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20 Best CBD Oils To Try This Year

CBD Oil Bottles

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD sales spread like wildfire in 2019. However, because of the huge numbers of brands entering the market, many consumers became overwhelmed by the abundance of choices.

To help you out, I’ve looked at hundreds of CBD brands, taking a variety of factors into account, and have selected the cream of the crop. Here are the 20 best CBD oils on the market today. All are brands you should investing in.

Verma Farms CBD Bottle

Courtesy of Verma Farms

Verma Farms Verma Farms takes first place on the list” . This brand offers world-class design, and the oil is one of the most well rounded and best tasting on the market.

Verma is a Maui-based CBD company that ties Hawaiian inspiration into all of its products. The brand comes across as fun and lighthearted, but at the same time it lets consumers know exactly what they are getting in each product. The company offers a variety of options, with their most popular product being the all-day solution oil pack.

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Verma Farms has crafted oils for a variety of needs. Their Focus oil is geared toward those who desire an alert but relaxed mindset, their Boost oil is formulated to provide energy and their Chill oil is aimed at those who need a good night’s rest.

The company not only bases its designs on Hawaiian themes; it incorporates the Hawaiian ethic of purity and healthy living into its products as well. All its offerings are THC free and pesticide free, and come from American-grown hemp.

Kanibi takes second place on our list. This brand offers products that taste amazing and that are double lab-tested for strict quality control. All lab data is clearly displayed on their website in a format even beginners can understand and digest.

Kanibi is a Utah-based CBD company committed to raising the bar on CBD quality and product innovation. The brand design is cutting edge, their customer service is quick and helpful, and they offer a wide array of products. Kanibi offers softgels, gummies, a surprisingly effective sports cream, with their most popular product being the 1500mg full-spectrum tincture.

3. NuLeaf Naturals

Nuleaf Naturals CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Nuleaf Naturals

NuLeaf Naturals is a Colorado-based brand that specializes in whole-plant extracts. Rather than using synthetic CBD or CBD isolate, NuLeaf Naturals utilizes whole plants that are grown using organic and sustainable farming practices. As a result, their full-spectrum oils are of the highest quality.

Though they only offer one flavor, their bottles vary in size from 240 mg to 4,850 mg (with bulk pricing available). Additionally, they have a full-spectrum oil available for pets. Overall, this is one of the most straightforward brands out there. If you’re looking for a powerful addition to your coffee, food or post-workout shake, NuLeaf Naturals is an excellent choice.

4. PureKana

PureKana CBD Bottle

Image Credit: PureKana

PureKana is as close as it gets to a household name in this industry. What’s made PureKana so successful is the variety of their offerings, which appeal to clients of all ages. By keeping all production in the U.S. and ensuring all their hemp comes from organic sources, they’ve been able to grow into a CBD powerhouse.

PureKana offers five flavors of oil, Vanilla, Mint, Natural, Citrus, and Fruity Pebbz, which range from 300 mg to 5,000 mg, depending on the flavor. Our favorite is the Fruity Pebbz, though their Citrus flavor is a close second. With a lineup that’s tried and true, PureKana is a top-tier brand, and one that should be on your shortlist.

5. Koi

One of the biggest names in CBD, Koi is a company that is near the top of almost every list. Based in California and a member of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, Koi has invested in the industry since well before the Farm Bill. With a practice that’s market-tested, their products provide some of the highest-quality CBD out there, and this is especially true for their oils.

Koi oils come in six flavors: Lemon-Lime, Orange, Natural, Strawberry, Spearmint and Peppermint. These are available in 250 mg, 500 mg and 1,000 mg bottles. If all of the above sounds good to you, you’re in luck: Koi also offers a variety pack of CBD that can serve as a great introduction to CBD.

6. CBDfx

CBDfx CBD Bottle

CBDfx is a brand that combines equal amounts of fun and seriousness. Offering a wide range of high-quality products that include broad-spectrum, full-spectrum and CBD isolate, CBDfx has all the bases covered. CBDfx is made from U.S.-grown hemp, and prides itself on its MCT base, which it claims is the most digestive oil out there. As a 100 percent vegan and organic oil, CBDfx stands out from the crowd.

CBDfx offers plain CBD oil as well as a variety of flavors. Their plain MCT oil packs a punch, and is available in 500 mg, 1,000 mg and 1,500 mg sizes. For flavored versions, CBDfx offers Blueberry Pineapple Lemon, Lychee Lemon Kiwi and Lemon Lime Mint, which all deliver a nice splash of flavor. Additionally, CBDfx offers bundle packages that include their three plain oils in different dosages, as well

7. Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte’s Web got its name from Charlotte Figi, the six-year-old girl whose epileptic seizures were cured by CBD. With a mission to better the planet, Charlotte’s Web has a firsthand understanding of CBD’s benefits.

