AmeriScan: January 5, 2007

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Mad Cow Ban on Canadian Beef to Be Lifted

WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, is proposing to allow imports of Canadian beef despite the fact that Canada has found nine cases of mad cow disease. The U.S. has found three cases, including one animal born in Canada.

In 2002, Canada shipped 1.6 million cattle to the United States, its largest foreign market. The USDA shut the border to live Canadian cattle in May 2003 after the country reported a case of mad cow disease.

The USDA has classified Canada as presenting a "minimal risk" of introducing the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, into the United States. Canada is the only country so designated.

"This proposal would continue to protect against BSE in the United States while taking the next step forward in our efforts to implement science-based trade relations with countries that have appropriate safeguards in place to prevent BSE," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

"We previously recognized Canada's comprehensive set of safeguards and we have now completed a risk assessment confirming that additional animals and products can be safely traded," said Johanns. "Our approach is consistent with science-based international guidelines."

Currently, the U.S. allows only cattle under 30 months of age for delivery to a slaughterhouse or feedlot to be imported from Canada because BSE takes time to develop and young animals are considered to pose no risk of BSE.

The new proposal would allow imports of live cattle and other bovines for any use born on or after, March 1, 1999, the date determined by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to be the date of effective enforcement of the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in Canada.

Cattle producers' organization R-CALF USA objects to the easing of current standards. "The U.S. should not further relax its already lenient import standards until it can be scientifically documented that BSE is no longer circulating in Canadian feed or in over 30 month old Canadian cattle and there is international acceptance for such a conclusion," the organization said Thursday.

"The full magnitude of Canada’s BSE epidemic is still unfolding, but it is already much greater than what USDA has asserted and assumed," R-CALF says.

"Canada has now detected nine cases of BSE in Canadian-born cattle," says R-CALF, "four of which were born after Canada implemented its feed ban and three of these were born years after the feed ban, providing evidence that Canada’s feed ban was not effective in preventing the spread of BSE in either its feed system or cattle herd."

But the USDA says that in the United States, human health is protected by a system of interlocking safeguards that ensure the safety of U.S. beef. The most important of these safeguards is the ban on specified risk materials from the food supply and the Food and Drug Administration's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. Canada has similar safeguards in place.

Because BSE is a disease in which the infectious agent is mis-folded proteins called prions in nervous system tissue, specified risk materials are nervous system tissues such as the brain and spinal cord.

The proposed rule will be published in the January 9, 2007 Federal Register and is available online at: www.aphis.usda.gov. APHIS invites comments on this proposed rule on or before March 12, 2007.

Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0041, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238.

To comment via the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, select "Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service" from the agency drop-down menu; then click submit.

In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0041 to submit or view public comments and to view the proposal and the supporting and related materials.

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$100 Million Recommended for Nanotech Risk Research

WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - "Prioritizing nanotechnology risk research isn't rocket science," said Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies chief scientist Andrew Maynard testifying Wednesday before the federal government's first public meeting on research needs and priorities for the environmental, health and safety risks of engineered nanoscale materials.

Maynard proposes that the federal government invest a minimum of $100 million over the next two years in targeted risk research "in order to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology."

"The specific health and safety questions that are important to be addressed for nanotechnology are reasonably straightforward," Maynard said. "And a lot already has been published about what we know and do not know about the potential risks and about how to fill existing research gaps."

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between one and 100 nanometers.

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.

More than $32 billion in products containing nano-materials were sold globally in 2005.

By 2014, the market intelligence firm Lux Research projects that $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology.

Maynard says the federal government should take action in three critical areas - documenting what relevant risk research exists, ensuring that agencies responsible for oversight and related research are funded, and developing a "top-down research plan."

Relevant agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

During his presentation Maynard mixed a powdered nano calcium and magnesium dietary supplement into a glass of water to help illustrate key risk research questions the federal government needs to tackle - what effect do airborne nanoparticles have on the lungs, do nanoparticles penetrate the skin, what happens to nanoparticles in water, how do they behave in the gastrointestinal tract, and what happens to nanoparticles when they are poured down a drain and enter the waste stream?

Despite investing more than $1 billion annually on nanotechnology research, U.S. government spending on nanotechnology risk research is only $11 million per year.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005 to help business, government and the public anticipate and manage health and environmental implications of nanotechnology. For more information about the project, log on to www.nanotechproject.org.

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New Mexico Governor Signs Climate Change Executive Order

SANTA FE, New Mexico, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson closed out the old year with an executive order that spells out emission reduction strategies to address climate change in the state.

The governor, an energy secretary in the Clinton administration, signed the executive order on December 28, directing state agencies to follow many of the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Group.

The Group produced a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 267 million metric tons and create a projected $2 billion net economic savings for New Mexico’s economy.

“Climate change is the major environmental issue of our time,” Governor Richardson said. “Nothing poses a bigger threat to our water, our livelihood and our quality of life than a warming climate. Today I am taking the first step toward implementing as many of these recommendations as are possible, feasible and effective.”

The governor’s executive order creates a state government implementation team tasked with ensuring policies from the order are carried out.

Those policies include:

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Arizona Eagle Advocates Fight Suppression of Science in Court

PHOENIX, Arizona, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society filed suit today challenging the Bush administration's suppression of scientific reports concluding that the Arizona bald eagle should remain on the endangered species list.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Arizona, seeks an injunction barring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from removing the Arizona eagle from the endangered list and requiring it to incorporate the scientific studies in its management plans.

