News bites, January 2010

This article was originally published in January 2010

Organic cattle operation decertified

The organic certification of Promiseland Livestock, one of the largest organic U.S. cattle producers, has been suspended. Promiseland has 22,000 beef and dairy cattle and was accused of willfully violating organic regulations — and refusing to provide records demonstrating compliance.

Promiseland has sold thousands of cows to Dean Foods (Horizon Organic), Natural Prairie Dairy, and Aurora Dairy, which supplies milk for Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Safeway. (The Cornucopia Institute)

Coffee before exercise may harm the heart

Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages before exercising may reduce blood flow to your heart during the workout — cutting the oxygen supply just when it’s needed most. A Swiss study reports that 18 healthy men and women took a caffeine tablet equivalent to about two cups of coffee, then pedaled a stationary bike for 45 minutes. All the volunteers experienced a substantial dip in coronary circulation.

Researchers speculate that caffeine blocks the chemical signals that normally cause coronary blood vessels to expand during exercise. (Consumer Reports on Health)

China approves GE rice and corn

China’s government has approved genetically engineered (GE) rice and corn. The Ministry of Agriculture says certificates have been approved to develop GE strains, although further approvals are required and it may take two to three years before either are grown commercially. China is the world’s top producer of rice. (The Wall Street Journal)

USDA lifts ban on GM papaya

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lifted the regulated status of papaya that is genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus. GE papaya was developed in the late 1980s and has been grown commercially since 1998, but only in Hawaii. Until now, it was not permitted to be grown on the U.S. mainland. (The Organic Report)

Organic chicken tests safer

A Consumer Reports test of fresh, whole broiler chickens bought in 22 states reveals that two-thirds harbor salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease.

The report shows that store-brand organic chickens had no salmonella at all and were among the cleanest, while Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were found to be the most contaminated. The tests also found that most disease-causing bacteria sampled from the contaminated chicken were resistant to at least one antibiotic. (The Huffington Post)

DNA tests uncover sushi fraud

Researchers from Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History ordered tuna from 31 sushi restaurants and then used genetic tests to determine the species of fish in the dishes. More than half the sushi restaurants misrepresented, or couldn’t clarify, the type of fish they were serving. Many sold escolar mislabeled as tuna. Several sold endangered bluefin tuna. (

France prepares voluntary GMO-free labels

France is set to create a set of voluntary labels to help distinguish produce that’s not genetically modified (non-GM). France’s High Council for Biotechnology has proposed a “GMO-free” label for produce containing less than 0.1 percent GM material — the lowest, technically possible ceiling that non-GMO producers can aspire to. The European Union currently has a 0.9 percent threshold; any food containing more must be labeled as “containing GMOs.” (GE News List/Ecological Farming Association)

Mediterranean diet reduces depression?

A Mediterranean-style diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish may be good for mental health, a new study shows. Researchers studied more than 10,000 Spaniards and found that those who reported eating a Mediterranean diet were about half as likely to develop depression than those who said they did not.

Although this does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the study suggests that a deficiency of essential nutrients may influence mental health. The foods most closely linked to a lower risk of depression were fruits and nuts, legumes, and a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats. (The New York Times)

Cultured meat?

Experiments for NASA space missions show that small amounts of edible meat can be created in a lab, and now the technology to grow chicken tenders without the chicken — on a large scale — may not be a science fiction fantasy. Research from the University of Maryland shows that new techniques in tissue engineering may one day lead to affordable production in vitro. Proponents say cultured meat would enable them to control nutrients and be more land efficient. (University of Maryland)

Exercise creates brain cells

Scientists from the University of Illinois have found that aerobic exercise may promote growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, an area critical to learning and memory. The study involved healthy but sedentary older adults, age 60 to 79, on an aerobic walking or stretching program three times a week. After six months, their brain volume — the amount of grey and white matter — had increased. The more days a week they exercised, the better, and those who were most fit performed as well on cognitive tests as young adults. (Nutrition Action Healthletter)

Also in this issue

Insights by Goldie: Probiotics: Time to get cultured ... food, that is!

Today’s frantic, fast, food-fueled lifestyle is a sharp contrast to the deeply satisfying experience of making healthful foods in our own kitchens. I especially encourage you to discover the delicious simplicity of making a few home-fermented foods. It’s a sure-fire way to add culture(s) to your life — double entendre intended!

Report: GE crops increase pesticide use

Many Americans assume genetically engineered (GE) crops reduce pesticide use, and they did, in the beginning at least — the first three years when GE corn, soybeans and cotton were planted. But since then, the opposite is true.

Your co-op, January 2010

Board meeting report, Fall member meeting recap, 2010 board candidate slate, and more