News bites, May 2010

This article was originally published in May 2010

Soda tax helps weight loss?

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine estimates that an 18 percent tax on pizza and soda could help reduce U.S. adults’ calorie intake enough to lower their average weight by 5 pounds per year. Researchers at the University of North Carolina analyzed the diets and health of 5,115 young adults and food price data over a 20-year period (1985 to 2006). They found that a 10 percent increase in cost was linked with a 7 percent decrease in the amount of calories consumed from soda, and a 12 percent decrease in calories consumed from pizza. (Reuters)

U.S. allows GE sugar beets

A U.S. federal judge has denied a request by organic seed growers and food safety groups seeking a temporary ban on genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets and sugar beet seeds. In issuing his ruling, Judge Jeffrey White said, however, that farmers and seed companies should not become complacent in using the GE beets permanently because the court will consider a ban for future seasons, pending an environmental review. Sugar beets provide about half the country’s sugar; 95 percent are now GE. (The Center for Food Safety)

Seven states probe Monsanto

At least seven U.S. state attorneys general are investigating whether Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed producer, has abused its market power to lock out competitors and raise prices. Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and two unidentified states have joined a working group to examine whether Monsanto violated any laws. Monsanto allegedly has offered rebates to distributors for excluding rival seeds, imposed limits on combining genetic enhancements, and offered cash incentives to switch farmers to a more expensive generation of seeds. (

Pesticide ruling alarms industry

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a lower court decision allowing pesticides to be regulated as pollutants under Clean Water regulations. The American Farm Bureau and CropLife America had challenged the ruling, saying it would dramatically expand the scope of the Clean Water Act and burden farmers with new rules. The Environmental Protection Agency already has started writing new regulations for pesticide use around waterways. (Capital Press)

Corn pesticide hormone disruptor?

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that male frogs exposed during development to low levels of the herbicide atrazine (2.5 parts per billion) are, in effect, chemically castrated and turn into females. About 10 percent of the male frogs that go through this morphological change can have babies. Atrazine typically is used on nonorganic corn crops and is found in 75 percent of streams and about 40 percent of groundwater samples. (The Organic Center)

Bluefin tuna going extinct

The Bluefin tuna, prized for sushi, is nearing extinction in the North Atlantic. An international proposal to ban exports of the endangered Bluefin was rejected by a United Nations convention. The United States had supported the proposal, backed by more than 170 other nations. Bluefin are down to just 3 percent of their abundance in 1960, when the longline fishing method fostered overfishing. (Associated Press)

Women who drink gain less weight

New research suggests that women who regularly consume moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to gain weight than nondrinkers and are at lower risk for obesity. The findings, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, are based on a study of 19,220 U.S. women aged 39 or older who were normal weight at the start of the study and whose drinking habits were tracked for 13 years. Over the course of the study, the women who didn’t drink any alcohol gained more weight — an average of 9 pounds — compared with an average 3-pound weight gain among regular moderate drinkers. (The New York Times)

Swiss prohibit GE crops

The Swiss Parliament has extended its ban on the cultivation of GE plants for three more years. The ban that began in 2005 now will keep Switzerland GE-free until at least 2013. (

Vatican warns against GE foods

GE food crops could be used as “weapons of infliction of hunger and poverty” if they’re managed unjustly, said the new head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Peter Turkson is urging an attitude of caution and more studies into the risks from GE food, and the impact on small farmers. (GE News List/ Catholic News Service)

China growing GE rice and corn

The Chinese government has granted safety approvals for genetically engineered corn and rice, the first GE food staples likely to be approved for market after field trials. The Chinese government has allowed GE cotton for the past decade but these are the first GE food staples to be grown in China. (Associated Press)

Also in this issue

Your co-op, May 2010

PCC annual board election, Meet the candidates — virtually and in person, Member mailing, and more

Letters to the editor, May 2010

Green cleaning tip, Bee workshop, Missing PCC, and more

Insights by Goldie: Restarting organic standards?

During my term on the NOSB as a consumer representative from 2002 to 2006, I learned a lot — mostly that a peek behind the curtain at Oz isn’t necessarily what one imagines or hopes for! Congress had vested the NOSB with considerably more authority and a more extensive workload than is typical for other unpaid citizen boards.This appeared to rankle certain USDA career staff during my time there.