tagged w/ profit over principle
By Damian Carrington/
Widely used pesticides can kill frogs within an hour, new research has revealed, suggesting the chemicals are playing a significant and previously unknown role in the catastrophic global decline of amphibians.
The scientists behind the study said it was both "astonishing" and "alarming" that common pesticides could be so toxic at the doses approved by regulatory authorities, adding to growing criticism of how pesticides are tested.
"You would not think products registered on the market would have such a toxic effect," said Carsten Brühl, at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany. "It is the simplest effect you can think of: you spray the amphibian with the pesticide and it is dead. That should translate into a dramatic effect on populations."
Trenton Garner, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, said: "This is a valuable addition to the substantial body of literature detailing how existing standards for the use of agricultural pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are inadequate for the protection of biodiversity."
Amphibians are the best example of the great extinction of species currently under way, as they are the most threatened and rapidly declining vertebrate group. More than a third of all amphibians are included in the IUCN "red list" of endangered species, with loss of habitat, climate change and disease posing the biggest threats.
Brühl had previously studied how easily frogs can absorb pesticides through their permeable skins, which they can breathe through when underwater. But pesticides are not required to be tested on amphibians, said Brühl: "We could only find one study for one pesticide that was using an exposure likely to occur on farmland."
More at the link
Link to study.
50 years after Silent Spring and here we are. Still killing nature for profit and in the end ourselves because so many think government can do no wrong and should remain unaccountable for its actions. Seems we humans are proving we don't deserve this planet.By Damian Carrington/
Widely used pesticides can kill frogs within an hour, new... more
NOTE: Profile of the organisation running the controversial GM wheat trial in Australia.
EXTRACT: "Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies [MNCs]." - CSIRO's former chief executive
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is promoted as Australia's pre-eminent public scientific research body. Although ostensibly 'publicly funded' CSIRO has, in reality, been encouraged to get 30% of its funding from business with the CSIRO top management encouraging its staff to go to 40%. As a point of comparison, only about 10% of the funding of Europe's leading plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre, is thought to come directly from industry although the JIC is considered highly industrially aligned.
According to John Stocker, CSIRO's former chief executive, 'Working with the transnationals makes a lot of sense, in the context of market access. There are very few Australian companies that have developed market access in the United States, in Europe and in Japan, the world's major marketplaces. Yes, we do find that it is often the best strategy to get into bed with these companies.' (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1992).
Richard Hindmarsh in an article in the Journal of Australian Political Economy (No 44.), 'Consolidating Control: Plant Variety Rights, Genes and Seeds', describes CSIRO as having a long history of involvement with intensive agricultural R&D and collaboration with agribusiness multinationals, and as having become increasingly dependent upon industry funding. The effect of this is 'to generate convergence between private sector and public sector plant breeding operators.' Hindmarsh notes, 'The CSIRO, in keeping with its position of being at the forefront of scientific research, prioritised genetic engineering research in 1979. CSIRO scientists have since been very active in the promotion of GE to the Australian community, and especially to other scientists (Hindmarsh, 1996). In addition, multinational companies are seen as the key avenue to the international commercialisation of biotechnology products and research of both Australian public sector institutions and biotechnology firms.'
Hindmarsh also notes, '...the indications are that a Byzantine web of formal contractual obligations and informal connections has emerged between the CSIRO and other public-sector agencies..., universities, small or new biotechnology firms (NBFs), and multinational corporations.'
The corporations listed by Hindmarsh as having direct financial connections with CSIRO include: Agrigenetics, Monsanto, Rhone Poulenc and AgrEvo (later part of Aventis and then Bayer). A collaboration between the CSIRO and Monsanto generated Australia's first major GM commercial crop. On the day of the announcement of the commercial approval for Bayer's GM canola (oilseed rape) in Australia, CSIRO announced that Bayer would be extending its lucrative investment in CSIRO 'to develop modern biotechnology tools applicable to cotton and other crops'. The press release said, ' For Bayer CropScience, the alliance with CSIRO is regarded as a model for global cooperation.'
For some it is a model of everything that's wrong in the relationship between public science and private interests. An article in the journal Australasian Science written by a former CSIRO senior executive accused the head of CSIRO of subverting the CSIRO's traditional role of public research in favour of lucrative consulting work for government and the private sector. Research into GM crops, with its promise of intellectual property and revenue streams, is 'in' at the CSIRO, he reportd; research into organic farming is 'out'. He described morale among staff as at rock bottom.NOTE: Profile of the organisation running the controversial GM wheat trial in... more
Our canoe emerged from that unsettled land, past the confluence with the Clearwater River, and into the stunning industry of the oil sands. We coasted past high banks of bermed-up sand. Yellow machines the size of houses roared down the roads, tore into the ground, stripped up the layers of earth to get at the seams of bitumen, or tar. Our mouths fell open - the scale of it, the sounds, and the effluent pouring back into the river that we had come to know. Even without understanding the challenges of refining that sludge, the transportation required and the environmental damage being done, we knew that we were gliding past a monster.
