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China Campaigns to Build Support for Genetically Modified Foods

To overcome public skepticism over genetically modified food, Chinese officials step up public relations efforts. The government, under pressure to increase food supplies, is seeking approval for expanded commercial production of these politically sensitive crops. In recent months, the agriculture ministry and other state agencies have rolled out a series of statements and events backing the safety of genetically modified foods, ranging from research on cucumbers to taste tests for rice. China already permits the commercial production of modified tomatoes, cotton, papaya and bell peppers. The agriculture industry has taken aim at news articles, including coverage in the daily China Business News, that it said “revived rumors” that modified food causes cancer and fertility problems. The Wall Street Journal

Farm and drug lobbies have blocked U.S. efforts to cut use of antibiotics in raising livestock, study finds. The assessment, by a Johns Hopkins University expert panel, said regulatory and industry inaction is contributing to an urgent public health risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year. The more a germ is exposed to antibiotics, the more rapidly it can develop resistance. Industry leaders called the report a scare-mongering attack that did not provide a clear link between antibiotic use in livestock and the rise of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans. Meanwhile, little research is going into new antibiotics to combat emerging superbugs. The Washington Post, Reuters, PBS Frontline, NPR

Report points to industry influence over food safety regulation in Europe. The report, by the advocacy group Corporate Europe Observatory, found that nearly 60 percent of scientists used as consultants by the European Food Safety Authority have direct or indirect ties to industries regulated by the agency. For example, a scientist who advised the authority about animal feed additives sits on the board of a foundation backed by the dairy industry. Another who gave advice on food contaminants received research support from lobbyists for the U.S. and European chemical industries. The authority, which oversees food safety in the 28-nation European Union, said it already has acted to prevent conflicts of interest. The New York Times

San Antonio awaits study to pinpoint the source of its severe ozone problems. The Texas city has violated federal ozone standards dozens of times since 2008, but with so much industrial activity in and around the city—including the Eagle Ford shale drilling boom south of San Antonio—the source is open to dispute. San Antonio’s problem is so serious that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could designate the city a nonattainment area for ozone, an air pollutant that can cause serious respiratory problems. If that happens, the growing city would likely be saddled with additional air quality regulations, including stricter pollution controls on vehicles and industrial plants. The pending ozone study, due in December, is expected to determine how much of the problem is caused by drilling in the Eagle Ford, arguably the nation’s largest oil and gas development. InsideClimate News

New Jersey plant accused of four job safety violations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration charged Jersey Shore Steel’s operation in Jackson, N.J., with four violations, including three failure-to-abate citations. OSHA said Jersey Shore didn’t correct its problems after it was cited for failing to evaluate the performance of forklift operators, to train workers to use portable fire extinguishers or to develop a program to prevent inadvertent machine start-ups.  “By not abating past violations, Jersey Shore Steel keeps its employees vulnerable to hazards that can cause injuries and, possibly, death,” an OSHA official said. The agency proposed fines of $115,400. It said Jersey Shore requested an informal conference to review the case. OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein