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Environmental Working Group Releases First ‘Dirty Dozen’ List for Food Additives

The Environmental Working Group – famous for its list of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides – has now released a “Dirty Dozen” guide for food additives.

There are more than 10,000 additives in food distributed in the U.S., and EWG is trying to highlight “some of the worst failures of the regulatory system,” it says.

The list includes:

  1. Nitrates and nitrites
  2. Potassium bromate
  3. Propyl paraben
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor incredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives

The report goes into detail about the concerns surrounding each additive. Some of them are known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects.

EWG recommends that consumers avoid or consider avoiding the Dirty Dozen. Not only could this mean avoiding risky chemicals, but it could also mean improving overall diet, says the group, since food additives are most often found in highly processed, unhealthy foods. For the additives without definitive links to health concerns, EWG recommends limiting consumption until more information is available.

The other aim of the list is to draw attention to problems surrounding food regulation, particularly those with “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designations.

The category has been controversial because it allows companies to determine whether a substance is GRAS without having to seek FDA approval. Consumer groups like EWG claim that some additives with GRAS status don’t meet the same safety standard as food additives.

“There are some additives that are classified generally recognized as safe and we really question that classification because they’re not free of health concerns,” said Johanna Congleton, EWG senior scientist.

For example, propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical but is considered GRAS. The report references studies that found that rats fed with the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake of propyl paraben had decreased sperm counts and decreases in testosterone.

EWG argues that companies shouldn’t be allowed to certify the safety of their own ingredients and wants consumers to urge FDA to strengthen its regulatory system for food additives.

Congleton says she finds nitrates and nitrites — often used as preservatives in cured meats such as bacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs — to be the most alarming additives. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein called amines, forming nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract, EWG says.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that ingested nitrites and nitrates are probable human carcinogens, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines or amides as a known carcinogen.

The Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives is based on scientific studies of hundreds of additives and data gathered from EWG’s Food Scores database, launched on Oct. 27, which includes information on more than 80,000 foods. The database scores foods based on nutrition, ingredients of concern (including food additives), contaminants (such as the likely levels of pesticide residue) and how processed the foods are.

Food Safety News

Environmental Working Group Releases First ‘Dirty Dozen’ List for Food Additives

The Environmental Working Group – famous for its list of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides – has now released a “Dirty Dozen” guide for food additives.

There are more than 10,000 additives in food distributed in the U.S., and EWG is trying to highlight “some of the worst failures of the regulatory system,” it says.

The list includes:

  1. Nitrates and nitrites
  2. Potassium bromate
  3. Propyl paraben
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor incredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives

The report goes into detail about the concerns surrounding each additive. Some of them are known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects.

EWG recommends that consumers avoid or consider avoiding the Dirty Dozen. Not only could this mean avoiding risky chemicals, but it could also mean improving overall diet, says the group, since food additives are most often found in highly processed, unhealthy foods. For the additives without definitive links to health concerns, EWG recommends limiting consumption until more information is available.

The other aim of the list is to draw attention to problems surrounding food regulation, particularly those with “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designations.

The category has been controversial because it allows companies to determine whether a substance is GRAS without having to seek FDA approval. Consumer groups like EWG claim that some additives with GRAS status don’t meet the same safety standard as food additives.

“There are some additives that are classified generally recognized as safe and we really question that classification because they’re not free of health concerns,” said Johanna Congleton, EWG senior scientist.

For example, propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical but is considered GRAS. The report references studies that found that rats fed with the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake of propyl paraben had decreased sperm counts and decreases in testosterone.

EWG argues that companies shouldn’t be allowed to certify the safety of their own ingredients and wants consumers to urge FDA to strengthen its regulatory system for food additives.

Congleton says she finds nitrates and nitrites — often used as preservatives in cured meats such as bacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs — to be the most alarming additives. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein called amines, forming nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract, EWG says.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that ingested nitrites and nitrates are probable human carcinogens, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines or amides as a known carcinogen.

The Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives is based on scientific studies of hundreds of additives and data gathered from EWG’s Food Scores database, launched on Oct. 27, which includes information on more than 80,000 foods. The database scores foods based on nutrition, ingredients of concern (including food additives), contaminants (such as the likely levels of pesticide residue) and how processed the foods are.

