Last week Burger King delighted environmentalists by announcing that it would discontinue purchasing palm oil from Indonesia’s Sinar Mas group in response to an audit assessing the impact of the company’s behavior on orangutan habitat and tropical rain forests. The audit was discussed on this website in a blog post on August 15, 2010. Curiously, Cargill, another major global agribusiness, cited the same audit in refusing to cut its ties to Sinar Mas companies, which are controlled by the Widjaja family. Cargill noted that Sinar Mas has pledged to join the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and to obtain its certification for all its palm oil operations by 2015. Burger King joins Unilever, Nestle and Kraft in cutting off SInar Mas as a supplier. Anthony Deutsch, Burger King Axes Palm Oil Supplier, Financial Times, Sept. 4/5, 2010at 10. While in Miami last week I spotted a clever Burger King ad on the side of a downtown building near the arena where the Miami Heat basketball team plays. The ad features the smiling Burger King mascot welcoming LeBron James to Miami by saying “King to King: Welcome to My Court.”
Last Monday the group appointed by the InterAcademy Council to review the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended that the IPCC improve its capacity to ferret out errors. The panel recommended that the IPCC exercise greater caution in using non peer-reviewed studies and that they more openly discuss dissenting views. Next month the governments that control the IPCC will meet in South Korea to discuss what action to take.
Last week Russia extended its ban on wheat exports until late 2011. The ban was undertaken in part as a response to drought, record heat and rampant wildfires that have destroyed significant parts of the country’s wheat crop. Despite food riots that occurred in Mozambique last Wednesday when the government raised bread prices by 30 percent, global stockpiles of wheat are much greater than they were two years ago, though global wheat prices are up more than 60 percent over the last year. Noting that food prices have risen 5 percent in the last month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has scheduled a special meeting for September 24 in Rome to discuss global food prices.
Last Tuesday the Supreme Court of India reopened the Bhopal prosecutions after an outcry that the defendants had received sentences that were too light. In June seven former Union Carbide executives were sentenced to two years imprisonment and fines after being convicted of criminal negligence. Following an appeal by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, the Court said that it would reconsider its 1996 decision that had reduced charges of culpable homicide to criminal negligence. The initial charges could have resulted in prison sentences of up to 10 years. Amy Kazmin, India’s Senior Judges Reopen Bhopal Case, Financial Times, Sept. 1, 2010, at 4. The decision came one day after India’s Parliament approved legislation governing liability for nuclear power accidents. The Indian legislation holds open the possibility that suppliers of equipment for nuclear powerplants can be held liable for accidents, rather than placing liability entirely on the plant’s operators. Jim Yardley, Nuclear Deal Is Approved in India, With Compromises, N.Y. Times, Aug. 31, 2010, at A4.