News bites, March 2008

This article was originally published in March 2008

Church says cut carbon for Lent

The Church of England has urged Christians to cut their consumption of carbon during Lent. Senior bishops suggested that Christians take part in a carbon fast by removing a prominent light bulb in the home, not using the dishwasher, going without plastic bags, leaving the car at home, and/or eating local food. The Bishop of London already has stopped flying for one year to reduce his carbon footprint. (Times Online, London)

USDA asked to halt Canadian meat imports

The consumer group Food & Water Watch submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking it to stop allowing imports of meat and poultry from Canada. The petition cites problems found repeatedly in Canadian meat and poultry plants, including failure to test adequately for pathogens and failure to inspect plants adequately.

Audits show the problems went unaddressed for years, resulting in the recent recall of 21 million pounds of ground beef sent to U.S. markets, all with a seal that says “USDA Approved.” (Food and Water Watch)

GM sugar beet lawsuit

The Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of organic farmers and the Sierra Club, challenging the USDA’s approval for genetically modified (GM) sugar beets to be grown and sold to consumers. The lawsuit seeks a thorough assessment, as required by federal law, of the environmental, health and economic impacts of GM sugar beets.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is an important seed growing area for crops closely related to sugar beets, such as organic chard and table beets. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit warn that cross-pollination and contamination from GM sugar beets is inevitable if allowed. (Center for Food Safety)

Beet juice reduces blood pressure?

Research from the United Kingdom shows that drinking 500 milliliters of beetroot juice a day can reduce blood pressure significantly. The key beneficial ingredient appears to be nitrate, which also is found in leafy green vegetables.

The study by the London School of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School shows that beet juice prompted a reduction in blood pressure within an hour but was more pronounced after three to four hours and some reduction continued for up to 24 hours. (BBC/Hypertension online journal)

Nonfat milk linked to prostate cancer

The Journal of Epidemiology is reporting research linking low-fat or nonfat milk with an increased risk of prostate cancer. The journal cites two studies that found low-fat or nonfat milk increased the risk of localized tumors or non-aggressive tumors, while whole milk decreased the risk. The two studies involved 376,371 men for at least 6 years in the Multiethnic Cohort Study from the University of Hawaii and the Retired Persons Diet and Health Study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. (Yahoo! News)

Chicago co-op closes

The Hyde Park Co-op in Chicago has closed. Members and the board voted to accept a cash bailout from the co-op’s landlord, the University of Chicago, in exchange for leaving its last remaining retail site in Chicago’s south side university district. The co-op was profitable since it opened in 1932 until an ill-timed expansion plan for a third store in the late 1990s left it saddled with debt. (Chicago Business)

Wilcox Family Farms quits dairy

Wilcox Family Farms in Roy, Wash., will stop selling milk and other dairy products by the end of March. A spokeswoman said increased costs and government regulations (for instance, controlling runoff) were factors. Wilcox will continue its egg operation, which involves more than 800,000 hens, with a focus on organic and cage-free eggs. (The Martin Firm)

New NOSB member

The USDA has announced appointment of a new member to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to serve a 5-year term. Dr. Barry Flamm fills an environmentalist board position. He has a doctorate in ecology, serves as an environmental and natural resources consultant, and previously owned and operated a certified organic fruit orchard in Montana. The NOSB is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act to make recommendations to the USDA regarding organic operations. (Organic Trade Association)

Ocean “farming” controversial

The U.S. government has approved five permits for wave or tidal energy studies off the Oregon coast. Four more permits are in line for approval. All are targeting two- to three-mile areas in territorial waters, many of them overlapping traditional fishing grounds. Fishermen say they support clean energy but roping off ocean waters for “wave parks” would reduce their catch, block transit routes and crowd remaining coastal waters with displaced fishermen. (The Daily Astorian)

Antioxidants may reduce cataract risk

In research conducted by the Archives of Ophthalmology, women who consumed larger amounts of vitamin E and lutein lowered their risk of cataracts. The study followed 35,000 women for 10 years. Women who got the highest concentrations of these antioxidants in their diet reduced cataract risk by 14 to 18 percent. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, leafy green vegetables and whole grains. Corn, kale and spinach are good sources of lutein. (New York Times)

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