Environment Forum

Genetically engineered fish, anyone?

Would you eat a genetically modified fish? What about pork from a pig with mouse genes? Beef from cattle with genes spliced to resist “mad cow” disease?

CHILE-SALMON/CRISISThese are questions Americans may soon have to answer for themselves if the U.S. health regulators allow the sale of a genetically engineered salmon. The company that makes it, Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc <ABTX.L>, expects an agency decision by year’s end.

The biotech says its Atlantic salmon grows nearly twice as fast as normal salmon and could help Americans get more locally farmed fish. That could cut down on U.S. imports of roughly $1.4 billion a year in Atlantic salmon from other countries such as Chile while also easing pressure on wild Atlantic salmon in the nation’s Northeast.

But environmentalists and consumer advocates are concerned about what could happen if such altered fish were to escape or be released in rivers or off-shore salmon farms. They also worry about the health effects of eating such modified fish.

The Food and Drug Administration takes up the issue starting Sept. 19 as part of a three-day public hearing on whether to allow the genetically altered salmon on the U.S. market.

The wrong odor for a rich ecosystem

Three oil-coated white ibis sit in marsh grass on a small island in Bay Barataria near Grand Isle, Louisiana June 13, 2010. Sean Gardner/REUTERS    It has an odd odor, oil mixed with dispersant. It’s reminiscent of the inside of an old mechanic shop or boat house, and out of place in the open water of Southern Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the state’s fragile marshland.

One one point during a tour of the bay to see damage from the BP Plc oil spill, Capt. Sal Gagliano stopped his boat in a spot where reddish brown specs of the oil and dispersant mixture accumulated on the surface. It is slightly gooey to the touch.

The pollutants are why he was ferrying conservationists and reporters around and not taking customers out to fertile fishing spots. In other years this would be his busy season.

New world wines: now from the north

global_post_logo This article by Paul Ames originally appeared in GlobalPost.

The terrace of the elegant 18th-century chateau offers views over the formal French garden and fields filled with neat rows of vines.

This idyllic scene could be reminiscent of Bordeaux or the Cotes du Rhone … were it not for all the snow.

Wijnkasteel Genoels-Elderen is the biggest and best-known vineyard in Belgium. It is one of a growing number of wineries taking root in parts of northern Europe once considered too chilly to produce drinkable wine.

Clean tech nuclear seduces White House

NUCLEAR TMI

We’re told that President Obama is getting ready to propose a tripling of government loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors to the tune of more than $54 billion.

The move is likely to win over Republicans who want to see nuclear power playing a larger role in a climate bill for the country. Another group of Senators earlier this week said they would support a comprehensive climate bill based on Obama’s State of the Union speech that opened the possibilities of nuclear expansion.

Certainly, the Nuclear Energy Institute would agree the technology is the United States’ largest source of clean-air, carbon-free electricity, producing no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

from Shop Talk:

House-made WHAT?

tapwater"Sparkling or still?"
 
Remember when that question, asked with a certain downward gaze, would make you feel like a tactless tightwad for requesting tap? Did you try to lessen the shame with a smile and a clever nickname, like "I'll have 'New York's Finest'"?
 
Restaurants and hotels across the country are blurring the lines between these choices, as they stop serving bottled water due to a perception that it is environmentally unfriendly. Critics object to the waste left behind by the plastic and glass bottles, as well as the fuel and other natural resources used to manufacture and ship the bottles all over the world.
 
"In the world of trying to live in a more green, sustainable environment, I think water is the most obvious, simple thing that we can do," said Joseph Bastianich, a business partner of Mario Batali and co-owner of restaurants including Babbo, Lupa, Esca and Del Posto.
 
Bastianich told Reuters he is in the process of phasing out water across all his restaurants, following in the footsteps of other environmentally-conscious restaurants like Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
 
bottled-waterIn its place, Bastianich is installing filters made by Natura Water, which purify a restaurant's tap water and allow users to get still, sparkling or room temperature tap water. The restaurants can adjust the amount of carbonation, allowing them to tout the water as made in-house.
 
The Natura system, which comes with reusable water bottles for serving, can be rented for about $400 a month. 
 
Company founder Marco De Plano, whose customers also include L.A.'s  Ciudad, San Francisco's Foreign Cinema and certain Four Seasons hotels, said that with prices of high-end bottled water bubbling as high as $10, high-traffic locations can recoup their losses quickly.
 
"When we started this a year ago, everybody was talking about the green aspect," De Plano said. 
 
Bastianich says a liter of Natura water costs him about 50 cents and sells for about $4. That profit margin is slimmer than before, when he would pay about 80 cents for a liter of premium bottled mineral water and sell it for up to $9. 
 
"We think the loss of margin is an investment that's very worthwhile making," Bastianich said. 

The sacrifice to margins would lessen as sales of house-made water increase.

As the backlash against bottled water heats up across the country a host of local governments have cut bottled water out of their budgets.  Virginia, Illinois and New York are among the states that have banned buying bottled water with state funds.

(Photos: Reuters\Eric Thayer)

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