This Week in Eco News - August 30, 2013

It's an environmental game of "Good Idea/Bad Idea" this week in Eco News as the GMO fight boils over, the Great Plains water supply is over-pumped and some Lords aren't keen on fracking in leafy Tory enclaves. Welcome to This Week in Eco News, now including climate news. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Water

Life Without Water is Awkward: Change the Course (Part 1)
Are you taking water for granted? The National Geographic-led Change the Course campaign shares a humorous video short that shows that being inconsiderate of our water resources can make life, well, kinda awkward.

Take Action
: Take the pledge to reduce your water footprint and the campaign will restore 1,000 gallons to the ailing but precious Colorado River!


Why Genetically Modifying Food Is a Bad Idea
Genetically modified organism (GMO) supporters, among whom are scientists, journalists and politicians, focus on using genetic engineering to solve global hunger problems. But why spend millions on GMOs when there are a million alternatives? Beth Hoffman strikes back at the notion that GMO's are the best we can do to fight food-related battles. [Forbes]

Steve King's Inhumane Farm Bill Measure
States with stronger animal welfare laws, such as California, can impose their own farming standards on producers from other states selling within their borders, which often means better treatment of animals. However, not everyone agrees this is a good thing. An amendment to the farm bill put on the table by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) would give the federal government jurisdiction to override some key food and animal-related state standards, to be voted upon when Congress reconvenes in September. [Washington Post]

Two Former FDA Commissioners Agree: Ag Antibiotic Policies Must Change
In the last six months, two former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioners, Donald Kennedy, Ph.D. and David A. Kessler, M.D., have spoken out about the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture. In statements published in the Washington Post and the New York Times, the former commissioners reflected on the FDA's behavior and treatment of antibiotic use during their tenures at the agency, and offer words of wisdom about how they believe antibiotics should play into agriculture today. [Wired]

Florida Citrus Grower That Killed Millions of Bees With Pesticide Gets $1,500 Fine
The state of Florida conducted an investigation linking the die-off of millions of bees to illegal pesticide spraying by massive citrus company Ben Hill Griffin Inc. In addition to risking local ecosystems, the loss of bee activity resulted in major setbacks to businesspeople, such as beekeeper Randall Foti. A fine of $1,500 was levied against Ben Hill Griffin Inc., but Foti and others maintain that this is not a large enough penalty to deter companies from harming bee populations, ecosystems and economies. [Miami New Times]

Maryland Chickens Out on Farm Pollution Rule
A Maryland state proposal to reduce the amount of chicken manure farmers are allowed to apply to their fields has been delayed due to resistance from the poultry industry and elected officials. State officials say that the proposal will be resubmitted after a meeting with key players this fall, and that rules will go into effect in the spring at the soonest. Stricter regulations of manure application would reduce the amount of phosphorus runoff currently polluting waterways and contributing to the bay dead zone. [Grist]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday: Joe Yonan Says, "Eat Your Vegetables"
Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan is really pro-vegetable, and not so much anti-meat. "I love vegetables," says the editor and author of the new cookbook, Eat Your Vegetables. "I don't think I would have done this if all I was doing was creating a cookbook against meat." His new book is focused on celebrating the pleasures of sourcing, preparing and eating vegetables and can be a source for Meatless Monday inspiration. [Huffington Post]


Limit Urged for Cancer-Causing Chromium in California Drinking Water
Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich shined a spotlight on the contamination of groundwater by hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen which has been completely unregulated - until now. California is first in the nation to propose drinking water standards that limit hexavalent chromium, although that limit is still 500 times greater than the EPA's public health goals. [Los Angeles Times]

Kansas Crops Face Water Questions as Aquifer Levels Fall
"No worries. There's enough groundwater for all our crop production in the High Plains." Despite the present business-as-usual scenario, that statement might just prove to be false as the massive Ogallala Aquifer - extremely important for irrigation - is being over-pumped by farmers. A newly published study says that 70 percent of the water in western Kansas may be lost by 2060. [USA Today]

...inaccurate rumors are swirling about why water levels have fallen, like water secretly being shipped to China, while the real culprit is actually evaporation from higher temperatures.

Will We Ever See Water Footprint Labels on Consumer Products?
Before consumer products are emblazoned with water footprint labels, industry must establish benchmarks that agree on how far down the production chain the water audit will go. Moreover, a qualitative and quantitative differentiation must be determined for water use in relatively humid climates versus dry so that any water footprint indicator carries real meaning. [Guardian]

A Quest for Even Safer Drinking Water
Despite the great human health achievement of safe, reliable drinking water supplies in the US, every year millions of cases of waterborne disease occur nationwide. The deterioration of buried water infrastructure and the buildup of bacteria on equipment (e.g., humidifiers) can produce microorganism contamination. Fortunately, research scientists are performing "guerrilla sampling tactics" to find potential hotspots. [New York Times]


Britain's Furor Over Fracking
Facing the prospect of fracking in Britain's wealthy, leafy, Tory-leaning West Sussex region, a small and unexpected resistance has cropped up against the Prime Minister's wishes. Although David Cameron's designs on fracking have been little discussed, when the reality of industrialized fossil fuel extraction hits - especially in areas and cultures unaccustomed to it - then residents may come to realize the inherent costs in such energy development. [New York Times]

Canadian Documents Suggest Shift on Pipeline
The saying, "Oh no they didn't!" comes to mind when freshly released documents indicate that the Canadian government understated the Keystone XL pipeline's critical role in tar sands oil development, the basis upon which the US State Department gave their go-ahead. Looks like it's "Oh yes they did!" and the operation of Keystone could very well "significantly" increase carbon emissions and contribute to climate change. [New York Times]

US Wastes Enough Energy to Power UK for 7 Years, Report Finds
The United States wasted 61 percent of all its energy input in 2012, a waste that's been steadily rising since 1970 thanks to the rising use of notoriously inefficient power plants and internal combustion engines. [Christian Science Monitor]

Vermont Yankee Plant to Close Next Year as the Nuclear Industry Retrenches
One of the oldest nuclear reactors in the country, Vermont Yankee, is going to shut down for good next year despite recently winning a court battle to stay open. Like the owners who have announced the retirement of four other reactors this year, Yankee's owner says the low cost of natural gas is the culprit. [New York Times]

Climate Change

Risk at Coast From Fire at Yosemite
The massive wildfires in Yosemite National Park are threatening San Francisco, 200 miles away. The fires are approaching a reservoir which provides drinking water for 2.6 million people and powers a hydroelectric dam, and Governor Brown is warning that there could be "temporary interruption" to services to the city. [New York Times]

Where Did the Water Go? Busting 5 Myths About Water Levels on the Great Lakes
Even though the upper Midwest has received substantial rainfall over the past couple of months, water levels for many of the Great Lakes are low and the trends look bleak. Simultaneously, inaccurate rumors are swirling about why water levels have fallen, like water secretly being shipped to China, while the real culprit is actually evaporation from higher temperatures. [National Geographic]