Category Archives: friends of the earth

Mark Lynas – On why GMOs are vital to food security in our world

 

This is an excellent address by Mark Lynas on the value of GMOs

One of the annoying things about the environmental movement today are those who apply heresy tests to anyone claiming to be green.

GMO EU action

and so;

If you don’t regard GMO as frankenstein food you hate the environment

 

If you don’t only eat Organic food you are doomed to a green hell

If you don’t hate Glyphosphate then you are poisoning the earth and our food

If you support nuclear energy, you deserve the green version of being nuked.

If you don’t support divestment from fossil fuels, you are a shill for the coal industry

If you support fracking you don’t give a damn about climate change and are a shill for Big Oil.

co5erk4w8aafvln

Sadly, I have only taken a little poetic licence there, but sadly these attitudes are only too common. They are essentially the views of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who possibly do more damage to the environment and humanity than anyone else

 

Anyway ignore my rant and read Mark Lynas

 

Source: Mark Lynas – Speech to the Oxford Farming Conference 2018

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Take the Pro-Truth Pledge (because we’re all fallible)

Not all like signing pleadges like this, but it very relevant today.

LPolitics is plagued by fakenews and post-truth as it seems politicians compete with each other to spew out the most blantant post-truth aka lies.

It is equally bad when science impinges on daily lives. We all know of the post-truth of Creationists, which is often deliberate. But we see the same on GMOs and glyphosphate. On climate change we have the fake news and post-truth from the extreme climate deniers to the radical activists like Bill McKibbin, Friends of the Earth and Christian groups like Operation Noah. I don’t who are the worst

And then there is fracking, and antifrackers have got post-truth down to fine art.

Read and enjoy, but only after you have marked, learned and inwardly digested

Even if you do not sign the pledge, make sure that you carry it out by sharing, honouring and encouraging truth and show no quarter to those who persistently do not

This is another pertinent post from Paul Braterman

Primate's Progress

Pro-Truth Pledge LogoI  learnt about this pledge from the Skeptic Reading Room. And while I generally loathe public pledges (too much virtue signalling for my liking), I am making an exception for this one, in response to our exceptional times. And the fine print makes admirable reading. Besides,  several hundred public figures and organizations have signed it, including Steven Pinker and Peter Singer, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for me. Many dozens of politicians have signed it as well, and one of the aims is to persuade more to do so, and hold them accountable.

Truth matters. Propagating untruth is big business and big politics. The traditional guardians of truth have abdicated, are compromised, or lack traction. By default, the job of protecting truth falls to us. We need to take our responsibility seriously.

We are all drawn towards confirmation bias, group think (our own group, of course!)…

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Scaremongering on health effects of fracking in Lancashire

17th November 2017. Today Gina Dowding and 11 others were found guilty of obstructing the public highway outside the fracking site on Preston New Road in July 2017. Of these 12 3 were various councillors and all argued about their concerns for health and water contamination and appealed to the slogan #wesaidno. dowding said after the hearing that they opposed this “pernicious and perverted ” industry

Here is drillordrop’s  account!! https://drillordrop.com/2017/11/17/cuadrilla-fracking-protest-trial-12-guilty-of-obstruction-but-cleared-on-trades-union-charges/

Dowding has been active in opposing shale gas, mostly on health grounds, for several years, despite her concerns not being accepted by Public Health England and other bodies. Her claims are not upheld by Public Health England and thus were rejected by the chief planning officer of Lancs County Council in 2015. She wrote up her claims for the CIEH in 2014 and here is a brief rebuttal of them. It seems that in the last three years these personal unsubstantiated opinions have not changed.

dscf6015

I find it concerning that a health professional rejects the findings of Public Health England along with her fellow protesters.

It is difficult not to see her concerns as rather hyped and not founded in proper research, but this is the approach of many who oppose fracking  – and the Green Party

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Lancashire County Council has recently considered the health impact of two proposed fracking sites. Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green Party councillor and a former NHS health promotion officer, outlines her personal view of the key health risks.

