Table of Contents...
San Francisco Will Modify Its 'Toxic Toy' Law
In response to two lawsuits by chemical manufacturers, San
Francisco will modify its precautionary law that aimed to reduce
children's exposure to certain toxic chemicals.
The American Chemistry Council on Chemical Body Burden
Many studies now confirm that the average human has been invaded by
hundreds of industrial poisons, without anyone's informed consent.
This is a major human rights violation, but the chemical industry
tries to frame it as a health issue, then declare it insignificant.
European Commission Restricts Import of Contaminated U.S. Rice
Here is an analysis of the European Commission's decision to ban
the import of U.S. rice contaminated with a genetically modified
Irish Members of Europe's Parliament Fight GMO Crops
Based on the precautionary principle, Irish members of the European
Parliament are working to keep genetically modified crops out of
Editorial: Give Waldo Lake the Benefit of the Doubt
The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, Oregon says, "Errors should
be on the side of caution; close calls should be decided in the lake's
favor. After nearly 10 years of discussion and study, boats with gas-
powered engines should be banned from Waldo Lake."
From: San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2007
CHANGES SOUGHT IN SF'S PROPOSED 'TOXIC TOY' LAW
By Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
San Francisco health officials said Monday they are asking the city's
supervisors to make significant changes in a pioneering "toxic toy"
ordinance aimed at eliminating children's exposure to two widely used
chemicals with suspected links to cancer and developmental problems.
Department of Public Health director Dr. Mitchell Katz and Jared
Blumenfeld, director of the city's Environment Department, are
proposing amendments that would scale down the number of regulated
products but would expand enforcement and penalty provisions in the
The amendments will be presented at the Jan. 23 meeting of the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Chemical and toy manufacturers and retailers sued the city last year,
alleging that the chemicals are used safely in the products and that
San Francisco doesn't have the authority to pass such a law. After the
proposed amendments were released Monday, the plaintiffs agreed to put
the suit on hold until after the supervisors vote on the matter.
The plaintiffs include Citikids Baby News, California Retailers
Association, California Grocers Association, Juvenile Products
Manufacturers Association and the American Chemistry Council, which
represents Dow Chemical, General Electric Plastics and other makers of
City officials agreed to hold off enforcement of the law until the
supervisors vote. Superior Court Judge Peter Busch on Monday signed
the agreement among the parties.
Under the amendments:
-- The ban on bisphenol A in toys and child care products would be
delayed for a year to see whether the state Legislature passes a
-- The prohibition against certain concentrations of six forms of
phthalates would apply only to a list of children's products prepared
by the two city departments over the next 18 months. Products would be
added to the list.
-- Manufacturers, distributors or retailers violating the law within
six months of when a product is placed on the list would be subject to
fines up to $500. Twelve months after a product goes on the list,
businesses would be subject to fines up to $1,000 and six months in
the county jail.
-- The law would apply to all children, not just those 3 years old and
under. "Toy" would be defined as a product "designed and made for the
amusement of a child or for his or her use in play and likely to be
placed in a child's mouth."
Chemical manufacturers say that low levels of the chemicals pose no
health problems for children, and that federal agencies are doing a
good job of keeping unsafe chemicals out of toys.
But many scientists say that emerging studies show that bisphenol A,
which is used to make polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and many
other products, can alter the function of the brain, the pancreas as
well as mammary, thyroid and prostate glands in animals.
Phthalates, which are used to soften plastic such as polyvinyl
chloride, or PVC, have been shown in animal studies to interfere with
hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production and cause malformed
Former San Francisco Supervisor and state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who
brought the ordinance before the supervisors last year, has pledged to
introduce the measure in the Legislature this year. A similar bill
failed in the Legislature last year.
E-mail Jane Kay at email@example.com.
