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Critical List: Bean sprouts likely E. coli culprit; Exxon’s in on natural gas

There’s a high probability Europe's deadly E. coli did come from bean sprouts. We always knew they were gross. Nuclear Regulator Commission head Gregory Jaczko manipulated his colleagues into killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage compound, according to an inspector general report. Also, no one likes him. Lower winds are helping Arizona best that wildfire, but the fire could still burn through electrical transmission lines and cut power to the region. Exxon's buying into shale gas. Here are two more arrows for the “climate change exists” quiver. Snow pack in the West has declined before, but the reductions since the …

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FDA admits supermarket chickens test positive for arsenic

Why is Big Ag playing chicken with our health?Back in March, Tom Philpott wrote about the "insane" practice of feeding factory-farmed chickens arsenic: The idea is that it makes them grow faster -- fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming -- and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis. The industry emphasizes that the arsenic is applied in organic form, which isn't immediately toxic. "Organic" in the chemistry sense, that is, not the agricultural sense -- i.e., molecules containing carbon atoms as well as arsenic. Trouble is, arsenic shifts from organic to inorganic rather easily. Indeed, …

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Contaminated compost? Toxins might be lurking in that bag you’re about to buy

Do you know what's in your compost?The growing number of municipal and commercial composting operations has been one of the few bright spots in the environmental landscape, from San Francisco's curbside composting service to this industrial-scale composting facility in Delaware. But Josh Harkinson in Mother Jones has harshed our green-tinged buzz. Thanks to fractured or lax regulations as well as the ubiquitous contamination of our environment by industrial chemicals (particularly heavy metals and pesticides), there's a distressingly real risk of toxic chemicals making it into commercial and municipal compost. And it's a particular problem for organic growers: Pesticide-laced compost has …

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Deadliest E. coli outbreak ever

The E. coli outbreak in Europe has sickened more than 1,800 people, according the World Health Organization. But that's just cases drawn from hospital records. More people could be sick. And 18 have died, making this the deadliest recorded E. coli outbreak. If that's not unnerving enough, only two antibiotics have a real chance at fighting this new strain of the bacteria. The strain is resistant to 14 others. But the two that it's susceptible to are, basically, the big guns, the drugs of last resort. (Some monster strains of E. coli can defeat those drugs, but there isn't one …

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E-I-E-I-Oh no: Decades of antibiotics in farm animals lead to deadly superbugs

When cows kill. This article was syndicated with permission from OnEarth. Stuart Levy once kept a flock of chickens on a farm in the rolling countryside west of Boston. No ordinary farmer, Levy is a professor of molecular biology and microbiology and of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. This was decades ago, and his chickens were taking part in a never-before-conducted study. Half the birds received feed laced with a low dose of antibiotics, which U.S. farmers routinely administer to healthy livestock -- not to cure illness, but merely to increase the animals' rates of growth. The other half of Levy's …

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Republicans’ latest defunding target: food safety

Lately it seems like every time Congress passes good legislation, it then defunds the agencies responsible for implementing those policies. The latest example: Back in December, Congress reformed the food safety system to deal with problems similar to, oh, that E. coli outbreak that's sickening thousands of people over in Europe. But on Tuesday, House Republicans voted to cut the Food and Drug Administration's budget so severely that the agency won't have the resources to step up inspections, improve recalls, and hold gigantic food corporations accountable. But don't worry! If you're among the one in six Americans that gets sick …

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Critical List: Tornado hits Massachusetts; wild lands policy dies an early death

At least four people died after a tornado touched down in Massachusetts. That E. coli strain that's killing people in Europe? Yeah, it's a terrifying, never-been-seen-before mutant. Can the world stop pretending it's in a Robin Cook thriller now, please? The World Bank is going to help cities around the world finance projects that reduce carbon emissions. The Obama administration was going to keep some public lands wild. But then Republicans complained, and the Interior Department abandoned the wild lands plan. Because that's how Democrats roll. Thirty-four members of Congress asked the State Department to take a closer look at …

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What we know — and don’t know — about the safety of eating GMOs

GMOs ahead: Proceed at your own risk.Are genetically modified foods safe to eat? The conventional answer is "yes," and it's not hard to see why. Since their introduction in 1996, genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy seeds quickly conquered U.S. farm fields. Today, upwards of 70 percent of corn and 90 percent of soy are genetically modified, and these two crops form the basis of the conventional U.S. diet. Nor are they GM technology's only pathway onto our plates. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. cotton is now genetically engineered, and cottonseed oil has emerged as a …

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Produce industry wants Americans to eat their pesticide-laden veggies

For years, the Environmental Working Group has warned consumers away from "The Dirty Dozen," the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the most trace pesticides. But the produce industry has had enough of this anti-vegetable propaganda!  A consortium of food groups, from the American Mushroom Institute to the National Watermelon Association Inc., is mounting a campaign to reassure consumers that it's perfectly safe to eat pesticide-laden products. Industry groups are writing to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ask him to publish data about pesticide residue with context explaining that the amount of pesticides found on their products really isn't that …

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Critical List: The Mississippi River, unleashed; ‘The Dirty Dozen’ list under attack

The mighty Mississippi just can't be held down. This weekend, the Army Corps of Engineers opened four gates to the Morganza Spillway, which hasn't been used since 1973. Corps officials told residents: "Prepare for the worst. It's coming." President Obama said Saturday the administration would begin auctioning oil and gas leases in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve. Point, Republicans. NOAA has sentenced up to 85 sea lions per year to death. Their crime: feasting on endangered salmon. The U.K. parliament has agreed to back a "carbon budget" that by 2027 will have cut carbon emissions to half of 1990 levels. …