News bites, October 2011

This article was originally published in October 2011

Banana peel purifier

A Brazilian researcher has found that banana peels can take water dirtied by heavy metals and turn it to clean drinking water. The peels contain nitrogen, sulfur and organic compounds such as carboxylic acids, which can bind with positively charged metals that leach into rivers from mining and industrial operations. He found the peels performed as well or better than many typical filtering materials, such as silica or carbon, and could be used up to 11 times before they stopped working as purifiers — though they can’t filter out bacteria. (

Wild salmon deaths linked to fish farms

Wild Coho and pink salmon die when young fish migrate through areas where there are sea lice outbreaks on fish farms, according to a new study in the National Academy of Sciences. The findings directly contradict a previous study that concluded there was no link. (The Times Colonist)

Heart benefits from chocolate

An analysis of studies including more than 100,000 subjects has found that high levels of chocolate consumption are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.

The report, published in the British medical journal “BMJ,” compiled research from seven studies that looked at the consumption of a variety of chocolate foods, and found those who consumed the most chocolate had decreases of 37 percent in the risk of any cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent in the risk for stroke. (The New York Times)

Airport buzzing over bees

Twenty-three beehives tended by former convicts have been installed on a vacant piece of property near O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. The apiary is outside the runway protection zone, which can’t be developed for other uses. The land is vegetated with prairie-type plants, a source of food for the bees, who are producing about 150 pounds of honey per hive. (

Honey bee viruses and CCD

A team of scientists in California have completed the first comprehensive assessment of viruses plaguing honey bees to gauge what a “normal” level of bee virus is and to determine the impact of viruses on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The team discovered four new viruses but found most of the hives remained healthy, despite a heavy pathogen load in all hives studied. This finding led the researchers to speculate that other factors, such as pesticides, must be contributing to CCD. (The Organic Center)

Grazing and toads

A five-year study has found grazing cattle are not to blame for the decline of the Yosemite toad, once a common amphibian in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The toad’s population has plummeted over the past 30 years and the Forest Service cut grazing rights to ranchers, assuming grazing was a factor. Researchers from U.C. Davis and Berkeley found that toad populations are driven by meadow wetness, not cattle grazing. (Capital Press)

Monsanto corn losing bug resistance

Research from Iowa State University confirms that the Western rootworm beetle — one of the most serious threats to corn — has developed resistance to Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Bt-corn, and entire crops are being lost. Farmers from several Midwest states have reported root damage to corn that was engineered with Cry3Bb1, a toxin to kill the rootworm, in fields where the Bt corn had been grown at least three years in a row. Two-thirds of all U.S. corn is GE, and the bulk of that is Bt-corn. (Coto Report)

Hungary destroys GE maize fields

Hungary has destroyed about 1,000 acres of corn found to be planted with GE seeds. Hungary has a ban on GE crops and is investigating how the seeds were obtained. Most of the farmers claim they had no idea they were planting banned seeds. (

GE moratorium in Peru

Peru’s Congress has approved a 10-year moratorium against the import of GE organisms for cultivation, breeding or any transgenic production. The president of the Agrarian Commission said a moratorium was necessary to ensure biodiversity. Peru recently began labeling GE foods. (

USDA biotech committee

USDA is convening scientists, farmers, public officials, organic advocates, seed companies, food manufacturers and others in a committee whose job it will be to make recommendations on how to strengthen “coexistence” between organic, conventional and biotech crops. Critics, including the Center for Food Safety, say USDA is using the committee as a smokescreen to hide its inability to control unwanted effects of GE crops, such as cross-pollination with organics. (Capital Press)

WikiLeaks: U.S. promotes GE

More WikiLeaks cables reveal new details of the U.S. effort to push foreign governments to approve GE crops and promote the worldwide interests of biotech companies such as Monsanto. The cables confirm previous reports on the diplomatic pressure the United States has put on Spain and France, two countries with powerful anti-GE crop movements, to speed up their biotech approval process and quell anti-GE sentiment within the European Union. Several cables describe “biotechnology outreach programs” in Africa, Asia and South America. (Truthout)

Also in this issue

2nd Annual Non-GMO Month

October marks the second annual Non-GMO Month, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate! We know many PCC members and shoppers are passionate about avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.

Pump up the pumpkin

The pumpkin is one of the biggest annual farm crops, with 1.5 billion produced each year in the United States. But alas, this abundance is not destined for dinner plates but rather for decoration — making this farmer and pumpkin-eater cringe!

PCC Board of Trustees report, October 2011

Fall Member Meeting: “Every Day is Food Day at PCC”, Board outreach, Board report, and more