Best of our wild blogs: 8 Mar 17

25 Mar (Sat) and 22 Apr (Sat): R.U.M. mangrove clean up by Nature Society (Singapore)
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Fabulous February at the Sisters Islands Marine Park
Sisters' Island Marine Park

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17
Singapore Bird Group

Singapore’s Ivory Ban: a Black-and-White Issue!

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Singapore firm proposes Bangladesh to dredge rivers in exchange for sand 6 Mar 17;

A discussion with a Singaporean company to dredge rivers in exchange for the excavated sand is underway, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud has said.

He told the media at a programme in Dhaka Reporters' Unity on Sunday that the government was trying to have some of the big rivers dredged experimentally by foreigners.

"They (foreigners) will take away the excavated sand, and as everything has a value, they will pay for it," he said.

Without revealing the firm's name, he said their proposal was being scrutinised.

"A discussion is underway. It's not final yet. Some countries have proposed to take away the excavated soil. So, we are now conducting experiments in some areas to check whether it causes any harm," the minister said.

Arguing in favour of the project, he said a survey found that Tk 9 trillion will be needed to dredge all the big rivers. "It's not possible for us to manage this much money now."

"Moreover, managing the excavated silt is also a major problem for us. These dredged sediments again mix up with river water during rains. The money will also be needed to keep the silt on anybody's land," he said.

Anisul said having the rivers dredged by the foreigners in exchange for the sand will solve the problem.

According to him, the cost of dredging is Tk 160 to 200 per cubic metre.

He said the proposed project would start from the river Jamuna which carries half a billion tonnes of silt into Bangladesh every year.
"But we want to check first whether the project would negatively affect our environment," he added.

He also expressed hope that the complications over the signing of the Teesta water sharing deal with India will go away during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the country.

"India's former prime minister Manmohan Singh and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave words that the deal will be signed. I believe, as the two prime ministers have promised, they will deliver on it," he said.

Govt allows sand export at Tk1 per cft
Tribune Business 7 Mar 17

'If any adverse impact on the environment is detected, the dredging will be stopped'

The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Sand Corridor Management Committee on Monday with land minister Shamsur Rahman Sharif in the chair.

Sharif said sand can be lifted experimentally for six months initially from the proposed site of Jamuna river by keeping the flows normal for river traffic and navigability.

If any adverse impact on the environment is detected, the dredging will be stopped, he added.

Earlier, Infrastructure Dredging Limited applied to the Ministry of Water resources seeking permission for dredging Jamuna river and exporting the sand to Singapore and Maldives at its own cost initially for a period of two years.

Later, the Land Ministry, Water Resources Ministry and Shipping Ministry discussed the proposal of the company at a meeting of the National Sand Corridor Management Committee on October 18, 2016.

In the meeting, a five-member team was formed to make recommendations on the export rate of sand.

Shipping Minister Sahjahan Khan, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud and State Minister for Land Saifuzzaman Chowdhury attended the meeting.

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What a greener budget means for Singapore business, society

LAU XIN YI Today Online 8 Mar 17;

Singapore’s Budget 2017 will be remembered for its strong emphasis on the environment. The recent announcement of measures such as the proposed carbon tax and the diesel duty has caused concern among businesses and the public about higher costs.

Yet, these steps are needed to strategically position Singapore as a sustainable city with long-term economic competitiveness.

This will also see job creation in the production of goods and services that benefit the environment, such as green buildings.

Singapore is already feeling the effects of a warmer planet. As of last year, temperatures in the Republic were found to have increased at a rate more than double that of the global average over the past six decades. Efforts to reduce further greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Paris Agreement are therefore needed.

Diesel vehicles were once perceived as a fast way to cut carbon emissions, as their engines generate more energy for every litre of fuel, recording better mileage and lower levels of CO2 for the same distance travelled.

Yet, diesel also releases four times as much nitrogen oxide and dioxide (NOx) and 22 times as much particulates — especially PM2.5, which refers to the tiny particles that penetrate deep into the respiratory system. NOx pollution is also associated with various health problems, such as inflammation of the lungs, that can lead to asthma and bronchitis.

An estimated 185,000 Singapore-registered diesel vehicles are on the roads, comprising about 20 per cent of the vehicle population in 2015. The majority are commercial vehicles, buses and taxis.

