News bites, February 2011

This article was originally published in February 2011

Chocolate protects against stroke

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University say they’ve discovered that a chemical found naturally in dark chocolate, epicatechin, can help protect against strokes. They induced strokes in mice and then dosed them with epicatechin to see how the chemical acted in their bodies. They found that epicatechin activated biochemical pathways known to protect brain cells from damage. (NaturalNews)

Renewable energy co-op

PCC is the first business member of a new cooperative that will create, fund and manage the first community renewable energy project in Washington state. Project plans include installing a 75-kilowatt community solar energy system in Edmonds atop the Frances Anderson Community Center. Chris Herman of Sustainable Edmonds says the cooperative is expected to produce up to 75,000 kilowatt hours annually. (Edmonds Enterprise)

Washington organics rank

New data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show Washington state ranks #2 in the nation with $281 million in organic farm-gate sales. Washington is the #1 producer of apples, pears and cherries, both organic and non-organic, and accounts for 31 percent of those crop sales nationwide. (Capital Press)

Farm veterinarians needed

The number of veterinarians who choose to work with farm animals instead of household pets is declining, increasing food safety concerns. Vets that care for cows, pigs, chickens and sheep generally earn less than small-animal pet vets and the American Veterinary Medical Association says only 2 percent of recent graduates plan to work with large farm animals. The U.S. House passed a bill providing incentives and assistance for farm vets; it’s now before the Senate. (Capital Press)

Colony Collapse Disorder

Beekeepers and environmentalists are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a stop-use order for the pesticide, clothianidin, which they say contributes to Colony Collapse Disorder among bees. A leaked EPA memo shows clothianidin (product name “Poncho”) has been allowed since 2003 under “conditional registration” while waiting for its manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, to assess any threat to bees. Critics say that of 94 active pesticide ingredients released since 1997, 70 percent have conditional registrations. (Beyond Pesticides)

West Virginia sues Monsanto

West Virginia’s attorney general is suing Monsanto for refusing to provide information that might support claims that its GE soybeans are as good as advertised. The lawsuit would prohibit the company from doing business in the state until it complies with the subpoena. West Virginia began investigating Monsanto’s claims after two university studies and a pair of independent research firms questioned whether the new seeds deliver what is promised. (STL Today)

Antibiotics in animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first time has released an estimate on the amount of antibiotics sold for use in livestock, figuring use in 2009 was just shy of 29 million pounds. The FDA now is requiring meat producers to report their antibiotic use to help create a baseline for measuring use. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 percent of the antibiotics and drugs used nationwide are fed to livestock. (Food Politics)

Kids like low-sugar cereal

A new study finds that children are glad to eat low-sugar breakfast cereals if given choices and that many kids compensate for the missing sweetness by choosing fruit instead. Researchers at Yale University studied a group of 5- to 12-year-olds, where half could choose a high-sugar cereal and half could choose a low-sugar cereal. Kids in both groups were happy with their choices but those in the high-sugar group consumed almost twice as much refined sugar and ate less fruit than the others. (

Korea restricts junk food ads

In South Korea, the Health Ministry has banned TV advertising between 5 and 7 p.m. for foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Such ads will be prohibited at any time during children’s TV programs. Consumer groups had argued that one out of five children in South Korea is overweight. (AFP)

New vitamin D standard

The Institute of Medicine, under the National Academy of Sciences, has issued new “reference values” for consumption of vitamin D and calcium. It’s recommending a slight increase for vitamin D from 400 IU to 600 IU. It says most Americans and Canadians up to age 70 need no more than 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day to maintain health; those 71 and older may need 800 IUs. (Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D)

More trade with Cuba

The National Pork Producers Council is supporting legislation to lift the ban against travel and direct financial dealings with Cuba. The council cites a study from Iowa State University, which determined pork exports to Cuba would more than triple if restrictions were lifted. The United States ships some pork to Cuba now but U.S. and Cuban banks have to go through intermediaries. (Capital Press)

Impact of COOL unclear

The impact of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on cattle imports into the United States remains ambiguous two years after implementation. Some U.S. proponents of the rule say loopholes have undercut the law’s effectiveness, while the governments of Canada and Mexico have continued to attack the rule as violating WTO obligations. Cattle shipments from Canada and Mexico rose sharply in 2010 over 2009. (Capital Press)

Also in this issue

Polenta at PCC

We have thick-grain polenta, one with a finer grind, and some that are already made and packaged, ready to eat. All are organic. So whether you have an hour, 10 minutes, or no time at all to cook, you’ll find this versatile food in a form that will fit your needs — breakfast through dessert!

Organic farmers are the new rock stars

A cultural shift is underway in the world of farming, and not a moment too soon. Increasing numbers of young growers are gathering together to share skills, knowledge and resources in order to make it possible for new generations of farmers to overcome a huge range of obstacles.

Letters to the editor, February 2011

Milk, Whole grain bakery?, Extruded cereal grains, and more