News bites, November 2007

This article was originally published in November 2007

Grants to preserve historic barns

In an effort to save an iconic feature of our agricultural heritage — rural barns — a new Washington state program provides $450,000 to share the cost of preserving them. To be eligible for a grant to help fix roofs, foundations or structural systems, barn owners must agree to provide public benefits such as visibility from public roads or occasional public access.

Eligible barns have to be at least 50 years old and have a significant degree of historic and architectural integrity. (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation/

USDA researches bee protection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced $4 million in funding for a four-year project to research ways to improve the health and protection of honeybees. The research is expected to address genomics, pathology and applied ecology to develop mitigation strategies for Colony Collapse Disorder and other problems threatening bees and agriculture. (USDA)

Land use data

What percent of land in the United States. do you think is covered by agriculture? According to the most recent federal survey of major land uses, conducted in 2002, the answer is 45 percent. Of that, 25.9 percent is grassland pasture and range for livestock, and 19.5 percent is cropland. (

Apples retard tumors

Studies at Cornell University reveal that apples have even more beneficial nutrients than previously thought, especially nutrients believed to fight chronic disease. Phytochemicals concentrated mainly in apple peels reportedly slow tumor growth in cell cultures and in animals. (The Wall Street Journal)

Excessive protein leaches calcium

High protein consumption appears not only to be linked to increased risk for kidney stones, it also appears to make a difference in bone health. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, excessive dietary protein will leach calcium from the bones. Animal sources of protein, which are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, may leach more calcium than protein sources such as beans, vegetables and grains. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Animal ID chips linked to malignant tumors

An Associated Press report reveals a possible link between electronic microchip implants and malignant tumors in lab rats and mice. The findings are raising concern among livestock owners because the USDA’s controversial Animal ID system would rely on the use of RFID chip implants to track movement of the animal.

In addition, critics say the Animal ID program isn’t necessary because the information needed already is available in state data bases, for instance, through brand and disease-tracking programs. (Capital Press/Cattle Producers of Washington)

Taste, nutrients decline as size increase

Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to nutritional value in fresh fruits and vegetables. A report from the Organic Center in Oregon found that while plant breeders and farmers have doubled or tripled crop yields over the past 50 years, growing bigger tomatoes and ears of corn, their nutritional content and taste have declined.

Other studies from the University of Texas have found declines of five to 40 percent or more in vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting nutrients in produce over a 70-year period. (

Candidates supporting mandatory GM labels

Four candidates running for president are saying they’ll support legislation for mandatory labels on genetically modified (GM) foods if elected to the White House. Rep. Dennis Kucinich has sponsored a labeling bill several times. Now, Sen. John Edwards, Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd said while campaigning in Iowa that they, too, would support mandatory labels.

A report funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and conducted by Rutgers University found that 89 percent of the American public feels the federal government should require labels on GM foods. (The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods)

GM sugar beets approved

A genetically modified sugar beet that tolerates the herbicide Roundup has been approved by the USDA and is expected to be marketed for the 2008 growing season. Three companies are expected to sell it in 2008, including the American Crystal Sugar Company. Consumers who wish to avoid GM sugar should look for the words “pure cane sugar” on product labels. (The Bismarck Tribune)

Fluoride campaign

More than 900 physicians, dentists, scientists, academics and other professionals are asking Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are held. They include a Nobel Prize winner, three members of the panel that reviewed fluoride toxicology for the National Research Council last year, three officers of a union representing professionals at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the executive board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

In a signed statement to Congress, they cite new scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks. (NYS Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation)

Also in this issue

Your co-op, November 2007

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