This Week in Eco News - January 18, 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 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].


Drought Lingers, Winter Wheat Crop Withers
The summer drought is still taking its toll on our food supply and is now stunting winter wheat crops which are planted in the fall and harvested in early summer. [Mother Jones]

Feds to Parents: Big Food Still Exploiting Your Children; Good Luck With That
Every year the food industry spends $2 billion marketing junk food to kids, and the federal government isn’t doing anything about it. In fact, the feds have produced a report commending the industry for “progress” when in fact its own data shows that this practice has actually increased as a result of digital ads and other forms of “new media.” [Food Safety News]

California Relaxes Laws So Entrepreneurs Can Sell Homemade Food
The California Homemade Food Law (effective as of the start of 2013 ) now allows chefs to sell food cooked in a home kitchen. The legislation aims to support entrepreneurship in the city and “supplement household incomes, prevent poverty and hunger, and strengthen local economies.” [Venture Beat]

Overfishing Causes Pacific Bluefin Tuna Numbers to Drop 96%
A new study by the PEW Environmental group shows that populations of Bluefin tuna have dropped at an alarming rate: 96 percent, and 90 percent of those caught and killed were juveniles and never had the chance to reproduce. PEW is calling for fishing to be suspended until significant steps are taken to reverse the species decline. [Guardian]

New Mexico GMO Labeling Bill Heads for State Legislature
A bill has been introduced to the New Mexico state senate requesting mandatory labeling of food products and animal feed containing GMOs. New Mexico is the third state to request this kind of legislation: California’s Prop 37 was narrowly defeated in November, and Washington’s initiative is on track to becoming certified and would then appear on the ballot in November of 2013. [Food]

Soon, The Second Most Common STD May Not Be Able To Be Treated With Antibiotics
Researchers have discovered that gonorrhea is becoming immune to the only effective oral antibiotic used to treat the STD. This could mean a potential long-term public-health crisis, and push us to continue to examine the link between antibiotic-resistant diseases and antibiotic overuse in livestock. [Think Progress]

Renewable Energy at the Nexus
GRACE’s James Rose writes in Outreach Magazine that a “holistic approach to promoting healthy and environmentally-responsible living surely involves clean energy.” [Outreach]

Hundreds Protest Demanding Monsanto End Intimidation Campaign Over GMOs
Last week, nearly 300 family farmers and advocates gathered in front of the White House after a hearing on the landmark OSGATA v. Monsanto case, to demand that Monsanto end their campaign of intimidation against America’s family farmers and that President Obama halt approval of genetically modified food. [EcoWatch]

Now, Not Later -- We Need to Talk About the Farm Bill
With the passing of the Farm Bill extension earlier this month, nearly a year of what looked like real reform got trumped by a deal that was made around the “fiscal cliff” behind closed doors. We only have until September to make sure a full Farm Bill passes with real reform to protect our health, our environment, and our farmers. And we must start having that conversation now. [Huffington Post]

Pesticides & Parkinson’s: UCLA Researchers Uncover Further Proof of a Link
Neurologists at UCLA have been working for years to build a case linking pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, and they have now added a new pesticide to this list: benomyl. Although benomyl was banned by the EPA 10 years ago, its toxicological effects still linger and scientists believe that the damaging series of events set in motion by benomyl may also occur in people with Parkinson’s disease who were never exposed to the pesticide. [UC Health]

Fast Foods Linked to Asthma, Eczema in Children: Study
A new study led by scientists at the University of Auckland in New Zealand reveals that eating three or more weekly servings of fast food is linked to the severity of allergic asthma, eczema, and rhinoconjunctivitis among children. [Bloomberg]


Supreme Court to Decide on Texans’ Bid for Oklahoma’s Water
With ongoing drought conditions raising fears of water shortages, the Fort Worth, Texas metro water authority is battling for water transfers from Oklahoma’s Water Resources Board in a case that will heard by the Supreme Court, even though history indicates that a ruling might not end the conflict. [New York Times]

New Drilling Rule Requires Water Tests
The Colorado agency that regulates natural gas and oil extraction passed a rule that mandates baseline groundwater quality tests by companies before extraction can proceed, making CO the third state to do so. The regulation’s efficacy is in question by industry, who thinks it’s too strict, as well as many environmentalists, who think standards are too low. [Durango Herald]

Using the Water Footprint as a Tool for Sustainable Appropriation of Freshwater Resources
Here is a deep look by two “water footprinting” experts explaining what the concept means and how it can be applied by consumers to reduce water use. (Note the release of the Water Footprint Assessment Tool, version 1.0, which should help widen its implementation.) [JHU Global Water Magazine]

Why AT&T and Environmental Defense Fund Are Working To Reduce Water Use
AT&T is promoting its upcoming pilot project to reduce operational water use in such activities as water treatment and especially – the biggie – building cooling. (We’re sure burnishing their environmental cred has nothing to do with it.) [Triple Pundit]