The CIEH’s assessment of the risks is available here:

http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=13110

 

 

1. Climate Change
1
The greatest threat to future wellbeing is climate change. It is now recognised that 70 per cent of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid more than two degrees of global warming. It is imperative that the UK takes the lead on this and concentrates on investment in renewable energy development instead of new fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently issued again stark warnings that urgent action is required now.

A popular and simplistic argument. She does not say which fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and doesn’t point out shale gas is cleaner than coal and thus the best solution now, in the absence of anything better. Further renewables produce only 5% of world’s energy so there cannot be a rapid transition. In the USA use of gas has resulted in a reduction of emissions thus help Climate Change. The IPCC saw an important place for the use of shale gas, so this reflects an incomplete reading of the IPCC reports

This shows how much energy must be produced to replace fossil fuels

 

2. Air quality
2
Venting and incomplete flaring of shale gas will lead to the release of benzenes and other known carcinogens. In the US fugitive gas levels around sites have been found to be up to 100 times more than predicted.

There will be no venting and flaring when drilling is complete. She is misinformed here. Further, flaring only happens before production if at all. Venting or flaring is simply losing money. What evidence does she have of benzenes and carcinogens? That sounds a scarestory. On fugitive levels this seems like an allusion to the discredited Howarth paper

3. Water pollution

The risk of well leaks is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix. Studies (such as by Schlumberger published in Oilfield Review) admit that 6 per cent of wells leak immediately with 50 per cent leaking in 15 years – leaving a potential toxic legacy that may irreversibly damage underground water supplies.

This is just nonsense. Out of 2200 wells on the English mainland only a few have had minor leaks. Again much exaggeration

4. Flowback Fluid
The flowback fluid produced by the process contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials. There are concerns about sufficient capacity to treat hazardous: In Lancashire and at peak times one of the proposed sites alone will utilise a major proportion of the available treatment capacity within 100 miles of the site (based on radiation levels and physical treatment capacity).

Yes, flowback is nasty enough not to be put into watercourses, but it isn’t much worse than the Dead Sea for chemical. The radioactive NORMS present are fairly low level Many of us have survived swimming in the Dead Sea!! The flowback from Preese Hall was cleaned to EA standards by Remsol and then disposed off according to regulations. Remsol says treatment is not a big deal.  Cuadrilla have treatments ready for the flow back. This is blatant scaremongering

5. Chemicals
The chemicals used in the Fracking process in the US have been linked to cancers and low birth weight in infants. Breast Cancer UK have called for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing due to their concerns about the potentially adverse health effects.

She is relying on the list of 600+ chemicals which HAVE been used in the USA, rather than the handful of non-carcinogenic which will be used in the UK – Water 99.5%, sand , polyacrylamide, possibly HCl and a biocide. In other words are benign solution despite what Friends of the Earth claimed in 2015 https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/how-fiendish-is-friends-of-the-earth/  The ASA forced them to withdraw their claims. Breast Cancer UK ‘s report was very dodgy and partially retracted https://drillordrop.com/2015/06/10/guest-post-ex-oil-man-explains-why-he-reported-anti-fracking-leaflets/ See also Dr James Verdon   http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-cieh-and-me-full-discussion.html

foe-leaflet-cover

 

6. Transport related accidents
6
Site visits undertaken in Lancashire show that HGVs with large loads e.g. 40ft trailers for office space and work space would have difficulty safely negotiating the narrow rural roads in proximity to the project sites. But there are long-term traffic implications once drilling is underway. The Lancashire Roseacre Awareness group are highlighting the risk of accidents and the impact of traffic on their rural villages.

This is not the case for Preston New Road and she should have said so. This is despite all the protests at PNR on 2017. This is more of a problem for Roseacre but is not a serious as she implies. Her best argument!!!!

