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News bites
Sound Consumer | October 2007


Congress moves to help the bees

A Pollinator Habitat Protection Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. If passed, it would boost conservation grants and research funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study honeybees and native pollinators.

A second bill, the Pollinator Protection Act, before the House, provides for research into the causes and solutions of Colony Collapse Disorder and funding for honeybee research. (Debra Daniels Zeller, see "Colony Collapse Disorder," Oct. 2007 Sound Consumer cover story)


Excitotoxins in food

For the first time, researchers have confirmed conclusively a link between common food additives and increased hyperactive behavior. The research, which was financed by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and published online by the medical journal “The Lancet,” found that a mix of additives commonly found in children’s foods increased the mean level of hyperactivity, exacerbating inattention, impulsivity and overactivity among a broad range of children — not just kids diagnosed with overactivity or learning problems — and at least into middle childhood.

The study focused on a variety of artificial food colorings and sodium benzoate, a common preservative not allowed in products sold at PCC. Such additives are often referred to as excitotoxins. (New York Times)


Non-rBGH milk labels okay

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that it’s fine for dairy companies to label milk as coming from cows not treated with genetically modified growth hormones known as rBGH or rBST. The Monsanto Company, which manufactures the hormone, had filed a formal complaint demanding that labeling rBGH-free dairy products be made illegal. The FTC declined to launch a formal investigation or take action against any company. (Associated Press)


Blueberries push up land prices

Valued for their flavor and health benefits, blueberries are pushing up farmland prices in northwest Washington. Prices for farmland suitable for blueberries over the border in British Columbia are as much as 10 times higher than for equivalent land in Whatcom County. The difference has triggered a “land rush” in Whatcom County, putting additional pressure on dairy farmers trying to compete for good farmland there. (Capital Press)


Wildfires and erosion

One of the most devastating effects of wildfire is soil erosion. Experts at Washington State University explain that the residues of burned vegetation leave a water-repellent coating that slows absorption of rainfall and promotes erosion. After a wildfire, annual soil erosion may increase up to 47 tons per acre, harming aquatic life and polluting water supplies. (Washington State University)


New rule for dietary supplements

New rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now require large supplement manufacturers to ensure their products do not contain contaminants or impurities and are accurately labeled.

In releasing the rules, called Good Manufacturing Practices, the FDA cited a few cases where products were recalled because of contamination by microbes, pesticides or heavy metals, or for not containing levels of ingredients listed on the labels. Medium- and small-sized manufacturers have until 2009 and 2010, respectively, to meet the new standards.

The FDA visits supplement manufacturers in the United States and abroad to inspect their plants and their record keeping.(Newsday/Washington Post)


Daily grapefruit linked to breast cancer

A study of 50,000 post-menopausal women has found that eating less than half a grapefruit daily raises the risk of breast cancer. Research from the Universities of Southern California and Hawaii, published in the British Journal of Cancer, shows that grapefruit boosts the level of estrogen, a hormone associated with higher risk of breast cancer.

Women who ate just one quarter of a grapefruit every day increased their risk by as much as 30 percent compared to women who don’t eat grapefruit at all. (BBC News/ Universities of Southern California and Hawaii)


Pesticide link to autism

A study by the California Public Health Department indicates that exposure to organochlorine pesticides increases the chances of having a child with autism. It found that 28 percent of the women who lived near agricultural fields sprayed with organochlorines during their first trimester of pregnancy had autistic children, a rate six times greater than normal.

Organochlorine pesticides, such as endosulfan and dicofol, already are banned in some countries. (Los Angeles Times)


Aurora Dairy found guilty of fraud

The USDA has found that the Aurora Organic Dairy willfully violated 14 provisions of the national organic standards from 2003 through 2006. It says Aurora illegally confined cattle to feedlots, deprived them of fresh air and healthy grazing conditions, and brought in non-organic cattle instead of milking cows that were managed organically for their entire lives. The USDA, however, has not levied any penalties or fines against Aurora for breaking the law.

Aurora is the leading supplier for organic milk sold under private store brands at Safeway, Costco, Target, Wal-Mart and Wild Oats and under the Woodstock Farms brand label. It also provided milk to the Horizon Organic label until late 2005. The Center for Food Safety is asking consumers who purchased such milk between 2003 and September 7, 2007 to contact it for a possible legal action. (Cornucopia Institute/Center for Food Safety)

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