• Hit the red-light district on the cheap: Berlin brothels are offering discounts to “green” customers that arrive on bike.
• New robotic prosthetic hand lets users regain their sense of touch.
• Do space flights make people crazy? The European Space Agency is looking for a few volunteers to spend 520 days in total isolation to study space travel’s psychological effects.
• Going green? Not if you own a pet. A new book argues that owning a dog has the same carbon footprint as driving 6,000 miles a year in a Land Rover.
• Mix & match brains: Scientists try to create a bird chimera to study the evolution of birdsong.
In an effort to encourage its citizens to purchase “greener” food products, Sweden has announced that it allow companies to tack labels onto vegetables, dairy, and fish products if the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the foods have been reduced by at least 25 percent. For example, if a milk producer uses manure instead of chemical-based fertilizers, he’ll receive a “climate-certified” tag to put on his milk.
Unfortunately, while the intentions may be good here, the reality is a bit more complex. Simply slapping a label on something based on a single factor does not mean it is green. New Scientists reports:
“The only thing we’re guaranteeing is that improvements have been made,” says Anna Richert, an adviser to the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF), and head of the team developing the criteria for labeling products. “This could mean reductions in emissions of anything from 5 to 80 per cent.”
Danielle Nierenberg of Worldwatch Institute, a Washington DC based think tank, says that there is still a shortage of firm figures for emissions produced when growing, processing, shipping, and selling most foods. “Because we don’t have a lot of good scientific data, I think there’s a risk that companies will claim things they can’t back up, and greenwash products that might not be climate friendly,” she says.
Putting labels on green foods might up their sale, but with no scientific way of calculating if a product is climate friendly, these labels will just add noise to the already-crowded label system we have for foods. Remember when consumers ran for anything labeled “fat free”?