The Bush administration has slipped a controversial ingredient into the $770 million aid package to ease the world food crisis, adding language that would promote the use of genetically modified crops in food-deprived countries. The value of genetically modified, or bio-engineered, food is an intensely disputed issue in the U.S. and in Europe, where many countries have banned foods made from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Opponents of GMO crops say they can cause unforeseen medical problems. They also contend that the administration’s plan is aimed at helping American agribusinesses. They also say that it is pretty obvious at this point that genetically engineered crops don’t increase yields. There are no commercialized crops that are designed to deal with the climate crisis.
Archive for February, 2009
Hydrogen, tested in buses from Amsterdam to Vancouver is a clean power that promises to break dependence on oil and gas — at least in Iceland. With almost unlimited geothermal energy sizzling beneath its surface, Iceland has an official goal of making the country oil-free by shifting cars, buses, trucks and ships over to hydrogen by about 2050. About 70 percent of Iceland’s energy needs are already met by geothermal or hydro-electric power. Only the transport sector is still hooked on polluting oil and gas. Hydrogen bus projects have also been launched in cities including Barcelona, Chicago, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Stockholm, Beijing and Perth, Australia. The efficiency of the hydrogen fuel cells will decide if the ventures take off into the wider car market.
A secret 2006 Pentagon analysis report, suppressed by US defense chiefs, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. Climate change ’should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern’, say the authors. The Bush administration tried to suppress the report for 4 months trying to bury the threat of climate change.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that it plans to do away with publishing its national survey tracking pesticide use, despite opposition from prominent scientists, the nation’s largest farming organizations and environmental groups. The groups’ concern is that if the public doesn’t know what’s being used, then they won’t know what to look for. Furthermore, in the absence of information, people can be lulled into thinking that there are no problems with the use of pesticides on food in this country. Since 1990, farmers and consumer advocates have relied on the agency’s detailed annual report to learn which states apply the most pesticides and where bug and weed killers are most heavily sprayed. The EPA also uses the data when figuring out how chemicals should be regulated, and which pesticides pose the greatest risk to public health.
Representatives from more than 140 countries committed to reduce global mercury pollution, which will help protect the world’s citizens from the dangerous neurotoxin. This agreement was propelled by the United States’ reversal in policy, which also influenced policy reversals of other countries, including China and India. The announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against mercury pollution, according to scientists and policy experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The committed countries will reduce risks to human health and the environment from mercury by coordinating global cuts in the use and release of mercury into our air, water and land.
The Navy has settled a lawsuit filed by environmentalists challenging its use of sonar in hundreds of submarine-hunting exercises around the world. The Navy said the deal reached with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups requires it to continue to research how sonar affects whales and other marine mammals. It doesn’t require sailors to adopt additional measures to protect the animals when they use sonar. The agreement comes one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Navy in another sonar lawsuit the NRDC filed. According to a Navy spokesman, the Navy is pleased that after more than three years of extensive litigation, this matter has been brought to an end on favorable terms.
Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists. Critics of biotech crops have long complained that the crops have not been studied thoroughly enough and could have unintended health and environmental consequences.The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.
Atmospheric levels of the carbon dioxide are hitting new highs, with no sign yet that the world economic downturn is curbing industrial emissions, a leading scientist said recently. Levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities, rose to 392 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere in Svalbard in December, a rise of 2-3 ppm from the same time a year earlier. Carbon dioxide concentrations are likely to have risen further in 2009. They usually peak just before the start of spring in the northern hemisphere, where most of the world’s industry, cities and vegetation are concentrated.
Japan has ruled out cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 — the most ambitious possible action according to a reference target set by a U.N. panel of climate scientists. Agreeing a 2020 target to curb greenhouse gases is one of the most contentious aspects for rich countries of U.N. climate talks meant to end with a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in December this year. Japan is expected to announce its 2020 goal by June. The country argues that because it is so energy efficient already, it will be more expensive to meet the same emissions-cutting target of other rich countries.
The Environmental Protection Agency will reopen the possibility of regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, tossing aside a December Bush administration memorandum that declared that the agency would not limit the emissions. The decision could mark the first step toward placing limits on greenhouse gases emitted by coal plants, an issue that has been hotly contested by the coal industry and environmentalists since April 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver’s license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post. One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it’s not clear what information those systems contain. Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies.
Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry. The prices of wheat, corn and rice have soared over the past year driving the world’s poor – who already spend about 80 per cent of their income on food – into hunger and destitution. The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world’s richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto reported a net income for a three month period had more than doubled while Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86% over the same three month period.
Most U.S. corporations and foreign companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income tax, according to a 2008 report from Congress. The study by the Government Accountability Office said two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, and about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period. Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO’s estimate. The GAO study did not investigate why corporations weren’t paying federal income taxes or corporate taxes and it did not identify any corporations by name.
In 2006, rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara Island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented. Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.