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Business & Technology


Monsanto’s latest court triumph cloaks massive market power

At first glance, it was an open-and-shut case. In 1998, Mississippi farmer Homan McFarling bought soybean seeds with genetic traits owned by Monsanto, then as now the world's dominant provider of genetically modified seeds -- and also the biggest herbicide maker. Like all farmers who buy GM seeds, McFarling signed a contract obliging him not to hold back any of the resulting harvest as seed for the next year's planting. But McFarling saved his seeds anyway -- and Monsanto busted him. Hot to protect its multibillion-dollar investment in genetic modification, Monsanto set loose a cadre of rent-a-cops into the farm …


Wal-Mart will open more-efficient stores

Wal-Mart -- ah, always Wal-Mart -- has plans to open four stores that "will operate at a level that's 25 percent more efficient than a traditional Wal-Mart supercenter," according to a representative. The chain, which has a goal of someday having all of its 2,400 U.S. stores reach that level of efficiency, is using tricks it learned from experimental stores in Texas and Colorado. The first of the second-generation stores is set to open its doors on Jan. 23 in Romeoville, Ill.


Companies’ green record not important to MBAs, says study

Young professionals are our hope for the future, a generation that will value sustainability and push big employers to take environmental factors into consideration ... right, guys? Right? Oh, uh, this just in: MBAs rank a company's environmental record at the bottom of factors they use to select employers, says a new study. In a survey of 527 MBA students, only 34 percent viewed a company's green policies as "extremely" or "very" important factors in finding employment. Also relatively unimportant: corporate ethics, social responsibility, and community involvement. Says one unsurprised business professor, "What the company stands for is important, but …


A one-legged man in a butt kickin' contest

Gingrich’s further explications of green conservatism do not inspire confidence

The more I see of Newt Gingrich's "conservative environmentalism," the less impressive it seems. The guy's offering run of the mill, crony capitalist conservatism with a shabby green paint job. The two top-tier public policy approaches to fighting climate change are: supporting green industries, practices, technologies, and infrastructure via subsidies, tax breaks, or mandates, and restricting and reducing GHGs via regulation. The first is the carrot and the second is the stick. Most greens want to use some combination of the two, though they might quibble about the relative priority. Gingrich's big innovation is to insist that we should use …


Assault and battery

Chinese workers pay for our cadmium-battery habit

In the last 20 years, the United States has essentially dismantled its industrial base, moving production of consumer goods south to Mexico and east to Asia. This has not only dramatically lowered the cost of goods, fueling a consumer boom; it has also helped make our economy less energy-intensive, and lowered our exposure to industrial waste. But net gains for the environment and worker health have been imaginary. We've merely shifted the burdens of industrial production onto other lands and other people -- most recently, China. Don't be a Cad. Photo: iStockphoto I think this is the most important political-ecological …


Starbucks will no longer offer organic milk

Photo: gisarah Starbucks will cease offering organic milk to its coffee-quaffing customers at the end of February. The company has offered organic cow juice since 2001 at an extra charge, but "orders of drinks made with organic milk have consistently been a small percentage of total orders," according to a spokesperson. The chain has stopped using milk from cows shot up with artificial growth hormone; says a Starbucks memo to employees, "If a customer requests organic milk, let them know that our milk is now rBGH-free." Organic milk is also rBGH-free, but additionally requires that cows have access to pasture …


Business-y news I should write more about, but probably won’t

GE is going to double its investment in renewable energy from $3b to $6b; Toyota plans to offer plug-in hybrids by 2010; meanwhile, GM, which also promises a plug-in by 2010, just struck a deal with Coskata, a start-up which will be making cellulosic ethanol from waste products. [Token acknowledgement that cars are not the way of the future, Grist is car-obsessed and in the pocket of The Man, public transit is awesome, and something about the happy motoring delusional something something.]


New MacBook Air has some green qualities

Photo: Apple Inc. head honcho Steve Jobs has introduced the new MacBook Air. Your nerdy cousin's new object of lust is LED backlit, comes with a recycle-friendly aluminum case, and gives purchasers the option of an efficient 64-gigabyte solid-state hard drive. It also boasts a mercury- and arsenic-free display, a circuit board without brominated flame retardants, and PVC-free internal cables. Consumers can tote it home in 56 percent less retail packaging than the MacBook -- and the Air is the thinnest laptop evah, so hey, less electronic waste! It can be yours for a mere $1799 -- and you'd …


Clorox + Wal-Mart = deeelight

The latest green partnership

Dave posted earlier about the new green cleaning line from Clorox and his combined reaction of happy feelings and "how will greens spin this into suckage." But wait, it gets better: Wal-Mart is investing big time in the Clorox product line. Check this quote from a Wal-Mart press release: "Wal-Mart's support of Green Works has significantly influenced the scale of our launch," said Ed Huber, vice president of sales, Wal-Mart team at Clorox. "Along with their size and scale, their commitment to sustainability is enabling us to take natural cleaning to the mainstream at a global level." Is there anybody …


Green Clorox

Bleach company discovers its green gene

Joel Makower has a characteristically thorough and thoughtful look at Clorox's launch of their new "Green Works" line of cleaning products, in which he was peripherally involved (does the guy sleep?). I'll admit, when I read these things, I feel positive and hopeful, and then I think, hm, how will some enviro manage to spin this as a hopelessly cynical greenwashing ploy from The Man? Sometimes I can predict in advance, sometimes I can't, but it's inevitable. Sigh. Anyway, here's the uplifting conclusion: But there's a potentially bigger story here. Clorox -- a 95-year-old, relatively stodgy company -- seems to …