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GENETIC ENGINEERING DISASTER ‘Why Argentina Can’t Feed Itself’

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Why Argentina Can’t Feed Itself…

Below is some information on how GM soya is destroying livelihoods and the environment in Argentina.

> ‘Our brief history of submission to the world bio-technology giants has been so disastrous that we fervently hope other Latin American nations will take it as an example of what not to do.’ So speaks Jorge Eduardo Rulli, one of Argentina’s leading agronomists, only six years after the country decided to embrace GM technology.

> When Monsanto arrived in Argentina in 1996 with the first of its GM crops, Round-Up Ready (RR) soya beans, it made attractive promises to Argentine farmers. The RR soya bean has a special gene making it resistant to Monsanto’s powerful Round-Up pesticide. The latter kills virtually everything else that grows. Monsanto said its GM technology would make soya farming cheaper and easier.

> Farmers would only have to use the one pesticide, and they could apply it at any stage in the plant’s development. Yields would be higher and costs lower. Argentine farmers were captivated by the sales talk. About 90 per cent agreed to adopt the technology, which gave Monsanto an even higher take-up rate in Argentina than in the US. So what has gone wrong since?

> At first sight, nothing at all. Since the adoption of GM, Argentina’s soya crop has doubled to 27 million tons, making the country the third largest producer of the commodity (after the US and Brazil) in the world. Exports have increased rapidly. But a closer look reveals a different story.

> The growth in output is exclusively the result of an increase in the area of land under soya bean cultivation. Despite the early promises, RR soya beans have had five-six per cent lower yields than conventional soya. Nor has there been the much-heralded decline in pesticide application. Because of the evolution of vicious new weeds, farmers have had to use two or three times more pesticides than previously. Overall, total costs have risen by 14 per cent. Soya prices have dropped as a result of increased global production, and most farmers are actually worse off.

> Farming without farmers

> There are other less obvious, but even more serious, consequences. The only undisputed advantage to RR soya is that it saves time. Farmers do not have to carry out all the traditional tasks of ploughing and harrowing the land. Instead, through so-called ‘direct tilling’ they can sow soya seed directly on the land after applying pesticide. This means a single farmer can be responsible for a much larger area - something that has become necessary with the fall in world soya prices.

> No longer able to compete, small-scale Argentine farmers are going bankrupt.

> Greenpeace Argentina says the number of the country’s farmers has fallen by about a third over the last decade. Some 500 market towns, once bustling with activity, have become completely empty. ‘We’re moving into the age of farming without farmers,’ despairs Rulli.

> Even more alarming is the ecological damage. Native woods have disappeared as the soya front has advanced. Sales figures suggest that each year farmers are deluging the 10 million hectares of land under GM cultivation with 80 million litres of herbicide.

> This is killing off all forms of life except RR soya and is interrupting the normal biological cycles of growth. The soil is turning into a kind of cinder or sand - neither of which, says Rulli, can retain moisture. Not surprisingly, the country is suffering from severe flooding.

> In the past farmers used to grow soya in the summer and wheat in the winter. The non-GM soya used to capture nitrogen from the air, helping to retain the fertility of the soil. The rotation reduced the prevalence of weeds. But today the RR soya, which does not have the ability to capture nitrogen, is grown all the year round. ‘The ecosystem has been ruptured and new resistant weeds are appearing,’says agronomist Adolfo Boy. ‘We have not created a self-regulating, sustainable system, but one that requires larger and larger volumes of pesticide, which the farmers deliver. They know it won’t kill the RR soya. It has become a vicious circle.’

> Soya is not bringing wealth to Argentina. ‘We are being occupied by the seed multinationals that have patented life and are forcing us to pay tribute to them,’ says Rulli. ‘The more we produce the poorer we become.’

> The people forced off the land by the changes migrate to the cities. They have little hope of finding a job, for Argentina is engulfed in the most serious crisis in its history. Economic output is predicted to fall by at least 15 per cent this year. Rulli believes there is only one real solution. ‘We have to change the rural model, re-populate the countryside and start producing healthy food,’ he says.

