Controversial Pesticides Are Suspected Of Starving Fish

Dan Charles wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s new evidence that a widely used family of pesticides called neonicotinoids, already controversial because they can be harmful to pollinators, could be risky for insects and fish that live in water, too.

The evidence comes from Lake Shinji, which lies near Japan’s coast, next to the Sea of Japan.

Masumi Yamamuro, a scientist with the Geological Survey of Japan, says the lake is famous for its views of the setting sun. “It’s amazingly beautiful,” she says.

Lake Shinji was also the site of thriving fisheries. People harvested clams, and eels, and small fish called smelts. But, Yamamuro says, about a decade ago, people noticed that fish populations had declined drastically. “I was asked to investigate the cause of this decrease,” she says.

It was a puzzle. Yamamuro says the decline in fish populations did not seem to coincide with anything that people were keeping track of, like the lake’s salinity, or levels of pollution.

But she noticed something curious. One kind of fish in the lake was doing fine. This one had a more diverse diet; it could eat algae, as well as tiny insects in the water. The eels and the smelts that were dying off relied on insects and crustaceans for food. And that food source was vanishing.

“So we concluded [that] something killed the food of the eels and the smelt,” Yamamuro says.

She and her colleagues now believe that they’ve identified the culprit: pesticides called neonicotinoids.

The evidence is circumstantial. Right around the time the fish started having problems, early in the 1990s, farmers near the lake started using these pesticides on their rice paddies to control insect pests. Yamamuro also found traces of these chemicals in some parts of the lake. Those levels, she thinks, are high enough to cause problems for tiny aquatic animals. Also, neonicotinoids kill insects, but not the algae that the thriving fish were eating.

She and her colleagues just published their findings in the journal Science.

Jason Hoverman, an ecologist at Purdue University, in Indiana, says this study doesn’t really prove that neonicotinoids are guilty. There’s no historical data showing levels of neonicotinoids in the lake back when the fish started to die off.

But he says that it is logical to suspect them, and the new report is a good reminder that chemicals can have really complicated effects on an ecosystem.

“When we think about chemicals, we often just go right to direct toxicity, not thinking about the food web implications; the food of the fish, and the impact of the chemicals on that food,” he says.

Neonicotinoids have become really controversial in recent years. That’s partly because of how widely they’re used. Corn and soybean and other seeds that are coated with these pesticides are planted on close to 200 million acres of land every year. Also, neonicotinoids are extremely toxic to bees and other pollinators.

Scientists like Hoverman now are starting to pay much closer attention to the effects on insects that live in streams and rivers. “These chemicals can definitely end up in water. We apply them on land, but they don’t stay on land. The question becomes, are they at levels that are high enough to cause a problem?” he says.

Hoverman says that in some cases, it looks like they may actually be causing problems. But much of the time, scientists still are searching for the answer.

Source: npr

Biodegradable Straw Made From Food Waste

Josh Schonwald wrote . . . . . . . . .

Remember when the President of the United States got into the plastic straw business last summer, introducing “Trump Straws” because “liberal straws don’t work”?

Well, two Chicago entrepreneurs are now selling a “liberal” straw —100-percent biodegradable and compostable, fossil-fuel free, made from recycled food waste —that does work.

The AVO Beginning straw could make biodegradable straws great again by using an ingenious food waste innovation: upcycling discarded avocado pits.

The avocado straw, which started appearing in the Chicago market this summer, is produced in Morelia, Mexico by Biofase, a start-up whose young founder came up with a breakthrough way of creating a polymer by extracting a molecular compound from an avocado pit. According to Mexico Daily News, chemical engineer Scott Munguia spent a year and a half looking for the perfect Mexico-sourced bioplastic, testing mango and mamey sapote seeds, before settling on the avocado pit as the most viable, eco-friendly alternative to the fossil fuel-derived plastic straws that are discarded at a staggering rate (500 million a day in the U.S. alone, according to one estimate)

The most extraordinary aspect of the avocado straws, though, is how they work.

