Agriculture

Bee flower choices altered by exposure to pesticides

March 15, 2016

Low levels of pesticides can impact the foraging behaviour of bumblebees on wildflowers, changing their floral preferences and hindering their ability to learn the skills needed to extract nectar and pollen, according to a study co-authored by a University of Guelph professor. The study, published March 14 in Functional Ecology, is the first to explore how pesticides may impact the ability of bumblebees to forage from common wildflowers that have complex shapes such as white clover and bird’s foot trefoil. Bees and other insects pollinate many of the world’s important food crops and wild plants, raising serious concerns about the impacts of reported global pollinator declines for food security and biodiversity. The researchers found that bumblebees exposed to a realistic level of a neonicotinoid insecticide (thiamethoxam) collected more pollen but took longer to do so than control bees. Pesticide-exposed bees also chose to forage from different flowers than control bees. “Bees rely on learning to locate flowers, track their profitability and work out how best to efficiently extract nectar and pollen,” said environmental sciences professor Nigel Raine, the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at U of G and senior author of the paper. “If exposure to low levels of pesticide

Kelly Patricia O’Meara – FDA Looks to Expand Electroshock Use Despite Significant Risks and No Proven Benefit

March 15, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated a proposal that would reclassify Electroconvulsive Therapy Devices (ECT) from its highest risk category III to allow electric shock machines to be utilized in the treatment of specific alleged mental illnesses with less regulatory controls.[1] This is despite the federal agency’s admission that the ECT device has not been proven safe and effective. To date, nearly five million Americans have received ECT “treatment” without ECT manufacturers being required to submit valid scientific evidence, such as clinical trials, of the device’s safety or effectiveness.[2] The proposal has reignited a firestorm that the FDA has colluded with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to promote a dangerous treatment and protect the fiscal concerns of APA members rather than protect patient lives. It is no secret that the FDA has procrastinated for more than five years over this proposal after first entertaining the idea of reducing the device’s risk category in 2009, when it requested public input on this. At a public hearing in January 2011, it was heard that nearly 80 percent of the respondents and a further 92 group submissions representing more than 6000 individuals, were against reclassification.[3] Read

Wenonah Hauter – The United States of Monsanto?

March 14, 2016

This week thousands of Americans took time out of their busy days to call their Senators to demand that they vote against the DARK Act, a bill sponsored by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, which would prevent consumers from knowing if the food they eat and feed their families contains genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients. Their support for GMO labeling was echoed by more than 600 organizations, including farming and fishing groups and food companies, representing tens of millions of members and customers who this week also urged the Senate to reject this troubling bill. GMO crops are created by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as resistance to treatment with herbicides, or to make a plant produce its own pesticide to repel insects. Unlike traditional plant and animal breeding, which tries to develop better varieties by selecting traits from the same species, genetic engineering techniques can insert specific genes from any plant, animal or microorganism into the DNA of a different species. The DARK Act passed out of committee last week by a 14-6 vote and is expected to hit the Senate floor any day now. The House already passed a similar bill in July. If

COLIN TODHUNTER – Violence on the Factory Farm: How Not to Feed the World

March 10, 2016

The amount of meat humans eat is immense. In 1965, 10 billion livestock animals were slaughtered each year. That number is now over 55 billion. Factory farming is the fastest growing method of animal production worldwide. While industrialised nations dominate this form of farming, developing countries are rapidly expanding and intensifying their production systems. Violence on the farm A new virtual reality film project by Animal Equality shows the public how a factory farm operates. The film focuses on how pigs live out their lives from birth to death – from the perspective of a pig. It is clear that it is not just the pig’s final death that is brutal but its whole life Read

Eric Zuesse – This Is How Corruption Works: A Hillary Clinton Example

March 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton approved the construction in South Africa of the world’s two largest coal-fired power-plants, and helped them get Export-Import Bank financing (U.S. taxpayer backing); then, some of her friends received construction contracts to build them. This was revealed by Itai Vardi in a terrific investigative news report at the desmog blog, on March 7th. Here’s an abbreviated version of it, courtesy of that extraordinary fine news-site: The plants – named Medupi and Kusile – were set to each emit a staggering 25 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year. To help finance the Medupi plant, the South African government turned to The World Bank, requesting a $3.5 billion loan. Read

