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California may soon be the first state to regulate vehicle greenhouse gases. Host Steve Curwood discusses the implications with Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Ball. (05:00)
Forest Deal/ Liam Moriarty
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Logging forest to save the land –that's the controversial deal arranged by an environmental partnership outside Seattle. It will preserve a stretch of land twice the size of the city. But most of the land will be logged over the next 40 years. Liam Moriarty reports. (05:20)
Department A/Health Note/ Jessica Penney
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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on new research into how lazy muscles can turn into well-trained ones, without exercise. (01:15)
The Living On Earth Almanac
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This week, we have facts about the Blessing of the Bicycles, a yearly event attended by 400 bicyclists seeking the spiritual bike path. (01:30)
Salmon Farming/ Cheryl Colopy
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Many critics of ocean fish pens continue to raise concerns about pollution from fish waste, disease, and fish escapes. But the public is eating more farmed fish than ever and British Columbia is set to lift a seven year ban on new fish farms. Cheryl Colopy reports. (08:30)
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The Swedish government recently released data showing a probable human carcinogen is formed when high starch foods are baked or fried. But, there’s a controversy surrounding the data. That’s because the study hasn’t undergone the standard process of scientific peer review. Host Steve Curwood speaks with Swedish environmental reporter David Damen about the research. (04:20)
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They’re short, they’re stout, and they’re reclusive as hermits. But when it comes to attracting a mate, the male woodcock pulls out all the stops. Bob Speare, a naturalist at the Massachusetts Audubon Society, takes us on an audio tour of the woodcock’s singing grounds in Ipswich, Massachusetts. (03:00)
Department B/Biz Note/ Jennifer Chu
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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a British campaign to recycle used cell phones for much-valued treasures. (01:20)
Cloning/ Bob Carty
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Producer Bob Carty continues his series, Generation Next: Remaking the Human Race by looking at the debate over cloning humans for medical therapies and offspring replication. (15:15)
HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Liam Moriarty, Cheryl Colopy, Bob Carty
GUESTS: Jeffrey Ball, David Dahme, Bob Speare
UPDATES: Jessica Penney, Jennifer Chu
[INTRO THEME MUSIC]
CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, it’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. To clone or not to clone. Many folks say making genetic copies of people to help cure diseases may be okay. But they draw the line when it comes to making clones destined for adulthood. Making babies in our exact image and likeness, they say, is playing God.
ANDREWS: Many of the technologies that we’re talking about do turn having a child into something akin to buying a car, picking the extras and so forth. And I’m worried about the affect on relationships, the affect on society if we do look at children that way.
CURWOOD: But cloning proponents say it’s a matter of choice.
BOSSELIER: If you want to have a baby, mixing your gene with someone of your choice, it must be your right. But it’s also your right if you want to reproduce yourself using your genes alone.
CURWOOD: The debate on human cloning, this week on Living on Earth, coming up right after this.
CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. California is poised to become the first state to regulate the greenhouse gases that spew out of vehicle tailpipes. The California Senate recently passed a bill to place a cap on these emissions. And if Governor Gray Davis signs the bill into law, it’ll be the first of its kind in the nation. With me now to discuss this development is Jeffrey Ball, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Welcome.
BALL: Thanks for having me.
CURWOOD: So tell me, why is California taking this step?
BALL: Well, California has a long, long history of being more aggressive in environmental regulation writ large, but specifically, environmental regulation that affects cars and trucks than the federal government has been. California, for a number of years, has imposed tougher rules on other kinds of pollutants, regulated pollutants that come out of a tailpipe of a car or truck than the federal government has.
CURWOOD: But greenhouse gases?
BALL: Well, not greenhouse gases. I mean, I think that what California is doing now is, in a regulatory sense, following what its done before. And people who were in favor of this in California would tell you that they believe that California has specific environmental problems that it needs to address through more aggressive regulatory measures.
CURWOOD: What are the environmental advantages for California to put this measure into law?
BALL: Well, although the Gray Davis administration has been very careful not to pick a side yet on this bill, I spoke to his chief environmental official. And he made it pretty clear that the Davis administration supports the idea of California regulating greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
He makes the argument that California, first of all, if California were an independent nation unto itself, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world. He talks about California’s 1100 miles of coastline. He talks about, what he calls, the "snow cap" in California, which he believes is potentially at threat from global warming. So, the argument, on the part of Californians who want some sort of regulation of greenhouse gases, is that global warming poses a particularly acute risk to that state.
CURWOOD: What has the auto industry done, so far, in response to this bill?
BALL: The auto industry was busy fighting in Washington to stave off attempts to increase federal auto mileage standards. And it won that fight about a month ago when the Senate decided not to increase mileage standards significantly.
What happened in the meantime was that the environmentalists in California who had started this effort actually had been gaining quite a lot of steam in the legislature. And the auto industry sort of woke up and looked to the west coast, and said, "Oh my God. What’s happening out there?" And, the auto industry belatedly, in the last few weeks, has launched a pretty significant lobbying effort to derail this bill in California law.
The auto industry has taken out full-page ads in a lot of California newspapers. It’s begun to broadcast radio advertisements in California arguing against this bill. And, the jury is still out as to whether that’s going to work. This bill has passed both houses of the California legislature. It remains to be reconciled between those two houses. And then, the big question will be whether Governor Gray Davis, who faces re-election this year in California, will sign, what’s clearly going to be, a very controversial proposal.