As the success of the “Trump straw” venture indicates, many people have issues with paper straws; although biodegradable, the colder the drink, the quicker paper straws deteriorate. For ice-obsessed Americans, this is a problem.

Enter the avo straw. I tested the straws in a variety of cold, iced drinks (sparkling water, hard seltzer, iced tea, Coke) at my home, and they held up beautifully— as good as any fossil-fuel based, turtle-nostril clogging plastic straw. “It holds up in water as cold as 20 degrees,” said Moses Savalza, one of the company’s co-founders. Savalza also told me that the avocado straw degrades in 240 days. (This is in contrast to conventional plastic straws, which can take more than 100 years to degrade.)

But AVO Beginning’s ice-friendly avocado straws face plenty of competition in an increasingly hot market for plastic straw alternatives.

As single-use plastic straws become increasingly taboo or illegal (cities such as Seattle, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. already have bans) and as more consumers complain about mushy paper straws, a wave of start-ups are vying for a slice of the eco-friendly straw market.

The alt plastic straw market includes start-ups pitching straws made from everything from hay, corn, and bamboo to pasta, rice, potato and even wild grass straws.

Although any of these straws are better for the environment than plastic, not all plant-based straws are created equal. They have varying durability in cold and hot temperatures, differing production costs, and environmental impacts. (For example, in the environmental blog Green Matters, writer Sophie Hirsh noted that the popular Australian brand Biopak’s eco-friendly utensils are only compostable in “commercial compostable facilities,” whereas the avocado-derived plastics can biodegrade in any natural conditions, including your backyard.

Of some of his chief eco-friendly competitors, Savalza said, “bamboo has good quality, but it’s too expensive, hay…it’s too fragile. Corn or potatoes. They use food.”

Indeed, the reason why the AVO straw make a case for “eco-friendliest of al” is not just because it disposes quickly (biodegrading in 240 days), it is because it’s made from waste.

AVO Beginning straws are made from the thousands of avocado pits that processors discard each day in Michoacan state, the epi-center of Mexico’s avocado industry; most of these pits come from ag giant Simplot, which has alone provided 450,000 pounds of pits for bioplastic production. This is the differentiator, Savalza said. “Paper straws.. you’re cutting down a tree. Straws made from potatoes, or cornstarch.. you’re using something that could be food or feed. With this, you’re not taking away from the supply chain.”

AVO Beginning is one of only two distributors of Biofase’s avocado-based bioplastics in the United States; the chief distributor is California’s Nostalgia de Mexico, said AVO Beginning co-founder Hugo Villasenor.

Since launching in June in Chicago Villasenor said, AVO Beginning has found a small group of enthusiastic early adopters, such as LYFE Kitchen, a small chain that stresses healthy and environmentally-conscious foods, and a Chicago-area catering company that works with corporate clients trying to reduce their plastic footprint. “These are clients that are willing to pay a little more for straws for the environmental benefit,” Villasenor said.

But for many other prospective clients, price is an obstacle. Although the straws are affordable for a bioplastic straw, at two-and-a-half to three cents per straw, Villasenor said that is still more than paper straws (roughly two cents) and plastic straws (less than a penny). For many small restaurants and cafes facing tight margins, this is still a deal breaker, Villasenor said.

Another big obstacle for AVO Beginning is that so many restaurants and cafes rely on a single vendor for their food service product needs. A major goal for AVO Beginning is to get a food service company, such as Sysco or Edward Don, to include AVO straws as part of their range of eco-friendly options. In addition to straws, AVO Beginning also sells knives, forks and spoons made from avocado pits using Biofase’s technology.

Both Villasenor and Savalza concede that another reason their early sales have been sluggish is because they’re both newbies. Villasenor has spent most of career as a restaurant server; Savalza’s background is in trucking and logistics. They’re new to food service sales, and acknowledge there’s a learning curve in figuring out how to reach new clients and decision-makers.