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From: Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Tex.), Dec. 3, 2006
THE AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL ON CHEMICAL BODY BURDEN
By Scott Streater, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Below are excerpts from interviews with two senior directors of the
American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group: Sarah Brozena and
Studies have found traces of man-made toxic chemicals in the bodies of
pretty much everyone tested. So what?
Sarah Brozena: As you pointed out, these are trace levels. These are
tiny levels of compounds which now suddenly we can detect. Until the
last five or so years, we were only able to detect a few chemicals.
Now we can measure more. Does that mean these chemicals were never
there before? No. That's not what it means at all. It means our
ability to detect has frankly now exceeded our ability to understand
what it means.... And the CDC reports every two years have been very
careful to point out that just because you have a chemical in your
body doesn't mean it's causing disease. It all relates to the dose or
concentration of the chemical.... We think that these levels, for the
most part, are very small and not of concern. But we certainly support
the science needed to interpret it in a risk context.
Some say we lack good health data on many toxic chemicals used today.
Does the Environmental Protection Agency need more money for research?
Brozena: Well, EPA is already... looking at the risk assessment on
PFOA [perfluorooctanoic acid]. They're trying to figure out what the
levels are that might cause a problem. The EPA has already been
working with some of the manufacturers of that compound to make sure
that the compound is controlled more, because it was showing up in
more places than they thought it ought to. So EPA has the tools they
need if they determine that some compounds are at levels that are
worrisome. And those tools in the U.S. are all found in the Toxic
Substances Control Act.
Chemicals such as flame retardants have improved our quality of life.
Is that worth the risk of having low doses of those chemicals in our
Steve Russell: Unfortunately, folks with an interest in this debate
tend to make it black or white or all or nothing. Individuals have
different risk tolerances and different abilities to see both sides of
the story. Many people are fiercely anti-chemical and therefore view
any presence of a chemical negatively and would prefer to not have
chemicals there. Others take a more pragmatic approach.... Society is
all about making risk trade-offs in every aspect of our lives.
Hopefully, this debate can begin to move to a place where risks and
the benefits are both portrayed honestly and dispassionately, so that
we can make good public policy decisions.
Brozena: Right now we're sort of at a period in time in this
"chemicals in our body" issue where it's new information to a lot of
people. It's not new to scientists. It's not new, I don't think, to
the EPA.... But I think why this issue is getting attention now is
that it's a surprise to some people and it's personal. For the first
time they're thinking, "I have these in me?" And some people have a
very low tolerance for that. We want to find out and make sure that
the levels that are in our air, in our water, in our environment, in
us, are safe levels. I think we and others are doing what we can to
make sure that that's right. We want to make sure that our environment
and humans are protected. That's what we're all about.
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From: Mondaq.com, Jan. 8, 2007
EUROPEAN COMMISSION RESTRICTS IMPORT OF CONTAMINATED U.S. RICE
Non-Authorised GMOs: Operation of the Precautionary Principle
European Commission Decision on emergency measures regarding the non-
authorised genetically modified organism LL RICE 601 in rice products
By Rob Greenhalf, Lovells
In August 2006, the European Commission issued a provisional Decision
significantly restricting the importation of rice from the US, under
fears that it may be contaminated with a strain of genetically
modified rice. This issue highlights the precautionary approach
currently taken by the EU authorities to issues relating to new
technologies that have the potential to affect consumer health and
safety in the EU.
The EU imports approximately 240,000 tons of long grain rice per year
from the US. On 18 August 2006, the European Commission was notified
by US authorities that contamination of some US-grown rice products by
a genetically modified ("GM") rice strain (LL RICE 601) had been
detected. The Commission acted promptly. On 23 August the Commission
issued a provisional Decision requiring that all consignments of long
grain rice products originating in the US be accompanied by an
analytical report demonstrating them as being free from LL RICE 601
(2006/578/EC). Without such a report, 13 different US long grain rice
products can no longer be placed on the market in the EU. The Decision
also required that member states take appropriate measures to verify
the absence of LL RICE 601 in products already on the market. An
updated Decision issued on 5 September 2006 confirmed the earlier
provisional Decision (2006/601/EC).
