Sunday, July 28, 2013

PNN - The Food Safety Show

PNN - 7-27-13

 Michael Hansen        Sr. Scientist Consumer Union/Reports
 Jeanne Economos     Farmworker Pesticide Safety 
 Winona Hauter          Food and Water Watch
 Jeffrey Ruchs             Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
 Zack Kaldveer          Organic Consumer Organization 


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0. Fukushima trench water crisis returns

Source: Kyodo
Date: July 27, 2013

    Fukushima trench water crisis returns

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the trench problem at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has cropped up again and is sending highly radioactive water into the sea. [...]

    [The water] contains 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter [...]

    The trench is believed to be the source of the groundwater problem that’s been baffling Tepco’s experts for months. Their current theory is that the highly radioactive water found and left in the trench in 2011 is now leaking directly into the groundwater, which is seeping into the sea. [...]

    The utility hopes to halt the problem by building a wall out of liquid glass between the reactors and the sea and removing the contaminated water from the underground passage.

1. Extremely contaminated water is seeping into Pacific Ocean from under Fukushima Reactor No. 2 turbine building — Tepco: We believe ir’s staying in trench

Kyodo News, July 27, 2013: Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday it has detected 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter from water in an underground passage at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that is seeping into the sea [...] The trench, which is believed to be the source of the latest water leakage into the sea, is located below the No. 2 reactor turbine building. [...]

Asahi Shimbun, July 27, 2013: “We believe the highly radioactive water is staying within the pit,” a TEPCO official said, adding that the utility will nevertheless check carefully for possible leaks into surrounding soil and seal the ground to block such leaks from reaching the sea.

See also: WSJ: Extreme contamination found at Fukushima plant -- Cesium over 2 billion Bq/liter; Millions of times above limit -- Tepco 'trying' to stop it leaking into ocean -- 'Probably' from melted reactor core
   
Published: July 27th, 2013 at 10:38 am ET
By ENENews


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2. Consumers Union statement on new long term study of feeding GE grains to pigs


Statement of Michael Hansen, PhD, Senior Scientist, Consumers Union on New Long Term Study of Feeding GE Grains to Pigs

The new peer-reviewed long-term pig feeding study just published raises important concerns about possible health impacts of consuming genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy. There have been very few animal feeding studies of GE food to date, and extremely few that lasted longer than 90 days. This new study looked at pigs fed GE corn and soy under commercial production conditions over a 22.7 week period. Compared to a control group that was fed conventional corn and soy, the GE-fed pigs showed significant increases in severe stomach inflammation and thickening of the uterus. The study in online here:  http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has long been concerned about the impact of GE crops and thinks these effects are a red flag and deserve further study.  We also believe this study underlines the need for labeling of GE food, since there still much to learn about their health effects. Consumers Union urges state legislatures, as well as Congress, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to require labeling of GE foods.

This new long term study, which looked at pigs over their normal commercial lifetime of five months, reinforces concerns prompted by the highly controversial Seralini study, which looked at rats fed GE food over a two year period, compared to rats fed a non-GE diet. That study also found differences in health outcomes, including higher rates of certain tumors, and liver and kidney problems, among rats fed a GE diet.

This new study of pigs, published in the Journal of Organic Systems is valuable because it used a relatively large study sample size (168 pigs including controls), and was conducted at a U.S. pig production facility in Iowa. The research was led by an Australian scientist.

The study found that the uteri of GE-fed pigs was significantly larger (weighed 25 percent more) than those of non-GE-fed pigs. In addition, the rate of severe stomach inflammation was more than 2.5-fold higher, on average, for GE-fed pigs compared to non-GE-fed pigs (32 percent vs. 12 percent, respectively).  Indeed, for male pigs, the rate of severe stomach inflammation was four times higher for GE-fed males to non-GE fed males, and for females, the rate was more than 2-fold higher.

As the authors conclude: “The results indicate that it would be prudent for GM crops that are destined for human food and animal feed, including stacked GM crops, to undergo long-term animal feeding studies preferably before commercial planting, particularly for toxicological and reproductive effects.”

Contact: Naomi Starkman, 917.539.3924, nstarkman@gmail.com

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3. Monsanto receives approval of refuge-in-a-bag product 2


Monsanto just received full regulatory approval for a single-bag refuge product for corn. The product is called Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete and can be planted across a corn grower’s entire field. It is a blend of 95% Genuity SmartStax corn seed and 5% refuge (non-Bt) seed. No separate, structured refuge is needed for either above- or belowground pests in the Corn Belt. Monsanto does caution that growers planting Genuity SmartStax without the RIB Complete will still need a refuge.

