Rachel's Precaution Reporter #55
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

From: Canada Newswire ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
September 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "In the absence of 'hard science,' the [Canadian Cancer] Society promotes the precautionary principle, which recognizes the value of taking common sense steps to prevent harm to human health or the environment."]

VANCOUVER, Sept. 12 -- The Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. [British Columbia] and Yukon Division, has submitted a letter to the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) to clarify its position on electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and its possible link to cancer. The BCUC accepted public input until September 8 on the Vancouver Island Transmission

Reinforcement Project running through the community of Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island; the EAO is accepting comments until September 15, 2006. In July, the BCUC approved a plan to install overhead power lines along a right-of-way through central Tsawwassen despite concerns raised by residents over health and safety risks to children, posed by the power lines' EMF [electro-magnet field].

Critics of the project have pointed to advice on EMF available on the Canadian Cancer Society's website. "There is insufficient scientific evidence to either rule out or confirm a definitive link between exposure to EMF and childhood leukemia," says

Barbara Kaminsky, CEO for the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon Division. "But we absolutely understand the public concern generated by potential carcinogens, particularly where children are involved. We recommend the EAO revise the transmission plan, if it is practical, in relation to power line routes directly over private residential property and school property."

The Canadian Cancer Society also suggests individuals limit their exposure to EMF by taking precautionary actions, which include limiting the amount of time children spend playing directly beneath power lines, updating household wiring in an older home, and sitting at arms length from a computer terminal.

"In many cases we don't know how cancer develops and we need more information," says Kaminsky. "In the absence of 'hard science,' the Society promotes the precautionary principle, which recognizes the value of taking common sense steps to prevent harm to human health or the environment."

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is a provincial agency that coordinates assessment of the impacts of major development proposals in British Columbia.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. In British Columbia and the Yukon, the Society works with approximately 20,000 volunteers in over 80 communities, funded nine new research grants in 2006/07 worth more than $4.6 million, and recently established the Canadian Cancer Society Research Chair in Primary Prevention at UBC. For more information, visit www.cancer.ca, or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

For further information: Media contact: Marcelo Dominguez, Communications Officer, Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon Division, T: (604) 675-7340, C: (778) 999-2592, mdominguez@bc.cancer.ca

Copyright 2005 CNW Group Ltd.


From: InfoShop News ......................................[This story printer-friendly]
September 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Illegal genetically-modified rice was recently discovered contaminating conventional rice in Europe and China. The contaminating gene may cause allergic reactions in some humans. Greenpeace warns that rice in the Philippines is in danger of similar genetic contamination unless precautionary action is taken.]

At a press conference in Quezon City, Philippines, Greenpeace International has revealed new information about the spread of genetic contamination of the world's rice crops.

In recent weeks, illegal genetically-modified rice has been found contaminating conventional rice in Germany, France, England and China. Now scientists are expressing concern that the contaminating gene may cause allergic reactions in some humans. Rice is a staple crop for half of humanity -- some 3 billion people -- so very large numbers of people could be exposed to a potential allergen if steps are not taken to curb the spread of the rogue gene.

Recent Greenpeace tests reveal that illegal GE rice from the US has contaminated products on supermarket shelves in Germany. The results came a week after an earlier round of tests proved that illegal GE rice from China, which poses a potential health risk, was found present in rice products on European shelves(1). Greenpeace International has notified authorities that illegal GE rice poses health and environmental risks and called upon governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.

"The illegal GE rice scandal, however, may not be limited to Europe. In Southeast Asia rice is the staple diet. The Philippines is among the countries most at risk because we import rice and rice products from both the US and China," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

"Greenpeace is therefore calling on the government to protect Filipino consumers by implementing strong measures to nip in the bud what may turn out to be a similar case of serious contamination in our country. These measures should include testing of rice and rice products, the immediate recall of those found positive for contamination, and demanding GE free certification for food from countries that grow and produce GE crops," Ocampo added.

Many US and Chinese rice products which are available in Philippine markets and supermarket shelves may be affected by contamination. These products can range from rice noodles to breakfast cereals to baby food. The country also imports sacks of rice from US and China, and receives several tons of US surplus rice regularly under a food aid program, PL-480.

