by Nitin Sethi & Archis Mohan – Business Standard, 30 July 2014
Decision marks first successful policy intervention by Swadeshi Jagaran Manch
New Delhi – In a move that marks the first successful policy intervention of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh — both affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the Narendra Modi-led central government has put field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops on hold.
Representatives of the two RSS-backed outfits on Tuesday met Environment, Forests & Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar and apprised him of their concerns over an approval given to field trials of GM crops. “The minister assured the members of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) that the decision (on field trials) had been put on hold,” Ashwani Mahajan, all-India co-convener for SJM, said in a press statement.
Sources in the ministry said Javadekar put on hold the clearance given to GM crops’ field trials by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). They also said the decision was now likely to be put on the back burner.
At a meeting on July 17, its first after the Modi government took charge at the Centre, GEAC had approved field trials of 13 GM crops, including those of mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chickpea. At that time, SJM had termed the decision “a betrayal of people’s trust”. GEAC, comprising senior environment ministry and other government officials, besides experts, is the statutory body for recommending approval to any release of genetically-engineered products into the environment. Field trials by companies and researchers in open farms across the country to test their products also fall under its ambit. The agenda for GEAC meet, like in the case of other statutory bodies, is set after informal consultations at the ministerial level. Its recommendations require approval from the environment, forests & climate change minister.
Today, the joint SJM-BKS delegation reminded the minister that Parliament’s standing committee on agriculture had recommended in its report on GM food crops, tabled in Parliament on August 9 last year, “stopping all field trials under any garb” until regulations and oversight were overhauled and made better.
The delegation pointed out that the technical expert committee, appointed by the Supreme Court and comprising eminent scientists, had also advised against any open release of GM crops, including through field trials, until a robust regulatory mechanism was put in place.
The outfits’ representatives requested the minister that no field trials of GM crops be allowed without proper scientific evaluation of their possible long-term impact on human health and soil, as the decision to introduce a ‘foreign gene’ in the environment was irreversible.
They argued there was no scientific study to prove the GM technology increased productivity and told Javadekar GM crops posed a challenge to the issue of India’s food security.
“In India, as in many other parts of the world, a few multinational corporations (principally Monsanto) have a virtual monopoly on the GM technology. If a country’s food production becomes overly dependent on seeds and other inputs from a handful of such companies, will it not compromise its food security,” Mahajan asked.
SJM, Mahajan said, urged the minister not to rely on “biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among industry”. It advised him to institute independent enquiries on the likely impact of GM food crops on soil, human health and health of other species, to ensure no harm was done to the traditional gene pool/biodiversity of the soil, food security and health of the people of India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for this year’s Lok Sabha elections had said: “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation of their long-term impact on soil and production, and biological impact on consumers.” SJM, which is the RSS’s economic policy arm, has consistently and publicly opposed the introduction of GM food crops in the country.
In the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, the government had remained divided on the issue. As environment minister, Jairam Ramesh had put a moratorium on one BT brinjal experiment, sparking a debate, while his successor, Jayanthi Natarajan, had strongly opposed all food crop trials and held back clearances given by GEAC, citing an ongoing Supreme Court case.
Manmohan Singh, the then prime minister, and Sharad Pawar, agriculture minister in his government, had advocated for GM crops, pushing for this to be put as the government’s official stance before the Supreme Court. M Veerappa Moily, who took over from Natarajan at the environment ministry, gave his go-ahead to about two dozen field trials of food crops, claiming his predecessor had misread the facts of the Supreme Court case.
According to the ministry’s internal notes, more than 100 crop varieties, including those of cereals, fruit and vegetables, are in various stages of development and testing. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, moved by UPA to hand over control and oversight of the GM technology to the promoting department of biotechnology, lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
SJM had largely welcomed the Modi government’s railway and finance budgets tabled in Parliament earlier this month.
TRIAL & ERROR?
- Feb 2010: Then environment minister Jairam Ramesh puts commercial release of Monsanto Bt Brinjal on hold; field test of other varieties and crops continue
- May 2012: In a public-interest suit, Supreme Court sets up expert panel to review issue
- Aug 2012: Parliament’s standing committee on agriculture demands moratorium on field trials of all GM food crops and a complete policy overhaul
- Oct 2012: SC’s expert panel suggests a moratorium on GM trials; central government opposes this, puts its nominee in the committee
- Mar-Jun 2013: The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee recommends trials of some GM food crops but the then minister Jayanthi Natarajan puts the plan on the back burner
- Jul 2013: SC expert panel’s majority report again advises a moratorium; govt nominee bats for trials
- Aug 2013: Natarajan writes to PMO opposing trials of GM food crops; then PM Manmohan Singh and the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar bat for the GM technology
- Feb 2014: As environment minister, M Veerappa Moily renews lapsed clearances for food crops, promises more
- Jul 17, 2014: Under Prakash Javadekar, GEAC recommends GM trials for 13 food crop varieties
- Jul 29, 2014: Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and other RSS affiliates object; Javadekar puts final decision on hold
Surjit Bhalla's flawed economics stands exposed. If you still want to read him, do it at your own peril.
Well-known economists Jagdish Bhagwati is one of them. Sometimes back he had made a comment in The Economist, which had prompted me to write a rejoinder. My response, which is still available on the IndiaTogether news portal (Hold economists responsible too. IndiaTogether April 4, 2005 http://indiatogether.org/subsidies-op-ed), was widely appreciated and circulated. I know the stature Jagdish Bhagwati holds but it is important to puncture their incorrect hypothesis.
Over the years, this neoliberal breed of economists has only got bolder. They now come out with outlandish statements often bordering stupidity, illogical comments and theories which have little or no relevance to the existing realities. In fact, most of what the mainline Indian economists have been parroting has already been discarded by the western economists. And that makes me wonder whether India's mainline economist care to read what is being written now to keep themselves abreast or are simply basking in the glory of the TV glamour.
Take the following articles by some western economists which runs counter to what is being repeatedly said in India. But you will see such analysis will never be incorporated in the public discourse. Nor will the TV anchors make corrections when economists/analysts parrot the same old line. The reason: Journalists don't read.
1) Dani Rodrik has bust the myth that the wealthy and the Corporates do not need the governments. Let the markets operate freely and their wealth will grow. This is rubbish. In this well argued article (A class of its own. http://bit.ly/VXjoQr), Dani says: 'The reality is that the stability and openness of the markets that produce their wealth have never depended more on government action'.
2) There is hardly a day when you don't find the economists and business writers drawing attention to the virtues of FDI in retail. They moan the failure of the government not to invite Big Retail into India. They invariably go on repeating the same faulty statistics to justify Big Retail's entry into India. I sometimes wonder why don't these economists even scan the international newspapers to know how the Big Retail is faring in the US/EU. Here is what The Guardian wrote the other day (The death of the American mall. June 19, 2014. http://bit.ly/UPFiF1). If Bid Retail is failing in the US why are we keen to bring a failed economic model to India?
3) Developing countries are poor because they export raw material. They should add value-added products. This is the general understanding. But read Ricardo Hausmann of the Harvard University (The Real raw Material of Wealth. July 26, 2014. http://bit.ly/UxgYXO) and you are jolted from your sleep. But you will never see Indian mainline economists discussing such analysis. Nor will the policy makers try to understand and understand the argument. They don't have to, because they go on parroting what has been taught to them. "Some ideas are worse than wrong,' he says. How true.
4) For decades, Indian economists have blindly followed the garden path shown by World Bank/IMF. Whether they accept or not, almost every major policy decision in the past 10 years was dictated by the World Bank. A leaked report of the World Bank now puts at rest how damaging and environmentally destructive its policies have been (Leaked World Bank policies 'environmentally disastrous.' July 25, 2014. The Guardian http://bit.ly/1omTcK2).
5) At a time when WTO is facing a standoff, Indian economists are shouting at the top of their voice to force India to withdraw its objections on ignoring the food security concerns. Trade is being linked to more growth. Adair Turner of the UK's Financial Policy Committee of the House of Lords refutes this common refrain. He says: more trade does not lead to more growth. (The trade delusion. July 18, 2014. http://bit.ly/1pAJdNJ).
These are just a few examples.
This brings me to economist Surjit Bhalla's article in the Indian Express (A 'principled' Congress stance at the WTO? July 29, 2014 bit.ly/1oE83zQ ). This article exposes his flawed economic thinking. The article in fact borders on absurdity. In his article he presents a chart where he is comparing the international prices of rice and wheat with what the procurement prices Indian farmers are paid. Accordingly, for 2012-14 his chart shows Indian farmers were paid a high price exceeding global prices by 64.4% in rice and 62.9% for wheat. He doesn't even know that wheat and rice production is heavily subsidised in US/EU, and also comes with export subsidies. I tweeted to him, and he responded by saying that international prices are worked out uniformly. I then tweeted him back saying: 'If you don't know, read first. Don't go on defending your wrong analysis.' I attached one of my blog posts that tells you how EU utilises cereal subsidies to dump it in developing/LDC countries. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/03/eu-utilises-domestic-cereal-subsidies.html.
Take a look at the $ 35.5 billion subsidies that US has paid to its wheat farmers between 1995-2012. (http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=wheat). Surjit Bhalla's analysis therefore falls flat on the flawed data that he has produced in justification.
If you see the enclosed chart, international prices are taken as an average over three years of the FOB price, which in other words is the landing price. There is no mechanism that separates domestic and export subsidies before the FOB is calculated or determined by the trade. Subsidies paid to wheat growers (including the export subsidies) actually enable North America and Europe to dump wheat in the international markets. The price comparison with the procurement prices paid to wheat farmers therefore is completely wrong. In any case, the best comparison should be with the FOB prices that India offers when it exports wheat. The impression that Surjit Bhalla is mischievously trying to convey is that Indian farmers are the highest paid in the world. If what he says is true then shouldn't we would have seen US farmers asking for the price that Indian farmers get? Shouldn't we see an exodus of American farmers keen to migrate to India? Economists like Surjit Bhalla have been churning out such biased and incorrect analysis to manufacture consent. As I said earlier, these kind of economists first draw their conclusion and then look for data which can support their flawed hypothesis. Well, if you still want to read them you do it at your own peril.
Sustainable Pulse – 28 July 2014
Commissioned by the 2014 Food Safety and Sustainable Agriculture Forum, YIELD presents testimonies from the cotton farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
The region has suffered a high number of suicides among the debt-ridden farming community in the wake of the introduction of chemical farming and BT Cotton.
