AmeriScan: April 18, 2003

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North American Industrial Chemical Releases Decline

MONTREAL, Canada, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - The total amount of industrial chemical releases and transfers in North America fell by four percent between 1998 and 2000, but toxic emissions from 15,000 smaller facilities jumped by more than 30 percent over that same time period, finds the latest survey of industrial pollutants from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC).

The report, "Taking Stock 2000," is the seventh in a series of reports on the sources and management of industrial pollutants in North America produced by the CEC, an agency created by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In total, more than 3.3 million tons of chemicals were released and transferred in 2000. Fourteen percent, or 219,000 tons were known or suspected carcinogens, with 16 percent, or 254,000 tons, were linked to cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harms.

But a key finding in the report, according to CEC officials, is the increase in releases and transfers by a group of 15,000 smaller industrial facilities who report 100 tons or less of chemical releases and transfers each year.

These facilities released and transferred 32 percent more industrial pollutants in 2000 compared to 1998, with Canada facilities up 66 percent and U.S. facilities increasing 29 percent.

"It is very discouraging to see such a large number of facilities report releasing more pollution in our environment, since they are found in communities across the continent," said Victor Shantora, Acting Executive Director for the CEC. "The small 'p' polluter might not grab the same headlines as a large power plant or chemical manufacturer, but their effect is being felt throughout the North American environment."

Larger facilities, those with annual reporting of more than 100 tons of chemical releases and transfers, recorded a seven percent reduction. But these larger facilities still account for more than 90 percent of the total pollution, with hydrochloric acid noted as the largest amount of chemical releases.

The report finds that Canada became a net exporter of toxic chemicals because of a 43 percent drop in U.S. exports to Canada from 1998 to 2000 - Canadian industrial facilities sent some 36,000 tons of chemicals to the U.S. in 2000, a 12 percent increase. U.S. industrial facilities, however, did send a similar amount of chemicals to Mexico over the same time frame.

To access the report, see http://www.cec.org/takingstock/

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Conservationists Say Oregon Forest Rule Violates Federal Law

SEATTLE, Washington, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - A coalition of conservationists and fishing groups believe the Oregon Board of Forestry's amendment of the state's forest practice rules violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

And on Thursday, this coalition of five conservation and fishing groups notified members of the Oregon Board of Forestry they could be sued for violating the ESA.

"The board has left us no choice but to bring them into this," said Sybil Ackerman of the Audubon Society of Portland. "It is sad and frustrating that we must go to such great lengths to gain real protection for Oregon's wild salmon."

The controversy stems from a rule change enacted by the Oregon Board of Forestry on January 27, 2003, when the board amended the forest practice rules to eliminate the state forester's "prior approval" of forest harvest operations on high landslide hazard areas.

State officials said the amended rule maintained all environmental protection standards for those areas, but explained that under the changes, the state forester's approval does not necessarily mean the operation complies with the ESA.

According to the Oregon Board of Forestry, the change strengthens the rule by making it clear that the operator has the ultimate responsibility to meet the environmental protection standards of state forest practice rule. a more effective regulation by making responsibilities clear.

But the coalition believes the rule change amounts to a blanket authorization of all logging on landslide prone sites that meet current standards, regardless of the risk to federally protected coho salmon.

Landslides caused from logging on steep hillsides can dump sediment into salmon spawning streams.

The conservation and fishing groups say the board members each share federal liability with Oregon's State Forester for harmful logging authorized under the state's forest practice rules.

According to the groups, they can add board members as defendants to pending litigation against the State Forester once the legally mandated 60-day notice period has passed.

"The board's attempt to limit the State Forester's responsibility for protecting coho salmon has put the board itself in the hot seat," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice. "The board should live up to its legal obligation to ensure that logging will not wipe out threatened salmon."

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Court Halts Government Hemp Rule

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has again put the brakes on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) rule that would ban the sale of hemp foods within the United States. The court granted a motion to stay the rule while it is being challenged by hemp industry organizations.

The DEA issued its rule on March 21, 2003, calling for the ban of hemp foods because these products could contain trace amounts of THC, the active chemical in marijuana that is regulated by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

The agency's final rule is nearly identical to an interpretative rule issued in October 2001 that never went into effect because of stay issued in March 2002 by the 9th Circuit.

"The court's order effectively prevents DEA from enforcing its 'Final Rule,' said Joe Sandler, counsel for the Hemp Industries Association, one of plaintiffs involved in both legal challenges.

"With this stay in effect, all those who sell, import, manufacture, distribute and retail edible hemp oil and seed, and oil and seed products, can continue those activities secure in the knowledge that such products remain perfectly lawful."

The court is currently hearing a substantive challenge to the DEA's final rule, which hemp industry representatives believe should be invalidated because the THC levels in hemp foods are non psychoactive and insignificant.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing of industrial hemp.

