FDA Has Removed Restrictions on Genetically Modified Salmon

Genetically modified fish will soon be sold in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration lifted the import restriction on AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon eggs on Friday, March 8th.

In late 2015 the FDA approved AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon, but shortly thereafter Congress had the FDA block the GM salmon from entering the U.S. until labeling standards were issued. Last December the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The GM salmon will be labeled as “Bioengineered.”

AquaAdvantage GM Salmon eggs will be imported to the company’s land-based facility in Indiana where the eggs will be raised into salmon and sold as food. The AquaAdvantage Salmon grows year-round and grows faster than farm-raised Atlantic salmon. The salmon will take more than a year reach the market if everything goes according to plan. Aquabounty chief Sylvia Wulf told the AP certification for an Indiana growing facility is expected in a few weeks. The facility will then receive the genetically modified salmon eggs and it will then take approximately 18 months for the salmon to reach their target weight.

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Glyphosate Discovered in Popular Beer and Wine

Glyphosate can be found in almost everything we eat, and a new study released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group has confirmed that the herbicide is also in what we’re drinking. In a look at 20 popular beers and wines, the study confirmed that 19 of the 20 beverages reviewed contained glyphosate residue. The beverage that showed the highest levels of glyphosate was Sutter Home Merlot, with a concentration of 51.4 parts per billion (ppb). Bayer toxicologist William Reeves said via a spokesperson,

The reality is that regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues…The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets daily exposure limits at least 100 times below levels shown to have no negative effect in safety studies.”

CBS News

He goes on to say,

Assuming the greatest value reported, 51.4 ppb, is correct, a 125-pound adult would have to consume 308 gallons of wine per day, every day for life to reach the US Environmental Protection Agency’s glyphosate exposure limit for humans. To put 308 gallons into context, that would be more than a bottle of wine every minute, for life, without sleeping.”

An Incomplete Picture

At 51.4 ppb, the Sutter Home Merlot is well below what the EPA considers to be a safe level of glyphosate.

Related: Foods Most Likely to Contain Glyphosate

Wines

  1. Sutter Home Merlot: 51.4 ppb
  2. Beringer Founders Estates Moscato: 42.6 ppb
  3. Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon: 36.3 ppb
  4. Inkarri Malbec, Certified Organic: 5.3 ppb
  5. Frey Organic Natural White: 4.8 ppb

Beers

  1. Tsingtao Beer: 49.7 ppb
  2. Coors Light: 31.1 ppb
  3. Miller Lite: 29.8 ppb
  4. Budweiser: 27.0 ppb
  5. Corona Extra: 25.1 ppb
  6. Heineken: 20.9 ppb
  7. Guinness Draught: 20.3 ppb
  8. Stella Artois: 18.7 ppb
  9. Ace Perry Hard Cider: 14.5 ppb
  10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: 11.8 ppb
  11. New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale: 11.2 ppb
  12. Sam Adams New England IPA: 11.0 ppb
  13. Stella Artois Cidre: 9.1 ppb
  14. Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager: 5.7 ppb
  15. Peak Beer Organic IPA: N/A

That doesn’t mean it’s safe, though.

Mr. Reeves, the toxicologist for Bayer, mentions that the EPA’s limits are at least 100 times below levels examined in safety studies. Yet that agency allows much higher concentrations of glyphosate than other safety regulators. The regulations set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) are much more severe. According to the EPA, a daily dose of 2 mg of glyphosate per kg of body weight should cause no ill effects. OEHHA’s safe daily level recommendations are 1,100 micrograms. OEHHA’s levels are nearly half of those put forth by the EPA.

Related: Microplastics In Tap Water and Beer Around the Great Lakes, and Everywhere Else

Causing Cancer

California has classified glyphosate as a carcinogen since 2017. The World Health Organization (WHO) was even earlier in linking the herbicide and cancer when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a statement labeling glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA has resisted that label for years. In fact, evidence in the recent verdict against Monsanto for 289 million dollars contained correspondence between the agro-giant and a high ranking EPA official promising to derail a glyphosate safety study. 

The recent verdict against Monsanto (now Bayer) is only the first of more than 5000 lawsuits awaiting the company. Advertisements seeking participants for class-action lawsuits against Round-up are now commonplace on mainstream television. But it’s hard to believe we can come back from this without some serious change. Ninety-five percent of the drinks examined for this study had glyphosate residue. Glyphosate is showing in food, water, feminine hygiene products…the herbicide is everywhere.

