CEC ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS UPDATE 04/15/05 - HOUSTON
STUDY: GM CROP FIELD TESTS WIDESPREAD
IN US DESPITE CONCERNS
by Sarah Morgan
More than 47,000 field tests of genetically engineered crops were
authorized by the Department of Agriculture between 1987 and 2004, despite
continued concerns regarding long-term and environmental impacts, according
to a report released this week by the Texas Public Interest Research Group.
Texas alone has been home to 1,494 field-test sites, the group reports.
In particular, the report, "Raising Risk: Field Testing of Genetically
Engineered Crops in the US," documents the increasing popularity of crops
engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals as well as
large numbers of experiments of crops never tested before.
The ten crops authorized for the greatest number of field releases are
corn, soybean, cotton, potato, tomato, wheat, creeping bentgrass, alfalfa,
beet, and rice.
But the USDA authorized field tests on several crops for the first time in
2003 and 2004, including American chestnut, American elm, avocado, banana,
eucalyptus, marigold, safflower, sorghum, and sugarbeet, according to
The group also found that since 1991, the USDA has received 240 requests
for 418 field releases of crops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals,
industrial chemicals, or other "biopharmaceuticals." And these numbers are
on the rise. The number of requested field releases of biopharm crops
increased to 55 in 2004, up from 22 in 2003. Further, almost 70 percent of
all field tests conducted in the last year now contain genes classified as
"Confidential Business Information," meaning the public has no access to
information about these experiments, according to the report.
The concerns surrounding these experimental genetically engineered crops
are due to the fact that they are grown in an open environment, and aim to
test the outcome and environmental impact of certain gene combinations.
According to a TexPIRG press release, "A major goal of the field tests is
to obtain information about potential ecological risks associated with
genetically engineered organisms. However, independent reviews of the data
collected by the Department of Agriculture demonstrate that very little
information has been gathered."
Therefore, the group contends, questions about the impact of these crops
on a long-term basis, as well as the impacts on nontarget species and soil
However, there have been more comprehensive studies conducted in Europe.
Most recently, a study commissioned by the British government published at
the end of March found that bird populations in Western Europe are being
adversely affected by chemical engineering.
According to the study, some bird species are at only one tenth their
population of 30 years ago and several have abandoned their old habitats
The study compared genetically modified canola (rapeseed oil) with
non-genetically modified varieties grown side by side. Scientists studied
the plants for three years and found that, although the total weed count for
the GM and non-GM fields was about the same, GM fields had about one-third
fewer seeds from broad-leaved weeds, which means less food for birds.
This also, affects the insect population, as many feed on the flowers of
broad-leaved weeds. According to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of
Deception, this helps explain why the bee population among the GM fields was
cut by up to half and butterflies by up to two-thirds during the month of
But Smith said that it is not just the genetic modification causing the
"It's the herbicide that they are engineered to withstand that does the
damage," he said in an article, "Genetically Engineered Crops Damage
Wildlife," published online at www.seedsofdeception.com.
As a result of their findings, TexPIRG has called for a moratorium on
genetically engineered foods until independent testing demonstrates safety,
a labeling system is implemented, and the biotechnology industry agrees to
be held accountable for any harm resulting from the products. To read the
full report, visit:
GROUPS ASK HOME DEPOT AND
LOWE’S TO OFFER NONTOXIC LAWN PRODUCTS
From Texans for Alternatives to Pesticides
This week, a coalition of 20 consumer and environmental groups from
across the United States asked the national headquarters of Home Depot and
Lowe’s Home Improvement, two of the largest home and garden retailers, to
carry a full range of organic, nontoxic lawn care products and to reconsider
the sale of "weed and feed."
According to Defenders of Wildlife and Beyond Pesticides, two groups
heading up the coalition, 14 of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides
are ‘probable’ or ‘possible’ carcinogens with studies linked to cancer.
Children are especially susceptible to health problems associated with
Further, the groups state that out of 213 million pounds of
non-agricultural pesticide use in the US, more than 90 million pounds are
used on private lawns and gardens per year, with 10 percent coming from
"weed and feed" products alone.
"Scientific findings show that the lawn chemical mixtures are linked to
neurological, endocrine, immune, and abortion effects. The greatest effects
appear to be happening at miniscule exposure amounts," said Warren Porter,
Ph.D., environmental toxicologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in
a press release.
Recently, 70 Canadian municipalities banned or restricted the aesthetic
uses of pesticides. Most states in the US have laws that prevent localities
from making such reforms, but in at least seven states, legislation is
pending that would overturn those laws and open the way for greater
protections from lawn chemicals as in Canada, according to Beyond
The groups also state that surveys show 40 million homeowners are buying
or looking to buy non-toxic, natural alternatives, and others would consider
buying natural alternatives, presuming they are conveniently available.
For more information, visit http://www.nopesticides.org.
