This Week in Eco News - March 14, 2014

Catch up on the latest food, water and energy news covering issues from poultry regulations to our thirsty planet to the aftermath of a tragic gas exposion in New York this week. Check out these stories along with climate news and multimedia fun! As usual, if you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]


Debate Grows Over Poultry Worker Safety Under Proposed HIMP Regulations
Poultry plant workers and advocacy groups fear increased processing speeds associated with potential USDA food safety regulations could put workers at heightened risk of injury. Poultry workers already report debilitating job-related injuries and pressure to favor speed over safety, but officials claim greater speeds will improve microbial food safety while reducing the number of needed inspectors. [Food Safety News]

US Farmers Report Widespread GM Crop Contamination
A new study revealed that one third of US organic farmers have experienced problems due to nearby GM crops, with over half having had loads of grain rejected due to GMO contamination. While their current recommendations favor biotech, putting the onus on non-GM farmers to protect the integrity of their crops, the USDA is now investigating GM and non-GM "coexistence." [IPS]

Consumer Advocates Sue FDA to Require Better Information About Seafood Mercury Levels
The FDA is under lawsuit to respond to a petition they disregarded in 2011 calling for required signs in supermarkets and labels informing consumers of relative mercury content in fish. Producers are not required to inform consumers of the mercury risks associated with various fish species, and consumer advocates are calling the FDA out for neglecting consumer health. [Food Safety News]

California Considers Trucking Live Salmon to the Ocean Due to Drought
Every year, California hatcheries release salmon to replenish wild-caught populations. Usually the salmon travel independently from rivers to the ocean, but California’s record drought may make that trip too dangerous for the fish if river water levels are too low and temperatures too warm. Without adequate rain, officials say they may give the salmon a lift out to sea. [The Guardian]

Storm Brewing Over WHO Sugar Proposal
The World Health Organization (WHO) must be pretty serious about its new sugar intake guidelines recommending that no more than 5% of an adult’s daily calories come from either added or natural sugars. After ferocious criticism from the US Sugar Association for their 10% limit recommendation in 2003, WHO will undoubtedly face backlash this time around, but they seem undeterred. [Nature]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday Menus Coming Soon to a Restaurant Near You
The Meatless Monday campaign isn't just a boon for personal health or the environment - it's also boosting restaurant business on what has traditionally been the slowest night of the week. Whether calling the Mediterranean diet, appealing to "vegivores" or old-school vegetarians or just those trying to eat a little healthier, there are plenty of options in selling the menu to interested customers. [Everyday Health]


Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty
The California drought has James McWilliams ask whether it's efficient for the water-intensive alfalfa crop to be grown as animal feed? Since alfalfa is the state's second thirstiest crop within agriculture - a sector that uses 80 percent of its water - he suggests that to reduce water use a person should consider a diet with reduced meat and dairy consumption. [New York Times]

Jay Famiglietti's Mission: To Rescue Us From Our Bad Water Habits
Water guru (and friend to GRACE) Jay Famiglietti explains how water crises spread throughout the world are real, but that doesn't mean it's hopeless. People can do things to help like watering the lawn less to learning (and caring) about where your water comes from to pushing public officials to make water-smart decisions. We can do it. [Los Angeles Times]

National US Study Reveals How Urban Lawn Care Habits Vary
Testing the theory about whether urbanization produces "homogenized" residential lawn care results, researchers surveyed homeowners in Boston, Miami, St. Paul, Los Angeles and Phoenix and found: 79 percent watered and 64 percent fertilized lawns; in Phoenix and LA, irrigation was tied to wealth; and that "local climate and social factors led to more lawn care variability." [Science Daily]

Drought Meeting Deluge Dims Brazil Soybean Prospects
The drought in the American West is bad, but so is the one in Brazil, which will likely drive up costs for soybeans, corn, coffee and sugar that makes the country an agricultural export giant. Not only has there been a lack of rainfall (excessive rain in other parts), but the intense, unrelenting heat has literally been making crops shrivel. [Bloomberg]

