Monday, August 31, 2009

Non-GMO Seal Identifies Foods Mostly Biotech-Free

In the Saturday, August 29 NYTimes:
Alarmed that genetically engineered crops may be finding their way into organic and natural foods, an industry group has begun a campaign to test products and label those that are largely free of biotech ingredients. A campaign hopes to back up claims some food makers are already making.

With farmers using gene-altered seeds to grow much of North America’s corn, soybeans, canola and sugar, ingredients derived from biotech crops have become hard for food companies to avoid. But many makers of organic and natural foods are convinced that their credibility in the marketplace requires them to do so.

The industry group, the Non-GMO Project, says its new label is aimed at reassuring consumers and will be backed by rigorous testing.

“There’s a vulnerability here that the industry is addressing,” said Michael J. Potter, the founder and president of Eden Foods and a board member of the Non-GMO Project, the organization responsible for the testing and labeling campaign.

As plantings of conventional crops with genetic modifications soared in recent years, Mr. Potter put in place stringent safeguards to ensure that the organic soybeans he bought for tofu, soy milk and other products did not come from genetically engineered plants. He even supplies the seed that farmers use to grow his soybeans.

But many other companies have not been so careful, and as a result, Mr. Potter said, the organic and natural foods industry is like “a dirty room” in need of cleaning.

“What I’ve heard, what I know, what I’ve seen, what’s been tested and the test results that have been shared with me, clearly indicate that the room is very dirty,” Mr. Potter said.

Hundreds of products already claim on their packaging that they do not contain genetically modified ingredients, but with little consistency in the labeling and little assurance that the products have actually been tested. The new labeling campaign hopes to clear up such confusion.

The initials GMO stand for genetically modified organism. Participants in the Non-GMO Project include major players in the organic and natural foods business, like Whole Foods Market.

Read the rest of the NYTimes article.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Kheel Plan--Could it Work?

The MTA funding crisis is settled for now, but while it raged, New Yorkers were a captive audience, albeit a jaded one, knowing that all the funding plans had one thing in common—mass transit fares would increase in the teeth of tough times.

The most game-changing plan of them all, with roots going back over 40 years, was ignored—the Kheel plan—from Theodore Kheel, longtime labor mediator and, at age 95, New York City icon and visionary miles ahead of the city's transportation establishment.

The original Kheel plan, introduced in January 2008, would have made subways and buses free!—paid for by doubling the Congestion Pricing fees proposed in the CBD to $16 for cars and $32 for trucks, charged once per day including weekends, raising taxi fares 25%, and charging curbside parking fees in the areas bordering the CBD. The latest plan, introduced in January 2009, would moderate congestion pricing fees and make subways free at night and on weekends, while reducing fares during weekdays, especially during off-peak hours. Buses would remain free 24/7. Called the Kheel-Komanoff plan (acknowledging the work of Kheel's collaborator, energy-policy analyst, transport economist, and former Transportation Alternatives president Charles Komanoff), this plan acknowledges political “realities,” yet still faces widespread media indifference.

Read the rest of this article in the on page 12 of the July 30 Linewaiter's Gazette.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mexico City Bans Plastic Bags Sales

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- Mexico City's thousands of stores went green Wednesday, as amended ordinances on solid waste now outlaw businesses from giving out thin plastic bags that are not biodegradable.

Mexico City becomes the second large metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the bags. San Francisco in March 2007 enacted an ordinance that gave supermarkets six months and large chain pharmacies about a year to phase out the bags. Los Angeles is set to impose a ban if the state of California does not enact a statewide 25-cent fee per bag by July.

China has adopted a strict limit, reducing litter and eliminating the use of 40 billion bags, the World Watch Institute said, citing government estimates.

In Tanzania, selling the bags carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shilling ($1,137).

Mumbai, India, outlawed the bags in 2000 and cities in Australia, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan have imposed bans or surcharges. Ireland reported cutting use of the bags by 90 percent after imposing a fee on each one.

The bags are also a major threat to ocean wildlife, causing the deaths of 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals that mistake them for food.

Mexico City, which has had some of the worst air pollution in the world, also is looking at improving its environment in other ways. The municipal government announced this month it will place more than 1,100 bicycles at 84 stations throughout the city for residents to use. Officials said they hope to increase bicycle use as a form of transportation to 5 percent, up from the current 1.2 percent.

The complete article can be found at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Jobs Workshop @ BPL

Interested in environmentally-friendly employment? Head to the Brooklyn Public Library's Business branch in Brooklyn Heights next week for the Green Jobs workshop.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 6-7:30pm
WHERE: Brooklyn Public Library, Business Library
280 Cadman Plaza W. at Tillary St.

The workshop is free, but you'll need to register on the library website.

For more information and to register, visit the Brooklyn Public Library's website.

Image courtesy of's Flickr.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Compost Drop-off Rules at LESEC

Beginning this month there are new rules for compost drop-off at the Lower East Side Ecology Center in Manhattan:

"Starting August 1, 2009 the Lower East Side Ecology Center Garden will only accept kitchen scraps on Sundays during open hours, 8am-5pm. We are still accepting kitchen scraps at the Union Square Greenmarket on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8am-5pm.

We do not have the capacity to deal with the ever-increasing amounts of bags filled with compost at our garden."

For more information, visit the LESEC website.

Image courtesy wisemandarine's Flickr.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

PVC-Free Back-to-School Supplies

Just Released! CHEJ's Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies

Worried about toxic chemicals in your children's products? This year, when you send your kids off to school, send them off with school supplies that are free of PVC,the poison plastic. PVC contains dangerous chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins. These toxins can leach out or evaporate into the air over time posing unnecessary dangers to children. More than 90% of all phthalates are used to soften or plasticize PVC products - that's over five million tons a year!

Get your free copy right now. Here's a handy wallet-sized version of the guide for your shopping needs on the go.