Recommended: How To Heal Your Gut 

What’s Your Damage?

Finding glyphosate in beer and wine has consequences beyond how much you’re drinking. Though the herbicide is often found in organic products studies have found that people who consume greater amounts of organic food are less likely to develop cancer. On the flip side, Napa County, the heart of California wine country and an area with unusually high pesticide use, boasts the highest rates of childhood cancer. Perhaps the amount of glyphosate measured in these beverages is well below the recommended limit for consumptions, but that ignores the enviromental and health impacts of applying the pesticide in the first place.

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Court Strikes Down ‘Ag-Gag’ Law That Criminalized Undercover Reporting, Says It Violated First Amendment

Up until last month in Iowa, there was an “ag-gag” law that made it illegal to lie about your intentions when accessing an agricultural production facility. On January 9th a federal court struck down the law, deeming it unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of Iowa.

The law was aimed at undercover journalists and activists. It was designed to prevent undercover investigations of factory farms. The federal court ruled the law violates the First Amendment.

This welcome ruling joins a host of other court decisions finding similar laws in other states to be unconstitutional — and for good reason. Undercover reporting is a critical tool to inform the public about corporate wrongdoing. Overbroad laws criminalizing false speech violate the First Amendment and prevent investigative journalism from holding powerful private actors to account.” – ACLU

After many undercover investigations revealed various animal abuses, environmental concerns, and safety issues, many states passed similar laws that criminalize activities essential to investigating such farming practices.

Recommended: How To Heal Your Gut

There are three common ag-gag laws. There are laws that make it illegal to record an agricultural operation without consent. There are laws that criminalize lying on a resume to gain access to the agricultural industry. And there are laws that require an individual who has recorded animal cruelty to turn the recording over to the police immediately, which aims to make long-term investigations impossible.

Today’s decision is an important victory for free speech in Iowa, because it holds that Iowa’s ag gag law on its face is a violation of the First Amendment. An especially grievous harm to our democracy occurs when the government uses the power of the criminal laws to target unpopular speech to protect those with power—which is exactly what this law was always about.

Ag gag clearly is a violation of Iowans’ First Amendment rights to free speech. It has effectively silenced advocates and ensured that animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported for years. We are so pleased with the Court’s order today and that the law has finally been held to be unconstitutional.” – Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfiolWwzD94




Environmental Revolution: How We Are Recycling the Non-Recyclable

We moan, groan, and complain about pollution and rightfully so. Landfills are overflowing; plastic waste chokes our lakes, rivers, and the oceans. Cigarette butts litter the roadways; old vehicles, appliances, and unwanted items clutter forested areas. Not only is all this garbage an eyesore, but it’s also detrimental to the environment.

The overabundance of trash is a serious problem demanding our immediate attention. It’s not going to go away on its own. Humans made the mess; we have to clean it up. For millions of years, Mother Earth pretty well took care of all our planet’s waste, but nature cannot reclaim manmade, non-organic materials on land or in the sea.

Our forefathers invented new machines and materials but never imaged ‘progress’ could result in such a plight. Since the Industrial Revolution and especially during the last century, humans have continuously created more and more items that last long beyond their useful lives.

Related: Drinking Bottled Water Means Drinking Microplastics, According To Damning New Study

After World War II, mobility and convenience became the preferred mode of life. We became a throwaway society where items were not made to last. The idea of ‘toss it away and buy another’ applied to nearly all consumer products. It was cheaper to buy a new kitchen appliance or a children’s toy than to fix it. In the last 50-75 years, durable and reusable items like glass milk and soda bottles have been replaced with plastic. We are now left with figuring out how to get rid of all the garbage.

According to the EPA, in 2014, the United States produced about 258 million tons of waste. Approximately 35 percent of it was recycled; the remaining 136 million tons were dumped into landfills.

Much of that garbage consisted of materials that have limited recycling programs available like tires, electronics, batteries, appliances, and cigarette butts. These items along with the rest of all the consumer and industrial waste products add up to a massive amount of trash with nowhere to go.

How Do We Dispose of Non-Recyclables in a Responsible Manner? Burning or burying garbage is not the answer. It just compounds the problem by poisoning the land and water as well as the air. What the world needs is a way to correct the imbalance in a responsible way.

Related: How to Detox From Plastics and Other Endocrine Disruptors

As conscientious citizens, we do our part by recycling some of our plastic, glass, and cardboard as well as taking steps to lessen our carbon footprint. But are we doing enough? What do we do about items that are not recyclable? Is it possible to make a dent in all the accumulated garbage while keeping up with the waste we are creating now?

