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April 29, 2007


Cuba Lifts Ban on U.S. Long-Grain Rice; Minnesota gives thumbs up to rootworm events; Wheat summit reports progress toward GMO; Rulings boost agricultural, food trade; Sorghum gene secrets imminent; Fungus could be linked to vanishing bees; Fight to restore RR alfalfa seed sales; Uprooting the organic claims; Greece continues to ban GM corn; Sudan Releases Donated Food For Refugees; Are environmentalists an oppressed minority?


Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, http://www.agbioworld.org April 29, 2007

* Cuba Lifts Ban on U.S. Long-Grain Rice
* Minnesota gives thumbs up to rootworm events
* Wheat summit reports progress toward GMO
* Rulings boost agricultural, food trade
* Sorghum gene secrets imminent
* Fungus could be linked to vanishing bees
* Fight to restore RR alfalfa seed sales
* Uprooting the organic claims
* Greece continues to ban GM corn
* Sudan Releases Donated Food For Refugees
* Are environmentalists an oppressed minority?


Cuba Lifts Ban on U.S. Long-Grain Rice

- Will Weissert, International Business Times, April 27, 2007, http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20070427/cuba-us-rice.htm

Cuba has lifted a ban on imports of U.S. long-grain rice that it put in place last year because of fears about genetic contamination.

Raul Sanchez, director of the U.S. division of the island's food import company Alimport, said Friday the ban was lifted earlier this month. He said that in recent weeks Cuba has imported 30,000 tons of long-grain U.S. rice and expects to import 10,000 more soon.

A U.S. announcement in August that American long-grain rice samples had tested positive for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for consumption prompted Japan to suspend its U.S. rice imports. Cuba imposed a ban of its own after conducting independent testing, Sanchez said.

Sanchez, who spoke during a meeting with U.S. medical company representatives, did not provide details about exactly when or why the ban was lifted, suggesting only that U.S. long-grain rice no longer appeared to be a problem.

Washington's 45-year-old embargo against communist Cuba chokes off most trade between the two countries but U.S. companies can sell medicine and medical supplies directly to the country under the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act. A law approved in 2000 authorized cash-only payments for U.S. food and agricultural products.

Sanchez said that so far this year Cuba has spent $196.8 million on American food and agricultural products after spending $578.8 million for all of 2006. Cuba includes the amounts it pays for shipping and other logistical costs when divulging the total amount paid for U.S. goods.

Addressing representatives from Mercury Medical, a Florida medical supply company spending two days in Cuba to show off some of its equipment, Sanchez said that since 2001, Cuba has spent $2.2 billion on American food and farm products, but nearly $340 million of that went to shipping.

The New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council attempts to estimate the amount Cuba spent on U.S. imports without taking into account logistical costs.

It reported that the island bought about $340 million in American food and agricultural products last year - down about 3 percent from 2005. The council puts the total amount Cuba spent on U.S. food and agricultural products at $1.5 billion since December 2001.

"Despite all the limitations that have been imposed on these (exports), Cuba and Alimport have been able to fulfill every one of their U.S. contracts. Not one single contract has been canceled," Sanchez said. "We have been able to convey to the agricultural community of the United States just how professional and serious this country's organizations are."


Minnesota gives thumbs up to Syngenta, Pioneer/DowAgroSciences rootworm events

- Gil Gullickson, Successful Farming Magazine, March 27, 2007, http://www.agriculture.com/ag/story.jhtml?storyid=/templatedata/ag/story/data/1177707653473.xml&catref=ag1001

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) granted on Friday a commercial use exemption to Herculex RW, a rootworm event developed and sold by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences.

This comes on the heels of the MDA issuing earlier this week a stop-sale order to Dow AgroSciences halting further distribution or sale to Minnesota farmers of DAS-59122-7, the rootworm-resistant trait in Herculex RW and traits stacks found in some Pioneer and Mycogen brand seed.

The move came after MDA learned that Dow AgroSciences did not seek the required regulatory permission to sell this product in Minnesota. State law requires companies to obtain a commercial use exemption before allowing the sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed.

Earlier this month, the MDA issued the same stop-sale order for Syngenta's Agrisure RW trait. All companies involved with these two products satisfied requirements to obtain the commercial use exemption.

"Minnesota is the only state in the U.S. with a commercial use exemption for GMO crops," says Tom Gahm, head of communications for Syngenta Seeds. After supplying the MDA with the required technical information, the MDA granted the commercial use exemption to Syngenta.

Both products had received federal approval. "Once the USDA has given approval to a product, in this case the specific traits, the MDA wants to review the USDA documentation along with the EPA documentation," says Margaret Hart, MDA communications coordinator. "It's an extra step the state of Minnesota takes to examine any perceived threats to the environment or human health."


Wheat summit reports progress toward GMO

- Scott A. Yates, Capital Press (Salem, Ore.), April 27, 2007, http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=619&ArticleID=31950&TM=35119.42

Major players in industry gather to address variety of topics

Sounding more like a state department diplomat than the president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, John Thaemert said "substantial progress" had been made toward an agreement that should eventually result in the release of a genetically modified wheat.

The progress took place at Wheat Summit II, the second time a broad array of wheat industry players came together to discuss the future of the industry and their part in helping forge it. Sponsored by the National Association of Wheat Growers, the Kansas City meeting saw producers, millers, bakers, transportation executives, exporters and end users gather. All together, about 70 people attended.

A teleconference held for journalists after the meeting concluded April 19 promised more than it delivered. There were no formal announcements, unless you count how well everyone got along.

"The most gratifying thing that has occurred is the amount of education," said John Miller, of Miller Milling, who spoke of how woefully uneducated some segments of the industry have been about the challenges facing other segments along the food chain. He also said the event "reinforced and refocused" the need to broaden wheat acres in the United States.

The turnout was organized into four working groups that tackled various parts of the wheat industry equation. Each group focused on a single issue and then presented their findings before the entire body. The four areas under the microscope were domestic competitiveness; domestic farm policy; exports, transportation and infrastructure; and research and technology. Of the four, Thaemert said recommendations of the group discussing genetically modified wheat provided "the lightning round" where the most sparks flew.

Although other crops have been genetically altered to provide farmers different technological traits, wheat has remain on the sidelines. There are different reasons for its banishment. Some argue wheat is different because genetically engineered wheat flour would carry the altered DNA structure that is directly consumed by humans.

