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 Briefs, which you can find all week long — in real time — in the column to the right. You can also find them at this link, and you can 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].


Diabetes and Sweetener Link Scrutinized
A new study has found that countries with a high level of high-fructose corn syrup in their food supplies also have a 20 percent higher rate of type 2 diabetes. The study has been criticized by many, including food advocates, who assert that HFCS is not the only cause of diabetes and diabetes rates are related to the general lifestyle and development of countries. [NY Times]

For Restaurants, Food Waste Is Seen As Low Priority
According to the EPA, food waste is now the number one material that goes into landfills and incinerators – and 15 percent of that food waste in landfills comes from restaurants. All this food doesn’t only take up space and attract pests, it also contributes to climate change – yet the response from the restaurant industry has been, well, let’s just say it’s been lacking. [NPR]

How Walmart is Devouring the Food System
One out of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries goes to Walmart. Now the retail giant is moving to takeover one third of the market. [Grist]

DOJ Mysteriously Quits Monsanto Antitrust Investigation
Over Thanksgiving the Department of Justice quietly (or more like barely) announced that it was ending its investigation into Monsanto for antitrust violations without taking any action. The DOJ isn’t releasing any information as to why they cut short the investigation, which began in January 2010. Perhaps an early holiday gift for the agri-giant? [Mother Jones]

Eastern Shore Poultry Pollution Trial Winds Up
This week the trial Baltimore-based trial that pitted New York environmental group the Waterkeeper Alliance against poultry company Perdue and a Baltimore Perdue chicken farm came to a close. Waterkeeper alleged that Perdue should be held accountable for the farm’s polluting of the local watershed with chicken manure that caused high levels of disease-causing bacteria. [Baltimore Sun]

A Movement Toward Food Justice
Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker will live off a food budget of $30 a week/ $4.32 per day, the financial equivalent of the budget provided to people who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the next week. Through his “SNAP Challenge,” Book intends to show his support of constituents who rely on the program to feed themselves and their children - and his commitment to the Food Justice Movement. [LinkedIn]

Dichlorophenol-Containing Pesticides Linked to Food Allergies, Study Finds; Chemical Also Used to Chlorinate Tap Water
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that commonly used dichlorophenol-containing pesticides could be partially to blame for the rise in food allergies, which now affect 15 million Americans. [Science Daily]

GAP Sues FDA for Wrongful Withholding of Animal Drug Data
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has filed a lawsuit against the FDA for its decision to withhold agency data regarding the sale of antibiotics for use in animal agriculture. Drug companies are required to report basic information regarding antibiotic sales to the FDA, and the suit was filed after the FDA failed to respond to GAP's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the agency to release that data. [Food Whistleblower]

The FDA Is Out to Lunch
In this piece Barry Estabrook outlines the failures of the FDA and the message is clear: we should be afraid. Estabrook says we are in the midst of a food poisoning epidemic, and the FDA is failing on numerous levels: “Its product recall process is ineffective and confusing. It has done a poor job of dealing with the overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed. It lacks the scientific capacity to perform its duties.” [OnEarth]

Nation's Pediatricians Warn Against Pesticides in Food
In an unprecedented move, the highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement calling on the government, schools, parents and medical professionals to take concerted action to protect children from pesticides. The AAP rarely gets involved with policy or government, but with the growing body of evidence showing pesticides lead to dangerous health problems the AAP felt it necessary to make its position public. [Enviroblog]


Dryland Farmers Work Wonders Without Water in US West
Can farmers in the arid and semiarid Western US grow substantial crop quantities using only rainfed irrigation? You betcha’ when innovative and extremely water-efficient measures are employed – like no-till farming and field fallowing – as demonstrated by an increasing number of dryland farmers forced into the practice by drought and shifting climates. [Scientific American]

After Drought, Reducing Water Flow Could Hurt Mississippi River Transport
As part of an annual process, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun reducing the amount of water flowing from the upper Missouri River into the Mississippi, all but ensuring that the economically vital river traffic will be squeezed even further. If water levels fall low enough, the transport of $7 billion in agricultural products, chemicals, coal and petroleum products in December and January alone could be stalled altogether. [NY Times]

European Waters – Current Status and Future Challenges – A Synthesis
The European Environment Agency just released this synthesis report to give an “overview of the state of Europe's waters [mixed bag] and the pressures acting on those waters,” further examining the “economic and social factors driving these pressures” and wrapping up with policy and societal issues that must be addressed. [Environmental Expert]

After Five Years, Water Remains Focus of Drilling Debate Transparency Issues Still Hamper Knowledge Base
Frack-focused journalist, Tom Wilber, is at it again examining the technique’s many unresolved water-related problems: “The questions of bromide levels in rivers, the status of the EPA study, and the controversy over the DEP testing protocol represent just a few of the dynamics in the matrix of developing science/policy/politics that will shape long-term viability and economics of shale gas development. It’s been a long and grueling process. Don’t expect it to end anytime soon.” [Shale Gas Review]

