Rachel's Precaution Reporter #97
"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"
Wednesday, July 4, 2007..............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Table of Contents... Kenya: A Victory for the Nation and Endangered Elephants "Uncertainty demands application of the precautionary principle or approach. Decisions should err in favour of recovery of the most threatened [wildlife] populations in Africa and Asia." -- Director, Kenya Wildlife Service A Living Chemistry Lesson "When our water supplies or coastal environments are at risk, applicants should have to prove their project will not cause harm. Of course this is difficult, but denying some projects that might have been safe may be necessary for adequate long-term protection. This precautionary principle needs to be built into our environmental planning." Ontario Must Investigate New Chemicals in Water "It's the whole notion of the precautionary principle. We don't want to wait another 20 years and realize we have a whole generation of infertile young men." Food Chain Depends on Wild Stocks "I don't really understand why the government, which authorizes these placements [of fish farms], is not -- by nature -- being cautious on behalf of not just the people, but the whole ecosystem." Consumer Demand Pumps Up Supply of Paraben-free Products "Although the jury's out on the effect of parabens [in cosmetics] , you might prefer to embrace the precautionary principle. Shop carefully and pay attention to labels to create your own paraben-free beauty regime." Call for a Moratorium on EU Agrofuel Incentives More than 30 civil society groups from around the world are calling for a moratorium, based on the precautionary principle, to stop the EU [European Union] rush for agrofuels, which are liquid fuels produced from biomass grown in large scale monocultures. The Dark Side of Soy "Even if there is positive information [about soy], and even if these studies are well designed, we need to weigh that against the fact that we've also got really good studies showing the dangers. Better safe than sorry is the precautionary principle." :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: East African Standard (Nairobi, Kenya), Jul. 2, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] KENYA: A VICTORY FOR THE NATION AND ENDANGERED ELEPHANTS By Julius Kipng'etich [The writer is the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service] Nairobi -- Two weeks ago, a landmark decision that is likely to affect tourism for years to come was made in The Hague, the Netherlands. Delegates from 171-member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites) gave a nine-year lease of life to our wildlife flagship species -- the elephant. The decision of the 14th Conference of Parties on the African elephant and ivory trade will have far-reaching ramifications, not just on the survival of other species, but also tourism. Previous Cites meetings have been bogged down by acrimonious debates over the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation weighed against concerns that such sales may increase poaching. Recurrent debate on re-opening international ivory trade has been complicating enforcement, confusing consumers and jeopardising elephant management plans. The beneficiaries have been poachers, traders in illicit ivory and, sometimes, the sport-hunting lobby. Losers have been tourism and local communities. But now, the trade suspension will send a strong message to consumers that buying ivory is neither acceptable nor fashionable. It will also send a clear signal that international trade is banned, suppress demand, lower prices and remove the incentive for buying and stockpiling ivory. In its spirited fight for the ban in ivory trade, Kenya fell back on its ecotourism model of wildlife conservation that mirrors the 'chicken that lays the golden egg' parable. The Kenya Wildlife Service support for the setting up of community conservancies such as Mwaluganje (Kwale), Kimana (Kajiado) Ilngwesi (Laikipia) was used to show how communities can organise themselves to benefit from wildlife. Although Kenya did not get the 20-year suspension it proposed, the nine-year ban on ivory trade and the stringent conditions attached to it work in favour of elephants and other wildlife. The suspension of trade will ease pressure from the effects of Cites decisions on ivory trade. At the same time, it provides for the establishment of the African Elephant Conservation Fund to address the long-term issues of conservation. Elephants are highly migratory and many populations are shared among various countries. Ivory trade and market forces driving it and international decisions in one State can affect another. Thus, a cooperative, regional approach to decision-making, taking into account the needs of the continental population, is imperative. Yet decisions are mostly made on a national basis and policies vary considerably. By allowing the split-listing of the African elephant and different provisions concerning ivory trade from the four countries whose elephants are in Appendix II, Cites not only created enforcement problems, but favoured the perceived needs of a few States to the detriment of others struggling to protect their elephants. Most of the challenges will be addressed through the Africa Elephant Conservation Fund that is to enhance the implementation of an action plan. It includes accessing resources to strengthen the enforcement of laws against poaching and illegal trade in ivory, control trade, enhance capacity building and manage elephant translocations. Kenya has offered to share its expertise in elephant translocation and management with the other 37 African range States. Kenya recognises that although elephant States are the best protectors of their elephants, many lack capacity. The fund will also contribute to the resolution of human-elephant conflicts and enhance community conservation initiatives and development programmes. The trade freeze will also help determine effects of the one-off ivory sale, establish and address factors that have been driving the expanding illegal market. It will also provide reasonable time to refine the Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike) programme to enable it become an instrument more capable of detecting poaching trends. Since Mike was started in 1997, there has not been time free from recurrent discussions about re-opening trade. These can influence levels of illegal killing, affecting baseline data and preventing Mike from assessing whether trends are related to Cites' decisions on international trade in ivory. Several major seizures in the last two years indicate that 20,000 or more elephants have been killed annually since the 2004 Cites meeting. Ivory prices have increased by between seven and eight times in China and Japan since the late 1990s (most recently quoted in March at $850/kg or Sh59,500 in Japan), raising concern that commodity speculators may be buying