Monday, 1 February 2010

GM Crops Facing Meltdown in the USA

ISIS Press Release 01/02/10

Major crops genetically modified for just two traits - herbicide tolerance and insect resistance – are ravaged by super weeds and secondary pests in the heartland of GMOs as farmers fight a losing battle with more of the same; a fundamental shift to organic farming practices may be the
only salvation Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Please circulate widely, keeping all links unchanged, and submit to your government representatives demanding an end to GM crops and support for non-GM organic agriculture

Artist Paul Hoppe
















Two traits account for practically all the genetically-modified (GM) crops grown in the world today: herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the gene coding for the enzyme targeted by the herbicide, 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), derived from soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, and insect-resistance due to one or more toxin genes derived from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Commercial planting began around 1997 in the United States, the heartland of GM crops, and increased rapidly over the years.
By now, GM crops have taken over 85-91 percent of the area planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton in the US [1]] (see Table 1), which occupy nearly 171 million acres.


Table 1. GM crops grown in 2009 in the USA

The ecological time-bomb that came with the GM crops has been ticking away, and is about to explode.

HT crops encouraged the use of herbicides, resulting in herbicide-resistant weeds that demand yet more herbicides.
But the increasing use of deadly herbicide and herbicide mixtures has failed to stall the advance of the palmer superweed in HT crops. At the same time, secondary pests such as the tarnished plant bug, against which Bt toxin is powerless, became the single most damaging insect for US
cotton.

Monster plants that can’t be killed

It is the Day of the Triffids - not the genetically modified plants themselves as alluded to in John Wyndham’s novel - but “super weeds that can’t be killed” [2], created by the planting of genetically modified HT crops, as seen on ABC TV news.

The scene is set at harvest time in Arkansas October 2009.
Grim-faced farmers and scientists speak from fields infested with giant pigweed plants that can withstand as much glyphosate herbicide as you can afford to douse on them. One farmer spent US$0.5 million in three months trying to clear the monster weeds in vain; they stop combine harvesters and break hand tools. Already, an estimated one million acres of soybean and cotton crops in Arkansas have become infested.

The palmer amaranth or palmer pigweed is the most dreaded weed. It can grow 7-8 feet tall, withstand withering heat and prolonged droughts, produce thousands of seeds and has a root system that drains nutrients away from crops. If left unchecked, it would take over a field in a year.

Meanwhile in North Carolina Perquimans County, farmer and extension worker Paul Smith has just found the offending weed in his field [3], and he too, will have to hire a
migrant crew to remove the weed by hand.

The resistant weed is expected to move into neighbouring counties. It has already developed resistance to at least three other types of herbicides.

Herbicide-resistance in weeds is nothing new. Ten weed species in North Carolina and 189 weed species nationally have developed resistance to some herbicide.

A new herbicide is unlikely to come out, said Alan York,retired professor of agriculture from North Carolina State University and national weed expert

Read the rest of this article here:

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCropsFacingMeltdown.php


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Biotech Crops Cause Big Jump in Pesticide Use: Report

Carey Gillam - Reuters - KANSAS CITY - Tue Nov 17, 2009


KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of...

Boreal Forests Store More Carbon than Tropical Forests

Posted: 15 Nov 2009 09:58 PM PST

Report Calls for Global Climate Talks to Consider Boreal’s Impact

cbi-bsi-logo OTTAWA, Ontario—When the world thinks of forests and their value to offset global warming, tropical forests come to mind. A report released today shows that the global impact of Canada’s boreal forest, which stores nearly twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical forests, has been vastly underestimated.

“The Carbon the World Forgot” identifies the boreal forests of North America as not only the cornerstone habitat for key mammal species, but one of the most significant carbon stores in the world, the equivalent of 26 years of global emissions from burning fossil fuels, based on 2006 emissions levels. Globally, these forests store 22 percent of all carbon on the earth’s land surface.

“Past accounting greatly underestimated the amount and depth of carbon stored in and under the boreal forest,” said Jeff Wells, an author of the report. In addition to carbon storage in trees, organic matter accumulated over millennia is stored in boreal peatlands and areas of permafrost. Some of this boreal carbon has been in place for up to 8,000 years.

The boreal forest’s status as the most intact forest left on earth also offers a unique opportunity for plants and animals forced to adapt to shifting habitats. Most other habitats today are highly fragmented by human activity, creating a variety of additional obstacles for species survival.

In light of these findings, today’s report urges that international negotiations on carbon and forest protection consider ways to account for and protect the boreal.