The emergency measures were taken by the Commission under the
authority of Article 53(2) of Regulation (EC) 178/2002, which lays
down the principles and requirements of food law.
Farmers in the US are reported to have filed lawsuits against Bayer
CropScience2 for failing to prevent the unapproved GM rice from
contaminating crops, leading to the EU and Japan imposing strict
limits on imports and forcing down prices. Investigations are also
under way in the US to determine whether any violations of US
Department of Agriculture ("USDA") regulations occurred.
LL RICE 601 is not authorised to be placed on the market in the EU,
and an application has only now been made in the US to "deregulate"
the strain.3 The consignments in which trace amounts of LL RICE 601
were found are reported to have been grown in 2005. According to the
Commission Decision, the contamination was reported to the US
authorities on 31 July 2006 by Bayer CropScience.
As part of their obligations under EU general food law, the Federation
of European Rice Millers trade group have reported detecting the GM
rice in 33 of 162 samples tested up to 11 September. Preliminary tests
by two member state authorities have also suggested that contaminated
shipments have reached Europe.4 A further Decision has since been
drafted by the Commission which will implement additional strict
counter-testing measures. This step has been taken because Dutch
authorities detected LL RICE 601 contamination in a batch that carried
the newly required US certification stating it to be GM-free. A press
release from Brussels stated
"US long grain rice imports will continue to be subject to the
certification requirements when LL601 was first reported to be present
in US rice in August. Under the draft Decision agreed by the Standing
Committee today, in addition to this certification requirement, all
consignments of US long-grain rice will also be sampled and tested at
the point of entry to the EU by member state authorities."5
Responsibility for obtaining certification and the associated costs
rest with the operators responsible for first placing food and feed on
the market. They also will be liable for the costs of counter-testing
that will be required under the additional Decision announced in
October. Contaminated shipments must be returned to the US or
destroyed. In line with EU general food law, business operators also
are responsible for ensuring that the products they import or sell are
certified as free from unauthorised GM products.
LL RICE 601
LL [LibertyLink] RICE 601 was grown in field trials between 1998 and
2001 in the US, but was not developed commercially thereafter. The
strain is the result of a genetic modification to render it tolerant
to the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium which is sold as Liberty
herbicide. Tolerance is achieved by introducing into the rice plant
genome a gene (bar) derived from the bacteria Streptomyces
hygroscopicus. The bar gene6 codes for the manufacture of a protein
(phosphinothricin acetyltransferase ("PAT")) that confers tolerance to
the herbicide. The bar gene was introduced into the plant genome along
with some widely used genetic control elements that regulate
expression of the novel gene. Another LibertyLink strain, LL RICE 62,
has already been deregulated in the US, and is currently being
assessed by the European Food Safety Authority ("EFSA") for
authorisation in Europe.
Each of the introduced genetic components in LL RICE 601 and the
resulting PAT protein are used in other GM food and feed crops that
have already been granted marketing authorisations in the US and some
other countries. Glufosinate-ammonium tolerant crops using the
LibertyLink system have long been approved for canola, soybean and
maize crops in Canada and the US.
Following the reported contamination, two methods for the detection of
LL RICE 601 were provided to analytical laboratories by Bayer
CropScience. However, accurate quantification of the level of
contamination is very difficult, and the EFSA has concluded that
exposure levels in EU member states cannot accurately be estimated
from the data available.7
RISK ASSESSMENT IN THE EU
The precautionary principle
The precautionary principle, which in general terms can be summarised
by the maxim "better safe than sorry", is incorporated into EU food
law in Article 7 of Regulation 178/2002. Article 7(1) states
"...where, following an assessment of available information, the
possibility of harmful effects on health is identified but scientific
uncertainty persists, provisional risk management measures necessary
to ensure the high level of health protection chosen in the Community
may be adopted, pending further scientific information for a more
comprehensive risk assessment."
Article 7(2) adds that measures taken "shall be proportionate and no
more restrictive to trade than is required to achieve the high level
of health protection chosen in the community". These principles
translate as a presumption of risk for GM products that have not been
authorised under EC Regulation 1829/2003.
Many of the safety concerns associated with GM crops are similar to
those which may arise in relation to a traditionally developed strain.
These include changes in nutritional quality or composition and the
development of allergenic or toxic substances in the crop.
Traditionally developed strains, however, are rarely subjected to
scrutiny comparable to that of GM plants. When a plant is genetically
modified, toxicity or allergenicity may arise if the product of the
novel gene is itself harmful or if the inserted genes interfere with a
native gene leading to the creation of a harmful gene product.
Therefore at the molecular level, whilst a novel gene and its products
may previously have been well characterised and their safety assessed
in other crops or strains, for any particular GM strain the
transformation event (namely how and where the genetic material
inserts into the host genome), and therefore the risk profile, is
unique. It is perhaps for this reason that Regulation 1829/2003
abandons the concept of "substantial equivalence" in food safety when
considering the risks of GM products.8
The other major consideration in assessing the safety of a GM plant is
its potential for wider environmental impact.9 The risk of
adventitious (unplanned and uncontrolled) growth of LL RICE 601 in
Europe is thought to be extremely low. Whilst some European countries
grow rice commercially, the plants' growing conditions are specialised
and they cannot survive the low temperatures that much of Europe
experiences. The strain does not contain an antibiotic resistance
marker, the presence of which has given rise to theoretical concerns
of gene transfer to other strains and other species. The PAT protein
is already present in the environment without known adverse
The PAT protein has been evaluated by the EFSA in previous unrelated
applications, and is "considered not to pose any health concern".
Safety approval has been granted for a strain of maize (1507 Maize)
which contains the PAT protein, and applications are currently being
reviewed for an oilseed rape plant containing the bar gene. Bayer
CropScience has submitted applications to the EFSA requesting
marketing approval for LibertyLink cotton (LL Cotton 25) and, as
mentioned above, LL RICE 62. In 2005, Bayer published the results of
extensive scientific studies and a literature review on the safety of
the bar gene and PAT protein.10 It concluded that no toxic or
allergenic effects would be expected from consumption of the bar DNA
sequence or the PAT protein. LL RICE 62 and LL RICE 601 use the same
bar gene and share one of the control elements used to produce the PAT
protein. Although deregulated by US authorities, LL RICE 62 has not
yet been commercialised.
Since 18 April 2004, when GM food and feed applications in the EU
became subject to Regulation 1829/2003, five GM plant strains have
been approved. One of these, 1507 Maize (mentioned above), expresses
the PAT protein to confer tolerability to glufosinate-ammonium, and
four have been modified to provide tolerance to a different herbicide
and/or pest-resistance. So far there are no GM strains of rice
authorised for use in the EU.
Early in the LL RICE 601 contamination story, scientific advisory
bodies from both the UK and the Netherlands concluded that the
consumption of the rice did not pose a risk to human or animal health.
Since then, the EFSA has stated that insufficient safety data are
available on LL RICE 601 to allow a full risk assessment "according to
EU standards". The EFSA Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified
Organisms did, however, conclude
"...on the basis of the available molecular and compositional data and
on the toxicological profile of PAT proteins, EFSA considers that the
consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LL
RICE 601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or
A press release issued by the USDA12 reported that both it and the US
Food and Drug Administration had concluded that "there are no human
health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this
[genetically engineered] rice", and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service also concluded that the rice is safe in the
Regulation 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed contains a
provision for the "adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of
genetically modified material" on the EU market, and amends 2001/18/EC
accordingly. Article 47 allows for the presence of up to 0.5% GMO in a
food or feed product without authorisation being required, provided
that it can be shown that its presence was adventitious or technically
unavoidable and that it had benefited from a favourable opinion from
the Community Scientific Committee(s) or Authority before the date of
application of the Regulation (18 April 2004). The clause is a
transitional one that will expire three years after the Regulation
entered into force. Provision is also made for the adventitious or
technically unavoidable presence of GMOs in food labelling laws.
