East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Saturday, 13 September 2014

GM eggplant released without independent testing


B. McPherson

The development of genetically modified field crops is a lucrative business. Monsanto corporation is often cited as the entity responsible for the proliferation of GM field crops. It is a leader in this industry, but there are many others eager to cash in on the bonanza.

Sometimes that eagerness combined with crop losses in normal plants pushes GM seed release before it has been independently tested for health and environmental risks. Information is now available that puts a shadow on the Bangladeshi government’s approval of four varieties of GM eggplant(brinjal) seeds.

That eagerness to release Bt brinjal(eggplant) to farmers may come with health impacts. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute(BARI) has admitted that there were no independent health/toxicity tests done before the release of the seed. The reason, or excuse, given was that there were no suitable labs available. Instead, BARI relied on information released by the corporation that had patented the genetically engineered seeds. In this case, Monsanto owns the patents.

The admission that no independent toxicity testing was performed comes after widespread release of information to the public that such independent testing was performed.

 New Zealand epidemiologistLou Gallagher also criticised the feeding trials saying that the raw data indicated toxic effects were associated with the rats fed Bt Brinjal.[20] Concerns have also been raised about a possible conflict of interest, with some of the scientists appointed to the GEAC being involved in developing their own GM products, Wikipedia

The four Bt brinjal varieties were banned in India in 2010 due to concerns about toxic effects.
While brinjal(eggplant, aubergine) production in N. America is not a major crop, it is in Bangladesh. The vegetable is also exported to other Asian countries. Farmers have been coping with a grub that attacks the plants and reduces their yield. The GM plants come with a built in insecticide. There are some concerns that Bt plants also give a dose of insecticide to those who may eat part or all of the plant.
                    
Sources:
GM Watch         
Wikipedia          
Dhaka Tribune        l

 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Pakistan: hundreds dead in monsoon flooding


B. McPherson
People fleeing rising flood waters in Pakistan
Residents of Pakistan and India are struggling with the worst flooding in decades as heavy rains from the monsoon caused rapid rises in river levels. There are hundreds confirmed dead with little word from villages hit with floods and mudslides.

The city of Lahore is flooded. Photographs displayed by Indian newspapers show chest deep water running in the cities of Kashmir and Pakistan. Buildings in the cities tend to be built of fired brick, but many in the countryside are made of mud brick which dissolved in the water’s onslaught.

Srinagar in Kashmir has been hard hit with flooded streets and interrupted communications. Rescue efforts have been slowed by lack of boats. Thousands of people have been displaced after losing all their belongings to the fast flowing Jhelum River.

Every year during the monsoon, flooding occurs in India and Pakistan but this year’s flooding is now classed as the worst in decades.

When watching TV news of the flooding or photographs of the disaster notice the brown flood waters contain pollution from farm animals, sewage, industry and so on. As the waters recede, they will leave  unsafe and unpleasant reminders to add to the misery.

Sources:
BBC News      
India Times        

Al Jazeera                

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Drought in Central America spectre of hunger looms


B. McPherson

Drought and disease have conspired to throw farmers in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras into poverty. The coffee bean rust has ruined coffee trees and continuing drought has meant lost crops for about 40 000 families in Guatemala. Fishing has also been poor, blamed on El Nino.

The government of Guatemala has declared the situation an emergency. The UN World Food Programme is assisting the Central American countries. 170 000 households in Guatemala are receiving food aid. Honduras is receiving aid for 76 000 families. Due to the dire conditions red beans have soared in price since January.

Guatemala faced a severe drought only five years ago. It was another El Nino year and at that time an estimated 2.5 million people were severely malnourished.

Guatemala was one of those “Banana Republics”. Their democratic government was overthrown in the ‘50s when it is alleged that the CIA worked to protect the properties of the United Fruit Growers(Chiquita Brands) which stood to lose much land due to reforms. It has suffered under a series of brutal dictators. They lost many people during the conflicts.

Drought stalks many other countries around the world. It has recently been announced that Somalia has yet another disastrous drought that threatens thousands with starvation. Looking at the US Drought Monitor map, it is easy to see that even the Golden State of California is coping with an exceptional drought over much of its state. While most in that state do not face the scale of starvation faced in many other parts of the world, lack of water has mandated drastically reduced agricultural production.