CURWOOD: Now, if this bill does get signed into law, what are the options for the auto industry to contest it?
BALL: Well, the major option for the auto industry to contest it is to fight it in court, which pretty clearly would happen.
CURWOOD: New Hampshire passed a law in April to cap carbon dioxide and two other gas emissions from old electric power plants. What are we seeing here in the states?
BALL: Yeah, that’s very interesting. Of course, that’s different from California’s move, in the sense that what New Hampshire is doing is targeted at stationary power sources as opposed to automobiles.
But the trend is significant in the sense that environmentalists, I think, are increasingly coming to the opinion that they are not making the kind of headway they want to make in Washington and that they’re going to punt and try to make more headway in state capitols. Part of that is a question of where the industry has more political power.
CURWOOD: Or might that, in fact, end up forcing Washington’s hand. I mean, to use your football metaphor here, is this a punt, sort of a move to keep from losing ground? Or is it an end run, a way to score from the environmentalists’ perspective?
BALL: Yeah, it’s a fascinating question. I mean, I think that the– It’s certainly, in the interim, in the short-term, it is certainly viewed by environmentalists as a way to keep this issue alive. There’s clearly the hope from environmentalists that they will generate enough public pressure by succeeding in the states to force Washington’s hand. But in the short-term, perhaps make federal action less of an issue because there will be action by very large states.
CURWOOD: Jeffrey Ball is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Thanks for taking this time with us.
BALL: Thanks for having me.
CURWOOD: In recent years, some conservationists in the Northeast have used limited logging as a compromise to protect designated areas of habitat for wildlife. Now, this approach is coming to the Cascade Mountains, just beyond the suburbs of Seattle. A non-profit group hopes to use logging to save more than 100,000 acres of land from the threat of suburban sprawl. Liam Moriarty reports the plan has led to great excitement among Northwest environmental groups, and some soul searching as well.
MORIARTY: The property is immense, nearly twice the size of the city of Seattle. But it’s not likely to be mistaken for wilderness. It’s a working forest. For the past century, these hills have been continuously logged by the Weyerhauser Company.
[SOUND OF WATER FLOWING]
MORIARITY: There are some tall fir forests. Other sections are dotted with trees in various stages of growth. Still, other areas are clearcut, raw and torn up, with muddy mounds of roots and discarded slash.
Charlie Raines is my guide. We park and walk down to a river as a light rain falls from the low-hanging mist.
RAINES: Typical spring day in the foothills.
MORIARTY: Mr. Raines is with the Cascade Land Conservancy, one of the non-profit partners in charge of this unusual project. He says that even after all the logging, the tree farm is home to a lot of wildlife.
RAINES: From bald eagles to jays, crows and ravens, lots of woodpeckers. There’s deer and elk here year round, bear, bobcat, cougar.
MORIARTY: Their habitat would be destroyed, he says, if this land were converted to malls, and housing subdivisions. The booming suburb surrounding Seattle can already be seen encroaching on nearby ridges in the Cascade foothills. So the Evergreen Forest Trust, the main non-profit partner in this deal, will buy the tree farm from Weyerhauser.
It will set aside 20,000 acres of the most sensitive land, like this riverbank. Then the environmental partnership will log the rest, for at least another 40 years. The Trust will use the money to pay off the property’s $185 million purchase price. Mr. Raines, a long-time environmentalist, is painfully aware of the irony.
RAINES: The clearcutting is not pretty. It’s certainly not my preference or a lot of other peoples’ preference for how to manage the forest. But the alternative is to see all the trees cut down and then have the land paved over, which is far worse.
[SOUND OF WATER FLOWING FADES]
MORIARTY: Gene Duvernoy is Charlie Raines’ boss at the Cascade Land Conservancy. We meet in a small downtown Seattle conference room, hung with woodcut prints commemorating the group’s preservation of forests, wetlands and open spaces. Mr. Duvernoy says working forests are worth protecting. And conservationists have already waited too long.
DUVERNOY: We expected that land to always be there as forest. And, we continue to debate on the degree and type of forestry while we have been waking up of late, and recognizing that those forests are being converted to other uses.
MORIARTY: Mr. Duvernoy says two decades of fighting over logging in the Northwest has been divisive. It’s drained environmentalists of money and energy. He says this model–buying a working forest, then using the proceeds to pay for its long-term preservation–is the next step.
DUVERNOY: There needs to be a new paradigm. We’re not interested in battles. We’re interested in creating a successful mechanism for providing the wood that this society clearly needs, but providing it an environmentally sustainable basis.
MORIARTY: Mr. Duvernoy says there will less logging as the land is paid off, and logging with greater care for streams and wetlands than is required under government regulations. Since the non-profit won’t have to keep investors happy with ever-increasing returns, he says, it can afford to log more carefully than commercial timber companies often do.
DUVERNOY: There are some people who are afraid of a new way of doing business. And there are some of us who say it’s time to look at new ways to do business. And that’s what this is about.
MORIARTY: While this new way of doing business has been embraced by many mainstream environmental groups in Washington State, others say doing business is the problem, not the solution.
