What Role Can Football Play in Climate Change?

Is football doing enough to tackle global warming, despite it being the most severe challenge civilization has ever faced?

According to a Selectra research, sports account for between 0.3 and 0.4 percent of global emissions. Though small, it exceeds Barbados’ carbon footprint and is approximately equal to Denmark’s overall carbon footprint.

Footballers are more aware of their role in contributing to climate change, and they want their fans to do more to combat it.

Former Serie A midfielder Morten Thorsby founded WePlayGreen, a non-profit organization that promotes players and teams to be more ecologically responsible.

It’s been about a year since I founded the WePlayGreen campaign. My Italian environmental minister was a buddy. “I presented him with a plan to develop a global network of football ambassadors to raise climate and environmental awareness throughout the football family,” he continues.

Thorsby believes improvements must be adopted quickly since the sport has a long way to go.

It’s probable that the following decade will be a busy one, she believes. We must immediately begin to make adjustments “he claims

So football and other sports will no longer be able to hide. He is a famous Norwegian novelist and journalist (UC Sampdoria midfielder and founder, We Play Green)

Climate change is already affecting football. According to academic David Goldblatt’s article, “Playing against the clock: Global sport, the climate catastrophe, and the imperative for quick action,” many clubs will be flooded by 2050. There are reports of flooding at Bordeaux’s Matmut Atlantique stadium in France, affecting clubs including Chelsea, West Ham, Norwich, and Southampton.

The power of football to influence cannot be overestimated, particularly when 3 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia. While progress has been made in reducing the sport’s environmental effect, more has to be done.

Football, in reality, has the potential to have a huge influence if we can encourage people to live more sustainably, make better choices, and actively participate in environmental and climate issues.

The Forest Green Rovers are the world’s only carbon-neutral football team. They are currently in the English third tier. According to club chairman Dale Vince, this is vital:

“Climate change is the most significant threat we face; it’s like the flu on steroids,” says one expert. We also got the first Amber heat warning in UK history. Wildfires, droughts, and other difficulties are seen all around the globe. Climate change is here, and we must act. It’s all about prioritizing, traveling, and eating.”

“Concerns include energy, transportation, and food production and distribution. Individuals contribute for 80% of a team’s overall carbon footprint, and this is true for sports teams.” Author and illustrator Dale Vince (Chairman, Forest Green Rovers)

Vince owns Forest Green Rovers and Ecotricity, a British electricity company. Vince became the club’s chairman in 2011.

“We have solar panels everywhere,” he says. We also import wind energy through the electrical grid. In this sense, we are completely reliant on renewable energy sources. The stadium offers electric car charging stations in the parking area so our fans may come to a game and then go home. A vegetarian supper is also provided. Everything at the club is manufactured from plant-based substances. A natural pitch has been developed. This raises serious concerns. We don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and we collect and reuse rainwater from below.”

While preparing for World Cup 2022, Qatar is ensuring the World Cup is as sustainable as possible by scheduling matches close together.

For the first time in history, the World Cup will be “extremely compact,” according to Dr. Talar Sahsuvaroglu of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

Our metro, bus, and updated infrastructure give easy access to all venues. We don’t need to add to the already high aviation traffic. We don’t need to take additional trains.

This stadium is unique in the world; it is the only stadium built with a demountable concept in mind.”

The power of football to influence cannot be overestimated, particularly when 3 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia. While progress has been made in reducing the sport’s environmental effect, more has to be done.

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GM mosquitoes protect Brazilian city from Zika

The release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes whose offspring die before they become mature adults has slashed numbers of the insects in a Brazilian city in a state troubled by Zika fever.

Several million of the ‘friendly Aedes aegypti’ mosquito were released in a district of Piracicaba, in Sao Paulo state, in April 2015. By the end of the year, mosquito numbers in the area had plummeted by 82 per cent, according to Oxitec, the company that developed the mosquito.

The firm announced this month that it will work with Piracicaba municipality to build a local production facility that will continuously rear the GM mosquito for release (see chart). This could protect up to 300,000 people — the whole city — from mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya, according to Oxitec chief executive officer Hadyn Parry.

Glen Slade, the head of business development at Oxitec Brazil, tells SciDev.Net: “The GM mosquito does not perpetuate in nature: it dies two to four days after being released.”

The Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads Zika fever is not native to Brazil, but was imported through international travel.

Slade says that the GM mosquitoes could be combined with traditional strategies, such as destroying breeding sites and using insecticides, to eradicate the species from the country.

The use of the GM mosquito was approved in Brazil in 2014 after the national regulator for transgenic organisms decided the insects did not pose a significant risk to humans or the environment.

The Piracicaba project is receiving a lot of government attention as Latin America is trying to get on top of Zika fever, which was introduced to Brazil in 2014 and has now spread to 21 countries in the region (see map). Zika has been blamed for causing brain damage in babies whose mothers catch the disease while pregnant.

Delay to accept GM technology not good for us

Friday, January 29, 2016
Finally, our neighbour, Kenya, is set to lift the ban on imports of genetically modified (GM) food crops by the end of this month, according to Bioscience for Farmers in Africa newsletter (January 13, 2016). The country banned GM crops in November 2012 citing fears that they were a danger to health.

Kenya depends heavily on maize for food with an estimated annual consumption of 103 kilogrammes of maize per citizen. However, in 2011, prior to the ban, there was an outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, which threatened to wipe out entire crops

Climate change also weighed in, causing long droughts that made it difficult for farmers to produce enough maize to feed the growing population. Yet, these were problems that could be overcome by application of GM technologies, which are set to come with the eventual lifting of the ban. “We recommend lifting the ban. We now have border control, surveillance and a strong regulatory system,” said Willy Tonui, the chief executive, National Biosafety Authority.

Due to the delay to enact a law on biotechnology and biosafety, Uganda continues to face difficulties in agricultural production that could be overcome by use of modern biotechnology. For more than 10 years, our scientists at National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) have been funded to conduct biotechnological research to overcome pests and diseases that threaten major food crops like bananas, cassava and maize. However, their discoveries cannot be applied because our Parliament is taking its time to pass the regulatory law.

The hesitation to accept GM technology in most countries is premised on the fear that it poses a danger to health and the environment. However, several respected authorities on public health or science such as— World Health Organisation, the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and American Association for the Advancement of Science have declared that there is no good evidence that GMOs are unsafe.

Biosafety authority wants ban on GMO imports lifted

Kenya is expected to lift the ban on imports of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the next three months after the biosafety authority recommended an end to the four-year freeze.

National Biosafety Authority (NBA) chief executive Willy Tunoi says the regulator has advised Parliament and the Executive on the need to lift the ban that was imposed in 2012.

This would end the restrictions on GM maize that have locked out major exporters including South Africa from the Kenyan market, which faces frequent grain deficits.

Millers say GM maize is 30 per cent cheaper than local produce and that the imports would cushion Kenyans from surging prices and ease pressure on inflation.

“We expect the ban to be lifted in the next three months, we have briefed Parliament and the minister responsible on the need to do so,” said Dr Tunoi.

Kenya is banking on GM crops to enhance food security and cut production costs and losses in a country that suffers perennial food shortage annually.

Scientists have argued that the biotech maize is resistant to stalkborers and does not require pesticides, reducing the cost of production. The NBA has already given the greenlight for scientists at the State agency to plant GM maize on their trial farms.

This followed an application by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.

Dr Joel Ochieng’, the secretary-general of the Kenya University Biotechnology Consortium, said the decision gives a ray of hope to students of biotechnology, whose careers have been hanging in the balance as they could not apply the skills learnt.

He pointed out that university intakes for biotechnology courses dropped significantly following the GMO ban in 2012 as students were discouraged from studying a course whose practical application was not guaranteed.

“When we restrict GMOs and we have students who are pursuing those courses, it creates an impression in their minds that what they are doing is useless since they cannot execute what they were taught anywhere within the country,” he said.

In 2014, student admission to biotechnology course stood at 1,872 with 29 learners switching to other fields.

Uganda seeks ways to manage the regulation of biotechnology

Left: A scientist explains biotechnology research to a group of visitors at Namulonge research institute. As the research progress, the best way to manage the products and related issues will have to be considered. PHOTO BY LOMINDA AFEDRARU

Biotechnology is one of the fast growing sectors in the world and the pace of this places unique demands on management of the technology. The managers must be able to create and sustain entrepreneurship, collaboration and research within a high-risk environment. So, they cannot adapt other corporate practices but develop their own that is compatible with the special nature of the biotechnology industry. Therefore, from research to commercialisation, there is need for each country to have specific institutional models.

