Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I wrote earlier mentioning my support for the petition against the biomass plant at Anglesey.
I just got this item which I think is of interest to the cause.
'The first of all Earthly Blessings........Independence' Edward Gibbon
30th August 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Security forces used by a palm oil supplier to Cargill are using violence and intimidation against villagers in Indonesia, the Rainforest Action Network claims.
The Rainforest Action Network accused palm oil supplier Wilmar of using armed violence against villagers in Sumatra. Heavy machinery, the advocacy group adds, is used by Wilmar to destroy area homes as well.
Lindsey Allen, forest program director at the group, said agricultural trading giant Cargill needs to adopt "crucial" safeguards on its supply chains.
"This is the only way Cargill will be able to guarantee these kinds of gross human rights violations do not continue to be imported into the American food supply," she said in a statement.
The advocacy group claims security forces working for Wilmar arrested one villager for trying to sell palm oil fruits. This in turn sparked conflict between villagers and local police forces. Working with Indonesian police, Wilmar security teams destroyed some village homes and the use of live ammunition was reported during the raids.
Neither company issued a public reaction to the claims made by the Rainforest Action Network. Both have reported investing in activities tied to conservation and other areas of social responsibility.
keep the mabira forest in uganda
Stop the cutting of valuable rainforest for a sugar plantation in Uganda! Help "Save Mabira Crusade" by signing its petition.
The government of Uganda is about to give away 7100 hectares (over 17.100 acres) of the Mabira rainforest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda, Ltd. (SCOUL), to clear cut and establish a sugarcane plantation. This grant of free land would increase erosion, diminish fresh water supplies, destroy a cooling micro-climate and destroy habitats for hundreds of endangered species. It would also violate legal protections as stated in Ugandan law and international treaties and commitments.
More important, it would betray the expressed will of the Ugandan people. Barely four years ago, in April 2007, the "Save Mabira Crusade" staged a grand campaign countrywide that culminated into a demonstration on Kampala streets and other towns to protest the unpopular government decision of giving away of Mabira forest to a foreign investor for another sugarcane plantation. A number of lives and property was lost in the demonstration that saw government imprison and charge its leaders with serious crimes. A judge dismissed those criminal charges in 2010 as baseless, and the government pretended to abandon its plan.
However, in August, 2011, government revived its planned giveaway, citing sugar scarcities, and demanded that the Mabira Forest Reserve is the only land in Uganda suitable for a sugarcane plantation. Ugandan activists claim that hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Uganda are available for sugar growing, that destroying a protected rainforest is abominable, and that a failure to govern responsibility lies at the heart of this injustice.
This is not the first time that the Ugandan government has ignored the rule of law to sacrifice protected forests for private gain. While "Save Mabira Crusade" appreciates the role of investors in the development of the country, only sustainable development will ensure future prosperity and reduce poverty. The systematic and unconstitutional plunder of gazetted forests is deeply disturbing and raises important legal, technical, economic, ethical and ecological concerns about how development is being guided in Uganda.
"Save Mabira Crusade" is a network of NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Uganda (NAPE) and individuals, civic leaders, religious, cultural and academic institutions, political organisations and local communities that have come together to save one of Uganda's most valuable rainforests.
The organisation, in collaboration with citizens of Uganda and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), will submit a petition to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, opposing the proposed giveaway of the Mabira and other forest reserves in Uganda.
Increase the pressure on the Ugandan government to abandon plans for the Mabira Forest giveaway:
Glyphosate commonly found in rain and streams- USGS
Monday, 29 August 2011
EXTRACT: "Though glyphosate is the mostly widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long term effects to the environment," says Paul Capel, USGS chemist and an author on this study. "This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season."
Widely Used Herbicide Commonly Found in Rain and Streams in the Mississippi River Basin
Glyphosate, also known by its tradename Roundup, is commonly found in rain and rivers in agricultural areas in the Mississippi River watershed, according to two new USGS studies released this month.
Glyphosate is used in almost all agricultural and urban areas of the United States. The greatest glyphosate use is in the Mississippi River basin, where most applications are for weed control on genetically-modified corn, soybeans and cotton. Overall, agricultural use of glyphosate has increased from less than 11,000 tons in 1992 to more than 88,000 tons in 2007.
"Though glyphosate is the mostly widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long term effects to the environment," says Paul Capel, USGS chemist and an author on this study. "This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season. This is crucial information for understanding where management efforts for this chemical would best be focused."
In these studies, Glyphosate was frequently detected in surface waters, rain and air in areas where it is heavily used in the basin. The consistent occurrence of glyphosate in streams and air indicates its transport from its point of use into the broader environment.
Additionally, glyphosate persists in streams throughout the growing season in Iowa and Mississippi, but is generally not observed during other times of the year. The degradation product of glyphosate, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), which has a longer environmental lifetime, was also frequently detected in streams and rain.
Detailed results of this glyphosate research are available in "Occurrence and fate of the herbicide glyphosate and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid in the atmosphere," published in volume 30 of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and in "Fate and transport of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in surface waters of agricultural basins," published online in Pest Management Science. Copies of the reports are available from the journals or from Paul Capel ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
Research on the transport of glyphosate was conducted as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. The NAWQA program provides an understanding of water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions. Additional information on the NAWQA program can be found online.
Monday, August 29, 2011
What's Behind the Latest Aguán Valley Violence?
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Our movement is peaceful, but it's about the struggle for the recovery of the earth in order to produce, and this is exactly what the Honduran campesinos are doing.