Of course, that is true of many other products on supermarket shelves, especially those that contain corn. It can't be discounted either that wheat as a food holds a special place among consumers as the plant mentioned in the Bible as "the staff of life."

The lack of a GMO wheat, however, has had an impact on wheat acres, which have been shrinking as other crops with genetic engineering expand their footprint. One of the primary reasons for organizing the first Wheat Summit was to explain to executives along the food chain how a GMO roadblock could affect their business by a decline in wheat acreage.

Thaemert said most of those involved in the Wheat Summit have boards and other executives to report to, so before releasing the group's findings to reporters, everyone had to go back to seek approval for the recommendations. A "majority opinion" from the group is expected before the end of the month.

"I've been up front and honest on this issue, and we are definitely making progress," Thaemert said, adding, however, that some wheat buyers "doggedly hold on to the sentiment that GM is bad and yet they have no scientific evidence to support their opinion."

Thaemert, who operates a farm in Kansas and also serves as a trust officer at a local bank, said he believes there will be genetically engineered wheat under production at some point in the future. He just doesn't know when.

"Change will not occur overnight, but we are seeing progress made toward the time we'll have a general acceptance of a biotech trait," he said.

If that kind of acceptance were available today, Thaemert said, there are at least a couple of traits that could be on the market in three to five years. The latest unreleased trait is a fusarium head blight resistance. Also known as scab, the disease has become a multimillion-dollar headache in the Midwest.

Although Syngenta, which has been developing the head blight resistant wheat, has played coy about the progress of the cultivar, Thaemert said he has learned from those who have seen the GE wheat up close that it is highly effective and only waiting for public acceptance to be released.


Rulings boost agricultural, food products trade

- People's Daily (China), April 27, 2007, http://english.people.com.cn/200704/27/eng20070427_370338.html

Bilateral trade and cooperation in agriculture and food industry between China and the United States improved rapidly last year, the 2007 White Paper shows.

According to the White Paper, brought out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, a series of steps conducive to American businesses have been taken.

China announced simplified procedures for the renewal of genetically modified organisms safety certificates for biotech crops grown domestically or imported for processing purposes, granting renewals at the end of January for all items for which application was made.

Bilateral discussions on food safety measures affecting US red meat and poultry imports saw some significant results in 2006.

Two Sino-US food safety workshops were held in March and December last year and a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on Food Information Notification was signed by China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the US Department of Agriculture.

The MOC established an early warning and notification system whereby respective food safety authorities in each country will notify their counterparts in the event of safety "defects" and "quality findings" in traded meat and poultry products. This consultative mechanism is designed to facilitate government-to-government communication prior to serious policy actions in case of such findings.

On the phytosanitary front, China lifted the ban on imports of citrus fruits from Fresno county, California, reopened imports of apples from two facilities that had been de-listed, signed a bilateral fruit fly harmonization agreement, and modified the Alaska log protocol to facilitate imports.

Trade in food and agricultural products between the two nations grew steadily last year. China is the fourth-largest overseas market for US agricultural, fish and forestry products, accounting for over $7.7 billion of US exports in 2006, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year.

The US continues to be China's most important supplier of agricultural, fish and forestry products, providing raw agricultural products.


Sorghum gene secrets imminent

- Blue's Country Magazine, April 26, 2007, http://www.bluescountry.com.au/article.cfm?Storyid=31123

Soon sorghum researchers in Queensland will have the opportunity to investigate the genes controlling crop yield, drought adaptation and insect resistance using the sequence of the sorghum genome.

The "Sorghum Genome Project" was conducted in the USA with funding provided by the US Department of Energy (DOE), which recognised sorghum as one of the pre-eminent biomass crops for ethanol production.

"Sorghum is seen by DOE as one of the most promising potential biomass crops due to its capacity to produce large quantities of plant material and its greater water use efficiency," says Sorghum Genome Executive Committee and DPI&F principal plant breeder David Jordan.

"Sorghum is the second major cereal to be sequenced after rice and its genetic similarity to other grasses means that this information will have major implications - not only for sorghum, but for many of the most important crops grown in Queensland, such as sugarcane, maize, wheat, barley and turf grasses."

Research teams led by DPI&F and UQ researchers in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M University will be in the forefront of the practical application of the genome discoveries.

Their two main sorghum gene projects are: cloning a gene responsible for sorghum midge resistance; and cloning genes responsible for stay-green drought-resistance. Other projects will target: improving the feed grain quality of sorghum and its suitability for ethanol production; and rapidly increasing the yield and adaptability of Australian sorghum hybrids.

The release of the genome was announced at the recent Plant and Animal Genome Conference held in San Diego, USA and will be available to Australian researchers by the middle of the year.


Fungus could be linked to vanishing bees

- Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times via New Mexican (Santa Fe), April 26, 2007, http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/60788.html

A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia could be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is now wiping out bees across the U.S., University of California, San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.

Researchers have been struggling for months without success to explain the disorder, and the new findings represent the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in California's Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country -- as well as in some hives that have continued to survive. Those researchers also have found two other fungi and a half-dozen viruses in the dead bees. EnvironmentalDefense.org

"N. ceranae" is "one of many pathogens" in the bees, said entomologist Diana Cox-Foster of Pennsylvania State University. "By itself, it is probably not the culprit ... but it may be one of the key players."

Cox-Foster was one of the organizers of a meeting Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where about 60 bee researchers gathered to discuss Colony Collapse Disorder.

"We still haven't ruled out other factors, such as pesticides or inadequate food resources following a drought," she said. "There are lots of stresses that these bees are experiencing," and it could be a combination of factors that is responsible.

Historically, bee losses are not unusual. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the current loss is unprecedented. Beekeepers in 28 states, Canada and England have reported large losses. About a quarter of the estimated 2.4 million colonies across the United States have been lost since last fall, said Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville.

"These are remarkable and dramatic losses," said Hayes, who is also president of the Apiary Inspectors of America.

Besides a loss in honey production, commercial beehives are used to pollinate one-third of the country's agricultural crops, including apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins. Ninety percent of California's almond crop is dependent on bees, and a loss of commercial hives could be devastating.

