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Stinging rebuke: Court rules against EPA’s lax approval of Dow’s bee-poisonous pesticide

RT | September 11, 2015

A federal appeals court in the US has rejected a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to approve an insecticide harmful to honeybees without proper verification of the chemical’s effects.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly approved and registered the pesticide sulfoxaflor, made by Dow AgroSciences, in violation of the agency’s regulatory protocol.

Environmentalists and representatives of the honey and beekeeping industries said sulfoxalfor is a type of insecticide chemical known as a neonicotinoid that is associated with mass death among bee populations worldwide.

The court agreed with sulfoxaflor’s neonicotinoid status in its ruling, finding that the EPA based its regulatory decision on “flawed and limited data,” and that sulfoxaflor approval was not based around “substantial evidence.”

The EPA used studies and materials provided by Dow to assess the chemical’s effects on bees and other species. Based on insufficient data given to it by Dow, the agency proposed certain conditions on the approval of the chemical, the court found.

Yet the EPA went ahead with unconditional registration anyway even though Dow had not met those conditions or offered updated studies, the court said.

“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” the ruling stated, adding that the EPA must provide more data on impacts of sulfoxaflor before moving forward with the chemical.
“It’s a complete victory for the beekeepers we represent,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney representing the American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and other plaintiffs, according to Reuters. “The EPA has not been very vigilant.”

Dow AgroSciences, a division of Dow Chemical Co., first registered sulfoxalfor in 2010 for use in three of its products, including the brands Transform and Closer. In a statement, Dow said it “respectfully disagrees” with the court’s ruling and that it intends to “work with EPA to implement the order and to promptly complete additional regulatory work to support the registration of the products.”

The EPA said it will review the ruling, but offered no further comment to Reuters.

The plaintiffs in the case filed a lawsuit against the EPA in late 2013, arguing the EPA’s approval process of the chemical fell short of its legal oversight demands. Shortly before the EPA cleared sulfoxalfor in May 2013, the European Union enacted a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (sulfoxaflor is considered by many to be a “fourth-generation neonicotinoid”) in light of scientific studies that indicate their harm to bees.

The suit was the first to invoke the US Endangered Species Act to protect bees, claiming the EPA violated the act by not sufficiently considering the impact of pesticides on honeybees and other imperiled wildlife categorized as threatened or endangered under federal law. Bees pollinate plants that are responsible for at least a quarter of Americans’ food.

Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1990s to boost yields of staple crops such as corn, but they are also widely used on annual and perennial plants in lawns and gardens. Researchers believe the neonicotinoids are causing some kind of unknown biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

CCD has led to the deaths of tens of millions of honeybees in the US, with annual death rates of about 30 percent. A 2013 US Department of Agriculture study reported that CCD has caused the devastation of an estimated 10 million beehives. This year, the USDA said that 42.1 of managed honeybee colonies were lost from April 2014 to April 2015, the second-highest annual loss on record.

Pesticide producers argue that the current massive bee die-off worldwide is not caused by chemicals, but mite infestations and other factors.

Honeybees pollinate more than 100 US crops – including apples, zucchinis, avocados, and plums – that are worth more than $200 billion a year.

In May, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations on pesticide use that seek to protect managed bee populations during certain periods of the year.

READ MORE:

Insecticides cause honeybee colony collapse, study shows

​US govt’s wanton approval of harmful pesticides fueling ‘bee holocaust’ – lawsuit

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Navajo Nation struggles with fallout from uranium mining

RT | May 9, 2015

Waste outside an abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation, Cameron, Arizona (Image from ehp.niehs.nih.gov)

Waste outside an abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation, Cameron, Arizona (Image from ehp.niehs.nih.gov)

As part of a cleanup settlement, the US will pay out more than $13 million to start dealing with hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation territory. Navajo officials tell RT it is just the first step on a long road ahead.

The money will be put into an “environmental response trust” managed by the Navajo Nation with the support of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

“It will provide us with funding to do a very specific task under the cleanup process that’s authorized by the federal superfund law,” Stephen Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation’s EPA, told RT’s Ben Swann.

