Dioxin Developments

April 22, 2016 | Commercial Litigation | Complex Torts & Product Liability

Modern Farmer Asks: Are GMOs Really That Bad?

An article by Brian Barth in Modern Farmer, entitled, “Still Life with Mass Hysteria: Are GMOs Really That Bad?,” has some interesting thoughts about GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms.”

Highlights of the Article

Mr. Barth noted early in his article that the results of a Consumer Reports survey from 2014 found that 72 percent of U.S. consumers have said that they do not want to eat food that contains GMOs. Mr. Barth said, however, that “most Americans probably couldn’t tell you what genetically modifying a plant even means.”

The article also observed that companies including General Mills, Chipotle, Target, and Safeway have begun to eliminate or reduce their use of GMOs.

Yet, the article continued, “a growing cadre of scientists, food-safety experts, and farmers – both conventional and organic – suggests that perhaps it isn’t GMOs” that should be rejected, but their use in “irresponsible ways.”

Moreover, the article added, the “World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency all maintain that [genetically engineered] technology used for crop improvement is not fundamentally hazardous.”

The article continued by explaining that consumers tended to associate GMOs with Monsanto, contending that anyone who objected to GMOs “based solely on distrust of Monsanto” might consider the “very real benefits they can impart.”

Among other things, Mr. Barth observed in his article that crops containing genes from Bacillus thuringiensis amount to more than 80 percent of the corn and cotton farmed in the U.S., and that, in the past two decades, it has led to about a 90 percent reduction in pesticide use for corn crops and a 56 percent reduction for cotton.

Learn more: http://modernfarmer.com/2016/03/gmo/.

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New Jersey Sierra Club Criticizes EPA’s Passaic River Plan

As discussed here last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has finalized a plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River in New Jersey, followed by capping that entire stretch of river bottom. Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, apparently is not pleased with the proposal.

Background

The lower 17 miles of the Passaic River, which stretches from its mouth at Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam, are part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site. The Diamond Alkali site was added to the federal Superfund List in 1984. From 1983 to 2001, EPA-directed cleanup work was conducted on land at the former Diamond Alkali facility and in the streets and homes near it.

Dredging already has occurred in two areas near the former Diamond Alkali facility.

In the statement announcing its new cleanup plan, the EPA said that the sediment in the Passaic River “is severely contaminated with dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants from more than a century of industrial activity.” According to the agency, the lower eight miles of the Passaic is the “most heavily contaminated section of the river” and 90 percent of the volume of contaminated sediments in the river is in the lower eight miles.

The EPA has said that over 100 pollutants have been identified in the sediment and that about 100 companies are “potentially responsible” for generating and releasing the pollution. The EPA has estimated that the cleanup will cost $1.38 billion.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck stated that “[t]he Passaic River has been seriously damaged by over a century of pollution. Extraordinarily high concentrations of dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals and pesticides have robbed the people of New Jersey from being able to use this natural resource. The EPA’s cleanup plan will improve water quality, protect public health, revitalize waterfront areas and create hundreds of new jobs. This plan is one of the most comprehensive in the nation and will help restore a badly damaged river.”

The N.J. Sierra Club’s View

Mr. Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club criticized the “cap” aspect of the EPA’s plan in a guest column published by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

He wrote that the “largest and longest cap on a tidal river” was an “unproven technology.” Capping sediment “containing dioxins, PCBs, mercury and other toxins” violated the EPA’s protocols for removing sediments and would “not cause a significant drop in dioxin,” he asserted.

According to Mr. Tittel, “[w]hen the Passaic floods, it will erode and cause the cap to fail washing toxic sediments into the river.”

He concluded by asserting that the EPA’s plan was done “for political expedience, not based on sound science” and he contended that “all of the toxic sediments in the 17-mile stretch” should be removed.

Learn more: “EPA Finalizes Passaic River Cleanup,” at http://www.rivkinradler.com/publications/dioxin-developments-10/.

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On Heels of EPA’s New Requirements for San Jacinto River Cap, Group Claims Elevated Dioxin Levels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently announced new requirements for the temporary armored cap at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, Texas, as discussed here last month. Now, a community group is complaining about what it said are high concentrations of dioxin in the river.

“The protective level, or concentration, that the EPA has is 220 parts per trillion and that’s a very tiny concentration when you’re talking that level,” Scott Jones, director of advocacy for the Galveston Bay Foundation, told The Baytown Sun. “[T]he levels of dioxins in the pits range all the way up to 43,700 parts per trillion,” Mr. Jones said.

The EPA plans to recommend a plan for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits later this year.

Learn more:

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