News bites, December 2010

This article was originally published in December 2010

Washington conservation acres

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added 25,000 acres of land to wildlife conservation projects in Washington. Through the Farm Service Agency and Conservation Reserve program, farmers and ranchers play a key role in protecting and restoring wildlife that may be threatened or endangered. In Douglas County, Wash., the new acreage will be used to help conserve habitat for sage-grouse. (Food CEO News)

Columbia River Basin drying up?

Hydrologists are predicting that four counties in eastern Washington will run out of well water in the next 10 years. The Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area group says the aquifers had 50 to 60 million acre feet of water in the 1960s, but today only 10 to 20 million acre feet are left. Most of the water being used today is stored from the Ice Age and is not recharging. (Capital Press)

Consumers reject cloning

Consumers are continuing to reject the idea of eating meat and dairy from cloned animals. In 2007 a Lempert Report survey found that 88 percent of the consumers surveyed want all foods and beverages from cloned animals or their offspring to be labeled. In 2010 the figure rose to 90 percent. When asked if they believe such foods are safe to eat, respondents expressed considerable doubt: 34 percent said “No” in 2007; 39 percent said “No” in 2010. (Lempert Report)

Food education helps students

A three-year UC Berkeley study shows that students who learn about food at school have better eating habits than children who don’t. Researchers followed the eating patterns of 238 fourth- and fifth-graders and found that students who take cooking and garden classes, and have improved cafeteria lunches in nicer dining rooms, increased fruit and vegetable consumption by 1.5 servings a day. These students also scored higher on nutrition tests, asked for more leafy greens, and were more aware of how eating choices can help or hurt the environment. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Fluoride alert for infants

A new study confirms that infants fed formula reconstituted with fluoridated water are at greater risk of developing discolored teeth, called dental fluorosis. The American Dental Association reportedly warned dentists about this in 2006 but has done little or nothing to inform Americans with fluoridated drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32 percent of American children have dental fluorosis, an increase of 23 percent from the 1980s. (Journal of the American Dental Association)

Omega-3s linked to longevity

Research is demonstrating a potential new link between omega-3 fatty acids from seafood and the aging process. Cardiologists from San Francisco General Hospital and others found that heart patients with high levels of omega-3s in their bloodstream experienced significantly less shortening of “telomeres” over a five-year period, compared to patients with lower omega-3 levels. Telomeres are stretches of DNA, whose length correlates with longevity. The study focused only on omega-3s from marine sources, such as fish, not vegetable sources, such as walnuts. (Wall Street Journal/Journal of the American Medical Association)

Junk food kids

Nearly 40 percent of calories consumed by children ages 2 to 18 comes from junk foods such as soda, fruit drinks, pizza, cakes, cookies, donuts and ice cream. The finding comes from researchers at the National Cancer Institute who analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. (ABC News)

Unsafe pesticide allowed till 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a deal with Bayer CropScience to end use of a highly toxic insecticide, Aldicarb, by 2018. EPA says new toxicity data shows Aldicarb no longer meets food safety standards and that infants and children may be consuming 300 to 500 times more than a safe level. Aldicarb residues are found in non-organic grapefruit, oranges, orange juice, potatoes, frozen French fries and sweet potatoes. It’s also used on dry beans, soybeans, peanuts, sugar beets and cotton. (Environmental Health News)

Food allergies growing

The largest study to date on food allergies, published in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,” indicates that food allergies are among the most common medical conditions in the United States, and growing. The National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University found that about 7.5 million people, or almost 3 percent of Americans, have a potentially life-threatening allergy to peanuts, dairy, eggs or shellfish. Children, men and African-Americans have higher rates. (Los Angeles Times)

Monsanto stock plummets

Net income for Monsanto, the leading developer of genetically engineered crops, plunged to $1.1 billion from $2.1 billion a year earlier. Sales and profits from its Roundup herbicide declined due to low-priced generics and disappointing results from its new SmartStax corn. With eight engineered genes, SmartStax yields no more than corn with only three engineered genes. (The New York Times)

Also in this issue

Donations and gifts of all sizes

What do you give your favorite foodie who doesn’t want more stuff but savors the tangible experience of local, organic food and the people behind it? Introduce them to the farmers and chefs working with PCC Farmland Trust to save local, organic farmland forever!

Insights by Goldie: Bright lights shine in the dark season

By nature, I’m a doggedly hopeful realist, but no Pollyanna. I know times are tough, and getting more so. But I have hope. In particular, when it comes to food production systems.