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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

News Follow-up

Air Date: Week of

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New developments in stories we've been following recently.


CURWOOD: Time now to follow up on some of the news stories we've been tracking lately. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has re-approved several strains of genetically modified Bt corn for another seven years. This is corn that contains genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium, which allows the plant to make a protein toxic to some insects. EPA Assistant Administrator Stephen Johnson says their review process found no unreasonable risks to human health, the environment, or non-pest bugs. The agency did call for increased monitoring systems from participating farmers.

JOHNSON: We believe that the safeguards that have been incorporated into these registrations will ensure that farms can continue to use an effective low-risk pest control alternative, which helps to protect the environment by reducing the amount of conventional pesticides used.

CURWOOD: But critics suggest that even with these safeguards Bt corn could lead to insect resistance, or have an adverse effect on other insects, including monarch butterflies.


CURWOOD: New research in Science magazine shows that cloud forests, like the one we recently visited with a story in Indonesia, may be at risk from deforestation. Scientists developed models that show that deforestation decreases local moisture in the atmosphere and leads to higher local temperatures. This results in fewer, and higher, clouds that no longer envelop the forests, says Robert Lawton of the University of Alabama.

LAWTON: The conservation impacts are, frankly, alarming. Cloud forests are homes to a large variety of plants and animals that are adapted to cloud forest conditions, adapted to a life immersed in cloud.

CURWOOD: So far, satellite images support the results of the modeling. Researchers are now planning to conduct field tests to see just how accurate the models are and what changes might be necessary on the ground to remedy the situation.


CURWOOD: The National Academy of Sciences recently released a report about the safety of storing coal waste slurry. Last year, an impoundment basin burst in Kentucky, emptying millions of gallons of coal waste into nearby streams and rivers. Representative Nick Rahall from West Virginia is one of the politicians who requested the study. He wants the Office of Surface Mining, as well as the Mine Health and Safety Administration, to implement the report's recommendations.

RAHALL: Chief among them is that while the regulatory authorities have been guarding the front gate, the integrity of the dam itself, very little attention has been given to securing the back door, the impoundment basin.

CURWOOD: Representative Rahall says he plans to press for congressional oversight to ensure that those offices carry out the necessary improvements. And that's this week's follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.




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