Coca Is It!

Coca Is It!

Efforts by the United States to combat cocaine production in Colombia by spraying coca crops with herbicides are coming up against a provision requiring the spraying to meet the same safety standards as those in the U.S. Translation: The U.S. EPA must certify that the spraying “does not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment.” The herbicide in use in Colombia is a more toxic variant of a product known in the U.S. by the trade name Roundup. Moreover, watchdog organizations suspect the compound used in Colombia may be mixed with surfactants to cause it to adhere to coca plants, making it even more hazardous. Last year, the U.S.-funded program fumigated 207,000 acres of Colombian land, a number that may climb to 370,000 this year. Critics say the spraying has caused “gastrointestinal disorders (e.g., severe bleeding, nausea, and vomiting), testicular inflammation, high fevers, dizziness, respiratory ailments, skin rashes, and severe eye irritation.”

Desperately Seeking Snoozin’

Desperately Seeking Snoozin’

Despite mounting evidence that global warming has already begun to exact steep tolls on the environment, the Bush administration told Congress yesterday that it needs up to five years of additional scientific research before it will be ready to formulate a plan to address climate change. Speaking in front of the House Science Committee, Commerce Assistant Secretary James Mahoney said the administration was ready to “move into a new time of differentiation and strategy evaluation” extending for the next two to five years. Some committee members responded by expressing frustration about the White House’s lack of a coherent climate change policy; using somewhat clearer language than Mahoney’s, Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said, “We really don’t have a policy [on climate change]. There’s a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action.”

Survey Says …

Survey Says …

It would seem the American public is far less equivocal about climate change than the Bush administration: Three-fourths of voters want the government to impose mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on industry, according to a poll released this week by the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists. Seventy-six percent of survey respondents favored mandatory emissions standards for power plants, oil refineries, and other industries, and 16 percent supported voluntary standards, while 8 percent were undecided. Moreover, 78 percent of polltakers said they believe global warming is already a serious problem or will be in the future. The Bush administration supports only voluntary emissions cuts and has rejected any cap on carbon dioxide emissions, saying such a move would gravely harm the U.S. economy.

99 Bottles of Beer in a Dumpster

99 Bottles of Beer in a Dumpster

For the first time in at least a decade, Congress is considering a national bottle bill, thanks to the efforts of Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.), head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Jeffords, who has battled for such a bottle bill for nearly 30 years, introduced a measure today that would shift the burden of recycling from states, cities, and consumers to the beverage industry, which would be responsible for recycling at least 80 percent of its containers within two years of passage of the bill. Under the terms of the bill, Americans would pay a deposit of at least 10 cents on cans and bottles, which could be redeemed upon recycling. Unsurprisingly, the measure has made industry reps grumpy: “We have a fundamental problem understanding why there’s always this focus on beverage containers,” said Drew Davis, vice president for federal affairs at the National Soft Drink Association. “Why not focus on paper or yard waste?”