Letters to the editor, April 2011

This article was originally published in April 2011

Edmonds frisée

I got some great service from Matt Lebow, the produce coordinator at the Edmonds PCC, my home store. He ordered in and held some frisée I needed for a catering event. The frisée was just gorgeous — truly top rate — and I wanted to thank him and let him know what I did with the frisée, and the beets and the duck eggs I also bought at PCC!
— Erica Strauss

GE alfalfa

I have been a member of PCC since 1977. Having read several documents, articles and research about genetic engineering, I’m alarmed in the extreme. I belong to several organizations that are reacting in similar fashion. Some are posting challenges on Facebook. Some are planning a march in Washington, D.C. against Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decisions allowing GE deregulations.

Sec. Tom Vilsack and USDA have accepted insufficient safety testing/methodology to allow these releases and the deregulations are despite warnings from many professional groups, among them the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and the Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (psrast.org). The latter group has excellent documentation on the lack of GE “safety” testing.

What is PCC doing to protect our organics? What can members do to assist in this challenge? Are you distributing leaflets to members and/or to the public? Are you on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to ring the alarm? Thank you for any information you can provide. I believe we are in the fight of our lives.
— Joann R. Thompson, member


G & L Farms was fortunate enough to be the location for the “Beefing up the Palouse” project. The project took place on 500 acres of certified organic grass alfalfa pasture.

Our long-term goals are to become a link in the chain for high-quality, grass-fed and/or organic beef production. These products would be targeted for PCC and the I-5 corridor markets.

In 2013 we will become a centennial farm. Within the last 100 years, the release of GMO varieties into the environment is likely one of the largest threats this farm may ever face, this side of the Great Depression. We support PCC’s efforts to take a stand against GMOs now.
— Gregg Beckley, G & L Farms, Benge, Wash.


About USDA’s decision to allow planting of Monsanto’s alfalfa: I’m a biochemist and my point is that I don’t think anybody knows the effects of eating Roundup Ready crops. I understand from something published in the Sound Consumer that indeed Roundup accumulates in the plant, at very respectable levels.

This is a valid point to raise because I’ve never heard or seen anything about anybody looking at long-term feeding. My understanding from other things I’ve read in the “New Scientist” is that Monsanto has been very careful to destroy and stop any scientist that actually looks into long-term feeding of Roundup Ready crops. Thank you,
— Yadviga Halsey, PCC member


We’ve seen PCC’s comments (amazing) concerning the alfalfa issue (extremely disappointing). “Soylent Green” tablets soon?
— Kathryn Gardow


I’ve just come across information from a post that someone had on Facebook and find it very troubling. I know that so much about where our power lies is with our wallets. I’ve been a PCC customer for many years for this exact reason. Is there any way to rally the troops here, is hope lost?
— Marcus C. White, CMP, Principal, MCW Events

Editor replies: Absolutely there’s hope! We beat rBGH in the dairy industry. We fought back GE tomatoes, potatoes, wheat, and rice and we can do it again. The Center for Food Safety continues the court battle and needs legal fund donations at http://bit.ly/fHgBj3. We understand that Monsanto is aiming to exhaust the center’s legal funds, so contributions are crucial.

PCC’s management met several times to discuss what we might do in response to USDA’s actions. The result is that we’re elevating a long-standing screen in our product standards. Buyers will give priority to new items that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, particularly if they’re containing at-risk ingredients (organic and non-organic).

We’re also asking manufacturers making a non-GMO claim on their labels to verify that claim with the Non-GMO Project, the first independent, third-party certifier in the nation to establish Best Practices and testing throughout the supply chain to ensure non-GMO ingredients. Some vendors have internal verification programs in place but most do not.

We’ve issued several PCC Advocates on what individuals can do, and we’ve been told that your phone calls and emails are making a difference. Keep ’em coming! The volume reportedly has made the White House take notice. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email whitehouse.gov/contact.

Regarding “natural”

In the past two years I have been switching to a more natural lifestyle and I’m very pleased with PCC’s willingness to cater to consumers and provide top-notch products. Food origin has been coming up lately as people need clarification about where their meat comes from and how it is processed.

Recently, I bought PCC’s “local” Country Natural Beef. I know PCC tries not to overlook any food details and prides itself on fresh, organic produce. Yet “natural” and “local,” as the beef packaging reads, are very broad statements for something as important as meat. Unfortunately, “natural” means just about nothing.

