News bites
Sound Consumer | January 2004


Metro orders hybrid buses

King County Metro Transit has signed a contract to order 213 new hybrid (diesel-electric) buses, including some for Sound Transit. The 60-foot $645,000 buses cost more than conventional buses today, but supporters say lower fuel and maintenance costs will earn back the cost in less than eight years. Electricity is generated by a computer-managed diesel engine and stored for later use, reducing fuel consumption by 20-40 percent. Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions are reduced by as much as 99 percent. (Sustainable Industries Journal Northwest)


Childhood obesity

Cartoon of small girl lifting heavy weight. The physical education program at Spokane public schools is listed as one of the most promising in the fight against childhood obesity. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropic organization devoted to health and health care, recognized the district for its health-club approach to fitness, which starts in kindergarten. Students use heart monitors and pedometers, play non-competitive games and study nutrition. (Spokane Spokesman-Review)


Beef war

The European Union is getting ready to impose a ban on all imports of American beef, believing that even meats labeled steroid-free contain hormones. The United States reportedly plans to retaliate by imposing $70 million worth of import duties on European products such as pears, chewing gum and motorcycles. (Organic Consumers Association)


USDA exempts organic

As a result of a 2002 Farm Bill directive, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is exempting producers and marketers of 100-percent-organic products from paying commodity fees for 28 fruit and vegetable marketing programs. The exemption was granted because organic producers don't benefit from promotions of conventional food. (Organic Trade Association)


GE corn still spreading

StarLink Corn, an experimental genetically engineered crop that the USDA found to be unsuitable for human consumption, hasn't been grown by farmers for several years. Yet analysis of this year's harvest has found that it's still contaminating one percent of the nation's corn. Critics say this shows that once a GE plant is released on the market, it's impossible to keep the pollen from spreading. (Organic Consumers Association)


GE pets outlawed

California recently became the only state in the United States to ban the sale of the first genetically engineered house pets. Black and silver zebrafish have been modified to contain genes from jellyfish and sea anemones in order to glow under black or ultraviolet lights. They were released for sale across the country, but the California Game Commission banned them. It says its decision is based on simple ethics, that it's not right to produce a new organism just to be a pet. (Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)


Washington hops tops

Washington is the top hops-producing state in the United States, but organic hops farmers face challenges. Spider mites are causing crop losses and labeling standards are hindering the market for organic hops. One hops farmer in Grange, Washington says less than five percent of the dry mash used to make beer is typically hops, so brewers can make organic beer that meets the 95-percent organic content standard without organic hops. The Fish Brewing Company of Olympia, Washington uses organic hops and sometimes must supplement supply from New Zealand. You can find Fish Brewing products at PCC stores. (Sustainable Industries Journal Northwest)


The shopping spot

Cartoon of man's head wired to a computer. Researchers at Emory University are studying the human brain, looking for what has been coined the "buy button" Known as neuromarketing, the research involves Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on live subjects to find the specific part of the brain that's activated when a consumer is successfully wooed by an advertisement into purchasing a product. Some major corporations reportedly funded the research, hoping to use the research to create ads that activate the "buy button" in consumers. (Organic Consumers Association)


GE increases pesticide use

Plantings of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton since 1996 have increased U.S. pesticide use by about 50 million pounds, according to a report prepared by scientist Charles M. Benbrook. Based on Department of Agriculture data, the report shows GE crops reduced pesticide use by about 25.4 million pounds in the first three years of commercial sales, but increased use by more than 73 million pounds during 2001-2003. The 46-page report is posted at www.biotech-info.net/technicalpaper6.html.

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