News bites, November 2005

This article was originally published in November 2005

The good egg

Another study is showing that free-range eggs are significantly more nutritious than eggs from hens raised indoors or in cages. Mother Earth News tested eggs from four flocks raised on pasture and documented that they contained only half as much cholesterol compared to factory-farmed eggs, were up to twice as rich in vitamin E, two to six times richer in beta carotene (a form of vitamin A), and averaged four times more omega-3 fatty acids.

The results confirm similar data reported from Greece, England, Pennsylvania State University and the journal, Animal Feed Science and Technology. The American Egg Board refutes the data, claiming that the nutrient content of eggs is not affected by how birds are housed. (Mother Earth News)

Fish feeds the brain

From Chicago, researchers report that eating fish even once a week helps slow down age-related mental decline by three to four years. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center measured 3,718 people age 65 and older on simple tests, such as recalling details of a story.

The participants were studied three times over a six-year period. Results showed that eating fish once a week slowed the annual decline in thinking ability by 10 percent. Those who ate fish twice a week showed a 13 percent slower decline. (Associated Press/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

IFOAM declaration

The international organic community met in Australia for the 15th Organic World Congress with 1,000 delegates from 72 countries. The four-day event sponsored by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) concluded with a declaration calling on governments to increase investment in organic agriculture.

The declaration asks leaders to budget funds proportionate to the organic production in their countries, to internalize social and environmental costs in prices of agricultural products, and to pay organic farmers for protecting the ecosystem. IFOAM cited a 22-year study at Cornell University — that organic systems are more productive if costs such as energy use and environmental cleanup are included.

Australia is the world leader in organic acreage with 42.7 percent of the global total. Sweden set a policy for 20 percent of its land to be organically farmed by 2005, a goal nearly accomplished with 19 percent now organic. (IFOAM)

Something fishy about seafood

If you buy Alaskan salmon or Dungeness crab, it may be going to China before hitting the local supermarket. Some Northwest fish processors, including Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, are sending part of their catch to China to be filleted or de-shelled.

Work that would cost $1 per pound here can be done for 20 cents in China. Trident and other companies that use Chinese labor say it’s a way to survive while competing against farmed seafood from Southeast Asia.

Fish processed in China don’t have to bear a “Made in China” label as long as a “substantial transformation,” such as breading or frying, takes place in the United States. Fish burgers being sold in local supermarkets, for instance, can be packaged legally as ocean-caught, wild Alaska products. (Bloomberg News/Agribusiness Examiner)

Aloe Vera keeps table grapes

An edible coating made from aloe vera gel is being tested to preserve the quality and safety of table grapes during cold storage and subsequent shelf life. Clusters treated with aloe vera gel showed significantly delayed browning and dehydration without changing taste, aroma or flavors, and storage could be extended from 11 to 35 days.

This is the first time aloe vera gel has been used as an edible coating in fruits, which could prove to be an alternative for postharvest chemical treatments. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry)

FDA rules on mad cow

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new rules to control the spread of mad cow disease still leave loopholes for the disease to spread. The FDA has proposed banning brains and spinal cords from cattle 30 months or older, or from any uninspected cattle, from feed for all livestock.

The proposed rules still would allow brains and spinal cords from younger cattle, as well as other nervous system tissues from all cattle, to be used in animal feed. The current feed rules, which took effect in 1997, also allow cattle blood, waste from the floors of poultry houses, and processed restaurant plate waste to be fed to cattle. The new rules will not address these loopholes either. (Public Citizen)

Industrialized farming costs

The perception of industrialized agriculture as economically efficient is being challenged by a study published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

Researchers Erin Tegtmeier and Michael Duffy considered the cost of greenhouse gas emissions from crops and livestock, damage to wildlife and ecosystem diversity, and damage to human health from pesticides, and concluded they could be costing the United States $16.9 billion each year.

Pesticide use alone costs an estimated $2.25 billion per year in damage to watersheds, biodiversity and human health. The study points out that sustainable farming sequesters greenhouse gases and saves habitat, and should influence a shift in national policies. (Channel View Publications)

GE contaminates for 15 years

New government research from Britain shows that genetically engineered (GE) crops contaminate the land for up to 15 years after harvest. The study, published by the Royal Society, examined five sites across England and Scotland where GE oilseed rape was planted and found significant numbers of GE plants growing well after the land was returned to ordinary crops. The findings reportedly “torpedo” the British government’s strategy to introduce GE oilseed rape to farmers. (The Independent)

Ethical investing

If you choose to avoid investing in the agricultural biotech firm, Monsanto, a new Web site is providing some detailed help. It lists more than 300 mutual funds and companies with Monsanto investments. The site acknowledges it may not be complete or up to the minute, and suggests checking with your financial advisor to be sure. The information is public and filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Visit and (

Gardenburger bankrupt, goes private

Gardenburger Inc., the company that made veggie burgers mainstream, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and says it will reorganize. The company’s sales peaked at $100 million in 1997, but then plummeted after Kraft Foods bought Boca Burger and the Kellogg Company bought Morning Star Farms, two competing brands. (Associated Press)

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