This Week in Eco News - June 7, 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 - Water

GOOD: Water

GOOD Magazine takes a look at water on earth, how humans use it and the many demands placed on the resource, including pollution.
Take Action
: With so many things that can be done to conserve water and avoid pollution, it's up to society (you and me) to get involved.


Smithfield to Be Sold to Chinese Meat Processor
American meat processor Smithfield Foods is about to be bought by Shuanghui International, the largest pork processor in China, for $4.7 billion in what is to be the largest move of a Chinese company into the US. China has been the subject of scrutiny recently after numerous food safety scandals plagued their meat industry, including one in 2011 where some of Shuanghui's farms were found to have fed a chemical harmful to humans to livestock. [New York Times]

Unapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found in Oregon
Genetically modified wheat, which was tested by Monsanto between 1998 and 2005 but never been approved in the US or anywhere else in the world, has been found to have contaminated a farm in Oregon. The USDA has initiated an investigation, and many fear this could also have major ramifications for international trade as many countries in the world do not accept GMO imports. [USA Today]

Women Read Food Labels More Than Men
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that female consumers are more likely to read information on food packaging than men, and take that information into account when making decisions about what to buy. [Food Production Daily]

Pesticides Make a Comeback
Corn farmers are buying more and more insecticides as crops genetically modified to combat rootworm are losing their effectiveness. Nature has found a way, and in retaliation farmers are spraying more toxic pesticides which could expose both farmers and beneficial insects to potential harm. [The Wall Street Journal]

GM Salmon Can Breed With Trout and Harm Ecosystem, Warn Scientists
A new study led by researchers at McGill University have provided solid evidence (that sounds like it's straight out of a sci-fi movie) for the dangers of GM salmon, aka "Frankenfish": they can breed with trout to create a hybrid, fast growing species that can harm wild populations of other natural species. [Telegraph]

GM Salmon: Target Joins 58 Other Retailers to Say No to GM Fish
Unsurprisingly, "Frankenfish" doesn't sound like a real money-maker for grocery stores. Target is now one of 59 mainstream grocery retailers who have committed to the Campaign for Genetically Engineered (GE)-Free Seafood to not sell GE salmon if it's approved. [Food Navigator]

New York Bill That Would Have Required GMO Food Labels Goes Down in Committee
A bill introduced into the New York Assembly that would have required the labeling of genetically modified foods was defeated in committee on Monday. However, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the bill's lead sponsor, is far from defeated and sees the bill making it to an agenda as a step in the right direction. She hopes to find another way to bring the measure to a vote before the legislature's June 20 recess. [NY Daily News]

Monsanto to Pull the Plug on GM Lobbying and Activities in Europe
The EU and its citizens have made it very clear that they are opposed to GMOs, and it appears as if Monsanto has finally gotten the message. The GMO giant is halting all lobbying activities for GM crop varieties, and has no plans to apply for approval of GM seeds in the EU. [Food Navigator]

Insecticides Lead to Starvation of Aquatic Organisms
A new study by Switzerland's Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) reveals that honeybees aren't the only organisms suffering from the adverse effects of neonicotinoid insecticide use: the toxic chemicals are also killing freshwater invertebrates. [Science Daily]

Asia Curbs US Imports of Wheat After Genetically Modified Sample Found
The discovery of rogue, unapproved GM wheat in Oregon last week has spurred an international trade crisis as much of Asia is curbing their wheat imports out of fear of contamination. [Guardian]


The Fight for North Dakota's Fracking-Water Market
The battle is on over who can sell precious North Dakota water to the oil industry exploiting the Bakken Shale boom. The sides are pitched between competing water providers run by farmers and businesses on the one side and a government-backed co-op on the other. "Now, so many friendships have been destroyed because of water and oil." [Reuters]

Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust
As the multi-year drought in the US interior drags on, water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer are rapidly dropping in parts of the southern High Plains from crop irrigation on the parched fields. Farmers, officials and water managers know that the current rates of unsustainable groundwater pumping are "on the last kick." [New York Times]

Without Water, Revolution
Thomas Friedman points to the Syrian government's poor response to years-long drought ("Jafaf") and the subsequent agricultural collapse as a major grievance the people had with the government. While true, preexisting problems are exacerbated under water stress, which goes against the typical "water cooperation" model. [New York Times]

China: High and Dry
China knows that the worth of water is almost beyond value, although widespread water shortages and pollution are slowing the country's otherwise brisk economic growth by an estimated 2.3 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product). For China to meet its water demands, a paradigm shift in water resource management must occur. [Financial Times]

Trouble in America's Water Paradise
The US is a great nation in no small part due to its foresight in its immense commitment to water infrastructure to meet the demands on both counts of water quality and quantity. As Columbia Water Center students note, that commitment is flagging and they have the case studies to prove it (viz. St. Thomas, post-Sandy NYC, LA River).[State of the Planet]

