News bites, January 2016

This article was originally published in January 2016

Farmers used bees 9,000 years ago

Farmers have been fostering working relationships with bees for at least 9,000 years — a couple of thousand years earlier than previously thought — according to a study in the journal Nature. Researchers found traces of beeswax in pottery recovered from well-dated Neolithic archaeological sites in Turkey, soon after the rise of settled farming in the region. The researchers say it doesn’t mean ancient farmers were beekeepers who oversaw hives, but they did eat honey and use beeswax to repair cracks in pots and burn in lamps for light. (NPR/The Salt)

Roundup and organ damage

A study in the journal Environmental Health suggests very low levels of exposure to the herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate), in water — at levels found in the environment — may cause kidney and liver damage. Researchers found female rats showed three times more signs of kidney and liver damage than the control rats fed uncontaminated water. The findings “potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations.” (

EPA revokes herbicide approval

In a surprising move, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revoked approval of an herbicide that was to be sprayed on a new generation of genetically engineered (GE) crops including soybeans, corn and cotton. New information suggests the herbicide Enlist Duo could be more toxic than previously believed. Enlist Duo was developed because crops were becoming resistant to other herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup. It originally was approved in 2014 based on safety data provided by Dow. (The New York Times)

Canada sued over GE salmon

Environmental groups are suing the Canadian government to stop production of GE salmon eggs in Canada, saying the process poses a “huge live experiment” with the genetic makeup of all wild Atlantic salmon. The U.S. firm, AquaBounty, was permitted to produce fertile GE salmon eggs in Canada and says it would ship them to Panama, where they would be raised. Many opposed believe it’s only a matter of time before AquaBounty will be raising the fish in the United States. (The Guardian)

Beverly Hills organic farm?

A billionaire plans to take his Beverly Hills estate, once listed for $195 million, off the market and turn part of the property into an organic farm. Real estate mogul Jeff Greene says at least two acres of the 25-acre estate will grow tomatoes, potatoes, onions and corn. Property in the area reportedly is valued at $10 million per acre. (Modern Farmer)

Organic fast food

A fried-chicken joint in California claims to be the country’s first U.S. Department of Agriculture Certified organic fast food restaurant. At the Organic Coup in the Bay Area, at least 95 percent of all ingredients must be certified organic, non-organic ingredients can’t be prepared on the same surfaces, and even cleaning products must certified organic. “The simple act of buying a certified organic sandwich makes you an agent of change,” says the company’s website. (Quartz)

FDA’s new GE labeling guidelines

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published ” final guidance ” for companies to label GE foods voluntarily. The FDA recommends using the term genetically engineered (GE) over genetically modified organism (GMO) but states it will not pursue action against the GMO acronym in the marketplace, so Non-GMO Project claims are okay. The FDA also affirmed “made with organic [ingredient]” products count as non-GMO because all ingredients in these foods must not be produced with methods prohibited by organic: genetic engineering, use of sewage sludge or irradiation. (FDA)

Home cooking for disease prevention

New research from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says home-cooked meals might help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that for each lunch prepared at home in a week, the risk of Type 2 diabetes dropped by 2 percent, and for each home-cooked dinner, the risk decreased by 4 percent. The researchers explained that eating more homemade meals might help decrease weight gain, which can help reduce the risk of developing the disease. (CBS News)

Supplement fraud indictments

The U.S. Department of Justice has criminally indicted executives of dietary supplement companies that it says imported toxic chemicals from China and sold them as bodybuilding and sports supplements. The 117 targets of federal action included executives, consultants and companies involved in largely internet-only marketing, including USP Labs, Vibrant Life, Optimum Health, Sunrise Nutraceuticals and Bethel Nutritional Consulting. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Cheerios lawsuit

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a class-action lawsuit against General Mills, alleging it’s misleading customers about its new product, Cheerios Protein. When CSPI used identical serving sizes, it found only a 0.7 gram difference between Cheerios Protein and original Cheerios. Additionally, CSPI found that Cheerios Protein has 17 times as much sugar as original Cheerios — more than every other variety of Cheerios on the market. (ABC News)

Also in this issue

"A quiet crisis": The rise of acidic soil in Washington

Wheat farmers across the inland Pacific Northwest say their soil is acidic. The culprit appears to be the abundant use of synthetic nitrogen to increase crop yields. Now farmers and researchers are looking for innovative solutions.

What's in your beer?

Alcoholic beverages are not required by the government to be labeled. They can contain a range of ingredients including high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, thickeners and emulsifiers.

Staff picks

This month our staff love Jacobs Creamery Bloomy Cheese, PCC Deli's Smoked Mozzarella Pasta, Umcka Cold Care, and more! Plus, look for organic blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, Murcott tangerines, Seville oranges and Autumn Glory apples in our produce aisles.