Government study says SpongeBob Squarepants is naughty
A new US government report attacks Hollywood for allowing advertising companies to use popular cartoon and TV characters to sell junk food to kids. The report calls for federal regulations on junk food advertising, noting that food companies spent over $10 billion to market junk foods to American children last year. The US Centers for Disease Control funded the study, which was conducted by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said of the study results, “We would like to think that SpongeBob Squarepants, Shrek and the Disney princesses are likable, kid-friendly characters, but they are being used to manipulate vulnerable children to make unhealthy choices. This must stop.” In a related story, a new study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that negative health impacts from junk food costs the United Kingdom more than twice as much as smoking related illnesses. Study authors are calling on the UK government to regulate junk foods comparably to tobacco.
German farmers to start planting GMO seeds
In late December, the German news organization Deutsche Welle reported that the new German agriculture minister is actively promoting the use of genetically modified seeds instead of organic farming. Three types of GM corn have been approved so far. Representatives of Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred welcomed the decision and called it a welcome break from the ideological policy of the previous agriculture minister and the Green Party. They are also anticipating additional favorable changes in German ag policy. For more details online: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1831085,00.html.
17th Annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will host the 17th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference (UMOFC) at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, February 23-25, 2006. “This year’s theme ‘Growing More Organic!’ echoes the dramatic increase in consumer demand for organic food and the renewed interest in sustainable farming practices in the US and around the world,” says Faye Jones, executive director of MOSES.The UMOFC is a unique, farmer-centered conference with over 1800 participants attending from across the Upper Midwest. “The conference is renowned as the premier educational event for farmers and others,” says Jody Padgham, education director of MOSES. The conference provides more than 45 workshop topics including: specialty crops, marketing issues, crop production, animal husbandry, soil management, organic certification and much more. The exhibit hall features over 130 exhibitors, representing every aspect of sustainable and organic agriculture.To receive a pre-conference flyer, with complete information on the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference and the Organic University, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 715-772-3153 or write UMOFC P.O. Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767.
Kraft promises to stop selling Frankenfoods in China—what about the USA?
Kraft Foods has announced it will stop supplying genetically engineered food to China within one year. Kraft is the world’s second largest food producer.
It’s made the announcement in a letter to Greenpeace China. In the letter, Kraft says it will only use non-GM crop-derived ingredients for products sold by Kraft Foods in China. This is to include all additives and flavors currently sold in the country. The new policy will go into effect as of January 2007.
The safety of GE food has been a controversial issue. According to the latest survey sponsored by Greenpeace China, about 60% of residents in China’s three main cities say they don’t want GE food.
Kraft Foods is among several top ranking food companies who have already adopted a non-GE policy in China. Others include Pepsico Food, Coca-cola and Danone. 107 food brands have applied a non-GE policy in China thru October. This according to the recently released Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food by Greenpeace in China.
Combining food additives may be harmful, say researchers
New research on common food additives, including the controversial sweetener aspartame and food colorings, suggests they may interact to interfere with the development of the nervous system, according to a recent article in the UK publication The Guardian.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool examined the toxic effects on nerve cells in the laboratory of using a combination of four common food additives—aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the artificial colorings brilliant blue and quinoline yellow. The findings of their two-year study were published in the journal Toxicological Sciences.
The Liverpool team reported that when mouse nerve cells were exposed to MSG and brilliant blue or aspartame and quinoline yellow in laboratory conditions, combined in concentrations that theoretically reflect the compound that enters the bloodstream after a typical children’s snack and drink, the additives stopped the nerve cells growing and interfered with proper signaling systems.
The mixtures of the additives had a much more potent effect on nerve cells than each additive on its own.
The study reported that the effect on cells could be up to four times greater when brilliant blue and MSG were combined, and up to seven times greater when quinoline yellow and aspartame were combined, than when the additives were applied on their own. “The results indicate that both combinations are potentially more toxic than might be predicted from the sum of their individual compounds,” the researchers concluded. Exposure to food additives during a child’s development has been associated with behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In a related story, a grassroots group in New Mexico is working to ban the sale of products containing aspartame in that state. Hearings are scheduled for July 2006.