News bites, November 2013

This article was originally published in November 2013

“Monsanto Protection Act” expires

The Senate bill to keep the government funded dropped a controversial rider known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” which let agricultural giants avoid judicial oversight. The rider, which expired at the end of September, allowed biotechnology companies to sell genetically engineered seeds even if a court blocked them. The decision not to include the rider in the spending bill is a victory for the sustainable food movement. (

Bee thefts on the rise

Bee theft is increasing around the world as Colony Collapse Disorder threatens beekeeping operations. Many apiarists suspect fellow beekeepers are behind the thefts. In B.C., a single overnight heist netted 500,000 bees and nearly 8,000 pounds of honey, with an estimated value of $100,000. Other thefts of several thousand dollars’ worth of bees have been reported in Ontario, Wales and California. (Modern Farmer)

Eat fruit, prevent diabetes

A Harvard study finds people who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits — particularly blueberries, grapes and apples — reduced their risk for Type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent in comparison to those who ate less than one serving per month.

Conversely, those who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day increased their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 percent. The researchers found that swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits would result in a 7 percent reduction in diabetes risk. (Harvard University)

Fruits and vegetables economics

More than 127,000 deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases could be prevented, and $17 billion in annual national medical costs could be saved, if Americans increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables to meet dietary recommendations. That’s according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It also found boosting average daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by just one portion, or one half-cup, per day would save more than $2.7 trillion. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Fatty liver disease in kids

Some 1 in 10 children in the United States, or more than 7 million, are thought to have fatty liver disease, according to recent studies. The condition’s rise is tied to the obesity epidemic — about 40 percent of obese children have it — but isn’t caused solely by being overweight. The disease appears to be growing among normal-weight children too. (The Wall Street Journal)

Food waste and climate change

A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finds global food waste ranks as the third top emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China. Produced but uneaten food occupies close to 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area. Previous FAO research found one-third of food is wasted. (Grist)

Hog waste and drug resistance

Living by a hog farm or near crop fields fertilized with the animals’ manure can raise your risk of getting a drug-resistant infection, a new study finds. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found a link in Pennsylvania between intensive hog farming and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Nearly half a million Pennsylvanians were studied, finding 3,000 patients had MRSA and 50,000 had skin and soft-tissue infections; 11 percent of them are attributed to living near farm fields treated with pig manure. (Baltimore Sun)

Dead zones in the Gulf

The Environmental Protection Agency has six months to decide whether the federal government must step in to regulate water pollution from farm fertilizers that run off into the Mississippi River, fueling dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zones have destroyed some of the nation’s most productive fishing grounds. The deadline follows a lawsuit from environmental groups that argue states aren’t doing enough to tackle the problem. (Grist)

Fishermen protest Walmart

In September nearly 40 Alaska fishermen protested outside an Anchorage Walmart store, upset with a decision by the company about how it buys seafood. In 2011 the world’s largest retailer decided to buy only seafood certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). A number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork but contend all Alaska seafood comes from the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world. (Huffington Post)

Giant family farms

It might come as a surprise, but 96 percent of U.S. crop farms are still family farms. They’ve just gotten much bigger. A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that while most farms in the 1980s occupied less than 600 acres, farms today have nearly doubled in size. (Modern Farmer)

Mexico bans GE corn

A judge in Mexico has banned genetically engineered corn in the country. Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the decision. (Food Democracy Now)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, November 2013

Veterans farming, Yes on I-522, WIC and organics, and more

A Paleo pantry

For the growing number of people avoiding grains, refined sugar and dairy, the holiday months can be difficult. But it's possible to make delicious baked goods with alternatives — think almond and coconut flour in place of all-purpose white flour, and coconut oil in place of butter.

Soil & sea: reports from our producers

Organic sales continue to grow around the world. Also, learn about the record year for Columbia River fall Chinook, local efforts to sleuth out the cause of bumblebee decline, the effects of algae in Northwest waters, and more.