This Week in Eco News

Happy Friday! Here is a compilation of stories we followed this week. We circulate these internally and publish synopses throughout the week as Eco News (formerly known as News Briefs) which you can find all week long — in real time — in the column to the right. You can also sign up to receive them via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].


Vote for the Dinner Party

In this fantastic New York Times piece, Michael Pollan discusses how this year is the food movement’s moment of truth as it finally enters the political sphere.  Proposition 37 for GMO labeling is right around the corner, and it has become apparent that Big Food is afraid of us and our power to vote. [New York Times]

Monsanto Seed Patent Case Gets U.S. Supreme Court Review

The US Supreme Court will review a court decision that found soy farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman guilty of infringing on Monsanto’s patents when he planted soybeans he had bought from a grain elevator and the second-generation beans turned out to be herbicide-resistant. [Business Week]

Pepsi and Coke to Post Calories of Drinks Sold in Vending Machines

In response to mounting criticism that its products are responsible for the country’s obesity epidemic, big beverage makers are redesigning their vending machines to let consumers know how many calories are in their drinks. [New York Times]

Food Scraps a Growing Recycling Focus

Ohio has an impressive new initiative aimed at recycling the millions of tons of food that goes unsold at grocery stores or uneaten at restaurants. Businesses and advocates have paired to create a recycling pipeline, separating organic waste that haulers transport to one of Ohio’s 19 authorized composting facilities. [Dayton Daily News]

The Real Bears

This new animation by CSPI featuring the music of Jason Mraz tells the dark story of soft drinks in America how they are negatively impacting our health. Warning: this video isn’t so cute and cuddly! [CSPI]

FDA Refuses (Again) to Regulate Antibiotics Used in Making Ethanol

On the heels of an IATP report condemning the marketing of antibiotics by animal drug companies for use in ethanol production, last May Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), Congress' only microbiologist, and Rep. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to the FDA asking them to fulfill their duty to protect public health. Well, the FDA has finally responded and although they admitted to not having any evidence that the practice is safe, it will continue to allow the unapproved marketing of antibiotics to the ethanol industry. [IATP]

Rice Growers Sue Chicken Industry Over Poultry Litter

Rice growers are blaming the chicken industry for high arsenic content in their rice. The growers have been using something called "poultry litter," a mixture of chicken manure, feathers and bedding materials to fertilize their crops. [Food Safety News]

Living Near Livestock May Increase Risk of Acquiring MRSA

According to an international team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, people who live near livestock or in livestock farming communities may be at greater risk of acquiring methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This is pretty scary considering no direct contact is required. Also important to note is that an important risk factor is regional livestock density – so yeah, as you expected this has a lot to do with factory farms. [Infection Control Daily]

Tyson Foods to Audit Suppliers' Farms

Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat company, has announced that they will begin to audit the way animals are treated on their suppliers' farms. The real shocking story here is that they didn’t before. [New York Times]

Industry Sues Over NYC Crackdown on Sugary Drinks

A group of pro-soda businesses and producers including the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union and groups representing interests ranging from movie theater owners to Korean-American grocers have filed a lawsuit to stop the ban on sales of larger than 16 oz sodas and other high calorie drinks in New York City.  [USA Today]


CU-Boulder Says Graywater System Could Save 800,000 Gallons a Year

A recently opened dorm on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus will treat up to 800,000 gallons of water per day from showers and sinks for use in toilet flushing, the largest direct water use in any residence. This dorm will act as a pilot program for the city of Boulder and guide them in graywater use in years to come. [Daily Camera]

Mars Curiosity Rover Finds Proof of Flowing Water—A First

Was there water on the Red Planet? According to small, worn-down pebbles recently discovered by the Mars Curiosity Rover on what is thought to be a former streambed, yes, there was water and a of lot it flowing on the Martian surface. [National Geographic]

Nature in Water Security

Here’s a pretty good animated video called “Nature in Water Security.” While it has an emphasis on water, it definitely identifies the Nexus. It also has one of the better resource sections when it comes to water infographics and water/nexus reports. []

Marine Ecologist Featured in MoJo Cover Stories Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award

A recent “Genius” award-winner is Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), who has been fighting the good fight to keep the Gulf of Mexico waters healthy and free of dead zones. [Mother Jones]

