Letters to the editor, August 2006

This article was originally published in August 2006

Packaging and plastics

The July cover story (Packaging and plastics) is great and totally raises all my personal concerns about the corn plastic.

In a strange twist of irony, our deli recently switched to locally recyclable plastic packaging (#1 and #2 plastic) and (now) our customers are complaining that it melts in the microwave and they’re asking for paper boxes from our hot bar to re-heat their food. So not only are we paying more for the (slightly more) environmentally friendly containers, but we’re also adding the cost of extra paper boxes for reheating. Needless to say people are not happy to be asked for 25 cents for the extra box.

What was the word in the article? Oh yes, it’s a conundrum to be sure.
— Steve Cooke, General Manager Sevananda Co-op, Atlanta, Georgia

Editor: So far, eight natural food co-ops across the country — in Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Montana and California — have requested permission to reprint this article, or parts of it. Packaging also has been raised recently as a topic for discussion and collective action among cooperatives.

Raw milk

I was delighted recently when I discovered Grace Harbor Farms’ raw milk at several PCC stores. For a few months before that, I had been going weekly to Whole Foods for it, and naturally, it was easy to do other shopping, too, as long as I was there. So now, I can again spend my dollars at a local store and a co-operative one at that! Thanks! My 9-year-old son loves drinking this milk, and I feel stronger and healthier myself drinking a half glass daily.
— Ruth Nelson

Access to pasture and Horizon Organics

It’s time to take a stand: the righteous stand. Horizon’s “organic” dairy products do not meet the ethical standards of PCC or its customers (see June Sound Consumer). We shop at PCC to nourish our bodies, nurture our environment and communities, and to support exemplary models of sustainable agriculture. Horizon’s business practices compromise organic farming regulations, and its questionable yet undeniably low standards taint the shelves of PCC’s dairy cases.

Collectively, in partnership, we the valued customers at PCC can reject all dairy products produced by Horizon. PCC can sever its relationship with Horizon while we, their customers, can select (predominantly Northwest) pasture-raised, organic dairy products from the Organic Valley family of farms.

If our local dairy suppliers can’t meet this increased demand immediately, surely we — the purchasing public — can be willing to cut back temporarily on our consumption until additional honest and reputable organic dairies are able to fill our needs.

By severing our ties to Horizon, we notify Horizon that we have ethical standards and environmental commitments that must be met before products will be allowed to grace the shelves of our PCCs and our refrigerators.
— Jill Shiffrin Hammond, Fall City

Editor: PCC’s grocery merchandisers (Stephanie Steiner, Elin Smith), Goldie Caughlan and I met with Horizon for two hours to discuss our concerns. Merchandisers are considering alternatives.


Lest you mistake consensus for unanimity on the fluoride issue (Update on Fluoridation, March Sound Consumer), I’d like to let you know there are some co-op members who strongly disagree. I think only someone who has gone through adolescence with rotting, disfigured teeth can understand the stakes in this debate. For us, it’s not an abstract point, the shame and altered behavior and attitudes.

I admit I don’t know all the statistics on cancer incidence or the relative toxicity of fluoride. But every dental professional I’ve talked to is persuaded of fluoride’s safety and effectiveness.

— Scott Dulin, Duvall

Editor replies: The article acknowledged that fluoride may be good for teeth when applied topically. The concern involves swallowing fluoride daily through public drinking water. Fluoride toothpastes warn that it shouldn’t be swallowed, and when fluoride is applied at a dentist’s office, precautions are taken to avoid ingestion. See The National Academy of Sciences reports on fluoride, Sound Consumer, August 2006, for our back page follow-up.

Genetically modified BT

I was interested to read the report of cattle deaths in India attributed to genetically modified (GM) cotton plants [News Bites, June Sound Consumer]. There have been other reports of toxicity from GM plants that have been engineered to produce the insecticidal toxin from the bacteria B. thuringiensis (Bt): for example, reports that Filipino and Indian farm workers developed allergies to the toxin after coming in contact or living near GM corn and cotton plants, with some of them eventually dying from the reaction.

