Nel's New Day

May 13, 2016

Hopeful Environmental News

 

GOP presumptive heir has campaigned on the position that he will let his advisors tell him what to do, and his newest advisor in helping him draft energy policy is climate change skeptic and drilling advocate Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota, a major oil drilling state. Cramer stated that his white paper will show the dangers of burdensome taxes and over-regulation. Trump will present these ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck (ND) later this month. According to Cramer, the earth is cooling, not warming.

While Trump’s train chugs on, environmentalists have recently received good news.

Methane gas: The EPA announced new rules to significantly reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities as well as those undergoing modifications. It’s a first step in this area because the direction, finalized later this year, is only for these wells on federal lands and not for existing ones. The regulations will cover only 25 percent of the oil and gas equipment. Methane gas worsens smog, asthma iin children, and cardiovascular disease while increasing premature death.

Fracking: The industry has suffered a $4.2 million jury award over alleged groundwater contamination from fracking. Cabot Oil and Gas Co. is supposed to give the money to families in Dimock (PA). Popular support for fracking is also shrinking to 36 percent of people in the nation last March from 40 percent the prior March. Federal regulators are also working on new environmental rules for the industry that has experienced a long price slump. The oil and gas industry is under much greater scrutiny that at the beginning of its boom ten years ago.

Renewable energy: Last Sunday morning Germany got 90 percent of its electricity demand from renewable power. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time: the country averages 30 percent of the country’s power from solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass. Yet that average is over 230 percent higher than in the United States that gets only 13 percent of its electricity from these energy sources. At the fourth-largest economy in the world, Germany’s $3.7 trillion GDP is higher than any European country or US state. As clean energy grew in Germany so did its economy. The country, with about as much sunshine as Alaska, outpaces the U.S. in solar although the U.S. has four times the population of Germany. German individuals drive the “energy transition” because the government opened the market to utilities, businesses, and homeowners. In contrast, the U.S. restricts clean energy through high taxes and fees on its installation and use, much of these restrictions from control on solar energy by fossil-fuel owning Koch brothers. Florida is just one example.

Coal terminals: A five-year struggle between coal and Native Americans has resulted in denial of federal permits for the biggest proposed coal terminal in North America at Cherry Point (WA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the project would violate the nation’s treaty obligations to protect Lummi fisheries and ancestral lands. The project would have overloaded the capacity of BNSF railways by adding 16 trains per day and increase the possibility of rail collisions by 22 percent through Cowlitz County and Washington. The increase in train activity would cause road delays at between four to six crossings. The company behind the project, Millennium Bulk Terminals, is still hoping to have a terminal at Longview (WA), but it had to pull its proposal when it was discovered that the company planned to ship 60 million tons of coal annual instead of the 5.7 million tons on the applications. Since Millennium applied for permits in 2012, Arch Coal, a minority shareholder, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

New clean electric generation in the United States: Last year, wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015. The other third was natural gas fueled by natural gas. It was the second year that U.S. investment in renewable energy outpaced that of fossil fuels. The cost of emissions-free wind energy, the cheapest energy source, has dropped by two-thirds in the last six years. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas—home states to GOP lawmakers fighting the curtailment of climate-warming carbon emissions—benefited the most from clean energy. In the past ten years, coal has dropped from providing half the nation’s electricity to one-third, and large banks will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants. U.S. coal mines not employ only 56,700 people down from a peak of times that many employees; solar employs more than 210,000 workers, and wind energy has another 77,000 employees.

This week, the EPA issued a report that Monsanto’s Roundup, made with glyphosate, doesn’t cause cancer, but it pulled the report, marked FINAL, with the excuse that they weren’t finished. The question is whether they were being pressured by business because evidence is growing that the product is carcinogenic, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the product.  Four Nebraska farmers agree with WHO and are suing Monsanto, claiming that its project gave them non-Hodkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto made $4.8 billion from Roundup sales last year, and more than 85 million pounds of glyphosate was applied to U.S. crops in 2007, more than double the 85 million pounds in 2001. Glyphosate is applied to “Roundup-ready” crops that are genetically modified to resist it and used on more than 100 varieties of crops in commercial agriculture. The complaint states:

 “Glyphosate is found in rivers, streams, and groundwater in agricultural areas where Roundup is used. It has been found in food, the urine of exposed persons, and in the urine of urban dwellers without direct contact with glyphosate.”

Last year California was the first state to label Roundup as a carcinogen, and Monsanto sued the state to fight this designation. Cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers, including lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The farmers’ lawsuit isn’t the first: Monsanto faces at least 700 lawsuits against Monsanto or Monsanto-related entities regarding cancer caused by PCBs that the company manufactured until the late 1970s. California federal judge Vince Chhabria has also refused to dismiss a lawsuit about Monsanto’s causing cancer with Roundup.

More and more media sources no longer have journalists but instead rely on press releases from companies who benefit from lying about science. Even most existing journalists aren’t well enough trained in science to spot misinformation.  In an attempt to disseminate accurate scientific information, a group of scientists are now fact-checking scientific information in the media through a new project called Climate Feedback. They started on a small scale over a year ago and are now crowdfunding $30,000 to build the project’s capacity with new weekly feedbacks. Associate Editor Daniel Nethery said:

“Several aspects of the online media environment make it particularly conducive to the spread of misinformation. In the race to attract the most clicks, editorial standards may suffer, qualified journalists who carry out rigorous research may become cost-ineffective, and eye-catching headlines — ‘click bait’ — can trump more sober reporting of the facts.”

