Environmental Research Foundation -- Home of Rachel's News since 1986
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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #950
"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"
Thursday, March 13, 2008
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Featured stories in this issue...

Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing To Save Civilization
We have reached a fork in the road to the future. In his new book, Lester Brown shows us that major economic change is inevitable. We can choose to stamp out poverty, prevent run- away global warming and invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and ecological restoration. Or we can pursue business as usual and watch civilization unravel.
Trace Amount of Drugs in Water Alarms Philadelphia Residents
Tests of Philadelphia's drinking water reveal the presence of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts. "Philadelphia had the largest number because we're looking for the largest number."
Drugs in Water Tied To Fish Defects
Pharmaceuticals in the water are being blamed for severe reproductive problems in many types of fish. There are problems with other wildlife as well: kidney failure in vultures, impaired reproduction in mussels, inhibited growth in algae.
Study Finds Over 100 Harmful Contaminants in Maine Bird Eggs
"These results are significant because many of these contaminants can interact to create effects more harmful than one toxic pollutant alone," Goodale said, "and the pervasiveness of the pollutants strongly suggests that birds and wildlife in other states are also accumulating these contaminants."
Threat of Closing Jolts Pacific Salmon Fishing Industry
"We know there are no fish," she said. "Fishermen always say 'better times are coming,' but I'm not so sure this time."
Nanotech Exposed in Grocery Store Aisles
Untested nanotechnology products are being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials currently on the grovery shelf, without warning or new FDA testing
Exclusive: 'Science for Sale' Probe Deepens
A scientific consulting firm once crowed of its success in delaying the cancellation of a harmful drug by 10 years, congressional investigators say.

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From: http://www.rachel.org
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PLAN B 3.0 -- MOBILIZING TO SAVE CIVILIZATION

By Tim Montague

Have you ever wondered what it would actually take to transform our global economy into a much cleaner, greener and hopefully sustainable machine? Well, Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute has done the math and his new book, Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing to Save Civilization is the result. Whatever your interest -- addressing the needs of low-income people, improving human health, restoring ecosystems, fighting global warming, or reducing industrial contamination of our air, land and water -- Plan B 3.0 will be a fountain of ideas and inspiration for your work.

As Brown says, "No one can argue today that we do not have the resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earth's natural resource base. We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth's soils, forests, and fisheries." Brown shows us how we can shift resources from wasteful military spending to his Plan B economy that creates justice and sustainable prosperity for all the earth's people, a "World that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized."

So what's the plan? The first priority is to realize that we are at a unique period in history. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Brown reminds us, found that humans surpassed the sustainable use of all earth's ecosystem services in 1980. In 2007 we exceeded those limited resources (water, soils, forests, fisheries and so on) by 25 percent.

In short, we're cooking the planet, melting the polar ice caps, sucking dry our fresh water supplies, chopping down our forests, over fishing our seas and polluting every corner of the earth with industrial and human waste. This isn't news to Rachel's readers, but if you hanker for a current global analysis of just how threadbare the earth's life support systems have become, Brown provides it. Many of the book's informative tables and the entire text of the book are available for FREE download at the Earth Policy Institute website.

Brown makes the case that growing food insecurity is tied to peak oil and rising oil prices (the price of oil was less than $50 in 2004, now it's over $100). As oil becomes scarcer, the industrialized nations have started using food crops for fuel (ethanol from corn, for example) which has caused grain prices to surge. Corn prices more than doubled from 2005 to 2007 and world grain stocks have been declining for seven of the last eight years, reaching a 34-year low in 2007.

The first years of the new millennium have witnessed the resurgence of world hunger which had steadily declined in the latter half of the 20th century. In 2007 the UN World Food Programme announced the "18,000 children are now dying each day from hunger and related causes." Many countries are now being destabilized by the combination of rampant poverty, shredded ecosystems, and associated civil unrest. The number of severely failing states -- where governments can no longer provide basic services and social chaos reigns -- grew from 7 in 2004 to 12 in 2007.