7. Noise
7
Health effects that may result from community noise are well documented and include interference with communication; effects on sleep, and on the cardiovascular and psycho-physiological systems and noise-induced hearing impairment. Drilling is planned 24 hours a day, including nighttime; it is expected that the noise levels will be continuous for at least 14 months.

This is sheer overstatement. The noise is minimal and can hardly be heard beyond a hundred yards.  Even by the rig, when in operation (I have visited it), you can speak quietly and not find the noise unpleasant. Pure exaggeration. Far worse, is to live on most streets in towns!!

8 Occupational health risks
8
There is limited evidence on occupational health risks due to cumulative exposure to silica dust, noise and air pollution during shale gas exploration in the UK context. The concern is that there are no specific occupational health standards for onshore oil and gas extraction.

There are plenty of regulations for any industrial process

9. Emergencies
9
Local residents have anxiety over emergency scenarios. Although emergency planning is a requirement for this type of development, this process has not been ‘visible’ to residents. Anxiety fuelled by uncertainty over this issue could potentially have wider health impacts than the risks themselves

This is grasping at straws as are the worries of anxiety. That anxiety is induced by misinformation like this article. I wonder if any local residents were concerned before they were fed with this type of alleged problem.

10. Inadequate regulation
10
Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

This is a favourite argument and is put forward forcibly by Mike Hill. Regulations are in place and all aspects are being monitored by the appropriate bodies. Dowding’s paper was written in 2014 and here refers to a report of 2014. By 2015 the Planning Officer using reports from PHE etc concluded there was not a concern here, except demanding that noise levels were reduced. This was carried out by Cuadrilla.

Today 17/11/17 Dowding argued that regulations were still insufficient

Problems of “the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty” were largely inflamed by anti-fracking groups of which Dowding was active in. Of course, people get anxious when fed with plausible scare stories.

As it happens all her possible concerns on regulation were dealt with before  permission was granted by the Secretary of State in late 2016.

IARC bombshell: WHO’s cancer agency ‘edited out’ draft findings glyphosate non-carcinogenic

co5erk4w8aafvlnI need to buy some more round-up as the best and safest weedkiller going. I was recommended it over 30 years ago by conservation groups.

This article and Reuters shows how some groups are manipulating the science on Round-up aka Glysphosphate and throwing in all the Monsanto did this nonsense

 

The World Health Organization’s cancer agency dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review of the weedkiller glyphosate that were at odds with

Source: IARC bombshell: WHO’s cancer agency ‘edited out’ draft findings glyphosate non-carcinogenic

90% opposition to fracking in Scotland is FAKENEWS

 

After the Scots voted out fracking on 3rd October 2017 it soon became apparent they reject the findings of scientists in a 2014 report . It does not say much for politicians who simply reject science.

It was also reported that 95% of the public objected. This figure came from all the letters of objection. Well out of 60,535 responses (all negative)

21,077 standard campaign responses (35%) – i.e. responses based on a standard text provided by the campaign organiser
31,033 petition signatories (51%) – comprising an initial petition statement, followed
by a list of signatories

These do not inspire confidence and are simply those who filled in stock responses provided by green groups. If you are green (both senses?) it is easy to sign them without considering or understanding what you are signing.

This is exactly what happened in Lancashire two years ago as most responses were like this  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/25000-letters-of-objection-to-fracking-in-lancashire/   Over the 25,000 18,000 were pro-forma and over 11,000 from outside Lancashire.

Worse than that people were asked AND expected to sign without considering the content as I wrote back then;

But what did the letters say? Most are pro-formas listing objections downloaded from RAFF (Residents acaction against Fracking,Fylde)’s website or from a print-off. For example, at the Garstang Show on Saturday 2nd August 2014, those visiting the Anti-fracking stall were given this letter and asked to sign. My informant was given a copy by XXXXXXX from RAFF and asked to sign without reading it. My informant preferred to take it home and consider it before signing and XXXXXX was not well pleased  :(.