"For the most part, they just disappeared," said Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg, who was among the first to note the losses. "The boxes were full of honey. That was the mysterious thing. Usually other bees will rob those hives out. But nothing had happened."

Researchers now believe that the foraging bees are too weak to return to their hives.

DeRisi and UCSF's Don Ganem, who normally look for the causes of human diseases, were brought into the bee search by virologist Evan W. Skowronski of the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen, Md.

Dr. Charles Wick of the center had used a new system of genetic analysis to identify pathogens in ground-up bee samples from California. He found several viruses, including members of a family called iflaviruses.

It is not known if these small, RNA-containing viruses, which infect the Varroa mite, are pathogenic to bees.

Skowronski forwarded the samples to DeRisi, who also found evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from Nosema. "There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25 percent of the total," Skowronski said. "That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen."

If Nosema does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there could be some hope for beekeepers.

A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N. ceranae as well.


Tulare County farmer joins fight to restore Roundup Ready alfalfa seed sales

- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, Apr 25, 2007, http://westernfarmpress.com/news/042507-seed-sales/

Prominent Tulare County, Calif. farmer and dairyman Mark Watte has become an intervening party in the lawsuit filed by radical environmentalists who have been successful in temporarily halting the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed.

The preliminary injunction to stop seed sales was issued in a lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

However, the preliminary injunction allows continued harvest, sale and feeding of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"As a producer I am concerned about where this lawsuit goes and the impact it might have on advancing agricultural technology," said Watte, a second generation San Joaquin Valley farmer.

The plaintiffs' won a temporary injunction halting seed sales until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared. Monsanto, Forage Genetics, Watte and two other growers who have intervened in the lawsuit say an EIS is unnecessary and would result in $250 million in loses to growers, seed companies and Monsanto.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for April 27 before a federal district court judge in Northern California who ruled in February that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) did not follow the proper process in assessing possible environmental affects of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Watte said this case is not about the environment or the impact of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed production on non-transgenic or organic alfalfa seed.

"It is basically a sham by the same environmental groups who want to stop any application of new technology in agriculture," said Watte, who may testify in the case.

The temporary injunction sent shock waves through California where an estimated 200,000 acres of Roundup Ready varieties are already planted. There are 1.1 million acres of alfalfa in the state.

There were widespread concerns initially after the ruling that growers would not be allowed to harvest and sell RR hay, but the judge ruled it was safe to continue to grow it. He only halted seed sales and precluded planting any new stands after March 30 until he holds a hearing on the temporary injunction. That did not impact Western alfalfa since most of the California hay is planted by then anyway. However, it did halt planting in the Midwest where alfalfa is not planted until June.

Watte said he had not heard those concerns.

"The only comments I have heard about Roundup Ready alfalfa is how clean and weed free it is," said the farmer/dairyman.

Watte said the remarkable growth in Roundup-resistant alfalfa since it was approve for sale last year is due to the success of similar herbicide-resistant transgenic technology in cotton and corn. "Growers have seen what it can do there and have been quick to accept the same technology in alfalfa," said Watte. Seed marketers expect Roundup Ready alfalfa stands to represent as much as 80 percent of the state's acreage

In filing paperwork to intervene, Monsanto and Forage genetics provided numerous expert declarations detailing how Roundup Ready alfalfa can be grown in successful co-existence with conventional or organic crops.

"The stewardship requirements proposed by USDA for isolation distances, harvesting, storage, and cleanup practices are based upon scientific evidence and eliminate any 'likelihood of substantial and immediate irreparable injury' to conventional or organic growers," according to court papers filed by Monsanto in March.

According to the company, since field trials began in 1998, Roundup Ready alfalfa has been reviewed by three separate federal agencies - the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and "has met every safety prerequisite for commercial use."

Attorneys for Monsanto and Forage Genetics point out that the judge who issued the temporary injunction said "Roundup Ready alfalfa does not have any harmful effects on humans or livestock." Thus, the issue before the Court is not whether Roundup Ready alfalfa poses any public health or safety risk.

"Instead, the questions are: whether continued commercial planting and use of Roundup Ready alfalfa threatens to 'eliminate a farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered crop," particularly over the 18-24 month period required for USDA to complete its environmental impact report.

"If any such risk exists, how it can be balanced against the real and immediate harm plaintiffs' proposed relief would inflict on the thousands of farmers who use Roundup Ready alfalfa and on those who produce Roundup Ready alfalfa, including seed companies, seed growers, Forage Genetics International, and Monsanto."

Already, USDA has imposed a 1,500 foot isolation of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed produced with leafcutter bees, nearly double the distance for foundation seed production. The isolation is three miles for seed produced with honeybees, 17 times what is required for foundation seed.

"We are hopeful that a reasoned approach in this matter will address questions about the regulatory approval process for Roundup Ready alfalfa while maintaining farmer access to this beneficial technology," said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president for Monsanto. "The extensive regulatory dossier for Roundup Ready alfalfa, combined with farmer stewardship agreements, provides a robust and responsible approach to managing the environmental questions raised by the plaintiffs in this case."

Monsanto, Forage Genetics International and several farmers were granted intervener status in this case on March 8. Oral arguments on making the injunction permanent are scheduled for April 27.

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Food Safety and others against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as Geertson Seed Farms Inc. and others against USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.

Monsanto Company said in this case the court ruled that USDA had failed to follow procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act in granting non-regulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa under the Plant Protection Act, and would have to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

In the decision issued in mid-February, the judge ruled that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) did not follow the proper process in assessing possible environmental affects of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Will Restov, senior attorney for The Center for Food Safety called the judge's temporary injunction "another nail in the coffin for USDA's hands-off approach to regulations on these risky engineered crops." These "risky engineered crops" are now grown on 222 million acres in 21 countries, an 11 percent jump in one year. The U.S. acreage is about 123 million in biotech crops. When first introduced commercially in 1996, 4.3 million acres were in biotech crops in six countries.

The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.

Several of the organizations who have joined in the fight with the two seed companies have staged an ongoing legal and public relations campaign against biotech crops in California and elsewhere. Many also were involved in trying to get genetically modified crops banned in several California counties. Their efforts largely failed.

Many of their arguments about cross contamination and contamination of organic crops used in the Roundup Ready alfalfa lawsuit were also used unsuccessfully to ban biotech crops in California.