Diesel passenger cars made up about 1 per cent of the total car population in 2015, but they have also become the fastest-growing segment in the past few years. Having more diesel passenger vehicles on the roads poses greater concern for cities such as Singapore, where the stop-and-start nature of driving results in incomplete diesel combustion and higher pollution.

While Singapore enjoys decent overall air quality, the country’s level of PM2.5 has hovered near, and at times surpassed, those recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Short-terms costs vs long-term gains

Budget 2017’s introduction of a carbon tax and diesel duty is timely, especially since industry and transportation have been projected to be Singapore’s two largest sources of emissions in 2020.

In contrast to an outright ban, taxes and incentives are preferable, as existing commercial vehicles run mainly on diesel.

Still, businesses and society must be prepared to weather the short-term pain such adjustments call for.

Besides the higher costs imposed on diesel consumption, industries are also facing closer scrutiny.

From 2019, a carbon tax on GHG will generally be applied to upstream activities such as power stations and other large direct emitters.

Although the tax rate currently proposed is between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of GHG emissions, the price level and exact implementation schedule have yet to be determined. Revenue from the carbon tax is expected to support industrial efforts to cut emissions.

Both the diesel duty and the carbon tax will help companies better quantify their environmental impact in business decisions. But costs rather than environmental concerns will largely dominate how businesses will choose to respond to these initiatives.

The ability to cope with these additional costs and curb carbon emissions will vary among companies, due to their size and structure of operations. As a short-term strategy, companies may choose to reduce their output or simply pay the carbon tax if the additional costs are not significant.

The impact of the diesel duty may also be limited when the price of diesel passenger cars and commercial vehicles are lowered to retain their attractiveness.

Therefore, the availability and costs of alternatives will be as important as the carbon tax and the diesel duty.

Currently, 95 per cent of Singapore’s electricity generation comes from natural gas. The ability to reduce emissions further will eventually require increasing the use of solar energy, for instance.

The adoption of solar energy has increased over the past few years, accounting for about 1.5 per cent of Singapore’s total electricity needs in 2016. Faster adoption is seen in the non-residential sector. But this may change as solar panels are expected to become cheaper, making it easier for residential users to come on board.

As for the transport sector, the past few years of low and relatively stable conventional fuel prices have reduced the attractiveness of hybrids and electric vehicles.

Special attention should also be given to low-income families. If the carbon tax and related costs are passed on to consumers, the higher cost of electricity is likely to have a greater impact on low-income households.

Government support can help to alleviate the immediate cost concerns.

At the same time, it is crucial to improve their access to more energy-saving and cost-effective household appliances and devices.

But in the long run, businesses and individuals will stand to gain from the carbon tax and the diesel duty. Many jurisdictions that have implemented a carbon price, such as the European Union and the United States, have lowered their emissions, generated more jobs in emerging sectors such as renewable energy, and secured health benefits in the form of avoided illnesses, hospital visits, lost work days and premature deaths. Such health benefits amounted to about US$10.4 billion (S$14.7 billion) when emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides fell in the US’ north-east and mid-Atlantic states between 2009 and 2013.

As Singapore gears its economy to properly price energy and pollution, overcoming short-term costs and securing long-term gains will depend on how the Government implements these initiatives while protecting the interests of business and society.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lau Xin Yi is a Policy Research Analyst (Sustainability) at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). The SIIA is holding the 4th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on “Inclusive Collaboration: Working Together for Sustainable Value Chains” on April 6.

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Three-fold drop in incidents of falling trees since 2001

ALFRED CHUA Today Online 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — The number of incidents involving falling trees and branches has dropped three-fold since 2001, Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament on Tuesday (March 7).

Responding to questions from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Dennis Tan on tree management. Mr Lee said that there were around 3,000 such incidents recorded in 2001. That figure shrunk to 800 last year, against “a backdrop of around seven million trees”, where two million of them are along streetscapes and parks.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the budget for the Ministry of National Development, Mr Lee attributed the drop to the comprehensive tree management programme by the National Parks’ Board (NParks). However, he acknowledged that even with improved efforts, “we are deeply saddened every time such incidents (of falling trees) cause injury or loss of life”. For such cases, the NParks will provide assistance to the police. Independent arborists, who are trained in caring for and maintaining trees, may also be engaged on a case-by-case basis.

