Meat-eating moms have less fertile sons

A new study in Human Reproduction finds that a pregnant woman’s meat consumption can reduce her future son’s sperm count. Researchers at the University of Rochester analyzed the relationship between various sperm parameters of 387 men and the eating habits of their mothers from the Study for Future Families. The more beef a mother consumed, the lower her son’s sperm concentration. Sperm count was 24 percent higher in men whose mothers consumed less beef. The difference may be due to steroid hormones found in animal products. Six hormones are commonly used in the United States to induce increased growth and development in cows, and measurable levels are routinely present in the animals’ muscle, fat, livers, kidneys, and other organs. Cows raised without extra hormones still have significant hormone levels in their tissues due to endogenous hormone production. -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

USDA to ban cloned foods from organics

In March, the USDA proposed that the offspring of cloned animals could be considered “organic.” But in early April, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board voted 12-0 to ban foods from cloned animals and their progeny from the organic market. Regulators apparently recognize, after being flooded with complaints from organic consumers, that cloning is incompatible with the Organic Foods Production Act and is prohibited under the National Organic Program regulations. The real difficulty will be in tracking these animals, particularly 2nd and 3rd generation offspring of cloned animals. -Organic Consumers Association

Junk food industry applauds itself for years of “ethical” advertising to children

Responding to public pressure, junk food companies have formed a task force that they claim will address the childhood obesity epidemic. The group, which includes companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Kraft Foods, held its first meeting at the end of March. One of the first items on the agenda was how to green-wash the routine industry practice of advertising junk foods to young children. Advertisers spend more than $10 billion annually on manipulating the minds of children. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children under the age of six cannot distinguish between program content and advertising. Despite this rather undisputed fact, one of the panel’s experts, the chief government affairs officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, applauded the junk food industry’s track record and offered kudos to the current practice of self-regulation saying, “For more than three decades, the self-regulatory guidelines of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit have helped to ensure that advertising to children by food companies is age and nutritionally appropriate, and reflects a balanced approach to health and nutrition.” According to task force members, it is hoped that future meetings can be as productive, although the meeting concluded with no real changes to the status quo practices of advertising junk foods to children. -Organic Consumers Association

States reach renewable energy milestone

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) projects that 21 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted renewable electricity standards are on track to reduce their global warming emissions by 108 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide by 2020, an amount equivalent to taking 17.7 million cars off the road. Recent increases in the amount of renewable electricity required under existing standards in Colorado, Minnesota and New Mexico put the states over the 100 MMT milestone.

By 2020, UCS projects the state standards will produce more than 46,000 megawatts of clean, renewable power, enough to meet the needs of 28.5 million typical homes. State renewable electricity standards are expanding, with at least 10 more states considering adopting a requirement or raising existing targets. The success of state renewable energy standards is helping build momentum for a federal standard of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. The federal standard would increase renewable energy output nearly four times over current state standards. -Union of Concerned Scientists

Pesticides linked to honeybee population decline

Bees are critically important to farm ecosystems because of their role as pollinators that allow crops to produce edible fruit and seed. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon described by beekeepers, researchers and government officials when entire hive populations seem to disappear, apparently dying out. A CCD working group was recently formed with researchers from the University of Montana, The Pennsylvania State University, the USDA/ARS, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to analyze the problem. Their preliminary report indicates how pesticides may be a factor, specifically neonicotinioid pesticides, including imidacloprid, clothianiden and thiamethoxam. According to the CCD report, “If bees are eating fresh or stored pollen contaminated with these chemicals at low levels, they may not cause mortality but may impact the bee’s ability to learn or make memories. If this is the case, young bees leaving the hive to make orientation flights may not be able to learn the location of the hive and may not be returning causing the colonies to dwindle and eventually die.” Porterville Recorder reporter Sarah Elizabeth Villicana interviewed a Terra Bella, California beekeeper, Eric Lane, who suspects harm to the bees is linked to imidacloprid, made by Bayer CropScience. “It is my personal belief that this chemical is responsible for thinning the bee population,” Lane said. “It was used in France and killed 70 percent of the bee population in France.” -Organic Consumers Association

Western governors agree to curb greenhouse gas emissions

In late February Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski announced that the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington will address climate change with a new western regional initiative that commits the states to set clear reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and a market-based strategy to achieve those reductions.
The agreement, the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, commits the states to identify within the next six months specific greenhouse emission reductions levels and, within the next 18 months, a market-based approach, such as a cap and trade system, for implementing those targets.

Seven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI, a cap-and-trade program initially covering carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the region.

Eight Midwestern states are working with the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium, LADCO, to develop a framework for a voluntary Midwest registry of greenhouse gas emissions. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin are participating.

The registry will provide the mechanism for greenhouse gas-emitting companies to track their emissions and reductions and will provide a validated list of greenhouse gas emission reduction credits available for possible trading.

Arizona and New Mexico launched the Southwest Climate Change Initiative in 2006. -Environment News Service

EU funded studies show organic food has higher nutritional quality

Three new European research projects revealed in April that organic tomatoes, peaches and processed apples all have higher nutritional quality than non-organic, supporting the results of research from America on kiwi fruit reported 26 March 2007.

Researchers found that organic tomatoes “contained more dry matter, total and reducing sugars, vitamin C, B-carotene and flavonoids in comparison to the conventional ones,” while conventional tomatoes in this study were richer in lycopene and organic acids. Previous research has found organic tomatoes have higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene.

In the latest research, the scientists conclude, “organic cherry and standard tomatoes can be recommended as part of a healthy diet including plant products which have shown to be of value in cancer prevention.”

A French study has found that organic peaches “have a higher polyphenol content at harvest” and concludes that organic production has “positive effects ... on nutritional quality and taste.”

In a further study just published, organic apple puree was found to contain “more bio-active substances—total phenols, flavonoids and vitamin C—in comparison to conventional apple preserves” and the researchers conclude, “organic apple preserves can be recommended as valuable fruit products, which can contribute to a healthy diet.”
New research by Dr Maria Amodio and Dr Adel Kader, from the University of California Davies, discovered that organically grown kiwis had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and polyphenols.