Rachel's Precaution Reporter #61

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006..........Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Table of Contents...

FDA May Soon Approve Meat, Milk from Cloned Animals
  Most cloned animals are born with serious biological defects. Yet
  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is about to approve them as food
  for humans. This is not precautionary.
Church of England Adopts Precaution for Genetically Modified Crops
  In April, 2000, the Church of England adopted the precautionary
  principle to guide its use of church lands for growing genetically
  modified crops.
Mobile Phone Antennas in Church Spires and Towers
  The issue of cell phone towers or antennas -- in Europe, called
  "masts" -- has roiled the Christian community as churches have been
  offered lucrative contracts to install cell phone antennas in church
  steeples. Here the interdenominational Christian Ecology Link
  advocates a precautionary position.
Precautionary Principle Applies To Electronic Voting
  "People having even the smallest doubt about e-voting should apply
  the precautionary principle to elections and demand the use of ballot
Talking Points for Precaution in Public Health
  These are "talking points" used within the Washington State Public
  Health Association (WSPHA) by advocates for the precautionary
  principle, which the WSPHA adopted Oct. 16.


From: Food Navigator USA, Oct. 23, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Lorraine Heller

An FDA risk assessment that is expected to declare meat and milk
derived from cloned animals safe for the food supply is currently
being reviewed by the government, and is due to be released by the end
of the year.

If these documents are finalized, cloned animal products will become
part of the food supply, without the requirement for such foods to
carry special labeling. And this could result in a backlash of absence
claims, with 'clone-free' products starting to appear on supermarket

However, the move has inspired fierce criticism from consumer advocacy
groups, which claim that there is insufficient science to guarantee
the safety of products from cloned animals.

There is currently no regulation preventing cloned food from entering
the nation's food supply. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has asked clone producers and livestock breeders to voluntarily
refrain from introducing food products from clones or their offspring
into the food supply until the agency endorses the findings of a
National Academy of Science (NAS) report it commissioned in 2002 that
declared cloned products safe for human consumption.

The FDA said its draft risk assessment is currently "in the clearance
process" and is being reviewed within the department and by other
governmental agencies, particularly the US Department of Agriculture

The documents are expected to be released by December, said the FDA in
a statement last week.

But while the government continues to examine the issue, a number of
consumer and industry groups have raised their voices against the
approval of such products.

According to public interest group Center for Food Safety (CFS), there
is "serious scientific concern about the food safety of products from
clones." The group points in particular to a 2004 New England Journal
of Medicine report, which stated that "given the available evidence,
it may be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to generate
healthy cloned animals."

However, the FDA said its draft risk assessment drew on over 100
scientific studies. Published in 2003, it concluded that "the current
weight of evidence suggests that there are no biological reasons to
indicate that consumption of edible products from the clones of
cattle, pigs, sheep or goats poses a greater risk than consumption of
those products from their non-clone counterparts."

At this stage, one of the main concerns for the industry is a lack of
definitive and forceful guidance from the FDA.

"We'd like to avoid going down the same path as twelve years ago after
FDA approved rBST (a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone that
increases milk production in cows). To this day there are still a lot
of different disclaimers being used, which must be accompanied by an
asterisk and explanatory text," said Chris Galen of the National Milk
Producers Federation (NMPF).

Galen told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the NMPF does not at this time
support milk from cloned cows entering the marketplace until FDA
determines that this is the same as milk from conventionally bred
animals. And when this happens, the agency needs to be proactive and
clearly and forcefully specify what claims are allowed, he said.

But other groups are taking a harder stand. Last week, the CFS, along
with reproductive rights, animal welfare, and consumer protection
organizations, filed a legal petition with the FDA calling for a
moratorium on the introduction of food products from cloned animals.

The petition calls for the establishment of mandatory rules for pre-
market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods. The
petition also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to
establish a federal review committee to advise FDA on the troubling
ethical issues raised by animal cloning.

According to CFS, recent polls have shown that Americans would refuse
to buy food from cloned animals, and that they have serious concerns
about the ethics of animal cloning, with a majority of consumers
saying they would not buy cloned food, even if FDA deemed the products

However, according to Dr Mark Richards of KRC Research, "it is hard to
predict consumer behavior from polls, especially when they know little
about the issue."

"Before the introduction of rBST, experts predicted up to a 20 percent
drop in milk consumption. But milk consumption levels were not
affected at all," he told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

For the time being, the FDA said that "in the spirit of transparency"
it is requesting producers of cloned animal products to continue to
refrain from introducing their products into the food supply until
there has been an opportunity for public comment and the risk
assessment is finalized.