But when asked about the future of avocado-derived plastics, both are confident. “I know this straw will take off,” said Villasenor. “People understand that plastics are one of the great problems of today, and now they want to fix it.”

Source: ThHe Spoon

Study: Eating Right Is Not Only Good for You, It’s Good for the Planet

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and fish all reduce your risk of death and disease when consumed as part of a regular diet, findings show.

They’re also mostly associated with low environmental impacts.

On the other hand, red meat both increases your risk of death and is terrible for the environment, the researchers added.

“There seems to be a broad pattern where diets that are healthier for people also cause fewer environmental problems,” said study author David Tilman, chair of ecology at the University of Minnesota.

For the study, Tilman and his colleagues scoured medical literature for studies on the relative healthiness of 15 types of foods for humans. They looked at how each food group affected overall death risk, as well as risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and stroke.

The investigators then calculated the environmental impact of each of those foods, taking into account:

Red meat scored the worst in environmental impact, followed by chicken, eggs, fish and dairy products.

That’s because these foods require that crops be grown to then feed the animals, stacking the environmental impacts on top of each other, said Diego Rose, director of nutrition at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“In addition to all the impacts on the environment from raising the animals themselves, you have to grow food for them, which adds to their overall impact,” said Rose, who wasn’t involved with the study. “In addition, cows and other ruminant animals release relatively large amounts of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. They’re also a drain on water and land use.”

Livestock and chickens also create a lot of manure, which can run off into nearby waters and cause toxic algae blooms, Tilman said.

Turning to human health, red meat also significantly increases your risk of dying or developing a major disease, researchers found.

Fish, chicken and dairy are relatively better for you, despite their environmental impacts, the study shows. Fish contributes moderate damage to the environment due to overfishing and fish farming practices.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans and potatoes all were good for both you and for the environment, results showed.

“The results from this study are consistent with a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that healthier foods and diets cause less environmental damage,” Rose said. “The exception is processed sweet and salty snacks, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, candies and chips. These are unhealthy but have a relatively low environmental impact.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages aren’t good for your health, for example, but they are associated with low environmental harm from the sugar grown to go into the drinks, researchers found.

In general, environmentally conscious people can help both themselves and everyone around them by eating right, Tilman said.

“My advice is remember which foods are healthier, and then find the most delicious ways you prepare them for yourself so you’ll want to eat them,” Tilman said.

Even though chicken is not good for the environment, it’s not as bad as red meat, Tilman noted.

“If you were to eat chicken in place of beef and lamb, that improves your health and it helps the environment,” Tilman said. “Basically, getting rid of just one serving a day of beef, one hamburger or whatever it might be, leads to a demonstrable decrease in the health risks you face.”

Rose agreed, adding two other pieces of advice: “Don’t waste food, and don’t overeat.”

The new study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: HealthDay

Windy, Humid Days Could Bring More Pain to Patients with Chronic Pain

Your great granddaddy may have been right about the weather worsening his arthritis.

People with chronic pain conditions are more likely to suffer pain on humid and windy days, according to a study that used smartphones to assess pain-weather connections.

“The results of this study could be important for patients in the future for two reasons,” said study leader Will Dixon, from the Center for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis, University of Manchester, in England.

“Given we can forecast the weather, it may be possible to develop a pain forecast knowing the relationship between weather and pain. This would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain,” Dixon said in a university news release

“The dataset will also provide information to scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms of pain, which could ultimately open the door to new treatments,” Dixon added.

The study included more than 2,600 people across the United Kingdom with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine and neuropathic pain.

The investigators used a smartphone app to record daily pain symptoms and their local weather was determined using location information from their smartphone’s GPS. Data was collected for about six months.

The participants were more likely to have pain on humid days than on dry days. Low pressure and higher wind speed were also associated with painful days, but to a lesser degree than humidity, the findings showed. However, the researchers could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Overall, temperature did not appear to affect pain, but cold days that were also damp and windy could be more painful. There was no link between rain and pain.