“Any effective and affordable response to climate change should include preserving the world’s remaining, carbon-rich old-growth forests,” said Steve Kallick, director of the Pew Environment Group’s International Boreal Conservation Campaign. “This report makes clear that nations must look not just at the tropics but at all the world’s old-growth forests for climate change solutions.”

“Keeping that carbon in place by protecting boreal forests is an important part of the climate equation,” said Dr. Andrew Weaver, “If you cut down the boreal forest and disturb its peatlands, you release more carbon, accelerating climate change.” Dr. Weaver of the University of Victoria is a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Prize.

“The collision of climate disruption and massive human degradation of ecosystems is seriously worrying globally,” said leading conservation biologist Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “These changes are surely novel in earth’s history.” Maintaining the boreal forest’s intactness will be critical to slowing ecosystem shifts and to providing migratory corridors for displaced wildlife.

“Conservation can be an important tool in the fight to mitigate climate change” said Larry Innes, Director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. “International protocols and legislation need to create opportunities to maintain the carbon stored in intact boreal forest soils, peatlands, and wetlands while enabling indigenous and local communities to take a leadership role in determining how to best conserve not only carbon, but the full suite of ecological, cultural and economic values that the boreal forest represents.”

More than 1,500 international scientists led by authors for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended in 2007 that at least half of Canada's boreal forest be protected from further disturbance - in large part to keep both the boreal forest carbon bank and internationally significant wildlife habitats intact. Despite the current lack of international protocol, several Canadian First Nation, provincial, and federal governments have taken important steps to protect hundreds of millions of acres of Canada’s carbon rich boreal forest. In all, scientists are recommending that at least 300 million hectares be protected.

###

For further information, contact:

  • Larry Innes, Executive Director, Canadian Boreal Initiative, linnes@borealcanada.ca ; 416-575-6776, 613-230-4739 ext 226.
  • Steve Kallick, Director, International Boreal Conservation Campaign, Pew Environment Group 206-327-1184; skallick@pewtrusts.org
  • Dr. Jeff Wells, science advisor to the International Boreal Conservation Campaign, 207-458-8492; jeff@interboreal.org
  • Dr. Stuart Pimm, Duke University, contact Sue Libenson, 907-766-2841; sue@interboreal.org
  • Dr. Andrew Weaver, University of Victoria, contact Sue Libenson, 907-766-2841; sue@interboreal.org

To view the full report and associated materials: http://borealbirds.org/carbonreport.shtml

-

Thanks to David Childs for sharing.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Pesticides Worsening the Honey Bee Crisis

Shared by: F. Los on January 7, 2010

Ottawa - Sierra Club Canada is calling on the Canadian Government…

==========

Editor's note: Were they listening? On Dec. 30-'09, I sent the message below to the Sierra
Club. Today, they issue a release, calling for action! While it may not be the kind of action I had asked for, you won't hear me complaining. An immovable object like our federal government needs all the persuasion which can be mustered from any and all quarters! Yaaaaay Sierra! l.p.


From:
Larry Powell
...
View Contact
To:Green Peace ; Greenpeace ; Greenpeace International ; Prairie Sierra Club ; Sierra Club ; Sierra Club ... more

Dear Greenpeace/Sierra Club,


I am passing on the news release, below.


Might there be a chance for a similar lawsuit in Canada to succeed?


I know that groups such as Eco-Justice and Environmental Defense sometimes take on such things, on behalf of groups such as yours.


Many thanks for your consideration.

Have a green day!
Larry Powell
See our planet through a fresh lens.
Visit: "Paths Less Travelled. Stories rarely told by mainstream media."
==== FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Josh Mogerman

Big Win for Bees: Judge Pulls Pesticide

Bee toxic Movento pulled from market for proper evaluation...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Pesticides Loom Large in Animal Die-Offs

"better dying through chemistry"
7 Jan 2010 - by Tom Laskawy - Grist
Please also read - Plight of the Humble Bee and
Poisoning Nature's Pollinators.


photo courtesy Natural
Resources Defense Council


Editor's comment - To corrupt and heartless (are there any other kind?) pesticide regulators everywhere - I hope you can sleep at night. Instead of doing the decent, honourable thing by protecting our precious planet and the creatures in it, you have lost your souls up the asses of the corporations who make these god-damndable poisons and, instead of doing the honest jobs you get paid by the people to do, you are letting the Bayers and Monsantos of the world get away with their dirty work. You belong in jail! l.p.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Standing the Precautionary Principle on its Head

The Manitoba Government Celebrated '09 by Allowing Industrial Pollutants to be Released in the Swan Valley - by Larry Powell
(Double-click headline for latest story on this topic.)

It was a fateful decision.