Charlotte’s Web curates their oils based more on intent than flavor. For example, their AM/PM bundle enables you to use separate dosages at different times of the day, such as going light in the morning but heavy at night. They provide a helpful guide that tells you the difference between, say, a 7 mg dose and a

8. Premium Jane

Premium Jane CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Premium Jane

With a name like Premium Jane, the product has to be on point. and so far, the company’s products have been able to keep up with their name. Currently, the brand offers a wide selection of premium oils that come in four flavors: Mint Chocolate, Natural, Mint and Citrus, in dosages between 300 mg and 1,000 mg. With pricing that starts at $48 per bottle, they remain competitive for a premium product. My favorite flavor is the Mint, which is a refreshing addition to any meal or drink.

9. Hemplucid

Hemplucid CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Hemplucid

Hemplucid is aimed at the serious user of CBD. They offer water-soluble, MCT and hemp-seed oil in whole-plant tinctures, as well as zero-THC products in their Kalki line, which is available in MCT oil and water-soluble versions. As one of the premier brands in the business, Hemplucid comes complete with an array of quality products for you to try out.

10. cbdMD

cbdMD CBD Bottle

For a brand that prides itself on its creativity, cbdMD definitely has the formula down pat. They offer oils in 300-7,500 mg dosages. Natural, Berry, Orange and Mint flavors are available for all dosages except the 5,000 mg, which comes in only Natural and Berry. Utilizing a base of MCT oil, this tincture is created from simple ingredients, but packs a serious punch. Although their pricing can get expensive, at up to $339.99 per bottle, cbdMD also offers some of the most powerful dosages on the market. Give them a shot if you’re looking for something extra potent and are doing a deep dive into the effects of CBD.

11. Lazarus Naturals

Lazarus Naturals CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Lazarus Naturals

With a mission to grow “consciously crafted CBD,” Lazarus Naturals aims to deliver products that are both affordable and of high quality. Their full-spectrum, high-potency oils come in Chocolate Mint, French Vanilla Mocha and Flavorless varieties. Their THC-free oils come in Blood Orange, Tropical Breeze, Wintermint and Flavorless varieties. Blood Orange stood out to me, providing a subtle bitterness that complemented the natural taste of the CBD. Check out Lazarus Naturals if you’re looking for high-quality oils and an array of delicately crafted flavors.

12. Joy Organics

Joy Organics CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Joy Organics

As a brand that prides itself on being family-friendly, Joy Organics offers full transparency about their ingredients and processes. Their CBD is made from hemp oil and is extracted with organic extra-virgin olive oil, providing a base that makes for a smooth intake. In terms of flavor, they’re pretty straightforward, with Tranquil Mint, Natural, Summer Lemon and Orange Bliss in dosages of 7.5 to 15 mg per serving. With their reasonable pricing, Joy Organics could be the brand that finally brings you the joy you’re seeking from CBD.

13. MedTerra

MedTerra CBD Bottle

Image Credit: MedTerra

One of the best brands when it comes to broad-spectrum CBD oils, MedTerra offers their products in 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg bottles, as well as an MCT version at 500 mg, 1,000 mg and 3,000 mg. With organically grown CBD from Kentucky, the brand offers a level of potency that most others can’t match. MedTerra is highly competitive in this list, and is endorsed by some of the world’s best athletes.

14. Fab CBD

Image Credit: Fab CBD

Fab CBD definitely lives up to the hype. With oil flavors that include Citrus, Mint, Berry, Vanilla and Natural, their dosages range from 300 mg to 1,200 mg. The prices of their oils top out at $129, so they’re one of the more affordable companies on the market. With their commitment to providing a top-tier, full-spectrum brand, Fab should be near the top of your list.

15. Kat’s Naturals

. Kat’s Naturals CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Kat Naturals

With an array of offerings that says a lot about their views on CBD, Kat’s Naturals has definitely invested the time and energy into creating a special lineup. Their full-spectrum offerings include Balance, which aims to restore harmony, and Restore, which is a peppermint variety. Their THC-free versions include Heal (peppermint), Naked (flavor-free), Relax (infused with hops and wild oranges) and Metabolize (an energizing boost). If you’re looking for hemp-seed oil that retains its CBD properties, Kat’s Naturals should be a great fit.

