This Week in Eco News - May 24, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our Best of the Web Video feature. We alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long -- in real time -- in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Food

Stop Frankenfish
The biotechnology industry says it has genetically engineered a fish that grows at twice the normal rate, so it can get to market sooner and make more money, faster. But this dangerous lab experiment is all hype and full of downsides to consumers, salmon growers and the environment.

Take Action
: Consumers, Communities, and Companies - keep genetically engineered salmon out of your local stores.


Monsanto, Dow Crops Face Delays as US Boosts Scrutiny
The USDA has announced that it will increase scrutiny of genetically modified plants, and Monsanto crops that tolerate applications of dicamba and Dow crops that tolerate 2,4-D will be evaluated in separate environmental impact statements, delaying their introduction to the market. [Bloomberg]

Breed Insects to Improve Human Food Security: UN Report
A new report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that switching to a diet containing more insects could be healthier, better for the environment and improve human food security. [Guardian]

Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
Michael Pollan talks about the importance of the 100 trillion bacteria that make up your microbiome and how they positively impact your health. [New York Times]

Mysterious Poop Foam Causes Explosions on Hog Farms
Yes, this is as weird and gross as it sounds: Scientists have no idea what is causing the buildup of manure from pig farms to seemingly randomly explode. [Mother Jones]

The US-EU Trade Deal Could Take Monsanto's GM Crops Off The Table
A debate over food standards with the largest US trading partner could affect what Americans are eating for dinner. [Guardian]

Kroger Uses Food Waste to Power California Distribution Center
California food company The Kroger Co. has developed a novel plan for cutting food waste and the power bill. The company plans to use an industrial silo to break down all food past it's sell-by-date into methane, which will then be burned to generate electricity. This will divert the equivalent of 150 tons of food waste a day, and will reduce truck trips in the area by over 500,000 miles a year. [Triple Pundit]

Hospitals Say ''No'' to Meat Raised with Antibiotics
Under the guidance of physicians and foodservice staff alike the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center unanimously approved a resolution to stop serving meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics and urged all ten University of California campuses to do the same. [Civil Eats]

US To Introduce Stricter Rules on Meat Imports, Labels
The USDA will propose new rules this week that would require meat to be labeled with information about where an animal was born. The rules are meant to comply with a World Trade Organization order, and the proposal is drawing heat from Canada and Mexico who say the rules will further cut into cattle and hog shipments which have already slumped in the past few years. [Chicago Tribune]

GMO Labeling Farm Bill Amendment Voted Down In Senate
The Senate has overwhelmingly voted against an amendment to the farm bill that would have let states decide if they wanted to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in his arguments pointed out that 64 countries around the world already require such labeling. [Huffington Post

Planting New Roots 
A new generation of farmers is returning to the Iowa land. In a trend that goes against mainstream culture, young people are moving from bigger cities to rural land - signifying renewed interest in getting back to the farm. [Des Moines Register]


New Study: How Cities Can Finally Get Smart About Water
Nature Conservancy hydrologist Brian Richter published a study showing how water scarcity leads to economic loss and that the downstream water demands of an entire city could be met by upstream farmers if they reduce their irrigation 5-10 percent. [Cool Green Science]

Study: Phosphate Mine Expansion Will Cause 'Significant' Wetlands Damage
It turns out that Florida is a land of big phosphate mining (one of the minerals used in fertilizers) as well as big coastlines. If four proposed new or expanded mines get the green light, about 10,000 acres of wetlands could be destroyed and 50 miles of streams harmed, according to a recent study, although "mitigation" will supposedly minimize the damage. [Tampa Bay Times]

Arjen Hoekstra on The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society
Dr. Arjen Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept and founder of the Water Footprint Network, explains what The Water Footprint of a Modern Consumer Society means to you. [Institute of International and European Affairs]

Texas Groundwater Levels Suffer Sharp Drop, Study Finds
Some of Texas's principal aquifers fell significantly in 2010 and 2011 as the statewide drought worsened, according to the Water Board in a recent report. Heavy groundwater pumping for irrigation and oil and gas extraction led to an average drop of 3.5 feet in the Panhandle's Ogallala Aquifer and an alarming 19.7 feet in the Trinity Aquifer of Central Texas. [Texas Tribune]

Safe Drinking Water Disappearing Fast in Bangladesh
The World Bank issued a report stating that drinking water in Bangladesh is threatened as climate change-intensified storms and ocean surges that increase salinity in coastal areas, as well as increased demand that lowers well water levels, conspire to challenge economic development. [Guardian]