Copyright 2000/2006 Decision News Media SAS

Return to Table of Contents


From: Church of England, Apr. 5, 2000
[Printer-friendly version]


Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group Recommends Ethical
Framework for Genetically Modified Crop Development

The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group has concluded
that the genetic modification of crops is not beyond the range of
acceptable human activities but has called for a clear ethical
framework for practical applications of the science, whether
experimental or commercial. Its approach can be summed up as
precautionary but not anti-science. The group considers the potential
benefits of genetic modification for humankind to be too great to
ignore but does not feel it is yet appropriate to grant tenancies for
crop trials on Church land given the uncertainties caused by the lack
of an ethical framework.

The group draws an analogy with medical and human genetic research,
where the limits of acceptable enquiry are clearly defined by
reference to an ethical framework. Setting such boundaries could help
to address the public's lack of confidence in genetically modified
crops. The current regulatory regime is described by the group as
fragmented and it identifies some of the areas of public concern not
addressed by it, such as assessment of the potential social benefits
and potential indirect long-term effects on health and environment.

The group recommends the Christian principle of the good neighbour as
the key to evaluating these factors. Researchers should ask themselves
the question "what is the effect on the spiritual and physical well
being of others resulting from our actions in pursuit of this

Given the rapid development of the genetic sciences, an ethical
framework is vital to provide a blueprint for acceptable behaviour
where both moral values and the light of practical experience are

The group advises:

** the adoption of a precautionary principle framework, as set out

** where unambiguous scientific proof of cause and effect is not
available, it is necessary to act with a duty of care;

** where the benefits of early action are judged to be greater than
the likely costs of delay, it is appropriate to take a lead and make
public the reason for such action;

** where there is the possibility of irreversible damage to natural
life support functions, precautionary action should be taken
irrespective of the forgone benefits;

** transparency and accountability should be maintained throughout;

** that public acceptance rests on there being a transparent,
independent and robust ethical framework forming part of the
regulatory process that sets the boundaries for what constitutes the
concept that not all that can be done should be done;

** that the further period of voluntary moratorium on commercial crop
growing, affording a "breathing space" in which vital questions can be
answered and public confidence can be restored, is welcomed;

** that weighing up the current balance of risk and reward, it
reflects prudence and neighbourliness on the part of the Church to
exercise some control in the granting of new tenancies to grow
genetically modified crops on its land;

** and that, consequently, until further research has been conducted
into the ecological risks, new agricultural leases should contain a
clause excluding the planting of GM crops on Church land. Applications
for tenancies in order to conduct field trials would thereafter be
considered in the context of the questions identified by the Group and
in the light of continuing reflection.

Contacts: Arun Kataria 0171 898 1622

Notes for editors

The Church's national investing bodies (The Church Commissioners, The
Central Board of Finance and the Church of England Pensions Board) co-
ordinate and develop ethical investment policy through the Ethical
Investment Advisory Group which reports to the General Synod.

The Group's members are: Viscount Churchill (Chairman); The Revd Canon
Hugh Wilcox (Vice-Chairman); The Bishop of Worcester; The Bishop of
Wolverhampton; The Archdeacon of Coventry; Mrs Lesley Farrall; Mr
Gavin Oldham

The Church Commissioners for England own 52,000 hectares of tenanted

Return to Table of Contents


From: Christian Ecology Link, Jul. 1, 2002
[Printer-friendly version]


An information note concerning possible health problems arising from
the siting of mobile phone masts in churches.

The ethos behind Christian Ecology Link's approach is that of "care
for one's neighbour" and the "precautionary principle". We believe
that the church must demonstrate its responsibility to those who live
in the local community, whose health may be threatened by the siting
of masts in churches where there are schools or homes nearby.

Decisions concerning whether to site masts in churches should be taken
on the basis of the precautionary principle, which requires scientists
to demonstrate that there is no significant likelihood of harm arising
from the use of a new technology. The onus is on the scientist to
demonstrate safety before the new technology is introduced. A
research programme on the safety of mobile phones and related
technology was launched by the Government in 2001; the results are not
yet available.

