioactive compounds.
Further tests will study how bioactive compounds fare in hydroalcoholic and
vegetable glycerite preparations in various situations so that researchers
can determine the best preparation and storage conditions for liquid Echinacea
In addition to identification of bioactive components and the effect of processing
and storage factors on potency, Gaia's researchers are also studying
cultivation. Echinacea, especially E. augustifolia, is very difficult to grow
from seed. During Gaia's Phase I study, researchers developed a reliable
method for encouraging seed germination during dry storage. The method allows
growers to have higher field-coverage and more consistent yields. Further studies
at Gaia and six other North American farms will search for the best cultivation
methods and soil conditions for growing E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E.
Phase 2 will expand to include bioavailability studies in collaboration with
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Arizona State University, and University
of Arizona. Pre-clinical trials to determine efficacy are also planned.
Gaia Herbs. Gaia Herbs — America's #1 Echinacea.
The Full Spectrum. September 2002.
Microbiologist Garry McKee, PhD, who heads the US Food Safety and Inspection
Service, is pushing slaughterhouses and meat-processing facilities to clean
up their act. The 1993 E. coli outbreak at a Jack-in-the-Box shifted the
agency's attention from simply inspecting the slaughtering, processing,
and labeling practices of meat processing plants to actually preventing meat-borne
illness. The agency began requiring meat processors to reduce bacteria by
adopting Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in 1996. Five
years later in a federal appeals court, the meat industry successfully challenged
the Agriculture Department's right to close plants that failed HACCP
Despite the Bush administration's refusal to appeal that decision,
Dr. McKee continues to push meat processors to clean up their plants, as
their products. Since December 6, 2002, large US meat processors have been
required to implement measures to control E. coli and to test their efforts.
The inspection service has also told manufacturers of hot dogs, deli meat,
and other such high-risk products to test their plants, instead of just the
finished product, for listeria. Listeria, which comes from soil and flourishes
in refrigeration, has caused miscarriages and deaths. The agency has also begun
to take action against facilities that repeatedly violate regulations. ConAgra
slaughterhouse, the source of the 18-million-pound beef recall in 2002, was
temporarily closed by the agency later that year. The slaughterhouse, now owned
by Swift and Co., had been repeatedly cited for fecal contamination.
Since 1998, recalls of contaminated meat and poultry have more than doubled.
According to a Wall Street Journal article (Dec. 3, 2002) by Leila Abboud,
Dr. McKee sees recalls as "a failure in the system, not a cure or solution." He
told an American Meat Institute audience, "If you have a testing program
and are getting positives, then you are doing something wrong. Your system
is broken, and it needs to be repaired." The meat industry says that
the emphasis on testing is unrealistic since "bacteria are inevitable." As
one meat association spokesman said, "Every year we see bacteria levels
drop and food-borne illness associated with meat products declining. From our
point of view, everything keeps moving in the right direction."
Abboud, Leila. Meat Inspector Grills Industry. The Wall Street Journal. December
US medical facilities have been experiencing a nurse shortage since the mid-1990s.
The shortage is expected to become increasingly severe as aging baby boomers
require more care. The American Hospital Association estimates that the national
vacancy rate for hospital nurses averaged 13% across the nation as of December
2001. An additional 450,000 registered nurses are expected to be needed over
the next five years, according to the US Department of Labor. Meanwhile,
enrollment in nursing programs has declined since the mid-90s.
One reason for the declining interest in nursing is the comparatively low
pay ($35,000-45,000/year, according to a Sept. 2000 Financial
stressful conditions. Hospitals began cutting full-time nursing staff in the
mid-90s in response to managed care organizations' demands to cut costs.
Cutting staff increased patient-to-nurse ratios, affecting care quality and
contributing to staff stress. A 2001 survey by the Federation of Nurses and
Health Professionals of 700 current direct-care nurses and 207 former direct-care
nurses found that "one in five nurses plans to leave the profession
within the next five years…" Low pay and understaffing were
the primary complaints. Individual plans to leave nursing may be thwarted,
however, by the slowing economy as other jobs become less available, according
to an article in The Cincinnati Enquirer (Jan. 11, 2003).
High patient-to-nurse ratios and double-shifts are believed to lead to more
errors and fuel the rise in malpractice suits. Aravind Adiga for the Financial
Times reported: "As more full-time nurses leave, [those] left behind
are finding their workloads increasing to unmanageable levels. A recent report
by the Chicago Tribune claimed that as many as 1,720 hospital patients might
have been accidentally killed and 9,584 others injured since 1995 because of
nursing-related errors." In addition, patients unhappy with the quality
of care provided by understaffed nurses may be more likely to sue doctors and
hospitals, according to one malpractice insurer.