BLAELOCH: This is not protection. It’s not conservation. It’s not environmentalism. It’s cutting down the trees to pay for the land.
MORIARTY: Janine Blaeloch heads the Western Lands Exchange Project. The group watchdogs land swaps between corporations and the government. Ms. Blaeloch says she’s dismayed to see environmentalists so eagerly adopting a corporate approach to the land.
BLAELOCH: As long as the motives behind what we do are profit, we can never hope to save the things that truly need to be saved. If everything has its price, then everything eventually will be sold.
MORIARTY: The sale is still not a done deal. It hinges on some "first of its kind" financing– tax-free bonds. Typically, those bonds are used by cities as a low-cost way to finance big projects such as sewers or hospitals. Before they can be used in this deal, either the IRS or Congress will have to say it’s okay for a non-profit group to issue them for land conservation.
Gerry Johnson, president of the Evergreen Forest Trust, predicts if that happens, the bonds will soon be used on other environmental projects around the country.
JOHNSON: Well, we think the potential is enormous. And, there are lots of Snoqualmie tree farms around the country that could benefit from this mechanism.
[SOUND OF WATER FLOWING]
MORIARTY: Standing on the banks of the Snoqualmie River, Charlie Raines watches a small bird bobbing for food among the mossy river rocks, and reflects on compromise and doing what is doable.
RAINES: I grew up in the greater Seattle area. And so I’ve watched the suburbs move from where I grew up farther and farther east every year. And areas that you thought would never get developed are now covered with houses. I don’t want to see another 100,000 acres of it turned into suburban development.
MORIARTY: It’s a long reach for many environmentalists to see logging as a tool that can be creatively used to contain suburban sprawl. For now, what’s planned at the Snoqualmie Tree Farm remains an experiment, cutting down the trees to save the forest. For Living on Earth, I’m Liam Moriarty in the foothills of the Cascade Range.
CURWOOD: Coming up, salmon farming is a big business. And it’s going to get bigger in British Columbia. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.
PENNEY: Researchers at the University of Texas say they may be able to turn lazy muscles into buff muscles without breaking a sweat. The scientists are studying how muscles change after extensive exercise. But, they work with mice. And it’s hard to get the rodents to run around on exercise wheels long enough to develop those marathon runner muscles.
So, they genetically engineered the mice. These mice produced a form of a protein that sets off a chain reaction, tricking the mouse muscles into thinking they are always being used. So, even though these mice didn’t exercise, they had the type of muscle that normally develops only after intensive training.
Based on this work, the researchers think that they might one day be able to design a drug that could stimulate this protein in people. That drug might improve the health of someone who is bedridden or help astronauts whose muscles have weakened after weightlessness. As for you couch potatoes out there, this isn’t the workout pill you’ve been waiting for. Researchers say the muscle-toned mice had none of the other cardiovascular benefits of exercise. That’s this week’s Health Update. I’m Jessica Penney.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
CURWOOD: On Saturday, May 18th, bicyclists can pedal their way to a church in New York City for some spiritual tailwind. That’s when the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine plays host and minister to more than 400 two-wheelers at the annual Blessing of the Bicycles.
The event began just three years ago when the president of the Five Borough Bicycle Club approached the church and pitched the idea, kicking off National Bike Week and the start of summer spinning with a blessing. The Cathedral already held blessing events for animals and marathon runners. So, why not a bicycle benediction?
The ceremony begins when the Cathedral opens its huge bronze doors to cyclists of any and all faiths. The bikes line up inside and The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski tells us that he’ll welcome the riders, as he does each year, with a few fitting lines from the Bible about a souped-up chariot.
KOWALSKI: Our reading today is from Ezekiel, Chapter One, Verses 18 through 21. Their rims were tall and awesome. Wherever the spirit would go, they went. And the wheels rose along with them. For the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
CURWOOD: Then Reverend Kowalski says a prayer of protection and walks down the rows of bicycles, sprinkling each one with holy water. The cyclists ring their bike bells in thanks, followed by a moment of silence to remember riders who died in the past year.
And then, the service is capped off with a final blessing from Reverend Kowalski. And the cyclists roll out of the Cathedral to strains of, you guessed it, "Bicycle Built for Two." And, for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.
CURWOOD: Critics of salmon farming say the environmental risks of water pollution, disease and genetic mixing far outweigh the benefits of having a year-round supply of cheap, low cholesterol protein. In 1995, those concerns led to a moratorium on new fish farms in British Columbia. The Canadian government now says it wants to lift that ban. And the announcement has re-ignited the controversy over salmon farming. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Cheryl Colopy reports.
[SOUND OF MARKET]
COLOPY: Trays of pink salmon steaks and fillets glisten behind the glass at Ver Brugge’s Market in Oakland.
VER BRUGGE: Today, in the cabinet, we have all farmed salmon. There has been no wild catch to speak of.
COLOPY: Jerry Van Brugge says he’s always on the lookout for good wild salmon. But much of the year it’s not in season, or local fisherman are not finding any. Loyal customers arrive in a steady stream. Janet Schneider is one of many who says she doesn’t know the difference between wild and farmed fish.
SCHNEIDER: I guess I always thought fresh was fresh. Well, it was caught– well I guess, it ran wild first.