> As yet, there is little sign of this happening. President Duhalde is trying to hold the country together until elections in March 2003. To prevent wide-scale rioting the government is providing the most needy with free food baskets. One might have thought that it would have purchased the food being given out from Argentina’s hard-pressed small farmers. Not a chance. It is importing cheap food from abroad, and - the final humiliation - encouraging impoverished families brought up on beef steaks to eat the very RR soya which is doing so much damage to their country.

> Sue Branford is the co-author with Jan Rocha of Cutting the Wire - the story of the landless movement in Brazil (Latin American Bureau, 2002)

author: Sue Branford

Article in the Ecologist, Vol 32 No.8. Date: October 2002

Myths and Realities of Idling Your Car

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By James E. Bressor

You see them just about anywhere there are automobiles: Idling cars. Sometimes parked in front of schools as parents wait for their sons and daughters to run off the playground. Sometimes parked in front of a post office, as the owner goes in to get the day’s mail. Sometimes even parked outside a grocery store for 10 minutes or longer while the driver is inside buying cereal and soda.

Too many of us are idling our cars and trucks, wasting thousands of gallons of gas each day and putting tons of pollutants into the air we breathe. Although we know this causes lung damage and contributes to global climate change, what’s our excuse for this habit? It’s cold outside.

Well, yes, it’s often cold in Vermont during the winter. But if anybody lives in an even colder climate, it’s our neighbors to the north. Try Saskatoon in mid-January. Now that’s cold.

The Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency, part of Natural Resources Canada, is working with businesses and nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about the health and environmental problems caused by unnecessary idling. As part of its work, the Office of Energy Efficiency has produced a website loaded with information about the benefits of not idling your car.

“Canadians are an industrious people who know the value of a good day’s work. But we are also a nation of vehicle idlers – a habit that is costing us millions of dollars a year in wasted fuel and producing unnecessary emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change,” the website states. “To make matters worse, vehicle idling also contributes to other environmental problems such as deteriorating air quality and smog, which directly affect the health of our children and other vulnerable members of our community, including seniors and people with respiratory problems. And to top it off, contrary to popular belief, idling is not even good for your vehicle’s engine.”

The website debunks several popular myths about idling automobiles:

Myth: The engine should be warmed up before driving.
Reality: Idling is not an effective way to warm up the engine of your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today’s modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before starting to drive.

Myth: Idling is good for your engine.
Reality: Excessive idling can actually damage your engine’s components, including cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.

Myth: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running.
Reality: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components such as the battery and starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. More than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

If there are Canadians idling their cars less because they care about the health of their neighbors and the health of their planet, we can do the same here in the United States. Vermonters who want to learn more about reducing their contribution to global climate change and air pollution-related lung damage should visit or call 1-800-974- 9559 to receive a copy of the EcoLogical Solutions Global Warming brochure.

James Bressor is the Director of Media and Public Relations for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Article posted at for the week of March 11, 2001.

Rock Snot invasion in the Northeast US

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Didymo or Rock Snot (Didymosphenia geminata) in Vermont and the Northeast

didymo growth in Batten Kill microscopic view of didymo

Didymo growth in the Batten Kill

(NY section)

Didymo cell

(400X magnification)


Didymosphenia geminata, also known as ‘Didymo’ and ‘Rock Snot’ is a type of freshwater diatom or algae. Individual cells can’t be seen without a microscope but they can produce a fibrous stalk that can develop into visible mats. Though originally native to northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, it has undergone a recent large expansion in range and is now found in many western U.S. and Canadian rivers, some tailwater rivers in the south and, more recently, in Quebec and New Brunswick, as well as other locations around the world. In addition to expanding its range, it’s also showing, in some locations, the potential to form nuisance blooms, during which it can form mats several inches thick that carpet a stream bottom. Until 2006 it was unheard of in the northeastern U.S. It was discovered during the summers of 2006 and 2007 in the Batten Kill (NY/VT), in 2007 in the Connecticut River (NH/VT), the White River (VT), and the Delaware River system (NY/PA), and in 2008 in the Gunpowder River (MD) and the Mad River (VT).

Click here to see the distribution of Didymosphenia geminata in Vermont (pdf, 212 KB)

Click here to see the North American distribution of Didymosphenia geminata (pdf, 115 KB)

Click on the following shortcuts or scroll down for more information about Didymo:

Things you should know about Didymo in Vermont

What does Didymo look and feel like?

