EU court restricts honey with traces of genetically modified pollen

By Gabriele Steinhauser (AP) Honey that contains traces of pollen from genetically modified crops needs special authorization before it can be sold in Europe, the European Union’s top court said Tuesday, in a judgment that could have widespread consequences on the bloc’s policy on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The ruling from the European Court of Justice came after several Bavarian beekeepers demanded compensation from their government for honey and food supplements that contained traces of pollen from genetically modified maize.

The beekeepers had their hives close to fields where the Bavarian government was growing Monsanto’s MON 810 maize for research purposes.

via The Associated Press: EU court puts limits on modified honey.

Electronics recycling for cash

By Matt Hickman (MNN)  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to make a quick buck off your old gadgets. Don’t bother unloading your e-waste at a pawn shop, where you’ll be left wondering if you’ve gotten a fair deal or not. Companies such as Gazelle, Nextworth and YouRenew will gladly take a variety of old electronics off your hands and offer cash in return — or in some cases gift cards or charitable contributions — based on market data and the condition of whatever you’re trying to part with. If the item in question is in rough shape and cash isn’t an option, they’ll still help you recycle it.

Read the rest Electronics recycling for cash | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Climate sceptic Willie Soon received $1m from oil companies, papers show

By John Vidal (Guardian UK) One of the world’s most prominent scientific figures to be sceptical about climate change has admitted to being paid more than $1m in the past decade by major US oil and coal companies.

Dr Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for his view that global warming and the melting of the arctic sea ice is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions, and that polar bears are not primarily threatened by climate change.

But according to a Greenpeace US investigation, he has been heavily funded by coal and oil industry interests since 2001, receiving money from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Insitute and Koch Industries along with Southern, one of the world’s largest coal-burning utility companies. Since 2002, it is alleged, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.

In addition, freedom of information documents suggest that Soon corresponded in 2003 with other prominent climate sceptics to try to weaken a major assessment of global warming being conducted by the UN’s leading climate science body, the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Soon, who had previously disclosed corporate funding he received in the 1990s, was today reportely unapologetic, telling Reuters that he agreed that he had received money from all of the groups and companies named in the report but denied that any group would have influenced his studies.

via Climate sceptic Willie Soon received $1m from oil companies, papers show | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

Organic farmers expand lawsuit against Monsanto

(Nature News Blog) An ambitious lawsuit against the agricultural firm Monsanto was initially filed in March by the Public Patent Foundation PubPat, a non-profit legal services organization based at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, on behalf of 60 organic farmers and associated organizations. The farmers want assurance from Monsanto that they will not be sued for patent infringement if their farms become contaminated with the company’s genetically modified crops.

On 1 June, PubPat announced that the list of plaintiffs had grown to 83, and that the original complaint had been amended to include a recent exchange with Monsanto’s lawyers. In a letter written on behalf of Monsanto, Seth Waxman, former solicitor general under Bill Clinton and a partner at the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, DC, said Monsanto has no intention of suing the farmers for patent infringement.

“Monsanto policy never has been, nor will be, to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of its patented seed or traits are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means,” he wrote, echoing a statement Monsanto has also made on its website.

But rather than placating PubPat, executive director Daniel Ravicher says he saw a veiled threat in the statement’s ambiguity. Farmers whose crops contain more than a “trace” — whatever that means — of contamination are still vulnerable to action by Monsanto, he argues. Instead, Ravicher wants a legally binding declaration that Monsanto will not sue his clients for patent infringement.

via Nature News Blog: Organic farmers expand lawsuit against Monsanto.

NASA’s eco-friendly ‘Sustainability Base’ generates more electricity than it uses

NASA

NASA's eco-friendly 'Sustainability Base' generates more electricity than it uses

By Tiffany Hsu (Los Angeles Times) Instead of sending its employees to space, NASA is building them an office of the future closer to home.

The curvy, space-age building at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley incorporates technology used by astronauts and will be one of a few structures in the state that can generate more electricity than it consumes. Construction won’t be complete until mid-July, but the federal government has already chosen the $20-million facility its green building of the year.

It has a name only government officials could love — the Sustainability Base — but it is generating a lot of buzz among businesses and government agencies trying to be more green. The structure, near San Jose, was designed to be a model of eco-friendly architecture.

“Buildings of the future could actually produce more energy than they use and reverse the trend of being a big, sucking drain without compromising anything,” said Steven Zornetzer, Ames’ associate center director.

Compared to other office buildings of similar size, the Sustainability Base will be about 6% more expensive to construct, he said. But NASA expects to recoup the expense within a decade because the building will cost less to operate.

via NASA Sustainability Base green building: NASA’s Sustainability Base generates buzz for its eco-friendly architecture – latimes.com.

Farmers in India are applying rice innovations to wheat crops

By Matt Styslinger (Nourishing the Planet) The System of Rice Intensification SRI is an innovative method of increasing the productivity of irrigated rice with very simple adjustments to traditional techniques. It involves transplanting younger seedlings into the field with wider spacing in a square pattern, irrigating to keep the roots moist and aerated instead of flooding fields, and increasing organic matter in the soil with compost and manure.

The SRI method of crop management has been shown to increase yields in over 40 countries, while simultaneously reducing costs, labor, and the need for inputs of chemical fertilizers and water. By allowing the roots of wheat crops to develop more fully, farmers are seeing higher yields with less water, fertilizer, and labor.

