Rachel's Precaution Reporter #38

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006..............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Portland, Oregon City Council Adopts Toxics Reduction Strategy
  Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County have adopted a precaution-
  based purchasing policy intended to reduce governmental use of toxic
World Council of Churches Urges Ban On 'Terminator' Technology
  The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches has issued a
  strong condemnation of terminator seeds and has called on churches
  and ecumenical partners to take action to stop the technology. The
  Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia warns that sterile seed technology would
  increase economic injustice all over the world:"Applying technology to
  design sterile seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a
Environmentalists' Quest to Ban Life-Saving Flame-Retardants
  Radical anti-environmentalist Elizabeth Whelan once again distorts
  and misrepresents the precautionary approach so that she can trash it.
  Her work is funded mainly by corporate polluters.


From: Oregon Center for Environmental Health, May 11, 2006
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Portland Oregon and Multnomah County Adopt Precautionary Approach

"Better Safe Than Sorry" Approach to be Used to Reduce Toxics in Local
Government Operations

Today [May 11, 2006] Portland and Multnomah County became one of the
first cities and counties in the nation to jointly adopt a
comprehensive plan for management and reduction in the use of toxic
chemicals. The city council and county board voted unanimously to
adopt a Toxics Reduction Strategy -- a plan for minimizing use of
toxic substances of concern in government operations by using the
Precautionary Principle.

"The Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners deserve
to be commended for leading by example and choosing to use government
operations as a starting point for reducing toxics in our community ",
said Jane Harris, Executive Director of the Oregon Center for
Environmental Health.

Mounting evidence shows toxic pollution accumulates in our bodies and
threatens our health. There are hundreds of contaminants present
within each of us, contaminants that have built up over time through
exposure to everyday items such as cleaning products, plastics, fuels,
pesticides, and building materials. Childhood cancers, asthma, birth
defects, developmental disabilities, autism, infertility, and
Parkinson's disease are increasing at alarming rates and there is a
growing body of scientific evidence linking these serious health
problems to the chemicals we are exposed to in our air, water, food,
homes, schools and workplaces.

The Toxics Reduction Strategy is the product of a resolution proposed
by the Oregon Center for Environmental Health and the Sustainable
Development Commission of Portland and Multnomah County and was
adopted by both local governments in the fall of 2004. In early 2005,
a Toxics Reduction Workgroup was formed, comprised of representatives
from the community, environmental advocacy groups, local government,
business, academia, and City and County staff. The strategy was
prepared by the Oregon Center for Environmental Health, Multnomah
County Sustainability Initiative and the City of Portland's Office of
Sustainable Development with feedback from the workgroup and other

"The Precautionary Principle takes a "better safe than sorry" approach
by choosing the least toxic alternative and shifting the burden of
proof from the public to manufacturers and users of toxic chemicals to
prove a chemical's safety before it is released into the marketplace"
says Workgroup co-chair and Oregon Center for Environmental Health
program director, Neha Patel.

The Toxics Reduction Strategy uses the Precautionary Principle to
identify cost-effective alternatives to practices in city and county
operations that pose a threat to human health and/or the environment
Short-term actions that have been identified in the strategy include
increasing the use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel in fleet
vehicles and off-road equipment, installing plumbing devices in county
dental clinics that trap mercury amalgam for proper recycling, and
choosing non-toxic cleaning chemicals .

"The strategy aims to reduce toxics in government operations and
protect public health and the environment by using the common-sense
idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", said
Strategy Workgroup member and PSU [Portland State University] School
of Community Health professor, Stephanie Farquhar. "Rather than
asking, how much harm is allowable, the Precautionary Principle is a
tool that allows us to consider how little harm is possible."

To read the strategy visit www.oregon-health.org

The Oregon Center for Environmental Health is dedicated to
protecting public health and the environment through community action
to eliminate toxic pollutants.

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From: The World Council of Churches, May 15, 2006
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The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Samuel
Kobia, called upon churches and ecumenical partners to take action to
stop "terminator technology." "Applying technology to design sterile
seeds turns life, which is a gift from God, into a commodity.
Preventing farmers from re-planting saved seed will increase economic
injustice all over the world and add to the burdens of those already
living in hardship," stated Kobia.

He underlined: "Terminator technology locates food sovereignty, once
the very backbone of community, in the hands of technologists and
large corporations. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates
that 1.4 billion people depend on farmer-saved seed as their primary
seed source. All Christians pray "Give us this day our daily bread"
(Matt 6:11). That this profoundly material request appears in this
profoundly spiritual prayer, signals for us the centrality of food in
our lives, as well as the indivisibility of the material and spiritual
in the eyes of God. It is of great concern to me that life itself is
now often thought of and used as a commodity." Governments upheld the
international de facto moratorium on "Terminator technology," which
refers to plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile
seeds, about a month ago at the Eighth meeting of the Conference of
the Parties (COP8) to the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) held in Curitiba, Brazil. They finally gave in to strong
pressure by social movements and civil society groups and a number of
governmental delegations supporting their claims. The UN conference
was held in Brazil only weeks after the WCC's 9th General Assembly in
Porto Alegre, Brazil, where delegates urged the WCC to respond to the
challenges posed by science and technology.

