News bites, July 2011

This article was originally published in July 2011

Homemade direct sales

Residential kitchens — not just commercial kitchens — now may be used to make jams and jellies sold directly to consumers in Washington state. The “Cottage Food Operations” bill was signed by Governor Gregoire, effective July 22 this year. “Cottage food products” refers to baked goods, jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters defined as “nonpotentially hazardous” by the state. (State of Washington)

Organic chickens cleaner

A study comparing organic and non-organic chickens for salmonella pathogens found that organic chickens are a lot cleaner and safer. A team from the University of Georgia found that 38.8 percent of the conventional chickens carried salmonella, and nearly 40 percent of those had strains of salmonella resistant to six major antibiotics. Only 5.6 percent of the organic birds carried any salmonella at all and none of the organic hens carried antibiotic-resistant strains. All the birds were from the same North Carolina company. (Grist)

Farming vs. foraging

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that farming was not more productive than foraging for our human ancestors 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. They apparently began farming for social reasons. Farming produced only about 60 percent of the food gained from foraging but it allowed stationary communities to develop, which made childrearing easier and allowed farmers to unite against looting foragers. (Capital Press)

Eco-farming can double production

A United Nations report says small-scale farmers can double food production in critical regions within 10 years by using ecological methods. The report calls for a fundamental shift toward enhancing soil quality and using beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects rather than chemicals for pest and weed control. Agroecological projects have increased crop yields 80 percent in 57 developing countries, and projects in 20 African countries show crop yields doubling over a 3-10 year period. (Sustainable Food News)

Gardens in Africa

1,000 gardens are blooming across Africa, where the international Slow Food movement is helping schools and communities grow fruits, vegetables and herbs using sustainable fertilizer, pest control, and water management methods. The project aims to protect indigenous crop varieties, teach traditional methods, supply seeds and tools, and help farmers create regional networks to exchange knowledge and best practices. (

Topsoil going, going

Iowa farm topsoil is being lost far faster than thought. Data from Iowa State University shows the state has lost half its topsoil in the past century and still is losing more. A report by the Environmental Working Group says topsoil is disappearing up to 12 times faster than government estimates. (Rodale Institute)

Exploding watermelons

The Chinese media is reporting that excessive use of a growth accelerant is causing watermelons to explode, creating fields of “land mines.” High melon prices prompted more Chinese farmers to start growing melons and first-time users of forchlorfenuron used too much during wet weather, causing excessively rapid growth and the rinds to split. Forchlorfenuron is used on non-organic U.S. kiwi and grapes. (Huffington Post)

Roundup ban

The city of Boulder, Colorado has decided to stop using the pesticide Roundup altogether in public places because studies show a surfactant in it, called POEA, is more harmful than the active agent, glyphosate. The city is relying on mechanical weeding or minimum risk pesticides with garlic oil, peppermint oil and salt. The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, is reviewing Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, after allowing it for 30 years. (

Mislabeled fish

New technology known as “DNA barcoding” that identifies varieties of fish by their gene sequences has shown that 20 to 25 percent of seafood products are being mislabeled in grocery stores and restaurants. Research in North America and Europe finds that cheap fish often is substituted for expensive fish, and overfished species are passed off as sustainable. DNA barcoding could allow hundreds of thousands of samples to be tested each year, rather than the hundreds that typically are scrutinized. (The New York Times)

Drought tolerant corn

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reportedly has determined that traditional corn seeds are just as drought-resistant as a new genetically engineered (GE) seed from Monsanto that’s touted for drought resistance. USDA notes that many corn seed varieties already on the market are as water-efficient as Monsanto’s GE seed. The Obama administration seems poised to approve the GE seed. (The New York Times)

GE toxins in human blood

Toxins from pesticides used to grow GE crops are showing up in human blood, increasing concerns about GE foods. The biotech industry had claimed that the toxic Bt protein, for instance, breaks down in the human gut but its presence in blood shows otherwise. Scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, in both pregnant and non-pregnant women, and in fetal blood. Earlier studies found the Cry1Ab toxin in livestock fed GE corn. (India Today)

Marketing to kids

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed voluntary principles for manufacturers marketing food to children. It suggests that foods pitched to children should contain something from at least one healthful food group, not too much salt, and less than 1 gram of saturated fat and no more than 13 grams of added sugars per serving. The principles are proposed to take effect by 2016. (

Also in this issue

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

This month we’ll enjoy the first local, organic Lapin cherries, blueberries and leaf lettuce of the season. Local strawberries and raspberries are later than usual but arriving this month! Here’s other news from our farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

Letters to the editor, July 2011

Non-GMO label claims, Natural beef, Radioactive food?, and more

Yogurt — delicious, light, versatile

Summer calls for light foods that are easy to prepare and eat — and yogurt‘s just right. Rich in protein and calcium, and topped with fruit and nuts, it makes for a nutritious breakfast or snack.