Letters to the editor, April 2003

This article was originally published in April 2003

The scoop on fertilizer

I want to let you know how much I appreciated your articles on organic fertilizer in the March 2003 Sound Consumer. I was completely unaware of how so many toxic ingredients can be hiding in a bag of organic fertilizer. Thank you for informing me and letting me know how I can support legislation to change the labeling requirements. And thanks for all the hard work your staff is doing too! I will be looking forward to reading your updates on the issue.
— Kim Bledsoe, Sammamish

Thank you PCC members

After much delay, Congress passed an appropriations bill that contains $125,000 in new funds for the Organic and Biologically Intensive Agriculture program at Washington State University. These are the first federal or state funds to be earmarked for the program.

The Network worked hard over the past year to secure funding, visiting Washington congresspeople, organizing a letter writing and media campaign, and working with key WSU administrators. PCC members played a key role in this effort. Thank you for all the calls and letters to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.). Your calls and letters were critical in showing the support that exists for organic and ecologically-based agriculture programs at WSU!
— Bonnie Rice, Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network

Growth factors

I’d like to respectfully disagree with member-owners that think the co-op should not continue its “focus” on growth. The co-op retains many employees for years, even decades. Growth allows for benefits and wage increases without raising prices. Growth provides new management positions for longtime employees. Growth also allows communities to reap the benefits of a cooperative without the financial burdens of funding a new establishment. And growth allows the co-op to remain competitive with national chains.

However, growth can put pressure on producers who are required to supply every store. As the co-op grows, only producers who are willing and able to increase their operations could accommodate this requirement. These policies ultimately favor large, ever-expanding farms and factories over family enterprises.

As a shopper, I find it nice to have some uniformity in product and price between stores, but could the board and membership consider altering its all-or-nothing policy by asking producers to perhaps supply a region of stores instead of every one? And to support the smallest of vendors, could some stores allow a mini farmers’ market on certain days? What fabulously innovative ideas can we apply to keep growth smart, compassionate and community-based?
— Sarah Burkhart, Seattle

Conflict or service?

I read an interesting article in the Sound Consumer [“Natural products to lower blood pressure” by Michael Murray, ND]. I was intrigued with the information on “Anti-ACE” products and how effective and safe they are. So it was disconcerting to turn the page and see one of the featured new products of the month was an Anti-ACE product formulated by Michael Murray, ND. It seems he must have a financial or professional stake in the sale of this product.

I have come to rely on the informative articles in the Sound Consumer for up-to-date information on agriculture, food and nutrition. I was very disappointed to see an apparent conflict of interest appear in the Sound Consumer that would not be permitted (at least overtly) in any newspaper. I cannot trust, because Dr. Murray is the seller of these products, that his article is unbiased, and I think it was doubly inappropriate for PCC to be explicitly promoting his product for him.

It may be true that Anti-ACE peptides do work, but an expert unassociated both professionally and personally with Dr. Murray should have written the article. We are lucky that this double oversight occurred — otherwise, I never would have known the doctor was getting a valuable piece of free advertising sanctioned with the imprimatur of the PCC.
— Claude Ginsburg, Seattle

I intentionally mentioned the Natural Factors Anti-ACE Peptides as a new product available to coincide with Dr. Murray’s article on natural products to lower blood pressure. This was not an oversight. I also intentionally pointed out that Murray is the director of product development and education for Natural Factors (at end of the article) and that he formulated this product (in “What’s new in store”). I didn’t consider another writer for the story as Murray is the expert with impeccable credentials. I saw it as a service to customers to provide the story on an exciting product from the man who knows the most about it. I regret your perception was altogether different.

Farmed shrimp

In the February Sound Consumer, in a featured items insert, the first item mentioned is EcoFish Salmon and farm-raised shrimp. I find it patently abhorrent that someone should brand wild fish. Does it really matter how they are killed? This smacks of yet another exploitive use of the “eco” monniker. And then they are frozen to boot!

I have knowledge of how farm-raised shrimp are grown and it is not as “environmentally-safe” as you purport. These shrimp eat fish pellets that are made from bycatch from other heavy “traditional” fishing operations (big nets, dolphins, sea turtles, etc.) or the pellets are made from fish caught specifically to be turned into pellets.

Furthermore, the phrase “controlled, naturally-filtered saltwater ponds …” is pure whitewashing. After these operations fail, the land is left damaged, scarred by the bulldozing of the ponds and salinated to the point that nothing will grow there. I am miffed that you would extoll that these farmed shrimp are more perfect than wild shrimp.
— Kenneth N. Johnson

Editor: The Ecofish label is not a “branding” of wild fish, but more precisely a certification that the fishery is sustainable — just as the USDA organic certification certifies organic growing methods. PCC is fully aware of the repercussions of most fish-farming, which is why we support sustainably harvested seafood certified by the EcoFish Advisory Board of leading marine scientists and conservationists.

Ecofish President Henry Lovejoy:
Regarding the shrimp farm in Hawaii, which I visited last week, it is not anything like all the other unsustainable, polluting and destructive shrimp farms you reference around the world. These shrimp are fed a diet made almost exclusively of soy-based proteins. This is a closed system, built on land that used to be used for sugarcane farming (which is historically environmentally very damaging.) Most shrimp farms are built on bulldozed mangrove swamps, which destroys critical natural marine habitat. The ponds are lined with plastic and there is significant filtration through the entire process. The waste that is eventually drained from the ponds is collected in a settling pond and used as fertilizer on surrounding farms.

Unlike traditional shrimp aquaculture, this farm uses no chemicals, growth hormones or antibiotics. Regular water tests by the state of Hawaii indicate that the water quality is superb and the farm is not polluting in any way. The farm draws its salt water from wells directly under the farm, which draw from the sea a mile away.

This farm is the cleanest we’ve found in the world and I believe you’d agree deserves support in order to ultimately impact change on how shrimp are farmed. Contrary to your comment about wild shrimp, in the vast majority of cases (with the exception of EcoFish’s trap-caught wild Alaskan Spot Prawns) the harvesting of wild shrimp involves the highest levels of bycatch of any fishery in the world, usually in the magnitude of five to15 pounds of bycatch for every pound of shrimp harvested.

The vast majority of this bycatch, which includes a significant amount of the turtles you mention, does not survive. Regarding frozen seafood, some of the best seafood on the market today is frozen. If seafood is frozen within minutes or hours of harvest with appropriate quick-freezing technology, recent studies have proven it is vastly fresher than what most consumers buy as “fresh.”

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