Letters to the editor, August 2009

This article was originally published in August 2009

Member coupons

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all the GREAT coupons sent to members via our monthly Sound Consumer. As a regular (for many years) weekly shopper, I do so very much appreciate this extra bonus!
— Carolyn Ayers

PCC Cooks

Yesterday was Father’s Day and when my family asked me what I wanted to do I said I wanted to invite my parents over and cook for everyone. Most of the menu was inspired by PCC Cooks classes and it was delicious. My family thinks I am a rock star chef, thanks in large part to PCC Cooks.

The opening of the Redmond store near our home and the fantastic classes you offer there have transformed the way my family eats and helped us enjoy our food more than ever. That sounds dramatic, I know, but it is true. I will take some credit, too, but PCC and PCC Cooks really provided the opportunity. Thank you for doing what you do. I will keep adding to my stack of little purple recipe booklets.
— Bruce G.

Holistic economics

As PCC shoppers, we’re familiar with the difference in food created by agribusiness and organic food — not just in health, but with the underlying values that drive these two different modes of production. One with a concern for profit: bigger is better because of the ability to make more money with a very narrow concern for the impacts of business decisions. The other tries to look at holistic impacts upon the earth, health, animals, sustainability and effects of decisions on whole systems.

I would suggest that PCC shoppers consider as well the implications from the current financial crisis in this country of the systems we choose to bank. Commercial banks, like agribusiness, are organized in large scale to maximize profit for stockholders.

Policies are made with an eye for profit, not what is good for the consumer, which is why so many bad housing loans were made — to increase profitability of the banks. Consumer credit unions, like PCC, are consumer-owned and managed, and are responsive to the communities where they’re located.

Doesn’t it make sense to bank like we shop, and stop being someone else’s means to profit?
— Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Seattle

Food Safety Enhancement Act

We have received an email from our doctor in New York City, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, about HR 2749, entitled the Food Safety Enhancement Act. He is very concerned about this bill’s effect on small farmers.

I checked the Sound Consumer archives but can’t locate anything on the Web site. Is or is PCC addressing this bill with Congress? Thank you very much!
— Donna and Matt Lee, Sammamish lifetime members

Editor replies: There’s no debate that we all want a safer food supply but some organizations, such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, express concerns that HR 2749 could compromise small and mid-size farmers. The coalition says it might limit their access to markets, require fees, and dismantle conservation practices and wildlife habitat. It would exempt livestock and poultry operations, both confined feedlot operations and small livestock farmers.

On the other hand, HR 2749 would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to order a mandatory recall on contaminated foods (which it does not have now), increase the frequency of inspections, and quarantine a geographic area if there’s evidence of a food safety problem. It also could require high-risk food facilities to submit results from testing finished food products for safety.

Keep in mind that the real battle in any legislation comes during the rule-making process, after a bill’s passage. This bill still is in committee at press time.

GM sugar beets

I just saw an ad in Martha Stewart magazine for Miracle-Gro Organic Choice all-purpose plant food concentrate. It says it’s derived from all-natural sugar beet molasses. I read in the Sound Consumer that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically modified (GM) sugar beets are now being farmed in Idaho.

Is the fertilizer made from GM sugar beets? Doesn’t the pesticide get stored in the root of the vegetable? Please clarify all-natural sugar beet molasses. We have used only chicken manure in our garden but we’re wondering if the GM sugar beets are making it into the “natural” gardening aisles. Does anyone there know?

I’m making it my goal to get everyone in my family to shop at PCC and put their values to work at the grocery store!
— David Brethauer, Seattle

Associate Editor replies: I checked with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), a national nonprofit organization that determines what products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI listed or approved products may be used on operations certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program.

The plant food you refer to, Miracle-Gro Organic Choice, is registered. This means that the ingredients must have been reviewed and approved, and that the company had to provide documentation that the sugar beets in the sugar beet molasses are not genetically modified (GM). You can visit OMRI’s Web site at www.omri.org.

GMOs and vitamins

Greetings! I’m currently a student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. I’m researching the subject of genetically modified ingredients being placed into what the average person may be taking innocently enough — vitamins or nutritional supplements.

I’m interested in any information, contacts, links or valuable resources that you may have or be aware of, as I’m having trouble finding concrete and specific information on this. Canada specific is ideal but any information at all is most welcome.
— Chi Meegwetch

PCC Health and Body Care Merchandiser, Wendy McLain replies: Thank you for asking about GM ingredients in supplements. This is the first time that I have been asked this question! There are very few organic vitamin lines because they’re very costly to produce and consumers don’t seem to want to pay the extra money.

