Articles Posted in the Green News category

Week that was: April 3 2009

April 3, 2009
Posted in Green News

climate-change-camp

Environmentalist protestors at the G20 summit in London by celesteh licensed under Creative Commons

  • LEADING BY EXAMPLE: The G20 summit disappointingly didn’t produce a green recovery package, but US President Barack Obama did say that the United States would lead by example in combating climate change. “If China and India with their populations had the same energy usage as the average American then we would all have melted by now,” he told a news conference. “China and India … justifiably chafe at the idea that they should somehow sacrifice their development for our efforts to control climate change.”
  • IT’S NOT ENOUGH: Draft climate legislation unveiled in the US this week was reportedly welcomed by green groups at the UN climate talks  in Bonn. The law calls for a cut of 3 percent from 2005 levels in greenhouse emissions by 2012, 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. The European Union has agreed cuts of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and of 30 percent if other developed nations followed suit. Obama’s cuts would to only take emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, say reports. The UN climate panel says developed countries would have to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change.
  • IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS: Scientists have trained a genetically engineered virus to make a more efficient and powerful lithium battery. More on and BBC
  • yellow-maize

  • GM MAIZE PROBLEM: Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto’s GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport. The plants, grown from three varieties of GM maize, apparently looked healthy but failed to produce seeds. According to the report, Monsanto said a mistake had been made in the laboratory and the company immediately offered to compensate farmers in Mpumalanga, Free State and North West. Marian Mayet, director of the anti-GM Africa Centre for Biosecurity, called for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods.
  • COTTONING ON TO ORGANIC: Global sales of organic cotton clothing and home textile products rose by 63 percent last year to $3.2 billion, according to the Organic Cotton Market Report. The amount of organic cotton farmers grew worldwide in 2007/08 increased by 152 percent. Organic cotton is grown without the use of fertilisers, pesticides or genetically modified seeds. (Reuters)
  • FISH OIL AND FLATULENCE: Researchers at an Irish university have found that adding fish oil to the diet of cattle reduces the methane emissions they emit via flatulence. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. More than a third of all methane emissions, about 900 billion tonnes every year, are produced by  bacteria in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats, the researchers say. (Science Daily)
  • DOLPHINS: THE GOOD NEWS: A stronghold of rare Irrawaddy fresh-water dolphins, numbering nearly 6,000 individuals, has been found in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest by researchers from the World Conservation Society. Last year the dolphins were listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.
  • ... AND THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS: Mass dolphin and whale beachings could become more frequent because of climate change, say researchers in Australia. More than 500 whales and dolphins have beached in southern Australia in the past four months. Scientists say that changing ocean current cycles are at the root of the beachings. (AFP)
  • SASOL CDM PROJECT GETS A NO: A United Nations panel has rejected a Clean Development Mechanism application for a Sasol project to replace coal with natural gas piped from Mozambique as a feedstock for its Secunda synthetic fuel plant. Sasol had argued that the project would result in a significant reduction of greenhouse gases. (Engineering News)
  • SA SETS CARBON CAPTURE TARGET: South Africa expects to build its first carbon capture and storage pilot by 2020, Bulyelwa Sonjica, the minister of minerals and energy, was reported as saying at the launch of a new carbon capture and storage centre. Sasol and Eskom, the country’s biggest emitters, Anglo American’s coal unit, Exxaro, Xstrata Coal and the British and Norwegian governments are all part of the project. The centre has R25-million in funds. (Reuters)

Organic farming could feed Africa, says UN report

October 23, 2008
Posted in Food, Green News

The potential of organic farming to meet Africa’s growing food needs may have been underestimated. Britain’s Independent reports that a new study by the UN Environment Programme, which it says was released yesterday, shows that organic farming methods have increased crop yields by up to 128 percent in East Africa and provided much-needed income boosts for small farmers.

The UN’s findings provide a counterargument to increasing calls for genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture on the continent in the face of the global food crisis. Organic farming is seen by many as a Western lifestyle choice rather than a practical solution to feed Africa’s many hungry mouths. [See UK government’s former chief scientist David King’s remarks on the subject in the Guardian]

Read the full report on the Independent

Why can’t GM foods be labelled?

August 4, 2008
Posted in Food

© iStockphoto.com

An article in the Sunday Times yesterday reported that many South Africans are unknowingly eating genetically modified maize.

The article listed the following products as testing positive for GM maize: “ProNutro original flavour (52.7 %), ProNutro Toddlers Instant apple and banana flavour (97.5%), Iwisa Maize Meal (27.2%), Tiger Brands Ace samp (53.7%) and Purity cream of maize baby soft porridge (24.9%).”

Pick n Pay No Name Brand cornflakes and Kellogg’s cornflakes were reported to be GM free.

I’m pretty sure I fed at least one of the baby foods listed above to my children when they were babies and I probably wouldn’t have if I’d known that they contained GM maize. My instinct is to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to my children. The government may say that GM maize is perfectly safe, but then evironmental groups like Greenpeace report otherwise.

I’d like to be able to choose whether or not my family eats GM food. Why can’t products with GM ingredients be labelled, anyway? They are in the EU. Would it really make that much of a difference to sales?

The Sunday Times article said that “labelling in South Africa applies only to GM foods that are ‘substantially different’ from non-GM foods or contain animal or human genes”. It quoted Andries Pretorius, of the department of health, as saying: “Currently in South Africa, GM foodstuffs on the shelves only contain inserted bacterial genes and proteins and these foodstuffs are considered substantially equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and therefore do not require to be labelled.”

I can’t say I understand what any of that means, but surely something has either had a “foreign” gene inserted into it or it hasn’t. If it has, then why not tell us?

More than half the maize crop in South Africa is genetically modified so completely GM-free maize is getting harder to find, the article says. Maybe, then, companies should label the products that are “GM free” – and be willing to have them independently tested.

South Africa’s hot potatoes

July 29, 2008
Posted in Food

In this year of the potato (so named by the United Nations General Assembly, believe it or not) the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) intends to apply to the government for permission to make genetically modified potatoes commercially available in South Africa.

The SpuntaG2 potato is resistant against potato tuber moth damage and, if permission is granted, it will join the GM maize, soyabeans and cotton that are already grown in this country.

The African Centre for Biodiversity, SafeAge, Biowatch South Africa and Urban Sprout have organised an online petition opposing the marketing and growing of the GM potatoes here and are “imploring” the South African GMO Council to reject the ARC’s application.

GM potatoes pose no benefit to consumers or African famers, the group argues. The petition states:

The developers claim that GM potatoes are better for our health & the environment because they reduce pesticide spraying, but this is not true. GM potatoes are engineered with an inbuilt pesticide to control the tuber moth, which is most destructive during storage. The pesticide is now inside the plant and farmers will still use a toxic cocktail of chemicals to combat all the other 99 pests, as well as viral, fungal & bacterial diseases, and weeds that plague potato farming in South Africa.

Furthermore because the Bt toxin is expressed 24 hours a day, it accumulates in the environment and throughout the food chain. The tuber moth will quickly develop resistance to the toxin, so this is a short-term and short-sighted solution to this problem.”

To go to the online petition, click here.

Interestingly, the GM potato petition is the first petition on activism.co.za, according to Urban Sprout. The site has been created to make armchair activism easier for us South Africans by enabling us to support multiple initiatives with a single click. While you’re there, check out the list of DVDs, there are some really interesting ones that you seem to be able to order from the site.