Global retail giant Wal–Mart Stores has recalled a donkey meat product from some Chinese stores after tests found traces of other animals’ DNA, the company has confirmed. Authorities said it contained fox meat.

The world’s largest retailer will reimburse customers who bought the “Five Spice Donkey Meat” 50 yuan (€6), a spokeswoman said.

The company would also independently DNA test all of its “high risk” meats in China — a procedure which is not required by retailers under Chinese food laws, the spokeswoman said.

Wal–Mart would also cooperate with food officials in the eastern province of Shandong with their probe into the “adulteration incident”, said a statement posted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter equivalent.


The Shandong Food and Drug Administration had previously said the “Five Spice Donkey Meat” product contained fox.

“We are deeply sorry for this whole affair,” said Wal–Mart’s China president and CEO Greg Foran according to the Weibo statement.

It did not give an explanation for how the contamination happened, but Foran added that the company would increase its focus on “supplier management”.

Donkey meat is not a Chinese staple meat dish, but is commonly consumed as a snack.

China has seen several food safety scares in recent years, including one in which the industrial chemical melamine was added to milk formula in 2008, killing at least six babies and making 300,000 ill.

Wal–Mart plans to open up to 110 stores in China over the next two years.
By Claire Power
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
3 January 2013

Nearly 4.5 million people, or one in 10 UK adults, is now a member or supporter of Britain’s environment and conservation groups, according to a new report. But of the groups’ combined income of £984m a year, only 7% of the money they spend goes to tackle high–profile issues like climate change, with 44% going to traditional biodiversity and nature protection.


“The claim is sometimes made that climate change has taken over the environmental agenda, but this doesn’t appear to be the case in terms of the way in which resources are being allocated,” says the report, which notes there are 81 organisations protecting species and 78 working on climate change. To put the expenditure of £68.2m on climate and atmosphere into context, this is a little over two–thirds of the £100m that British Gas owner Centrica recently invested in fracking firm Cuadrilla, which has featured regularly in the media in recent months,” it says.

The 140 groups who responded to the survey by Environmental Funders Network said they received nearly 20% of their money, or nearly £200m, from the the EU or UK government departments. Individuals gave £117m, members £115m, and the groups were together left £68m in legacies. Businesses only provided £42m, or 4.3% of the income.

Although nearly £350m was spent on traditional nature protection, the groups, which included Greenpeace, Christian Aid and Groundwork, but not major membership organisations like the National Trust or Oxfam, appear to have effectively dropped other issues that are leading to widespread deterioration of rural and urban environments.

Only £5.7m or 0.6% of the total spend by the groups went towards air, noise and water pollution, even though the evidence suggests this is costing Britain more than £10bn a year in healthcare costs, and together receive more complaints than anything else.

But it dispels the myths that suggest environment groups are full of radicals. Only 1.2% of their income is spent on activism towards government or corporations, and less than 3% of their income went on trying to get people to behave differently.

Other findings in the report include:

• Greenpeace was seen as the UK environmental organisation achieving the most relative to its resources, with Friends of the Earth and the RSPB tied in second place, and WWF UK in fourth.

• Work relating to the natural environment is dominant, with 44.9% of expenditure supporting work on biodiversity and species preservation or terrestrial ecosystems.

• Less than 3% of the money earned was being directed at work at EU level, where it is estimated that at least 80% of the environmental legislation that affects the UK is framed.

• Groups responding to the survey prioritised the need for more work on energy, fresh water, sustainable communities and trade and finance in the next three years, if resources are available.

• More than 40% of the spending goes on work at local or regional level within the UK, with work at national level accounting for less than a third of total expenditure.

• Membership is heavily concentrated in a small group with just 12 organisations accounting for more than 80% of the members.

Many chief executives said they felt financially insecure after income fell 5.2% in 2011–12 after a 500% increase betweem 1995 and 2008. Nearly 30 of the groups reported that they were worse off now than five years ago.

Some suggested that groups should merge. “[There is] a need for a very heavily populated and fragile sector to consolidate, merge and achieve the scale necessary to drive public opinion and force change when working with large business interests and increasingly international institutions,” said one chief executive, who is not named.

Another said: “The sector is overcrowded with many NGOs driven by funding/funders’ agendas or relatively specialist (insignificant?) issues. As a sector we lack any real strategy, nor have we considered building partnership models that could achieve real gains for the environment.”