With his always-optimistic demeanor, Brown then sets forth Plan B, not to save the planet, but to save civilization. We have to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2020 by investing heavily in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and mass transit. We have to stop deforesting the earth, plant millions of trees, and restore our ailing fisheries and farmland. And we have to greatly improve the lives of poor people with free health care, family planning, school lunch and literacy programs. And we have to do all this with wartime urgency.

The good news is that eradicating poverty and restoring basic ecological health to the planet (from humanity's perspective) is doable. It won't be easy, it will require massive mobilization at all levels of society and government. As Brown says, "There are many things we do not know about the future. But one thing we do know is that business as usual will not continue for much longer. Massive change is inevitable. Will the change come because we move quickly to restructure the economy or because we fail to act and civilization begins to unravel?"

Plan B -- a plan of hope

Plan B is a plan for restructuring our global economy and financial priorities to achieve four goals: eradicating poverty, stabilizing population, stabilizing climate, and restoring earth's ecosystems. Addressing any of these problems in isolation is a ticket for failure, says Brown.

Eradicating Poverty and Stabilizing Population

Like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Brown believes that eradicating global poverty is relatively affordable and doable (see Rachel's #880). Lifting over a billion people out of povertywill slow population growth and greatly improve economic productivity. China reduced the number of people living in poverty from 648 million in 1981 to 218 million in 2001, a two-thirds reduction, by rapid economic development and focused social programs that target those most in need. The cornerstones of reducing poverty are universal primary education, adult literacy programs, health care and family planning.

With an emphasis on serving girls and women, the Global South can rapidly stabilize population growth, which is a foundation for economic development. As education rises, birth rates fall. Family planning and better health care fuel this upward spiral creating an economic engine to take a country from less developed to developed. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are examples Brown gives of countries that have successfully applied this formula.

Stabilizing Climate -- Restoring the Earth's Systems

To stop global warming we have to stop dumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere and use less energy to do more. We need a carbon- free economy. We must simultaneously use less energy, phase out all uses of fossil fuels, and restore natural carbon sinks, especially forests. Industrial carbon capture and storage (carbon sequestration) is not an option, neither is nuclear energy -- Brown rules these out as too expensive.

Brown shows us that, using today's technology, zero waste manufacturing (cradle to cradle design), and energy efficient buildings and appliances, we can keep our global energy demand constant for the next fifteen years, while population and economic growth continue.

We can replace virtually all fossil fuels -- certainly all coal, and oil -- with wind, solar and geothermal sources; Plan B allows for some natural gas combustion. Each of these sources of renewable energy ALONE can power all of civilization. Brown reports that Stanford University scientists concluded that harnessing just one-fifth of the world's wind resources would generate seven times our global electricity needs.

Taken together a renewable energy grid is totally feasible with today's technology and can be implemented in less than fifteen years. Yes, we have to convert idled automobile plants to manufacture wind turbines and solar cells en masse; which of course will create millions of high wage green collar jobs. This isn't rocket science -- it's a no-brainer win-win for people, profits and the planet.

Cars running on gasoline and biofuels will be relics of the past in a carbon-neutral economy. If we use biofuels at all, it will be by burning them to generate electricity which is ten times more efficient than converting crops to liquid fuels, according to Brown. When you consider that filling the tank of an SUV just one time with ethanol from corn consumes enough food to feed a person for an entire year, you know something is wrong.

Going carbon-free also means greatly reducing our use of wood for fuel (in the developing world) and paper (in the developed countries). Cutting the remaining boreal forests and tropical rain-forests for cooking fuel, Kleenex, junk mail catalogs and copy paper won't do. Recycling just 50% of all paper, as South Korea does, could reduce global wood pulp consumption by a third. Wood and other carbon-based cooking fuels can be replaced by low-cost ($10) solar cookers.

