News bites, January 2003

This article was originally published in January 2003

39 percent of consumers buy organic

A study from The Natural Marketing Institute and SPINS, a research firm, says 39 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 40 million households, uses organic products. This accounts for $6.9 billion in U.S. organic food and beverage sales.

The study says 37 percent of core organic users consume organic food more than once a day. A middle group, representing 39 percent of all organic users, consumes organics at least weekly. Another group that makes up 24 percent of all organic users, eats organic food only occasionally. Fewer than half of U.S. consumers understand what makes a product organic. (Supermarket News)

New limits on toxic fertilizers

Oregon has become the fifth state to set limits for heavy metals in fertilizer. The rules establish limits for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and lead in fertilizer and lime products sold or distributed in Oregon. The new levels, however, are less stringent than heavy metal limits established in California and Washington. Critics are concerned that Oregon is at risk of becoming a dumping ground for fertilizer with heavy metals. (Capital Press)

Food processors: No “pharm” crops

U.S. food processors are saying they will not tolerate any contamination of the food supply by experimental crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to produce pharmaceuticals.

The National Food Processors Association’s “zero tolerance” policy comes after a Texas biotech company, ProdiGene, was accused of contaminating crops with GE corn engineered to produce pharmaceuticals.

Last month, the food processors group urged the federal government to stop plantings of gene-altered crops for pharmaceuticals. (Reuters)

Potatoes and pesticides

Washington potato farms grow more potatoes per acre than almost anywhere else, according to the state potato commission. A new report, however, from The Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, shows that potatoes use more pesticides than any other crop in the Northwest — five times the poundage of pesticides per acre compared to apples.

The report says land grant schools, such as Washington State University, disproportionately fund pesticide research for potato farming (71 percent) with little emphasis on alternatives (7 percent). The report calls for more research on alternatives to provide options for farmers and to benefit the environment. (Wa. Sustainable Food & Farming Network)

Salmon-Safe certification

Salmon-Safe and Oregon Tilth have joined forces to create a new certificate meant to recognize organic farmers for practices that protect salmon habitat. A Salmon-Safe spokesman says, “While organic farmers tend to be among the best farmers in their watersheds, (some) have a ways to go to meet our habitat protection guidelines because of casual irrigation practices or inadequate riparian buffer protection.”

For organic crops to earn the Salmon-Safe logo, they must be produced according to guidelines such as using cover crops to minimize erosion into streams, planting trees near streams to keep streams cool, and improving irrigation practices. (Capital Press)

Organic Fritos®?

Frito-Lay reportedly will roll out next year a line of natural and organic chips and salsas. Ad Age magazine says the line will include Tostitos Organic, Lay’s Natural and Sun Chips Organic. They’ve been test-marketed on the East Coast and in Des Moines, Iowa, but now will be going national.” (Ad Age)

Europe and pesticides

A new approach by the European Commission to evaluate active ingredients in pesticides will cause the withdrawal of 320 pesticides from the European market in 2003.

For substances remaining on the market, manufacturers must prove their products meet the required safety standards, by submitting test data to the Food Safety Authority by May 2003. Some temporary exemptions will be granted for compounds with “essential uses” that have no alternative and no concerns about restricted use. (

Organic wheat in Washington

Washington State is the largest wheat-producing state in the West, but Montana and North Dakokta produce 15-18 times as much organic wheat. Why? The Washington State Department of Agriculture reportedly says that’s because there’s no marketing or technical infrastructure in place, such as grain handling facilities and mills.

A Washington State University (WSU) wheat breeder, Steve Jones, also reports that there’s very little research support from the public or private sector. Elsewhere, it’s different, says Jones. “As for the future of organic wheat, there’s no faster-growing market right now in either the U.S. or Europe.” (Capital Press)

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