The recent rice contamination in China began with field trials of GE rice not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. The illegal GE rice, genetically engineered to be resistant to insects, contains a protein or fused protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice. Three independent scientists with expertise in the field of GE and health have issued a statement backing the health concerns raised by Greenpeace International(2). Yet an investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 showed that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GE rice seeds to farmers(3). Processed rice products found in supermarkets in France, UK and Germany were revealed last week to have been contaminated with China's illegal GE rice.

New test results by an independent laboratory released in a statement yesterday by Greenpeace Germany have also confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in US parboiled long grain rice sold in a major German supermarket chain which has 700 outlets throughout France. Bayer's LL GE rice is not approved for food or cultivation anywhere in the world except within the United States and Canada. In addition, an experimental variety of LL GE rice, LL601, was found recently to be contaminating US rice.

"These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses. Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health and the environment," said Dr. Janet Cotter from Greenpeace International's Science Unit. "Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place and stop any plans to commercialize GE rice."

Ocampo concluded: "The Philippines, which is signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety should moreover use the precautionary principle by not importing GMO rice and rice products. The country should also stop planting GMO rice, even in experimental plots, so that contamination is halted at all levels."

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

Notes to Editor

(1) All tests were conducted by an accredited and independent laboratory. Details available in background briefing 'Illegal experimental GE Rice from China: Now entering Europe's Food chain'.

(2) Scientists statement from Pr. Ian F.Pryme, Dept. of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. Pr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, President du Conseil Scientifique, du CRII GEN, Universite de Caen, France. Dr. Christian Velot, Conseil Scientifique du CRII GEN, Institut de Genetique et, Microbiologie, Universite Paris-Sud, France.

(3) Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hongkong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegally grown GE rice.

Copyright 2006 Infoshop News


From: European Parliament .................................[This story printer-friendly]
September 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Approximately 50,000 tons of tuna are caught every year, while about 25,000 tons would be sustainable. All participants in the hearing agreed that a crisis was looming, and that urgent action was required. Even absent exact data, "the precautionary principle commands us to act," said a European Commission representative.]

With bluefin tuna stocks falling in the Mediterranean, fishermen and environmentalists are worried about the future of the species. A public hearing by the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament (EP) heard from scientific experts, environmental activists and industry representatives about the situation in the region. All parties agreed that urgent action was needed to stop illegal overfishing and to find a way to return to sustainable levels of exploitation.

The EP's Fisheries Committee held a public hearing today about the current situation of bluefin tuna. This species lives on the two coasts of the Atlantic, and has been traditionally exploited by European fishermen. According to scientific experts present at the hearing, France, Italy and Spain together make up 50% of world-wide bluefin tuna catches, while around 80% of the Eastern Atlantic stock is caught in the Mediterranean. Yet now the bluefin tuna is in danger.

The plight of bluefin tuna

In the past decade, the species has become a "high-value product due to international Japanese demand" for sushi, according to Jean-Marc Fromentin, an expert at the French institute for exploitation of the sea (IFREMER). This has led to new technologies and fishing methods in the Mediterranean, most prominently the practice of 'fattening' or 'fish farming'. This involves catching live fish at sea and rearing the animals for several months in floating cages. Not only does this increase their body weight (and therefore worth) but it also allows for fresh catches anytime of the year, ending the limitation of catches to the three-month fishing season.

Marta Crespo, from the Almadraba Fish Producers' Organisation, explained that the more efficient farming methods cause bluefin tuna prices to drop, leading fishermen to increase catches to make a living, creating a "vicious cycle". The result is that "approximately 50,000 tons of tuna are caught every year, while about 25,000 tons would be sustainable," according to Enrique Rodriguez Marin, an expert at the Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO). This also leads to fraudulent underreporting, and other illegal fishing activities, which were enumerated by Sergi Tudela, from the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Proposed solutions

All participants of the hearing agreed that a crisis was looming, and that urgent action was required. Even absent exact data, "the precautionary principle commands us to act," intoned a European Commission representative. "We have the technology, what we need is political will," added Ferran Bel, from the Spanish trap-net fishermen's association.

