This Week in Eco News - February 28, 2014

Sunset Beach, North Shore Hawaii. Photo by Robin Madel.

To fight the spread of algae in Lake Erie, nearby areas may have new limits placed on fertilizer use. California introduced a new GMO-labeling bill this week, and there are growing concerns about the massive amounts of wastewater generated by fracking. About time! As usual, if you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web Video - Food

Why Genetically Engineered Foods Should be Labeled
Stonyfield Farm Chairman Gary Hirshberg talks about labeling genetically engineered foods at TEDxManhattan in 2013. This debate is still a hot topic one year later as the TEDxManhattan 2014 event is happening this weekend.

Take Action: Shop for Non-GMO Project verified products.


Roundup Linked to Global Boom in Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance
A new paper argues that the pesticide Roundup has led to higher incidences of celiac disease. The effects of glyphosate on fish have shown digestive impacts reminiscent of celiac disease, and scientists worry that consumers are ingesting enough of the pesticide to feel similar impacts. [Sustainable Pulse]

As Honeybees Continue To Struggle, USDA Spending $3 Million To Kickstart Recovery
The USDA has launched a three-million dollar program aimed at revitalizing US bee populations. After over a decade of declines in honeybee numbers, the USDA hopes to strengthen colony health by funding field restoration projects across the Midwest where the majority of commercial bee colonies reside on the off-seasons. The money will help farmers reseed fields to attract bees. [Huffington Post]

EPA's New Pesticide Rules: Will They Make a Difference?
For the first time in 22 years, the EPA has proposed updating rules to protect farmworkers from pesticides. The rules would raise the minimum age required for pesticide handling to 16 years and would mandate annual pesticide trainings, among other things, but without simultaneously improved working conditions and monitoring, experts are skeptical the rules will really improve worker risks. [Grist]

California Takes Up New Bill to Label GMO Foods
Just two years after the defeat of Proposition 37, California has a new GMO labeling bill on the floor. State Senator Noreen Evens (D - Santa Rosa) introduced the bill last week with support from environmental, consumer and business groups across the state. Intense opposition from industry is expected, but proponents hope a clear bill emphasizing farmer protection will garner stronger support. [Sustainable Pulse]

Risk of Leaching from Food Packaging Chemicals?
Scientists published a commentary last month expressing concern over risks from chemicals found in food packaging. While most packaging chemicals are regulated, scientists warn that long-term health effects from consumer exposure are not adequately understood due to a lack of testing. Experts worry that some 4,000 chemicals in packaging may damage consumer health and even impact key stages of development. [Food Production Daily]

Meatless Monday

Finally, Some Good News! Toddlers Are Less Obese Than They Were 10 Years Ago
This week, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade. How did it happen? In part, thanks to an array of prominent partners and plenty of media coverage paid to how our kids - and all of us - are eating. One example: Meatless Monday campaigns. [Everyday Health]


Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers
Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the California drought, the dearth of irrigation water for farmers has made potential high tech solutions like a highly efficient solar-powered desalination plant feasible. While the pilot project might lower costs for farmers to use salty groundwater, it could exacerbate the current problem of over-pumping and the draining of local aquifers. [New York Times]

Arizona's Drinking-Water Needs Will Force Trade-Offs
With its high rate of population growth, Arizona is expected to nearly double its current population of 6.6 million people by 2050 and thus the state's scarce water resources must be stretched further. A new report has gotten the state's residents thinking about bolstering future supplies by looking towards wastewater reuse, desalination of both ground and seawater, and good ol' conservation. [Arizona Daily Star]

Fertilizer Limits Sought Near Lake Erie to Fight Spread of Algae
Because of the toxic and ecologically harmful summertime algae that covers Lake Erie, the joint US-Canadian agency that governs the Great Lakes called for strict limits on use of phosphorous-laden fertilizers that cause algal blooms. An agency report identified agriculture in the Ohio and Indiana-based Maumee River as the biggest source of fertilizer runoff pollution, with residential lawns and industry among others. [New York Times]

