Letters to the editor, October 2014

This article was originally published in October 2014

PCC’s advocacy work

Some years ago, [Trudy Bialic, PCC’s director of public affairs] created and led an impressive coalition of PCC customers and local food advocates in the campaign to get the Tillamook Creamery to stop using rGBH. I wanted to let you know that I used that story in my book, “Barnyards and Birkenstocks: Why Farmers and Environmentalists Need Each Other.” 

The Tillamook story perfectly illustrates how a concerted effort by a small but passionate and knowledgeable group of consumers can have a lot of influence on the environmental behavior of a major food producer and, in this case, of the farmer members and leaders of this large, successful producers’ cooperative.

I wrote this book after retiring from American Farmland Trust in early 2011. It’s now available from Washington State University Press at: pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/2857.

The story of the Tillamook campaign seemed like a natural example of how the local food movement can have a positive environmental impact. It’s on page 152 in the chapter “Local Food, Consumer Influence, and Farmer Privacy.” 

I want to thank you for your continuing passionate and highly effective advocacy. 

&#8212 Don Stuart (American Farmland Trust PNW Director, retired)

Brand ownership brochure

Thank you so much for your approach to those companies that sell organic food but lobbied against the genetically engineered (GE) food labeling bill. By doing an informational brochure, we the customers can decide where to put our money and our values.

In Berkeley, the food co-op (that ultimately went bankrupt) had huge political fights about whether to ban foods or not. Of course the outside world didn’t care &#8212 but oh, those co-op board fights.

It’s a delicate line our Puget Sound co-op has to walk &#8212 between politics and food &#8212 and you do it so well. Congrats.

&#8212 Judith Bendor

PCC replies: The “Food Brand Ownership” brochure is available in all stores and online. It identifies the companies that own popular brands found at PCC. It also lists companies that contributed money to defeat labeling in Washington state last year.

PCC Farmland Trust

As a follow-up to Eileen Weintraub’s letter regarding global warming and agriculture (August), I wonder if PCC members who are vegetarian realize that parts of PCC Farmland Trust land are used for meat production.

Although the conditions for the animals may be far superior than for agribusiness animals and the production is organic, the animals still live shorter lives and in the end are slaughtered.

&#8212 Jeanne Merritt

PCC replies: Some PCC Farmland Trust properties, indeed, have livestock in the farm plan. These producers employ humane, organic, environmentally sustainable practices, where diversification is key to soil fertility, reducing external inputs and producing food for hundreds of local households.

Synthetic vitamins

I recently emailed Clif Bar, which confirmed it uses synthetic vitamins. Do you know if any of your products contain these synthetic nutrients?

Some leading naturopaths say we don’t absorb them well.

&#8212 Vinny

PCC replies: In looking at Clif Bar ingredients, the one synthetic vitamin listed on most of them is ascorbic acid, the chemical name for vitamin C. We know most vitamin C is synthetic, and most of it comes from China. You certainly will see ascorbic acid listed on the ingredient panels of many foods at PCC.

The naturopaths who advise against synthetic vitamins most likely are encouraging you to avoid synthetic vitamins because food-based vitamins always are better absorbed by the body. Synthetic vitamin E, for instance, is absorbed poorly and most research linking vitamin E supplements to poor health outcomes used a synthetic version (dl-alpha-tocopherol) because it’s less expensive. Clif Bar uses natural vitamin E as an ingredient.

More companies are starting to list the sources of their vitamins. At PCC, we have several vitamin C supplements derived from plants. The Mega Foods’ brand of vitamin C is made from Uncle Matt’s certified organic orange juice. The Health Force brand of vitamin C powder is made from acerola berries. The Doctor’s Best and Blubonnet brands provide vitamin C from Scotland, formulated from the glucose of non-GMO corn.

Climate change

Really? A whole article talking about the effects of global warming and climate change without using either word? The June article is called simply “Extreme weather,” and drought is the main example. Yes, it’s extreme and it’s caused by the increased temperatures on the whole Earth!

This is not semantics. This is the kind of connecting-the-dots that we have to do as a nation. The number of people that see global warming as a serious issue actually went down since 2009 &#8212 during the same period that the symptoms became worse and more obvious. In all of 2010 the major [media] networks did only 32 stories about climate change.

It matters that we start telling the truth to each other because we will only start finding the solutions and forcing the policy change necessary when we name the problem. Farmers need to figure out different ways of doing business, and there will have to be less farming in the driest parts of the country. 