Why Federal Efforts to Ensure Clean Tap Water Fail to Reach Faucets Nationwide
Residents of Central Valley, CA have long had hazardous, nitrate-contaminated tap water due to the heavy use of fertilizers in this agricultural hub. Yet because of poverty, most of these affected California communities don't have access to the "engineering and financial management resources" necessary to build adequate water treatment infrastructure. [New York Times]

Lake Powell Low Despite Spring Snow
Even after a good spring snowfall in the Colorado and Green River Basins, both of which feed Lake Powell -- a vital water source for the American Southwest -- the reservoir's water level is still near an all-time low. [NASA Earth Observatory]

Tank Battle: City Defies Feds, Says It Won't Build Gowanus Sewage Storage
New York City is resisting the EPA's plan to build stormwater runoff tanks to capture raw sewage that enters the Gowanus Canal Superfund site because it's not the most toxic pollutant. Instead the city wants to reopen a "flushing tunnel" and focus on the far more noxious coal tar sediment and century's-worth of other accumulated industrial contaminants. Court battles to follow. [Brooklyn Paper]

Water Utilities to Spend $2 Billion on Smart Meters Through 2020
To prevent leaks and other causes of serious water loss in water systems, water utilities in the United States are expected to spend $2 billion in such infrastructure improvements like smart meters from now through 2020, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report estimates. [Bloomberg]

In the Dark About the Future, West Africa Struggles to Fill a Climate Gap
The Sahel region in Africa has witnessed increased drought and deluge attributed to climate change, but concern is growing since long term precipitation trends can't be identified. Greater rainfall variability can distress regional agriculture because "before the rainy season, you have to make a choice...If you make the wrong choice, you risk losing everything." [The Daily Climate]


Landlords Double as Energy Brokers
The hottest commercial real estate in NYC is in...suburban New Jersey. Banks in particular want to be located in buildings that house data centers, which have enormous amounts of electrical power and ultrafast fiber optic links that benefit trading. However these data centers are now acting like power utilities because they sell power, at great profit, to tenants. [New York Times]

Solar Bill Stalls in Texas Senate After Power Industry Opposition
To help convince cost-wary homeowners to go solar, Texas legislators were looking to require power companies to buy excess electricity generated by rooftop solar systems, but instead the bill was pulled from the state Senate calendar after opposition from the power industry. [Dallas Morning News]

Solar Powered Highways - The Roads of the Future?
To even the most diehard solar enthusiast the idea of solar highways - to power lights, ice melting and nearby homes - seems a little far-fetched, but keep that cynicism in check because the Netherlands is testing it out this year and a US research team is testing a fully-functional solar parking lot. [Environmental Media Association]

Losing Water: Water Shortages Are a Major Problem for Future Energy Projects
A recent international conference explored the "thirsty triangle," or the water footprint of energy traded between China, Canada and the US. As one official stated, water is becoming the Achilles heel of energy development. [EMagazine]

Cooling-Tower Controversy Heats Up at Power Plants, Refinery
Two power plants in New Jersey, one nuclear and one coal, are facing increased scrutiny from groups who want the plants to end their destruction of fish in the Delaware Bay watershed. The Salem nuclear power plant in particular has been accused of killing more fish per year than commercial fishermen. [NJ Spotlight]

Fracking and Solar: Friends, Foes or the Bridge to Clean Energy Adoption?
Natural gas continues to grow into a bigger slice of the US's energy pie, but so too do renewables. Despite the talk of gas serving as a bridge to more renewables in the future (you know, when they're "ready"), a recent MIT report found that it will likely act as a barrier to more renewables for decades due to the glut of supply and low prices. [Renewable Energy World]

Wasted Opportunity
Instead of automatically defaulting to producing more food, water and energy resources to meet increased demand, why not focus on wasting less? In particular, stemming food waste globally (30-50 percent of food is wasted) could be more effective than increasing food production through agricultural technologies. [Ensia]

DOE Approves Natural Gas Export Facility
With the conditional approval of a liquefied natural gas project in Texas, the Department of Energy decided to allow for exports of natural gas to countries that don't have free trade agreements with the US. [Environmental Leader]

A Plan to Bring Sun-Powered Irrigation to Poor Farmers
Solar panels are a perfect match for powering drip irrigation systems in hot, sunny, poor parts of the world because the pumping is mainly needed when the sun is shining. The barrier, however, is cost, but an engineer is raising funds to design a 2,000-watt solar pumping system that will be affordable for farmers who make just $3 to $5 a day. [DotEarth]

US Unconventional Oil Ignites Chain Reaction That Redefines Global Markets
Technologies that allow us to tap into unconventional sources of fuel like shale oil and gas and tar sands are causing rapid and drastic changes to global energy markets, and in the second half of this year, "emerging economies" will overtake the traditional industrial nations in the consumption of oil products. [E&E News]