the ivory. However, we cannot afford to relax our efforts since organised crime in illicit ivory trade has been known to go hand in hand with the globalisation of African markets and economic links. There are many uncertainties and controversies associated with elephant populations and ivory trade: Uncertainty over numbers, controversy over the signal effect (whether debate on trade and one- off sales send a signal to poachers and the market), uncertainty over factors driving illegal trade and controversy over the effects of re- opening legal trade. Such uncertainty demands application of the precautionary principle or approach. Decisions should err in favour of recovery of the most threatened populations in Africa and Asia, not populations in the few range States that want to export ivory. The other important implication of the trade ban is that Cites can focus on other endangered species in subsequent meetings as we put mechanisms in place to address the escalating illegal killing of elephants and trade in ivory in Africa and Asia. The danger and the neglect that endangered species such as lions, leopards, rhinos and antelopes, among others, have suffered over the years now have a chance to be addressed. Copyright 2007 East African Standard Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: theday.com (New London, Conn.), Jul. 1, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] A LIVING CHEMISTRY LESSON By James N. Kremer What we might call "the n problem" is a curious one. The pollution of coastal waters by inadvertent over-fertilization with nitrogen is arguably the most serious threat to coastal ecosystems worldwide. As with other high-profile environmental issues, several interesting characteristics aggravate our attempts to manage the problem effectively. First, it came upon us quickly. The nitrogen problem in coastal waters became apparent largely in the last 30 years, and few scientists and engineers saw it coming. We've reached the present level of impact many times faster than global deforestation, human population pressure, or greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere. Second, we can't blame "bad guys." While some environmental crises can be blamed on corporate entities, nitrogen is essential for all life and is linked to our normal daily activities, especially diet. The sensitivity of our environment to bio-active forms of nitrogen is not surprising, since all plants and animals on land and sea need it. Admittedly, nitrogen from fossil fuel combustion by vehicles and industry aggravates the problem so gas guzzlers and energy wasters deserve some blame, but the larger share of nitrogen pollution locally comes from the benign activities of domestic waste (septic systems and commercial sewage treatment facilities) and fertilization of yards, gardens and crops. Third, the links and pathways of nitrogen connecting us to the sea are surprisingly complex. Many forms of chemicals containing nitrogen move around in dust and gasses in the atmosphere, in rain, surface waters and underground aquifers, in soils, plants and in the food and waste of all animals. Some processes are direct and obvious: some of us apply fertilizer to our lawns and ornamental plants. Other processes are indirect and obscure: nitrogen entering our coastal waters in groundwater today may have left septic systems far upland 25 years ago. (Even properly functioning, standard-technology domestic waste treatments do not remove nitrogen well.) Fourth, the culture of science is surprisingly conservative. Science is slow to embrace new information. We cannot always make the right decision, and scientists prefer the mistake of not accepting a true result right away to the mistake of accepting a false one. Therefore, information used to inform policy may be scientifically incomplete or obsolete. In my view, the following factors in the fabric of the nitrogen problem have implications for effective local response. The parts of the nitrogen problem that we can deal with most effectively are linked to personal decisions and to development in coastal watersheds. I'm not an expert on municipal government, but I've watched cases where towns are having difficulty preventing development applications in areas that I agree are inappropriate. It's not the development, per se, it's the wrong place for the project. Parts of the approval process appear to facilitate development. Local regulations by planning, zoning and wetlands commissions have features originally built-in as safeguards that can work against solving such problems. ** Burden of Proof: Our judicial presumption of innocence lets some guilty persons go free in preference to convicting the innocent. Presently, many towns must approve development plans that meet the technical regulations. Should proposed developments be presumed safe unless proven unsafe? Shifting the burden of proof makes sense when there are potentially dire consequences. oPrecedent: Change is difficult. It seems unfair to change the rules. If a development plan would have been approved in the past, is it unfair to deny it today? Yet, we have to be willing to do this, or we restrict new information and changing conditions from informing our decisions. oRole of Science: Scientists reach consensus slowly. It's not surprising that the information transferred from science to public policy lags behind, and as a result current regulations are not based on the most recent scientific knowledge. The public needs to realize that nitrogen pollution is a serious problem that everyone can do something about, even before official policies change. Using less fertilizer (or none) is easy and direct. Ten to 50 percent of the nitrogen pollution is from fertilizer in local watersheds. Also, the typical Americans' diet is protein rich, and most of the "N" in what we eat passes as waste, is not removed by on-site or municipal treatment, and eventually reaches our waters. Shifting to a "Mediterranean diet" of more veggies and less protein could reverse the predicted increase in "N" fertilizer use nationwide. Regulations and policies need to respond effectively to change. To some extent we do this now, but perhaps not effectively enough. "Adaptive management" is a widely appreciated theory, but difficult to implement. Regulations should enforce general goals, with details evaluated and changed in response to new problems and new knowledge. This adaptive strategy conflicts with the primacy of precedent and it can be abused. But society must be able to change when new information shows our present course has high risks. Finally, who bears the burden of proof needs to be considered together with risk. When consequences are serious, it is appropriate to require proof of no damage from a proposal rather than to require the public to prove that damage is likely. When our water supplies or coastal environments are at risk, applicants should have to prove their project will not cause harm. Of course this is difficult, but denying some projects that might have been safe may be necessary for adequate long-term protection. This precautionary principle needs to be built into our environmental planning. James N. Kremer is a professor of marine sciences at the Avery Point branch of the University of Connecticut. Copyright 1998-2007 The Day Publishing Co. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: News 1130, Jul. 2, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] ONTARIO MUST INVESTIGATE NEW CHEMICALS IN WATER By Chinta Puxley Toronto -- Ontario must do more to investigate whether potentially dangerous chemicals in the water supply coming from everyday shampoos, soaps and pharmaceuticals pose a threat to people's health and the ecosystem, the province's environmental commissioner says. There is a pressing need for the province not just to monitor the spread of such chemicals, but to spend millions on research and get on top of the threat posed by pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), Gord Miller said. The chemicals, which are showing up in water around the world, come from farm activity, antibiotics or other discarded medication that is poured down the toilet or sink, medication found in human waste, and run-off from antibacterial soaps and shampoos. They travel through the septic system and can make their way back into source and drinking water because sewage treatment plants aren't equipped to get rid of them. In her recent annual report on Ontario's drinking water, Environment Minister Laurel Broten highlighted PPCPs as an emerging threat and said the province is doing a "survey" to find out how much of the chemicals are in the province's water. But Miller -- who warned about the threat of pharmaceuticals in his 2005 annual report -- said that's not enough. The province should put millions into investigating the impact the chemicals are having on animals and their ecosystems to determine what they might do to humans, Miller said in an interview. "We tend to focus primarily on human health," Miller said. "That's important, but the alarms go off too late if you're already poisoning people." It's an increasing problem that the province needs to get on top of, he added. "We have to spend some money now to find out what's going on." The threat is only going to grow, Miller said, as the population continues to grow, people use more medication and the baby boomers age. Maureen Carter-Whitney, research director with the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, said scientists are still trying to determine just what impact pharmaceutical chemicals can have on both humans and animals. Generally, she said the chemicals are only found in the water in small amounts. But, she said, they are "always there." Studies conducted in northwestern Ontario suggest the chemicals can contribute to infertility in animals, delayed reproductive development and damage to the liver and kidneys. The chemicals can also contribute to antibiotic resistance, Carter- Whitney said. "It's at the point where it's a threat, but it's a threat we need to start doing something about," she said. "It's the whole notion of the precautionary principle. We don't want to wait another 20 years and realize we have a whole generation of infertile young men." Jim Smith, the province's chief drinking-water inspector, said Ontario has one of the most sophisticated systems in the world to protect its drinking water. The system has been strengthened since the Walkerton tainted water tragedy of May 2000, when E. coli contamination caused seven deaths and thousands of illnesses, he said. There are always emerging threats that the province is now required to publicly report on and investigate, he said. The Liberal government set aside $400,000 last year to fund 20 research projects examining PPCPs and labs are now working on analyzing this set of chemicals, Smith said. It will likely take the province up to five years to get a handle on the current science and act on it, Smith said. "As chief inspector, do I feel that I'm being protected? Yes. Do I feel that the right steps are being taken? Yes," Smith said. "We're as current as any leading jurisdiction in the world." Environment Minister Laurel Broten said the province does need to get "a better understanding" of these emerging chemicals and the threat they could pose in drinking water. The $400,000 in provincial funding is a "very big move forward," she said. "We know that Ontario has incredibly safe drinking water and we want to make sure that we continue to have safe, clean drinking water and that we are always vigilant," she said. "This is an issue we take very seriously." The province is waiting on the federal government to develop standards on how much of these chemicals are acceptable in source and tap water. It is also conducting its own studies, including one which found some 50 different types of PPCPs in the Grand River just outside of Hamilton. People can do their part as well to keep such chemicals out of the system in the first place by returning their old or unused medication to a pharmacy which can dispose of it properly, Broten said. Copyright 2006 Rogers Communications Inc. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Canoe.ca (Vancouver, B.C.), Jul. 4, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] FOOD CHAIN DEPENDS ON WILD STOCKS By Robyn Stubbs Salmon are part of a complex ecosystem above and below the ocean and a key part of the natural food chain. Other fish, eagles, bears and orcas all depend on healthy runs to survive. Paul Spong, an orca researcher based out of a small lab on Hanson Island, has been studying B.C.'s northern orca residents since 1970, and says he's "completely convinced" that the proliferation of fish farms in the Broughton is directly impacting the area's salmon runs. Spong is concerned a depleted wild salmon stock could spell trouble for the orcas, and says he struggles to understand the justification for expanding an industry when its impacts are unclear. "In science, you need to adopt a precautionary principle that says you don't do things when you don't perfectly understand that they're not going to be harmful," says Spong. "I don't really understand why the government, which authorizes these placements, is not -- by nature -- being cautious on behalf of not just the people, but the whole ecosystem." Copyright 2007, Canoe Inc. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Chicago Tribune, Jun. 27, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] CONSUMER DEMAND PUMPS UP SUPPLY OF PARABEN-FREE PRODUCTS By Jessica Ramakrishnan, Special to the Tribune Beauty junkies may have noticed a new label -- "paraben free" or "no parabens" -- on their body-care products. In the past, every time you washed your hair or moisturized your face or body, you were likely slathering on parabens, chemicals that act as preservatives for beauty products such as foot cream and hair conditioner. But with research pointing to possible links between the preservatives and breast cancer, parabens have earned a bad reputation. Beauty firms, particularly those that market their products as natural, are responding to consumer concerns with new paraben-free product formulas, according to Leigh Anne Rowinski, beauty industry expert at IRI, a consumer research group. Manufacturers are turning to alternative preservatives, such as phenoxyethanol and chlorophensin, which ensure products have a reasonably long shelf life -- up to two years in many cases -- without the health concerns associated with parabens. "The beauty industry has been selling all things 'pink' for some time now," says Rowinski, referring to the pink ribbon-branded products sold to raise breast cancer research funds. "Having been made more aware, consumers are starting to ask more of the products that they are putting on their bodies." Despite the lack of conclusive scientific answers, consumers spent $102 million on paraben-free products last year, a 41 percent increase over the $73 million spent in 2005, according to IRI, which tracks brands sold in mass-market drugstores and supermarkets. The range of paraben-free products in the market has grown from basic items such as soaps to luxurious spa-style products such as body scrubs, said Lisa James, founder of the beauty products Web site B- Glowing (b-glowing.com). "It used to be the case that only the 'granola' brands avoided parabens and made products that didn't always perform the way you wanted," James says. "These products have moved from the dusty corner that everyone avoided in health food shops to high-end boutiques and back to supermarket chains." The trend shows no sign of abating, says Noelle Wagner, Midwest regional coordinator for Whole Body, the body care section of Whole Foods Markets. Many of the natural supermarket chain's suppliers are reformulating their products to exclude parabens, she says. Last summer, Whole Foods started to remove parabens from its own body care line, 365. "We can't say how many people are concerned, but those who do care are buying much more of these products," Wagner says. Major beauty firms, however, have yet to leap on the no-paraben bandwagon. "We constantly study peer-reviewed scientific publications to stay abreast of the latest developments related to our products," said an e-mailed statement from a representative of Estee Lauder, which owns brands such as Clinique, Bobbi Brown and MAC. "To date, there have been no conclusive studies [that] confirm a direct link between breast cancer and parabens." The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates only color additives in beauty products, says that parabens are safe as long as they do not exceed 25 percent of a product's formula. Parabens make up a tiny fraction -- 0.01 to 0.1 percent -- of most product formulations, according to the FDA. While the FDA holds firm to its position, natural-product makers and retailers are not looking back. Whole Foods' Wagner says the chain is unlikely to add new product lines to its body care aisles if they contain parabens. B-Glowing's James, who lost her mother to breast cancer, believes that more and more beauty firms will follow suit. "The paraben issue is not going away," she says. "I would be surprised if any products have parabens in them in the future." - -- - Paraben-free beauty cabinet Although the jury's out on the effect of parabens, you might prefer to embrace the precautionary principle. Shop carefully and pay attention to labels to create your own paraben-free beauty regime. Paraben-free products are available at stores such as Sephora, which stocks lines such as Skyn ICELAND and Dr. Hauschka, to Wal-Mart, which carries Noah's Naturals, a no-paraben skin- and hair-care line. Face moisturizers Juice Beauty's Green Apple Moisturizer SPF 15 ($38, www.juicebeauty.com) contains organic ingredients. For a splurge, try Care by Stella McCartney's 5 Benefits Moisturising Cream ($76, www.sephora.com). Body moisturizers Rich and exotic with scents such as sandalwood and guava, Pacifica's Body Butters are dry-skin quenchers ($15.95, www.pacificacandles.com). Conditioner John Masters Organics has been paraben-free for more than 15 years. Fans of the line especially love the Honey & Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor ($28, www.johnmasters.com) for its tropical scent and luxurious conditioning effect. Face wash Jurlique's Ultra Sensitive Facial Cleanser ($42, www.jurlique.com) is a mild cleanser for delicate skin; Burt's Bees Garden Carrot Complexion Soap ($8, www.burtsbees.com) is a non-drying alternative. Toners Try Burt's Bees toners, which contain garden tomato for normal and oily skin or rosewater and glycerin for mature and sensitive skins ($12, www.burtsbees.com). Body scrubs Merlot, Sauvignon and Cabernet scrubs from French spa brand Caudalie make for a heady exfoliation experience ($32 for a set of three mini treatments, www.sephora.com). Toothpaste Tom's of Maine toothpastes (from $1.69, Walgreens) come in teeth whitening and child-use formulas. Shower gels Whole Foods' 365 Shower Gel is a bargain ($1.99, Whole Foods Market). A more exotic pick is Greek brand Korres' Jasmine Shower Gel ($11, www.sephora.com). Shampoo Delicate Ultra-Care Shampoo ($22, www.sidlabhair.com) from Sidlab promises to leave your hair clean and silky. - -- - The paraben controversy Parabens are widely used to preserve cosmetic and pharmaceutical formulations that contain water and oil, says Suzanne Snedeker, associate director of translational research at Cornell University's Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research. A 2004 paper published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology on the concentration of parabens in breast cancer tumors was the first to get widespread media attention, Snedeker says. "There's no strict evidence that parabens cause tumors," she says. "The bulk of papers have found that parabens can act as environmental estrogens and support the growth of tumors." However, many questions remain unanswered, Snedeker says. Among them are the extent to which parabens support tumor growth and how factors such as multiple exposure and age come into play. "We have some of the dots but not the whole picture," she says. "You don't need to fill in every dot to see it all, but ultimately consumers have a choice of how they want to gauge their risk." -- J.R. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Transnational Institute, Jul. 1, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] CALL FOR A MORATORIUM ON EU AGROFUEL INCENTIVES More than 30 civil society groups from around the world are calling for a moratorium to stop the EU rush for agrofuels, which are liquid fuels produced from biomass grown in large scale monocultures. The call is for the EU to stop incentivising these fuels through its proposed targets on their production, rather than promoting genuinely renewable energy sources. Download the call as a PDF. The undersigned call for an immediate moratorium on EU incentives for agrofuels and agroenergy from large-scale monocultures including tree plantations and a moratorium on EU imports of such agrofuels. This includes the immediate suspension of all targets, incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies which benefit agrofuels from large-scale monocultures, including financing through carbon trading mechanisms, international development aid or loans from international finance organisations such as the World Bank. This call also responds to the growing number of calls from the global south against agrofuel monocultures, which EU targets are helping to promote. Background: Agrofuels are liquid fuels from biomass, which consists of crops and trees grown specifically for that purpose on a large scale. Agrofuels are currently produced from crops such as maize, oil palm, soya, sugar cane, sugar beet, oilseed rape, canola, jatropha, rice and wheat. Agrofuels are designed to replace petroleum, mainly in road vehicles and trains. Biodiesel and ethanol are the main types of fuel produced. Agrofuels do not include biofuels derived from waste, such as biogas from manure or landfill, or waste vegetable oil, or from algae. Agrofuels are being promoted by governments and international institutions as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and improving 'energy security', i.e. of helping to ensure regular supplies, stabilise the price of oil and mitigate the impacts of volatile oil prices and possible peak oil. Public support for agrofuels is further justified on the basis of their claimed positive impacts on rural development and jobs in producer countries, promises of 'second generation' agrofuels whose production will not compete with the production of food, and assumptions about the availability of large amounts of 'degraded' or unused land. Agrofuels are also being strongly promoted by industry. New corporate partnerships are being formed between agrobusinesses, biotech companies, oil companies and car manufacturers. Billions of dollars are being invested in the agrofuel sector in a development often likened to a 'green goldrush', in which countries are turning land over to agrofuel crops and developing infrastructure for processing and transporting them. Impacts of agrofuels from large-scale monocultures: Agrofuels are generally grown as monocultures (including plantations), often covering thousands of hectares. In order to compete in the market, they require government support such as subsidies and tax breaks. Support for agrofuels has to date failed to acknowledge the negative social, environmental and macro-economic impacts associated with this kind of farming. Forecasts by different UN agencies predict that in future most agrofuels will be produced in the global South and exported to industrialized countries. Although presented as an opportunity for Southern economies, evidence suggests that monoculture crops for agrofuel such as oil palm, soya, sugar cane and maize lead to further erosion of food sovereignty and food security, threaten local livelihoods, biodiversity,water supplies and increase soil erosion and desertification. Agrofuels are currently being developed within the intensive, mechanised, agro-industrial paradigm, using massive monocultures and inputs of fertiliser and pesticide. There is strong evidence that such agrofuel production will not mitigate climate change but instead may accelerate global warming, as rainforests, peatlands and other ecosystems that are essential carbon stores are being destroyed to make way for plantations. There is also controversy about how much greenhouse gas is generated by the agrofuel production process and whether agrofuels provide any real savings once issues such as fertiliser use (and thus increased nitrous oxide emissions), refining, transport etc, are taken into the equation. GM agrofuels: Many of the crops currently being used for agrofuels have been genetically engineered (soya, maize, rape). A decade of utilization has revealed that the current range of genetically modified crops have not increased yields or reduced dependence on inputs. However, proponents of genetic engineering in agriculture are already using the threat of climate change to argue for wider use of GM crops and the development of new ones such as GM eucalyptus for agrofuel production. GM crops and trees pose serious risks to biodiversity, ecosystems and the food chain. GM microbes and enzymes being developed as part of cellulosic ethanol research (so-called second generation -- see below) could also pose severe risks that have not been researched or even considered by governments. Second generation agrofuels: It is being suggested that a "second generation" of agrofuels can be developed that will solve some of the problems posed by current agrofuels, such as competition between food and fuel production. The aim is to find ways (including genetic engineering and synthetic biology) of modifying plants and trees to produce less lignin, engineering the lignin and cellulose so that they break down more easily or in different ways, and engineering microbes and enzymes to break down plant matter. Such high-risk techniques do not challenge the pattern of destructive monocultures designed to feed increasing energy consumption patterns. A moratorium on monoculture agrofuels is needed now, to prevent further damage being done through the over- hasty promotion of agrofuel crops. In the meantime, the promises and potential risks associated with second-generation agrofuels should be fully examined. Whatever the outcome, such fuels will not be available for approximately ten years and decisive action to address climate change is required immediately. Scope of the moratorium: The moratorium called for by the signatories will apply only to agrofuels from large-scale monocultures (and GM biofuels) and their trade. It does not include biofuels from waste, such as waste vegetable oil or biogas from manure or sewage, or biomass grown and harvested sustainably by and for the benefit of local communities, rather than on large-scale monocultures. A moratorium on large-scale agrofuels and their trade could favour the development of truly sustainable bioenergy strategies to the benefit of local communities - as opposed to the financial benefit of the export-oriented industries. Certification is no solution at present: Since public support and targets for agrofuels are being justified for their supposed environmental benefits, a number of different initiatives have been started up to develop 'sustainability certification schemes'. The undersigned organisations regard certification schemes, whether voluntary or mandatory, to be incapable of effectively addressing serious and potentially irreversible damage from agrofuel production, the main reasons being: * Macro-level impacts such as the displacement/relocation of production to lands outside the scope of the certification