YIELD presents voices of dissent and resilience from within this community, victims of a corporate imperialism that threatens their means of living and future.
Economy and Political Weekly, 26 July 2014Download PDF version
India must stay with the precautionary principle with regard to genetically-modified crops.
By clearing the way for field trials of genetically-modified (GM) food crops, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry has inadvertently laid a political challenge before the Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi. Will it adhere to its stated objection to GM crops mentioned in its election manifesto, or will it take another of its, by now fabled, “U-turns” and go down the path of its avowed neo-liberal economic policies where the interests of investors, particularly from overseas, take precedence over other concerns?
It is curious that the GEAC has chosen to clear the way for some 15 GM food and other crops to undergo controlled field trials. These include rice, mustard, chickpea, cotton and brinjal. The introduction of GM mustard was strongly opposed several years back and the field trials were cancelled. Bt brinjal was also cleared for trials but withdrawn in the face of objections from the Ministry of Environment and Forests based on the views of farmers at a series of public hearings around India. Despite this, and the fact that the Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments against field trials of GM crops in the absence of adequate regulatory systems, the GEAC has chosen to go ahead. In fact, the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up by the Supreme Court to look into this issue has recommended a moratorium on field trials because it believes the regulatory system is inadequate.
As in many other parts of the world, the advent of GM food and other crops to enhance productivity has faced entrenched opposition in India too. The opposition falls into several distinct categories. One camp argues that the technology, which involves introducing a “foreign” gene, is dangerous because once introduced, it is irreversible. In other words, once you have a GM crop, you cannot reverse the process if you find that it is causing harm. These groups have also questioned whether GM technology does, in fact, increase productivity as is claimed by the promoters of the technology. They also point out that the environmental costs might outweigh any benefits that the introduction of such a technology brings.
The other argument revolves around food security. In India, as in many other parts of the world, a few multinational corporations, principally Monsanto, have a virtual monopoly on the GM technology. If a country’s food production becomes overly dependent on seeds and other inputs from a handful of such companies, will it not compromise its food security?
The third argument is about the suitability of GM food crops for a country like India where the majority of farmers own small plots of land. To make them dependent on a technology with high initial costs, and without an assurance that it will guarantee higher yields, is placing them at a great risk. This has already been evident in the spate of farmers’ suicides witnessed in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in the course of the last decade where farmers fell for the hard-sell of Bt cotton and got entrapped in a debilitating debt cycle due to higher costs without commensurate returns.
And the clinching argument is the absence of adequate regulatory and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the field trials are conducted following safety protocols and that they do not infect surrounding areas. The record in this regard has been less than satisfactory in India. In fact, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (PSCA) had called for a ban on field trials precisely for this reason. The basic norm to be followed includes ensuring that there is a 20% non-Bt refuge area around the trial area. Yet, field trials of Bt cotton demonstrated the absence of adequate monitoring of compliance of such rules.
Another important criticism of the entire process of field trials is the absence of an independent authority to assess safety and suitability as well as a liability regime that can fix responsibility for damage. The GEAC tends to rely on data from those very private companies whose products it is supposed to assess. Surely credible field trials needed to assess the safety of GM crops are not possible under these conditions. Finally, labelling and public awareness about GM crops are particularly poor and will allow private companies to mislead people.
In addition to all this, the issue has taken an interesting political turn after the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections. In its election manifesto, the BJP has expressly stated its opposition to the introduction of GM food crops in India. Among the groups opposing GM crops are the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, both affiliated, like the BJP, with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). How will the Modi government resolve these contradictions?
Politics apart, what is evident is that the question of introducing GM food crops in India is still open for debate on all counts – safety and suitability. In addition, the monopoly control of GM technology in the hands of a few large corporations is reason enough for concern. It is dangerous to allow the spread of GM crops before these concerns are addressed. India needs to tread warily down the GM path.
The authors of the study say their estimates are conservative – as in, they underestimate the negative effects from climate change. The study is based on current population and economic growth levels which is used to make predictions 60 years into the future. But things change, and Europe will look completely different in terms of population levels and economic growth and development just 60 years from now. This means that the consequences of inaction could be much higher. Some impacts such as damages to biodiversity or ecosystem losses cannot be monetised and have therefore been left out from the study's calculations of welfare loss. Abrupt climate change or the consequences of passing climate tipping points (such as the Arctic sea-ice melting) are also not integrated in the analysis.
Despite this, the study paints a grim enough picture.
Over 8,000 square kilometres of forest could burn down if Europe fails to take adequately action against climate change. There will also be extensive damage from floods, which could exceed costs of €10bn every year by 2080. At the same time, coastal damage from rising sea levels will treble and amount to losses of €42 billion. Drought affected areas is expected to increase by sevenfold, and as a result the losses in the agriculture sector is expected to reach around €18 billion. Premature death from heat stress or other climate-related impacts will soar to 200 000 people annually.
All in all, the European Union will lose €190 billion annually in economic losses from unrestrained climate change, which is estimated at a net loss of 1.8% of Europe's total GDP. Southern and south central Europe would be the worst-hit regions and bear 70% of the burden.
If Europe adheres to the current international target of 2 degrees Celsius there will still be consequences, the study notes. But they won’t be as severe. The total bill would be reduced by at least €60 billion, save 23 000 lives from premature deaths, and improve the overall quality of life for Europeans by reducing air pollution.
“No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all,” said Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, in response to the new study. “Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy?”
“Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” Hedegaard said.
Unfortunately there are EU member states, such as Poland and other eastern states, which are willing to oppose new and tougher climate goals for Europe. So despite this study, and other economic and climate analysis, Europe remains divided on which approach to choose – climate action or business-as-usual.
"India has made it clear that state-funded welfare schemes for the poor are non-negotiable, and it is willing to take the blame for delaying the WTO's 'trade facilitation' agreement rather than hurt the interests of small farmers," reports the Hindustan Times (India toughens stance on food subsidy at WTO. July 21, 2014. http://bit.ly/1nYi0YC). The news report rightly mentions that developed countries are pressing for early adoption of the trade facilitation agreement, which would give them greater market access but are avoiding discussions on issues such as public stock-holding of cereals for food security.
But this was known even at the time of the Bali WTO Ministerial. The then India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had made the right noises in the media but when the final moment came, he readily signed the trade facilitation agreement. All he could wrest in the bargain was a four year 'Peace Clause' for the food subsidy issue that is crucial for not only India's food security but also food self-sufficiency. I think there is first a dire need to bring in an accountability clause in the trade policy for our trade negotiators. Commerce Minister must be held responsible for the lapses he/she makes in trade agreements.
Having said that, I am amused at India's double talk at Geneva. While India is threatening not to ratify the agreement (along with South Africa) in reality it has already made budgetary provisions for facilitating trade. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has provided in his budget for Rs 11,000-crores (or Rs 110,000 million) for development of ports and at the same time announced a single window clearance for imports. So, the threat for not ratifying trade facilitation treaty is in reality an empty threat. For all those who follow the trade diplomacy, the best way to exert pressure is to slow down on implementation of the decision on trade facilitation, which India has failed to do.
On the food subsidy also, I think the noise that India is making at the WTO has nothing to do with the autonomous liberalisation that it is pushing for domestically. Read a news report in the Hindustan Times today (Govt to unleash food reforms to fight subsidies, inflation, July 21, 2014), it says: In an attempt to tackle runaway prices and subsidies, the NDA government has decided to gradually avoid purchasing more grains than are needed to distribute to the poor; while asking states not to offer market distorting cash incentives to farmers." Read it carefully and you realise that India is already going ahead with the WTO take on food subsidy.
1. In a recent directive, the Ram Vilas Paswan-headed food ministry asked states to stick to minimum support price (MSP) announced by the Centre and avoid padding these up with their own sops and cash bonuses. This is in line with India's WTO commitment at Bali where it has promised not to further increase the MSP support (emphasis are mine). And then the report explains: MSPs are the guaranteed prices at which the state buys produce from farmers. higher MSPs boost farm income but fuel price rise. According to an RBI study, a 10% MSP hike raises short-term wholesale inflation by one per cent.
2. If states breach these norms the Food Corporation of India -- the country's main food security agency -- would not be obliged to acquire grains beyond levels necessary for the public distribution system as well as emergency reserves. Using the threat of not allowing food procurement by FCI makes the decision binding in the months to come.
These are not the only two policy changes that are expected. With the idea of a creating a national market, as spelled out in the Economic Survey 2014), setting up of an organisation over and above the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) is aimed at making the APMC mandis redundant. Once the APMC mandis are dismantled, the question of providing a higher procurement price to farmers will be negated. When there are no mandis where will the procurement price be paid? In any case, this kharif season, Govt has raised the MSP for paddy by a mere Rs 50 per quintal (or by 50 paise per 100 kgs), which for all practical purposes is like freezing the MSP.
India can't blame the WTO for what it is unilaterally doing at home. #
1. Bali WTO Minsterial has only postponed the problem relating to India's food security. Dec 19, 2013 http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2013/12/bali-wto-ministerial-has-only-postponed.html
2. Direct cash transfers are aimed at dismantling food procurement, and moving away from food self-sufficiency. Dec 19, 2012. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2012/12/india-direct-cash-transfers-is-aimed-at.html
"There won't be fracking of shale gas or coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future," confirmed Hendricks. However, one can read in between the lines and see that there is still room for exploitation by natural gas corporations. Case in point: there are a number of "special circumstances" which would allow fracking to circumvent the legislation. An example is that the law's language states that "unconventional" fracking cannot take place more than 3,000 meters below the surface - but "conventional" fracking can. While this will still effectively prevent fracking from, in most cases, contaminating groundwater, it will not prevent it from triggering small earthquakes.
Political parties including the Green Party have reacted with strong criticism; the chairman of the Greens' parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, went as far as to call it a "fracking-enabling law," recognizing the distinction between this potentially deceptive proposal and an actual fracking ban - "a regulation that does not allow fracking in Germany and without loopholes that are as big as a barn door."
Hubertus Zdebel of the Left party agreed, noting, "Fracking must be banned in Germany without any exceptions. To say that there is a fracking ban in the paper is window dressing. They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban." Citing estimates obtained from the Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources, he added, "The planned restrictions will still allow the exploitation of half of all unconventional natural gas deposits in Germany." He also said there are other potential risks associated with allowing deep fracking, including uncontrolled methane gas emissions.