Storms on US Plains stir memories of the 'Dust Bowl'
Huge dust storms – like the one that covered a 150-mile area of Texas and Oklahoma in late December – on the drought-stricken Great Plains are reminding people of the 1930’s Dust Bowl catastrophe. The problem is that the drought persists and the ever-important Ogallala Aquifer is drying up. [NBC News]

Adapt or Die: Why the Environmental Buzzword of 2013 Will Be Resilience
“Resilience” – in this case humanity’s ability to adapt to natural vagaries and disasters – is going to be on the forefront of thinking and talking among the leaders and academics this year, even if the “hard decisions…to head off catastrophe” are never made. [TIME’s Ecocentric]

Staggering Cost of Repairs Allows Sewage to Foul New Jersey Waterways
It was alarming when Hurricane Sandy knocked out New Jersey’s largest wastewater treatment plant, pouring raw sewage into waterways. Yet every year 23 billion gallons of sewage overflows into state waterways, and because of the billion dollar costs, infrastructure upgrades are not carried out. [The Record]

Got Water? Hard to Know in Mexico City
Mexico City, with its population of 20 million, has an average of 50 to 60 water pipes repaired daily, which can mean the loss of tap water without notice when work is being done. [Christian Science Monitor]

No Contamination from Fracking Found in Two Arkansas Counties – USGS
The USGS sampled 127 shallow water wells in two Arkanasas counties replete with fracked natural gas wells and found no evidence of fracking-related water contamination. USGS co-author, Tim Kresse says "[i]t does show [fracking] can be done and done right with no impacts," but the question is, what about when it’s done wrong? [Reuters]

EPA Fracking Study May Dodge Some Tough Questions
The EPA’s multiyear fracking study may be the most anticipated and comprehensive one ever, yet it will avoid field tests on one of the primary questions: What is the probability of groundwater contamination? [AP]


Rebecca Tarbotton, Environmental Leader, Dies
We were devastated to hear that Rebecca Tarbotton, the first woman to ever lead the Rainforest Action Network, recently died. She “traveled the world fighting the exploitation of rain forests, championing the preservation of natural resources and human rights, and winning numerous battles in the ongoing fight for ecosystem health.” [San Francisco Chronicle]

Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit First we heard about the 4 percent methane leakage over a Colorado natural gas field, now a Nature article finds that a whopping 9 percent of total gas production in a Utah gas field is leaking. How ‘bout those climate benefits of natural gas! [The Energy Collective]

Water, Food, Transportation: Where Green Tech Investments Will Go In 2013
Global green tech investments tumbled in 2012, but three sectors attracted a greater interest from investors than the year before: biofuel, water/wastewater and agriculture/forestry. [Forbes]

Power Tat’s So Cool-ing
We usually don’t share “New of the Weird” highlights, but how can we pass up this story of a British woman who memorialized a soon-to-be-demolished coal power plant by having an image of the plant and its cooling towers lovingly tattooed on her leg? [The Sun]

Half of All Food Wasted
The world throws away half of its food according to a report that blames “consumers’ fussy preference for cosmetically appealing produce, supermarket promotions that encourage overbuying, and deficient storage, transportation and agricultural practices.” Such food waste also represents a huge waste of energy and water (550 billion cubic meters annually). [Smart Planet]

Fracking Comes to Nevada
Welcome to the fracking controversy, Nevada! Noble Energy Inc. is hoping that by the end of the year it will have approval to drill for oil and natural gas across a 40,000-acre swath of public and private land. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

Charging Up (Slowly) After the Next Big Storm
Thinking ahead for when the next blackout leaves you without a way to charge your phone or other electric gadgets? A new study finds that small solar and hand-cranked generators leave a lot to be desired. To get a 25 percent charge on an iPhone, a small solar charger requires six to eight hours of sunlight while a hand crank requires 120 to 150 minutes of steady cranking. [New York Times]

The Stress Nexus: Shell Forum Focuses on Competing Water Demands
A recent Shell Oil conference focused on the food, water and energy nexus and its potential impacts of energy supplies. For example, by 2050 energy demand will create water stress issues for over half of the power plants in Asia. [FuelFix]

Oil Sands Raise Levels of Cancer-Causing Compounds in Regional Waters
Canadian tar sands production has created 830 million cubic meters of liquid residue contained within 176 square kilometers of waste lakes, with another 250 million liters of the muck produced every day. The amount of contaminants leaking from these vast pools is raising serious concerns. [Scientific American]

Renewable Energy at the Nexus
GRACE’s James Rose writes in Outreach Magazine that a “holistic approach to promoting healthy and environmentally-responsible living surely involves clean energy.” [Outreach]