Campesino leader Secundino Ruiz was shot dead as he was leaving a bank in Tocoa in the northern Honduran department of Colón on August 20. Mr. Ruiz was president of the San Isidro Cooperative, part of the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA), and he had just withdrawn 195,000 lempiras (about US$10,260) to pay MARCA workers; because of the money, police attributed the killing to common criminals. Eliseo Pavón, the treasurer of the cooperative, was wounded, according to Julio Espinal, the commander of a police contingent sent to the area earlier in the week. MARCA is one of several campesino groups claiming land in the Lower Aguán Valley, the scene of numerous and sometimes violent conflicts over land ownership. Three members of the organization were killed on June 5.
Mr. Ruiz's murder followed an exceptionally bloody week in which 11 other people were killed in the valley. Six died on August 14 at the Paso del Aguán estate (also described as the Panama estate) of Grupo Dinant, a major Honduran food product and cooking oil corporation headed by one of the country's largest landowners, Miguel Facussé Barjum. Four of the victims were Dinant security personnel, and the other two have been described as campesinos, according to most accounts; one report said five guards were killed and one campesino.
Five more people were killed on August 15, shot with automatic weapons as they rode in a Pepsi distribution company's pickup truck on the highway between Sinaloa and the city of Sabá. The victims were four of the distributor's contract employees -- Bonifacio Dubón, Elvin Ortiz and Eleuterio Lara, and their supervisor, Karla Vanesa Cacho -- and Migdalia Sarmiento, who had gotten a ride with them. Sarmiento ran a refreshment stand near the regional office of the government's National Agrarian Institute (INA), where she worked as a cleaning person years before. The authorities found no evidence that the victims had been robbed.
Later, on August 15, Security Minister Oscar Álvarez announced that the government would respond to the violence by sending 600 soldiers and police agents to the area in an operation codenamed Xatruch II. The new deployment, which Mr. Álvarez said would search for the culprits and for illegal weapons, joins some 400 soldiers already in stationed in the region.
There are widely different accounts of what happened in the August 14-15 incidents. Some sources say the August 14 violence started with a peaceful land occupation by campesinos from the Rigores community, which was destroyed by police agents and private guards on June 24. Dinant guards, who are accused in a number of campesino deaths, tried to repel the invaders at Paso de Aguán, according to this account, and soldiers backing up the security group mistakenly shot at the guards. But Agrarian Reform Minister César Ham, leader of the center-left Democratic Unification (UD) party, denied that the August 14 incident involved a land dispute. Other officials suggested guerrillas were involved, without giving any evidence, or pointed to narco-traffickers, who have been active in parts of Central America. There was also talk of gangs that have reportedly been robbing produce in the Aguán. Similar confusion surrounds the August 15 attack on the Pepsi distributor's truck; there have been suggestions that it was a case of mistaken identity.
Aguán campesino groups and other social movements have also given different interpretations of the events, although all seem agreed that the campesinos are not using violence. "Our movement is peaceful, but it's about the struggle for the recovery of the earth in order to produce, and this is exactly what the Honduran campesinos are doing," the Honduran branch of Vía Campesina, an international campesino order, wrote on August 15. (8/23/11) (photo of families in La Concepción settlement courtesy Giorgio Trucchi/Rel-UITA)
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World's Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say
WASHINGTON -- The chemical at the heart of the planet's most widely used herbicide -- Roundup weedkiller, used in farms and gardens across the U.S. -- is coming under more intense scrutiny following the release of a new report calling for a heightened regulatory response around its use.
Critics have argued for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides used around the globe, poses a serious threat to public health. Industry regulators, however, appear to have consistently overlooked their concerns.
A comprehensive review of existing data released this month by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open-source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, suggests that industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, originally introduced by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto in 1976, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.
Founded in 2009, Earth Open Source is a non-profit organisation incorporated in the U.K. but international in scope. Its three directors, specializing in business, technology and genetic engineering, work pro-bono along with a handful of young volunteers. Partnering with half a dozen international scientists and researchers, the group drew its conclusions in part from studies conducted in a number of locations, including Argentina, Brazil, France and the United States.
Earth Open Source's study is only the latest report to question the safety of glyphosate, which is the top-ranked herbicide used in the United States. Exact figures are hard to come by because the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped updating its pesticide use database in 2008. The EPA estimates that the agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate between 2006 and 2007, while the non-agricultural market used 8 to 11 million pounds between 2005 and 2007, according to its Pesticide Industry Sales & Usage Report for 2006-2007 published in February, 2011.
The Earth Open Source study also reports that by 1993 the herbicide industry, including Monsanto, knew that visceral anomalies such as dilation of the heart could occur in rabbits at low and medium-sized doses. The report further suggests that since 2002, regulators with the European Commission have known that glyphosate causes developmental malformations in lab animals.
Even so, the commission's health and consumer division published a final review report of glyphosate in 2002 that approved its use in Europe for the next 10 years.
As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BLV), a government agency conducting a review of glyphosate, told the European Commission that there was no evidence the compound causes birth defects, according to the report.
The agency reached that conclusion despite almost half a dozen industry studies that found glyphosate produced fetal malformations in lab animals, as well as an independent study from 2007 that found that Roundup induces adverse reproductive effects in the male offspring of a certain kinds of rats.
German regulators declined to respond in detail for this story because they say they only learned of the Earth Open Source report last week. The regulators emphasized that their findings were based on public research and literature.
Although the European Commission originally planned to review glyphosate in 2012, it decided late last year not to do so until 2015. And it won't review the chemical under more stringent, up-to-date standards until 2030, according to the report.
The European Commission told HuffPost that it wouldn't comment on whether it was already aware of studies demonstrating the toxicity of glyphosate in 2002. But it said the commission was aware of the Earth Open Source study and had discussed it with member states.
"Germany concluded that study does not change the current safety assessment of gylphosate," a commission official told HuffPost in an email. "This view is shared by all other member states."
John Fagan, a doctor of molecular and cell biology and biochemistry and one of the founders of Earth Open Source, acknowledged his group's report offers no new laboratory research. Rather, he said the objective was for scientists to compile and evaluate the existing evidence and critique the regulatory response.