Which model?: Against this backdrop, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) is engaging stakeholders on a model that applies to Uganda, which will enable products under research to be commercialised. At a recent meeting in Kampala of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (Ofab), Dr Julius Ecuru, the assistant executive secretary, UNCST, explained the different models used by various countries. These are, namely, committee-based, autonomous agency, distributed agency and techno-political models. Dr Ecuru noted that while choosing which model to adopt in Uganda, there are factors influencing choice of model to be considered.

Safety and impact: These include looking at the community’s perception about GM/biotech products, which are either under research or already commercialised in other countries. Others are familiarity of the communities with existing GM/biotech products, available capacity of different existing agencies and private sector involvement.

While choosing the model should be spelt out in the biotechnology Bill, the products to be considered include those for feed and food and the impact on the environment. It is the contention of UNCST that the model chosen aims at addressing biosafety issues and to ensuring that any risk is negligible. Potential benefits of GMOs should be maximised and mechanisms should be in place to protect environment and human health. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement that Uganda is party to, guides the regulation of transboundary movements of GM products. And accordingly, each party should take necessary and appropriate legal, administrative and other measures to implement its obligations under the Protocol.

Most appropriate: Since there is insufficient guidance on models for biosafety regulation at the country level, the protocol provides for each country to design and decide their own system though it is often difficult to arrive at a consensus. Therefore, there will be considerations of the merits and demerits of each model to arrive at what would be the most appropriate model for Uganda. Noteworthy is that the models evolve as there is more knowledge acquired on biotechnology. So, no particular model is perfect, but the one chosen should help the country realise its medium- and long-term development goals but be flexible enough to adapt to advancements in science.

The models on biosafety regulations: Committee-based model: It works on the principle of collective responsibility, it is inclusive and engages diverse stakeholders. It is the one used in Uganda although UNCST believes stakeholders can choose another that gives mandate to its members to exercise while handling biosafety issues. This is because the current one is restricted to scientists conducting research at research stations and trial sites meaning the finished products cannot be rolled out to farmers for commercialisation. It is used where there is limited regulatory capacity or few applications of biotech products and it is mainly used in early days of biosafety regulation. This has been applied by The Philippines in 1990. In Uganda, it was in 1996 while setting the biosafety committee at UNCST. There are two distinct elements – Advisory and technical – and appears flexible. The challenge is getting the right mix of members, motivating members and managing conflicts of interest.

Autonomous agency based model: This is where preference is for a stand-alone body, like the Kenya Governing Board, which makes the decisions, assisted by technical staff. It should be adequately staffed with one-stop point for biosafety issues. The challenge is that it has financial implications as well as boundary problems. Distributed agency based model: This is with a shared responsibility; specific agencies are established by law, such as National Drug Authority (NDA), Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and the plant Inspectorate at Maaif. Each handles their area of operation.

It allows for incorporation of new advances in the field like gene editing which scientists are now applying. There is ease in financial adjustments but the challenge is bureaucracy, inefficiency plus uncoordinated approaches if agencies do not “talk to each other”. Techno-Politic model: This is where high ranking government official is involved like Minister or Permanent Secretary in decision making.

It has some similarity to the Autonomous agency based model but the challenge is that it can be frustrated by its own bureaucracy. This model has been used in Norway where it is the King to give directives of release of GM products. In Mauritius, it has also used this model where the minister responsible for agriculture gives directives for release of GM products.

With Biotechnology, Nigeria Can Feed Her Population

By Patrick Ugeh
The Director General of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Rufus Ebegba, has identified biotechnology as a veritable tool for economic advancement, saying that with it, Nigeria could feed her population and attain sustainable development goals.

He made this assertion on Thursday in Abuja while inaugurating a six-man technical committee charged with the responsibility of reviewing the application dossier for the release of genetically modified cotton for on-farm trial and maize for confined field trial.

“With biotechnology we can feed our population,” he said. “We can attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With this modern technology we can create employment in line with the goals of the federal government. With biotechnology, we can grow our economy beyond mere sustenance to existential strategy to the point of becoming a global major player in food importation “.

Speaking further, Ebegba said it became imperative to set up the committee in order to ensure the safety of the products both to human health, animal health and the environment.