Sunday, 30 December 2007

Government is backing a campaign to grow GM crops in the UK

Our wonderful government is backing a new campaign to grow GM crops in the UK. Despite the health concerns of scientists, environmentalists and the general public our government is putting its weight behind the campaign. A senior government source said: "GM will come back to the UK; the question is how it comes back, not whether it's coming back". Julian Little. Chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: "We have absolutely every confidence that GM will be used in the UK… It's worth remembering that there are approximately 100m hectares (247m acres) of GM crops being grown around the world by about 10 million farmers. There is absolutely no question at all that this is technology that is being seen to work in other countries and why on earth would you not want to be interested in the UK?… There is no question in our minds that we'll win".

Environmental groups have already taken a strong stance against the use of GM crops in the UK. Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth said: "Unfortunately the public and media have thought we've won the battle and GM's gone away and people aren't really worrying about it at the moment. It certainly hasn't gone away". Graham Thompson of greenpeace UK said: "The population has comprehensively rejected GM in the UK and over most of Europe so they're constantly having to be as bullish as possible. The purpose of the crops primarily is to give intellectual property rights to biotech companies."

We all need to take a stand against GM crops. We need to lobby our MP’s now before it is too late. We are already exposed to toxic chemicals in our food chain, the last thing we need are GM crops. No-one knows the long-term consequences of GM crops, they simply have not been around long enough.

[Via The Guardian]

Friday, 28 December 2007

Climate change is happening faster than expected

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned in its new report that stopping global warming is now impossible. According to the IPCC, climate change has already happened with a 1.1 degree Celsius temperature rise already in the global climate system. The IPCC says that some major climate changes such as increases in flooding and in heatwaves cannot now be stopped because of this temperature increase. The IPCC goes on to say that world leaders have eight years to take the necessary action to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions if they will have any chance of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The report gloomily predicts that greenhouse gas emissions will increase by up to 90% by 2030, and the EU’s target of stabilising the global temperature at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels looks unlikely to be met.

The co-chair of the IPCC's working group II, Martin Parry, said the world had passed the point at which there was a "perfect solution… It is a choice between a damaged world and a more damaged world… Ten years ago we were all talking about our children and grandchildren. Now when you look at these impacts they will be in the lifetimes of people in [this] room." Scary stuff. If this doesn’t get world leaders moving on this problem, I don’t think any thing will.

[Via The Telegraph]

Thursday, 27 December 2007

MacDonalds tries to go green

McDonalds, an institution more commonly known for its poor environmental policies and damage to the planet is trying to ‘green-up’ its image by using waste from its restaurants to generate power. Whether this is enough to outweigh the environmental damage McDonalds inflicts on the world is another question. The idea is for a small pilot scheme using 11 of its restaurants in Yorkshire, which if successful will be rolled out to all the other McDonald sites. Waste from the restaurants in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley will be shipped to Veola Environmental Services who will treat the waste at its Energy Recovery facility in Sheffield.

Steve Easterbrook, President and CEO of MacDonalds UK said: “As a progressive company, we are constantly trying to find ways to run our business in a more sustainable way. However, like many companies, we find that we are currently constrained by the lack of infrastructure needed to support initiatives like this across the UK… If the trial is successful we are keen to explore how we can extend it to other parts of the country as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our impact on the environment and local communities." Nice sentiment, but does it fit in with McDonald’s corporate strategy on environmental policies? You decide.

[Via The Telegraph]

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Carbon off-setting increasing child labour

In a bizarre twist on the viability of carbon off-setting, there is now evidence that some of the schemes are causing an increase in child labour in poorer countries. In an example of such a scheme, Climate Care is paying poor and impoverished families in India to stop using diesel-powered pumps to irrigate their fields and replace them with human-powered treadles instead. One family ‘benefiting’ from Climate Care’s scheme is the Ram family. Their six year old daughter and her four young brothers now work flat out in the searing sun to pump water into their family field. Climate Care is the company that sells off-sets to British Airways customers, so they can feel better about their long-haul flights.

Michael Buick of Climate Care admitted that children were working the pumps, but he said people had to focus on the benefits to the whole family. He went on to say his group was proud of its scheme, which had led to more than half a million foot treadles being sold, and had won several awards. Ashutosh Pandey of Emergent Ventures India, which advises companies on clean technology said: “The problem is the number of times child labour is involved… It’s not being monitored properly. It’s not reducing emissions. People are selling their diesel pumps to others who are using them.”
The effectiveness and overall impact of carbon off-setting needs to be reviewed. Carbon off-setting has to actually work, otherwise it is simply an exercise in assuaging people’s guilt.

First UK council to introduce new code of practice for Wi-Fi in schools

For the first time in the UK, Carmarthenshire County Council is drawing up a code of practice for the use of Wi-Fi in its schools. Councillor Ieuan Jones said: "We are going to monitor the situation as closely as we can because we all have these concerns. The dangers of these Wi-Fi connections are possibly along the lines of using hand-held mobile phones." Meryl Gravell, the council leader, said: "A code of practice is absolutely necessary. The safety of our children in school is paramount for all of us." The council is going to enforce this on all schools under its control, and hopes the code of practice will be adopted nationally. There is growing concern at the harmful effects of mobile phone and W-Fi radiation, especially to children. The government’s own health protection watchdog chief, Sir William Stewart called for an official review of the use of Wi-Fi in schools.

Unfortunately, the government has ignored Sir William’s advice, along with the mounting scientific evidence that shows radiation from Wi-Fi devices, mobile phones and their masts can cause numerous ill-effects, including cancer. Only last week the European Environmental Agency warned of the health risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields (from electrical devices and appliances) and electromagnetic radiation (from mobile phones and Wi-Fi) and recommended a reduction in the permitted levels of both. The German government is advising its citizens to use landlines rather than mobile phones and wired connections rather than Wi-Fi. And yet our government is telling us Wi-Fi and mobile phone use is perfectly safe. I know who I believe, and its not our government!