"We did not do the actual basic research ourselves," said Fagan. "The purpose of this paper was to bring together and to critically evaluate all the evidence around the safety of glyphosate and we also considered how the regulators, particularly in Europe, have looked at that."
For its part, Earth Open Source said that government approval of the ubiquitous herbicide has been rash and problematic.
"Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable," wrote the report's authors. "What is more, we have learned from experts familiar with pesticide assessments and approvals that the case of glyphosate is not unusual.
"They say that the approvals of numerous pesticides rest on data and risk assessments that are just as scientifically flawed, if not more so," the authors added. "This is all the more reason why the Commission must urgently review glyphosate and other pesticides according to the most rigorous and up-to-date standards."
Monsanto spokeswoman Janice Person said in a statement that the Earth Open Source report presents no new findings.
"Based on our initial review, the Earth Open Source report does not appear to contain any new health or toxicological evidence regarding glyphosate," Person said.
"Regulatory authorities and independent experts around the world agree that glyphosate does not cause adverse reproductive effects in adult animals or birth defects in offspring of these adults exposed to glyphosate," she said, "even at doses far higher than relevant environmental or occupational exposures."
While Roundup has been associated with deformities in a host of laboratory animals, its impact on humans remains unclear. One laboratory study done in France in 2005 found that Roundup and glyphosate caused the death of human placental cells and abnormal embryonic cells. Another study, conducted in 2009, found that Roundup caused total cell death in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells within 24 hours. Yet researchers have conducted few follow-up studies.
"Obviously there's a limit to what's appropriate in terms of testing poison on humans," said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which lobbies against genetically modified food. "But if you look at the line of converging evidence, it points to a serious problem. And if you look at the animal feeding studies with genetically modified Roundup ready crops, there's a consistent theme of reproductive disorders, which we don't know the cause for because follow-up studies have not been done."
"More independent research is needed to evaluate the toxicity of Roundup and glyphosate," he added, "and the evidence that has already accumulated is sufficient to raise a red flag."
Authorities have criticized Monsanto in the past for soft-peddling Roundup. In 1996 New York State's Attorney General sued Monsanto for describing Roundup as "environmentally friendly" and "safe as table salt." Monsanto, while not admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to stop using the terms for promotional purposes and paid New York state $250,000 to settle the suit.
Regulators in the United States have said they are aware of the concerns surrounding glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is required to reassess the safety and effectiveness all pesticides on a 15-year cycle through a process called registration review, is currently examining the compound.
"EPA initiated registration review of glyphosate in July 2009," the EPA told HuffPost in a written statement. "EPA will determine if our previous assessments of this chemical need to be revised based on the results of this review. EPA issued a notice to the company [Monsanto] to submit human health and ecotoxicity data in September 2010."
The EPA said it will also review a "wide range of information and data from other independent researchers" including Earth Open Source.
The agency's Office of Pesticide Programs is in charge of the review and has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if registration modifications need to be made or if the herbicide should continue to be sold at all.
Though skirmishes over the regulation of glyphosate are playing out at agencies across the U.S. and around the world, Argentina is at the forefront of the battle.
THE ARGENTINE MODEL
The new report, "Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?" comes years after Argentine scientists and residents targeted glyphosate, arguing that it caused health problems and environmental damage.
Farmers and others in Argentina used the weedkiller primarily on genetically modified Roundup Ready soy, which covers nearly 50 million acres, or half of the country's cultivated land area. In 2009 farmers sprayed that acreage with an estimated 200 million liters of glyphosate.
The Argentine government helped pull the country out of a recession in the 1990s in part by promoting genetically modified soy. Though it was something of a miracle for poor farmers, several years after the first big harvests residents near where the soy cop grew began reporting health problems, including high rates of birth defects and cancers, as well as the losses of crops and livestock as the herbicide spray drifted across the countryside.
Such reports gained further traction after an Argentine government scientist, Andres Carrasco conducted a study, "Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling" in 2009.
The study, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2010, found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. It also found that malformations caused in frog and chicken embryos by Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate were similar to human birth defects found in genetically modified soy-producing regions.
"The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy," wrote Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires. "I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low."
"In some cases this can be a powerful poison," he concluded.
Argentina has not made any federal reforms based on this research and has not discussed the research publicly, Carrasco told HuffPost, except to mount a "close defense of Monsanto and it partners."
The Ministry of Science and Technology has moved to distance the government from the study, telling media at the time the study was not commissioned by the government and had not been reviewed by scientific peers.
Ignacio Duelo, spokesman for the the Ministry of Science and Technology's National Council for Scientific and Technical Research [CONICET], told HuffPost in an statement that while Carrasco is one of its researchers, CONICET has not vouched for or assessed his work.
Duelo said that the Ministry of Science is examining Carrasco's report as part of a study of the possible harmful effects of the glyphosate. Officials, he added, are as yet unable to "reach a definitive conclusion on the effects of glyphosate on human health, though more studies are recommended, as more data is necessary."
After Carrasco announced his findings in 2009, the Defense Ministry banned planting of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant soy on lands it rents to farmers, and a group of environmental lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court of Argentina to implement a national ban on the use of glyphosate, including Monsanto's Roundup product. But the ban was never adopted.
"A ban, if approved, would mean we couldn't do agriculture in Argentina," said Guillermo Cal, executive director of CASAFE, Argentina's association of fertilizer companies, in a statement at the time.
In March 2010, a regional court in Argentina's Santa Fe province banned the spraying of glyphosate and other herbicides near populated areas. A month later, the provincial government of Chaco province issued a report on health statistics from La Leonesa. The report, which was carried in the leftist Argentinian newspaper Página 12, showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region, the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province.
Back in the United States, Don Huber, an emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University, found that genetically-modified crops used in conjunction with Roundup contain a bacteria that may cause animal miscarriages.