The funds will cover evaluations of 16 abandoned mines throughout Navajo lands, chosen from a list of 46 priority sites. There are hundreds of sites that still need to be addressed. By one estimate, there are more than 1,200 abandoned uranium mines within the borders of the Navajo Nation, a 27,000-square-mile territory stretching across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

The EPA says it has repaired 34 homes, surveyed 521 mines, compiled a list of 46 priority sites for cleanup, and performed stabilization or cleanup work at nine mines so far. The agency has also provided safe drinking water to more than 1,800 families.

A 2014 settlement set aside $985 million from a multi-billion dollar settlement with subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corp to clean up approximately 50 abandoned Kerr-McGee mining operations in the Navajo Nation.

Federal surveyors found rich uranium deposits on Navajo lands in the 1940s, and the government authorized private contractors to extract the ore for US weapons and energy needs. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the area between 1944 and 1986, after which the mining was halted. The federal government, through the Atomic Energy Commission, was the sole purchaser of the ore until 1966.

Navajo miners worked without any kind of protective gear or decontamination protocols for wages sometimes less than $1 an hour. In her 2011 book, Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed, journalist Judy Pasternak wrote that the miners suffered radiation exposure four times that of the Japanese exposed to nuclear bombs during World War II.

In the 1950s, cancer rates among the Navajos were so low, they were thought naturally immune, wrote environmental journalist Sonia Luokkala. By 2004, cancer had become the leading cause of illness and death among the Navajo.

A 2014 survey by the EPA of about 500 abandoned mines found radiation levels up to 25 times higher than normal. Many of the mines with the highest radiation levels were found within a quarter mile of human habitation.

“Chronic exposure is definitely one thing we want to get a better understanding of,” Etsitty told RT. Many of the Navajo live in the remote areas of the reservation, often close to the abandoned mining pits that have since filled up with water. Humans and animals drink the water from the pits, often not aware of the possible issues with radiation or toxicity.

“We still have not completed meaningful public health studies to begin answering those questions,” Etsitty said. The DOJ settlement should offer a little bit of help in the process, but merely surveying the extent of the contamination and environmental impact will take much more money and time.

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto shuns WHO verdict that Roundup ‘probably’ causes cancer

RT | March 21, 2015

The active ingredient in the world’s most widely-used Roundup herbicide has been classified as “probably” carcinogenic to humans by a branch of the World Health Organization. The agrochemical giant Monsanto, has immediately rejected the new conclusions.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in their latest study said that there was “convincing evidence” that glyphosate in Roundup can cause cancer in lab animals.

St. Louis-based Monsanto was not pleased with WHO conclusions, claiming that scientific data does not support their assumptions and urging the health watchdog to hold a meeting to explain the findings.

“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, said in a brief statement released soon after the report was published.

The study, published Friday in the journal Lancet Oncology also said it found “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for “non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The conclusion of the research was based on studies of exposure to the chemical in the United States, Canada, and Sweden that date back to 2001.

According to the study, Glyphosate is used in more than 750 different herbicides in air dissemination during spraying, in water and in food. IARC said glyphosate was traced in the blood and urine of agricultural workers.

IARC has four levels of classifications for cancer agents. Glyphosate now falls under the second level of concern known as ‘probable or possible carcinogens.’ The other agents are classified either as carcinogens, ‘probably not carcinogenic’ or ‘not classifiable’.

Glyphosate, which was invented by Monsanto back in 1974, is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops.

In the US the herbicide is considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate. In its original assessment the US watchdog said glyphosate can “be used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.” The EPA said it would consider IARC’s evaluation.

A German government evaluation conducted for the European Union last year also found the herbicide safe to use. “The available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animal,” the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said.

Monsanto insists that “all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health,” according to Miller.

Glyphosate is mainly used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, thus the general public is unlikely to face the greatest risk of exposure, according to the report.

However, “home use” is not the issue, said Kate Guyton of IARC.

“It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”

Last month, a leading US environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, accusing regulators of dismissing the dangers of glyphosate.