A quarter century has passed since that summer. The oil sands strip-mining effort has continued unabated, and steadily expanded. It has gone on non-stop, day after day, year after year, decade on decade: Knocking down forest, peeling up peat, dredging bitumen-soaked sand, denuding habitat, dumping countless gallons of tainted river water.
The Chipewyan settlement of Fort Chipewyan, downstream, worries about elevated instances of kidney failure, Graves disease, and the risk of cancer from river water tainted with arsenic, mercury, other metals and sediments laced with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - toxics commonly found in tailings pond water. Chipewyans are told not to eat fish caught in the river, but fish and game provide their traditional diet.
Polluted river water sullies the Athabasca delta, one of the world's most important wetlands and migratory bird habitats. Year by year the mining expands its footprint, a scar visible from outer space. Combined, the oil sand fields of northern Alberta cover an area of 54,000 square miles, an expanse larger than England.
Northern Alberta is far enough off the radar that it might as well be another planet. Very few people live there. It's easy to forget about that carnage, even if, like me, you've been there.
Two years ago, watching the movie Avatar it all came back.
This is an old, tired story, I thought, watching the industrial colonization of a foreign planet, the clear-cutting of ancient forest and the apocalyptic demise of the beings who lived there. But in that dark theater, I felt the canoe paddle in my hands again, felt the river beneath the hull, witnessed the assault taking place just over the Athabasca's bank. I know where this Hollywood plot is unfolding right now, I thought.
And right now I'm reminded again because trucks are hauling behemoth loads across Montana, where I live, delivering equipment on a scale even science fiction screenwriters didn't anticipate.
Mega-trucks are pulling loads nearly 600,000 pounds, three stories high and 220 feet long across Idaho and Montana. This equipment is manufactured in Asia, shipped to the west coast, transported on barges up the Columbia watershed to the port of Lewistown, Idaho, and then transferred onto trucks that wind their way through some of the West's most picturesque river canyons and mountain passes.
These are the test runs. Imperial Oil, the Canadian arm of ExxonMobil, has plans to truck 200 similarly gargantuan loads along the same route to the oil sands of the North.
The trucks will hammer the pavement, stop traffic, add nothing to local economies. Scenic lands which support recreation and tourism are at risk. Citizen groups are waging campaigns. The Missoula County Commission and several districts of the U.S. Forest Service have lodged complaints.
But we are a small state, and the pressures from industry are immense.
The oil sands produce roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. Alberta's biggest customer is the United States. Long-range, the plan is to build a pipeline from Alberta through Montana and Wyoming to Denver, and perhaps on to the Gulf Coast.
The problems are tremendous. The oil doesn't flow, to start with. It has to be separated, steam-injected, and mixed with liquids before it will even move through the pipe. Once south, it has to be further refined before it can be rendered usable.
To turn one barrel of oil sands bitumen into something you can pump into your gas tank requires removing two or three tons of earth, using three barrels of water, and burning 1,200 cubic feet of natural gas in a convoluted series of expensive processes to separate the oil, liquefy it, and refine it. All of this produces two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases as refining conventional petroleum. Talk about burning the candle at both ends. The mines pull 359 million cubic meters of water from the Athabasca River each year. While land reclamation is part of the discussion, not one reclamation certificate has been awarded to date, and the challenges of returning the landscape to anything remotely approximating its original state are appalling.
It took days to regain our mental rhythm, to let "river time" reassert itself. Life, and the river, bore us on. But now, it comes stabbing back.Meanwhile, Alberta's regulators just approved the ninth open-pit mine north of Fort McMurray. An industry-led monitoring body concluded that the pit would produce "no significant adverse environmental effects on water quality."
cont.Our canoe emerged from that unsettled land, past the confluence with the Clearwater... more
Washington, DC-- While the U.S. Supreme Court hears its first-ever case involving a genetically modified organism, alarms are sounding over the proposed planting of more than a quarter of a million genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees in the U.S., and transgenic trees are being globally condemned.
On April 27, the Supreme Court began to hear a case challenging a ban on the planting of a genetically engineered perennial alfalfa. The ban was implemented due to concerns about escape and contamination, and the inability of U.S. regulators to protect the public. 