Francisco Szekely, writer for EnergyBiz, remarked that the legislation is likely a play to quell environmentalists' fears while also reducing Germany's dependency upon Russia for gas imports. He said, however, "This decision is not a sustainable solution. The temporary relief of geopolitics should not be achieved at the long-term cost of environmental degradation. To put our economy and our world on a path to sustainability, governments and companies need to focus on doing real good for society and not just doing less harm, as seems to be the case" with this fracking issue.
"With evidence of climate change becoming clearer than ever," he added, Germany should be "thinking carefully before allowing fracking in their territory. Moreover, whatever short-term promise fracking offers is also taking our sense of urgency away from transitioning to more renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power."
So in short, one might conclude, Germany's "fracking ban" may be little more than a smoke-and-mirror tactic. Said Szekely: "To quote Albert Einstein, 'We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.'"
The study was the collaborative effort of researchers with the Radboud University Institute of Water and Wetland Research, the Dutch Center for Field Ornithology, and Birdlife Netherlands. In a joint statement, the researchers declared, "Neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects on non-target invertebrate species. Invertebrates constitute a substantial part of the diet of many bird species during the breeding season and are indispensible for raising offspring. In the Netherlands," for example, "local bird population trends were significantly more negative in areas with higher surface-water concentrations of imidacloprid," a type of pesticide.
"At imidacloprid concentrations of more than 20 nanograms per liter, bird populations tended to decline by 3.5 percent on average, annually," they continued. The overall results of the study, they said, shows "that the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent pesticides in the past. Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects [of insecticides] on ecosystems."
Neonicotinoids are interesting in that their origins lie with two corporations already strongly linked with outright for-profit environmental destruction: Royal Dutch Shell and Bayer. These insecticides, which are chemically similar to nicotine, were first developed and used in the 1980s by the Shell, and in the 1990s by the German chemical and pharmaceutical company. In 2009, on the specific neonicotinoid called imidacloprid that the Dutch researchers referenced, Bayer made a profit of over one billion alone, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
There is, however, a loss occurring, albeit an ecological one, not a financial one. Such was the conclusion of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which conducted another recent report on the matter. They explained, "Neonicotinoids persist for months and in some cases years, and environmental concentrations can build up. This effectively increases their toxicity by increasing the duration of exposure of non-target species. The effects of exposure [in wildlife] range from instant and lethal to chronic." Effects could include "altered feeding behavior and reduced food intake [in birds], reduced foraging in bees, and altered tunneling behavior in earthworms."
Dr. David Gibbons, head of the Center for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, remarked, "This elegant and important study provides worrying evidence of negative impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on birds. Usage of these pesticides has been particularly high in some parts of the Netherlands. Monitoring of pollution in soils and waterways is urgently required, as is further research into the effects of these insecticides on wildlife."
The UK was supposed to meet EU’s legal air pollution limits back in 2010 but the progress to reduce the emissions has been slow. The failure to meet the deadline has resulted in legal procedures against the UK which could result in fines of £300m a year. EU Commission lawyers has described the case as “a matter of life and death” and said this would be “perhaps the longest running infringement of EU law in history”.
Judges at the Court of Justice of EU, where the legal case is currently being handled, was told earlier last week by representatives from ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, and European Commission lawyers that the UK Government won’t meet nitrogen dioxide limits in London, Birmingham and Leeds until after 2030.
Representatives from the UK Government tried to suppress this information using rules on legal privilege, but later during the proceedings they admitted to it as it became clear that the DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK) had published information in support of this claim the day before on its website.
“It’s bad enough that the government has no intention of complying with these limits in the foreseeable future. It’s even worse that they’re trying to hide behind legal procedural rules to keep this quiet,” Alan Andrews, ClientEarth lawyer, said in a statement. “Another five years of delay means thousands more people will die or be made seriously ill. The UK needs to act now to get deadly diesel vehicles out of our towns and cities.”
Until now, the UK government has maintained it would meet nitrogen dioxide limits by 2025 in London and by 2020 in 15 other zones. But the new admissions means that London is expected to meet the targets five years later than previously acknowledged, and 10 years later for Birmingham and Leeds. The air pollution reduction target has also been delayed and pushed back in many other cities around the UK.
“These air quality rules should already have been met. Government, councils and the London Mayor must make this issue an urgent priority, and end this national scandal,” Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said. “Rapid steps to ban the dirtiest vehicles and cut traffic levels must be taken, and road-building plans that will simply add to the problem should be abandoned.”
FIFA say these solar projects represents their commitment to sustainability as well as a way to reduce the environmental impact of its own operations. “Sustainability is one of the key tenants in our vision for the 2014 FIFA World Cup,” said Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility. “We hope this landmark project will be the catalyst to increase the production and use of renewable energy in the country.”
FIFA and Yingli has installed 1500 solar panels on the Estádio do Maracanã, one of football’s most iconic venues and South America’s largest stadium. The solar panels will generate over 550MWh of clean electricity which can power an estimated 240 homes annually. The solar panels will prevent the release of about 350 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, similar to the impact of planting 14,000 trees.
The Arena Pernambuco, home to five matches of the FIFA World Cup, was powered by a much bigger solar installation. The plant - located in São Lourenço de Mata, a suburb of Recife, the regional capital of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco - uses more than 3650 high-efficiency panels to generate about 1,500MWh of clean electricity each year. The solar power generated could power 600 average homes and is expected to offset about 800 tons of carbon dioxide each year, similar to the impact of planting 35,000 trees. It’s also the first solar power plant in Pernambuco.
by Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 16 July 2014
Creating ‘ownership’ of seed through patents and intellectual property rights and imposing it globally through the WTO, the biotech industry has established a monopoly empire over seed and food
Monsanto and friends, the biotech industry, its lobbyists and its paid media representation continue to push for monopoly control over the world’s food through its seed supply.
This “empire” is being built on false foundations: that Monsanto is a creator/inventor of life and hence can own the seed through patents and that life can be engineered and machined like an iPhone.
Through ecology and the new biology we know that life is self-organised complexity — life makes itself; it cannot be “manufactured”. This also applies to food production through the new science of agroecology. Agroecology gives us a deeper scientific understanding of how ecological processes work at the level of soils, living seeds and living food. The promises made by the biotech industry — of increased yields, reduction of chemical use and control of weeds and pests — have not been kept. Last month an investment fund sued DuPont for $1 billion for pushing herbicide-resistant crops knowing fully well they would fail to control weeds and instead contribute to the emergence of “superweeds”.
Creating “ownership” of seed through patents and intellectual property rights and imposing it globally through the World Trade Organisation, the biotech industry has established a monopoly empire over seed and food. While they claim ownership of the seeds they sell and collect royalties, when it comes to checks and balances on safety, the biotech industry is systematically destroying international and national laws on biosafety claiming their products are “as nature made them”. It’s ontological schizophrenia!
Biosafety is the multi-disciplinary assessment of the impact of genetic engineering on the environment, on public health and on socio-economic conditions. At the international level, biosafety is international law enshrined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. I was appointed to an expert group to evolve the framework by the United Nations environment programmme to implement Article 19.3 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Monsanto and friends have been attempting to deny citizens the right to safe food by opposing Article 19.3 since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
Currently they are attempting to dismantle national laws on biosafety in India, Pakistan, the European Union, across Africa and Latin America. In the United States, they are distorting the Constitution by suing state governments that have passed labelling laws for GMO (genetically modified) foods by claiming that the citizens’ right to know what they eat is superseded by the biotech industry’s right to impose hazardous foods on uninformed consumers as the freedom of speech of a corporation, as if it were a natural person.
Their PR machine is deployed to unscientifically attack scientists working on biosafety, such as Árpád Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, Éric Séralini and myself. Many journalists, having no scientific background themselves, have become soldiers in this PR assault. Privileged white men like Mark Lynas, Jon Entine and Michael Specter, with no practical experience in agriculture, armed only with BA degrees and ties to corporate-controlled media, are being used to undermine real scientific findings about the impact of GMOs on our health and ecosystems.
Biotech industry uses its PR puppets to falsely claim that GMOs are a solution to world hunger. This denialism of real scientific debate about how living systems evolve and adapt, is backed by an aggressive and massive PR assault, including the use of intelligence agencies such as Blackwater.
In 2010, Forbes named me one of the seven most powerful women in the world for “putting women front and centre to solve the issue of food security in the developing world”. In 2014, Jon Entine, a journalist, wrote an “opinion” piece on the Forbes website, falsely claiming that I have not studied physics. While I have studied physics at a post-graduate level and done my doctorate on the foundations of quantum theory, I have spent 40 years studying ecology in India’s farms and forests, with nature and wise peasants as my teachers. This is the basis of my expertise in agroecology and biosafety.
Good science and proven technologies do not need PRs, intelligence agencies or corrupt governments to prove the facts.
If unfounded attacks on a scientist from a developing country by a non-scientist is one of their tools in shaping the future, they have got it all wrong. They don’t see the growing citizens’ outrage against Monsanto’s monopoly.
In sovereign countries, where the might of Monsanto and friends is limited, the people and their governments are rejecting their monopoly and failed technology. But this news is suppressed by the PR machine.
Russia has completely banned GMOs with deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev saying, “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food”.
China has banned GMOs in military food supplies. Italy has just passed a law, Campo libre, making planting GMO crops punishable with a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 10,000-30,000 euros. Italian minister of agriculture Nunzia De Girolamo said in a statement: “Our agriculture is based on biodiversity, on quality, and we must continue to aim for these without ventures that, even from the economic point of view, wouldn’t make us competitive.”
PR pieces in Forbes and the New Yorker cannot stop the awakening of millions of farmers and consumers to the very real dangers of genetically-modified organisms in our food and the shortcomings and failures of the industrial food system which is destroying the planet and our health.
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
In 2013-14, farmers produced a record harvest of 264.4 million tonnes of foodgrains. Production of oilseeds reached a record high of 34.5 million tonnes, a jump of 4.8 per cent. Maize production increased by 8.52 per cent to reach a level of 24.2 million tones. Pulses production reached an all-time high of 19.6 million tones, an increase of 7.10 per cent over the previous year. Cotton production too touched a record high.With such record production, the nation remains indebted to the virile and hardworking farmers. But last year, in 2013-14, when farm production recorded a quantum jump, agriculture received 19,307-crore from the annual budget kitty, which is less than 1 per cent of the total budget outlay. This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley provided only Rs 22,652-crore to agriculture and cooperation departments.