"The plaintiffs describe Roundup Ready alfalfa as a threat to the production of conventional and/or organic alfalfa production," Steiner said. "They project an either/or scenario when evidence and experience show that sensible stewardship practices make it possible for these different production systems to coexist."

Roundup Ready crops have been grown successfully alongside conventional and organic crops for more than a decade. In fact, the rapidly increasing demand for and adoption of the Roundup Ready system by growers has demonstrated the ability of alternative cropping systems to successfully co-exist.

USDA data for 2005 indicate that of the more than 22 million acres of alfalfa grown, roughly 200,000 acres of this total was certified as organic production.

The suit also cited the urgent concerns of farmers who sell to export markets. Japan and South Korea, who have "warned that they will discontinue imports of U.S. alfalfa if a GE variety is grown in this country."

Japan has approved importing hay from RR alfalfa fields.


Uprooting the organic claims

- Simon Cox, BBC, April 26, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6595801.stm

Lettuce Sales of organic produce are booming on the back of alleged benefits to our health and the environment, as well as claims of higher standards of animal welfare. But are we being seduced by "feel good" claims that don't stand up to scientific scrutiny?

Borough Market in South London is the granddaddy of farmers markets. On a Wednesday lunchtime there is a big queue at the organic salad bar. Next door there's a steady stream of customers at Betty's organic stall stocking up on organic herbs and spices.

For many consumers, there's a belief that eating organic will improve their health. It's one Betty supports.

"Given a choice would you eat something that is covered in artificial chemicals to something that is natural and clean?"

Can we prove that organic is better for our health?

The Soil Association, Britain's largest certifying body for organic produce, claims there "is a growing body of research that shows organic food can be more nutritious for you". And there have been some recent studies to back this up, showing higher levels of vitamins in organic kiwi fruits and tomatoes.

Science doesn't tell us the answers so some of it we have to go on feelings Lord Peter Melchett Soil Association This intrigued Clare Williamson from the British Nutrition Foundation who decided to study all the current research on the comparative health benefits of organic and non-organic food.

The organic lobby's claims failed to convince her. The BNF "feel it would be irresponsible to promote organic food over non organic food as being better for you as there is not enough strong evidence," Ms Williamson says of her findings.

The government and its independent watchdog, the Food Standards Agency are equally adamant there is no proof organic food is better for our health. But science alone cannot prove the point, says Lord Peter Melchett, a director of the Soil Association, who believes consumers must trust their instincts.

"Science doesn't tell us the answers so some of it we have to go on feelings," he says.

One fact that can't be disputed is that organic farming uses far fewer pesticides than conventional agriculture. The Soil Association's booklet Organic Food and Farming: Myth and Reality, is clear what this means: "pesticides have a harmful impact on human health".

Natural pesticides

So organic must be better for your health as it rarely uses pesticides... Currently the amount of pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables isn't high enough to harm us, says the Food Standards Agency.

Crop spraying We eat thousands of natural pesticides a day, says Anthony Trewevas And Professor Anthony Trewevas, an expert in plant and molecular biology, believes the argument against pesticides is disingenuous and simplistic since we are already eating huge numbers of natural toxic pesticides which plants use to kill off insects.

"All of us on average consume several thousand a day," says to Professor Trewevas, who estimates this amounts to a quarter of a teaspoon a day. These natural pesticides don't adversely affect us, he says.

"You do not come out in tumours; you do not become sick from nerve toxins."

But buying organic isn't just about health, for many people it's about helping to save the planet. Sheepdrove farm in Berkshire is an idyllic picture of rural life. Sheep and cattle graze on some of the 2,000 acres of rolling hills, while below them chickens roam freely.

Laurence Woodward, director of the nearby Elm Farm Organic Research centre, believes Sheepdrove is a perfect advert for the environmental benefits of organic farming.

"There is no question that organic farming is better for the environment than conventional farming, there is mounting evidence from government studies," he says.

Bad science

But, as with the health claims, can we prove organic really is better for the planet?

Farm Few studies have analysed environmental benefits of organic farming That's exactly what the government and organisations like the Soil Association have been trying to find out. Earlier this year, Ken Green, professor of environmental management at Manchester University Business School, was commissioned by the government to conduct the first comprehensive study of the environmental impact of food production.

His findings weren't good news for the organic industry. "The studies that exist show there is not a clear cut thing that says let's go organic and that will have a big environmental impact compared to traditional methods of farming," says Mr Green, summarising his findings.

The organic lobby rounded on the study accusing it of bad science because it was only a "literature review" rather one based on original research. But Lord Melchett, readily concedes there are "still some big gaps in our knowledge about this". He is confident future research will prove organic is better for the environment.

But few studies have actually tried to analyse the environmental benefits of organic farming. Mr Woodward believes there's a good reason for this: "It's almost impossible to do a sensible comparison of organic and conventional farming systems. The systems are so different".

Welfare standards

Yet this hasn't stopped bodies like the Soil Association from claiming that "Organic farming is friendlier to the environment".

Free range pigs How good are conditions for organically-reared livestock abroad? Who says so? According to the Soil Association's website, the government does. "The UK government has said that it (organic farming) is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas."

But challenged on this, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, not surprisingly, says it doesn't favour one form of farming over another.

Not all organic consumption is about saving the earth. It is about rearing and caring for livestock more humanely. We have uncovered evidence of serious concerns from insiders about the way some organic meat is produced.

Laurence Woodward, who led a study to be published later this year, says conditions at some pig farms in Holland were not "organic" since "they are kept indoors, in cramped conditions.

"It's very much conventional, very intensive," he says.

What of the consumers who buy this meat? "There is no other way of saying it - they being conned," says Mr Woodward. The research didn't identify which of the UK's certifying bodies was approving these overseas products.

But when it comes to endorsing organic produce from overseas, the Soil Association, for one, doesn't send its inspectors directly. Rather "what we do is inspect the inspectors and make sure they are going to inspect to our standards," says Lord Melchett.

Being an ethical consumer was never going to be easy. The politics of produce is confusing and getting more complicated each day. The best advice, don't believe simple labels that promise the earth but without the science to back it up.