In the final chapter Brown explains what all this will cost and how society can pay for it. Here's what the budget looks like:

Plan B Budget

Goal....................................Funding ($ billions)
Basic Social Goals
..Universal primary education................. 10
..Eradication of illiteracy.................... 4
..School lunch for the poor.................... 6
..Assistance to preschool children............. 4
..Family planning............................. 17
..Universal health care....................... 33
..Closing the condom gap....................... 3
Total......................................... 77

Earth Restoration Goals
..Planting trees to reduce flooding............ 6
..Planting trees to sequester carbon.......... 20
..Protecting topsoil and cropland............. 24
..Restoring rangelands......................... 9
..Restoring fisheries......................... 13
..Protecting biological diversity............. 31
..Stabilizing water tables.................... 10
Total........................................ 113

Grand Total.................................. 190



Tax and Subsidy Shifting

Brown says we need to invest 190 billion dollars per year to stabilize the climate, restore ecosystem services and greatly improve living standards in the Global South. This is one fifth of the annual global military budget and one third of the US military budget.

By systematically shifting taxes onto and subsidies away from coal, oil, and nuclear, we can fuel the massive positive change we seek. Brown proposes a worldwide carbon-tax of $240 per ton to be phased-in at the rate of $20 per year for the next twelve years. If the gas tax in Europe were considered a carbon-tax, the current average tax of $4.40 per gallon would translate into a carbon-tax of $1,815 per ton.

Tax shifting is becoming the norm in Europe. Germany successfully applied tax shifting from labor to energy starting in 1999. By 2003 they reduced annual C02 emissions by 20 million tons and helped to create 250,000 additional jobs. Similar plans have been applied in France, Italy, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

And so, "It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress. In this situation, no action is a de facto decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path."

Plan B 3.0 -- Mobilizing to Save Civilization, by Lester Brown is available for free download Earth Policy Institute website.

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From: Philadelphia Daily News
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TRACE AMOUNT OF DRUGS IN WATER ALARMS PHILADELPHIA RESIDENTS

By Dan Geringer

Alarmed residents flooded the Philadelphia Water Department with calls yesterday after the Associated Press reported that traces of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts had been found in city drinking water - but department spokesman Ed Grusheski said there is nothing to worry about. (The 56 chemicals are listed below.)

"In order to get one child's dose of acetaminophen [Tylenol's active ingredient], you'd have to drink eight glasses of Philadelphia water a day for 11,000 years," Grusheski said.

"You'd have to drink 8 glasses of water a day for 800 years to get the amount of caffeine you'd get in one cup of coffee.

"I mean, these are truly trace amounts. Right now, our water is safe and healthy."

Grusheski explained the huge differences in test results between Philadelphia's 56 pharmaceutical traces, Washington, D.C.'s five and San Francisco's one.

The AP, he said, which reported traces of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of 41 million Americans, relied on testing by the drinking-water providers, which ranged from no testing (New York City) to testing for a few pharmaceuticals to Philadelphia's most extensive testing.

"Philadelphia had the largest number because we're looking for the largest number of pharmaceuticals," Grusheski said.

"If you look for them in parts per billion, as some cities did, you don't see them all. We look at them in parts per trillion. So we found a lot more."

Grusheski said that unlike many European countries, which have "drug take-back" programs for unused pharmaceuticals, Americans tend to flush them.

"I'm at an age where I'm taking seven medications every morning," he said. "Maybe 20 percent of those pharmaceuticals are absorbed by my body. The rest goes through and is excreted.

"When my mother died, I was advised by the nurse to flush her pain medications down the toilet."

Trace elements of those medications will end up in the drinking water, he said, because wastewater plants treat water for harmful micro- organisms, not pharmaceutical traces, before returning it to rivers or lakes, where it eventually ends up flowing from the kitchen tap again.

Grusheski said that European countries have drug take-back programs that encourage people to return unused drugs rather them flush them back into the water system again.

"I don't think it's clear what the major source of this pharmaceutical material [in drinking water] might be," said Dr. Charles Haas, Drexel University professor of environmental engineering.

"Is it people taking drugs and excreting, or is it disposal of drugs into the water system by hospitals, nursing homes, prison pharmacies or university labs -- which are essentially uncontrolled environments?

"We really don't have a sense of whether there is a dominant player or not."

