The Disappearance of Honey

Theologia Papadelias

Recently, beekeepers have been observing unusually high losses of honey bees. This phenomenon has been termed, “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The mysterious onset of decline in the honey bee population has been linked with the following causes: viruses, fungi, pathogens, parasites, and pesticides.  Researchers also believe that bees are more susceptible to CCD when they are additionally exposed to stress by commercial beekeepers through seasonal trucking back and forth across the country.

The New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,”
described a “major” breakthrough. A group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, said in their jointly written paper that a virus and fungus were found in every killed colony the group studied; however, neither agent alone seemed able to devastate a colony.

It was later revealed that Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk was linked with Bayer
CropScience.  Why is this so significant? Dr. Bromenshenk had received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination.  Astonishingly, before receiving this funding, Dr. Bromenshenk had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers in the class action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003, ultimately dropping out and receiving the grant. Dr. Bromenshenk had also acknowledged as much that his company would profit more from finding that a disease, rather than pesticides, was harming bees. Recently, Bayer has come under a great deal of scrutiny for manufacturing and marketing the highly controversial pesticide clothianidin, a next-generation neonicotinoid, a toxic compound to honey bees. Continue reading

EPA Releases Emissions Data on CAFOS — Interpretation to Follow

David Cassuto
Here’s an interesting development: EPA has released data from a national study of emissions from CAFOS  that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle, and turkeys.  Of course, we don’t know how interesting it is because the agency has not yet interpreted the data.  If you’re of a number-crunching bent, you can see it all here.

Polar Bears — The New Canary

David Cassuto

Long ago, miners used canaries to measure the build up of toxic gases in the mines where they were working.  If the canary died, it was time to head out because the air was dangerous.  We don’t use canaries in mines anymore.  Now we use polar bears in the Arctic.  The threat to the bear serves as a monitoring mechanism of sorts for the global threat from carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

As you may recall, the impending demise of polar bears due to habitat destruction attributed to global warming generated some hooha not too long ago.  W’s Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, hemmed and hawed for as long as possible before finally declaring the bear a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act.  That designation would normally require federal action to address the cause (global warming) of the bear’s habitat.  However, the Bushies propounded a rule — later embraced by the Obama Administration, excluding carbon emissions from regulation under the ESA.  That made the bear’s victory (such as it was) pyrrhic at best.  Nonetheless, in the heady optimism of the time, many (including me) felt that it was perhaps better to wait for a statute explicitly aimed at mitigating national emissions rather than to use the blunt instrument of the ESA to accomplish a very complex regulatory act.

Continue reading

Some Preliminary Steps Toward Regulating Nonpoint Source Pollution

David Cassuto

At long last, EPA is taking steps (or beginning to take them) toward addressing nonpoint source pollution of the nation’s waters.  Nonpoint sources are pretty much all those pollution sources that cannot be traced to the end of a pipe.  The Clean Water Act is far less concerned with nonpoint sources than with point sources, a historical exclusion that has much to do with the fact that when the Clean Water Act was enacted, point sources were low-hanging fruit from a regulatory perspective, and were also the primary polluter of the nation’s waters.  The CWA has done a great deal to decrease point source pollution and the nation’s waters fare much the better for it.  However, over the last 4 decades, nonpoint source pollution has greatly increased in the absence of meaningful regulatory oversight.              Continue reading

EPA Region 2 — Taking It To the CAFOs

David Cassuto

The news release speaks for itself:

Region 2 Issues a Class II Administrative Complaint to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation for Illegal Discharges and Numerous Permit Violations On July 15, 2010, Region 2 issued an Administrative Complaint against Wilkins Dairy Farm, LLC (“Respondent”) for several violations of the Clean Water Act and the regulations governing the operation of concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”).  The Respondent owns and operates a CAFO that confines approximately 287 mature dairy cows and 125 heifers and heifer calves.  On April 20, 2010, EPA conducted a Compliance Evaluation Inspection of the facility, and observed numerous violations of the Clean Water Act and its Continue reading

Come 2011, Some More Regulation for CAFOs

David Cassuto

From the Correcting Inane Regulations Desk:

One could say that EPA has regulated CAFOs under the Clean Water Act for years.  Big Ag operations are required to obtain NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for their discharges and consequently, the Agency has monitored such discharges and protected the public from the environmental hazards these operations create.  Of course, if one said all that, one would be wrong

That´s how the story might read if we lived in a rational world.  Instead, Industrial Ag operations can claim — without having to provide verification — that its facilities do not discharge into the waters of the U.S.  Consequently, many CAFOs do not obtain permits, which means their discharges are not regulated.    Continue reading

The CAFO Hothouse

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk kicks into high gear with this from the email:

Today, on Earth Day 2010, the Animals and Society Institute is pleased to announce the release of our sixth policy paper, titled “The CAFO Hothouse: Climate Change, Industrial Agriculture and the Law.” Written by David N. Cassuto, a professor at the Pace School of Law, the paper is a very timely overview of how government policies and agribusiness interests have combined to create inhumane and unhealthy conditions within our nation’s food supply, and what that means for our planet’s future.

“The CAFO Hothouse” describes, in thorough but easily digestible detail, how CAFOs (“concentrated animal feeding operations,” commonly known as factory farms) have replaced smaller family farms in the last few decades, the direct and indirect impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions, and how better policies and practices would help mitigate the resulting environmental damage and improve conditions for billions of farmed animals.

This paper is the first in our series to address agricultural issues, and is part of our overall mission to use science-based arguments to promote more responsible public policy.

Here’s an Excerpt:    Continue reading