Rachel's Precaution Reporter #54

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2006.........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Campaign to Outlaw Precaution for Biotech Crops Fails in Calif.
  In California, a proposed state law lapsed without a Senate vote
  Sept. 2, ending, at least for now, a campaign by agribusiness
  corporations to outlaw a precautionary approach to genetically
  modified crops.
Try This at Home: Is Coca-Cola Violating Precaution in India?
  A reader from India asks whether the Coca-Cola Company has violated
  the precautionary principle, and columnist Carolyn Raffensperger
Climate Change Offers England an Uncomplicated Choice
  In England, the Conservative Party has adopted the precautionary
  principle for global warming: "The argument in favour of taking strong
  action to counter climate change is overwhelming, which is why the
  Conservative party's Quality of Life Policy Group has taken as its
  starting point an assumption that climate change is real enough to
  justify the precautionary principle."
Mayor of Davao City, Philippines: 'We Must Use Precaution'
  "We have to protect first our people and environment," he said,
  using the precautionary principle against the alleged ill effects of
  aerial spraying [of pesticides] on the health of residents and the
  environment near agricultural plantations.


From: SantaCruzLive.com, Sept. 3, 2006
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By Bert Muhly

[RPR introduction: This article describes California Senate Bill 1056,
an attempt by agribusiness firms to pass a state law preempting county
ordinances that have banned genetically modified crops in Marin,
Mendocino, Trinity and Santa Cruz counties. Senate Bill 1056 was
passed by the Assembly but failed in the Senate Sept. 2.)

It is officially recorded as Senate Bill 1056, but it is popularly
known in the halls of the California State Legislature as the Monsanto
Bill as it streaks along a well-greased track through the legislative
process toward Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk for signing, guided
by its handpicked author, state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter.

It is called the Monsanto Bill because it was apparently introduced at
the behest of the corporate agribusiness giant Monsanto, whose
objective is to continue its presently unregulated and unaccountable
practices of genetically engineering foods in California.

If SB 1056 is enacted, it would prevent local governments from
legislating against genetically modified crops, in spite of
indisputable proof that the federal government and state government
have heretofore defaulted in the responsibility of each to assure the
protection of the health, safety and general welfare of the people.

The proof is contained in the extremely well researched 56-page
report to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors by the Genetic
Engineering GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission of the
County of Santa Cruz. The report's findings and recommendations caused
the board, on June 20, to approve unanimously an ordinance that
established a precautionary moratorium prohibiting the planting and
production of genetically engineered crops in Santa Cruz County.

The GE report to the board was the result of a 10-month study by the
aforementioned subcommittee. The 14 members of the subcommittee were
picked from diverse sectors of county agricultural interests and
qualified members of academia to undertake the required research. The
report includes findings that emphatically challenge assertions by
supporters of the Monsanto Bill who claim that regulation by local
government is unnecessary because the industry is already highly
scrutinized by the federal government. See Santa Cruz Sentinel,
Saturday, Aug. 26, page A10, a report by Kimberly Geiger, under the
headline, "Bill would ban local rules on bioengineered crops."

Critical issues of concern that led the GE subcommittee to recommend
the countywide adoption of a precautionary moratorium, which is in
direct opposition to the supporters of SB 1056, are as follows, taken
directly from the executive summary of their report.

** Inadequate regulatory monitoring and oversight of genetically
engineered crops at the federal and state level to ensure public
health and environmental safety. A recent audit conducted by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's inspector general found that the agency is
not living up to its own protocols for GE crop regulation. The report
found that the USDA did not know the location of many of the GE test
sites being used; some GE test crops, including drug-containing crops,
remained the test fields and contaminated subsequent harvests; and
some crops not approved for human consumption have found their way in
to the food supply.

** Health testing of the effects of exposure to GE organisms is not
required by any government agency. The lack of comprehensive safety
testing leaves a potentially dangerous scientific void in the
knowledge available about the short- and long-term health effects of
GE foods.

** Farmers and gardeners who choose not to grow GE crops have no legal
recourse if contaminated by GE pollen or seeds.

** There is no legal requirement to label GE seeds or rootstock, thus
eliminating farmers' or gardeners' choices.

** Adequate safeguards do not exist to prevent GE contamination of
non-GE crops plants, insects, domesticated animals, wild life and wild
lands, that can result from forces of nature and human causes. Once GE
pollen is released into the environment, there is no known ability to
reverse the process. The resulting impacts on ecosystems are unknown.

The Santa Cruz study and the report clearly exposes the GE issue as
more of a public health issue than an agricultural issue, certainly of
a magnitude not to be summarily handed over the domains of corporate
agribusiness and/or the California Farm Bureau Federation.