Despite the financial attraction, we believe that churches should
exercise great caution at the present time. Any church that installs a
mast should display a notice so that the community is aware of the
presence of the mast and individuals have the opportunity to choose an
alternative place of worship if concerned about potential health

This is not intended as a comprehensive briefing, but provides
references from organisations, scientists and other individuals who
have written critically about the subject. The Church of England has a
relevant web-site: www.aerials.cofe.anglican.org

1. A report expressing concerns about the health implications appeared
in the medical journal The Lancet on 25th November 2000 by Dr. Gerard
Hyland of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. Dr.
Hyland reported his concerns to the Science and Technology Committee
of the House of Commons in September 1999 and the Industry, Trade,
Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament in July 2001.

In February 2000 Dr. Hyland reported on research which found that
existing safety guidelines failed to consider the possibility of
adverse health effects on living organisms in fundamental ways. He
highlighted the case of an epileptic child living near a Mast Base
Station. The number of seizures increased from two a month to an
average of eight a day when close to the mast. He reported a similar
pattern with other children suffering from headaches and nosebleeds.
He also reported findings of reduced growth in pine trees, chromosomal
and reproductive damage in plants and a six-fold increase in
chromosome damage in cows. He concluded that the occurrence of adverse
health effects in the case of animals indicates that the effects of
operating masts are real and not psychosomatic.

2. Dr. Roger Coghill is another scientist who has warned about the
dangers of mobile phone telecommunications masts. He has a research
laboratory in South Wales. Dr Coghill has studied the effects of
electromagnetic radiation on living tissue and has warned that mobile
phone radiation can damage the human immune system.

3. The Local Government Association (LGA), in a statement in February
2001, reported Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the LGA as
saying "There are very real fears among our communities about the
health impacts of mobile phone masts. That's why we are calling on the
Government to undertake further research into this matter, and to
ensure that the monitoring of masts and radioactivity is independent
and free of industry bias". Kent County Council has banned the
installation of mobile phone masts on its property, a decision made on
health grounds, according to reports in Law Direct and the national
press. Geoff Wild, Kent County Secretary, said that they had
considered that they might be legally liable "if these masts are
proved to have an adverse effect on health, and people start seeking

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland has campaigned against mobile phone
masts on health and environmental grounds and has a report that may be
obtained from 72, Newhaven Road, Edinburgh, EH6 5QG. Tel: 0131 554
9977. Mast Action UK (MAUK) campaigns to raise public awareness about
potential risks from improperly sited masts. They are not against
mobile phone technology per se, but against the insensitive siting of
masts near to houses, schools and hospitals. Its address is PO Box
312, Waltham Cross, Herts EN7 5ZE. Information is also available from
Power Watch. The Ecologist magazine published an article on phone
masts in October 2001. Its address is Unit 18, Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots
Road, London SW1O OQJ. See the web-sites

www.foe-scotland.org.uk/nation/masts.html www.mastaction.org
www.powerwatch.org.uk www.theecologist.co.uk

5. Church towers in Italy cannot be used to host mobile-telephone
masts, according to a ruling in March 2001 by the Italian Bishops'
Conference, the organization that governs the Roman Catholic Church. A
circular signed by Bishop Ennio Antonelli, its secretary general, said
that use of church buildings for purposes unconnected with worship
would violate church law and could jeopardize the fiscal exemptions
and other privileges currently granted to churches by the Italian
state. The document has been circulated to parish priests throughout
the country. The circular said that it would be imprudent to
compromise the univocality and visibility of Christian symbols in an
increasingly multicultural society and described mobile phone masts as
"alien to the sanctity" of churches. Access rights for maintenance men
and the dangers of electromagnetic pollution were also cited as
reasons for the ban. Those already installed must be dismantled.
Directors of Vatican Radio were last year accused of exceeding Italian
legal limits on electromagnetic emissions at a transmission centre
near Rome.

Copyright 2003-2006 Christian Ecology Link

Return to Table of Contents


From: Nigerian Tribune, Oct. 24, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


In more than two centuries, no western democracy had any serious
trouble arising from using ballot papers (by the way, what's wrong
with them?) and to date (2006) most democracies of the world (all
except Brazil, India, and USA) use ballot papers to elect their
Parliaments and Governments.

However, hardware and software vendors are pressing for the use of
electronic voting and governments often endorse it.

Most people see electronic voting as a mere technical evolution of
ballot paper voting and therefore, they are confidently waiting for
hardware and software that will make electronic elections as secure as
remote banking, for example. They probably think voting is a simple
transaction by which we add one to the electoral "balance" of our
candidate, just the way we add money to someone's bank balance when we
use our credit card.

