Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | February 2008

Letters must be kept to 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number for verification or they cannot be published. We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity and accuracy. Please e-mail letters to


Flood relief for dairy farmers

There has been an awful lot of discussion about flooding (in December) and the devastation it caused farmers. None of the messages I've read, however, come anywhere close to producing in me the amount of gratefulness and gratitude as those from our good friends at PCC. To say "thank you" somehow doesn't seem to be enough.

Please just know that the donation and warm thoughts from PCC are appreciated more than words can express and they will sustain in me for a long time to come the deep spirit of cooperation that is such an integral part of my life. In whatever way you can, please thank your team for me. Best regards and in cooperation,
— Douglas Hanson, Organic Valley Cooperative, Duvall

Editor: PCC contributed $10,000 to the Art Wedig Disaster Relief Fund administered by Organic Valley Family Farms. The funds were immediately used for relief efforts supporting Organic Valley member-owner farmers who have lost livestock and farmland in the recent flooding in Lewis County, Wash.

Be aware that flooding isn't covered by most insurance programs, so few will be able to recover anything through insurance. FEMA and state programs may help. If you'd like to make an individual contribution to northwest Organic Valley farmers hurt by flooding in Lewis County, contact the Art Wedig Relief Fund at the Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, One Organic Way, La Farge, WI 54639.

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We cannot thank PCC enough for your generous donation. Your donation money and additional money from the fund has been allocated, and checks have been sent to the Chehalis dairy farmers most seriously affected by the flooding. The list below includes farmers that your donation has helped directly. Please let the staff [and members] at PCC know that your contribution will make an impact for these farmers immediately:

  • Gary & Sharon McCool, Chehalis, Wash.
  • Maynard Mallonee, Curtis, Wash.
  • Austin Farm (Jim Austin), Oakville, Wash.
  • Stanley Heisey, Rochester, Wash.
  • Andy & Linda Styger, Chehalis, Wash.
  • Gordon Dairy, Inc. (Jay & Susan Gordon) Elma, Wash.
  • John & Traci Brunoff, Chehalis, Wash.

Editor: Despite the emotional distress and financial cost, all these farmers say they'll continue farming.


High fructose corn syrup

As a former Seattle resident, PCC shopper and a registered dietitian, I’d like to say bravo to PCC for banning high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)!! It’s about time our larger food stores start to recognize the severe detriment HFCS has had and will continue to have on our land, our animals and ourselves!

I personally boycott HFCS for my diet and try to encourage others to do the same. I would be so proud to shop in your store, if only I still lived in Seattle. Perhaps it’s time for the markets in Portland to take an outward stand. All the best,
— Eecole Copen MS, RD

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I live in San Francisco and just reviewed an article indicating PCC’s decision to ban high-fructose-corn-syrup-containing products from its stores. I want to thank you wholeheartedly for having the knowledge, wisdom, understanding and — above all — courage to do so. I totally applaud PCC’s decision!

As an informed consumer, I’ve reviewed various bodies of literature and spoken with registered dieticians, and the consensus is certainly unfavorable regarding HFCS. In fact, I believe UC San Francisco is conducting a study right now on HFCS and its effects on liver function. What one dietician told me is that they’re starting to see kids with fatty livers they believe stem from HFCS.

In any event, thank you for valuing human health above the cost containment/extended shelf life objectives underlying the use of HFCS. I hope Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods here in California will follow PCC’s example soon. Gratefully,
— G. Espinoza, California

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I applaud your decision to ban high fructose corn syrup. While some of your naysayers think it’s silly to try this ban, I think you’re right on target. You can hardly pick up anything in our local grocery stores that does not contain it. My husband and I always are amazed when we read the labels. Have you ever considered opening a store in Connecticut? Continue to fight the battle!
— Carol Kubala, Connecticut


Plastic bags, degradable utensils, organic meat

I’ve been a PCC member for more than 20 years and am happy to see some of the recent innovative changes happening at PCC, including getting rid of plastic bags at checkouts and introducing more environmentally friendly utensils and containers in your delis.

I do have a suggestion: when I was there the other day, I asked the deli person if the meats in your sandwiches were organic and they said no! This surprised me. I always thought the meats in a sandwich at PCC would be organic. I mean if not at PCC, then where? I’d like to propose that you make organic meats the standard or at least an option in your delis. The more organics are available, the better for everyone!

I also want to say that I think the staff is awesome, positive and helpful. (I mostly shop the West Seattle PCC.) It just confirmed how much I like shopping at PCC where the staff obviously is not just “employees” but part of the co-op community. I like how PCC gives back to the community in so many ways and isn’t just a for-profit grocery store.

