Digest – News: Farm Bill moving again, pork brain illness, WIC gets healthier

All we want for Christmas is a new Farm Bill: The Senate finally moved forward on the Farm Bill today after agreeing to limit the amendments debated to 20 each for Democrats and Republicans. But a new law could still be months away. (Brownfield Network)

starCanary in the pork mind: Minnesota state health officials are investigating neurological illnesses among 11 workers at a pork processing plant, all of whom work removing hog brains with compressed air — at a rate of more than 1,100 an hour. This is the most complete of many articles on the topic. (AP)

Dept. of Long Overdue: The USDA has added fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the list of grocery items it covers for the Women, Infants and Children food program - the first overhaul in 30 years. Too bad it didn't also raise the value of benefits, about $39 a month, to qualified low-income pregnant women, and children up to the age of 5 who are at nutritional risk. (Reuters)

More proof that we are what they eat: Recent research at Kansas State University has found that cattle fed the ethanol byproduct known as distiller's grain have an increased prevalence of E. coli 0157 in their gut. We're sorry, this kind of stuff makes our eyes bulge with fury — isn't it obvious by now that we shouldn't treat livestock as our garbage disposal for industrial waste? (PhysOrg.com)

Fishy-lookin' salmon: A group of fish-eating consumers are suing California markets including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's alleging they have failed to distinguish salmon caught in the wild from its farm-raised, dyed-red cousin. (Los Angeles Times)

Children "have started graying and aging prematurely": Toxic chemicals in the water in Punjab, India’s grain belt, could be causing genetic mutations in the population, a recent study suggests. As people are exposed to pesticides and as fields are irrigated with contaminated drain water, they are developing neurological, genetic, and reproductive problems. (New York Times)

Queen Corn: Record highs are being paid for organic corn, in the vicinity of $10 a bushel. What's more, Iowa State researchers say, yields for organic corn are getting better, with test plots recording up to 209 bushels. (Farm and Ranch Guide)

Healthy gets harder: A new study by the University of Washington found a 20 percent increase in the cost of healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, way ahead of the average cost increase of food overall and also ahead of that of processed. Low-income healthy shoppers should consider frozen or canned vegetables…or the farmers markets. (Seattle Times; thanks, Cascadia Girl!)

Now that's the holiday spirit: UK supermarket chain Waitrose will not sell organic turkeys this Christmas, because the two farms it buys from were affected by the bird flu outbreak. Many of Waitrose's customers asked for their £10 gift vouchers to be donated to the affected farmers. (Channel 4)

starCancer in a can, or a bottle: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reviewed 250+ scientific studies of bisphenol A, the hormone-mimicking compound found in baby bottles, aluminum soda cans, and hundreds of other household products that U.S. regulators repeatedly assured us is safe. Its excoriating report: The chemical causes breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes and hyperactivity in lab animals. Hat tip to the Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog, which says it has seen few reports that match these reporters' "fury and conviction."

Barbecuing our lungs: Emissions of fine particles (which cause multiple respiratory and cardiological problems) from restaurant char-broilers and grills are a big enough pollution source that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has passed a rule regulating them. Restaurants that cook more than a certain quantity of beef or have a large enough grill will have to install pollution control devices or change their cooking methods. The restaurant association's director of local government affairs asks why the air board doesn't "go after the bigger sources of particulates first, like diesel trucks and vehicles?" There's a good reason why: local air boards do not have the regulatory authority to address mobile sources — only the California Air Resources Board does (outside California, the EPA has that responsibility). (Fremont Argus)

Farmers not armors: About 50 Missouri National Guard members have signed up to go Afghanistan to help farmers there. (Brownfield Network)

Maryland votes to continue preventing sales of raw milk (FOX 21)

23 senators sent Bush a letter demanding greater funding for the FDA for food safety (Reuters)

Organic Valley wins Fast Company magazine's Social Capitalist Award (Press release)


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