News bites, November 2006

This article was originally published in November 2006

Superstores banned

Long Beach, Calif., has joined Los Angeles in making it hard, if not impossible, for Wal-Mart to open the kind of superstore that has made it the nation’s largest retail grocer. The Long Beach city council has passed an ordinance preventing big-box retailers from selling food, groceries and non-taxable merchandise. Wal-Mart also is facing a challenge in San Diego, where city leaders are considering a similar ban on superstores that sell discount groceries. (Los Angeles Times)

Farmed salmon killing wild salmon

Canadian scientists have direct evidence now that the more salmon farms there are, the more wild salmon die. Martin Krkosek and Mark Lewis at the University of Alberta report that in natural conditions, adult salmon that carry sea lice aren’t in the migration channels and rivers at the same time as young salmon, so the little fish don’t get infested.

But fish farms have changed that, with hundreds of thousands of adults in floating net pens anchored year round in channels where young fish migrate. Young salmon don’t yet have scales to protect them from parasites and mortality rates are as high as 95 percent. The study was published by the American journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Associated Press)

Wild salmon has more vitamin D

If you want healthy bones, skip farmed salmon and go wild. A study by Michael Holick at the Boston University School of Medicine shows that farm-raised salmon contains only one-fourth of the vitamin D in wild salmon. Holick’s study found that 3.5 ounces of farmed salmon contains only 200 IU, while the same amount of wild salmon contains 800 to 900 IU.

The reason? Holick says farmed fish are fed a manufactured food containing proteins, carbs and vitamins, but wild fish have a wide range of natural foods on their menu. (Boston University News)

Biopharmaceutical crops ruled illegal

For the first time, a federal court has ruled that genetically engineered (GE) crops producing experimental drugs and chemicals are illegal. The court says that in allowing biopharmaceutical crop plantings in Hawaii, the U.S. Department of Agriculture acted in “utter disregard” of the Endangered Species Act and violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to conduct even preliminary investigations before approving the plantings. (Earth Justice)

FDA sued for not testing GE foods

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to test GE foods for safety before they hit the market and for not labeling GE ingredients. The CFS had filed a legal petition in 2000 outlining a comprehensive approach that the FDA should take to assess the health and safety of GE foods. The FDA still has not responded to the original petition. (

India bans GE field tests

India’s Supreme Court has banned all experimental open-field trials of GE plants until further notice. The decision follows revelations that safety claims were based on skewed studies funded by industry. Cultivation of GE cotton also caused widespread crop failures, driving cotton farmers into bankruptcy. Since Monsanto’s GE cotton was introduced, 20,000 bankrupt farmers have committed suicide. (Times of India)

Pomegranate benefits

Research from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology shows that diabetes patients who drink pomegranate juice have a reduced risk of arteriosclerosis. The study notes that in most juices, sugars are present in “free” — and harmful — forms. But in pomegranate juice, the sugars attach to antioxidants, making the sugars protective against hardening of the arteries. (United Press International)

Aspartame ban?

A New Mexico state senator is calling for a ban on the artificial sweetener aspartame. Found in 6,000 products, aspartame has been linked repeatedly to neurodegenerative diseases, brain tumors and birth defects. Senator Ortiz y Pino and members of a health committee sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to call on the Food and Drug Administration to rescind approval of aspartame, which has prompted more health complaints than any other chemical on the market. (Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino)

Hand wash or dishwasher?

Do dishwashers waste water and energy? Not according to a study from the University of Bonn. It found that dishwashers use half the energy and one-sixth the water of hand-washing — but only if you wash full loads, keep the water temperature low, and use the “air dry” cycle. The U. S. Department of Energy adds that washing dishes by hand several times a day can be more expensive than running an energy-efficient dishwasher. (Environmental Defense Solutions)

Unsustainable population?

As the world’s human population surpassed 300 million last month, some are questioning the sustainability of American habits of consumption. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the average U.S. citizen uses more than four times the worldwide average of energy and almost three times as much water, yet produces more than twice the trash and five times the amount of carbon dioxide, a major factor in global warming. (The Independent/UK)

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