The neglect of agriculture has become more pronounced since economic liberalization was introduced in 1991. I recall the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh famous budget speech when he showered all the bounties on industry and in the next paragraph said that agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. But since agriculture is a State subject, he left it to the State Governments to provide the much need impetus to farming. But what he forgot to say was that industry too is a State subject and should have been left to the State governments. The bias therefore was clearly visible.
Although agriculture grew at an impressive rate of 4.1 per cent in the Eleventh Plan period (2007-8 and 2011-12) it received a dismal financial support of Rs 1 lakh crore. For a sector which directly and indirectly employs 60-crore people, Rs 1 lakh crore outlay for five years is simply peanuts. In the 12 Plan period (2012-13 to 2017-18) agriculture is projected to receive Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Compare this with the Rs 5.73 lakh crore tax exemptions showered on the industry in 2014-15 alone. It’s therefore a matter of priorities. In fact, as I have been saying for long, farmers have disappeared from the economic radar screen.
Despite such low budgetary allocations for agriculture and knowing that the public sector investments have been drastically falling in the rural areas, there is no visible intention of resurrecting the farm sector reeling under a terrible economic distress. As if this is not enough, all the noise in TV studios is to cut down on subsidies meant for the poor – food, fertilizer, diesel, gas and MNREGA. But there is not even a whimper on the desperate need to remove the tax exemptions for the Indian industry.
Since 2004-05, Corporate India has been showered with Rs 31-lakh crore tax exemption. This was expected to boost industrial output and create jobs. But while only 1.5 crore jobs were added in the past 10 years, industrial production has not shown any significant jump. On top of it, Corporate India is sitting over a cash surplus exceeding Rs 10-lakh crores, and has also defaulted the banks (termed as non-performing assets) by another Rs 10-lakh crores or so. It clearly shows how the poor are being denied their legitimate economic support and the resources are being very conveniently diverted to the rich elite.
As I said earlier, agriculture employs 60-crore people. Nearly 82.2 per cent of those employed in agriculture are small and marginal farmers. With a meager land holding, and with virtually no financial support, this majority population has somehow managed to survive. Studies show that nearly 60 per cent farmers themselves go to bed hungry. With agriculture deliberately being turned economically unviable, more than 42 per cent farmers want to quit farming if given a choice. Mainline economists are keen to finish agriculture and move the farming population into the urban centres. But considering that temples are the biggest employer in the country, followed by security guards and the lift boys, I wonder if that is what constitutes economic growth. Nevertheless since the World Bank has prescribed rural-urban migration as the ultimate indicator of economic growth, Indian economists have been parroting the same prescription.
Economic Survey 2013-14 points to the same direction. Raghuram Rajan, the Reserve Bank governor echoes the same argument. Rising food inflation comes in handy to up the ante against Minimum Support Price (MSP) being paid to farmers. APMC mandisare to be dismantled. Farmers are being pushed to accept the market doctrine, which means that distress sale will now become a norm. In Bihar, which has no APMC since 2007, markets have failed to infuse any confidence by way of economic prosperity. But that’s what the markets like. They should be able to source cheaper farm commodities thereby adding on to their profits. What happens to farmers has never been their concern. Nor will it ever be.
I expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse the trend and thereby make an historic correction. He has repeatedly been emphasizing during his election campaign on the dire need to make farming economically viable. He has also been talking of providing modern amenities right in the villages. Taking development to the villages has been the hallmark of his political thinking. A beginning can be made by revitalizing agriculture in a manner that it brings back the smile of the face of the farmers. In addition to creating 100 smart cities, Mr Modi should also focus on creating smart villages.
A smart village will automatically link local production with local procurement and local distribution. A smart village will not only bring internet connection into the rural hinterland but also provide support to sustainable agriculture practices. A network of small scale industries linked to agriculture, and a strong network of rail and road corridor, with civic amenities like education and health will transform the face of real India. That’s the kind of change India expects. That’s the big ticket reform the country has been waiting endlessly for 67 years. Smart villages will not only reduce the growing inequality but also bring acche din for the last person in each and every corner of the country. It will at the same time reduce the burden of influx on the cities, and help reduce global warming. #
An abridged version of this article appeared in Deccan Herald, July 16, 2014.
Why this apathy?
Smart villages, Mr Modi
Orissa Post, July 15, 2014.
"The Trust wishes to emphasize the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences," the BBC Trust writes in the report. "Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given. […] Impartiality in science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views," the report concludes.
The report builds upon a similar review issued back in 2011 which took a closer look on the networks' accuracy and impartiality when reporting on various scientific issues. The 2011-review came to the conclusion that the BBC had an "over-rigid" approach to impartiality that often resulted in "undue attention to marginal opinion" - such as climate denialism. As a result of that review, around 200 journalists and staff members at the BBC attended various seminars and workshops intended to improve their science coverage.
However, this does not mean that skeptical voices will be silenced altogether. The BBC Trust still thinks it's important that the public service broadcasting network gives coverage to dissenting opinions and to reach an ideal balance of coverage. But the viewers should from now on be able to more easily distinguish between scientific facts and opinions. "Audiences should be able to understand from the context and clarity of the BBC’s output what weight to give to critical voices," reads the report.
Related: John Oliver and Bill Nye shows why climate debates are ridiculous
by Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 12 July 2014
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech, “We shall leave no stone unturned in creating a vibrant India.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his policies would be for 125 crore Indians, but most of India has been forgotten in the Union Budget.
The Budget presented to Parliament on Thursday has major gaps in terms of commitment to basic needs of Indians — of food, water and livelihood. These basic needs constitute the fundamental right to life guaranteed in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It has become fashionable to write off the fundamental duties of the state as “populism”. Ensuring fundamental rights is not populism, but a constitutional duty. I welcome the commitment to move towards “Health for All”, the two key initiatives i.e. the Free Drug Service and Free Diagnosis Service would be taken up on priority. This is needed to resist the MNC pressure and pressure from the US on changing Article 3d of our patent laws that allows the manufacture of affordable medicine through a strict definition of what counts as an invention.
India still lives in her villages. However, rural India has been treated as a stepchild in the Budget. While only Rs 100 crore has been allocated for creating infrastructure for villages, Rs 7,060 crore has been allocated for 100 smart cities. This amounts to abandoning our rural areas to deep neglect.
Agrarian distress is the single biggest contributor to the economic crisis. There is an allocation of Rs 800,000 crore farm credit. But if the credit is not focused on getting farmers out of debt by planning a transition to debt-free organic farming, the Rs 800,000 crore credit will increase the farmers’ debt trap.
I welcome Rs 100 crore for development of organic farming in north-eastern states in the current fiscal year. This is under a separate category of “organic food”, it is not integrated into agriculture policy. However, all of India should have an organic agriculture policy both to rejuvenate our soil, water and biodiversity as well as to help farmers get out of the debt and poverty trap created by the purchase of costly chemicals and seeds. Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Sikkim have already made policies for a transition to organic farming. Organic farming needs to be a national mission.
Rejuvenating soil fertility is the most significant contribution of organic farming. I welcome Mr Jaitley’s plan to provide soil health card to every farmer and Rs 56 crore for setting up soil testing labs. However, the Budget for training farmers in organic farming to create fertile, healthy and balanced soils is missing. The process of transformation and transition of a revitalised India built on the foundation of resilient and fertile soils is missing. Soil health cards without capacity building for creating healthy soils through green manures, composting and organic matter will become an additional bureaucratic burden on already burdened farmers.
The year 2015 will be the United Nations’ Year of Soil. The science of building soil fertility spread from India to the world through organic farming. In 1905, Britain sent Albert Howard to India to improve Indian agriculture with chemicals. Howard found fertile soil without any pests. He decided to learn from Indian peasants. On the basis of peasants’ guidance, Howard wrote An Agricultural Testament. India has a long tradition in increasing yields through building rather than destroying soil fertility. We need centres of research and training that focus on traditional knowledge and expertise of organic farming. Agriculture research centres based on the scientific paradigm of the last century have an allocation of more than 600 crore.
There is no budget for training and research in organic farming and agroecology.
I am surprised that in an agrarian economy like India, there was no mention of skill development for diverse rural industries linked to agriculture which need to be supported to create new work and address unemployment. There was no fund allocation for skill development though Rs 500 crore for new IITs and IIMs has been allocated. Are the poor once again being forgotten? The Budget should have identified all the areas of opportunity for rural and underprivileged youth and then identified the skill development to close the gap between opportunities and capacity. This is what will create a vibrant India for 125 crore Indians.
Value-added activities in rural areas are a major contributor to reduction of poverty and umemployment. However, the Budget’s focus was not on rural areas but on industry. There is a further tax reduction for the food processing industry that is, in fact, the junk food industry. The health costs of the junk food industry need to be assessed and instead of giving the junk food industry new tax sops, a health tax should be put on the soft drink industry.
The Budget for food processing should be dedicated to creating economic opportunities for women and youth, in processing healthy, culturally appropriate and artisanal foods. This would create a synergy between health objectives, employment generation and revival of our diverse food cultures.
To rejuvenate India we need to be bold in our thinking and planning. The crisis is too deep to be addressed through band-aids. We needed a paradigm shift, more coherence, more synergies in the Budget. We didn’t get that.
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
—Current development model all about greed and making money, says India’s top philosopher
The Sunday Times LK, 6 July 2014
A new model of global development has been called for by an internationally-reputed philosopher and thinker, who says she strongly believes that the current concept of development is measured by ‘the art of money making’.
Vandana Shiva, Indian philosopher and thinker, environmental and civil society activist, told an audience in Colombo on Monday that the development path and the world trade order after the advent of the GATT and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have both failed mankind and earth.
“The art of money making is not the art of living. At one time we didn’t measure the value of nature in monetary terms but now people are putting a price on nature. Price is not value,” she said at a ‘campaign’ meeting organised by the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reforms (MONLAR) to continue the group’s opposition to the proposed new Seed Act. Dr. Shiva is backing the Sri Lankan group’s efforts to reject the proposal law calling it a conspiracy by multinationals in the seed business.
The eminent activist, speaking off the cuff on a range of development issues linked to how multinationals are putting a price to nature and forcing farmers in the developing world to accept many alien products including genetically modified seeds, said in the 20 years (up to 2014) since the signing of the GATT agreement which led to the formation of the WTO (World Trade Organisation), globalisation has seen a collapse at every level.
