News bites, November 2008

This article was originally published in November 2008

Co-ops raise $30,000 for flooded farmers

The National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) has raised more than $30,000 in disaster relief for flooded farmers in the Midwest. The first-ever “Co-ops Rock!” event in Seattle in September featured the band, The National, and video presentations on the flooding, to 1,500 attendees. The NCGA is a business services cooperative for consumer-owned U.S. food co-ops, including PCC Natural Markets and Central Co-op’s Madison Market in Seattle. (Progressive Grocer)

The origins of Thanksgiving

The first known Thanksgiving feast or festival in North America was not celebrated by pilgrims in Plymouth, Mass. in the autumn of 1621 but in Texas 80 years earlier. Franscisco Vasquez de Coronado celebrated his expedition’s discovery of food supplies with a group of native Americans in Palo Duro Canyon in May of 1541. (

American Thanksgiving

Today’s vision of a traditional Thanksgiving reportedly evolved from the creative imaginations of a magazine editor in the mid-1800s. What we know for sure about the Pilgrims’ first feast in 1621 is based largely on one letter and a book written by colonists.

Wild turkey never was mentioned, though deer and fowl (most likely ducks or geese) were. Potatoes and yams weren’t available then and while pumpkins and squash may have been part of the feast, pumpkin pie probably was not; butter and flour for a crust weren’t likely to be in pilgrim pantries. Other possible menu items were lobster, mussels, “sallet herbs,” grapes, plums and flint corn. (Christian Science Monitor)

Big breakfasts for losing weight

Researchers from Venezuela and Virginia are finding that women on the “big breakfast diet” have better long-term success in weight loss than women on a low-carb diet. The big breakfast diet calls for a daily breakfast high in carbohydrates, fiber and protein and big enough to provide half the day’s calories.

After four months, women on the big breakfast diet had lost an average of 28 pounds each, while women on a low-carb diet averaged 23 pounds of weight lost. After eight months, the big breakfast dieters had lost an additional 16.5 pounds, while the low-carb dieters had gained back an average of 18 pounds each. (MedHeadlines)

Insects resistant to GM crops

Entomologists at the University of Arizona have confirmed for the first time that some insects have developed resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops. They monitored pests in fields of GM cotton and corn in the United States, Australia, China and Spain and found evidence of genetic mutation among bollworms in a dozen U.S. cotton fields planted over a three-year period. The mutation in DNA enabled the bollworms to tolerate the Bt pesticide (Bacillus thuringiensis) engineered into the plant. No mutations were found among other pests. (Nature Biotechnology/Agence France Presse)

Honey relieves sinusitis?

Certain honeys reportedly kill the bacteria causing sinusitis far more effectively than commonly prescribed antibiotics. Researchers from the University of Ottawa say they now have to figure out how to apply the findings to patients. The findings echo research published last year in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, which found honey worked better than commercial cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DM) in easing children’s cough. (HealthDay News)

First law protects farmers from GM

The first U.S. state law regulating GM crops has been signed into law in California. Under AB 541, farmers unable to prevent contamination of their fields by drifting GM pollen or seeds are not liable for patent infringement if sued. The bill also establishes a protocol when biotech companies investigate alleged patent or contract violations. The Monsanto company alone has sued more than 100 farmers for alleged violations. (Center for Food Safety)

Non-GM crops dominate world agriculture

Non-GM crops bred using traditional plant breeding methods still provide most of the food and animal feed in the world, covering more than 97 percent of agricultural land compared with only 2.4 percent growing GM crops. Even in the United States, more than 85 percent of our agricultural land is growing non-GM crops and two-thirds of arable land grew non-GM crops in 2007. (GM Freeze)

Organic farm wins pesticide lawsuit

A jury has awarded $1 million to an organic farm in Santa Cruz whose herbs were contaminated by pesticides sprayed on nearby fields. Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo sued a pesticide applicator, Western Farm Service, after finding residues of organophosphates — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and dimethoate — on its organic herbs.

The pesticides apparently evaporated from fields nearby and were carried by winds over to the organic farm. Jacobs Farm says the jury verdict signals the need for regulations to protect growers against volatile pesticides that can drift after they’re applied. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, November 2008

Edmonds fan mail, Aerial spraying of pesticide, Sweeteners in the diet, and more

Sustainable label update

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in a huff over an independent organization’s move to define a national standard for sustainable agriculture. The Undersecretary of Agriculture, Charles Conner, has warned the Leonardo Academy that its work on a “superlabel” for sustainably produced food “was not inclusive of all facets of U.S. agriculture" ...

Choices in sugars and sweeteners

It’s easy to make lovely holiday desserts with less refined and even unrefined sweeteners. Choosing less refined sweeteners has some advantages, too. Learn more about using Sucanat, demerara, muscovado, Rapadura or liquid sweeteners in baking and cooking.