This Week in Eco News - January 11, 2013

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 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].


After KC Star Stories, Senator Pushes for Rule on Labels on Some Beef Products
On the heels of a report that the mechanical tenderization of meat can drive food-borne pathogens deep into the interior of beef products, and cause sickness if not cooked correctly, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is once again proving herself a food safety advocate by pushing for adequate labeling of such beef products. [Kansas City Star]

New Whistleblower Law Empower Federal Food Safety Employees
On November 27, 2012, President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, finally providing federal government employees with the power to speak the truth without risking retaliation or termination for doing what’s right. Before this law, all too often food safety employees were pressured into keeping silent while witnessing threats to public health and our food supply. This is definitely something to be thankful for in this new year! [Civil Eats]

Chick-fil-A’s Latest Horror
Chick-fil-A is taking a page from the Domino’s playbook, using child-friendly materials to associate themselves with a bucolic vision of meat-making. The company releasing a version of the classic kid's book The Jolly Barnyard branded with the company's logo. The idea that Chick-fil-A chickens come from happy farms as portrayed in the book is a fairytale, putting it lightly. [Salon]

Can Antibiotics Make You Fat?
One more reason we need the meat industry to stop using antibiotics as growth promoters -- if they help animals pack on the pounds, chances are, they'll do the same to us. [Mother Jones]

Genetically Modified Salmon in Stores Soon?
Genetically modified salmon is closer than ever to hitting the market. The FDA has released documents assessing environmental risks posed by GM AquAdvantage salmon, and have concluded (on a preliminary basis) that it does not pose a threat. Others obviously disagree. [Digital Journal]

New MD Law Includes Ban on Arsenic in Chicken Feed
As of New Year’s Day, Maryland has official banned the use of additives in chicken food containing arsenic. [Baltimore Sun]

Hospital Bids Bye-Bye To Big Macs, Others May Follow Suit
For 20 years, if you were craving a Big Mac at the Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, MO., you had to look no further than the hospital cafeteria. No longer! The hospital is bidding adieu to the fast-food giant, and other hospitals are following suit. [NPR]

FDA Releases Two Long-Awaited Food Safety Rules
Last week, two years to the day after Congress passed the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA finally announced two new food-safety rules that will allow the agency to help prevent the food-borne illnesses and outbreaks. In the past, the FDA was only permitted to react after people become sick. [Food Safety News]

Initiative to Require Labeling GMO Food to be Submitted
Although Proposition 37 failed in California this past fall, the GMO labeling movement is still going strong. In what supporters are calling “Round 2,” the movement in Washington State has picked up steam, as the state is close to seeing legislation on the ballot in November. [Seattle Times]

From Today, Packaged Food in India Will Have ‘GM’ Label
As of the beginning of 2013, all packed food products in India containing genetically modified materials will be labeled as such – beating the US to the punch when it comes to this important consumer awareness issue. [Hindu Business Online]


Report: Australian News Coverage Affects Public Acceptance of Policy and Science
According to an Australian study, media coverage that downplays unbiased scientific findings can impede the public’s understanding and eventual adoption of “water-management solutions,” instead sowing doubt and unwarranted fears over certain practices and technologies, such as wastewater reuse. [Circle of Blue]

Modeling Water Resource Systems Under Climate Change: IGSM-WRS
Added to MIT’s Integrated Global System Modeling framework (IGSM), a “comprehensive tool analyzes interactions among humans and the climate system,” is the Water Resource System (WRS) tool that evaluates potential conflicts between certain water uses in the midst of population and economic growth all while climate change impacts water supplies. [MIT]

Analysis of Marcellus Flowback Finds High Levels of Ancient Brines
A research paper found that fracking flowback water from Marcellus Shale-based natural gas wells is “many times” more saline than seawater and is suffused with such radioactive elements as radium and barium. The conclusion? "The high salinity and toxicity of these waters must be a key criterion in the technology for disposal of both the flowback waters and the continuing outflow of the production waters." [Science Daily]

High Good, Low Bad: Mead in December 2012
Instead of water conservation and efficiency underlying water resource management in the American West it seems that the old 20th century notion of “big infrastructure projects” are still in vogue (echhh). Case in point: The near-final approval of the huge 250-mile-plus Las Vegas water pipeline that will help dry out Great Basin. [Chance of Rain]

