News bites, May 2002
This article was originally published in May 2002
Wonder Bread in hot water
The maker of Wonder Bread has advertised in the past that “Wonder Bread builds strong bones” because the bread is fortified with calcium and other nutrients. When Wonder claimed, however, that this improved children’s brain function and memory, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission decided the claim was unsubstantiated and violated federal law. (Nutrition News)
GE crop data
The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture reports that U.S. farmers will plant genetically engineered seed on 32 percent of their corn acres this year, up from 26 percent last year. Two-thirds of the soybean acreage will come from herbicide resistant seed, up four points from last year. (Capital Press)
Data from the Food Marketing Institute shows that organic consumers comprise about one-third of all shoppers and represent nearly half of all grocery shoppers in stores that carry organic products. Those buying organic products rank high-quality fruits and vegetables as the leading factor in choosing a primary grocery store, whereas those who don’t buy organic cite a clean and neat store as their top factor. (Organic Trade Association)
Washington farmland getting help
Gov. Gary Locke signed some bills that make it easier for Washington farmers to permanently keep their land from development. One creates the first agricultural conservation easement program, a voluntary program for farmers who want to ensure their land stays in farming. Another allows surviving family members to secure protection of a deceased relative’s farm and keep it from development. (Capital Press)
GMO labels in Oregon?
An initiative drive to require labels on genetically engineered food in Oregon is gaining momentum. Nearly 40,000 of the 67,000 signatures needed by July 5 have been gathered so far. Thanks to the natural foods company, Emerald Valley Kitchen, funds are available to pay gatherers collecting signatures. (Provender Journal)
Children’s pesticide exposure
A study to assess children’s pesticide exposure in the Seattle area made an interesting discovery: the only child whose urine contained no measurable pesticide metabolites lives in a family who buys exclusively organic produce and does not use any pesticides at home. The University of Washington assessed 96 preschoolers for organophosphorus exposure in the study last year. (Environmental Health Perspectives)
McDonald’s curbs antibiotic overuse
The McDonald’s restaurant chain has stopped buying poultry treated with fluoroquinolones, a class of powerful antibiotics that’s critical for treating many infections. After fluoroquinolones were approved for use in poultry feed, resistance among Campylobacter bacteria, which causes food poisoning in people, grew from one percent to 14 percent. Bayer makes a version of the drug for poultry and is fighting an outright ban proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Wendy’s and Popeye’s have taken similar action to McDonald’s. (Environmental Defense)
Farmers sued by Monsanto
A federal appeals court could rule soon in a case involving an Oklahoma soybean farmer, who has been sued by biotech giant Monsanto. The practice of farmers saving seeds is at the center of the case.
Monsanto prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds of a crop. Farmers contend the seeds are a product of nature and that any patents on seed are clear violations of antitrust laws.
Monsanto has sued hundreds of U.S. farmers for patent infringement. It’s currently suing a Tennessee farmer and another in Mississippi in addition to the Oklahoma farmer. (Capital Press)
A study by the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation reports that the number of people poisoned by drifting pesticides increased by 20 percent during 2000. Meanwhile, a National Cancer Institute report that matched pesticide data with medical records shows that pregnant women living within nine miles of farms where pesticides are sprayed on fields may have increased risk of losing an unborn baby to birth defects. (Natl. Coalition against the Misuse of Pesticides)
Lawn pesticides banned
A ban on use of residential lawn pesticides enacted by the town of Hudson in Quebec, Canada was challenged by two lawn care companies. The case went to the highest judicial authority. The Canadian supreme court voted unanimously to uphold the ban. Thirty-six other towns in Quebec also enacted similar bans against non-essential pesticide use.
Sweden is now proposing to limit the use of chemical herbicides allowed in home gardens to reduce contamination of watersheds. A risk reduction program started in 1986 already has cut pesticide use by 68 percent and estimates a reduction in health risks of 77 percent during the same period. (Pesticide News)