Letters to the editor, September 2011

This article was originally published in September 2011

Farming and family values

The mail sat on our kitchen table this morning. While eating breakfast my daughter started reading the July [2011] Sound Consumer (PCC Farmland Trust saves ninth farm). Inquisitively she asked me what agricultural conservation meant. Surprised by her interest, I stopped my busy morning ritual to sit down beside my daughter and engaged in a lengthy conversation on land conservation, organic farming, and the significance of saving local farms.

Thank you PCC for giving me one of the most special moments I can recall with my daughter. “Mom, we shouldn’t save nine farms. We should save 9,000 farms!” she passionately pleaded with me. “I am only 8. What will I do when there are no farms or real food to eat with my kids?” she continued. “I love eating strawberries off the vine, picking my own pumpkins, trying new veggies, running through corn fields, and watching everything grow.”

Thank you for allowing me to stop and focus on one of the most important aspects of raising my children. Teaching. Thank you for devoting your passion and time to PCC Farmland Trust. I am proud and honored to be part of an organization that means so much to my family.
— Stacey Donahue, member, PCC Board of Trustees, Seattle

GMOs in non-organic corn?

I see in the July [2011] Sound Consumer (PCC Advocates: The shoppers guide to pesticides) that nonorganic sweet corn is one of the lowest in pesticides. If you buy it as non-organic aren’t you risking getting GMO corn?

In recent years I have only bought organic corn, trusting that it would be the only way I could be assured of getting non-GMO. Do you sell nonorganic sweet corn that is non-GMO?
— Marianne Paull, Seattle

Editor replies: PCC does not sell any sweet corn known to be GMO. Our nonorganic sweet corn right now is from Inaba farms (Wapato, Wash.), which also grows organic produce and has a vested interest in keeping out GMOs. Our early-season nonorganic sweet corn came from Brentwood Farms in northern California, which has provided an affidavit stating its corn is non-GMO.

Very little GMO “sweet corn” was planted until this year. This fall, Monsanto’s GMO sweet corn hit the market, engineered with two pesticides (Roundup and the Bt toxin). Organic standards prohibit synthetic pesticides, such as Roundup, and GMOs overall, so maintaining organic seed integrity is the critical issue. The National Organic Program is proposing to require all certifiers test annually at least 5 percent of the operations certified. Organic always is the surest oasis.

From Facebook

Can you give names of companies that are Monsanto-free?
— name withheld

Editor: We published a news brief in Sound Consumer about Ethical Investing a few years ago, how to avoid Monsanto investments and products, such as Ambien and aspartame. I checked the website and it still works. See ethicalinvesting.com/monsanto/.

Avoiding soy protein isolate

I’m writing to ask why PCC sells products that contain soy protein isolate? I know PCC has high standards not to sell unhealthy or dangerous products and that this also applies to PCC’s body care products. So I’m confused about why you have products that contain this ingredient?

I believe all soy to be unhealthy but understand that vegans and vegetarians find it tough to find other protein sources. I hope at the very least you’ll consider removing products that contain soy protein isolate. I know this is a very controversial subject. Thank you for considering. I would love a response as to PCC’s stance on processed soy foods.
— Alicia Makjavich

Editor replies: Thanks for asking these good questions. Most isolated soy protein (ISP) is extracted chemically and many nutrition experts believe the chemical extraction process is counterproductive, that the chemicals actually cause destruction of most of the otherwise beneficial aspects.

Some ISP is available from mechanical extraction processes, but it reportedly is more expensive and likely to be used only in products that are required to avoid chemical extraction — that is, USDA certified organic products. So, you’re better off first of all if the product is organic — or if the manufacturer or label specifically says its ISP is not chemically extracted.

That said, the whole idea of extracting protein from the rest of a whole food probably is not a best choice. There are ISP powders for protein — in energy drinks, for example. Our nutrition educators have advised skipping those unless, certainly, you’re advised to use them by a healthcare provider or qualified nutritionist.

In general, the most nutritious form is soy that has been fermented. That includes (in order of preference) tempeh, miso and possibly some soy yogurts. We often get asked about tofu, which is good but not fermented and therefore believed not to be as well absorbed. But tofu, although not a whole food, is a superior choice nutritionally in place of the “faux” foods that consist of highly processed ISPs. Our soy foods brochure points out that ISP is a highly processed ingredient used in soy burgers, for instance, and best consumed only occasionally. This is what PCC has taught consistently, in classes and through our product brochures.

PCC sells these highly processed soy foods made with ISPs, such as soy burgers, for vegetarians who demand such products. For more information, read Tofu or not tofu: quality and quantity of soy matters, Sound Consumer, April 2006.

