Weekly Environmental News: May 26-June 1 – Genetically Modified Wheat, Hot Pink Slugs and More

Last week’s environmental headlines included unapproved genetically modified wheat in Oregon, giant hot pink slugs in Australia, high pollen counts could be due to climate change, a tough fracking bill makes headway in Illinois, and new storm surge warnings for areas vulnerable to hurricanes.

Unapproved Genetically Modified Wheat From Monsanto Found in Oregon Field
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that tests confirmed an unapproved, genetically modified strain of wheat had been growing on an 80-acre Oregon farm. Monsanto tested the herbicide-resistant GM wheat seeds from 1994-2005, including in Oregon, but the seeds were never approved for commercial use. Japan reacted to the news by suspending its imports of a large order of U.S. white wheat.

Giant Hot Pink Slug Discovered in Australia
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “The 80s called and they want their slug back.” A park ranger in southeastern Australia took pictures of the fluorescent pink slug, which was identified as a variety of the species Triboniophorus aff. Graeffei. Its range is a small area of land atop Mount Kabutar in New South Wales and it only comes out at night.

Higher Pollen Counts Linked to Climate Change
Climate change may be partially responsible for rising pollen counts, as well as growing numbers of hay fever and asthma cases. When atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase, plants grow more and create more pollen. A USDA study shows that the amount of pollen created per plant doubled from 1900 to 2000, a time period when CO2 levels climbed 32 percent. In addition, the pollen season in the U.S. has lengthened by up to 16 days since 1995, and more Americans are testing positive for allergies.

Illinois House Approves Nation’s Toughest Fracking Laws
The bill, which includes the toughest fracking disclosure rules in the nation, now goes to the state senate. According to the Chicago Tribune, the proposed regulations would require companies using hydrofracking to drill for oil or gas to disclose a wealth of new information to the public, which would then have the right to appeal permits and bring lawsuits against any firm that ignores the law.

Remapping Our Awareness of Storm Surge Danger
As hurricane season begins and the devastating storm surge of Superstorm Sandy lingers in the public consciousness, NPR reports state and federal officials are working on ways to better communicate storm surge warnings to the public. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, local officials have created new maps dividing the county into five evacuation areas labeled “storm surge zones.” The National Hurricane Center is drawing up similar maps and creating other tools to make storm surge warnings easy to understand.

(Creative Commons image “Wheat” courtesy of Hozzy, via Flickr.)

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