Food Safety News

Environmental Working Group Releases First ‘Dirty Dozen’ List for Food Additives

The Environmental Working Group – famous for its list of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides – has now released a “Dirty Dozen” guide for food additives.

There are more than 10,000 additives in food distributed in the U.S., and EWG is trying to highlight “some of the worst failures of the regulatory system,” it says.

The list includes:

  1. Nitrates and nitrites
  2. Potassium bromate
  3. Propyl paraben
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor incredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives

The report goes into detail about the concerns surrounding each additive. Some of them are known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects.

EWG recommends that consumers avoid or consider avoiding the Dirty Dozen. Not only could this mean avoiding risky chemicals, but it could also mean improving overall diet, says the group, since food additives are most often found in highly processed, unhealthy foods. For the additives without definitive links to health concerns, EWG recommends limiting consumption until more information is available.

The other aim of the list is to draw attention to problems surrounding food regulation, particularly those with “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designations.

The category has been controversial because it allows companies to determine whether a substance is GRAS without having to seek FDA approval. Consumer groups like EWG claim that some additives with GRAS status don’t meet the same safety standard as food additives.

“There are some additives that are classified generally recognized as safe and we really question that classification because they’re not free of health concerns,” said Johanna Congleton, EWG senior scientist.

For example, propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical but is considered GRAS. The report references studies that found that rats fed with the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake of propyl paraben had decreased sperm counts and decreases in testosterone.

EWG argues that companies shouldn’t be allowed to certify the safety of their own ingredients and wants consumers to urge FDA to strengthen its regulatory system for food additives.

Congleton says she finds nitrates and nitrites — often used as preservatives in cured meats such as bacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs — to be the most alarming additives. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein called amines, forming nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract, EWG says.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that ingested nitrites and nitrates are probable human carcinogens, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines or amides as a known carcinogen.

The Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives is based on scientific studies of hundreds of additives and data gathered from EWG’s Food Scores database, launched on Oct. 27, which includes information on more than 80,000 foods. The database scores foods based on nutrition, ingredients of concern (including food additives), contaminants (such as the likely levels of pesticide residue) and how processed the foods are.

Food Safety News

Environmental Working Group Releases First ‘Dirty Dozen’ List for Food Additives

The Environmental Working Group – famous for its list of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides – has now released a “Dirty Dozen” guide for food additives.

There are more than 10,000 additives in food distributed in the U.S., and EWG is trying to highlight “some of the worst failures of the regulatory system,” it says.

The list includes:

  1. Nitrates and nitrites
  2. Potassium bromate
  3. Propyl paraben
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor incredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives

The report goes into detail about the concerns surrounding each additive. Some of them are known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects.

EWG recommends that consumers avoid or consider avoiding the Dirty Dozen. Not only could this mean avoiding risky chemicals, but it could also mean improving overall diet, says the group, since food additives are most often found in highly processed, unhealthy foods. For the additives without definitive links to health concerns, EWG recommends limiting consumption until more information is available.

The other aim of the list is to draw attention to problems surrounding food regulation, particularly those with “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designations.

The category has been controversial because it allows companies to determine whether a substance is GRAS without having to seek FDA approval. Consumer groups like EWG claim that some additives with GRAS status don’t meet the same safety standard as food additives.

“There are some additives that are classified generally recognized as safe and we really question that classification because they’re not free of health concerns,” said Johanna Congleton, EWG senior scientist.

For example, propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical but is considered GRAS. The report references studies that found that rats fed with the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake of propyl paraben had decreased sperm counts and decreases in testosterone.

EWG argues that companies shouldn’t be allowed to certify the safety of their own ingredients and wants consumers to urge FDA to strengthen its regulatory system for food additives.

Congleton says she finds nitrates and nitrites — often used as preservatives in cured meats such as bacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs — to be the most alarming additives. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein called amines, forming nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract, EWG says.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that ingested nitrites and nitrates are probable human carcinogens, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines or amides as a known carcinogen.

The Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives is based on scientific studies of hundreds of additives and data gathered from EWG’s Food Scores database, launched on Oct. 27, which includes information on more than 80,000 foods. The database scores foods based on nutrition, ingredients of concern (including food additives), contaminants (such as the likely levels of pesticide residue) and how processed the foods are.

Food Safety News

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Environmental strategies on livestock farms: Results obtained after evaluation

The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development (Neiker-Tecnalia) has coordinated the European BATFARM project, which is seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of technologies and practices used on livestock farms in the European Atlantic region in order to reduce their environmental impact on the air, water and soil.

