News bites, October 2013
This article was originally published in October 2013
Breakfast for heart health
A new long-term study of male professionals shows that eating breakfast is associated with significantly lower coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of CHD compared with men who did not skip breakfast. Compared with men who did not eat late at night, those who did had a 55 percent higher CHD risk.
Among adults, skipping meals is associated with excess body weight, hypertension and other health problems. (Harvard School of Public Health)
New gluten-free regulations
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. The new federal definition means food labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule was published in August to bring their labels into compliance. (FDA)
WSU organic farm
Progress continues to be made on creating the new Eggert Family Organic Farm at Washington State University. The farm will produce alternative energy using a windmill and host a community-supported agriculture program. All 30 acres of the farm will be certified organic and will include vegetables, orchards, berries, grains and pasture land for sheep and poultry. (Capital Press)
Researchers are looking for varieties of quinoa best suited for growing in the Pacific Northwest, especially those with high heat tolerance. Of 300 individual lines grown last year, Washington State University quinoa breeder Kevin Murphy says his team has picked seven front-runners, which now are in field trials in Washington, Utah and Oregon. WSU could release its own quinoa variety as early as 2015. (Capital Press)
In 2012 American famers experienced devastating crop losses because of the yearlong drought — and summer 2012 saw the worst drought in 50 years across the nation’s breadbasket. Extreme weather forced the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to pay out a record-breaking $17.3 billion in crop losses last year. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
BPA, phthalates linked to obesity
Two new studies published in the journal Pediatrics links phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) to the childhood obesity epidemic. The chemicals were found in the urine of kids and teens and correlated with increased risk of obesity. Phthalates are common in lotions, hairsprays, perfumes, deodorants and pliable plastics. BPA is found in consumer packaging and is used to line aluminum cans. (CBS News)
Meatpacker to continue drug
The National Beef Packing Co., one of the country’s largest meatpackers, says it will not change its cattle-buying practices after rival Tyson Foods announced it would stop processing animals fed with a widely used animal drug. Tyson sent a letter to cattle suppliers in August saying it would stop accepting cattle fed with Zilmax — a drug that promotes weight gain — after receiving animals at some of its beef plants that had difficulty walking or were unable to move. (The Wall Street Journal)
The U.K. company Oxitec is planning to release genetically engineered olive flies into the environment in Spain and Italy. The male insects are genetically manipulated so female descendants will die as larvae. The intention is to reduce the populations of olive flies, which live inside olives and cause economic damage. It will be the first release of a genetically engineered animal in the E.U. (Test Biotech)
Midwest farms’ water conservation?
Farmers in Kansas have been drawing down their region’s groundwater at more than six times the natural rate of recharge and are on the verge of sucking dry a large swath of the High Plains Aquifer, one of the United States’ greatest water resources, according to a new study. Researchers found 30 percent of the region’s groundwater has been tapped out, and if present trends continue, another 39 percent will be gone within 50 years.
They also calculate that if the region’s farmers act collectively and cut their water use 20 percent now, their farms would produce less and generate lower profits in the short term, but could sustain corn and beef farming in the area into the next century. (Mother Jones)
Salmon virus whistleblowers
Scientists fear there could be a reluctance to report a deadly fish virus after the first lab in Canada to say it detected the virus in B.C. salmon was stripped of a special status.
Run by Fred Kibenge, considered one of the world’s leading authorities on infectious salmon anemia, it was one of only two labs in the world recognized for testing the virus. Kibenge’s work came under scrutiny in 2011 after he said he found evidence of the disease in wild B.C. sockeye salmon, challenging the Canadian government’s position that the virus is not present in the province. (ctvnews.ca)
Syngenta sues to use pesticides
Syngenta is suing the European Commission in an effort to block suspension of its neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, aka “Cruiser.” The commission voted earlier this year in favor of a two-year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides because scientists have found they kill bees. (Grist)