Consumers unconvinced of safety of genetically modified fish

A genetically engineered salmon behind a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling of the same age Courtesy of AquaBounty Technologies

According to a recent survey, Americans aren’t convinced that genetically modified fish is a safe bet.

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Long stretch of oil seen in Gulf of Mexico

Boat travels through oil spotted in West Bay just west of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River Friday October 22, 2010. photo by Matthew Hinton / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE

Environmentalists have repeatedly said there’s still oil out there and that the government was too quick to re-open fishing areas of the Gulf. Now there’s proof.

Louisiana fishermen have found a miles long string of floating oil that’s heading towards fragile marshes on the Mississippi River delta. According to the Times Picayune “boat captains working the BP clean-up effort said they have been reporting large areas of surface oil off the delta for more than a week but have seen little response from BP or the Coast Guard, which is in charge of the clean-up.”

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Cape Wind project approved!

Cape Wind projectAfter a 9-year battle between the “haves” of Cape Cod on one side (with Robert Kennedy Jr. leading the pack) and environmentalists on the other, the Cape Wind project has just been approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“”This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast,” Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick.

Salazar said the United States was leading “a clean energy revolution that is reshaping our future. … Cape Wind is the opening of a new chapter in that future and we are all a part of that history.”

For more details on this controversial and historic decision, see http://3.ly/rENY.

UK company promotes sustainability through "green oil"

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

As the current environmental disaster of unchecked oil spewing from a wrecked oil rig unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico, the importance of non-fossil fuel is growing exponentially.

UK-based Carbon Credited Farming PLC (CCF PLC), a green energy company, has been making headway with their worldwide focus on developing “green oil” from jatropha (juh tro’ fa) plants.

“Our goal and vision is to provide alternative renewable energy sources through a sustainable commercial framework that benefits everyone – from farmers to governments to end users – and benefits our environment with conservation and sustainable practices,” said Gregg Fryett, CEO of Carbon Credited Farming PLC.

To achieve this, CCF has been operating jatropha plantations in Thailand, Cambodia and Africa. Previously viewed as a poisonous weed, this drought-resistant plant is now seen by many as the perfect biodiesel plant with seeds containing a high percentage of usable oil.

Jatropha grows well in poor or infertile soil. It’s excellent at helping prevent soil erosion, giving some environmentalists hope as to its use for preventing desertification.

Jatropha fruit

Jatropha fruit

More than this, jatropha oil can be combusted as high quality biodiesel fuel without being refined, burns with a clear smoke-free flame and has already successfully tested as fuel for simple diesel engine.

CCF recognizes that the stakes for jatropha’s success are high. But the company takes its commitment to sustainability further. 

“We educate farmers in marginal communities on sustainable farming practices that can be used on all value crops,” said Fryett, “giving them the tools to gain long-term financial independence for their communities.”

It helps farmers raise their standard of living, said CCF spokesperson Lauren Chen.

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

Jatropha has definitely gained interest among automobile-related companies as a viable fuel alternative. Companies like Daimler have cultivated it in southern India. And Toyota Tsusho Corporation, parent company of Toyota Motor Corporation, has invested in jatropha to refine it as a biofuel.

“CCF is about long-term,” says Chen.

Expect to hear more about CCF and their carbon and energy credit programs in the near future. It’s a company making a difference.

Supreme Court again denies measures to protect Great Lakes

Great LakesThe Supreme Court has again rejected a request from Michigan to close two Chicago-area waterway locks to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

The high court, along with the federal government, the state of Illinois and Chicago’s sewer authority opposed Michigan’s initial request on the grounds that closing the locks could cause massive flooding and hurt shippers by preventing the continued navigation of vessels on the Chicago waterway system.

Michigan based its second request on its discovery of carp DNA in water samples taken from the Calumet Harbor on Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Calumet River.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan opposed the request, telling the Supreme Court an injunction could “substantially affect the regional and national economies and greatly disrupt transportation systems on both land and water on which those economies rely.”

Asian carp have already desimaed the Mississippi's marine ecology

Asian carp are already dominating the Mississippi's marine ecology

Environmentalists say the carp, already dominating sections of the Mississippi and its tributaries, could potentially devastate a $7 billion fishery in the Great Lakes and severely impact the lakes, which hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.

It’s this writer’s humble opinion and view that the high court seems to be unable to distinguish between protecting the initial economic benefits versus the larger picture – that the invasion of this non-native species could and will substantially damage the ecology o  the Great Lakes in a fashion that may not allow for recovery. And then watch the lawsuits fly!

Big picture – little picture. Hmm . wonder who will win this no-win game?

Unilever to stop buying palm oil from Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Top consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has reportedly told dealers to stop buying palm oil from Indonesian planter Duta Palma due to concerns over rainforest destruction.

Unilever, who has been one of the world’s foremost palm oil buyers, halted their contract with the planter shortly after a documentary aired by the BBC which showed Duta Palma staff clearing rainforests for oil palm estates that produce the oil used in Unilever products including Dove soap and Stork margarine.

The consumer products giant uses around 1.3 million metric tons of palm oil annually. Targeted by environmentalists sand green-minded consumers for their deforestation and peatland clearance practices, Unilever has pledged to only purchase from certified sustainable palm plantations after 2015.

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Indonesia and Malaysia produce at least 80 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.

One could be cautiously optimistic about this announcement. However, based on my observations and limited research last Fall into the real sustainability of palm oil, I wonder if perhaps this is a simply case of finding a better way of looking good while continuing to make hand-over-fist profits.

Target and Safeway move to provide sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood 3Driven by consumer demand, more corporations  are adopting sustainable business practices,  Retailers carrying food products are particularly engaged in this process.

Recently, Target and Safeway announced that they would discontinue carrying farm-raised seafood and switch to wild caught. Environmentalists have been pushing for this, criticizing that net-pens salmon farms, which release pollution, chemicals and parasites into the surrounding ocean, disrupt and sometimes decimate nearby wild fish populations. 

Sustainable seafood 1Greg Duppler, senior vice president, merchandising for Target, said “Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices.”

Safeway is also on the sustainable bandwagon. They recently announced their partnership with marine conservation group FishWise to develop and implement a more comprehensive sustainable seafood policy.The company will also implement a traceability system to screen out suppliers that don’t conform to its new policies, and will discontinue selling grouper, monkfish and red-snapper, due to overfishing concerns linked to these species.

Sustainable seafood 1.2“We hope this partnership will lead to a more sustainable product selection for our customers,” said Jim Bluming, vice president of seafood marketing for Safeway, “as well as improved transparency with our suppliers, and ultimately, healthy oceans and freshwater ecosystems for future generations.”

Good news for consumers and a hopeful sign that more corporations will make more steps into sustainability.