Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | June 2003
Letters must be kept to 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number for verification or they cannot be published. We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity and accuracy. Please e-mail letters to
Rocket fuel lettuce?
Recently I've read disturbing articles about concentrated levels of perchlorate (a toxic rocket-fuel ingredient) being found in lettuce. Leafy vegetables irrigated with Colorado River water were found to have a dose of perchlorate 65 times the amount found in the contaminated river water. The produce department at View Ridge PCC has informed me that their organic lettuce is from Bakersfield, California. My concern is whether this lettuce would be contaminated. On Tuesday, NPR reported that there was a gag order on this story. Should I be worried?
— Christine Sannella, Seattle
Joe Hardiman, PCC Produce Merchandiser: The contamination was discovered on leaf lettuces in the Coachella Valley of California. PCC is not carrying any leaf or green products from the Coachella Valley. This area, near Palm Springs, California produces vegetables during the winter. Currently PCC is buying all leaf products from areas north in California, e.g. Bakersfield and Salinas. These areas are NOT supplied by the Colorado River. In addition, our local lettuce producers are starting to supply PCC stores this month. We'll continue to monitor our sources.
Editor: For more on percolorate in leaf produce, see "Insights by Goldie" Sound Consumer, June 2003.
News Bites and Fair Trade
Your notes on bananas, hormones, and GE trees were great to read and a start for further learning. Please keep presenting these stories in the Sound Consumer.
I was also pleased to see a letter to the editor addressing workers' rights ("Banana workers and human rights") in last month's issue. As our world becomes ever more connected through global trade, I foresee workers' rights and trade issues becoming more important concerns. Fair trade certification is currently one way in which consumers can be assured products respect workers' rights and the environment. Luckily, people around the world and in our community are beginning to advocate for fair trade.
If you want to find out how local UW students are working for fair trade, see: http://students.washington.edu/sfft. A student group (Students For Fair Trade) is working hard to make the coffee services on campus entirely fair trade by promoting certified brands at coffee stands and in every willing department. The trend is definitely spreading. I hope that PCC will continue to raise the awareness of fairly traded products in its stores and devote an increasing share of store space to them. The practice of fair trading seems to me one of the most effective tools for building nonviolent, sustainable societies.
— Colin French, Fremont neighborhood
I am a Bothell resident and regular PCC customer. I know I am not the only one who would love to see a new PCC in the Bothell or Kenmore area. Currently there is a space for lease in the Kenmore Square that used to be occupied by Food Giant. I think this would be a great PCC location. Just a thought.
— Peggy Bailey
Randy Lee, Chief Financial Officer: Thank you for your suggestion on the site in Kenmore. PCC has looked at this site several times over the years when it has come on the market (and another one not far from it) but the reports back from our site evaluation professionals never have indicated that it would draw sufficient sales to support the very large investment that would be required to open a PCC store there. We will continue to watch both it and nearby opportunities in case we find a site that would be closer than our current stores for our members in the Kenmore and Bothell neighborhoods.
Questions about dairy
I'm curious to know how long the adorable little calf pictured in the February article "Know your moo" got to spend nursing on its mother? It's my understanding that dairy calves are usually removed from their mothers a couple of days after birth so that the maximum amount of milk is available for human consumption and the majority of surplus calves are sold off to veal "farms."
I would also like to know if cows producing organic milk are given antibiotics when they contract mastitis (a painful inflammation of the mammary glands). Certainly organic dairy farming is more humane than the majority of non-organic dairy farms but is more really enough? Since humans do not need to nurse on cows for their health and well-being any more than any other species, why is PCC promoting milk at all?
For anyone who wonders whether or not dairy is an appropriate food for human consumption, read the August 2000 article in Discover magazine, "About Milk." You might just be surprised.
— Kim Bledsoe
Douglas Hanson, Organic Valley: Calves are removed from their mothers after about 24 hours. The reason is that if bonding develops between mother and calf, then the cow will produce milk only for her calf, rather than produce as a milk cow. The calves continue to be fed colostrum, essential to their development. While this separation sounds cruel, all calves are housed and fed together and are not isolated.
Farmers take great care to ensure that calves become milking cows (female) and have no interest in selling off calves. Reproduction replenishes the herd. An "organic" cow may never be given antibiotics and remain organic. If antibiotics are necessary, the cow is culled from the herd and either sold to a conventional dairy or sold for slaughter. Since Organic Valley farmers practice a "pasture-based" farm plan, meaning animals are at pasture whenever possible, they get diseases much less often than in conventional "dry lot" milking farms where cows stand around eating out of troughs while being milked most of the day and night.
Our animals pasture for 12 hours, then get milked, then pasture for 12 hours, then get milked. Fresh air, exercise and clean pastures dramatically reduce the incidence of disease. Our farmers practice massage therapy and use acupuncture and herbs that are approved under the National Organic Program rules.