COLOPY: Jerry Van Brugge says most customers don’t know or don’t care about the growth hormones and antibiotics frequently used in fish farming, or about the food coloring fed to farm salmon to change their flesh from gray to pink just before they go to market.
VAN BRUGGE: I would say generally 90% of the population is accepting of those fish.
COLOPY: In the past decade, global production of farmed salmon has tripled. The industry produces nearly a million tons of salmon each year, enough to fill big rig trucks stretched bumper to bumper for 700 miles. As with hog, cattle and dairy farming these days, salmon work is often factory work.
[SOUND OF FISH PLANT]
COLOPY: This plant on Quadra Island, off the coast of British Columbia, is spotless. Workers wear smocks and hairnets. Salmon used to be seasonal. But now, it’s a year-round industry. So the equipment that workers use to vacuum blood and guts from the meat is specially designed to limit repetitive stress.
Bright silver carcasses drop off the conveyor belt. Premium grade will go to sushi restaurants in Japan. Fish with tiny defects may be bound for your neighborhood fish market. Farms in Chile produce more of the 40-pounders sold at big box stores like Costco.
[SOUND OF FISH PLANT FADES]
COLOPY: This increased supply of farmed salmon has caused prices to drop to record lows. Fishermen from California to Alaska are going out of business because they can’t compete with the farmed product. Roz Naylor, a researcher at Stanford University, specializes in the economics of food production.
NAYLOR: Consumers are buying this very cheap farmed salmon. And they’re saying, "Look at this. Isn’t this great? All this fish are on the market and they’re available, and they’re uniform quality," and so forth. But the consumers are not paying for any of the external or the environmental costs associated with this.
COLOPY: Naylor says one of those costs is feeding these cows of the sea. In the wild, salmon are predators. They eat fish.
NAYLOR: Many people do think that agriculture is relieving all the pressure on ocean fisheries, and that if they just buy farmed salmon that they’re, in fact, saving wild fish in the oceans. And, that’s not at all the case. Because for salmon, they actually eat fish in their fish meal for feed. And they actually consume more fish than is being produced in the farming systems.
COLOPY: That means small fish, like anchovies and sardines, are being depleted to make food pellets for salmon. Scientists are alarmed that there won’t be enough of the small fish left for wild marine life to eat. What’s more, uneaten food pellets that fall to the ocean floor have polluted coastal areas say critics of salmon farming.
[SOUND OF WATER AND GULLS]
COLOPY: Forested islands float on dark water here in a quiet inlet off the coast of Vancouver Island. A dozen huge mesh enclosures filled with salmon stretch out from the shoreline. Called "net pens," they’re 100 feet square, 70 feet deep.
[SOUND OF FOOD PELLET PUMP]
COLOPY: Food pellets are pumped through flexible tubes from a warehouse onshore and sprayed out over the net pens. Underwater cameras in each pen capture the multitude of fish circling and feeding. Above on the deck, workers monitor TV screens so they can shut off the spray of pellets when the fish lose interest in eating. Anita Petersen, who works for BC Salmon Farmers, says the cameras are just one of many environmental improvements on salmon farms.
PETERSEN: One of the concerns for environmentalists and other individuals is that there’s too much falling to the bottom of the cages underneath the pen systems. And, with the cameras here, what has happened is that the fish farmers become just master observers.
COLOPY: Petersen says the amount of food pellets falling to the ocean floor is now negligible, both because of the careful monitoring and because the pellets themselves have been reengineered to descend slowly in the water. That gives the salmon extra time to eat them.
A few weeks ago, British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture Food and Fisheries, John Van Dongen, told me improvements like these mean it’s safe to lift a six year moratorium and allow the industry to expand.
VAN DONGEN: The people that are running these sites, they are professional biologists, veterinarians. I mean, they’re professional people. They have their own code of conduct that they have to be accountable for.
COLOPY: It’s not just pollution, but fish escapes and outbreaks of disease on the farms that have troubled critics. Van Dongen says farms must not report any escapes within 24 hours. He says though officials take the problem of escape seriously, they’ve decided salmon aquaculture can coexist safely with wild fisheries. But researcher John Volpe of the University of Alberta says there’s still an astounding lack of science on fish farming.
VOLPE: There are no criteria for evaluating what a successful program would be. How many escapes are too much? How much effluent, crap into the water, is too much? How much antibiotic that are released into the environment is too much? Everything is qualitative. Everything is basically feel-good. We’re making lots of money. Everybody be happy.
COLOPY: The salmon industry has always claimed that domesticated Atlantic salmon are too dumb to survive in the wild. But Volpe says he’s found large numbers of them where they should not be, upstream in British Columbia rivers.
He says his own experiments show that they do spawn. And there’s real danger Atlantic salmon will keep native fish, whose numbers are severely depleted, from re-populating rivers. Fishermen and environmentalists also worry that the abundance of cheap, farmed salmon on the market now obscures the crisis in the rivers where these fish originated.
[SOUND OF RUSHING WATER]
COLOPY: Bill Bakke, founder of the Native Fish Society, muses on the banks of the fast- flowing Salmon River in Oregon.
BAKKE: The salmon have been evolving on this coast for 40 to 50 million years. And they have been constantly adapting to a changing environmental, volcanism, earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires.
