News bites, September 2012

This article was originally published in September 2012

Farmers oppose GMO apples

The Washington Apple Commission and the U.S. Apple Association are opposing genetically engineered (GE) apples. They say the so-called “botox apple” that doesn’t turn brown when sliced would undermine the image of apples as a healthy and natural food and that it’s not in the best interest of the apple industry.

Washington’s commissioner says the cost of replanting new trees doesn’t make economic sense, export markets will reject it, and the technology hides damage and the real age of apples to consumers. One Washington grower reportedly has planted the GE apple on eight acres. (Puget Sound Business Journal)

DHA milk controversy

A prominent nutritionist is demanding Dean Foods remove an implied endorsement for added DHA in Horizon organic milk. She says a citation of her research on Horizon cartons is wrong because her work does not support claims the additive supports brain health. There are at least five consumer class-action lawsuits against the DHA additive, a synthetic version of omega-3s found naturally in fish. The Federal Trade Commission also is contesting DHA claims in food packaging and advertising. (

Cannabis farming

Analysis by Washington state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) says legalizing marijuana — the aim of a current initiative — would generate plenty of needed new revenue and reduce court, police and incarceration expenditures. The OFM figures that a 15 percent tax per gram on gross sales of $581 million would generate nearly $76 million in new tax revenues. A proposed model estimates reduced expenditures in charging and trying fewer misdemeanor and felony crimes would save more than $13.5 million annually. (Office of Fiscal Management/Just Say Now)

Meatless Mondays upset ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pulled from its website a reference encouraging participation in the “Meatless Mondays” movement. The post was part of an internal memo about the agency’s “greening” efforts and noted one way for employees to reduce their environmental impact was to not eat meat when dining in the agency cafeteria on Mondays. Uproar from angry ranchers prompted the Secretary of Agriculture to apologize, saying USDA does not endorse Meatless Mondays. (Associated Press)

More seafood fraud

Another study confirms many consumers are not getting the seafood they’re paying for. The advocacy group Oceana reports nearly a third of the seafood sold in South Florida is mislabeled, with King mackerel sold as grouper, and escolar (which contains toxins and may sicken consumers) sold as tuna. Other studies have found similar seafood labeling fraud across the country, with nine of 10 sushi restaurants in Los Angeles misrepresenting species. (Huffington Post)


Research from Harvard University is supporting previous studies showing damage to childrens’ neurodevelopment and IQ from fluoridated water. A review of studies on fluoride in drinking water showed that as fluoride levels in drinking water increased, children’s IQs were “significantly” lower. The researchers note that fluoride crosses the placenta and that exposure to the developing brain may lead to permanent brain damage. (National Institute of Health Sciences/Environmental Health Perspectives)

Cell phones cause ADHD?

Researchers from Yale’s School of Medicine say that limiting cell phone exposure among pregnant women is warranted. Dr. Hugh Taylor determined that behavioral problems in mice resembling Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder were caused by cell phone exposure before birth. The Yale study supports findings from other studies in 2008 and 2010 that children from mothers who used cell phones when pregnant were more likely to have behavioral disorders, such as hyperactivity and emotional problems. (Scientific Reports/

Craving carbs

People who are ravenous after missing meals may want to keep high-calorie foods out of sight when they finally do eat. Researchers studied student lunches at Cornell University and found those who ate after fasting overnight were more likely to begin their meals with starches, such as bread and French fries. Students who started with starches ate about 20 percent more calories overall. (The New York Times)

Israeli wins Food Prize

An Israeli scientist has won the World Food Prize. Daniel Hillel is credited with developing drip irrigation methods that conserve water while enabling food to be grown in some of the world’s driest climates. Hillel worked with Palestinian communities and his systems revolutionized agriculture in more than 30 countries, including Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. (Associated Press)

Buy local timber

The loss of Pacific Northwest sawmills devoted to hardwoods, such as oak and maple, has meant these trees usually end up on the firewood market. But now, the demand for locally produced construction materials is growing rapidly and buying locally produced hardwoods is at the forefront of “green building.” White oak is being bought before it’s dried to ease bending for boat builders, and locally produced floorboards are a major draw for customers who don’t want wood from the East Coast or China. (Capital Press)

Also in this issue

Fall Farm Jubilee

Join Jubilee Farm in Carnation, Wash., for a celebration of the new partnership with the PCC Farmland Trust and King County on Sat., Sept. 15. Also, details on the overturn of a development plan that would have opened development to 182 acres of prime farmland near Sumner.

The glorious world of craft beer

What's the difference between an ale and a lager? Find out, plus staff picks, and terms you should know to be a beer geek.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Quinoa is growing in Washington! Other Northwest news: our state's apple growers face growing competition, labor troubles plague the blackberry industry, and Alaska salmon fishermen caught fewer fish this season.