Chemically treated fish

I recently heard about a gal who has been recovering slowly from about three weeks of mysterious migraines, end to end. During this time her family was trying to eat more fish and seafood. Finally she thought to check the labels and sure enough all the shrimp, fish, etc. was soaked with a chemical called “sodium tripolyphosphate.” Don’t look it up if you want to be able to continue to eat commercial fish and seafood products because the info will turn your stomach.

They searched the internet and so far have not found anything without it. Is the fish PCC buys sprayed with this poison? This stuff caused her husband’s skin to break out very badly, especially when he touched the raw fish/shrimp. Just wanted to warn everybody. Warmest regards,
— Maria Rippo

Editor replies: None of PCC’s seafood is treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), a chemical used to prevent “thaw drip” and as a binding agent to hold flaky fish products together. Processors of fresh cod may use it to give the fish a slippery feel. It also may be used to add water weight to scallops and shrimp — misleading consumers who pay by the pound.

STPP is a suspected neurotoxin and preparing and cooking STPP-soaked food may irritate skin or cause other health problems. The European Union, Canada and Brazil have limits on how much STTP can be used on seafood products but in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration considers it a “Generally Recognized as Safe” substance and there’s no limit to how much STPP can be used.

7th Generation, Teach for America

I’m writing because I’m very disappointed in Seventh Generation’s new partnership with Teach For America (TFA). Until it dissolves its partnership, I’ll be looking for alternative products for my household’s diapers, laundry and dish detergent and I hope many of your consumers will do the same.

Teach For America is a program that’s wonderful for the recruits but not for the students, schools and districts that they leave behind. It is a band-aid to our educational challenges, funded in large part by corporate donors, including the Walton family of Walmart. These large corporate donors think they have the right vision of what education should look like but their vision is not what is good for communities or our children.

The fact that Seventh Generation has shown its alliance with TFA makes me doubt that it is a business we should support on a local level. I hope PCC and the members of its community will join with me in protest of its products. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying out alternative products and working for positive educational change on a local level. I hope you will join me.
— Laura Grow

Editor replies: We weren’t aware of this partnership, so thank you for bringing us up to date. PCC offers alternative brands for every Seventh Generation product, except diapers.

Nitrates in organic hot dogs

Can anyone at PCC shed some light on the validity of an article in the New York Times about nitrates being used even in organic hot dogs? What about the brands sold at PCC?
— Kip Miller, PCC member

Nutrition Educator, Nick Rose replies: The difference between “natural” and organic cured meats, and conventional meats, is the source of the nitrates used to prevent bacterial growth in hot dogs. PCC does not carry any meats with synthetic sodium nitrate.

All our hot dogs are preserved with natural sources of nitrates, such as celery juice, and therefore required by USDA to state on labels that they’re “uncured” and that there are no nitrates added. The article stated that food manufacturers are asking USDA for a more accurate labeling requirement to inform shoppers that the product does contain nitrates, “from natural rather than synthetic sources.”

A cure for Crohn’s disease

Thanks for referring in the August “Letters” to my article about the infectious nature of Crohn’s Disease (Sound Consumer, September 2005). I’m happy to tell the world that I was treated with a triple antibiotic protocol for about 5 1/2 years, with no side effects and no evidence of any kind of inflammation in my body. 

In 2010 I stopped all antibiotics and remain symptom free, even though I live part-time in a remote third-world country. I am not a gastroenterologist and not available for consultations. 

For people who want to learn more about this material, I highly recommend doing a lot of reading and research at the following websites: 

  1. Thecrohnsdiseaseinitiative.com by Drs. Rod Chiodini and William Chamberlin
  2. scholar.google.com and look up “MAP Crohn’s”
  3. http://johnes.org
  4. International Association for Paratuberculosis (another name for MAP) paratuberculosis.org
  5. Dr. Borody’s site cdd.com.au
  6. vri.cz/en/publications/cd_and_map, a complete database about MAP and Crohn’s published by the Veterinary Research Institute of Brno, the Czech Republic.

— Judith Eve Lipton, M.D., Redmond 

Also in this issue

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

This month reporting on apples, nectarines, Washington peach producers, the organic grape crop, Reed avocados, wild mushrooms, sweet corn and peas, stone fruits, nuts, honeybee losses and the sustainability of yellowfin tuna.

Cage-free egg update

Initiative 1130 for cage-free eggs in Washington state will not be on the November ballot after all.

PCC Board of Trustees report, September 2011

Fall member meeting, Goldie Caughlan retires, Board report, and more