In this project a detailed study has been made of the technologies present on livestock farms belonging to various regions in the Atlantic Area. Together with Neiker-Tecnalia, the public body that reports to the Sub-Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community, the following are part of this project: Teagasc-The Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Ireland), IRSTEA (France), INTIA (Navarre), the University of Glasgow Caledonian (Scotland), and the Higher Institute for Agronomy (Portugal). Among the technologies evaluated in situ are floor type in cattle housing, use of additives in slurry storage, manure turning, flexible lagoons for collective slurry storage, biowashers for gases at the outlet of air ducts of the sheds, and the incorporating of slurry into the soil.

This initiative comes within the framework of the Atlantic Area Operational Programme for Transnational Co-operation 2007-2013. In this part of the continent a considerable proportion of livestock production takes place in line with the intensive model, as in the case of pig, poultry and a large proportion of cattle livestock. So the problems in managing livestock waste are shared by all the regions involved in the project.

The intensive production model provides considerable economic returns, but it poses numerous environmental problems, like the emissions of polluting gases (ammonia, nitrous oxide and methane) into the atmosphere and the polluting of soil and water by nitrates. In this respect, the members of the BATFARM project have developed software (BATFARM) to select the best farm waste technologies and practices to be applied according to the characteristics of the farm in question; it will enable the loss in nutrients (N, P, K, Cu, Zn) of the farm to be reduced, and the ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide emissions produced by each of the various production phases (housing, waste storage, waste treatment and the applying of it to the soil) to be cut. The software will shortly be available on the websites of the institutions that have participated in the building of this tool.

The outcomes of the project have been made available to the various interest groups, companies, livestock management bodies, policy-making bodies, research centres, end users and the general public. Finally, it should be pointed out that there is no single technology or practice to be recommended, but that these need to be studied for each case; however, the effectiveness of collective treatments in waste treatment and use has been made clear.

Directive on the adopting of Best Available Techniques

In connection with the environmental problems involved in livestock production, the EU 2010/75/EC Directive, also known as the IED (Industrial Emissions Directive), seeks to regulate all forms of emission into the atmosphere, water and soil coming from intensive livestock farms (farms with a population of over 40,000 hens, 2,000 fattening pigs or 750 sows), and makes the obtaining of comprehensive environmental authorisation compulsory. The Directive proposes adopting Best Available Techniques (BAT), which means farmers must choose and apply those technologies available on the market and which are economically affordable in farming, the ultimate aim being to prevent or limit emissions.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Basque Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Using genetics to measure environmental impact of salmon farming

Determining species diversity makes it possible to estimate the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems accurately. The environmental effects of salmon farming have been assessed, until now, by visually identifying the animals living in the marine sediment samples collected at specific distances from farming sites. A team led by Jan Pawlowski, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, analysed this type of sediment using a technique known as “DNA barcoding” that targets certain micro-organisms. Their research, which has been published in the Molecular Ecology Resources journal, reveals the potential of this new genomic tool for detecting environmental changes as accurately as with traditional methods — but more quickly and at lower cost.

Salmon farming is one of the most widespread activities in marine aquaculture. It has a considerable impact on the environment, which is largely due to three factors: the accumulation of food waste and faecal matter; the toxicity caused by the chemicals employed to clean the cages; and the drugs that are used.

The impact of such farms on the coastal environment is traditionally assessed by monitoring some of the small species that live in the sediments beneath the cages. The visual identification of these animals under a microscope is time consuming and extremely expensive. It also requires highly-trained taxonomy specialists, which renders the method unsuitable for large-scale use. But, as Jan Pawlowski, professor in the Department of Genetics and Evolution at UNIGE, explains: “It is now possible to address this problem using sophisticated tools that analyse the DNA and RNA extracted from sediment samples.”

Genetic barcodes

Working alongside researchers from the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (UK) and the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Pawlowski collected sediment samples at specific distances from two salmon farms in the heart of the Scottish fjords. “We used genetic barcodes that recognise specific fragments of DNA and RNA extracted from the sediment samples,” explains researcher Franck Lejzerowicz, a PhD student in the professor’s team: “These ‘genetic hooks’ consist of DNA sequences that vary between species but remain stable within a given species.”

