Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Crazy assumptions lead them into to crazy alliances

The growing number of people who migrated from developing countries to over-populated Western states in search of a better life was damaging the planet and could be avoided, a think-tank said today. Governments and aid agencies should encourage families to stay put by tackling environmental degradation, such as the spread of deserts, that forces many to leave, rather than promote migration, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), a British group that campaigns for a sustainable population, said.

At the same time, Britain should continue to fulfil its humanitarian obligation to genuine refugees and asylum-seekers, the think-tank said in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry on population. Parts of the planet that have been damaged by climate change, soil erosion and water shortages merely deteriorated further once their inhabitants fled. In addition, migrants typically increased their ecological footprint - the damage each person inflicts on the environment - by moving from low to high-consuming countries. "The priority must surely be to prevent or cure environmental damage, and help people to remain in their homes and communities, not abandon damaged areas of the planet to their fate," the OPT said in a report.

The ecological footprint of someone from Bangladesh increases sixteen-fold if he or she emigrated to the US, while that of a Somali citizen rises more than thirteen-times when he or she migrated to Britain. The push factors behind migration could only be solved by reducing the impact of consumption and population in richer countries and supporting environmentally sustainable development in poorer nations, the OPT said.

More here


The area in France covered by forest has grown by a third in the last 50 years, partly due to to private investors who have funded reforestation programmes as part of long-term, tax-efficient investment plans. One third of France is covered by trees, the farm ministry says, and at more than 16 million hectares, the country's forest takes up more land than all the arable crops combined.

The investment yield is not even close to that achieved on stock or bond markets. But investors do enjoy tax breaks and they get something that an equity stake can't provide -- a slice of the countryside they can pass on to the next generation. Seventy percent of France's forest is privately owned while the remaining 30 percent is state owned with just over one million proprietors owning at least one hectare of trees. "In exchange for looking after their piece of forest, owners obtain significant tax rebates," a top manager at the largest forest fund management business, CDC Foret, told Reuters. He said many people chose to invest in forests in the late 1970s, seeing them as safe havens at the time of the oil crisis. "Forests then became for many a sound investment," he added.

The country gains something too. Forests absorb the equivalent of 138 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year and provide three percent of the country's energy consumption.

Investing in forests became even more attractive after the wind storm of 1999 that destroyed many trees throughout France. But even with the fastest growing trees, investors have a considerable wait to see any return on their money. Poplars are one of the fastest trees to reach maturity. "Poplars take on average 25/30 years to grow and if the wood sells well, it can yield a return of up to six percent on investment," the manager said, adding that to be economically viable a unit requires an investment of more than 50 hectares.

French retail bank BNP Paribas says taxpayers who invest in wooded land, forests, or parts of a forest group from mid-2001 until end-2010, can benefit from a tax deduction that equals 25 percent of their investment within a limit of 5,700 euros for a single person and double for a couple. "This brought capital into forests and revived investment in this section of the economy," the CDC Foret manager added......

Reuters, 25 May 2006

Biopharm thrilla in Manila

Fruits and flowers are not the only things blooming in the tropics. At the invitation of the U.S. State Department, I presented a series of lectures and briefings in the Philippines about an exciting advance in agricultural biotechnology: "biopharming" -- the programming of plants to produce pharmaceuticals that can be purified, or that might even be delivered by eating the plant material itself. The early-stage R&D I saw during my travels was astonishing. University of the Philippines, Manila, Professor Nina Barzaga -- "The Illustrious Nina," as she is known locally -- has introduced into banana plants the genes that express potential vaccine proteins for typhoid fever, rabies and the HIV virus. She and her collaborators intend to process the bananas sufficiently to be able to standardize the dose -- by converting them to dried banana chips, for example -- and then to carry out clinical testing.

As I met with scientists, regulators, agency heads and senior politicians, I found that while much of the science is stunning, over-regulation is a significant obstruction to progress.

The concept of biopharming is not new. Many common medicines, such as codeine, morphine, bulk laxatives and the anti-cancer drugs taxol and vincristine have long been purified from plants. But biopharming's great promise lies in using gene-splicing, or genetic modification (GM), techniques to make old plants do radical new things. Gene-splicing has been applied to plants for decades in order to improve their nutritional value and agronomic traits (yield, pest- and drought-resistance and the like). The production of high value-added substances is a logical, straightforward extension.

Biopharming offers tremendous advantages over traditional methods for producing pharmaceuticals. There is great potential for reducing the costs of production: The energy for product synthesis comes from the sun, and the primary raw materials are water and carbon dioxide. And if it becomes necessary to expand production, it is much easier to plant a few additional hectares than to build a new bricks and mortar manufacturing facility. (Think Tamiflu, the anti-influenza drug, which is in short supply.)

Finally, vaccines produced in this way will be designed to be heat-stable, so that no "refrigeration chain" from manufacturer to patient will be required -- a major advance for use in developing countries, especially in the tropics and throughout Africa.

Approximately two dozen companies worldwide are involved in biopharming, and about half have products in clinical trials. The spectrum of products is broad, ranging from the prevention of tooth decay and the common cold to treatments for cancer and cystic fibrosis. Just last month, California-based Ventria Bioscience reported favorable clinical results with two human proteins biopharmed in rice and used to treat pediatric diarrhea.

