News bites, July 2008

This article was originally published in July 2008

PCC support for fair labor communities

PCC Natural Market’s participation in the GROW banana program since 2005 has contributed $51,981 to improving the communities of banana workers in Mexico. The GROW organic banana is produced under fair labor standards and is the only banana sold by PCC. (Organically Grown Company)

Salmon habitat saved in Ballard

The last significant, undeveloped piece of shoreline in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is protected now as salmon habitat. Groundswell NW, a local non-profit, worked with Seattle Public Utilities and other city, county, state and federal partners to raise more than $1 million to purchase 680-feet of wooded estuarine shoreline, south of N.W. 54th St.

Restoration of the property will give young salmon a better chance to gain the body weight needed to survive in the open ocean. (City of Seattle)

Climate change worse in the West

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report says climate change is depleting water resources and contributing to outbreaks of invasive species and insects. The report is part of a federal assessment of global warming, sponsored by 13 federal agencies.

Meanwhile, federal data reveals that the American West is warming up faster than the rest of the world. Five glaciers in the North Cascade Mountains have disappeared since 1984 while others have shrunk 20 to 40 percent. (Capital Press/Associated Press)

Home gardens increasing

High gas and food prices are driving more people to plant home gardens. The Burpee seed company says it has sold twice as many seeds this year compared to last year, with half the increase from new customers. Seed companies say a dime spent on seeds yields about $1 worth of produce. (Associated Press)

New sustainable agriculture program

Seattle Central Community College is offering a new course called “Principles of Agroecology” to gauge interest for a possible associate degree or certificate program in sustainable agriculture. The course will help shape future curricula and is open to all. (Seattle Central Community College)

Coffee and tea don’t raise breast cancer risk

A long-term study has found no association between caffeinated coffee or tea consumption and the risk of breast cancer. The Nurses’ Health Study tracked 85,987 women for 22 years and found no elevated risk of breast cancer among women who drank four cups or more of caffeinated (or decaf) coffee or tea each day, compared with women who drank less than one cup daily.

Among postmenopausal women, those with the highest caffeine intake showed a modestly reduced risk compared to those with the lowest caffeine consumption. (International Journal of Cancer/Reuters Health)

GM corn contaminates 35 kilometres

A routine analysis by France’s Regional Cooperative of Organic Agriculture has found organic corn fields contaminated with GMO traits, although the closest plots of GM maize are more than 35 kilometres (about 22 miles) away. The organic farmers are demanding compensation. Their case has prompted a full parliamentary review of France’s laws on GM crops. (Le Monde, France)

Detox with chlorella

New research confirms that chlorella helps a body detox, accelerating excretion of toxic mercury. The Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology and Agrochemistry found that lab mice given larger doses of chlorella excreted about twice as much mercury as others. Hair analysis previously has shown green algae, such as chlorella, helps a body shed other heavy metals, including cadmium, lead, arsenic, PCB and dioxins. (C’est Si Bon Company)

Bisphenol A lawsuit

An Arkansas woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the Playtex company for making plastic baby bottles that contained bisphenol A, a chemical linked to serious health problems. The lawsuits seeks nationwide class-action status, citing hundreds of studies and papers that show BPA can be toxic, even at extremely low doses. (Washington Post)

Coffee before cereal boosts blood sugar

Choosing low-sugar cereals generally may be the healthy choice, but drink a cup of coffee before breakfast and you may as well be eating sugar-coated krispies. Researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada found that drinking caffeinated coffee before carbohydrates — especially low-sugar cereals — causes a body’s blood sugar levels to soar.

The study shows that caffeine alters the body’s sugar response and renders the body insulin resistant for at least six hours. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Ranchers leery of beef packer merger

A proposed takeover of the National Beef and Smithfield Beef packing houses by a Brazilian-based company, JBS/Swift, is under scrutiny by a U.S. Senate anti-trust panel and the U.S. Department of Justice. Critics say the merger would give packing houses too much power over the prices they’re willing to pay ranchers for beef. (Capital Press)

US consumers want GM labels

A new CBS News poll found that 87 percent of U.S. consumers want GM ingredients to be labeled, just like they are in more than 40 countries, including Japan, Australia and most of Europe. The U.S. Congress never has voted on a mandatory labeling bill. Obama reportedly supports GM labeling; McCain reportedly does not. (Associated Press)

Also in this issue

Tracking pesticides, factory farming

Two significant developments involving our food system warrant a heads up this month. They involve 1) the U.S. government’s decision to stop tracking pesticide use on food crops, and 2) a surprising report on the industrial treatment of livestock.

Insights by Goldie: Research and education: critical for a food-secure future

As petroleum costs soar, energy-intensive farmers and ranchers will be considering their options. They may focus on finding markets for their products as close to home as possible before looking in other areas. Non-organic producers especially will have to reconsider their dependence on petroleum-based agricultural chemicals.

The Alaffia Bike Project: 2,000 bikes heading to Togo

Editor’s note: If you’re one of the PCC staff or members who participated in a February bike drive for school children in Togo, here’s a letter passing on heartfelt thanks. If you missed the February bike drive, there’s still time to extend a helping hand — from our co-op to Alaffia’s co-op, halfway around the world.