In April, Reuters released a report exposing the fact that U.S. regulating agencies have "dropped the ball" when it comes to evaluating the potential risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 
Reuters highlighted concerns that, "the U.S. government conducts no independent testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little to track their consequences after." The report even went so far as to state, "Indeed, many experts say the U.S. government does more to promote global acceptance of biotech crops than to protect the public from possible harmful consequences."
This is a particular concern since the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), one of the named agencies in the report, is considering approving a request by ArborGen to plant 260,000 GE trees across seven states even though researchers admit some of these trees produce viable pollen and some seedlings are assured to escape.
Referring to the questionable efficacy of the altered fertility technology in these GE trees, researcher Steve Strauss said, "There does not seem to have been any serious field studies, in any crop, sufficient to estimate the operational effectiveness of containment genes." Adding, "Until many such studies are published, it would be unwise to assume that genes can be fully and safely contained in the near future." 
Additionally, MSNBC , NPR  and PLoS Pathogens  recently reported that a new strain of a deadly pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, has been causing fatal human illnesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. The fungus, which is known to grow on some species of eucalyptus trees, has killed one on four people in Oregon, and 40 out of 220 people infected throughout the region. While it is not known whether genetically engineered eucalyptus plantations would be a host for the fungus, the fact that some of the GE eucalyptus would have reduced lignin has raised concerns that they could be more susceptible to fungal infection.
Another study by researcher Claire Williams, recently published in the American Journal of Botany, found that pollen from trees remains viable over long distances.  This raises concerns about the potential for pollen from genetically engineered versions of native tree species like pines to travel large distances and contaminate forests. Williams' study found that, "GM pine plantings have the potential to disperse viable pollen at least 41 kilometers from the source."
On April 22, during the World Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia, a broad gathering of Indigenous Peoples, social movements and organizations from around the world, issued a consensus condemnation of transgenic trees (GMO trees) and monoculture plantations. 
"Given all of this evidence, the USDA should not even consider approving the release of any genetically engineered trees," insisted Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.  "The fact that there are so many unknowns and no independent studies evaluating the risks of GE trees--which include human health risks and damage to forests and wildlife--is a major reason why the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2006 and 2008 urged countries to use the Precautionary Principle with regard to GE trees. The Precautionary Principle would require GE trees to be proven safe before they are released." Washington, DC-- While the U.S. Supreme Court hears its first-ever case involving a... more
It was announced last week that the Center’s case has brought out an unprecedented range of interests – from farmers’ unions and food companies to scientific experts and legal scholars – which have filed briefs in support of CFS and opposed to Monsanto. The seven briefs, filed by more than sixty individuals, companies, organizations and three states’ attorneys general – can be viewed at
Family farmers Phil Geertson, alfalfa seed producer from Geertson Seed Farms in Idaho (tan jacket far left), and Pat Trask, third generation rancher and alfalfa farmer from South Dakota (blue jacket far right) speak to press after the hearing
“Today we will have the privilege of speaking on behalf of family farmers, the environment, and the protection of an organic alternative,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The law and the facts are on our side and we look forward to presenting our case before the Court.”
The genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa seed at the heart of the dispute has been engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup. CFS filed a 2006 lawsuit against USDA on behalf of a coalition of non-profits and farmers who wished to retain the choice to plant non-GE alfalfa. Pointing to contamination incidents that have already occurred, organic and conventional farmers anticipate widespread contamination from Monsanto’s patented GE alfalfa, because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can cross-pollinate GE and conventional plants separated by several miles. Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S. and a key source of dairy forage. Similarly, contamination of feral or wild alfalfa, ubiquitous across the country, would ensure an ongoing and permanent source of transgenic pollution in wild places akin to that of invasive or exotic species.
Monsanto intervened in the case on behalf of USDA; however in 2007 the district court found in favor of CFS.. Following that, CFS won two appeals in the federal Court of Appeals, in 2008 and again in 2009. In January the Court agreed to hear the case over the opposition of both CFS and the U.S. government.
