Grist staff

Weed Between the Lines

In a finding that undermines one key argument in favor of genetically modified (GM) crops, researchers at Iowa State University have discovered that a number of “superweeds” have developed a resistance to Monsanto’s widely used Roundup herbicide. Monsanto has engineered crops that are tolerant of Roundup, the idea being that the chemical would kill everything in a field but the desired crop, thereby freeing farmers from using additional herbicides and leading to an overall decrease in the use of chemicals. But if superweeds gain a foothold, farmers will again need other herbicides. “Companies like Monsanto have spun GM crops and …

The Fat of the Land

Sprawl has been accused of many evils, but here’s a new one: It may make you fat. While suburban residents drive to get most places they go, many city dwellers walk or ride bikes, and that physical exercise seems to keep urbanites slimmer. “[I]f you choose to live in a sprawling environment, you are more likely to be overweight,” says Lawrence D. Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia and author of a new study on the links between sprawl and obesity. His research seems to make a case for more dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development. …

Pesticide or Spermicide?

Frogs and men, beware: Pesticides are your enemy. Men exposed to pesticides commonly used on crops are far more likely to have defective sperm and low sperm counts than men who are not exposed, according to a study published yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study is the first to show a link between environmental toxins in men’s bodies and poor sperm count and quality. The study is also important because it involved men who did not work on or live next to farms, meaning they were most likely exposed to the pesticides through drinking water. Of the three pesticides …

Standing the Rules on Their Ear

More farmers are failing to comply with the rules for planting genetically modified (GM) corn than the biotechnology industry claims, according to a new study of government data. Almost 20 percent of U.S. farms growing BT corn, the main type of GM corn, violate the rules for doing so, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Those rules require farmers to plant at least 20 percent of their acreage with non-GM corn; 19 percent of surveyed farms that were not meeting that requirement, and 13 percent were planting no other corn varieties at all. The industry reports …

Idle Trucks Are the Devil’s Playthings

New gadgetry at truck stops could help slash pollution from idling big rigs. Most truck drivers across the U.S. leave their vehicles’ engines running all night while they’re parked at truck stops because it’s the only way to keep the heating or air conditioning on while they get some shuteye. Between 840 million and 2 billion gallons of gasoline are burned each year in the U.S. by these idling trucks, according to an estimate from the South Coast Air Quality Management District in southern California, and that results in a lot of dangerous diesel exhaust that can damage lungs and …

And other words from readers

  Re: Mobil-ized Dear Editor: Sometimes being anal pays off. I’ve been using Quicken since 1996 to track all my expenses, and I see here that I’ve spent $6,178.56 on gasoline over the past seven years. Of that total, $1,339.41 went to Mobil, $747.09 went to Exxon, and the rest to BP, Shell, and assorted other gas companies. In late 2001, I decided to stop buying gasoline from Mobil and Exxon due to their efforts to derail action on climate change and to hamper the effectiveness of key research bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the …

The Mahogany and the Ecstasy

Brazil clamped down on the logging of mahogany in the Amazon Rainforest last week, putting in place new rules that require loggers to present plans showing how harvesting will be done sustainably. Brazil produces about half of the world’s supply of mahogany, a highly prized — and highly endangered — wood sought for the making of furniture and instruments. The move by the Brazilian government came less than a week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected nine shipments of Brazilian mahogany on suspicion that the wood was logged illegally. The shipments had been held for more than a year …

The Price Pump Is Right

A growing number of California businesses are taking steps to become more eco-friendly, and are saving money in the process, according to a new survey conducted by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. One example is the Price Pump Co. in Sonoma, which has switched to more environmentally conscious packaging, using brown boxes instead of bleached-white ones and eliminating use of nonbiodegradable foam packing material — moves that are cutting costs by about $40,000 a month. “My motivation is to stay in business and make money,” said Bob Piazza, president of Price Pump. “If I can do that and be …

And other words from readers

  Re: Greening the Elephant Dear Editor: The story about Martha Marks’s efforts to build Republicans for Environmental Protection is a good reminder of why some of us oldies wax nostalgic for the Good Old Days. She is right that the real Republicans used to be wonderful conservationists, with a string of landmark laws to their credit. But your article makes it seem as if somehow it is the conservationists who are to blame for the shift. Your summary of the article read: “As long as the environmental community reflexively backs one party and aggressively demonizes the other, responsible environmental …

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