Greece continues to ban GM corn for planting

- USDA/FAS (GAIN report GR7005), April 27, 2007

The Government of Greece (GOG) does not allow GMO seed to be sold or planted. Conventional corn seed can be imported as long as the adventitious presence of transgenic material does not exceed 0.5% (for cotton seed this level is "zero").

Just last week, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mr. A. Kontos signed a new revision of a January 2006 ministerial decree that prohibits commercialization and usage of GMO hybrid corn seed varieties of the MON 810 series in Greece. This revision raised the number of banned varieties from 31 to 47. The continuing GOG justification for the ban is that these hybrids pose a risk to the environment and to domestic conventional varieties. The research to support these contentions is unknown. Greece has yet to implement any coexistence legislation.

In a separate, but GMO related action last week, the same Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr A. Kontos, ordered the confiscation of 88 tons of Chinese rice protein meal at the Greek Customs Port of Pireaus for containing an unapproved GM event (Bt 63). The product was to be used as animal feed. The total tonnage originated with three 3 different shipments of 48, 20 and 20 tons of bagged product. Ministry of Agriculture border authorities will have the product destroyed or re-exported. Reportedly, the EU Alert System has been informed of these GOG actions. The GMO tests were conducted in Germany. Another 90 tons of similar Chinese origin product is being held in Pireaus customs awaiting laboratory test results.

The discovery of the Chinese GM rice has led to the promulgation of a public order to Greek Customs and local agricultural authorities, requiring that all shipments of imported rice be subjected to laboratory testing before clearing through customs, and that entry controls are not to rely only on accompanying documents and certificates.

Mr. Kontos declared to the media that, "We keep our positions fixed against the commercialization and cultivation of GMOs and we are intensifying the implementation of our preventive measures"....

Comment: Ironically, it seems that Greece is more than willing to tie up valuable border and lab resources chasing GMOs rather than have them available to deal with well documented human and animal health risks.


Sudan Agrees To Release 100,000 Tons Of U.N.'s Donated Food For Refugees

- Linda Young, All Headline News, April 26, 2007, http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7007167523

Port Sudan, Sudan (AHN) - With 2.4 million displaced people to feed, United Nations World Food Program officials were relieved to hear Thursday that Sudan had agreed to allow a shipment of 100,000 tons of U.S. sorghum into the country. The food had been held at port pending testing to see if it was genetically modified, Sudanese officials maintain. But agriculturalists say that excuse was a ruse because genetically altered sorghum does not exist.

Critics say the real reason Sudan's government held up the shipment was because it wanted the U.N. to buy sorghum from it. U.N. officials said that Sudan had had a bumper harvest and was eager to sell some of its surplus to the food program.

The aid agency said it did intend to buy more foodstuff from Sudan, but that with a limited budget it depended heavily on donated food, such as the U.S. sorghum.

The sorghum was tested along with split peas donated by the Canadian government, which the Sudanese had also held up claiming they were genetically modified.

In the meantime, violence against civilians in the Darfur region continued.


Are environmentalists an oppressed minority?

- Austin Williams, Spiked! Online, April 23, 2007, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/earticle/3123/

In TV, film, newspapers, schools and political circles, the green outlook has become the new orthodoxy. And still greens aren't happy.

Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, told a Local Groups conference in September 2006 that 'environmentalists have had a reputation for being against change'. He went on to say that 'this reputation, whether accurate or not, has enabled some of those who we seek to influence, to present us as a backward looking and conservative force' (1). God forbid.

But Friends of the Earth aside, the self-proclaimed environmental 'movement' seems to be in group therapy at the moment. Worried that their global legacy might be portrayed as having browbeaten public opinion with moral exhortations and demands for restraint, they now crave self-assurance. They realise, too, that their reliance on 'evidence-based' criteria and 'scientific' research has not created a lasting springboard for enthusiastic public engagement. So at a time when environmentalism is all-pervasive, this essay examines the growth of the environmental self-doubt, loathing and renewal.

The eco-message: marginalised or all-pervasive?

Environmentalists constantly complain that they are not taken seriously, that they get a bad press and that they aren't winning hearts and minds quickly enough to avert global devastation. It depends who you read, but various concerned environmental lobbyists suggest that we could have between 'a few years' and 50 years before Gaia pulls the plug on humanity (the 100-year Kyoto timescale is regularly put to one side these days) and understandably these individuals are keen to intervene convincingly to save us from ourselves.

Regardless of the legitimacy of their claims - their scientific claims as well as their claims to represent 'us' - it is interesting that many environmentalists complain that they are constantly let down by how little practical attention we're paying them. While they worry on our behalf, they point to the public's flagrant rejection of restraint, exemplified by growing car use, the ever-increasing demand for consumer goods and escalating non-renewable energy production amongst other things as testament to the fact that they aren't getting their message across effectively. It's a confusing complaint for those of us who are interested in more human-centred politics, because to me it seems that rather than the eco-message being marginalised, there is in fact an incessant, domineering, environmental orthodoxy that seems to infect every issue under the sun.

As far as I'm concerned, the environmental message has been received loud and clear and is unfortunately the dominant frame of reference in the lives of most of the British public, increasingly so in Europe, and to a significant degree in the US. That is not to say that each of us diligently assesses our global footprint - that we always turn off our TV standby, walk everywhere or bathe in recycled rainwater - but that the message that we ought to adopt 'responsible' behaviour to protect, preserve or respect the environment has been internalised by the majority of the public. Even those of us, like me, who don't buy it, sometimes feel guilty about not taking the bus instead of the car. After all, to all intents and purposes, the politics of environmentalism is the only game in town and it's hard not to be ground down by its relentless calls for us to reduce, re-use and recycle. Rummaging in bins and parcelling up your garbage is hardly the type of Big Idea that most of us expected to kick off the Millennium with, but if we don't actually do it, most of us feel a pang of contrition.

So regardless of our actual consumption behaviour, environmentalism is well and truly embedded in our social structures, political parties and individual responsibilities. A cursory glance at the BBC News service or TV schedules reveals just some of the mainstream programme itinerary that profess to be impartial examinations of climate change, but which have a very clear message to push. The clues are very often in the titles.

The BBC leads with TV programmes such as Global Dimming, Ethical Man, Climate Chaos, Planet Earth, Extinct, It's Not Easy Being Green and radio programmes such as Planet Under Threat, Costing the Earth and Home Planet. But then there's Sky TV's Climate Change Week, ITV's 3 degrees from disaster and Channel 4's War on Terra series.