Unfortunately voting is not like banking because votes and financial
data differ in the level of the secrecy they require and such
intrinsic difference is the very reason why electronic voting is unfit
for political elections in democracy and no technology can change

To see why electronic voting is not compatible with democracy we need
to go through a few basic concepts: In democracy, governmental power
is transferred by counting secret votes during elections. To accept
such transfer, people and parties must be 100 percent sure that
electoral results are fair and square: doubts about the legitimacy of
the winner can damage the political life of the country and even bring
riots and revolutions.

Votes must be forever secret from everybody because otherwise voters
could undergo illicit pressure to vote according to somebody else's
will. Criminals (and/or governments and/or politicians) have enough
power to compell people to vote in a certain way.

Electoral procedures are obviously setup and managed by large
organizations which span all over the country and give contracts to
private and public companies.

Many people and/or organizations are interested in falsifying
electoral results to maintain or to get the governmental power. They
can be highly motivated, well financed, sophisticated, and could be
outsiders as well as insiders with full knowledge of the election
system. These attackers could be political operatives, voters, vendor
personnel, polling place workers, election administrators, foreign
countries, international terrorist organizations, or just pranksters.

Sitting governments are in charge of guaranteeing the accuracy of
electoral results and the secrecy of votes, but the social groups and
the economical powers which are the base of any government have the
obvious interest in falsifying electoral results and violating the
secrecy of votes to preserve the power. They could also succeed thanks
to the complete control they have over the electoral process.

It may sound strange but electronic voting is unfit for elections in
democracy due to the above points. Infact, in consequence of them we
have that: Absolute vote secrecy (point b) can be accomplished only if
votes are collected and stored in such away that nobody can ever be
able to link each vote to its voter.

If votes are really anonymous then nobody can verify that any of them
is the one its (unknown!) voter actually cast. Verification of
electoral results can not be based only upon anonymous votes since
they could have been altered by fraud or errors and nobody could ever
know it.

The only way to guarantee fairness of elections is that electoral
procedures guarantee that each vote really represents its (unknown)
elector's will. From the above points, we know we can't blindly trust
any organization when dealing with elections, thus we, the people,
need to verify all to ourselves that electoral procedures really work
as they should!

Fairness of elections can be guaranteed only by electoral procedure
open to the active check of the people, the so called democratic

Now let's compare paper voting with electronic voting: Ballot paper
elections can undergo proper democratic control because humans can
check the handling of ballot papers, which are visible and tangible
objects. It's not by chance that all democracies always used ballot
papers! With them a few votes may get lost, but no foreign country,
terrorist group, economical or political power will ever be able to
alter the final result of our elections! That's why ballot paper
elections are suitable for democracy.

Electronic elections can't undergo proper democratic control because
computer procedures are not verifiable by humans as we are not
equipped for verifying operations occurring within an electronic
machine. Thus, for people who did not program them, computers act just
like black boxes and their operations can truly be verified only by
knowing the input and comparing the expected output with the actual

Unfortunately, due to the secrecy of votes, elections have no known
input nor any expected output with which to compare electoral results,
thus electronic electoral procedures cannot be verified by humans!
This applies to electronic elections independently of any technical
solution that could ever be implemented.

Results of any electronic vote are, due to their nature, unverifiable
and no technical solution can overcome this fact. To accept electronic
electoral results, ordinary people need to have an absolute faith in
the accuracy, honesty and security of the whole electoral apparatus
(people, software, hardware and networks). This is not possible, thus
electronic voting is not compatible with democracy.

It is worthy of attention that the above statement is true whichever
technical implementation it's used for voting. In other words, e-vote
is unfit to democracy whichever hardware and software it's used.

In fact, let's imagine to have a perfect electronic voting system with
all the security, auditing, accountability, meaningful public
standards and public evaluations we like. Even in such a very
optimistic case, in the end, all the votes would be stored in
anonymous records and this unverifiable data, processed by
unverifiable electronic procedures, would decide the (unverifiable)
winner of the election.

Electronic voting is not a technical, but a SOCIAL PROBLEM!
Governments can't demonstrate that electronic voting results are
correct, but oppositions have no way to support any claim that fraud
or mistakes have occurred.

From another point of view, we can say that when ballot paper
elections are held under proper democratic control, the people tally
up real votes (ballot papers are hand written by electors and readable
by anyone). When ballot papers are publicly counted in the same place
as they were voted and when scrutineers are randomly selected citizens
(as done in Italy, for example), then who actually counts votes and
declares the result of each ballot station is the public, and the
central electoral service has the mere role of tallying such results.
Thousands of ordinary people across the whole nation guarantee and
certify the electoral result.