I asked that last question to Lauren Taylor, Global Vice President of Communications at an innovative recycling company named TerraCycle. She says,

People are finally realizing the past 40-50 years are catching up with us, and there’s a real crisis. I don’t think it’s possible [to catch up with the waste problem] unless we start changing some things. If we don’t, it’s not going to get better.”

TerraCycle

TerraCycle is making this insurmountable task a little easier by providing a way to recycle the unrecyclable. They have become an international leader in converting non-recyclable waste into raw materials or useful affordable products.

In partnership with major corporations, they run free collection programs. Individuals, groups, schools, and businesses sign up for one or more programs to recycle items such as cigarette waste, used oral care products, contact lenses, energy bar wrappers, and used water purification products. During the past 15 years, over 100 million people in 21 countries have collected and recycled over four billion used products and packages. In turn, the recycled plastics, metals, fibers, and wood have been reused, composted, or upcycled into new products.

Earth911

There is another chapter in the recycling the unrecyclable story that needs to be addressed—E-cycling. Computers, monitors, telephones, and other electronic gadgets are left in limbo when it comes to recycling. Some retailers like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Staples have a drop-off service for used electronics, and most cell phone providers offer recycling programs. Some of these services are free, some charge a fee. By using Earth911, you can find an e-cycle center near you, whether it be a store or a recycling center specializing in electronics.

This website also has listings for recyclers of other waste such as tires, automotive parts, paints, batteries, construction materials, and metals that need to be disposed of. Earth911 has a database of 100,000+ recycling centers across the United States, and their blog has interesting articles to help answer questions about green living.

There are many companies, organizations, and projects doing a commendable job of collecting and recycling the waste piling up on the land, but that is only a part of the problem. How about the seas? The oceans cover nearly two-thirds of the surface of our planet and play a vital role in producing oxygen and providing food. Millions of tons of plastic and other debris pollute these waters endangering the sea life and in turn, endangering our own.

Garbage in the Oceans

Ocean plastic can be found everywhere from the coastal regions to the deep sea, even buried in Arctic ice. In an article on National Geographic’s website, Laura Parker reports,

In 2010, eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean from coastal countries—far more than the total that has been measured floating on the surface in the ocean’s ‘garbage patches.’”

According to the Worldwatch Institute, the amount is now approximately 10–20 million tons of plastic ending up in the oceans each year.

A recent study conservatively estimated that 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing a total of 268,940 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans. This plastic debris results in an estimated $13 billion a year in losses from damage to marine ecosystems, including financial losses to fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning beaches. Animals such as seabirds, whales, and dolphins can become entangled in the plastic matter; and floating plastic items—such as discarded nets, docks, and boats—can transport microbes, algae, invertebrates, and fish into non-native regions, affecting the local ecosystems.”

Some of the plastic is tossed from vessels sailing the high seas, but a majority of the trash originates from coastal outflow. With larger populations along the coastlines, more trash is being produced with an increasing percentage of that winding up in the water. So, a logical solution to curbing ocean pollution is to catch the trash before it floats out to sea. That’s the principle behind the Seabin and Plastic Bank projects.

Related: Ocean Plastic To Triple Within A Decade 

The Seabin Project

The Seabin is a floating trash receptacle located at marinas, docks, yacht clubs, and commercial ports. It is connected to a submersible water pump cycling water through the trash bin. The floating debris is captured in catch bags located inside the Seabin. It collects trash, oil, fuel and detergents, as well as micro-plastic and micro-fiber debris before it flows into the ocean. Seabins collect three-quarters of a ton of debris per year including plastic bottles, plastic utensils, disposable cups, cigarette butts, plastic particles, and surface pollutants. The trash is either disposed of properly or recycled.

The Plastic Bank

The Plastic Bank impacts high poverty areas by turning plastic waste into money. It is a fairly simple process—people collect plastic, take it to a recycling center and in return receive money, items, or services. This stops the flow of plastics into the oceans while providing a positive future for impoverished people.

The recycled plastic collected through the Plastic Bank is sold to companies to use in the place of virgin plastic for their products or packaging. The collectors have a source of income to provide a better life for their families. It is a win-win for everyone.

Related: How Microplastics Enter the Food Chain Through Organic Fertilizers

Where Does the Recovered Ocean Plastic Go?