People in the past were able to migrate from areas where they could not survive, but modern borders and restrictions prevent the easy passage for people. It raises ethical questions about how the “have” nations should behave toward those that do not have.

There currently is an interactive map available to show drought conditions throughout the world. Just as one swallow does not a summer make, one drought does not mean climate change. How shall we view recurring droughts that become more intense each year?

No water, no life
  
Sources:
Latino Fox News        
Reuters     
Wikipedia     
Noaa    

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mussels Close German Power Plant


B. McPherson
Small but a big problem -- zebra mussels
Warmer ocean temperatures are blamed for the shutdown of a major electrical producer in Germany. The EON SE plant at Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea was forced to shut operations because of marine mussel infestation. 
The power plant normally produces enough electricity to light 1.5 million homes.

“We usually scrape tons of mussels out of the area where the cooling water flows during the plant’s usual revisions, but this time there were so many that we couldn’t wait for the next inspection,” Markus Nitschke, a spokesman for EON, said by phone from Dusseldorf today. “The warmer temperatures have caused this infestation.” Bloomberg News

Invasive mussels are causing additional expense and operating hazards around the world. Some species may be native to an area, but slight changes in their environment like temperature change may favour more rapid reproduction. Other species are introduced to an area where there are no natural checks on their growth. Sometimes, advanced technology can be used to discourage the mollusk growth.

The EON power plant in Oresundsverket, Sweden, employs shots of hypochlorite(a fancy name for bleach) to fight the pesky critters.

Zebra and Quagga mussels are causing fouling problems in many areas of N. America, leading to reduced efficiency in operating power plants as well as water intake pipes for industry and drinking water. The Zebra mussels, native to Turkey, have now spread around most of the world causing billions of dollars in damage and lost production.

Suggested methods to control infestation:
·         Chlorine
·         Drain area during cold weather
·         Sulfuric acid
·         Silicon coating of pipes
·         predators
Sources:
Bloomberg News       
EON      

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Frackers in Pennsylvania used illegal additives


Barbara McPherson
When fracking approaches an old vertical well, blowouts can happen
An environmental watchdog group, Environmental Integrity Project(EIP), has blown the whistle on frackers in Pennsylvania who have been pumping kerosene into their wells.  Much of the fracking liquid used in the petrochemical industry’s rock fracturing operations is unregulated in the USA. The Energy Policy Act 2005 makes most of the additives exempt from regulation except for diesel. Diesel and its products can be used if a permit is granted.

EIP’s report Fracking Beyond the Law, alleges that using the companies’ own self-reported date that kerosene, derived from diesel, has been used in Pennsylvania operations. There have been no permits issued for its use. They go on to state that diesel has been used widely throughout the states to extract oil and gas.

"Injecting diesel fuel into the ground to fracture shale and extract gas or oil is a potential threat to drinking water supplies and public health because diesel contains toxic chemicals, such as benzene, that cause cancer or other serious health problems, even at low doses. EIP"

The exemptions to the US Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act afforded to the petroleum industry are smirkingly referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole”. Halliburton is the company involved with the giant Gulf of Mexico well blowout. Dick Cheney former US vice-president has served as a top level executive for the drilling company.

Some drilling companies in the US have maintained that they are not using diesel in their fracking liquid. In 2014 the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) released an updated guide to clarify which substances contain diesel. Included in the list is kerosene. It is important to note that the drilling companies wishing to use these substances containing benzene, xylene, toluene are not prohibited from doing so. They must get a permit to do so.

Adding to the controversy over rock fracturing to gain petroleum products is the huge amount of water that each well consumes. The water becomes toxic waste when the unknown chemicals are added to it. Often the fracking is using the precious resource in areas of severe drought.

One of the arguments for fracking in the USA is so that that nation can achieve energy independence. Unfortunately much of the natural gas presently extracted is processed and shipped overseas.

No Water No Life
Sources:
Environmental Protection Agency    

Sunday, 10 August 2014

More bad news from Fukushima


B. McPherson
Basically, Japan has this radioactive mess and doesn't know how to clean it up.

The nuclear power station at Fukushima Daiichi disaster has faded from the front pages, elbowed aside by new disasters, wars and disease but it is still festering on the coast of Japan.

