This Week in Eco News - August 16, 2013

No they didn't! Monsanto plants its GE corn before receiving approval, hackers are super-interested in our water utilities and Texas has doubled oil and gas production in a little over 5 years. Welcome to This Week in Eco News, now including a little multimedia fun for your weekend. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Food

Ag Gag Undercover #5 : In the Dark
The "Ag Gag Undercover" series raises awareness about the controversial anti-whistleblower bills introduced in several US states. While industrial agriculture proponents muddle the public discourse with disingenuous justifications for the legislation, these videos explain how Ag Gag bills stifle transparency in the food system, threatening consumers, animals, workers and the environment.

Take Action
: Protect our food by empowering whistleblowers.


10 American Foods That Are Banned in Other Countries
Can you believe that foods that are banned (!) in other countries are sold to Americans every day? Here are 10 foods to be aware of and why you should be concerned about them. Not for nothing, but are foods like these contributing to the skyrocketing disease rates in this country? [The Top Information Post]

Bee Die-Offs: New Tests Find Bee-Killing Pesticides in 'Bee-Friendly' Plants
It is sad to think that the gardens we grow to attract ‪bees‬ ; might be harming them. A new study found that 7 of 13 samples of garden plants purchased at top retailers in 3 major cities contain neurotoxic pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These pesticides have been shown to harm or kill bees and other pollinators. [Friends of the Earth]

Monsanto's New GE Crops Already in the Ground?
Dicamba-resistant and 2,4-D-resistant GE seeds from Monsanto are still awaiting USDA approval, but Monsanto has moved ahead planting and spraying these crops in large, field-sized "Ground-Breaker" demonstration plots in North and South Dakota as well as other undisclosed locations. 2,4-D has been known to drift up to 100 miles, destroying crops along the way and causing big concern for farmers. [PANNA]

Stunning Ag-Gag Bill News
94 percent of the American public agrees that animals raised for food should be free from abuse and cruelty. But the modern meat industry wants to keep the public in the dark. Ag-gag laws across the country are helping the meat industry keep their secrets and discouraging citizens who are trying to expose the truth. But animal welfare issues are also public health issues - shouldn't we know where our food is coming from? [Huffington Post]

Why This Year's Gulf Dead Zone Is Twice As Big As Last Year's
Dead zones are growing, not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but many other bodies of water in the US. But does it have to be this way? No! A 2012 Iowa State University study says if farmers could add one or two crops to their crop rotation, they would reduce synthetic nitrogen fertilizer needs by 80 percent - and be productive. There are more options to put into place - animal rotation, cover crops and more. [Mother Jones]

Meatless Monday

Restaurateurs See Success with Meatless Monday
Beyond the health benefits for Meatless Monday participants, it turns out the restaurant industry is also seeing better business on Mondays – in some cases, from a whole new clientele interested in meatless options. Chefs Mario Batali and John Fraser, among others, offer vegetarian entrees at their restaurants as a part of the campaign, and other chefs are following suit.[Nation's Restaurant News]


Water a Key Issue as Developing Countries Drive Growth in Global Food Production
More people need more food, and it is developing countries that will be pushing both population and food production growth, according to the joint OECD-UN 2013-2022 Agricultural Outlook. The biggest limiting factor? Water, or its lack in high-enough quality. Turns toward efficient irrigation, drought tolerant crops and "agro-ecology" will be essential to keep up with increased demand. [Circle of Blue]

The Complications of Getting Running Water In the West Bank
The near-completed Palestinian town of Rawabi is a privately developed upper class community that will offer attractive - even cutting-edge - features like a central piazza, bike paths, recycled irrigation water and instant hot water heaters. But the politically fraught freshwater allocation is a concern that even President Obama has mentioned, another hurdle to clear in the hopes of making it a true desert oasis. [NPR]

