News bites, December 2012

This article was originally published in December 2012

Eat chocolate, be smart?

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine ties chocolate consumption to the number of Nobel Prize winners a country produces. New York cardiologist Dr. Franz Messerli examined data on sales from major chocolate producers in 23 countries and found a strong correlation between chocolate consumption and the number of Nobels won, with Switzerland in the lead. One expert says it’s possible chocolate isn’t making people smart, but rather that smart people more likely to win Nobels are aware of chocolate’s benefits and eat more if it. (

Americans eat weight in GE food

Americans are eating their weight and more in genetically engineered (GE) food every year, a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis shows. EWG calculates the average American annually consumes 68 pounds of GE beet sugar, 58 pounds of GE corn syrup, 38 pounds of GE soybean oil, and 29 pounds of GE corn-based products, for a total of 193 pounds. The typical American adult weighs 179 pounds. (AgMag)

Grass-fed and finished growing

The grass-fed, forage-raised beef market is growing at a rate of 20 percent per year. Researchers at Clemson State University say producers have an opportunity to be more profitable by grazing and finishing their beef on crop leftovers or stockpiled forage instead of paying to finish on corn. Clemson research also shows cattle finished on pasture have about twice the amount of conjugated linoleic acid, a potent anti-carcinogen, as cattle finished on corn. (Associated Press)

Bacon prices going up

The economics of the 2012 drought across American farm country is going to cause price increases for bacon and other pork — as much as 10 percent in 2013. Inflated feed costs from drought and a sharp decline in the number of U.S. pigs will mean tighter pork supplies. But agricultural experts say that gossip about a bacon shortage is pure hogwash. (Associated Press)

More GMO wheat trials

The amount of acreage in field tests for wheat with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has jumped significantly in the past two years, with Monsanto running the most trials on a total of 900 acres. At least two GMO wheat trials are underway in Washington state.

To see their status and others for GMO apples, peppermint, alfalfa, barley, safflower and potatoes, visit and under the header, “Search biotechnology data,” click “Search USDA Releases and Notifications” then check “Location” and click on the pop-up that appears for choosing Washington state. (Capital Press/

Washington dairies’ water pollution

Three environmental groups are threatening to sue several Washington dairy farms over alleged groundwater contamination in the Yakima Valley, based on recent findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The three groups said in October they will sue the farms within 90 days if the farms don’t stop contaminating local drinking water supplies with nitrate runoff from their operations, likely caused by using too much manure. Nitrate is a contaminant linked to cancer and reproductive problems. (Capital Press)

Monsanto v. farmer in Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving Monsanto’s efforts to limit a farmer’s use of its patented GE seeds. Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman is the defendant, accused of unauthorized use of Monsanto’s seeds. Monsanto has filed lawsuits against 144 other farmers to prohibit them from saving seeds, forcing them to buy new supplies each season. (The Huffington Post)

Report: pesticides blamed for illness

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) warns that pervasive pesticides are making children sicker than they were a generation ago. PANNA found that more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides used annually have contributed to childhood autism, cancer, birth defects, early puberty, obesity, diabetes and asthma. These conclusions were based on dozens of recent scientific studies that tied chemicals to children’s health. (San Francisco Chronicle)

West Coast tuna radiation

Oregon State University researchers have found traces of radioactive cesium in West Coast albacore tuna and believe they’re from last year’s nuclear meltdown in Japan. The team’s findings are in line with work by researchers in California, who announced in May they had found traces of radioactive cesium in bluefin tuna caught off the southern coast. (The Examiner)

Red wine good for stomach?

A recent study finds that components of red wine, like yogurt and other fermented foods, seem to act as probiotics that improve intestinal health, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Researchers divided subjects into three groups for 20-day trials; one group drank about a cup of red wine daily, one group drank the same amount of red wine with the alcohol removed, and one group drank up to 100 ml of gin daily. The researchers found that both types of red wine produced improvements in the bacterial composition of the gut, lowered blood pressure and reduced levels of a protein associated with inflammation. (The New York Times)

Obese kids’ taste buds less sensitive

New research suggests obese kids and adolescents may have less-sensitive taste buds than kids of normal weight. A study published in BMJ’s Archives of Disease in Childhood reports that kids were asked to taste strips of paper flavored with the five known qualities of taste — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Overall, obese young people had more trouble discerning tastes than others did, which may explain why obese kids choose less healthful foods. (Washington Post)

Also in this issue

Thank you, I-522 supporters

With the vote on California's Prop 37 to label genetically engineered foods behind us, we in Washington are in the homestretch of our signature gathering to present I-522 to the legislature in January.

PCC Board of Trustees report, December 2012

Celebrating National Co-op Month and the International Year of the Co-op, Board report, Board meeting, and more

Year-end giving

Consider donating to the PCC Food Bank Program and the PCC Farmland Trust for their worthy efforts.