News bites, February 2013
This article was originally published in February 2013
Four states consider GE labels
In addition to Washington, three other states are considering measures to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. In New Mexico, an amendment to the state’s Food Act would mandate GE labeling. In Vermont and Connecticut, legislation is proposed to be presented in the state assembly. (FoodNavigator.com)
Acidification harming local shellfish
Rescuing shellfish from rising acidity in Puget Sound will require a wide-ranging response — everything from curbing greenhouse gases and controlling water pollution to growing more seaweed and putting restaurant-discarded oyster shells into shallow bays. Those are among the recommendations in a report on ocean acidification delivered to former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire last year. Gregoire announced she would put $3.3 million toward the creation of a new center at the University of Washington to study ocean acidification. (Earthfix)
Testing and analysis of pork chops and ground pork samples from six U.S. cities has revealed high rates of a bacterium that can cause food poisoning and bacteria resistant to medically important antibiotics. “Consumer Reports” says consumers can minimize risks by choosing pork and other meats raised without drugs, such as those labeled certified organic. The complete report and analysis is in the January issue of “Consumer Reports.” (The Huffington Post)
Diabetes linked to HFCS
Type 2 diabetes occurs 20 percent more often in countries where high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in common use, according to a new study in the journal “Global Public Health.” The study analyzed data from 43 countries where the availability of HFCS ranged from zero pounds per capita (India and 13 other countries) to 54.6 pounds per capita (United States).
The study’s authors say the findings don’t prove HFCS causes diabetes but add to the growing body of evidence supporting a correlation between the sweetener and the disease. (The New York Times)
Kenya bans GE imports
Kenya’s cabinet has decided to ban the importation of GE foods due to inadequate research on their human health impacts. Public health minister Beth Mugo threatened legal action against stakeholders and government regulators who do not comply. (Nation of Change)
Toxic oil spill “clean-up”
The 4.9 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill was an ecological disaster, but the 2 million gallons of dispersant used to clean it up apparently made it much worse — 52 times more toxic, according to new research in the journal “Environmental Pollution.”
In toxicity tests, the effects of mixing oil with dispersant increased mortality of rotifers, a microscopic animal at the base of the Gulf’s food web often used to assess toxicity in marine waters. The findings indicate it may be best to allow oil to disperse naturally in future oil spills, even though it will take longer. (Environmental Research Web/Georgia Tech)
DOJ drops Monsanto investigation
The Department of Justice (DOJ) unceremoniously has ended its antitrust investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the U.S. seed market, which it began in 2010. News the investigation had ended emerged not from the DOJ but from a brief Monsanto issued in November, declaring it had “received written notification” from the DOJ that it had ended its investigation “without taking any enforcement action.” The seed trade is dominated by five companies: Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow. (Tom Philpott/Mother Jones)
More seafood fraud
Another major study of fish fraud, this one conducted in New York City, shows 39 percent of the 142 seafood samples tested were not what they were said to be. There were mislabeled fish in all 16 sushi restaurants visited, 40 percent of fish markets and 12 percent of major grocery chains.
No seafood was mislabeled more frequently than “white tuna,” a staple on many sushi menus, which was found to be escolar, a fish known to cause gastrointestinal problems in eaters. The New York results are consistent with those of similar studies that Oceana has conducted in Miami (31 percent), Boston (48 percent) and Los Angeles (55 percent). (Oceana)
Supreme Court to hear seed case
The Center for Food Safety and Save our Seeds have challenged the agrochemical giant Monsanto and its restrictive “seed saving” policies via a brief filed in the forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Bowman v. Monsanto, to be heard in early spring.
The case involves Monsanto’s prosecution of Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman for alleged patent infringement because he saved and replanted his soybean seeds rather than purchasing new seeds for planting. The filing lays out a legal framework for why the Supreme Court should safeguard seeds as a public good. (Center for Food Safety)
Pesticides linked to food allergies
Food allergies are on the rise, affecting 15 million Americans, and pesticides used for farming and in consumer insect and weed control products, as well as to chlorinate tap water, could partially be to blame. That’s according to a new study published in the “Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology,” which reports high levels of the chemical class, dichlorophenols, are associated with food allergies when found in the human body.
The study’s lead author says pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables may play a greater role in causing food allergies than drinking tap water. (Science Daily)