After studying the bacteria, Huber wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in February warning that the "pathogen appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings."
The bacteria is particularly prevalent in corn and soybean crops stricken by disease, according to Huber, who asked Vilsack to stop deregulating Roundup Ready crops. Critics such as Huber are particularly wary of those crops because scientists have genetically altered them to be immune to Roundup -- and thus allow farmers to spray the herbicide liberally onto a field, killing weeds but allowing the crop itself to continue growing.
Monsanto is not the only company making glyphosate. China sells glyphosate to Argentina at a very low price, Carrasco said, and there are more than one hundred commercial formulations in the market. But Monsanto's Roundup has the longest list of critics, in part because it dominates the market.
The growth in adoption of genetically modified crops has exploded since their introduction in 1996. According to Monsanto, an estimated 89 percent of domestic soybean crops were Roundup Ready in 2010, and as of 2010, there were 77.4 million acres of Roundup Ready soybeans planted, according to the Department of Agriculture.
In his letter to the Agriculture Department, Huber also commented on the herbicide, saying that the bacteria that he's concerned about appears to be connected to use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.
"It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders," he wrote.
Huber said the Agriculture Department wrote him in early May and that he has had several contacts with the agency since then. But there's little evidence that government officials have any intention of conducting the "multi-agency investigation" Huber requested.
Part of the problem may be that the USDA oversees genetically modified crops while the EPA watches herbicides, creating a potential regulatory loophole for products like Roundup, which relies on both to complete the system. When queried, USDA officials emphasized that they do not regulate pesticides or herbicides and declined to comment publicly on Huber's letter.
A spokesman eventually conceded their scientists do study glyphosate. "USDA's Agricultural Research Service's research with glyphosate began shortly after the discovery of its herbicidal activity in the mid 1970s," said the USDA in a statement. "All of our research has been made public and much has gone through the traditional peer review process."
While Huber acknowledged his research is far from conclusive, he said regulatory agencies must seek answers now. "There is much research that needs to be done yet," he said. "But we can't afford to wait the three to five years for peer-reviewed papers."
While Huber's claims have roiled the agricultural world and the blogosphere alike, he has fueled skeptics by refusing to make his research public or identify his fellow researchers, who he claims could suffer substantial professional backlash from academic employers who received research funding from the biotechnology industry.
At Purdue University, six of Huber's former colleagues pointedly distanced themselves from his findings, encouraging crop producers and agribusiness personnel "to speak with University Extension personnel before making changes in crop production practices that are based on sensationalist claims."
Since it first introduced the chemical to the world in the 1970s, Monsanto has netted billions on its best-selling herbicide, though the company has faced stiffer competition since its patent expired in 2000 and it is reportedly working to revamp its strategy.
The authors of the report create an account of glyphosate toxicity from a selected set of scientific studies, while they ignored much of the comprehensive data establishing the safety of the product. Regulatory agencies around the world have concluded that glyphosate is not a reproductive toxin or teratogen (cause of birth defects) based on in-depth review of the comprehensive data sets available.
Earth Open Source authors take issue with the decision by the European Commission to place higher priority on reviewing other pesticide ingredients first under the new EU regulations, citing again the flawed studies as the rationale. While glyphosate and all other pesticide ingredients will be reviewed, the Commission has decided that glyphosate appropriately falls in a category that doesn't warrant immediate attention.
"The data was there but the regulators were glossing over it and as a result it was accepted in ways that we consider really questionable," he added.
CORNERING THE INDUSTRY?
Although the EPA has said it wants to evaluate more evidence of glyphosate's human health risk as part of a registration review program, the agency is not doing any studies of its own and is instead relying on outside data -- much of which comes from the agricultural chemicals industry it seeks to regulate.
"EPA ensures that each registered pesticide continues to meet the highest standards of safety to protect human health and the environment," the agency told HuffPost in a statement. "These standards have become stricter over the years as our ability to evaluate the potential effects of pesticides has increased. The Agency placed glyphosphate into registration review. Registration review makes sure that as the ability to assess risks and as new information becomes available, the Agency carefully considers the new information to ensure pesticides do not pose risks of concern to people or the environment."
Agribusiness giants, including Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta and BASF, will generate much of the data the EPA is seeking as part of a 19-member task force. But the EPA has emphasized that the task force is only "one of numerous varied third-party sources that EPA will rely on for use in its registration review."
The EPA is hardly the only industry regulator that relies heavily on data supplied by the agrochemical industry itself.
"The regulation of pesticides has been significantly skewed towards the manufacturers interests where state-of-the-art testing is not done and adverse findings are typically distorted or denied," said Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute for Responsible Technology. "The regulators tend to use the company data rather than independent sources, and the company data we have found to be inappropriately rigged to force the conclusion of safety."
"We have documented time and time again scientists who have been fired, stripped of responsibilities, denied funding, threatened, gagged and transferred as a result of the pressure put on them by the biotech industry," he added.
Such suppression has sometimes grown violent, Smith noted. Last August, when Carrasco and his team of researchers went to give a talk in La Leonesa they were intercepted by a mob of about a hundred people. The attack landed two people in the hospital and left Carrasco and a colleague cowering inside a locked car. Witnesses said the angry crowd had ties to powerful economic interests behind the local agro-industry and that police made little effort to interfere with the beating, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.
Fagan told HuffPost that among developmental biologists who are not beholden to the chemical industry or the biotechnology industry, there is strong recognition that Carrasco's research is credible.
"For me as a scientist, one of the reasons I made the effort to do this research into the literature was to really satisfy the question myself as to where the reality of the situation lies," he added. "Having thoroughly reviewed the literature on this, I feel very comfortable in standing behind the conclusions Professor Carrasco came to and the broader conclusions that we come to in our paper
"We can't figure out how regulators could have come to the conclusions that they did if they were taking a balanced took at the science, even the science that was done by the chemical industry itself."