Mushroom Beehives Could Be The Solution To Colony Collapse

March 8, 2016

Life without bees isn’t life at all. Seriously, have you considered just how empty supermarkets would be if the tiny, bumbling insects went extinct? Since the 1980s, bee populations have diminished dramatically. At least 61 culprits – from viruses to pesticides – have been blamed, but scientists are still groping for answers. One culprit in particular – the mite – is thought to be a major contributor to colony collapse. Because the varroa destructor mite’s life is so short-lived, it has been able to evolve and develop resistance to pesticides that have been previously able to control it. Thankfully, a solution to the catastrophe may already exist. It just took a mushroom expert and a scientist to discover it. Remember Paul Stamets, the guy who holds the patent that could destroy Monsanto? After partnering with an entomologist, he discovered that a certain type of mushroom can protect bees from viruses, pesticides, AND mites! Read

Consumers have huge environmental impact

February 25, 2016

The world’s workshop — China — surpassed the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on Earth in 2007. But if you consider that nearly all of the products that China produces, from iPhones to tee-shirts, are exported to the rest of the world, the picture looks very different. “If you look at China’s per capita consumption-based (environmental) footprint, it is small,” says Diana Ivanova, a PhD candidate at Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Industrial Ecology Programme. “They produce a lot of products but they export them. It’s different if you put the responsibility for those impacts on the consumer, as opposed to the producer.” That’s exactly what Ivanova and her colleagues did when they looked at the environmental impact from a consumer perspective in 43 different countries and 5 rest-of-the-world regions. Their analysis, recently published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, showed that consumers are responsible for more than 60 per cent of the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80 per cent of the world’s water use. Read

Nearly all US forests threatened by drought, climate change

February 23, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. — Forests nationwide are feeling the heat from increasing drought and climate change, according to a new study by scientists from 14 research institutions. “Over the last two decades, warming temperatures and variable precipitation have increased the severity of forest droughts across much of the continental United States,” said James S. Clark, lead author of the study and Nicholas Professor of Environmental Science at Duke University. “While the effects have been most pronounced in the West, our analysis shows virtually all U.S. forests are now experiencing change and are vulnerable to future declines,” he said. “Given the high degree of uncertainty in our understanding of how forest species and stands adapt to rapid change, it’s going to be difficult to anticipate the type of forests that will be here in 20 to 40 years.” Drought-induced forest diebacks, bark beetle infestations and wildfires are already occurring on large scales across the West, and many models predict droughts are likely to become more severe, frequent and prolonged across much of the United States. Read

CESAR CHELALA – Environmental Degradation’s Heavy Toll on Women and Children

February 22, 2016

In 1975, at the Mexico City First World Conference on Women, Vandana Shiva, the Indian scholar and environmental activist, introduced the issue of women’s relationship to the environment. At the time, concern was raised about the depletion of forestry resources and women’s role in agriculture, and a connection was made between the impact environmental development had on women. Over the past several decades, demand for resources and industrial processes have been responsible for increasing levels of pollution and for the degradation of air, water, and land. In addition to unrestricted exploitation of natural resources, unsound agricultural practices have had devastating effects on the environment and on people’s health and quality of life. Women and children have been primarily affected. Read

Children exposed to insecticide are almost 50% more likely to get childhood cancer

February 22, 2016

Children exposed to insecticide and pesticides can be as much as 50 percent more at risk for cancer than other children, studies indicate. Data from 16 past studies comparing the link between pesticide exposure and the development of childhood cancer showed that kids exposed to insecticides or pesticides indoors were 43 percent more likely to have lymphoma and 47 percent more likely to have leukemia. Exposure indoors caused an even higher risk than exposure outdoors in a yard or garden. Studies confirm the deadly risk of pesticide exposure Studies conducted in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia all yielded research results that confirm the deadly risk of insecticide and pesticide exposure for human beings and children in particular. Their smaller physical size makes the impact of these chemicals more profound and detrimental. The main cancers caused by pesticides and insecticides are leukemia and lymphoma. While lymphoma and leukemia are considered relatively rare – around five kids out of 100,000 get leukemia in the U.S. – they are still among the most common kinds of childhood cancer. Childhood cancer in general is on the rise, and it is likely that insecticide and pesticide exposure is part of the cause. Read
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