Letters to the editor, November 2013

This article was originally published in November 2013

Veterans farming

Re: Veterans return to farming (September), what an awesome story. This is what I want my co-op to be involved with: building relationships between people, sharing skills, celebrating the life we live. Beautiful stuff!
— Josh Hayes

Yes on I-522

My motivation and inspiration to vote yes on I-522 comes from a deep concern and love for this planet, its people, and for the truth. There are masses of people uniting on this issue. I am in favor of a labeling law because I believe every single person deserves the right to know what’s in their food. Period. We need to ask ourselves: why do 64 industrialized nations have genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling laws, but the very country that manufactures most of the world’s GMOs won’t allow its own citizens to know?

If our government won’t tell us where GMOs are, and if the companies who make GMOs refuse to tell us, and if the companies who use GMOs in the food we eat refuse to tell us, we need to stand together in strength and compassion, take action and vote for our right to know. Those who twist this into a controversial issue are not honoring the fact that this is actually a human rights issue. 

We can all be activists for change: we can educate ourselves and others on ways to avoid GMOs, support companies that do label them voluntarily, call and write our legislators, vote November 5, and trust that truth and love (not fear) grounded in action will bring about positive change.
— Jenness Schrenzel


Much has been written, largely by opponents of I-522, arguing that there is as yet no measurable difference in the nutritional value of genetically engineered foods compared to organic foods. This is a red herring.

The real issue is whether or not the public shall have the right to decline to participate as guinea pigs in a huge (but profitable) experiment in human nutrition, the effects of which, like smoking (endorsed by white-coated doctors in the past), may be unknown for years. I believe the public should have the right to choose whether or not to participate in any experiment, whether scientific or commercial.
— Bill Appel

PCC replies: This is precisely what the Washington State Nurses Association argues — that labels provide “informed consent.”


Why is the No on I-522 side so emphatically “NO?” You would think Monsanto and other agribusiness giants would promote the virtues of genetically engineered (GE) products and be proud to label foods. With all the supposed benefits of GE food you would think they would jump at the chance to label with something such as, “Proudly containing GE material to serve the planet better.” Or, if they just want to continue selling what they are without changing a thing, I’m sure they could label with something such as, “May contain GE material.”

If they really believe GE products are good and healthy and the best for the planet, then they should embrace I-522 as a way to promote and show consumers all the wonderful products and cheap prices made possible by GE.

The fact that they are pouring such support into a NO campaign to allow them to lurk in shadows is cause enough to vote YES. A key contributor to the NO side is Monsanto, one of the producers of DDT — and we know how good that was.
— Pete H.

WIC and organics

Re: Q&A: Facts about I-522 (October), while the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program does not allow organic for all foods, there are some foods that WIC clients can choose organic. WIC clients may choose organic fresh fruits and vegetables; organic dried beans, peas or lentils; or organic brown rice, bulgur or oatmeal.
— name withheld

PCC replies: You are correct that WIC allows organic purchases in a few areas, notably fresh produce, but WIC does not allow buying organic in major categories including baby formula or baby foods, kids cereals, milk, eggs, cheese, or peanut butter.

We’ve clarified that in the online version of the article. Thank you for keeping us on our toes!

What’s wrong with wheat?

I read the article, What’s wrong with wheat? by Nick Rose (September) and felt compelled to reach out.

As a big-time whole-grain lover and vendor to PCC I wanted to thank Mr. Rose for his informative article. I talk to literally hundreds of consumers a week as I demonstrate my whole-grain products all over the city and the misinformation out there concerning wheat is sometimes disconcerting. It’s such a hotly contested subject that I usually stay pretty quiet in my wheat conversations out of fear of offending the majority of gluten-avoiding patrons.

It was so very nice to read about the fact that wheat is not only not the enemy of our modern diet but is, in fact, very nutritious.
— Gretchen

PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: The article received a wide range of responses from readers — some positive and some negative — exposing the many different views on wheat, gluten and health. It was meant to dispel the very common misconception that GE wheat is responsible for the rise in gluten intolerances and obesity. GE wheat is being grown experimentally but is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Bee-killing pesticides

The article, Are there bee-killing pesticides in your garden? mentioned that “Home Depot, Lowe’s and other top garden retailers around the country. ..” sell plants with pesticides that poison bees. I’d like to determine if the garden centers I buy from in Seattle sell plants with those pesticides. Is a list of the “other garden retailers” available somewhere?

