News bites, April 2010

This article was originally published in April 2010

More farms in Washington

A new report from the Office of Farmland Preservation indicates farming is on an upswing in Washington state — the number of farms rose 6 percent between 2000 and 2008, with 90 percent owned by individuals or families. Washington now has about the same number of farms as it did in 1970.

The total acreage in farming has shrunk but net farm income is higher than it’s been in nearly 20 years. The report says local food processing also has grown, and that the number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled since 1998. (The Seattle Times)

Non-GMO #1

The Nielsen marketing and media information company reports that the fastest growing health and wellness claim among store brands in 2009 was “GMO-free,” with sales of these items up 67 percent to $60.2 million. Thousands of organic and natural food products are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program, which employs testing and Best Practices to prevent GMO contamination. The second-fastest growing claim was “Gluten-free.” (Sustainable Food News)

GE alfalfa comments

The National Organic Coalition says more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. An estimated 270,000 public comments were received by the USDA in the late 1990s when national organic standards were defined. (National Organic Coalition)

USDA defines pasturing

The USDA’s National Organic Program has published new rules defining what kind of milk qualifies as organic, closing loopholes that had allowed some milk to be labeled organic even though the cows rarely grazed on pasture. The new rules require organic cows to graze on pasture at least 120 days a year. The original organic rules said dairy cows must have access to pasture but didn’t stipulate the provisions specified in the new rule. (Food Politics/The Cornucopia Institute)

Prison term for false organic marketing

A Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) inspection has resulted in a 24-month prison sentence for Basilio Coronado, who was found to be falsely portraying his company’s produce as organic. Coronado also must pay more than $523,000 in restitution and is prohibited from participating in the USDA organic program for five years.

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says, “The message is clear: if you illegally market your products and try to defraud consumers, we will catch you and you’ll pay a high price.” (Texas Department of Agriculture)

Bob’s Red Mill gift

Instead of selling his company upon retirement, Bob Moore, owner of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, has gifted it to his 209 employees through a stock-ownership plan. With 400 offerings of stone-ground flours, cereals and bread mixes, the company is estimated to be worth more than $24 million. “In some ways I had a choice,” Moore said. “But in my heart, I didn’t. These people are far too good at their jobs for me to just sell it.” (Associated Press)

Monsanto “faked” data, insider claims

The former managing director of Monsanto India, Tiruvadi Jagadisan, says the company faked scientific data submitted to government regulatory agencies to get approvals for its products in India. Jagadisan says the government was supposed to approve crops based on the location and crop-specific data from India, but instead accepted foreign data supplied by Monsanto.

“They did not even have a test tube to validate the data and, at times, the data itself was faked,” said Jagadisan, who is perhaps the first industry insider to criticize Monsanto publicly. (BBC News/India Today)

India defers first GM food crop

India has deferred the commercial cultivation of what would have been its first GE vegetable crop, Bt brinjal (a variety of eggplant), due to safety concerns. It was approved by government scientists in 2009, but Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says more studies are needed to ensure GE eggplant is safe for consumers and the environment. India is the largest producer of eggplant in the world and grows more than 4,000 varieties. (BBC News)

Sauerkraut as good as Viagra

A study at King’s College London by a prominent Croatian nutritionist, Lejla Kazinic Kreho, reportedly confirmed that “pickled cabbage” (a.k.a. sauerkraut) is as effective as Viagra at increasing sexual function in men. Kreho says cabbage is one of the most powerful natural aphrodisiacs and that the study’s data is conclusive. She suggests men try eating cabbage twice a day. (Times of India)

Soda linked to pancreatic cancer

Drinking two sodas a week may double your risk of getting pancreatic cancer, according to a new study. Researchers studied diet and cancer occurrence for up to 14 years in 60,524 men and women enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study, and found that people who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals consuming no soft drinks.

The study’s lead author, Noel Mueller, a researcher at Georgetown University Medical Center, says the sugar in the soft drinks increases the insulin level in the body, which he thinks contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth. (WebMD)

Also in this issue

Agave: considering the issues

Agave syrup (or nectar) is an increasingly popular sweetener used in drinks, nutrition bars and some desserts. It’s also increasingly controversial. Agave syrup has about the same number of calories per teaspoon as white sugar but its lower glycemic index doesn’t cause as great a rise in blood sugar.

Your co-op, April 2010

Notice of annual member dinner meeting, Make your voice heard — please vote, Meet the candidates and enjoy great PCC food, and more