Last month, a falling tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens killed one woman and injured four others. Two days later, a falling tree on Yuan Ching Road caused one woman to suffer serious head injuries.

Mr Lee said that NParks’ tree management programme includes a “rigorous regime of inspections and pruning”, which are aligned with international standards. Inspections are carried out by certified professionals, and the records are digitised and kept indefinitely.

The records allow NParks to focus attention on storm-vulnerable trees and pre-emptively replace them, he added.

Mr Lee assured the House that NParks has ramped up inspections, and taken steps to improve general tree health, including using pruning techniques to improve tree structure and balance.

The agency is also developing modelling techniques to understand better the structural behaviour of trees in microclimatic conditions as well as under heavy rain and wind, he said.

NParks taking steps to improve tree health
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 17;

The number of fallen trees has decreased significantly after the National Parks Board (NParks) introduced a tree management programme in 2001.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament yesterday there were more than 800 cases of "tree failures" in Singapore last year, down from 3,000 in 2001.

"But we are deeply saddened each time such incidents cause injuries or loss of life," said Mr Lee during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Read also: Rooting out sick trees

Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan had asked about the management of trees here. A 40m tembusu tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens fell last month, killing one woman and injuring four others.

Mr Lee said NParks' comprehensive tree management programme includes a regime of tree inspections and pruning aligned with international standards.

Records are digitised so NParks staff can retrieve information easily and ensure trees under the agency are checked and maintained according to schedule.

"This system also enables NParks to zoom in on, and pre-emptively replace, storm-vulnerable species," said Mr Lee. Singapore has seven million trees, of which two million are along streets, streetscapes and parks.

With the weather becoming increasingly unpredictable, NParks has stepped up inspections and taken measures to improve the health of trees, Mr Lee said. These include employing pruning techniques that improve tree structure and balance.

"NParks is also developing modelling techniques to better understand the structural behaviour of trees under heavy rain and wind, and also in microclimatic conditions," Mr Lee said.

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Farmers to get up to 30% of approved Government funding upfront from April

The Agriculture Productivity Fund co-funds investments to help local farmers adopt technology, says Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon.
Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Farming will be a part of Singapore's future to strengthen resilience in food supply, and a Farm Transformation Map, which includes increasing Government funding, has been developed to make this a reality, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 7).

The Farm Transformation Map aims to guide the transformation of the local farming sector in four areas: Physical space, innovation, people development and the broader ecosystem. On the last point, Dr Koh said there is a need to grow the ecosystem, increasing demand for local produce and helping farms seek financing.

In this regard, the Industry Consultation Panel (ICP), which was convened in January this year, pointed out that tight cash flows often limit farmers from investing in more expensive technology. The current S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) co-funds investments in tech but on a reimbursement basis, and Dr Koh said this will change from April this year.

"The APF will disburse up to 30 per cent of the approved funding quantum upfront to facilitate the adoption of technology," he said, adding that this will complement the move to increase the tenure of farm lands to 20-year leases.

The APF was launched in 2014 and farmers are supported through the Basic Capability Upgrading, Productivity Enhancement and Research and Development schemes.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will also adopt a new account management approach for the farms, which means that each farm will have a dedicated account manager to advise them on business development, technology adoption and financial assistance, Dr Koh said.


As for overcoming space constraints, the Minister of State said there is a need to "go upwards into the sky, downwards into the ocean and indoors within our buildings". He pointed to traditional vegetable farms like Kok Fah that are using advanced greenhouses and irrigation systems to mitigate the effects of changing weather patterns, as well as fish farms like Barramundi Asia that are growing sea bass in deep underwater net cages.

"These are all innovative solutions that can help us grow more food with less space," he said.

Dr Koh also highlighted the need for more innovation, whether it is to increase production yields, pursue water and energy efficiency or to adapt solutions to protect against climate change that affects yields.

For instance, technologies like the closed containment aquaculture system can reduce the vulnerability of coastal farmers' fish stocks to environmental risks, he said.

"Through technology, farming will begin to resemble an industrialised production process like a factory. It will also attract and excite a younger generation of tech-savvy Singaporeans to venture into this industry," Dr Koh said.

