News bites, July 2010

This article was originally published in July 2010

Organic for cancer prevention

The President’s Cancer Panel report exhorts consumers to choose food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and added growth hormones to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer. The report, “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” is available at (Organic Trade Association)

Pesticides linked to ADHD

Researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard have concluded that dietary exposure to organophosphate (OP) insecticides increases the risk of children getting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

They measured levels of OP metabolites in the urine of 1,139 children ages 8 to 15. For each 10-fold increase in OP metabolite levels, the risk of ADHD increased 55 to 72 percent.

The effect was seen even at the low end of the exposure curve. The authors believe fruits and vegetables are the primary source of OP exposures among these children. (Pediatrics)

More fruit and vegetables

A report from the White House on fighting childhood obesity says vegetable and fruit production will have to increase 70 percent for Americans to comply with dietary guidelines. It says children eat only 46 percent of the recommended level for vegetables and 64 percent of the recommended amount of fruit. To reduce childhood obesity from the current 20 percent to 5 percent, the report outlines methods to subsidize produce consumption through school meals. (Capital Press)

Teachers buy students’ food

According to America’s teachers, the federal school lunch program is not meeting the needs of students. According to Funny Times, 63 percent of U.S. public grade-school teachers buy food for hungry students every month. Teachers reportedly say they have to help their students stay focused in class. (Harper’s Index)

State employees in CSA

More than 200 of the 900 employees at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia have signed up to receive weekly boxes of fresh produce from three local farms. The pilot project of Washington Wellness and the Department of Agriculture is part of an initiative to build a stronger Community Supported Agriculture program in the South Sound. (The Olympian)

Big farms still get subsidies

The richest farmers in the United States still are getting the lion’s share of federal farm subsidies, despite promises that the last Farm Bill would shift support to smaller farms. Data obtained by the Environmental Working Group shows just 10 percent of the nation’s farmers got 62 percent of the payments in 2009, roughly the same as in 2007 and 2008. ( Press)

Fruit fly threatens fruit crops

Armed with $1.2 million in federal funding, Washington State University scientists are trying to beat back the advance of the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) into the Pacific Northwest. Introduced into California in 2008, SWD is a red-eyed “vinegar fly” that attacks ripening and rotting fruit.

The fly has spread rapidly northward along the Pacific coast into Oregon and Washington and is considered a serious threat to Northwest fruit crops such as strawberry, cherry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, plum, pluot and nectarine, and may be a threat to wine grapes. (Washington State University)

Grazing cows reduces greenhouse gases

Biologists long have assumed that livestock were partly responsible for rising levels of NO2, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, but new research shows that in some places, grazing actually reduces NO2 emissions.

In colder climates, snow on grazed land blows away, exposing the ground and making subsurface temperatures too cold for some soil microbes — which emit NO2 — to survive. Ungrazed grasslands have microbes ready to churn out nitrous oxide and snowmelt to provide the water they need. (Nature/

GE trees planted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a controversial field test of genetically engineered (GE) trees across seven states in the southern timber belt. The trial could involve more than 200,000 GE eucalyptus trees on 28 sites over 300 acres from Florida to Texas. The permit is being issued to ArborGen, a biotech company owned by three forest products companies. (The New York Times)

EU approves GE potato

The first GE crop to win approval in the European Union (EU) in more than 10 years is a potato. It’s called the Amflora potato, developed by BASF, and is intended for animal feed and industrial use. The only GE potato approved for U.S. markets was the New Leaf potato in the 1990s; it was scrapped when fast food chains rejected it. (Capital Press)

Haitian farmers burn out Monsanto

In Haiti, trying to recover from a crippling earthquake, farmers of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) say they’ll burn 475 tons of corn and vegetable seeds from Monsanto. The seeds were donated through a USAID program and are not genetically engineered (GE) but rather are hybrid seeds, which do not grow “true” from saved seed and must be bought every year for planting.

The MPP says the seeds would make Haiti a slave colony for Monsanto and says farmers instead need help establishing seed banks of their own local, organic, Creole seeds. (Organic Consumers Association)

Also in this issue

Food safety within reach: Local is the natural answer

Nature isn’t a sterile factory. Bacteria are soil’s heartiest and most productive inhabitants, but the pathogenic bugs that compromise human and animal health are the ones that capture our attention.

Letters to the editor, July 2010

Young opinions, Bakery too sweet, Protein, and more