Deforestation linked to “green” biodiesel – investigation


A new investigation, “Burned: Deception, Deforestation, and America’s Biodiesel Policy” by the organizations Mighty Earth and ActionAid USA has found that biodiesel is not the environmentally friendly, “green” fuel claimed by industry producers. On-the-ground investigators from Ecostorm documented bulldozing, burning and the recent clearance of 30,000 acres of forest to plant new soy fields in northern Argentina, which supply some of the same companies producing soy biodiesel for export to the United States.

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates increasing biofuel consumption through 2022, and has driven Argentina to increase soy-based biodiesel production for U.S. export. In 2016, Argentina provided over one-fifth of biodiesel consumed in the United States. The RFS is also contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the algal blooms in Lake Erie and other waterways and nitrate pollution across the Midwest, through increased crop production for biofuels in the United States.

“This isn’t the used cooking oil biodiesel powering Willie Nelson’s tour bus,” said Rose Garr, policy director at Mighty Earth. “The RFS was intended to clean up our transportation sector, but instead it’s subsidizing fuels that are even dirtier than oil.”

As the largest supplier of biodiesel imports, Argentina is currently a global hotspot of deforestation, caused primarily by soy production. The report also found significant quantities of biodiesel made from Indonesian palm oil being imported into the United States; palm oil has been Indonesia’s leading driver of deforestation, linked to habitat destruction of highly endangered species including orangutans and Sumatran elephants.

Mighty Earth and ActionAid USA sent a field team to Argentina’s Chaco forest to investigate the scope of this destruction. The team visited ten sites in the Chaco that are undergoing rapid deforestation for soy production, which it documented both on the ground and through aerial drones. They found new soybean fields carved into the middle of what were recently intact forests, and massive fires set to clear land for soy production. Although the Renewable Fuel Standard requires that biodiesel not be produced on recently cleared land, the report found evidence that major biodiesel producers like Cargill and Bunge were continuing to expand their overall soy operations into areas with significant deforestation.

“This appears to be a case where the left-hand claims to be clean while the right is in it up to its elbow,” said Garr.

In addition to the environmental impacts of this production, members of local communities are reporting serious health impacts connected to the expanded soy production incentivized by biofuels. Many families reported poisonings from the pesticides associated with this production, including glyphosate, which is sometimes sprayed aerially.

“The big agribusiness companies want you to believe they’re feeding the world. But they’re not. Kids are getting sick, local people are being forced off their land and animals are being killed, all to produce soybean oil that’s being shipped to the U.S. and burned as fuel for our cars and trucks,” said Kelly Stone, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA. “Localizing food production and reforming our agriculture policies is an important part of tackling climate change. People’s rights to own and farm land and their right to a clean environment must not be sacrificed to feed the thirst of a broken Congressional policy.”

Mighty Earth and ActionAid USA’s report comes as the RFS is poised to be a key legislative fight in 2018. The organizations recommend that the United States ends or dramatically lowers mandates and subsidies for food-based biodiesel and other food-based biofuels. In addition, the agricultural traders and biodiesel producers who control the industry should adopt and fully enforce “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” commitments throughout their entire global supply chains in order to ensure that the soy and other commodities they sell is not produced through deforestation.

Although the recent decision by the Commerce Department to impose countervailing duties on Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel will likely curtail near-term imports, the massive environmental destruction in Argentina should serve as a cautionary tale. Because the RFS mandates remain in place, new biodiesel production will have to come on-line elsewhere, which poses risk to wildlife, people, and the climate.

“This problem won’t be solved by countervailing duties alone. If Congress does not end mandates for food-based biodiesel and other biofuels, this same destructive cycle could be replicated both at home and in other areas of the world,” said Garr.

 

Read the report here. 

Sign the petition here.

Pension funds invest nearly £600m in controversial baby milk producers


Vitamin D guidancePension funds investing on behalf of thousands of doctors, nurses and midwifes are pouring vast sums into companies producing baby milk products which it is claimed are being aggressively marketed abroad “without clear scientific rationale”, an Ecostorm investigation with the i newspaper has found.

The findings come as a new report has accused the four largest manufacturers of baby milk substitutes (BMS) – Swiss-based Nestle, France’s Danone, and American companies Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott Laboratories – of differentiating their products across markets based on consumer research rather than hard science.

The Milking It study, led by British-based campaign group the Changing Markets Foundation, found that families in some parts of the world are paying huge premiums compared to parents in places such as the UK in a global market now worth some £36bn a year. In Britain, feeding a two to three-month-old baby with BMS costs up to three per cent of the average salary.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/public-sector-pension-funds-invest-nearly-600m-baby-milk-producers/

Dirty fashion: uncovering pollution in the textile supply chain


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Ecostorm has contributed to a major new investigation into the production of viscose, a man-made fibre widely used in the textile supply chain, that has uncovered evidence of the impact of dangerous chemicals and noxious gases being generated by polluting factories across Asia.

