Other international buyers also reacted negatively to the news, with South Korea suspending its tenders to import U.S. wheat and European Union countries being urged to step up genetic testing of American imports. Taiwan said it may seek assurances that all imported wheat from the U.S. is GMO-free, the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reports.
Interspecies hanky-panky is a thing, in case you didn't know. Sometimes love, or perhaps a blindly primeval desire to reproduce, can lead one species of animal to breed with another. Think of a liger, for example -- a hybrid of a lion and a tiger. Or a mule, which has a donkey for a father and a horse for a mother. And, every once in a while, an Atlantic salmon will mate with a brown trout.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears poised to approve the sale of genetically engineered AquAdvantage® salmon this year, despite significant aversion to the very idea of the frankenfish. If the transgenic Atlantic salmon escapes into the wild, environmentalists worry that the fast-growing fish could breed with wild Atlantic salmon and throw natural populations into unpredictable turmoil. Which got scientists to wondering: What if transgenic Atlantic salmon got loose and bred with wild brown trout? Could AquAdvantage fish sow their freaky oats over a species barrier?
The answer, according to scientists who ran experiments with the fish, is yes. Yes they can. Not only that, but the hybrid offspring can inherit the turbo growth genes and grow at a remarkable pace, outcompeting both natural salmon and transgenic salmon for food.
In Smithfield, Va., on Wednesday, locals were shocked to discover that their town’s namesake, Smithfield Foods, founded in 1936 as a single meatpacking plant and now the largest pork producer in the world, is poised to be sold to Chinese meat company Shuanghui International. If approved by federal regulators, the $4.7 billion deal would be the biggest takeover in history of an American company by a Chinese one.
The announcement of the deal immediately provoked skepticism far beyond the town of Smithfield, with a wide range of camps voicing concern about everything from food safety to foreign financial control to increasing corporate consolidation of the food industry. Shuanghui is the biggest meat company in China, and Smithfield already owns more hogs than the next eight largest hog producers combined, according to Food & Water Watch. It’s not necessarily a complete foreign takeover if you consider that Shuanghui is partially owned by Goldman Sachs, but if you’re worried about corporate control of the food system, that’s not exactly cause for comfort.
Smithfield and Shuanghui said that the deal was meant to … increase exports of American products to China, already the nation’s third-largest export market for pork. Meat consumption in China has exploded over the past decade because of a growing middle class and a shift in diet from rice and vegetables to more protein.
The adage "think global, act local" rings remarkably true in Whatcom County, Wash., a rural area in the northwestern corner of the country.
The seven county council members there will play a big role in deciding how much coal gets dug up in Great Plains states, shipped out of America, and burned by developing countries.
Over the next two years, the council will decide whether to issue two permits needed for the planned $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would export massive amounts of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. In doing so, these council members will help determine the very future of the world's climate.
So it's a big deal that Whatcom County voters will be electing four council members this November.
A farmer in Oregon found a patch of wheat growing like a weed where it wasn't expected, so the farmer sprayed it with the herbicide Roundup. Surprisingly, some of the wheat survived.
The startled farmer sent samples of the renegade wheat to a laboratory, which confirmed something that should have been impossible: The wheat was a genetically engineered variety that had never been approved to be grown in the U.S., nor anywhere else in the world.
Even as it grows in popularity, cycling just can’t shake its reputation as a pastime for spandex- or skinny jean-clad white people. But a new report from the Sierra Club and the League of American Bicyclists challenges that common stereotype, spotlighting a decade of rapid growth in biking among communities of color.
From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of trips taken by bike increased by 50 percent among Latinos, and by 100 percent among African Americans -- compared to only a 22-percent increase among whites. This, the report notes, is in spite of the fact that communities of color often lack the kind of infrastructure that makes biking safer, easier, and more appealing. Twenty-six percent of non-whites said they want to ride more but worry about safety (compared to only 19 percent of whites); 47 percent of non-whites said they’d ride more if they had better access to secure places to park and store their bikes (versus 32 percent of white folks).
These safety concerns aren’t unfounded: The report cites data from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition indicating that neighborhoods with the largest share of people of color have lower distributions of bike facilities, and that the lowest-income neighborhoods have the most bike and pedestrian crashes. Those neighborhoods have the most to gain from an increase in cycling: The nation’s poorest families spend the biggest chunk of their income on transportation -- 30 percent. The average yearly cost of owning and operating a bike is only $308, compared to $8,220 for an average car.
Simple infrastructure upgrades can have major impacts on riding habits, says the report:
Coal is making a comeback in the U.S., natural gas prices are rising, and Saudis are living like kings off an oil market that is simply heavenly.
Just last year, demand for coal had dropped deeper than a canary lowered down a mine shaft. Prices had been pushed down by the natural gas fracking boom. But The Washington Post reports that demand and prices for coal have rebounded:
According to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration, coal has been reclaiming some — though not all — of its market share in 2013. ...
As the solar sector explodes, some of the solar panels it produces are fizzling out.
The New York Times reports on the problem of faulty panels and says nobody knows how pervasive it is because nobody keeps track. Fingers are being pointed at corner cutting by manufacturing firms in China. From the Times article:
Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting [quality] problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption. ...
The quality concerns have emerged just after a surge in solar construction. In the United States, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that solar panel generating capacity exploded from 83 megawatts in 2003 to 7,266 megawatts in 2012, enough to power more than 1.2 million homes. Nearly half that capacity was installed in 2012 alone, meaning any significant problems may not become apparent for years.
Walmart doesn't just scrimp on employee wages. It also scrimps on employee training, and that led to its workers dumping returned pesticides, bleach, and other hazardous products into the trash or sewer systems.
On Tuesday, Walmart pled guilty to violations of federal environmental laws and agreed to pay $81.6 million in fines and penalties for improper hazardous waste disposal.
[U]ntil January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level -- including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system -- or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States.