2005 ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCE GUIDES NOW AVAILABLE
The 2005 CEC Environmental Resource Guide is now available. Members will
receive their complementary copies in the mail within the next few weeks. If
you’re not a member, you can join through our Web site via the Network For
Good Link at the bottom left corner of the home page. After joining, you
should receive your guide in the mail. Extra copies can also be ordered for
$12 via the Web site. The new guide includes updated information for more
than 100 environmental groups in the Houston-Galveston area. The 2005 guide
also includes an all new state of the environment essay with information
compiled from various groups at the forefront of environmental movements in
Houston. Updated and expanded information about hotlines and government
contact information for county, city, and state officials is also included.
HOUSTON EARTH DAY 2005
For the past 30 years, CEC has been an integral part of
Houston's Earth Day celebrations. This year, we are partnering with Marathon
Oil and HEB to distribute 350,000 copies of the Houston Earth Day 2005
Guide to families in the Houston region. The guide will detail environmental
events and activities for the month of April and will help Houston citizens
stay involved locally with Earth Day. For a copy of the guide, contact
the CEC office, or visit your neighborhood HEB in April. The guide is
available online at http://www.houstonearthday.org.
BAYOU CITY FARMERS’ MARKET NOW ON
The Bayou City Farmers’ Market, located in the parking lot behind 3000
Richmond at Eastside has expanded its hours and is now open on Wednesdays
from 4 to 7 pm, in addition to Saturdays from 8 am to noon. Since September
18, 2004 the market has offered a varied selection of fresh products grown
and made locally, including free-range eggs, honey, handmade soaps, fresh
roasted coffee and other seasonal offerings. For more information on the
SUMMER OFFICE SPACE SUBLEASE
The Texas Public Interest Research Group is looking to sublet an office
space beginning April 18 until Aug 12. The space is located at 3100
Richmond, and is adjacent to the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog
Prevention/Mothers for Clean Air offices. The space is about 125 square feet
and rent is $250 a month, including utilities, fax, phone, Internet, and
printing. Contact Luke Metzger at (512) 479-7287 or email@example.com for
PRE-SALE INFORMATION: EVENING
WITH ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one of Time Magazines "Heroes for the Planet,"
will speak at 7:30 pm Monday, June 13 at The Hobby Center’s Sarofim Hall.
Kennedy is the author of "Crimes Against Nature," whose first chapter is
titled "The Mess in Texas." His speech, "A Contract with Our Future,"
explains how our natural surroundings are linked to our work, health, and
identity as Americans, and how good environmental policy is good for
business. Kennedy will autograph his book after his speech. Brazos Bookstore
will provide books for sale in the foyer.
Kennedy is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council,
president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and co-host of "Ring of Fire" on Air
America Radio. Music will be provided by Mood Indigo, voted Houston’s best
vocal ensemble, and the event is Hosted by Randall R. Morton, Founder of the
nonprofit Progressive Forum. Tickets range from $10 to $35 and go on sale to
the public April 29. However, there is a special pre-sale offer for groups.
The pre-sale code is NATURE. To order tickets, call (713) 315-2525 or visit
FLOODING AND GREENWAY PARKS & TRAILS PROJECT IN CYPRESS CREEK WATERSHED
This year’s Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition annual meeting will
focus on a series of storm water flood damage reduction projects.
Presentations will include information and pictures describing the goals and
projects of the Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition, environmental effects
of ongoing urban development, fundamental aspects of flooding in the Cypress
Creek watershed, and a brief overview of the government approach to flood
damage reduction in the watershed and the CCFCC position. There will also be
a presentation on the Cypress Creek Greenway project conceived 30 years ago
in response to two of the area’s most pressing problems: flooding and the
need for recreation. Presentations will begin at 7:30 pm April 20, and will
be followed by a question-and-answer session. The meeting will be held at
Ponderosa Forest Fire Station, 17061 Rolling Creek. Call (281) 444-3354 for
EARTH DAY EVENTS
This weekend’s Earth Day events include Armand Bayou Nature Center’s
Earth Day: Reconnect with Nature, and Nature Discovery Center’s Spring
Fling: Eat & Play - Celebrate Earth Day. Both events will be Saturday, April
Armand Bayou’s events include owl prowls, cruises, and more. There will
be environmental exhibits, wildlife demonstrations, environmental classes on
birding, gardening, and photography as well as baby animals, guided pontoon
boat tours and guided hikes, nature-inspired artists and vendors, and
canoeing on May's Pond. Armand Bayou Nature Center is located at 8500 Bay
Area Boulevard. For a more information including a schedule of events,
contact (281) 474-2551 or visit .
The Nature Discovery Center is joining forces with Whole Foods Market -
Bellaire, the Bellaire Recycling Committee and others to put on a double
event - a park full of games, crafts, and special guests at the Nature
Discovery Center and a barbecue at Whole Foods Market - Bellaire. Nature
Discovery Center is located at 7112 Newcastle, Bellaire, TX 77401. For more
information, contact (713) 667-6550 or visit
GREEN GRANTS & JOBS
MOTHERS FOR CLEAN AIR SEEKS SCHOOL HEALTH COORDINATOR AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR
Mothers for Clean Air, a local nonprofit environmental organization, has
received a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement
EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program in Spring Branch
Independent School District schools. The School Health Coordinator will work
with SBISD and MfCA to organize training of school IAQ coordinators and
assist selected coordinators in implementing EPA’s program in their
respective schools. The School Health Coordinator will report to the MfCA
project manager and will collaborate with SBISD’s Associate Superintendent
of Facilities, Transportation and Support.