The call for a ban on sterile-seed technology had taken center stage
at the two-week meeting in Curitiba. Thousands of peasant farmers,
including those from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento Sem
Terra), protested daily outside the conference center to demand a ban.
The women of the international peasant farmers' organization Via
Campesina staged a silent protest inside the plenary hall on 23 March,
holding hand-painted signs with the words "Terminar Terminator con la
Vida" ("Terminate Terminator with Life").

Brazil and India have already passed national laws to ban Terminator -
and other campaigns to prevent commercialization of seed sterilization
technologies will follow in various countries around the world.
Protestant churches in Germany lobby for a national law and European
Union legislation to ban terminator seeds. They also argue against the
patenting of terminator technologies.

"Though the international moratorium on Terminator was upheld at COP8,
the battle to block the technology is now moving to the national
level. This requires us to alert our member churches and ecumenical
partners to be vigilant in their respective countries," explains the
WCC general secretary who is confident that this concern unites
Christian churches and people of other faiths who care for small scale
farmers and God's creation.

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From: American Council on Science and Health, May 12, 2006
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By Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.

The nation's most outspoken environmentalists -- along with our public
servants at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- have for
decades represented themselves as the protectors of human life and
health. But just recently they have removed their masks and revealed

The most obvious historical example of this life-threatening advocacy
is the banning of DDT -- a chemical that curtailed the spread of
malaria by killing the vectors of that disease, mosquitoes. Following
the environmentalist-inspired banning of DDT in 1972, the death rate
from malaria soared in countries around the world. People died because
a life-saving chemical was removed.

A current case in point, however, is the war environmentalists are
waging against flame-retardant chemicals known as PBDEs
(polybrominated diethyl [sic] ether). [Actually the chemicals Ms.
Whelan is trying to defend are polybrominated diphenyl ethers.--

These chemicals are used widely in consumer electronics, furniture
foam, wire insulation, backcoatings for draperies and upholstery, and
more. They increase valuable escape time in cases of fire by slowing
both ignition and the rate of fire growth. (Approximately 4,000
Americans die each year in fires, which occur primarily in homes.
There are nearly 20,000 injuries from fire, with direct financial
loses approaching $10 billion.)

Incredibly, as a result of pressure from environmentalists in recent
years, most flame-retardant chemicals have been banned both in the
United States and Europe, and those remaining are very much under
assault. Why? Because activists -- and their surrogates at the
Environmental Protection Agency -- argue that the chemicals can be
found in blood and breast milk samples and may cause cancer in
laboratory rodents.

The EPA has issued a statement saying that "although use of flame-
retardants saves lives and property, there have been unintended
consequences. There is growing evidence that PBDEs persist in the
environment and accumulate in living organisms [and] toxicological
testing indicates that these chemicals may cause liver toxicity,
thyroid toxicity, and neuro-developmental toxicity." Freely
translated, what the EPA is saying is that the Agency deems these
chemicals to be dangerous because they cause adverse effects in
rodents, and today's super-sensitive detection techniques can pick up
traces during biomonitoring of human tissues. Note that they do not
claim that flame-retardants cause human disease or death; they are
only suggesting this might happen. They are relying on the
precautionary principle: when in doubt, throw it out. After all, some
feel, no price tag is too high to save a life, even a hypothetical

The problem is that while the EPA and its activist clones outside the
agency try to save hypothetical lives by banning flame-retardants,
real people are dying and suffering from burns. Ironically, the people
being killed and maimed are most often those who are the most
vulnerable among us: children and the elderly, who cannot quickly
escape consuming flames.

As the EPA regulates against flame-retardants, Americans die and
suffer. Banning the very few flame-retardants now left on the market
will have the dire consequence of increasing the risk of fire injuries
and death here and around the world.

Environmental groups like the Environmental Working Group and
Greenpeace (and the EPA regulators they influence) are revealing their
true agenda: ban industrial chemicals without regard for the loss of
life and human suffering it will cause.

Until consumers, scientists, and policy makers make a commitment to
confront these activists with facts -- and hold them responsible for
the consequences of banning life-saving technology -- pseudoscience
and the precautionary principle will continue to prevail in regulatory
policy, and all of us will suffer.

Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., MPH, is founder and president of the
American Council on Science and Health.

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  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.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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