News bites, July 2013

Sound Consumer July 2013

Berries for brain health

Women who eat more berries may have a lower risk of cognitive decline in old age, a new study suggests. Harvard researchers found that women who had a higher berry intake delayed cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years, as shown by their scores on memory and thinking tests. Blueberries and strawberries, which have high levels of compounds called flavonoids, seemed to offer the greatest benefit. (

Edmonds sustainable ag grant

Edmonds Community College has won a $900,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to start a Sustainable Agriculture Education collaborative program. The program, known as SAGE, will establish a student farm among other measures. It’s meant to engage students in creative solutions to environmental and socioeconomic problems through sustainable food systems and production. (Edmonds Community College)

Coffee rust threat

Coffee-growing farmers in Central America are facing huge losses from a fungus called leaf rust. It will mean less availability of high-quality coffee from countries south of Mexico. Guatemala and Costa Rica may lose 30 to 40 percent of their crop. (Bloomberg News)

Chipotle identifies GMOs

The restaurant chain Chipotle has begun to identify on its website genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in its foods. The chain says its goal is to eliminate GE ingredients. It already switched its fryers from using soybean oil to sunflower oil. (Chipotle)

Foie gras ban

California’s ban on the production, importation and sale of foie gras recently took effect, eight years after the ban was passed. It’s considered a victory by animal rights activists, who say force-feeding geese or ducks until their livers swell many times their natural size is inhumane. The restaurant industry claims servers will lose $20 million in tips because people who order foie gras tend to run up big tabs. Some say a black market will emerge. (Capital Press)

Labor shortage continues

Nearly two-thirds of farmers in the California Farm Bureau Federation survey said they had trouble finding enough workers to help them tend and harvest crops this year. Seventy-one percent of growers with labor-intensive crops, such as tree fruit, vegetables, table grapes, raisins and berries, reported labor shortages. The shortage has prompted some farmers to raise wages, delay pruning, use mechanization or forgo harvesting crops at all. (Capital Press)

Roundup residue limit raised

The Environmental Protection Agency has raised the amount of the herbicide Roundup (aka glyphosate) that can remain as residue on food crops and the crops fed to animals. There is little data on exposure because it’s very difficult to test for and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pesticide monitoring program currently tests only soybeans for glyphosate residue. It’s estimated more than 200 million pounds of Roundup are spread on U.S. fields and farms every year. (Grist)

Fast food linked to allergies

A new study analyzing 400,000 kids from 51 countries finds those who ate the most fast food were significantly more likely to have severe asthma. The researchers say the causes could be the fats in fast food, or that kids’ immune systems may not build tolerance for various microbes and parasites. The kids who ate the most fruit lowered their asthma risk significantly. (

GE fish breed with wild

A new Canadian study shows that GE salmon, set to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can mate with wild brown trout. The novel offspring grow faster than GE salmon and out-compete wild fish in a laboratory simulation of a stream. It’s said to be the first study showing some effects from interbreeding engineered and wild species. (The Telegraph U.K.)

White Wave separates from Dean

White Wave Foods, the maker of Horizon Organic and Silk Soymilk, has separated from Dean Foods and is once again a stand-alone company. The president of White Wave says the newly independant status will allow for greater flexibility for future product development and growth. (White Wave)

Insects for lunch?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is promoting insects as a low-fat, high-protein food for people, pets and livestock. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock pollution, creating jobs in developing countries, and feeding the world’s hungry are added benefits, it reports. Two billion people around the world, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America currently eat insects, which can have enough protein to rank with lean ground beef while having less fat per gram. (Capital Press)

Washington organics’ value up

The number of organic acres farmed in Washington state is dropping but the value of the state’s organic crops is rising, according to a recent study by Washington State University. Organic acreage dropped from almost 105,000 acres in 2009 to an estimated 88,100 in 2012, but the value of organic crops grew by 20 percent from 2010-2011, to $284.5 million — the highest value in seven years. The study’s authors say increasing yields from fruit trees could be a part of why the value of the state’s organic crops continues to grow. (The Seattle Times)

Related Reading

GE labeling updates

Host a Kitchen Conversation to support I-522. Also: Connecticut passes a GE labeling bill, Ben & Jerry's scoops free ice cream to support labeling, and Asia suspends Northwest wheat after GE wheat was found in Oregon.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

The cherry crop may be smaller this year, while chickpea plantings are booming due to the growing popularity of hummus. More news: the nation's aquifers are shrinking, and the U.S. has lifted a ban on many Italian cured meats.

Letters to the editor, July 2013

Fair labor chocolate, Eden Foods lawsuit, Deli oils, and more