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The GM seed giants lumber into the veggie patch

In 2005, Monsanto bought Seminis, the world's largest vegetable-seed company. At the time, Monsanto -- which enjoys a dominant position in the global market for GM soy, corn, and cotton traits -- claimed it had no imminent plans to subject veggies to genetic modification. Now I learn from the excellent new blog SeedStory, by Matthew Dillon of the Organic Seed Alliance, that Monsanto is working on RoundUp Ready lettuce. And the few other transnational giants that dominate the global GM seed industry are also upping their position in vegetables. Bayer-Crop Science, Dillon reports, has snapped up Paragon, the world's biggest …

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BP joins ‘biggest global warming crime ever seen’

The tar sands are rightly called one of the world's greatest environmental crimes, as I've written. No company that invests in the Canadian tar sands can legitimately call itself green. Yet BP, the oil company that lavished millions on advertising its move "Beyond Petroleum," announced this month it's putting $3 billion into this dirtiest of dirty fuels! BP is buying a half-share of the ironically named Sunrise field: "BP's move into oil sands is an opportunity to build a strategic, material position and the huge potential of Sunrise is the ideal entry point for BP into Canadian oil sands," said …

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Utility PG&E agrees to buy electricity from future wave-power farm

The utility Pacific Gas & Electric this week became the first power company in the United States to sign a deal agreeing to purchase electricity generated by wave power. The wave-power farm that would generate said electricity is still years from completion -- not to mention government approval -- but securing a power buyer is seen as an important step. In the first phase of the project, slated for completion by 2012, eight specially equipped buoys located two and a half miles off the coast of Northern California will together generate up to two megawatts of power. If all goes …

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Hybrid Technologies converts gas-powered cars to electric

Obsessed with MINI Coopers but also like the idea of zero-emission electric vehicles? Have your car and drive it too: a company called Hybrid Technologies guts cars such as the MINI, smart fortwo, and PT Cruiser, and replaces their gas tanks with an electric motor and a stack of lithium batteries. Convinced? Starting in 2008, you'll be able to buy your electric MINI at Wal-Mart -- for a mere $65,000.

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REI chief Sally Jewell on sustainability, shoes, and sedentary schoolkids

Sally Jewell. The statuesque athlete sitting across the table has just handed me her shoe. As I examine it, she begins to point out the various fibers used in its construction and tells me about the manufacturer's sustainable practices. Clearly, this is a woman who is well aware of her footprint. Dressed in casual pants and a blue fleece jacket, Sally Jewell doesn't necessarily look the part of high-powered CEO. And during the course of our hour-long conversation, it becomes clear that she's as down-to-earth about the effect a major company can have on the planet as she is about …

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Mining giant Newmont cleared in Indonesian pollution suit, again

An Indonesian court cleared a subsidiary of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. of wrongdoing in a lawsuit filed against the company by an environmental group. The group, Walhi, had sought cleanup and an apology from Newmont's subsidiary for dumping mine waste from a now-closed gold mine directly into Buyat Bay, allegedly killing fish and sickening area residents with tumors, rashes, and more. The case, as well as a criminal suit against the company that ended in acquittal earlier this year, were considered by both sides to be key tests; if the cases had gone against Newmont, multinational mining companies may have …

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FutureGen on at 5:00 p.m. Central, tonight

Fox News is doing a special report on the FutureGen project and -- rather remarkably -- couldn't find anyone to argue that $6500/kW coal-fired power coupled to a hydrogen plant is a dumb idea. Then along came Grist, and this crazy blogger who thinks FutureGen is dopey. The interview was last Friday; they're running the coverage tonight, in advance of tomorrow's decision on whether Illinois or Texas will "win." (Nice plug for Grist here, eh? Apparently, nowhere else in the world can you find someone who won't sing the praises of this particular boondoggle.) Now to see whether I look …

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Assessing my predictions from last year

At the end of last year, I made 20 predictions for 2007. As a pundit in good standing I am, of course, unaccountable for my predictions. (How do you think we all stay employed?) Nonetheless, it's worth looking back and seeing how the predictions panned out, drawing sweeping conclusions from the things I got right while minimizing and excusing the things I got wrong. Let's see how I did! Al Gore will a) win an Oscar, b) announce that he is not running for president, c) continue his efforts at grassroots movement building, and d) announce plans for a sequel …

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Synthetic DNA could soon yield entirely new life forms

For opponents of genetically modified crops, the possibility that scientists could soon create entirely new life forms out of synthetic DNA may provoke similar worries and safety concerns. Recent improvements in technology have made the lab creation of complex DNA strands possible, and some researchers intend to use them to manufacture new life forms -- in one case as early as next year. Synthetic DNA has already been used to modify existing life forms to create high-tech fabrics from cornstarch and turn food into biofuels more efficiently. But the pending creation of totally new life forms has caused quite a …

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Green group ranks eco-friendliness of shipping companies

We haven't even bought our Christmas presents yet, but if yours are all wrapped and ready to ship, be aware: green group Climate Counts has ranked shipping companies on their eco-friendliness. DHL and the U.S. Postal Service are tops, according to the ranking, although with scores of 45 and 43 out of 100, they indicate that the sector has a ways to go before it's entirely ship-shape. UPS scored 39, and FedEx lagged with a measly score of 28. Santa's sleigh wasn't even in the rankings -- all that methane from the reindeer, we suppose.