News bites, June 2015

This article was originally published in June 2015

Organic “Sunset” lawsuit

Fifteen organic stakeholders — including PCC Natural Markets — filed a joint lawsuit in federal court against U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over a rule changing the “Sunset” provision restricting synthetics in organic foods. The lawsuit contends USDA made the rule change illegally, without following the required process.

In September 2013, without public notice or opportunity for comment, USDA changed the Sunset rule to allow synthetics in organics in perpetuity, unless a supermajority of the National Organic Standards Board votes (10 to 5) to end their use. It reversed the intent of “sunset.”

EPA tests for glyphosate?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it may start testing foods for residues of the herbicide glyphosate (aka RoundUp), following the World Health Organization’s announcement that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. EPA increased the amount of glyphosate residues allowed in foods to accommodate genetically engineered crops.

Eat eggs with vegetables

Eating eggs with raw vegetables increases antioxidant absorption, according to research from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology . Researchers served salads with no egg, 1.5 scrambled eggs or three scrambled eggs. Those who ate more eggs absorbed more carotenoids, as many as nine times more beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. (Rodale Institute)

Dairy farmers break antibiotics law

A report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals some farmers are using antibiotics that aren’t supposed to be used on dairy cows. The FDA looked for 31 different drugs in samples of milk from almost 2,000 dairy farms and found about 0.4 percent of randomly collected samples contained drug residues. Florfenicol was the most common antibiotic detected, but five other drugs also turned up — none approved for use in lactating dairy cows. (NPR’s The Salt)

Lowe’s to phase out neonicotinoids

After nearly two years of public pressure, Lowe’s Home Improvement says it will begin taking steps to protect bees and other pollinators from neonicotinoids. In its 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Lowe’s pledges to offer more alternative product choices and to phase out products containing neonics within 48 months, as alternatives become available. (Center for Food Safety)

Store-brand “organic” eggs

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is asking consumers to avoid Egg-Land’s Best, Land O’Lakes organic eggs and private-label store brand organic eggs. OCA warns these “organic” eggs generally are from places that operate more like factories than farms and feed their chickens synthetic methionine, according to an investigation by The Cornucopia Institute. The practice of adding synthetic methionine to organic poultry feed remains a controversial issue. (Organic Consumers Association)

Pesticides and lower sperm quality

A new study out of Harvard University links dietary exposure to pesticides with lower sperm quantity and quality in men. Researchers found men exposed to the highest levels of pesticide residues from fruit and vegetables had almost 50 percent fewer sperm and more abnormally shaped sperm compared to men who consumed the least amount of pesticides in their diets. (The Organic Center)

Hain “all-natural” lawsuit

A federal judge in California has ruled a lawsuit can proceed against Hain Celestial for false and deceptive advertising, and unlawful misbranding. Hain allegedly misled consumers by describing Sunflower Dream beverage and other products as “all-natural” when they contained artificial and heavily processed ingredients, such as tricalcium phosphate, xanthan gum, vitamin A palmitate, folic acid and vitamin D-2. The judge ruled a reasonable consumer would expect a product labeled “all-natural” does not contain any artificial, synthetic or extensively processed ingredients. (

Doctors call for glyphosate ban

Argentina’s union of 30,000 doctors and health professionals is demanding a ban against the herbicide glyphosate since the research wing of the World Health Organization announced it’s a probable carcinogen. They’re asking the Ministry of Health to open a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life. (

GE eucalyptus trees

The Brazilian government has approved the biotech industry’s request to release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for commercial sale and planting, the first approval for GE trees in the Americas. Organizations in Brazil are exploring legal paths to stop the release, saying the decision violates the 2008 decision on GE trees made by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Brazil is a signatory. (

Nuts for longevity

Strong links between nuts and peanuts and better health have been found in a major study of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and varied ethnic groups — many of whom had serious risk factors for premature death, such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, was conducted among more than 200,000 people in the United States and Shanghai and found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes, especially heart disease and stroke. (The New York Times)

FDA to end approval of poultry drug

The FDA says it will end approval for nitarsone, the last arsenic-based drug for livestock production, by the end of 2015. Nitarsone is used to prevent disease in non-organic turkeys and chickens. The FDA withdrew approval for three other arsenic-based drugs — roxarsone, arsanilic acid and carbarsone — in 2014. Studies show that adding arsenical drugs to animal feed can convert to cancer-causing forms inside poultry, in manure-treated soils, and in human consumers. (FDA)

Restaurants surpass grocery stores

Sales at restaurants and bars overtook spending at grocery stores in March for the first time ever, according to Commerce Department data that dates to 1992. It’s a trend being driven by millennials, while older Americans have been expressing less of a willingness to spend on dining out and are funneling more cash toward grocery stores. (Bloomberg)

Also in this issue

WISErg: A new solution to the old problem of food waste

PCC Natural Markets is turning food waste from our stores into high-quality fertilizer, available for sale at our stores.

Your co-op community, June 2015

Community Grant winner, Blood drive, Fremont 5K & Briefcase Relay, and more

PCC Board of Trustees report, June 2015

Annual meeting recap, Board meeting reports