At the Assembly Agriculture Committee hearing on June 26, those of us
from Santa Cruz among the overflow crowd from throughout the state
were there in opposition to the bill. Our testimony was dismissed by
the committee chairwoman as being irrelevant to the issues presented
by the content of SB 1056. As a retired practitioner and teacher of
urban and regional planning, and as a former mayor and city
councilman, I was told by the chairwoman that I could only state my
name and whether I was for or against the bill, while I was trying to
support testimony of the legislative representatives from the League
of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties,
who have consistently been in opposition to the bill because of its
ill-thought-out potential negative impacts on zoning and related local
regulatory ordinances.

Although the Santa Cruz County delegation was not allowed to testify
at this so-called "hearing," we distributed copies of this report, or
the executive summary thereof, to each member of the Assembly
Agriculture Committee before early August, when they voted the bill
out of the Assembly committee. Obviously, they were not inclined the
read the material, since six committee members were co-authors of the

On Aug. 24, the Assembly voted for passage of the bill 51-24.
Assemblyman John Laird should be given great credit and thanks for his
vigorous opposition to the bill. He garnered at least 24 votes to slow
down the Monsanto Express heading full throttle toward Gov.
Schwarzenegger's office. As may be expected, Florez, the author of the
bill, has already received assurance from the governor's office that
Schwarzenegger will sign the bill. But the governor and his staff will
have every opportunity to read the full Santa Cruz report before the
bill reaches his desk. And if he should then wish to take a
responsible position on this industry-generated bill, he would be wise
to tell Sen. Florez to yank the bill from the Senate floor and to read
the Santa Cruz GE report in its entirety. He should then advise Sen.
Florez that if confronted with the need to veto the bill, he will
include in his veto message this belief, borrowed from the Santa Cruz
Health Commission report.

"It is the responsibility and purview of the State of California to
establish regulatory oversight to ensure public and environmental
health and safety, which, to this date, the State has clearly not
done. In the absence of that oversight every county and every city of
California has the right and responsibility to take action by
implementing a Precautionary Moratorium that protects the health of
each county and city and its residents, and in doing so, sends a
strong message to the State to follow suit."


Bert Muhly, a former Santa Cruz mayor, is a Santa Cruz resident.

Copyright 1999-2006 Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #54, Sept. 6, 2006
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To the editors:

Thank you for the very informative Rachel's Precaution Reporter which
we have used to keep updated on the various campaigns internationally.

I am writing specifically in regards to the Coca-Cola company and its
practices in India. We, the India Resource Center, work actively
with communities in India to challenge the company's abusive practices
in India. The Coca-Cola company is accused of

1. creating severe water shortages across India by significantly
depleting groundwater

2. polluting the land and groundwater by discharging its toxic waste

3. selling products in India with high levels of pesticides

In a highly irresponsible act, the Coca-Cola company has located many
of its bottling plants in drought-prone areas of India, and as a
result, the already existing water crisis has been further
exacerbated as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations.

The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable is very strong, and one of
Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India has been shut down since
March 2004 as a result. In the US, New York University has banned
Coca-Cola and the University of Michigan has placed the company on
probation -- until it cleans up its act.

The Coca-Cola company has recently signed on to the UN Global
Compact, which I am sure you are aware of. One of the Principles of
the Global Compact is that "Business should support a precautionary
approach to environmental challenges."

We would like to understand from you if and how the Coca-Cola company
may be in violation of the Precautionary Principle in India.

Thank you

Amit Srivastava
India Resource Center

Dear Mr. Srivastava,

Yes, Coca-Cola is in violation of the Global Compact, particularly
the precautionary principle. The Global Compact is a U.N.-led
international effort to engage business in supporting 10 universal
labor and environmental principles. But it is voluntary. The U.N.
lacks any enforcement mechanisms and so Coca-Cola is in violation of
the social contract established between society and companies and it's
in violation of the ecological contract all of us hold with nature.

But Coca-Cola is not breaking any enforceable precautionary law.

The environmental provisions in the Compact, including the
precautionary principle, are derived from the Rio Declaration on
Environment and Development, an international agreement drafted in
1992. While numerous countries have signed on to the Rio Declaration
and other lofty international documents, until the year 2000, the
precautionary principle was aspirational and not hard law. That has
since changed with the passage of two international treaties and a law
-- the Biosafety Protocol, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent
Organic Pollutants (POPS treaty) and a new law enacted in 2003 by
the City of San Francisco. The precautionary principle now guides
major environmental efforts on toxic chemicals (POPS treaty),
environmentally friendly purchasing (San Francisco) and genetically
modified organisms (Biosafety Protocol).

But, these treaties and laws only bind governments, not corporations.
While they will affect business, they still don't require Coca-Cola,
or any other corporation to actually do anything. This provides a
marvelous opportunity for India to lead the way and put teeth into the
precautionary principle and actually hold corporations legally

Where might India (or one of its states like Kerala) start in putting
the precautionary principle into law binding corporations?

