Sound Consumer | October 2004
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a complaint against DuPont for withholding evidence of negative health and environmental effects from a chemical used to make Teflon. The chemical, known as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), has caused cancer in laboratory animals. The EPA is investigating the possibility that DuPont knew of potential problems 20 years ago. Stores in China began pulling Teflon pans from their shelves after the EPA's announcement and other foreign governments are launching investigations into PFOA. (Organic Consumers Association)
Most cancers environmental
The National Cancer Institute reports that environmental factors cause 80 to 90 percent of all cancer cases. Environmental causes include lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and alcohol as well as radiation, infectious agents and chemicals in the air, water and soil. The report is based on studies of people who move from a high-risk area to a low-risk area, or vice versa.
Invariably, people assume the cancer rates of the area where they move. The lead scientist says, "Since the gene pool changes only after many generations, this means these changes must be environmental, not genetic." (Environmental News Service)
Consumers are paying 3 to 4 percent more for their food overall this year than last, but the price of beef is up by 10 percent or more. A spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says there's some concern that cost-conscious consumers may choose another protein if beef prices keep rising. In 2004, the average American will eat 67 pounds of beef compared to 65.5 pounds of beef last year. (Capital Press)
Scarce water, less meat
The scarcity of fresh water will be the key factor limiting future global food production, say agricultural scientists. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) says, "Groundwater levels are plummeting and our rivers are already overstressed; having enough water to grow food will be one of the greatest challenges facing governments."
The IWMI report also says that Western diets, with lots of meat, are putting great pressure on the environment and the trend cannot continue without leaving more people malnourished. Meat-eaters reportedly consume the equivalent of about 5,000 liters (1,100 gallons) of water a day compared to the 1,000 to 2,000 liters used by people on vegetarian diets. The report says the best options for feeding the world involves more conservation and less wasteful irrigation systems. (The Guardian)
More U.S. farmers are shifting production methods to meet a growing demand for organic cotton. Clothing companies from Patagonia and Nike to American Apparel are now intentionally purchasing organic cotton to make their products. A spokesman for American Apparel says, "We double sales every two months" in organic cotton t-shirts. For every pound of organic cotton grown, one-third of a pound less of pesticides is put on U.S. soil. (Organic Consumers Association)
Egg label investigation
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says a new "Animal Care Certified" logo used by the egg industry is misleading and is asking Federal regulators to investigate. The BBB says the logo is on cartons of eggs from hens that are confined in tiny cages, have their beaks clipped and are deprived of adequate food.
United Egg Producers (UEP), an alliance of five separate organizations providing services to the egg industry, says the Animal Care Certified standards guarantee better conditions for chickens than before. But the BBB says labeling any product "certified" sends a message that consumers need to rely on. The Federal Trade Commission has the authority to order the egg producers to stop using the logo. (Associated Press/New York Times)
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, already known for containing an anti-cancer agent, reportedly are also effective in treating late stage breast cancer. Researchers at the University of Illinois say a naturally occurring plant compound called sulforaphane (SUL) in crucifers blocks the division of cells that are already cancerous. SUL is abundant in vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale. Chewing causes the cell walls of these vegetables to break, releasing SUL into the body. (Science Daily Magazine/Food Marketing Institute)
Organic in India
Farmers from across India met in August to create "Organic Vision 2020," a long-term strategy to shift the country's agricultural focus back to traditional organic practices. Poor yields, degraded soils and expensive chemical inputs from growing pesticide intensive crops, including genetically engineered cotton, have devastated India's rural economy. Crop failures and crushing debt reportedly caused more than 300 Indian farmers to commit suicide between May and July. (Organic Consumers Association)