This Week in Eco News - July 5, 2013

This Week in Eco News, Frontline has, at long last, exposed the tragic commonality of sexual assault of migrant women doing agricultural work; the Great Lakes continue to dry up, to the detriment of shipping; and a proposed floating power plant could help keep the lights on in New York after the next Hurricane Sandy. We hope that's not for a long while. Check out our Best of the Web video, hot off the YouTube so to speak, from Food & Water Watch. "Superweeds" takes on GE crops - turns out nature, i.e., weeds, are evolving in response to Roundup. Who'da thunkit?!

Remember, you can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Friday. And if you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Food

What Are Superweeds?

Did you know that GE crops have increased the use of toxic chemicals? As weeds grow resistant to Monsanto's Roundup pesticides, farmers are forced to spray larger quantities and more hazardous types of chemicals to keep these "superweeds" at bay. As a result, the health of the farmers and our environment are at risk.

Take Action
: Find out how biotech crops bolster the pesticide industry in this report from Food & Water Watch.


Smithfield Workers Wary Over China Deal
Americans working for Smithfield are concerned that the Shuanghui buyout will mean the Chinese company will enact worker policies similar to those of their slaughterhouses and factories in China, including reducing wages and increasing hours. [USA Today]

Countries Urged to Protect Children
United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Labor Organization (ILO) are urging governments to take measures to protect children from dangerous work in small-scale fisheries and seafood farming. 130 million children work in agriculture, livestock and fisheries industries - accounting for 60% of child labor worldwide. [World Fishing]

Food Companies Need to Watch Their Waste
A new study conducted by a group of food industry associations shows that food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operations have numerous opportunities to cut waste. The primary goal of the study was to address food waste's root causes and create ways to reduce and divert waste for other purposes. [Food Production Daily]

Farm Free Or Die! Maine Towns Rebel Against Food Rules
Multiple towns in Maine have now passed what's known as a food sovereignty ordinance, declaring independence from state and federal regulations on locally produced foods. These resolutions claim that small local food producers don't have to abide by state or federal licensing regulations if they are selling directly to consumers. [NPR]

Bipartisan Senate Bill Introduced to Combat Superbugs
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced legislation to combat antibiotic resistant superbugs. The Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2013 would direct the FDA to prohibit the use of human antibiotics in the feed and water of healthy farm animals if they jeopardize human health. [PEW]

Female Farmworkers And Rape: Sexual Assault And Harassment Persist In Central San Joaquin
For female farmworkers, from California's central San Joaquin Valley to Florida's tomato fields, sexual assault is so common it is practically a hazard of the work place. This terrifying reality is finally being addressed in an episode of Frontline with a new report called "Rape in the Fields." [Huffington Post]

Restaurant CEOs Are Paid 788 Times More Than Their Minimum Wage Workers: Analysis
A new study by the Economic Policy Institute reveals that CEOs in the restaurant and hospitality industry earn nearly $12 million a year on average - that's 788 times more than the $15,080 made by minimum wage hospitality workers. [Huffington Post]


Chesapeake Bay Foundation and EPA Tweak Animal Pollution Pact
Rather than the anticipated strengthening and expansion of national water pollution rules on factory farms, the EPA struck a deal with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to inspect regional CAFOs to see if current regulations are effective. Based on those assessments, the EPA "could make new rules or better implement tools currently available," but environmentalists are frustrated because final rules won't be completed until 2018. [Capital Gazette]

Water Metering, Standards, Leaks and Flow
According to the EPA WaterSense program, more than one trillion gallons of water leak from water pipes and mains every year. To reduce that water loss, the NRDC are calling attention to the need for better water meters and an update of the US minimum flow test that hasn't been changed since 1921. [Intelligent Utility]

Catastrophic European Floods Raise Climate Concerns
The dramatic and historic flooding in central Europe correlates to regional climate pattern shifts and portend a more extreme occurrence of both rain and drought. Without a flood prevention strategy or warning system, the EU has a lot of catching up to do. [E&E News]

After Drought, Rains Plaguing Midwest Farms
Recently drought-parched fields in parts of the Midwest are now being flooded as torrential rainstorms have inundated the region, pushing back crop plantings and lowering expected crop yields, although cattle are benefitting from the wet weather. [New York Times]

Water Levels Fall in Great Lakes, Taking a Toll on Shipping
Great Lakes shipping is a major industry worth $34 billion annually, yet drought and infrequent dredging have dropped water levels to record low averages and has the potential to seriously hinder economic activity. Even if dredging and harbor maintenance pick up, dwindling Great Lakes water levels are expected with the continuance of climate change. [New York Times]

How is it that the desert metropolis of Phoenix has a lower per capita water use rate than its sister, Los Angeles?

In Texas, Abandoned Oil Equipment Spurs Pollution Fears
Texas has a vast number of abandoned oil and gas wells (aka "orphaned wells") that are often not properly plugged or maintained, leading to concerns about potential pathways of groundwater contamination, not to mention surface-level methane and oil leaks. Many think that industry operators are negligent and are not being held accountable in terms of cleanup. [Texas Tribune]

An Arid Arizona City Manages Its Thirst
How is it that the desert metropolis of Phoenix has a lower per capita water use rate than its sister, Los Angeles? It takes a mix of things like mandated water efficiency, water/wastewater reuse for lawns and thermoelectric power plant cooling water (two of the city's biggest water users), not to mention a sophisticated canal distribution system for agricultural water which is the metro area's biggest overall water user. [New York Times]


Water Issues Challenge Power Generators
Power plants withdraw a lot of water in the US, but drought and growing competition for water from other uses is a cause of concern. Plant owners are being forced to consider water-friendlier alternatives like dry cooling and reclaimed water use. [Power Magazine

Fracking America's Food Supply
Because fracking for natural gas requires tremendous amounts of water and takes up farmland - 17,000 acres of farmland have been lost to fracking in Pennsylvania alone - the quest for natural gas may directly impact the nation's water supply and lead to an increase in the cost of food. [LA Progressive]

Floating Power Plant Proposed For New York City
As Superstorm Sandy demonstrated, local power outages coupled with creaky old electric grids can cause long-term public safety problems. An NYC developer is proposing a floating back-up power plant that can just float to where it's needed, for example a hospital stranded by a blackout. [Associated Press]

Coal's Slipping Grip: New England, Virtually Coal-Free, Leads the Way
Many aging New England coal plants have retired in the past decade, or converted to natural gas, and of the six still connected to the region's electric grid, two are in the process of closing. That's good news for poorer communities in the region, where most of the remaining coal plants are located. [Environmental Health News]

Cheaper Canadian Oil for Refiners in Midwest Not Reflected in Prices at the Pump
The new Canadian supplies of crude oil are going to gut gas prices, so onwards with the Keystone XL pipeline, right? Nope. Despite a glut of new supply, troubles at US refineries - not to mention some shady dealings - are keeping prices high at the pump no matter how little crude oil costs. [Inside Climate News]

Pollution Threatens Maine Lobsters
Lobstermen, the tourism industry and conservation groups are teaming up on a new campaign to show people that carbon pollution from power plants and cars is warming up and acidifying waters in the Gulf of Maine, causing lobsters to migrate to colder waters and making them more susceptible to disease. [Associated Press]