News bites, July 2016

Sound Consumer July 2016

Huge bee losses

Beekeepers report losing 44 percent of the colonies managed over the past year, a rate too high for sustaining agriculture. A large body of evidence shows exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides — used with genetically engineered (GE) corn and conventional citrus — is a key factor. In Maryland, where keepers lost 61 percent of their bees, the legislature approved a ban on consumer use of neonics. (Commondreams.org)


Drugs in Puget Sound salmon

Researchers found an “alphabet soup” of drugs, including Prozac, caffeine, cholesterol medicine, ibuprofen, and even cocaine, in sewage-treatment wastewater and the tissue of juvenile Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. They discovered cocktails of 81 drugs and personal care products, with levels detected among the highest in the nation. Most of the chemicals detected are not monitored or regulated in wastewater, and there is little or no established science on the environmental toxicity for most of them. (The Seattle Times)


Fruit protects against cancer

Women who ate nearly three servings of fruit daily when they were teens had a 25-percent lower risk of getting breast cancer when they were adults than those who ate half a serving, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study drew on data from more than 44,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who answered questions about their eating habits as teens. Apples, bananas and grapes seemed to confer the most protection. (Harvard University)


Responsible labor in produce

The nation’s largest produce industry groups — the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association — say they’re joining forces to promote responsible labor practices. The move would be the industry’s first attempt to unite thousands of growers, distributors and retailers behind a global approach to raising worker standards. Labor groups and industry experts say the effort’s credibility will hinge on its willingness to include certification and labor groups in the process. (Los Angeles Times)


Kashi incentivizes organic

Organic food manufacturer Kashi wants to grow the organic industry by making it easier for farmers to transition from conventional agriculture. The company’s new “certified transitional” label will give transitioning farmers both credit and a price premium for starting the shift. California Certified Organic Farmers and Oregon Tilth already offer farmers a chance to become certified transitional, and the Organic Trade Association is developing a proposal for an industry-led version of the label. (TakePart)


Microbeads in body products

President Obama signed a bill in December outlawing microbeads from rinse-off body products, such as toothpaste, by mid-2017, but the legislation left open a loophole allowing companies to continue using microbeads in myriad products, including detergents and cosmetics that can be left on the skin. Unless stronger action is taken to remove microbeads from body care products, the oceans reportedly will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. (The Huffington Post)


New York sued for farmworker rights

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the state and governor, saying that denying New York’s 60,000 farmworkers the right to collective bargaining violates the state constitution. Governor Andrew Cuomo said his administration will not fight the lawsuit. Farmworkers are not afforded the right to collective bargaining under the Fair Labor Act of 1938. (PRI’s The World)


Hawaii helps farms go organic

Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to approve tax credits for organic farmers. A bill now awaiting Gov. David Ige’s signature would provide farmers up to $50,000 in tax credits to help offset the costs of a three-year transition period and getting certified as organic. (The Huffington Post)


Cows eat oregano, fight climate change?

Danish researchers say feeding cattle oregano could fight climate change by reducing methane emissions by up to 25 percent. Globally, more than a third of methane generated by human activity comes from livestock farming, much of it from bovine belching. The researchers say oregano has essential oils with a mild antimicrobial that can kill some of the bacteria in the cow’s rumen that produce methane. (NPR’s The Salt)


Quaker Oats “natural” lawsuit

Consumers in New York and California filed a lawsuit against Quaker Oats, challenging its “100-percent natural” claim, after testing found traces of the pesticide glyphosate in its oatmeal. The firm representing the plaintiffs said the amount of glyphosate is not the issue but rather that Quaker advertises these products as 100-percent natural and glyphosate in any amount is not natural. (The New York Times)


Health Canada approves GE salmon

Health Canada has approved GE salmon as safe for consumption, making it the first GE animal to be allowed on Canadian grocery store shelves. The Canadian announcement follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of GE salmon in 2015. Health Canada will not require GE salmon sold in Canada to be labeled. (cbcnews.ca)

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