News bites, May 2014

This article was originally published in May 2014

Moo-d music

Stressed cows produce less milk, so dairy farmers have become experts in cow comfort, from barn design and climate control engineering to playing relaxing tunes for their herd. One study found slow music played at a large dairy farm increased the cows’ milk production by 3 percent compared to fast music, which had no effect. Songs such as “Everybody Hurts” by REM and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” soothed cows enough to produce the most milk, while club songs failed to produce such positive lactational results. (Modern Farmer)

Irradiated greens

Five years after consumer groups asked for a hearing on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to allow irradiation for leafy greens, the agency responded by denying the requests and stating lettuce and spinach may be irradiated to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life. There have been no long-term studies of the health impacts of irradiating foods. Irradiation is prohibited in organic production and PCC does not sell irradiated foods. (The Packer/PCC)

Salmon and magnetic fields

A team of scientists has presented evidence of a correlation between the migration patterns of ocean salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field, suggesting it may help explain how the fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin. Researchers at Oregon State University exposed hundreds of juvenile Chinook salmon to different magnetic fields and the fish responded by swimming in the direction that would bring them toward the center of their marine feeding grounds. They had never left the hatchery, so their responses were not learned or based on experience, but rather were inherited. (Oregon State University)

Organic produce leads

Data from an Organic Trade Association survey shows that sales of organic fruits and vegetables accounted for more than a third of total organic consumer sales in 2013. The data also show organic fruits and vegetables comprise about 11 percent of the total fruit and vegetable market. (Organic Trade Association)

Rootworm resistance to GE

After years of predictions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators, scientists have proof that corn rootworms have evolved rapidly to become resistant to genetically engineered (GE) Bt corn. Bt corn has a pesticidal toxin-producing bacteria engineered into it, and comprises three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop today. Vulnerability of the U.S. corn crop could be disastrous. (

Brazil cancels GE corn release

Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court has decided unanimously to cancel approval for cultivation of Bayer’s LibertyLink genetically engineered corn. The decision is reported to have created a new legal paradigm and may force Brazilian authorities to reconsider all other commercial releases of GE crops in Brazil. Never before has a judge stated that there is a need for studies on the negative impacts of GE in all major biomes in the country. (Sustainable Pulse)

 Mexican court rules against GE crops

Another court in Mexico has ruled against GE crops. A ban against GE soybeans in the Campeche region of Mexico recently was upheld by the Second District Court. This follows the decision by two other judges in Mexico last year to keep in place bans on GE corn. (Health Impact News Daily)

French President upholds GE corn ban

French President François Hollande recently confirmed an extension of the moratorium on cultivation of Monsanto’s GE corn MON810, despite a cancellation of the ban by the Council of State, a body of the French national government that acts as the supreme court. He said France cannot accept corn that “may have adverse effects on other [agricultural] production.” (GM Watch)

School meals increase produce intake

Federal standards launched in 2012 that require schools to offer healthier meals have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health researchers. But high levels of fruit and vegetable waste continued to be a problem. Students discarded roughly 60 to 75 percent of vegetables and 40 percent of fruits on their trays. (Harvard School of Public Health)

Groups sue FDA over mercury in seafood

Consumer advocates have filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the levels of mercury in seafood. The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project want FDA to act on a petition from July 2011. The groups say FDA repeatedly has acknowledged the link between seafood consumption and exposure to methylmercury in the United States, yet it has not improved the availability or clarity of information about mercury in seafood so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions. (Food Safety News)

Organic poultry cuts antibiotic resistance

A small-scale study by researchers at five U.S. universities found that when big poultry farms switched to organic practices and abandoned antibiotics, the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella dropped. The study compared poultry litter, water and feed samples from 10 newly organic and 10 conventional poultry houses. Bacteria were found in samples at both types of operations, the story found, but the organic farms had a smaller prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella. (World Poultry)

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