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The application is virtually unchanged although additional information on Air Quality has now been included but is still a cause of concern. Information on fuel feedstock and sustainability is unchanged but once again contradictory. They say, `the site will make use of various types of fuel sources e.g. Tall Oil (a by-product from the pulping of pine trees), palm oil etc. that are commercially available on the market.' Elsewhere they refer to market forces influencing their decision. The only detailed information they provide on fuel sources is for tall oil and palm oil.
Germany has up to 2000 CHP plants virtually all running on palm oil and Italy has the largest biofuel power station in Europe also running on palm oil, as it is by far the cheapest vegetable oil on the market. If the power station were run on palm oil only, it would require about 4,000 hectares of plantations to produce its fuel every year – and even more if other types of fuel were used.
Tall oil is a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry. Monoculture tree plantations for pulp and paper are anything but sustainable: They replace forests and other ecosystems, pollute and deplete soils and water and often have devastating impacts on local communities, too. Tall oil supplies are already fully used, mainly by the chemical industry – there is no waste to spare. Tall oil is in very short supply.
Rocpower opened their first tall-oil plant in Wakefield in late 2009. It is similar to the one proposed here and attracted complaints about smoke from its neighbours almost as soon as the first engine was switched on. Rocpower are now only able to avoid action under the Clean Air Act by switching the entire plant off when the wind is blowing in the direction of the complainants. Even with the raised stack height, the proposed power station will still worsen nitrogen dioxide levels, as well as those of, PAH, PM10 and PM 2.5.
Please write to email@example.com by 26th August to object to this application – sorry we were given such short notice. If possible, please personalise the letter below before sending it.
Many thanks, Ian, Biofuelwatch
Friday, August 19, 2011
Wheat buy-up sparks price manipulation fears
Britain's most powerful grain company, jointly owned by Cargill and Associated British Foods, bought and took delivery of all the available UK feed wheat last month.
By Nick Mathiason
9:30PM BST 30 Jul 2011
The series of purchases by Frontier Agriculture, described by a number of traders as "unprecedented", will reignite growing concerns among food manufacturers and campaign groups over the potential for giant trading companies and financiers with deep pockets to profit and even distort commodity markets.
Traders told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that Frontier bought all available May Futures contracts on the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe) in the period running up to the tender date in the last week of April. Feed wheat sets the benchmark price for wheat used in food.
In recent weeks, Frontier is believed to have taken physical delivery of approximately 225,000 tonnes of feed wheat now worth in the region of £40m in what has been described as an attempt to corner the market.
Frontier strongly rejected any suggestion of an attempt to manipulate the market. It did not confirm or deny it made the unusually large trades and refused to reveal its position. The company's trading director, Jon Duffy, stated that all the wheat contracts it took physical delivery for were made to secure enough grain to fulfil customers' orders.
"We are not speculators, said Duffy. "We are physical grain traders. We buy about 5m tonnes of grain. We buy it, move it, transport it and deliver it."
The spectacular grain raids, which are not illegal, were confirmed by three leading wheat traders who spoke to the Bureau.
But the move appears to have backfired. With wheat in short supply three months before harvest, an unusually dry spell combined with a Russian export ban imposed last August sent wheat futures spiralling.
Frontier's purchase sent May Futures even higher compared with other contracts. This could have created millions of pounds in profit for Frontier.
But the Russian government's announcement in May that it would lift its export ban, much-needed rain and the temporary closure of a major bio-ethanol facility on Teeside, which uses almost 100,000 tonnes of wheat each month, led to a sudden price drop. This meant Frontier could have lost between £5m and £10m on its acquisition, according to one senior grain trader.
Frontier said it sold on all wheat associated with this trade but would not confirm whether it lost money.
Wheat May futures on Liffe climbed from £153 per tonne in October last year to over £222 in April.
Deborah Doane, director of anti-poverty campaign group World Development Movement, which has been a vocal critic of what it describes as opaque commodity markets, said: "The end result of trades like this is a volatile market that often has no connection to real supply and demand, wreaking havoc on consumers in the UK and in poor nations.
"The UK Government has turned a blind eye and has aimed to block European proposals for regulating commodity markets that would bring this type of profiteering to a halt even though the light touch approach to regulation has been shown to be a complete failure."
It is currently impossible to establish the identity of those who make large commodity trades on Liffe. The identity of traders is only known by the exchange and brokers.
Huge financial players – whether they are hedge funds, index funds or giant trading houses such as Cargill or Glencore – have come under growing scrutiny in recent years as trading volumes have escalated sharply.
This has sparked concern within the G20 that speculation is feeding inflation and aggravating poverty in poor countries. And the European Commission this autumn is expected to revise its Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID), which has attracted a fierce lobbying drive from banks trying to ward off expected greater transparency in derivative markets across the EU.
Later in the year, Liffe will introduce rules in London that will analyse the proportion of soft commodities that is held by banks, index funds, hedge funds and grain traders. It is also considering whether to introduce position or delivery limits in soft commodity markets.
Frontier, meanwhile, on revenues of £980m and profits after tax of £16.8m, has grown swiftly in 10 years to become Britain's leading grain purchaser, putting it ahead of Openfield, the UK's largest farmer-owned grain business, Gleadell Agriculture and Glencore Grain.
Frontier's Duffy says its market share is 23pc and that Frontier buys 5 m tonnes of grain which also includes barley, oats and rapeseed each year.
Duffy stresses that Frontier is independent of its powerful shareholders, Cargill and Associated British Foods. Both shareholders own a number of major food processing and biofuel facilities in Britain. This, suggest farming insiders, has the potential for Frontier to exert significant control on farmers and rival grain suppliers.
