Oil Wastewater Irrigating California Fields
In the nation’s produce basket, some California water districts are knowingly selling oilfield wastewater to farmers, putting a huge portion of our fruits and vegetables at risk of contamination. Watchdog group Water Defense uncovered one district buying oilfield wastewater to include in the water it sells to farmers to irrigate crops in California’s Central Valley. This year, Food & Water Watch uncovered another district buying this potentially toxic wastewater and selling it to farmers.
A threat to California’s agriculture is a threat to the entire country’s food supply. Some staples of which California is the primary U.S. producer include 99 percent of olives, 99 percent of almonds, 98 percent of garlic, 96 percent of broccoli, 95 percent of celery, 91 percent of strawberries, 91 percent of lemons and 83 percent of fresh carrots.
The government is allowing oil companies to sell their wastewater for use on crops. Citizens must call on their elected representatives to fix this broken system and protect our food supply.
Take the Kids to Work
The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation (TODASTW) is holding its annual national event on April 27, offering new toolkits and activity guides based on this year’s theme of Dependability at DaughtersAndSonsToWork.org. The group assists businesses, families, schools and organizations throughout the year initiate their own special work day for children and mentees.
Each year, more than 3.5 million American workplaces open their doors to about 39 million employees and their children on TODASTW Day. “Human resources and marketing professionals are typically responsible for creating this day within their companies,” says Carolyn McKeucen, the foundation’s executive director. “We provide templates and automated planning elements to save them time while ensuring success for planners and participants.”
Selfies Promote Animal Cruelty and Death
Zachary Crockett, of Pricenomics.com, has found that since 2014, 49 people were killed in attempts to take pictures of themselves with wild creatures. Although there are no statistics on how many animals have been harmed due to selfies, wildlife organizations such as Care for the Wild International are appealing to the public to stop using animals as props.
Visitors to China’s Yunnan Wild Animal Park lured captive peacocks from their enclosure and grabbed them by their tails. The birds died as a result. Another group of people at a beach in Argentina was filmed mobbing a baby Franciscana dolphin, an endangered species, while taking pictures, resulting in its death likely through shock and severe dehydration from being removed from the water for too long.
Due to the high demand by tourists to take pictures with wild animals, special photographic settings are popping up in Mexico, Europe and Morocco. However, the Association for British Travel Agents stated that no legitimate sanctuary would allow animals to be used as photo props.
Genetically Altered Mushrooms Approved for Consumption
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) is a new method of editing genomes of farm animals and food crops. White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) that have been genetically modified to delay the natural browning process are the first CRISPR-edited organisms to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist from Penn State University, crafted the modified mushrooms by targeting the family of genes responsible for the browning effect seen in produce when sliced and exposed to oxygen. Yang was able to reduce the browning enzyme’s work by 30 percent and was granted approval from the USDA because no foreign or altered DNA was integrated into the mushroom genome. The department only assesses whether there’s a risk that the new modified variety of an organism could become a weed or “pest” to other plants.
The mushrooms may still be subject to Food and Drug Administration or Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine are in discussions about developing a new set of rules for the biotech industry in the next five to 10 years.
Texas Company Turns Wood Waste into Furniture
Nearly 2 billion wooden pallets are currently in circulation in the U.S., consuming around 50 percent of the country’s annual hardwood harvest and representing more than 90 percent of the world’s shipping waste. PalletSmart, in Fort Worth, Texas, has been making furniture, home decor and custom projects out of repurposed pallets and other reclaimed material since 2012.
Company co-founder John Zaskoda says, “As with any business, we are looking to grow, but want to be smart about it. For now, we are staying put, taking custom residential and commercial orders and producing top-notch furniture.” He sees the endeavor as proof that with hard work and consistency it’s possible to make trash into treasure.
Hydrogen Conversion From Water Making Gains
Scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, report that they have finally unlocked a major barrier to exploiting a renewable energy source through extracting pure hydrogen from water. Because the best-performing catalysts for electrochemical oxidation, or “water splitting”, are expensive precious metals, the research team led by KTH Professor Licheng Sun developed molecular catalysts for water oxidation with an efficiency approaching that of natural photosynthesis comprising common, abundant elements, all of which could help change the economics of large-scale hydrogen fuel production.
Website Screens Packaging for Toxin
Although food manufacturers have pledged to voluntarily eliminate bisphenol A (BPA)—an endocrine disruptor linked to developmental problems in fetuses, infants and children—in their packaging materials, it’s still found in the lining of many canned goods. Recent testing by an advocacy group found BPA in 70 percent of nearly 200 samples, including products from Campbell and Kroger, which have joined the pledge.
“It’s in beer, coffee, tea, energy drinks and aerosol cans for whipped cream… it’s everywhere,” says Samara Geller, a database and research analyst with the Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, BPA is safe at the levels people are exposed to via canned foods, but many consumers would rather not take the risk.
Consequently, EWG created a new tool to help consumers avoid the 16,000 products that may have BPA in their packaging. The numbers listed on package UPC codes can be compared against the database at Tinyurl.com/EWG-BPA-Lookup. “Our main goal was to get this out quickly to as many people as possible,” says Geller. “The UPC code is really your best defense to finding out what they’re talking about,” because product names can change.
California Aims Even Higher on Emission Controls
California lawmakers have enacted a bill that aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. It extends previous efforts such as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 instituted to reduce emissions by 2020, along with another piece of legislation that vows to boost legislative oversight of climate change programs organized by the California Air Resources Board.
Maryland Bans Bee-Killing Pesticides
Maryland is the first state in the nation to pass strict restrictions on pesticides thought to be responsible for significant reductions in bee populations with enactment of its Pollinator Protection Act. Maryland lost more than 60 percent of its hives in 2015, each containing up to 20,000 honeybees, making it one of the states with the highest recorded declines. The national average is about 42 percent, yet across the country, farmers and gardeners are still using pesticides linked to colony collapse disorder. Globally, more than one-third of the world’s food supply could be at risk if these and other pollinators are lost.