Letters to the Editor
This article was originally published in September 2021
letters to the editor
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name and hometown. Submission of letter grants automatic approval of publication to PCC, including name and hometown, in print and online. Submission does not guarantee publication. PCC reserves the right to edit content of submissions. Please email letters to email@example.com.
Peat in compost
Please, I urge you, stop selling potting soil with peat. We are depleting peat bogs which, like old growth forests, take hundreds of years to regrow. And they are one of the best carbon sinks on the planet. Here is a site that offers peat-free potting soil: organicmechanicsoil.com. Also, one can make one’s own using compost, coir and vermiculite/perlite. (Tilth has a recipe.)
— Catherine Kettrick
PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out with your concerns about peat moss being used in the composts and soils we sell. Peat moss has been a common additive in these products, but there has been a more recent shift away from it as consumers and producers better understand the importance of wetland and bog ecosystems.
In 2018 PCC developed our first Compost and Soil Amendment standard, requiring that all those products be approved for use in organic food production by a certifying agent, like the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). This standard was meant to address concerns with many commercial composts being contaminated with heavy metals, sewage sludge, pesticide residues and other toxic substances. It is a good first step to set a baseline standard for these products. Addressing more specific concerns, such as peat moss and climate change impacts, will be that next step.
Our initial research on this subject shows us that the alternatives to peat moss are also problematic on the climate and ecosystems fronts and will require a more thorough review to gauge best practices and products. We appreciate you expressing your concerns on this subject.
Your dedication to informing and educating members and the public, as stated on your masthead, was seriously compromised by this puff piece on Bellevue history in the May-June edition (“Bellevue’s History is Rooted in Rich Farmland.”)
The Japanese American farmers did not “lose” their farms, they were forcibly removed in what amounted to ethnic cleansing and those who didn’t return after the war had nothing to return to. The 1921 Alien Land Law prevented immigrants from owning or leasing land.
This wasn’t simply the result of Executive Order 9066 but was the culmination of a quarter century of anti-Japanese agitation led by Miller Freeman, a self-avowed white supremacist and Bellevue visionary who founded the Anti-Japanese League in 1916 and whose family fortune was greatly increased by the farms appropriated from Japanese farmers. Bellevue Square sits on what had been a strawberry farm. His grandson, Kemper Freeman Jr., is a powerful landowner and developer and major donor to many Eastside nonprofits.
PCC is a party to this censorship. In 2019 and 2020, artist Erin Shigaki’s works were defaced or modified at the City’s Bellwether Festival and later at Bellevue College’s Day of Remembrance to “cancel” reference to Miller Freeman’s racist history. The College’s president and VP of institutional advancement left over the latter incident. Since this incident received extensive media coverage, PCC has no excuse for being party to such flagrant whitewashing.
— Daniel F Eiben, Seattle
P.S. I thought you might be interested in the sources I used to research my response and hope you might use them for a follow-up article to provide a balanced analysis:
“So Who is Miller Freeman Anyway?”
“Bellevue’s anti-Japanese history ‘censored’ at city-run arts festival, artists say”
“How Bellevue businessmen who stoked fears benefited after Japanese American incarceration”
“‘Strawberry Days’: Uprooting more than lives”
“OPINION: Whitewashing Bellevue’s History”
PCC replies: Thank you for reading Sound Consumer and for adding valuable context to our article summarizing 150 years of Bellevue’s farming history. We agree that horrific expulsion, and in many cases internment of Japanese American farmers, is a tragic stain on our country and the city of Bellevue. That dark history moved PCC into action. As we prepared to open our store, we trained all of our staff on the history. We also rolled out implicit bias training so that our store would be a welcoming place to shop for all. In addition, we chose to honor the contributions of Japanese Americans in Bellevue by selecting an artist of Japanese descent, Shogo Ota, to create and install the art in our Bellevue store.
We appreciate your comments on the article and additional sources. We agree that we could have added more detail about Bellevue’s history of anti-Japanese systemic racism in the article. Our goal with Sound Consumer articles is to inform and educate readers, even on difficult topics.
With regard to the turmeric article (see the May-June issue of Sound Consumer), I recently ran across an article reporting that some disreputable grower/suppliers have been adding chromium pigment in order to gain value by making their product a brighter yellow. I have been leery about turmeric since.
Can I trust the organic certification mechanism for oversight of producers in faraway unregulated countries or for reliable testing of the products for such toxicity?
— Barry Lia, Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out to us about the issue of contamination in turmeric. While heavy metals can find their way into food because they’re naturally occurring in trace amounts or because the soil or water is contaminated, in this instance, chromium is found at high levels because some producers are using lead chromate to add weight and make their product a more vibrant yellow color. This occurs most commonly in India and Bangladesh, but it’s not a permitted practice even in those countries and is illegal in the United States.
Organic certification regulates the inputs for crops and ensures that food is grown without genetic engineering and highly toxic pesticides, like glyphosate, but it does not guarantee lower levels of heavy metals. Most heavy metal contamination occurs because of decades of using them for industrial applications and in consumer products, like leaded gasoline or arsenic-based pesticides.
At PCC, we source our spices from Frontier Co-op, which has extremely high standards and conducts thorough internal testing for heavy metals and other contaminants. The company sources turmeric from suppliers in India, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and works closely with suppliers at the field level to ensure the turmeric is authentic and unadulterated. To provide additional assurance, they do a heavy metal analysis that tests for lead, cadmium and arsenic using equipment that can obtain precise results at the parts per million level or lower.
Additionally, the supplement brands we sell source from trusted sources and are rigorously tested to ensure they are not adulterated. For example, the brand Mega Foods sources their turmeric from an organic farm in Hawaii. NutriGold still sources from India but has raw materials and finished products independently tested for cadmium and lead contamination.
Thank you again for reaching out with your questions.