“There has been a collapse of the level of moral values and societies have been divided to sustain themselves. Greed does not sustain society. Globalisation is connected to growth … the more you can rob, the more you can steal…the more you can grab; that is the society that has been created,” she noted.
It gave freedom to those who want to exploit the earth and society, she said, adding that at the Sarvodaya’s ‘Metta’ convention which she attended (outside Colombo), the clear message of the Buddha came out, that is … ‘May all beings be happy and well’ … implying that money is not the panacea for all ills.
She said the worst sin to human life is allowing basic services to be under the control of transnational corporations. This subjugates humanity to the specific interests of a minority who become rich and powerful at the expense of the lives and security of others.“The right to basic services is a basic human right. There is also the need for food in addition to water, and food begins with seed. That is why the Seed Law being discussed in Sri Lanka right now is so important (and should be rejected),” she said citing the example of a similar process in India that was defeated.
Discussing her own foray into activism after starting life as a physicist, she said that while the green revolution was first successfully implemented in the Indian state of Punjab, it was a success for a model of development but failure for the people and earth.
“Punjab is one of the states with the highest rates of farmer suicides. The water is disappearing so fast because the green revolution required 10 times more water to produce the same amount of food. Punjab means the land of the five rivers. Today the land of the five rivers is dry because of its excessive use of water. In some places, tube wells have to go down to 1,000 feet and beyond and you don’t have the energy resource to be able to pump the water,” she said, expressing; “You don’t see that thankfully in Sri Lanka where there are beautiful gardens and farms”.
Globalisation, she argued has shown the world that it is a model based on greed which cannot sustain society and earth. “What would sustain societies even in the rich countries is a society that produces real wealth; real food; real nutrition.”The Indian activist repeated her often-stated accusation of multinational chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow saying they are now controlling the seed industry (genetically modified seeds), compelling farmers into a situation of forced buying of their seeds and payment of royalties.
“The entire age of chemicals was developed for tools of pain. Explosives for making bombs; chemicals used in concentration camps.Those chemicals were not allowed after the (world) war but now have turned into agro chemicals. This is a new paradigm of introducing chemicals used in warfare in agriculture,” she said, adding: “Technologies of violence are blind technology”.
She said ownership of seeds means ownership of life, noting that the five big giants that control seed patents include Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer and Dow.
According to international reports, the top 10 seed companies in the world are Monsanto (US), DuPont (US), Syngenta (Switzerland), Groupe Limagrain (France), Land O’ Lakes (US), KWS AG (Germany), Bayer Crop Science (Germany), Sakata (Japan), DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) and Takii (Japan).
“When the WTO agreement was signed, Monsanto said ‘we (Monsanto)’ are the patient and doctor. We wrote an agreement that was imposed on the rest of the world,” she said.
Many years from now all seeds in the world would be genetically engineered in manufacture. Those who have profited from wars are now profiting from the blood, sweat and tears of farmers in poor countries.
Overjoyed by Sri Lanka’s rich bio diversity with ‘all those lovely food that comes from an abundance of trees, shrubs, plants’, she noted that multinationals have defined ‘our (produced by simple people)’ food as ‘non-food’ and their ‘food’ as “(real) food’.
“No one should be eating genetically modified corn and soya. No one,” she exhorted to an audience that included a cross section of farmers, civil society activists and green movement advocates, at the meeting at the Central Bank Training Centre auditorium at Rajagiriya.
Labelling it an ‘epidemic of piracy’, she said thousands of patents of ayurvedic products have been registered in the US and, “if we don’t assert ourselves we will be paying royalties for what is ours”.
Farmers and societies in developing countries are getting poorer and, by how much, could be gauged by the fact that genetically modified BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) cotton by Monsanto is selling at Rs. 4,000 per kg whereas the local variety was just Rs. 5 per kg.
BT cotton was touted as a product that would eliminate pests. On the contrary it created new pests and farmers had to use more insecticide. In the US, herbicide tolerant (GM) crops have created super weeds – 17 million acres of farmland. A few weeks ago an investor sued the biotech industry for $1 billion over this, she said.
“Sri Lanka has 5-10 varieties of banana. They (TNCs) now want to genetically invent the banana and this is supposed to give more iron so that women don’t die in child birth due to iron deficiency. Why should we when we have natural foods like murunga, turmeric leaves which provides much more nutrition without any engineering,” she said
Statistics show that 99 per cent of farmer suicides in India were because of indebtedness due to forced dependence on TNCs.
She said a new development model is required at a time when some issues are becoming very clear to the world: the basis of growth is purely on the ability to make money while chemicals used in warfare are now used to destroy the land and nature.
“Patenting of life is an obscene measure. Measuring GDP while we destroy life is also obscene. That is why we need an alternate development model.”
She said Bhutan does not measure GDP like the rest of the world, recalling how the King of Bhutan told an international meeting that he will not chase growth as a development indicator. “He said he will create happiness and wellbeing for his people, in an indicator called – GNH (Gross National Happines),” Dr. Shiva said, adding: “It would be really nice to measure through a study as to the level of happiness of the people of Sri Lanka”.
Discussing Sri Lanka’s proposed Seed Act, she said this is an effort by the same multinationals that wanted to control the seeds and all the seeds through genetic engineering. “They said all seeds would be genetically modified and every farmer would buy seed from them. India was able to stop the Seed Act because we were alert. We collected thousands of signatures from farmers,” she noted, urging Sri Lankan groups to likewise protest.
Seed debate in Sri Lanka
Farmer groups in Sri Lanka say the proposed Seed Act would compel thousands of farmers to buy their seed from transnational corporations (TNCs) making them slaves to TNCs which will have patent rights over the seeds.
The proposed law gives virtually dictatorial powers to the Agriculture Director General who will be able to impose big fines on farmers who do not buy the imported seeds. In terms of the proposed bill the farmers have no recourse to the courts of law— a violation of their fundamental rights -, opponents say.
Using the imported seeds will also mean using imported chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides for which the farmers would have to pay a big price while the country will waste millions of dollars to import these agro-chemicals.
Dr. Vandana Shiva: Right to Seeds & Water, a talk given on 30/6/14 in Colombo Sri Lanka
Dr. Shiva’s talk starts at 2:47:18
—Public protest against proposed Seed and Planting Material Act!
By Shamila Rathnasooriya – MONLAR, 24 June 2014
Seeds must be in the hands of farmers’, Not of the Businesses!
Public protest against proposed Seed and Planting Material Act!
“Seed freedom is right of the farmers and the food producers. Farmers’ rights to save, exchange, evolve, breed, sell seed is at the heart of Seed Freedom. When this freedom is taken away farmers get trapped in debt and in extreme cases commit suicide. If this proposed Seed and Planting material Act become a low in Sri Lanka, that is the end of Seed Freedom and that is the end of Food sovereignty of the people in this Country” said Chinthaka Rajapakse, moderator of MONLAR and co-organizer of the public campaign held on 24th June 2014 which had been organized against the proposed seed and planting material act to be imposed by the government of Sri Lanka.
The protest march was held in Battaramulla, Sri Lanka and more than 1000 protesters walked about three kilometers to the Ministry of Agriculture to hand over a public statement to the minister of agriculture. Protesters were shouting slogans and showing posters, banners and placards in opposition of and condemning the proposed act. The protest campaign had been organized by the National Movement for Protection of Seed Rights.
According to the protesters the proposed act will discourage and illegitimate farmers to breed save, exchange, and sell seeds and planting materials without proper registration and licensing. This will erase the rights of the farmers who cultivate, breed, save and protect indigenous seeds generation by generation from the beginning of farming on this earth. Seeds are a gift of nature for all living beings. No one entitled to terminate regenerative capacities of seeds. But this act will rob this right of the farmers and will allow multinational agro business companies to take over controlling of seeds through patenting and make farmers enslave under their business.
“According to the act management of all seed and planting material in the whole country will come under to a one person, who is the director of agriculture. And they will form a “Seed Police” unit. This police unit is allowed to raid any house, store or shop at any time and spot fine the farmer or the owners of the premises if they found unregistered “illegal seeds” and confiscated the findings. This is a stupid. No one has a right to do this.” said K. Sunilshantha, manager of MONLAR.
The protesters attempted to handover a public statement to the minister of agriculture at the end of the protest but their attempt was failed.
“Minister said he is in a meeting with a Japanese delegate and have no time to meet us. We only wanted to hand over a letter. He does not have five minutes for that. We would like to ask him, whether he value Japanese, more than the farmers in Sri Lanka? This is how the corrupt politicians act. They have no courage to face the farmers. You farmers and the public has to understand the real situation here. These politicians are not serving for the poor though they have elected by the votes of the same.” said angered rev. Mahamankadawala Piyarathana Thero, the convener of the National Movement for Protection of Seed Rights.
Farmers and consumers from all over the country representing farmer, civil, labor, women, fisheries and human rights organizations were participated for the campaign.
—The Stolen Harvest: Listen to Dr. Vandana at least now – EDITORIAL
Daily Mirror LK, 27 June 2014
With Sri Lanka facing a crisis where some parties with vested interests, including Trans National Companies (TNCs), are trying to turn our traditional agriculture into an agribusiness largely for their benefit, the visit this week of the well-known Indian activist Dr. Vandana Shiva will hopefully open the eyes of the authorities to the economic neo-colonialism through which the wealth and resources of our country are being plundered.
Dr. Shiva is well known in India and all over the world as an environmental activist and anti-globalisation author of several books including the best selling ‘Stolen Harvest’, in which she exposed how TNCs were planning to plunder the agriculture of India just like as they were trying to do in Sri Lanka.
On Tuesday, members of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reforms (MONLAR) held a march around the Agriculture Ministry at Battaramulla in protest over the proposed Seed Act.
It sounds like something good but what it will mean is that the Trans National Companies will have patent rights over the seed paddy that our farmers can use.
These hybrid or genetically modified seeds produce a huge first harvest as an incentive if not a temptation to our farmers.
Instead, it is subjected to the process of terminator technology which means new seeds will have to be bought for every cultivation and gradually the farmers—who have been at the heart of our civilisation for thousands of years—will become dependent on the TNCs and in addition, millions of Sri Lankans who are already suffering because of the unbearable and daily rising cost of living, will have to pay more for their rice.
Another danger is that even scientists do not know what side-effects these unnatural seeds could have on consumers.