Learn About the Water Supply Right Underneath Your Feet
As part of their overall water quality efforts, the Portland Water Bureau and another partner have joined together to produce a “Groundwater 101” manual and workshop. [Portland Water Bureau]

China's Taste for Pork Serves up a Pollution Problem
Pork is China’s favorite meat and the nation’s appetite is increasing along with overall prosperity. The problem is that China’s adoption of factory farmed pigs are producing huge amounts of pollution via animal waste, particularly entering local waterways. This is hurting neighbors’ health, as seen in the village of Houtonglong. [Guardian]

The Opportunity Cost of Water
The continuing drought in Texas makes this economist question the economic wisdom of growing rice in the state’s deserts because the amount of irrigation water farmers receive is based on agricultural subsidies and their “entrenched interests” rather than market factors. [Freakonomics]

Editorial: Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Takes Efforts in Pennsylvania and Maryland
"The harsh reality is that the Chesapeake Bay needs all the help it can get, whether it is protection from a single failed septic system – or from the unfettered runoff from a high-density, hog-rearing operation." [Baltimore Sun]

Sustainable Society Index (SSI) Tool
Check out the Sustainable Society Index (SSI) which quickly displays the sustainability of 151 countries based on over 20 measures. [Sustainable Society Foundation]

Four Water Resolutions for a New Year
The general failure of global water management means that “the water supermarkets of the world – our watersheds and aquifers – are being operated without any cashiers or stocking clerks. The store shelves are being emptied faster than they can be restocked.” Better water management might occur with the use of democratic, community-based systems, and here are four resolutions urging community leaders forward. [National Geographic]


Fewer Americans Say Their Actions Can Slow Climate Change
The recent good news that a growing number of Americans now accept the science of climate change is tempered a bit by a new survey that found few people think (incorrectly) that we can’t do much about it. [New York Times]

Army Corps Plans Release of Water on Missouri River
Low water levels on the Missouri River have forced the Army Corps of Engineers to release water from upriver reservoirs to provide power plants with cooling water so they can keep chugging along this winter. [KBIA Public Radio] 

Fracking Lobbyists Present Case Against Matt Damon's Promised Land
Oil and gas lobbying group Energy in Depth is none too pleased by the (fictional) fracking movie, “Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon. The industry group has put out a “cheat sheet” of pro-fracking talking points to counter any bad publicity that may arise following the release of the (again, fictional) film. So to recap, the mighty oil and gas industry is threatened by a (one last time, fictional) movie. [The Guardian]

Four Money Managers Think 2013 Could be a Clean Energy Inflection Point: ETFs to Play the Trend
Last year was a tough one for the clean energy industry, but here’s a panel of green money managers who see reason for optimism in 2013, including the crucial role of the food, water and energy nexus. [Forbes]

Will Microgrids Play A Role In NYC's Energy Future?
The powers of creative destruction - the process by which new technologies and ways of doing things are developed that destroy and replace the old ones – have already begun when it comes to distributed energy and the aging, centralized power grid in New York City. [NYLCV]

Stranded Alaska Oil Rig: Example of Safe Practices or Arctic Risks?
A floating oil rig, on its way from the Arctic to Seattle for maintenance, ran aground along the coast of Alaska during a storm. As Congressman Ed Markey wisely concludes, “Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies.” [Christian Science Monitor]

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener
The Irish government imposed taxes on most fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms (based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions) as a novel way to reduce its deficit. The result has been a carbon emissions drop of more than 15 percent since 2008, and while much of that decline can be attributed to a recession, changes in behavior also played a major role. [New York Times]

Future Production from US Shale or Tight Oil
There are a lot of prognosticators who say US shale gas and tight oil are going to provide a steadily increasing, and then plateauing, amount of energy for the nation. But to maintain that peak production is going to require not just new wells but an increasing number of new wells each year; an unsustainable proposition. []

Gas Drilling, North Dakota
Why is this nighttime satellite image of sparsely populated North Dakota so full of glowing lights? Because of all the natural gas drilling rigs that have been built to tap into the Bakken shale formation. [NASA Earth Observatory]

Hobbled on Energy, India Ponders a Multitude of Dams
The Indian government, struggling to shore up and expand its nation’s strained electric service, proposed constructing 292 dams throughout the Indian Himalayas; roughly a dam every 20 miles. Just a slight problem is that such an effort would likely displace millions of people and destroy ecosystems throughout the Himalayas. [New York Times]