Week In Review

In the news October 1st -5th: Solar Power becoming a reality, Call to Action on Climate Change, Bird-Flu a Bigger  Threat to Humans, Nobel Peace Prize Warms to Climate Campaigners and much more.

Pay-As-You-Go Solar
September 26, 2007 04:25 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

LONG BEACH, Calif. - You want solar but can't afford it? Purchase the power, not the panels.  That's what the solar energy company Sun Run Generation is doing. The company  announced a partnership with REC Solar,a company providing residential and commercial solar electric systems, to offer homeowners in California a discounted way to buy solar power. Homeowners have the option of purchasing solar energy the same way businesses have for years, by purchasing power instead of panels.


Affordable Solar Power On The Horizon
October 5, 2007 08:10 AM - University of Cambridge

Cambridge, UK - Environmentally friendly solar panels may be an affordable alternative to conventional power sources within the next ten years, as a result of a new initiative launched this week.

The project, funded by the Carbon Trust, will be led by the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory in collaboration with The Technology Partnership.

Currently solar panels are made from silicon, which makes them expensive to manufacture and therefore cost prohibitive for many. However, new technology being researched at Cambridge uses plastic to create solar cells, a much more cost effective and energy efficient method.


Majority of Americans Want Local Action on Global Warming
October 5, 2007 08:23 AM - , CSR Wire

NEW YORK, NY - GfK Public Affairs and Media, a division of GfK Custom Research North America and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies today released the first installment of a new quarterly survey called the GfK Roper/Yale Survey on Environmental Issues. The first of its kind to measure public opinion of local government-led green initiatives, the survey found that a majority of Americans support a variety of city and local climate change policies to minimize the effects of global warming.


Diet For Small Planet May be Most Efficient if it Includes Dairy and a Little Meat, Cornell Researchers Report
October 5, 2007 08:04 AM - Cornell Chronicle, Susan Lang

A low-fat vegetarian diet is very efficient in terms of how much land is needed to support it. But adding some dairy products and a limited amount of meat may actually increase this efficiency, Cornell researchers suggest.  This deduction stems from the findings of their new study, which concludes that if everyone in New York state followed a low-fat vegetarian diet, the state could directly support almost 50 percent more people, or about 32 percent of its population, agriculturally. With today's high-meat, high-dairy diet, the state is able to support directly only 22 percent of its population, say the researchers.

Bird flu virus mutating into human-unfriendly form
October 4, 2007 08:37 PM - Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated to infect people more easily, although it still has not transformed into a pandemic strain, researchers said on Thursday. The changes are worrying, said Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison."We have identified a specific change that could make bird flu grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans," said Kawaoka, who led the study. "The viruses that are circulating in Africa and Europe are the ones closest to becoming a human virus," Kawaoka said.


Study: Vitamin C Essential For Plant Growth
October 4, 2007 07:38 PM -

University of Exeter - Scientists from the University of Exeter and Shimane University in Japan have proved for the first time that vitamin C is essential for plant growth. This discovery could have implications for agriculture and for the production of vitamin C dietary supplements.

The study, which is published in The Plant Journal, describes the newly-identified enzyme, GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase, which produces vitamin C, or ascorbate, in plants. Vitamin C is already known to be an antioxidant, which helps plants deal with stresses from drought to ozone and UV radiation, but until now it was not known that plants could not grow without it.


U.S. recalls over 1/2 million toys over lead levels
October 4, 2007 03:35 PM -

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half a million toys ranging from key chains to Winnie the Pooh bookmarks and Baby Einstein color blocks are being recalled because of excessive lead levels, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday.

Among the recalled toys, all made in China, were key chains with words like "truth" or "believe" engraved on them that have "high levels" of lead, the commission said in a statement.

Dollar General Merchandising Inc sold 192,000 of the key chains for $1, the CPSC said.

Lead is toxic in large amounts. A 4-year-old Minneapolis boy died of lead poisoning in 2006 when he swallowed a small charm. In smaller amounts, lead can cause developmental delays and behavioral problems.


Another warm winter seen for much of U.S.
October 4, 2007 01:31 PM - Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Long-range weather forecasts are predicting a warmer than average winter with less precipitation for much of the United States except the Pacific Northwest.

"It will be a lot like last year but the climate models are even more in agreement now than they were last fall," said Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

"Temperatures will be warmer than average in most places except the northwest of the country, which could see some cold."

Forecasters believe the emergence of a La Nina condition -- unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean -- will be the main factor behind the anticipated warmth for much of North America.


CDC suspects 29 E.coli cases linked to Topps beef
October 4, 2007 08:27 PM -

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 29 cases of E.coli illness are suspected to be linked to the 21.7 million lbs of recalled ground beef products from Topps Meat Company LLC.

No deaths have been linked to the meat. The 29 cases were in eight states: Connecticut (two cases), Florida (one), Indiana (one), Maine (one), New Jersey (six), New York (nine) Ohio (one) and Pennsylvania (eight), according to a posting on the CDC's Web site.


Organic Tofu Recall, Listeria Discovered
October 5, 2007 12:05 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

San Francisco - As a precaution, a San Francisco tofu company has expanded a recall of their organic tofu. The soy products are being recalled after a bacteria called    Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in three of 29 products and 3 plant swabs. The organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. The company, Quong Hop & Co. of South San Francisco, California issued the recall voluntarily. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Scientists Get $1 Million To Demonstrate How Restored Prairies Filter Water, Produce Bioenergy
October 3, 2007 07:44 PM -

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL - University of Minnesota researchers Clarence Lehman, John Nieber and David Tilman and colleagues have been awarded a $1.07 million grant to show how restored prairie areas can act as buffers to filter water polluted by agriculture while simultaneously producing bioenergy. The strategy will also conserve prairies, expand areas available for wildlife habitats, reduce the amount of water needed for biofuels, enhance biodiversity in Minnesota and reduce Minnesota's greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon.

National Sustainable Agriculture Standards Set To Launch This Fall
October 3, 2007 06:38 PM - , Sustainable Food News

Emeryville, California -  Formal proceedings to establish the first national standard for sustainable agriculture will be launched in late October, according to certification agency Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). SCS developed a draft standard that was accepted April 13 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a draft national standard for trial use and is currently in effect.The standard addresses environmental, socioeconomic, and product quality issues and is intended to be applicable to all agricultural crops marketed in the United States.

Sam's Club converts to fair trade certified coffee
October 3, 2007 05:13 PM - , Sustainable Food News

Bentonville, AR - Warehouse retailer Sam's Club Monday kicked off Fair Trade month saying it was converting its ground coffee into the first nationally available, private-label Fair Trade Certified ground coffee.

Sam’s, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., said its Member's Mark Premium Ground brand – a medium roast, 100 percent Arabica coffee roasted and packaged by Cafe Bom Dia, a Brazilian company – will retail at all 586 U.S. Sam's locations.