We could start putting pressure on Congress to do some of the dozens of things they could have been doing for the last decade and desperately need to do to start reducing carbon, or we can prepare for it to get worse and worse!

&#8212 Lynn Fitz-Hugh, 350Seattle.org,
25-year member of PCC

PCC replies: We don’t intend to hide the magnitude and threat of global warming, and we consistently point out that transitioning to organic methods is critical to addressing the agricultural footprint. (See our cover story this month, “Climate change and Northwest agriculture.”) June’s “Extreme weather” article focused on the price changes that follow the hardships faced by farmers. 

We agree on the need to create and enforce legislation requiring carbon emission reductions.

Low-carb chocolate?

Do you carry sugar-free or stevia-sweetened chocolate bars that are low-carb?

&#8212 A longtime member

PCC replies: Yes, we sell at least two sugar-free, stevia-sweetened chocolate brands, Cavalier and Lily’s Dark Chocolate. Cavalier’s dark chocolate, for instance, contains 20 grams total carbs &#8212 but cocoa contains a lot of fiber, which may be subtracted from total carbs. After subtracting its 7 grams of fiber, Cavalier delivers only 13 grams net carbs. Lily’s Dark Chocolate contains about 3 grams of net carbs.

As a general rule, 15 grams of carbs or less per serving could be considered low-carb. If a chocolate (or any food) is low-sugar, then it also should meet the standards of most low-carb diets. Many dark chocolate bars that contain 80 percent cocoa or more could be considered acceptable.

For instance, Equal Exchange’s 80-percent cocoa chocolate bar contains 14 grams total carbs, but if you subtract its 5 grams of fiber, it contains only 9 grams of “net carbs” per serving. This probably is low-sugar enough for anyone concerned about carbs &#8212 but the chocolate may be too dark if you prefer a sweeter, less-intense chocolate.

Badger brand is non-nano

I just read the letter to the editor (“Healthy sunscreen”) in the August Sound Consumer. I think the woman who wrote in was mistaken when she said Badger sunscreen contained nanoparticles.

On the back of the tube it says “non-nano.” I think it is important to correct this because there are many of us who do not feel nanoparticles are safe and would prefer non-nano sunscreen. Badger makes this claim on its website: “Badger uses uncoated non-nano zinc oxide as the only active ingredient in all our sunscreens. This is the same kind of zinc oxide used in calamine lotions and diaper rash creams.”

People who are looking for a good non-nano sunscreen need to know that Badger makes this.

&#8212 Sally Barron

Avoiding pesticides 

The article “Choose organic to avoid pesticides” (May) is very powerful, but I would like you to revisit this subject to explain and expose the use and residues of herbicides and fungicides in addition to pesticides.

It would be helpful to see charts delineating how these three agricultural chemical applications affect our body, water, air, soil, and how extensively they are used.

&#8212 Jill Hammond

PCC replies: The term “pesticides” is a legal umbrella term that includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and all manner of pest controls, including slug and rat baits. 

Some may be sprayed, some work systemically by absorption through the seed through the plant. But all herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are pesticides.

As for how they affect our bodies and environment, that article is virtually impossible to do, although we’ve tried as much as is possible. We had articles about how children can clear pesticide metabolites rapidly once they switch to an organic diet. We’ve had articles calling out individual compounds, such as 2, 4-D, carbaryl and glyphosate.

Yet pesticides typically are studied alone, by themselves, not in concert with thousands of other compounds in the environment where the chemical soup may prompt damaging synergies. We know, for instance, that “inert” ingredients are anything but inert and may be more toxic than the so-called “active” ingredient. But inerts are secret ingredients, not labeled, making it impossible to study the impact. 

Glyphosate film

As a longtime member of PCC, I appreciate the different articles and information you have gleaned from many different sources and provide to us in the Sound Consumer. This is why I felt compelled to share this new film with you (www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-new-resistance) in hopes we can work to get the word out to even more people about the effects of glyphosate. These filmmakers are raising money to produce a film about this toxic herbicide.

&#8212 Heather Skogerson

Also in this issue

News bites, October 2014

Judge: Kauai GE law invalid, USFWS phases out GE, Butterflies and climate change, and more

PCC Board of Trustees report, October 2014

Board meeting report, Next board meeting, Board outreach event, and more

Added sugars: Learn to subtract from your diet

A shocking 75 percent of packaged foods have some form of sugar added to the list of ingredients. Everything from applesauce to zucchini muffins is a potential source.