This Week in Eco News - February 15, 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].


Lobbying by Agri-Business Killed New Mexico GMO Labeling Bill, Claim Supporters
Last week, a New Mexico Senate bill proposing mandatory labeling for GM food and feed died on the senate floor. Supporters of the bill say that the agri-food lobby falsely convinced members of the senate that the labeling would cost a lot of money. [Food Navigator]

Nearly Half of All US Farms Now Have Superweeds
Some frightening statistics have come out of new report from the agribusiness research consultancy Stratus: Nearly half of all US farmers surveyed said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent of farmers in 2011. So the use of Monsanto's Roundup has led to superweeds breeding. The agri-giant's solution? A new generation of herbicide-resistant seeds. Which are also likely to breed super superweeds, obviously. [Mother Jones]

Food Industry Operations 'Simply Incompatible' With Sustainability
A new report by the Food Ethics Council entitled "Towards a Sustainable Food System" claims that our dependence on cheap food is a major barrier to creating a more sustainable food supply. The report urges industry to change its operations and for governments to do a better job incentivizing sustainable business models. [Food Navigator]

Report: Climate Change Could Devastate Agriculture
According to a new comprehensive report by the USDA, climate change will wreak havoc on American agriculture and forests. Rising temperatures will cause a financial crisis for farmers who will be faced with new pests, faster weed growth and smaller yields. [USA Today]

Direct Link Between Exposure to Pesticides in Food, Air and Water and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes
A new study led by the University of Granada has revealed that there is a direct relationship between the presence of pesticides in the body and the development of type 2 diabetes, regardless of the patient's age, gender or body mass index. [The Cornucopia Institute]

Bt Cotton is Failing; Blame the Farmers
Since Monsanto's Bt cotton has taken over in India, yields are steadily dropping and pest resistance is growing – indicating that the GM crop is failing. However, this is not how Monsanto sees things. According to them, the farmers are to blame. [Field Questions]

Horsemeat Scandal Blamed on European Meat Regulations
A few weeks ago it was discovered that burgers marketed by Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, were made up of nearly one-third horse meat. Since then a full-scale scandal has been uncovered, as more "beef" products have been revealed to actually contain large quantities of horse meat. The scandal has been traced back to suppliers in Ireland and France. Experts say it is the result of a switch from UK to foreign meat suppliers in 2012 caused by an abrupt change in European regulation. [Guardian]

Pig Manure Reveals More Reason To Worry About Antibiotics
More scary antibiotic news, this time out of China: a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that manure from pig farms doesn't just contain antibiotic residue, but also high concentrations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This increases the risk that antibiotic resistance will transfer to bacteria that infect humans. [NPR]

FDA Feeling the Heat on Genetically Engineered Salmon
The FDA has extended the public comment period for AquaBounty's GE version of Atlantic salmon by 60 days, making the new deadline April 26. This is good news, as it signifies the growing opposition to "Frankenfish", the first genetically-engineered animal to potentially make its way into the US food supply. [Livable Future]

Barclays Stops Speculating on Food – Campaigners Demand Regulation
World Development Movement has announced that Barclays bank has agreed to stop speculation on food commodities.  This speculation, which is essentially betting on food, drives up world food prices and contributes to the global hunger crisis. [World Development Movement]


Message from Mexico: US Is Polluting Water It May Someday Need to Drink
The United States should be attentive to a Mexico City plan to pump drinking water from an aquifer one mile underground because the US currently disposes of large volumes of toxic wastewater into underground injection wells that could potentially contaminate deep groundwater supplies that might be needed in a drier future. [ProPublica]

To Tackle Runoff, Cities Turn to Green Initiatives
Stormwater runoff and sewer overflow in urban areas are major sources of water pollution that could use green infrastructure solutions, like rain gardens and green roofs. These "can actually reduce costs and increase value at the same time" according the Urban Land Institutes Ed McMahon. "I just think that its inevitable that were going to see this as a much more preferred approach going forward." [Yale 360 ]

The High Value of Water
Good social science discoveries – like how people highly value water, are happier when its available indoors and are willing to pay more for it – often produce the reaction, "I already knew that." Well, an MIT study is here to confirm those findings, something that excites researchers for illuminating significant "factors such as convenience when analyzing the impact of policy." [MIT News]

Interview: Author Discusses Asia's Water Woes
In Brahma Chellaneys book, Water: Asia's Next Battleground, the professor "argues that Asia has less freshwater per capita than any other continent, but is both guzzling and polluting its resources at an ever-increasing rate," a problem which could become an increasingly "divisive." Yemen, and most especially Afghanistan, are notable because internal conflicts are occurring over the control of water sources. [Radio Free Europe]