COLOPY: Bakke says in the Northwest, 40 percent of the wild salmon runs are extinct. He’s afraid more wild salmon runs will die out as a burgeoning aquaculture industry brings genetic dilution and disease, and its lobbyists gain influence.
BAKKE: Aquaculture, I think, is going to become more and more powerful as time goes on, and capturing more and more of the political resources that are important to it, but at the expense of wild salmon recovery.
COLOPY: But even as more and more consumers choose salmon over chicken or beef, there are new attempts to reign in the industry. Alaska has banned salmon farming outright to protect the wild catch.
And in Washington, officials plan to require all farm fish to be branded so escapes can be traced back to their growers. And there are efforts to label fish so shoppers will know exactly what they’re buying. For Living on Earth, I’m Cheryl Colopy on the Salmon River in Oregon.
CURWOOD: In April, the Swedish government released a study indicating a possible health risk in carbohydrate-rich foods that are baked or fried. Things like french fries, potato chips, biscuits. The research found that the chemical acrylamide is formed during the high temperatures of baking and frying. Acrylamide is classified as a probable human carcinogen. And up ‘til now, it was not thought to form naturally, but only in the manufacture of plastics and other industrial products.
The U.N.’s World Health Organization has called the results alarming and will hold a meeting next month to examine the issue further. But there’s controversy surrounding the data since the Swedish government released its study before it went through a standard scientific review.
And, here to talk with us about this is David Dahme. He’s a Swedish freelance journalist, specializing in environmental and health issues, who’s written for Sveriges Natur and other publications. And he’s been covering the acrylamide story. David Dahme, welcome.
DAHME: Thank you.
CURWOOD: David, the U.N.’s World Health Organization has set a maximum allowable level of acrylamide in drinking water at– I think it’s one microgram per liter. How do these unexpected results in food compare to that water standard?
DAHME: Well, the levels are much higher, I mean amazingly higher, like 35 to 40 times higher than in water. So, I mean, this is one of the major reasons for the alarm.
CURWOOD: What do observers say about the scientific validity of this research and what it might mean for human health?
DAHME: They’ve been questioning the way that the test’s been conducted. Only animals have been tested. And, what you need is really epidemiologic research to get an honest and more steady ground to really study the effects on a human population. And you need to have sort of a much broader base to make these conclusions that they made.
CURWOOD: Here in the United States, our Food and Drug Administration says it’s requesting information on the Swedish study. And it won’t be able to evaluate it until the FDA’s own chemists have had a good look at it. And, in fact, a spokesperson for the agency said that it’s a danger, that people may hear about these results and undercook their food in a dangerous way. I’m wondering, what guidance is the Swedish government giving to the public there about these foods?
DAHME: Everyone expected the food authorities to issue new advice to come out, saying that you should really now stop eating potato chips and all this. But they say, "No, it’s too early, really." I mean, they insist on not giving out any new advice which is sort of a bit contradictive to the alarm.
CURWOOD: The Swedish government decided to do this research after it was informed of the results of similar work done at the University of Stockholm. The university work has been accepted for publication in Scientific Journal. But until it’s made public, the researcher won’t talk about it. So we don’t know her results.
But, we do know that her study has passed muster. It’s been peer reviewed, as it said in the business, by a panel of scientists. But this isn’t the case for the government work. What does the Swedish government say about why it took this highly unusual step of holding a press conference to release the results of their study directly to the public without going through the customary peer scientific review?
DAHME: Well, they’re saying that they are perfectly aware of the way it works in the academic world, knowing that they still felt that the amount of acrylamide found in foods was so alarming that they thought in order to reduce any damage they just had to go public about the whole thing.
CURWOOD: The Swedish government, both in Sweden and abroad, has been criticized for releasing the data in this unorthodox way. What are these critics saying?
DAHME: There’s been some indications that the whole thing was staged in order to get funds. One newspaper found out that just before this happened, the authority, food authority, applied for additional money. But they didn’t get it. So they were in desperate need for some new additional government money to continue their work and to extend their work.
CURWOOD: Now, what do the researchers of the original university work have to say about the government’s early release of this data?
DAHME: Well, they are clearly disturbed here. I mean, they have to guard their own reputation, of course, in the academic world, their own careers. And so, they feel that they, more or less, forced somehow to present this result at an early stage.
CURWOOD: Where do you think this goes from here, David? What happens next in this story?
DAHME: The scientific world will have a round of debate now. Actually, it could be a worldwide debate on this way of not sort of following the given rules.
CURWOOD: David Dahme is an environmental journalist in Sweden. David, thanks for taking the time with us today.
DAHME: Thank you.
You’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth. Spring is here. And for one small and usually shy bird, love is, literally, in the air. This time every year, the male American Woodcock descends on a grassy spot called a "singing field" and begins a unique courting display.
Bob Speare, a naturalist with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, has been watching this show for years and invited us to join him one evening at the Society sanctuary in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
[SOUND OF WALKING, BIRDS AND INSECT]
SPEARE: Oh, this is going to be a good night. I can feel it. We can hang out right here until it comes in.
A woodcock is kind of a really silly looking bird. It’s a short, stout bird that has a very long bill that it uses to probe into the ground to search for earthworms. It has short, rounded wings. It does have eyes set way back on the top of its head. And it allows the bird to see almost 360° to see what’s going on around it.