Speakers and MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) had various suggestions on how to address the problem of dwindling bluefin tuna stocks. Antonio Roldan, the mayor of Conil de la Frontera (Spain) argued for raising the minimum size limits of catches to 30kg. Ms. Crespo advocated introducing age limits of catches, in addition to size requirements. Struan Stevenson (EPP-ED, UK) called for closed spawning areas, whereas Mr. Rodriguez said that fishing effort must be limited. Elspeth Attwooll (ALDE, UK) asked about the creation of a Mediterranean Regional Advisory Council (RAC) to negotiate limits, and Heinz Kindermann (PES, DE) suggested raising fines for infractions.

The parties disagreed over many of the measures, because various options would affect different types of vessels in diverse ways. Inaction, however, was ruled out. "The overcapacity of fishing is the problem," stated the Commission, and "a restructuration is inevitable".

Copyright 2002-2005 Noticias


From: San Jose Mercury News ...............................[This story printer-friendly]
September 11, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The California legislature has passed a bill to create an "early warning system" by measuring toxic chemicals in the bodies of California residents. The bill now sits on Governor Schwarzenegger's desk, awaiting his signature or veto. "By monitoring, we can provide the kind of data we need to better understand links between chemical exposure and rates of disease, and communities that are disproportionately affected," said Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund.]

By Paul Rogers

Is there a connection between toxic chemicals and high rates of breast cancer in the Bay Area? Do pesticides build up in the bodies of Salinas farmworkers? Do people living near oil refineries in Martinez or along freeways in San Jose absorb harmful levels of air pollution?

California may be on its way to finding out.

A bill that would set up the nation's first statewide program to measure exposure to toxic chemicals by testing thousands of volunteers has overcome industry opposition and reached the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The bill, SB 1379, by state Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, would require the state Department of Health Services to establish a program for residents who agree to have their blood, urine and other body fluids tested for toxic chemicals and other pollutants.

The program would be based on an increasingly popular science known as "biomonitoring." It seeks to track hundreds of potentially harmful contaminants -- such as lead, mercury, DDT, PCBs and flame retardants -- and learn more about their health risks by measuring how much, and in whom, they accumulate.

Simply because chemicals can be detected in humans doesn't necessarily mean they are causing harm, scientists note. Virtually every American is exposed to a wide variety of chemical products -- from fumes at gas pumps to nail polish to garden fertilizer -- usually in small amounts with little or no ill effects. But high levels of some toxins have been linked to increased risks for cancer, birth defects, asthma and developmental disabilities. And much remains unknown.

"We monitor the air, the water and land for chemical contaminants, but we don't measure the chemical contaminants in people," said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit San Francisco group that focuses on environmental risks for cancer. "By doing that, we can provide the kind of data we need to better understand links between chemical exposure and rates of disease, and communities that are disproportionately affected."

If Schwarzenegger signs the bill, the new law would set up a nine- member panel of experts appointed by the governor and legislative leaders to design a program.



** Senate Bill 1379 would set up the nation's first statewide program to measure exposure to toxic chemicals by testing thousands of volunteers.

** The program would track hundreds of potentially harmful contaminants -- such as lead, mercury, DDT, PCBs and flame retardants -- and learn more about their health risks by measuring how much, and in whom, they accumulate.

** The state Department of Health Services would set up the program for residents who agree to have their blood, urine and other body fluids tested for toxic chemicals and other pollutants.


Voluntary subjects

Nudelman said she expects about 2,000 volunteers representing varying ages, ethnicities and regions would be sought out first for testing to compile statewide baseline information.

Afterward, specialized studies could be conducted. Examples include measuring chemical levels in people living near the ports of Oakland or Los Angeles, where ships and trucks emit high levels of soot.

Costs would total about $7 million a year, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Summaries of the findings -- but not individual test results -- would be made public every two years, starting in 2010.

For much of this year, the farm, oil, chemical and manufacturing industries fought the bill after Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar version in 2005.