How is Didymo a threat?

What impacts will Didymo have on our natural resources?

What is the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources doing about Didymo?

What precautions should river users take to avoid spreading Didymo?

How can I properly disinfect my recreational equipment?

What should I do if I think I’ve found Didymo?

Where can I find more information?

Story by Vermont Water Quality Division

Organic Apparel isn’t always as “Green” as it seems

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Some “Organic” clothing is all marketing hype and some of it is truly doing it’s part to try and pave the way to a better world through less chemicals and toxins. Check out American Apparels line of Organic goods built in the US by the worlds highest paid garment workers. The owner might be a little weird, their ads may be a little pornographic but the practices and products are top notch!

Click Here for details on American Apparel Organics

Contact Catalyst Design for wholesale and discounted American Apparel Products

American Apparel Organics are made from 100% USDA Certified Organic Cotton and are pesticide-free. In addition, their low-impact dyeing process eliminates chemical waste, providing innumerable environmental and health benefits. They are committed to minimizing their ecological footprint throughout all phases of our production process and are working to incorporate a higher percentage of Organic Cotton into their main production line. American Apparel Organics are now available in all the most popular styles and now in 8 different colors!

Hypo Allergenic Non-toxic & biodegradable Cleaners

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Check out the Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural All Purpose Cleaner

This product effectively cleans and degreases hard surfaces both inside and outside your home. Excellent for wet mopping. (Not recommended for use on wood floors) Truly free and clear of fragrances, dyes, and masking agents.

Click here to visit Seventh Generations website for more info

Flying and the environment — the EU leads the way

The European Commission is proposing legislation to bring the aviation sector into the European Union’s pioneering emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) in order to control the rapid growth in CO2 emissions from air travel. Until now airlines have not been subject to the constraints on energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions that other businesses have to live with. Emissions from domestic flights are covered by the Kyoto Protocol’s emission targets for developed countries, but international aviation – which makes up the vast majority of flights - is not. In addition, jet fuel for international flights has historically been exempted from taxation. Hence the need for policy action. The film was shot in Belgium, UK and the Netherlands. It includes a graphic presentation of the European ETS as it applies to air companies, with interviews with Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment, and Jos Delbeke, the European Commission director responsible for climate change policy. Scientific experts explain how aviation can still improve the fuel efficiency of modern aircraft, and British Airports Authority and a UK-based air company Easy Jet give their opinions on the proposal.

Opinion on Oil prices and the economy

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The Report below was taken from the Oil prices and the economy

Please leave your mark and share your comments in the comment section below!

The price of crude oil has hit record
levels in recent weeks [AFP]

With oil prices having more than doubled over the last 12 months, various reasons are being cited for the price increases.Adhip Chaudhuri, a visiting professor of economics at Georgetown University’s campus in Doha, Qatar, explains the cause and effect of high oil prices.

Is the increase in oil prices plunging the global economy into stagflation?

The United States is, for all practical purposes, in a recession. The European Union’s growth rates are being revised downwards below 2 per cent. The shine is coming off even China, India and Korea.

The recessions and the low growth rates represent stagnation and hence connote the ’stag’ part of “stagflation”, and high oil prices have a lot do with it.

Oil prices, together with simultaneous, huge increases in food prices, have increased worldwide inflation rates. Both China and India now have high inflation rates with China at almost 8 per cent and India at 11 per cent. The rising inflation is the “flation” part of “stagflation”.

The worse thing about stagflation is that the central banks find themselves in a dilemma. If they lowered interest rates to spur growth, they would raise inflationary expectations. On the other hand, if they fought inflation by raising interest rates, the reduction in money supply will have contractionary effects on the GDPs of their countries.

For policymakers stagflation is a “lose - lose” situation.

Is the growth in world demand for oil the main reason?

Demand is one part of what the money market calls “fundamentals”. The other is, of course, supply. In the opinion of the Bush administration, and the majority of the Wall Street establishment in the US, demand is the principal reason why oil prices are going up astronomically. However, this point of view does not correspond to facts.

Consider first the oft-mentioned demand from “China and India” which is frequently put forward as the principal reason why oil prices are going up.

Subsidies have insulated consumers in India and China from high oil prices
until recently [AFP]

According to official statistics published by the United States government, China consumed an additional 377,000 barrels of oil per day during 2007.