“The British environment and conservation groups have a proud track record of success, and they can point to very substantial changes achieved with tiny resources, but times have changed, and so must we,” said Tony Juniper, former director of Friends of the Earth.


(c) The Guardian

Local sites important to England's wildlife could be under threat from the government's controversial planning reforms, the Wildlife Trusts warned on Tuesday. The trusts are concerned that under the proposed changes to the planning system, which slim down around 1,000 pages of policy to just 52, England's 40,000 local wildlife sites will not have the protection they currently enjoy. Ministers say the reforms, which focus on a "presumption in favour of sustainable development", are necessary to boost growth while protecting the environment and communities. But the Wildlife Trusts said local wildlife sites, which cover an area four and a half times the size of London, are not formally recognised in the draft national planning policy framework (NPPF).


 

The wildlife organisation said that under current planning policy, local sites that are important for an area's wildlife are described as having a "fundamental role" in supporting nature and improving communities, and policies should be established against which to judge proposals for development on such sites.

The trusts want greater recognition of and protection for local wildlife sites under the new rules.

Local plans, which must be drawn up by councils to outline sustainable development in their area, should identify large-scale "nature improvement areas" where restoring the environment would have a priority, they urged.

Such large areas are included in plans for protecting the natural environment outlined by the government earlier this year but have no mention in the draft reforms.

Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: "The proposed planning reforms leave local wildlife sites without sufficient safeguards. It is imperative that the importance of protecting these sites is recognised. There is a real need to retain and strengthen the protection afforded to local wildlife sites."

She added: "The restoration of the natural environment is important to our long-term economic recovery and quality of life. The draft NPPF's strong focus on short-term economic growth raises serious concerns for us that the protection and restoration of the natural environment could be hindered."

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government said, "This is not true and has no factual basis. Strong environmental safeguards remain throughout the draft Framework to allow communities to protect the Green Belt, countryside, and other valued green spaces, including wildlife sites from unacceptable development."

(c) The Guardian

Despite the promise of millions of pounds in tourist income, opponents fear that a luxury clubhouse, two world-championship courses, a 450-bedroom hotel, a golf academy, 950 holiday homes, 36 golf villas and a residential development will destroy one of the top five dune habitats in Britain. The chief objection is that the environmentally sensitive links on the Menie estate near Balmedie, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, are home to hundreds of thousands of birds, notably guillemots, kittiwakes, common scoters, eiders, red-throated divers, skylarks, lapwing, pink-footed geese and shelducks. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are concerned that 40 per cent of the development is within a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI). 'Menie links lies on one of the largest sand dune extents in the UK, and the development would destroy or damage 2 to 4 per cent of key sand dune habitats in Scotland,' said an RSPB spokesman. 'The destruction of up to a third of an important designated site of special scientific interest is unacceptable. These adverse impacts, which are acknowledged in the developer's own environmental statement and could potentially be avoided, are not outweighed by any over-riding need for this development.' The dunes, stretching for more than 12 miles from Aberdeen to Ythan, also provide habitats for 19 nationally important species of lichen and fungi and a wide range of plants and invertebrates. When Trump flew into Aberdeen to announce his dream of turning a stretch of windswept coastal scrubland into a world-class resort, he was welcomed like a prodigal son. As the 60-year-old New Yorker - whose mother, Mary MacLeod, was born and brought up in a croft on the island of Lewis - stepped from his private jet, he was serenaded by a piper playing 'Highland Laddie' and met by officials from the local council and business community. A survey by the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum claimed that his development could have the single biggest positive impact on the local economy since the discovery of oil. Links courses are especially prized by golfers. There are some 32,000 golf courses in the world, of which more than 15,000 are in the United States, but only 295 are proper links courses. The game was created on links - rough ground bordering the land and sea. Trump's resort is predicted to inject up to £150m into the economy over the next decade and create up to 1,200 full-time jobs, on top of 6,000 construction jobs needed to build the development. 'There are approximately 1,000 new golf courses reported to be built worldwide each year and more than 50 million golf enthusiasts, who have a strong propensity to be high spenders,' said a spokeswoman for VisitScotland. 'Golfers on average spend double that of other tourists visiting Scotland. For every £1 spent on a green fee, a further £5 is spent elsewhere in the economy.' The Trump organisation hoped that work would begin this September and that at least one of the courses would be completed by next spring. Despite threats from Trump that if there was any suggestion that his plan was not welcome he would go elsewhere, the development is running up to a year behind schedule and the volume of objections is likely to cause months of further delay. Aberdeenshire Council has received responses from 30 out of 50 organisations consulted over the plans. Some, such as Scottish Natural Heritage, have asked for more time to finish their reports and the rest are expected to be delivered by the end of this month. The Ramblers' Association Scotland has already objected. 'It is difficult to imagine how the golf course design can be accommodated without causing significant permanent damage and disturbance to the SSSI. The SSSI is of national importance, whereas the development of a new golf course is not,' said a spokesman, who also questioned the wisdom of encouraging increasing numbers of golf tourists to fly into north-east Scotland and add to global warming. The Scottish Wildlife Trust claims that plans to 'stabilise' the dunes to prevent sand blowing on to the new courses will destroy their value as a wildlife habitat. 'Dune ecosystems are based on a "successional system", which is based on dynamic processes,' said Paul Gallagher, a spokesman for the SWT. 'Stabilising them to prevent sand blowing on to the golf course will destroy them.' A spokeswoman for the Trump organisation refused to comment on the objections or the future of the development. (c) The Observer