Farmers and food companies have taken note. Organic businesses and trade groups, including Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, the Organic Trade Association, Annie’s, Clif Bar, Eden Foods, United Natural Foods, and Nature’s Path Foods, voiced their deep concerns of the threat to their businesses posed by contamination from biotech crops in an amicus brief. The burgeoning $25 billion-a-year organic foods industry, the fastest growing food sector, is at particular risk from the effects of contamination. The organic industry brief warns that “widespread planting of RR (Roundup Ready) alfalfa imposes massive risk and uncertainty on the continued viability of organic dairy farming” and that overturning the lower courts would “irreparably harm” their ability to grow and sell organic food. Conventional farmers and exporters filed a similar brief, warning of lost overseas alfalfa markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East that reject biotech-contaminated crops. GE contamination of conventional rice and corn crops in the past decade have cost U.S. farmers billions in lost markets. In Canada, the introduction of GE canola destroyed the nascent organic canola industry in that country.
continuedIt was announced last week that the Center’s case has brought out an... more
Despite fundamental differences in what they represent, there are occasional calls to allow the use of genetic engineering (which produces genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs) within the USDA National Organic Program. GMO varieties are currently most widespread in corn, soybean, canola and cotton crops, in dairy production, and in minor ingredients, such as dairy cultures, used in food processing, but new products are being introduced and commercialized.
Here are 10 essential points that I believe show why GMOs are incompatible with organic production:
1. Basic science. Humans have a complex digestive system, populated with flora, fauna, and enzymes that have evolved over millennia to recognize and break down foods found in nature to make nutrients available to feed the human body. GMO crops and foods are comprised of novel genetic constructs which have never before been part of the human diet and may not be recognized by the intestinal system as digestible food, leading to the possible relationship between genetic engineering and a dramatic increase in food allergies, obesity, diabetes, and other food-related diseases, which have all dramatically increased correlated to the introduction of GMO crops and foods.
2. Ecological impact. Organic agriculture is based on the fundamental principle of building and maintaining healthy soil, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems. Since the introduction of GMOs, there has been a dramatic decline in the populations of Monarch butterflies, black swallowtails, lacewings, and caddisflies, and there may be a relationship between genetic engineering and colony collapse in honeybees. GMO crops, including toxic Bt corn residues, have been shown to persist in soils and negatively impact soil ecosystems. Genetically modified rBST (recombinant bovine somatrotropin, injected to enhance a cow’s milk output) has documented negative impacts on the health and well being of dairy cattle, which is a direct contradiction to organic livestock requirements.
3. Control vs harmony. Organic agriculture is based on the establishment of a harmonious relationship with the agricultural ecosystem by farming in harmony with nature. Genetic engineering is based on the exact opposite -- an attempt to control nature at its most intimate level - the genetic code, creating organisms that have never previously existed in nature.
4. Unpredictable consequences. Organic ag is based on a precautionary approach - know the ecological and human health consequences, as best possible, before allowing the use of a practice or input in organic production. Since introduction, genetic modification of agricultural crops has been shown to have numerous unpredicted consequences, at the macro level, and at the genetic level. Altered genetic sequences have now been shown to be unstable, producing unpredicted and unknown outcomes.
continuedDespite fundamental differences in what they represent, there are occasional calls to... more
Polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch (usually corn) is quickly becoming a popular alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics. As more and more countries and states follow the lead of China, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda and San Francisco in banning plastic grocery bags responsible for so much so-called “white pollution” around the world, PLA is poised to play a big role as a viable, biodegradable replacement.
PLA Helps to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Proponents also tout the use of PLA—which is technically “carbon neutral” in that it comes from renewable, carbon-absorbing plants—as yet another way to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases in a quickly warming world. PLA also will not emit toxic fumes when incinerated.
PLA Biodegrades Slowly Unless Subjected to Industrial Composting
But critics say that PLA is far from a panacea for dealing with the world’s plastic waste problem. For one thing, although PLA does biodegrade, it does so very slowly.
According to Elizabeth Royte, writing in Smithsonian, PLA may well break down into its constituent parts (carbon dioxide and water) within three months in a “controlled composting environment,” that is, an industrial composting facility heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes. But it will take far longer in a compost bin, or in a landfill packed so tightly that no light and little oxygen are available to assist in the process. Indeed, analysts estimate that a PLA bottle could take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.
Recyclers Can’t Mix PLA and Other Plastics
Another issue with PLA is that, because it is of different origin than regular plastic, it must be kept separate when recycled, lest it contaminate the recycling stream. Being plant-based, PLA needs to head to a composting facility, not a recycling facility, per se, when it has out served its usefulness. And that points to another problem: There are currently only 113 industrial-grade composting facilities across the United States.
Most PLA Uses Genetically Modified Corn
Another downside of PLA is that it is typically made from genetically modified corn, at least in the United States. The largest producer of PLA in the world is NatureWorks, a subsidiary of Cargill, which is the world’s largest provider of genetically modified corn seed.
With increasing demand for corn to make ethanol fuel, let alone PLA, it’s no wonder that Cargill and others have been tampering with genes to produce higher yields. But the future costs of genetic modification to the environment and human health are still largely unknown and could be very high.
cont.Polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch (usually... more