UK accused of ‘silently eroding’ EU pesticide rules in Brexit laws

UK accused of ‘silently eroding’ EU pesticide rules in Brexit laws

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 12, 2019 SNIP: The UK has been accused of “silently eroding” key environmental and human health protections in the Brexit-inspired rush to convert thousands of pages of European Union pesticide policy into British law. Despite government claims the process would be little more than a technical exercise, analysis by the University of Sussex’s UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has uncovered significant departures from EU regulations, including the removal of a blanket ban on hormone-disrupting chemicals, which are known to cause adverse health effects such as cancer, birth defects and immune disorders. The UK legislation removes the EU system of checks and balances to give a handful of ministers the power to create, amend and revoke pesticide legislation. It also appears to weaken the existing “precautionary principle” approach, which requires scientific evidence from an independent body that a pesticide is safe to use. Instead, UK ministers are given the option to obtain and consider such evidence at their own discretion. The EU provides up to 80% of the UK’s environmental laws, which include regulations on pesticides, landfills, recycling and climate heating. Under the new regulations, however, power to make, amend and revoke pesticide legislation will be devolved to each of the national territories and consolidated to a secretary of state in England, relevant ministers in Scotland and Wales, and the competent authority in Northern Ireland. Hormone-disrupting chemicals are permitted for use in Canada and the US, and both countries have criticised the EU ban. Whether the UK government’s decision to remove the ban was an invitation to open trade talks with North America was as...
Forest twice size of UK destroyed in decade for big consumer brands

Forest twice size of UK destroyed in decade for big consumer brands

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 11, 2019 SNIP: An area twice the size of the UK has been destroyed for products such as palm oil and soy over the last decade, according to analysis by Greenpeace International. In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, including some of the world’s biggest consumer brands, pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2020, through the sustainable sourcing of four commodities most linked to forest destruction: soya, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle. But analysis by Greenpeace International suggests that by the start of 2020, an estimated 50m hectares (123m acres) of forest are likely to have been destroyed in the growing demand for and consumption of agricultural products, in the 10 years since those promises were made. Its report, Countdown to Extinction, said that since 2010, the area planted with soya in Brazil has increased by 45% and palm oil production in Indonesia has risen by 75%. The environmental group accused major brands of failing to meet their commitments and warned that the current situation was “bleak”, advising them to evolve in order to “prevent climate and ecological breakdown”. Deforestation releases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and destroy important habitat, threatening species with extinction. About 80% of global deforestation is caused by agricultural production, which is also the leading cause of habitat destruction, the group said. Agricultural consumption, and therefore production, is forecast to rise globally. Meat consumption is set to rise by 76% according to some estimates. Soya production is also predicted to soar by almost 45% and palm oil by nearly 60%, according to the Food and...
‘Frightening’ number of plant extinctions found in global survey

‘Frightening’ number of plant extinctions found in global survey

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 10, 2019 SNIP: Human destruction of the living world is causing a “frightening” number of plant extinctions, according to scientists who have completed the first global analysis of the issue. They found 571 species had definitely been wiped out since 1750 but with knowledge of many plant species still very limited the true number is likely to be much higher. The researchers said the plant extinction rate was 500 times greater now than before the industrial revolution, and this was also likely to be an underestimate. The number of plants that have disappeared from the wild is more than twice the number of extinct birds, mammals and amphibians combined. The new figure is also four times the number of extinct plants recorded in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list. “Plants underpin all life on Earth,” said Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who was part of the team. “They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems – so plant extinction is bad news for all species.” “It is way more than we knew and way more than should have gone extinct,” said Dr Maria Vorontsova, also at Kew. “It is frightening not just because of the 571 number but because I think that is a gross underestimate.” The main cause of the extinctions is the destruction of natural habitats by human activities, such as cutting down forests and converting land into fields for...
Tropical forests ’empty’ as illegal hunting slashes large mammal populations, study warns

Tropical forests ’empty’ as illegal hunting slashes large mammal populations, study warns

SOURCE: Independent DATE: May 14, 2019 SNIP: Illegal hunting is causing catastrophic declines in mammal populations living in the world’s remaining tropical forests, a new study has warned. Jaguars, leopards, elephants and rhinos have seen population declines of 40 per cent in just 40 years and the study warned that hunting – half of which is done illegally – has left many tropical forests “empty” of wildlife. Even the world’s most pristine jungles are having their ecosystems damaged as key species are wiped out by hunters looking to collect valuable horns and bones, an international team of researchers lead by the Radboud University in Holland, found. Within the tropics, only 20 per cent of remaining habitats are considered intact. The biggest declines were seen in Western Africa, with more than 70 per cent population reductions. Researchers found primates and pangolins were most at risk. Declines have largely been caused by increased human accessibility to remote areas. The decline of mammals may have profound implications for ecosystem...
Koala Bears Are Now “Functionally Extinct”

Koala Bears Are Now “Functionally Extinct”

SOURCE: Return to Now and The Conversation DATE: May 9, 2019 SNIP: Today the Australian Koala Foundation announced they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, making the species “functionally extinct”. That’s down from 330,000 just three years ago. While this number is dramatically lower than the most recent academic estimates, there’s no doubt koala numbers in many places are in steep decline. It’s hard to say exactly how many koalas are still remaining in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, but they are highly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change. Once a koala population falls below a critical point it can no longer produce the next generation, leading to...