The DNA barcodes used make it possible to identify the different foraminiferal species that are present in the sediments. These single-celled micro-organisms, which have a great diversity, are already recognised environmental bioindicators. As a result, the geneticists were able to process a large number of samples using high-throughput DNA sequencing. “Our study revealed large variations between foraminiferal species collected near farms and those from remote sites. In addition, species diversity diminishes on sites affected by the farms.”

Monitoring the quality of the environment

This type of highly-accurate ecological analysis allowed to establish a correlation between species richness and distance from the cages, a correlation that is even more pronounced if the farm is only stirred by weak sea currents. The same type of correlation was also established based on the degree of oxygenation of the sediments. As Jan Pawlowski states: “The vast amount of organic compounds on the farming sites can even sometimes generate anoxic sediments, which makes it impossible for most species to survive.” The biologists were also surprised to discover a new species of foraminifera, which could serve as a bioindicator of organic enrichment.

This technology, known as “metabarcoding,” is spreading rapidly, and can be used to supply information on the overall diversity of the micro-organisms found in all samples. The method is suitable for large-scale tests because it is much quicker, more reliable and easier to standardise than the processes that are used at present. This study is one of the first attempts to use environmental genomics as a tool for assessing the impact of industries such as marine aquaculture or offshore drilling.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Université de Genève. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Environmental Working Group Releases 2014 ‘Dirty Dozen’ List

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual Shopper’s Guide today, including the latest iteration of its “Dirty Dozen” list – a ranking of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

The guide ranks 48 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Topping the list of most contaminated was apples. As Food Safety News reported last week, EWG is asking that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigate whether a pesticide commonly applied to conventionally grown apples but banned by the European Commission is safe for U.S. consumers.

The report also includes a list of the “cleanest” produce, featuring avocados at the top, with only 1 percent of samples tested showing any detectable pesticides.

“EWG’s Shopper’s Guide helps people find conventional fruits and vegetables with low concentrations of pesticide residues,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst and principal author of the report, adding, “If a particular item is likely to be high in pesticides, people can go for organic.”

Other findings in the EWG report include:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines tested and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
  • A single grape tested positive for 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries tested positive for 13 different pesticides apiece.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the “Clean Fifteen” list tested positive for more than four types of pesticides.

In March, Food Safety News covered the release of USDA’s Pesticide Data Program annual summary in which, as in previous years, the agency found that, “U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.”

In a recent opinion piece on this site, the Alliance for Food and Farming’s Marilyn Dolan took issue with EWG’s “Dirty Dozen,” stating that it’s “developed annually without regard to credible, accepted standards for determining risk and without peer review.”

Food Safety News

Questions for the Environmental Working Group

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report, which once again confirms that “residues do not pose a food safety concern.” Sadly, with the exception of Food Safety News, which covered the report in a March 10 story by Lydia Zuraw, very few in the media covered the release of this important report.

We thank Food Safety News for reporting on the PDP’s findings and also for providing readers with comments from our organization – the Alliance for Food and Farming – which has been working in recent years to help correct misinformation about pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. The Alliance has created a website to provide credible, science-based information to reduce the fears some consumers have about their favorite conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and feeding them to their children.

To be fair and balanced, Food Safety News also provided comments in their coverage of the USDA’s PDP report from one of the groups most responsible for spreading fear and misunderstanding about the safety of fruits and vegetables. Very shortly, this organization – the Environmental Working Group – will take the current PDP Report, combine it with years-old data, and manipulate the findings to create what they call their “Dirty Dozen” list. This list is developed annually without regard to credible, accepted standards for determining risk and without peer review. Nevertheless, when it’s released, certain media outlets will republish the EWG “list” and consumers everywhere will be told which fruits and veggies they should avoid purchasing – unless they are organic.

The Alliance for Food and Farming takes exception to the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list for a number of reasons. The most important is that we – and many, many nutritionists and health experts from around the world – believe this list discourages consumption of fruits and vegetables and raises doubt among mothers that what they are feeding their children is safe. This is unfortunate, given the emphasis of government agencies and health experts who understand these products are very safe and are urging people to eat more of them to reduce disease and obesity.

As additional proof of the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic, two new studies were released this week. One shows that eating more servings of fruits and veggies leads to a longer life. The other found no differences in cancer rates among organic and conventional consumers. A paper published in 2012 also found that if half the consumers in the U.S. consumed just one more serving of a fruit or vegetable each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year – and this study was conducted assuming all servings were of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Even the EWG states that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are safe to eat and that people should eat more of them. This leaves us wondering why EWG does not provide consumers with this very important information in conjunction with their annual list. In fact, it has us wondering why they publish the list at all.

