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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Science in Europe this month

EU ethics group advises against cloning animals for food
23 January 2008

In a recent opinion, the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies did not find any argument to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring. Instead, it recommends promoting public debates on the impact of cloning farm animals on agriculture, the environment and society at large.

In March 2007, the Commission asked the EU's Food Safety Authority (EFSA ) for a scientific opinion on the implications of animal cloning on food safety, animal welfare and the environment. In particular, EFSA was asked to determine whether meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to eat.

In parallel, the EU executive also asked the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies (EGE ) to give an opinion on the ethics of cloning.

These requests for opinions came shortly after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in a draft risk assessment published on 28 December 2007, that meat and milk products from cloned cattle, pigs and goats were safe for consumption.

Cloning is not a commercial practice in Europe and products from clones are not known to have entered the European food chain as yet. However, according to the Commission , products from clones are "on the verge of widespread commercial use" and are "expected to spread within the global food chain before 2010".

The EFSA's draft opinion on the safety of cloning, published on 11 January 2008, states that "it is very unlikely that any difference exists in terms of food safety between food products from clones and their progeny compared with conventionally-bred animals."

After the FDA final assessment, the US Department of Agriculture still asked American farmers to voluntarily keep their cloned animals off the market. Its stance is backed by the federation of the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, who argue that it would be prudent to wait until all major foreign trading partners have reviewed and approved the same cloning technology in their respective countries and consumers have become comfortable with the idea of buying milk from cloned cows.

In an Opinion adopted on 16 January 2008, the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies (EGE ) said it "does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring".

The EGE opinion on ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply states that "considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, the EGE has doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified. Whether this applies also to progeny is open to further scientific research."

If, however, cloned meat and other food products derived from cloned animals were to be introduced into the European market, the EGE argues that:
  1. The safety of food products for human consumption must be guaranteed;
  2. the guidance on animal welfare provided by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) must be followed, and;
  3. EU legislation on the traceability of animals and their food products should be enforced, including traceability of imports and global trade.

In addition, the EGE recommends conducting further studies and analyses on the long-term animal welfare and health implications for clones and their offspring as well as taking proper measures to preserve the genetic heritage of species of farm animal and address intellectual property and product labelling issues. source

My comment: Well, you know, the same as before. It's not the meat, it's the decreasing variety of the genetic pool that we should worry about. And anyway, I prefer to eat EU food.

Scientists warn of rising Mediterranean Sea level
22 January 2008

If current trends continue, the Mediterranean Sea level could rise by up to half a metre in the next 50 years, with catastrophic consequences for coastal areas, Spanish scientists have warned.

The Mediterranean Sea level has been increasing "between 2.5 and 10 millimetres per year since the 1990s and if the trend continues, the level of the Sea will rise between 12.5 centimetres and a half a metre in next the 50 years," argue the authors of a study entitled 'Climate Change in the Spanish Mediterranean', published on 18 January 2008.

The authors reveal that the rapid increase in the level of the sea coincides with a considerable increase in temperatures during the same period.

The study, conducted by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO ), argues that if the trend continues, even a smaller increase would have "very serious consequences", whereas an increase of a half a metre would be "catastrophic" for coastal areas.

The scientists underline that even though it is too soon to ascertain whether this trend is going to continue in the coming decades, the growing rate of increase in sea levels has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s.

The EU has been taking measures to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, since the early 1990s. Since the turn of the millenium, it has adopted a number of new policies and measures, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS ), in the framework of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP ).
My comment: Well, it's not so much considering it's over 50 years, but anyway, it's alarming.

Study reveals potential of recycling for CO2 reduction
22 January 2008

Research shows that establishing EU-wide legally binding recycling targets for municipal solid waste could save up to 144 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

A study conducted by German consultancy Ökopol calculates, for the first time, the CO2 emission reduction potential of establishing EU-wide legally binding recycling targets for municipal solid waste (MSW).

The European Parliament has asked for such binding targets in its first reading of the EU framework directive for waste.

According to preliminary figures in the study, the current EU average MSW recycling rate of 37% saves some 160 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Presently, the EU minimum target is 50%. If every member state reached at least that by 2020 and those who are already above the target did not diminish their efforts, then CO2 emission savings would improve by 88 million tonnes.

If all member states reached the current maximum achieved by the Netherlands (65%) by 2020, an additional 144 million tonnes of CO2 would be saved every year.

The data used in the study was taken from existing life-cycle assessments and 2005 Eurostat waste statistics and assumed that incineration rates remain constant. A complete final version of the 'CO2 emission saving potential of EU recycling targets' will be published at an international conference on waste and climate change in London on 31 January 2008.
My comment:Hm, I wonder how realistic this survey is. After all, the plans for reducing the emissions from
cars failed, the one for the aviation is very weak and even those for the industry won't work. Ok, I'm really pissed today. Probably should stop commenting in such bad mood.

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