Clean Water Act Celebrates 40 Years of Water Improvements

Sometimes it’s nice to be positive, and with the Clean Water Act (CWA) turning 40 this year, the nation’s waterways are cleaner in many ways than before the CWA instituted major “water quality standards and pollution limits for all water sources.” [Portsmouth Daily Times]

A Germ-Free Mississippi? Antibacterial Products and Our Water

With all the antibacterial consumer products like soap and toothpaste emptying from Minnesota’s drains into the Mississippi River, the amount of chemicals, particularly triclosan has “increased more than 200% since the 1960s.” When triclosan breaks down it becomes harmful to aquatic life, an issue that should give consumers pause next time they buy antibacterial goods. [We All Live Downstream]

Water Samples Suggest Dimock’s Methane Problem Hasn’t Dried Up

After the EPA closed its investigation of Dimock, PA’s possible water contamination from Cabot Oil fracking this summer – one that found that much of the drinking water was safe with proper treatment – emails released to a Times-Shamrock reporter found that they dropped their initial interest in high levels of methane pollution. It turns out that one-third of the water wells sampled are above the EPA limits and this information had not been previously disclosed. [Times-Shamrock]

Peruvian Innovators Trying to Save Disappearing Glaciers

The arid country of Peru, which depends on glacier melt as its primary water supply source, watches as its high-altitude glaciers vanish because of climate change. To forestall the glacial retreat, some people are going to extremes by covering ice with sawdust and painting exposed black rock white with limestone. [PRI]

Fall Leaves: "Ideal Conditions" Seen for Foliage in US

One positive from a (moderate) drought? Brighter fall foliage because of increased anthocyanins, or natural pigments, which might make some parts of Northeast forests even more brilliant this autumn after a dry summer. [National Geographic]

USA Today Analysis: Water Costs Gush Higher

It’s not just gasoline prices that are on the rise over the past decade. So too are residential water rates. USA TODAY found that failing infrastructure has heaped costs on water utilities, “more than doubling [costs] in 1 of 4 localities.” (Check out the video.) [USA TODAY]


Drillers Suspicious of EPA’s New Frack Notification

The oil and gas industry is none too happy that, because of recently-adopted air regulations, it will soon have to start telling the EPA before any natural gas wells are “fracked.” [E&E News]

FL Officials and Scientists Ask Presidential Candidates to Address Sea-Level Rise

Florida is already experiencing problems with rising sea levels like street flooding and salt water intrusion of its drinking water wells. Both presidential candidates have been quiet about climate change in general, so more than 120 Florida officials and scientists sent a letter to the two campaigns urging the candidates to address sea-level rise in their final debate and during tours of the state. [E&E News]

Norway to Double Carbon Tax on Oil Industry

Norway, a major oil producer, will double the carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry and establish a $1.6 billion fund to help developing nations confront the impacts of climate change. [The Guardian]

Will Seismic Blasts Upend Atlantic Marine Life?

A two-decade moratorium on Atlantic oil exploration could end with a bang. Environmental and commercial fishing groups are protesting an Obama administration plan to allow seismic airgun testing for oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. The 250-decibel airgun tests would be fired every few seconds around the clock for several weeks, injuring and killing marine life. [New York Times]

Don’t Block the Sun

In this op-ed, a call for the entrenched fossil fuel interests of the "second industrial revolution" to give way to the growing third industrial revolution, powered by decentralized energy and massive digital connectivity. [New York Times]

Iraq Plans to Invest Up to $1.6 Billion in Solar and Wind Energy

Oil-rich Iraq will spend $1.6 billion on wind and solar over three years to add 400 megawatts of electricity capacity to help reduce blackouts. [Reuters]

Water and Energy: A Texas Nexus

Although Texas leads the nation, and much of the world, in the production of wind energy, most Texas electricity still comes from coal or natural gas-burning plants which require a lot of water to operate. In a drought-stricken state, this is a big problem that calls for serious planning. [Triple Pundit]

Romney: Obama Isn’t Mr. Energy

No, climate change still hasn’t come up in a presidential debate, but at least energy got some attention. Unfortunately, both candidates appeared to be vying for the title of Top Coal Booster, and both called for expanded oil drilling and natural gas production. Renewables? A few small mentions, particularly from Obama. [San Francisco Chronicle]