Either way, Haas said, "parts per billion or per trillion are very tiny quantities of this material, and there is zero evidence that these levels pose a human health risk."

Philadelphia, he said, gets its drinking water from two treatment plants on the Schuylkill and one on the Delaware River.

"These plants are designed to take out infectious microorganisms," not pharmaceutical traces.

"We've got one of the best water departments in the country," Haas said. "I drink their tap water. I've got three animals that drink their tap water. There is no need, based on this report, for people to start using bottled water.

"Besides," Haas said, "there are major labels of bottled water that use tap water. So if it was tested as carefully as Philadelphia drinking water, what would we find?"

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From: North County Times (Escondido, Calif.) March 11, 2008

56 Drugs Measured in Philadelphia's drinking water

Tests of Philadelphia's drinking water reveal the presence of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts

By Jeff Donn, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- A total of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts have been detected in this city's drinking water, largely in tests conducted last year, according to the Philadelphia Water Department.

The list of drugs is the longest among 62 major water providers surveyed by the Associated Press. However, this city's water officials say they probably found more drugs simply because they did more testing. They say their water is safe to drink.

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Sidebar: You may be able to learn something about drugs and other contaminats in your own local drinking water here.

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Researchers found trace concentrations of drugs including antibiotics, pain relievers, heart and psychiatric drugs, and veterinary medicines. Here's the list of drugs and some of their uses:

ANTIBIOTICS

Amoxicillin -- for pneumonia, stomach ulcers

Azithromycin -- for pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases

Bacitracin -- prevents infection in cuts and burns

Chloramphenicol -- for serious infections when other antibiotics can't be used

Ciprofloxacin -- for anthrax, other infections

Doxycycline -- for pneumonia, Lyme disease, acne

Erythromycin -- for pneumonia, whooping cough, Legionnaires' disease

Lincomycin -- for strep, staph, other serious infections

Oxytetracycline -- for respiratory, urinary infections

Penicillin G -- for anthrax, other infections

Penicillin V -- for pneumonia, scarlet fever, infections of ear, skin, throat

Roxithromycin -- for respiratory, skin infections

Sulfadiazine -- for urinary infections, burns

Sulfamethizole -- for urinary infections

Sulfamethoxazole -- for traveler's diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary and ear infections

Tetracycline -- for pneumonia, acne, stomach ulcers, Lyme disease

Trimethoprim -- for urinary and ear infections, traveler's diarrhea, pneumonia

PAIN RELIEVERS

Acetaminophen -- soothes arthritis, aches, colds; reduces fever

Antipyrine -- for ear infections

Aspirin -- for minor aches, pain; lowers risk of heart attack and stroke

Diclofenac -- for arthritis, menstrual cramps, other pain

Ibuprofen -- for arthritis, aches, menstrual cramps; reduces fever

Naproxen -- for arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, aches; reduces fever

Prednisone -- for arthritis, allergic reactions, multiple sclerosis, some cancers

HEART DRUGS

Atenolol -- for high blood pressure

Bezafibrate -- for cholesterol problems

Clofibric acid -- byproduct of various cholesterol medications

Diltiazem -- for high blood pressure, chest pain

Gemfibrozil -- regulates cholesterol

Simvastatin -- slows production of cholesterol

MIND DRUGS

Carbamazepine -- for seizures, mood regulating

Diazepam -- for anxiety, seizures; eases alcohol withdrawal

Fluoxetine -- for depression; relieves premenstrual mood swings

Meprobamate -- for anxiety

Phenytoin -- controls epileptic seizures

Risperidone -- for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe behavior problems

OTHER HUMAN DRUGS

Caffeine -- found in coffee; also used in pain relievers

Cotinine -- byproduct of nicotine; drug in tobacco, also used in products to help smokers quit

Iopromide -- given as contrast agent for medical imaging

Nicotine -- found in tobacco, also in medicinal products to help smokers quit

Paraxanthine -- a byproduct of caffeine

Theophylline -- for asthma, bronchitis and emphysema

VETERINARY

Carbadox -- for control of dysentery, bacterial enteritis in pigs; promotes growth

