News bites
Sound Consumer | June 2004


GE wheat on hold

Monsanto says it's stopping work on genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" wheat, despite seven years of research. GE wheat would have posed a great economic risk for Washington wheat farmers. Nearly 90 percent of the state crop is exported, mostly to Japan and South Korea, which prohibit GE wheat for health and environmental reasons.

Douglas county wheat grower and president of the Washington Farmers Union, Jim Davis, says, "There is no support for GE wheat from consumers or the marketplace. I commend Monsanto's decision to listen to the concerns of growers." Monsanto says it still will seek regulatory approval for the crop and gauge "if and when" to reintroduce it. (Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network)


Corn syrup and obesity

While many Americans are cutting back on fat and carbs in their diets, some nutrition experts say the rise in obesity is linked to the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup in processed foods. Compared to 30 years ago, consumption of the sweetener is up 4,000 percent. High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than other sugars and helps prevent freezer burn in frozen foods. (Miami Herald/ Food Marketing Institute)


Low carb diets

More than 17 percent of U.S. households report that someone in the house is on a low carbohydrate diet. A slightly higher number (19.2 percent) reports that someone in the household was once on such a diet but is no longer. (Food Institute Daily/CoCoSnips)


Schools ban soda and candy

Chicago's public school district is banning soft drinks, candy and high-fat snacks from school vending machines and replacing them with healthier choices. New York City's school system already has ousted soft drinks. Schools in Los Angeles banned soft drinks in January and will ban the sale of so-called junk food starting in July. (Reuters)


Cost of pesticides

After barely five years, 20 percent of the U.S. acreage planted in GE Roundup Ready soybeans is showing weed resistance. Sustainable agriculture scholar Fred Kirschenmann says that since the advent of pesticides after World War II, growing crop resistance to pesticides has increased the cost of farming. In the 1980s, for the first time, it cost more to treat plants with pesticides than farmers got paid for their crops. Net farm income today is less than it was in 1929. (Capital Press)


Sunflower butter at school

The USDA has added sunflower seed butter to its commodity list for school food service programs. The addition reportedly was prompted by a growing problem with peanut butter allergies and a decision to help sunflower producers. (Food Marketing Institute/ Associated Press)


No to irradiated food

The San Francisco Board of Education has passed a resolution to forbid irradiated food in school meal programs for five years. Five other California school districts already have passed such resolutions. In New York State, the teachers union passed a similar resolution against irradiated meat, until the long-term effects on children have been studied. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved irradiated beef for the National School Lunch Program starting last January. Labels are required on irradiated meat in grocery stores, but not when served in restaurants, hospitals or cafeterias. (Public Citizen, www.citizen.org)


Cotton subsidies violate trade rules

The World Trade Organization has sided with Brazil in its case against the United States, deciding that billions of dollars of subsidies illegally propped up domestic cotton production and lowered the price of cotton worldwide. An economist who worked on the case said U.S. cotton exports would have declined by about 40 percent and world cotton prices would have risen 12.6 percent without the subsidies. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Associated Press)


Biotech rice denied

A federal agency has ruled against a biotech company's bid to grow rice that's been genetically modified to produce pharmaceutical drugs. The USDA cited concerns about the potential for mix-ups between pharmaceutical rice and natural varieties. Ventria BioScience of Sacramento says the denial is likely to be only a small setback in its quest to plant up to 120 acres of drug-producing rice. (Contra Costa Times)


Veal hormones

The revelation that as many as 90 percent of U.S. veal calves are fed growth hormones has stirred up the industry. Industry officials say calves have been fed the hormones for decades, yet the Food and Drug Administration says the practice is not legal and its safety not proven. The FDA and the veal industry have agreed that farmers will wait 63 days before selling calves given the illegal hormones. (USA Today/ Food Marketing Institute)

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