Let me know what you think of my suggestion and keep up the good work!
— Carol Lutra-Johns, RhythmJoy Arts Education

Editor replies: We announced in January that the deli has added organic turkey to the sliced deli meat choices and that all the sliced cheeses at the deli service counter are organic now, too. As for the meat in our sandwiches, they’re all produced without antibiotics and artificial hormones, but not certified organic. In fact, most of the meat we sell is not certified organic. Only the Dakota beef and Rosie chicken are certified organic. The Williamson beef and Umpqua Valley lamb are 100 percent grass-fed, and the Country Natural Beef and NW Heritage pork are range-grazed or pastured for most of the animal’s life but they aren’t certified organic.

Certifying steers, lamb and hogs is very costly since organic animals must be pastured for grazing and the land itself must be certified. Imagine the cost of certifying a thousand acres or more! It’s one reason that most organic ranchers rely on finishing livestock with organic feed in a finishing lot.

Visit our Web site, under the products section, to learn more about our vendors’ ranching standards.

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Kudos to you for your decision to no longer supply plastic bags for your customers!!!!! Now if we could just manage to reduce significantly the number of paper bags used.

I have a suggestion for encouraging people to bring bags with them when they’re shopping at PCC: give them a few cents off their grocery bill for each bag they bring. Psychologically, it works better to give people a positive incentive rather than a negative incentive (an extra charge for using new paper bags, as suggested by some in Letters to the Editor). Your conscious business practices are greatly appreciated by this particular consumer. Keep up the good work!
— Margaret Shane

Editor: PCC has given a five-cent rebate for each shopping bag brought in for reuse for at least 15 years. However, only 15 percent of PCC shoppers brought their own bags until we eliminated plastic bags last October. Now, with heightened awareness of issues involving single-use bags, the number of shoppers bringing their own bags back for reuse and purchase of reusable totes is way up, as much as 20 to 90 percent, depending on the store.

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I was confused by Jan Thompson’s comment in the December Letters. Jan wrote that the deli fiberboard containers can be composted at home but not through Cedar Grove’s yard waste compost program.  When I look at my handout for yard waste from the City of Seattle Public Utilities, it says any food soiled paper including paper take-out cartons can go in the yard waste container. So I’ve been putting PCC deli containers in my yard waste.

We consumers cannot see subtle differences between the PCC container and, say, a white take-out carton that we’d get at a Chinese restaurant. Are you really sure the PCC fiberboard container cannot be put in the yard waste?
— Cathy Nolan

Editor: You have reason to be confused. The City of Seattle Public Utilities handout has included paper take-out cartons as items to put in yard waste for composting, along with food-soiled paper towels, napkins, plates, pizza boxes and milk cartons. The problem is that the handout is out of date and no longer accurate.

Milk cartons and “paper” take-out containers recently became prohibited and cannot be included in yard waste any longer. They’re lined with plastic, which renders them not compostable at Cedar Grove. (Even hot cups labeled “compostable” don’t break down within CG’s program.) The city is sending out updated information any day.

PCC’s deli fiberboard containers also don’t break down for compost within Cedar Grove’s required 60-day timeframe and should not be put in yard waste bins. Even after an extra two weeks — 74 days in all — they did not decompose. We don’t know what’s preventing that. The fiberboard might be too thick. But our fiberboard deli containers reportedly do break down eventually in backyard compost piles.


Biofuels

The Sound Consumer does a fine job of disseminating a variety of information on topics of interest. Sometimes, however, translating the results of scientific studies into the popular press gives misleading results. I think the Newsbite Biofuels worse than fossil fuels? (December 2007 issue) is an example.

I checked the abstract of the paper on the “Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions” Web site and also a summary of the paper in the “Chemistry World” Web site of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The Newsbite referred to biofuels derived from canola and corn, which is correct.

However, the abstract of the paper says that “Crops with less N [nitrogen] demand, such as grasses and woody coppice species have more favorable climate impacts.” The RSC summary states that cane sugar bioethanol is a more viable alternative to conventional fuels than corn bioethanol.

The authors also point out that their study covers only the conversion of biomass to biofuels and that a full life cycle assessment needs to be conducted before conclusions are drawn. One author of the APCD paper is quoted: “What we are saying is that [growing many biofuels] is probably of no benefit ...” Note that he does not say “all biofuels.”
— Robert Freeman, Edmonds

More about: biofuels, high-fructose corn syrup, shopping bags

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