News bites, March 2010

This article was originally published in March 2010

Organic Valley benefits

Congratulations PCC shoppers! The Organic Valley dairy cooperative has calculated how much your support for its products has meant for a healthier food system. In just one year — from August 2008 to August 2009 — your purchases of Organic Valley milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products has meant that 67,245 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer and 818 pounds of synthetic herbicides and pesticides were not used.

Over the past 20 years, Organic Valley practices have kept 89.5 million pounds of nitrogen fertilizer and 1.25 million pounds of pesticides out of the environment. (Organic Valley/“Organic Counts!”)

Justice sues Dean Foods

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Dean Foods, the nation’s largest dairy company, alleging that Dean Foods bought a small Wisconsin dairy to squash competition and drive up milk prices. The acquisition gave Dean Foods a 57 percent market share in parts of Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The company has acquired more than 100 smaller companies since 1996, leaving some regions in Wisconsin with only one milk supplier. (Associated Press)

GE traits transfer to animals

For the first time, there’s evidence of large concentrations of transgenic DNA — from genetically engineered (GE) corn — in animals. Scientists in Canada found the GE transgene from Roundup Ready® corn in numerous soil-dwelling animals, demonstrating that GE transgenes do not degrade significantly within the food web. The transgene was found in all animals tested, including arthropods, nematodes, insects and earthworms. The findings suggest that there’s opportunity for genetic transformation into non-GE plants and humans from GE-contaminated soil. (Miranda Hart, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada)

Monsanto case at Supreme Court

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case about the risks of GE crops. Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms involves alfalfa seed engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup. A federal court ruled in 2006 that GE alfalfa would hurt both organic and non-organic farmers. (GE News List)

FDA changes view on BPA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done an about face and now is expressing concerns about potential risks to health from bisphenol-A (BPA), a component of plastic bottles and food packaging that it declared safe in 2008. The FDA says now that it has “some concerns about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,” and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans. (The New York Times)

Genetics and obesity

The role of genetics in obesity is smaller than previously thought, according to a new study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” European researchers studied the genomes of 20,000 people and found that the genes for Body Mass Index may be responsible for less than 1 percent of obese people. Lifestyle and diet reportedly are more influential factors. (Food Production Daily)

Sustainability of pollock

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has downgraded wild-caught Alaskan pollock — often used for fishsticks — from a “best choice” for sustainability to a “good alternative.” Bycatch increasingly includes endangered species such as Chinook salmon, and pollock is an important food for endangered Steller sea lions and northern fur seals. Some aspects of the pollock fishery are managed effectively, allowing it to be considered an acceptable alternative. (Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program)

New co-op

A new, natural food co-op has opened in a northwest Chicago neighborhood, Logan Square. The Dill Pickle Food Co-op is starting out as a one-room storefront with 1,400 square feet, and is offering foods that are organic, local, fairly traded, and produced by cooperatives. There’s some fresh produce, a bulk section, and frozen meats and poultry produced without added hormones or antibiotics. Dairy products include non-homogenized and pasteurized (but no ultra-pasteurized) milk, and raw milk cheeses from nearby Wisconsin. (

Farm worker pesticide protections

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing increased protections for farm workers and their children from exposure to pesticides. The EPA proposal would be more comprehensive, taking into account the exposure to children of farm workers and the cumulative effects of exposure. (Office of Pesticide Programs, Docket 7502P)

Russia bans U.S. poultry, pork

Russia has banned imports of U.S. poultry and pork because of concerns about the way they’re produced. Russia reportedly is concerned that U.S. poultry frequently is dipped in a chlorine solution to kill bacteria, and it’s disputing standards for antibiotic residues in U.S. pork. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to revisit current laws and has introduced legislation to stop non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. (Agri-Pulse Communications)

Related Reading

New PCC Web design

We hope you come visit our redesigned, reengineered and recharged Web site. Thanks to our virtual spring cleaning, it’s now easier to find delicious recipes, co-op events, food news and a wealth of helpful new features.

Celebrating nourishment

There is one distinct difference between nutrition and nourishment: you can buy foods with quality nutrition, but nourishment cannot be bought. Nourishment is based on three principles: balance, moderation and enjoyment.

Letters to the editor, March 2010

Let food be your medicine, GE resistance, Free-range chicken feed?, and more