News bites, September 2007

This article was originally published in September 2007

One co-op closes, another rebounds

In Colorado, the Boulder Co-operative market is calling it quits. The board of the five-year-old co-op voted to shut it down in the wake of declining sales and significant debt.

In North Carolina, however, another co-op that opened in 2002 — the Haywood Road Market in West Asheville — has bounded back to life with a 33 percent bump in sales and an increase of membership from 600 to 650. It was on the verge of closing in February, struggling with weak sales, turnover in management and debt. But shareholders voted to stay open and a task force developed a plan to boost inventory, improve customer service, and become more involved in the community.

The store is in the black now for the first time with annual sales on target to reach $500,000 for the year, up from $380,000 in 2006. (Asheville Citizen-Times and Rocky Mountain News)

Draper Valley Ranger chicken sold

Draper Valley Farms, which sells chicken under the Ranger label, has been purchased by Booth Creek Management Corp. of Colorado. According to Draper Valley, Booth Creek has committed to making the acquisition seamless to customers without any changes in current operations.

Booth Creek also owns the organic Petaluma Poultry and Coleman Natural Beef product lines and holds investments in the transportation, resort and leisure industries. (Capital Press)

Washington farmers markets

The number of farmers markets in Washington state has doubled in the last decade, increasing from 60 in 1998 to more than 120 in operation today. Statewide, farmers’ markets reported $38 million in sales in 2006, up more than 50 percent from the previous year. Most of those dollars go directly to Washington family farmers. (Washington State University)

Discouraging bottled water

New York City is running an ad campaign discouraging people from buying bottled water and urging them to choose water from the tap. The ad says manufacturing one pint-size plastic bottle creates measurable greenhouse gases, pollutes fresh water and even recycling it consumes more energy and creates more pollution.

San Francisco’s mayor, meanwhile, has banned city employees from using city funds to buy bottled water when tap water is available. The city of Ann Arbor has passed a resolution banning bottled water at city events. Salt Lake City also has asked department heads to eliminate bottled water. (MSNBC/Reuters)

Banning plastic bags

City lawmakers in Annapolis, Md., are proposing a bill to ban plastic bags from all retail stores to protect fish and birds in the Chesapeake Bay from choking to death on plastics. If the bill passes in October, stores would be required to offer paper bags made from recycled content.

The city of San Francisco enacted a plastic bag ban in April, but it applies only to larger groceries and drugstores. Various plastic bag actions are being considered in Seattle, Boston, Baltimore, Oakland, Portland, Santa Monica and Steamboat Springs. (New York Times)

Pesticides reduce crop yields

A study in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”concludes that pesticides and other soil contaminants are reducing crop yields by about one-third. As synthetic chemical use has increased over the years, soil bacteria have been decimated, impairing nitrogen fixation and plant signaling. As more petroleum-based nitrogen fertilizers are applied, crop yields have stagnated.

The most widely used pesticide in the United States is glyphosate (Roundup), known to be toxic to numerous soil microorganisms. (For more information, search “Pesticides reduce symbiotic efficiency of nitrogen-fixing rhizobia and host plants” at

Farmers can learn proximity to GE alfalfa

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a toll-free number, 866-724-6408, so farmers can learn how close they’ve been to experimental plantings of GM alfalfa. The action follows a court order that put a stop to any more plantings of Roundup Ready alfalfa after March 30, 2007. GM alfalfa has been planted in Washington state, which grows alfalfa for cattle feed. (Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 149, Friday, August 3, 2007, see APHIS).

Monsanto’s cafeteria goes non-GMO

In the United Kingdom, staff at the British headquarters of the biotech firm Monsanto will be able to purchase only non-genetically modified food products in their company cafeteria.

From now on, foods containing genetically modified soy and corn will not be available. Granada Food Services, which maintains the canteen, is said to be concerned about health risks. (ODE magazine)

Coffee reduces liver cancer risk?

A review of 10 studies in Europe and Japan suggests that people who drink coffee reduce their risk of liver cancer. The data reviewed by Milan’s Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche found the risk dropped 30 percent for those who drank a little coffee to 50 percent for those drinking three cups or more per day.

Studies suggest that certain compounds in coffee may block harmful enzymes involved in the development of cancer. Coffee drinking has been linked previously to a lower risk of cirrhosis of the liver and chronic liver disease. (Reuters)

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