In America, PBS have shown PBS KIDS Share the Earth Day, The State of the Planet's Wildlife and Dimming Sun. The Sundance Channel showed the three-part The Green. There was HGTV's Living with Ed with Ed Begley and MSNTV's E-Topia with Leonardo DiCaprio, notwithstanding the earthy Ray Mears, the late Steve Irving and recent environmental convert, David Attenborough. There's even a United Nations Environment Programme/ Greenpeace dedicated GreenTV digital channel.

Most of these programmes are examples of 'call-to-action' TV, whereby the objective is to encourage viewers to engage with environmental initiatives. They are often produced with such a high-minded, moral mandate that criticism - on any level - is almost deemed beyond the pale. This tele-cultural bandwagon, taken together with the practical reality of the increase in car-share schemes, no-car housing projects, zero-emissions buildings, the plethora of recycling bins, the interminable rise of green consultancies, carbon-trading schemes, eco-allowances, eco-penalties, government consultations, global warming treaties and climate change levies, it all seems to suggest that the moral case for environmentalism - and for personal consumer restraint - is all around us. The fact that we don't live up to it is hardly surprising. Thankfully, most of us have better things to do.

For environmentalists, humans are the problem - not the solution

In the contemporary political climate where no meaningful, polarised, ideological battles seem to exist, concern about the environment has become all-pervasive, whether we agree with it or not. It is a bi-partisan issue and infects every pronouncement; from President Bush's 'addicted to oil' (2) transport strategy (loudly decried by knee-jerk campaigners unaware of the massive amounts of government investment in US renewables) to Hillary Clinton's aim to make 'New Orleans, and other cities along the Gulf, America's first green cities' (3); from New Labour's 'sustainable' education policy to the Conservative's carbon taxes, environmental-consciousness is the perpetual reference point. Admittedly, it frequently operates on a subconscious, subliminal level, but it represents the new moral orthodoxy of our times. When UK prime minister Tony Blair says 'I'm not going to be in the position of saying I'm not going to take holidays abroad or use air travel, it's just not practical'(4), he reflects the truth about a modern jet-setting politician. But this doesn't stop Blair's government from commissioning a key report that concludes that 'ambitions and dreams of extensive new (transport) networks should be put on hold some of the best projects are small-scale, such as walking and cycling'. This is not necessarily a paradox; it's simply condescension.

For example, Al Gore seems to have shot most of the footage for his film An Inconvenient Truth - hinting at the evils of flying - some 35, 000 feet above sea level as he travelled to various exotic destinations. Similarly, British economist Nicholas Stern, who wrote The Economics of Climate Change for UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, has just come back from a world air tour dedicated to telling the under-developed countries about the dangers of carbon-intensive powered flight. The practical reality of a modern, globetrotting, environmental zealot is one of business class air travel - but small-scale, local and parochial transportation is 'the message' that is being delivered.

This is not as inconsistent as it seems, but it is ironic that while the meagre, navel-gazing, penny-pinching philosophical precepts of environmentalism have become mainstreamed in the public's consciousness, environmentalists are in such a quandary about the efficacy of their message.

While some greens recognise that they now have to emerge from single issue campaigning and develop a more tangible, political engagement with the real world as it is (rather than the world as they say it will be), such is the self-imposed fragility of their political case that they are often frightened of putting their heads above the parapet.

For if, as environmentalists argue, 'profligate' human action is deemed to be the cause of prospective global devastation, then it is difficult to overcome their inherent misanthropy and self-loathing in order to develop a human-centred rallying cry. For example, British environmentalist George Monbiot hoped that, at the very least, his book Heat: How to stop the planet burning would 'make people so depressed about the state of the planet that they stay in bed all day, thereby reducing their consumption of fossil fuels'. At least when John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their 'bed-in', they were protesting and invited the press round: it's hard to imagine that Monbiot's solution can inspire a generation (and he'd probably want the press to use low energy flash bulbs). There is something unavoidably contemptuous about environmentalists.

The UK's pro-market Globalisation Institute (GI) criticises the old approach: 'too often', it says, 'in discussions about the environment, a very negative, pessimistic approach is adopted. This negative environmentalism, full of doom and gloom, is a school of thought which thinks that improving the environment has to be done through restricting foreign holidays, limiting trade, only buying locally, or curbing GDP. It regards the rise of India and China with dread. Economic growth is seen as finite: the West, in this view, has become rich at the expense of the planet, and there are simply not enough resources to sustain economic prosperity in the emerging economies.'(5)

After this promising critique of environmental negativity, GI concludes that there should be a 'prize-fund' set up to induce individuals to come up with inventions to 'ensure the speedy flow of green technology around the World'. Green, it seems, colours even the GI's belief that 'growth and prosperity is essential'. However you spin it, environmentalism demands social restraint - self-imposed or centrally-imposed - which will continue to undermine the ambition of even the most pragmatic free-marketers, and especially those who use environmentalism as a starting point for a more positive vision of the future.

Environmentalism, by its very nature, is founded on the notion that humans are responsible for harming the planet (regardless of the counterclaim that humans can repair it). If humans are the problem - as environmentalists argue - then human solutions can only, at best, be viewed with suspicion.

This is why environmentalists seek constantly to monitor our behaviour. This managerial mindset is exemplified by the phrase 'reducing our footprint', which conveys the notion that we, as humans, are too profligate and that we need to cut back. This, unfortunately, is not in the same spirit as the early twentieth century Modernist slogan 'less is more', which implied that more - and yet more still - could be done with more efficient use of materials.

Today, if we consider carbon emissions the greatest threat to humankind, fuel-efficient cars is not the answer, as Amory Lovins has assessed that we would simply buy more of them, cancelling out the carbon efficiency gains (6). This response typifies the spirit of the age: even if something is a technological advance for improving people's lives, environmentalists may block its development, if in some tenuous, unforeseen, contentious way it can be deemed to have the potential to cause a detrimental impact on the environment in the far-off future. Such harm is now so liberally defined, and the fear of causing it so widely avoided, that experimental technologies are few and far between.