There is also the need to have the right people to achieve this vision, and the Minister of State said the modern farmers should be called “agri-technologists” or “agri-specialists”.

"Farming will no longer just be about horticulture or aquaculture. It will no longer just be about toiling in the sun, doing manual labour but also about engineering, about infocomm technology, about entrepreneurship, and R&D," Dr Koh said.

He added: "This Farm Transformation Map is just in its infancy. We will continue to work with the ICP and other stakeholders to refine it as we gain momentum and as technology for farming matures."

- CNA/kk

Farmers to get grants to boost productivity through tech
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Food farmers will get more help in adopting technology and navigating the administrative procedures to grow their business, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said on Tuesday (March 7).

From April, they can get partial grants to use new productivity-enhancing technology upfront, instead of the current scheme where they wait for reimbursements.

Under this tweak to the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF), up to 30 per cent of approved funding quantum will be disbursed to farms first. Farmers can tap three schemes under the APF — the Basic Capability Upgrading Scheme, the Productivity Enhancement Scheme, and the Research and Development Scheme. More than S$6 million worth of projects have been approved under the APF.

During the debate on his ministry’s budget for the year on Tuesday, Dr Koh also announced that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will start a new scheme to help food farmers develop their business, adopt new technology and find financial support.

AVA officers will be assigned to 20 farms each, and help the farmers in these areas. The farms will be grouped according to the food type they produce.

The AVA said that while the volume has been on the uptick over the years, only vegetable farms have exceeded the local production target of 10 per cent. They now supply 12 per cent of domestic consumption volume.

For eggs, 24 per cent come from local farms, short of the 30 per cent target. For fish, it stands 5 percentage points short of the 15 per cent target.

Stressing that local production is important to Singapore’s food security because it provides a critical buffer against global supply shocks, Dr Koh said transforming the agricultural industry into a more productive one is the only way to go, since there are competing uses for land.

“We will never have enough land to grow all the food that we need to be self-sufficient,” he said. “We need to adopt modern practices and embrace technology as a multiplier to do more with less.”

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Singapore suspends poultry imports from parts of Tennessee, Wisconsin due to avian flu

Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has suspended the imports of poultry, poultry products, processed eggs and live birds from parts of the US states of Tennessee and Wisconsin, after reports that premises there had been affected by avian flu.

In a statement on Tuesday (Mar 7), AVA said it had suspended imports from Lincoln County in Tennessee and a 10km restricted area around affected premises in Barron County, Wisconsin. Only processed poultry products such as pasteurised eggs and canned chicken products, which have been heat treated to eliminate the bird flu virus, are excluded from the suspension.

Accredited establishments from unaffected areas are not hit by the suspension, it added.

"AVA is in regular communication with authorities in the USA on the bird flu situation and will continue to monitor the developments closely. AVA would like to reassure the public that poultry in Singapore are free from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and are safe for consumption," the agency said.

Since 2016, there has been no import of chicken from Tennessee, USA. Import of poultry from Wisconsin is also "negligible" at less than 0.1 per cent for processed chicken, AVA said.

The US Department of Agriculture said on Sunday that a farm in southern Tennessee that is a supplier to Tyson Foods had been infected with avian flu. All 73,500 birds there were killed by the disease, while the remaining have since been suffocated with foam to prevent its spread.

The outbreak raised concerns among chicken companies because the infected farm is located near the biggest-producing states for chicken meat, including Georgia and Alabama.

US trading partners, including South Korea and Japan, had earlier restricted shipments of US poultry because of the infection in Tennessee.

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia: Fishing villages in Tanjung Piai ideal for eco-tourism but homestays and chalets yet to get CFO or licences

PANG WENXI The Star 8 Mar 17;

PONTIAN: Despite the state government’s enthusiasm in transforming Kukup and Kampung Air Masin’s fishing villages built on stilts in Tanjung Piai here into international eco-tourism destinations, several drawbacks have yet to be overcome.

Tanjung Piai MP Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng said that many of the homestays and chalets in Kukup and Kampung Air Masin have yet to receive a Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO).

“Many of these chalets and homestays were built by the homeowners.

“Although they have a land title for their building, most of them have not been issued a CFO and have not obtained business licences to operate as chalets or homestays,” he said during Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin’s visit to SJK(C) Ken Boon in Kukup Laut here on Sunday.