Chlortetracycline -- for eye, joint, other animal ailments

Enrofloxacin -- for infections in farm animals and pets; treats wounds

Monensin -- for weight gain, prevention of severe diarrhea in farm animals

Narasin -- for severe diarrhea in farm animals

Oleandomycin -- for respiratory disease; promotes growth in farm animals

Salinomycin -- promotes growth in livestock

Sulfachloropyridazine -- for enteritis in farm animals

Sulfadimethoxine -- for severe diarrhea, fowl cholera, other conditions in farm animals

Sulfamerazine -- for a range of infections in cats, fowl

Sulfamethazine -- for bacterial diseases in farm animals; promotes growth

Sulfathiazole -- for diseases in aquarium fish

Tylosin -- promotes growth, treats infections in farm animals, including bees

Virginiamycin M1 -- prevents infection, promotes growth in farm animals

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From: Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
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DRUGS IN WATER TIED TO FISH DEFECTS

By Jeff Donn and Martha Mendoza Justin Pritchard, AP

LAKE MEAD, Nev. --On this brisk, glittering morning, a flat-bottomed boat glides across the massive reservoir that provides Las Vegas its drinking water. An ominous rumble growls beneath the craft as its two long, electrified claws extend into the depths.

Moments later, dozens of stunned fish float to the surface.

Federal scientists scoop them up and transfer them into 50-quart Coleman ice chests for transport to a makeshift lab on the dusty lakeshore. Within the hour, the researchers will club the seven-pound common carps to death, draw their blood, snip out their gonads and pack them in aluminum foil and dry ice.

The specimens will be flown across the country to laboratories where aquatic toxicologists are studying what happens to fish that live in water contaminated with at least 13 different medications -- from over-the-counter pain killers to prescription antibiotics and mood stabilizers.

More often than not these days, the laboratory tests bring unwelcome results.

A five-month Associated Press investigation has determined that trace amounts of many of the pharmaceuticals we take to stay healthy are seeping into drinking water supplies, and a growing body of research indicates that this could harm humans.

But people aren't the only ones who consume that water. There is more and more evidence that some animals that live in or drink from streams and lakes are seriously affected.

Pharmaceuticals in the water are being blamed for severe reproductive problems in many types of fish: The endangered razorback sucker and male fathead minnow have been found with lower sperm counts and damaged sperm; some walleyes and male carp have become what are called feminized fish, producing egg yolk proteins typically made only by females.

Meanwhile, female fish have developed male genital organs. Also, there are skewed sex ratios in some aquatic populations, and sexually abnormal bass that produce cells for both sperm and eggs.

There are problems with other wildlife as well: kidney failure in vultures, impaired reproduction in mussels, inhibited growth in algae.

"We have no reason to think that this is a unique situation," says Erik Orsak, an environmental contaminants specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pulling off rubber gloves splattered with fish blood at Lake Mead. "We find pretty much anywhere we look, these compounds are ubiquitous."

Senators to hold hearings on drugs in water

Two veteran U.S. senators said Monday they plan to hold hearings in response to an Associated Press investigation into the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

Also, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has asked the EPA to establish a national task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations to Congress on any legislative actions needed.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said the oversight hearings would likely be held in April.

Boxer, D-Calif., said she was "alarmed at the news" that pharmaceuticals are turning up in the nation's drinking water, while Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who said he was "deeply concerned" by the AP findings, both represent states where pharmaceuticals had been detected in drinking water supplies, but not disclosed to the public.

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From: Kennebec Journal
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STUDY FINDS OVER 100 HARMFUL CONTAMINANTS IN MAINE BIRD EGGS

GORHAM -- The BioDiversity Research Institute this week released a report documenting that over 100 harmful contaminants were found in Maine bird eggs.

Flame retardants (PBDEs), industrial stain and water repellents (PFCs), transformer coolants (PCBs), pesticides (OCs) and mercury were found in all 23 species of birds tested. The bird species were studied in a variety of habitats, including on Maine's ocean, salt marshes, rivers, lakes and uplands.

