Vermont will label genetically engineered food

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 23:33

Vermont is the first U.S. state to require the mandatory labeling of food produced using genetic engineering. Maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself — it’s not official yet, but the state House and Senate passed the bill with overwhelming majorities (114-30 in the House, 28-2 in the Senate), and the governor has said he looks forward to signing it.

The law requires retail products to have a label by July 2016 if they contain genetically engineered ingredients. Enforcement of the law will go through the state attorney general’s office, said Falko Schilling, consumer protection advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which backed the bill. The bill also prohibits the use of a “natural” label on foods that contain genetically engineered elements. The rule will primarily affect processed foods — such as cereal and bread — where it can be difficult to impossible for the producer to know whether the ingredients, like corn starch and sugar, are GE or not.

This makes things interesting. Several New England states have been tiptoeing around the issue, passing or considering labeling laws that only kick into effect when enough other states join them, so they might collectively defend against food-industry lawsuits. At the same time, the food industry is working on a federal law that would lay out the ground rules for voluntary labeling of GMOs, while also nullifying state labeling rules. Each side has been eyeing the other, and quietly fortifying its position. Now it may get very noisy.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin elliptically alluded to the fact that the state could be sued over this law. On his Facebook page he wrote: “There is no doubt that there are those who will work to derail this common sense legislation.” Which makes it sound like he’s prepared to defend the law in court.

It also ups the ante on the push for a federal voluntary labeling law. When there were no mandatory labeling laws on the books, it may have been a little easier to talk about the federal effort as a simple measure to insure that we had one standard across the entire U.S.. But now the fact that the legislation would also preempt and invalidate Vermont’s law will have to become part of the conversation.

There’s a whole swarm of issues surrounding genetically engineered food. If you think it’s just about your right to know, or your right to inexpensive food, you might want to read my attempt to cut through the debate. I think there are some good reasons to label GMOs. But if I were in charge, there are plenty of other, more important measures of agricultural and nutritional quality that I’d choose to label first.

Filed under: Article, Food, Politics
Categories: Environment

Tired of milking your cow? There’s a robot for that

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 23:00

Bursting at the teat, a cow at the Borden family dairy farm ambles over into a big metal cubicle. Like a car in a drive-thru wash, the cow stands still while a rotating brush sweeps under and wipes down her udders. Then the lasers take over, locating the cow’s glands to insert them into plastic tubes, which begin to suck out milk.

This isn’t a scene from a distant, twisted future: Turns out, these milk bots are the next big thing in dairy.

The New York Times reports:

Scores of machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation.

Like Roombas for cattle (Moombas?), robots enable dairy farmers to produce more milk with less labor, and keep their hands cleaner in the process. While automatic milking has actually been used on industrialized farms for quite a while, what’s different about the system used at the Borden farm — the Astronaut A4 — is that it lets the cows set their own schedules. And, apparently, the bovines actually like it; probably because the robots allow the cows to milk themselves more often than a farmer normally would (which makes them feel more comfortable). The Bordens expected it would take a bit for the ruminants to get used to the new approach, but the cows surprised them:

[O]n a recent Friday, the Bordens stood watch as cows lined up in front of the closet-sized devices; each quietly allowed the machine to wash and scan its underbelly with lasers being attached before attaching mechanical milk cups.

And, in a way, it could allow for farmers to actually build a stronger rapport with their herd: “Most milking parlors, you see, you really only see the back end of the cow,” Tom Borden told the Times. “I don’t see that as building up much of a relationship.”

Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Food
Categories: Environment

Pony up, frackers: Texas family wins $3 million in contamination lawsuit

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 21:22

What should you do when a fracking company sets up a drilling site right in your backyard? After you stock up on extra-strength Tylenol and Kleenex for the forthcoming chronic headaches and copious nosebleeds, you might want to call a good lawyer.

Yesterday, a jury in a Texas county court issued a landmark ruling against Aruba Petroleum for contaminating a family’s property and making them sick. The company has been ordered to pay $2.925 million in damages to Lisa and Bob Parr of Wise County, Texas.