On Monday Dr. Shiva will give her keynote lecture on this and related issues at the Central Bank Auditorium in Rajagiriya and we hope our policy makers will listen to her lecture and act according to it to prevent TNCs and other neo-colonial elements from plundering our agriculture and other resources in subtle and sophisticated ways.
The withdrawal of the Seed Act was one of the demands put forward by the government coalition partner, the National Freedom Front (NFF), at recent crisis talks. An NFF spokesman said the President had promised he would reconsider or withdraw the Seed Act, but in this era promises are one of the few cheap items.The people have serious doubts as to whether the Seed Act will be reconsidered or reintroduced in a different way but with the same devastating effect on the country.
Dr. Shiva, the author of more than 20 books, was trained as a physicist and obtained her doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario in Canada in 1978. She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalisation, along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin. She is also a leading figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement.
She has argued for the wisdom of many traditional practices, as is evident from her interview in the book Vedic Ecology by Ranchor Prime. This draws upon India’s Vedic heritage.
She is also a member of the International Organisation for a Participatory Society. Dr. Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award in 1993 and numerous other prizes.
It is not too late to turn around even now and we hope Sri Lanka’s policy makers will be enlightened by the vision of Dr. Vandana Shiva.
“Here we test new products. And this is a test product. We want to see what the interest is and be sure that we can take care of the product, even after the purchase,” said Daniela Rogosic from Ikea.
The electric bike is called Folkvänlig, which is Swedish for people (=folk) friendly (=vänlig), and will come in a “male” and “female” version. If you live near Älmhult in Sweden, the electric bike will cost you 5995 kronor, which is about €600 or $800. IKEA Family members will be able to buy it at a discounted price.
The bike weights 25kg and is designed with a front fork in steel and a frame made in aluminium that holds the green-painted rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery powers a 250-watt electric motor which gives you a pedal-assisted range of 60 to 70 km per charge. It takes about 5 to 6 hours to fully charge the battery and you can charge it from a standard electric-outlet in your home or at work. The bike is also built with a Shimano transmission with six different driving modes and comes with a two-year warranty (except for normal wear and tear parts such as tires, chains and brake pads, etc.).
The bike is heavy but looks much better than similar-priced electric bikes where the battery is often located in the back. And yes, the electric bike will be sold in a flat package and you’ll have to put it together yourself – in a classic IKEA-way.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET), 4 July 2014
MONSANTO FACES STRONG OPPOSITION TO GM COTTON FROM MALAWI CIVIL SOCIETY
Lilongwe, 4 July 2014
An alliance of 19 civil society organisations and an organic vegetable farmers group led by the Commons for EcoJustice (EcoJustice) and representing Malawian small-scale farmers, faith-based organisations, organic movements, non-governmental organisations and the media, among others, have lodged a substantive submission to the Malawian authorities, vehemently opposing Monsanto’s application to obtain a general release permit for its genetically modified (GM) cotton, MON 15985, commonly known as Bollgard II.
Monsanto’s application to commercialise GM crops in Southern Africa is the first of its kind, apart from South Africa where transgenic crops have been cultivated since 1997. MON 15985 is genetically engineered to be insect resistant in that target insect pests that eat it will die. The target pests of MON 15985 are Lepidopteran insect pests.
If successful, the commercial release permit will allow Monsanto’s GM cotton to be cultivated in the entire cotton-growing region of Malawi, including Lakeshore, Shire Valley (Chikwawa and Nsanje districts), and the central and upland zone regions, Lower Shire region and the southern region upland areas around Balaka district.
In Malawi, the bulk of cotton production is carried out by small-scale farmers farming under contract, involving around 400 000 families. The majority of cotton produced in Malawi is exported as lint/fibres, with a small proportion being exported as seed for processing for use as cotton-seed oil and other edible products. A number of public-private partnerships also exist to develop and support the cotton sector in Malawi, such as the Cotton made in Africa project involving the German government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Cotton made in Africa project specifically prohibits the use of GM cotton, which gives rise to serious concerns about the impact GM contamination may have on the workings and future of the project.
The civil society opposition to Monsanto’s application is founded upon scientific, socio-economic and administrative justice grounds. Some of the most worrying concerns include:
- Monsanto has failed to consult the public and key stakeholders adequately on the socio-economic impacts the cultivation of its GM cotton will have on local livelihoods. This is particularly pertinent in the light of experiences from Burkina Faso and South Africa, which have shown that cultivating Monsanto’s GM cotton carries a high risk of indebtedness due to the exorbitant cost of the GM cotton seed. This is especially worrying for small-scale farmers with little bargaining power in commercial cotton markets and who may not have resources for crop insurance and generally have slim risk margins. Small-scale farmers are also at risk of losing out on export markets in GM-free countries.
- Monsanto has also failed to engage the neighbouring countries of Zambia and Mozambique on existing risk management plans for possible transboundary hazards due to GMO cotton being released in the border districts.
- Private-public partnerships that do not allow the cultivation of GM cotton face the risk of contamination in a context where there is no clarity regarding liability for Monsanto and redress for small-scale farmers.
- Monsanto has not provided any empirical evidence to support its stated socio-economic benefits for small-scale farmers and the country.
- Monsanto has failed to furnish local field trial data on MON 15985, conducted at the Bunda College of Agriculture. This data remains inaccessible and out of the public domain, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the public to meaningfully engage with Monsanto’s application.
- Monsanto’s application does not consider the issue of an increase in secondary pest populations once the target pest population is reduced. Problems arising with secondary pest populations – subsequent to the use of crops expressing toxins of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have already been identified in several countries. Should secondary pests replace the target pests, this may necessitate increased pesticide spraying, thereby defeating the very objective of the GM technology.
- Insect resistance to Bt toxins has been documented in various parts of the world, including in Africa. Insect resistance to Bollgard I has already rendered the technology ineffective in several countries and therefore Monsanto has decided to rather request approval for its Bollgard II in Malawi. Due to mounting global problems of insect resistance to Bt crops, a comprehensive resistance management plan would seem to be essential for minimising these risks. Contrary to biosafety best practice, Monsanto has shockingly proposed submitting a long-term resistance management action plan only after resistance has already been confirmed for an affected area.
- Monsanto also states that the establishment of structured “refuges” containing non-Bt crops is not needed in Malawi until the adoption of MON 15985 exceeds 80% of the area planted to GM cotton. Monsanto makes the erroneous assumption that the remaining 20% of non-GM cotton would act as a refuge without taking into account the proximity of this 20% in relation to the 80%, nor its ability and effectiveness to act as a refuge. The same concerns arise when considering the suggested use by Monsanto of wild plants and other non-cotton hosts as refuges.
- There is also very little training envisioned by Monsanto regarding local farmers’ understanding and use of resistance management measures and refuges.
The civil society opposition also supports the long list of biosafety and socio-economic concerns published by the Cotton Development Trust in the daily newspaper, the Nation, on 23 June 2014. Civil society has called on the Malawian authorities to reject Monsanto’s application in its entirety and order the decommissioning of confined field trials being conducted by Bunda until all of the concerns raised by both the civil society group and the Cotton Development Trust have been adequately addressed.
Points to note
- The 19 organisations opposing the Monsanto GM cotton application include Commons for EcoJustice (EcoJustice), Civil Society Agricultural Network (CISANET), Farm Radio, Coordination Union for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE), Self Help Africa (SHA), Churches in Action Relief and Development (CARD), Find Your Feet (FYF), Trustees of Agricultural Promotion Programme (TAPP), Farmers Forum for Trade and Social Justice (FAFOTRAJ), Network for Youth and Development (NyFD), Kusamala Institute for Agriculture and Ecology, Never Ending Food, Right to Food, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, Malawi Organic Association, Sustainable Rural Growth and Development Initiative (SRGDI), Schools and Colleges Permaculture (SCOPE), Afriseed and Women in Agribusiness in the Sub-Sahara Africa Alliance (WASAA). This objection is also strongly supported by an organic vegetable farmers group.
- MON 15985 (trade name Bollgard II®) is a result of the retransformation of transgenic cotton line MON 531 (Bollgard I®). MON 531 was genetically engineered via Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation to express the cry1Ac gene. MON 531 was then genetically engineered again, using particle acceleration transformation, to express the cry2Ab2 gene to give rise to MON 15947. MON 15985 inherits inserts from MON 531 and MON 15947 cotton. As a result, MON 15985 expresses both the Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab2 insecticidal proteins.
- The objection can also be downloaded at www.cisanetmw.org./index.php/events1
For further information, please contact:
Bright M. Phiri – Programme Coordinator
Commons for EcoJustice
P.O. Box 1028,
Tel: +265 (0) 111 585 700
Mobile: +265(0) 995 522 882
Facebook: GMO-Free Malawi
by The undersigned – The Ecologist, 3 July 2014
Thirty-five distinguished scientists urge the US-EPA not to register new mixtures of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate, intended for use on herbicide-tolerant GMO crops. Approval of the herbicide mixtures would endanger both human and environmental health.
Administrator Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460
RE: Dow AgroSciences application to amend their 2,4-D choline salt herbicide for use on 2,4-D tolerant corn and soybeans. Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0195
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
We the undersigned scientists, medical professionals, and researchers are writing to urge the US Environmental Protection Agency not to register a double herbicide mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate (the ‘Enlist DuoTM’ weed killer) for farm field spraying in combination with a new breed of genetically engineered corn and soybeans.
This 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and glyphosate herbicide system developed by Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, would put public health at risk if sprayed on millions of acres of cropland.
Dow Chemical Company promotes 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans to be used in conjunction with Enlist DuoTM because the widespread planting of the glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans has resulted in accelerated herbicide resistance in numerous weed species. 
Now, instead of re-evaluating the genetically engineered crop strategy in the United States, the US Department of Agriculture and EPA are close to approving the 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans despite the risks that the increased use of 2,4-D would pose to human health and the environment.
A host of adverse consequences
2,4-D is a notorious herbicide that has been linked with adverse health effects to the thyroid  and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma  in human epidemiological studies.
Although studies of pesticide exposure among farmers and their families are confounded by exposure to multiple pesticides, there is a large and compelling body of data that demonstrates the link between occupational exposure to herbicides and insecticides and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 
Studies of farmers who worked with 2,4-D found a link between exposure to this herbicide and suppressed immune function,  lower sperm count,  and a greater risk of Parkinson’s disease. 