SPEARE: As we’re getting closer to the time that the woodcocks come out, we’re starting to see some of these day birds and other animals kind of punching out for the day and going home.
Once we reach the right candle power of light, we’ll probably first hear one of these animals come in. Their wings give a little twittering sound [he imitates twittering sound] as they fly in to that specific spot on the ground. And once they do, they’ll almost immediately begin with this nasally peent, peent, peent.
SPEARE: There it is!
SPEARE: And then they’ll burst into the air. And again, you’ll hear that little [he imitates twittering sound] of the wings as they spiral up several hundred feet, or a couple of hundred feet anyway.
[SOUND OF WOODCOCK WING TWITTERING]
SPEARE: There he goes. There he goes. He’s in the air. There he goes. Now he’s descending. He’s kind of free-falling back down, heading back to the same spot. Here he comes. Bang. He’s back on the ground.
SPEARE: Exact same spot. Exact same place.
There’s a quality in that display, that the female is probably gauging in her head to realize, "Is this the one for me?" It’s pretty amazing to think that they’ll come out in any kind of weather, and just keep going night after night after night, even though nobody’s interested. It’s very seldom that they actually attract a mate. Yet, they’re out there every single night, doing it over and over and over.
CURWOOD: Naturalist Bob Speare, watching the woodcocks at the Massachusetts Audubon Society Sanctuary in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Just ahead, the debate over human cloning. First, this environmental Business Note with Jennifer Chu.
CHU: Inside very old cell phones is a treasure waiting to be mined. And, a British telecommunications firm says it will gladly accept your old mobile. You can mail your unwanted phone to XS Tronix in London where it’ll be stripped for precious metals like gold, silver and palladium. The company says the estimated 90 million unwanted phones in the UK alone contain about $2 million in silver, $15 million in palladium, and $26 million in gold.
Older and bulkier phones tend to house more metals than newer models. After the precious metals are extracted, they’ll be smelted down, refined, and resold on the commodities market to jewelry makers and semi-conductor manufacturers. The company also plans to recycle the plastic in the phones. Recovering these cell phones could keep about 5,000 tons of electronic waste out of the landfills in the UK.
And, there’s an incentive to recycle. People who turn in their old phones can get free movie tickets, free minutes on their monthly bill, or a donation to their favorite charity. That’s this week’s Business Note. I’m Jennifer Chu.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. Today, we continue with our series "Generation Next: Remaking the Human Race" with a look at human cloning.
President George W. Bush has been lobbying Congress to ban all forms of human cloning. But many scientists want an exemption, not for cloning to produce new human life, but for cloning to produce stem cells for possible medical therapies. Meanwhile, a handful of doctors and scientists say they are already in the process of producing a cloned human being. And when that event is announced, it will change forever the boundaries of what humanity deems acceptable, even what it means to be human. Today, producer Bob Carty continues his exploration of "Generation Next" with a story he calls "Another Me: The Question of Cloning."
[SOUND OF EXHIBIT MUSIC]
CARTY: In Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry has a new exhibit called "Genetics: Decoding Life." It’s 7,000 square feet of new age music, interactive videos and living displays, all about how life develops, sometimes about how it can be engineered, even copied.
APERSON: We’re in the brand new "Genetics: Decoding Life" exhibit. And I’m standing right next to the display of cloned mice. And people are fascinated to see something that they’ve heard about in the news.
CARTY: Dan Aperson mounted this exhibit for the museum. It’s designed to help the public which, today, is a few families and school groups, to become a bit more familiar, perhaps more comfortable with technologies like cloning.
MALE VISITOR #1: It’s pretty cool. It’s sort of weird, though. Because like, you have a mouse and you’re just going to create another whole one with just one mouse. And you can create and create and create. And you’ve got a whole bunch.
MALE VISITOR #2: I’m for cloning, personally.
FEMALE VISITOR #1: I’m against it, mostly.
CHILD: I don’t actually like what they did. Because it’s better if they just leave them and have babies on their own. That’s if they’re a girl.
CARTY: The reaction of children and teens here is typical of public opinion across America. Cloning is weird stuff for most of us. And we’re not sure what to think about it. After all, until now, human beings have been the combination of two parents, two sets of genes. That’s even the case with in vitro fertilization. But cloning changes that.
[SOUND OF SHEEP CALLING]
CARTY: The appearance of Dolly the sheep was what moved cloning from the realm of science fiction to reality. To create Dolly, they first took an egg from one sheep and removed its insides, its nucleus. They replaced it with the mammary cell of another six year old sheep. Then they gave the new egg a little jolt of electricity.
In 276 attempts, nothing happened. But in the 277th embryo, the cell began to divide, and grow, and eventually became the cloned sheep named after Dolly Parton. Now, there are no technical reasons this procedure could not be tried on humans. But the moral and political consequences are incendiary.
[TWO MEN ARGUING]
CARTY: Last summer, a committee of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences held a debate about human cloning in Washington, D.C. It was a verbal dustup.
CARTY: On one side of the debate was a small group of cloning advocates, an Italian fertility doctor, his American colleague, and a French biochemist by the name of Bridget Bosselier
Dr. Bosselier is also a so-called "bishop" in the Church of Rael, which might kindly be described as a new age cult dedicated to UFOs. This group actually believes that we are all descendents of clones put here on Earth by extra-terrestrials. And so, they want to clone themselves in order to transfer their consciousness into new bodies and live forever.
