News bites, December 2016

This article was originally published in December 2016

Regular-fat cheese better?

Regular-fat cheese may be as healthy a choice as the low-fat version, according to a study funded by the dairy industry. Researchers divided volunteers into three groups: one replaced part of their daily diet with regular-fat cheese, the second ate low-fat cheese, and a control group replaced part of their diet with bread and jam. At the end of the 12-week study, researchers found no difference in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels or body weight, and in fact found a small increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol) in the group that ate regular-fat cheese. (The New York Times)


GE promises fall short

Genetic engineering (GE) in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides, according to an extensive New York Times investigation. The study focused on comparing yields and pesticide use between North America, where GE crops are popular, and western Europe, where they mostly are banned. It found herbicide use has increased in the United States by 21 percent since the introduction of GE crops in the mid-1990s, while in Europe over the same time period, herbicide use has declined by 36 percent. (The New York Times)


Big Soda money

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo gave millions of dollars to dozens of prominent health organizations over the past five years, but at the same time spent millions to defeat public health legislation designed to reduce soda consumption and improve public health. Critics say soda companies want it both ways, to “appear as socially responsible corporate citizens and lobby against public health measures every chance they get,” using corporate philanthropy to undermine public health measures. The findings, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, calls the public health sponsorships into question. (The New York Times)


Plastic bag ban update

Seattle’s City Council passed an update in October to its 2012 plastic bag ordinances. Starting July 1, 2017, no retailers in the city may use or provide non-compostable plastic film bags tinted green or brown for produce/bulk/other foods, as carryout bags or for home delivery. The new update also made permanent the 5-cent charge for recyclable, paper shopping bags and prohibits non-compostable bags labeled with misleading claims, such as “biodegradable.” (seattle.gov)


GE uses more pesticides

In the largest study ever of GE crops and pesticide use, researchers found that farmers growing GE soy used 28 percent more herbicides than farmers who grow traditional non-GE soy. Adoption of GE soy and its companion herbicides correlates with negative impacts on ecosystems, reducing biodiversity while increasing water and air pollution. (University of Virginia)


Glyphosate residues in honey

Residues of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) have turned up in high levels in honey from Iowa, according to new research by chemists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the University of Iowa. They found glyphosate residues detected at 653 parts per billion (ppb), more than 10 times the limit of 50 ppb allowed in the European Union. Other honey samples detected glyphosate residues at levels from the low 20s ppb to 123 ppb. For the first time, the FDA began testing for glyphosate residues in a small number of foods earlier this year after the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in March 2015. (The Huffington Post)


Atkins-style diets drawbacks

Following an Atkins-style diet may make you thinner, but it won’t make you healthier, research suggests. A study of 34 obese women found that when they lost excess weight by eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, the usual health benefits associated with weight loss, including those linked to diabetes and heart disease, were “completely abolished,” according to the study’s lead author at Washington University in St. Louis. She’s concerned that an increasing number of foods being marketed as high in protein, such as cereal, could be harmful. (The Guardian)


Governor’s mansion garden

The First Lady of Washington state, Trudi Inslee, had something unusual growing alongside the tomatoes, chard and kale in the garden of the governor’s mansion in Olympia: wheat and barley varieties developed by Washington State University’s Bread Lab. A longtime believer in local economies and the role of food in personal, environmental and community health, Inslee planted a vegetable garden along the driveway to the governor’s mansion three years ago and has donated thousands of pounds of produce to local food banks. She conceived the idea of adding grains to the project after visiting WSU’s plant breeding program and to support the larger effort in the U.S. to revive, grow, and eat more nutrient-dense, locally adapted grains. (Civil Eats)


Millennials opt for organic

America’s 75 million millennials are stocking their shopping carts with organic on a regular basis, saying it’s a “key eco-conscious habit” and “an integral part of living green,” according to a new Organic Trade Association survey. Among U.S. parents, more than five in 10 (52 percent) organic buyers are millennials. Generation X parents (35-50 years old) made up 35 percent of parents choosing organic, and baby boomers (51-69 years old) accounted for just 14 percent of shoppers choosing organic. (KIWI Magazine/Organic Trade Association)

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