One year ago tomorrow, Stan Struthers, who was then Manitoba's Minister of Conservation, said "yes" to a request from Louisiana Pacific Canada Ltd (LP).

As a cost-cutting measure, the corporation wanted to permanently do away with devices called regenerative thermal oxidizers, or RTOs, which have helped control toxic emissions from its plant at Minitonas since it opened in the mid '90s.

The plant makes "oriented strand board," a type of sheeting used in house construction. It is made from hardwood trees the corporation harvests over a wide area of western Manitoba, including the Duck Mountains.


"Evening in Duck Mountains."

Painting by Mary Jane Eichler.
That permission from the government, first said to be temporary, set in motion a series of events which has now dragged on for a full year.

Yet the central question, should the equipment be shut-down permanently or put back online, has yet to be answered.

The government instructed an advisory agency, the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) to investigate the merits of LP's application. The CEC heard from witnesses both for and against in the summer. It was expected to make recommendations to the Government this fall. But it has decided it wants more information from the company.

According to "Concerned Citizens of the Valley"(CCV), a group opposed to LP's application, the Commission wants the company to "complete air dispersion modeling that will conform to Manitoba guidelines."

Margaret Romak of CCV says, "This begs the question; why did LP submit modelling that was not up to standard?"

The CEC’s request for more information means its report has been delayed until spring.

And that government decision last January means those pollution controls remain shut down in the meantime.




So Just How Much Pollutant is Being Released?


*Dr. Charles Simon of the Florida-based company, Precision Analytical Laboratories Inc., estimates, without controls, the mill would put more than 1,000 tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air in one year. That's more than 40 times what they would have been had the controls remained online.
VOCs include cancer-causing substances such as formaldehyde.

Simon further calculates, without the RTOs, the mill would release almost 400 tonnes of another family of emissions, Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) in a year. That's 100 times what would have otherwise been the case.

HAPs, which include pollutants such as benzene, can cause cancer and birth defects.
The chances of ozone and smog formation, he adds, will also be "significantly greater" if LP's application is granted.

While Simon is not immediately available for comment, it is not believed he took into account that the mill has been operating at reduced capacity for some time now. Since that would obviously result in fewer emissions, his numbers would need to be reduced by an unknown factor.
Dr.Simon was one of three specialists in industrial pollution hired by Concerned Citizens of the Valley, the Boreal Forest Network and Manitoba's Public Interest Law Centre. They examined the claims made and methods used by LP to support its application. The citizen's groups oppose LP’s application, saying it will harm air quality in the valley.

The findings of the three experts have been submitted to the CEC for consideration.

Dr.Simon says he understands every corporation has a responsibility to its shareholders to make money.

But he adds "In my experience with forest products companies, the strong motivation to externalize air pollutant costs (make someone else pay) can only be overcome by regulation.".


Is There a Win-Win Solution to all of this?"

Dr. Simon believes there is.

He says hundreds of devices known as bioreactors are already being used successfully around the world to control industrial emissions. He believes bioreactors might not only provide the best control technology available for the mill, they’d cost about the same or less than would new RTOs. And operating costs would be about one quarter of what they would otherwise be.

Simon believes a bioreactor could also replace pollution controls known as wet electrostatic precipators, WESPS. These help control particulate matter coming from the mill. The company has kept these in operation and are not included in its application.

Bioreactors are often metal cylinders which generate massive amounts of bacterial activity. This break down harmful substances before they can escape from the plant.

If there is a bright side to the closure of the old RTOs, Dr. Simon recognizes that at least the greenhouse gasses they produced have now been eliminated. That's because they needed large amounts of natural gas to keep them heated.

But bioreactors, he notes, don't produce greenhouse gases at all in their operation.

As CCV puts it, "This technology can greatly reduce greenhouse gases and operating costs while effectively controlling the toxins and other pollutants. It would address the environmental, social and economic elements of this issue."

“The Province granted 'temporary' discontinuation of the RTO pollution control system to LP, in January 2009, in spite of the Clean Environment Commission’s 1994 recommedation that RTOs be installed as a condition of the company’s operation in the province,” said Susanne McCrea of the Boreal Forest Network.
"They now want to keep the RTOs offline AND increase their emissions, without exploring newer, less expensive pollution control options," McCrea added. "Here we are a full year later, still waiting for the province to take action to protect public health. "

Another of the experts, **Dr. Gordon Brown, finds LP’s application falls short on a number of counts.

* It didn't place air pollution monitors in the right places. This finding confirms the position of CCV who have been sharply critical of LP's move to place the monitors upwind of the plant, where they could detect only limited amounts of the true emission levels.

* It didn't take into account possible health effects from odours the plant produces.