Various agencies are taking steps to meet the demand for more nurses. In 2000,
the federal government issued 500 special visas for foreign nurses. The government
also passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which encourages nursing through public
advertising, need-based scholarships and grants for students, and supports
nursing school expansion and the training of instructors (who are also in short
HCA Inc., the largest hospital chain in the US, has committed $10 million to
recruit students and laid-off workers to train as health-care workers, according
to an article in The Tennessean (Dec. 27, 2002). HCA needs radiology technologists
and other technical positions as well as nurses. Three-quarters of HCA's
funding, however, provides nursing scholarships and financial support to nursing
In Cincinnati, Ohio, the area's largest home nursing agency, Visiting
Nurses Association (VNA), was offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus or a year of
free housekeeping services (two 4-hour sessions/month). The VNA provides housekeeping
services to the elderly and medically needy so it already has the staff to
provide the same service to nurses who find themselves having a hard time caring
for their home while working full-time. When the Health Alliance of Greater
Cincinnati sought nurses and technicians for special cardiac-care units in
2002, it offered $30,000 sign-on bonuses in exchange for a 3-year commitment.
Interestingly, the Health Alliance received only a few more resumes from qualified
persons than it had job openings, despite the significant bonus.
Adiga, Aravind. US hospitals' cost-cutting measures cause critical haemorrhage
Financial Times. 2000 September 20.
American Federation of Teachers and the Federation of Nurses and Health
Professionals. Survey: Nurse Shortage Will Be Worse Than Current
Estimates (Press Release)
April 19, 2001. www.aft.org
Hurst, Jack. Hospitals prescribe incentives to head off staff shortages.
The Tennessean 2002 December 27. www.tennessean.com/local/archives/02/12/26961745.shtml?Element_ID=26961745
Bonfield, Tim. Nurses can clean up with signing bonuses. The Cincinnati
Enquirer; 2003 January 11.
US consumers now have another tool for selecting a nursing home. In November
2002, the US government made information on the quality of care at the country's
17,000 nursing homes available to consumers. The information covers 10 quality
indicators that include the percentages of residents with bed sores, with
pain, with delirium, in physical restraints, and with infections.
or deterioration in residents' condition is reflected by the percentage
of residents who lost the ability to perform basic daily tasks and the percentage
of short-stay residents who walked as well or better when they left the facility.
The nursing home comparison data is available at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/home.asp or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Medicare also has information about complaint
investigations and deficiencies found during annual inspections of facilities.
In addition to using the federal Medicare comparison information, Janelle
Carter of the Associated Press offers other suggestions for choosing a nursing
Consumers should ask nursing home residents and families, community advocacy
groups, personal physicians, and clergy about area facilities. She also recommends
that consumers visit several nursing homes at varying times of day and on weekends,
when staff and services may be less. Each state is also supposed to have a
long-term care ombudsman's office, which acts as an advocate for those
in assisted living or nursing homes. The ombudsman may have information about
problems with individual facilities.
The National Citizen's Coalition
for Nursing Home Reform (www.nursinghomeaction.com or 202-332-2275) tells how
to contact the state ombudsman and provides guidance on choosing a facility
as well as how to ensure quality care.
Carter, Janelle. Government releases data on thousands of nursing homes
nationwide. The Detroit News. November 12, 2002.
HHS Launches National Nursing Home Quality Initiative — Broad Effort to
Improve Quality in Nursing Homes Across the Country (News Release) November
12, 2002. www.ltcombudsman.org/ombpublic/49_369_3926.CFM
Raw Food Diet for Pets
Some pet owners who sought an alternative to processed commercial pet foods
have turned to the bone and raw food (BARF) diet. Numerous websites have
testimonials from breeders and pet owners who have seen definite improvements
in their animals' health since they have been on BARF. Kymythy R.
Schultze, a certified Clinical Nutritionist and a certified Animal Health
Instructor, has written a complete and easy-to-understand guide on feeding
pets raw food called Natural Nutrition for Dogs
and Cats — The Ultimate
Diet (Hay House, Inc., ISBN 1-56170-636-1).
The vital importance of whole raw food for animal health was demonstrated
by a ten-year experiment (1932-42) run by Francis Pottenger, Jr., MD. Kymythy
Schultze says that the experiment, involving 900 cats, "was conducted
within the most rigorous scientific standards of the day, and the pathological
and chemical findings were also supervised by Alvin G. Foord, MD, professor
of pathology at the University of Southern California." Dr. Pottenger
had noticed that cats fed on raw food enjoyed good health, as did their offspring.
When the cats were fed cooked or processed food, their health deteriorated.
