Letters to the editor, March 2011

This article was originally published in March 2011

GE alfalfa, GE sugar beets

I am a grass-fed cattle rancher in Eastern Washington, have raised alfalfa for nearly 40 years, and am gravely concerned about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to release GMO alfalfa. After years of planning and increased costs, my land is close to achieving organic certification. We ranchers and farmers are facing a choice: do we continue with certification, or give up? Half of my 100 acres is alfalfa.

USDA’s decision on GE alfalfa (and GE sugar beets, too) really boils down to loss of freedom. I want to be able to choose to raise organic, grass-fed beef. Consumers should be able to buy what they want. All Americans should be very concerned about losing their right to choose what kind of food they want.

This is a Pearl Harbor moment for the organic community and all consumers. We can give up our right of choice, or we can fight for freedom. I opt to keep my choices. How about you?
— Maurice Robinette, Lazy R Ranch, Cheney, Wash., Lazyrbeef.com


My family and I will stop by the Edmonds store this week to take a look around. Out of curiosity, do you sell organic poultry? We purchased a side of organic grass-fed beef from right here in the Puget Sound and I am on the trail of some organic lamb as well.

I’m writing to ask these questions because I read what the Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack did, allowing GE alfalfa unrestricted. We will write the President and call our Senators and Representative to try to change what is going on with GE crops. 

Two questions: Is the produce sold at PCC genetically engineered? Are the meats and poultry fed GE feed? Thanks,
— Scott McDowell

PCC quality standards specialist Goldie Caughlan replies: None of the produce at PCC is genetically engineered. Our Hawaiian papaya comes from Kumu Farms on the island of Molokai. All its papayas are non-GMO.

In meat and poultry, we have a non-GMO choice in every category. Our pork farmer, Pure Country Farms, is the first meat vendor in the U.S. to be Non-GMO Project Verified. (Pure Country Farms also is working on organic certification.) In poultry, we have certified organic chicken, produced locally by Draper Valley Farms in the Mt. Vernon area. We sell organic turkey year-round from the freezer case, and always fresh organic during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. We sell organic beef (Eel River, from Northern California) that’s also 100 percent grass-fed. Our lamb from Oregon’s Umpqua Valley is wonderful, always fresh, and although not certified organic, it’s pastured year-round and very sustainably produced.

The producers of PCC’s non-organic meats, Ranger chicken and Country Natural Beef, currently do not screen to keep GMOs out of their animal feed.


I would like to know whether PCC will continue carrying Organic Valley and Stonyfield products after their betrayal? As you are probably aware, these two companies, as well as Whole Foods Market, supported USDA’s complete deregulation of the planting of GM alfalfa, courtesy of Monsanto.

Since this information came out, I decided that I will not be supporting any of these companies and I would like to know what the stance of PCC is on this matter. If it happens that you do not know the answer to my question, can you please forward my email to your corporate offices?
— Ula T.

Editor replies: I can’t speak for Whole Foods but I know Organic Valley and Stonyfield did not betray anything or anyone. They wanted what we all wanted — a total ban. USDA refused to discuss that, it was off the table, leaving only deregulation or deregulation with restrictions.

We saw the allegation that these companies behaved badly on this issue but the origin of this information (cited in your full letter) refers to a source we know has misleading and even outright inaccurate information. PCC has been closely involved in this effort, as has the National Cooperative Grocers Association, of which we are a member. We totally disagree with the call for a boycott of these brands.

Intentionally inflammatory, unfair and inaccurate reports do consumers a great disservice. Organic Valley and Stonyfield certainly deserve to stay on our shelves.


I am very glad PCC takes on the role of reasoned actions around the latest GE developments. The connections of foods and our own health as individuals and as a community are cornerstones PCC is entrusted with, and you do a great job. It is hard to find any other organization but PCC where people can go to get the relevant food/health information on everything concerning food. Thanks! Best regards to all,
— Alexander Rist, PCC Board of Trustees, 2002 to 2010

Special deli order

I want to thank the folks at the Greenlake PCC deli department that put together an order for me. My father-in-law passed away and we had a family gathering in his memory; my husband and I were tasked with providing the food. I went online and viewed the options at PCC and thought they sounded just right (our group has a diversity of special dietary needs).