“Because the homeowners do not have the CFO, many are unable to apply for insurance and business licences to keep their premises and operations secure,” he said.

He said that there were a total of 75 buildings built on stilts in Kukup and Kampung Air Masin that were operating as chalets and homestays.

Following the announcement by Mohamed Khaled on the new road linking Tanjung Pelepas in Gelang Patah to Tanjung Bin here, which will be built by 2020, more people are expected to visit Pontian.

Wee said that following the completion of the road, Tanjung Piai, which includes Kukup and Kampung Air Masin, could be transformed into a travel industry, in line with the state government’s plan to make the state an economic powerhouse.

“By turning Tanjung Piai into a travel industry, it will not only provide job opportunities for the locals here but also allow locals to operate businesses such as chalets, restaurants and other services,” he said.

He added that the multiple breeding farms in the area could also propel Tanjung Piai to become an aquaculture industry.

Wee proposed that by ensuring the businesses operating in the fishing villages were licensed and in good condition, the homeowners would be able to operate their businesses safely and also aid in the economic growth of the state.

In his speech, Mohamed Khaled said the fishing villages in Tanjung Piai had huge potential to attract tourists, adding that locals would benefit from the establishment of the area as a tourist hotspot.

He added that several other future projects approved by the Federal government would also be of benefit to the residents of Tanjung Piai, such as a road linking Pekan Nanas directly to Tanjung Piai.

He said that a task force under the Pontian district officer Onn Jabbar would be put together to examine the buildings and businesses in the fishing village, before carrying out the necessary procedures to legalise the businesses.

Also present at the visit to SJK(C) Ken Boon at Kukup Laut here was Johor Tourism, Domestic and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong, state secretary Azmi Rohani, Tanjung Piai Umno chief Datuk Md Othman Yusof and Onn Jabbar.

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Indonesia: Government aims for eco-plastic use by 2021

Antara 8 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government is aiming for the use of eco-plastic throughout Indonesia by 2021 to reduce waste plastic bags which are difficult to decompose.

"We will continue to encourage retailers to use environmentally-friendly plastic with the Indonesian National Standard (SNI). We have made the design and hopefully there are changes in the use of plastic," Director General for Waste Management R. Sudirman of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry, remarked here on Monday.

He said the government will ban the use of non-environmentally-friendly plastic by modern retailers in 2019 and by traditional markets in 2021.

The Indonesian National Standard has included a category of bioplastics as a biodegradable plastic bag.

The use of biodegradable plastic bags, will be considered by the government to reduce the tax plastic shopping bags that are under consideration by the government.

Indonesia is reportedly ranked second as the worlds plastic trash contributor to the sea.

In a bid to clean its sea of the plastic waste, the government has conducted studies to determine best solutions to deal with sea garbage and formulated and launched an action plan.

Efforts are being made to deal with the issue of sea pollution caused by waste. Plastic garbage has a direct impact on the sustainability of the fisheries sector besides affecting the marine health and environment.

The Indonesian government is committed to reducing plastic waste by at least 70 percent by the end of 2025. As of now, about nine million tons of waste are generated every year.

Indonesia produces almost 65 million tons of waste a year, of which about 14 percent or nine million tons is in the form of plastic trash.

For this purpose, the government carried out studies to formulate various steps to be taken to clean the sea of this plastic refuse in the next decade.

The studies, which involved 15 cities, were aimed at seeking solutions to the issue of marine plastic waste.

Among these 15 cities were Jakarta, Makassar, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan and Batam. Based on the study, the ministries and government institutions will take action to handle plastic waste at sea.(*)

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Massive Hong Kong shark fin seizure as ban flouted

The consumption of shark fin remains widespread in Hong Kong and it is found on menus in seafood restaurants across the city
Anthony WALLACE AFP 7 Mar 17;

Hong Kong authorities have seized more than a tonne of shark fins as activists warn traders are sneaking the sought-after delicacy into the city by mislabelling shipments to get around bans by major transporters.

The city is one of the world's biggest markets for shark fin -- often served as a soup at expensive Chinese banquets -- but it prohibits the trade in products taken from endangered species.

