News bites, November 2011

This article was originally published in November 2011

American Thanksgiving

Today’s vision of a traditional Thanksgiving reportedly evolved from the creative imaginations of a magazine editor in the mid-1800s. What we know for sure about the Pilgrims’ first feast in 1621 is based largely on one letter and a book written by colonists.

Wild turkey never was mentioned, though deer and fowl (most likely ducks or geese) were. Potatoes and yams weren’t available then and while pumpkins and squash may have been part of the feast, pumpkin pie probably was not; butter and flour for a crust weren’t likely to be in pilgrim pantries. Other possible menu items were lobster, mussels, “sallet herbs,” grapes, plums and flint corn. (Christian Science Monitor)

Coffee cuts risk of depression

Women who drink four cups of coffee a day are 20 percent less likely to become depressed than women who rarely drink coffee, according to a Harvard study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.” The finding is based on 24 years of data from more than 50,000 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study. Researchers focused specifically on coffee, but they had similar findings when they looked at overall caffeine consumption, including chocolate. (Reuters)

Organic farming more profitable

Organic farming is more profitable and economically secure than conventional farming over the long-term, according to a new study in “Agronomy Journal.” An analysis of 18 years of crop yield and farm management data from a University of Minnesota trial showed the net return from a 2-year, conventional corn-soybean rotation averaged $342 per acre, while the average net return from organic production was $538 per acre. Organic production was more profitable even when the price premium was reduced by 50 percent. (

Chew more, eat less?

A new study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that people who chew their food more take in fewer calories. Chewing food 40 times instead of a typical 15 times caused study participants to eat nearly 12 percent fewer calories. Researchers also found a connection between the amount of chewing and levels of several hormones that regulate appetite. (Reuters)

Seafood labeling fraud

Chilean sea bass labeled “Marine Stewardship Council-certified (MSC)” was in fact something else, according to a new study published in “Current Biology.” Almost all Chilean sea bass is in the red, “avoid” category on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list, but there’s a fishery near South Georgia Island off the coast of Argentina that MSC, which touts strict traceability as part of its certification standards, certified as sustainable in 2006.

Researchers tested 36 samples of MSC-certified Chilean sea bass from grocery stores across 10 states, and found five had genetic markers suggesting they came from somewhere other than the South Georgia Island fishery and three samples turned out to be other species: tuna, mackerel and greenling. (Grist)

FDA: It’s corn syrup

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) to stop using the term “corn sugar” to describe high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). CRA wants to rename HFCS “corn sugar” as part of an image makeover after some scientists linked HFCS to obesity, diabetes and other health problems. It could take another year before FDA rules on the request to change the name, but CRA has been using “corn sugar” for months on television commercials and two websites, and (Associated Press)

Scientists: End deep-sea fishing

Industrial fishing in the deep sea should be banned because it has depleted fish stocks that take longer to recover than other species, according to a recent paper published in the scientific journal “Marine Policy.” The catch of deep-water species such as orange roughy and Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean sea bass) has increased sevenfold between 1960 and 2004, and the estimated mean depth of fishing has more than tripled since the 1950s. (The Washington Post)

Clean water

We have enough clean water worldwide — we’re just not using it well, according to a new report. A 5-year study looked at 10 river basins, from the Ganges to the Nile to the Andes, and found there is sufficient water to sustain food, energy, industrial and environmental needs during the 21st century if improvements in efficiency are made. (Grist)

SEC probes Monsanto

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating incentives Monsanto paid to customers to use Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready seeds. Monsanto said third-quarter earnings in its division that produces Roundup surged 57 percent, to $943 million. The division had been suffering in recent years as cheaper, generic Roundup versions emerged on the market. (Capital Press)

Potato disease

Zebra chip, a disease that costs potato growers in the Southwest millions of dollars in crop losses annually, has been found in Washington and Oregon. Zebra chip is caused by the Liberibacter bacteria. Researchers are unsure if the disease poses a long-term threat to the area’s potato industry. (Capital Press)

Denmark’s fat tax

Denmark has instituted a tax on foods that contain more than 2.3 percent saturated fat such as butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and some processed foods. The tax was approved by parliament this past spring to curb unhealthy eating habits and increase the life expectancy of Danes. (Rudd Center)

Also in this issue

30-year study: organic superior

The Rodale Institute has completed 30 years of its Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture, and the results are in: organic rules!

Small local producers

The relationships we’re building are allowing both PCC and our farmers and artisans to thrive — and making it possible to bring more delicious local, sustainable food to our tables.

Letters to the editor, November 2011

Giving thanks, Whey protein isolate, Vegan desserts, and more