Oct 22 2012

When is Patent Law like Environmental Law?

Published by under Land Use,Miscellaneous and tagged: , , , ,

Edge of a field of corn, via wikimedia

The answer: whenever Monsanto is involved. And now the company is heading to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps the most hated corporation in existence, Monsanto is a huge organization, best known for creating, selling, and, most importantly, patenting genetically engineered crops (GE crops) that are resistant to Monsanto’s brand of herbicide, Round-up. Commonly known as “Round-Up Ready” crops, Monsanto’s seeds include corn, alfalfa, and soybeans and are so widely used that pretty much everything we eat contains at least some GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).

GE crops have several environmental implications. First, having crops which are resistant to toxic herbicides like Round-Up allow farmers to use more of them on their crops. This means that there’s more pesticides that can get swept up in stormwater runoff and end up in the water supply, causing havoc.

Second, because seeds are passed on very easily by pollinating animals, so-called “super weeds” are beginning to pop up unintentionally that are also resistant to herbicides. Stronger and more potent herbicides are needed in greater amounts in order to get rid of these, compounding the runoff problem and potentially removing a tool in the fight against invasive species. The same is happening with Monsanto’s line of pesticide resistant crops, where the very bugs the pesticide is targeting are becoming resistant as well (isn’t evolution wonderful?).

While these are very serious problems, the reason Monsanto is so reviled is more a result of the way it treats farmers. Because the genes themselves are patented, Monsanto is allowed to prosecute patent infringement rigorously and it does so to great effect. Monsanto has also been accused of harassing and intimidating farmers into settling rather than pursuing their cases, which usually works because of the incredible resource disparity between local farmers and a huge conglomerate like Monsanto. Of the cases that have made it to court (11 out of 145 according to Monsanto’s website) every single one has been decided in Monsanto’s favor. Continue Reading »

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Oct 17 2012

First Public Hearing on Menhaden Regulation in Virginia: Competing Anecdotes and Common Ground

Published by under Animal and tagged: , ,

Atlantic Menhaden, via wikimedia

There’s a battle brewing in Virginia over a mostly inedible, oily little fish: the menhaden. The first volleys were fired on Monday at a public hearing in Newport News about proposed interstate fishing regulations for menhaden.

First, a bit of background. Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea,” mostly because of the role they play in the food chain. They eat phytoplankton (which causes algae blooms) and are in turn eaten by a wide range of animals, including striped bass, crabs, and various bird species. There’s also a range of human uses for menhaden; you can find them in everything from fish oil tablets to fertilizer to bait. Accordingly, an industry has arisen whose main goal is to harvest the menhaden, grind them up, and sell to other industries. On the east coast, this industry’s sole member is Omega Protein, based in Reedville, Virginia. Because other states on the east coast have banned or limited purse seining, the primary method Omega uses to capture menhaden, Omega Protein only operates out of Virginia.

Notably, menhaden is also the only fish in Virginia (and the entire east coast) to be regulated directly by the General Assembly and not by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The General Assembly has exclusive authority to pass regulations for the menhaden fishery in Virginia.  However, menhaden is also regulated by an interstate organization called the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) which has the federally-backed power to pass fishery regulations for the entire eastern seaboard. If Virginia does not implement ASMFC regulations in the state, the federal government has the power to shut down the entire menhaden fishery until Virginia comes into compliance. Continue Reading »

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Oct 12 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Environmental Issues in SCOTUS and Indonesian Palm Oil Increasing CO2 Emissions

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Sep 28 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Decision in Kivalina v. Exxon and House Passes “Stop the War on Coal Act”

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Sep 21 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Makers of Pink Slime Sue and Elephant Slaughter on the Rise

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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Sep 14 2012

Twitter Link Round-Up: Solar Power on the Rise and Isaac Washes Tar Balls on Gulf Shores

Photo by Kelci Block

Afraid you missed something interesting in the world of environmental law?  Read on for a (non-comprehensive) list of articles posted on our Twitter feed @WMELSBlog.

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