Evidence gathered by the Changing Markets Foundation at locations in Indonesia, China and India found that viscose factories are dumping highly toxic wastewater into local waterways, destroying marine life and exposing workers and local populations to harmful chemicals.

The report, titled ‘Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic’, reveals links between the polluting factories and major European and North American fashion brands.

The viscose staple fibre market – which is projected to grow from $13.45 billion in 2016 to $16.78 billion per year by 2021 – is highly concentrated, with 11 companies controlling 75 per cent of global viscose production, so a concerted effort on the part of retailers could achieve dramatic change.

The report also highlights that new viscose production methods already exist, which do not rely on the abundant use of toxic chemicals and bring manufacturing into a ‘closed loop’ so that the chemicals which are used do not escape into the environment.

 

Dead Zone: the hidden cost of industrial farming on the world’s wildlife


elephantstmactionpageEcostorm has again worked with Compassion in World Farming during its major two year investigation that resulted in the publication of the brand new book  Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were  and campaign which explores the hidden impact of industrialised farming on the world’s wildlife, and takes readers on a journey around the world, travelling from the rainforests of the Amazon to the Midwest plains of America; the palm plantations of Sumatra to the volcanic diversity of Galapagos; the grasslands of England to the Malaysian jungle.

As with 2014’s Farmageddon project  Ecostorm co-ordinated and carried out extensive field investigations across the globe and co-produced a series of films documenting many of the issues covered in the book.

More information on the Stop the Machine Campaign here

Watch some of the films here 

 

 

 

New report reveals “greenwash” in European carpet industry


Less than 3 per cent of carpets sold in Europe are recycled, despite high-profile sustainability initiatives within the industry, claim new reports published today in France and Germany. Journalists and researchers from the Ecostorm network contributed to the investigation, coordinated by Changing Markets. 

The reports, published by Zero Waste France, Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Changing Markets, show that in a time, when European countries are considering ambitious recycling targets in the framework of the circular economy package, the carpet sector is lagging behind. Reuse and recycling are still virtually non-existent in the carpet sector, despite environmental claims of some of the industry’s biggest players.

carpet_recycling_FRONT_COVER

For here for more information

The secret deforestation behind global meat production


Soy is an important base ingredient of the world’s meat. Approximately three quarters of the world’s soy goes into animal feed.

But this soy production has left an enormous scar on the Earth’s surface. More than one million square kilometers of the planet – equivalent to the total combined area of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – are dedicated to growing soy according to some estimates.

In South America, soy and cattle interests have converted vast areas of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s Cerrado, the Argentine Chaco, Bolivian lowland forests and the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay from diverse native ecosystems into soy monocultures. From 2001-2010, an average of approximately four million hectares of forests were destroyed each year, mostly for soy and cattle.

Ecostorm contributed information, videos and photography to a major investigative project launched in February 2017 by US-based non-profit Mighty Earth. The New York Times published a major report on the investigation simultaneously.

Ecostorm has previously investigated the intensive livestock feed sector globally, including major reports on fishmeal in Peru and Thailand.

Antibiotic factories “spreading superbugs” – investigation


  • New tests reveal lethal drug-resistant bacteria in water found near multiple production sites in India
  • ‘Dirty’ factories supply U.S. and European healthcare providers including UK NHS

A new report by campaigning organisation Changing Markets published today reveals, for the first time, the presence of drug-resistant bacteria at pharmaceutical manufacturing sites in India. The report also casts light on the supply chain that links the factories investigated to companies, public health services and hospitals in the United States and Europe.

On-the-ground research by investigative agency Ecostorm, and subsequent analysis of water samples under the supervision of Dr. Mark Holmes from the University of Cambridge, found high levels of drug-resistant bacteria at sites in three Indian cities: Hyderabad, New Delhi and Chennai.

Out of 34 sites tested, 16 were found to be harbouring bacteria resistant to antibiotics. At four of the sites, resistance to three major classes of antibiotics was detected, including antibiotics of ‘last resort’, those used to treat infections that fail to respond to all other medicines.

Detailed examination of publicly available supply chain data, and evidence obtained through Freedom of Information requests, has uncovered how antibiotics manufactured at or near these sites are being exported to foreign purchasers, including the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), French hospitals, and major pharma companies.

Growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is a matter of particular concern in the case of antibiotics, is one of the gravest threats to human health. Global deaths as a result of drug-resistant infections are projected to reach 10 million per year by 2050, with cumulative economic losses of $100 trillion. Medical experts warn that in the near future, drug resistant infections could once again make common illnesses, minor surgery, and routine operations such as hip replacements a life-or-death gamble.