These cats developed behavior problems, allergies, skin problems, parasites,
nervous system inflammation, organ malfunction, and skeletal deformities. The
third generation of cats fed only cooked food could no longer reproduce. It
took four generations of cats eating raw food for those lines to regain health.
The BARF diet has no single formula; but in all of the information that I have
read it is a mixture of raw muscle and organ meat, raw egg, pulped vegetable,
and raw meaty bones. Raw edible bones, such as poultry necks, wings, and backs,
are easy for an animal to crunch up and make up the bulk of the BARF diet.
Kymythy Schultze recommends beginning with raw chicken or turkey necks "as
they are mostly cartilage and very flexible." Beef knuckle bones provide
dogs with great entertainment and some nutrients, but they cannot eat the entire
bone and miss some nutrients, according to Ms. Schultze. Cooked bones should
NEVER be given to pets because cooking makes bone splinter and difficult to
digest, which may cause internal damage or blockages.
Although many pets enjoy crunching up the bones themselves, some owners who
feed the mixture of meat, pulped vegetables or fruits, and supplements prefer
to grind the poultry necks, wings, backs, lambs ribs, and rabbit quarters that
make up the meaty bone portion of the mix. Ms. Schultze warns against feeding
pets a homemade diet that does not include some form of raw bone because nutritional
deficiencies will result.: "Raw meaty bones provide nutritious marrow,
amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants and
a vast array of species-appropriate minerals and vitamins, all in a usable
Although humans are rightly concerned about the bacteria in raw meat (disinfect
counters and utensils when working with raw meat to avoid cross-contamination),
the short and acidic digestive systems of dogs and cats are designed to handle
bacteria. "Bacteria is not a problem for a pet with a strong immune
system," Ms. Schultze asserts, "and a strong immune system is
encouraged by eating species-appropriate raw food."
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats gives approximate amounts for pets who
weigh 10 pounds, 50 pounds, and 100 pounds. The 50-pound pet food formula consists
of 3/4 -1 cup muscle meat (plus organ meat or egg); 1 turkey neck or 6 chicken
necks; 3 tablespoons pulped vegetables; 2 teaspoons kelp/alfalfa; 1 teaspoon
cod liver oil; 2 teaspoons essential fatty acids; and up to 3-6 grams of vitamin
C. In an article on meat grinders in The Whole Dog
Journal, Mary Strickney
of Cortland, Nebraska, has fed her toy rescue dogs (10 at present) and cats
(4) home-prepared meals for 40 years. Her formula consists of 70% raw meaty
bones, 10% organ meat, and 20% vegetables, fruit, eggs, and ricotta cheese.
Neither she nor Kymythy Schultze recommends grains (a primary component in
commercial dry pet food) because they contribute to allergies and digestive
problems. For pet owners who would like to feed pets the BARF diet but do not
have the time to mix it themselves, small pet food companies, which can be
found on the web, sell BARF formulas in frozen packages.
Eskew, Susan. Good Grinders. The Whole Dog Journal. January 2003. 800-829-9165
Schultze, Kymythy R., CCN, AHI. Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats — The
Ultimate Diet. Hay House, Inc. ISBN 1-56170-636-1
Scrapie Transmission via Vaccine
At the 1946 National Veterinary Medical Association of Great Britain and Ireland
Annual Congress, W. S. Gordon, PhD, presented evidence of scrapie transmission
by way of a vaccine for louping-ill. Louping-ill is a viral disease spread
by the tick Ixodes ricinus L. Scrapie is considered the sheep equivalent
of 'mad cow disease.' Dr. Gordon developed an effective vaccine
to prevent louping-ill during 1931-32. After four years of field trials,
his vaccine was produced in three batches for widespread use in 1935. The
vaccine was made from brain, spinal cord, and spleen tissues taken from sheep
five days after they had received an intracerebral inoculation of louping-ill
virus. Formalin was added to the 10% saline suspension to inactivate the
During 1935 and 1936, no ill effects were noted in inoculated animals. Then
two owners reported scrapie in their Blackface sheep who had been inoculated
with louping-ill vaccine (batch 2) two and a half years earlier. Scrapie had
not been seen in the Blackface breed before this. Upon investigation Dr. Gordon
discovered that 8 lambs used to make batch 2 had been born to ewes who had
been exposed to scrapie; some of the ewes developed scrapie in 1936-7. Dr.
Gordon hypothesized that an "infective agent of scrapie" was
present in the lambs' tissues used to make batch 2 and that this agent "could
withstand a concentration of formalin…which inactivated the virus of
louping ill; it could be transmitted by subcutaneous inoculation; it had an
incubative period of two years or longer."
