It was a bad year for the biotech barons. At a conference in January 1999, the consulting firm Arthur Andersen revealed Monsanto executives’ vision of an ideal future – a world in which natural seeds were virtually all extinct and where commercial seeds were genetically modified (GM) and patented.
The loveliness, power and strength in stone is the raw beauty of Nature herself. In every piece of stone there is a story told more magnificent than any creation myth; a story that shocked and astonished the Christian geologists of late-1700s England when they first started to decipher, through the fossil record, the history of life on Earth.
As the bluetongue virus sinks its teeth into British livestock, there is one appalling certainty: like the outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease and foot-and-mouth before it, some farmers will see no way out, and take their own lives. Farmers in Britain are the profession second most likely to commit suicide (after, bizarrely, dentistry).
The US government has given he go-ahead for a test plot of genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus trees in Alabama. For the first time, these trees will be allowed to flower and set seed, opening the door to potential widespread contamination of the American South.
Every year, each square metre of the UK receives between 900 and 1200 kWh of solar radiation. Capturing just some of this energy could make a significant contribution to fulfilling our energy requirements.
There is much talk of the possibility of a future ‘hydrogen economy’, which will power all our vehicles and homes. It is important to remember that hydrogen is not an energy source; it is an energy carrier. To obtain hydrogen it must be split from either natural gas or water molecules. The former, most widely used, method not only requires energy but also gives off carbon dioxide (CO2) in the process. Hydrogen produced in this way requires more energy to make than will eventually be returned when it is used. It makes more sense from a climate perspective to burn the natural gas itself than to convert and re-convert it to hydrogen in this way.
Even among green campaigners, nuclear energy is quietly gaining ground as a potential solution to the impending energy crisis. However several issues – particularly those of raw materials, cost and waste – remain unaddressed within the mainstream of opinion.
Each year, UK livestock produce some 60 million tonnes of collectable faeces. If left to run into water-courses or even spread on fields, this waste can lead to the same problems associated with excessive fertiliser use – algal blooms and aquatic life starved of oxygen.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average UK household spends more than £870 per year on fuel and power, and produces around six tonnes of CO². £300 of this cost (and around two tonnes of CO²) could be saved by being more energy efficient.