This Week in Eco News - June 28, 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 Friday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Water

Why Care About Water?
Even though the Earth is covered by water, less than one percent is available for the purpose of drinking, sanitation and food production. Watch three leading water conservationists associated with National Geographic explain our precarious water situation on Earth.

Take Action
: Find out the wonders of water and what you can do ensure that there is enough water to meet our needs.


After Mass Bumblebee Die-Off, Activists Call for New Pesticide Rules
Last week more than 50,000 bumblebees were found dead after a landscaping company sprayed Safari neonic insecticide over 55 blooming trees around a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. It is the biggest known bee die-off in US history - but only because it happened over areas of concrete. These pesticides are used throughout the country in all kinds of environments, and in greener areas a die-off would likely go unnoticed.  Activists are now urging local and state agriculture departments across the country to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on trees, lawns and for other cosmetic purposes on lands that they manage. [Grist]

The Genetically Modified Burrito: Chipotle Tells All
Chipotle is voluntarily identifying GMOs in its food (although only on its website, not in stores) -- making it the first restaurant chain in the country to do so. Chipotle is making steps to reduce the GMOs in its menu items, but has also stated that there are barriers in eradicating them and won't be able to do so anytime soon. [Business Week]

Smithfield Foods Terminates Relationship with Paula Deen
Earlier this week, Paula Deen was dropped from her endorsement deal with Smithfield Foods after she made some pretty horrific racist remarks in a court deposition which have now been made public. Let's not forget the other scandal involving Paula Deen - the one where she used her diabetes diagnosis to hock drugs for pharmaceutical companies, rather than encourage her audience to eat healthier. [Eater]

Target, Diabetes Drug Maker Latest to End Relationships With Paula Deen
Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk has ended their sponsorship of Paula Deen following her much-publicized racist remarks. Deen's relationship with Novo Nordisk is wrought with controversy as well. Deen became the spokesperson for the company's diabetes drug Victoza at the same time that she announced she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, essentially promoting the use of pharmaceuticals over addressing the root of her own disease: her notoriously unhealthy foods. [NBC News]

Dominos, McDonald's, Others Work To Make Their Food Look Authentically Imperfect
Food conglomerates are racing to respond to America's desire for real food -- by faking it. For example, Kraft Foods food engineers reportedly spent two years creating a process that allowed for uneven turkey slabs for their Carving Board line. Wendy's, McDonald's, Dominos and Hillshire are also employing similar deceptive practices. [Huffington Post]

Where Corn Is King, a New Regard for Grass-Fed Beef
In the state of Nebraska, where the corn industry reigns supreme, ranchers and good food advocates are working to popularize grass-fed beef and start a movement to abandon recent traditions of grain-fed animals fattened for the slaughterhouse as quickly and profitably as possible. [New York Times]

NOAA, Partners Predict Possible Record-Setting Dead Zone for Gulf of Mexico
NOAA has warned that a dead zone the size of New Jersey could break records this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rainfalls are washing a stew of pollutants and nutrients into the Gulf, feeding outbreaks of algae that will rob the waters of oxygen as they die and decompose causing marine life either flee or die. The Gulf dead zone is caused every summer by fertilizer and animal waste running off from farms, including those along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. [NOAA]

US Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products
The USDA has approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that includes a claim indicating that the product is certified to be GMO-free by the Non-GMO Project, meaning the animals never ate feed containing GMOs like corn, soy and alfalfa. [New York Times]

GM Food off the Menu in UK Parliament's Restaurants
Here's your daily dose of hypocrisy: GM foods are banned from restaurants in the UK Houses of Parliament despite government claims it is "probably safer" than other meals. In addition, the governing body has stated that the public should abandon reluctance to eat GM products. [Nation of Change]

Livestock Industry Bullying on Meatless Mondays Doesn't Change Facts-Or Consumers
When a food company decided to implement Meatless Mondays in the House of Representatives cafeteria last month, the livestock industry quickly attacked and demanded that the House Administration Committee immediately cease promoting the initiative. Unfortunately the bullying effort was successful, however the meat industry is fighting a losing battle: national trends show an increasing interest in Meatless Mondays as well as a drop in the average meat consumption of Americans. [Civil Eats]


Influx of Syrian Refugees Stretches Jordan's Water Resources Even More Thinly
The water-strained nation of Jordan is in the midst of a freshwater crisis with half a million Syrian refugees now residing in the country pushing it to the brink. The situation has become as much a national security problem as one of basic needs. [Washington Post

Severe Storms Bring More 'Weather Whiplash' to US
It was just the beginning of 2013 when many in the US were concerned that the years-long drought in the Central Plains and the Mississippi River Valley would bring the River so low it would be impassable, but the spring has brought record-setting storms, torrential rain (an EF-5 tornado) and flooding. [Climate Central]

Whey from New York's Greek Yogurt Used to Produce Power
The Upstate New York Greek yogurt boom has produced a lot of yogurt as well as its acidic byproduct, whey. Besides shipping whey to farmers as cow feed, a local wastewater treatment plant uses the whey in an anaerobic digester that produces methane gas and provides enough fuel to generate almost all the electricity needs of the plant. [Connecticut Post]