A four-and-a-half-year experiment involving 788 sheep was initiated by the
Animal Disease Research Association in 1938. The researchers found that 60%
of normal sheep inoculated intracerebrally with saline suspensions of brain
and spinal cord tissue taken from sheep with scrapie developed scrapie within
those four-and-a-half-years. The incubation period was seven months and up.
Only 30% of the sheep receiving a subcutaneous inoculation of the suspension
developed scrapie in that time, and the incubation period in this group was
15 months and up. The researchers concluded that the infective agent was probably
a filtrable virus. Interestingly, Dr. Gordon reports that Cuille and Chelle
of France published the results of a similar study in 1939. The French researchers
found that sheep developed scrapie after receiving intracerebral, intraocular,
and subcutaneous injections of spinal cord or brain tissue emulsions. Like
the British experiment, this one also showed that incubation periods varied
according to the type of injection: intracerebral infection took one year;
intraocular took 15 months; and subcutaneous took 20 months.
Gordon, W.S., PhD. Advances in Veterinary Research. The Veterinary Record;
1946 November 23. Presented at the National Veterinary Medical Association
of Great Britain and Ireland Annual Congress, 1946. Posted on http://www.vegsource.com/talk/lyman/messages/7634.html
Vaccinations & Titer Testing
Taking pets to the vet for yearly vaccination boosters is considered by many
to be the hallmark of responsible pet care. Over the past decade, however,
some researchers as well as pet owners have begun to question whether yearly
boosters are truly necessary or even safe. Over-vaccination appears to be
a contributor to the rise in chronic health problems among pets. On November
15, 2002, the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents published a
report on vaccinations in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
A summary, posted on www.avma.org,
stated that, contrary to popular belief, "Optimal
revaccination intervals are not known…Information collected thus
far [by veterinary professionals] indicates that immunity inducted by some
vaccines lasts longer than one year, while immunity triggered by other vaccines
lasts less than one year."
In a letter to the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Bob Rogers, DVM,
of Spring, Texas, (www.critterfixer.com) points out "a modified live virus
vaccine must replicate in order to stimulate the immune system, and antibodies
from a previous vaccine will block the replication of the new vaccinate virus." Giving
an animal with antibodies to a virus a vaccine for the same virus will not
increase their protection. Further, Dr. Rogers states, "The USDA Center
for Biologic and Therapeutic Agents asserts that there is no scientific data
to support label claims for annual re-administration of modified live vaccines…" Frustrated
by the refusal of other vets to follow the new research on vaccines that calls
for caution in over-vaccinating, Dr. Rogers filed a complaint accusing Texas
veterinarians of committing fraud. His letter to the Texas Attorney General's
Office and his reason for taking such an action are posted on the web at forum.cathobbyist.com
An article in The Whole Dog Journal (Dec. 2002) by Lorie Long explains that
the vaccination schedules currently used by most veterinarians are set by the
vaccine manufacturer. Jean Dodds, DVM, a veterinary hematologist who has studied
vaccine protocols for decades, says that at least 95% of the dogs vaccinated
for distemper and parvo retain immunity for several years. Some vaccines, such
as one for canine corona virus vaccine (an intestinal illness), have questionable
effectiveness, according to Dr. Rogers and Dr. Dodds.
Instead of annual vaccine boosters, some veterinarians are offering to test
vaccine titers in dogs. Dogs with satisfactory titer levels are believed to
have "good 'immunologic memory,' and not in need of further
vaccination against the disease at that time," according to The
Whole Dog Journal article. (Titers, in most cases, cannot be used in place of rabies
boosters that are required by law.) Dr. Dodds asserts that measuring vaccine
titers for canine parvovirus and canine distemper provides a reliable marker
for the health of a dog's immune system.
Lorie Long's article stresses that veterinarians checking for immunological
competence must order vaccine titer testing from a major professional or university
veterinary laboratory. The titer levels for a normal healthy dog are lower
than for a dog actively fighting the actual disease: "…if the
veterinarian orders a disease titer test, but actually wants to check vaccine
titers, the laboratory may deliver a 'false negative,' indicating
that the laboratory does not find the high titer levels required to declare
the presence of the active disease." An in-office titer test called
TiterCHECKª, licensed by the USDA, is now available for canine parvo and
The Whole Dog Journal, which provided the information on vaccine titer testing,
is a wonderful resource for people interested in a holistic approach to the
care and training of their dogs. The journal does not accept any commercial
advertising so it is able to evaluate all kinds of foods and products freely.
For subscription information call 800-829-9165; www.whole-dog-journal.com
Long, Lorie. Take the Titer Test... The Whole Dog Journal. December 2002.
American Veterinary Medical Association. Interpretive Summary of AVMA Council
on Biologic and Therapeutic Agent's Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines (published
November 15, 2002, in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association);