Aunt Toby is nothing if not eclectic in her interests (which is why you love me so), and it is only fitting and proper (and efficient as well) that I collect some of the more interesting food-related news items that insinuate themselves into my email box and pass them on to everyone else (because Aunt Toby also seems to be on every electronic mailing list out there). So, therefore, the Food News of the Week in Review (in no particular order of preference, importance, or interest on my part):

FDA Decides that BPA IS dangerous, damnit: FDA: We Think We Are Concerned

The Food and Drug Administration in a shocking display of alarm announced that they have” raised its level of concern over the safety of bisphenol-A, or BPA, an industrial chemical found in baby bottles and the linings of canned goods and other consumer products.” Two years ago, in 2008, in the Bush administration, they claimed in a draft report that small amounts of BPA that leached out of packaging were ‘not dangerous’. This was followed by a statement a month later by the National Toxicology Program expressing “some concern” — midway between “negligible concern” and “serious concern” — about the potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate in fetuses, infants and children”. So, now, they feel that they, too, can express ‘some concern’ about possible effects. Canada banned the chemical in baby bottles in 2008. The chemical industry is still claiming ‘no proof’ (always their position to play for time) and the government will be doing studies over the next 18-24 months. So, the good news is that the FDA is finally ‘concerned’; the bad news is that with all the other studies available on the danger of this chemical not only to children but also to adults, there is still this notion that more studies have to be performed. By the way, Sen. Chuck Schumer was the point guy in 2008 trying to get this stuff banned in all packaging.

Chemicals In Carpeting, Non-stick Fry Pans Linked to Thyroid Disease:Chemicls and Thyroid Disease

“British researchers analyzed blood serum levels of two types of perfluorinated chemicals in nearly 4,000 U.S. adult men and women, using data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).Women whose blood levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was in the highest quartile were more than twice as likely to report having thyroid disease as those in the lowest two quartiles. The findings were similar in men, but the results were not statistically significant.” These chemicals have also been found in water, air and soil, and also have been detected in the blood of birds, fish and polar bears.

So, the good news is that researchers are finding these and the US EPA has gotten 8 manufacturers in the US to lower usage and emissions by 95% this year and eliminate all by 2015; the bad news is that it appears that this stuff will remain in the environment for a long time to come (and we won’t even discuss the non-stick cookware in people’s homes or on the shelves of retail outlets – Bed Bath and Beyond, anyone?).

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Makes Investment in Moving Farmers to Organics:
PA Invests in Organic

“Thirteen Pennsylvania farmers from diverse sectors of agriculture are participating in their state’s pioneering approach to support conversion to organic farming with up to $30,000 over a four-year period of learning new production and marketing skills.

The Path to Organic program of 2009 provides financial payments and on-going, farmer-customized technical support to make the three-year transition to certified organic production. Farmers agree to work with a transition team they help to shape, to sample and report on soil fertility and organic matter tests, and to evaluate the success of their organic production practices as tools to improve soil health, protecting water quality and sequestering atmospheric carbon.

Projected public benefits from the $500,000 appropriation are cleaner water, healthier food, lower greenhouse-gas emissions, greater viability for preserved farms and an eventual decrease in the state’s tab for mitigation of agriculturally linked excess nitrogen within the Chesapeake Bay.”

One of the bases of this program is the familiarity of the State Representative, David Kessler, with the Rodale Institute’s research into carbon sequestration through organic agriculture. Their work, plus studies performed by the Pew Center for Global Climate change urged him to obtain the appropriations. “Research assembled by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change estimates that 257 to 807 million metric tons (282 to 888 U.S. tons) of CO2 per year could be sequestered in U.S. cropland soils under sustainable practices.” CO2 Sequestration and Organic Method

In smaller news from Rodale, (I get their newsletter), they noted that during their tomato test plots in 2009 (The Year of No Summer ™ ), one of the side benefits was finding an heirloom tomato that appeared to have high resistance to the Late Blight that basically wiped out commercial tomato production on the East Coast. This variety is referred to as Striped German and although the fruits had some cosmetic damage, the plants appeared to pull through very well and remained productive into the fall, long after other varieties had succumbed to the disease.

1-22 seeds upAnd, in even smaller news (but not a smaller font…), Aunt Toby’s little seed starting thing from last week is very much ‘up and at ‘em’. We planted those seeds last weekend and put them under a fluorescent light and on top of a heating mat (actually not right on top – there is a metal grid; if you have a mat but no grid, you can substitute a cake rack and get the same effect). As you can see, the lettuces are the winner of the ‘out of the ground’ race here, but we’ve gotten really good germination on the spinach as well (note to self: See, you don’t have to store spinach seeds in the fridge to get good germination if you use them soon enough). And the basil seeds, although a little bit slower to sprout, have done very well and a high rate of germination under these conditions. 1-22 close up seeds

So, what now? Well, the next step is to get them out of those crowded conditions, which can spell disaster in terms of fungus and other uglies, and get these babies into more room. They are still too small to put into six packs on a window sill or anything like that, but I can get more of these plastic boxes out of my stash (yes, we do save everything useful here at Chez Siberia – why do you ask?), mix up more grow mix and oh, so carefully transplant them. Which I will do very shortly.