How Can You Reduce Your Water Footprint?
Since it's national Groundwater Awareness Week and all, Tracy Quinn of the NRDC wants you to think about the water beneath your feet as well as how to reduce your water footprint, for which the "reduce, reuse, recycle" refrain sets guidelines. Some tips? Reduce (stop leaks), reuse (go greywater), recycle (patronize car washes with recycled water). [NRDC Switchboard]


Smelling a Problem at the Site of the East Harlem Explosion
The still-unfolding tragedy of the natural gas explosion that destroyed two buildings and killed several people in New York City provides a potentially life-saving reminder: If you smell the distinctive stink of natural gas (a smell that's added because natural gas is odorless), leave the building immediately and call the gas company. [New York Times]

Marine Life Revival Off San Onofre's Shores
The San Onofre nuclear power plant had been sucking in 2.4 billion gallons of water a day for cooling, and in the process killed 65 tons of fish a year. Water discharged from the plant also kicked up sediment that blocked sunlight from the nearby San Onofre kelp forest. Now that the plant has been shut down, scientists suspect an ecological revival is under way just below the ocean's surface. [U-T San Diego]

Coal Firm to Pay Record Penalty and Spend Millions on Water Cleanup in 5 States
Because of its many Clean Water Act violations, one of the nation's biggest coal companies will pay a record $27.5 million fine and spend $200 million to reduce pollution from its coal mines. But perhaps instead of assessing penalties the EPA should stop issuing permits that it knows coal companies can't comply with. [New York Times]

Turning Food Waste Into Fuel Takes Gumption And Trillions Of Bacteria
Eight egg-shaped steel tanks at a Brooklyn wastewater treatment plant are full of sludge - and now food waste - and the bacteria that love to eat it. After the bacteria eat the waste they release methane gas which can be used to heat homes or make electricity. Shifting food waste from landfills to such treatment plants in New York City is going to require big changes, however. [NPR]


Jay Famiglietti's Mission: To Rescue Us From Our Bad Water Habits
Water guru (and friend to GRACE) Jay Famiglietti explains how water crises spread throughout the world are real, but that doesn't mean it's hopeless. People can do things to help like watering the lawn less to learning (and caring) about where your water comes from to pushing public officials to make water-smart decisions. We can do it. [Los Angeles Times]

Conserving Water, Cutting Greenhouse Gases May Conflict in Drought-Parched Southwest
Low-carbon energy doesn't necessarily mean low-water. Electricity from low-carbon sources like concentrated solar, geothermal and coal with carbon capture consumes more water than fossil fuel power (which is pretty thirsty, too). Particularly in dry parts of the US, water has to become a major consideration when planning for a low-carbon future. [E&E News]


Will Drones Become the Future of Farming?
You might think of drones as military equipment, but what about as farming equipment? Could drones help increase farm yields and productivity as this video claims or will they become another item on the list of everything that's wrong with Big Ag today? [BBC]

Turning Food Waste Into Fuel Takes Gumption And Trillions Of Bacteria
Every year, Americans send millions of tons of food to the landfill. What if you could use all of those pizza crusts and rotten vegetables to heat your home? That's already happening in one unlikely laboratory: the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn. Listen in on this podcast as NPR tours the plant. [NPR]

How Thirsty is Your Milk?
Oh cheese! Oh almond milk! Why do you have to be so thirsty? Find out the water footprint of your favorite creamy delights from milk, to cheese, to Greek yogurt, and read about why the numbers are so high. These numbers are going to surprise you, so be prepared. [Mother Jones]

Landsat Annual Timelapse 1984-2012
Explore different timelapse views from around the planet, built using annual composites of Landsat satellite images. Watch the planet's surface change from farming, deforestation, mountaintop mining and more, starting in 1984. The changes we've inflicted on this planet are pretty mind boggling. [Google]

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.

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The views and opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the Ecocentric Blog or GRACE Communications Foundation.

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