News bites, January 2008

This article was originally published in January 2008

USDA “naturally raised” standard?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a proposed standard for companies wishing to use a “naturally raised” claim on meat and meat products. The proposed standard would be voluntary and would define “naturally raised” as meaning no growth promoters, antibiotics, or mammalian or avian by-products in feed.

Public comments on the standard are being accepted until January 28. Visit to comment. (November 28, 2007 Federal Register/Organic Trade Association)

GM sugar on the market

The American Crystal sugar company (the number one white sugar provider in the U.S.) and the Kellogg Company have announced that they welcome using sugar from genetically modified (GM) sugar beets for their products in 2008. Like GM corn and soy, products containing GM sugar will not be labeled. Half the granulated sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets. (Organic Consumers Association)

Labs keep mum about some food-safety test results

Many private laboratories that test imported food shipments for contamination reportedly are told by importers to withhold unfavorable test results from the FDA. The FDA attempted to address the problem in 2004 by requiring private labs to send results directly to the agency, but nothing came of that effort. (USA Today)

rBGH fight

A controversial decision by Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture involving dairy labels is under review after strong public backlash. The state’s agriculture secretary had announced in November that his department would crack down on what it viewed as misleading labels on dairy, including statements saying they’re made from milk cows not treated with artificial growth hormones (rBGH). The governor has initiated a review of the decision, however, delaying enforcement at least until February. (Associated Press)

NAFTA and corn

On January 1, all tariffs on corn (and beans) imported into Mexico were abolished according to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. corn growers already had been dumping 10 million tons of heavily subsidized U.S. corn in Mexico each year but abolishing the tariffs is expected to trigger a tidal wave of more corn imports — much of it genetically modified.

Critics say that might drive millions more Mexican farmers off their land. Since NAFTA began 13 years ago, 6 million Mexican farmers reportedly have abandoned their plots. The zero tariff also might doom 59 distinct races of native corn. (

Raw almond feud headed for court?

The Almond Board of California has rejected a proposal from The Cornucopia Institute to modify new rules requiring all U.S. almonds to be chemically fumigated or steam-treated. Cornucopia had called for placement of a warning or advisory label on untreated almonds, allowing continued availability of raw almonds while alerting consumers that there might be some increased risk of pathogenic disease from eating natural nuts.

Organic and family-scale farmers say they’re facing bigger than expected cost increases in processing and transportation. One farmer says he has lost $450,000 in sales because of the new rule. (Cornucopia Institute)

Washington more food secure

New federal data shows that food insecurity and hunger in Washington state have fallen below national averages after 11 years of high ratings. In 2000, Washington was the second hungriest state in the nation; this year we’re the 30th. However, more than 250,000 Washington households (10.3 percent) continue to struggle to put food on the table and nearly 88,000 (3.6 percent) experience hunger. (Children’s Alliance)

Tomatoes and lycopene don’t reduce cancer

According to research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there’s no “credible” evidence to support claims that a diet rich in tomatoes or the tomato antioxidant lycopene can ward off cancer. In the “Journal of the American Cancer Institute,” FDA experts laid out the lack of evidence after denying an application from a supplement manufacturer that wanted to label such a claim on products. The agency says that tomato or lycopene consumption is not associated with any reduced risk of tumors. (HealthDay News/

Reform in hog industry

The state of North Carolina has passed the nation’s first legislation banning construction of new open-air hog waste lagoons. There are more hogs in North Carolina than people, and the pork industry there generates more waste than the entire human population of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston combined.

A study by Environmental Defense shows the state could gain the equivalent of 7,000 jobs and add $10 billion to its economy if the hog industry switched to cleaner systems for treating waste. (Environmental Defense)

Unsafe ginger imports linked to global supply chain

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation reportedly tested samples of fresh ginger imported from China and found high levels of a dangerous pesticide known as aldicarb sulfoxide. After the ginger ended up on U.S. store shelves, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had trouble trying to trace the supplier because of an increasing number of global supply chains. (The Wall Street Journal)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, January 2008

No more high fructose corn syrup, Heirloom vs. Heritage turkeys, Avoiding GM sugar, and more