Monday Briefing

California push for a ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods reflects nationwide concerns. The California measure, likely to be on the state’s November ballot, comes as groups are working to block the Obama administration’s expected clearance of a new genetically modified corn. Some farm groups and environmentalists fear that the new corn will unleash rampant use of 2,4-D, a 1940s-era herbicide used mainly on lawns and golf courses to kill broadleaf weeds but one that critics fear also could spur “super weeds.” Meanwhile, more than a million people have signed a petition to the federal government to require labeling of genetically engineered food. San Francisco Chronicle

Problems at Southern California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear plant raise oversight questions. San Onofre was shut in February, after engineers discovered extensive wear in new generators. When Edison decided to replace the generators several years ago, company officials maintained that the work did not warrant extensive review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the agency agreed. But the difficulties may have been downplayed. A technical paper by the utility and generator manufacturer acknowledged that the project presented “unique” challenges. The NRC says it now is  examining whether Edison made full disclosures and whether its staff should have pushed for more scrutiny. Los Angeles Times

Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture faulted for indiscriminate killings of animals. The unit, Wildlife Services, has specialized in killing animals deemed a threat to agriculture, the public or the environment. But an investigation by The Sacramento Bee found that  Wildlife Services also accidentally has killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; and several species considered rare or imperiled by wildlife biologists. Meanwhile, a growing body of science has found the agency carries out its work in ways that harm habitats and invite disease while also putting employees at risk.

Canadian pro-asbestos lobbying group to close. The Montreal-based Chrysotile Institute, established in 1984, has supported the nation’s once-thriving asbestos mining industry by promoting the use of chrysotile asbestos. Widely used for decades in construction, asbestos causes lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, a type of cancer. More than 50 nations have banned asbestos but Canada until recently has continued exporting it to developing countries without such restrictions. Canada now has no operating asbestos mines, but Quebec officials have offered Balcorp Ltd. a $58 million loan guarantee if it can secure $25 million to reopen the Jeffery Mine in Asbestos, Quebec. Postmedia News

Regulators send warning letters to 10 firms selling “workout boosters.” The Food and Drug Administration singled out manufacturers and distributors selling dietary supplements containing  the active ingredient dimethylamylamine, or DMAA. Touted as natural stimulants, the products are popular among athletes and sold by major retail chains. But the FDA said the supplements could increase people’s blood pressure, potentially causing shortness of breath or heart attacks. The FDA, saying that the 10 firms failed to demonstrate that the key ingredient is safe, gave them 15 business days to declare what action they will take in response to the agency’s warnings. The New York Times, FDA

Recalls: Soybean Sprouts, Chicken Soup for Pet Lover’s Soul dog food, DuMOR poultry feed

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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