For example, if buildings are the biggest cause of carbon emissions (sic)(7), then the current debate about the need for more houses contains within it an inherent contradiction, an inbuilt brake on development. The so-called 'positive environmental' intervention in this discussion would argue that we should continue to build, but that we should lay down ever-tougher building codes to minimise the amount of energy-intensive buildings, for example. Unfortunately, this shifts attention from building to monitoring, from construction to management, and the raison d'être of house building shifts from 'housing people' to 'behaving environmentally responsibly'. Within this type of precautionary framework it's hardly surprising that risk-averse businesses would rather not take the chance. Instead we have a situation where debates in the UK on the need for more housing are almost in inverse proportion to the number of houses actually built.

It hardly goes without saying that efficiency drives for better, more productive modes of energy use, for example, are sensible advances over wanton modes of energy production and distribution, and few people would argue that profligacy is a good thing per se. But the time, energy and effort expended in complying with the proliferation of ephemeral environmental criteria is a visible example of Amory Lovins's preference for resource efficiency over labour efficiency (8). Making products work harder for you, regardless of the amount of time you have to put in to justify their use, is a poor kind of efficiency. It is the efficiency of the slave-owner.

The underlying idea behind environmentalism - of restraint (environmental or otherwise) - is nothing to be proud of. It is, in fact, a dangerously restrictive agenda that will have serious repercussions for our ability to take society forward to the real benefit of future generations. False productivity gains are the logical consequence of accounting for 'resource efficiency' rather than labour efficiency. 'Reducing one's footprint' is a guilt-laden, restrictive, authoritarian slogan that builds on Girardet's call for 'prudent consumption'. Suddenly, whether it's Ted Turner or Jared Diarmond, Malthus has reared his ugly head once again in polite society. James Lovelock's demand 'for a constraint on the growth of population' is today met with barely a murmur of disapproval. 'What?' people might say, 'you're in favour of more people? Don't you know that the earth can't cope'. QED, apparently. The pathetic counter-argument is to permit current population levels provided that we reduce consumption levels accordingly. Consume less, or create fewer consumers - it gets the same result.

Greenwashing: exposing the 'sell-outs'

The absence of a critically engaged public discourse on environmental matters - and political culture more generally - caused by the closing down of public debate around environmental concerns, means that 'green' issues have entered the public domain as mantras rather than propositions to be debated, fine-tuned and rejected or accepted according to their own merits.

One of the curious consequences of this un-contended situation is the inability of the environmental 'movement' to believe in their own moral high ground. In truth, their elevated status has been given to them, rather than won. Undoubtedly, the flimsy nature of their social standing is certainly something that humanists (in critical distinction to environmentalists) can capitalise on, but the cynicism about human motives that environmentalists have generated over the last two decades means that it will still be difficult, even for humanists, to create a political dynamic for human-centred change.

There is now some trouble in the environmental camp, but before we get too enthusiastic about the greens eating themselves, we should realise that, left to its own devices, this could create an even greater, misanthropic void in political life. Even though environmentalists are not solely to blame for today's political malaise, their cynicism about human-centred actions has been, and continues to be, corrosive.

Barely a day goes by now without some commentator or other suggesting that environmentalists have over-claimed or misrepresented the facts. Indeed, 'greenwash' was included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1999 as: 'disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image'. This type of criticism has gone on for some time, but there is definitely something different about the critical climate around global warming and environmentalism in the last few years that merits deeper assessment.

Danish professor of statistics and 'sceptical environmentalist' Bjørn Lomborg, for example, has long been pilloried since he documented the 'litany' of environmental misrepresentation in 2000, while British professor Anthony Giddens has been rather better treated after saying that 'we should ditch the green movement'. But as the environmental message has become more and more mainstreamed, questions have been asked about the credibility of the environmental movement by environmental movement fellow travellers.

The New Internationalist's stunning critique of the carbon offset industry showed that, in many instances, it is an unregulated, unjustified con. It often gets money for, say, tree-planting projects with little truth in the claims that it will actually reduce carbon in the atmosphere by any significant degree. The carbon calculators are effectively made-up, and the projects often make the situation worse for indigenous people in the developing world where these schemes are played out.

However, the essence of The New Internationalist's criticism is that 'the offset's message is simple and seductive. The more you fly the more you offset as a result, the more stoves impoverished families get-- but what exactly does it teach? That we can consume our way out of a problem caused by our consumption in the first place?'(9) The question, I assume, was rhetorical. The New Internationalist was criticising the multi-million pound carbon offset industry for distracting attention from the need to reduce and penalise personal travel. Some critique. More like sour grapes, given that the carbon trading market has 'more than doubled to $22 billion in the first nine months of 2006, according to the World Bank' (10). It also meant that the criticism of eco-companies advocating personal restraint only resulted in a more high-minded demand for personal restraint.

I don't want to overstate this, because environmentalism is still the dominant (the only) frame of reference for political activity today and is beginning to get its feet under the corporate table, but over the last few years, and with a gathering momentum over the recent months, the environmental movement seems to have lost a lot of its coherence. Arch-environmental campaigner George Monbiot has even launched a campaign to 'out' environmental hypocrites - those, like Coldplay's Chris Martin whose recent album was dedicated to the poor of the world while he had the audacity to fly to and from gigs in a private jet. Monbiot says: 'Chris Martin claims to care about the poorest people on earth. Why then does he seem to be mounting a one-man campaign to sweep them off the planet?' (11)

Campaigning to expose the abuses of the environment by erstwhile paragons of the environment signals a significant shift in the dynamics of environmentalism. It indicates a sense of having been left behind by those who 'sell-out', but it also reveals an angst-ridden inability to reconcile abstract environmentalism with practical reality. The constant hectoring tone of environmentalists - especially the rich ones - telling us to consume 'prudently' and behave 'responsibly' is beginning to gall. Over the last decade or so in the UK, elected government officials have had the presence of mind to delegate environmental decision-making down to grass-roots level so that it can be absolved of blame. Environmentalists, however, are the grass-roots level and they, like us, are growing somewhat uncomfortable with it.

One way of dealing with it is to wear one's angst on one's sleeve. Monbiot boasts that 'most environmentalists - and I include myself in this - are hypocrites'. So just like witch-hunting in the Dark Ages, a confession seems to be the only road to salvation in the future. This fratricidal charge of 'hypocrisy' may indeed end up with the environmental movement engaging in a cannibalistic feeding frenzy, but actually, it doesn't challenge anything; in fact it simply highlights the importance of environmental criteria by exposing those that don't live up to them.

