Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roll-out of Genetically Modified crops quietly continues

On June 21 - ten days before it expired - the Gene Technology (GM Crop Moratorium) Act 2003 was extended by NSW Parliament until 1 July 2021, meaning that any GM crops grown in NSW would continue to require governmental approval.

This does not prevent approved GM harvests or crop trials, however, and commercial crops and trials are indeed under way, in NSW and elsewhere.

In late May, news surfaced that Australia's first trials of GM wheat and barley had quietly begun on the Namoi river near Narrabri in northern NSW. Similar trials are underway in the ACT and WA.

Apart from the information that the trials will
"assess the impact of the technology on yield and nitrogen uptake", the precise details of what genetic modifications have been made to the twenty-seven different strains being trailed remain restricted as the crops are "patented technologies".

According to the May 28 Sydney Morning Herald, "The CSIRO, which is running the three-year experiment, said the various gene combinations in the trial were subject to commercial-in-confidence agreements to protect the interests of various government research agencies and a US company, Arcadia Biosciences."

Organic farmers and environmental groups - including Greenpeace - have been critical of the trial, saying who say there is no known way to stop the altered crops from escaping and contaminating natural strains used in commercial cultivation. They have also demanded laboratory tests on the safety for consumption of resulting wheat before any trial commences.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Germany announces the phase-out of nuclear power

On May 30, the German government announced that all of Germany’s seventeen nuclear power stations would be permanently shut down by 2022.

Germany’s seven oldest nuclear power stations – temporarily switched off after public outcry and protests in the aftermath of the disaster in Fukushima – will remain offline, and will be permanently decommissioned.

An eighth plant
in northern Germany is already offline because of technical problems, and will remain shut down for good.Six of the remaining 9 power stations will be shut down in 2021, and the final three will be turned off in 2022.

"It's definite: the latest end of the last three nuclear power plants is 2022," Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen told reporters. "There will be no clause for revision."

The announcement has been greeted with critical support from anti-nuclear and environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, who have maintained their call for an earlier phase out date of 2015.

The announcement is not an entirely new proposition, either. In 2001, the then coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the German Greens passed legislation to phase out nuclear power in Germany by the end of 2021.