Article 12 states that where GM material forms 0.9% or less of a
product, and this can be shown to be adventitious or technically
unavoidable, then subsequent labelling requirements in Section 2 of
the Regulation do not apply.
The risk to human or animal health through the contamination of US
long grain rice products with traces of an unauthorised GM strain
appears to be extremely small. Each component of the introduced
genetic material and the resulting PAT protein have been well
characterised and have, in various forms, received favourable
regulatory safety approvals. Furthermore, millions of people have
eaten GM products, including some carrying herbicide resistance, with
no proven adverse health effects. The risk, if any, of environmental
damage by the GM rice strain in Europe is likely to be negligible.
Despite this, the European Commission has introduced Decisions which
in Europe have limited supplies, presumably caused the destruction or
repatriation of large quantities of non-GM rice, and have been
burdensome to member states and industry stakeholders. In the US, the
measures have led or contributed to a fall in the value of crops,
additional costs for producers to obtain certification and for
counter-testing, and the issuing of damages claims by rice farmers
against Bayer CropScience.
Is the Commission's response "proportionate and no more restrictive to
trade than is required to achieve the high level of health protection
chosen in the Community"?13 Its stance is clearly stated in a press
release which followed notification of the contamination
"...the EU practices a very strict policy of only allowing GMOs which
have undergone full scientific assessment and authorisation in the EU.
Under EU legislation, even traces of unauthorised GMOs are illegal."14
The precautionary approach has been maintained by the Commission
despite a substantial body of data supporting the safety of this GM
plant, favourable opinions from US regulators, favourable preliminary
opinions from some member state authorities and no scientific evidence
to suggest that LL RICE 601 may pose a threat to human health.
A resolution to this apparent stalemate may not be easily achieved.
Should Bayer CropScience seek to solve the situation by applying for
authorisation in Europe for LL RICE 601, costly data probably not yet
available may have to be collated for a strain not intended to be
commercialised. Regardless, the approval process would take time.
Alternative approaches to removing the restrictions will largely
depend on the outcome of a USDA investigation into how the
contamination occurred and how widespread the adventitious growth is.
If it is not feasible to isolate and restrict the contaminated rice at
source, the Commission has the choice of upholding the ban, or perhaps
reconsidering the safety data already available and taking assurance
from the considered opinions of US regulators.
Possibly of greatest concern in relation to this case is the fact
that, despite having never been commercially grown, this GM plant has
managed widely to contaminate cultivation and to enter the human food
chain. Whilst all the available evidence for this particular plant
indicates that the transformation event is perfectly safe, not all GM
plants will necessarily be as safe for general consumption.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lovells' Science Unit was founded in 1996 to provide expert scientific
support to lawyers within the group, particularly in the product
liability and regulatory fields, and patent disputes. It is built
around post-doctoral/graduate scientists with qualifications in a
range of disciplines, including physiology, developmental biology and
The particular services provided by the Science Unit include
** interpretation and assessment of scientific documents
** acting as a link between the lawyers and the scientific community
** presentations to clients on science issues affecting their business
** attendance at client meetings and at conferences with counsel to
deal with science issues
** literature reviews and assessments of the state of scientific
knowledge in particular fields
** answering general scientific queries, using its access to a wide
range of online scientific databases.
