Environment

Insecticides that behave like nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, became popular in the late 1990s as replacements for more toxic products. They have been effective but like all products there is concern about ongoing environmental effects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified all neonicotinoids as safe for humans.


It's no secret that the last few decades have seen a whirlwind of improvements in agricultural science. Where the world once feared the future of Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren, with mass starvations and forced sterilization, we now have so much food the US government wants to mandate food stamps for farmer's markets, so poor people will have to consume fewer calories.

The food curve shows no signs of going anywhere but up, yet a new paper says climate change may impact the one the thing that hasn't been effected - in a few decades, anyway.


Easy metrics like 'it takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef' or 'it takes 140 liters of water to make a cup of coffee' get mainstream media because they are outrageous. They are outrageous because they are completely wrong.

What is the 'real' cost of eating beef? Are the other animal or animal-derived foods better or worse?


Though there is a deluge of new information about the diversity and distribution of plants and animals around the globe, conservation efforts outside government science remain very firmly trapped in a 1980s world of fundraising and brochures and cultural name-calling.

But Big Data in a Science 2.0 environment could dramatically boost conservation efforts and biodiversity if it catches on.


Despite decades of concern about a looming population bomb and mass starvation, American agriculture has instead 'dematerialized' in a material world: using science, farmers are now feeding more people on less land than ever thought possible.

If science were similarly accepted in Europe and developing nations. we could easily feed 3 billion more people and still decrease agriculture's environmental footprint, according to a paper in Science.


The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was, to-date, the largest accidental release of oil into the ocean. 210 million gallons issued from the blown-out well.

In an attempt to prevent vast quantities of oil from fouling beaches and marshes, BP applied 1.84 million gallons of the dispersant compound DOSS to oil released in the subsurface and to oil slicks at the sea surface. DOSS rapidly degrades in the environment but a new study by scientists at Haverford College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that though DOSS does decrease the size of oil droplets and hampers the formation of large oil slicks, it can persist in the environment for up to four years.


For nearly four decades, some have suspected that persistent organic pollutants -  a large group of man-made chemicals that, as their name indicates, persist in the environment - contributed to a green turtle's susceptibility to the virus that causes fibropapilomatosis, a disease that forms large benign tumors that can inhibit the animal's sight, mobility and feeding ability. 

A new paper by researchers from the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML) and university and federal collaborators in Hawaii demonstrated these man-made chemicals are not a co-factor linked to the increasing number of green sea turtles afflicted with fibropapilomatosis.


Crop spraying on British farms could be aiding a life-threatening fungus suffered by tens of thousand of people in the UK each year.

New research by British and Dutch scientists has found that Aspergillus – a common fungus that attacks the lungs and is found in soil and other organic matter – has become resistant to life - saving drugs in parts of rural Yorkshire.

It's the first time a link has been made in the UK between drug resistance in Aspergillus and fungicide used on crops. Experts warn their findings, now published, are significant and raise serious implications for transplant patients, those with leukaemia and people who suffer from severe asthma.


The fad du jour (and I defy you to find a non-du jour day) is something that sounds like an absolute win-win. It has all the correct buzzwords—green, sustainable, environmentally friendly, endocrine disruptors, bioaccumulation. And many more. Today it's buildings.

This is exactly what we at ACSH deal with every day in different forms. There is more than a passing similarity to the very successful promotion of organic foods, dietary supplements, and "chemical-free" (fill in the bank). This is because certain industries and trade groups take full advantage of the usual (but nonetheless effective) scare tactics and slight of hand to scare people into buying their products because of cleverly staged, feel-good, anti-scientific dogma.

Marine biologists at Plymouth University and the activist group WorldFish conducted analyses of catches over the past 90 years and found significant evidence of the practice of 'fishing down the food web' - removal of many top predators from the sea that has left fishermen 'scraping the barrel' for increasing amounts of shellfish.

Sharks, rays, cod, haddock and many other species at the head of the food chain are at historic lows with many removed from the area completely, they say.

The report used catch statistics from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas to establish a 'mean trophic level' for catches – an average for how far up the food chain the fish are located.