In a recent report by the Center for Food Safety, the heavy proliferation of Roundup was linked to a drastic 90-percent drop in the population of monarch butterflies in the US. Roundup has become a leading killer of Glyphosate-sensitive milkweed plants – the only spots where monarchs lay eggs, as the plant is the only food source for monarch larvae.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism | , , | Leave a comment

San Diego sues Monsanto for bay pollution & persistent contamination

RT | March 17, 2015

Agrochemical giant Monsanto has been sued by the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified Port District for selling chemicals the multinational knew were harmful to the ecology, including that of the now heavily polluted San Diego Bay.

According to the San Diego Reader, city agencies filed suit on Monday, alleging Monsanto hid its knowledge of the toxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Despite being aware of these facts, the company peddled its chemical compounds for industrial use, including shipbuilding, electrical component manufacture, food packaging and paint plasticizers.

The city and port were previously held responsible by the San Diego Regional Water Control Board for the bay’s pollution, resulting in fines of $949,634. The city set aside $6.45 million to improve the Shipyards Sediment Site, the most notoriously polluted section of the bay. City and port authorities have already sued shipbuilding companies BAE and NASSCO, and are now going for Monsanto.

“PCBs manufactured by Monsanto have been found in Bay sediments and water and have been identified in tissues of fish, lobsters, and other marine life in the Bay,” the city said in the lawsuit. “PCB contamination in and around the Bay affects all San Diegans and visitors who enjoy the Bay, who reasonably would be disturbed by the presence of a hazardous, banned substance in the sediment, water, and wildlife.

“PCBs were not only a substantial factor in causing the City and Port District to incur damages, but a primary driving force behind the need to clean up and abate Bay sediments. In addition, fish consumption warnings are posted at locations in and around Bay tidelands warning the public that fish within the Bay may contain contaminants and directing consumption limitations.”

Monsanto was the practically the only PCB producer in North America, marketing the products under the name Aroclor from 1930 to 1977, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lawsuit claimed Monsanto had known about the risks of inhaling or ingesting PCBs since the 1930s.

A report from 1969, the suit noted, showed that a Monsanto committee discussed ways to continue propagating the organic pollutants, which have been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, among others.

“There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds,” the internal Monsanto report said.

“Secondly, the committee believes that there is no practical course of action that can so effectively police the uses of these products as to prevent environmental contamination. There are, however a number of actions which must be undertaken to prolong the manufacture, sale and use of these particular Aroclors as well as to protect the continued use of other members of the Aroclor series.”

Through the suit, the city and port want to recoup costs of removing PCBs from the bay and for loss of natural resources.

PCBs have been banned in the United States since 1979.

Much of Monsanto’s PCB production occurred in plants based in Anniston, Alabama and Sauget, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

In 2013, a Missouri appeals court ruled that a lawsuit — alleging PCBs produced by Monsanto caused cancer — could move forward in a reversal of a lower court’s decision.

The case, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs, is monumental given the plaintiffs alleged “general population” — and not occupational — exposure.

“The case represents the first time that injured victims have sought to hold a company accountable for producing a chemical that has contaminated the entire planet, including every person in the United States,” wrote Allen Stewart, P.C., a Dallas law firm that handles lymphoma claims.

“The plaintiffs are three lymphoma patients who each have elevated levels of PCBs in their blood. The original Monsanto Co. (now known as “Pharmacia Corp.”) produced more than 99% of all of the PCBs ever used in the United States. Because PCBs are far more persistent in the environment than most other chemicals, PCBs are now a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. Today, PCBs can be found in measurable levels in virtually any sample of soil or air, and also in the food chain. PCBs contaminate fish, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.”

Read more: DuPont pushing for lenient plan in cleaning up toxic former munitions plant

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh leak at Fukushima nuclear plant sees 70-fold radiation spike

RT | February 22, 2015

Another radioactive water leak in the sea has been detected at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the facility’s operator TEPCO announced. Contamination levels in the gutter reportedly spiked up 70 times over regular readings.

The sensors are connected to the gutter that pours rain and ground water from the plant to a bay adjacent to the facility.

The levels of contamination were between 50 and 70 times higher than Fukushima’s already elevated radioactive status, and were detected at about 10 am local time (1.00 am GMT), AFP reported.

After the discovery, the gutter was blocked to prevent leaks to the Pacific Ocean.