The nuclear power station was devastated three years ago when a one-two punch of earthquake and tsunami hit it. The privately owned electrical company Tokyo Electric Power Company has been pilloried ever since for their failure to fully disclose the extent of the danger to the workers in the plant and to those in the surrounding areas.

A judicial panel has requested that an indictment proceed against three former executives of TEPCO – chairman and two vice-presidents – for their failure to act to mitigate the damages resulting from the radioactive releases.

The cleanup of the radioactive site has been a litany of worker exposures, shoddy work, repeated releases of radiation and rumours that organized crime syndicates are profiting from the disaster. Today we are given the news that after three years, TEPCO spokespersons are saying that the meltdown in reactor 3 is worse than previously thought.

Quoting from the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbum:

“As the core meltdown is now believed to have started earlier than was previously thought, the amount of melted nuclear fuel that passed into the containment vessel through the pressure vessel is considered to have been greater, making it technically more difficult to extract the melted fuel and dispose of it,” the newspaper stated. RT

Today, August 7, TEPCO has announced that it will start to pump water that has been contaminated by radiation into the Pacific Ocean. They propose that they will remove most of the radioactive material before releasing it.

Many will wonder how effective their removal programme will be. Earlier the company announced that it would install an ice barrier to prevent ground water from reaching the ocean. Now they are announcing that they will install an iron barrier to do that job. With the clean up of the ruined plant expected to take many years, I wonder how long it will be before the contaminated water manages to eat through the iron.

The Japanese government in conjunction with TEPCO has tried to assure the Japanese people that radiation is not so bad and that the worst effects are from fear of radiation itself. That may be, but when research shows abnormalities in the blood of the iconic macaque monkeys(the ones that bathe in the hot springs) and new evidence shows agricultural land contaminated over a wider area than previously disclosed, trust becomes a rare commodity.

Sources:
RT    

Japan Times              

Friday, 8 August 2014

Massive toxic waste spill contaminates BC rivers


B. McPherson
No words can describe the damage done to our environment
A massive tailings spill from a mine in British Columbia’s Cariboo region has fouled rivers, lakes and land. An estimated five million cubic metres of toxic waste escaped from a breach in a berm holding back the sludgy waste. The Mount Polley copper and gold mine run by Imperial Metals has contaminated the whole of the Cariboo and Quesnel River systems as well as Quesnel Lake.

There is a complete ban on water usage in these systems. About 300 people live in the affected area, but authorities are not sure if that number is accurate. Of course, that does not inform the wildlife in the area or the range cattle about the dangers.

Mine tailings from this kind of operation often contain substantial amounts of arsenic, mercury and sulphur as well as numerous other metals. Unfortunately, the mine operators were unable to provide an accurate accounting of the sludge that escaped.

Imperial Metals has three operations currently in BC. Their homepage has a three word mantra – Discover, Develop, Operate – no nod to environmental protection. They had no information for the public when the dam breached on the 4th. Today they had little more information except to say that the dam had stabilized and that detection equipment didn’t detect the imminent break. They also were in the dark as to the makeup of the slurry which looks like gray oozing clay.

“Exact quantities of water and tailings discharged have yet to be determined. The tailings are alkaline with an average ph of 8.5 and are not acid generating.

Imperial Metals has tried to assure the public that the tailings are not toxic while at the same time state that they don’t know the exact makeup of the waste material. Even if the tailings prove to be light in heavy metal content, that won’t help the spawning salmon which will fight their way up from the Pacific Ocean to lay their eggs. Salmon must spawn in clean, clear gravel beds.

BC is looking forward to a large return of sockeye salmon to the rivers and streams this year. They are starting on their way up to the spawning streams where they hatched. Fishing is a multimillion dollar industry in BC.

Investors are deserting the company in droves. The Financial Post has reported a 44% drop in the company’s stock. It makes me wonder who will pay for the cleanup and the costs to the people if Imperial Metals goes bankrupt. The company may face a one million dollar fine for this incident, but clean up, if it can be done, will take far more.

Today the Williams Lake First Nations have announced that they may not give permission for the open pit mine to re-open.

CBC     
Imperial Metals       

Financial Post