The Genuity SmartStax RIB is a combination of corn traits from both Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. The two companies collaborated on the new product, which includes multiple modes of action for broad-spectrum control of above- and belowground insects, and also offers two herbicide-tolerance traits. It will be fully launched in 2012.
“Farmers have told us they want a true, single-bag refuge solution, and this registration enables Monsanto to deliver,” reports Brett Begemann, Monsanto CCO. “This is a new level of value that hasn’t existed to date, as Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete corn simplifies refuge management by eliminating the structured refuge, which can contribute to timely, more-efficient planting and one-farm productivity.” 

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4. VAST PIGWEED CONSPIRACY


Editor’s note: Extension weed scientists are warning that farmers across the Midwest face increasing risks that weeds such as waterhemp, marestail or giant ragweed are developing resistance to glyphosate herbicide.

They point to farmers’ experiences in the South as an example of what can happen when growers lose a tool like Roundup Ready corn or soybeans.

In this article in our sister publication, Delta Farm Press, veteran weed scientist Ford Baldwin addresses the issues that face cotton, corn, rice and soybean producers in Arkansas and other Mid-South states. (Palmer amaranth is a cousin to waterhemp.)

I read a recent article written about the “PigPosium” held last November in Arkansas. I had never seen anything like it — 800 or so folks attending a meeting on one weed. Everyone left the meeting charged up full of vim, vam and vigor to go “whoop” this weed.

Somewhere between then and now the wheels came off. Ken Smith was quoted in the meeting saying, “No, I don’t think they’re [pigweed] going to take over the world and we’re not going to let them take over Arkansas under our watch.”
Those guys are working extremely hard, but as an industry we are not giving them much support. They are delivering the message and nobody is listening. I have sure found out that I do not have any influence either.

Folks, unless we can make some dramatic changes, pigweeds are going to take over Arkansas. If this year does not get your attention, I give up!

I do not have all the answers for the pigweed problem. We did not have to find the hard answers in the early 1990s. Roundup Ready came along and it WAS the answer.
However, there are a couple of statements I continue to hear that we have to get past. The first one is, “I just don’t have the problem yet.” Two years I was constantly told, “We have a rice rotation, so I am just not worried about pigweeds.” I have probably had more pigweed calls this year from the heart of rice country than anywhere else. If you are farming soybeans or cotton in Arkansas, you have the problem whether or not it is in a particular field yet.

While I do not have all the answers, I do have a good handle on some things that will not work and some things that are going to have to happen if we are to keep the pigweeds from winning. It has to start with respecting the enemy.

I am constantly told, “I just saw one here and there for the first time last year and now look!” If we have not figured out by now they will overpower you with numbers, I do not know how else to say it.

My worst fear from five years ago has happened: that is we would not be willing to change until the pigweed populations were back to overpowering levels. That is statewide now.
Before Roundup Ready we could get 95% pigweed control from a program and we could not harvest the plots. In most cases 95% weed control is a great expectation from a program. We have field after field in Arkansas now where 95% pigweed control is a failure! You cannot treat Palmer pigweed like any other weed you have ever dealt with.
Another reality that must be dealt with is Roundup Ready as we have known it for nearly 20 years is dead, dead, dead. Until we come to grips with that we will continue to go backward. There is no one magic bullet that will make Roundup Ready what it used to be.

One of the things I have seen coming from a mile away is residuals are not the answer. They are a necessary part of the solution but a far cry from the answer. I was in research plots recently where residuals worked great. The researcher is doing a great job, but about the fourth time he told me residuals were the answer I said, “You don’t understand. Most of Arkansas went four to six weeks without rain on residuals. Unless you tell me you can make it rain, residuals are not the answer.” If we cannot control pigweeds when residuals do not work, we will lose the fight.

Another reality that many have not come to grips with is nothing is as good as “Roundup used to be.” We are all but making a surfactant out of the world’s greatest herbicide.
I believe that LibertyLink crops must be part of the answer. However, when you try to use Ignite on pigweeds like you used to use glyphosate, there is a good chance it will fail. The LibertyLink system has great potential, but it is not what Roundup Ready used to be. I do not believe any of the technologies on the horizon will be what Roundup Ready used to be either. Living in the past will not work; we have to learn to use the tools we must depend on now.

