News bites, December 2017

This article was originally published in December 2017

Dr. Bronner’s social justice

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap has pledged $1 million over the next four years to the nonprofit TERI, to expand its Southern California operation to include a new, state-of-the-art facility called the “Campus of Life” for children, adults and seniors with autism and other special needs. The “Campus of Life” will offer programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, brain trauma, severe behavioral disorders, dual diagnoses and learning disabilities. The “Campus of Life” will provide an innovative and therapeutic environment and conduct cutting edge research as a world-class, international center of community, acceptance and empowerment for individuals with developmental disabilities. (

Glyphosate-free ice cream

Ben & Jerry’s has announced it will launch a certified organic line of ice cream next year, following a public campaign that found traces of the herbicide glyphosate in numerous flavors. Tests by Health Research Institute labs found glyphosate in 13 of 14 ice cream samples in the U.K., France, Germany and the Netherlands. European food safety guidelines indicate the levels found are well within recommended limits, but one peer-reviewed study published by Nature magazine this year found much lower exposures trigger fatty liver disease among rats. (

Farmers cooperatives threatened

Some officials of Wisconsin’s biggest agricultural cooperatives are trying to weaken farmers’ control over their own cooperatives. Assembly bills introduced last spring would allow voting by board members who are not cooperative members and assign voting rights to members based on size and patronage, rather than the existing one member, one vote system. The bills also remove an 8 percent cap on dividends and restrict cooperative members’ access to historical financial and other records. (Food & Power)

False “fragrance free” claims

Scientists at Northwestern University examined the ingredients of the top 100 best-selling moisturizers claiming to be “fragrance-free” sold by Amazon, Target and Walmart and found nearly half — 45 percent — actually contain some form of fragrance. 83 percent labeled “hypoallergenic” contain a potentially allergenic chemical. Label claims of "dermatologist-recommended” don’t mean much because there’s no way to know how many dermatologists recommend it, or who they are. (

PNW recycling?

China’s ban against importing additional mixed paper and plastic waste from the United States takes effect by the end of this year, leaving the Northwest without buyers for much of what we put in curbside recycling bins. Unless a buyer can be found, most of the paper and plastic put in recycling bins will go to landfills. Residents can help by making sure that prohibited items, such as garden hoses, plastic bags and strings of Christmas lights are not put in curbside recycling bins since they cause problems at sorting facilities. (

Genius award for social justice

Greg Asbed, founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” this fall. CIW seeks to improve conditions for workers in Florida’s tomato industry. The award includes a $625,000 grant that Asbed plans to use for CIW’s Fair Food Program, which pressures food companies to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, directly supporting tomato pickers. (The New York Times)

Food bank rejects junk food

One of the largest food banks in the country is turning away junk food. Washington, D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) has been turning away soda, chips and more empty calorie foods in an effort to offer healthier foods to low-income Americans. The CAFB says 48 percent of the people it serves have high blood pressure and 22 percent have diabetes, or live with someone who has those diseases. A spokesperson says they “feel it’s a moral imperative to be focusing on food that is going to drive better health outcomes.” (NPR/The Salt)

Dicamba ban

After receiving nearly 1,000 complaints about crop damage from the highly volatile pesticide dicamba, Arkansas has unanimously extended its dicamba ban through the 2018 growing season. The manufacturer of the pesticide, Monsanto, is threatening legal action against the state. Farmers have found that increased use of pesticides for GE seeds has created pesticide resistance in the very weeds they’re designed to kill. Synthetic pesticides are not allowed in organic agriculture. (Cornucopia Institute)

Anti-consolidation rules?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrew the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules two days before the rules would have become effective, citing financial, legal and policy concerns. The GIPSA rules were written in 2016 to empower farmers to combat consolidation and to ensure fair and competitive markets in poultry and livestock. GIPSA also was restructured within USDA and food policy advocates are concerned the move may compromise GIPSA’s regulatory function. (

Pet cocktails?

One way pet owners are bonding with their furry companions is including them in the Happy Hour. Drinks for cats, such as the Cat-Tini and the Purrgundy “wine” aren’t alcoholic but may contain valerian root to induce relaxation or euphoria with a little buzz — or salmon oil, which is good for the pet’s skin and coat. Dog owners may choose the Barkbrew ale with glucosamine for healthy joints and peppermint for breath. (Supermarket News)

Also in this issue

Gathering around the holiday table

Diversity hath many forms, including what we eat. Seated around your holiday table may be a meat-lover, a committed vegan, someone with nut allergies, and another avoiding gluten.

Soil & Sea: Reports from our producers

Hurricane damage and ocean warming harms producers, meanwhile exciting advances are happening in organics in the Pacific Northwest.