Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | November 2007

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Paradoxes in corporat-ocracy

I had to laugh out loud when I was reading letters to the editor in the October Sound Consumer. We can’t have a bin in PCC to re-use grocery bags because public health rules prohibit it for our safety.

But we can have apples out there sprayed with chlorpyrifos, which is toxic. We can have Monsanto and others of its ilk trying to make it illegal to label dairy items free of rBGH/rBST. We can have common food additives in our food despite evidence of increased hyperactivity.

It really would be laughable if it were not so very sad how the corporat-ocracy has taken over our nation.
— Elizabeth Panni, Issaquah


The Non-GMO Project

I really appreciated the article The Non-GMO Project: A Campaign for Healthier Eating (September Sound Consumer) and especially the sidebar about approved GM foods. I’m curious if that was a complete list?

I was under the impression that other foods, such as wheat and potatoes, also were often genetically modified (GM). Am I wrong? I’d like to know because this definitely influences which foods I choose to buy organic versus local or cheap. Thanks, as always, for the good information.
— Becca Hall, Snoqualmie

Editor replies: The list of GM foods was complete at press time, but the USDA soon after approved GM sugar beets (see News bites, November 2007 Sound Consumer) for market. Now, when buying granulated sugar, look for "cane sugar" on the label to avoid GM sugar beets.

Regarding GM wheat, Monsanto has failed to get it commercialized, largely due to farmers’ resistance based on the anticipated response from export markets. Most of Washington’s wheat, for example, is exported to Japan and Korea, which won’t accept GM crops.

Monsanto’s “New Leaf” potato was the only GM potato on the market, approved in 1995. It was discontinued in 2001 after McDonald’s, Burger King, Frito-Lay and Procter & Gamble agreed to use only non-GM potatoes.

Forty additional food crops are being modified but not approved for consumption. Visit our Web site and view Genetically engineered U.S. food crops in the “Issues and Education” section on Genetically Modified Food Crops to see the list.

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My garden club recently visited Walt’s Organic Fertilizer in Ballard. The owner shared many interesting tidbits, including one that relates to your September article about GMOs. Walt told us his organic fertilizers must meet organic certification standards, as one would expect.

However, growers of organic products are not required to certify that the fertilizers they use are organic — no one is checking. Responsible growers of organic foods use fertilizers that are organic. But what about the others, and how do we know who’s responsible and who’s not?
— Julie Scandora

Editor replies: First, understand that lawn and garden products labeled “organic” or “100 percent natural” may not necessarily comply with USDA National Organic Standards. The USDA does not regulate use of the term “organic” for commercial fertilizer and soil amendments. The term “organic” on these products means only that the product is carbon-based.

Also, organic crop producers are required to use only approved fertilizers, and the independent, third-party verification of organic practices does include checking compost/fertilizer. Walt’s fertilizer is on the Washington state list of brand materials that comply with organic standards for organic food production, as is Cedar Grove and others. See the list at http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/Organic/MaterialsLists.htm.


What is “slow pasteurization?”

I enjoyed the article about Golden Glen Creamery (August 2007, Sound Consumer). One part in particular piqued my interest: “slow batch pasteurization ... produces a shorter shelf-life for the milk, about 20 days instead of six to 12 weeks.” According to the article, this shorter shelf-life allows for gentler handling of the milk. Sounds great, especially if this results in better tasting or more nutritious milk.

However, I’m left wondering how much more gingerly the Organic Valley milk we buy at PCC must be handled than even Golden Glen Creamery’s. We rarely have a problem finishing it before the expiration date, but when the only milk available is due to expire within a few days, I think we’d just as soon have our milk pasteurized using the gentle “slow batch” method, so we could at least enjoy a shelf-life as long as Golden Glen apparently gets.
— Peter Duniho, Kirkland

Editor replies: “Slow pasteurization” is the traditional method long used by family dairies. Milk is heated in a vat or tank to 145º F for 30 minutes. It’s not a method commonly used today. “High temperature short time” (HTST) pasteurization is now the standard, heating milk to at least 161.5º F for at least 15 seconds.

Most Organic Valley operations use HTST, aiming for 168-174º F for 22 seconds. Slow pasteurization is not feasible for large operations because they might need to process 5,000 gallons per hour. Generally, the higher the heat in pasteurization the longer the shelf life, but a shorter date also might reflect time used up in transport and warehousing.


Jeff on wine

I’m really enjoying Jeff Cox’s columns (found online under Products/Wine & Beer; on page 6 of the printed Sound Consumer). His musings are wonderfully thought-provoking and enjoyable. He is actually educating me about wine.

