News bites, December 2014

This article was originally published in December 2014

Chocolate improves memory?

An antioxidant in chocolate appears to improve some memory skills that people lose with age, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. It found that healthy people, ages 50 to 69, who drank a mixture high in antioxidants called cocoa flavanols for three months performed better on a memory test than people who drank a low-flavanol mixture. On average, the improvement among high-flavanol consumers meant they performed like people two to three decades younger on memory tasks. (The New York Times)

PCC supports climate action

PCC has signed on to support the Washington Climate Declaration, joining 97 other companies (at press time) doing business in our state. The declaration says, “Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century and it’s simply the right thing to do.” Other food companies that have signed on include Seventh Generation, Clif Bar, Stonyfield Farm, Annie’s Homegrown and UNFI, as well as Nestlé, Kellogg’s and General Mills.

Pollinators alleviate malnutrition?

A study in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology has found that maintaining healthy pollinator populations may play an important role in minimizing malnutrition in developing countries. Researchers found pollinators are necessary in 5 to 10 percent of global crop production, but pollinators are important particularly for the most nutrient-rich crops, such as fruits and vegetables. In developing regions of the world, pollinators are most essential for crops providing essential nutrients, such as vitamin A. (Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology)

Study: labeling won’t raise prices

Requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods would incur a median cost to consumers of less than a penny a day per consumer, according to Portland-based ECONorthwest. The study includes research from about 30 international and U.S. studies. Estimates range from 32 cents per consumer per year to $15.01 per year, resulting in a median cost of $2.30. Anti-labeling interests claim GE labeling would cost each consumer $400 to $800 annually. (Civil Eats)

Non-GMO claims

Consumer Reports affirms that all non-GMO claims are not equal. It tested packaged foods with nonorganic corn or soy and found most (but not all) making non-GMO claims not backed up by a third party still met non-GMO standards. The consumer group also now ranks the USDA certified organic seal as “Meaningful” for non-GMO avoidance, but the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal as “Highly Meaningful.” (Consumer Reports)

GE corn lawsuit 

U.S. corn farmers have launched a $1 billion lawsuit against Syngenta, claiming the biotech giant has caused massive damage to the demand for U.S. corn on the international market. Syngenta released a genetically altered corn variety called Viptera before it was approved, and now many nations refuse to import any U.S. corn because of contamination. China, for one, rejected a large shipment. (The Wall Street Journal)

Seattle bans bee-killing pesticides

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on land managed by the City of Seattle. The resolution also calls for a national moratorium on the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, linked to Colony Collapse Disorder in beehives, and asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend registration of neonics. (Seattle City Council)

EPA sued over 2,4-D approval

A coalition of U.S. farmer and environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming the agency didn’t adequately analyze the impact of 2,4-D — an ingredient in the powerful defoliant Agent Orange — before approving Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide. The groups allege widespread use of 2,4-D carries a range of risks to human health, animals and the environment and violates the Endangered Species Act. (Reuters)

Fracking pollutes aquifers

Due to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater reportedly were dumped illegally into central California aquifers supplying drinking water and farm irrigation. Documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity show the oil industry wastewater entered aquifers through “injection disposal wells” used to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants. Testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations. (Center for Biological Diversity)

Study: soda linked to accelerated aging

According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, drinking soda might speed up the body’s aging process. Scientists at the U.C. San Francisco Medical School found that people who drank more soda tended to have shorter telomeres, the caps on the ends of our chromosomes that tend to shrink as we age. (Civil Eats/The Washington Post)

Fraudulent shrimp

The environmental group Oceana recently DNA tested shrimp at 111 restaurants and grocery stores across the United States and found 30 percent were mislabeled, most often by pretending that whiteleg shrimp, which often is farmed under terrible conditions in southeast Asia, was “wild” or “Gulf” shrimp. Some 43 percent of the shrimp bought in New York grocery stores and restaurants was of a different origin than advertised, compared with 33 percent in Washington, DC, 30 percent in the Gulf of Mexico region, and 5 percent in Portland, Oregon. (Oceana)

Also in this issue

Robots in the milking parlor

Washington dairies are leading the way toward new technology. As sustainable dairies turn to robotic systems, the robots are helping them to become more sustainable businesses.

Letters to the editor, December 2014

Healthier receipt paper, Climate change and Northwest agriculture, Bottled water, and more

PCC's "Quite the Find" wines

"Quite the Find" wines are only available at PCC and celebrate unique flavors that tell the story of where they were grown.