In March 2011, the Parrs filed a lawsuit against Aruba Petroleum, alleging that air and water contamination from the company’s 22 drilling sites within two miles of their ranch had devastating effects on the family’s property and health.

“My daughter was experiencing nosebleeds, rashes,” said Ms. Parr in a 2011 press conference. “There were mornings she would wake up about 6:00 … covered in blood, screaming, crying.”

Before filing the lawsuit, the Parrs had been forced to sell their ranch and move due to fracking-related contamination to both their land and their animals – oh, and also the small matter of regularly waking up soaked in blood pouring from their nasal cavities.

Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Inc. is being called the first case in which a jury has awarded compensation for fracking-related contamination. Most such cases are settled out of court. Like the suit filed in 2010 by Stephanie and Rich Hallowich of the ironically named Mount Pleasant, Penn., who were forced to relocate after shale drilling in the area polluted the air and water near their home, resulting in serious health problems. They sued Range Resources and ended up settling their case for $750,000. The terms of the settlement famously included a highly restrictive lifelong gag order that prohibits the Hallowich family, including their minor children, from ever discussing their case or fracking in general.

The Parrs’ lead attorney, David Matthews, praised the family for persisting in its fight: “It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’ It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”

Julia Roberts, are you listening? Erin Brockovich 2: Get Off My Shale is guaranteed box office gold!

Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Sword & Plough upcycles military fabric into sleek bags

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 19:56

“Quadruple bottom line” is the trendy phrase du jour. In addition to meaning “one more butt,” it adds purpose to people, planet, and profit.

What that actually looks like varies. For bag company Sword & Plough, it means hiring veterans to turn old military fabric into nature-toned bags out of Moonrise Kingdom or L.L. Bean.

Sword & Plough

The company takes its name from a Bible verse about weapons being transformed into peaceful tools: “They shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles.” Two sisters founded Sword & Plough in 2012, one of whom was a cadet in ROTC while studying at Middlebury College. The dual influences of military and sustainability are clearly reflected in the company. As Emily and Betsy Nunez write on the Sword & Plough site:

By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, and working with veterans, we create sturdy and sophisticated products whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste, and strengthen civil-military understanding.

Sword & Plough

Adam Smiley Poswolsky recently highlighted their massive success in his book The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, noting their Kickstarter campaign raised $312,000, more than 15 times the $20,000 goal. Writes Poswolsky:

To date, the company has supported 35 veteran jobs, recycled over 15,000 pounds of military surplus, and made over 1,700 stylish bags for consumers all over the country.

Rock on. Fewer swords and more ploughshares, plz!

Filed under: Living
Categories: Environment

How to use the Bible to save the planet

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 16:55
Niko Tavernise/Paramount PicturesTwo views of what “dominion” means in the Book of Genesis: Noah’s (Russell Crowe), and that of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone).

For a brief moment in Darren Aronofsky’s hit religious epic film Noah, we see the Great Flood from space. From that vantage point, it looks much like an atmospheric event of the sort that a NASA satellite might photograph, so we can all share it on Facebook. So what does biblical cataclysm look like from orbit? Beautifully, and yet terrifyingly, the entire Earth appears to be draped in a quilt of hurricanes, each cyclone nestled alongside the next.

“There is a huge statement in the film, a strong message about the coming flood from global warming,” Aronofsky told The New Yorker in an extensive profile. The film also contains a depiction of the Big Bang (something doubted by 51 percent of Americans, according to a recent survey), fins-to-limbs evolution, and the very clear implication that the biblical “days” of the creation were only metaphorical days, not literal, 24-hour ones.

In other words, you might say Noah is waving the red cape in front of fundamentalist Christianity. No wonder, as Mother Jones‘ Asawin Suebsaeng puts it, the film has inspired a “flood of religious freak-outs.”