- Nick Mathiason is a business reporter at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The paper explores how synthetic biology is being used to create next generation biofuels, their potential risks and harms, and the need for clear thinking on domestic and international regulation.
Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) | www.field.org.uk
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The Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy for Aviationreport, submitted to the EC, gives details of how they propose European aviation can get up to 2% of biofuels by 2020. They claim "sustainable" biofuel, in huge amounts, can be sourced. On aviation industry emissions reduction targets, the study finds that stabilisation of emissions at 2020 levels - using biofuels - would probably take well beyond 2030.and it sees some of the problems.
SWAFEA final report lays groundwork for the deployment of sustainable aviation biofuels in Europe
26.7.2011 (Green Air online)
[This is a horrendous report, backing biofuels for avaition, and very worrying indeed]
Although the aviation sector has a good track record in reducing its environmental impact through efficiency gains, it is highly unlikely to reduce or even stabilise its emissions through this means alone, but biofuels present a real potential for reduction, concludes a major European study into aviation alternative fuels.
However, a number of major challenges need to be faced including feedstock availability and development, and how to overcome the economic barriers for investors. The study recommends that quota mandates should be considered and suggests that auction revenues from the EU ETS be used to kick-start the process. As a first step, a low minimum goal for European aviation biofuel introduction in 2020 – a 2% market penetration is proposed – should be the basis for triggering a start-up of production.
The findings are included in a final 110-page report submitted to the European Commission on the conclusion of the two-year Sustainable Way for Alternative Fuels and Energy in Aviation (SWAFEA) project, the most comprehensive study of the deployment issue to date.
In respect of aviation industry emissions reduction targets, the study finds that stabilisation of emissions at their 2020 levels will take time to be achieved, probably well beyond 2030, but is feasible with the deployment of biofuels from hydrotreated renewable jet (HRJ) and biomass-to-liquid (BTL) pathways. The 2050 target of halving emissions by 2050 compared to 2005, however, will require radically more efficient pathway solutions, such as algae.
The study, carried out by a 20-strong consortium led by French aviation research institution Onera, recommends the setting up of a European network of excellence to evaluate new fuel pathways with regard to aviation requirements. Rather than compete with standards bodies like ASTM International and Defence Standards, it should complement and interface with them and contribute to the approvals processes. In addition, the network should also include capability to consider sustainability and industrial aspects.
The need is also identified for coordination between different initiatives or R&D programmes engaged in Europe and also coordination at a political level concerning regulations or policies. The study suggests setting up a European Technology Platform that synthesises on-going activities and offers a platform for information exchange. Such a structure could be opened up to international cooperation and partnerships. Given the synergy existing for many links of the biofuel chain between the aviation and the automotive industries, it suggests the two sectors should work more closely together.
Beyond R&D, the study identifies the need for demonstration initiatives at the various steps of the fuel value chain in order to consolidate the knowledge and choice for future development, or to accelerate deployment of alternative aviation fuels. It suggests the demonstration of a regular supply of aviation biofuel to an airport, for example, would be a helpful initiative to identify and assess in a real situation all the practical issues brought on by the introduction of new fuels and pave the way for future large-scale deployment at European airports.
At a European level, there should be a harmonisation of sustainability requirements between different regulations and policies. Aviation fuel being a global commodity, an international harmonisation of sustainability regulations and policies would help and should be searched at International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) level for a worldwide application in accordance with ICAO's resolution on climate change, suggests the study. There should be an alignment of the various lifecycle analysis methodologies and sustainability criteria in order to facilitate a worldwide certification of aviation fuel.
The report suggests research should be supported on a methodological approach of indirect land use change and associate policy measures, as well as to investigate further the environmental and societal impacts and acceptance of intensive energy biomass production.
The major economic issue for aviation biofuels is their lack of competitiveness with conventional fuel, at least in the first decade of deployment, and the changes in feedstock prices. Both biomass availability and the economics demonstrate the need for more efficient processing pathways, with higher yields and reduced costs, and for new sources of feedstocks.
To start up the production of aviation biofuels, a combination of measures will be required to achieve the initial target. In particular, an overall field-to-wing strategic plan could be an efficient approach that would push for the emergence of a number of `end-to-end' projects addressing the complete production chain, from feedstock to fuel.
Means of funding could include the possible use of ETS revenues complemented by a limited quota mandate policy in a `push and pull' approach that guarantees the deployment takes place and also offers the distribution of funding to a wider range of players. It suggests the Commission explores the possibility of including aviation biofuels in the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which stipulates a minimum share of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020.
BTL and HRJ pathways are currently the most mature processes for a deployment by 2020 but the higher investment required for BTL plants, although they are potentially more efficient, is another economic barrier to be overcome. Even for an institution like the European Investment Bank, reports the study, such an investment would be too risky. A way to reduce the risk and raise the capital would be to establish public-private partnerships in which investment is shared between private entities and governments, with eventually additional grants from Europe.
Although biofuels are zero rated under the ETS, this alone is not a sufficient incentive for deployment, finds the report. It estimates that EU member states will raise around €29.2 billion over the 2012-2020 period from ETS auctions.
The 2% biofuel share of the aviation fuel market by 2020 represents production of 1.25 million tonnes of aviation biofuel to be uplifted in Europe. A strategic plan that involved both subsidising aviation biofuel use for a five-year period at a cost of around €3.6 billion and half the aviation share of the overall €10 billion investment required to build the necessary two HRJ and four BTL plants could be met from ETS revenues.
The SWAFEA findings, first presented at a conference in February (see article), have already prompted the Commission into action. In June, along with Airbus, leading European airlines and biofuel producers, the Commission's energy directorate launched the `Biofuel Flightpath' initiative to speed up the introduction and commercialisation of aviation biofuels in Europe. It sets out a roadmap for achieving an annual production of two million tonnes of sustainable biofuel from European-sourced feedstock by 2020 (see article).
