News bites, October 2014

This article was originally published in October 2014

Judge: Kauai GE law invalid

A federal judge has ruled that a Kauai County law requiring companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops is invalid. Syngenta Seeds, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and BASF had sued for a permanent injunction, arguing the ordinance unfairly targets their industry. The invalidated law would have required companies using large amounts of restricted-use pesticides to establish buffer zones around schools and hospitals. (The Huffington Post)

USFWS phases out GE

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will phase out genetically engineered (GE) crops to feed wildlife. It also is banning neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. The announcement follows the recently announced decision to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides, linked to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees, from refuges in the Pacific region. (Center for Food Safety)

Butterflies and climate change

A British butterfly species has made climate change history by becoming the first known animal of any kind to lose the ability to do something after global warming forced it to move to a new environment and adapt its behavior. The brown argus butterfly has spread from long-established sites in the south of England further north to warmer and more habitable areas. But in the move the species has lost its ability to eat one of the two plants on which it has traditionally relied for survival because it’s not prevalent in its new home, according to new research. (The Independent)

Broccoli power

A new study in Cancer Prevention Research finds broccoli compounds help flush carcinogenic benzene from our bodies. When research subjects drank tea made of boiled broccoli sprouts for 12 weeks, their excretion rate of the chemical shot up by 61 percent. Scientists say it’s a frugal, simple and safe means to reduce long-term health risks associated with air pollution. Sprouts pack much higher levels of the benzene-fighting compounds, but regular broccoli has it, too. (Cancer Prevention Research)

Mercury in the oceans

Researchers have released the first comprehensive study of its kind showing that since the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels and some mining activities have resulted in a more than three times increase in mercury in the upper 100 meters of the ocean. There, it builds up in carnivorous species such as tuna. Mercury is a neurotoxin that’s especially dangerous for children and babies. (Mother Jones)

Factory farming super PAC

An Iowa organization combating what it calls “the radical animal rights movement” reportedly has launched a new super PAC, Protect the Harvest. Super PACs legally are allowed to solicit unlimited contributions to produce political advertisements — so long as their spending is not coordinated with any candidates’ campaigns. On its website, Protect the Harvest says the animal rights movement in America is determined to end the consumption of meat, but critics of the super PAC say it’s nothing but a front group for industrialized agriculture. (The Center for Public Integrity)

Plastic from food byproducts?

Chairs, synthetic rugs and plastic bags one day could be made out of cocoa, rice and vegetable waste rather than petroleum, scientists report. Mixing naturally occurring organic acid with parsley and spinach stems, and husks from rice and cocoa pods, formed films with a promising range of traits, from brittle and rigid to soft and stretchable — similar to commercial plastics. The novel process could help the world deal with its agricultural and plastic waste problems. (American Chemistry Society)

Latinos move up on farms

More Latinos in the United States now own their own farms, according to the latest census data. The number of farms run by Hispanics increased 21 percent from 2007 to 2012, thanks in part to organizations such as the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), which helps farmworkers make the transition to owning their own farms. Much of the growth has been concentrated in small and midsize farms and a number of them are turning to organic certification to increase revenue. (Civil Eats)
First nutrient-enhanced GE 

First nutrient-enhanced GE

The first genetically engineered crop enriched with nutrients reportedly was harvested in the UK this past summer. A crop of camelina (false flax) has been engineered so its seeds will produce an oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids normally only found in fish. The GE camelina eventually could be fed to farmed fish to boost their omega-3 fat intake, in place of wild seafood and fish oil. (The Telegraph)

COOL upheld

A federal appeals court has upheld Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, saying the consumers’ interest in where food comes from outweighs free speech claims by opponents. The court says consumers have a substantial interest in country of origin disclosure, including associated health concerns and market impacts. (

Writers subpoenaed in pink slime lawsuit

Five food writers, including New York Times and Food Safety News reporters, have been subpoenaed by a meat producer as part of its $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News. The network is being sued over its coverage of a beef product dubbed “pink slime,” made from butchered trimmings treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. Beef Products Inc. said ABC’s coverage misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe. (Capital Press)

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, October 2014

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

Climate change and northwest agriculture

Climate change seems certain to take a toll on Washington's $40 billion annual agriculture industry, but the Northwest may be able to adapt better than other regions.

Letters to the editor, October 2014

PCC’s advocacy work, Brand ownership brochure, PCC Farmland Trust, and more