"This is the most extensive study of its kind to date and the first time industrial stain and water repellents were discovered in Maine birds," said senior research biologist Wing Goodale.

Common loon, Atlantic puffin, piping plover, belted kingfisher, great black-backed gull, peregrine falcon and bald eagle had the highest contaminant levels. The flame retardant deca-BDE, banned last year in Maine, was found in eight species. Overall, eagles carried the greatest contaminant load, and for many contaminants had levels multiple times higher than other species.

Many of the contaminants levels recorded were above those documented to have adverse effects.

"These results are significant because many of these contaminants can interact to create effects more harmful than one toxic pollutant alone," Goodale said, "and the pervasiveness of the pollutants strongly suggests that birds and wildlife in other states are also accumulating these contaminants.

"Since we found that birds with high levels of one contaminant tended to have high levels of other contaminants, these compounds may cause top predators, such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons, to have greater difficulty hunting and caring for young."

The report also shows the contaminants are coming from both global and local sources. All the types of contaminants were found in all species -- including birds that feed hundreds of miles offshore. This indicates that the pollutants are most likely in rain and snow.

Birds in mid-coast and southern Maine tended to have higher levels, suggesting the compounds may also come from local sources such as incinerators and water treatment facilities.

"There is good news," Goodale said. "We found that banned chemicals like PCBs and DDT were significantly lower in Maine today than in the past, showing that by banning chemicals we can decrease levels of harmful contaminants in the environment."

Samples were collected from the following towns: Biddeford, Boothbay, Bridgton, Bucksport, Chester, Criehaven TWP, Dead River TWP, Deer Isle, Eastport, Falmouth, Gorham, Islesboro, Kennebunk, Kittery, Lincoln TWP, Lincolnville, Milbridge, Mount Desert Island, North Haven, Old Orchard Beach, Phippsburg, Portland, Saco, Scarborough, Searsmont, South Portland, Spalding TWR, T3 Indian Purchase, Wells, and Westbrook.

The BioDiversity Research Institute is a nonprofit ecological research group dedicated to progressive environmental study and education that furthers global sustainability and conservation policies. The organization believes that wildlife serve as important indicators of ecological integrity.

Copyright 2008, Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.

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From: San Francisco Chronicle (pg. A1)
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THREAT OF CLOSING JOLTS PACIFIC SALMON FISHING INDUSTRY

By Peter Fimrite andSteve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writers

The grim prospect of a total shutdown of ocean salmon fishing in California and Oregon is forcing anglers, merchants and food servers who rely on the once-thriving fishery to reassess their lives and futures.

So few fall-run chinook came back to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries last fall that the Pacific Fishery Management Council said Tuesday it would have to ban all salmon fishing unless a request is made for an emergency exception.

By Wednesday, the news had cast a pall over fishermen and salmon lovers from San Francisco to Cape Falcon in n0orthern Oregon. Fisheries managers canceled early-season ocean fishing for chinook off Oregon, where commercial trolling had been set to open Saturday and run through April up to the Oregon-California border.

Even representatives of the salmon industry, who have made it a practice to lobby for more fishing, are saying that the situation is so bad it would be irresponsible for fishermen to put their hooks in the water even if the commercial season in California opens as scheduled in May.

"I think if we do have fishing, we're shooting ourselves in the foot," said Duncan MacLean, the California representative of commercial fishing, at the management council meetings this week at the Doubletree Hotel in Sacramento. "Frankly I'm scared, because what's happened here has nothing to do with harvest, but we're left holding the bag to fix it all."

MacLean and other fishermen blame drinking water managers for building dams, river water to farmers and agricultural runoff that they say has damaged the fishery, and the prospect of losing their livelihoods because of those things makes them angry. Others have blamed climate change and a deteriorating ocean ecosystem.

"I'm 57 and I've been doing this for 36 years, so it's hard to change horses in this stream," said MacLean, a well known veteran among salmon fishermen. "There's a lot of people in this industry like me."