The fact is, the U.S. system governing approval and use of organic and conventional pesticides is regarded as the most health-protective for any class of chemicals in the world. Despite this, the EWG will say – as it did in the Food Safety News article – that the U.S. regulatory system is not safe enough. The EWG states that the strict tolerances for pesticide residue levels set by EPA are too high. In the Food Safety News article, EWG compared the current tolerances to a 500-mph speed limit, saying “it is too easy to comply and does not guarantee safety.” However, if you read the regulations involved in establishing tolerances for pesticide residues, the analogy is much more like setting a cautionary speed limit of, say, 55 miles per hour, then adding an additional tenfold safety factor so the legal speed limit is reduced to just 5.5 mph.  When you take into account the findings of USDA’s PDP report, the proper analogy would illustrate that produce farmers rarely come close to that 5.5 mph level, and, in fact, most aren’t moving at all.

For a more direct example using real residues found by government sampling programs, take a look at the Pesticide Residue Calculator on our website. Here you will learn that you or your children could eat hundreds, or even thousands, of servings of a fruit or vegetable each day without any health effects from pesticide residues. The residues are just so small that they do not pose a risk, as USDA and FDA sampling has repeatedly shown.

Despite this, EWG claims U.S. laws don’t do enough to protect children. This is interesting, especially since EWG applauded passage of new laws dating back to 1996 to improve the way pesticides are regulated on food, and EWG President Ken Cook takes credit for “his work at EWG culminating in the landmark 1996 Food Quality Protection Act that for the first time required EPA to consider the dietary risks of pesticides in food on children’s health.”

The EWG also now claims the “chemical ag industry” has effectively watered down the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), yet an article written for the Huffington Post just two years ago by EWG’s Alex Formuzis outlines in great detail how “the defenders of the FQPA have rallied to its defense” and are successfully keeping the law intact. EWG used to be one of those defenders, but apparently no longer.

Ironically, while EWG is busy bashing government systems, they repeatedly and continually boast about using data from government sampling programs, like USDA’s PDP, to develop their so-called list. They also repeatedly recommend that consumers “eat organic whenever possible.” However, these products are regulated by the very same U.S. system the EWG claims is inadequate. This same system also sets tolerances for the synthetic pesticides approved for use in the production of organic foods, which AFF believes are stringent and health-protective.

So, for those interested in using, covering or promoting the “Dirty Dozen” list, the Alliance for Food and Farming asks that you first read the actual USDA PDP report. Then read this peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology paper which analyzed EWG’s list methodology and ask yourself – or better yet – ask EWG:

  • When EWG publishes its list, why not link to USDA’s PDP report for reference? This is a common and necessary practice when repeatedly referencing a study or report and is important for transparency.
  • Why would EWG criticize regulatory systems in place governing the use of conventional pesticides and state they are inadequate when many of those same systems are in place to ensure the safe use of pesticides in organic farming as well?
  • Why does EWG use years-old data to compile their list? Some of the residue samples they include are almost a decade old.
  • When talking about its “Dirty Dozen” list, why does EWG avoid providing consumers with information on the health benefits of eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables so people can make the choice for themselves about which foods to eat? Instead, EWG opts for language that is meant to frighten consumers about eating these healthy products and feeding them to their children.
  • Why doesn’t EWG submit their “Dirty Dozen” list and report for peer review? Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is a normal progression for reports that make scientific claims or assumption.

We’d be really interested in hearing the EWG’s answers to these questions.

Food Safety News

Environmental impact of Ontario corn production assessed

Researchers at the University of Guelph examined the energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with corn production in Ontario. Their findings are published today in the Agricultural Institute of Canada’s (AIC) Canadian Journal of Soil Science.

The study reports estimated county-level energy and GHG intensity of grain corn, stover and cob production in Ontario from 2006-2011. According to the paper’s authors, most of the energy used during corn production comes from the use of natural gas and electricity during grain drying; the production and application of nitrogen fertilizers (which are also associated with GHG emissions); and the use of diesel fuel during field work.

“Corn is a major economic crop in North America, and the renewable fuels developed from corn production are frequently used to mitigate the GHG emissions from fossil fuel use,” explained Susantha Jayasundara, lead author of the paper.

