News bites, March 2013
This article was originally published in March 2013
Dating by leftovers
A Swedish matchmaking service aimed at reducing food waste pairs up singles based on what’s sitting in their fridges or missing from their cupboards. One ad reads, “Leftover lettuce looking for steamed crab,” while another says “Large walnut looking for strong cheese.” The website is the brainchild of a farmers co-op that wanted to call attention to the fact that one-fifth of food in Sweden goes to waste. (The Week)
Kale for good mood?
A new study from Harvard researchers finds a strong association between adults’ levels of optimism and the amount of carotenoid antioxidants in their blood. Carotenoids are found in richly colored green and orange vegetables, including kale, sweet potatoes, carrots and collard greens. The more servings of carotenoid-containing vegetables you eat, the results suggest, the brighter your outlook. (Mother Jones)
New “plastic island” discovered
New research by the 5 Gyres Institute shows a new “plastic island” — a floating patch of garbage — has been found in ocean currents running near Easter Island in the South Pacific, marking the first documented garbage patch in the Southern Hemisphere.
There are five known garbage patches in the subtropical oceans between each of the continents, each containing so much plastic that dragging a net through these areas would pull up more plastic than biomass.
Australian scientists say it will take at least 500 years to stop the growth of the plastic islands — and even that depends on an immediate ban on more plastic going into oceans, they say. (Common Dreams/Australia News Network)
HFCS consumption plummets
Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is falling in the U.S. as health-conscious consumers drink less soda. Soft drinks are the major driver of high-fructose corn syrup use. Americans reportedly consumed an average of 131 calories of HFCS each day in 2011, down 16 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, consumption of sugar rose 8.8 percent to 185 calories daily. (Bloomberg)
GE “golden rice” tested on kids?
China’s health authorities are investigating allegations that genetically engineered rice was tested on Chinese children as part of a Sino-U.S. research project. The investigation was sparked by a report last year by the environmental group Greenpeace. It claimed a U.S. Department of Agriculture-backed study used 24 Chinese children age 6 to 8 to test GE “golden rice,” a genetically engineered rice. (Reuters)
Antibiotic resistance in China
The concerns about rampant antibiotic use in meat production appear to have reached China, where half the world’s pigs now live and antibiotic use has been growing fast. A study published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” shows manure from pig farms doesn’t just contain antibiotic residues — it also carries high concentrations of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The exact extent of antibiotic use in Chinese agriculture is unknown, because authorities don’t monitor it. (Organic Consumers Association)
Fructose tied to obesity
More research indicates fructose-containing foods and drinks, such as soda, partly are to blame for the obesity epidemic. Fructose may contribute to weight gain because it has minimal effect on brain regions that control appetite, as found by a recent study by Yale University researchers. The study used brain imaging to measure activity after fructose or glucose sweeteners were consumed and found only glucose had the ability to reduce blood flow in areas of the brain that regulate appetite, stopping people from wanting to eat more. (Bloomberg)
Hidden GE toxins?
Standard tests for genetically engineered (GE) foods may be missing a gene that’s potentially poisonous for humans. Independent researchers in Europe discovered the viral gene, known as Gene VI, in 54 of 86 artificially engineered plants approved for food in the United States. Since the missing gene wasn’t identified until now, any potential impact on the plants or consumer health were not part of any safety review. (Dailymail.co.uk)
Mexican hunger strike against GE corn
Peasant leaders embarked on a hunger strike and sit-in in Mexico City in January, demanding their country be GE-free. UNORCA, a network of Mexican farming organizations that advocates for small farmers’ livelihoods and rights, organized the protest ahead of the likely authorization of 6 million acres to be planted with GE corn by Monsanto, DuPont and Dow in Mexico. The group issued a statement saying maize is “one of the greatest heritages of our peoples.” (Common Dreams)
Missouri GE meat labeling bill
Missouri has joined Oregon, Washington and New Mexico in an effort to label GE foods. A bill requiring the labeling of livestock or fish produced using genetic engineering has been introduced in the Missouri State Senate. Senate Bill 155 requires any bioengineered meat or fish raised and sold in the state of Missouri to be labeled clearly as bioengineered as of 2015. (foodbusinessnews.net)
Eat early for weight loss?
A Spanish study published in the “International Journal of Obesity” finds dieters who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day. This held true even though the early eaters were eating roughly the same number of calories and got roughly the same amount of sleep and exercise during the five-month weight-loss study as their night-owl counterparts. (NPR)