Nethery and co-founder Emmanuel Vincent plan to hire a dedicated editor and encourage accurate science writing through a Scientific Trust Tracker to guide readers sources with “journalists with integrity.” An example of their work can be found in their analysis of James Taylor’s article in Forbes, “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record.”

Climate Feedback will need a lot more money in this election cycle!

July 12, 2014

Legislators Want to Keep People Ignorant

Filed under: GMOs — trp2011 @ 9:47 PM
Tags: , ,

When children are young, parents sometimes keep information from them to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. In the past decade, the government has started doing the same thing. Last year, it was recommended that women not get mammograms because they would be upset by false positives.

Kansas passed a law this past spring ordering doctors to tell their pregnant patients that abortion can cause breast cancer. Of course, that’s not true, but conservatives are never concerned about facts. They just want to believe that they’re protecting the gentler sex. Kansas children are also prevented from learning about sex and contraception.

The most recent way to protect the delicate sensibilities of people in the United States is to prevent labeling. Because members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture firmly believe that genetic engineering of food crops is a total success, they want to keep those foods from being labeled. The panel agreed that people who oppose GMOs or want them labeled are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance. Labels would make this fear worse so the legislators should stop this from happening.

Even my own U.S. representative, Kurt Schrader (D-OR), thinks that political leaders, especially in the European Union, are afraid of pro-labeling people. He said, “It’s obvious that while the science in the EU in incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers.”

Committee members carefully selected only pro-GMO witnesses who failed to talk about the development of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” decreased biodiversity, over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, and potential health risks.

Because the authoritarian conservatives are eager to protect the populace, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) are proposing a bill to keep states from requiring GMO labeling and allow genetically engineered food to be labeled “100 percent natural.” These people believe in states’ rights unless it gets in the way of their campaign funds. Fortunately, some people are objecting, including Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). According to them, labeling is an inexpensive way to let people know what’s in their food so they can decide what they want to eat.

Once again, conservative legislators are on the opposite side from popular opinion. About three-fourths of people in the nation are concerned about GMOs, and 93 percent of us support mandatory GMO labeling on foods. It’s only Big Food—that pays our legislators—who are fighting legislation for labeling. Last year, the industry made so many misrepresentations about a measure on the ballot and poured so much money into fighting the initiative that it was defeated. The same thing happened earlier in California.

In a British survey, 61 percent of the farmers said that they would grow GMO crops, but only 15 percent of them said that they would eat the product. The farmers know something that the House conservatives don’t: GMO food products destroy health and kill people. Last year, a scientific study about rats fed on “Roundup ready” GMO maize was debunked because some people felt that it lacked a stringent peer review process. After following these guidelines, the study is back—with the same results of severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances. Most treatment groups had higher rates of large tumors and mortality.

Current safety testing from the industry is for only 90 days, an inadequate time because chronic diseases don’t manifest themselves until mid-life. The study also differs from industry studies because it publishes the raw data, something that the GMO industry doesn’t want people to see.

The connection between GMOs and serious health problems became obvious in the 1990′s when a new form of kidney disease swept through Sri Lankan agriculture workers. A joint study by Rajarata University and the California State University eventually found the link between a common herbicide introduced to widespread use during the late 1970′s, glyphosate, sold under the brand name “RoundUp” here in the United States. Sri Lanka lacked U.S. regulations to prevent water contamination or protect workers, and heavy metals within the soil caused binding with the glyphosate. The same situation occurred in Central America and India, also areas with lax regulations.

The United States, despite some regulations, suffers from GMO poisoning, exacerbated by spraying soybeans with the weedkiller in the 1990s. In April it was revealed that breast milk carries many times the allowable amount of glyphosate, and scientists found glyphosate at “760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides.” The EPA, however, allows higher levels that the EU and has been convinced by the industry that glyphosate doesn’t accumulate in the body. Yet, urine from consumers in the United States has ten times the glyphosate as urine in European consumers. This summer, the industry hopes to approve dicamba and 2,4D, elements in the defoliant in Agent Orange used to clear jungles during the Vietnam War.

Even Russia demands labeling if foods contain over 0.9 percent of GMOs. “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said.

The USDA has never denied an application from Monsanto for new genetically engineered crops. Monsanto’s growth hormones for cows was approved by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist turned USDA administrator and FDA deputy commissioner.  This was after Margaret Miller, a former Monsanto employee, oversaw a report on the hormones’ safety and then took a job at the FDA where she approved her own report. Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist, wrote the USDA’s food standards, allowing corporations to label irradiated and genetically engineered foods as “organic.” Monsanto’s board members have worked for the EPA, advised the USDA, and served on President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Glyphosate has been linked to increased cancer risk, neurotoxicity, and birth defects, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation; lung congestion; increased breathing rate; and damage to the pancreas, kidney and testes. Gluten intolerance has dramatically increased within the past two decades at the same time that GMOs have been covering the United States.  The Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) Jeffrey M. Smith asserts that GM foods–including soy and corn–are the possible “environmental triggers” to gluten disorders that affect almost 20 million people in the nation.

GMOs have ingredients that kill rats, but the legislators want to protect people from knowing whether foods are genetically modified because people will get afraid. The question isn’t whether to ban GMOs; it’s merely a matter of labeling.  Legislators are afraid that they’ll lose campaign donations if they don’t stop people from knowing what’s in their food.

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