* And it didn't consider that inhaling the air is not the only way human health can be put at risk. Local food and water may also provide pathways for pollutants. And these pathways were not analyzed.

In all, Brown finds the way LP calculated human health risks did not meet acceptable industry standards.

The third specialist, ***David Chadder believes;

* LP did not properly document air quality impacts.

• Failed to meet Government of Manitoba or industry standards.

* Did not account for all the "hazardous contaminants of interest."


What do the People Think?

Dr.Simon talked to people living in Swan River and elsewhere in the valley in August.

"Every citizen with whom I spoke first mentioned their concern for jobs of their compatriots. LP's threat to close the mill if forced to operate the RTOs.....has been taken seriously.....The citizens appear to be faced with the choice to either agree to allow their air shed to be polluted far beyond what any comparable community would have to bear in the US (similar plants there are required to operate with the best pollution controls available), or see their family and friends suffer the catastrophe of job loss with immediate cessation of family income that have been present for nearly 15 years."

“Paths Less Travelled” asked the new Minister of Conservation, Bill Blaikie, the previous Minister, Stan Struthers and the MLA for Swan River, Rosann Wowchuk, to comment on this story. They did not respond.


Footnotes.

* Simon has 33 years experience in the field of emissions from industries such as wood product plants. He's done consulting work for government departments in both Canada and the US. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, Master of Science degree in Environmental Analytical Chemistry and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physical Chemistry.

** Brown, Ph.D., P.Biol., received his first two degrees from the University of Manitoba and now works for the Alberta office of the consulting firm, Intrinsik Envronmental Sciences Inc. of ON. It specializes in human health risk assessment.

*** Chadder, Hon. B.Sc., QEP, is with RWDI Air, Inc., based in about half-a-dozen Canadian cities. The company works with industry and governments to solve various problems of air quality, noise and other hazards. His experience with environmental consulting dates back to 1978.

====

AUTHOR’S COMMENT - Will the Precautionary Principle ever be adopted in Manitoba?

The Precautionary Principle has been defined as the "Magna Carta" of enlightened environmentalists and decision-makers. It would require that any product, development or practice even suspected of causing harm, must be kept off the market or not allowed to proceed until there is proof that the harm does not exist. In other words, the burden of proof would be on the proponent of such product, etc. to prove it is safe, rather than on the public to prove down the road, that it is not.

Instead of asking, how little harm can we do with any given project, or product, decision-makers seem to be asking, how much harm can we get away with?

Sound harsh?

Well, let's look at the LP story.

If the Manitoba government had heard LP's request, then put its governmental machinery into motion to explore the merits of that request, that would have been one thing.

But it did not.

Its first reaction was to give LP what it wanted, then try to figure out after the fact whether that was the right thing to do!

Surely that is the Precautionary Principle in reverse!

No one can fault the CEC for taking as long as it has. It obviously has many things to consider before making its final decision.

But, if the government believed LP was serious about its threat to close down the mill if it had to continue to pay to keep the pollution controls running, were there still not alternatives to what it did?

No government could ignore the consequences of losing an employer of some 200 workers.

So why didn’t it find out if the threat was real and justified?

If it was, could it not have offered LP some kind of public assistance, at least temporarily, until the plant weathered the current economic recession?

As far as anyone knows, this was never considered.


l.p.
=====
COMMENTS:

That is the best and most understandable summary of the situation I have seen. Thank you Larry. And you Dan for bringing it to my attention.
I am always a little surprised that the US has higher standards than we do on anything, especially if $$ are involved, but what would LP be asked to do if this mill were south of the border? Are we out of line in our expectations, or are we being treated as a third world nation and source of a cheap natural resource? I agree that LP is a boon to the local economy but in A FAB Country (Anything For A Buck) often the real price of a product should include the clean-up of harmful sequelae, or better still, avoiding them. Often cheaper in the long run and less stressful.

Andy Maxwell
======
You've certainly done your research and homework on this article. I worked for many years at Canfor's Panel & Fibre facility in New Westminster. We made panel board and raw baled fibre from waste wood. We had to be VERY environmental about this as we were situated in the midst of a large city and near a major hospital. We couldn't get away with sloppy environmental standards because of this. Many mills are in out-of-the-way "Company" towns. Most the locals are employed there and the small towns depend on the mill(s). Often with fierce loyalty because of self interest. It allows many companies to get away with environmental murder. Outa sight; outa mind?

Andy Mathisen

Assessing the dwindling wilderness of Antarctica

Nature Antarctica. Aerial photo by Astro_Alex. Less than 32% of Antarctica is made up of areas that are free from human interfere...