16. Hemp Bombs

Hemp Bomb’s CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Hemp Bombs

An explosive brand on Amazon, Hemp Bombs pulls no punches when it comes to CBD. Offering an array of flavors that include Acai Berry, Orange Creamsicle, Peppermint and Watermelon, their variety is definitely aimed at those with a sweet tooth. They offer 125 mg to 4,000 mg dosages, ranging in price from $24.99 to $299.99. I recommend this brand if you don’t care for the taste of natural CBD and are attracted to Hemp Bombs’ upbeat flavors.

17. Green Roads

Green Road’s CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Green Roads

A brand that’s practically synonymous with CBD, Green Roads offers several top-tier solutions. Their dosages range from 300 mg to 1,500 mg for the flavored oils (Mint Breeze and Apple Kiwi), and up to 3,500 mg for the plain oil. Offering a variety that packs a heavy punch, Green Roads is one of the most reliable brands on the market.

18. Royal CBD

Royal CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Royal CBD

If you’re going to call yourself Royal CBD, you’d better come through with a top-tier product. Though Royal currently has only one line of CBD oils, they’ve swiftly become a favorite. They offer full-spectrum CBD extract suspended in premium MCT oil, in 250 mg, 500 mg, 1,000 mg and 2,500 mg dosages. A solid choice if you’re looking for an oil that focuses on craft over taste, Royal CBD will soon have you feeling like a million bucks.

19. Spruce CBD

Spruce CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Royal CBD

If you’re looking for the perfect little boost to your day, then Spruce is the company to buy into. They offer a product that’s 100 percent natural, made in the USA, and comes from a full-spectrum source. Their first offering is an oil that’s 2,400 mg max potency, which provides one of the most powerful experiences on the market. Their second offering is a 750 mg oil, which is still potent compared to others on this list. Check them out if you’re looking for a CBD brand that takes a straightforward approach to their production of CBD.

20. CBD Pure

CBD Pure CBD Bottle

Image Credit: CBD Pure

Coming from quality-tested organic sources, CBD Pure’s oil is available in 300 mg, 600 mg and 1,000 mg dosages. While it’s a simple lineup, they have put a lot of investment into delivering a top-tier product, and provide plenty of information on their offerings. I tip my hat to them for being both straightforward and educational.

21. Sensei CBD

Sensei CBD Bottle

Image Credit: Sensei CBD

Rounding out my list is Sensei CBD, which offers a Peppermint full-spectrum oil in 5,000 mg, 1,500 mg, 1,000 mg and 500 mg dosages, as well as a Peppermint isolate in 1,000 mg and 500 mg dosages. Sourced from US farms, their organic hemp products pack a great deal of potency (even for an isolate). As a brand that’s still rising, Sensei CBD should definitely be on your list of companies to try, especially if you’re just getting into CBD but don’t want to overcomplicate flavors.

What are some CBD brands that you’d love to try? Comment with your insights below!

Acclaimed American Journalist and International Editor. My interest lies in the pace and direction of trend adoption in luxury fashion and lifestyle, access to real-time

Acclaimed American Journalist and International Editor. My interest lies in the pace and direction of trend adoption in luxury fashion and lifestyle, access to real-time fashion through top influencers and how disruption and social-intelligence have transitioned the trend landscape through the democratization of the marketplace.

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD sales spread like wildfire in 2019.

What Are the Best Organic CBD Oil Brands?

What Are the Best Organic CBD Oil Brands?

Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where “organic” labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.

Here you can learn about the importance of organic hemp oil, why it’s better for the environment, and which CBD companies actually make trustworthy products with sustainable farming processes. origins which weigh heavily on many consumers who want to buy a product that’s produced in the best way possible for not only themselves to ingest, but for the environment as well through sustainable farming methods.

What Is CBD Oil?

First things first, CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it’s a cannabinoid found within cannabis sativa plants. This plant compound is believed to have many potential benefits, and it is primarily derived from hemp plants via a CO2 extraction process.

Since CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, which contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis plants), this means that CBD won’t make you feel high like marijuana, which has much higher levels of THC that causes psychoactive effects. Instead, the effects of CBD are much more subtle and promote a general sense of calm and relaxation in most users.

What Makes a CBD Oil Organic?

In terms of organic labels, perhaps the most important (and prominent) certification comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This government organization has been labeling foods as “organic” for many years, but what exactly does this certification entail? Essentially, a label indicating that a product is “USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” means that at least 95% of the ingredients are obtained from organic sources.

