Sep 15 at 5:05pm by Aileen
Back in February of 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] conducted research on smallmouth bass in the Potomac River basin, finding that 80-100% of the fish collected from the Shenandoah were intersex. Meaning that males of the species had testicular oocytes [TO], or immature female egg cells in the testes.
The USGS researchers also documented that the highest prevalence of TO came attached to areas with the highest human populations and most intensive farming activity. This type of birth defect is connected to environmental exposures to endocrine disrupters (hormone precursors that affect the endocrine system), which are found in most agricultural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and in many human/animal drugs. The prevalence of intersex had been at that time documented in other wild fish populations, including spot-tail shiners in the St. Lawrence, white suckers in Colorado, shovelnose sturgeon in the Mississippi, white perch in the Great Lakes, and in several species in the UK, Europe, Africa and Japan.
Intersex associated with endocrine disrupters in wastewater and farm runoff is nothing new, as reproductive anomalies in amphibians has been on the rise especially in farming regions for decades. Now the USGS has published new results of research on intersex in bass in the journal Aquatic Toxicology. They found that a third of all male smallmouth bass and a fifth of all male largemouth bass tested were intersex. The fish came from many different rivers and basins, including the Apalachicola, Colorado, Columbia, Rio Grande, Savannah, Pee Dee and Yukon. The Yukon is the only river basin where researchers found no intersex fish.
The Pee Dee river basin appears to have the biggest problem, though intersex bass are prevalent throughout the agricultural southeast. Relatively high incidence of intersex was also found in the lower Rio Grande basin, the Colorado and Gila in Arizona, and the Colorado basin. Lead author and USGS biologist Jo Ellen Hink suggested that “the widespread occurrence of intersex in fish would be a critical environmental concern.”
Well, duh. Any prognostications on when (or if) EPA and the USDA might get around to being critically concerned about it? Will “Intersex” become the new macho?
Jun 2 at 4:04pm by Aileen
The 2007 Farm Bill – now the 2008 Farm Bill, was passed by both chambers of Congress, vetoed by President Bush, then the veto was overridden by both houses and is now the ‘Law of the Land’. Politically, the bill isn’t perfect, there is still too much pork and payments to rich agribusiness concerns for their poor farming practices, and not enough clarifying guidelines for biofuels production and organic farming.
But it’s a lot better than no bill at all, which would have kept the last support bill in place for the foreseeable future. The new bill has incentives to clean up residue discharges in important watersheds, and supports for best practices in crop rotations, cover crops and low-chemical input farming. It’s still strong on commodity production (corn, wheat, rice), but does put some real support into farmer’s market promotions and expansion of organic markets. It does somewhat limit subsidies to near-millionaire commodity farmers, requires more fresh fruit and vegetables to be available in schools, increases food stamp benefits as tied to the price of food, allots priority funding to research into the bee die-off situation, and supports rural enterprise and microenterprise investments.
Research into the “typical American diet” and its relationship to serious health issues and obesity informs us that Americans eat way too much junk and not nearly enough healthy food. Which, in a country that rations health care by income level and allows insurance companies to exclude people who actually need health care, would seem to be an important issue to address with education and real food availability in public institutions such as schools.
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May 5 at 4:04pm by Aileen
A declaration of commercial fishery failure by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has paved the way for Congress to allot funds for alleviating financial hardship among the West Coast’s commercial Chinook salmon fishing industry off California and Oregon. The crisis has been building steadily every year since 2000, culminating in this latest action – the commercial salmon fishing industry has essentially been shut down.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] researchers suggest that changes in ocean conditions – possibly due to global warming – are to blame, along with loss of freshwater habitat for salmon spawning, a chronic problem.
There will be some coho salmon fishing allowed off the coast of Washington and northern Oregon, but there will be financial hardship in that industry as well due to strict limits. This crisis has been building for years, attempts along the way to mitigate it have proven to exacerbate the situation, such as the introduction of farmed salmon. Fish stock collapses in traditionally abundant fisheries off both coasts and elsewhere in the world bode ill for the seafood component of the human food supply, just as the worldwide food crisis heats up around the world for staple crops like corn and wheat and rice.
We could be beyond a tipping point right now, and things could get a bit more than just ‘interesting’ over the next months. Will science be able to come to the rescue, or will it remain helpless to mitigate the collapse of world food supplies? Stay tuned…
“Fishery Failure” Declared for West Coast Salmon Fishery
Hatchery Controversy Takes on New Significance as Wild Chinook Populations Crash
Escaped Farmed Salmon Infiltrate Fitter Wild Populations
Dramatic Declines in Wild Salmon Populations Linked to Farmed Salmon
Apr 29 at 6:06pm by Aileen
In its mad bid to privatize and control the world’s agriculture and food supply with its patented biotech seeds and cushy revolving door within governmental regulatory agencies, Monsanto cannot be very happy with a recent Soil Association report that shows GM crops decrease yields, whether it’s cotton or soybeans or corn.
As reported in The Washington Post, the biotech industry immediately released yet another bought-and-paid-for report claiming totally opposite conclusions (some things don’t change just because the science is against you). The Soil Association report took a serious look at reality, something quite refreshing in this field. The material included among other citations:
• a 2007 study from Kansas State University that showed Roundup Ready soy has suffered “yield drag” since it was introduced, producing an average of 9-25% less per acre than conventional soy.