A good beginning step would be to define the role of the government,
not as balancing competing interests, but as serving as trustee of the
commons -- particularly water -- for this and future generations.
Government has not only a right, but a responsibility, to safeguard
the essential necessities of life so that it can sustain life and
health for the children of our grandchildren. The best way to fulfill
that responsibility is to use the precautionary principle. We have
some legal language from the Supreme Court of Hawaii that makes the
case that trusteeship of the commons requires the precautionary

Secondly, a government could legally define how they would apply the
precautionary principle to the commons. One possibility might be to
codify the Natural Step as a matter of law. The Natural Step argues
that it is not sustainable when society (or a corporation) depletes or
degrades a resource like water faster than the Earth can replenish it.
Applying the precautionary principle to this ecological rule (of not
depleting and/or degrading it faster than it can be replaced) means
that if a corporation might deplete the water supply faster than it
could be replenished, the activity would be prevented and all parties
would seek better alternatives.

Finally, the state could appoint or elect a guardian for future
generations that could veto corporate abuses of common resources.
Some U.S. states have public intervenors or advocates that have power
to go to court on behalf of children, the handicapped or natural
resources. Expanding this power to fulfill our responsibility to
future generations while meeting the needs of this generation, would
go a long way to giving the precautionary principle the needed legal
clout and bind corporations.

Until that happens, we can revoke our side of the social contract and
refuse to buy products from companies that have violated their
agreements with society to behave decently and treat the Earth as if
they had to share it with the rest of us.

Of course Coca-Cola is emblematic of a larger structural problem --
the publicly-held corporation. Corporations were initially created as
subordinate entities but over time they have become, in some sense,
independent governing bodies. Many people recognize the importance of
this problem, but still aren't sure what might be done about it. In
the U.S., good work on corporate power is being done by the Program
on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), and by the Community
Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which operates an important
Democracy School for citizens.

Perhaps you, or other readers of the Precaution Reporter, have
additional ideas about how to make a precautionary approach legally

Best wishes, Carolyn

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From: The Guardian (UK), Aug. 31, 2006
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Cameron's Conservatives have recognised that we can benefit the
economy and the environment at the same time

By Zac Goldsmith

The Archbishop of Canterbury recently described the economy as "a
wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment". Calling for an immediate
response to climate change, he said "the Earth itself is what
ultimately controls economic activity because it is the source of the
materials upon which economic activity works".

His view, echoed by the likes of Nobel economics laureates Amartya Sen
and Joseph Stiglitz among a great many others, is that we need a new
type of market economics -- an approach that actually takes the planet
into account. It may seem like an obvious call, but it's an approach
that until recently couldn't have been further from that of our
current, or previous governments. We have had strong words -- but
little action.

But that is changing. Climate change -- for so long an abstract
concern for an academic few -- is no longer so abstract. Even the Bush
administration's Climate Change Science Programme reports "clear
evidence of human influences on the climate system". The strength of
that consensus is such that we are presented with a window of
opportunity between the denial of yesterday and the despair of
tomorrow. We are at a fork in the road -- on one side is complacency
and the pursuit of short-term economic growth, on the other the
pursuit of innovation, the development of new technologies, and the
realisation of our ability to reconcile economic growth with long-term

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, speaking in Japan today, will
describe environmental pollution as a market failure. "It is a classic
case of what economists call an externality. Because the pollution is
external to the market, polluting can make life easier, while the true
cost is paid not by the polluter, but by everyone else." Given what we
can expect if even the most conservative climate change predictions
are accurate, failure to correct this market failure is not an option.

Christian Aid, for instance, recently warned that 184 million people
in Africa alone could die as a result of water and food shortages
caused by climate change before the end of the century. The
International Red Cross has said that it does not expect international
aid to be able to keep up with the impact of climate change. And
according to the world's biggest insurer, Munich Re, economic losses
linked to climate change have increased by a factor of eight since the
1960s. The UN environment programme's insurers believe worldwide
annual losses will exceed $300bn in 50 years time.

Clearly it is impossible to make a definitive prediction on the future
impacts of climate change, but we have only to take into account the
horrific effects of Hurricane Katrina, both in human and financial
terms, to glimpse the potential climate change has for wreaking havoc
on our infrastructures.

The argument in favour of taking strong action to counter climate
change is overwhelming, which is why the Conservative party's Quality
of Life Policy Group has taken as its starting point an assumption
that climate change is real enough to justify the precautionary
principle. And, contrary to the government's negative approach, the
Conservative party recognises that, while climate change presents an
unprecedented risk, it also presents real long-term economic

We cannot, for instance, radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions
without major investment in new, clean technology -- there are
opportunities to be found in the need for change. For those at the
forefront of delivering a low-carbon economy, these opportunities will
come from developing high-value jobs, greater energy efficiency, and
secure, affordable energy supplies.

