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, 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].


Investigation: USDA Quietly Eliminated 60 Percent of Foreign Meat Inspections

Our modern import safety system has long relied on USDA officials inspecting meat and poultry plants overseas whose product is destined for American consumers. An investigation by Food Safety News has found a disturbing trend: since 2008, the number of countries audited by US officials has declined 60 percent. [Food Safety News]

California Rejects Genetically Modified Food Labels; Supporters Vow To Fight On

It turns out that the $46 million Big Ag put towards slandering Proposition 37 was money well spent. The initiative was unfortunately beat by a 6% margin. In September, before the food industry started running ads, 67 percent of Californians supported GMO labeling. While this loss is definitely disappointing, advocates urge consumers not to mourn, but to organize and keep working towards transparency in our food system. [NPR]

Did California Voters Defeat the Food Movement Along With Prop. 37?

"Now that the referendum failed in a popular election, we have to ask, says Pollan, whether there is a 'an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system.' I think the answer is an obvious, 'yes.'" [Mother Jones]

Iowa Farms Minting Millionaires as Rich-Poor Gap Widens

Skyrocketing global demands for grain have caused land values in Iowa to triple, showering wealth on farmers even in the face of devastating drought. Now these areas have a new breed of locally grown millionaires, and it’s creating an income inequality gap in rural America that has been traditionally seen mostly in urban areas. [Bloomberg]

Former Poultry Inspector Denounces New Government Inspection Plan

Former poultry plant inspector Phyllis McKelvey is urging the government not to implement their new poultry inspection system which would largely replace federal inspectors with company-employed ones. McKelvey argues that it will allow for more damaged or contaminated birds coming off inspection lines. [Food Safety News]

Crop Insurance a Post-Election Target; Farm Bill Elusive

Congress resumed with a lame-duck session this week, and they will be tackling the Farm Bill and the question of a new program of virtually unrestricted federally subsidized crop insurance. The proposed crop insurance would give unlimited taxpayer dollars to Big Ag and farmers already making record profits, and mean less support to other federal assistance programs such as food stamps.  [Reuters]

Charts: How Big Pork Screws Small Towns

Tom Philpott examines the high cost of cheap pork in small towns through Food & Water Watch’s excellent new report on the economic costs of Big Food consolidation. In addition to the environmental mess caused by factory farms, they're also an economic disaster for small towns and hog farmers. [Mother Jones]

Organic Food Products To Be Tested For Residues Starting in 2013

USDA officials have announced that in order to ensure that farmers are not using banned pesticides or GMOs, organic food will undergo required periodic residue testing starting in 2013. [Red Orbit]


Sandy May Leave Toxic Legacy

The USGS knows that massive amounts of materials, whether nutrients, chemicals or sediment, have been washed into surface, estuarine and ocean waters, and they have set out to sample and conduct water quality tests in affected areas. [Discovery News]

Water World: Photos of the Animals in the Flooded New York Aquarium

Coney Island (Brooklyn), NY was hard hit by Superstorm Sandy’s major ocean flood surge, and at the New York Aquarium there was no exception to the damage, as these photos attest. While most of the aquatic species were safe (some fish were killed), power loss made habitats difficult to maintain, although generators kept them humming. [Animal Tracks]

A Nairobi ‘Suds Tsunami' and Other Water Woes

A photo taken in Nairobi, Kenya by The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist shows a “tsunami” of “suds” blanketing the surrounding area after a polluted river was stirred up. The Times' Andy Revkin lists a number of organizations and resources that are helping developing countries fight water pollution and other water problems so that such sad “suds” examples are reduced. [NY Times]

2012 Election Results: US Voters Favor Water

Amidst all the big votes cast for many candidates and decisions earlier this election week, the numerous ballot initiatives related to water and water infrastructure improvements shouldn’t be forgotten, considering that their overall success continues to prove America’s commitment to great water supplies. [Circle of Blue]

Demand for Water Will Outstrip Supply by 2030, Oracle Says

In an international research report called Water for All?, “[T]hirty-nine percent of water executives say demand is ‘highly likely' to outstrip water supply by 2030, while 54 percent say such a risk is moderately likely.” Factors identified as likely to meet water demands include conservation strategies, smart meters and better water pricing, among others. [Environmental Leader]

'Superbug' MRSA Identified in US Wastewater Treatment Plants

University of Maryland scientists found that the potentially deadly “superbug methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is prevalent at several US wastewater treatment plants,” which can become an even greater problem since some of that affected wastewater has been used for irrigation purposes. [Waterworld]


Energy Winners and Losers: A Snapshot

A quick snapshot of some energy winners and losers from the election: the future for the wind tax credit is looking brighter; greenhouse gas regulations will likely survive; the Keystone XL pipeline’s future is a little murkier; and oil companies may lose tax incentives. [E2 Wire]

Many Coal Plants in the SE are Ripe for Retirement

A new report says that due to energy economics there are a significant number of coal units that need to pull the plug on their operations in the Southeast US: 121 with the high estimate and 47 by the low estimate. [SACE Blog]

New Report Shows Radioactive Threat to New York if Fracking Approved

Hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale region of New York State is likely to produce significantly higher amounts of radioactive waste than previously believed, according to a new report, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not demonstrated the ability to properly analyze the potential impact of radiation exposure or take adequate steps to protect the public. [EcoWatch]

Fuel From Waste, Poised at a Milestone

There are now two companies claiming to be very close to beginning large-scale, commercial production of “cellulosic biofuels” created by microorganisms, bacteria and steam that convert agricultural waste and even household garbage into fuel. [New York Times]

Natural Gas: With National Politics in Gridlock, Drilling Opposition Goes Local

Four towns passed bans against fracking in the most recent election, and so now more and more anti-fracking organizations are switching strategies by paying less attention to national (and even state) regulations, focusing on local bans and restrictions. [E&E News]

Across PA, Abandoned Wells Litter the Land

Since 1859, as many as 300,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled across Pennsylvania, with an unknown number of them left behind as hidden holes in the ground. When new wells are dug into the same shale formation, potentially dangerous leaks from those old and undocumented wells can form. [NPR]