“Assessing the GHG and energy intensity of corn production helps identify opportunities for efficiency and aids in improving the GHG mitigation potential of corn-derived renewable fuels,” continued Jayasundara. The authors note that reducing GHG intensity and improving energy efficiency during corn production can be achieved through the use of field-drying corn hybrids, reduced tillage and diminished nitrogen inputs.

The article, “Energy and Greenhouse Gas Intensity of Corn (Zea Mays L.) in Ontario: A regional assessment,” by Susantha Jayasundara, Claudia Wagner-Riddle, Goretty Dias and Kumudinie Kariyapperuma, is available Open Access in the Canadian Journal of Soil Science.

“Given the environmental and economic benefits of renewable fuels and the proliferation of their use in Canada, it is important to more fully understand the environmental impacts of their associated agricultural production,” added Serge Buy, CEO of AIC. “Essential studies such as this are of national significance and are certainly evidence of the need for targeted federal investments in agricultural science.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Canadian Science Publishing (NRC Research Press). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Deciphering plants’ electrical signals to devise new environmental biosensors

Science is becoming closer emulating the fiction of the Avatar movie, by deciphering plants’ electrical signals to devise new holistic environmental biosensors

Plants, like almost all living organisms, have an internal communication system to respond to external stimuli. Whether they are exposed to sunlight, pollutants, nutrients or pests, plants react with a tell-tale electrical signal. Now, the EU-funded project PLEASED tries to understand these signals. If it succeeds, plants could be used as biosensors. Andrea Vitaletti, professor of computer engineering at W-LAB of the University of Rome, Italy, who is also the project coordinator, talks to youris.com about using plants as pollution sensing devices.

We already have sensors for almost anything. Why should we focus on plants?

Well, because plants evolved over millions of years in a very specific environment. They can react to a lot of different stimuli. They must do so because they cannot run away. So if you use them as biosensors they can be multifunctional. If you have an artificial device, measuring some parameter like temperature or humidity, it will probably be more accurate than the plant. But the plant needs to measure a large number of parameters simultaneously, in order to survive. So if we could read the signals of the plant we would be able to measure many parameters at the same time.

How do you intend to do that?

What we try to do is to classify the different signals plants produce in order to determine what kind of stimulus has been applied. Imagine you know which electrical pattern is typically produced by a sunflower when it is suffering from drought. Then, you could keep looking for that pattern in sunflowers. The plant will so-to-speak tell you when it wants some water through specific electrical signals.

How to differentiate between different electrical signals, which might occur simultaneously?

That is still a challenge. We simply have to conduct many experiments to recognize the different stimuli. It is going to take lot of work before we can use the plants practically as biosensors.

Why not simply look at how a plant is doing?

This is more convenient. We will interface plants with electronic devices. The plant is turned into a kind of cyborg, or plant-borg if you like. In the vision of the project to develop very small devices, the size of paperclips or even smaller, that will be put in the plant. They can collect the signals generated by the plant in its natural environment, analyze them, combine them with the signals of other plants nearby, and thus produce a clear analysis of the environment of the plant. We know it works, we have proof of concept.

Are there other reasons why we should use plants as botanical sensors?

They are robust for the simple fact that they want to live. They can be extremely cost effective. And they are pervasive; that is to say, they are everywhere.

And what could be practical applications?

They could be used for monitoring pollution of the environment, for example, or acid rain. A very practical application we have in mind is to use plants as certification devices of organic farming. By observing the signals generated by the plants, it should be possible to determine whether or not the farmer has used adequate chemicals. If you want to find out the same thing with artificial devices, you would need quite a number of them.

Where do you hope the project will lead to?

The project finishes in May 2014. By then we will have created the beginning of an open source data set of species of plants, specific stimuli and the corresponding electrical signals. What I hope is that the scientific community will continue to increase the size and the quality of this data set. Ultimately, it should be something like the Avatar movie: plants and people in close communication about the world they live in. Fantasy, science fiction, yes, but that’s the popular version of our idea.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by youris.com. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Deciphering plants’ electrical signals to devise new environmental biosensors

Science is becoming closer emulating the fiction of the Avatar movie, by deciphering plants’ electrical signals to devise new holistic environmental biosensors

Plants, like almost all living organisms, have an internal communication system to respond to external stimuli. Whether they are exposed to sunlight, pollutants, nutrients or pests, plants react with a tell-tale electrical signal. Now, the EU-funded project PLEASED tries to understand these signals. If it succeeds, plants could be used as biosensors. Andrea Vitaletti, professor of computer engineering at W-LAB of the University of Rome, Italy, who is also the project coordinator, talks to youris.com about using plants as pollution sensing devices.

