News bites, January 2018

This article was originally published in January 2018

Female farmworkers solidarity

A letter written on behalf of approximately 700,000 women working in agricultural fields and packing operations across the United States expressed the solidarity of Latina farmworkers with the women in Hollywood who have come forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault. The letter also highlights the high degree of harassment faced by female farmworkers in the United States and the risks they face in taking a stand. (Time)

Alternative Farm Bill

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is taking on the 2018 Farm Bill, the legislation that shapes our food and agriculture policies. Blumenauer’s introduction of the “Food and Farm Act” is a major departure from the historic Farm Bill, implementing reforms that promote sustainable agriculture, nutrition and environmental conservation. Blumenauer’s campaign is for a “fair Food and Farm Bill that will help everyone eat local, support local farms, protect the land and the environment, and provide healthy food for all of us.” (Civil Eats)

UK backs bees

UK’s environmental secretary, Michael Grove, has announced that the UK will back a total ban against an entire class of insect-harming pesticides. Neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticide, harms bees. The European Union temporarily banned three neonic compounds in 2013 and at that time the UK opposed the ban. Grove also notes that a post-Brexit farming subsidy system will channel more money toward environmentally sustainable farming. (The Guardian)

Blockchain tomatoes

Blockchain technology was developed for verifying and recording transactions for bitcoin, digital currency. Startup Ripe.io is demonstrating the use of blockchain technology in agriculture, with aspirations to apply blockchain verification throughout the food supply chain. Last summer Ripe partnered with salad franchise Sweetgreen Inc., to demonstrate that blockchain technology not only can be used to track crops, but it also can yield higher-quality produce and provide more accurate information to farmers, food distributors and restaurants. (Bloomberg)

CA limits pesticides

Beginning January 1, California farmers will be prohibited from spraying many pesticides within a quarter-mile of all public schools and licensed day care centers between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on school days. This limit was issued by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and is the first statewide standard of its kind. The new regulation also requires growers to report annually on all the pesticides they expect to use near schools. (Associated Press)

Carbon emissions rise

Greenhouse gas emissions are showing a recent rise in 2017 after staying relatively flat for the last three years. The increase in carbon emissions is not evenly distributed worldwide. Although the United States and countries of the European Union once generated nearly all the world’s fossil-fuel and carbon emissions, emissions from China and India show a marked increase in 2017. (NPR)

Carbon neutral eggs?

A new farm in the Netherlands claims that its eggs are carbon-neutral. The farm collects waste items and edible items that are set to be thrown away, such as broken biscuits and rice cakes from local bakeries, as feed for the chickens. It also has installed 1,078 solar panels that provide more than enough energy for the farm itself, with overage being sold back to the grid. (Futurism.com)

Regenerative dairy

French dairy giant Danone has signaled its intention to “sharpen” its focus on regenerative agriculture to “broadly reduce emissions” and to respond to consumer demand for “naturality and transparency.” The company joins major initiatives from the French government to promote soil health and support regenerative agriculture across the country. (FoodNavigator.com)

Emotional fish

Do fish feel pain or fear? For the first time, researchers from Portugal have demonstrated that fish respond emotionally to environmental stimuli due to the significance that stimulus has for fish. The scientists say the emotional reactions of fish were monitored by evaluating their interactions and escape behaviors, measuring the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and assessing the brain areas that activate and are known to be associated with positive and negative emotional states. (The Salt/NPR)

Toxic algae harms crabs

California officials warn that toxic algae might delay this winter’s crab-fishing season. Domoic acid is the naturally occurring toxin caused by algal blooms that can be harmful or even fatal to humans if contaminated crabs or shellfish are consumed. Delays are financially difficult on fishermen, many of whom are already struggling to make a profit. (FERN’S Ag Insider)

GMO apple sales

More than 400 Midwest grocery stores began carrying packages of sliced “Arctic Apple” GMO apples last fall. The apples are not labeled and the company marketing the apples will not reveal what stores are selling them, or where. The Arctic Apple is one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers rather than farmers and is engineered not to brown when cut. (Organic Consumers Association)

The “plantscraper”

The Swedish company, Plantagon, is introducing the “plantscraper,” a vertical greenhouse that is part urban farm and part skyscraper. Designs for the first landmark plantscraper, the World Food Building, are complete and the company is crowd-sourcing funds. According to the developers, plantscrapers require less energy, have a smaller carbon footprint than industrial agriculture, and can serve as part of the solution to the global food crisis. (Business Insider)

Toxic glitter

Glitter may help you get your sparkle on but is generally made of plastic and aluminum bonded with polyethylene terephtalate, which takes centuries to decompose. When washed down the drain, glitter collects toxins in seawater, turning into little balls of endocrine-disrupting chemicals eaten by sea creatures (and then, sometimes, by us). Don’t despair, glitter fans — biodegradable glitter made of mica- and mineral-based ingredients is now on the market and is less harmful to our ecosystem health. (Mother Nature Network)

Also in this issue

Our co-op community, January 2018

PCC went through some significant changes in the last year, but what hasn't changed is our commitment to supporting and connecting with our community. As we enter 2018, we reflect on some highlights of the last year.

PCC's GE Labeling Update

One of our longstanding commitments is that PCC will identify genetically engineered (GE) products in our stores by 2018. This is still our goal, yet, there have been legislative setbacks around transparency and customer education at the federal level.

Our food system and changing climate

Climate change is among the greatest threats to our generation and future generations — impacting public health, ecosystems and economies around the world.