Now XXXXXX is a leading light in anti-fracking.

Even so 60,000 is a very small fraction of the Scottish popualtion

Why should anyone give any credence to signatories like this when they hadn’t got the nouse to give their own considered objections and simply signed on the dotted line. It is difficult not to see it as another campaign whipped by Green groups, who do not have a good track record on objective reporting about fracking.

The Scots have scored an own goal and they need to go one step further and ban fracking offshore as well. If they have moral scruples, rather than virtue signalling or playing for votes they will.

 

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Here’s an extract from the report

http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00525464.pdf

About the consultation responses
4. The consultation received 60,535 responses which were included in the analysis.
These comprised:
 21,077 standard campaign responses (35%) – i.e. responses based on a standard
text provided by the campaign organiser
 31,033 petition signatories (51%) – comprising an initial petition statement, followed
by a list of signatories
 8,425 substantive responses (14%) – i.e. responses drafted by respondents using
their own words, or non-standard campaign responses (standard campaign
responses which have been edited or personalised through the addition of extra
text).
Respondent types (substantive responses only)
5. Substantive responses were submitted by 8,239 individuals and 186 organisations /
groups. Among the latter, one-third were from community councils and other community
groups. Organisational responses were also received from third sector or non-governmental
organisations; private sector / industry bodies; public sector organisations; a range of
professional bodies, membership organisations and trade unions; faith groups; and academic
or research organisations. Among the respondents who submitted substantive responses
and who provided postal addresses, 88% were from Scotland. In addition, of the respondents
2
with Scottish addresses who provided a postcode, two-thirds (66%) lived in areas identified
as potentially having significant reserves of shale oil / gas or coal bed methane.
Overview of responses
6. As noted above, 86% of the responses to this consultation took the form of standard
campaign responses or petitions. In all of these, the respondents explicitly called for fracking
to be permanently banned in Scotland.
7. The remaining 14% (8,425) of responses were substantive responses. Within this group,
with few exceptions, respondents made their views clear about fracking and / or the
development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland, and the overwhelming
majority expressed views that were opposed.
8. Among organisations, there was near unanimous opposition to fracking among
community councils and other community groups, third sector and non-governmental
organisations, faith groups, political parties and other activist groups. In addition, a majority of
private sector organisations (including all those in the food and drink sector), some public
sector organisations (including some local authorities), and a majority of academic / research
organisations expressed strong reservations or serious concerns about the development of
an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland, even if they did not call for an outright
ban on fracking.
9. Fewer than 5% of those who submitted substantive responses (and fewer than 1% of
respondents overall) expressed a different view on this issue. In the main, these other views
came from:
 Organisational respondents in specific sectors – mainly the oil and gas and
petrochemical industries, and related professional, membership or trade
organisations – and a small number of individual respondents, all of whom were
largely supportive of the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in
Scotland
 Organisational respondents from public sector organisations and regulatory bodies,
who either did not express a view, or thought that it was not possible to come to a
view based on the available evidence. This latter group also included a small
number of individual respondents.
Views opposed to fracking and / or an unconventional oil and gas industry
10. As has been set out above, the overwhelming majority of respondents were opposed to
fracking or the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland. Across all
consultation questions, these respondents:
 Repeatedly emphasised the potential for significant and long-lasting negative
impacts on communities, health, environment and climate
 Expressed scepticism about the ability of regulation to mitigate negative impacts
 Were unconvinced about the value of any economic benefit and the contribution of
unconventional oil and gas to Scotland’s energy mix, believing that any benefits
would be relatively short-lived and far outweighed by the risks presented by the
industry.
3
Views in favour of the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry
11. As noted above (paragraph 9), a small number of respondents expressed positive views
about the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland. Across all
consultation questions, these respondents:
 Emphasised the benefits for the economy, for communities, for the climate, and for
Scotland’s energy supply
 Thought that the positive impacts outweighed the risks and that, in any case, the
risks associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction were no greater than the
risks associated with any other industry
 Argued that the development of a strong and robust regulatory framework could
mitigate any adverse impacts.
Views neither for nor against unconventional oil and gas
12. Among the small number of respondents who did not express a specific

 

 

 

Why Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth & other NGOs are wrong to oppose GMOs. They will help starvation

I am baffled why so many NGOs who claim to care about starvation and malnutrition in the world should be so opposed to GMOs. It is as if they give with one hand and take with the other.

goldenrice

Meme made by Peter Hess, author of Catholics and Science.