For a crop to be considered organic by the USDA, it must be grown without the use of industrial solvents, irradiation, genetic engineering (GMOs), synthetic pesticides, or chemical fertilizer. Instead, farmers rely on natural substances and mechanical, physical, or biologically based farming techniques to cultivate healthy and organic crops.

Before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, no hemp-derived products could be dubbed as “certified organic” since the hemp plant and its extracts were still categorized as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. However, it’s still difficult for CBD companies to obtain a USDA certified organic label for their products due to the legal grey area that still surrounds CBD extracts.

Because of these challenges, and due to the fact that industrial hemp has only recently become an agricultural crop, very few CBD oils are USDA certified organic. Rather, many CBD products contain hemp extracts from plants that were grown in organic conditions but may not be federally certified.

What are the Best Organic CBD Oil Brands?

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Spruce

spruce organic cbd oil

As one of the best brands in the business, Spruce CBD is well-known for its potent CBD oils that feature many additional beneficial phytocannabinoids. This brand works with two family-owned, sustainably focused farms in the USA (one located in Kentucky and one in North Carolina) to create its organic, small product batches. The max potency Spruce CBD oil contains 2400mg of full-spectrum CBD extract, but the brand also offers a lower strength tincture with 750mg of CBD in total.

CBDistillery

cbdistillery cbd oil

All of the products from CBDistillery are U.S. Hemp Authority Certified, and for good reason. The company only uses non-GMO and pesticide-free industrial hemp that’s grown organically on Colorado farms. Its hemp oils are some of the most affordable CBD products on the market, yet they still maintain a high standard of quality. CBDistillery has a wide variety of CBD potencies across its product line (ranging from 500mg to 5000mg per bottle) and offers both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils to give customers a completely thc-free option.

FAB CBD

fab cbd oil

For an organic CBD oil that has it all, FAB CBD offers plenty of variety for any type of consumer. All of its products are made with zero pesticides and extracted from organically grown Colorado industrial hemp. FAB CBD oil comes in five all-natural flavors (mint, vanilla, berry, citrus, and natural) and is also available in four strengths (300, 600, 1200, and 2400mg per bottle).

NuLeaf Naturals

nuleaf naturals organic cbd oil

As an industry-leading brand, it comes as no surprise that NuLeaf Naturals sources its CBD extract from organic hemp plants grown on licensed farms in Colorado. The comany’s CBD oils only contain two ingredients: USDA certified organic hemp seed oil and full spectrum hemp extract.

NuLeaf Naturals uses one proprietary CBD oil formula for all of its products, so you will get the same CBD potency in each tincture (60mg per mL), but can purchase different bottle sizes depending on how much you intend to use.

Charlotte’s Web

charlottes web cbd oil

Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte’s Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte’s Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.

Why Organic Hemp Oil Matters

Hemp is a unique plant, not only for its rich cannabinoid content, but also for its ability to absorb a wide variety of components in soil. But this trait poses great risks when it comes to the creation of CBD products derived from hemp.

Because hemp has a high capacity for compound uptake, this means that the plants can retain harmful chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals, and other residual solvents. This is especially true when it comes to synthetic chemicals that are more toxic to humans, and difficult to remove once they have been absorbed by the hemp plant.

Organic farming practices help reduce the risk of hemp crops absorbing harsh chemicals that may later end up in CBD oil after extraction. When you’re taking CBD as a wellness supplement to help alleviate your symptoms or improve your overall well-being, the last thing you want is to ingest compounds that might negatively outweigh the benefits of CBD. This is an important reason to look for third party lab test results when shopping for CBD products since these certificates of analysis can show the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of a hemp extract, as well as test results that search for the presence of any residual solvents.

In addition to creating a better end product, organic farming practices are also better for the environment. Sustainable and organic farming methods may reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. The use of natural pest deterrents as opposed to chemical pesticides is also better for nearby animal populations and ecosystems.

Organic vs. Natural

While there are only a select few companies offering certified organic ingredients in their products, almost every brand in the CBD market creates “natural” products. The term “all-natural” or “plant-based” does not mean that a product is organic, and since hemp oil is a natural derivative of hemp plants, these products are often referred to as all-natural. However, there are some synthetic CBD oils that should be avoided because they are chemically constructed and may produce unwanted side effects that are not caused by naturally derived CBD extracts.

What are the Benefits of Organic CBD Oil?

There’s a long list of potential CBD oil health benefits, and some of the most common wellness advantages include:

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Anti-anxiety effects
  • Better sleep
  • Improvements in mood
  • Internal balance and regulation

When dealing with pain, inflammation, sleep issues, and mental health struggles, it can be hard to find sufficient treatment options. The use of certain prescriptions can cause unwanted side effects, yet they are often the only solution for patients with these medical conditions. In search of other therapies, people have started to flock towards CBD oil as an alternative remedy for a variety of conditions. However, it should be noted that CBD products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and you should seek your doctor’s advice before using CBD if you have a serious medical condition.