Natasha Hurley, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets said:

“The dumping of antibiotic manufacturing residues poses a grave threat to human health in light of the growing AMR crisis. The discovery of drug-resistant bacteria at Indian factories supplying European and U.S. markets also raises serious questions about pharmaceutical supply chains.

“Major buyers of antibiotics, such as the NHS, must immediately blacklist suppliers that are contributing to the spread of AMR through industrial pollution and ensure that all drug companies take action to clean up their supply chains. NHS doctors and nurses are working around the clock to tackle AMR; it is shocking that the pharmaceutical industry is undermining their lifesaving efforts through shoddy and dangerous practices.”

 

Reacting to the report, Nina Renshaw, Secretary-General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) said:“This report is the latest in a series of studies showing that the pharmaceutical industry is contributing to the rise of antimicrobial resistance. We expect European governments and the European Commission to take this very seriously.

“A first step should be incorporating measures to address environmental pollution, including from the antibiotics manufacturing process, in the European Commission’s AMR action plan, which is currently under review. Unless we address all three causes of AMR – human, animal and industrial – in parallel, we risk losing the fight completely. That would be an unparalleled catastrophe for public health.”

Read the report: “Superbugs in the supply chain: How pollution from antibiotics factories in India and China is fuelling the global rise of drug-resistant infections” by Changing Markets.

Antibiotics film shortlisted for major Guild of Food Writers award


Our 18 month investigation with The Guardian into how antibiotic use on intensive pig farms has put a variation of the superbug MRSA in supermarket pork has been shortlisted for this year’s Guild of Food Writers “Investigative and Campaigning” award. Ecostorm and the Guardian won the prize in last year’s awards for our earlier undercover investigation into hygiene failings in the poultry sector.

Investigation into salad & fruit farm exploitation wins top TV award


Ecostorm’s major undercover investigations with Channel 4 News into the “terrible” working and living conditions for migrants in both UK fruit packing factories and on Spanish salad farms has won the Harold Wincott Award for Television Journalism of the Year.

The four part investigation, broadcast last year, prompted the judges to comment: “Channel 4 News took on a story about labour conditions in the supermarket fruit and vegetable packing supply chain, where an undercover reporter worked with Business Editor Siobhan Kennedy to lay out a charge sheet of appalling working conditions which resulted in an immediate response from the supermarkets involved.”

Watch the two lead films here:

More info here

Chicken farms “risk workers and food safety” – investigation


Britain’s poultry sector is in the midst of its annual Christmas bonanza as consumers splash out on festive supplies. But as people rush to get their meat they may be unaware of a dark side to this industry. Previous investigations by the Guardian and ecostorm uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry. And now there are also concerns about working conditions…

Read our special report in The Guardian here

Mega-dairy UK: stealth rise in factory farming


An investigation published with The Independent newspaper today revealed how large US-style factory dairies and confinement units are spreading across the UK countryside. The findings come as the UK dairy sector continues to grapple with the consequences of the low price paid to dairy farmers, leading to soem farmers to exist the industry altogether. You can read the full investigation coverage here:

Plummeting milk price prompts ‘stealth’ rise of 2,000-cow ‘mega-dairies’ in UK

The controversial ‘mega-dairies’ that alarm campaigners and divide a struggling sector of British agriculture

Consumers would pay a premium to avoid the cruelty and environmental costs of factory-produced milk

Investigation uncovers ‘rampant’ illegal logging in Romania


Romania is home to Europe’s last remaining virgin forests and some of the continent’s largest populations of bears, wolves, and lynx. But these forests are under serious threat due to ‘rampant’ illegal logging, according to campaigners. During a major investigation spanning several years, to which Ecostorm contributed information and photographic evidence, the US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) documented this illegal logging and examined the involvement of a leading Austrian-based timber and wood processing company. Read the report and other background.

Bad apples: the hidden cost of supermarket fruit


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We’ve been undercover with Channel 4 News investigating conditions for some those picking and packing supermarket fruit at a major facility in Kent. What we found was shocking and has provoked an immediate outcry. Our undercover reporter experienced first hand the highly-pressured environment at the Mansfields packhouse at Chartham, with managers breathing down workers’ necks to meet strict targets.

Some of them live in appalling conditions that they say are supplied by the agency they work for – and that some say aren’t fit for animals. The packhouse supplies fruit to top retailers, and after our evidence was broadcast Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer have all told Channel 4 News they have launched investigations. And one supermarket, Aldi, has suspended its orders. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority has also launched an investigation into our findings.

You can watch part 1 of our exclusive investigation, and read the background here. Part 2 of the story follows tonight (Tuesday, 20th October). The investigation follows our reporting earlier this year which highlighted the plight of migrants harvesting salad on farms in Spain, much of destined for UK supermarkets, and earlier investigations into the hard labour behind Italy’s orange trade.