April 24, 2013–News stories about the April 17, 2013, explosion of a fertilizer storage plant in the town of West, Texas that killed 15 people have so far focused on the plant operator's risk-disclosure failure, instead of the likely fact that government agencies knew the nature and magnitude of the hazard — or should have known. The bigger story is the regulatory failure — and industry's decades-long campaign to keep the public ignorant of the threats they face. Photo: AP/LM Otero/Available through Creative Commons.
March 13, 2013–Now you can read reports on key topics on the environmental beat — compiled by the Congressional Research Service and paid for with your tax dollars. Congress does not allow CRS to release them to the public. Thanks to the Government Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists for making them available.
September 19, 2012–Beef Products Inc. filed suit for defamation over stories about its 'finely textured beef' product, known to headline writers as 'pink slime.' Legal experts say the company will have a hard time winning the case, which harkens back to the famous hamburger libel case of the late 1990s, in which Oprah Winfrey won the right to dislike beef in public.
September 5, 2012–A new report by Sabrina Tavernise in the New York Times points out that basic data about the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals (which consume some 80 percent of the nation's antibiotics) is largely missing and that a ferocious germ resistant to many types of antibiotics had increased tenfold on chicken breasts.
September 5, 2012–People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had planned to display a video showing animals being slaughtered and instances of abuse. The fair board said that PETA could only show the video within its booth and out of public view, so that people would have to make a deliberate decision to see it.
August 22, 2012–The Food and Drug Administration is so far refusing to name a Southwestern Indiana farm that voluntarily recalled its cantaloupes after a Salmonella outbreak last month that killed two people and sickened some 150.
July 25, 2012–EPA says it could instead compile a database partly from information collected by some states. But that information is often spotty and inconsistent — which will make it hard for EPA to compile it and even harder to make useful conclusions from it. And the withdrawal may make it harder to get the information disclosed.
July 11, 2012–Under FOIA, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility requested FDA documents justifying its use of categorical exclusions to avoid assessing the environmental impact of not regulating livestock antibiotics. After FDA failed to provide any, PEER filed a lawsuit in federal district court.
June 27, 2012–That left journalists and the taxpayers — for now — at least partly in the dark about where tax dollars subsidizing agriculture are really going. But disclosure advocates think they may get another opportunity when the House takes up its own version of the Farm Bill.