Look at the Labels Before You Buy CBD Oil

When you go online to buy CBD oil, you’ll quickly realize there is an overwhelming number of brands that are saturating the market. It can be difficult to determine which products are truly as good as they make themselves out to be. Always look for up-to-date third-party lab tests so you know you are getting a great product, and don’t hesitate to contact the brand if you have any additional questions. And if you’re intent on purchasing 100% organic CBD oil, it’s best to look for certified products or brands that are held to strict regulatory standards.

Melena Gurganus is the Reviews Editor at EcoWatch. She is passionate health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.

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Dolphin ‘Stampede’ Spotted Off SoCal Coast

Tourists on a whale-watching boat of the California coast were treated to a marvel of marine life last month: a dolphin “stampede!”

That word for the phenomenon was coined by Dana Point Whale Watching, who posted a Youtube video of hundreds to thousands of common dolphins swimming in one direction March 19.

“This is pretty phenomenal,” a voice can be heard exclaiming in the footage.

The tour company, which has operated out of the Orange County city that gives it its name for the last 50 years, kept pace with the massing dolphins for around four hours, HuffPost reported.

“The dolphins take off so fast they turn up the water making it white water,” the tour company wrote in the video description. “You can hear them swimming through the rushing water. They are so graceful even in the frenzied behavior and we are so amazed to see them right of[f] our coast.”

A large group of dolphins is actually known as a super or mega pod, according to HuffPost. The marine mammals usually travel in pods of 200 or fewer. But sometimes, they merge when food concentrates in a single area.

This isn’t the first time the phenomenon has been recorded. One of the most spectacular instances was in 2013, when as many as 100,000 dolphins were spotted off the San Diego coast, as NBC 7 San Diego reported at the time. The superpod covered a five by seven mile stretch of ocean.

“They’re definitely social animals, they stick together in small groups,” Marine mammal expert Sarah Wilkin told NBC7 San Diego at the time. “But sometimes, the schools come together.”

What is unique to Dana Point Whale Watching is their word choice. Some commenters objected to the term dolphin stampede.

“‘Stampede’ is a poor description,” one Youtube commenter wrote. “It implies that this is a panicked, clumsy mass movement of animals. I have driven in a boat through a super-pod such as this, and these animals are anything but that. They are graceful and controlled. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”

However, most internet users were just grateful for the sight. The video went “viral” with around 25,000 views and more than 400 likes as of Monday, The Hill reported. As of Tuesday, the number of views had nearly doubled to 45,625.

As the tour company wrote on Instagram, “Who doesn’t love a dolphin stampede!”

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Amazon’s Prime Example of Labor Law Violations

Amazon illegally fired two employees after they publicly criticized the company for its lack of action on climate change and its failure to protect warehouse workers from the novel coronavirus, the National Labor Relations Board determined.

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were highly visible members of the small group of Amazon employees who in 2018 called for Amazon to do more to address climate change, and eventually got 8,700 colleagues to sign on to their efforts. They were fired last April, not long after their group of about 400 employees spoke out, in intentional and public violation of Amazon’s tightened down internal policies clamping down on employee criticism.

Cunningham and Costa allege they were fired in retaliation for their activism. If they and Amazon do not settle the case, the NLRB will accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices and the case will go before an administrative law judge. Also this week, the NLRB will be counting votes to see if Amazon’s 6,000 Alabama warehouse employees will unionize, a potentially major change for the company’s notoriously exploitative labor practices.

For a deeper dive:

(NLRB determination: New York Times, AP, Reuters; Amazon policy change: Earther; Union vote: New York Times, AL.com)

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Wisconsin Declares State of Emergency Due to High Wildfire Risk

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency on Monday due to heightened wildfire risk.

The state’s wildfire season got an early start thanks to an early snow melt, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. So far this year, more than 320 fires have scorched more than 1,500 acres, nearly reaching the total of 1,630.13 acres that were burned in all of 2020, according to the declaration.

“With nearly the entire state experiencing high or very high fire risk, protecting Wisconsinites from the destructive dangers of wildfires is a top priority,” Evers said when announcing the order, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The emergency order gives the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which usually handles firefighting in the state, additional resources. It will now receive support from other state agencies, as well as the Wisconsin National Guard and their Black Hawk helicopters, the DNR noted in a press release.