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5. The EPA recently granted registration approval for Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera 3220 corn trait stack. This stack includes the Viptera trait for aboveground pest protection.
It also contains the Agrisure CB/LL trait for European corn borer, the Agrisure GT trait for glyphosate tolerance, and the Herculex I trait for second modes of both broad-spectrum lepidopteran protection and corn borer protection. Syngenta says this new Viptera 3220 trait stack is designed for geographies where corn rootworm is not a problem. The new trait should be available in 2012.

Syngenta also reported it submitted for EPA registration a new 5% blended refuge-in-a-bag product with the Agrisure Viptera 3220 trait stack. The company intends to market it under the Agrisure E-Z Refuge name when EPA approval is received.

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6. The Frog Who Crushed The Planet

Did a French yuppie really create the Finance Crisis?
By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Tuesday, 23 July 2013

You just knew it had to be one of those brie-biting, Sartre-spewing, overly-garlicked Frenchmen who pushed the Earth's finance system over a cliff.

This week, US prosecutors finally began the trial of the only person on the entire planet whom they have charged with the financial crimes that sank worldwide stock markets by trillions in 2008 and left millions homeless and jobless, from Detroit to Manchester.

Amazingly, say prosecutors, it all came down to a single Frenchman, Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre, only 29 years old at the time. Even Julius Caesar waited until he turned 51 to bring the known world to its knees.

Here's the story which his defence team does not dispute:

In August 2007, hot-shot hedge fund manager John Paulson walked into Goldman Sachs with a brilliant plan to cash in on the US housing crisis.

He paid Goldman to announce that Paulson would invest a big hunk of his fund's wealth, $200 million, in securities tied to the US mortgage market’s recovery. A few lucky investors would be allowed to give Goldman their billions to bet with Paulson that Americans would never default on their home mortgages.

It was a con. Secretly, Paulson would bet against the mortgage market, hoping it would collapse – making sure it would collapse. All he needed was Goldman to line up the suckers to put up billions to be his "partners".

It was Goldman’s and Paulson's financial version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, in which a couple of corrupt theatre producers schemed to suck investors into a deliberate flop.

Throughout 2007 and 2008, Paulson & Co. worked with Goldman to create the financial equivalent of Springtime for Hitler.

Paulson personally chose the group of mortgages for the fund. Rather than pick the least risky, he deliberately loaded the fund with sub-prime losers. To polish this turd, Goldman and Paulson paid a highly respected risk analysis firm, ACA, to endorse the selection. Paulson and his vice president met with ACA to assure them of the value of the crappola – never telling ACA that, in fact, Paulson would profit if the securities failed.

Based on Paulson's pitch, ACA endorsed the value of these "synthetic derivatives" securities. This led rating agencies Moody's and S&P – recipients of fat fees from Goldman – to give the package an AAA rating – that is, marking them as safer than US Treasury notes.

In just a few weeks, by August 8, 2008, the securities lost 99 percent of their value.

The dupes paid up. One, Royal Bank of Scotland, handed over nearly a billion dollars ($840,909,090) to Goldman. Goldman then quietly shifted the loot, minus its fee, to Paulson & Co.

For more on Paulson and what he bought with your money, see Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.
The payout busted RBS. But don't shed tears. The Bank of England and British taxpayers took over the bank and covered the loss.

The collapse of RBS and the billions lost by others in the scheme fuelled a panic which caused banks in the US to shut their lending windows, refusing to re-finance sub-prime mortgages. Over two million American families now faced eviction.

Paulson was thrilled. Each default and eviction just made Paulson & Co. richer, altogether pulling in a profit for his hedge fund of over $3.5 billion on the Springtime-for-Hitler game. Paulson's personal earnings on this economic tragedy exceeded one billion dollars.

I happened to be in Detroit that August, at the home of auto union member Robert Pratt. He'd already received his eviction notice. Like almost all black home buyers in the USA, he was steered to a "sub-prime" mortgage. Under a formula years later deemed to be "predatory", his payments suddenly doubled. Pratt’s mortgage balance grew to $110,000 on a home worth $30,000. The bank would not refinance, so Pratt prepared to move into his car with his wife and four kids.

Government watchdogs hunted for the financial crimes perpetrators, and, discovering the Goldman/Paulson fraud, brought charges against... the French kid. Goldman had leant Fabrice Tourre to Paulson to take on flunky tasks, including putting together a 28-page "flip book" to lure European banks into the scam.

