News bites, July 2009
This article was originally published in July 2009
Reusable shopping bags need to be washed
A study commissioned by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council has found that consumers need to wash and dry their reusable shopping bags regularly because yeast, mold and bacteria can fester in the bags and contaminate food. In a study, 64 percent of reusable shopping bags were contaminated with some sort of bacteria. (The Vancouver Sun)
Doctors say “avoid GM food”
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) is calling for a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods and for physicians to urge their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid them when possible. The AAEM is calling for long-term independent studies and labeling, citing serious health risks associated with GM foods including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
The academy says, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. (Comfood listserv/Tufts University)
GM wheat survey
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) claims that 75 percent of its member farmers support allowing GM wheat on the market. Some NAWG wheat farmers, however, say the group misrepresents its own data, overstating the significance of the results, and exaggerating the demand for GM wheat. They say NAWG surveyed only a sampling of farmers and fewer than one-third responded. (GE News List/Ecological Farming Association)
Immigrant farm labor
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has suspended regulations adopted by the Bush administration to govern wages and recruitment of immigrant guest workers under the H2-A program for agriculture. Farm worker advocates criticized the Bush regulations, saying they lowered wages from $8.85 an hour last year to $7.25 an hour this year for immigrant guest workers and also undermined protections for American farm workers. (The New York Times)
Food allergies linked to child obesity
Researchers have found that overweight and obese children are about 25 percent more likely to have one or more food allergies than their normal-weight peers. The study found a significant association of overweight and obese children with allergic reactions to eggs, peanuts and other common allergens. The authors say, however, that obesity may not cause allergies; other reasons might explain the link. (The New York Times)
Cold smoked salmon not as healthy
Smoking salmon has been found to reduce its omega-3 content substantially. Three ounces of baked salmon contain about two grams of omega-3 fatty acids, whereas the same portion of smoked salmon contains less than one-half gram of omega-3s. (The George Mateljan Foundation)
Another case of Mad Cow Disease
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced another case of Mad Cow Disease (also known as BSE) — the 10th BSE-positive cow young enough to be exported to the United States.
Since 2003, there have been 17 cases of BSE detected in Canadian-born cattle. Canada does not have a mandatory BSE testing program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows Canadian cattle to be imported over the border — if they’re more than 30 months old. (R-Calf USA)
A paper by a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official calls for a new Department of Environmental and Consumer Protection to oversee product regulation, pollution control and monitoring, and technology assessment of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology materials improve performance of many products, from cosmetics to car batteries to cancer treatments, but little is known about the risks they may pose to human health and the environment.
The report, Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology, says that existing health and safety agencies are unable to cope with the risk assessment and oversight challenges of advancing nanotechnology. It says the nation needs a new agency to address pollution and the health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology.
For more information see: www.lse.ac.uk/nanoregulation. (The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies)
More than 70 human rights and environmental groups from around the world are protesting the planned launch of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
In a letter to WWF leaders, they say the organization’s plan to certify the industrial production of shrimp and salmon farms is flawed because the certifying body is funded in part by the food industry and the person employed to run the process previously was regional vice-president for a controversial aquaculture multinational accused of labor violations and environmental destruction.
They also say WWF repeatedly has rejected invitations to meet with representatives of affected communities in six different aquaculture regions around the globe. (The Guardian)