I’d love to see more specifics on the packaging: Where were the cattle raised? Under what conditions? What were they fed?
Thank you for being the store that enlightens its customers and thank you for taking your time to consider this question.
— Kathleen McIntosh

Editor replies: The only statutory meaning of “natural” is that meat is “minimally processed.” Natural means nothing for how livestock are raised or fed. “Natural” does not rule out pesticides, GMOs, confined feedlots or antibiotics.

The Country Natural Beef (CNB) you purchased always is range-grazed, then feedlot-finished on a diet of cooked potatoes, corn, hay and a vitamin-mineral supplement. CNB ranchers do not add antibiotics or hormones to the feed, ever. More than 100 ranchers are now part of the CNB cooperative.

“Buttery” spread?

The writer who was looking for a “buttery” non-dairy spread might want to consider schmaltz, if she eats meat. Schmaltz is rendered poultry fat, usually chicken, and was a staple of Eastern European Jewish cooking because religious Jews do not eat meat and dairy together and also needed something to spread on bread and cook with for a meat meal.

There’s information on how to render schmaltz on the Internet but the simplest is to put a finished pot of chicken soup in the fridge, let the fat on top harden, and remove that to a container that is kept in the fridge, up to two weeks, or freezer. Organic chicken is advised since hormones and other toxins tend to be stored in fat.
— Diana Brement, member, Seattle

Fragrance-free plea

I’m a dedicated PCC member and try to roll with changes in marketing strategies (tables covered with expensive chocolates, huge wine departments, etc). Some I revel in, such as expanded delis (yum!). There’s one current practice, though, that negatively impacts my shopping experience.

The open displays of scented candles, incense and other “aromatherapy” products are difficult for shoppers who are chemically sensitive. These displays have grown in recent years, especially around the holidays, and the odors spill into other departments. In Fremont they invade the produce section, and at Greenlake they overtake some of the checkout lanes.

It’s curious to me that PCC employees are asked to be mindful of the scents they wear, yet shoppers are assaulted by highly scented products. It’s also curious that I’m able to walk down the cleaning products aisle (often the most noxious in mainstream stores) but not the personal care and health products aisles.

I know we live in a market-driven society but are these products truly critical to the bottom line? If not, would you consider scaling back the volume and/or providing some sort of barrier to contain their odors? I’m not asking for a return to the days when PCC smelled of brewer’s yeast and black strap molasses, but I would welcome a respite from the barrage of odors I deal with every day. Thank you,
— Suzannah Dalzell

Health and body care merchandiser Wendy McLain replies: I understand your concern, which is why Fremont’s candles are moving and Greenlake’s now are in a corner. But most important, all the candles, incense and aromatherapy products at PCC use only natural essential oils. This includes locally made beeswax and soy candles with no paraffin or petroleum by-products. No synthetic chemical scents are allowed.

BPA in lids

I had searched for an alternative to canned tomato sauce and paste since learning of the Bisphenol A (BPA) lining in canned foods. I was excited to find the Bionaturae products in glass. How great, I thought, no worry about linings and the products are excellent.

However, I wrote to Bionaturae to ask about the lining in the lids and found out that they’re lined with a PVC product. To make matters worse I did not care for the roundabout way the information was given. At first I only received a brief reply that they were not lined with BPA; I hadn’t asked that, I simply asked what they were lined with. When I asked again what they were lined with, I received a long reply that more or less went way overboard in defense of using PVC with several erroneous claims.

I sent the company a few articles about the environmental destruction PVC production alone wreaks and about the off-gassing that likely occurs in the air-tight jars. I also included articles about alternative materials that it should be aware of that could be used instead. I have not received a reply yet but want to give a heads up to other customers who may feel the glass jars are toxin-free. Replacing one toxic material with an equally toxic one is not the answer. PVC has no place in our groceries.
— Dianne King

Also in this issue

Camelot Downs: A fairytale farm

Camelot Downs is the kind of place that leaves a sort of dreamy, picturesque impression in your memory. We recently visited this Whidbey Island farm with a small group of PCC members, PCC Farmland Trust donors, and local conservation specialists.

Your co-op, April 2011

Notice of annual membership meeting, 2011 election this month, Meet the candidates, and more

Pasta at PCC

Learn about the many pastas at PCC, including gluten-free pastas, cooking tips, pasta in bulk and a special PCC Cooks class. From cold pasta salads to steaming Mac and Cheese, our oodles of noodles — packaged or in bulk — are sure to inspire plenty of delicious meals.