News bites, June 2013

This article was originally published in June 2013

Fruit flies choose organic

What started as a middle school student’s science experiment now has been published in a respected scientific journal and is being heralded as the latest research demonstrating the superiority of organics. Ria Chhabra, now a high school sophomore collaborating with scientists at Southern Methodist University, tracked the effects of organic and non-organic diets on the health of fruit flies. She found that by nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those that dined on non-organic produce. (The New York Times)

EU bans bee-killing pesticides

It was hailed as a “victory for bees” when the European Union voted recently to ban neonicotinoids, pesticides blamed for the dramatic decline of global bee populations. More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects’ nerve systems, and falling bee numbers. (The Independent)

Consumers reject GE salmon

A new Zogby Analytics poll finds that 77 percent of respondents said they would refuse to eat genetically engineered (GE) salmon if given a choice and 73 percent say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should require independent safety testing of GE salmon. Only 19 percent thought FDA should approve the salmon, while 71 percent did not. If approved by FDA, GE salmon would be the first GE animal approved for human consumption. (Food Engineering Magazine)

Fruit not cigarettes?

A study of 1,000 smokers found those who ate fruits and vegetables an average of four or more times per day were three times more likely to be tobacco-free 14 months later, compared with those who ate fruits and vegetables fewer than 2 times daily.

Research has demonstrated that certain foods actually make the taste of cigarettes worse — especially milk, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables — while coffee, red meat and alcohol make cigarettes taste better. Studies further suggest that cravings for food and cigarettes likely are linked and often confused with one another, so eating a diet with more fiber may provide a feeling of fullness and prevent such “craving confusion.” (

Lower pesticide levels

Pesticide levels have declined in several Washington state salmon-bearing streams that flow into Puget Sound and the Columbia River. That’s according to water quality reports by the Washington Departments of Agriculture and Ecology over the past decade. Scientists tested for more than 170 pesticides and found that when detected, most pesticides showed up in concentrations below levels of concern for aquatic species. (Capital Press)

GMO protest: FDA “eat-in”

Demonstrators gathered outside FDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. in April to demand that the agency require the labeling of GE foods. There was no violence or civil disobedience; instead, they cooked and ate a 50-gallon vat of soup on the sidewalk — a first-ever “eat-in” at the FDA. The demonstrators, some wearing aprons, chef hats or clothing with sustainable food themes (“Give Peas a Chance”), brought organic vegetables to contribute to the kettle. (The Washington Post)

Conflict of interest

The politics of GE food has created a rift in a policy-setting committee of the influential Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A dietitian working on a panel charged with setting policy on GE foods for the academy contends she was removed for pointing out that two of its members had ties to Monsanto, one of the biggest makers of GE seeds. A spokesman for the academy refused to discuss the dispute. (The New York Times)

Calories equal miles

You may eat less if you know exactly how many miles you’ll have to walk to burn it off. Researchers at the University of North Carolina showed survey participants one of four menus, each with either no nutritional info, calorie count, calorie count and distance to walk off the meal, or calorie count and time to walk off the meal. People who viewed the menu without nutritional info tended to order a meal with significantly more calories than those who saw menus with information about walking distance. (Scientific American)

Antibiotics in agriculture

Consumer Reports’ latest investigation of antibiotics in livestock found 90 percent of the ground turkey sampled from U.S. grocers had one of more pathogenic bacteria. Almost all the disease-causing organisms proved resistant to one or more antibiotics needed to fight them. Ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics,” “organic” or “raised without antibiotics” had fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional. About 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used by beef, pork and poultry producers for faster weight gain and to control disease in crowded conditions. (Consumers Union)

Arsenic in animal feed

The Center for Food Safety is suing the FDA to respond to a three-year-old petition asking it to withdraw approval of arsenic additives for livestock feed. Arsenic is added to conventional poultry feed for FDA-approved purposes, such as inducing faster weight gain on less feed, and creating the appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs. New studies link these practices to serious human health problems. PCC’s meat vendors do not allow arsenical additives in their feed. (Center for Food Safety)

Also in this issue

Choose organic, fair labor sugar: for the health of workers

A puzzling disease has affected hundreds of thousands of workers in sugarcane, rice and cotton fields around the world. It has killed tens of thousands of people in the Pacific coastal regions of Central America over the past 20 years.

City opposes GE salmon

Seattle's City Council has passed a resolution opposing any action to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

PCC Board of Trustees report, June 2013

A loss in the family; Election, board and member meetings