The News You May Have Missed: December 2022
Beware the Bovine Burp
New Zealand has proposed taxing the greenhouse gases produced by farm animals when they burp and urinate. The tax would be the first of its kind in the world (Deutsche Welle, Oct. 11). As part of a plan to achieve carbon neutrality, New Zealand hopes to reduce farm methane emissions by 10 percent by 2030 and up to 47 percent by 2050. Farm animals emit gases that cause global warming, including methane in their burps and nitrous oxide in their urine. Federated Farmers, the industry’s main lobby group, warned that the plan would “rip the guts out of small-town New Zealand” and force farmers to sell their farms. Opposition legislators warned that the scheme would instead increase emissions because agriculture would shift to nations with less efficient farming practices. There are 10 million beef and dairy cattle and 26 million sheep in New Zealand — compared to five million people. The government suggested that farmers could recover the expense of the proposed tax by raising the price of environmentally friendly food items.
The Lagoon Gets Personal
In 2016 a massive algal bloom, fueled by fertilizer washing off farm fields, sucked up the oxygen in Mar Menor, Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, located in eastern Spain, killing 98 percent of its highly endangered fan mussels and other marine life. The blooms struck again and again, and millions of dead fish washed onto shore. Last year, local residents launched a petition to adopt a radical legal strategy: granting the 135-square-kilometer lagoon the rights of personhood. Nearly 640,000 citizens signed it, and Spain’s senate approved a bill enshrining Mar Menor’s new rights. The law doesn’t regard the lagoon and its watershed as fully human, but the lagoon now has a right to exist, evolve naturally, and be restored. Like a person, it can sue or be sued, enter contracts, and hold property. It is the first European ecosystem to get such rights, but this approach to conservation has been gaining popularity elsewhere. The Ganges and every river in Bangladesh have been granted personhood, as has the Whanganui River in New Zealand. Spain’s environmental ministry has committed $500 million to address pollution in Mar Menor (Science, Sept. 29).
A Southern California man has filed a class-action lawsuit against T.W. Garner Food Co., alleging it has “cheated its way to a market-leading position in the $3 billion hot-sauce industry.” When Philip White bought a $3 bottle of its Texas Pete hot sauce in 2021, he “relied upon the language and images displayed on the front label of the Product, and at the time of purchase understood the Product to be a Texas product.” He was dismayed when he discovered it is made in North Carolina. Texas Pete is a Louisiana-style hot sauce, as defined by its ingredients: vinegar, chiles, and salt. “There is surprisingly nothing Texas about” Texas Pete hot sauce, White claims, saying had he known Texas Pete wasn’t made in Texas, he wouldn’t have bought it. He accuses its maker of concocting a “false marketing and labeling scheme specifically because it knows the state of Texas…is known for its quality cuisine, spicy food and hot sauce in particular.” He argues that the branding hurts smaller companies in Texas that are trying to capitalize on the authenticity of their hot sauce (Fox News, Oct. 7).
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