For further information contact Caroline Moore,
firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr Rachel Gribben,
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to
the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your
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From: Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland), Jan. 5, 2007
MEPS TRY TO CURB PLAN TO PROMOTE GM CROPS
By Frank McDonald, Environment Editor
Irish MEPs [members of the European Parliament] have joined colleagues
in tabling 190 amendments to a draft European Parliament resolution on
biotechnology that would, if adopted later this month, promote a
positive approach to the use of genetically-modified (GM) crops.
More than 20 of the amendments have been co-signed by Kathy Sinnott
MEP (Ind), who is seeking to ensure that GM crops would be banned if
there was any risk of contaminating the crops of both organic and
The amendments also specify that the regulation of biotechnology "must
be firmly grounded in the application of both the precautionary
principle and the polluter pays principle, as stated in the EU
Sustainable Development Strategy".
Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness has also tabled a series of
amendments to the draft, although these are "more cosmetic" in nature,
according to the GM-free Ireland Network; her position is that GM
bans "are too simplistic".
But Fianna Fail MEP Liam Aylward, a former minister of state at the
Department of Agriculture, will be voting against the draft because he
believes the introduction of GM technology "will damage the reputation
of Irish agriculture".
Independent MEP Marian Harkin, who will also be strongly opposing it,
said Ireland needed to resist any EU requirement to adopt GM crops.
"Just as one cannot be a little bit pregnant, one cannot be a little
bit GM-free," she added.
Eight county councils in the Republic have adopted motions declaring
their areas as GM-free zones -- Cavan, Clare, Kildare, Kerry, Meath,
Monaghan, Roscommon and Westmeath -- as well as two councils in the
North (Fermanagh and Newry and Mourne).
But Minister for the Environment Dick Roche told the Dail last March
that he was "not aware of any basis on which a region might implement
a blanket ban" on GM crops or the sale or use of approved GM
ingredients in food or animal feeds.
He said the Government favoured a "positive but precautionary
approach" to the use of biotechnology, based on a report in 2000 by an
interdepartmental group that recognised "potential benefits" subject
to scientific risk assessment of its safety.
Although Fianna Fail pledged to keep Ireland GM-free in advance of the
1997 general election, Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan revealed
last November that GM products accounted for 95 per cent of maize and
soya feed imports.
The Minister, who was criticised by Green Party leader Trevor Sargent
TD for her "laissez faire approach", will shortly publish a strategic
policy document outlining how GM crops could "co-exist" with
conventional and organic farming in Ireland.
The GM-free Ireland Network claims that such a strategy, if
implemented, would "irreversibly contaminate the Irish food chain with
GM ingredients that are unwanted by the majority of consumers, food
brands and food retailers in Europe".
It said the draft European Parliament resolution "focuses solely on
the the potential beneficial implications of agricultural
biotechnology" and, though it would have no legislative impact, it
could create a "pro-GM context" for future EU legislation.
But last month, the EU Council of Environment Ministers vetoed a
proposal by the European Commission that would have forced Austria to
lift its ban on two types of GM maize, in order to conform to World
Trade Organisation rules.
With only Britain, the Czech Republic, Sweden and the Netherlands
opposed, Austrian environment minister Josef Proll said the council's
majority was sending a "very strong signal" that the commission should
reassess its pro-GM policy.
Green Party environment spokesman Ciaran Cuffe said the decision
"reopens the debate on the right of countries and regions to declare
themselves GM-free" and gave Ireland a "second chance" to ban the use
of GM products.
EU Parliament draft resolution: main points
** Efforts to develop biotechnology and genetic engineering should be
encouraged in the EU to facilitate more sustainable farming practices,
better food, increased yields and more diverse products.
** Biotechnology presents real opportunities in various fields,
leading to the emergence of entirely novel products for agriculture,
including pharmaceutical products such as oral vaccines.
** Biotechnology applications could help to reduce the use of
pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers in crop cultivation, thus
contributing to the protection of the environment and of human health.
** Farmers have the right to choose between traditional, organic and
GM production, so there is a need to establish clear, uniform and
transparent measures to enable GM farmers to coexist with neighbours.