The evidence that GM crops could cause illness is supported by research on the Bt organism itself, which show that people exposed to Bt insecticides during spraying on farms or cities (as in gypsy moth sprayings in Washington, see nosprayzone.org) also develop antibodies to Bt toxins — a precursor to allergies or other illnesses.

In addition, GM crops that secrete Bt toxin, such as Monsanto’s corn or cotton, may poison the soil in which they grow for years. The toxin is exuded by the plant roots and attaches itself to soil components. It is then released slowly over months or years, perhaps killing or inhibiting a number of beneficial organisms in the soil.

It’s time that GM crops be subjected to much stricter testing and labeling before exposing workers, our topsoils and the public to them.

— Claude Ginsburg, Director No Spray Zone, Seattle

Editor replies: FYI, recent scientific studies show that exposure to Bt sprays also may lead to allergic skin sensitization and/or immune reaction involving IgE and IgG antibodies. USDA has failed to mention the likelihood of these reactions in GE food consumers.

Animal IDs

The government’s so-called reason for animal IDs (News bites, July Sound Consumer) seems bogus to me. The public statements about “public safety” seem to be just thinly-disguised grabs for yet more control of the food supply, just like the (genetically engineered) seed issue.

The concern about forced animal IDs was mentioned briefly at the PCC Annual Meeting/Dinner by someone in the audience. But I bet not many people in cities know much about it yet. Around the country, people are starting slowly to wake up to government intrusion in the lives of small farmers. Ron Paul from Texas is trying to push a bill through to stop the funding of animal IDs. But it’s like a lot of things, the more people wake up to a problem, the harder big business pushes to get its agenda in place and legal.
— Bonnie Blair, View Ridge employee/member

Is Fair Trade really fair?

I ran across an article in the Guardian that I found fascinating yet confusing. It describes how a community in Belize subsists on production of organic cacao and the problems from the expense of certification inspections.

It left me with the impression that buying simply “organic” may be fairer to the workers in some cases than buying “Certified Fair Trade organic,” but I’m not at all sure. I’m not a researcher in this area. The article is lengthy but well-written at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodmonthly/story/0,,1781908,00.html.

Thanks for all the great work that PCC does.
 — Mary Evans

Editor: The article explores a view that “Fair Trade guarantees a better deal for third-world producers and a hell of a deal for first-world bureaucrats.” Some companies say it’s more beneficial and cost effective to invest directly in farmers’ communities instead of paying an outside certifying body.

PCC sells chocolate products verified by both systems — an independent third-party agency (such as TransFair USA) and proprietary, company programs. Both systems have merit when you’re doing business with a trustworthy company.

It’s arguable, however, that Fair Trade Certified or Fair Labor as a concept wouldn’t mean much to consumers if TransFair hadn’t spent a lot of money marketing the concept. Also, while we find many examples of excellent treatment of labor in the organic industry, it’s not a requirement.

Faraway fan

Thank you so much for the package of newsletters. Read them all over the weekend. So very good and informative. I have to tell you I am 86 years old. My daughter and son-in-law have lived out there in Washington about 40 years now. They love it and hate Illinois. Don’t blame them. I do, too, as of late. Beautiful country out there and I am going organic now, too.

Still cook old fashioned and love all the “greens.” Yes, please send me your Sound Consumers. I am very appreciative of your generosity. Keep up the good works.
— Ms. Wilma A. Hauer, Aurora, Illinois

Editor: We’ve added Wilma to the Sound Consumer mailing list. Anyone who wishes to receive the paper may send in a request and we’ll add them.

Deli eggs

I asked at the PCC View Ridge store recently if they used free-range eggs in their deli items and they told me all their deli items were made with free-range eggs. I have been a longtime customer (20+ years) and in years past I asked PCC to please use humane farming produce, but my pleas were ignored.

Finally, I applaud your decision to use (free-range eggs). THANK YOU! You may bring in even more customers if you advertised that you use free-range products.

Our family loves your articles on nutrition and environmental and farming issues. Bravo to the writers! What really sells us on the co-op is the great research into farming methods, bee keeping (you featured a fabulous article), and nutritional research (good oils versus bad oils). I would like to see more on humane farming practices.
— A loyal customer (name withheld on request)

Editor replies: PCC actually has used free-range eggs for years, although our recipe signs and labels did not reflect that until this year.

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