The announcement comes three days after brush fire erupted in Menomonee Falls, forcing some people to evacuate their homes, WISN reported. The fires burned 400 acres of marshland, the largest single burn so far this year, but luckily all of the homes were spared. Only a deer stand burned down.

However, the dry and windy conditions that fueled those fires are expected to persist in the state, leading Evers to declare an emergency.

“[B]ased upon weather predictions from the National Weather Service, Wisconsin will experience a period of warmer temperatures, lower humidity, and high winds that can quickly ignite wildland and create rapidly spreading fires,” the order read.

Dry leaves and grass are also fueling the flames, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The majority of counties are at high risk for fire, NBC News reported, and the DNR has suspended annual burning permits while asking people to avoid setting fires.

“To help us keep Wisconsinites safe, the DNR is asking you to avoid all outdoor burning including limiting the use of campfires and making sure to extinguish and dispose of cigarettes properly,” the DNR said in its press release.

While wildfires can occur in Wisconsin any time of the year, the primary season runs from March until May, The New York Times reported. The state’s wildfire risk may also be increasing because of the climate crisis. The group Climate Power 2020 told the Wisconsin Examiner that wildfires were becoming more common. While high humidity usually lessens fire risk, Wisconsin experienced two climate-related droughts between 2009 and 2016 that cost $45.9 billion in damages, and future droughts could increase fire danger.

Nationwide, the climate crisis is certainly driving fire risk; 2020 alone brought a devastating wildfire season to the Western U.S., NBC noted. However, this spring wildfires have taken off in the Upper Plains, Rockies, Great Lakes and Southwest.

“Fire season can be at any time,” Bureau of Land Management Spokesperson Carrie Bilbao told NBC News. “We just don’t really have those wet seasons consistently anymore.”

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Food Apartheid: Racialized Access to Healthy Affordable Food

By Nina Sevilla

Food insecurity rates have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even before March 2020, many Americans already faced challenges accessing healthy and affordable food.

“Food desert” has become a common term to describe low-income communities — often communities of color — where access to healthy and affordable food is limited or where there are no grocery stores. Living in Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, taught me that despite its common usage, “food desert” is an inaccurate and misleading term that pulls focus from the underlying root causes of the lack of access to healthy food in communities. The language we use to describe the issues can inspire solutions, so we should follow the lead of food justice leaders who urge us to reconceptualize “food deserts” as “food apartheid” by focusing on creating food sovereignty through community-driven solutions and systemic change.

The term “food desert” emerged in the 1970s and 80s, but in the past decade has really caught on, and is now a common concept in economic and public health fields. The racial demographics of the areas described by this term are most often Black and Latino. When comparing communities with similar poverty rates, Black and Latino neighborhoods tend to have fewer supermarkets that offer a variety of produce and healthy foods, and have more small retail (i.e. convenience and liquor) stores that have fewer produce options than in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Despite its prevalence, the term “food desert” has come under scrutiny for two reasons:

  1. It obscures the vibrant life and food systems in these communities.
  2. It implies that these areas are naturally occurring.

Sonoran Desert. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

First, the word “desert” typically conjures up dramatic images of vast arid landscapes with little to no vegetation and water. Common uses of the word describe the absence of life or activity, but most deserts are full of adapted plants and have sustained human and animal populations for centuries. I fell into the trap of this misconception when I moved to Tucson. I thought it was going to be devoid of all life, but when I got there, I realized that the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, like most deserts, can be quite abundant, especially when they have the right resources.

Using the word “desert” to imply a location’s inferiority as a desolate place writes off the people who live there, as well as the flora and fauna that are actually present in deserts. The term “food desert” obscures the presence of community and backyard gardens, farmer’s markets, food businesses, and other food sharing activities that exist in these areas. As farmer and activist Karen Washington points out, “food desert” is an outsider term, used by people who do not actually live in these areas. She says, “Number one, people will tell you that they do have food. Number two, people in the ‘hood have never used that term. When we’re talking about these places, there is so much life and vibrancy and potential. Using that word runs the risk of preventing us from seeing all of those things.”

Students harvest vegetables from a school garden. State Farm via Flickr

Second, by using the term “desert” one is implying that food deserts are naturally occurring. Deserts are classified by amount of precipitation an area receives, so they are dictated by weather patterns — forces beyond human control. Though increasing desertification due to climate change is exacerbated by human activities, for the most part, deserts are naturally occurring. Food deserts, in contrast, are not naturally occurring. They are the result of systematic racism and oppression in the form of zoning codes, lending practices, and other discriminatory policies rooted in white supremacy. Using the term desert implies that the lack of healthy and affordable food is somehow naturally occurring and obscures that it is the direct result of racially discriminatory policies and systematic disinvestment in these communities.

