News bites, January 2006

This article was originally published in January 2006

Cambodia goes organic

Cambodia has one of the least diversified economies in the world, with clothing production and tourism providing most of the cash flow. Now the government says it hopes Cambodia will become the “green farm of Asia” with organic farming. The first crop of certified organic rice was snapped up by the wealthy and expatriates in England. Cambodian farmers have formed an organic association, saying they like eliminating pesticides and getting a higher price for their rice. (BBC News, Phnom Penh)

Lost pounds worth cash

From Montana, Missoula County administrators are trying a novel incentive to get employees to lose weight — they’re offering cash, $10 a pound. Employees must first join Weight Watchers, attend meetings, reach their goal weight, and become a lifetime member. The county hopes the program will reduce health care costs and accidents on the job. (The Missoulian)

Too much of the real thing

Lawyers and nonprofit groups are planning to file the first class-action lawsuit against the soda pop industry. The suit would be filed on behalf of parents of school-age children, claiming soda pop companies use caffeine, a mildly addictive ingredient, to hook kids on a product that eventually can cause diabetes. The plan is to file first in Massachusetts and then use that case as a model in other states. (Atlanta Journal and Constitution)

A market for goat

No kidding, farmers are seeing gold in goats. Goat is on the menu of more restaurants in California and some natural food grocers are starting to sell it. The growing Muslim, Latino and Asian communities are increasing demand for what is one of the most widely favored meats in the world. Goat meat imports to the United States increased 140 percent from 1996 to 2003 and California farmers are expanding their herds, hoping to corner some of the market. (Los Angeles Times)

Native food going mainstream

Native Americans are leading a return to indigenous cuisine that has chefs and conservationists celebrating foods such as tepary beans, wild rice and bison. Native foods also might start appearing in grocery stores. One entrepreneur who’s opening a bar featuring native food plans to manufacture products for supermarket sales, calling the brand Native American Natural Foods. (New York Times)

GM alfalfa in Washington

Japanese resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops is holding up plans to grow GM alfalfa on a commercial scale in Washington state. A significant amount of Washington’s alfalfa crop goes to Pacific Rim countries where it’s fed as hay to dairy cows. Washington farmers say that if GM alfalfa makes it to market here, Asian buyers may boycott all Washington hay. Four experimental plots of GM alfalfa already are underway in Washington state for seed production. (Capital Press)

Swiss moratorium on GE

Voters in Switzerland have approved a five-year ban on the farming of genetically modified (GM) crops. The measure does not ban research but biotech interests say they fear the ban will deter further investment in Switzerland. Last year, ministers of the environment in European countries upheld a decision to ban eight GM products. (New York Times)

New rules for ice cream?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering new rules for frozen desserts. Among the proposals are new rules on ice cream made with milk from animals other than cows — including goats, sheep, yaks, water buffalo and reindeer. The International Ice Cream Association says the new rules would be more streamlined and efficient. A dairy farmers’ spokesman says the proposal would allow more cheap milk and powdered milk from overseas, and take food away from poor countries. (

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