Cutting Water Consumption in Concentrated Solar Power Plants
Concentrated solar power plants are large scale, typically located in sunny, arid climes and often use large quantities of water...but they don't have to. By applying innovative technologies like overnight energy storage and less water-intensive cooling systems, water use can be reduced up to 90 percent. [The Water Blog - World Bank]

Review of PA DEP Drilling Records Reveals Water Damage, Murky Testing Methods
Here's a common oil and gas industry claim: "There is not a single case of fracking-contaminated drinking water wells." It turns out that there are at least 161 incidents in Pennsylvania where drinking water was variously contaminated by methane, salts and metals, this based on Pennsylvania DEP "determination letters" as released to the Scranton Times-Tribune. The state is one of two that does not have private well water construction standards. [Scranton Times-Tribune]

Wastewater Recycling Part I: Will Drilling and Environmental Goals Align?
Fracking needs water - a lot of it especially in some locales - and bad. To address the water requirements and to clean up the toxic wastewater ("flowback" and "produced"), that water is being recycled and reused at frack jobs at an ever-higher rate. Questions of cost, incentives, technology and environmental concerns run through this three-part series. [Breaking Energy]

The Tokyo Electric Power Company had before claimed that there was no contamination of groundwater from the failing [Fukushima] plant, but has now admitted that, in fact, there is. Oh, and they've also just found a leak in a steel tank used to store radioactive water at the plant. Otherwise, no problems!

Global Majority Faces Water Shortages 'Within Two Generations'
By about 2050 most of the expected nine billion people on earth will experience water shortages, warned a declaration produced from the "Water in the Anthropocene" conference in Bonn, Germany. Excessive use, continued pollution and climate change were driving water problems, and water conservation and efficiency are keys to meeting these challenges. [Guardian]

Poultry Pollution Has Been Overestimated, University of Delaware-Led Study Finds
Nitrogen levels from chicken manure were found to be 55 percent lower than current EPA lab-established standards, according to recent UD-led testing. This finding makes the poultry industry in the Chesapeake Bay region especially happy since it could decrease pollution control forecasts and reduce measures to which producers must adhere. [The News Journal]


Tesla's Stock Soars; Operator of Charging Stations for Electric Cars Tanks
It's been a big couple of weeks for electric car company Tesla Automotive. The firm's stock jumped 13 percent on Tuesday, and it repaid a big Energy Department loan last week, nine years ahead of schedule. [Washington Post]

GE Investing Billions in Fracking Technology
GE is all-in when it comes to fracking, opening a new laboratory in Oklahoma and buying up fracking-related companies in a bet that it can "manage" environmental and health concerns about the natural gas drilling process and make it more profitable. [Associated Press]

Smoldering Landfill Could Threaten Nuclear Waste
Residents near a St. Louis, MO landfill holding radioactive waste are increasingly concerned that a noxious, smoldering fire underneath another nearby landfill could eventually reach the nuclear waste created by the Manhattan Project in the 1940's. [Associated Press]

Powerhouse of the Uranium Enrichment Industry Seeks an Exit
Urenco, the world leader in uranium enrichment, is for sale because of "a combination of economics, geopolitics and the Promethean prospect of an energy source that is as potentially green and abundant as deadly dangerous." [Dealbook]

Fracking Tests Ties Between California 'Oil and Ag' Interests
California's Monterey shale, rich with untapped shale oil, lies beneath one of the world's most fertile agricultural regions. Now oil companies are increasingly interested in tapping the region's deposits through water-intensive fracking. As you might expect, tensions between farmers and the oil industry are rising. [New York Times]

Climate Change Raises Stakes on US Ethanol Policy
If climate change evolves as predicted, then the US can forget about satisfying its current ethanol goals, according to a new study. Changing precipitation patterns will increase irrigation needs while aquifers continue to be depleted, a potentially insurmountable combination of obstacles. [R&D Mag]

Are You Ready for Virtual Power Plants?
What's a "virtual power plant?" It's using varied sources, from distributed generation to energy efficiency, to take the place of traditional fossil-fueled power plants. [Grid Insights]

Water for Power Production or People? Google Earth to the Rescue!
Many power plants use lots of freshwater for cooling, and power plant owners are realizing that they need to plan ahead for a water-constrained world. To help, the Energy Department has created an interactive map that allows power plant designers to see non-traditional water sources - like abandoned mine pools and treatment plants - located within 15 miles or more from their plant. [iTech Post]

First US Floating Turbine Launched
There's now a grid-connected, floating wind turbine off the coast of Maine. Okay, so it's only a scale-model and it will be used primarily for gathering data, but still it's one more step towards offshore wind in the US. [EcoGeek]

Leak Found in Steel Tank for Water at Fukushima
The Fukushima nuclear power plant saga continues. The Tokyo Electric Power Company had before claimed that there was no contamination of groundwater from the failing plant, but has now admitted that, in fact, there is. Oh, and they've also just found a leak in a steel tank used to store radioactive water at the plant. Otherwise, no problems! [New York Times]