News bites, March 2006

This article was originally published in March 2006

A county policy for locally grown

In Iowa, the first county in the nation has mandated local purchase of organic foods. The Woodbury County Board passed a resolution to buy local and organic when the city serves food during business. The resolution has the potential of shifting $281,000 in annual food purchases to a local farmer cooperative. Officials say the Local Food Purchase Policy will create jobs and keep the cost of food the same, due to savings from reduced transportation and by buying in bulk. (

Omega-3s for kids

A 15-year study is suggesting that a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 oils in a pregnant woman’s diet can influence her child’s IQ, fine motor skills and social tendencies. Research done at the National Institutes of Health shows that mothers who consumed the least omega-3s during pregnancy had children with lower-than-average IQ scores and reduced motor skills. The children also displayed more pathological social interactions such as an inability to make friends as they grew up. (The Economist)

Kraft phases out GMOs in China

Kraft Foods has announced it will remove all genetically modified ingredients from its products in China, including additives and flavors, by January 1, 2007. Surveys show that 57 percent of Chinese consumers prefer non-GM foods. Kraft’s announcement followed criticism by several Chinese newspapers that Nestle, the world’s largest food company, has not adopted a non-GM policy. PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone already have a non-GM policy in China but not in the United States. (Shanghai Daily/

Plant communication

Scientists in Switzerland have isolated a genetic mechanism that enables corn plants to “cry for help” when attacked by pests. When a corn plant is being eaten by a caterpillar, it emits a cocktail of scents that allows wasps to locate the caterpillar. The wasps then can lay their eggs on the caterpillar, the offspring eat the caterpillar until it dies, and the plant is relieved from attack. At least 15 species of plants are known to release scents to attract predators of their enemies. (

New OTA leadership

The Organic Trade Association has a new executive director. Caren Wilcox succeeds Katherine DiMatteo, the first executive director.

Caren was deputy under secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and senior advisor to the ranking member on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. At the USDA, she worked on sustainability and food security, and became very familiar with organic standards. (Organic Trade Association)

Trees vs. grapes

Developers are buying up thousands of acres of redwoods and firs in Sonoma County, with plans to clear the land and plant wine grapes. It seems that the foggy terrain of California’s north coast is perfect for growing the pinot noir grape that’s so valued by oenophiles. Local residents are fighting the plan, saying it will cause soil erosion, contaminate the water with pesticides, destroy wildlife and create urban sprawl. (Capital Press)

Heart healthy nuts

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows nuts could be useful as part of a heart-healthy diet. Researchers reviewed 23 dietary studies and found nuts help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and increase longevity. Fifty to 100 grams of almonds a day reduced total cholesterol by two to 16 percent, and reduced “bad” cholesterol by two to 19 percent. Peanuts, pecans and walnuts provided similar results. Macadamia nuts were less beneficial. (Journal of Nutrition)

Also in this issue

Your co-op, March 2006

Member satisfaction survey results, 2006 board candidates, Board meeting report, and more