In a text message discovered by investigators, Fabrice admitted to a friend that he couldn't understand the insanely complex derivatives Paulson had crafted with Tourre's bosses at Goldman. He did, though, grasp that the strange securities were, he wrote, "monstrosities".  A collapse was coming that would "bring down the whole house", leaving Fabrice standing in a ruined planet – with a fat bonus.

What did the Feds do to Paulson? He received... a special tax break.

Am I defending the Fabulous Fabrice, the French-fried scapegoat? After all, he was just along for the ride. But he was deeply thrilled to carry water for the Bad Boys. And the charges against him are merely "civil", meaning he won't get jail time even if found guilty.

And what about Goldman, whose top brass knew of the entire game? The Securities and Exchange Commission did fine Goldman for its duplicity – a sum equal to 5 percent of the cash Goldman got from the US Treasury in bail-out funds.

After Goldman’s con became public, its CEO Lloyd Blankfein was hailed as a visionary for offloading mortgage-backed securities before the shit hit the finance fan. Blankfein hailed himself for, he said, "doing God's work". God did well. Blankfein’s bonus in 2007 brought his pay package to $69 million for the year, a Wall Street record.

Rather than prison or penury, Blankfein was appointed advisor to both the business and the law school at Harvard University.

So here’s the lesson all Harvard students are taught: If you can't do the time, don't do the crime... unless your booty exceeds a billion.

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7. Fire shuts down Callaway nuclear plant, no danger to public after Friday night incident
Fulton Sun, July 27, 2013:

[...] At 11:49 p.m. Friday, Ameren Missouri Callaway Energy Center declared an “Unusual Event” due to a small fire in the turbine building, a press release from Ameren Missouri electric company stated. [...] Our first priority was stabilizing the nuclear plant … everything operated per design,” [Barry Cox, senior director of nuclear operations for the Callaway Energy Center] said. [...] There was no release of radioactivity to the environment above normal operating limits, the press release stated, and all appropriate federal, state and local agencies have been notified. [...] Cox said crews were on site Saturday afternoon to survey the damage [...]

Missourian, July 27, 2013: The Ameren Missouri Callaway Energy Center near Fulton is out of service as of Saturday afternoon after an “unusual event” occurred Friday night. [...] Ameren Missouri and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are still investigating the cause of the fire and assessing damage to the plant, Cox said. [...] no radioactivity was released above the normal level. [...] An “unusual event” is the lowest of the four classifications the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has set out for nuclear emergencies. [...]

St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 27, 2013: There also were reports of black smoke, Cox said. [...] “It was not such a large fire that we had to call for assistance from outside sources or evacuate anyone,” Cox said. [...] “We are still doing our investigating as to the cause and assessing the damaged area,” he said. [...]

8. ‘Chaos’ over 4 underground oil blowouts in Canada: “Everybody is freaking out about this” —  Spills can’t be stopped, “There is no off button”


Canada.com, July 25, 2013 (h/t gottagetoffthegrid): Underground oil spills at an Alberta oilsands operation have been going on much longer than previously thought, according to new documents. Files released to the Toronto Star show the spills were discovered nine weeks ago, but new documents show that bitumen has been leaking since the winter. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. operates the Primrose oilsands facility three hours northeast of Edmonton where four ongoing underground oil blowouts have contaminated forest, muskeg, a lake and have already killed dozens animals including beavers, ducks and birds. According to a government scientist who has been to the site, neither government or industry are able to stop the spills. [...]

Toronto Star, July 19, 2013: The scientist, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, said the operation was in chaos. “Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.” [...] “This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline. “You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months. [...]

9. Chris Hedges speaks on Court Setback
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has dealt a terrible blow to Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and the other activists and journalists suing to prevent the indefinite military detention of American citizens. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 would allow the military to detain indefinitely persons who are deemed to consort with terrorists or those who commit “belligerent acts” against the United States. Journalists, whose job it is to do just that, would undoubtedly qualify, Hedges has argued.
The plaintiffs have had successes and setbacks in court.
Here is what Hedges wrote after Wednesday’s decision:
This is quite distressing. It means there is no recourse now either within the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of government to halt the steady assault on our civil liberties and most basic Constitutional rights. It means that the state can use the military, overturning over two centuries of domestic law, to use troops on the streets to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers. States that accrue to themselves this kind of power, history has shown, will use it. We will appeal, but the Supreme Court is not required to hear our appeal. It is a black day for those who care about liberty.
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