News bites, October 2009

This article was originally published in October 2009

Eat chocolate for heart health?

For the first time, research shows that survivors of heart attacks who eat chocolate two or more times a week reduce their risk of dying from heart disease about threefold compared to those who never eat chocolate. Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm report that small amounts of chocolate confer less protection but are better than nothing. Earlier research indicated a strong link between cocoa and improved blood flow, or reduced blood pressure. (Journal of Internal Medicine/Agence France Presse)

Trees breathe

Researchers are studying the breathing patterns of trees in 90 U.S. forests, monitoring how much carbon they can store over time to determine their value in carbon offset markets. Scientists reportedly are surprised to discover that old forests continue to be carbon sinks — absorbing more carbon than they emit for up to 800 years. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, younger trees do not capture more carbon than older ones. (Capital Press)

Drop in rBGH use in California

A UC Davis study has found that the percentage of farmers using artificial growth hormones (rBGH) to increase milk production dropped from 27 to 17 percent during 2007 to 2008. It concluded also that less than 10 percent of dairy cows today are injected with the drug. Thirty-five percent of the farmers stopped using rBGH due to consumer resistance and because milk production did not increase. (Physicians for Social Responsibility)

Stressed cattle cost ranchers money

An Oregon State University study has found that stressed cattle put on less weight, produce lower-grade meat, and have a harder time getting pregnant. Anxious or aggressive cows are more likely to be stressed by human contact or other factors, which can trigger hormones that disrupt normal functioning. Researchers concluded that cattle can have improved dispositions when they’re acclimated to human contact and treated well. (Capital Press)

Global warming makes fish smaller

A French study has found that fish have lost half their average body mass over the past 20 to 30 years as a result of global warming. Size is a fundamental characteristic linked to a number of biological functions, including the capacity to reproduce; smaller fish tend to produce fewer eggs. A similar shrinking effect was documented recently in Scottish sheep and researchers say it’s possible that global warming could have “a significant impact on organisms in general.” (Grist/ABC Online)

Illegal chemicals in farmed salmon

The Pew Environment Group has obtained documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealing that the majority of the farmed salmon imported for the U.S. market in 2008 came from countries using illegal antibiotics. The FDA documents show that salmon farms in Canada, Norway and Scotland used flumequine, oxolinic acid, and the pesticide emamectin benzoate, a sea lice deterrent — all prohibited because of health and/or environmental concerns. Pew also revealed that Chile’s farmed salmon industry was using antibiotics prohibited for the U.S. market. (Pew Charitable Trusts)

Chile salmon farms collapsing

The amount of farmed salmon from Chile could decline by as much as 87 percent from last year. The cause is a widespread virus, known as infectious salmon anemia. Experts warned for years that the unsanitary state of the floating feedlots and overcrowding would encourage disease. When the virus appeared in 2008, many offshore fish farms moved further south, spreading the disease. (Civil Eats/Intrafish)

Agritech controls GM research

Two dozen corn-insect scientists have submitted a statement to the Environmental Protection Agency saying no truly independent research on critical questions involving genetically modified (GM) seeds can be conducted legally. The scientists argue that agritech companies control access to the seeds and deny requests by researchers who may be critical of the technology. A number of experiments that had an implicit go-ahead from seed companies reportedly were blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. (GE News List)

EU stops soy imports

European Union buyers reportedly have stopped importing U.S. soy voluntarily after shipments were found to contain traces of GM corn. Soybean meal shipments to Spain and Germany were rejected, and other soy products already on the market in the EU were consigned and recalled. GM corn is prohibited in the EU. (Reuters)

Chefs intern on a farm

A graduate chef from the Culinary Institute of America recently completed an internship at an organic farm instead of a restaurant or food service establishment. Mike Shethar worked with farmers on field crews, assisted with animal husbandry, interacted with shoppers at farmers’ markets and special events, hosted cooking demos, and developed the newly formed Farm Chef Internship Program at Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim, Wash. Nash’s famous carrots, beets and greens are some of the signature items sold at PCC stores. (PCC Farmland Trust)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, October 2009

Sustainable sushi, Grass-fed cattle, Diet sodas linked to diabetes, and more

The acid alkaline balance

Foods can be categorized as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but they also can be classified by how we process them. Our bodies transform nearly all foods into acids or alkaline bases, and we need a balance to be healthy.

A brighter future, one banana at a time

Buyers of GROW bananas at PCC are rewarded with great taste and quality, and the satisfaction of helping the communities where the bananas are grown.