News bites, August 2016

This article was originally published in August 2016

Farmers quit OTA

The organic farmer-controlled Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) by a unanimous vote of its board of directors has withdrawn its membership from the Organic Trade Association (OTA). OSGATA’s decision was announced in a news release saying OTA was duplicitous toward organic farmers and consumers when a small number of OTA board members endorsed a dangerous bill that immediately would preempt existing strong state GMO labeling laws that are widely supported by the organic community and 90 percent of consumers. (OSGATA)

New WSU bee lab

Washington State University will be home to a new $16-million Honey Bee and Pollinator Research Center. In addition to research labs, the 15,000-square-foot research facility will include a screened observation area, allowing the public to watch bees in demonstration gardens. The facility will host visiting scientists from around the world who come to conduct research. (Washington State University)

Philadelphia’s soda tax

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to impose a tax on sugary drinks after its City Council voted to impose a tax on sweetened drinks. The surcharge of 1.5 cents per ounce also will apply to artificially sweetened diet sodas. (

Shellfish lawsuit

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat is suing the Army Corps of Engineers, challenging the Corps’ Seattle district for “excessive issuance of permits” for shellfish farming around the Sound. The Coalition had tried previously to get the Corps to stop issuing permits until an evaluation assessed the impact of massive PVC and High Density Polyethylene plastic installations on beaches and shorelines. Some scientists claim there is only “limited damage” to these beaches, but that’s based on the notion that these shellfish farms are “temporary” when, in fact, they are not. (The Olympic Peninsula Environmental News)

Whole grains for health

Two separate studies raise doubt about the wisdom of avoiding carbohydrates, especially whole grain foods. Research published in the American Heart Association’s journal says eating at least three servings of whole grains daily could extend lifespan by lowering the risk of early death 20 percent. Researchers at the Imperial College, London, also found coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancer can be reduced up to 50 percent with modest intake of whole grains. The greatest benefit was among people who went from no intake of whole grains to two servings per day. ( College, London)

Crack down on “cane juice”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has urged food companies to stop using the term “evaporated cane juice” because it is “false or misleading,” suggesting the sweetener is “juice” or made from “juice” and does not reveal the basic properties are those of a sugar. The FDA says this ingredient instead should be declared as “sugar,” preceded by descriptors, such as “cane sugar,” if desired. (

THC protects against Alzheimer’s?

Scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. While the exploratory studies were conducted in neurons grown in the laboratory, they may offer insight into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease and could provide clues to developing novel therapeutics for the disorder. Previous studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (

PepsiCo linked to child labor

The palm oil industry has made headlines for environmental destruction, greenhouse gas emissions and stealing indigenous lands, and now a report looks at conditions for palm oil workers. “The Human Cost of Palm Oil,” by Rainforest Action Network and the International Labor Rights Forum, calls out PepsiCo for a loophole in its sustainable palm oil policy. A PepsiCo venture partner reportedly uses child labor, gives women some of the most toxic jobs applying hazardous pesticides, and effectively forces harvesters to enlist their children to meet quotas. (Reuters)

Pesticides threaten endangered species

A report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds three pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — are likely to harm 97 percent of the plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). EPA’s report was not voluntary: it is part of the settlement in a lawsuit over EPA’s failure to comply with the ESA. Farmers used an estimated 8 to 9 million pounds of the three pesticides in 2013, including on soybeans, corn, wheat, almonds, grapes, strawberries, kale, and many other kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. (Civil Eats)

Bad diet, bad sleep?

Diet might be to blame for restless nights, a new study by Columbia University researchers suggests. They subjected 26 normal-weight adults to a controlled food regimen — high in fiber and low in saturated fat and added sugars — for four days, then let the participants eat whatever they wanted on the fifth day. Each night, they monitored both sleep duration and quality and found that meals low in fiber and high in saturated fat were associated with lower quality sleep, while higher levels of sugar led to more wake-ups. (Mother Jones)

Also in this issue

Your co-op community, August 2016

West Seattle PCC, Food bank packaging parties, Tilth Harvest Festival, and more

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Learn why 2016 was a "vintage year" for Washington cherries, how the first crop of GE Golden Delicious apples will hit the market this fall, why the dead zone plaguing the Gulf of Mexico is expanding, more agriculture news.

What does "natural" mean?

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration asked the public to weigh in on how the term "natural" should be defined and used on food labels—or whether the agency should regulate the use of the term at all. Here's an excerpt of PCC's comments.