Building more grocery stores won’t necessarily make things better. Sometimes grocery stores are unaffordable to their surrounding communities. Sociologists have started using the term “food mirage” to describe the phenomenon when there are places to buy food, but they are too expensive for the neighborhood. And, as Karen Washington and research from Johns Hopkins University highlight, people who live in the places labeled “food deserts” most of the time do have food, but often the food they can afford is fast food or junk food. People who work in public health have come up with another term for areas with easier access to fast food and junk food than to healthier food: “food swamps.” Rather than simply building grocery stores, some of these communities need stable jobs and a livable wage to change their access to healthier food.

A Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlining map from the 1930’s that labeled “hazardous” majority Black areas of Nashville, Tennessee in red. HOLC

Swamp, desert, mirage. all these sound like places to stay away from. Language is important and using these terms prevents us from naming and addressing the root causes and making systemic change. Many groups are now using the term “food apartheid” to correctly highlight the how racist policies shaped these areas and led to limited access to healthy food. Apartheid is a system of institutional racial segregation and discrimination, and these areas are food apartheids because they too are created by racially discriminatory policies. Using the term “apartheid” focuses our examination on the intersectional root causes that created low-income and low food access areas, and importantly, points us towards working for structural change to address these root causes.

Corona Farmers Market, Queens, New York City. Preston Keres / USDA

Getting at the root causes is not a small task — naming them is the first step, and there are many different routes to take from there. Fortunately, there are many organizations already working on different aspects of addressing food apartheid, from building alternative food system models to providing ideas for policy reform. Organizations like The Ron Finley Project, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and Whitelock Community Farm are strengthening regional food systems through urban and small-scale farming. SÜPRMARKT, Mandela Grocery, and other nonprofits are creating affordable, organic grocery stores, and re-thinking the grocery store model through co-ops. HEAL Food Alliance offers a comprehensive policy platform to address food apartheid root causes and build a better food system. As an example of transformative policy change, the Navajo Nation passed a tax on unhealthy food to fund community health initiatives in 2014. Ultimately, strong policies are necessary to ensure that no neighborhood experiences food apartheid and to redistribute power to remove systems of oppression.

A major component of power is economic capital — a reparations map maintained by Soul Fire Farm offers an easy way to start supporting efforts across the U.S. to more fairly allocate land and money and work toward repairing historical inequities based on race. In addition to economic capital, power is also control over your decisions and the choices you make. To address this, movements of food sovereignty seek to bring power back to the people. The Declaration of Nyéléni asserts that food sovereignty is the right of all people to design and influence their own food systems and the right to healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably-produced food.

The food sovereignty movement and the phrase “food sovereignty” were created by La Via Campesina, the largest international peasant movement. The term and movement have since expanded across the globe and into urban areas. I have encountered the term used to describe urban farming in large cities, like Baltimore, and to describe indigenous peoples reclaiming their native foodways. I have also heard people question if food sovereignty is the right term to cover these vast topics. I believe the words we choose help us see the way forward and if we are serious about transformative change, we should explore food sovereignty seriously.

In a similar way that using the term “food apartheid” can help us identify and address the root causes of the geographies that lack access to healthy food, highlighting “food sovereignty” as a call to action directly addresses the power dynamics at play in the food system. This term focuses the lens on how our modern, globalized food system does not value the rights of peasant and small-scale farmers anywhere and how in most cases the major decisionmakers are multinational corporations. The organization A Growing Culture says “there is no genuine food security without food sovereignty.” They continue, “We must stop seeing food security as the pathway to eradicating hunger. It reduces food to an economic commodity, when food is the basis of culture, of life itself. Food sovereignty is the pathway to imagining something fundamentally different.”

As we look forward and imagine a fundamentally different system that nourishes all people and the planet, we have a wealth of knowledge and examples to draw upon, as well as rich terminology to describe the challenges communities are facing and our goals for the future. Any efforts to achieve — and ways we discuss — a better, more equitable, food system should address root causes, redistribute power, and be guided by people with lived experience in food apartheids. Food security is more than proximity to a grocery store; it should be about food sovereignty — the right of all people to have a say in how their food is grown and the right to fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.