In e-voting, computers tally up information about the way electors
voted (which button they pressed or which part of the screen they
touched). Such information is collected and stored in the form of
anonymous intangible human-unreadable string of bytes. Votes are
"counted" and results declared solely by the "electoral service" which
is under the control of the government whose term of office is about
to expire. No democratic control is possible over electronic

In other words, for electoral results to be verifiable and votes
absolutely secret, votes must be anonymous, tangible, human-readable
objects. Nowadays, we face terrorism as one of the most dangerous
attack to our democracies. A good goal for terrorists could be the
alteration of our electoral processes because if they could
delegitimate the ruling power, they would have a great victory against
our democracy.

Ballot paper elections are very robust and have no single point of
failure: there is NOT a single place which abnormal functioning could
lead to the impossibility to declare the winner. Paper elections can
be held despite of black outs and interruptions of computer networks.
Infact, paper elections have properly worked also when electricity and
computer did not even exist.

Electronic elections are based on computer networks and computer
centres which are very good targets for terrorists. In fact, a
terrorist attack to the network infrastructure, to power distribution
lines, or to a computer center could lead to the impossibility to know
who is the winner of the election, leaving the country whithout a
legitimate Parliament or Government.

Elections may have the wrong winner not only because of fraud, but
also because of malfunctions of the technical apparatus involved in
the voting. In fact, during real electronic elections, malfunctions
occur very often, as you can see in votersunite.org and
voterprotect.org. The above sites report thousands of malfunctions
occurred during the USA 2004 presidential election.

Electronic vote, carried out via computer and digital links represents
a poisoned chalice for technologically advanced countries; it is no
exaggeration to say that it threatens to eliminate democracy as we
know it today. It's an enticing chalice because it is surrounded by
good intentions and it is fascinating because it is technological and

However, the poison is certainly there because the system is beyond
every democratic check on the procedures and on the results obtained
by the vote. Even if we could be 100 percent sure there are no errors
nor fraud in the whole electoral system (humans & machines, inside our
country and abroad we should accept any result without any chance of
verifying it. Without such checks, it will be sitting governments to
declare the winners and the losers without any possibility of being
checked themselves or contradicted, and we can't forget that those who
own the computers can alter any data they contain. electronic vote can
be the end of democracy (as we know it now).

Not to be duped we, the people, must lift e-vote debate from the
technical arena up to the arena of basic principles we all understand,
the arena where we all are able to answer the question: "do we accept
to trust unverifiable electronic votes or do we prefer to use
verifiable ballot papers and public and repeatable procedures?"

We, the people, should reject electronic voting and pretend to use
ballot papers publicly hand-counted because this is the only way we
can verify that results are fair and square. People having even the
smallest doubt about e-voting should apply the precautionary principle
to elections and demand the use of ballot papers.

Copyright 2004 -- 2006 African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Washington State Public Health Association, Oct. 16, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Endorsing the Precautionary Principle as a Public Health Tool

Preventing Harm from Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic Chemicals

* All children of Washington State having an equal right to
conditions that ensure they can reach and maintain their full

* Knowledge confers an ethical responsibility and duty to make
decisions that promote and maintain human and environmental health,
thereby preventing disease, illness or disability

* The precautionary principle holds that when an activity
threatens harm to human health or to the environment, precautionary
measures should be taken, even if cause-and- effect relationships are
not fully established scientifically

* Precautionary Principle, which consists of four basic
elements: 1) taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty, 2)
shifting the burden of responsibility of safety to the proponents of
an activity; 3) exploring and implementing safer alternatives to
possibly harmful actions, and 4) increasing public participation in
decision making;

* Taking precautionary action is the common sense idea behind
many adages, such as "be careful", "better safe than sorry" and "look
before you leap"

* The precautionary principle is a highly effective decision-
making tool for reducing negative and costly effects on human health
resulting from exposure to environmental toxicants

* The precautionary principle has been endorsed by the American Public
Health Association (APHA), with the APHA stating that it "Reaffirms
its explicit endorsement of the precautionary principle as a
cornerstone of preventive public health policy and practice."

Return to Table of Contents


  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.

  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org

  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution
  Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

  Full HTML edition: join-rpr-html@gselist.org
  Table of Contents edition: join-rpr-toc@gselist.org

  In response, you will receive an Email asking you to confirm that
  you want to subscribe.

Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903