Water Wars: Who Controls The Flow?
Water law and governance in the US is tricky and is based on two doctrines determined by which side of the Mississippi River you dwell. In the East: "[Under] the riparian doctrine, if you live close to the river or to that water body [or] lake, you have reasonable rights to use that water." In the West, it's prior appropriation: "It allocates rights based on...if you are first in time, you are first in rights." [NPR]

A Town Plagued by Water
Water has not been kind to the sprawling central New Jersey town of Toms River, which is still dealing with the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy at Ortley Beach and along the bay. There is also the terrible history of deadly drinking water pollution by chemical company, Ciba-Geigy, whose toxic dye chemicals caused a cancer cluster that especially affected kids, and poisonous groundwater pollution from Union-Carbide waste that was dumped on the land of an unwitting one-time farmer. Depressing. [The New Yorker]

With Obama's climate change action agenda finally public, coal stocks are dropping. The "war on coal" begins in earnest!

Jellyfish Surge in Mediterranean Threatens Environment - and Tourists
The overfished, warming waters of the Mediterranean are swelling the jellyfish populations to astounding levels, a phenomenon that not only hurts aquatic biodiversity but is also detrimental to tourism since taking a dip is becoming more painful. [Guardian]

US Water Infrastructure Needs $384-Billion Upgrade, EPA Says
The EPA released the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment based on 2011 data and found that at least $384 billion must be sent to ensure water is safe to drink. With much of the nation's infrastructure 50-100 years old, everything from new water lines to water treatment upgrades to water storage rehabilitation is in order [Los Angeles Times]

Anheuser-Busch InBev: Less Water, More Beer
What is the most effective way for the world's biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev (aka Budweiser), to lower the water footprint of their beer? Get grain farmers, often barley producers, to shift their practices to, for instance, wet-season growing, crop rotations and the planting of water-absorbing buffers to improve biodiversity. [GreenBiz]

Study Suggests Dairy Herd Water Quality Linked to Milk Production
Get this: Clean drinking water for dairy cows is linked to improved milk production, says a Penn State Extension study. What's happening at PA dairy farms though is that water quality tests look typically only at bacterial contamination and not at other pollutants such as salts, heavy metals and nitrates. [PhysOrg]

Farm Subsidies Leading to More Water Use
A UC-Davis study found that agriculture is overusing irrigation water due, in part, to federal subsidies granted by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which is meant for efficient irrigation equipment purchases. Rather than reduce water consumption, "Kansas farmers who received payments under the conservation subsidy were using some of their water savings to expand irrigation or grow thirstier crops." [New York Times]


Obama's Ambitious Global Warming Action Plan
Obama has finally released his climate change action plan. In short it includes: rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, heavy vehicles and buildings; plans to cut vulnerability to climate and coastal hazards; and international initiatives. [New York Times]

Obama Climate Change Plan Hits Coal Stocks
With Obama's climate change action agenda finally public, coal stocks are dropping. The "war on coal" begins in earnest! [USA Today]

EPA Delays Fracking Safety Study Until 2016
EPA's research into the dangers posed to drinking water sources by fracking was expected to be completed in 2014, but now an agency official says that it won't be done until 2016. While it's important to get this research right, states and towns are in need of EPA's study yesterday, so this delay is significant. [Grist]

Renewables to Surpass Gas by 2016 in the Global Power Mix
Power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2016. As renewables become cost-competitive with fossil fuels, the only remaining roadblock is political waffling on long-term policies that support clean energy. [IEA]

Why You Should Care About Solar Impulse and Renewable Energy's Long, Long Journey
The flight across the US of the solar powered airplane called Solar Impulse, now gearing up to fly around the world, has tested new clean technologies that could lead to better solar panels, better batteries and better, lighter materials. [Washington Post]

EPA Abandons Study That Linked Fracking, Wyoming Water Pollution
In 2011 the EPA released a draft study finding that fracking in a Wyoming region appeared to be contaminating aquifers. But now the agency says it's abandoning the study and will hand the investigation over to the state, much to the oil and gas industry's delight. [E2 Wire]

Renewable Energy Incentives Survive Lobby Attack
Despite a big lobbying push over the past year to roll back state mandates that utilities purchase a certain amount of renewable energy, no state budged from their dedication to renewables. In fact, some states have expanded their renewable energy mandates. [Stateline]

A New Kind of Power Plant Gets Energy from the Wind and the Water
The old argument is that wind and solar power aren't reliable because the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't shine at night. So why not combine different renewable technologies?  A Japanese company will soon launch a model offshore wind turbine that also generates electricity with an ocean current turbine. No wind? No problem! [Co.Exist]

Tax Programs to Finance Clean Energy Catch On
Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, or PACE, is finally catching on in the US, at least for businesses. The creative approach allows owners to borrow the money for renewable energy systems and pay for it over time through a property tax surcharge. Next step: making PACE available to homeowners. [New York Times]