News bites, June 2011
Sound Consumer June 2011
The Organic Trade Association reports that the organic sector grew 8 percent in 2010. That dramatically outpaces the food industry as a whole, which grew at less than 1 percent. The biggest growth was in organic fruits and vegetables up 11.8 percent from 2009 to nearly $10.6 billion. Forty percent of organic operations added jobs in 2010 and 96 percent are planning to maintain or increase employment levels in 2011. (Organic Trade Association)
Washington organics decline
Washington state’s organic agriculture declined in 2010 after more than a decade of strong growth. The number of producers dropped by 18 to 735 and acreage dropped 6 percent to just under 102,000 acres, reflecting declines in forage, vegetables, apples and cherries. The number of organic dairies in Washington state also declined but organic dry bean, pulse and blueberry acreage grew. (Capital Press)
The town of Sedgwick, Maine has passed unanimously an ordinance giving its citizens “food sovereignty” — the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume foods of their choosing, including raw milk and locally slaughtered meats. The idea is to empower farmers and communities to make choices about food production and land use policies. Three other Maine towns are voting on a similar ordinance. (PreventDisease.com)
Kids prefer packages with cartoons
A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine confirms previous research showing kids prefer the taste of cereals with cartoons. Researchers invented cereal boxes with and without images of cartoon characters from a popular movie. Results showed kids most preferred cereal labeled “Healthy Bits” with a cartoon and least preferred “Sugar Bits” without a cartoon. (Foodpolitics.com)
Saving old growth forests
The nonprofit organization Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) is cloning the largest and oldest tree species and encouraging people to buy and plant millions of copies in their communities. The AATA believes trees, such as redwoods, sequoias, oak, cedar and many other species, have genes that make them genetically superior, if native to the area planted.
The trees absorb toxins from the ground and atmosphere and store carbon while emitting oxygen, so the project could help mitigate global warming. (Capital Press)
U.S. entomologists are confirming more incidences of a new phenomenon among honeybees: they’re trying to protect themselves from high levels of pesticides in pollen by “entombing” the pollen, sealing it off in their hives. A leading researcher says entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony collapse among honeybees. Bees employ a similar strategy to quarantine hive invaders, such as a dead lizard or mouse. (Pesticide Action Network/panna.org)
Fish stocks recovering?
Two University of Washington scientists have published a study suggesting that estimates of collapsing fisheries have been exaggerated by inaccurate science. They found that 33 percent of global fish stocks — at most — are overexploited; as much as 13 percent have collapsed but 24 percent are increasing. Critics say the study is inaccurate because it extrapolates from data on fisheries in developed countries to draw conclusions about global fisheries. (The New York Times)
Human slavery in Yakima Valley?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed lawsuits on behalf of 200 Thai workers, claiming they were physically abused and forced to live in rat-infested housing after being recruited to work on farms in Hawaii, California and Washington — including Valley Fruit Orchards and Green Acre Farms in the Yakima Valley.
Global Horizons Inc. allegedly promised the Thais high pay and visas to work and live here legally but instead seized passports and threatened deportation if they complained about pay or living and working conditions. The FBI says it’s the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the United States. (Yakima Herald-Republic)
Manure discharges continue
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the United Egg Producers, and the National Pork Producers Council are declaring victory over efforts to curb manure discharges into U. S. waterways. A federal court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority in requiring concentrated animal feedlot operations that were proposing discharges to apply for a permit. The groups had sued EPA over its 2008 regulation that set a zero-discharge standard. (National Pork Producers Council)
EU approves low-level GE In feed
An EU committee has voted to allow traces of unapproved genetically engineered (GE) material in animal feed imports. The EU currently has a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized GE crops. But the committee argues a 0.1 percent threshold is needed to avoid supply disruptions, such as when cargo tests positive for traces of GE material. EU governments and lawmakers have three months to approve or reject the committee’s decision. (Reuters)
USDA to outsource biotech studies
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is implementing a two-year pilot project that will allow biotech companies to conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic GE crops or pay contractors to do it. USDA currently is responsible for conducting environmental assessments before new GE seeds can be deregulated. USDA says the program is meant to make the process more timely and efficient. (Capital Press)