Environment


I have been a proponent for eco-labels for food.  But I wanted to share my most recent Whole Foods experience.  I went to Whole Foods in Portland, Maine and noticed that they had animal welfare labeling.  Great…I took some photos.  Then, I asked where I could find  Number 5 meat because I was curious as to the type and source of the highest rated products.  They told me that no number 5 or 4 meat exists in the store.  The highest rated chicken is 2, and the highest beef is 3 (and beef would be lower if environmental factors would considered).  Shouldn’t bigger and more animal friendly numbers be available now, or will this eventually and effectively increase consumer demand?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — June 2, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT –– Vermont Law School today launched a commentary blog where its faculty experts will provide ongoing analysis of the environmental, constitutional, political and other implications of the federal lawsuit over the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC et. al. v. Shumlin et. al. is being closely watched across the country because of its potential to affect nuclear power in the United States. Entergy Corp., which owns Vermont Yankee, is suing Vermont over whether the federal or state government has final approval in the reactor continuing to operate.

Vermont Law School faculty will provide commentary as the case progresses at: http://wordpress.vermontlaw.edu/vy/

Professor Parenteau discusses whether fracking raises questions of NEPA compliance.

  • On the ‘not surprised front,’ the China is hacking Google.
  • As I reported before, the pollution is getting very bad in Hong Kong.  Now this report.  I absolutely love Hong Kong; it’s probably my favorite major city in the world (my favorite small city is Portland, Maine), but the industrialization of Guangdong Province is taking its toll, and Hong Kong’s air seems worse each time I’m there.  Singapore has the most to gain.  I’m going back to HK soon, and I’ll report.
  • A blog post that both applauds (in the short term) or questions (in the long term) the environmental strategy of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

 

 

I received this interesting note from WWF-Hong Kong:

Ecological Footprint (English)

WWF- Hong Kong has recently released the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010, which demonstrates that Hong Kong people are living beyond the Earth’s limits. According to the report, if everyone in the world lived a similar lifestyle to that of Hong Kong people, we would need the equivalent resources of 2.2 Earths. Hong Kong has the 45th largest Ecological Footprint per person compared to 150 countries with populations larger than 1 million people in 2007.

 The Ecological Footprint measures the extent of human demand for the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. Both quantities are expressed in units of global hectares (gha). Hong Kong has an average per person Ecological Footprint of 4.0 gha, which is more than double the 1.8 gha of biocapacity – the area actually available to produce resources and absorb CO2 – available per person globally. This report uses 2007 data.

http://assets.wwfhk.panda.org/downloads/hong_kong_ecological_footprint_report_2010.pdf

Here are some interesting news items and blog posts from this morning:

At this point, I remain skeptical that sustainable seafood actually can exist at present time given the overwhelming pressures placed on the world’s oceans.  Though perhaps very saavy aquaculture coupled with limited fishing and marine reserves can lead to a future with sustainable seafood from farming and wild sources.  Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch program has long been the standard for choosing sustainable seafood, and its pocket guides have been common for some time.  The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) is now getting into the mix with its own Sustainable Seafood Initiative that employs a “Responsibly Harversted” logo and its own seafood guide, which both promote seafood in the Gulf of Maine.  What perplexes me is that the GMRI guide lists seafood “local” to the Gulf of Maine and encourages its purchase, but also uses the term sustainable….What is odd is that many local choices on the list are not sustainable, as least as defined by MBA’s Northeast Guide or me (e.g., sharks, tuna, cod) and others (read the book “Four Fish”).  So the question is, can fish be considered to be harvested sustainably by individuals if in the aggregate said fish is harvested unsustainably?

UPDATE: Based on a facebook response, I would add the following:  I’m taking issue with the GMRI Guide, not the Responsibly Harvested Label. But, if only 4 seafood items (Haddock, Northern Shrimp, American Lobster, and Cod) make the label, why create a guide that gives the impression that all “local” seafood is sustainable?  There are two things going on here: (1) the guide arguably conflates sustainability and local, and, thus, (2) as other labels do, raises a question as to the appropriate definition of sustainability (local? sustainable by what standards?). You could argue, for example, that all lawful fishing is sustainable because it conforms with scientific management practices of the federal government.  This definitional problem is further illustrated by Atlantic Cod, which can receive the Responsibly Harvested Label by GMRI but is on MBA’s Avoid List.  So, if I want to eat “sustainably,” can I eat cod?

UPDATE 2: I should also reiterate my most basic rhetorical question: “Is there such a thing as sustainable wild seafood?”

Climate change mitigation, in full, is a dream.  Adaptation is now occuring.  See this article in the Times about Chicago’s response to climate change.  I hope we adapt far better than we mitigate; otherwise adpatation will give way to emergency repsonse.

At my panel on eco-labeling yesterday, I engaged in a fascinating discussion with fellow panelist from Consumers Union (the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports) about whether the FDA has the authority under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require mandatory labeling on of genetically modified foods.  My initial answer is no.  It is my understanding that no federal law requires mandatory labeling of GM foods, and that the FDA will only require labeling if a health safety issue arises which the FDA has not determined to be the case for current GM foods (in which case the GM food will likely not be approved for use in the first place).  Here’s a nice article in the Post which lays it out in lay terms.

More litigation over genetically modified food is sure to arise within the next few years. Currently, the FDA is reviewing whether to approve genetically modified salmon as safe for human consumption, and salmon may change this whole debate from a political and public awareness standpoint (which GM alfalfa and sugar beets have failed to do).[1]  The farm-grown salmon contain an extra growth hormone gene that allows them to grow to a marketable size twice as fast as a conventional fish.[2] FDA analysis will primarily focus on whether genetically modified salmon are safe compared to conventional salmon, yet the ecological consequences of allowing genetically modified salmon on the market remain unclear.[3] It is clear that if these salmon do become the first genetically modified animal to enter the American food supply, they will likely pave the way for other genetically modified animals to enter the market.

What is interesting, is that while FDA, in my view, will not require labeling of GM foods in general,  salmon may create an opening for labeling if the FDA can be convinced that it is a GM food not “substantially equivalent” to a food product already in the human food supply (non-GMO salmon).[4]  What’s also unusual is that the FDA may attempt to stop ‘GM-free’ labels due to the difficulty of proving some contains absolutely no GM traits; though I imagine companies could say something like ‘not made through bioengineering.’  What is clear is that these are some initial views of mine, and I really need to sit down and do some serious statutory interpretation; especially on the narrow issue of whether the FDA could require labeling of some GM foods in some circumstances, and whether GM fish and meats could fit any such circumstances.


[1] Andrew Pollack, Panel Leans in Favor of Engineered Salmon, N.Y. Times, Sept. 20, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/business/energy-environment/21salmon.html.

[2] -“FDA regulates GE animals under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA or the Act), 21 USC 321 et seq., and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Section 201(g) of FFDCA defines drugs as “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.” The rDNA construct in the resulting GE animal is thus a regulated article that meets the drug definition; the GE animal itself is not a drug. As a short-hand, the agency sometime refers to regulating the GE animal. All GE animals are captured under these provisions, regardless of their intended use.”  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/VeterinaryMedicineAdvisoryCommittee/UCM224762.pdf.

[3]  This document concludes both safe for food eating purposes and argues safe for env purposes.  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/VeterinaryMedicineAdvisoryCommittee/UCM224762.pdf.

[4] Mary Jane Angelo, Regulating Evolution for Sale: An Evolutionary Biology Model for Regulating the Unnatural Selection of Genetically Modified Organisms, 42 Wake Forest L. Rev. 93 (2007).

See here.

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