Hemp food advocates say hemp seed has a well balanced protein content and the highest content of essential fatty acids of any oil in nature.

According to the industry, North American hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations as well as Canada and Australia. These limits protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from any psychoactive effects or workplace drug-testing interference.

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Animal Rights Group Urges Montana Not to Hunt Bison

HELENA, Montana, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - The Fund for Animals, a national animal protection group with some 200,000 members nationwide, sent a letter today urging the Montana governor to veto a bill that would allow a bison hunting season in Montana.

The letter, sent to Montana Governor Judy Martz, a Republican, notes that previous bison hunting in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a source of international embarrassment and outrage against the state.

"History allows us to not repeat the mistakes made in the past," said Andrea Lococo, The Fund's Rocky Mountain coordinator. "If the governor wants to protect Montana's hunting tradition and avoid the international embarrassment of the state, she should heed the lessons of the past and reject any attempt to reestablish a bison hunt in Montana."

The renewed effort by the Montana legislature to allow the killing of bison comes in the wake of considerable controversy around a Yellowstone National Park management plan that allows the U.S. National Park Service and the Montana Department of Livestock to kill bison that wander beyond the park's boundary.

The plan was designed because of concern by Montana ranchers and state officials that the wild bison could transmit brucellosis to livestock.

Supporters of the legislation cite the fear of brucellosis as a good reason to allow bison hunting. The legislature, which calls for "sport hunting of bison as a management tool," could be passed by the state Senate on Monday.

But there has never been a documented case of transmission from wild bison to domestic livestock and this year's slaughter of some 230 Yellowstone bison has raised the ire of many conservationists. The letter sent by The Fund for Animals also notes that shooting bison is far from a sport - the animals often stand still and hunters can shoot them easily from close range.

"The hunting of Yellowstone National Park bison is unjustified, unnecessary, unsporting, unethical, and exceedingly cruel," said D.J. Schubert, The Fund's wildlife biologist. "Shooting a Yellowstone bison is like shooting your living room sofa - there is no sport and no challenge."

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Groups Warn Kraft of Economic Risks of Biotech Foods

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - Environmentalists believe Kraft Food's use of genetically engineered, or biotech, foods is a financial risk to the company and its investors because of potential product recalls and liability lawsuits.

The report, "Risky Business: Financial Risks that Genetically Engineered Foods Pose to Kraft Foods, Inc. and Shareholders," was released yesterday by the As You Sow Foundation and the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs).

It details additional financial risks to Kraft from its use of biotech foods, including loss of competitive advantage, possible consumer backlash and potential damage to the company's image because of the biotech controversy.

And the report says that biotech foods do not provide Kraft any measurable financial benefits, nor do they provide any marketable benefits to consumers.

"Continued use of genetically engineered ingredients is a no-win situation for Kraft and shareholders," said Kate Madigan, advocate for the National Association of State PIRGs and author of the report. "Kraft is gambling with controversial ingredients when there is nothing to gain from doing so."

The environmental and health risks and benefits of biotechnology has sparked a worldwide debate over the safety and necessity of genetically modified foods, with the United States the leading advocate of widespread use of biotech crops. It is estimated that some 70 percent of processed foods produced in the United States have some trace of biotech crops, mostly corn or soybeans.

The report uses the StarLink contamination of the food supply in 2000, which the authors say cost the food industry billions of dollars, as evidence of the financial risk from biotech foods to Kraft. Starlink, a variety of biotech corn that was not approved for human consumption because of allergy concerns, was first discovered in Kraft's Taco Bell brand taco shells, according to the report.

"Kraft derives no financial or nutritional benefit from using genetically engineered foods, there is no consumer demand for these products and the massive recall of Kraft products has already proven them to be a liability," said Michael Passoff of As You Sow Foundation. "Kraft shareholders have a right to know about the risks their investments exposed to, especially if these risks can be avoided."

The report notes that many U.S. food manufacturers have shifted away from biotech ingredients without any apparent financial difficulties, and says that Kraft has already removed biotech ingredients from its products in Europe. Europeans are adamantly opposed to biotech foods, opposition that has created trade conflict with the United States.

"These financial risks can be avoided and Kraft knows how to avoid them," said Rebecca O'Malley, program director for ecopledge.com, an organization that organizes students, consumers, and investors to influence corporate social and environmental responsibility. "The company needs to finish the job and remove these ingredients from the rest of its products."

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New Hampshire Coalition Fired Up About Global Warming

CONCORD, New Hampshire, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - On Monday, a coalition of New Hampshire citizens, businesses and environmental groups will descend on the state's capital to launch a new initiative to pressure state and national politicians to get serious about tackling global warming.

The nonprofit Carbon Coalition's new grassroots campaign to fight global warming will outline the risks of continued inaction to the state's environment, economy and health.