The council is expected to come up with three options about what to do about the salmon fishing season Friday. A monthlong public comment period will be followed by a final decision the second week of April. One of the options will be to shut down the salmon fishing season before it begins, meaning commercial and recreational fishing would be prohibited. The other two options are likely to include some sport fishing and maybe limited commercial fishing.

Impact on the coast

The collapse will impact recreational and commercial fishing industries all along the Pacific coast. There are about 400 commercial salmon fishermen and women in California and about 1,000 commercial fishermen from Santa Barbara to Washington State.

Closure of the fishery would also eliminate fresh West Coast salmon from grocery shelves and restaurants and drive up the price of wild salmon. It would hurt entire communities in the Sacramento River watershed -- freshwater fishing in the watershed would presumably be included in the ban -- where fishing and tourism are a primary economic engine.

Barbara Emley, 64, who has run a commercial fishing boat with her husband out of Fisherman's Wharf since 1985, said salmon makes up about 70 percent of her annual income.

"We'll probably try crabbing longer, but if everyone shifts from salmon to crab, there will be more competition," she said. "I think we can survive the year, but I'm afraid it will go on."

If the crisis continues, she said, it could spell the end of a unique, nomadic culture of people who love the sea.

"It is like a town with pieces that break off and float around and then re-form in a different shape in another place," she said. "I think that culture is being lost."

Ben Platt, a 45-year-old commercial fisherman based in Fort Bragg, said he will have to turn to crabbing and other kinds of fishing to make up some of his losses, but he cannot sustain himself that way for very long.

"I'm prepared to weather one storm, but we've had severely restricted seasons since 2006 and we're looking at a total collapse of the Central Valley system," said Platt, who figures he will spend all of his savings over the next two years waiting for the salmon to return. "At some point fishing becomes no longer feasible."

The Klamath and Trinity river run along the Pacific Coast, much smaller than the Sacramento run, was declared a disaster in 2006 after a similar decline. It led to a dismal commercial and recreational salmon catch last year.

Restaurateurs and their customers are also looking at hard times if salmon season closes.

Chef won't use farmed

"We'll stay away from salmon for a while," said Ryan Simas, the head chef at Farallon Restauranton Union Square. "I will definitely not use farmed salmon."

Paul Johnson, the president of Monterey Fish Market, a high-end seafood wholesaler at Pier 33 in San Francisco, with a retail market in Berkeley, said things won't be the same without local salmon.

"Oh man, I'm telling you the king (chinook) salmon is the icon in the Bay Area; this is going to be devastating to the economy," he said. "It's put everyone on edge. A lot of small-boat fishermen are going to go out of business."

Johnson said his market might offer a limited amount of king salmon from Alaska and Canada, "but it's going to be brutally expensive."

Emley said most fishermen at the meetings this week appear to be resigned to their fate.

"We know there are no fish," she said. "Fishermen always say 'better times are coming,' but I'm not so sure this time."

The council's salmon management plan, which is part of the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, requires the Pacific Fishery Management Council to close ocean fishing if the number of spawning salmon do not reach the conservation objectives set for the fishery.

The latest fall run count in the Central Valley watershed in 2007 was 68,101, well below the goal of 122,000 to 180,000. The number of jack salmon -- 2-year-old fish that come back early to spawn -- was the lowest on record.

Even if there is no fishing this year, the council is projecting that only 59,000 salmon will come back to spawn during the 2008 Sacramento River fall run, which peaks in September and October.

Knowing that, the council is expected to vote to close the season. It would mark the first time that the federal agency, created 22 years ago to manage the Pacific Coast fishery, will have banned salmon fishing, which was scheduled to begin for recreational fishers in April and for the commercial industry in May. Typically, the season continues through mid-November.

E-mail the writers at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com and srubenstein@sfchronicle.com.

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From: Friends of the Earth
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NANOTECH EXPOSED IN GROCERY STORE AISLES

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Untested nanotechnology is being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials currently on the shelf, without warning or new FDA testing, according to a report released March 11, 2008 by Friends of the Earth.

