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One World Animal Day event protests the killing of mother macaques as children are captured for the pet trade. Thai National Parks / CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday is World Animal Day, a day dedicated to improving the well-being of animals across the planet.

"To achieve this, we encourage animal welfare organisations, community groups, youth and children's clubs, businesses and individuals to organize events in celebration of World Animal Day. Involvement is growing at an astonishing rate and it's now widely accepted and celebrated in a variety of different ways in many countries, with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology," the event's website says.

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Powerful typhoon Mangkhut attacks Hong Kong, China on Sept. 16 in Hong Kong. TPG / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

While Hurricane Florence inundated the Carolinas this weekend, Typhoon Mangkhut, the most powerful storm so far this year, battered the Philippines and Hong Kong before moving on to China's Guangdong Province Sunday, The Huffington Post reported.

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Rain covers the city lying on the path of Typhoon Mangkhut as residents prepare its approach on Sept. 14 in Tuguegarao city, northern Philippines. Jes Aznar / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Millions of people, including 1 million living below the poverty line, are directly in the path of powerful super typhoon Mangkhut as the 550-mile-wide storm churns towards the Philippines.

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Plates of leaf-like foliose corals are common on the Philippines' Benham Bank. Oceana / UPLB

By Allison Guy

In May 2016, technical divers descended 200 feet to Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of a huge underwater plateau off the Philippines' northeast tip. As they neared the bottom, an otherworldly landscape emerged from the dim cobalt blue.

Plates of coral grew one atop the other like china at a yard sale, dotted with sea fans and sprigs of algae. Coral columns encrusted in yellow, orange and pink coralline algae looked as though they'd been splashed with rainbow paint. Colonies thrived as far as the eye could see.

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People visit The Bund before typhoon Ampil landfall on July 22, 2018 in Shanghai, China. VCG / Getty Images

From flash floods in Vietnam to a blistering heat wave in Japan, countries across Asia are suffering from extreme weather, CNN reported Sunday.

The events come nearly two months into the continent's annual rainy season that extends from June to November, according to The Straits Times.

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The Philippines has an ambitious plan to deal with its capital's pollution woes—build an entirely new, sustainable city 75 miles from Manila.

The proposed New Clark City will be larger than Manhattan and house up to two million people, Business Insider UK reported May 9.

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2017 wasn't all bad. We got to know some fascinating fish, like this magma fairy wrasse. B. P. Shutman

By Amy McDermott

If you think 2017 was a garbage fire, we can't stop you. But the world wasn't the only thing in flames. You know what else was on fire this year? Fish discovery.

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Vince Cinches

Greenpeace Philippines sent a strong message about plastic pollution with a giant "Dead Whale" art exhibit this month in Naic, Cavite. The 50-foot long whale replica, which was created from plastic waste, was positioned on the beach near the shoreline in Manila Bay.

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Photo credit: Ralf Falbe

By Maeve McClenaghan

The murder of an environmental lawyer in the Philippines has provoked outrage in a country where environmental activists are increasingly targeted.

Mia Manuelita Cumba Masacariñas-Green was shot dead on Feb. 15 after her car was ambushed by two men on motorbikes in the Filipino capital Bohol. Masacariñas-Green, 49, was driving her three young children home when she was shot in the head and body. Her children, who witnessed the killing, were unhurt.

Activists Targeted

Nearly 100 environmental activists defenders have been killed in the Philippines since 2010. A third of those happened in 2015 alone. Violence is increasingly common in the Philippines where President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called "war on drugs" has led to state sanctioned murders of more that 7,000 people in the last seven months, according to Amnesty International.

Investigators have not yet determined a motive nor found the gunmen responsible for Masacariñas-Green's murder. But activists on the ground fear the lawyer was targeted because of her work.

Late last year, campaigners working to stop illegal fishing reported receiving death threats.

Global Witness has described the Philippines as "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental or land defender."

Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, condemned the killing:

"Those who cause environmental destruction are resorting to savage measures and deplorable acts to stop communities and people who are standing up to protect our imperiled environment and the very ecosystems that support the lives and livelihoods of our people.

"Let our grief and our outrage at such horrifying acts be heard. Let our actions and people's movements spur our society towards a green and peaceful future."

Greenpeace was targeted Wednesday by more than 100 Nobel laureates who have signed a letter calling on the environmental group to end its campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In the letter, Greenpeace is accused of leading "the fact-challenged propaganda campaign against innovations in agricultural biotechnology." The NGO's opposition on a particularly controversial GMO crop, golden rice, was put on blast.

Golden Rice, compared to conventional rice, has been genetically engineered to produce and accumulate provitamin A (β-carotene) in the grain.Golden Rice Project

In a separate post Why Greenpeace is Wrong about GMOs and Golden Rice, the campaign accuses Greenpeace of spearheading "opposition to golden rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia."