schemes cannot be addressed through these schemes. Likewise, certification cannot deal with other macro-level impacts like the competition with food production, and access to land and other natural resources. * The development of such criteria has to date failed to ensure that communities most directly affected by agrofuel production are included in the discussion and fully consulted from the outset, or to comply with basic procedural requirements ensuring Free Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples whose lands will be affected. * The development of agrofuels is proceeding far more quickly than certification can be implemented. * In many countries, conditions are lacking to ensure the implementation or monitoring of such safeguards, or accountability for those responsible for violating them. As one certification initiative from the Netherlands, the Cramer Report, says: "Some of the impacts of biomass production are difficult to assess on the individual company level, and only become apparent on the regional, national and sometimes even on the supranational level. This is true in particular for the impacts caused by indirect changes in land use and is especially important in the themes Greenhouse gas emissions, Biodiversity and Competition between food and other biomass uses. In determining the sustainability of biomass it is crucial to take these macro-impacts into consideration". At present, there are no concrete proposals for macro-level policy, in addition to certification schemes, that would deal effectively with these macro-impacts. Why does a moratorium need to be implemented with immediate effect? Despite an increasing number of civil society statements and evidence- based reports expressing concern about the unintended but foreseeable negative impacts of agrofuels and calls to halt their expansion, the agrofuel rush is accelerating. The decision of the high-consumption countries, notably the EU and the US, to introduce significant incentives for agrofuels, such as mandatory targets, publicly funded subsidies and tax breaks, is triggering speculation and investment in plantations and enticing countries in the global South to commit substantial portions of land to agrofuel crop-production. In the past 18 months, billions of dollars have been invested in agrofuel plantations and refineries and associated infrastructure. In Indonesia, $17.4 billion dollars of investment were pledged in the first quarter of 2007, whilst the government plans to convert some 20 million hectares of land to biofuel plantations. 9-10 million hectares of rainforest are acutely threatened in West Papua alone. In Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank has announced plans to invest $3 billion in private sector agrofuel projects. Governments in a growing number of countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and Colombia, are implementing national strategies to boost agrofuel production that involve financial incentives and investment in and licensing of refineries and infrastructure projects, including new roads, ports and pipelines. Those infrastructure developments will open up old-growth forests and other natural ecosystems to destruction, whilst accelerating the displacement of local communities by expanding plantations. The impacts of this massive, rapidly growing investment in agrofuel expansion will be irreversible and irreparable. Agrofuels pose a particular threat to tropical forest and wetland ecosystems, as events in Indonesia already indicate. Such forests play a vital role in stabilising climate and creating rainfall. There is evidence that the Amazon rainforest may be approaching a point where deforestation will have reduced the vegetation so much that it can no longer maintain its rainfall cycle, thus threatening much or all of the ecosystem with potentially rapid die-back and desertification. Further destruction of rainforests and peatlands for agrofuels could push the planetary system into accelerated warming, sea level rise and ecological change sooner than fossil fuel emissions alone. If the current rush for agrofuels is allowed to continue while certification and the necessary macro-level policies are developed, the damage such schemes and policies are meant to prevent will already have been done by the time they are in place. The risks of a 'wait and see' approach are far too high. The EU should apply the precautionary principle to its approach to biofuels and implement a moratorium. A moratorium will immediately reduce the demand for crops and trees used as agrofuel feedstocks, thus reversing current increases in commodity prices and putting the brakes on the expansion of monoculture plantations for agrofuels which is threatening ecosystems, food security, communities and the global climate. It will provide time to look at the consequences of large-scale agrofuel production in order to make a sound and comprehensive assessment of their socio- economic and environmental implications. This will include assessing the foreseeable impacts of proposed agrofuel targets and ensuring that proposed policies and safeguards are capable of being implemented and preventing the serious negative impacts that are already being experienced. It is essential that civil society, and in particularly those most directly affected by the production of agrofuel crops are given a fair chance to assess the impacts of the current promotion of agrofuels. A moratorium on incentives for large-scale agrofuel crop production and a halt to EU agrofuel imports will provide the space required for this discussion. Signatories call for effective measures to tackle climate change: Agrofuels have not been shown to mitigate global warming; they actually threaten to accelerate it. The undersigned support urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, based on climate science assessments, which involve a drastic overall reduction in energy use in industrialised countries, strict energy efficiency standards, and support for truly renewable forms of energy, such as sustainable wind and solar energy, as well as the protection of ecosystems and carbon stores. Your organisation can sign on to this moratorium -- please visit www.econexus.info or send an email to email@example.com Signatories: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz (Working Group on Rainforests and Biodiversity) Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz -- Kolumbien (ASK) -- Grupo de Trabajo Suiza Colombia (Swiss Working Group on Colombia) Asamblea Coordinadora PatagŪnica contra el Saqueo y la ContaminaciŪn Base Investigaciones Sociales, Paraguay BI Kein Strom aus Palmoel Biofuelwatch Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) -- Association for the peoples of the rainforest, Switzerland Carbon Trade Watch CEPPAS from Argentina Corner House Corporate Europe Observatory Ecodevelop EcoNexus Ecoropa FERN Global Justice Ecology Project GRAIN Grupo Reflexion Rural Munlochy Vigil NOAH: Friends