Throughout Sunday, contamination levels fell, but still measured 10 to 20 times more than prior to the leak.

“We are currently monitoring the sensors at the gutter and seeing the trend,” a company spokesman said.

He did not specify the cause of the leak.

It has proved difficult for TEPCO to deal with plant decommissioning. Postponed deadlines and alarming incidents occur regularly at the facility.

Earlier this week, the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) said Japan had made significant progress, but there is still a radioactive threat, and a “very complex” scenario at Fukushima.

About a month ago, TEPCO announced it would miss their toxic water cleanup deadline, suspending it until the end of May, after earlier pledges it would be done by March.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto agrochemicals causing genetic damage in soybean workers – study

RT | January 22, 2015

Soybean workers exposed to the agrochemicals like glyphosate, the main component in Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ herbicide and other biocides, suffer from elevated DNA and cell damage, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, involved 127 people, including 81 exposed to biocides while working in the Brazilian soybean industry and 46 non-exposed individuals in a control group.

The exposed group exhibited an elevated level of cellular apoptosis, as well as DNA damage, according to researcher Danieli Benedetti and his team, which concluded that the now-common use of genetically-modified soybeans in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, especially in the city of Espumoso, has toxic ramifications for workers.

“Our findings indicate the advisability of monitoring genetic toxicity in soybean farm workers exposed to pesticides,” the researchers said.

Genetically-engineered seeds, proliferated across the globe by multinational agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto, are designed to withstand dousing by glyphosate and other biocides in order to terminate insect, fungus, and weed nuisances.

Benedetti’s team focused specifically on Glyphosate and 2,4-D, the two top biocide components in American-biotechnology farming culture. Glyphosate is the prime ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup products, while Dow Chemical’s 2,4-D is a potent herbicide that was also used in making Agent Orange, the chemical used by the US to devastate resistance during the Vietnam War.

Last spring, Brazil’s public prosecutor sought to suspend use of glyphosate based on its toxic effects. Studies have linked glyphosate to a fatal kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions worldwide.

Just last week, Monsanto won final approval from the US for its new genetically-modified soybeans and cotton, designed to withstand a dominant biocide that fights weed resistance built up as a result of the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide already in use.

Monsanto reported an earnings drop of 34 percent in its first fiscal quarter. The company reportedly lost $156 million in the fourth quarter of last year due to a one-time payment made to settle an environmental legal case.

As multinationals such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical have sought strict standardization in agriculture markets the world over, the corporate leviathans, especially the former, have become the target of considerable protests and demonstrations.

Companies like Monsanto market their own patented seeds that, given their genetic modification, can be doused with biocides to kill pests and weeds, and which can jeopardize long-term health of the soil and the necessary biodiversity of a local environment that allows for natural pollination and, thus, food security.

In May of last year, activists on five continents around the globe, comprising of 52 nations organized resistance under the ‘March against Monsanto’ umbrella. Protests positioned against Monsanto and involving other corporate-food issues occurred in around 400 cities worldwide, according to reports.

Just this past weekend, more than 120 organizations joined the fifth annual ‘We are Fed Up!’ demonstration in Berlin to focus on the increased importation of American farming practices – such as genetic modification, frequent antibiotic injections for animals, and chemical meat treatments – following the implementation of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Protests have raged most furiously in Europe, where the EU recently approved a law that would let its nations ban genetically-modified organisms even if the EU had deemed them safe. Monsanto said last year it would not try to get any more GM crops approved in Europe given the consistent pushback.

Anger and unrest against Monsanto’s stranglehold has also spread to South America. In Argentina, protests have occurred in resistance to the company’s potent biocides used in tandem with their genetically-engineered seeds. In Brazil, farmers have called on Monsanto and other producers of pest-resistant corn seeds to reimburse them for money spent on additional biocides when the bugs killed the crops instead of dying themselves, speaking to the biocide arms race involved in using GM seeds. Brazilian soy exporters are also tangling with Monsanto over seed royalties.

In Central America, Guatemala’s highest court suspended in September a controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.