However, during the same time period Germany and Japan together decreased their consumption by 380,000, and hence, the net effect of China’s increased consumption is zero.

Even if China doubled its consumption in the first half of 2008, say to stockpile for the Olympics, the increment would be a drop in the bucket of total world consumption of 86 million barrels per day.

The same is true of India. It increased consumption by only 150,000 barrels per day during 2007, which is virtually indiscernible in the total world demand.

Notice also that the sum of additional consumption from “China and India” barely exceeds 500,000 barrels, an amount that Saudi Arabia has promised to increase production by.

Finally, the US has projected that the net increase in oil consumption during 2008 will increase by one million barrels per day, which is about 1.1 per cent. How can such a small increase in demand increase oil prices by 100 per cent between July 2007 and July 2008?

What is happening with the supply of oil?

The supply of crude oil has been remarkably stagnant over the last three years. According to official US statistics, the production of crude worldwide was 84.63 million barrels per day in 2005, and it was 84.55 million barrels per day in 2007. Thus, even small increases in demand over the last three years have put upward pressures on prices.

The near-term supply situation, according to the International Energy Agency, is not all that bad. Saudi Arabia will be adding to their capacity, deepwater Nigerian production will start in 2008, and Iraqi production will see an increase. If one added up the growth in all forms of energy, namely crude oil, natural gas, and biofuels, according to IEA there should be an increase in supply capacity of 1.5 million barrels during 2008.

Notice that amount of increase in supply is greater than the projected increase in demand for 2008 amounting to 1 million barrels per day. The supply projection for 2009 is even better. The supply capacity is expected to increase by 2.5 million barrels, which will outstrip the growth in demand comfortably.

It is the very short-term supply disruptions which seem to be more important for an increase in oil prices. Real disruptions may come from labour strikes in Venezuela, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and rebel attacks in Nigeria. Given that the demand and supply situation is so tight, even the slightest of bad news can increase the price of oil in the futures and spot markets noticeably.

Can the weak dollar be blamed for high oil prices?

Asserting that the “weak dollar” is a significant reason behind the rise in oil prices has become as ritualistic as asserting that “China and India” are the cause. And yet, the forces which determine the foreign exchange value of the dollar against the euro, the yen, or the pound are distinctively different from those that determine the price of oil.

There is, however, one logical argument which can sometimes provide a sufficient explanation as to why a depreciating dollar and increasing oil prices are inversely related - If the dollar weakens against the euro, the ability of the oil-exporting countries to buy European goods will decline because their oil exports are denominated in dollars.

The Europeans, at the same time, will be able to pay the higher dollar prices of oil because the euro has appreciated. Clearly, to keep their purchasing power over European goods constant, the oil-exporting countries need an increase in oil price approximately equal to the depreciation of the dollar.

However, for the first six months of 2008 the dollar has depreciated against the euro by only 7.5 per cent, while oil prices have gone up by about 50 per cent.

Surely, both Americans and Europeans are paying much higher prices for oil than can be explained by a “weak dollar”.

Is speculation, then, a major factor?

The energy ministers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar asserted for the first time in public at the recent Jeddah meeting of major oil producing and consuming nations, that speculation in the oil futures markets was the most important reason why current oil prices are going up.

The United States Senate has been holding hearings in front of several committees since 2006 on the lack of regulation and oversight by the official Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) one of the two locations for oil futures.

Speculation is seen as a major cause for oil price increases [AFP]

In a recent testimony to the Senate, a hedge fund trader presented data to show that outstanding speculative positions in all commodities futures has reached $250 billion by March 2008, as compared to only $13 billion at the end of 2003.

As far as speculation specifically in oil futures is concerned, representative Bart Stupak (Democrat-Michigan), the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced recently that 71 per cent of all oil futures were owned by institutional investors.

The institutional investors, which consist of but is not confined to state pension funds and university endowments from the United States, have been pouring funds into indexed commodity funds as part of a strategy of portfolio diversification.

The traditional assets, in which they would have otherwise invested in, namely stocks and bonds, have been yielding negative returns after inflation.

These investors can buy futures contracts with only a 5 per cent margin down payment. In addition the regulatory environment is very slack, filled with loopholes which bypass whatever few regulations that are on the books.