The laureates' letter argues that scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have "repeatedly and consistently" found GMO crops as safe for humans and animals for consumption as well as for the safety of the environment.

Organizers of the campaign held a press conference this morning at the National Press Conference in Washington to defend the letter.

"We're scientists. We understand the logic of science. It's easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science," Richard Roberts, campaign organizer and the 1993 winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Phillip Sharp, told The Washington Post."Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause."

The golden rice project started roughly 20 years ago by German researchers. The GMO crop is developed to produce pro-vitamin A (beta-carotene) and is touted by proponents as a solution to vitamin A deficiencies prevalent in developing countries. The deficiency increases risk for infection, diseases and blindness.

Greenpeace, however, has deemed the golden rice project as "environmentally irresponsible, poses risks to human health, and could compromise food, nutrition and financial security." Because of this stance, proponents of golden rice have long attacked the organization for being "anti-science" and prolonging the suffering of children with VAD.

In response to the letter, Wilhelmina Pelegrina, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia told The Post that the organization was not blocking golden rice, as the initiative "has failed as a solution and isn't currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research."

"As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address vitamin A deficiency. So to be clear, we are talking about something that doesn't even exist," she continued. "Corporations are overhyping golden rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture."

She argues that the "only guaranteed solution" to fix malnutrition is a diverse, healthy diet: "Providing people with real food based on ecological agriculture not only addresses malnutrition, but is also a scaleable solution to adapt to climate change."

Pelegrina said that Greenpeace has documented communities across the Philippines that continue to express concerns about using golden rice as a solution. In the video below produced by the organization in 2014, Filipino community members speak about solutions to nutrient deficiencies that are already available in their country.

The use of genetically modified technology is highly contentious in the Philippines. In 2013, a group of about 400 protesters, which included local farmers and members of two anti-GMO groups—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB) and the Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan sa Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong-GMO (Sikwal-GMO)—destroyed an 800 square meter trial plot of golden rice that was weeks away from being sent to the authorities for a safety evaluation. The protesters said they uprooted and trampled the rice plants because they wanted to protect the health of the people and their environment.

"Greenpeace Philippines is already working with NGO partners and farmers in the Philippines to boost climate resiliency," Pelegrina said. "There's a real chance here for governments and the philanthropic community to support these endeavours by investing in climate-resilient ecological agriculture and empowering farmers to access a balanced and nutritious diet, rather than pouring money down the drain for GE 'golden' rice."

Incidentally, a Washington University study published last month in the journal Agriculture & Human Values argues that the benefits of biotechnology, particularly golden rice, may be overhyped.

Washington University anthropologist Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, argue in their paper that GMO activists should not be blamed for the slow introduction of golden rice.

"The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done," Stone told the university publication. "It has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)."

Stone argues that the golden rice 2013 protest did not have any significant impact on the approval of the crop.

"Destroying test plots is a dubious way to express opposition, but this was only one small plot out of many plots in multiple locations over many years," he said. "Moreover, they have been calling golden rice critics 'murderers' for over a decade."

Although the Philippine Supreme Court recently issued a temporary suspension of GMO crop trials, which could definitely impact GMO crop development, Stone pointed out that "it's hard to blame the lack of success with golden rice on this recent action."

"Golden rice was a promising idea backed by good intentions," Stone said. "In contrast to anti-GMO activists, I argued that it deserved a chance to succeed. But if we are actually interested in the welfare of poor children—instead of just fighting over GMOs—then we have to make unbiased assessments of possible solutions. The simple fact is that after 24 years of research and breeding, Golden Rice is still years away from being ready for release."

Stone also said the Philippines has managed to slash the incidence of vitamin A deficiency by non-GMO methods.

Ken Roseboro, the editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report and The Non-GMO Sourcebook, agrees that the failure of golden rice is not due to anti-GMO campaigns and that conventional agriculture presents viable solutions to VAD.

"As Glenn Davis Stone of Washington University recently documented, golden rice is failing, not because of activists attempts to block it, but to poor performance in field trials," Roseboro explained to EcoWatch via email. "Meanwhile, corn varieties with higher levels of vitamin A developed using non-GMO breeding methods are being grown in Africa and helping to address vitamin A deficiency there. But the press ignores this solution in favor of the failed techno-fix of golden rice."

He continued, "to say that GM crops are extensively tested is also not true since the FDA doesn't require safety testing of new GM crops and allows crop developers to voluntarily submit such safety data."

Ronnie Cummins, founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, has spoken out against the Nobel laureates' letter as well.

"What this letter shows is that even Nobel Prize scientists don't know, or don't want to know, since they take money from Monsanto and their minions, anything about the obvious human health, environmental and climate damage inflicted by GMOs, and the toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers that always accompany them," Cummins told EcoWatch via email. "This is a perfect example of why the global grassroots have lost all faith in the bought and sold scientific, corporate and political establishment."

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