Monday Roundup: Super Bugs

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Americans generally think highly of those who handle their food, according to a new Gallup poll

The questioners at Gallup asked people whether they had a positive, neutral or negative view of 25 different businesses. Turns out, Americans like computers and food the best.

The five industries with the highest positive rankings are computers, restaurants, the Internet, farming and groceries. 

•Labor Day weekend is a big time for homecomings. Merlene Davis, a columnist at the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader writes about the 1,500 people who will gather for the annual meeting of the Eastern Kentucky Social Club, an organization of displaced African-American Appalachians.

Davis’s interest is in the Lynch chapter of the club. Lynch, Kentucky, is a coal camp constructed in 1917 by a subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Co. Large numbers of African-Americans moved to Lynch in the early part of the last century to work the mines. The Social Club organized in 1970 and has been holding reunions ever since. 

(A sign outside the home of the Lynch chapter of the Eastern Kentucky Social Club memorializes African-American coal miners. The Lynch chapter has about 27 members)

• Western corn rootworms have evolved to be resistant to Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, the Wall Street Journal reports

This is the first time a major insect population has developed resistance to a GMO seed and, the Journal reports, the “discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.”

• Our comrade in arms Al Cross dissects a recent poll concerning mountaintop removal coal mining and concludes that people in coal regions where the mining technique is employed generally favor it. Cross heads the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky. 

• The Des Moines Register’s Clark Kauffman writes that government inspectors continue to find “unsanitary conditions and inadequate protections against salmonella on Iowa’s egg farms.” 

A year ago, 1,900 people fell sick and half a billion eggs from Iowa farms were recalled. Now, Kauffman writes, a year after that incident minimum standards aren’t being met at some major egg producers and the federal Food and Drug Administration is withholding information contained in inspection reports. 

Among other items in this exceptional report, Kauffman notes that inspections at egg farms are announced days in advance, and much of the testing for salmonella is done on an honor system.

“A year ago, virtually nothing was happening with regard to oversight,” said David Acheson, a food-safety consultant who once served as an assistant commissioner at the FDA. “So anything is better than nothing, and that’s pretty much where we are now. A few inspections is better than none, but it’s really a drop in the bucket compared to where the FDA would probably like to be. And I’m sure that’s a result of their diminishing resources, which has an impact on their ability to go out and do the inspections.”

Rick Perry is dodging questions in Iowa about his support for the ethanol mandate. To corn farmers, that sounds a lot like he would be against the renewable fuel standard. 

• Also on the ethanol front, Dan Piller reports that ethanol demand is up as much as 6 percent this year over 2010, a rise largely due to exports to Brazil and Europe. 

With exports and higher gasoline prices, ethanol plants are profitable. But Piller asks how long that can last? 

• The Washington Post has an interesting graph showing the estimated number of birds killed each year by manmade objects. (Cats, not humans, kill the most birds by far.)

Glass leads the list, with 100 million dead birds. Urban light is second, with 31 million. Traffic kills 11 million. Power lines, 10 million. Communication towers off 4 million.

Wind turbines kill 100,000. 

 

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