Coastal Zone Management Act, Specialty Produce Foragers and In-Car Pollution

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/VERA KUTTELVASEROVA
Nearly 3.5 trillion gallons of sewage are dumped into marine waters each year.

This short series of reports includes news on Coastal Zone Management Act, frozen strawberries, methane digesters, specialty produce growers/foragers, a fast food guide and in-car pollution.

Coastal Zone Management Act, Specialty Produce Foragers and In-Car Pollution

The Coast Isn’t Clear

Demographers predict that by 1990 three-quarters of the
U.S. population will live within 50 miles of a
coast–Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf or Great Lakes. Yet
coastal waters are already heavily burdened, says a report
in Environmental Action magazine (bimonthly, $20;
1525 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036). Nearly
3.5 trillion gallons of sewage are dumped into marine
waters each year. Industrial wastes contribute a
substantial share of pollution–industries in Maryland
alone dump more than 2,763 tons of heavy metals into the
Chesapeake Bay annually. Adding to the problem are offshore
oil and gas drilling, coastal erosion caused by
construction and the dumping of materials dredged from
rivers and harbors. The sum total could spell
crisis–but at least some positive forces are at work.
Among them is the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA),
passed in 1972 to provide federal funds to states that
develop effective coastal management programs. For more
information on coastal issues and CZMA, write the Coastal
Alliance, Washington,
DC.

Really Frozen Strawberries

In search of a fail-safe method for preserving superior
strains of food plants, scientists at the USDA’s National
Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon, are
freezing strawberry shoot tips in liquid nitrogen and will
be storing them at minus 325 degrees Fahrenheit for as much as 100 years. In
what has been called “the world’s longest experiment,” some
of the shoot tips will be removed from deep freeze after
five, 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 years and (the researchers
hope) grown into whole plants. The results of preliminary
tests spanning shorter periods are encouraging: 90% of
frozen-then-thawed shoots grew into normal, full-size
specimens. If perfected, the technology could be used to
keep back-up stocks of botanical material on hand, which
could then be called upon to replace strains that might be
wiped out by disease or disaster in the future.

Methane Digesters

Scientists working near hydrocarbon seeps 150 miles off the
Louisiana coast have discovered deep-sea mussels that
eat–and derive their nourishment from–methane.
Bacteria inside the creature’s gills convert the natural
gas to proteins and other life-sustaining organic
compounds. Researchers say that the mussels are the first
living organisms known to have a taste for methaneand add
that the mussels themselves taste “sweet and delicious.”

In-Car Pollution

A researcher studying commuter autos on the Los Angeles
freeway during rush hour has found levels of toxic
pollutants inside cars three to five times higher than
daily levels outside. Samuel Witz of the South Coast Air
Quality Management District discovered heightened
concentrations of benzene, toluene, lead, nickel, chromium
and manganese in automobiles traveling the freeway during
peak periods. He ascribes part of the problem to deposits,
both on the pavement and on tires, stirred up by heavy
traffic and sucked in through auto ventilation systems.
Concentrations were particularly high in air-conditioned
cars driven with the windows up.

Texas Goes Local

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, a well-known
consumer advocate and author of Eat Your Heart
Out,
has launched a state-wide program designed to
encourage Lone Star farmers, food processors and consumers
to keep their business at home. Over 300 Texas food
companies and four dozen retail chains now use the
program’s “Taste of Texas” logo to identify their products.
“For every additional 1% of the national food-processing
market Texas captures,” Hightower said recently, “the
state’s economy gains an additional $3 billion in retail
sales . . . and 90,000 new jobs. For every dollar in retail
sales by a Taste of Texas company, 36 cents goes to the
Texas farmer. That’s 11 cents more than the national
average and can easily mean the difference between a
producer shutting down and staying in business,.

Say It Isn’t So!

Every lover of the suds knows that, despite a world awash
in chemical-tainted brew, German beer remains
pure–thanks to a 1516 law that allows only four
ingredients: hops, barley, yeast and water. Now, however,
Germany is being pressured to relax its standards by other
members of the European Economic Community, who claim that
the country’s purity law discriminates against non-German
brewers and constitutes an unfair trade practice. Germany
already permits beer with preservatives and other
nonconforming ingredients to be sold within its
borders–but only if the brew is not labeled “beer.”
Apparently that wasn’t enough to satisfy the EEC, though.
On March 12, a 13-judge panel of the European Court in
Luxembourg ruled against West Germany. Now, unless the
Germans can show scientific evidence of harm, the additives
will be allowed in beers imported into Germany.
Particularly telling in the case was the fact that many
German brewers use additives in their export beer.

Michigan Goes Wild

The Michigan Marketing Association is looking for resident
growers and foragers who can supply such wildlings as
burdock root, cattail shoots, nettle greens, fiddle-heads,
nasturtium flowers, papaws and per-simmons. “Specialty
produce is the hottest thing in the grocery business
today,” says Christopher Steele, president of the
organization. “People are looking for the exotic in their
fruit and vegetable shopping.” The organization will
publish a catalog this fall and plans to start marketing
wild produce next spring. Michiganders interested in
participating can contact Christopher Steele, Michigan
Marketing Association, Lansing, MI.

Fast Food Guide

If you’re curious about what you and your children are
really biting into when you eat at McDonald’s,
Burger King or any of 13 other major chains, check out
The Fast Food Guide. The up-to-date paperback,
published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
lists the calorie, fat and sodium content of all major menu
offerings, and includes charts and lists of ingredients to
help you compare items. It’s available for $4.95 plus 30 cents
handling from CSPI, Washington, DC.

Cash for Trash

Dozens of communities are expected to follow in the
enterprising footsteps of Rockford, Illinois, which has
gained renown for its effective “Cash for Trash” promotion.
Each week a trash bag is chosen at random from the city’s
residential garbage collection. If the bag contains only
“real” trash and not recyclable newspapers or aluminum, the
owner receives $1,000 (the funds are paid from city
contracts with trash-collection companies). If there’s no
winner, $1,000 is added to the next week’s pot. Collections
at recycling centers tripled in the first 10 weeks of the
program.