of the Earth Denmark Observatorio de la Deuda en la GlobalizaciŪn (Catalonia, Spain) Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific Pro REGENWALD Rettet den Regenwald Robin Wood Sawit Watch SETARA Jambi/YKR, Sumatera Indonesia Solifunds, Switzerland The Gaia Foundation Transnational Institute Watch Indonesia! World Rainforest Movement Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Utne Reader, Aug. 1, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] THE DARK SIDE OF SOY Is America's favorite health food making us sick? By Mary Vance, Terrain As someone who is conscious of her health, I spent 13 years cultivating a vegetarian diet. I took time to plan and balance meals that included products such as soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, and Chick'n patties. I pored over labels looking for words I couldn't pronounce-- occasionally one or two would pop up. Soy protein isolate? Great! They've isolated the protein from the soybean to make it more concentrated. Hydrolyzed soy protein? I never successfully rationalized that one, but I wasn't too worried. After all, in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labeling I found on nearly every soy product I purchased: "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease." Soy ingredients weren't only safe +- they were beneficial. After years of consuming various forms of soy nearly every day, I felt reasonably fit, but somewhere along the line I'd stopped menstruating. I couldn't figure out why my stomach became so upset after I ate edamame or why I was often moody and bloated. It didn't occur to me at the time to question soy, heart protector and miracle food. When I began studying holistic health and nutrition, I kept running across risks associated with eating soy. Endocrine disruption? Check. Digestive problems? Check. I researched soy's deleterious effects on thyroid, fertility, hormones, sex drive, digestion, and even its potential to contribute to certain cancers. For every study that proved a connection between soy and reduced disease risk another cropped up to challenge the claims. What was going on? "Studies showing the dark side of soy date back 100 years," says clinical nutritionist Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story (New Trends, 2005). "The 1999 FDA-approved health claim pleased big business, despite massive evidence showing risks associated with soy, and against the protest of the FDA's own top scientists. Soy is a $4 billion [U.S.] industry that's taken these health claims to the bank." Besides promoting heart health, the industry says, soy can alleviate symptoms associated with menopause, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and lower levels of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. Epidemiological studies have shown that Asians, particularly in Japan and China, have a lower incidence of breast and prostate cancer than people in the United States, and many of these studies credit a traditional diet that includes soy. But Asian diets include small amounts--about nine grams a day--of primarily fermented soy products, such as miso, natto, and tempeh, and some tofu. Fermenting soy creates health-promoting probiotics, the good bacteria our bodies need to maintain digestive and overall wellness. By contrast, in the United States, processed soy food snacks or shakes can contain over 20 grams of nonfermented soy protein in one serving. "There is important information on the cancer-protective values of soy," says clinical nutritionist Ed Bauman, head of Bauman Clinic in Sebastopol, California, and director of Bauman College. Bauman cautions against painting the bean with a broad brush. "As with any food, it can have benefits in one system and detriments in another. [An individual who is sensitive to it] may have an adverse response to soy. And not all soy is alike," he adds, referring to processing methods and quality. "Soy is not a food that is native to North America or Europe, and you have issues when you move food from one part of the world to another," Bauman says. "We fare better when we eat according to our ethnicity. Soy is a viable food, but we need to look at how it's used." Once considered a small-scale poverty food, soy exploded onto the American market. Studies--some funded by the industry--promoted soy's ability to lower disease risk while absolving guilt associated with eating meat. "The soy industry has come a long way from when hippies were boiling up the beans," says Daniel. These days the industry has discovered ways to use every part of the bean for profit. Soy oil has become the base for most vegetable oils; soy lecithin, the waste product left over after the soybean is processed, is used as an emulsifier; soy flour appears in baked and packaged goods; different forms of processed soy protein are added to everything from animal feed to muscle-building protein powders. "Soy protein isolate was invented for use in cardboard," Daniel says. "It hasn't actually been approved as a food ingredient." Soy is everywhere in our food supply, as the star in cereals and health-promoting foods and hidden in processed foods. Even if you read every label and avoid cardboard boxes, you are likely to find soy in your supplements and vitamins (look out for vitamin E derived from soy oil), in foods such as canned tuna, soups, sauces, breads, meats (injected under poultry skin), and chocolate, and in pet food and body-care products. It hides in tofu dogs under aliases such as textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and lecithin--which is troubling, since the processing required to hydrolyze soy protein into vegetable protein produces excitotoxins such as glutamate (think MSG) and aspartate (a component of aspartame), which cause brain-cell death. Soy also is one of the foods--in addition to wheat, corn, eggs, milk, nuts, and shellfish--most likely to cause allergic reactions. Most people equate food allergies with anaphylaxis, or a severe emergency immune response, but it is possible to have a subclinical sensitivity, which can lead to health problems over time (and is exacerbated by the lack of variety common in today's American diet). "People can do an empirical food sensitivity test by eliminating the food for a period of time and reintroducing it to see if there's an immune response, but most don't do this," says Bauman. "Genetically modified (GM) soy is the most problematic, and that's probably what most people are eating if they're not paying attention. People can develop sensitivity to a food that has antigens or bacteria not originally in the food chain, as is the case with GM foods." Yet avoiding GM soy doesn't mean all is well, Daniel says: "One question I get all the time is, 'What if I only eat organic soy?' The assumption is that GM soy is problematic and organic is fine. Certainly, organic is better, but the bottom line is that soybeans naturally contain plant estrogens, toxins, and antinutrients, and you can't