The official policy of Christian Aid is hostile to GMOs, though slightly muted from 15 years ago. They seem unwilling to accept that MOs, Modifed Organisms, have enabled greater productivity in farming for millenia. Of course, this was at the whole animal or plant level as with Lord Delamere in Kenya in the days of Happy Valley. The local cattle were not very productive so he did experiments crossing local cattle with British ones and produced more productive cattle. GMO is only a scientific extension of selective breeding.

Thus we have GM papaya in Hawaii saving a devastated industry, yet  attempts to introduce golden rice have been thwarted.

It seems odd that these groups accept the science of climate change and then want to adopt extreme measures which will do more harm than good, yet reject the science of GMOs and do their damnedest to thwart them.

This article about Uganda brought it home to me, having spent nearly a year there many moons ago. As I was an exploration geologist I lived in the back of beyond, miles from anything like electricity. I mostly ate local and soon learnt how to find the local butcher. You went into a village or town, looked up to see where vultures were circling and then driving to be right below them. Sure enough there was a shacked with cows being hacked up. The waste bits were thrown outside and the vultures did their duty. The meat was cheap, but as I asked for no bones I paid twice the going rate. It was a bargain. However my workers could not afford meat. I had no fridge and once my “cow” went off, so my cook stewed it for himself. To him it was wonderful, but I will never forget the smell. My workers were better fed than most and I went past some “shambas” (subsistence allotments) were the food available was minimal.

Clearly more food is needed and agricultural research and innovation is needed.

This article describes anti-GM groups including   Climate Action Network-Uganda (CAN-U). This is part of the international  Climate Action Network, and members of the the Europe section include Friends of the Earth , Greenpeace, Christian Aid, tear Fund, RSPB, Oxfam and CAFOD.

What GMOs have to do with Climate Change I do not know.

However this is a serious matter and I wonder how many supported of the development NGOs I listed above are aware that they oppose scientifically base agricultural improvements.

I find it shocking.

The food and famine crisis is finally bringing to a head the clash between anti-GMO activists, mostly European based, and the science and farming communities.

Source: Uganda: From scorching drought to ravaging worms, poor pay the price for missing out on a biotech solution

Uganda: From scorching drought to ravaging worms, poor pay the price for missing out on a biotech solution

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Over 1.3 Million Ugandans are experiencing some form of hunger as a result of prolonged drought that has caused massive crop failure leading to famine. Hardly had the sight of flourishing new crops brought hope to the subsistence hungry Ugandan households when the armyworms, a corn pest, struck. These worms are not the ordinary armyworms that come and go in a week. It is the fall armyworm, a type not seen before that causes extreme damage to a crop, more than the usual worms–attacking both the young shoots and the hardened leaves.

Billions of shillings from Uganda’s budget have been diverted to fighting hunger and now to controlling these worms. Government programs, for examples, elections of local leaders; and providing provisions of sanitary towels to poor girls to keep them at school have been suspended. Sections who feel aggrieved for the diversion of resources towards addressing hunger are pushing the government to the edge.

Drought tolerant crops perhaps could not have addressed the issues of prolonged drought but insect resistant transgenic maize is seen flourishing beside ravaged local maize varieties. The problem is that these resistant varieties are still confined in guarded fields because the Catargena Protocol that Uganda ratified demands there must be a biosafety law in place before farmers can access the insect resistant varieties. The Anti GMO activists have fought a battle to keep the legislators from enacting the biosafety law so that farmers may not access these “evil crops” that could save farmers from famine. Will Uganda be able to resist the activists’ assault designed to prevent the adoption of a regulatory framework.

