Category Archives: Environmental News

Los Angeles Banned Plastic Bags. What Are You Waiting For?

Los Angeles Banned Plastic Bags. What Are You Waiting For?

Los Angeles recently became the biggest city in the country to ban free plastic bags. If you go shopping in Los Angeles, you will soon need to be prepared with your own bags or buy a paper bag for $0.10. That’s great, and a step I expect more places to take in time. But why wait? You can decline plastic bags already and just bring your own.

I’m not suggesting the cheap bags so many stores sell for $1. They work for a time, but aren’t all that durable, and they’re plastic too. Better to find or make more durable bags.

The key here is building up the habit of carrying your bags. If you’re doing it without a ban to remind you, you have to motivate yourself. Find that perfect place to store your reusable bags so that they will come with you when you go shopping. This could be with your purse, on the doorknob, in the car, wherever works for you.

The simple truth is that plastic bags are most often a waste. Some people find a way to reuse the bags, but too many end up in the landfill or as litter. You don’t have to wait for someone else to demand that you stop being a part of the problem – you can choose that for yourself.

An “Awwwww…” Moment – Dolphin Gets Help From Divers

I say this post on the Raw Story this weekend, and just had to share the video. A dolphin with a hook in its mouth and fishing line tangled around it approaches some divers and allows them to help it.

All in all, an amazing video and one very fortunate dolphin. Just remember that most of us are better off alerting the professionals if we see a dolphin or other aquatic mammal in need of help.

Why I Support Prop 37 – the GMO Labeling Proposition in California

There’s a proposition on California’s ballot on Tuesday that is an easy Yes for me. It’s Proposition 37, which would require foods with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. There’s so much information on labels already that this seems a simple thing. But when you’re going up against companies that don’t want to face the chance of consumer bias against their products, nothing is that simple.

No on 37 Is Deceptive

I found this article on the deceptive ads by No on 37 very interesting. They’re being deceptive about the FDA’s position on the matter, cost claims, and have made misleading statements on the exemptions provided for in the law. Read the whole thing, follow through on the interesting links there, don’t just take my word for it.

Their claim about grocery bills increasing by $400 is rather deceptive too. It’s not that food prices would be directly increased. It’s that opponents believe consumers will insist on higher priced ingredients rather than buying products with GMO ingredients, and so manufacturers might have to change what’s in their products and raise prices.

Frankly, if that’s what consumers prefer, then they’ll choose the higher prices. That’s a choice, not a requirement of the law. I don’t have a problem with people choosing to pay more if they mistrust the ingredients. Personally, and I have nothing to back this up except personal experience, I think most people will ignore such labeling anyhow. How many people are going to switch away from Pepsi just for finding that the high fructose corn syrup may come from genetically modified corn?

All that aside, a study by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., a tenured professor at Emory University School of Law expects that there will be no increased cost to consumers. (PDF) I suspect that claim has more to do with the industry’s general resistance to new labeling requirements, even though changing labels is done regularly and isn’t a major expense.

Research on GMOs is Limited

Producers like to claim that they’ve properly tested GMO foods before sending them to market. That would be nice, but companies have a lot of control over any research done on GM foods. According to Scientific American, licensing agreements forbid research on genetically modified seeds, unless the company agrees to it. They then also get to decide whether or not the results may be published.

That isn’t just a food safety issue, although that’s what’s relevant when talking about Prop 37. It means that it’s harder for other scientists to prove whether or not the genetically modified seeds perform as claimed.

If the companies making GMOs really want proof that their products are safe and more productive, why don’t they welcome outside research?

Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?

When it comes to the safety of genetically modified foods for human consumption, I’ll stick with the World Health Organization’s view – it’s impossible to state yes or no categorically. Some might be, some might not be. So why not let consumers decide if they want to take that chance?

There have been some controversial studies which suggest that some types are not safe to eat.  Seems clear to me that more study is indicated. If they’re so safe, there’s little to be lost. If not, well, I’d sure like to know that too.

You may also enjoy reading some of the summaries on Pubmed, although you won’t always be able to get the full text without proper credentials. Try Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice and A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. There’s more, but due to restrictions on research on GMOs, it’s hard to find. Personally, I’d like more long term studies proving that GMOs are safe.

Is the Proposition Poorly Written?

This is one of the big claims of the No on 37 folks. I don’t think it’s all that complex – I’ve read it myself. You can do so too – here’s a copy through KCET, or you can download the PDF from the California Voter’s Guide website. I also really appreciate KCET’s listing of supportors and opponents of Prop 37. It’s really not surprising, on the whole.

There’s not much time before the election, but I hope this article gives at least some people some perspective on this subject so they can come to a decision.

There’s HOW Much Arsenic in Rice??

There’s been a lot of online chatter lately about a new report from Consumer Reports about the level of arsenic in rice. Read it yourself, but suffice it to say some kinds of rice contain an unacceptable level of arsenic in my opinion.

Things can be done. There’s a petition asking the FDA and EU to set arsenic limits for rice. It really needs signatures, as progress has been slow.

The big problem is with inorganic arsenic, which gets into the soil due to pesticides and fertilizers containing it. There are ways growers can grow rice with less arsenic and not suffer from lower yields.

You can take steps to decrease the arsenic in any rice you eat as well. Rinsing your rice for three minutes, and cooking in 6 parts water to 1 part rice can help.  Certain varieties, such as basmati and jasmine also contain less arsenic. Makes me glad that those are the varieties my husband prefers anyhow, although I need to check the source, as that matters too. India, Thailand and California rice usually have less arsenic. Also pay attention to the intake limits recommended by Consumer Reports.

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Aquarius Reef Base Petition

I enjoy reading a few comics online, Sherman’s Lagoon among them. Yesterday I noticed a note beneath the comic about the upcoming closure of the Aquarius Reef Base. This is an underwater ocean research station funded by NOAA. It’s being closed due to budget cuts. I’d like to suggest that you sign the petition to encourage NOAA to keep the base open.

Ocean research matters. There’s a lot we’re still learning about our oceans, and with all the problems we’re having with the environment, learning to protect the oceans is vital. Take just a few moments to fill out the petition in the hopes that ocean research can be continued at Aquarius Reef Base.