I shop at PCC regularly but had never ordered any of the deli platters before. Everything was ready on time and was easy to transfer to my car. Everyone remarked on the beautiful presentation of the food, the great taste, and the high quality. Even something as simple as celery had a bright, delicious flavor. Afterwards, I found out that one of the family members planned on using PCC for the next catered event at her business.

Thanks so much for providing such a wonderful feast at such a difficult time.
— Deborah Fishler

Pesticide drift

I got a call today from a woman in Moses Lake who read my article in the January [2011] issue (The Farm Worker Pesticide Project: protecting people and the planet). She would like to make copies to share with people there, including an individual with health problems potentially associated with orchard pesticides.

Does she need your permission to do that? I certainly have no problem with her making copies and would be glad to see it happen. Thanks for replying and thanks again for the chance to do the article.
— Carol Dansereau, Farm Worker, Pesticide Project, www.fwpp.org

Editor replies: It’s perfectly all right for readers to download Sound Consumer articles from our online posting for educational purposes.

Bisphenol A

Thank you for letting us know about the issue of bisphenol A (BPA) in many cash register receipts. My wife and I have been contacting retailers to verify whether BPA is present in their receipts and let them know about the Environmental Working Group study on the issue. I am happy that BPA in receipts is getting some notice by retailers and it looks like they’re trying to find an alternative.

When I contacted the Kroger family of stores, including QFC and Fred Meyer, I was referred to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website and a link to info. EPA has issued an action plan for bisphenol A and one of the suppliers of receipt tape, Appleton Paper, has announced that it’s discontinuing use of BPA.
— John Malcomson, happy PCC member and Sound Consumer reader


I read the Sound Consumer regularly and have been following the discussion about cash register receipts and the chemicals they contain. One writer recently claimed that receipts should be put in the trash, not the recycle bin, because of these chemicals.

I contacted Allied Waste, one of the largest trash and recycle companies in the country and put this question to them. I was told that this is misinformation and that the receipts can very well be placed in the recycle with other paper products.
— Bruce Miller, Issaquah

Editor replies: Yes, paper register receipts physically can be recycled; the paper is recyclable. However, experts are advising consumers to throw all receipts in the trash because the BPA will reappear in other recycled products.

Food safety

I note with alarm in January’s letters that “PCC supports giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased authority to inspect and recall suspect foods …”

FDA inspects less than one pound in a million of imported foods, let alone its other responsibilities. In other words, FDA has no impact one way or another on the number of people, some 5,000 per year, who die of food poisoning. 

It is not possible for it to do so. If we believe inspections matter, we want at least 10 percent inspection rate or 100,000 pounds per million. To get there we need to bump the 2011 budget up 50,000 times, an FDA budget of 200 trillion dollars and 733 million inspectors.

Food safety begins and ends with the cook, and the cook commands what happens in the chain from grower through supplier. Why do we pretend FDA can enhance food safety when it cannot? Why do we pretend cooks cannot when they do?

I look forward to the day when PCC supports the elimination of FDA, USDA, and concomitant reduction in tax burden and let all those newly released experts start small farms.
— John Spiers

Muffin recipe wanted

I am desperately looking for a recipe for a low-fat and low-sugar muffin, using brown rice or oat flour. Do you think you can find a muffin with three grams (or less) of sugar and fat? My request would be for you to find a recipe that has only a few ingredients, of which fresh fruit could be an option. I like making simple recipes. Respectfully yours,
— Mary L. Swirsky

Editor replies: Do any PCC members have such a recipe? We shared this request with our PCC Cooks program and all the talented folks in our bakery but so far everyone indicates that limiting fat and sugar both to three grams or less means any resulting product may be closer to a bar or cracker than a muffin. Anyone?

Also in this issue

Mouthwatering miso

Salty-sweet and deliciously savory, miso is a flavorful paste made of fermented soybeans and grain, such as rice or barley. It traditionally is used in Japanese cooking but also can add a twist to many non-Asian soups, dips, marinades and more.

Basic necessities for farming: soil, water and equipment

We recently evaluated a gorgeous piece of property with prime agricultural soils in the Puget Sound region owned by an elderly couple. The property has not been farmed for over 40 years and although it has many good attributes — including a willing seller and great soil — it lacks some basic necessities for farming: water rights and farming infrastructure.