But the freak-outs shouldn’t get all the attention: No matter what the Christian right may say, Noah is a deeply religious and spiritual film containing an authentic moral message. And that message feeds strongly into a vital and growing religious tradition of our time, one that especially appeals to younger believers: faith-based environmentalism, or what is sometimes called “creation care,” which uses biblically based moral imperatives to impel conservation and stewardship. Aronofsky and his Noah cowriter Ari Handel will be attending an event later today at the Center for American Progress to discuss just this aspect of the film. You can watch a live stream right here beginning at 3 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. PDT) today:

Certainly, you couldn’t fairly call Noah an irreligious movie. Aronofsky himself, whose notable past films include The Wrestler and Black Swan, is a “not very religious” Jew who has said of his spirituality, “I think it’s always changing. I think I definitely believe.”

Niko Tavernise/ParamountDarren Aronofsky on the set of Noah.

As for the film itself: Aronofsky and Handel relied heavily on not just the text of the Bible (where the story of Noah encompasses roughly four chapters of the book of Genesis), but also Jewish Midrash, ancient explications of religious texts. The result is creative, sometimes idiosyncratic, heavily influenced by Jewish theology, and above all, deeply environmental. In other words, it’s a film that may tick off people who are very rigid in their biblical literalism, but for other believers, it’s an environmental epic that can be resonant indeed.

Whose “dominion?” 

Aronofsky has called Noah the “first environmentalist.” The film goes further: It actively interprets the Bible in favor of those who argue that the book of Genesis requires us all to be good “stewards” of the creation – and in strong opposition to those who read its language about humankind having “dominion … over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing” as mainly implying that all this exists for us. (Who holds such a view? Well, here’s Rick Santorum: “Man is here to use the resources, and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward the Earth, but we’re not here to serve the Earth, the Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective.”)

Noah tells us, bluntly, that that’s what the bad guys think. Those bad guys in the film are led by a figure named Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), who very early on declares, “Damned if I don’t take what I want.” Tubal-Cain represents the line of Cain (Adam’s son, who killed his brother Abel) and thus embodies the biblical “wickedness” of humankind just before the Flood; in the film, that wickedness is embodied, in Tolkienlike fashion, as industrialization, environmental despoilment, and pollution. And most of all, the killing and eating of animals: We see Tubal-Cain and his followers do this repeatedly throughout the film.

In the film, Tubal-Cain’s interpretation of dominion is “more of a conquest, take whatever you need for your own pleasure,” explains David Jenkins, an evangelical Christian and the president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a group that believes that “the true conservative will be a good steward of the natural systems and resources that sustain life on Earth.”

“And that sometimes is the way that people seem to have interpreted the word ‘dominion,’ when actually, if you go back to the Hebrew language, and you understand that in its true context, dominion is basically ‘authority,’” continues Jenkins. “And with any kind of authority … it comes with great responsibility and a sense of stewardship and caring.”

Noah, by contrast, represents the line of Seth (another of Adam’s sons), and their clan’s approach to the environment is vastly different. The key word, as Noah’s father, Lamech, puts it, is “responsibility.” Noah passes that message on to his son Ham: “All of these innocent creatures are in our care,” he tells the boy after Ham wrongly picks a flower. “It’s our job to look after them.”

Niko Tavernise/ParamountAnimals herd onto the Ark in Noah.

Later in the film, in a rather disturbing psychological plot twist, Russell Crowe’s Noah becomes so appalled at the evils of men (after watching a hungry mob tear apart an animal and devour it) that he wrongly interprets God’s will to be that humankind should go extinct, leaving only the “innocent” animals on Earth. This leads to plenty of drama, including Noah briefly threatening to kill his own granddaughters because they might some day bear children and lead to a continuance of humanity. But he isn’t actually up to it, and neither is the film. Noah isn’t anti-human; it’s just very strongly in favor of the idea that humans have serious environmental responsibilities, and that the Bible itself tells them so.

The film thus represents pretty strong reinforcement for a social movement that has gathered increasing momentum in the past half decade or more: the “creation care” movement. For just as the film Noah does, followers of this movement interpret the Bible’s language about “dominion” not to mean domination or simple mastery, but rather, to imply responsibility and the need for environmental stewardship.

One reason this movement has drawn such attention is that in addition to its obvious mainline religious appeal, it seems able to inspire at least some evangelical Christians to go against our expectations about the Christian right, and support solutions to global warming. “I think that’s part of the interest – it’s not part of the evangelical stereotype,” says Katharine Wilkinson, author of the book Between God and Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change.

