News bites, March 2015

Sound Consumer March 2015

Soil-derived antibiotic without resistance?

A powerful new antibiotic extracted from soil may help solve the urgent problem of antibiotic resistance, because it works in a way that makes it unlikely to foster resistant strains. Researchers from Northwestern University report in the journal Nature that the new drug, teixobactin, was tested in mice and easily cured severe infections with no side effects. The researchers say the method developed to produce the drug has the potential to unlock a trove of natural compounds to fight infections and cancer — molecules previously beyond reach because the microbes that produce them could not be grown in the laboratory. (The New York Times)


Fast food, poor academics?

Frequent fast-food consumption apparently can blunt a child’s mental abilities. A national study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics provides evidence that fast-food consumption is associated with slower growth in academic skill in reading, math and science. Researchers found consistent associations between the frequency of fast-food consumption and academic test results. (Washington Post)


An avocado a day

New research finds that eating an avocado per day, as part of an overall diet rich in healthy fats, may help cut the bad kind of cholesterol known as LDL. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recruited 45 overweight participants who tried three cholesterol-lowering diets: one was low-fat and two were high-fat, with one of the high-fat diets including plentiful avocado. The two high-fat diets offered similar macronutrients (such as protein and fats) and calories — yet researchers found the high-fat avocado diet led to significant reductions in LDL. (NPR)


BPA alternative linked to hyperactivity

In a groundbreaking study, researchers have shown why bisphenol-S (BPS), a chemical substitute for bisphenol-A (BPA), might be even more harmful. University of Calgary scientists say their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to show BPS caused abnormal growth surges of neurons in an animal embryo and seemed to result in hyperactivity. The same surges also were found with BPA, though not at the same levels as with BPS, prompting the scientists to suggest all structurally similar compounds in use by plastic manufacturers are unsafe. (Washington Post)


Atlantic salmon in danger

Wild Atlantic salmon are in danger of extinction. An annual review by the Atlantic Salmon Trust says the fish is disappearing from its southern ranges and its northern runs are suffering. The trust said not enough is being done to stop the deaths of migrating salmon at sea and that parasites, pollution and diseases from fish farms are taking a toll. Atlantic salmon is sold widely as farmed salmon (prohibited at PCC) and is the host species for genetically engineered salmon, not approved for market. (The Times UK)


Foie gras ban overturned

A U.S. District judge in California has struck down the state’s ban on the sale of foie gras, which took effect in 2012 under a 2004 law that banned the force-feeding of birds for foie gras production. A ban on the production of foie gras within the state, however, will remain in place. Restaurant chefs across California announced they again would start serving the fatty duck or goose liver, popular in French cuisine. (The Huffington Post)


Washington dairy guilty

 In a ruling that could set a national precedent, a federal judge found that one of the Yakima Valley’s largest dairies, Cow Palace, has polluted groundwater, posing possible “imminent and substantial endangerment” to the public consuming the water and the environment. A March 23 trial will determine how much pollution the dairy is causing, the extent of any threat, and what steps should be taken as a remedy. Cow Palace has 11,000 cows that create more than 100 million gallons of manure annually. (Yakima Herald)


Neonicotinoid pesticides and slugs

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in soybean crops reduced yields by indirectly increasing crop damage by slugs. Researchers found that exposure to neonicotinoids did not have a negative effect on slugs, perhaps because neonicotinoids target insects and slugs are mollusks. The slugs that ate neonicotinoid-treated soybeans, however, were toxic to their natural insect predators. In fields planted with neonicotinoid-coated soybean seeds, the result was a 19 percent reduction in seedlings and a 5 percent decrease in yield. (The Organic Center)


Pesticides linked to diabetes

A study by the National Institutes of Health and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, shows pesticide use is associated with development of diabetes. The Agricultural Health Study has followed more than 89,000 farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina since 1993 to understand better how agricultural work affects the health of farmers. The data collected found that of more than 13,600 farmers’ wives who ever had mixed or used pesticides, five of those pesticides (Fonofos, Phorate, parathion, dieldrin, 2,4,5-T and 2,4,5-TP) were associated with development of diabetes. The results are consistent with other studies and suggest increased risk of diabetes is associated with certain pesticides. (The Organic Center)

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