Ground Zero in the Energy-Water Nexus
Upon returning from the Masdar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) summit on the nexus, the author shares the plight of those arid (and we mean arid) countries in the Middle East desperate for water while having tremendous fossil fuel and solar energy resources. Here's an astounding stat: virtually all of the UAE's freshwater for human consumption comes from desalinated water, a process which takes up about half of their total natural gas use. [Smart Planet]

The World Bank and the Water-Energy Linkages
This interview about the water-energy nexus with Sr. World Bank Economist, Diego Rodriguez, is interesting in that he underscores how the "capacity of water and energy systems to provide reliable and affordable service is crucial for economy-wide growth and poverty reduction," which necessitates a nexus approach. [The Nexus Resource Platform]

Apple Bends to Pressure, Aims to Reduce Pollutants in Supply Chain
Until 2010 when the NRDC and China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs stepped in, Apple factory operations in China were routinely polluting water and air in ways that were harmful to both human and environmental health. While Apple has not completely cleaned up its factory operations, the two environmental groups agree that the company is heading in the right direction. [NBC News]

Water Level of Lake Michigan Continues to Drop, Reaches Record Low
Between last year's warm and dry weather and the dredging of the St. Clair River, Lake Michigan is at its lowest level since 1918, when records began to be kept. Everyone is concerned, from lakeside homeowners to US and Canadian federal governments. [Chicago Tribune]

A Clash in Pennsylvania Over Fracking and Water Tests
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) canceled a meeting with environmental groups that was scheduled to discuss why certain toxic heavy metals were omitted in DEP tests of water near natural gas well sites. The DEP objected to "unacceptable" language – "takedown" – directed towards its chief by the group Marcellus Shale Protest. [New York Times]

Sick of Snow? Mountains Need More for Water Supply
Even though the mountains around Salt Lake City seem loaded with snow, the low amount that has fallen during January has created a long-term water supply concern. According to Jeff Budge, the system's water manager, "Typically, when we have this kind of snowpack, there is not a lot of water out there." [Deseret News]


Lights Out – France to Force Shops and Offices to Go Dark Overnight
France has required that shops and offices turn off their lights overnight in an effort to combat light pollution and limit greenhouse gas emissions, although exceptions are made for tourist areas and during the Christmas season. [The Guardian]

John Kerry to Lead Review of Keystone XL Pipeline
John Kerry has been confirmed as the next Secretary of State, and his history of being an environmentally-friendly senator has many hoping that he will block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. [Christian Science Monitor]

'Energy for Water' May Have Greater Impact on the Nexus
The US uses 13 percent of its electricity to move, treat and heat its water, which accounts for up to 60 percent of the energy bill in some cities, and 90 percent of the energy bill on some farms. [The Guardian]

Hydrokinetics: The Biggest Source of Renewable Energy You Never Heard Of
According to the Energy Information Agency, hydrokinetics (the production of energy from the flow of moving water) has the potential to produce ten percent of the nation's current electric generating capacity by 2050. [Triple Pundit]

Carbon Emissions in US Drop to Lowest Level Since 1994
A new report says that carbon dioxide emissions in the US in 2012 were at their lowest levels since 1994. Carbon emission levels have fallen by 13 percent since 2007, and coal accounted for only 18 percent of the US energy mix last year, compared to 22.5 percent in 2007. [Christian Science Monitor]

Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power?
The US government is planning to build hundreds of mini-reactors, dot them around the US and export them overseas. The units, which will generate about 1/10 the power of a typical nuclear power plant, concern some because of the likelihood that they'll be placed in close proximity to large populations, creating a security threat. [NPR]

Drought Puts Drain On Water Supplies for Power Plants
Texas is adapting to its extended drought by enacting a new rule requiring any proposals for new power plants to include proof of access and rights to adequate water supplies. [FuelFix]

Indian Point Fish Study Reveals Nuclear Plants Effect On Endangered Fish Species
The National Marine Fisheries Service completed a study on the impact that the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant's cooling system has on endangered sturgeon in the Hudson River. And the conclusion won't wipe them out. The problem is, the study relied on outdated data. [Huffington Post]

How Drought on Mississippi River Impacts You
Water levels in the Mississippi River are down dramatically, and that has a big impact on energy:  Barges and tankers carried almost 48,000 barrels from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast in 2011, not to mention coal from West Virginia for factories and dozens of power plants that dot the river. [National Geographic]

Is TransCanada Laying Defective Keystone XL Pipe in Texas?
Activists fighting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas released images of welded pipeline seams so poorly constructed that daylight can be seen through them. [DeSmog Blog]