Granted, the majority of that demographic group remains in denial about climate change. According to a 2013 study of evangelicals’ climate views published in the journal Global Environmental Change, evangelicals were less likely than average Americans to think global warming is happening, to believe that it is caused by humans, and to believe that most scientists think it is happening. Consider: 64 percent of nonevangelicals, but only 44 percent of evangelicals, agree that climate change is “caused mostly by human activities.”

Evangelicals are diverse, however: Those who are female, more egalitarian, and overall less conservative in their values are much more likely to believe climate change is real and to want to do something about it, the study found. And as Wilkinson emphasizes, young evangelicals are particularly likely to accept climate change. “You see kind of a gap between evangelicals and the average American, in terms of their belief [in global warming],” she says, “but you see that gap basically disappear with evangelicals under 30. They don’t look any different from other young Americans.”

Overall, then, you might say that a large and growing minority of evangelicals seem very open to messages about why it is their biblical responsibility to take care of the creation, and also willing to apply this view to the climate issue specifically. “I see more and more evangelicals engaged when we talk about creation care,” says the Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network. “We’ve gone from 15,000 email people to a quarter of a million people who regularly read our messages.”

Niko Tavernise/ParamountThe Ark finally finds land.

So how will the film speak to this audience? Hescox is skeptical, worrying that “the message of caring for God’s creation got lost in the discussion over the literary license that was taken in creating and producing the story for the film.”

David Jenkins of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship feels differently, however, arguing that the film is “perfectly consistent with the biblical account.”

“That’s the great thing about a movie as a vehicle, for that two hours, you’ve got them sitting there and that’s what they’re engrossed in, no outside influences come in and influence anything,” says Jenkins. “So I think it’s reasonable to assume that if something is well done and it’s consistent with Scripture, it will have an impact.”

And once again, that will probably be most true of the young evangelicals, a large number of whom will surely see the film. “Young people especially, I think, young people don’t have the same commitment to dogma, or biblical literalism that their parents and elders have,” says the Reverend Michael Dowd, a climate change activist. “They’re living in a milieu, living in a culture where it’s not cool to trash the planet, and it’s beginning to become shameful to hold a ‘the end of the world is right around the corner’ worldview, so therefore, we can do whatever we want to the planet.”

The film is already a major success in Hollywood terms. With a budget of $125 million, it has so far brought in over $300 million worldwide, and has been out for less than a month. In other words, Noah is a big enough cultural event that it could substantially move the needle of public opinion, much like another environmental-catastrophe blockbuster, 2004′s The Day After Tomorrow, was later shown to have done. In one study, 83 percent of people who had viewed that film were “somewhat” or “very concerned” about global warming, as opposed to 72 percent of Americans who hadn’t seen it. (The study controlled for a variety of factors, including political ideology.)

At one point in Aronofsky’s film, Noah tells his family, “We have been entrusted with a task much greater than our own desires.” Whatever your faith and, indeed, whether or not you’re religious, a serious look at science and the state of the planet makes that statement inarguable. If Noah helps to further advance that message, then just like the movie’s namesake, it may also help to save us.

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Filed under: Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

“Cowboy Boots & Hometown Roots” at the 2014 Chowchilla Fair

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Meghan Linsey, who has recently toured with Reba and Brad Paisley, will be hitting the Main Stage at the Chowchilla Fair on Saturday, May 17th along with guitarist Tyler Cain who is one of...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11774767.htm

Categories: Environment

Civic Works Achieves Service Milestone: 5,000 Baltimore City Homes Now...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Civic Works celebrated Earth Day by making Baltimore City more energy efficient.