Thank you for the excellent and informative article.
— name withheld

PCC replies: We don’t have a list of Seattle retailers who do or don’t carry plants treated with bee-killing pesticides, but we do have a list of some of the pesticides you can ask about at your local nursery. 

There are approximately 300 insecticide products containing neonicotinoid insecticides as active ingredients used on ornamental plants in nurseries or home gardens. The specific active ingredients include acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. 

Some products contain these chemical names in the product name. Many other products contain neonicotinoids but do not have the active ingredient in the product name. These product names are included in the table on page 26 of this report from Friends of the Earth.

Avoid using any insecticide labeled “systemic” for the presence of neonicotinoid active ingredients. If possible, buy certified organic plant starts and grow your plants from untreated seeds in potting soil for your home garden. 

Also, as a consumer, you could let your local nursery manager know you only will purchase plants free of neonicotinoids and ask the manager to communicate your request to their suppliers who grow the plants they sell. 

Boycott GMA foods?

I’m glad PCC is supporting I-522. I know you even did a matching contribution campaign. That is all great.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel disappointed that, until the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) stops funding things such as anti-GMO labeling, PCC will continue to carry products of the GMA. I feel like PCC shoppers are trying to consume consciously, but not all of them have the time or inclination to educate themselves on what’s happening, so they count on PCC to represent and stock products that reflect our common ethos. 

I am well aware of the spectrum of products that come from GMA-affiliated companies because I have done my research. I have stopped buying them, and it is easy because there are so many choices out there. 

It’s not necessary to continue selling products of the GMA. There would be no deprivation of your customers, just a stronger position and alignment with what I believe are our common values. I do understand, however, that PCC would miss the profits of selling these products.
— Alisha Leviten

PCC replies: Alisha’s letter in the October Sound Consumer titled Boycott GMA foods was printed without her permission. We regret the oversight. This letter continues the conversation. 

We have no plans to discontinue brands based on ownership but are discussing how we might try to make it transparent so our shoppers can choose what brands they support. 

Farmers sue biotech

Re: GE seed monopoly: fewer choices, higher prices (September), I read recently that companies are suing farmers when their patented seeds appear in their field. Why aren’t the farmers suing the producers for ruining their untainted fields, reducing the value of GE-free products?
— Scott Shafer

PCC replies: There actually are several class-action suits underway right now. In June farmers in Washington and Idaho filed a class-action lawsuit against GE seed giant Monsanto after experimental GE wheat was found in a Pacific Northwest field. The farmers contend that Monsanto’s development of Roundup Ready wheat resulted in increased production costs and lower prices because the GE wheat was likely to infiltrate the non-genetically engineered wheat supply.

In 2011 Bayer agreed to pay U.S. rice farmers $750 million in damages to settle the cost of lost exports, caused by contamination from Bayer’s experimental and unapproved genetically engineered Liberty Link rice. Liberty Link contaminated fields in five southern states. Bayer’s contamination of the U.S. rice supply caused rice farmers serious financial harm when export markets rejected U.S. rice and turned to other selling nations. More than 11,000 farmers sued.

So, farmers do sue. But, mostly, Monsanto sues them. According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), as of January, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits for purported violations of its patents. These cases involve 410 farmers and 56 small businesses or farm companies, in at least 27 different states. Sums awarded to Monsanto in 72 recorded judgments against farmers totaled more than $23.6 million.

In 2006 CFS used materials downloaded from Monsanto’s website to determine the approximate scope and cost to farmers from out-of-court settlements. These documents showed Monsanto had instituted an estimated 2,391 to 4,531 “seed piracy matters” against farmers in 19 states. This is 20 to 40 times the number of reported lawsuits found in public records. Pursuant to these settlements, farmers have been forced to pay Monsanto an estimated $85.65 to $160.6 million.

Also in this issue

News bites, November 2013

"Monsanto Protection Act" expires; Bee thefts on the rise; Eat fruit, prevent diabetes; and more

Maple syrup: a healthy, versatile sweetener

As the leaves turn color, a pancake stack topped with real maple syrup makes a welcome treat. The taste difference between real and artificial maple syrup is as distinct as between butter and margarine.

Why Cook?

The shared meal is no small thing: it is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns navigating differences, arguing without offending.