News bites
Sound Consumer | May 2003


Mergers and consolidation

Consolidation in Washington agriculture is accelerating, reportedly because of the demands of ever-larger grocery chains. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that two of the largest vegetable processors and two of the biggest fruit packers are moving to merge or forge tighter alliances so they can supply the big retailers directly. Farmers, meanwhile, are facing greater pressure to reduce costs. (Puget Sound Business Journal)


Apes prefer organic

Monkeys at Copenhagen Zoo are going ape over organic bananas and other fruits, rejecting traditional foods left in their cages, zookeepers report. "For one reason or another, the tapirs and chimpanzees are choosing organically grown bananas over the others," keeper Niels Melchiorsen told the magazine Oekologisk Jordbrug (Ecological Agriculture). "Maybe they are able to instinctively tell the difference and their choice is not at all random," he suggested.

"The chimpanzees are able to tell the difference between the organic and the regular fruit," Melchiorsen reports. "If we give them organic and traditional bananas, they systematically choose the organic bananas, which they eat with the skin on. But they peel the traditional bananas before eating them," he added.

Copenhagen Zoo, which hopes to be awarded a "green label" as an environmental zoo, began feeding its animals at least 10 percent organic products last year. (Cooperative Grocers Information Network/ Food For Thought Consulting)


Raging Hormones

The state of Maine has stood down demands to eliminate use of a quality seal, which identifies milk produced without the genetically engineered growth hormone known as rBGH/rBST. The biotech firm Monsanto, the Biotechnology Association of Maine and three dairies recently demanded that Maine's Commissioner of Agriculture and the Attorney General suspend the use of the quality seal. They also wanted law enforcement action against the dairies that were using the quality seal, for "unfair trade practices."

Maine's Attorney General studied the matter and then informed the biotech interests that "Consumer choice is not impaired in any way. Rather," he said, "consumer choice is broadened. Nor do we believe that advertising milk as having come from cows that have not been treated with rBST or artificial growth hormones is misleading to consumers." (Organic Consumers Association)


Non-GE food zone

The Vermont Senate has passed a landmark bill requiring the labeling and registration of all genetically engineered seeds sold in the state. Another bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee would address farmer liability for GE-related damages. Two additional bills that call for food labeling and a moratorium on GM crops have been deferred to a legislative summer study committee.

Passage of either bill in the Republican-controlled House is expected to be more of a challenge, but the Senate vote was influenced by passage of 37 town meeting resolutions. Seventy Vermont towns have passed resolutions opposing GE food and crops. (Organic Consumers Association)


Kinko's paper policy

Kinko's has announced that it will "not align itself" with suppliers that use genetically engineered trees. GE trees replace the vast, complex web of life found within a natural forest with an impoverished, simplified fiber-production plantation. Some applications also would increase pesticide use and pollute water supplies. Critics say any application is likely to create irreversible contamination of native forests with GE pollen. Kinko's policy is the first of its kind. (Organic Consumers Association)


Bathtime facts

Some companies in the bodycare industry list "TEA" as an ingredient, but in truth, they're simply abbreviating TriEthanolAmine, an industrial chemical. Another example that may mislead consumers is a label that reads, "100 percent of the ingredients in this product are derived from natural sources." This is a frequently used and entirely legal wording trick because everything humans have ever made is from substances extracted from the Earth. Even radioactive nuclear waste is a material "derived from natural sources." (Organic Consumers Association)


Cows prefer classical

A 10-year old's science project showed that milk cows produce better under the influence of classical music, compared to hard rock or country music. Daniel McElmurray and his dad listen to music while milking at their Georgia farm. When Dad complained about weak production, Daniel started keeping meticulous records. After listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shania Twain, and a variety of classical music, the cows showed they preferred classical by producing 1,000 pounds more milk. Daniel won first place at his science fair and a special award frm the American Society of Mammalogists. (Capital Press)

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