Nationally, the bald eagle has recovered, growing from just 416 pairs in 1963 to about 10,000 pairs today.

But the recovery of the Arizona population, has been less successful. It grew from 18 breeding pairs in 1985, when systematic surveys first began, to a high of 39 breeding pairs in 2006.

"If its population keeps growing for another 15 years, the Arizona Bald Eagle may reach recovery," said Robin Silver, board chair of the Center for Biological Diversity, "but it's certainly not recovered now. No scientist in the world would conclude that a population with just 39 breeding pairs is recovered. It defies logic. It doesn’t pass the laugh test."

"Arizona is the fastest-growing state in the nation," said Bob Witzeman, conservation chair of the Maricopa Audubon Society. "Urban sprawl is rapidly dewatering our fragile desert rivers. Arizona's unique eagle population needs more protection, not less."

The two conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep the Arizona bald eagle on the endangered list on October 6, 2004. The Service denied the petition on August 30, 2006. It agreed the Arizona population is a valid population, but declared that it was neither endangered nor biologically significant.

Despite having two scientific assessments in hand, the Fish and Wildlife Service declared that the agency did not possess "information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted."

The decision does not discuss or admit the existence of either assessment. "The agency suppressed the documents until the Center was tipped off by an angry federal scientist," the conservation groups claimed in a statement today.

s “This is brute suppression of science,” said Silver. “When the peer-review panel disagreed with the predetermined conclusion, it was thrown in the dustbin. When the head of the recovery program objected, his letter was hidden away. The administration’s hostility to science knows no bounds.”

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Gift Wrap Recycling Pays Off for Pennsylvania Town

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - One of Penn Township’s successful recycling innovations is its collection of holiday gift wrapping and packaging. Nearly 85 percent of the materials collected are marketed and sold as commodities.

As a result, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell today said Penn Township is one of 20 Pennsylvania communities that will share grants totaling more than $2.3 million.

“Recycling programs that find new ways to increase collections and reduce waste, such as the one in Penn Township, York County, are providing models for other communities in keeping our environment clean and supplying a growing source of raw materials for manufacturers across the commonwealth,” the governor said.

In addition to the curbside recycling collections required by state law, Penn Township has a drop-off recycling program where residents can take materials not collected at curbside such as corrugated cardboard, magazines, junk mail and newsprint.

Eyeglasses and hearing aids are also collected for reuse.

Last year, the Penn Township drop-off recycling center has received 21 tons of electronics, 90 tons of tires and 10.5 tons of textiles and cloth.

The township also used 15 tons of waste salt collected from snack manufacturer Snyder’s of Hanover for its winter roads program.

To fund further recycling efforts, the state has handed Penn Township $125,000 of the $2.3 million in recycling grants.

“These recycling grants are key to continuing Pennsylvania’s leadership in recycling. As we work with communities to make their recycling programs self-sustaining and to expand markets for recyclable materials, these grant funds provide a foundation for further success,” Governor Rendell said.

The largest single grant of $1,636,888 went to the city of Philadelphia. Recycling is the law in Philadelphia, enforced with fines that can run as high as $300.

“Recycling performance grants give communities a direct incentive to increase the amount of materials they recycle: The more they recycle, the larger the grants,” said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.

The Department of Environmental Protection has approved 765 of 793 recycling performance grant applications and awarded $18.1 million for calendar year 2004 recycling. The remaining 28 applications are being reviewed, and additional grant awards may be announced in the coming months.

Pennsylvania’s recycling industry is big business. More than 3,200 recycling and reuse businesses and organizations generate more than $18 billion in gross annual sales and provide jobs for more than 81,000 employees at an annual payroll of approximately $2.9 billion. These businesses add more than $305 million in taxes to the state treasury.

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Chickens Come Before Eggs At Greenlife Grocery

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, January 5, 2007 (ENS) - A Tennessee natural foods grocer has joined the movement away from selling eggs from hens confined in abusive battery cages.

"Greenlife Grocery is committed to sustainability and social responsibility. Animal welfare is an important part of this commitment, so we're proud of our exclusively cage-free egg policy," said John Swann, co-owner and purchasing director for Greenlife Grocery.

The move to a cage-free egg policy won applause from the Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization.

"The Humane Society of the United States commends Greenlife Grocery for its leadership in helping prevent one of the worst factory farm abuses. We encourage other retailers to follow its example," said Paul Shapiro, Factory Farming Campaign director for the organization.

The Humane Society says U.S. factory farms confine nearly 300 million hens in wire battery cages that are so small the birds cannot spread their wings, walk, or perform other important behaviors, such as nesting, foraging, perching and dust bathing.

Each bird has less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live, leading to extremely high levels of stress, the Humane Society says.

Greenlife Grocery joins a growing number of schools and companies across the country moving towards eggs from uncaged hens. The Duke University Center for Living and more than 100 other schools across the country have enacted policies to eliminate or reduce their use of eggs from caged hens.

Major grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace have stopped selling cage eggs.

Trader Joe's has converted its private line eggs to cage-free.

Bon Appétit, a major food service company, is phasing out the use of cage eggs in all of its 400 cafés, and Ben & Jerry's is doing the same for its ice creams.

Companies such as AOL and Google have ended the use of eggs from caged hens in their employee cafeterias.

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