Plus: Cleaning up greenwashing, pesticide overdosing, toxic tuna
Climate change leaves CA wine lovers with fewer options
California’s popular wine varieties may soon be hard to find thanks to drier and hotter temperatures caused by climate change, reports the Center for Investigative Reporting. Though by now farmers are used to Mother Nature’s unpredictability, a slightly wetter or drier season is nothing compared to the extreme weather that the world has been experiencing over the past few years, which is wreaking havoc on California’s vineyards (and those who insure them). And, the situation is only expected to get worse. Recent research from Stanford University found that as little as two degrees of warming, predicted to happen by 2040, could reduce California’s prime wine-growing land by up to 50 percent. The situation is so dire, in fact, that wine breeders are recommending that vineyards switch to grapes that are well-adapted to higher temperatures, and soon, since vineyards have a shelf life of about 30 years. So far, wine growers are hesitant to make the switch given the public’s attachment to well-known wine varieties like pinot noir. But if our carbon-based economy continues as business-as-usual, consumers may have no choice but to drink outside of the wine box.
Federal consumer watchdog cleans up greenwashing
Ecofriendly. Biodegradable. All Natural. As green goes mainstream, consumers are finding it hard to determine which eco-friendly terms are legit, but the Federal Trade Commission’s revised guidelines for green marketing should help shed some light on all the fuzzy claims, reports the Christian Science Monitor. And it's about time. The revisions are long overdue (they were written in 1998), and since that time consumers have seen a dramatic increase in the number of products that tout supposedly green characteristics. Though the guides are not considered rules or regulations, the FTC has fined companies for using deceptive claims. Speaking of deceptive marketing, Earthjustice has been working to make green shopping easier by advocating for better verification testing for Energy Star, which points consumers to energy efficient appliances, but doesn’t do a great job in strengthening its testing requirements or updating labels.
GMO crop failures spark increase in superweeds and superuse of pesticide
New research has found that farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to combat superweeds, resulting in an increase in herbicide use from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to approximately 90 million pounds in 2011, reports Reuters. According to research by pesticide policy expert Charles Benbrook, the use of pesticide-tolerant crops that can withstand multiple applications of pesticides has created superweeds like pigweed, horseweed and ragweed, which can only be killed by using ever-more toxic and frequent doses of pesticides. Currently, 85 percent of GE crops are designed to resist herbicides. In addition to increasing pesticide use and creating superweeds, GE crops have also been found to contaminate nearby conventional or organic crops. Earthjustice, together with the Center for Food Safety, has challenged the 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.
*Listen to an interview with Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff on our ongoing GE work:
School cafeterias using mercury-laden tuna
A new study by the Mercury Policy Project recently found that mercury levels in tuna purchased by schools are higher than previously reported, reports Environmental Health News. Mercury, a known neurotoxin, builds up in fish, especially bigger ones like albacore that eat higher up the food chain. But though prenatal exposure to mercury has long been known to reduce the mental abilities of children, little data exists on the health risks of children exposed to mercury. Given this lack of knowledge, the report’s authors conservatively recommended that all children avoid eating albacore tuna and that children under 55 pounds stick to eating “light” tuna, which was found to contain less mercury, once a month. In 2011, Earthjustice filed a petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to provide consumers with clearer, more accurate and more accessible guidance on the mercury content of the seafood they consume because many consumers remain unaware of the risks of mercury-tainted tuna.