While there are dollar limits to positions that the institutional investors might take in the NYMEX, they are allowed to conduct “swaps” with the investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and thereby manage to roll over their “buy” positions. This way they never have to take physical possession of the oil that they put in “buy” orders for.

If speculation is what is driving oil prices up, then it stands to reason that such high prices should lead to an excess supply of crude in the world. There are signs that such an excess supply is indeed building up, albeit slowly, much like the way the excess supply of housing emerged in the United States.

Fuel consumption has declined in the US sharply. We have already noted that oil consumption in Japan and Germany are actually decreasing.

Consumers in China and India have been insulated from the high world prices of oil until very recently with domestic subsidies. However, China has raised the prices of various petroleum products amounting to an average increase of 18 per cent, and so has India, by 13 per cent. The decrease in the demand for oil will start strengthening soon.

The biggest argument for speculation to be the single-most important cause for oil price increases in 2008 is: What else could have doubled the price of oil in one year?

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Mississippi River Oil Spill

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A sheen of fuel oil sits on the Mississippi River in New Orleans Louisiana following a large spill on July 23 2008. The Mississippi River reopened to limited traffic on Friday two days after a barge collided with a tanker spilling hundreds of gallons …
A sheen of fuel oil sits on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana, following a large spill on July 23, 2008. The Mississippi River reopened to limited traffic on Friday, two days after a barge collided with a tanker spilling hundreds of gallons of fuel oil, the US Coast Guard said.

The Mississippi River reopened to limited traffic on Friday, two days after a barge collided with a tanker spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel oil, the US Coast Guard said.
Oil cleanup crews were busy containing the spill with booms and removing what they could from the water, according to local reports, as a handful of vessels began moving in the area.

The Coast Guard had closed off a 100-mile (160-kilometer) stretch of the river, from the port of New Orleans down to the Gulf of Mexico, after the oil tanker Tintomara collided Wednesday with an American Commercial Lines barge that was being pushed by a tug boat.

“The Coast Guard opened the river today at noon (1600 GMT), to limited use,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Clean-up crews have been trying to contain the 419,000 gallons (1.6 million liters) of fuel oil which spilled into the river.

New Orleans city officials promised residents that the drinking water was safe, even as a chemical odor wafted over the waterfront city and scientists set up a rescue operation for oily birds and animals.

The 600-foot (183-meter) oil tanker sustained no damage but the crash split the barge nearly in two, and the thick, smelly oil poured into the river just off the banks of downtown New Orleans.

The operators of the tugboat did not have the proper license to be operating on the river, said the Coast Guard, which has launched an investigation along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

“There were no properly licensed individuals on the vessel during the time that the incident occurred,” the Coast Guard said.

The closure of the port of New Orleans was having an economic impact topping 100 million dollars per day, while the impact on the entire area affected by the spill was a massive 275 million dollars per day, the New Orleans Times-Picayune cited port president Gary LaGrange as saying.

It was unclear how long the port would remain closed.

As of Friday morning, the barge remained stuck in the river as workers rushed to contain the spill.

“Additional crews are steadily coming in all day,” Coast Guard spokesman Thomas Blue told AFP, saying that about 300 people were already involved in the cleanup.

“Anytime there is a spill there are always environmental concerns,” Blue said, adding that the Coast Guard was working with US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A total of 67,000 feet (20,420 meters) of boom was spread up and down the river bed and around the barge in order to contain the oil, Blue said.

The material floats on water and helps prevent oil from spreading into wildlife habitats and drinking water intake pipes.

Commercial Lines has submitted a salvage plan for the barge to the Coast Guard for approval and work on extracting the boat was expected to start later in the day, Blue said.

Government scientists set up a cleaning station for birds and other animals caught in the spill, according to local reports.

Local residents rushed to buy bottled water despite assurances by the Sewerage and Water Board that the drinking water was safe.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin urged “moderation” in consumption of tap water.

“The mayor’s saying, ‘Drink the water in moderation,’ so does that mean I’m going to get moderately sick? Or are my guests going to get moderately sick?” cafe owner Ed Moise was quoted as saying by the Times-Picayune.

© 2008 AFP

Watch a video about the clean up here…

Mississippi River Oil Spill

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