remove those." The highest risk is for infants who are fed soy formula. "It's the only thing they're eating, they're very small, and they're at a key stage developmentally," says Daniel. "The estrogens in soy will affect the hormonal development of these children, and it will certainly affect their growing brains, reproductive systems, and thyroids." Soy formula also contains large amounts of manganese, which has been linked to attention deficit disorder and neurotoxicity in infants. The Israeli health ministry recently issued an advisory stating that infants should avoid soy formula altogether. Antinutrients in soy block enzymes needed for digestion, and naturally occur-ring phytates block absorption of essential minerals. This is most worrisome for vegans and vegetarians who eat soy as their main source of protein, and for women in menopause who up their soy intake through supplements. Soy contains phytochemicals--plant nutrients with disease-fighting activity--called isoflavones. Studies claim isoflavones can mimic the body's own estrogens, raising a woman's estrogen levels, which fall after menopause, causing hot flashes and other symptoms. On the other hand, isoflavones may also block the body's estrogens, which can help reduce high estrogen levels, therefore reducing risk for breast cancer or uterine cancer before menopause. (High estrogen levels have been linked to cancers of the reproductive system in women.) Although soy's isoflavones may have an adaptogenic effect (contributing to an estrogen-boosting or -blocking effect where needed), they also have the potential to promote hormone-sensitive cancers in some people. Studies on the effects of isoflavones on human estrogen levels are conflicting, and it's possible that they affect people differently. In men, soy has been shown to lower testosterone levels and sex drive, according to Daniel. Bauman believes processed soy foods are problematic but maintains that soy has beneficial hormone-mediating effects. "People are largely convenience-driven," he says. "We're looking at this whole processed- food convenience market and we're making generalizations about a plant. Is soy the problem, or is it the handling and packaging and processing of the plant that's the problem? "Primary sources of food are a good thing. Once there was a bean, but then it got cooked and squeezed and the pulp was separated out, and it was heated and processed for better shelf life and mouth feel. Soy milk is second or third level in terms of processing." Bauman's eating-for-health approach calls for a variety of natural and seasonal unprocessed whole foods, including soy in moderation, tailored to individual biochemistry and sensitivities. "Using soy as part of a diet can bring relief for perimenopause, for example," he says. "Throw out the soy and you throw out the isoflavones." (It is possible to obtain plant estrogens to a lesser extent from other foods, such as lima beans or flax.) "The literature is extensive on the benefits of soy, and that should always be stated, just as the hazards should be. That's science. These studies are not ridiculous or contrived, but take a look at them. Who's funding them?" asks Bauman. "There are a lot of problems with these studies," Daniel says, adding that the 1999 heart health claim was an industry-funded initiative. "Even if there is positive information, and even if these studies are well designed, we need to weigh that against the fact that we've also got really good studies showing the dangers. Better safe than sorry is the precautionary principle. Possible benefits are far outweighed by proven risks." Daniel and Bauman agree on the benefits of variety. "My experience as a clinical nutritionist is that people who have a varied diet tend not to get into trouble," says Daniel. "We like to demonize certain foods in this society," says Bauman. "If you want to find a fault, you'll find it. The bottom line is: What is a healthy diet?" Reprinted from Terrain (Spring 2007), published by Berkeley's Ecology Center. Dedicated to fine feature writing about environmental issues, Terrain is distributed free throughout Northern California. Subscriptions: $15/yr. (3 issues) from 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702; www.ecologycenter.org/terrain. Soy "Nuggets" Tofu Soy milk, curdled and pressed into cubes of varying firmness. Often used as meat substitute. A nonfermented product, tofu contains antinutrients, which can block absorption of essential minerals. Miso Fermented soybean paste, used in soups and sauces. Rich in probiotics, good bacteria that aid vitamin absorption. Miso is high in sodium but is considered one of the healthiest soy products. Soybean Oil To extract oil, soybeans are superheated, ground, pressed, mixed with chemicals, and washed in a centrifuge. Soybean oil accounts for 80 percent of all liquid oils consumed annually in the United States. Soy Milk A processed beverage made of ground soybeans mixed with water and boiled, which removes some toxins. Sugar is added to improve flavor. An eight-ounce serving contains up to 35 milligrams of isoflavones, which may change estrogen levels and hormonal function. Snack Food Highly processed, a source of trans fat. Check your labels: Potato chips, tortilla crisps, and many other deep-fried things have been cooked in soy oil--straight up or partially hydrogenated. Tempeh Whole soybeans pressed into loaves, which are then fermented. Often used as a meat substitute. Tempeh is rich in B vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Fast Food A source of hidden soy. Processed soy proteins extend some burgers and chicken (nuggets, patties, even "grilled breasts"). Buns contain soy oil and to a lesser extent soy flour and lecithin. Soy oil also appears in dressings and dips, in American "cheese," and as the No. 2 ingredient in fries. There's even soy in Big Mac's secret sauce: Soybean oil nets top billing. Edamame Whole soybeans, commonly boiled in the pod and eaten as a snack. Most commercial edamame has been preheated to make digestion easier, but it still contains antinutrients. Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved Ogden Publications, Inc. Return to Table of Contents ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution? We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders. Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject. As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Editors: Peter Montague - email@example.com Tim Montague - firstname.lastname@example.org ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution Reporter send any Email to one of these addresses: Full HTML edition: email@example.com Table of Contents (TOC) edition: firstname.lastname@example.org In response, you will receive an Email asking you to confirm that you want to subscribe. To unsubscribe, send any email to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org, as appropriate. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903