In separate news, the Commission last week approved the first voluntary sustainability schemes, with the aim of ensuring biofuels used in Europe meet strict sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The criteria covers land use issues and sets minimum levels of GHG savings over the whole production chain compared to fossil fuels. These schemes now have open access to the EU market without further verification of sustainability aspects.
Each scheme is required to monitor the whole chain and appoints independent auditors to carry out the controls. Out of 25 applications, seven EU and international schemes have been approved in the first assessment round, including the Swiss-based Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).
A multi-stakeholder initiative, RSB has developed a global sustainability standard and certification system for biofuel production. It represents over 120 organisations globally, including farmers, regulators and NGOs. The aviation industry has thrown its weight behind the RSB as the main institution to verify the sustainability of aviation biofuels.
The report is at
The report contains statements such as (page 11)
If this target is technically possible, it is underlined that it requires a significant effort and investment in agriculture, cultivating a large amount of lands not cultivated today, the availability of fertilizers and of manpower. Indeed agriculture appears as the main potential source of biomass. From the yield increase technical point of view, meeting the demand for biomass seems feasible by 2050. However there is a significant challenge to achieve the foreseen development of the production in the next 40 years. Reaching a carbon neutral growth at 2020 emissions level from 20308 would for example request a rate of increase of the biomass production between 2020 and 2030 that appears extremely hard to achieve. This means that achieving carbon-neutral growth at 2020 levels will depend on economic measures beyond 2030.
(page 4 7)
An additional methodological issue regarding LCA is related to indirect land use change (iLUC). Land use change may indeed result as an indirect consequence of the deployment of biofuel and may not be immediately visible. Indirect land use change results from the displacement of cultures because of the deployment of energy crops on areas that were used for other purposes and especially for food production. iLUC is difficult to observe and evaluate as it is an indirect process with a temporal and geographical shift. It's also something difficult to control through certification schemes since it falls outside of the control of the audited companies (agricultural producers). Currently neither the RSB nor the RED have introduced iLUC in their standards and there is today no consensus on a methodology to address iLUC in LCA.
In particular, it should be noted that the major part of the biomass is likely to come from the conversion of what is currently grazing lands, as the potential from croplands in 2050 is quite limited.
From the assessment performed within SWAFEA, it was concluded that, with the current transformation processes (Fischer-Tropsch and oils hydroprocessing), an excessive fraction of the traditional biomass (from agriculture and forestry) possibly produced in 2050 would be required in order to achieve the aviation industry target of halving emissions in 2050 compared to 2005. Radically more efficient biomass or processes and also revolutionary aircraft technologies would be necessary to meet this goal.
16.8.2011 (Green Air Online)
President Obama today announced an investment of $510 million over the next three years towards developing an industry to develop and produce drop-in advanced aviation and marine biofuels for the US defence and commercial sectors.
The funding will come from the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Energy and Navy and is to be matched equally with finance from the private sector.
Without mentioning environmental concerns, the USDA said the partnership aims to reduce US reliance on foreign oil and create jobs, while positioning American companies and farmers to be global leaders in advanced biofuels production. The United States spends over $300 billion on imported crude each year. To accelerate the production of bio-based jet and diesel fuel for military and commercial purposes, the Secretaries of the three agencies have developed a plan to jointly construct or retrofit several drop-in biofuel plants and refineries.
"Biofuels are an important part of reducing America's dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home," said Obama. "But supporting biofuels cannot be the role of government alone. That's why we're partnering with the private sector to speed development of next-generation biofuels that will help us continue to take steps towards energy independence and strengthen communities across our country."
In an earlier speech in March (see article), Obama said: "Competitively-priced drop-in biofuels could help meet the fuel needs of the Navy, as well as the commercial aviation and shipping sectors."
The cross-agency collaboration is being steered by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said long-term national security was dependent on a commercially viable domestic biofuels market. He added the initiative would help advance the biofuels market and ultimately bring down the cost of biofuels for all.
As well as being a national energy security imperative, providing jobs and opportunities for America's rural communities, particularly farmers, is also at the forefront of accelerating the drive to developing a home-grown advanced biofuels sector.
"By building a national biofuels industry, we are creating construction jobs, refinery jobs and economic opportunity in rural communities throughout the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "As importantly, every gallon of biofuel consumed near where it is produced cuts transportation costs and, for the military, improves energy security."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu commented: "These pioneer plants will demonstrate advanced technologies to produce infrastructure-compatible drop-in renewable fuels from America's abundant biomass resources."
In a speech at the Paris Air Show in June (see article), Vilsack said: "The USDA is excited about the opportunities presented by the requirement for aviation biofuels as it provides an opportunity for farmers to diversify income, and to take non-productive land which can be used for fuel feedstocks."
At the show, he announced five `virtual' research centres would be collaborating with universities and the private sector to identify potentially efficient and workable feedstocks.
White House announcement
Update by Green Air Online on Wed 17 Aug 2011:
The announcement has been welcomed by the US aviation industry.
"This initiative is crucial to help turn the promise of advanced aviation biofuels into reality, enhancing America's energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs," commented Air Transport Association (ATA) President and CEO Nicholas Calio. "We already know how to produce and safely fly aviation biofuels, so the government investment will help clear the last hurdle and make the fuels commercially viable."
ATA said it remained committed to doing its part through its ongoing initiatives, including the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), the Strategic Alliance for Alternative Fuels with the US military, and the Farm-to-Fly programme with the USDA and Boeing, to further the development and deployment of sustainable alternative aviation fuels.
Added Calio: "The USDA, the DOE and the Navy are doing what the federal government did in jump-starting the Internet, satellite systems and other backbone infrastructure – working with industry to help make these ventures self-sustaining."