The governor and industry critics had said it didn't include enough scientific checks and balances, and risked misleading people by overstating health risks from minuscule levels of exposure. But two weeks ago, industry withdrew its opposition.

"If we are going to do this, we should do it thoughtfully, professionally and scientifically," said Margaret Bruce, director of environmental programs for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an industry group in San Jose that dropped its opposition.

"The whole program was based around an activist perception of what would be important, rather than a scientist's," she said. "A biomonitoring program will give useful information if it gives comparable, statistically valid data."

Schwarzenegger's staff negotiated changes with Perata and Ortiz. Those improved the bill, Bruce said. One change required that the panel organizing the program be made up of experts with backgrounds in epidemiology, biostatistics, toxicology and other disciplines.

Similar efforts failed three years in a row after industry also opposed the funding sources. First, the bill was to be paid for by a cigarette tax, then fees on industry. Now the money would come from the state general fund.

Re-election plays in

Nudelman, however, insisted that the changes were relatively minor. She said the California Farm Bureau Federation, American Chemistry Council, California Chamber of Commerce and others dropped opposition because they realized Schwarzenegger has made environmentalism a key part of his re-election campaign and is likely to sign the bill.

The bill is supported by the California Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, large labor unions, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

Since 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has conducted national biomonitoring studies. The last results in 2005 surveyed 2,200 people for 148 chemicals. The CDC found some chemicals such as DDT, a pesticide banned in 1972, or pthalates, used to soften plastic, are widely found in Americans. But it did not measure the health threats.

Dr. Richard Jackson, former head of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, supports California's bill. He recalled studying pesticides and farmworkers for years.

"Over and over again the problem we were dealing with is that we really didn't have any idea what people were exposed to," said Jackson, now an adjunct professor at the University of California- Berkeley. 'We had no way of measuring or knowing."

He predicted other states will copy California.

"Biomonitoring gives you a chance to do a snapshot and look at levels across the state," Jackson said. "Do we have hot spots? Are there people we should be looking at? Do our regulations work? Unless you can measure it, you can't give people decent advice."

Contact Paul Rogers at progers@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5045.


From: The Ukiah (Calif.) Daily Journal ...................[This story printer-friendly]
September 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Britt Bailey, who successfully shepherded a precautionary principle ordinance through the legislative process in Mendocino County, has now been appointed to the County Planning Commission.]

By James Arens

Fifth District Supervisor David Colfax has nominated Gualala environmentalist and community activist Britt Bailey to succeed attorney Don Lipmanson as his appointed planning commissioner.

Bailey is an environmental policy teacher, the director of the Environmental Commons, an eight-year member and former chairwoman of the Gualala Municipal Advisory Council (GMAC) and coordinator of the Mendocino Partnership for the Precautionary Principle.

Colfax has worked with Bailey in the past on various projects and said he nominated her because of her commitment, ability and reputation.

"I think she has demonstrated her commitment to planning issues," Colfax said. "And she already has some experience working on coastal development permits with GMAC to help assist the Planning Commission. I also wanted to find someone wanting to make the commitment to spend a couple of long days working on planning issues each month."

Lipmanson said Colfax has made a good decision for his replacement on the Planning Commission.

"I can't think of a better choice," Lipmanson said in a written statement." Britt brings intelligence, experience and commitment to a demanding but immensely rewarding job."

Bailey, who will be appointed in January when Colfax begins his third term on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, is looking forward to the new challenges of being on the Mendocino County Planning Commission.

"I have been involved with the Gualala Municipal Advisory Council for the past eight years, and Supervisor Colfax informed me about this opening and I think the position will be very interesting," Bailey said. "I am also involved with environmental policy and I've dealt with coastal issues for a while and I am looking forward to dealing with inland issues now as well."

The Mendocino County Planning Commission has seven members and all are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Timber and Agriculture hold two seats, and each supervisor appoints a member, whose appointment is subject to board ratification.

James Arens can be reached at udjja@pacific.net.

Copyright 2006 The Ukiah Daily Journal


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

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