Letters to the editor, May 2017

This article was originally published in May 2017

Seed industry consolidation

The February Sound Consumer article, “Seed industry consolidation continues,” was about three proposed seed megamergers: Bayer and Monsanto, DuPont and Dow, and ChemChina and Syngenta. The article received many comments on PCC’s Facebook page. Here’s a sampling.

Unacceptable! We need a global class-action lawsuit to stop the destructive practices with growing food. It is medicine for our cells.

— Leanne Woodland

Clearly, we desperately need new, organic seed companies to open up. When are the people going to get the real story on GMOs? It’s tiring to see how few know the truth. Somebody needs to stick their neck up and shout the facts.

— Marc Carter

While I understand the concern regarding consolidation of companies in general, which usually is bad for consumers, I don’t really agree about how bad this is getting. People are saying they’re terrified but as your article correctly points out, large firms own only half the seed industry. Comparative to other industries, this is pretty healthy in terms of competition and choice. Look at the other end of the food pipelines: PCC is part of an industry that is dominated by Walmart and Kroger. That’s a much greater level of concern for consumers.

— Adam Michelson

Thank you for reminding us to be diligent about our food supply.

— Jan Creighton

Can we say, “Monopolies”?

— Julie Blackwood

This is a real worry!

— Fay Cawley

Kimchi and health

I’m a longtime PCC shopper and have a question regarding kimchi. I started eating kimchi about a year ago, based on an article in the Sound Consumer regarding its healthful probiotic properties and then discovered I loved it! Now I regularly buy it from the deli and eat it almost every day.

My question concerns the somewhat conflicting information I’ve read regarding the risk of developing stomach cancer due to the presence of H. pylori bacteria. Some sources suggest, mostly based on associative data, that there are higher incidences of stomach cancer (relatively rare in the United States at 0.9 percent) among groups that regularly consume kimchi. For example, Korea, where kimchi is consumed regularly, has the highest rate of stomach cancer in the world (7.6 percent).

Some sources suggest, however, that kimchi can be cancer-preventive, at least when special types of kimchi are consumed (see pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/4582). Other sources say kimchi is beneficial as long as it is not consumed too frequently.

Can the experts at PCC shed any light on this?

— Anonymous

PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose replies: A 2011 study reporting a link between gastric cancer and kimchi appears to be based on case-control studies, which suggest associations but not causation for a link between kimchi and gastric cancer. So while it might be possible that there’s a direct relationship, it’s also possible the association can be due to other factors. For example, people who frequently eat kimchi may follow a more traditional Korean diet and eat other traditional foods, such as grilled or processed meats, which themselves are linked to gastric cancer.

I fall into the group of nutrition educators who suggest kimchi has a protective effect against cancer. Fermented kimchi (and sauerkraut) provide beneficial probiotics, which optimize the immune system. Kimchi also provides cancer-fighting phytonutrients from cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, radish), as well as phytonutrients from garlic, ginger and peppers.

As for the H. pylori concern, there’s evidence “probiotics may have a favorable effect on H. pylori infection in humans, particularly by reducing the risk of developing disorders associated with high degrees of gastric inflammation,” as this 2007 paper concluded: pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/4583. More recent research also supports specific strains of probiotic bacteria in H. pylori infections.

Homemade kefir

I’m just getting started on making my own kefir and want to use milk with cream on the top — non-homogenized milk. But there is no source close to where we live. I’m wondering if you might steer me in the right direction.

— T.J.

PCC replies: Any good-quality milk will work for making kefir. It doesn’t have to be non-homogenized. The less processed the milk, however, the better for flavor and nutrition, so non-homogenized milk would work.

The milk also doesn’t have to be cream-top and, while the cream does add great texture and flavor, it does not influence the fermentation process. A cream top occurs naturally in non-homogenized milk.

We carry three brands of non-homogenized cream-top milk: Pure Eire, Grace Harbor and Twin Brook.