The findings were published online in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine.

“The analysis showed that on damp and windy days with low pressure the chances of experiencing more pain, compared to an average day, was around 20%. This would mean that, if your chances of a painful day on an average weather day were 5 in 100, they would increase to 6 in 100 on a damp and windy day,” Dixon explained.

“Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since Hippocrates. Around three-quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather,” he said.

“Yet despite much research examining the existence and nature of this relationship, there remains no scientific consensus,” Dixon noted. “We hoped that smartphones would allow us to make greater progress by recruiting many more people, and tracking daily symptoms across seasons.”

Source: HealthDay

Is Eating Meat Worse Than Burning Oil?

Charles Kennedy wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bad news for meat worshipers. Eating healthy isn’t just good for your body–it’s good for the environment, too, according to a series of new studies, suggesting that only vegetarians can save the planet.

The fight against climate change is already polarizing enough without adding the meat-plant divide.

But new studies insist that what we eat has quite a lot to do with climate change. It’s not just about food security or species extinction, either.

Today’s food supply chain creates around 13.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents and 26 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A further 2.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (5 percent) are caused by nonfood agriculture and other drivers of deforestation.

A study from 2017 found that if citizens in 28 high-income nations like the United States, Germany, and Japan actually followed the dietary recommendations of their respective governments, greenhouse gases related to the production of the food they eat would fall by 13 percent to 25 percent. But giving up meat is hard to do.

According to the not-for-profit environmental research group World Resources Institute, humanity is not on track to meet Mission 2020, the parameters laid out to prevent catastrophic global warming and irreversible environmental damage.

With the global population growing from 7 billion in 2010 to a projected ~10 billion in 2050, and income growth across the developing world, overall food demand is set to increase by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, demand for delicious animal-based foods is set to increase by nearly 70 percent.

With agriculture already using almost half of the world’s vegetated land, and agriculture and related land-use change generating one-quarter of our annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, what we eat has, perhaps, growing implications for topsoil, pollution, greenhouse gases, and deforestation.

Deleting meat and animal products from the menu might be unthinkable for many people but sparing cows would significantly reduce negative effects on the environment. Meat, sadly enough, are apparently the worst type of food, because of the scale of resources that go into their production. Yes, meat may be a great source of protein, but its production is extremely energy-intensive.

How much energy does it take to produce a steak?

Meat and dairy products, particularly from cows and other livestock, account for around 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases each year, which is about the same amount as emissions from all cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships combined.

According to a study published last year in the journal Science, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, followed by pork and chicken. In this calculation of the average greenhouse gas emission associated with different foods, plant-based foods tend to have the smallest impact. Of course, they are also less yummy.

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean we all have to go vegan. Just eating less beef, lamb and cheese would be enough.

Milk has a smaller climate footprint than chicken, eggs, or pork per pound, according to study, as does yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese. But not all dairy is created equal. Cheddar or mozzarella cheese can have a significantly bigger footprint than even chicken or pork, since it typically takes about 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.

So it all depends on what cheese do you decide to eat—just being a vegetarian might not be a good solution if you’re stuck on cheese with a higher carbon footprint. In any case, almond, oat, and soy milk is a better choice than cow milk.

Eating meat is not the only thing causing climate change problems, some experts say. We also have to take into account food waste. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans throw out around 20 percent of the food they buy. All the energy used for producing that same wasted food is also wasted.

Changing the way we eat—completely changing the way we eat—may be unpalatable for some. But experts contend that making just a few changes in your food habits is enough to improve your health and make a positive difference on the planet.

And Millennials are already doing this.

According to OnePoll study, close to 60 percent of Millennials are currently following a certain diet, such as vegan, keto, whole 30 and others, the New York Post reported. And that’s not all. The reason behind adopting that special diet is that 44 percent of those Millennials believe it is better for the environment, while 37 percent think it is more ethical. In addition, one-third of Millennials have cut down on their meat consumption.

Source: Oil Price