The report, Out of the Laboratory and onto Our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture, found nanomaterials in popular products and packaging including Miller Light beer, Cadbury Chocolate packaging and ToddlerHealth, a nutritional drink powder for infants sold extensively at health food stores including WholeFoods.

"Nanotech food was put on our plates without FDA testing for consumer safety," said Ian Illuminato, Friends of the Earth Health and Environment Campaigner. "Consumers have a right to know if they are taste-testing a dangerous new technology."

Existing regulations require no new testing or labeling for nanomaterials when they are created from existing approved chemicals, despite major differences in potential toxicity. The report reveals toxicity risks of nanomaterials such as organ damage and decreased immune system response.

"Nanotechnology can be very dangerous when used in food," said report co-author Dr Rye Senjen. "Early scientific evidence indicates that some nanomaterials produce free radicals which destroy or mutate DNA and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys."

Report co-author Georgia Miller, Friends of the Earth Australia Nanotechnology Project Coordinator, said many of the world's largest food companies, including Heinz, Nestle, Unilever and Kraft are currently using and testing nanotechnology for food processing and packaging. Without increased federal oversight, these companies could begin sale of these products whenever they choose.

"There is no legal requirement for manufacturers to label their products that contain nanomaterials, or to conduct new safety tests," said Miller. "This gives manufacturers the ability to force-feed untested technology to consumers without their consent."

Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, is now used to manufacture nutritional supplements, flavor and colors additives, food packaging, cling wrap and containers, and chemicals used in agriculture.

"Friends of the Earth calls on the FDA to stop the sale of all nano food, packaging, and agricultural chemicals until strong scientific regulations are enacted to ensure consumer safety and until ingredients are labeled," said Illuminato.

The report, released internationally today in the U.S., Europe and Australia details more than a hundred nano food, food packaging and food contact products now on sale internationally. The Australian government has already welcomed the report and announced that it will begin exploring regulation of nano food and nano agriculture as a result of the report. The full report can be found at www.foe.org.

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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of an influential, international network of grassroots groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world. One of its current campaigns focuses on combating the spread of nanotechnology without regulation and oversight.

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From: ABC News
[Printer-friendly version]

EXCLUSIVE: 'SCIENCE FOR SALE' PROBE DEEPENS

By Justin Rood

A scientific consulting firm once crowed of its success in delaying the cancellation of a harmful drug by 10 years, congressional investigators say.

Lawmakers have more tough questions for the D.C.-based Weinberg Group, which has been accused of "manufacturing uncertainty" about research to benefit its corporate clients and their products.

Last month, Congress opened an investigation into the firm's activities they allege generated uncertainty over a dangerous chemical in plastic bottles. Now, investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee say they have obtained deleted pages from the Weinberg Group's Web site where the firm took credit for delaying the cancellation of a harmful drug for nearly a decade at the request of two pharmaceutical clients, and other industry victories.

The firm's efforts "led to an extensive process" and eventually "10 additional years of sales prior to the ultimate cancellation of the drug," according to a printout of the page provided to ABC News by the committee.

In a March 6 letter, the committee asked Weinberg to turn over documents naming that drug, its manufacturers and the experts it involved in allegedly keeping the drug on sale. It also asked for documents and information on 10 other case studies formerly featured on the firm's Web site.

Another since-deleted case study investigators say they found told how the firm "debunked" cancer research indicating certain hair dye increased users' cancer risk. A third that investigators shared with ABC News related to how the Weinberg Group won its client the right to continue using chlorofluorocarbons, which are known to harm the environment, despite a global ban covering most sources of the substances.

"These case studies...appear to take credit for keeping drugs with dangerous side effects on the market and for keeping in circulation other products that may be harmful to consumers," said committee chairman John Dingell, D-Mich.

In a statement faxed to ABC News Monday afternoon, the Weinberg Group said it is a "science-based business consulting firm" which adheres to "principles of scientific integrity."

"The Weinberg Group intends to cooperate fully in the investigation being conducted," the statement said.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

Copyright 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

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