These findings from human studies, whether small-scale, pilot studies or large cohort studies, point out significant risks from 2,4-D to human health even for the relatively healthy adults who work in agricultural jobs.
Such risks would be much higher for young children, especially young children in residential communities, schools, and daycare centers near the 2,4-D-sprayed fields.
No toxicity tests for simulataneous exposure
Also worrisome is the fact that the manufacturer did not conduct any toxicity tests for simultaneous exposure to the combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, which could pose a much higher human and environmental toxicity risk than either herbicide alone.
EPA acknowledges that “there could be additional toxicological effects (synergistic or additive) because of the presence of two herbicides.” 
Yet, the Agency disregarded these data gaps and both human and environmental toxicity concerns in its proposal to register the Enlist DuoTM herbicide.
Widespread contamination would follow
If the EPA were to approve Dow’s application for 2,4-D-glyphosate herbicide to be used on 2,4-D-resistant crops, USDA estimates at least a tripling of use of 2,4-D by 2020 compared to the present amounts used annually for agriculture in the United States. 
The increase in 2,4-D spraying on corn and soybean fields would lead to pollution of food and water and increased drift of 2,4-D from the fields into nearby residential areas.
The Dow Chemical Company claims that their 2,4-D choline salt formulation has low volatility and low drift. However, the large-scale, blanket spraying that has become standard practice with genetically engineered crops would make herbicide drift from sprayed fields into nearby residential areas and ecosystem habitats highly likely to occur.
In addition to putting human health at risk, increased 2,4-D spraying would harm the already-vulnerable ecosystems in intensely farmed regions of the United States; affect dozens of endangered species; and potentially contribute to the decline of pollinators and honeybees.
EPA itself has identified these likely outcomes of 2,4-D spraying in the agency’s ecological risk assessment for 2,4-D. Such direct and indirect effects of 2,4-D would have significant negative economic consequences.
More herbicide-resistant weeds
Finally, increased 2,4-D application is likely to accelerate and exacerbate the evolution of yet more 2,4-D resistant weeds.  This pattern is known as the ‘pesticide treadmill’ when farmers end up using larger amounts of increasingly toxic chemicals to control herbicide-resistant weeds eventually requiring the use of different pesticides.
Decades of research have continuously demonstrated the risks of using 2,4-D, a notoriously toxic herbicide. Allowing large-scale 2,4-D spraying in combination with 2,4-D-tolerant genetically engineered crops would worsen the problem.
We urge the EPA to do the right thing and deny the approval of the new mixtures of 2,4-D and glyphosate in order to protect human and environmental health.
- Owen MD. Weed species shifts in glyphosate-resistant crops. Pest Manag Sci. 64(4): 377-87. and Owen MD, Young BG, Shaw DR, Wilson RG, Jordan DL, Dixon PM, Weller SC. 2011. Benchmark study on glyphosate-resistant crop systems in the United States. Part 2: Perspectives. Pest Manag Sci. 67(7): 747-57.
- Goldner WS, Sandler DP, Yu F, Shostrom V, Hoppin JA, Kamel F, LeVan TD. 2013. Hypothyroidism and pesticide use among male private pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study. J Occup Environ Med. 55(10): 1171-8.
- Miligi L, Costantini AS, Veraldi A, Benvenuti A; WILL, Vineis P. Cancer and pesticides: an overview and some results of the Italian multicenter case-control study on hematolymphopoietic malignancies. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1076:366-77, 2006.
- Schinasi L, Leon ME. 2014. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11(4): 4449-527.
- Faustini A, Settimi L, Pacifici R, Fano V, Zuccaro P, Forastiere F. 1996. Immunological changes among farmers exposed to phenoxy herbicides: preliminary observations. Occup Environ Med. 53(9): 583-5.
- Lerda D, Rizzi R. 1991. Study of reproductive function in persons occupationally exposed to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). Mutat Res. 262(1): 47-50.
- Tanner C, Ross G, Jewell S, Hauser R, Jankovic J, Factor S, Bressman S, Deligtisch A, Marras C, Lyons K, Bhudhikanok G, Roucoux D, Meng C, Abbot R, Langston W. 2009. Occupation and Risk of Parkinsonism. Arch. Neurol. 66(9): 1106-13.
- EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2013. EFED (Environmental Fate and Effects Division) Environmental Risk Assessment of Proposed Label for Enlist (2,4-D Choline Salt), New Uses on Soybean with DAS 68416-4 (2,4-D Tolerant) and Enlist (2,4-D + Glyphosate Tolerant) Corn and Field Corn. Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0195.
- USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). 2013. Dow AgroSciences Petitions (09-233-01p, 09-349-01p, and 11-234-01p) for Determinations of Nonregulated Status for 2,4-D-Resistant Corn and Soybean Varieties. Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
- Mortensen, DA, JF Egan, BD Maxwell, MR Ryan, and RG Smith. 2012. Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management. BioScience, 62: 75-84.
Toni Bark, M.D., MHEM, LEED AP
Founder and Medical Director
Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal
Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.
Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural
Washington State University
Alison Bleaney, M.B., Ch.B., FACRRM
National Toxics Network, Tasmanian Environmental
Health Network, Doctors for America
David O. Carpenter, M.D.
Institute for Health and the Environment at Albany
Lynn Carroll, Ph.D.
TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
Margaret Christensen, M.D., FACOG
Adjunct Faculty, President
Institute for Functional Medicine, Christensen Center
for Whole Life Health
Theo Colborn, Ph.D.
TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
Johanna Congleton, MSPH, Ph.D.
Environmental Working Group
Martin Donohue, M.D., FACP
Adjunct Associate Professor; Member; Senior
School of Community Health, Portland State
University; Social Justice Committee & Board of
Advisors, Physicians for Social Responsibility;
Internal Medicine, Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center
Diane Drum, R.N., AE-C
Multnomah County Environmental Health
Mary Eubanks, Ph.D.
Dept. of Biology, Duke University
Elizabeth Frost, M.D.
Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC)
Robert M. Gould, M.D.
San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Physicians for
Michael Hansen, Ph.D.
Carol Kwiatkowski, Ph.D.
TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
Philip J. Landrigan, M.D.
Dean for Global Health
Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chairman
Department of Preventive Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure
Dept. of Environmental Health, Harvard School of
Rob McConnell, M.D.
Professor of Preventative Medicine
University of Southern California
Margaret Mellon Ph.D., J.D.
Science Policy Consultant
Gretel Munroe, M.S., MSH, R.D.
Raymond Richard Neutra, M.D., DrPH
Retired Chief of Division of Environmental and
Occupational Disease Control
California Dept. of Public Health
John A. Patterson, M.D., MSPH
Dept. of Family and Community Medicine, University
of Kentucky College of Medicine
Jerome A. Paulson, M.D., FAAP
Medical Director for National and Global Affairs
Children’s National Health System
Warren Paul Porter, Ph.D.
Professor of Zoology, Professor of Environmental
Toxicology, Invited Affiliate Faculty Member,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Julia Quint, Ph.D.
Research Scientist and Former Chief
Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service,
California Department of Public Health (Retired)
James Roberts, M.D., MPH
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Medical University of South Carolina
Johanna Rochester, Ph.D.
Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service,
California Department of Public Health (Retired)
Kenneth Rosenman, M.D., FACE, FACPM
Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Michigan State University
Ricardo J. Salvador, Ph.D.
Director and Senior Scientist
Union of Concerned Scientists
Jennifer Sass, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Professional Lecturer
Natural Resources Defense Council, George
Shilpa P. Saxena, M.D.
SevaMed Institute, PA
David Shubert, Ph.D.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.
Distinguished Scholar in Residence
Dept. of Environmental Studies and Science
Robin M. Whyatt, DrPH
Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Colombia Center for Children’s Environmental Health
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
President and Founder
The signers of this letter have done so in their personal capacities. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes and do not imply any institutional position.
Half a Million People to EPA: Stop ‘Largest Expansion of a Known Toxic Herbicide’
As the EPA appears poised to OK new herbicide duo containing 2,4-D, watchdogs sound alarm.
by Andrea Germanos, staff writer – Common Dreams, 1 July 2014
Over half a million people including scientists, doctors and food safety advocates have urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to approve a new herbicide mix proposed by Dow because they say it would open the floodgates to a vast increase in toxic spraying that puts public health and the environmental at risk.
At question is Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo herbicide, a mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup—made to be used on 2,4-D ready corn and soybean crops. Dow states that its proprietary blend “will control and help prevent further development of herbicide-resistant weeds” on the genetically engineered crops.
Food safety, environmental and health watchdogs, however, say that it’s an unsustainable and harmful approach to dealing with the problem of herbicide-resistant weeds, or “superweeds,” that exist because of the systemic issues underlying the “genetically engineered crop strategy” that keeps farmers on a “pesticide treadmill.”
“American agriculture stands at a crossroads,” stated Bill Freese, science policy analyst atCenter for Food Safety. “Approval of these crops and pesticides would set American agriculture down a dangerous path that will only exacerbate the problems farmers are already facing.”
The groups and health professionals are sounding particular alarm over 2,4-D, which has been linked to numerous health problems including increased risks of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s and immune system problems.
Further, “In its Environmental Risk Assessment for 2,4-D, the EPA found ‘information gaps,’ ‘key uncertainties’ and ‘insufficient information’ in the analysis of the impacts of 2,4-D on nontarget organisms,” stated Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The agency even admitted concerns for direct and indirect effects on birds, mammals, insects (like honeybees) and plants.”
“As for its human health evaluation,” Hauter continued, “the EPA based all of its safety determinations on a study that was conducted by Dow AgroSciences.”
In a letter sent Monday to the EPA, 35 doctors and researchers also underscore human health dangers posed by 2,4-D, and add:
Also worrisome is the fact that the manufacturer did not conduct any toxicity tests for simultaneous exposure to the combination of 2,4 – D and glyphosate , which could pose a much higher human and environmental toxicity risk than either herbicide alone . EPA acknowledges that, “there could be additional toxicological effects (synergistic or additive) because of the presence of two herbic ides.” Yet, the Agency disregarded these data gaps and both human and environmental toxicity concerns in its proposal to register the Enlist Duo™ herbicide.
If the EPA green-lights the herbicide duo as well as the 2,4-D ready corn and soy, the groups say the amount of 2,4-D being used across the nation will exponentially increase. They point to a USDA assessment that found that 2,4-D use on crops could increase as much as seven-fold.
