Monday, February 21, 2011

Ecuador: Chevron found guilty of eco-vandalism

An Ecuadorian court handed down a landmark verdict in an 18-year case against international oil-giant Chevron on February 14.
The company was fined US$8.6 billion for polluting the Amazonian basin, and $900 million in costs.

The case — perhaps the biggest environmental case in history — was filed on behalf of around 30,000 peasants, farmers, and indigenous Ecuadorians who have suffered the ill-effects of Chevron’s toxic legacy.

At the heart of the case is the nearly 20 billion gallons of polluted water, oil and toxic waste released between 1972 and 1990 by oil company Texaco (now a part of Chevron) into the ecosystem in eastern Ecuador.

The pollution has caused thousands of deaths, cancers, birth defects and incalculable environmental damage — poisoning animals, plants and the water table — as well as huge economic loss.

So deadly has the impact been that it has been described as an “Amazonian Chernobyl”. In some affected areas, oil still oozes out of the polluted ground.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

GM crops infecting organic farms

In December last year, Kojonup organic grain farmer Steve Marsh found Genetically Modified (GM) canola plants from a neighbouring farm had contaminated 293 hectares — 63% — of his property.

The farm in Western Australia’s Great Southern region is Australia’s first known case of GM canola contamination, and Marsh has had his organic certification revoked as a result.

The Monsanto Round-Up Ready Canola was being grown on a neighbouring farm after a moratorium on growing GM crops was lifted a year ago by the WA Liberal government.

Marsh found that the GM canola had blown over a 1.5 kilometre swathe of his property, well beyond the flimsy 5 metre “exclusion zone” stipulated for GM crops under WA guidelines.

Marsh has launched legal action for the damage caused by the contamination, which has lost him the premium price for his crops.

Organic wheat can sell for up to $500 to $800 more per tonne than regular wheat, and the fact that GM seeds can remain viable for several years means that more than half his farm has now been rendered useless.

Monday, February 7, 2011

English woodlands under Tory threat

Plans by Britain’s Conservative Party government to sell off all of England’s public forests have sparked a rural revolt and mass public outrage across the country.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tory government has announced that it plans to sell off 15 per cent of all English land managed by the
government-owned Forestry Commission by 2015 – the largest sell-off the Government can authorise without an act of parliament – for around £100 million.

There are also plans to sell the remaining 85 percent, and a clause in a new Public Bodies Bill would give the Environment Secretary the power to do so – the biggest change in land ownership in England since the Second World War.

The Forestry Commission manages over 250,000 hectares – almost 20 percent of the total woodland in England – comprising approximately 1,500 forests, including the New Forest, the ancient and beautiful Forest of Dean, and parts of the famous Sherwood Forest.

The public forest estates in Wales (126,000 hectares) and Scotland (660,000 hectares) – also managed by the Forestry Commission – remain under the control of the devolved assemblies in those countries (rather than the UK government). There are no plans to sell off the Scottish forests, and the Welsh Assembly has said it will keep forests in public ownership.