Understandably, some scientists were uncomfortable being in the same room with Dr. Bosselier. But, Dr. Bosselier was there because, as strange as her group may be, she does put forward the mainstream argument why she should be allowed to clone a human being.
BOSSELIER: Because there is demand. There is a huge demand. There are people who cannot have a child with their own genes. And they have heard about cloning. And now, they have hopes. If there are hopes, if there is a technology, this will be done. And I think it’s our own choice to use our genes the way we want.
If you want to have a baby mixing your gene with someone of your choice, it must be your right. But, it’s also your right if you want to reproduce yourself using your genes alone.
CARTY: Bosselier and other cloning advocates claim their experiments are already underway. They will not say where. They claim they have a list of people ready to be cloned. They will not say who. And although each clone could cost up to half a million dollars, they say they do have the money to do it. They argue cloning should be allowed because it’s a reproductive right. It’s the will of the marketplace. And it’s technologically inevitable.
BOSSELIER: The demand is huge. The demand is there. And, this will be done.
CARTY: "Rubbish," says Lori Andrews. Lori Andrews is the director of the Center for Science, Law and Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the author of "The Clone Age." She points out that you can’t really clone yourself or bring back a loved one from the dead because although the DNA would be an exact match, the environment in which a clone would be raised would make that child unique.
So, Andrews worries more about the values held by people who would even want to be cloned or do cloning. They remind her too much of Nazi experiments in eugenics, the idea of reproducing only certain people.
ANDREWS: Cloning isn’t just about making a copy of an individual. It’s really a way of choosing particular values. As I go around the world, I’m finding that people who are advocating cloning do so to create the type of people they most like. The Raelians tell me they would only clone smart people because they value that. When I was in the Middle East, I was told the groups there would only clone men because men are who they value. And when you look at the list of who people want to clone, it’s almost invariably men: Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan. Many of the technologies that we’re talking about do turn having a child into something akin to buying a car, or picking the extras and so forth. And I’m worried about the affect on relationships, the affect on society if we do look at children that way.
CARTY: But, ethical concerns are not the only arguments against cloning. There is also the issue of safety.
JAENISCH: So, this is a picture of a normal embryo at birth. And they are juxtaposed to a cloned pup.
CARTY: In his office at MIT, biologist Rudy Jaenisch displays a picture of one of his clones. It’s a mouse, dead at birth.
JAENISCH: The clone pup is really grossly abnormal, like a monster. It’s four times as big and deformed. Body wall has not closed. And you see that the lungs are not inflated, so the animals cannot breathe and then all sorts of other problems.
CARTY: Rudy Jaenisch says the abnormalities in his cloned mice happen in all cloned animals. Even Dolly, the success story, is overweight and suffering from arthritis. Jaenisch explains that the technical problem in cloning is getting the right genes turned on and others turned off.
Take Dolly, for example. The trick in making her was hoping that when the mammary cells were put inside the nucleus of an egg, the genes that used to make milk would turn off and the genes for embryo development would turn on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Many times, things go wrong. Rudy Jaenisch doesn’t believe there is a so-called "normal clone" in existence. And that’s beside the fact that most of them die before birth.
JAENISCH: In mice, you have one, two, three or four percent of the animals ever survive to adulthood. And in cows, it might be between two and maybe six or seven percent. Then animals die later with apparently a non-existing immune system. So, the immune system was very defective. The biological problems are major in cloning activists who want to clone humans.
CARTY: If they go ahead though, what would be the consequence?
JAENISCH: I think we can only predict from what we know from cloning of animals. The consequences will be that most human clones will die. Then few will survive. And most of those, I think, will be not normal. Advocating cloning of humans, I think, is totally irresponsible. It should not be done.
CARTY: Cloning proponents respond that, with time, cloning technology will get better. Practice makes perfect. But, critics say that to get even close to being safe, it means doing experiments with people. And it means accepting terrible failures and deaths along the way, something no one could justify in moral terms.
Still, there are scientists with lots of egos and little ethics. And despite laws against cloning that have been passed by some nations, or are soon to be passed by other nations, the fear is that a cloned person will soon appear somewhere in the world. And if the first clones don’t work out so well, even that may not stop some scientists. Some of them have already proposed the creation of imperfect clones to be used for body parts. It sounds like science fiction. But it scares Stuart Newman, a biologist at the New York Medical College.
NEWMAN: The proposal was to manipulate early human embryos to have infants born without brains. By most western standards, they would be non-persons because they’re brain dead at the time they are born. And then they could be used as sources for transplantable organs, or for research. It really makes me wonder. I mean, it’s outrageous. And, if we were bus drivers rather than scientists, we would accept limits on where we could drive our bus. But somehow, the idea has taken hold that there should be no limits on what scientists could do.
CARTY: The question of limits is at the heart of another part of the cloning debate. This is the debate not about cloning a whole person, but cloning human embryos for stem cell research.
REEVE: For the record, I’m a C-2 ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. I have a keen interest in research. And I’m deeply disturbed by unreasonable attempts to block scientific progress.