“If EPA approves Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soy, it would result in the largest expansion of a known toxic herbicide use in more than three decades,” stated Mary Ellen Kustin, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group, an organization that has also sought to highlight the risks of the herbicide.
The public comment period for the herbicide mix ended Monday at midnight, but the groups are hoping that the EPA at least postpones their decision until the agency does a better, science-based assessment.
“We urge the EPA to do the right thing and deny the approval of the new mixtures of 2,4-D and glyphosate in order to protect human and environmental health,” the doctors’ letter concludes.
Food Sovereignty Ghana, 4 July 2014
Dr. Atikpo and OFAB appear brilliant at building straw men to argue against and tear down with much ferocity. Unfortunately they do not address the points made by Dr. Shiva regarding GMOs. They do not address the real dangers of GMOs to Ghana or to the people who live here. Nor do they address the expressed concerns of Ghanaian farmers and citizens. They ignore Ghanaians who care about the sovereignty and independence of our beloved Ghana.
Dr. Atikpo and OFAB claim that GMOs are not toxic. There are two aspects to the question of toxicity. Dr. Atikpo addresses neither of them and instead batters away at her straw man. We know very little about GMOs themselves because the corporations that own the patents do not permit independent testing. What effects GMOs have on our bodies, what effects they may have over time or that may be inherited through us to successive generations, are not known.
The effects GMOs may have on the environment, on the plants, animals, soil, water, air, have not been explored. The evidence we have so far is not reassuring. The corporations that own the GMO patents work very hard to keep them from being researched or becoming known. They are so afraid of potential problems that they do not even want GMO products labelled GMO. This is the true anti-science position.
The extreme and known toxicity of GMOs is due to GMO plants being pesticide plants. GMO plants are saturated with pesticides. GMO crops vastly increase the use of pesticides. Even though the corporations holding GMO patents try to hide and obscure this fact, much is known about the toxic effects of pesticides.
GMO crops are genetically engineered to have pesticide such as Bt in every cell of the plant, or to absorb huge amounts of applied herbicides without being killed. When we consume the plants, or eat animals that consume the plants, we consume quantities of these pesticides that can injure our heart, lungs, organs, nerves, digestion, blood, skin, immunity, and sexual function and development.
When you eat a genetically modified food crop you are eating pesticides. When you wear genetically modified fibre you have toxin resting on your skin.
Research is piling up showing just how deadly these chemical cocktails can be on all the systems of our bodies, on the growing bodies of our children, and on the development of our unborn babies. Allergies, diseases, birth defects, damages to all the organ systems of the body, even autism have been linked to toxic pesticides. GMOs are designed in the laboratory so that they require these chemicals in order to grow. Do you want these chemicals sprayed and spread through Ghana, on our food and on our families? Does your MP want you fed and sprayed with pesticides?
GMOs threaten Ghana’s independence as a nation. Dr. Shiva warned us that GMOs mean seed colonization and seed slavery. This is the massive looming threat that Dr. Atikpo and OFAB completely ignore. The straw men they build and attack so vigorously are constructed to hide this massive danger. Dr. Atikpo and her cronies are dishonest about the toxicity of GMOs, and try to use the toxicity issue to distract our attention away from the GMO threat to our freedom and the GMO theft of our seed DNA heritage.
The Plant Breeders Bill is part of a foreign corporate plan developed by the G8 and engineered by USAID to control all of Ghana’s agriculture. Parliament has met with the Americans and ignored Ghanaians.
So far Ghana’s Presidents and MPs of both the dominant political parties are going along with this plan. The long term intention of these corporations is that every seed that is planted in Ghana will be owned by the giant agribusiness corporations. They will own the intellectual property rights to every seed. Farmers will have to buy seeds from them for whatever they want to charge. In India seed prices have risen as much as 8000%. Farmers who save seeds will have to pay royalties to corporations if they want to plant their saved seeds.
The Agribusiness corporations can take the DNA, the germplasm of Ghana’s seeds into their laboratories, patent the seeds, and then charge Ghanaian farmers for the same seed germplasm Ghanaians have painstakingly developed over decades and centuries. This is biopiracy. Ghanaian seed breeders will be left out. They do not have the resources to compete with the multinational corporations.
The Plant Breeders Bill puts the multinational corporations above the laws of Ghana, making it impossible for Ghana’s government to protect our agricultural wealth from these predators or protect our farmers and citizens from their predations.
With the Plant Breeders Bill enacted, only those seeds produced and sold by foreign corporations will be available to plant. The rich diversity of Ghana’s crops and seeds, our best protection against climate change, will be lost. Our food supply, what we eat and whether we eat, even the use of our water and soil, will be at the mercy of foreign corporations. The decisions of those corporations are based on how much money and resources they can extract from Ghana. Whether we live or die is a matter of indifference to them. That is what Dr. Shiva means by colonization and seed slavery. Do we want colonization and slavery returning to Ghana’s shores?
The only constituencies supporting the Plant Breeders Bill are the MPs that seem determined to pass it regardless of how it impacts Ghana, the American Embassy, and some Ghanaian academics and researchers whose funding is likely to depend on the GMO agribusiness corporations. Based on all their public utterances, Ghana’s MPs have done nothing to address the concerns in the various petitions to Parliament regarding the Plant Breeders Bill. Short of massive national and international attention, they may go ahead and pass the Bill! They appear to us to be completely ignoring Ghana’s best interests and Ghanaian public opinion.
If your MP is thinking of voting for the Plant Breeders Bill, if your MP ignores Ghanaians and votes for the Plant Breeders Bill, you do not want that person representing you in Parliament. When the announcement was made in Parliament during the sitting on Thursday, 19th June, by the 1st Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ebow Burton-Oduro, Hon. Musaka Mubarak, NDC MP for Asawaso, and Majority Chief Whip, rose to his feet to declare that the Committee would present an “oral report”. Is our Parliament trying to tell Ghanaians, they do not even need to properly let us know whether or not the petitions make any sense to them? And if not why? Is our Parliament trying to tell Ghanaians, they do not even need to properly let us know whether they hear the petitions or respect the petitioners?” Contact your MP and tell them to defeat the Plant Breeders Bill!
OUR FOOD UNDER OUR CONTROL!
For Life, The Environment, and Social Justice!
Member, Communications Department
Food Sovereignty Ghana.
by Lucia Ortz – The Ecologist, 1 July 2014
The United Nations has voted to legislate against human rights abuses carried out by transnational corporations, reports Lucia Ortiz. But the resolution, proposed by Ecuador and South Africa, was opposed by the US and the member states of the EU.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva has voted to start elaborating an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of Transnational Corporations with respect to human rights.
The resolution passed last week with 20 states in favor, 14 against and 13 abstaining at the 26th session of the UNHRC. Among those voting against were the US and EU states.
More than 80 nations and 600+ organisations support the UN resolution, which should bring about a legally binding treaty on businesses and human rights.
A ‘voluntary framework’ is not good enough
In September 2013, a declaration led by Ecuador and supported by more than 80 countries, states the need to move from voluntary guidelines for business on human rights to a legal framework to bring transnational corporations to justice for their human rights violations.
The resolution, tabled by Ecuador and South Africa, was finally voted on at the UNHRC last week. Most importantly, it:
“Decides to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, the mandate of which shall be to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.”
EU and US – corporations more important than people
The strongest opponents of the resolution were EU states and the US, which also actively lobbied other countries to side with them, threatening them with loss of development aid and foreign direct investment.
The US delegate stated that “this legally binding instrument will not be binding for those who vote against it”, exposing the US disrespect for the democratic UN process as well as its opposition to binding rules to address corporate abuses.
Many countries felt they did not have a choice. “We vote with the EU, if we do not, it can become very unpleasant for us”, the representative of a UNHRC country which is a candidate for EU membership told Friends of the Earth International ahead of the vote.
This victory for those who defend the environment, human rights and sustainable livelihoods from the human rights violations by big business would not have been possible without the coordinated work by civil society networks and social movements united in advocacy and mobilization efforts from the grassroots to the international level.
Friends of the Earth International and many other civil society organisations have campaigned for decades for binding standards to hold corporations accountable where and when they commit environmental crimes and human right violations.
Multinationals on trial at the Peoples Tribunal
A special session of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal just took place in Geneva and included a ‘trial’ of the companies Shell, Mekorot, Hidralia, Glencore Xtrata, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Lonmin and Pacific Rim.
The companies were accused of specific human right abuses, systemic and systematic violation of human rights, and increasing criminalization and violence against human rights and environmental defenders.
The fact that the Permanent Peoples Tribunal has to present a moral judgment to make these cases of human rights violations visible confirms that existing voluntary approaches are woefully inadequate for dealing with ongoing corporate violations and systemic denial of access to justice for the victims.
Defenders of the environment often face terrible consequences for their actions, suffering rights violations and violence, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International released on June 26.
[See report: 'To defend the environment, we must defend human rights' on The Ecologist.]
Corporate violence against rights defenders is routine
A new case of corporate violence against environmental rights defenders and violations of their rights is reported to Friends of the Earth International on average once a week, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Friends of the Earth International recorded more than 100 incidents of violence against environmental rights defenders and violations of their rights in 27 countries around the world in the period November 2011 – October 2013, according to the report.
More than half of the killings recorded by Friends of the Earth International between November 2011 and October 2013 were targeted assassinations of peasant leaders and deaths of peasants during violent confrontations regarding land disputes.
These often involved the protection of peasant territories from polluting development projects such as hydroelectric dams, monoculture plantations or the extraction of oil, gas and minerals.
Environmental defenders deserve and demand a legally binding treaty to bring corporations to justice. But they also demand community access to justice, right to protest, reparation and restoration of damaged environmental and livelihoods, and criminal liability for corporate offenders.
EU: ‘a binding treaty will discourage voluntary action’
Delegates from the EU and Norway were reported as stating that the longer we speak about the need for a binding treaty, the more companies are discouraged from taking voluntary action.
We believe the opposite: the longer we delay a binding treaty, the longer companies will continue to act with impunity, and the more environmental defenders rights are abused.
This is why we will not stop our advocacy work at the UN and in our capitals until the establishment of an international legally binding regime that will allow us to hold corporations accountable for their human rights abuses.
- The UNHRC Resolution
- EU aims to scuttle the Treaty.
- More information on the treaty movement.
- More information about the Permanent Peoples Tribunal.
- FOEI briefing.
- The Ecologist: ‘To defend the environment, we must defend human rights‘.