News bites, July 2014

This article was originally published in July 2014

Organic sales increasing

Sales of organic products in the United States increased in 2013 from $31 billion to $35 billion, up 11.5 percent. It’s the fastest growth rate in five years.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says sales of organic condiments, fruits and vegetables, snack foods, bread and grains, meat, poultry and prepared foods all rose by double digits. The only categories showing single-digit growth were dairy (up 8 percent) and organic beverages, which slowed to a 5 percent growth rate. (Organic Trade Association)

Bee rustlers

As the price for renting bee hives has soared in recent years, from $55 apiece to more than $200 in some areas, so has bee rustling. One bee thief near Sacramento was convicted of a felony after being caught with 80 stolen bee hives valued at more than $65,000. Other thieves who took $70,000 worth of hives from nearby Herald are still at large. (Capital Press)

Oregon counties ban GE crops

Voters in two Oregon counties have approved ballot measures to ban the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops within their borders. Voters in Jackson County, Oregon, easily approved a ban against cultivation of GE crops with 66 percent of the vote and the Josephine County initiative passed with 58 percent of the vote.

The Jackson measure means GE plants already growing must be harvested or destroyed within 12 months, and the Josephine measure “would allow confiscation and destruction of plants that have been genetically altered if contamination was occurring.” (Food Safety News)

Tribes oppose GE salmon

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians is calling on the United States Food and Drug Administration to deny any application for the introduction of GE salmon until a full Environmental Impact Statement is completed and formal consultation with Northwest Treaty Tribes is undertaken. Northwest Tribes share a number of concerns about GE salmon, including the potential of escape into the wild habitat, and competing and inbreeding with wild salmon. (Muckleshoot Indian Tribe)

Lawmakers vote against feedlot 

In a rare victory for animal welfare advocates, a county board voted not to grant a permit for a 50,000 animal feedlot in Arkansas. It would have been the largest in the state. The board cited concerns about groundwater, surface water and air quality as reasons for rejecting the plan. (

Inert ingredients in pesticides

A study by French researchers found inert ingredients in pesticides may magnify the overall toxicity by enhancing the ability of the active chemicals to penetrate cells. The researchers looked at the toxicity of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides when all ingredients were included in the testing, and found that eight of nine pesticide formulations were up to 1,000 times more toxic than their active ingredients.

In addition to declared active ingredients, pesticides contain a mix of so-called “inert” ingredients, which often are kept confidential by the manufacturing companies. (The Organic Center)

Drought hurts rodeos

The severe drought in California is affecting even the pro rodeo circuit. Organizers of the Redding rodeo fear rising feed and water costs for horses, stock and maintaining the arena could force them to raise ticket prices to make ends meet. (Capital Press)

USDA to give $78 million to support “local”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making a historic $78 million investment in local and regional food systems, including food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises. It designates $48 million in loans for local food projects through USDA’s Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program and $30 million in grants for USDA’s Farmers’ Market and Local Foods Promotion Program. (Agri-Pulse)

Coke to drop controversial ingredient 

In the coming months, Coca-Cola will phase out brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, a chemical that also has been patented as a flame retardant. The company was the target of petitions on by a teenage activist who wanted it out of Gatorade and Powerade. (Associated Press)

Organic restaurant’s top honor

Elsa, a restaurant in Monaco, recently won the first Michelin star ever awarded to a 100-percent organic establishment. Michelin stars are awarded to the best restaurants in the world. The restaurant relies on a network of small organic farmers to supply its fruit and vegetables. (T Magazine)

Study: food dye levels

Many studies have shown that food dyes can impair children’s behavior, but until now the amounts of dyes in packaged foods have been a secret. New research by Purdue University scientists, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, reports on the dye content of scores of breakfast cereals, candies, baked goods and other foods.

The amounts of dyes found in even single servings of numerous foods — or combinations of several dyed foods — are higher than the levels demonstrated in some clinical trials designed to impair some children’s behavior. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Also in this issue

Eating wild

Since the dawn of agriculture some 5,000 to 12,000 years ago, humans have been choosing to grow sweeter, less fibrous, and usually less nutritious varieties of fruits and vegetables — essentially breeding nutrients out of food.

Letters to the editor, July 2014

Choose organic to avoid pesticides, Vendor goes non-GE, Organic calf care, and more

Report: FDA lacks oversight of food ingredients

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) just released a 14-page overview of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) lax oversight of food additives in the United States. The report lambasts the feds for looking the other way as food technologists add almost anything they please to food.