On its home turf in the United States, Monsanto has worked diligently with other multinational biotech, agribusiness, and food production companies to beat down state-level proposals to simply label whether food is comprised of GM ingredients.

The most recent example came in the state of Oregon, where a November ballot initiative to require GMO labeling was narrowly defeated in what became the most expensive ballot measure in the state’s history. The likes of Monsanto and Dupont flushed more than $21 million into the anti-labeling campaign, dwarfing the $9 million raised by proponents.

The company has sued Hawaii’s Maui County for passing last year that bans the cultivation of genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters have been the target of mild protests, especially during shareholder meetings.

Meanwhile, agribusiness allies on Capitol Hill are pushing new federal legislation, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, that would standardize food labeling, effectively killing popular state-based efforts to pass labeling laws.

READ MORE:

Monsanto gets approval for new GMO corn, soybeans designed for potent new biocide

Rising suicide rate for Indian farmers blamed on GMO seeds

In facts & numbers: Absolute majority of Americans want GMO food to be labeled

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monsanto gets approval for new GMO corn, soybeans designed for potent new biocide

RT | January 16, 2015

Monsanto has won final approval from the US for its new genetically-modified soybeans and cotton, designed to withstand a dominant biocide that fights weed resistance built up as a result of the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide already in use.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Thursday that the powerful biotechnology corporation’s GMO cotton and soybean plants have been given “non-regulated” status.

Monsanto now awaits approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for the new herbicide – a mix of the formidable chemical dicamba and glyphosate, which the company has developed for use on the newly-approved GMO crops.

The new GMO crops – coupled with the dicamba/glyphosate cocktail – make up what Monsanto has dubbed the ‘Roundup Ready Xtend crop system,’ designed to trump super weeds that have evolved along with the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup biocide.

Dicamba was first approved in 1967 and has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects in the families of food growers, according to government and other scientific studies.

Consumer, health, environmental, and farmer advocates have fiercely opposed the new Xtend system, as it portends an overall “10-fold increase in dicamba use in American agriculture, from under 4 million lbs. at present to more than 40 million lbs. per year,” according to Center for Food Safety.

“Monsanto’s genetically-engineered dicamba-resistant crops are yet another example of how pesticide firms are taking agriculture back to the dark days of heavy, indiscriminate use of hazardous pesticides, seriously endangering human health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, in a statement.

“If EPA also reneges on its responsibility to protect human and environmental health, Center for Food Safety will pursue all available legal options to halt the introduction of these dangerous crops.”

The USDA and Monsanto have said that Xtend will increase dicamba use in cotton by 14 times current levels, according to Reuters, and, in soybeans, 500 times current levels, the Pesticide Action Network said in a statement.

“I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide [poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest,” said Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, a tomato-processing company.

Opposition — and even the USDA — says more dicamba will only mean additional weed resistance in the future, translating to more profits for the likes of Monsanto and Dow Chemical, which received US approval for its genetically-engineered 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans in September 2014.

“The pesticide treadmill spins on, and that’s great news for Monsanto,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy group, Reuters reported. “This is just the latest in a endless string of favors from our federal government to Monsanto.”

Crops most at risk from increased dicamba exposure include fruits, nuts, and vegetables, growers of which say they fear the chemical will drift onto and damage their fields.

Monsanto, according to Reuters, said it will educate food growers over the proper way to avoid dicamba drift. But biocide opponents are skeptical of these promises and say the burden will rest with the growers — not Monsanto.

“Monsanto’s response to farmers’ concerns about crop damage has been to develop exceedingly complex and demanding protocols for applying and disposing of the herbicide cocktail, including a ten-step triple rinse of sprayers that is likely to take more than an hour and then entails proper disposal of the contaminated rinse water,” said the Pesticide Action Network. “This ‘solution’ puts all responsibility on farmers, and sets up the company to escape liability for crop damage.”

Biocide drift will also adversely impact flowering plants and their pollinators and other species, which depend on them for nectar and habitat.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is awaiting approval from China to allow imports of its new soybeans. China has been reticent about approving more GMO crops, as exemplified in farmer lawsuits aimed at American agribusiness companies following the nation’s rejection of US genetically-engineered-corn imports.

Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said last week that Chinese approval is expected in time for Xtend’s commercial launch in 2016.

READ MORE:

EU to pick which GMO it grows after new bill passed overwhelmingly

Oregon GMO-labeling initiative defeated by Monsanto-sponsored groups

Monarch butterfly may be listed as endangered species after 90% population drop

January 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guatemala defies ‘Monsanto Law’ pushed by US as part of trade agreement

RT | September 3, 2014

The highest court in Guatemala has suspended the controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.

The Constitutional Court suspended on Friday the law – passed in June and due to go into effect on Sept. 26 – after a writ of amparo was filed by the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Peasant Movement, which argued the law would harm the nation, LaVoz reported.

The Court’s decision came after several Guatemalan parliamentarians from both the governing Patriotic Party and the opposition party Renewed Democratic Freedom said they would consider repealing the law after outcry from a diverse cross-section of Guatemalans.

The decision also offers interested parties 15 days to present their arguments pertaining to the law in front of the Constitutional Court. Members of both political parties said they would present motions to resist the law.

The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ by critics for its formidable seed-privatization provisions, is an obligation for all nations that signed the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The agreement requires signatories to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.

The law offers producers of transgenic seeds, often corporate behemoths like Monsanto, strict property rights in the event of possession or exchange of original or harvested seeds of protected varieties without the breeder’s authorization. A breeder’s right extends to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety,” thus, a hybrid of a protected and unprotected seed belongs to the protected seed’s producer.

The Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned that the law would monopolize agriculture processes, severely threaten food sovereignty – especially those of indigenous peoples – and would sacrifice national biodiversity “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”

The National Alliance for Biodiversity Protection said in July that the law is unconstitutional “because it violates the rights of peoples. It will benefit transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Duwest, Dupont, Syngenta, etc.”

“According to this law, the rights of plant breeders are superior to the rights of peoples to freely use seeds,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“It’s a direct attack on the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, life, culture, rural economy and worldview of Peoples, and food sovereignty,” the Alliance added.

Anyone who violates the law, wittingly or not, could face a prison term of one to four years, and fines of US$130 to $1,300.

It is unclear what options the Guatemalan government has given the obligations under CAFTA-DR. The US would likely put pressure on the nation to pass the law, part of a global effort using trade agreements to push further corporate control over trade sectors like agriculture in the name of modernization. Upon further refusal, the US could drop Guatemala from the trade agreement.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US fired depleted uranium rounds in civilian areas during 2003 Iraq campaign – report

RT | June 20, 2014

US-led forces in Iraq used depleted uranium weapons in civilian-populated areas during the 2003 military campaign, according to a new Dutch NGO study that also exposes a lack of adequate cleanup efforts by the invading troops.

For the first time the location of several sites where the invaders fired some 10,000 depleted uranium rounds were released by the Dutch Defense Ministry, and published in a study by Dutch peace group PAX.

Most of the DU rounds fired by the US-led coalition were in heavily populated areas, the group says. Samawah, Nasiriyah and Basrah are just some urban areas where ammunition was deployed – with around 1,500 anti-armor rounds fired directly at Saddam Hussein’s infantry forces.

The GPS coordinates of DU rounds were initially handed over to the Dutch Defense Ministry because the Netherlands was worried about the potential contamination of its own troops in the country. The ministry later shared the information with PAX under a freedom of information law.

Most of the firing locations remain unknown, as more than 300,000 DU rounds are believed to have been fired by US-led coalition.

Inside the body, DU’s hazards are its chemical toxicity and radioactivity. DU primarily emits alpha radiation, although beta and gamma are also emitted from uranium’s decay products. Inside the body, alpha radiation can disrupt cellular process and damage DNA, which can lead to an increased risk of developing different types of cancer, depending on which organ is exposed. DU is also a heavy metal and therefore chemically toxic.

The NGO says that the health risks of more than 440,000 kg of DU fired by Western forces remains unclear, as “neither coalition forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposure.”

“Coalition forces were aware of the potential health and environmental impact of DU munitions, yet refrained from undertaking the necessary clean-up of DU outside their own bases,” a summary of the report reads.

