News bites, October 2010

This article was originally published in October 2010

Organic strawberries more nutritious

Organic produce has more nutrients than conventionally grown, according to a Washington State University study. The study examined berries from 26 operations in California and found organic strawberries had significantly more antioxidants and vitamin C, and a slightly longer shelf-life than non-organic. The organically farmed soils were more genetically diverse and excelled in carbon sequestration. (The Seattle Times)

Regulations to stop “greenwashing”?

The Federal Trade Commission is considering guidelines for environmental marketing, which may change how far marketers can go in calling products, packaging or corporate brands “green.” The guides are expected to tighten standards for claims such as “recyclable” or “biodegradable” and regulate use of terms such as “carbon neutral” and “carbon offsets.” They also may try to define “sustainability” or tackle the key issue of many “greenwashing” controversies: how “green” a product can be when it also has detrimental environmental impacts. (

Chicken limit increased

Seattle’s City Council has updated its land-use code to encourage urban farming. The new rules allow residents to sell food grown on their property and in rooftop greenhouses. Also, the number of chickens allowed per lot increased from three to eight, with additional chickens allowed on large lots associated with community gardens and urban farms. The legislation prohibits new roosters and says chicken coops must be 10 feet from primary residential structures. (City of Seattle)

GE canola

Genetically engineered (GE) canola has been found growing freely in the United States. Ecologist Cynthia Sagers and her team found two varieties of transgenic canola in North Dakota — one engineered to absorb the herbicide Roundup and another that expresses the herbicide (gluphosinate). Some plants are resistant to both herbicides, showing that GE canola strains are crossbreeding and producing novel plants with new traits that don’t exist anywhere else. (

Cancer feeds on fructose

A study from the University of California-Los Angeles challenges the common assumption that all sugars are the same. The journal “Cancer Research” reports that pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate. Researchers found that tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways and that cancer cells can metabolize fructose readily to proliferate. The researchers say the finding may help explain other studies that link fructose consumption with pancreatic cancer. (Reuters)

Pesticide exposure database

Links to pesticide exposure are being found in a growing number of studies that evaluate the causes of preventable diseases, including asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and several cancers. The public health group, Beyond Pesticides, used a new database, tracking published and real-world pesticide exposures. It’s calling for regulatory triggers to adopt alternatives. (

Fluoride and pregnancy

A study in “Current Science” concludes that women who avoid fluoride during pregnancy can reduce anemia and decrease the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Researchers say maternal anemia and under-nutrition can be caused by “the derangement of nutrient absorption due to damage in the digestive tract.” Avoiding fluoride apparently allows the intestinal lining to regenerate, which enhances absorption of nutrients. Previously published research indicates fluoride also can interfere with the reproductive system. (

Beetle threatens coffee crop

A tiny insect known as the coffee berry borer beetle has been devastating coffee plants around the world and research suggests global warming may be to blame. The beetle thrives in warm temperatures and has become widespread only recently. It causes more than $500 million in damages each year, making it the most costly pest affecting coffee today. Coffee growers have tried various tactics to stop the beetle, including pesticides, to no avail. (The Guardian)

GE salmon approval?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared genetically engineered salmon safe for human consumption, even though the FDA’s own tests reportedly found elevated levels of IGF-1 growth factor, a suspected carcinogen. The FDA also indicates it will approve GE salmon for commercial production. The transgenic fish from AquaBounty Technologies supposedly grows twice as fast as natural fish and is the first GE animal meant for human consumption. It would not be labeled as a GE product. (The Center for Food Safety)

Tractor sales up

The number of four-wheel-drive tractors has surged by 23 percent so far in 2010 but the increased demand may be due to factors other than the farm economy. Starting next year, stricter emissions standards for large tractor engines take effect. Some analysts think farmers are buying tractors now, which are less expensive without the expensive new technology. (Capital Press)

Also in this issue

Your co-op, October 2010

Fall member meeting, Edmonds PCC Salmon Safe Certified, Public policy update, and more

Letters to the editor, October 2010

Organic CAN feed the world, High fructose corn syrup, The flavor industry, and more