• a rigorous independent US study under controlled conditions demonstrating that Bt corn yields up to 12% less than conventional corn.
• an article in Nature Biotechnology reporting that Bt cotton doesn’t even express the engineered pesticide in 25% of some varieties sold under exclusive license.
Apr 21 at 9:09pm by Aileen
Most school children have at one time or another encountered a photo of a twisted bristlecone pine tree in California purporting to have begun its life before Abraham left Ur [the 'Methuselah' tree at ~4767 years old]. Science Daily reported last week that a spruce tree has been discovered in the Dalarna province of Sweden that is twice that age!
Yes, this not very old-looking little tree has been dated by researchers at Umeå University’s physical geography department at ~9550 years old. Just as interesting is that this ancient tree is a genetically identical clone of a previous tree – from whose roots it sprouted all those many years ago – and which left a few scraps of old wood in the area for researchers to analyze and a laboratory in Miami, Florida to date via C-14.
Researchers combing the Swedish mountains from Lapland to Dalarna have discovered a cluster of about 20 spruces that are all more than 8,000 years old. Which has to qualify the grove as the most ancient stand of virgin timber on the planet.
Mar 24 at 7:07pm by Aileen
Photo by John Mitchell – Antarctic explorers Sadie Mills and Niki Davey holding giant Macroptychaster sea stars.
During an 8-week survey expedition to the Antarctic Ross Sea south of New Zealand, researchers discovered a host of giant sea creatures. In addition to the starfish pictured above, there were “…huge worms, giant crustaceans and sea spiders the size of dinner plates,” according to Dr. Martin Riddle, leader of the Aurora Australis expedition.
The expedition collected some 30,000 specimens – including jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles – hundreds of which may be new to science. Riddle attributed the large size of polar species to cold water temperatures, few predators, high oxygen levels and longevity.
The expedition was a project of the International Polar Year program, where experts from 23 countries expect to mount 10 more expeditions to examine Antarctic sea life. The specimens collected so far will take a couple of years to fully categorize. It is hoped that the project’s cataloguing of Antarctic ocean biodiversity will help scientists monitor the impact of environmental change, as Antarctic waters should be among the first to respond to ocean acidification caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Mar 15 at 5:05pm by Aileen
The National Research Council has identified and reported on Ten Questions that will shape 21st century earth science. Some may be a little surprised that these questions are still unanswered, having been told in no uncertain terms in science classes in the last century that science already had definitive answers to questions like how the earth and other planets in our solar system formed. Live and learn. Here’s a bare list of the identified questions…
1. How did earth and other planets form?
Scientists still do not know enough about how our planet got its elements to understand its evolution, or why other planets in our system are very different.
2. What happened during the first 500 million years?
Current scientific belief is that another planet collided with ours during the late formation stage, creating the moon and melting this planet all the way to its core. Yet unknown is how (and when) the Earth developed its atmosphere and oceans.
3. How did life begin?
Scientists hope to obtain evidence from rocks and minerals, as well as investigations of Mars and other members of our system.
Jan 25 at 4:04pm by Aileen
Where ecological footprints fall. The environmental impacts of high- (red), middle- (blue) and low- (yellow) income nations fall on other income tiers, as indicated by the footprints. The numbers are in trillions of 2005 international dollars. (Credit: Thara Srinivasan/UC Berkeley)
Rich Nations’ Environmental Footprints Tread Heavily on Poor Countries offers a study led by former UC-Berkeley Thara Srinivasan that examined the impacts of intensive agricultural expansion, deforestation, overfishing. loss of mangrove swamps and forests, ozone depletion and climate change between 1961 and 2000.
For the 3-year project Srinivasan teamed up with Richard B. Norgaard, an ecological economist and professor of energy and resources at UC-Berkeley. This allowed the team to evaluate economic impacts as well as ecological footprints.
Not surprisingly, the team noticed that poor nations are much more adversely impacted than rich nations. The calculation of “ecological footprints” of low, middle and high income nations demonstrated graphically that the large ecological footprints of rich nations unfairly impact poor nations whose footprints are small.
Economically speaking, the impact on poor nations is greater than the entire debt of those nations, about which Srinivasan said, “The ecological debt could more than offset the financial debt of low-income nations.” And middle-income nations had impacts on poor nations equivalent to the rich nations.
Nov 15 at 7:07pm by Aileen
The Chicago Tribune reports this week that scientists at Loyola University have established that the pollen, leaves and other plant parts of corn engineered to kill the European corn borer with Bt toxins could endanger the American midwest’s aquatic ecosystems when washed into nearby streams.
When eaten by aquatic insects called caddisflies, the Bt toxin stunts growth and increases mortality. These insects are food for fish and amphibians in the ecosystem. The scientists reportedly ‘feel’ that such unanticipated effects of GE technology need to be investigated, but of course the EPA and USDA (and Monsanto) don’t feel that way at all.
It might be difficult to separate the effects of GE plant wastes from the general toxic overload caused by modern agribusiness mega-farming practices, which also cause death and deformity among aquatic life forms and amphibians in midwestern ecosystems. And while consumers at home and abroad have made it known that they do not wish to consume genetically engineered pesticides disguised as food, the new market for corn as ethanol fodder makes it unlikely that GM corn is going to be phased out any time soon.