Wim Zwijnenburg, the author of the report, said the US Air Force knew of the consequences of using DU ammunition.

“The use of DU against these targets questions the adherence of coalition forces to their own principles and guidelines. They should be held accountable for the consequences,” Zwijnenburg said, citing a 1975 memo from the Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate that restricted the use of such ammunition.

“Use of this munition solely against personnel is prohibited if alternative weapons are available,” the memo said, because of “unnecessary suffering and poison.”

According to an earlier PAX report, more than 300 sites in Iraq are currently contaminated with depleted uranium and it would cost at least $30 million to clean up.

Related:

Depleted uranium used by US forces blamed for birth defects and cancer in Iraq

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Michigan protests plan to store millions of gallons of nuclear waste next to the Great Lakes

RT | May 21, 2014

A Canadian proposal that calls for a nuclear waste storage facility less than a mile away from the Great Lakes is coming under heavy fire from Michigan lawmakers and environmental groups, who are now attempting to stop the project.

Under a plan crafted by energy supplier Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the company would construct a “deep geologic repository” (DGR), which would feature waste storage sites more than 2,200 feet underground to store nearly 53 million gallons of both low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste. The location of the proposed site, however – in Kincardine, Ontario, just three-quarters of a mile away from Lake Huron – has drawn criticism from numerous groups who fear potential contamination.

The fact that Lake Huron is connected to all the other Great Lakes via waterways has also drawn concern, since the five bodies of water make up the largest collection of freshwater lakes on the Earth and provide drinking supplies to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians.

According to the Detroit News, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have continued criticizing the plan, and are now proposing legislation that calls on the federal government to get involved. In addition to requesting that President Obama stake out a position on the issue, state Senate and House members are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to officially ask the International Joint Commission – established to mediate disputes over the Great Lakes – to rule on the matter.

The legislation would also “stop the importation of radioactive waste into Michigan from Canada.”

“Building a nuclear waste dump less than a mile from one of the largest freshwater sources in the world is a reckless act that should be universally opposed,” Michigan Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway Township) said in a statement Monday, as quoted by the Huffington Post.

While lawmakers continue to get involved in the situation – Michigan’s Senators in Washington have also urged the State Department to bring the IJC into the debate – environmental groups have come out against the plan.

“Burying nuclear waste a quarter-mile from the Great Lakes is a shockingly bad idea — it poses a serious threat to people, fish, wildlife, and the lakes themselves,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, in a statement to the Detroit News.

Notably, the proposed plan has garnered the support of most Kincardine residents and other neighboring communities, many of whom have jobs within the nuclear industry.

For its part, OPG has maintained that its facility would be a safe place to store radioactive material such as rags, mop heads, paper towels, clothing, and more. According to the Associated Press, the low-level material the company plans to bury beneath the earth would decay in 300 years, while the intermediate-level material – described as “resins, filters, and used reactor components” – would take more than 100,000 years to decay.

Despite the company’s confidence, however, one former OPG scientist recently looked at the plan and came away unconvinced, saying the radioactivity of the materials that would be buried has been “seriously underestimated.” Dr. Frank Greening wrote to the Canadian panel charged with reviewing the proposal, arguing the material is sometimes 100 times more radioactive than estimated. In some cases, the material is 600 times more radioactive.

“My first feeling was, look, you messed up the most basic first step in establishing the safety of this facility, namely, how much radioactive waste they’re going to be putting in the ground, you admit you got that wrong, but now you’re telling me that everything else is okay,” Greening told Michigan Radio, according to Huffington Post. “You can’t just fluff off this error as one error. It raises too many questions about all your other numbers. And I’m sorry, I now have lost faith in what you’re doing.”

Asked about Greening’s findings, OPG spokesman Neal Kelly told the Toronto Star the facility would still be safe even if the evidence bears out.

“Some of his points are valid, and were already under review within OPG for future revisions to the waste inventory,” he said, adding the DGR’s design is “very, very conservative… The safety case would still be strong, even if these factors were to bear out.”

May 21, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brazil looks to ban Monsanto’s Roundup, other toxicity risks

RT | March 27, 2014

Brazil’s public prosecutor wants to suspend use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s pervasive herbicide Roundup. A recent study suggested glyphosate may be linked to a fatal kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions worldwide.