There are major, interrelated obstacles to moving these projects through to commercialization, however. Excessive, unscientific regulation, the bleating of anti-biotech NGOs, and shortfalls in funding -- all conspire against the projects. Worse still, these negative factors reinforce one another. Over-regulation makes field trials difficult and hugely expensive to carry out, which makes it hard to attract Big Pharma collaborators or funders; and the NGOs endlessly wring their hands about risks and point skeptically (and cynically) to the absence of medical breakthroughs.

Critics of the new technology have made dire predictions of contamination of the food supply, warning of "drugs in your corn flakes." However, the sophistication of modern agriculture enables us to sequester different crop varieties when necessary and to cultivate safely the same species of crops for food and for new pharmaceuticals. Having said that, one must admit that human error is inevitable, so it is reasonable to ask: What is the likelihood of consumers' sustaining injury if a few biopharmed plants find their way into the food supply?

In order for unwanted health effects to be realized, several highly improbable events would have to occur. First, the active drug substance would have to be present in the final food product -- say, corn chips or oil, if the drug were made in corn, for example -- at sufficient levels to exert an adverse effect from either direct toxicity or allergy. But there is generally a huge dilutional effect, as small amounts of biopharmed material are pooled into a much larger harvest; with few exceptions (e.g. peanuts), even an allergic reaction requires the presence of more than a minuscule exposure. Second, the active agent would need to survive milling, other processing, and cooking. Third, it would need to be orally active (usually, proteins are not because they are degraded in the gut).

The probability that all of these events would occur is extremely low.

To be sure, biopharming misused could present valid safety concerns. It would be irresponsible, for example, to produce the anti-wrinkle drug Botox in an edible plant, except under very high conditions of containment, probably in a greenhouse or screenhouse: the active ingredient in the drug is, after, all, the highly lethal botulinum toxin (which is safe when injected under the skin in tiny doses).

One constant around the world is the over-regulation of agricultural biotechnology, especially biopharming. For example, the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture impose highly prescriptive standards that fail to take into account the actual risks of a given situation, but mindlessly dictate one-size-fits-all, draconian requirements. These include large buffer zones between biopharmed and other crops; the requirement to leave land used to grow biopharmed plants fallow for a year following harvest; and the setting aside of planting, storage and harvesting equipment exclusively for biopharmed crops. Moreover, USDA has imposed a zero-tolerance for any biopharmed crop in food -- which is unscientific, unrealistic and unnecessary. (Regulators seem to have forgotten about the long-established tolerance levels in grains for unwanted substances such as insect parts, rodent droppings and harmful fungal toxins.)

Countries such as the Philippines that lack large, sophisticated regulatory apparatuses often follow the lead of the United States or the United Nations, whose regulations are lethal to innovation in poorer countries. If you're running a small-scale but high-quality R&D operation that can't test its biopharmed plants in the field, it's hard to convince potential commercial collaborators that you're for real.

If we can't break this vicious circle by injecting science into public policy, biopharming's development costs will continue to be hugely inflated, only very high-value-added products will become development candidates, and consumers worldwide ultimately will see few biopharmed drugs in the pharmacy. And in the process, the impressive work of people like The Illustrious Nina will be for naught.


New Study Points to an Inconvenient Truth about Global Warming

Mistakes, Ignored Data Bely Claims of Catastrophe and Extinction

Al Gore's global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," is the latest in a line of films, TV shows and news features warning of a impending global catastrophe caused by human-induced climate change. Yet according to a new study published by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), the most inconvenient truth is that the science behind these claims is fatally flawed. "The complexity of the climate and the limitations of data and computer models mean all projections of future climate change are unreliable at best," said David Legates, author of the study and the director of the University of Delaware's Center for Climatic Research. "Science does not support claims of drastic increases in global temperatures, nor claims of human influence on weather events or extinctions."

The study notes that climate models used as the basis for global warming claims routinely miss key climate factors, which results in false predictions of catastrophe. Furthermore, some official reports, including the U.S. National Assessment, published in 2000, describe only the 2 most extreme predictions, ignoring 30 other models that are far less radical.

Many activists have attributed increases in hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornados, hail storms and heat waves to global warming caused by human activities. However, scientific evidence does not support their claims. For instance, the unprecedented destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was blamed on climate change - but experts say these recent storms were part of a natural cycle and the increased damage was due to increased coastal populations and development. Some have also attempted to link global warming to species extinction. However, the study notes that the link is tenuous. For example:

* Recent claims that polar bear populations are threatened by global warming ignore the fact that only two polar bear populations are declining (both in regions were temperatures are falling), while others are increasing and most are stable.

* Recent claims that coral reefs are "bleaching" (losing color and dying off) due to warming oceans ignore evidence that bleaching appears to be a healthy response in which corals expel one symbiotic species of algae for a better-adapted species that allow corals to thrive in warmer waters.

"These over-hyped claims of extinction are the 'Coca-Colalization' of science," concluded NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett. "If you want to sell a product, or a cause, just tie it to a cute, cuddly animal. Snails, snakes and spiders withering in the sun just don't pack the same emotional punch as a cuddly, furry polar bear slipping beneath the melting ice."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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