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Live Animal Markets Should Be Closed to Prevent the Next Pandemic

By Reynard Loki

The exact origin of the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which started the COVID-19 pandemic, is still unclear. Early reports suggested that the virus jumped from an animal to a human at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a “wet market” that sells live animals. On March 30, the international team of scientists assembled by the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report of their recent visit to Wuhan to investigate the source of the virus and confirmed the “zoonotic source of SARS-CoV-2.”

“Evidence from surveys and targeted studies so far have shown that the coronaviruses most highly related to SARS-CoV-2 are found in bats and pangolins, suggesting that these mammals may be the reservoir of the virus that causes COVID-19,” the WHO report states. “In addition to these findings, the high susceptibility of mink and cats to SARS-CoV- 2 suggests that additional species of animals may act as a potential reservoir. … Several samples from patients with exposure to the Huanan market had identical virus genomes, suggesting that they may have been part of a cluster.”

Virologists believe that these sites, which bring together a variety of live animals into close contact with humans, are ideal places for this sort of interspecies viral transmission. In 2002, for example, scientists identified the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in Himalayan palm civets, a small mammal, in wet markets in Shenzhen in southern China. SARS-CoV-2 is a strain of SARS.

“While there remains a need for more investigation, we are not surprised about the wildlife origin referenced in the report and we know enough to act now to reduce risks of future zoonotic pandemics,” said Dr. Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a press statement. “Some 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases reported globally are zoonoses, causing about 1 billion cases of human illness and millions of deaths every year. Of the more than 30 new human pathogens detected in the last three decades, 75 percent have originated in animals. Importantly, research has shown zoonotic-origin pathogens increase along the supply chain from source to market.”

Wet markets are “unique epicenters for transmission of potential viral pathogens, [where] new genes may be acquired or existing genes modified through various mechanisms such as genetic reassortment, recombination and mutation,” according to a paper written by a team of microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong and published in the journal Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases in 2006. They add that these markets, “at closer proximity to humans, with high viral burden or strains of higher transmission efficiency, facilitate transmission of the viruses to humans.”

“Once you walk into one of these places, it’s quite obvious why they’re called wet markets,” said Jason Beaubien, NPR’s global health and development correspondent, on the radio station’s “Morning Edition” show last year. “Live fish in open tubs are splashing water all over the place. The countertops of the stalls are red with blood as fish are gutted and filleted right in front of the customers’ eyes. There are live turtles and crustaceans climbing over each other in boxes. Melting ice adds to the slush on the floor. So things are wet.”

In January, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Fred Upton (R-MI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the public health risks posed by wildlife markets, called the Preventing Future Pandemics Act (H.R. 151). The bill “prohibits importing, exporting, purchasing, or selling live wild animals in the United States for human consumption as food or medicine.”

It also directs the Department of the Interior to “hire, train, and deploy at least 50 new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement attachés around the world.” Additionally, the bill obliges the United States to work with other members of the United Nations toward instituting a global ban on commercial wildlife markets and enforcement of wildlife trafficking laws. A companion bill, S. 37, was introduced into the Senate by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

“For the sake of our health, our economy, and our livelihoods, preventing the next pandemic before it starts is perhaps the most important thing we must do,” said Rep. Quigley. “We were thrilled with the robust, bipartisan support the bill received last year and we’re committed to building on that momentum to see this bill become law.”

In addition to their threat to public health, wet markets are sites of extreme pain and suffering for so many animals. “Wild animals sold in commercial wildlife markets endure extreme stress and unsanitary conditions before being slaughtered,” according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit based in Cotati, California, that works to pass state and federal legislation supporting animal rights. “As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, our continued exploitation of animals and our environment is fueling the next pandemic. Shutting down commercial wildlife markets—and the international wildlife trade—is critical both to reducing the risk of novel zoonotic disease and animal suffering.”

“We must acknowledge the basic tenet that the more we destroy and intrude on nature, the more likely zoonotic spillovers will occur,” said Dr. Walzer. “Zoonotic spillover events and subsequent outbreaks are inevitable, as the interfaces between wildlife and humans increase, primarily due to deforestation and agricultural expansion.”

The cruelty to animals witnessed at wet markets points to a deeper, ethical concern about how we view and treat other species. In November 2020, during an interview with Euronews, Jane Goodall, the renowned British primatologist and ethologist, said that “we, in part, brought [COVID-19] on ourselves by our disrespect of nature and our disrespect of animals.”

She added, “We push animals into closer contact with humans. We hunt them, eat them, traffic them, sell them as exotic pets around the world, we put them in factory farms in terrible close conditions and all these situations can lead to an environment where a pathogen, like a virus, can jump from an animal to a person, where it may cause a new disease like COVID-19.”

Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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