Several companies, including New Chapter, PCC’s brand, use some organic ingredients. We also sell organic flax oil and Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows certified organic herbs for its tinctures and supplements but in general raw materials aren’t certified organic and come from all over the world. Visit naturalproductsassoc.org to learn about regulations for supplements.

Pesticide use on oyster farms

The article, Choosing sustainable and healthy seafood (June 2009 Sound Consumer), says PCC carries only seafood that meets “strict environmental and health standards.” Further statements say that “farmed sturgeon, mussels, oysters and scallops, for example, are considered sustainable choices” and that “much of the seafood we do carry, including … oysters … have no known health risks.”

However, many farmed oysters are treated routinely with a powerful and highly toxic pesticide, carbaryl (a.k.a. Sevin), that has long been linked to water pollution. Carbaryl has been proven harmful enough to salmon that the notoriously slow-to-act National Marine Fisheries Service recently proposed banning its use on shellfish farms (see www.katu.com/outdoors/fishhunt/43650057.html).

The Washington State Department of Ecology is considering a ban at the behest of Larry Warnberg, who raises carbaryl-free oysters to avoid harm to both aquatic life and humans — although most oyster farmers say they can’t operate without it.

Unless PCC sources oysters only from those few farms that don’t use carbaryl, claims that farmed oysters are either sustainable or healthy are misleading at best. Please reexamine your standards for determining that all the seafood PCC carries truly is sustainable and healthy.
— Beckey Sukovaty, Seattle

Editor replies: PCC’s oysters are from the Minterbrook Oyster company in Gig Harbor, which has confirmed that it does not use any sort of herbicide or pesticide, including carbaryl, on any of its oyster beds.

Product questions

Organ meat is very healthy and healing. Yet it’s hardly ever available and when it is, it’s previously frozen.

Some of the healthiest meats are all the organs — liver, kidneys, heart, tongue — and from fish, everything inside and especially the eggs. In the mainstream these parts are discarded or made into pet food. It is such a shame. PCC should start carrying these healing foods. Thank you.
— Naomi Aldort Ph.D., Author, “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves”

Editor replies: PCC stores do sell Rosie organic chicken livers (fresh and/or frozen), Country Natural Beef liver and heart (fresh and/or frozen), and Umpqua Valley grass-fed lamb kidneys (frozen).

Teens like PCC, too

I just want to share a story with you. Yesterday I went to the Woodland Park Zoo late in the sunny afternoon to pick up my teen daughter and her friend. When I arrived, they were frazzled by the heat and the monologue of a nearby stranger that really bothered them. They insisted on a quick trip to 7-11 to load up on junk food to soothe their nerves.

I said instead that we would stop by the Greenlake PCC and they could have any cookie or deli item they wanted. So we entered the store and went to the deli counter. They immediately gravitated to the desserts and picked out slices of cheesecake and chocolate mocha cake. Then we went to the cooler and picked out Odwalla drinks.

When we got back into the car it was suddenly silent. I looked back and they had big smiles on their faces. I never heard a word the rest of the way home. Upon arrival they jumped out of the car and went up to my daughter’s room to hang out. They were happy and cheerful the rest of the night. I hope they remember that next time a food craving strikes!
— Russ Hamerly, Seattle

Election coverage

This is just to say a BIG thank you for publishing in the Sound Consumer thumbnail sketches of the current board members who were not up for re-election this year. It really helped me in making my decision.

I want to ensure (as much as a single vote can do this) that the board is well balanced, male vs. female, age-wise, and that no particular skill set/experience dominates the board to the detriment of others. I hope you plan to continue this policy. Keep up the good work.
— Jo Curran, a 20-something year member and Seward Park shopper who has voted in every election. If PCC doesn’t carry it, I don’t need it.

Also in this issue

Harvesting sunlight

Everything in life is driven by energy. Our machines — planes, boats, trains, cars, farm and construction equipment — all run on oil. We are driven, too, running on carbohydrates (sugars), fats and protein. Yet all oil and all the food that sustains us can be traced back to free energy from the sun.

Insights by Goldie: Important summer reading

No, I don’t have a steamy romance novel or crime thriller to suggest. The summer reading I recommend will update you on important regional and federal legislation that could improve school food quality dramatically and foster healthier eating habits.

News bites, August 2009

Agriculture and global warming, Consolidation of seed supply, Federal court upholds GM alfalfa ban, and more