Bad News: Hackers Are Coming for Your Tap Water
Online traps, so-called "honeypots," (fake water plant control systems) have found that cyberattacks on water utility pumps and operations are one of the most common targets of hackers. While no water utility has actually been hacked and its service disrupted, water systems are wary. Some are implementing cyber-response measures after the Obama administration's executive order focused on vulnerable infrastructure. [Mother Jones]

China Eyes US's Top Spot in Packaged Water Following Massive Growth
The "packaged" or bottled water craze is spreading like fire to China, which is poised to become the world's largest consumer of the stuff, although in per capita terms, the US just can't be beat. We're No. 1 ! [Food Navigator]

Feds Declare Fishery Disaster For Florida Oyster Industry
Florida won an important water rights victory over Georgia when the federal Commerce Secretary declared the Sunshine State's Apalachicola Bay fishery a national disaster. The flow of the Apalachicola River water into the Bay, which has been severely curtailed thanks to Georgia's upstream withdrawals, is part of the ongoing tri-state battle over the ACF river system. [AP]


A Very Short History of How Americans Use Energy at Home
Home heating for Americans is still the largest energy user at 42 percent, although its overall share has fallen drastically to the proliferation of appliances, gizmos and gadgets. While energy efficiency initiatives have plateaued American energy use since 1980, it seems we have fallen into iLove with our tablets. [The Atlantic]

Texas Oil and Gas Numbers Fly Off the Charts
The growing scale of the oil and natural gas boom in Texas continues to stun most observers. The state's oil production represents roughly 30% of the total US output, an amazing statistic, especially considering that the percentage was below 15% just a few years ago. [Forbes]

The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy
The digital economy uses a tenth of the world's electricity, and that percentage continues to grow. Here's an eye-opening example: a medium-size Energy Star-rated refrigerator uses less electricity over a year than an iPhone once the wireless connections, data usage and battery charging are tallied up. [Time]

There's catching a wave in paradise, and then there's this, trying to ride a wave while avoiding plastic bags, noodle wrappers and empty beer cans.

A Texan Tragedy: Ample Oil, No Water
In Texas there are 15 million people living under some form of water rationing due to three years of drought, decades of overuse and the oil industry's water demands for fracking, all of which are together drying out Texas reservoirs and aquifers. Oh, and climate change is making things worse. [The Guardian]

Cheaper Solar, Wind with Better Weather Forecasting
You've heard it countless times before: Wind and solar power can be erratic because of variable weather conditions like clouds and wind. So why not team up meteorology with renewables? IBM is developing software that includes wind turbine sensors, weather forecasts and images of clouds to allow solar and wind power operators to forecast power output from as little as 15 minutes to as much as a month in advance. [Smart Planet]

Video/Photo/Infographic Fun

How Do We Use Energy at Home?
From gadgets to kitchen appliances to heating, AC, and beyond, this two-minute video reveals what it takes to power an American home. [The Atlantic]

Which Fish Contain the Highest Levels of Mercury? And the Lowest?
Fish are often contaminated with mercury at increasingly higher levels as you go higher up on the food chain. This infographic shows average mercury levels for 33 species of fish and the article tells you how to safely eat fish without giving yourself mercury poisoning. [Environmental Media Association]

Is America Drying Up?
This NASA animation illustrates just how dry the US is projected to get by 2100, which could make drinking water more scarce, crop watering more difficult and wildfire risks much higher. [The Weather Channel]

The Algae Is Coming, But Its Impact Is Felt Far From Water
Imagine for a moment you're in Eastern China, with temperatures in the upper 90s and extreme humidity making life in the city unbearable. You head to the shore for a special weekend on the resort beaches of the Yellow Sea in the city of Qingdao. Instead of refreshing blue waves, a carpet of what looks like green fur stretches across the sand and over the ocean as far as the eye can see. [WAMC Northeast Public Radio]

Shocking Photos of Surfer Carving Through Indonesia's Trashiest Wave
There's catching a wave in paradise, and then there's this, trying to ride a wave while avoiding plastic bags, noodle wrappers and empty beer cans. [Travel & Indulgence]