EPA Water Rule a Split for Two Sides
An important decision by the EPA to compel the Florida state environmental agency to abide by stricter nutrient pollution standards in the majority, but not all, of state’s waterways will likely mitigate the many algal blooms that are harmful to people and ecosystems. [AP]

Clean Water Act Needs Fine-tuning, Critics Say
As great as the Clean Water Act has been for the waters of the United States, many believe that in its 40th year the law is in need of an update to address new pollution threats from nonpoint sources and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) as well as inadequate and insecure funding mechanisms. [Telegram]

Charity: Water Receives $5 Million Grant from Google
A five million dollar grant from Google will fund 4,000 well sensors that Charity: Water – a major developing world charity aimed at well water provision – will further empower locals to secure and maintain their own drinking water supply. [CNN]

What Iran and Pakistan Want from the Afghans: Water
Afghanistan is home to four of five river basins that feed irrigation water to both Iran and Pakistan, a matter of great concern to Afghans who feel that their more powerful neighbors are meddling in internal affairs to continue regular flows. In the process, water insecurity – already a key problem – is increasing. [TIME]

Water Wars in Maharashtra
The drought-prone Indian state of Maharashtra is in the midst of water battle that pits possibly corrupt irrigation mismanagement against thirsty and proliferating thermoelectric power plants. Economic development depends on more electricity and water withdraws, but as Greenpeace report notes, without planning there might not be enough water for every use. [NY Times]

Global Water Crisis: Too Little, Too Much, or Lack of a Plan?
Is the global water crisis, with water scarcity and water pollution impacted by drought, deluge (flooding), growing populations and climate change really about water supplies or “about recognizing water's true value, using it efficiently, and planning for a different future?” Methinks the latter. [Christian Science Monitor]


EPA Bans BP from New Federal Contracts
The Obama administration has temporarily banned BP from new federal contracts, citing the company's “lack of business integrity” as demonstrated by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 men, spewed nearly 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean and turned into the country's worst offshore environmental catastrophe. [Los Angeles Times]

Expiration Of Wind Tax Credit Kills Jobs, Senators Say
A bipartisan group of lawmakers urged Congress to extend a wind energy incentive, saying that the failure to expand the subsidy could cost Americans tens of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs. [AP] 

Susan Rice Holds Stock in Keystone Pipeline Developer
Susan Rice, a possible nominee for secretary of State, has between $300,000 and $600,000 in stock holdings in the Canadian company that is seeking approval from the State Department to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Just a slight conflict of interest there. [E2 Wire]

Solar Generators Power Sandy-Stricken Areas
Solar power continues to help storm-stricken residents to recover. Solar One has deployed solar generators to areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways and Staten Island in an effort to help power relief centers and conveniences like charging cell phones and laptops. [WNYC]

Fossil-Fuel Subsidies of Rich Nations Five Times Climate Aid
According to an Oil Change International report, wealthy nations spend five times the amount on fossil-fuel subsidies than they do on foreign aid for developing nations to cut their emissions and protect against the effects of climate change. [Bloomberg]

A Clickable Guide to the World's Energy Use
Use this interactive graphic to learn which countries were using the greatest amount of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower last year, and which ones were taking a lead on renewable energy. [Nature]

Floods Put Pipelines at Risk
Floodwaters could expose and rupture petroleum pipelines buried beneath rivers around the country. Last year a rupture of an Exxon Mobil pipeline resulted in 1,000 barrels of crude spilling into the Yellowstone River in Montana. “The whole pipeline system across the country's vulnerable.” [Wall Street Journal]

Shale Oil Boom in North Dakota is Impacting Native Americans Especially Hard
In just five years North Dakota has become the second largest oil producing state in the US, after Texas. Oil extraction here has an especially heavy impact on water resources, land use, wildlife and on the fabric of communities, and it’s starting to displace the Native American tribal culture based around agriculture and grazing livestock. [Earth Island Journal]

Tidal Wave of Money Coming to Make California Schools Greener
California voters recently passed Proposition 39, which closed a tax loophole that will generate $1.1 billion a year. But the ballot also requires that half of that money fund projects to install new windows, better insulation, modern lighting and more efficient heating and air conditioning at thousands of public schools and other government buildings over the next five years. [San Jose Mercury News]

An Energy Diet: Cut Back on Water, Pay More Attention to Fish
We know that energy generation requires a lot of water, but what about the fish in that water? A new report from the Nature Conservancy scientists looks at how much water various energy technologies will consume in coming decades and how this could affect freshwater fish. [Cool Green Science]