Genetic modification, Global Reporting Initiative, Russian recycling and UK fracking disclosure
New rules for GM
The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the European Union will become easier or more difficult, depending on your point of view, following a January European Parliament vote in favour of a new approval process. Currently, GM crops must gain authorisation at the EU level, but applications from agri-business companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta are commonly stalemated because pro- and anti-GM countries are unable to agree on them. Under the new system, EU-level approval will still be needed, but countries will be able to block cultivation on their territories. The change should clear the way for cultivation in GM-friendly countries. Neither the biotech industry, nor environmentalists, however, were happy with the outcome. The industry said the rules would disrupt the EU internal market, while greens said there would be a rush of EU-level approvals. Only one engineered crop, Monsanto's MON810 maize, is currently authorised at the EU level, and only the Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain have so far adopted subsequent national authorisations.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has launched a project to map out the sustainability issues that will top companies’ agendas in 2025 and the best ways businesses should report on them. In 2015, the Reporting 2025 team will interview thought leaders in various fields on subjects ranging from data technology to society and business development scenarios, and will disseminate the findings to its global network of organizations and individuals. The result will be a roadmap for future reporting, to be published in early 2016. Nelmara Arbex, GRI’s chief adviser on innovation in reporting, said: “More fundamental discussions are needed to understand how to build a sustainable global economy.” Reporting 2025 will examine which disclosures and reporting formats are needed to accomplish that.
More information: https://www.globalreporting.org/information/Pages/Reporting-2025.aspx
New waste regulations signed into law by President Vladimir Putin will require companies operating in or trading with Russia to set up or contribute to recycling schemes in the country. The law, which became effective on 1 January, requires manufacturers or importers to either create their own systems to collect, sort, recycle and dispose of waste products, or to pay into recycling schemes organised by Russian regional authorities. The implementation of the law will take time, however, because the Russian government has yet to define the categories of waste to which it will apply, and to adopt rules on recycling scheme fees. The new legislation also creates a mechanism by which the government can progressively ban certain streams of waste from landfills. Russia's recycling rate for household and industrial waste is low, but the country's environmental authorities hope to hit 80% by 2020.
The UK government has accepted Labour Party proposals to create new rules that will require companies to disclose the chemicals they use at individual wells when fracking for shale gas. The use of toxic substances in fracking fluids – which are injected into rocks at high pressure to release the gas trapped inside – has stirred up public controversy in the UK and elsewhere over fears that the technology might pollute ground water. The disclosure rule will be included in the UK Infrastructure Bill. Intended as an overhaul of infrastructure planning and management regulations, the bill also includes measures to combat non-native species that damage British biodiversity, as well as provisions on community ownership of renewable energy schemes. Even though fracking remains controversial in the UK, the greatest obstacle faced by fracking operators might prove to be the low oil price, which threatens the economic viability of shale gas exploration and extraction.