Morning Greens Open Thread - September 8, 2015

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Aerial pictures reveal rampant illegal logging in Peru's Amazon forest

Only from the air is it possible to make out the scale of three illegal logging roads which have been carved into Peru’s eastern Amazon, while local authorities in the jungle Ucayali region seemingly turn a blind eye.

Huddled in a twin-engine Cessna 402, the Guardian saw as many as 20 lorries carrying tree trunks plying their way up and down three dirt roads, each estimated to measure up to 32 miles. Dotted by stockpiles of logs and workers’ camps, the roads led to barges on a dock on the Ucayali river, a major tributary of the Amazon, a few dozen miles from the regional capital Pucallpa.

Beyond the economic losses and environmental destruction, the illegal trade has led to murder and fosters impunity. Prominent anti-logging campaigner and indigenous leader Edwin Chota and three companions were murdered last year by illegal loggers. Last month, his village was finally granted the land title which could have protected their ancestral land.

Paris climate talks could fail, warns Francois Hollande

“There is a risk of failure,” he told journalists, after a meeting on the issue of providing financial assistance to poor countries affected by climate change. “If we don’t conclude [with a successful agreement], and there are no substantial measures to ensure the transition [to a climate-affected world], it won’t be hundreds of thousands of refugees in the next 20 years, it will be millions.”

His warning comes after an inconclusive week of UN negotiations in Bonn, and ahead of a crucial meeting of world leaders later this month in New York.

Hollande has staked his political capital on a successful outcome in Paris, where countries will meet in the hopes of hammering out a global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to come into force from 2020.

California Announces Plans to Label Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide as Cancer-Causing

Following the WHO cancer research division’s report of ingredients known to cause cancer, EPA decided to officially put a key ingredient of the popular Monsanto’s Roundup on a list of chemicals hazardous to human health.

Under a classification of Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, any chemicals that threaten human life require a business to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning label before exposing individuals to a chemical on the list.

After the Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) In March classified glyphosate as being “probably” carcinogenic to humans, Monsanto launched a campaign to dispute that claim. Being the key component of one of their best selling products since 1974, agrochemical giant dismissed accusations arguing that there is no proof Glyphosate is linked to a cancer.
An international group of scientists, however, released a study last week, connecting the long-term intake of Monsanto’s herbicide, even in very small doses, as being linked to kidney and liver damage.

Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show

WASHINGTON — At Monsanto, sales of genetically modified seeds were steadily rising. But executives at the company’s St. Louis headquarters were privately worried about attacks on the safety of their products.

So Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, and its industry partners retooled their lobbying and public relations strategy to spotlight a rarefied group of advocates: academics, brought in for the gloss of impartiality and weight of authority that come with a professor’s pedigree.

The push has intensified as the Senate prepares to take up industry-backed legislation this fall, already passed by the House, that would ban states from adopting laws that require the disclosure of food produced with genetically modified ingredients.

NYTimes Front Page Print Edition headline ran:
Emails Reveal Academic Ties in a Food War. Which I think is an attempt to show equivalence with the Organic Food Industry as in GMO vs Organic. It’s a false equivalence because the spokesman for the organic farming industry was telling the truth. I don’t see where he received any funding from the Organic Group.

This is the explanatory paragraph the NYTimes used to discredit Charles M. Benbrook.

A Washington State Program, With Company Help
As he left a nonprofit group, Dr. Benbrook set up this program at Washington State, with funding from companies including Whole Foods, Organic Valley, United Natural Foods and Stonyfield Farm. His goal was to get more public and media attention for his research, which examined the benefits of organic foods and the potential risks associated with genetically modified crops.

Notice that the NYTime’s headline is “Food Industry” instead of Monsanto. I think of Monsanto as a Pesticide Industry due to it's invention of Agent Orange.

From another earlier source:

GM-crop opponents expand probe into ties between scientists and industry

Activist group compels records from 40 researchers at US public universities.

Update (16:35, 28 August): The University of Florida has announced that the US$25,000 grant from Monsanto to the agricultural biotechnology communication programme directed by Kevin Folta will be donated to a campus food bank. A press release cites personal threats to Folta as prompting the decision. The university had offered to return the money to Monsanto, but the company declined to take it, says University of Florida spokeswoman Beverly James.
[Kevin Folta]
“Nobody ever told me what to say,” says Folta, who considers public outreach to be a key part of his job. “There’s nothing I have ever said or done that is not consistent with the science.”

He adds that he has never accepted honoraria for outreach work, and that the University of Florida does not require him to disclose travel reimbursements. But the e-mails show that Folta did receive an unrestricted US$25,000 grant last year from Monsanto, which noted that the money “may be used at your discretion in support of your research and outreach projects”. Folta says that the funds are earmarked for a proposed University of Florida programme on communicating biotechnology.

Is this what Monsanto is calling "Big Organic?"
Local farms bringing their organic produce to town

Back to School: "Frackademia" Alive and Well at U.S. Universities

The Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) has published a timely “back to school” report concluding that “frackademia” is alive and well at U.S. universities.


frackademia (fræk・ə・di・mi・ə)

n. The complex of oil-and-gas-allied academics, think tanks, consulting firms, and public relations shops producing misleading and flawed research to win public and political support for hydraulic fracturing.

Beginning in 2012, PAI has compiled and released a large quantity of research on the phenomenon now known as “frackademia,” by which the oil and gas industry and its allies have funded and advanced research promoting fracking as environmentally safe and economically beneficial.

This guide is intended to serve as a resource for anyone – journalists, policymakers, activists, and members of the public – seeking additional context on these studies and their industry ties, context that is often missing from press releases and reporting. Below are links to a database of frackademic research with information about the industry ties of more than 100 studies, in-depth reports examining individual studies, professional profiles of prominent authors and their academic institutions, and outside reporting on the phenomenon. You will also find maps of some of the networks behind this research that were created with LittleSis, PAI’s power research tool for documenting and visualizing networks of influence.

The Harvard Business School example, in particular, serves as almost a perfect case study of how frackademia works in action.

“America’s Unconventional Energy Opportunity,” the title of Harvard's report published jointly with Boston Consulting Group in June 2015, was featured in an opinion article by The New York Times writer David Brooks and in an uncritical article distributed to newspaper wires worldwide by Reuters.

Like a prominent 2013 Environmental Defense Fund-convened study on the climate change impacts of fracking, the steering committee of the Harvard study was a who's-who of people with industry ties.
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Harvard Business School Fracking StudyChristie Todd Whitman former administrator of GWB's EPA was the one who swooped into NYC after the 9/11 attacks to assure the public there was no threat to their health from the toxins released from the attacks.

A little good news:

Pictures: Green Roofs Get Lift As France Makes Them de Rigueur

Green roofs have gained popularity in recent years as more cities worldwide promote their use as a way to save energy. Some, including Canada's Toronto or Switzerland's Basel, even mandate rooftop vegetation in building bylaws.
Advocates say these roofs—whether bedecked in sedums, vegetable plants, or wildflowers—help insulate buildings and thereby reduce the need for both heating and air conditioning.
The impact can be substantial. A study this week by Spanish researchers found that dense foliage can reduce the heat entering a building through the roof by 60 percent and act as a passive cooling system.