News bites, August 2017

This article was originally published in August 2017

GE salmon in Indiana?

AquaBounty Technologies, the biotech company that developed genetically engi-neered (GE) AquAdvantage salmon, has an agreement to purchase a facility in Albany, Indiana. It would be the first commercial-scale facility in the United States for grow-ing the company’s GE salmon. The facility’s first harvest could come as soon as 2019. (

Contaminated drinking water

The drinking water of at least 15 million Americans, including residents of Issaquah, is contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Fluorinated chemicals, known as PFOAs and PFASs, have been used in consumer products from nonstick cook-ware and waterproof clothing to cleaning products, and are linked to thyroid disease, a weakened immune system, developmental problems and cancer. An interactive map shows where water is known to be contami-nated. (

Produce tattoos

UK retailer, Marks and Spencer, is replacing produce stickers with laser-tattoos to be more environmentally friendly. A laser takes off one layer of the fruit or vegetable’s skin and — instead of stickering codes — leaves a mark. Peeling away the traditional labelling will save 10 tons of paper at Marks and Spencer, and five tons of glue each year. Marks and Spencer already is selling avocados that show a best-by date and origin with tattoo markings. The retailer says more of its fruit and vegetables may be laser-branded in future. (BBC)

GMOs are WMDs?

A top intelligence official says gene editing is potentially a weapon of mass destruction that threatens national security. According to the MIT Technology Review, James Clapper, the Director of National Intel-ligence, added gene editing to a list of threats posed by “weapons of mass destruction and proliferation” in an annual report. The report says, “Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this … technology, its deliberate or uninten-tional misuse might lead to far-reaching eco-nomic and national security implications.” (

Gulf of Mexico dead zone

Federal scientists forecast that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone — an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and threaten fisheries — will be about the size of New Jersey. It would be the third-largest dead zone recorded since monitoring began 32 years ago. The Gulf’s dead zones are caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from agriculture and wastewater treatment. (The Cornucopia Institute)

Vegetable labels matter

A Stanford study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows people eat more vegetables when they’re labeled with indulgent descriptions usually reserved for more decadent foods. The researchers labeled vegetables four different ways — green beans, for instance, were described as “green beans” (basic), “light ’n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” (healthy restrictive), “healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots” (healthy positive) or “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots” (indulgent). Diners chose vegetables with indulgent labeling 25 percent more than basic labeling, 35 percent more than healthy positive, and 41 percent more than healthy restrictive.

Olive oil and brain health

Extra-virgin olive oil may protect against cognitive decline, according to research from Temple University. In a study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers show that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning abil-ity and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain — classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease. (

Cosmetics complaints increase

Reports of adverse events associated with cosmetics and personal care products sold in the U.S. more than doubled last year, Northwestern University research suggests. Researchers examined data on side effects reported to the Food and Drug Admin-istration from 2004 to 2016 for makeup, sunscreen, tattoos, hair color, perfume, shaving creams and baby care items. Side effect reports climbed 78 percent to 706 in 2015, followed by a 300 percent surge to 1,591 adverse events last year, largely driven by complaints about hair care products and WEN brand products in particular. (Organic Consumers Association)

Also in this issue

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Learn about the biggest bee heist in California’s history, the fate of the U.S. pine nut industry, and how a vanilla bean shortage might impact your favorite ice cream and baked goods.

Hydration for health

Feeling thirsty? Water is so important for good health that our bodies require more of it than any nutrient. Learn about special products at PCC you can add to boost water’s flavor and nutrition and quench thirst.

The high cost of deporting farmworkers

The administration’s promise to deport illegal immigrants could impoverish family farmers by destroying their ability to plant, tend and harvest crops — and could result in food shortages that impact American eaters.