CARTY: At a Senate hearing on cloning earlier this year, the quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeve lobbied from his wheelchair in favor of cloning for research purposes. Activists for the disabled like Christopher Reeve are excited about embryonic stem cells because they eventually become every kind of cell in the human body.
If scientists could transform stem cells into tissues or organ cells on command, they might be able to treat diseases or make transplantable organs without the risk of rejection. That’s the hope. The problem is that to harvest embryonic stem cells, you have to destroy the embryo. And that’s why President Bush cut off federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
However, a Massachusetts company, Advanced Cell Technologies, says they will use their own money to clone human embryos. They’ve already tried it. Robert Lanza is the vice president of Advanced Cell Technologies and one of the most enthusiastic advocates of embryonic stem cell research.
LANZA: In the future, we hope to be able to use embryonic stem cells to cure a long list of human disease such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, over a hundred human diseases that, one day, will be treatable using this technology. By the time you and I, for instance, grow old, say you get in an accident, we will simply grow you up a new kidney. And this isn’t science fiction. This is very real. This is going to happen within our lifetime. We believe that the use of embryonic stem cells is entirely ethical. We think that it’s the whole question of whether a completely undifferentiated ball of cells that’s smaller than the tip of a pin warrants the same rights and respect as an adult, say a child, or a parent who may die because we failed to move a moral line.
BUSH: And we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
CARTY: On the other side of the debate, you have President Bush, and an unlikely coalition: conservative Christians joined by feminists and independent scientists to oppose any kind of cloning. They marshal several arguments. That the availability of cloned embryos for research makes it more likely someone will try to clone a person in America’s largely unregulated fertility clinics. That stem cell science is over-hyped. Therapies are years, if not decades, away. And, stem cells implanted in mice have caused cancer, precisely because they are stem cells and reproduce uncontrollably. And that, as with Dolly, human embryonic cloning would have a lot of failures. So, tens of thousands of women would likely have to be hired, and paid, to take super ovulation drugs to produce eggs, to then be surgically extracted. It means putting women at risk.
The critics say there is an alternative–adult stem cells. They generate new blood, and skin, and hair, and muscles in our bodies everyday. Research on adult stem cells is quite young. But so far, scientists have been able to transform them into blood, fat, bone, kidney, liver, nerve, brain and muscle cells. They may be just as promising as embryonic stem cells but with a medical, and an ethical, advantage, according to Dr. Ron Wharton who coordinates stem cell research in Canada. Dr. Wharton is not against regulated basic research on embryonic stem cells. But he says it may be dead-end medicine.
WHARTON: The problem that I see with it is that we would all have to have our own source of embryos if we were going to be treated in this way. I think it may well be impractical. And I worry that providing embryos for treatment of this kind will become a business, and embryos will become a commodity. If there’s any chance at all that we can use adult stem cells instead of going that route, we would be much better off. And we’ll just avoid the ethical problems of dealing with embryos. And you avoid the need for cloning all together.
[SOUND OF MUSEUM EXHIBIT]
CARTY: Back at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, grade school children are playing with computer joysticks, following instructions on how to make a virtual clone. As with many technologies, our anxiety tends to diminish as we become more familiar with them. But familiarity does not necessarily mean one understands all the consequences for all the years to come. That is why some have called for a moratorium on any kind of cloning, to give humanity a chance to digest the meaning of this next step in procreation. For Living on Earth, I’m Bob Carty.
CURWOOD: And for this week, that’s Living on Earth. Our series continues next month with a glimpse at the fledgling cyborg society. Many futurists say computers and technology will someday be able to outthink, and outperform, humans. So, some scientists say, "If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em." And they are slowly turning the body into a machine, using chip implants and high tech mechanical parts.
MAN: I don’t want to be a human anymore. I would like to be a cyborg. I would like to have extra capabilities. And, the research we’re doing is pushing in that direction, upgrading humanity.
CURWOOD: It’s the marriage of man and machine when our series "Generation Next: Remaking the Human Race" continues in June.
[MUSIC OUT, SOUND OF GORILLAS]
CURWOOD: Before we go, one small step back in evolutionary history with a visit to "Dian’s Family." That’s the title of this recording featuring the mountain gorillas of Eastern Africa that Dian Fossey studied. Bernie Krause brought back this tape from Karisoke, Rwanda where each gorilla activity, such as foraging, playing and protecting has its own distinctive voice.
[Bernie Krause, "Dian’s Family (Rwanda Gorillas)," AFRICAN ADVENTURES (EarthEar – 2002)]
CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by The World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. You can find us anytime on the web at www.loe.org. That’s www.loe.org. Our staff includes Anna Solomon-Greenbaum, Maggie Villiger, Cynthia Graber, and Al Avery, along with Peter Shaw, Leah Brown, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Milisa Muniz.
Special thanks to Ernie Silver. We had help this week from Rachel Girshick and Jessie Fenn. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental sound art courtesy of EarthEar.
Our technical director is Dennis Foley. Ingrid Lobet heads our Western Bureau. Diane Toomey is our science editor. Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor. And Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth.
I’m Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER #1: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation supporting reporting on Western issues. The Oak Foundation. The National Science Foundation, supporting environmental education. And, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporting the Living on Earth Network, Living on Earth’s expanded internet service.
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