  • In France and Germany, Proctor & Gamble started using reclaimed beach plastic to make bottles for Head and Shoulders shampoo. In the coming years, they plan to expand the beach plastic repackaging to other P&G products in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Adidas uses yarn made from ocean plastic in a line of tennis shoes and athletic shorts.
  • The Ahi Performance Cruiser Skateboard contains 50 square feet of abandoned fishing nets.
  • The bottles used to package Method’s Dish and Hand Soap are made from recycled beach plastic.
  • Bionic Yarn creates a line of textiles that are used in consumer products ranging from boat covers to furniture to high-end clothing.
  • Sunglasses, jewelry, luggage, art, and sculptures also contain recycled plastic. The list is endless.

What Can We Do?

We can play a role in recycling. See trash along the side of the road? Pick it up and dispose of it properly. Separate your garbage into cardboard, plastics, glass, and paper and take them to a recycling center. Find programs that accept other items that need to be disposed of. Take a walk on the beach and collect the litter. There are hundreds of ways to show your respect for our environment.

We can do our part by making wise decisions in the products we purchase and how we dispose of the waste. It does not require a major life change. It can be a small step—recycle something you haven’t before, purchase less of something, change the brand of an item you purchase because they do something different with their packaging. Small steps lead to big steps toward change.




Trump’s EPA Will Shield Info on Asbestos Imports and Use From Public

Federal data shows a large increase in asbestos imports to the U.S. Environmental groups have called for better reporting of asbestos products by U.S. manufacturers. The petition requested the EPA to require importers and users of asbestos and asbestos-containing products to report asbestos content to the public. The EPA has this authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. Chemical Watch reported that the EPA will not implement additional reporting of asbestos usage.

Related: Johnson And Johnson Knew Asbestos Was In Baby Powder, More Lawsuits Are Coming

In October, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, or ADAO, and EWG analyzed import data that showed asbestos imports soared by nearly 2,000 percent between July and August 2018.

“According to the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department, in August alone, the U.S. imported 272 metric tons of asbestos, compared with 13 metric tons in July. – Environmental Working Group

President Trump’s EPA not only refused to ban asbestos, which kills tens of thousands each year, it won’t even take a closer look at how much is imported and where and how it’s being used by companies. The hundreds of thousands of deaths caused from asbestos in the U.S. alone should be reason enough for the Trump administration to better inform the public about potential routes of exposure.” – ADAO President and Co-Founder Linda Reinstein




Trump’s EPA Says Obama’s Mercury Limits On Coal Plants Not Necessary

The EPA says the federal rules imposed by Obama’s administration to limit mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants are too costly to justify, and are not “appropriate and necessary.” For now, the EPA has not done away with the 2012 restrictions because utility companies have already spent billions of dollars to comply with the standards. But the result could set a precedent for other environmental pollution, and it enables coal mining companies to challenge the restrictions in court.

It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits.” – NY Times

“It will make it much more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations in many cases.” – Robert N. Stavins, professor of environmental economics at Harvard University

When coal is burned it releases mercury into the air. Mercury causes health risks including neurological disorders, heart and lung problems, and can lead to autoimmune diseases and birth defects. In the new proposal, Trump’s EPA estimates the cost of compliance to be between $7.4 billion and $9.6 billion annually while the benefits are only $4 million to $6 million a year. But the Obama administration calculated that the cleaner air would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year and save about $85 billion a year in health costs due to the decrease of mercury, particulate matter, and other toxic pollutants.




The European Union To Ban Single-Use Plastics By 2021

European Union lawmakers recently voted 571 to 53 for a complete ban on 10 single-use plastics including plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks, cotton buds straws, cutlery, and coffee stirrers. These plastic products are said to have readily available alternatives. Other plastics not included in the ban were said to have no alternatives available, but will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025 and will have to be recycled at a rate of 90%. The EU recycles only a quarter of the plastic waste it produces yearly.

The rules also state that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is retrieved. Fishing gear accounts for 27% of the waste found on Europe’s beaches.

Amendments were tacked on for cigarette filters. Cigarette manufacturers will have to reduce their plastic waste by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the Council, due to start as early as November. Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.” – Frédérique Ries

The EU’s final rules still need to be approved in talks with member states. Some of the states are indicating resistance, stating that it would be too difficult to implement the changes.

Related: How to Detox From Plastics and Other Endocrine Disruptors
Image credit: Single-use plastics: are you #ReadyToChange?