The fact that environmentalists have hyped up the evidence-based justification for their existence (however much the actual science of global warming has been disputed by others) means that they see success through the prism of tangible evidence-based results and have ended up as tick-box, check-off managers of good behaviour.

But Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, founders of the Breakthrough Institute, are environmentalists with impeccable eco-credentials. In the last two years they have started to drag the environmental 'movement' into a broader realisation that the world has moved on from Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring is often credited with having launched the global environmental movement, and that there is a need for political engagement. They note that 'the entire landscape in which politics plays out has changed radically in the last 30 years, yet the environmental movement acts as though proposals based on "sound science" will be sufficient to overcome ideological and industry opposition. Environmentalists are in a culture war whether we like it or not.' (12) While Al Gore wrote in 1992, 'we must make the rescues of the environment the central organising principle for the world' (13), the next generation of Americans say 'environmentalism is dead; long live the environment!' (14).

Thinking small

Nordhaus and Shellenberger's report, The Death of Environmentalism, didn't really mean that environmentalism was dead, simply that the environmentalist cause has reached a hiatus and needed to be reinvented in a new, more politically pragmatic guise. Enter political pundit, George Lakoff, who says that 'most environmentalists believe that the truth will make you free. So they tell people the raw facts (but) Raw facts won't help, except to further persuade the people who already agree with you'. Instead, he advocates 'frames' - reference points or spin that can connect directly to the public's aspirations, as opposed to badgering them to live more frugally.

'When environmental issues are cast in terms of health and security, which people already accept as vital and necessary, then the environment becomes important', says Lakoff (15). His radical view of US trade protection embracing environmental survivalism sits nicely with the retrenched mood of the time. As Robert F Kennedy says, environmentalists love of nature 'connect(s) us to our history, give(s) context to our communities and form(s) the foundation of American culture, our art, literature, poetry and architecture' (16).' Or as a more hawkish OpEd piece suggested in the New York Times recently: 'Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green. Green is the new red, white and blue.' (17)

In this way, environmentalism is charged with playing the politically cohering role that US and UK politicians crave, while economically, they believe that it can be incorporated to provide a new dynamic to production. While it is a nice idea, I don't believe that it can deliver meaningfully on either. Alternative energy and recyclable materials is definitely a growth sector and Lovins (18) pointed out long ago that those companies not buying into environmental markets will become uncompetitive as the market moves towards ethical/environmentally responsible business practices.

But this is not really innovation; it is innovation with one hand tied behind its back. The new innovative sectors include: hydrogen fuel cells, thin solar technology, build-a-better-wind-turbine or biodegradable materials. All admirable in their own way, but liberated from the potential to be even better because of the imposition of an environmental frame of reference. Having to innovate without causing environmental harm may be a noble goal in some respects, but when environmental safety is the driver for innovation it ceases to be innovation, almost by definition.

Also, the policing of the inevitable mandatory environmental standards can only be a recipe for personal and corporate caution. Where there is productive innovation as we know it - predominantly in the electronics and technology sector - even that sometimes fails to meet the objectives of the environmental zealots. IT Wire points out that 'Greenpeace's 2006 "Green Guide to Electronics" ranks Apple 14th out of 14 tech companies'. One of its central criticisms was that 'Apple fails to embrace the precautionary principle' (19).' Innovation will continue to thrive but unfortunately the proliferation of risk assessments, hazard audit trail and environmental spreadsheets, will make an otherwise straightforward exercise into a straightjacket

I believe that the logical consequence of an unquestioning acceptance of limits, reduced resource use and individual responsibility - the essential ingredients of the environmental agenda - is a tendency towards small-thinking, while pretending that we're looking at the Big Picture. Unfortunately, without a critical appraisal of the problem and an open-ended debate on possibilities, we are simply accepting a new and slightly more cynical spin on the old environmentalist agenda.

There is, however, one aspect of the Nordhaus and Shellenberger model that is a lesson to us all, on both sides of the debate. They point out that for the last 15 years 'environmentalists have publicly debated global-warming deniers under the assumption that a) they can actually "win" the debate and b) once the public learns "the facts" things will start to change. What they should have done instead is built support for an agenda that inspires people regardless of whether they believe global warming is real. The result has been politically disastrous.' (20)


Austin Williams is the director of The Future Cities Project



(1) Tony Jupiter, Address to Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference, Nottingham University, 9 September 2006

(2) President Bush, State of the Union address, 31 January 31 2006

(3) Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Cleantech Venture Forum VIII, 25 October 2005.

(4) Blair, Monday: I'm not offsetting carbon. Blair, yesterday: Er, i've had a rethink, Guardian, 10 January 2007

(5) Positive Environmentalism: A Convenient Truth by Tom Clougherty (ed), The Globalisation Institute, London 2007

(6) Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use by Amory Lovins, 1998

(7) See the Green Energy UK website

(8) She says: 'Sustainable development will very likely induce the world to stop overexploiting resources and underusing human labour' in Amory Lovins et al, page 208

(9) If you go down to the woods today by Adam Ma'anit, The New Internationalist Issue 391, July 2006

(10) 'Feel less than green? Buy Back your pollution, by Andrea James, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 20 November 2006

(11) See George Monbiot's website

(12) The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, The Breakthrough Institute, 2004

(13) Earth in the Balance - Forging a New Common Purpose, Al Gore, Earthscan, 1992

(14) Requiem for Environmentalism, by Piotr C. Brzezinski and Piotr C. Brzezinski, The Harvard Crimson, April 20, 2006

(15) Winning Words, Sierra Club, July/August 2004

(16) For the Last, Stubborn Holdouts on Global Warming by Robert F Kennedy, The Huffington Post blog, 16 January 2007

(17) The New Red, White And Blue by Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, 6 January 2006

(18) 'The simple reason is that by increasing resource productivity can be a highly profitable, and 'picking up £20 notes in the street' has been an expression for much of this agenda', Lovins et al, op cit, page 249

(19) Apple not so green when it comes to the environment, says Greenpeace, IT Wire, 10 December 2006

(20) The Environment: Death and Rebirth by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, The American Prospect, October 2005


*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net