The involvement of the Navy and the emphasis on energy security might suggest the prime objective of the initiative is to supply the US military with advanced biofuels. However, CAAFI Executive Director Richard Altman points out that the Navy represents just 2.5% of the US aviation market compared to the 85-90% share taken by commercial aviation.
"Commercial aviation is in a position to win in a very major way," he said. "The biofuels industry needs `first of a kind' commercial facilities to attract private investors. This is the key action that will leverage private investment to build capacity.
"Commercial aviation is among the `private sector' partners that are being counted upon to make this action a success. We welcome both the opportunity and the responsibility."
The White House announcement also received praise from US environmental group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) but it came with a sting. EDF said the initiative had the potential both to promote low-carbon options for ships and planes and to help rural economies, but added it would have an even greater impact if the Administration also supported Europe's aviation anti-pollution law. EDF has actively opposed the ATA's European legal suit against the inclusion of US airlines in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
"Emissions from aviation and shipping are both accelerating and poorly regulated, so it's welcome to see an investment in efforts to reduce them," said Jennifer Haverkamp, Director of EDF's International Climate Program. "How unfortunate, then, that the Administration is supporting an initiative to stimulate development of advanced biofuels, while at the same time opposing a law in Europe that would reward US airlines for using them. Clearly the Administration could multiply the positive effects of this initiative on rural jobs and green growth by also supporting the EU's Aviation Directive."
15.8.2011 (Green Air Online)
[SO MUCH FOR THE AVIATION INDUSTRY SAYING THEY WOULD ONLY USE BIOFUELS THAT DO NOT COMPETE WITH FOOD PRODUCTION.]
The regional initiative launched in June by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide finance for renewable jet fuel projects in Latin America and the Caribbean has made its first grant. The IDB, along with aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer, is to fund a sustainability analysis of producing jet fuel from Brazilian sugarcane.
The study will evaluate environmental and market conditions for the use of renewable jet fuel produced by synthetic biofuel technology company Amyris. It will be led by ICONE, an agricultural research think-tank in Brazil, and will be independently reviewed and advised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In 2009, Embraer and Amyris announced a sustainable jet fuel initiative that aims to conduct a demonstration flight in 2012 of a GE-powered Embraer aircraft belonging to Brazilian airline Azul using biofuel derived from sugarcane.
Scheduled for completion early next year, the ICONE study will include a complete lifecycle analysis of the emissions associated with the Amyris ¡®No Compromise¡¯ jet fuel, including indirect land-use change and effects. In addition, it will include benchmarking of cane-derived renewable jet fuel against major sustainability standards, including the Bonsucro, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard adopted by the IDB.
Sugar-derived jet biofuels were not included in the recent ASTM certification process and so cannot be used on commercial flights but, according to Amyris CEO John Melo, ASTM has now set up a task force to establish product specifications for direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon renewable jet fuels such as those being developed by Amyris.
¡°This study will help us replace fossil fuels with a renewable jet fuel that surpasses both technical and sustainability criteria,¡± he said.
Embraer¡¯s Director of Environmental Strategy and Technology, Guilherme de Almeida Freire, commented: ¡°Participation in this important study is one more step for Embraer to support the development of sustainable biofuels for aviation. Brazil is a rich source of biomass, and the maturation of this technology, based on sugarcane, reinforces the importance that the nation gives to the sustainable growth of aviation.¡±
The leader of the IDB Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Initiative, Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho, said: ¡°Emerging renewable jet fuel technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, as sugarcane ethanol in Brazil has already proven. This study will examine the overall potential for sustainable, large-scale production of alternative jet fuels made from sugarcane.¡±
The IDB is employing grant resources from its Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Fund to finance activities under its jet fuel initiative. Countries that have already started developing sustainable jet fuels in the region, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, will be among the first to benefit from the grants, said the bank (see article).
¡°As renewable jet fuel production increases, it must be done in a transparent and sustainable way,¡± said Kevin Ogorzalek, Program Officer at WWF. ¡°We¡¯re eager to contribute to this study as one part of a growing international effort to reduce the fast-growing emissions from aviation and protect the critical resources on which we all depend.¡±
Billy Glover, Boeing VP of Environment and Aviation Policy, said collaborative research into the cane-to-jet pathway was important for diversifying aviation fuel supplies and ensuring the sustainability of sources that could feed into regional supply chains, such as in Brazil, was critical.
He added the project expanded on an existing collaboration between Boeing, Amyris and the State Government of Queensland, Australia. In May 2010, an international research project led by the University of Queensland and backed by Boeing, Amyris and Virgin Blue, was launched to develop renewable jet fuel from algae. The Queensland government contributed A$2 million (S2.1m) to the project through the host university¡¯s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, with Boeing adding A$450,000 and Amyris a further A$1 million.
So much for IATA saying the industry was looking for fuels not in competition with food.
on the 2010 ICAO Environmental Report 2010 ¨C Aviation and Climate Change
Aviation Raw Material Requirements
New biofuels for aviation will have to improve their GHG emissions balances throughout the entire life cycle and will have to guarantee that a number of criteria related to indirect effects and basic environmental issues are met. These include such factors as food security, land use, ecosystem interaction, and soil and water uses. Specifically, biofuels made from second generation feedstock crops should comply with the following main characteristics:
¡ñ Do not interfere with the food sector.
¡ñ Are produced on land not used for food production, or marginal land.
¡ñ Do not damage scarce natural ecosystems and are produced so that soil and water will not be contaminated or over-utilized.
¡ñ Do not require excessive agricultural inputs.
¡ñ Provide a net carbon footprint reduction compared to conventional jet fuel.
¡ñ Produce equal or higher energy content than jet fuel.
¡ñ Are not threatening to biodiversity.
¡ñ Provide socio-economic value to local communities.
The raw materials produced from agroenergetic crops for aviation biofuels must be non food-feedstock items in order to guarantee that they do not compete with the food production industry.