Is the EPA doing enough to protect bees?

Bumblebee love!

Bees are dying in huge numbers, and conservation groups are concerned the EPA is not doing enough to protect them. @bberwyn photo.

Beekeepers accuse pesticide industry of trying to ‘hijack’ public policy

FRISCO — The public comment period for proposed EPA rules on bee-killing pesticides may be over, but the battle over pesticide policies will continue, as conservation groups suspect that the pesticide industry may have exerted undue influence over the rule-making process.

Those concerns are reinforced by some of the country’s beekeepers, who say the proposed rule doesn’t do enough to address federal responsibility to address the impact of pesticides on bee deaths. The Pollinator Stewardship Council recently submitted a letter to the EPA detailing its concerns about the proposed new rule. Continue reading

Study tracks school lunch food waste

More fruit and veggies than ever ending up in trash

It's harvest season!

You can give school kids all the fruit in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to eat it. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A push to get kids eating healthier school meals isn’t exactly playing out as hoped, according to Vermont researchers, who used cameras to track what students are doing with the fresh fruit and veggies on their lunch trays.

It may not be a surprise to anyone who has spent time in a school lunch room, but many students are putting the apples and oranges straight into the trash, eating even fewer of them than they did before the the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed.

The new study, published online in Public Health Reports, is the first to use digital imaging to capture students’ lunch trays before and after they exited the lunch line. It is also one of the first to compare fruit and vegetable consumption before and after the controversial legislation – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – was passed.

The study found that students put more fruits and vegetables on their trays, as required by the law. But that doesn’t mean the goodies are being eaten. Overall, the study found a big increase in food waste. Continue reading

Study quantifies environmental footprint of food waste

Cutting food waste would save huge amounts of water

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Food waste has a huge environmental footprint.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Food waste doesn’t just mean that a few scraps end up being tossed in the garbage bin. There’s a huge environmental footprint, including the waste of water associated with the production of the food.

In the EU, according to a new study, the surface and groundwater footprint from avoidable food waste has reached an average of 27 liters per person, per day, which is slightly higher than the average amount per capita municipal water use. The rainwater footprint is even higher, at 294 litres per capita per day, equivalent to the amount used for crop production in Spain.

And the amount of nitrogen contained in avoidable food waste averaged 0.68 kg per capita per year. The food production nitrogen footprint was 2.74 kg per capita per year, the same amount used in mineral fertilizer in both the UK and Germany put together. Continue reading

Vermont study paints nuanced picture of GMO labeling effects

Some colorful cereal. I had never tasted these until a friend of my son's came for a sleepover and brought these along because they don't have any wheat in them. Anyone venture to guess what kind they are?

Does your favorite cereal include GMO ingredients?

Labeling may actually reduce opposition to GMOs among some demographic groups

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new Vermont study suggests that consumers don’t necessarily see GMO lables on food as a negative warning. In some cases, such labels may actually increase consumer confidence, the researchers said after analyzing five years worth of data.

A new study released just days after the U.S. House passed a bill that would prevent states from requiring labels on genetically modified foods reveals that GMO labeling would not act as warning labels and scare consumers away from buying products with GMO ingredients.

The statewide survey was focused on two key questions: whether Vermonters are opposed to GMO’s in commercially available food products; and if respondents thought products containing GMO’s should be labeled. Continue reading

Study documents ubiquity of bee-killing pesticides

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Can bees survive the age of pesticides? @bberwyn photo.

Findings suggest human health risks from inhaling pollen laced with neonicotinoids

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists with Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health say their new study examining pollen and honey shows there’s a need to develop public policies that aims to reduce neonicotinoid exposure.

After working 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, the researchers found more that 70 percent of the samples contained at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated the steep decline of honeybee populations, specifically colony collapse disorder, when adult bees abandon their hives during winter.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry. Not only do these pesticides pose a significant risk for the survival of honey bees, but they also may pose health risks for people inhaling neonicotinoid-contaminated pollen, Lu said. Continue reading

Showdown over GM foods looms in Congress

What's on your plate? @bberwyn photo.

What’s on your plate? @bberwyn photo.

GOP-sponsoroed House bill would preempt state and local restrictions on genetically modified products

Staff Report

FRISCO — Food activists say a possible House vote on HR 1599 — called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 by its sponsors — could mark a huge turning point in the battle of genetically modified food. Some of the best coverage of the GMO debate is at civileats.com. Continue reading

Will global warming increase salmonella outbreaks?

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Global warming may increase risk of salmonella outbreaks.

Coastal areas at highest risk

Staff Report

FRISCO — Public health researchers at the University of Maryland say a 10-year study shows a clear link between salmonella outbreaks and episodes of extreme heat and precipitation events.

With those conditions expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, the researchers say their findings can help guide public health strategies.

The study is the first to provide empirical evidence that Salmonella infections related to extreme weather events are disproportionately impacting those living in the coastal areas of Maryland. Continue reading

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