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The European Parliament, representing 28 countries and more than 500 million people, voted Tuesday in support of phasing out glyphosate over the next five years and immediately banning its use in households.
"The European Parliament has correctly acknowledged the magnitude of glyphosate's risks," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now European regulators charged with protecting human health and the environment must follow the parliament's brave leadership and phase out the gross overuse of glyphosate."
The vote by the European Parliament, which is made up of the elected representatives of the European Union, is an advisory vote intended to influence a scheduled vote on Wednesday by experts from the 28 EU countries on whether to follow a recommendation by the EU's executive commission to reauthorize glyphosate for another 10 years.
But following Tuesday's overwhelming vote in support for banning the pesticide, the EU Commission has dropped its recommendation, instead calling for EU member countries to regroup and come to a consensus about how to move forward on the issue.
Tuesday's action was prompted by the World Health Organization's finding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a "probable" human carcinogen. The WHO's cancer research agency is widely considered to be the gold standard for research on cancer.
The WHO's finding came after an analysis of publicly available studies by independent scientists of glyphosate's health risks. Because the scientists conducting the WHO analysis did not include in their assessment the findings of Monsanto-funded studies that have not been made available for public review, the pesticide maker has attempted to undercut the validity of the review process.
"This wasn't just a vote against glyphosate," said Donley. "This was a vote supporting independent science and a vote against an industry that has manipulated, coerced and otherwise soiled independent decision-making in Europe and the rest of the world."
European and U.S. regulatory agencies have come under intense scrutiny lately as evidence has surfaced that Monsanto heavily influenced their safety assessments of glyphosate. Europe's food safety authority, EFSA, plagiarized text from Monsanto's renewal application when it concluded in 2015 that glyphosate does not cause cancer. And recently released emails indicate that the head of the U.S. EPA's cancer review committee on glyphosate was in close contact coordinating with Monsanto employees during the analysis and even promised, apparently successfully, to suppress an investigation into glyphosate by another governmental agency.
Today, members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee overwhelmingly—51 in favor, 18 against—endorsed a proposal to impose a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all shale gas drilling activities in the European Union (EU). This is in line with the Parliament’s resolution on the environmental impacts of shale gas, voted in November 2012, which called on the European Commission to include “projects including hydraulic fracturing in Annex I of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.”¹
For Food & Water Europe, this is a major victory, as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) showed a healthy dose of suspicion about the empty promises of the shale gas industry about its ability to guarantee so-called "safe fracking." Imposing a mandatory EIA for shale gas drilling is the start of adapting the EU regulatory framework to the ugly reality of unconventional hydrocarbons in the EU. This vote demonstrates a resolve among MEPs to avoid the negative impacts of an out-of-control boom in shale gas drilling in the U.S.
A mandatory EIA will provide local people and authorities with the necessary baseline data in areas with drilling, increase the preparedness among environmental agencies and local authorities and offer local communities an opportunity to be consulted early in the process. MEPs saw through the smokescreen of the numerous events to promote "sustainable fracking" in Brussels, organized by the fossil fuel industry and its allies.
“This vote to impose a mandatory EIA for all shale gas drilling was a litmus test for the resolve among MEPs to demand an adequate risk-management framework for shale gas activities in Europe,” said Food & Water Europe policy officer Geert De Cock. “The majority in favor of this proposal should be a boost of confidence for Environment Commissioner Potocnick to bring forward stringent proposals for this risky industry.”
The European Commission is scheduled to publish its proposals for a risk-management framework for unconventional hydrocarbon activities by the end of 2013, covering the wide range of risks associated with the practice of fracking. With today’s vote, MEPs clearly signaled to the Commission that stringent rules on chemicals use, well integrity, waste management, air and methane emissions and liability will find strong support in the European Parliament.
¹European Parliament (November 2012) EP resolution of Nov. 21, 2012 on the environmental impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction activities (2011/2308(INI)).
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The critical role of coastal ecosystem management in curbing climate change and the need to fully integrate it in climate change and biodiversity policies were the focus of the Blue Carbon—Managing Coastal Ecosystems for Cimate Change Mitigation Symposium that took place in the European Parliament in Brussels, Jan. 12.
“Preserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems should be fully integrated in all climate change mitigation strategies and biodiversity policies at the international and European level," argued Struan Stevenson, member of the European Parliament and chair of the symposium.
Pia Bucella, director in DG Environment, European Commission urged the European Parliament, as the political arm of the European Union, to raise the profile and encourage the integration of coastal blue carbon-based activities, such as the conservation and restoration of these systems, in climate change policies.
Blue carbon is the carbon stored by coastal and ocean ecosystems. A square mile of coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes, which can be found all over the world except Antarctica, can store and remove more carbon from oceans and the atmosphere than a square mile of mature tropical forests.
But coastal and marine ecosystems are facing some serious threats from pollution, coastal activities and unsustainable management practices. Speakers at the symposium warned that the continued disappearance of coastal ecosystems will have a negative impact on climate change—when lost, they stop sequestering CO2 and release the carbon they have been storing for centuries.
“A single 100g shrimp cocktail that is unsustainably produced through mangrove clearance can have a carbon footprint equivalent to 40 liters of gasoline," said Dr. Boone Kaufman, a professor at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University.
“Blue carbon provides new, compelling reasons to urgently prevent the loss of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity," said Dan Laffoley, vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas—Marine. “It’s not just about marine habitats or species, but also about the hidden value they have for humankind. Increasing the restoration and sustainable management of these critically important ecosystems through strong political leadership and ambitious actions is a necessary prerequisite for successful climate change strategies.”
“We need to employ a targeted strategy that prioritizes the conservation of specific, high-carbon coastal zones,” said Dr. Emily Pidgeon, senior director of Strategic Marine Initiatives at Conservation International. “The challenge we face is to show how these ecosystems provide a service, acting as a carbon sponge, and that their conservation does not stand as a roadblock to development or food production.”
Bringing together high level international and European policy makers and experts, the symposium was held back to back with the second workshop of the International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group.
The International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group is part of the Blue Carbon Initiative, the first integrated programme focused on mitigating climate change by conserving and restoring coastal marine ecosystems globally. The initiative is lead by Conservation International, IUCN, and the Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, working with partners from national governments, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, coastal communities, intergovernmental and international bodies and other relevant stakeholders.
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