Ugandan anti GMO activists and scientists agree on key clauses of the Biosafety Bill

Uganda is one of the leading biotechnology research companies in Africa. Despite years of research work by scientists, there has not been a comprehensive Biosafety law that would enable commercialization of GM products. The anti GM activists believed enactment of the law would open doors for GM cultivation–something they wouldn’t want. Most members of the activists group believed the bill was meant to promote GMOs and needed to be overhauled.

The committee of science and technologies of the Uganda’s Parliament has been collecting views of various stakeholders on the Biosafety Bill. After meeting the stakeholders they convened a meeting of both pro and anti GM activists, scientists, legislators and policy makers. The meeting was meant to generate consensus on key clauses of the bill.

The anti GM civil society organizations represented were: Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI); Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM); Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE); Pan-African Club; and Climate Action Network-Uganda (CAN-U).

The pro or neutral organizations included: National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO); Cotton Development Organization (CDO); National Environment Management Authority (NEMA); Makerere University; Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU); National Drug Authority (NDA); African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Uganda National Council for Science and Technology Uganda Biotechnology (UNCST); and Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC).

Consensus

The major areas that the anti GM activists had issues with included; the title of the bill, which they wanted changed from the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill; The Competent Authority to be different from the current one proposed in the draft bill, which is the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology; and the content of the bill to cover other forms of biotechnology other than GMOs; and labeling. The two sides agreed to maintain the title of the bill but that where there is GMO in the Bill should be replaced with Modern Biotechnology or targeted Biotechnology; to have the newly created Ministry of Science and Technology become a competent authority on issues of biosafety to oversee the National Biosafety Committee; the national Focal Point which acts as link between the country and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) would remain the Ministry of Environment.

Status of Uganda’s Biosafety law process

Uganda passed a national Biotechnology and Biosafetyy Policy in 2008with a main objective of harnessing benefits of biotechnology in all the sectors. Uganda then went on to draft regulatory framework 10 year later (2012). Since 2012 up to now, Ugandan legislators have not yet enacted this law and farmers cannot access the transgenic crops that could help address the current issues of drounght and insect. There has been several consultations and counter consultations on why Uganda should and should not embrace biotechnology. The role of collecting views have been that of the parliamentary committee for science and technology. These committees have done lots of consultations that included benchmarking with countries like Brazil, India and South Africa that have grown GM crops for years. There last activity on consultations was bridging the gap between issues that were being raised by those who thought the Biosafety Bill was so bad and was meant to promote all sorts of GM products.

Prime Ministers suggestions to activism challenges

Speaking at a the same consensus building roundtable meeting, the Prime Minister pointed out at the two major obstacles that are responsible for the delay of GM crops adoption: the Innocent Ignorant farmers and “Some groups who want Uganda to remain backward and dependent”. He continued to say the latter category’s dominance in Africa is threatened and that they do not wish Africa well.

Uganda’s premier’s suggested two solutions to these challenges. The solution to those that do not wish Uganda and Africa well was that Africa must be ready for such people and must confront and stop them. He however did not delve into how the “stopping” would be carried out. The ignorant innocent farmers are to be senstized.

Whether the Prime Minister will confront the issues by mobilizing members of his party which are a majority in the house will soon be seen, since the committee is ready with its report. The President has also on several occasions publicly endorsed the need to make biotech crops availability to farmers. As we wait for this, Over a million subsistence farmers are becoming hopeless as they see their crops eaten away by the unique armyworm. Their plight will eventually result in the reallocation of finances from other key sector like health and education, and is likely to cause both social and  political unrest.

Isaac Ongu is an agriculturist, science writer and an advocate for science based interventions in solving agricultural challenges in Africa. Follow Isaac on twitter @onguisaac