Responsibilities include facilitating the implementation of EPA’s Indoor
Air Quality Tools for Schools program in 46 SBISD schools. The School Health
Coordinator will work with SBISD’s Facilities Department to develop a
strategy for implementation, partner with EPA Region VI, Fort Bend ISD and
Region IV Education Service Center to develop training sessions, arrange a
Tools for Schools presentation for SBISD principals, and more.
The applicant should have a bachelor’s degree, reliable transportation
and at least two years of work experience. The applicant should be an
excellent communicator and have strong organizational and interpersonal
The applicant should be passionate and committed because compensation is
limited. The School Health Coordinator is a part-time, one-year grant funded
position and does not currently include benefits. Time required is estimated
at 15-20 hours per week and pay is $1000 per month.
MfCA has also received a US Environmental Protection Agency grant to work
with the residents of Southeast Houston and area stakeholders to reduce the
community’s exposure to hazardous pollution. The Community Outreach
Coordinator will inform the community of the project, recruit residents and
stakeholders to be part of the process, assist with implementation of the
project and coordinate training of residents to take air samples in the
community. The Community Outreach Coordinator will report to the MfCA
executive director and will fulfill the requirements of the community
organizer position in the EPA Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem
Solving grant called Improving Environmental Quality through Collaboration.
Responsibilities include learning about the community through research
and meeting with individuals in the community, building a network of
community leaders and stakeholders, recruiting residents to participate in
the project and to take community air samples, and more.
The applicant should have a master’s degree in a related field or a
bachelor’s degree and at least two years of experience in community
organizing, and reliable transportation. The applicant should be an
excellent communicator in both English and Spanish and have strong
organizational and interpersonal skills. The Community Outreach Coordinator
is a three-year grant funded position that does not include benefits. This
position can be either full-time or part-time and requires work on weekends
and in the evenings.
To apply for either position, e-mail your resume and a cover letter
stating why you think you would be good for this job to
THIS WEEKS EVENTS
MARINE LIFE COMPLICATES REMOVAL OF OLD OIL RIGS
Washington Post, 4/11/05
A rusting oil rig perched on the muddy bottom of the Gulf of Mexico,
notorious for its vast "dead zone" off the Mississippi Delta, might
unlikely setting for a thriving ecosystem.
EPA HALTS FLORIDA TEST ON PESTICIDES
New York Times, 4/09/05
Stephen L. Johnson, the acting administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency, said on Friday that he was canceling a study of the
effects of pesticides on infants and babies, a day after two Democratic
senators said they would block his confirmation if the research continued.
2 SIDES DO BATTLE IN COURT ON WHETHER
EPA SHOULD REGULATE CARBON
New York Times, 4/09/05
A federal appeals court heard arguments on Friday in a five-year battle
over whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to
regulate carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles.
UNIT AT REFINERY HAS TROUBLED PAST
Houston Chronicle, 4/10/05
The section of the Texas City refinery that exploded three weeks ago,
leaving more people dead and injured than any US industrial accident in 15
years, has a troubled past that includes fires, explosions and accidents
that either killed or injured workers.
US HOUSE PANEL RESUMES WRITING ENERGY
With US gasoline prices at a record high for the fourth week in a row, a
House committee is set to resume debating on Tuesday a broad energy bill
that aims to boost long-term petroleum supplies.
TO OZONE-DEPLETING CHEMICALS ALSO CONTRIBUTING TO CLIMATE
CHANGE, UN SAYS
Associated Press, 4/12/05
GENEVA — Alternatives to ozone-depleting chemicals in products like
pesticides and aerosols are also contributing to climate change, according
to a UN report released Monday.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS DIG IN HEELS ON LNG
Associated Press, 4/13/05
House Republicans made clear their support late Tuesday for reinforcing
the federal government's final authority over where liquefied natural gas
import terminals can be located, even if states or local communities object.
WAL-MART TO FUND WILDLIFE HABITAT
Associated Press, 4/13/05
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, pledged Tuesday to spend $35
million compensating for wildlife habitat lost nationwide beneath its
MTBE GAS ADDITIVE PROTECTION, DELAY AT
CENTER OF ENERGY DEBATE
Associated Press, 4/13/05
Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is being challenged by
Democrats on one of his top priorities -- protecting makers of the gasoline
additive MTBE from liability lawsuits, an issue that blocked energy
legislation two years ago.
ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
CEC Environmental News Update is a weekly publication by the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, a 501(c)3 dedicated to fostering dialogue, education and collaboration about environmental issues in the Houston-Gulf Coast Region. Visit the CEC online at www.cechouston.org.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, or to suggest items for inclusion,
send your request via e-mail to David Gresham at firstname.lastname@example.org.