We already have sensors for almost anything. Why should we focus on plants?

Well, because plants evolved over millions of years in a very specific environment. They can react to a lot of different stimuli. They must do so because they cannot run away. So if you use them as biosensors they can be multifunctional. If you have an artificial device, measuring some parameter like temperature or humidity, it will probably be more accurate than the plant. But the plant needs to measure a large number of parameters simultaneously, in order to survive. So if we could read the signals of the plant we would be able to measure many parameters at the same time.

How do you intend to do that?

What we try to do is to classify the different signals plants produce in order to determine what kind of stimulus has been applied. Imagine you know which electrical pattern is typically produced by a sunflower when it is suffering from drought. Then, you could keep looking for that pattern in sunflowers. The plant will so-to-speak tell you when it wants some water through specific electrical signals.

How to differentiate between different electrical signals, which might occur simultaneously?

That is still a challenge. We simply have to conduct many experiments to recognize the different stimuli. It is going to take lot of work before we can use the plants practically as biosensors.

Why not simply look at how a plant is doing?

This is more convenient. We will interface plants with electronic devices. The plant is turned into a kind of cyborg, or plant-borg if you like. In the vision of the project to develop very small devices, the size of paperclips or even smaller, that will be put in the plant. They can collect the signals generated by the plant in its natural environment, analyze them, combine them with the signals of other plants nearby, and thus produce a clear analysis of the environment of the plant. We know it works, we have proof of concept.

Are there other reasons why we should use plants as botanical sensors?

They are robust for the simple fact that they want to live. They can be extremely cost effective. And they are pervasive; that is to say, they are everywhere.

And what could be practical applications?

They could be used for monitoring pollution of the environment, for example, or acid rain. A very practical application we have in mind is to use plants as certification devices of organic farming. By observing the signals generated by the plants, it should be possible to determine whether or not the farmer has used adequate chemicals. If you want to find out the same thing with artificial devices, you would need quite a number of them.

Where do you hope the project will lead to?

The project finishes in May 2014. By then we will have created the beginning of an open source data set of species of plants, specific stimuli and the corresponding electrical signals. What I hope is that the scientific community will continue to increase the size and the quality of this data set. Ultimately, it should be something like the Avatar movie: plants and people in close communication about the world they live in. Fantasy, science fiction, yes, but that’s the popular version of our idea.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by youris.com. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Receptors discovered that help plants manage environmental change, pests, wounds

Jan. 16, 2014 — ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy source inside a cell and is considered to be the high energy molecule that drives all life processes in animals and humans. Outside the cell, membrane receptors that attract ATP drive muscle control, neurotransmission, inflammation and development. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found the same receptor in plants and believe it to be a vital component in the way plants respond to dangers, including pests, environmental changes and plant wounds. This discovery could lead to herbicides, fertilizers and insect repellants that naturally work with plants to make them stronger.

“Plants don’t have ears to hear, fingers to feel or eyes to see,” said Gary Stacey an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Plants use these chemical signals to determine if they are being preyed upon or if an environmental change is occurring that could be detrimental to the plant. We have evidence that when ATP is outside of the cell it is probably a central signal that controls the plant’s ability to respond to a whole variety of stresses.”

Stacey and fellow researchers, graduate student Jeongmin Choi and postdoctoral fellow Kiwamu Tanaka, screened 50,000 plants over two years to identify the ATP receptors. By isolating a key gene in the remaining plants, scientists found the receptor that aids in plant development and helps repair a plant during major events.

“We believe that when a plant is wounded, ATP is released into the wound and triggers the gene expressions necessary for repair,” Stacey said. “We think ATP is central to this kind of wound response and probably plays a role in development and a whole host of other plant responses to environmental changes and pests. We believe that with further study, researchers may be able to identify ways to naturally work with a plant’s own processes to protect it from major environmental events, plant wounds and insects.”

Future research will focus on how this receptor works with ATP, its protein structure, how it reacts to pests and how it may signal growth.

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Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gary Stacey, Jeongmin Choi, Kiwamu Tanaka et al. Extracellular ATP signaling in plants. Science, January 2014

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News