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Friday Finds: War on Terra

Big business attack ads create fear conditions for environmental scientists
Scientists are being pulled out of their labs and attacked by anti-science campaigns in an unprecedented fashion, reports the UK Guardian. Though most have kept mum about the issue until now, recently the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Nina Fedoroff, spoke out about the attacks, confessing that she was “scared to death” by an ever-growing anti-science movement. The attacks, which focus on casting doubt on scientific certainties like climate change and other environmental problems, have come in the form of Facebook page hijacks, email hacks and even death threats. Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the Merchants of Doubt, a book about the links between corporate business interests and U.S. campaigns aimed at blocking environmental and health protections, told the Guardian that these are "massive organized attempts to undermine scientific data by people for whom that data represents a threat to their status quo. Given the power of these people, scientists will have their work cut out dealing with them."

Big Dairy cries giant milk tears as popularity in alternatives spills over
As alternative “milk” varieties like coconut and almond gain in popularity, the dairy industry, purportedly nervous about decreased profit shares, is fighting back, reports Grist. Big Dairy’s most recent ad campaign, “Real Milk Comes from Cows,” highlights the many ways that milk alternatives differ the real thing: from almond milk’s slightly off-color to coconut milk’s "spooky" trick of looking like real milk. Sadly, the dairy industry neglects to point out one of the main and most important differences between its product and the alternatives, which is that most conventional milk (i.e. not organic) is, as a product of industrial agriculture, likely tainted with hormones and pesticides. Milk alternatives may need to be shaken before consumption, but at least their ingredient lists won’t stir you. 

EPA may cut beach testing funds, swimmers dive in at their own risk
In just a few short months, beach season will be here but maybe not the testing that keeps the sand and surf safe, reports the LA Times. Due to the general economic malaise that continues to plague the U.S., the EPA recently announced that it may cut $10 million in grants that it gives to local and state agencies for testing water quality at beaches around the country. The grants under the chopping block cover everything from posting warning signs or even closing beaches when bacteria levels reach, er, icky proportions. The proposed cuts, coupled with new beach water quality standards that enviros have labeled as weak, present a public health dilemma to beach bums everywhere that goes way beyond the usual surfer dudette dilemma of bikini versus tank-ini.

Organic farmers fight back against GMO contamination
In a legal twist worthy of a John Grisham novel, farmers who are tired of being sued by Monsanto for “patent infringement” of its genetically modified seeds are turning the tables and suing Monsanto to simply leave them alone, reports the LA Times. The problem, say organic farmers, is that Monsanto’s genetically modified plants often make their way into organic crops, either through cross-pollination or a thing I like to call “wind.” Once they’ve contaminated the crops, organic farmers not only have to deal with biotech-tainted crops that are now useless on the organic market, they also often have to contend with a suit for Monsanto accusing them of stealing their patent-protected technology. To date, Monsanto has sued more than 100 farmers, plus untold others who have settled with the biotech giant and agreed to keep quiet. In addition to being known as a “patent troll,” Monsanto and its genetically modified crops, many of which are herbicide-resistant, are often accused of launching a plethora of superweeds that spread rapidly and grow up to the nine feet tall. In 2007, Earthjustice challenged USDA’s decision to allow Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets on the market, arguing that the agency failed to adequately assess both its environmental and economic impacts. Find out more here.

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