Plus: BPA’s dating game, drought doldrums, Big Ag’s big gift
Insurance agency says fracking too risky to cover
A major insurance company has announced that it won’t cover damage related to fracking, reports the Associated Press. “Fracking" is when oil and gas companies blast millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals into the ground to force oil and gas from hard-to-reach places deep inside the earth. Along with a fracking-fueled gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths and sick families. In an internal memo not meant for the public, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. acknowledged these risks, writing: “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore.” Earthjustice and other environmental and health groups agree, which is why we’re pushing to enact tougher regulations for fracking.
BPA causes fish to court curious companions
Exposure to the estrogen-mimicking chemical known as BPA can cause interspecies mating between fish, potentially harming ecosystems by reducing biodiversity, reports New Scientist. BPA, a widely-used chemical that’s used to make hard plastic, has been under fire for years for its estrogen-mimicking properties, which trigger bodily changes that are normally regulated by hormones. Previous studies have shown that BPA can feminize fish, and now this recent study, which found that exposure to BPA made male red shiners look like other species of shiners, makes the animal dating scene even more confusing. And since male red shiners are considered invasive species in some places, the possibility of red shiners shacking up with non-red shiners could have big impacts on biodiversity.
Midwest drought may drive up food prices
A climate-change-driven drought across the Midwest may result in higher grocery bills, reports E: The Environmental Magazine. With a combination of record-breaking heat and little rain, it’s turning out to be a very tough summer for farmers growing food crops like corn. Last week, the USDA dropped the estimated average yield of corn by 12 percent, a shortage that will likely affect meat and dairy prices since many farmers depend on cheap corn to feed their livestock. When corn prices go up, many farmers are forced to thin their herds because feed is too expensive, meaning that everything from bacon to buttermilk might be more expensive next year.
House farm bill big giveaway to Big Ag
It seems that Christmas has arrived early for big agriculture entities like Monsanto, with a farm bill currently in the House of Representatives that protects companies that make genetically-modified seeds, reports Grist. Currently, the House bill contains a provision that would “effectively lift all regulations on genetically modified seeds.” If passed, the provision would be a big loss for food safety advocates and for the environment since genetically modified crops like corn and soybeans have been shown to increase the use of herbicides and pesticide-resistant weeds. Genetically modified crops have also contaminated organic and conventional crops, which is probably why some farm organizations are against the new provision. Luckily, the current version of the farm bill in the Senate doesn’t contain such a provision, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get slipped in at the last minute.