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11784942.htm

Categories: Environment

Libbie Summers “Sweet & Vicious” Spring Book Dinner April 27th

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Award Winning Salted & Styled Blogger at Serenbe

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11785302.htm

Categories: Environment

Texas A&M Transportation Institute Releases NAFTA 20 Years After...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

“Study of Studies” Examines the Successes and Shortcomings of the North American Free Trade Agreement

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11787655.htm

Categories: Environment

Global Market for Contact Lenses to Reach $20.1 Billion in 2018; Soft...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

According to a new report from BCC Research the global market for contact lenses is expected to grow to $20.1 billion by 2018, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2%. The...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11787909.htm

Categories: Environment

FC Gas Intelligence: ‘War on coal’ Pushing US Utilities Forward in...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Major utilities including Exelon, AEP, Capital Power, Dominion and Southern Power will convene in Chicago this May to discuss gas-fired power strategy and hear updates from key regulators the EPA,...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11788136.htm

Categories: Environment

PTFE Market (Polytetrafluoroethylene) Will Hit USD 6,440.0 Million by...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

GrandViewResearch.com has announced the addition of "Global Polytetrafluoroethylene Market Analysis And Segment Forecasts To 2020" Market Research report to their Database. View Complete...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/PTFE-Market/GrandViewResearch/prweb11788141.htm

Categories: Environment

Global Salicylic Acid Market By Application (Pharmaceuticals, Food...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Market Size - $239.5 mn in 2013, Market Growth - CAGR of 8.6%, Market Trends – Growing food and preservative uses of salicylic acid. View Complete Report -...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/Salicylic-Acid-Market/GrandViewResearch/prweb11788318.htm

Categories: Environment

Ergo Contract Furniture's Asian Connection

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Mark Denham, Founder/CEO of Ergo Contract Furniture and Lea Goldenring, the company's General Manager, recently traveled to China for ten days to attend CIFF and to meet with executives and...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/ergocontract/asianconnection/prweb11779444.htm

Categories: Environment

PM Environmental Founders Peter S. Bosanic and Michael T. Kulka, are...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

EY announces Bosanic and Kulka are EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Award finalists in the Michigan and Northwest Ohio Region

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11784662.htm

Categories: Environment

The U.S. DOT, SE Small Business Office presents: “TAP THE EXPERTS:...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

The “Tap the Experts” program is in partnership with Alexander Barthet, a Board Certified Construction Lawyer, Leisha Austin, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA); and Thamarr Griffith, an award...

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11785687.htm

Categories: Environment

Berea College’s “Deep Green” Residence Hall Earns World’s Highest LEED...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Berea College's Deep Green Residence Hall has earned LEED Platinum certification and achieved the highest LEED score in the world for a residence hall.

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/BereaCollege/DeepGreen/prweb11785785.htm

Categories: Environment

Endicott College Featured in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:34

Endicott College is one of the 332 most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada, according to The Princeton Review.

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11785996.htm

Categories: Environment

Forget Ferrari: The hot rides for sports stars are fuel-efficient

Grist.org - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:22
Tulane PRDrew Brees of the New Orleans Saints

The Pro Athlete Stereotype™ wouldn’t be complete without ladies, liquor, and luxury cars. But The New York Times says ballas are increasingly opting for eco-friendly rides. What’s next, trading Dom for kombucha?!

NYT reporter Ken Belson has no hard numbers, but he points to Jeremy Guthrie of the Kansas City Royals as one of the sports stars leading the trend. And he mentions a handful of others who are embracing Teslas and Priuses, whether because they’re green, trendy, or high-performance:

It is unclear precisely how many athletes drive electric vehicles or hybrids, but some stars like Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers drive or drove Teslas and other high-priced electric vehicles and hybrids.

For Guthrie, who owns a Prius and put down a deposit on a new Tesla X, being green isn’t just about his wheels. He also bikes to work and encourages fellow players to save water and electricity.

And the Blazers (holla!) have encouraged fans and players alike to drive low-emissions cars by installing 28 EV charging stations at or near their arena. That’s a big deal because transportation is responsible for about 70 percent of the stadium’s carbon footprint. Yup — that’s even more than making all of those foam fingers.

Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

BBB of Fort Worth Helps North Texas Residents and Businesses Fight...

PR Web - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 12:34

Secure Your ID Day offers on-site document shredding and identity theft prevention tips

(PRWeb April 23, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11763084.htm

Categories: Environment


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