Companies including airlines Cathay Pacific and Virgin and shipping company Maersk have barred the transportation of shark fins following public outcry over the trade, which is blamed for the deaths of tens of millions of sharks every year.

Yet in the first two months of 2017 more than a tonne of fins from endangered hammerhead sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks were seized by Hong Kong customs.

Four containers of shark fin weighing 1.3 tonnes were discovered on separate occasions at Hong Kong's main sea port and were from India, Egypt, Kenya and Peru, the government said Monday.

Anyone found trading in products from endangered species could face a fine of HK$5 million ($643,952) and two years in jail.

The city's government in 2013 said it would stop serving shark fin at official functions, while luxury hotel chains Shangri-La and Peninsula Hotels also took it off their menus in 2012 and 2011.

But the culture of consuming shark fin remains widespread and it is found on menus in seafood restaurants across the city.

The new seizure coincided with the publication of a report by international conservation group Sea Shepherd which said large shipments of fins were still arriving in Hong Kong, despite carrier bans.

Traders are sneaking in the product by giving them false labels, the report said.

Shipments on Virgin Airlines Cargo and Cathay Pacific have been declared as "fish products", while other shark fin consignments have been marked as "seafood", "dried marine products" and "dried goods", it added.

Cathay banned shark fin shipments on all its flights in 2016, Virgin in 2011.

"As with most environment issues, the first challenge is to change the rules. But the second and much harder challenge is to enforce those rules," Sea Shepherd said.

Its investigation found large shipments still arriving in the city in recent months, including two 45-foot (13.7 metres) containers full of fins from the Middle East.

Sea Shepherd is now helping carriers review their systems to ensure the bans are enforced.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson congratulated the Sea Shepherd team for exposing what he called a "foul" trade.

"Thousands and thousands of sharks slaughtered just for their fins to be turned into bowls of soup. For those people who have knowingly participated they need to hang their heads in shame," he was cited as saying in Sea Shepherd's statement.

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UN experts denounce 'myth' pesticides are necessary to feed the world

Report warns of catastrophic consequences and blames manufacturers for ‘systematic denial of harms’ and ‘unethical marketing tactics’
Damian Carrington The Guardian 7 Mar 17;

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts.

A new report, being presented to the UN human rights council on Wednesday, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

The world’s population is set to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion in 2050. The pesticide industry argues that its products – a market worth about $50bn (£41bn) a year and growing – are vital in protecting crops and ensuring sufficient food supplies.

“It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Elver said many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people: “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.”

The new report, which is co-authored by Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, said: “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.”

Elver, who visited the Philippines, Paraguay, Morocco and Poland as part of producing the report, said: “The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies – that is why [we use] these harsh words. They will say, of course, it is not true, but also out there is the testimony of the people.”

She said some developed countries did have “very strong” regulations for pesticides, such as the EU, which she said based their rules on the “precautionary principle”. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees, on flowering crops in 2013, a move strongly opposed by the industry. But she noted that others, such as the US, did not use the precautionary principle.

Elver also said that while consumers in developed countries are usually better protected from pesticides, farms workers often are not. In the US, she, said, 90% of farm workers were undocumented and their consequent lack of legal protections and health insurance put them at risk from pesticide use.

“The claim that it is a myth that farmers need pesticides to meet the challenge of feeding 7 billion people simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said a spokesman for the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers in the UK. “The UN FAO is clear on this – without crop protection tools, farmers could lose as much as 80% of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant disease.”

“The plant science industry strongly agrees with the UN special rapporteurs that the right to food must extend to every global citizen, and that all citizens have a right to food that has been produced in a way that is safe for human health and for the environment,” said the spokesman. “Pesticides play a key role in ensuring we have access to a healthy, safe, affordable and reliable food supply.”

The report found that just 35% of developing countries had a regulatory regime for pesticides and even then enforcement was problematic. It also found examples of pesticides banned from use in one country still being produced there for export.

It recommended a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivising organically produced food.

The report said: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.” It also highlighted the risk to children from pesticide contamination of food, citing 23 deaths in India in 2013 and 39 in China in 2014. Furthermore, the report said, recent Chinese government studies indicated that pesticide contamination meant farming could not continue on about 20% of arable land.

“The industry frequently uses the term ‘intentional misuse’ to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides,” the report said. “Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer.”

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