** The European Commission should establish a high-level group to plan
a strategy on biotechnology for agriculture in the EU, in place of the
current complexity of the approval process for new products.
** Though protecting human health and the environment must remain
decisive, this should be based on objective scientific criteria, and
the precautionary principle should not be used as an excuse for delay.
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From: The Register-Guard (Eugene, Or.), Jan. 4, 2007
EDITORIAL: PROTECT WALDO'S PURITY
Unique natural treasures impose upon their custodians unique
responsibilities. For that reason, the extreme purity of Waldo Lake
requires that the Willamette National Forest take extreme care to
protect against degradation.
Errors should be on the side of caution; close calls should be decided
in the lake's favor. After nearly 10 years of discussion and study,
boats with gas-powered engines should be banned from Waldo Lake.
Waldo Lake, located 20 miles east of Oakridge, is the headwaters of
the North Fork of the Willamette River. It is among the clearest lakes
in the world -- geologically akin to Lake Tahoe and chemically like
Crater Lake, but more pure than either. The Atlas of Oregon Lakes
describes Waldo's clarity as "closely similar to that of rainwater in
a pristine environment."
The greatest threat to Waldo Lake's purity comes from human intrusion,
which accelerated by a factor of 10 with the construction of a paved
road in 1969. The road made Waldo Lake readily accessible from Eugene
and other Willamette Valley communities. While people create more
problems for the lake than the boats they bring with them, the
precautionary principle -- do nothing that can't be undone -- argues
for a policy recognizing that oil and water don't mix.
A ban on gas-powered boats is contained in the preferred alternative
in the Willamette National Forest's Waldo Lake management plan. The
motivation for the ban appears as much aesthetic as environmental -
lakeside use of gas-powered generators and chain saws also would be
banned. The proposal would not end all of the noisy disruptions at
Waldo Lake, but the tranquility of the entire area would be greatly
enhanced. Waldo Lake, bordered on two sides by wilderness, should
offer a quieter experience than nearby Odell and Crescent lakes, where
much of the activity centers on motorized recreation.
The preferred alternative focuses on the aesthetic merits of a ban
because the environmental gains can't easily be quantified -- there
are no studies tracing water-quality problems to the use of gas-
powered engines. Yet it's undeniable that fuel and oil are discharged
and spilled from gas engines -- quite a lot of it, in the case of two-
stroke engines. By the time evidence suggested that the spillages and
discharges were harming the lake, the damage would have been done.
Better to act now. In the case of Waldo Lake, it's better to be
The ban would cause few hardships. Electric motors would still be
permitted, allowing older or disabled people to get out on the lake or
reach dispersed campsites by boat. Waldo Lake is not a favorite
destination for people with gas-powered boats. The speed limit is 10
mph, which means waterskiers and personal watercraft hotdoggers must
go elsewhere. The end of an ill-considered stocking program in 1990
has led anglers to try their luck in other waters. About five of six
watercraft on Waldo Lake already are powered by sails, paddles or
oars, and most visitors say they would favor a ban on gas engines.
Getting gas engines off of Waldo Lake would be only a minor part of a
comprehensive effort to protect the lake's purity. The U.S. Forest
Service has been warned of threats to the lake's water quality since
1995, when a survey found that the number of microscopic organisms had
increased as much as 20-fold over a 30-year period. Signs of
degradation led federal land managers to make improvements in
campground waste disposal systems, move campsites back from the
lakeside and take other steps to protect the water.
Continued monitoring is essential, and further steps to reduce human
impacts may be required.
The 10-fold increase in visitors to Waldo Lake means that each one
must be 10 times more careful to protect it. Keeping fuel, oil and
exhaust away from the lake's waters is an obvious step.
Copyright 2007 -- The Register-Guard
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Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?
We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we
believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
to know the arguments used by slaveholders.
Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.
As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
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