Rachel's Precaution Reporter #38
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From: Oregon Center for Environmental Health .............[This story printer-friendly]
May 11, 2006


Portland Oregon and Multnomah County Adopt Precautionary Approach "Better Safe Than Sorry" Approach to be Used to Reduce Toxics in Local Government Operations

[Rachel's introduction: Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County have adopted a precaution-based purchasing policy intended to reduce governmental use of toxic materials.]

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 stakeholders.

"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.


From: The World Council of Churches .......................[This story printer-friendly]
May 15, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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 commodity."]

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.


From: American Council on Science and Health ..............[This story printer-friendly]
May 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.-- Editors]

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 life.

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.


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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Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


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