The Town Los Angeles Drank
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is the proposed $25-billion answer to solve California's vexing water problem by doubling down on water transport from the wetter north and its Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmers and megalopolises in the semi-arid south. Will it work or will it simply dry up the Delta and crush small towns like Hood, California? [The Atlantic]

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater
Concerns about the large water requirements for fracking are real considering the needs range from many 100,000s to 7 million gallons or more. But just as troubling are the millions of gallons of hazardous wastewater that can  leak and contaminate water supplies and hurt human health, and municipalities like Dallas, Texas have responded by keeping fracking activities at a distance. [Yale360 ]


Massachusetts Regulators Approve a Gas-Fired Power Plant With an Expiration Date
It's a cliche to call natural gas a "bridge fuel" that will guide the US in a transition from fossil fuels to renewables, but Massachusetts thinks it has a plan to put the theory into practice. The state's siting board has approved a plan to convert a coal power plant to natural gas, but the plant will have to meet increasingly strict emissions limits until it is closed in 2050. [New York Times]

Oil Spill Shuts Down 65 Miles Of The Mississippi River
A barge carrying oil crashed into a tugboat between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, releasing about 31,500 gallons of light crude oil into the Mississippi River. The spill caused an oil sheen as far as three miles from the crash site and closed the river to all traffic for three days. [Think Progress]

Company Closes Natural Gas Plant, Embraces...Wave Energy?
A power plant sited along the California coast is about to shut down because its owners would rather close shop than upgrade the plant's cooling system to suck in and kill less marine life. A new energy company claims that it wants to use the site's links to the grid and install a wave energy project. Maybe that will work out long-term because so far, wave energy hasn't had any success in the US. [Earth Techling]

Marcellus Energy Development Could Pave Over an Area Bigger than the State of Delaware
It's expected that 100,000 new gas wells will be drilled in the Marcellus shale region, and a new study concludes that this development will cover more than a million acres with concrete and asphalt made up of the well sites themselves, new roads, pipelines and other related infrastructure. [Huffington Post]

Internal Watchdog Clears State in Keystone Contractor Decision
A federal review found that the State Department properly followed guidelines in selecting ERM, a consulting firm with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, to conduct the Keystone XL environmental review. Critics say that the review simply found that "the State Department followed its own flawed process" in its selection of ERM. The firm's study concluded that the pipeline would have little impact on climate change. [E2 Wire]


Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers
Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the California drought, the dearth of irrigation water for farmers has made potential high tech solutions like a highly efficient solar-powered desalination plant feasible. While the pilot project might lower costs for farmers to use salty groundwater, it could exacerbate the current problem of over-pumping and the draining of local aquifers. [New York Times]

Infographic: The Climate Risks of Natural Gas
The US electricity system is going through its biggest transformation in half a century. A natural gas-dominated electricity system would continue to heat up the planet. Prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency today can dramatically reduce global warming emissions. Find out more in these infographics. [Union of Concerned Scientists]


China Has A Toilet Waterfall
The toilet waterfall is an art installation in Shiwan Park, in the Foshan province near China's southern coast. A few years ago, artist Shu Yong mounted thousands of toilets, urinals and sinks on a wall to "relax visitors" at the Foshan Pottery and Porcelain Festival. [Huffington Post]

World's Largest Rooftop Farm Documents Incredible Growth High Above Brooklyn
Brooklyn Grange, a leading force in New York's growing urban farm industry, is celebrating their Brooklyn location's first full growing season with a time-lapse video chronicling the farm's immense construction. [Huffington Post]

Infographic: California Drought In Motion -- 10 Dry Years Animated Infographic (2003-2014 )
Watch as this animated graphic shows 10 years of California drought appear before your very eyes! The Drought Monitor only accounts for surface water, but rest assured, groundwater levels are dropping as well. [US Drought Monitor]

How to Make a Healthier Salad
"Salad" doesn't always mean "healthy." It's often overloaded with calorie-packed dressings, fried toppings and (delicious) cheesy toppings that end up up screaming "greasy and heavy!" Any salad can make a healthy meal if you start with four key ingredients: greens, protein, veggies or fruit, and dressing. Then add a bonus: grains, crunch, and extras (cheese!) Check out the infographic for suggestions. [Greatist]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by Peter Hanlon and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.