"Global warming threatens public health, the economy and the environment in our state and across the nation," Coalition co-chair Ted Leach, a Republican state representative from Hancock, said in a prepared statement.

"In town halls, living rooms and lunch counters across the state over the next 18 months, concerned New Hampshire citizens will be asking politicians from both parties about their plans to reduce the carbon dioxide pollution that causes global warming."

The Carbon Coalition's effort calls on politicians to commit the nation to realistic goals for reducing carbon dioxide pollution that causes global warming. The coalition urges New Hampshire residents to use the spotlight of the presidential campaign - the state traditionally holds the first presidential primary - to put the issue of global warming squarely on the nation's political map.

The Bush administration withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, an international accord designed to reduce the world's emission of greenhouse gases, which most scientists are convinced cause global warming. President George W. Bush has opted for voluntary agreements with greenhouse gas emitting industries, rather than strict regulations many environmentalists believe are needed to address climate change.

"New Hampshire was the first state in the nation to adopt legislation curbing carbon dioxide pollution," according to Joseph Keefe, former chair of the state Democratic Party and co-chair of the Carbon Coalition with Leach. "In addition, the New England governors have embraced ambitious goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

"At the national level, however, Congress has failed to act," said Keefe. "The Carbon Coalition will press politicians from both parties to follow New Hampshire's lead and adopt ambitious goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

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Roads Open Up Paths for Weed Invasions

DAVIS, California, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - Two new studies find that roads have a considerable impact on the spread of invasive species. The studies, conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis), find that improved roads in wilderness areas spread more invasive weeds than primitive roads and that roadless areas act as refuges for native species against invasions.

Invasive weeds such as cheatgrass and knapweeds have settled on some 125 million acres of the American West - the studies document that roads promote invasion because vehicles can transport non-native seeds into uninfested areas, and disturbed roadsides give weed seeds a place to grow.

"These papers are timely in light of the debate concerning protection for roadless habitats in U.S. national forests," said Jonathan Gelbard, a UC Davis doctoral candidate and coauthor of both studies. "Our findings show that roadless habitats have multiple benefits, not just for the environment, but also for the economy and our quality of life."

"They are not only refuges for native biodiversity," Gelbard explained, "but also protect against non native weed invasions, which are costly for ranchers and public agencies."

One of the UC Davis studies, published in the April issue of "Conservation Biology," is an examination of 42 roads in and around Utah's Canyonlands National Park. Gelbard and research ecologist Jayne Belnap of the U.S. Geological Survey found that each step of road improvement converted an increasing area of natural habitat to roadside habitat, from which non-native weeds spread into adjacent natural ecosystems.

The second study, published by Gelbard and UC Davis professor of environmental science and policy Susan Harrison in the April issue of the journal Ecological Applications, explores the effects of roads on inland California foothill grasslands.

It found that that in areas with typical grassland soils, non-native plants were less abundant and native plants more abundant at sites about a half-mile from roads compared to sites less than 33 feet from roads.

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Continental Roots Form Underlying Boundary Similar to Oceans

BERKELEY, California, April 18, 2003 (ENS) - Researchers have discovered that the roots of the continents form a distinct boundary with the underlying mantle, similar to that seen under the oceans.

In a study published in "Nature," seismologists with the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) say their interpretation of seismic data finds that the roots of the continents go down between 125 to 160 miles (200 to 250 kilometers).

According to the research team, their findings resolve a debate about the depth of the boundary between the rigid lithosphere that floats on the Earth's surface and the hot convecting mantle that underlies it.

The lithosphere is the outer rigid shell of the Earth and contains the crust, or upper most part of the mantle, the continents and the plates.

"It was very clear that you had a lithosphere about 80 kilometers thick, on average, in the ocean basins, and under that is the asthenosphere - the very top of the mantle," said Barbara Romanowicz, professor of earth and planetary science at UC Berkeley and director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

"But under the continents, it was not as clear. What we are now saying is that we are seeing the same thing under the continents - it is a little more subtle signal, but it is there."

The ocean lithosphere is thin when spewed out at the mid-ocean ridges, thickening to as much as 80 kilometers (50 miles) as it is pushed outward to make room for more ocean bottom. Continents, however, are much older and much thicker, and vary a lot more around the globe.

The UC Berkeley research team believes some estimates of the thickness of the continental lithosphere are based on a misinterpretation of the earthquake-generated seismic waves recorded after they pass through the base of the lithosphere and the top of the mantle.

"One consequence of this is that the asthenosphere is a prevailing global feature," Romanowicz explained. "I think there is something very special about the asthenosphere of the Earth that is very important in the character of the plate motion."

What distinguishes Earth from the solar system's other planets, Romanowicz said, is that the planet has a very well developed asthenosphere which helps move the plates around.

"Somehow the asthenosphere needs to be sustained over geological times, and I think that heat is being pumped from below and is actively keeping the asthenosphere less viscous and more deformable," she said.

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