The Prosecutor General’s office is also pursuing bans on the herbicide 2,4-D and seven other active herbicide ingredients in addition to glyphosate: methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram, and paraquat, GMWatch reported.

The Prosecutor General of Brazil “seeks to compel the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to reevaluate the toxicity of eight active ingredients suspected of causing damage to human health and the environment,” according to the prosecutor’s website. “On another front, the agency questions the registration of pesticides containing 2,4-D herbicide, applied to combat broadleaf weeds.”

The two actions have already been filed with Brazil’s justice department.

The prosecutor is also seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suspend further registration of the eight ingredients until ANVISA can come to a conclusion.

The country’s National Biosafety Technical Commission has been asked to prohibit large-scale sale of genetically modified seeds resistant to the 2,4-D as ANVISA deliberates.

Last week, Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court ruled to cancel use of Bayer’s Liberty Link genetically-modified maize. Earlier this month, France banned the sale, use, and cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically-modified maize MON 810. New research found insects in the United States are developing a resistance to the genetically-engineered maize.

As for glyphosate, new research suggests it becomes highly toxic to the human kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka banned glyphosate given the links to an inexplicable kidney disease, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology, known as CKDu, according to the Center for Public Integrity. CKDu has killed thousands of agricultural workers, many in Sri Lanka and El Salvador.

El Salvador’s legislature approved in September a ban on glyphosate and many other agrochemicals, yet the measure is not yet law.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clean-up doubts: Many Fukushima evacuees may never return home

RT | November 13, 2013

Many of the people who were forced to evacuate after the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant may never return, Japanese lawmakers admitted, overturning initial optimistic government pledges.

A call to admit the grim reality and step back from the ambitious Fukushima decontamination goals came from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition parties. Japan has so far spent $30 billion on the clean-up program, which has proven to be more difficult to carry out than initially expected.

The new plan would be for the government to fund relocation to new homes for those who used to live in the most contaminated areas.

“There will come a time when someone has to say, ‘You won’t be able to live here anymore, but we will make up for it’,” Shigeru Ishiba, the secretary General of Abe’s Liberal Democrat party said in a speech earlier this month.

On Tuesday, evacuees reacted with anger at the government’s admission.

“Politicians should have specified a long time ago the areas where evacuees will not be able to return, and presented plans to help them rebuild their lives elsewhere,” Toshitaka Kakinuma, a 71-year-old evacuee, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Some 160,000 people escaped the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami transformed the plant into the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. About a third of them are still living in temporary housing. They were promised that this would not last for longer than 3 years.

In August the death toll among the evacuees surpassed the threshold of 1,599 lives, which is how many people in the prefecture were killed by the disaster itself. The displaced residents are suffering from health problems, alcoholism and high rates of suicide.

The Ministry of Environment wanted to decontaminate 11 townships in the affected area, bringing the average annual radiation dose to 20 millisieverts, a level deemed safe by the International Centre for Radiological Protection. It further pledged to pursue a long-term goal reducing it to 1 millisievert per year.

The clean-up, however, has been marred by delays and reports that workers sometimes simply dumped contaminated waste rather than collect it for safe storage, causing the environment ministry push back the deadline. There are also calls on the government to abandon the more ambitious dose target, arguing that it is unrealistic.

Some evacuees said they wouldn’t return even after the first phase of the cleanup, saying the dose of 20 millisieverts per year still poses health risks.

“No matter how much they decontaminate I’m not going back because I have children and it is my responsibility to protect them,” Yumi Ide, a mother of two teenage boys, told Reuters.

The fear of radiation has soared in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, with rallies against the use of nuclear power scoring record attendance. The government shut down all 50 remaining Japanese reactors for safety checks, and there is strong pressure to keep them offline.

The Japanese government is reportedly seeking to borrow an extra $30 billion for the Fukushima cleanup and compensations, which would raise the total cost of the disaster response to $80 billion. The figure does not include the cost of decommissioning reactors to be carried out by the plant operator, Tepco. The company recently complained about the huge expense of the process, which may last at least 30 years.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment