News bites, June 2014

This article was originally published in June 2014

Organic solutions for livestock

Organic medicinal treatments for livestock can be just as effective as conventional drug treatments, according to a recent report from a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education project. Feeding antibiotics to livestock has caused antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop. The Centers for Disease Control said last year that pathogens resistant to antibiotics caused more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths. (The Organic Center)

Oil spills deform fish

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that fish embryos exposed to oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico developed heart deformities. Scientists say their results most likely apply to other predator species, including swordfish, marlin and even humans, whose developing hearts are in many ways similar. Other research published in Science concluded changes in heartbeat and development are linked to oil components called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which impede the process where calcium ions in heart muscle prompt regular heartbeats. (The New York Times)

France bans GE corn

The French parliament approved a law prohibiting cultivation of any genetically engineered corn. The Senate said it poses a risk to the environment.
The ban also applies to any GE corn approved at the EU in the future, including new GE corn from Dow and DuPont chemical companies. (Reuters)

Antarctic whaling stopped?

Japan’s Prime Minister says he will comply with an international court order to halt Japanese whale hunts off Antarctica. The annual hunt in the Southern Ocean had been conducted within a loophole in a moratorium on commercial whaling that allowed killing for research purposes. Japan has left open the possibility that it might restart the hunt in the future under a different legal reasoning. (The New York Times)

China destroys GE crops

In China, Hainan province officials destroyed genetically engineered (GE) corn and cotton crops in illegal trials. The provincial agricultural department says it examined 107 crop samples across the province’s cities and counties and identified and destroyed nine illegal ones. China has not approved corn, rice or any other GE food to be grown inside its borders. (, China)

Farm internship program

A new law in Washington state, “Establishing a Farm Internship Program,” was signed into law by Governor Inslee. It establishes a three-year program to allow small farms in 16 counties to take on interns, paid or unpaid. The program extends to King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Spokane, Yakima, Chelan, Grant, Island, Kittitas, Lincoln, and Thurston counties. (Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network)

Warmer nights in PNW

Summer nights in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are getting warmer, leading vegetable growers to see positive benefits. Nighttime summer temperatures from 2000-2010 have shown a strong warming trend, while daytime temperatures have shown a general cooling trend. Vegetable growers note that tomatoes, for instance, require warm nighttime temperatures to ripen, suggesting the PNW could become more hospitable for farmers. (Washington State University)

City buys farmland

The Town of Amherst, Massachusetts has approved a plan to buy 20 acres of land to help new farmers get established and grow food for low-income residents. A University of Massachusetts professor who helped start the “Grow Food Amherst” project says the property will demonstrate how small farms and public gardens can co-exist with wildlife protection and other natural resource priorities. (

Not all Kashi “natural”

Cereal giant Kellogg’s will no longer label certain Kashi products “All natural” or “Nothing artificial” and it will pay $5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. The suit accused Kashi of misleading shoppers by labeling “All Natural” or “Nothing Artificial” on products containing genetically engineered and artificial ingredients. Kellogg’s says it will reformulate or relabel by the end of the year. (Associated Press)

Morning light for healthy weight?

People who loaded up on light exposure early in the day were most likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found the relationship between morning light and BMI was independent of how many calories the study participants consumed. (The Los Angeles Times)

Vitamin D to prevent disease

People with low vitamin D levels are more likely to die from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, scientists report in two large studies. The research suggests blood levels of vitamin D are a good barometer of overall health, but it does not resolve the question of whether low levels are a cause of disease or simply an indicator of behaviors that contribute to poor health, such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a diet heavy in processed and unhealthful foods. (The New York Times)

Kentucky hemp

Kentucky’s first legal hemp crop since the 1950s is ready to be planted, something the state’s agriculture commissioner has been pushing for several years. Kentucky has been on track for years to sidestep federal hurdles legally and now is set to see if the crop once again can become economically viable. Other states reportedly want in on some of the action. (Associated Press)

Also in this issue

Extreme weather is affecting food prices

The people who produce our food are sweating out the current drought. Costs for water and animal feed are soaring and retail food prices are beginning to climb, too.

Letters to the editor, June 2014

Produce stickers, Choose organic to avoid pesticides, Grass-fed and feedlots, and more

PCC Board of Trustees report, June 2014

Board meeting, Member meeting, We want your story