The UK's parks, lakes, forests and wildlife are worth billions of pounds to the economy, says a major report.The health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year, it concludes. The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) says that for decades, the emphasis has been on producing more food and other goods - but this has harmed other parts of nature that generate hidden wealth. Ministers who commissioned the NEA will use it to re-shape planning policy.


"The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air - but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free," said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

"The UK NEA is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us."

The economic benefits of nature are seen most clearly in food production, which depends on organisms such as soil microbes, earthworms and pollinating insects.

If their health declines - as is currently happening in the UK with bees - either farmers produce less food, or have to spend more to produce the same amount.

Either way there is an economic impact; and on average, the costs are growing over time.

"Humans rely on the way ecosystems services control our climate - pollution, water quality, pollination - and we're finding out that many of these regulating services are degrading," said Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and co-chairman of the NEA.

"About 30% of the key ecosystem services that we rely on are degrading.

"About 20% are getting better, however - our air quality has improved a lot - and what this report says is that we can do a lot better across the board," he told BBC News.

The 1940s saw the beginning of a national drive to increase production of food and other products such as timber.

 

Although that was successful, the NEA finds there was a price to pay - England, for example, has the smallest percentage of forest cover anywhere in Europe, while many fish stocks are below optimum levels.

The report says the problem arises largely because currently, only material products such as food carry a pricetag in the market.

By calculating the value of less tangible factors such as clean air, clean water and natural flood defences, it hopes to rebalance the equation.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) welcomed the assessment.

"The traditional view of economic growth is based on chasing GDP, but in fact we will all end up richer and happier if we begin to take into account the true value of nature," said its conservation director, Martin Harper.

"Of course no-one can put a pounds and pence value on everything in nature - but equally we cannot ignore the importance of looking after it when we are striving for economic growth."

The NEA seeks to include virtually every economic contribution from eight types of landscape, such as woodlands, coasts and urban areas.

It also provides some local flavours by looking at variations across the UK.


Some figures emerge with precision, such as the £430m that pollinating insects are calculated to be worth, or the £1.5bn pricetag on inland wetlands, valued so high because they help to produce clean water.

Other aspects of the evaluation are less precise because the costs and benefits are harder to quantify, and may change over time.

World view

Ian Bateman, an economist from the University of East Anglia who played a principal role in the analysis, said that putting a single price on nature overall was not sensible.

"Without the environment, we're all dead - so the total value is infinite," he said.

"What is important is the value of changes - of feasible, policy-relevant changes - and those you can put numbers on."

The full 2,000-page report is stacked full of such numbers. The government intends to use some of them in its forthcoming Natural Environment White Paper and other initiatives that could reform urban and rural planning.

 

Professor Watson said this did not imply an end to development, but that costs and benefits of each proposed development could be assessed more accurately in advance.

"Urban green space, for example, is unbelievably important - if affects the value of houses, it affects our mental wellbeing.

"This report is saying 'this has got incredible value, so before you start converting green space into building, think through what the economic value is of maintaining that green space' - or the blue space, the ponds and the rivers."

On the global stage, several countries have previously evaluated the economic worth of specific factors such as forests or fisheries.

And two international studies - the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) - have given broader views of society's environmental trajectory, and the costs and benefits.

But the UK is the first nation to produce such a detailed assessment across the piece.

(c) BBC