News bites, May 2013

This article was originally published in May 2013

PCC first to pledge “No GE fish”

PCC was the first of nearly 2,500 grocers around the country to sign a pledge stating we will not sell genetically engineered (GE) fish if it’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The pledge is part of the Campaign for Genetically Engineered (GE)-Free Seafood organized by a coalition of consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups around the country.

The growing market rejection of GE fish comes as the FDA conducts its final review of AquaBounty’s GE salmon, engineered with DNA from a Chinook salmon and a growth hormone from an eel-like creature called an Ocean Pout to grow faster than regular salmon. If approved, the salmon would be the first-ever GE animal allowed to enter the human food supply.

The majority of Americans say they won’t eat genetically engineered seafood, and 91 percent say the FDA should not allow it onto the market. Eighty percent of Americans who regularly eat fish say sustainable practices are “important” or “very important” to them, according to a 2013 NPR poll. (PCC Natural Markets)

Fructose tricks us?

Fructose — the natural sugar that makes honey, fruit and high-fructose corn syrup sweet — makes up about 10 percent of calories consumed in the United States. Researchers have long believed it’s playing a significant role in the U.S. obesity epidemic.

Now, a group of Yale University researchers has found evidence that consuming fructose doesn’t reduce appetite or make us feel full, which might lead to overeating.

In their study, 20 healthy adults drank a solution of fructose and a solution of glucose. After each drink, the participants underwent MRIs to detect changes in brain activity. This was the first comparison of fructose vs. glucose in the same individuals.

The two drinks produced very different effects. Glucose decreased blood flow in the hypothalamus — the brain’s appetite center — while increasing flow in regions of the brain that trigger satiety hormones. Glucose also increased blood flow in areas of the brain associated with reward and motivation. Fructose did neither.

Why we buy organic

A new study says the leading reason parents buy organic is to avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers (30 percent). The U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2013 Tracking Study also found that avoiding antibiotics and synthetic hormones was cited by 29 percent as their number one reason to buy organic. The number of people who primarily buy organic to avoid GMOs has reached 22 percent — up from 17 percent in 2011. (Progressive Grocer)

Bees get buzz from caffeine

Coffee drinkers aren’t the only ones getting a brain boost from caffeine: a new study shows the drug improves honeybees’ long-term memory, too. The research, published in the journal Science, shows bees are more likely to remember flowers that had caffeine in their nectar and are more likely to return to those flowers. The lead researcher says the plant is secretly drugging the bees so they’ll practice “fidelity” and will return to pollinate the plant. (National Geographic)

EPA sued over honeybee deaths

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is failing to protect honeybees and should suspend use of some insecticides tied to Colony Collapse Disorder, according to a recently filed lawsuit. The groups suing say they have records showing “legal violations” by EPA, connected to approvals for the neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Neonicotinoids, recently banned in Europe, are used routinely on more than 100 million acres of U.S. corn, wheat, soy and cotton and are in some home gardening products. (Reuters)

Olive oil for fullness

Olive oil is thought to be healthy because it’s mostly monounsaturated fat, and cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil may have an extra benefit: it appears to be more filling than other fats. That’s according to a new study that analyzed volunteers who were fed a serving of low-fat yogurt mixed with either three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, butter or lard. Volunteers in the olive oil group reported feeling more full during the three-month study and had larger concentrations of serotonin in their blood (a signal of satiety), consumed fewer calories and finished the trial with less body fat. (The Huffington Post)

Low-fat milk, higher weight?

A new study finds that low-fat milk is associated with higher weight in preschool-aged kids. The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, included about 10,700 children in the United States and found the relationship between skim-milk drinkers and higher body weights held up across all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. This is not the first study to point in this direction. (NPR)

Climate challenges farming

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests U.S. crop and livestock production will become increasingly vulnerable to the accelerating changes in climate over the next 25 years. The largest national concerns include weeds and diseases, and more erratic and extreme weather events, which both are hard to manage and predict. (Washington State University)

Congress members call for labeling

A letter signed by 55 members of Congress was sent to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg calling on the agency to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The bipartisan letter led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was written in support of a legal petition filed on behalf of the Just Label It campaign and nearly 400 partner organizations and businesses. Since the labeling petition was filed in October 2011, the public has submitted more than 850,000 comments in support of labeling. (The Center for Food Safety)

New WSDA director

Okanogan rancher Bud Hover has been appointed director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture by Governor Jay Inslee. Hover is a former Okanogan County Commissioner and current chair of the state Salmon Recovery Board. His family runs a 2,300-acre hay and cattle ranch in Winthrop. (Office of the Governor)

List of organic operators

A searchable list of certified organic operators around the world is available. As of the end of 2012, 17,750 organic farms and processing facilities in the United States were certified to the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic standards. Worldwide, there are now approximately 25,000 certified organic operators in more than 100 countries. View the list here » (NOP Organic Insider)

Aspartame in milk

The dairy industry is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to drop the requirement to label milk and other dairy products as “artificially sweetened” when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame, sold under the brand name Equal. The FDA currently lets the dairy industry use the “milk” label for unsweetened milk or milk that contains sweeteners with calories, such as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. (The Huffington Post)

Mindfulness for inflammation?

People suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions may benefit more from mindfulness meditation techniques than from other activities that promote well-being, according to a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, originally designed for patients with chronic pain, consists of continuously focusing attention on the breath, bodily sensations and mental content while seated, walking or practicing yoga. Of two observed groups of patients, one using mindfulness meditation and the other participating in a program with nutrition education, exercise and music therapy, the mindfulness meditation group had more effective results in relieving inflammatory symptoms. (Science Daily)

Also in this issue

64 countries around the world label GE food

Since the commercialization of the first genetically engineered (GE) crops in the 1990s, countries have been trying to create policies that sufficiently regulate and oversee these new technologies.

Letters to the editor, May 2013

Urban beekeeping, PCC's GE fish ban, Humanely raised eggs, and more

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

A looming olive oil shortage, coffee rust fungus threatening coffee harvests, and a new cherry-plum hybrid are the buzz in agriculture this month.