Most wine columns are SO boring, but Jeff is great.
— Barbara Gregory


Saying no to styrofoam

I was motivated to take action regarding styrofoam after reading Saying No to Styrofoam in your April issue. I’ve stopped buying products from Jamba Juice in Redmond until it switches to a safer, more environmentally friendly alternative to styrofoam cups.

I encourage everyone to stop buying smoothies from a company that puts on a façade of such great good-for-you-ness when it’s enabling such a toxic substance to be so heavily used by their company and thus enter our bodies and environment.
— Nicole Wuamett


Fluoride

Each time I read your wonderful publication, I’m reminded of the type of people who must also be reading it — folks who care about the environment, toxins, chemical-freefood and water ... and children. I’m writing because I fear parents don’t know that fluoridated water may have a profound negative impact on their child’s behavior, attention, cognition and comfort.

When my adult son with autism was 14, I discovered he couldn’t tolerate fluoride in our tap water. Only after I began using fluoride-free water did his jumping, yelling and chronic pain finally go away. I shudder when I realize I almost missed it, convinced that fluoride was harmless.

Children with autism can’t detoxify chemicals from any source, including medications such as Tylenol and fluoride. People can choose not to take Tylenol but can’t choose not to drink water. Families with autistic children are in crisis, with no extra cash or energy to buy water filtered by reverse osmosis or deionization.

We need your help. Fifty years ago 1 in 10,000 had autism — now it’s 1 in 150. Any toxin or chemical may contribute to the problem, including those in the water. I’m pleading with this astute readership to call your three state legislators to request a scientific review of the current research on fluoridation. Demand the science that proves water fluoridation is safe. They can’t — because it isn’t — but ask anyway.

Then, for our children, please go to www.fluoridealert.org to ask Congress for a Congressional hearing on water fluoridation.
— Audrey Adams, Renton


Advice on soy

You ran a letter in the April [2007] Sound Consumer asking about the connection between soy consumption and thyroid problems. I want to tell you what I know about that.

My husband and I are patients of Dr. Nicholas J. Gonzalez, an M.D. who specializes in the treatment of cancer in New York City. We see him for his nutritional regimen and cancer prevention. Dr. Gonzalez has advised us, and I believe he advises all his patients, to avoid all products which contain soy.

He gives two reasons: Soy adversely affects the function of the thyroid gland and adversely affects the function of pancreatic enzymes, which are absolutely vital to cancer prevention.
— Donna Lee, Sammamish


Movie about industrial agriculture

I received a flyer on themeatrix.com at a local farmer’s market. This is a well-done, three-part cartoon movie that uses the theme of The Matrix movie to depict the horrors of industrial agriculture with the corresponding pollution and animal cruelty. Most of the information is pretty basic but in many ways high impact.

I think everyone should see this and refer it to people they know who don’t give a thought to where their food comes from and how animals are treated under industrial agriculture.
— Russ Hamerly, Seattle


Remembering your shopping bags

I’ve come across a wonderful solution to the problem of using disposable grocery bags: I train myself to remember to bring my reusable bags! Whenever I shop at PCC and forget my reusable bags, I simply instruct the checker to bag my groceries in the purple, reusable PCC bags and charge me for them (they cost a mere 75-cents per bag).

As my purple bag pile grows larger and larger at home, I remember more and more often to bring my bags. If the pile gets too large, I’ll start giving purple bags to my friends so they can break the reusable bag habit as well.

To speed up the process, if PCC checkers offered the choice — “Paper? Or purple bags at 75-cents per bag?” — I bet many shoppers would choose purple and start their own self-training.
— John Fine

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Instead of the plastic bags provided in stores for produce and bulk foods, we use zip-lock plastic bags, which are easy to wash and dry, and sturdy enough to reuse again and again. To carry groceries, we use colorful woven plastic bags with handles, purchased at an Asian import store. Clerks like packing them because they stand up and stay open.

Most produce doesn’t need to be placed in individual bags. We have a suggestion: Small, lightweight baskets at check-out could be provided for weighing produce. Then customers wouldn’t need individual bags at all for many items.

Occasionally we forget to put our bags back in the car and we end up taking our groceries home in paper bags. These we reuse for recycling. Even paper bags can be used over and over again. How sad it is, when we take recycling to the dump, to see how many people thoughtlessly toss the bags, along with the papers inside them, into the chute!
— Rebecca, Fred and Emma Strong, Vashon

More about: agriculture, fluoride, GE foods, pasteurized, shopping bags, soy, wine

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