News bites
Sound Consumer | February 2005


Organic milk is better

A new study shows that organic milk has higher levels of some nutrients, essential fatty acids and antioxidants than non-organic milk. According to research from the Danish Institute of Agricultural Research, dairy cows raised organically produce milk with 50 percent more vitamin E and 75 percent more beta-carotene than other cows.

Organic milk also is two to three times higher in two powerful antioxidants, zeaxanthine and lutein, which help protect consumers from free radicals believed to increase hardening of the arteries. Research from Aberdeen University in Scotland also shows that organic milk contains 71 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than other milk. The Scottish researchers say organically raised cows eat more clover, which increases omega-3 levels. (www.bbc.co.uk and Supermarket News)


States move to restrict GE crops

Five states have proposed legislation to restrict crops that are genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals (a.k.a. “biopharms”). They are Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Oregon’s Physicians for Social Responsibility has consulted with a number of lawyers on whether states have the authority to enact legislation on biopharms that are more restrictive than federal regulations. The attorneys reportedly are unanimous that the federal government has not “occupied the field” on genetically engineered crops. This allows more stringent regulation by states.

The Congressional Research Service also reviewed Vermont’s statewide moratorium bill and concluded that it would stand up to any constitutional challenge. The opinion is specific to Vermont, but the issues regarding state authority are similar. (Oregon PSR Campaign For Safe Food)


An apple a day

A group of chemicals in apples could protect the brain from the type of damage that triggers Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. According to two studies from Cornell University food scientists, apples may help reduce the risk of cancer and provide compounds that reduce the risk of neuro-degenerative disorders. The phytonutrient quercetin appears to protect brain cells assaulted by oxidative stress. Phenolic acids and flavonoids provide the apple’s antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits. (Food Marketing Institute)


Monsanto updates

Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seeds, has agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine for bribing a senior government official in Indonesia. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission fined Monsanto for bribing the Indonesian official to ignore environmental impact studies required before planting GE crops. Meanwhile, in the United States, a former Monsanto lobbyist, Martha Scott, was appointed staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Other Monsanto alumni include Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld (formerly CEO of a Monsanto subsidiary, Searle) and Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas (formerly a Monsanto lawyer). (Organic Consumers Association)


No junk food at school

School districts across Washington state will be working this year on vending machine snack and drink policies. A law passed last spring requires districts to adopt policies to address the sales of high-sugar and high-fat foods that contribute to overweight children. In Vancouver, school board members have debated everything from the role public schools should play in children’s health to whether the sugar in juices or sodas is worse. Three Vancouver middle schools — Alki, Jason Lee and McLoughlin — already have stopped selling sodas. (The Columbian)


School lunches

More schools are discovering that providing a salad bar option to the standard school lunch is more affordable, more nutritious and more popular among students. With a cost of roughly 40 cents less per student, salad bar meals are growing in popularity and are now available at 10 percent of the nation’s schools. Districts are reporting that more students are choosing the salad bar over the hot lunch. Stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy and meats, the salad bar appeals to students who seem to like having more choices in what to eat. (Organic Consumers Association)


Perchlorates

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has published evidence that it says shows the Pentagon and defense contractors conspired to weaken a study on perchlorates, a byproduct of rocket fuel that has contaminated watersheds in 35 states. The charge follows the release of a long-awaited report on perchlorates by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The rocket-fuel byproduct has been discharged into rivers near military bases and weapons manufacturing facilities and is detected in measurable amounts in 93 percent of lettuce and dairy samples, including some organics. The NRDC says the Pentagon pressured the NAS to raise by a factor of 20 the amount of perchlorates considered “safe.” Perchlorates reportedly can damage thyroid function, cause birth defects and reduce IQs. The military currently is exempt from pollution controls on perchlorates. (msnbc.com and Organic Consumers Association)

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