The UK has the opportunity to become a leader in new renewable energy
technologies, with London becoming a major financial centre at the
heart of trading carbon and raising capital for the "new investment
frontier". In doing so we will enhance our competitive advantage, not
reduce it.

Indeed, where companies have already begun to invest in low carbon
technologies and energy efficiency, they are being rewarded
financially. Dupont, for instance, has reduced its emissions by 72%
since 1990, saving more than $3bn in the process. GE has promised to
double its investment in environmental technologies to $1.5bn by 2010.
Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's best-known investment bank, is currently
ploughing more than $1bn into clean technologies.

These initiatives are happening both as a result of consumer pressure
and because they make financial sense. But it is the role now of
government to provide a more stable, long-term policy framework in
order to help unleash the wave of innovation that is needed.

Recently, the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change wrote to the
government calling for more support for this transition to a low-
carbon economy. It is these long-term policies that the quality of
life policy group is helping the Conservative party to develop. We
must establish how to build consensus in society on high-impact
actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and seek ways to
revitalise the international political process around global solutions
to climate change. Britain can be used as proof that you can reduce
carbon emissions without losing economic advantage or sacrificing
quality of life.

We need to look again at the range of current incentives and what
messages they send to business and consumers. Without a doubt, a more
honest application of the principle that the polluter pays is needed,
along with long-term innovative and sustainable market mechanisms such
as emissions trading schemes, eco-labelling programmes, renewable
energy targets, cleaner public transport, improved building
regulations and so on.

And, as George Osborne will point out in Japan, we will need to make
more use of eco taxes. "We should move some of the burden of taxation
away from income and capital, and towards taxes on environmentally
damaging behaviour. Instead of a tax system that penalises hard work
and enterprise, we need to move towards more effective and fair taxes
on pollution."

Climate change presents us with an uncomplicated choice. If we are
wrong about the dangers, these initiatives come with no downside. But
if we are right and we fail to act, the consequences don't bear
thinking about.

Zac Goldsmith is the deputy chair of the Conservative party's quality
of life policy group.

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From: MindaNews, Aug. 30, 2006
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By Walter I. Balane, MindaNews

Davao City, Philippines, August 29 -- Banana firms should not threaten
the city government that they will move out of if an ordinance banning
aerial spraying is passed, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said.

If the firms leave, it may be difficult at first, he admitted "but we
will survive eventually." "We have to protect first our people and
environment," he said.

Duterte was reacting to reports that banana firms were threatening to
leave the city when the proposed law banning aerial spraying is

The Council was expected to vote today on the proposed ban but instead
tasked an ad hoc committee to sum up all positions and
recommendations. It was not the first time the Council postponed the
vote. On August 8, the Council decided to convene as a committee of
the whole on August 23 to deliberate on the issue.

Duterte said if the industry could show enough proof that aerial
spraying does not harm health and environment, "then we could make
them use aerial spraying".

The city government is using the precautionary principle against the
alleged ill effects of aerial spraying on the health of residents and
the environment near agricultural plantations.

But the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA)
debunked the claims and said member-companies that use the method are
responsible and have taken safety measures. In a statement published
in local newspapers last week, it expressed confidence in the city
council's deliberations.

City officials have confirmed strong lobbying from the banana industry
not to pass the ordinance and instead bat for more regulation.

Many councilors received persistent calls from the banana industry,
Councilor Leonardo Avila, environment committee chair, told MindaNews

The ad hoc body, composed of councilors Avila, Jesus Zozobrado, Nenita
Orcullo, and Bonifacio Militar, was given 15 days after the receipt of
the minutes to consolidate the proceedings of Avila's committee report
on August 8, the positions from stakeholders during the August 23
special session, and the discussions of the session today.

Charito Santos, chief of the resolutions, ordinance and agenda
division of the city council said it might take them at least a week
to work on the minutes.

The councilors expected more inputs in today's session from Department
of Health regional director Paulyn Russel Ubial. Ubial, who sent a
representative to make a presentation on August 23.

Some councilors counted on Ubial's presentation for official findings
on the alleged ill effects of aerial spraying on health. Rex Labadia,
from the DOH's environmental health program told the city council
today they could not conclusively say aerial spraying is harmful in
the absence of a DOH study.

Supporters of the ban marched to City Hall after the session to
express dismay over the delay of the approval.

But Duterte said he would not be moved by protesters.

"As much as we want this ordinance passed, we still respect the
independence of the city council," he said. He said he will listen
only to the city council. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Copyright Copyright 2006 MindaNews, A Publication of the Mindanao
News and Information Cooperative Center

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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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