The methodology—dubbed System of Wheat Intensification SWI—is improving wheat yields for small-scale farmers in India and Mali, while reducing costs and labor. In Mali, wheat farmers can increase their yields by 15 to 20 percent, and Indian farmers have seen yields 2 and 3 times higher than those from conventional methods. SWI practices have spread quickly in India, and farmers have spontaneously begun applying the principles to other crops, such as millet, mustard seed, soybean, eggplant, and maize. Collectively, these practices are becoming known as System of Crop Intensification SCI.

“Two years ago there were 400 farmers—most of them women, and most of them illiterate and landless—who used SWI,” says Uphoff. “The next year it was 25,000, and this year it was 50,000. To go from 400 to 50,000 in two years is unprecedented.” Uphoff believes that this is because the methodology is well-suited to the needs of small-scale farmers in India, and that it is making big improvements to the food security of farming families.

“[The state of] Bihar is where we’ve seen the most excitement generated by farmers who say that between SRI in the summer and SWI in the winter, they’ve gone from producing three months’ supply of food for their families to 6 or 7 months.”Uphoff says that the method is about managing the crop, soil, and nutrients to promote a vibrant soil system that, in turn, promotes larger root systems. With adequate spacing and loose soil, the roots of the crop can grow deeper than from conventional cropping methods. “The extra root activity keeps the soil from compacting,” he says. “It’s really a less is more strategy.” By using fewer plants and reducing the amount of inputs, each plant is hardier and can grow to its natural potential.

Read the rest: Researchers Find Farmers Applying Rice Innovations to Wheat Crops.

Researchers substitute feathers for petroleum in biodegradable flower pots

(AP) Researchers have developed ways to substitute chicken feathers for petroleum in some plastic products, and at least two companies are working to bring items ranging from biodegradable flower pots to office furniture to market.

The substitution would allow the U.S. to cut back on its oil use, however slightly, and give poultry producers another market for the more than 3 billion pounds of chicken feathers they have leftover each year, the developers and others said. The challenge, they added, is coming up with products that manufacturers and consumers want at a price that’s right.

“What works in the lab and what works commercially are two different things,” said Sonny Meyerhoeffer, whose company began selling flower pots made partially from feathers last fall.

His company has patented a process for removing keratin resin from feathers for use in making plastics. Keratin, a tough protein fiber also found in fingernails, hair and horns, can replace petroleum in some cases. Right now, Meyerhoeffer’s company sells flower pots that contain 40 percent bioresins, although it has been able to make ones that are completely biodegradable and made from feathers.

via Researchers sub feathers for petroleum in biodegradable flower pots; other products in works – The Washington Post.

‘Biosphere 2,’ human terrarium, comes back to life

Biosphere 2, Oracle, Ariz., comes back to life

Biosphere 2, Oracle, Ariz., comes back to life

By Allen G. Breed (AP ) Jane Poynter and seven compatriots agreed to spend two years sealed inside a 3-acre terrarium in the Sonoran Desert. Their mission back in the 1990s: To see whether humans might someday be able to create self-sustaining colonies in outer space.

Two decades later, the only creatures inhabiting Biosphere 2 are cockroaches, nematodes, snails, crazy ants and assorted fish. Scientists are still using the 7.2-million-square-foot facility, only now the focus is figuring out how we’ll survive on our own warming planet.

Next month, workers will begin a new chapter for “B2″ – building the first of three enclosed soil slopes in what was once the “intensive agricultural biome,” the space where Poynter and the other original “biospherians” grew the rice, sorghum, peanuts, bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes and lablab beans that supplied 90 percent of their nutritional needs.

The new “Land Evolution Observatory” – a 10-year, $5 million project – will help scientists learn how vegetation, topography and other factors affect rainwater’s journey through a watershed and into our drinking supplies.

via ‘Biosphere 2,’ Human Terrarium, Enters New Phase Of Research 20 Years Later VIDEO.

‘Bee Roads’: UK creating network of wildflowers to boost declining bees

By Meera Selva (HuffingtonPost) Farmers and landowners are being asked to plant rows of wildflowers along the edges of England’s fields to create a network of “bee roads” to boost declining numbers.

Conservationists said Tuesday they hope the wildflowers will provide food and shelter for wild bees, honeybees and butterflies, which play a crucial role in pollinating crops.

As part of the initiative, wildlife charity Buglife and The Co-operative grocery store chain are donating seeds, such as knapweed and red clover, to farmers and landowners in the Northern English county of Yorkshire, and asking them to plant them in rows along the edge of their fields.

Britain has 250 species of bees, but – as in other countries – most are in decline. Scientists say pesticides, disappearing habitat, wet weather and a parasite called the varroa mite are among the culprits.

via ‘Bee Roads’: UK Creating Network Of Wildflowers To Boost Declining Bee Population.

Atop A Landfill, U.S. Marine Corps Installs 1.4 Megawatt Solar System

By Lora Kolodny (GreenTech) The United States Marine Corps completed its largest solar installation to date — a 1.4 megawatt ground-mounted system — that will generate electricity for Base Camp Pendleton outside of San Diego, Calif. The system was installed atop an inactive landfill.

via Atop A Landfill, U.S. Marine Corps Installs 1.4 Megawatt Solar System.