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[1THING] Blog: Archive for October, 2014

[ Progress can be seen one year into energy mitigation order ]

A drive near places like Rifle, CO can give you a glimpse at energy development’s impact first hand—with roads crisscrossing the terrain and very few sightings of the once abundant wildlife that called the area home.

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[ New Oil Train Safety Rules Divide Rail Industry ]

Many railroad companies want more time to retrofit cars in the U.S. and Canada, but some are forging ahead.

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[ High Levels of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Air Near Oil and Gas Sites ]

A study of the air near oil and gas drilling sites in five U.S. states found sometimes dangerously high concentrations of chemicals.

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[ Congratulations to Madison Bumgarner: a World Series champ and wilderness champ! ]

What a year!

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[ Green Quiz: Superweeds ]

Green Quiz: Superweeds

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Photo: Global Water Partnership

 

When Monsanto introduced pesticide resistant seeds ("Roundup Ready") in the 1990s, farmers weren't prepared for the growth in "superweeds" that also developed resistance to the pesticide. Now, superweeds are pervasive on American farms. How many acres of farmland have superweeds invaded in the US?

A) 5 million acres

B) 25 million acres

C) 48 million acres

D) 60 million acres

 

The correct answer is D) 60 million acres. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, weed species began evolving resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in the United States within five years of introduction. Fifty percent of U.S. farmers surveyed report glyphosate-resistant weed infestations. In the Southeast, more than 90 percent of cotton and soybean farmers are affected.  

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[ Five Facts About GMOs ]

Five Facts About GMOs 

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Krystian "Krane" Schneidewind/Flickr

 

Few things are more controversial than what we put on our plates and into our bodies. The topic of genetically modified food is one that has divided even those in the environmental community.

This year, Vermont passed a law requiring genetically modified foods (aka GMOs, GE, or GM crops) to carry a label identifying them as such. The law, which will go into effect in 2016, is the first of its kind in the U.S. Vermont is just one of many states that have jumped into the labeling debate in the last few years: in 2013 alone, 32 states introduced 110 GMO-related bills.

Opponents of GMOs say they lead to antibiotic resistance, further the industrialization and private control of our food supply, and contaminate nearby cropland and ecosystems. Proponents say there is no evidence that GMOs are harmful to human health and that they save cash-strapped farmers resources and time; some also believe that GMOs could feed a planet with an ever-expanding population.

 

When it comes to GMOs, the truth can be difficult to pin down. Here are five facts to start with:

Most food in the U.S. is genetically modified. Surprise! Although GMOs have only been around since 1996 (commercially), up to 70 percent of the food in our grocery stores contains genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Grocery Manufacturing Association. Corn, soy, sugar beets, and canola are the most prevalent GMOs crops. Some states, food manufacturers, and grocery stores, recognizing people’s concerns about GMOs, are pushing for labeling. Whole Foods Market will label all its GMO products by 2018.

Genetic engineering and crossbreeding are not the same things. Humans have been crossbreeding crops and animals for centuries, but genetic engineering (GE) is a relatively new (and more precise) practice. GE splices new genes directly into an organism’s DNA sequence, rather than waiting for the offspring to produce a desired trait.

Genetic engineering hasn’t increased crop yields. Contrary to the claims of the biotech industry, studies have shown that GE crops are no more productive than conventional crops. The Union of Concerned Scientist’s 2009 report Failure to Yield shows that it was smart farming practices and traditional breeding that produced better yields in the farms studied, not switching to GMOs.

Our seed supply is coming from fewer and fewer companies. According to the New York Times, just four companies control 50% of the seed market. This has resulted in ballooning costs for corn and soybean seeds and fewer varieties available for farmers. These rising costs correspond with the growing use of GMOs.

Some concerns about GE foods have more legitimacy than others. Will eating GE foods hurt your health? Probably not, according to most studies. However, when it comes to concerns about the consolidation and sustainability of our agriculture system, impacts to the ecosystem, and pesticide resistance, the fears are valid. The Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t outright reject GMOs, but believes the risks outweigh the benefits as the industry currently stands.

 

Learn more:

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists

The Ghost in the GMO Machine, Earth Island Journal

Panic-free GMOs (series), Grist

Genetic Engineering & Corporate Control of our Seed Supply, Farm Aid

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[ 12 “scary” critters right out of a horror movie (& where to find them) ]

There is no such thing as an evil animal.

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[ National Parks set about cleaning up after ‘Instagram graffiti vandal’ strikes ]

Now several national parks are carefully cleaning off the paint left by a vandal who gained national attention in October.

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[ Blocked on the Keystone XL, the Oil-Sands Industry Looks East ]

With the Keystone XL in limbo, a fight is brewing over another proposed pipeline that would carry oil-sands crude across Canada to the Atlantic coast.

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[ Sheryl Crow and other stars align at Wilderness Society’s gala event ]

More than 250 wilderness supporters gathered in San Francisco’s Bently Reserve for “We Are The Wild: A Night Celebrating 50 Years of Wilderness” on Oct. 16.

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