Avoiding glyphosate

I really appreciate the great job you are doing at PCC, providing the best service and trying to promote the sale of safe and sustainable products. One thing that troubles me is the non-GMO label on products.

It concerns me because there can be non-GMO ingredients present that have been grown with Roundup, as it is used to desiccate crops that are not genetically engineered, such as sunflower seeds or peas. Unless they’re organic, the product sold could, in fact, contain glyphosate residue. Have you looked into this issue?

For this reason, I try to buy organic only if at all possible to avoid this potential contamination. Are non-GMO products safe from glyphosate contamination?

— Ute Philippi

PCC replies: You make a very good point. The Non-GMO Project seal verifies only that the ingredients were produced without genetic engineering; it does not mean they were grown without pesticides. So a non-organic hummus could be Non-GMO Project Verified but potentially could contain glyphosate residues from the non-organic chickpeas. Wheat, barley, oats and chickpeas are crops that may be grown in fields treated with glyphosate before planting to kill weeds, and/or just before harvest to cause the crop to wilt, making it easier for harvesting machinery. For information about residual levels of glyphosate in food, see this letter to the editor and a report from Food Democracy Now.

The best way to avoid glyphosate-treated crops is to choose organic. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Environmental Research confirmed that families eating an organic diet for as little as a week removed more than 90 percent of the pesticides from their system.

Reusable produce bags

Your reusable produce bags have a tag that says “not for long-term use.” Can you please tell me more about this?

What do you consider “long term” and why would this statement be on the produce bags?

— name withheld upon request

PCC replies: The white, mesh bags we sell from the company 3B have that message on the packaging. “Not for long-term use” means that while produce can be stored in the bags, the bags do not prolong the life of the produce. 3B staff apologize for the confusion.

Seafood safety

You printed an item from Environmental Working Group regarding pregnant women’s exposure to mercury if they follow U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. While I think it’s very important to be cautious, this is in contradiction to an article in The Seattle Times (“Should you worry about mercury in seafood? What you need to know,” by Carrie Dennett, December 18, 2016).

She notes that selenium, an antioxidant mineral that bonds with mercury, is present in many sources of seafood. She did say that some sources, such as whale and shark, are high in mercury and low in selenium, and thus should be avoided. However, tuna has more selenium than mercury, and cod, pollock and salmon have among the lowest levels of mercury of all seafood. I’ve been somewhat nervous about getting mercury from tuna and salmon and the like, but I find this reassuring.

— Annette Bader

PCC replies: According to the Environmental Defense Fund, there’s limited evidence that selenium in seafood provides significant protection against the negative effects of mercury. Organ meats and seafood are the best sources of selenium.It’s true that one form of selenium — selenide — has been shown to neutralize the toxicity of some forms of mercury. As part of its 2006 report, “Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks,” the Institute of Medicine reviewed the scientific evidence that selenium reduces the risks associated with methylmercury in seafood. The expert panel concluded that although selenium may diminish some of the toxic effects of some forms of mercury and other heavy metals, the mechanisms for these interactions are poorly understood. In addition, there was little or no evidence showing selenium affected the toxicity of other seafood contaminants, such as PCBs or dioxins. So we think it’s premature to conclude that selenium acts as a safeguard against methylmercury. Choosing fish that are low in contaminants is the best course of action. See seafood.edf.org/seafood-health-alerts for a list of seafood and how many meals per month of each species are considered safe for men, women or children.

Also in this issue

PCC sets the bar for non-GMO and organic meat

By the time you read this, all of PCC's fresh chicken, turkey, beef and pork producers will be certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

Your co-op community, May 2017

Food bank packaging work parties, Blood drives, Mother's Day craft event, and more

Members, it's election time!

Learn about the trustee and nominating committee candidates, and how to vote, on our website here. Mail-in ballots must be received at the PCC office by 5 p.m. on June 7. In-store voting is permitted until each store's close of business on June 7.