Rachel's Precaution Reporter #71

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2007...........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

U.S. Endorses Precautionary Approach to Marine Fisheries
  "The [United Nations] General Assembly adopted a consensus
  resolution introduced by the United States that asks all countries
  to apply the precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach to the
  conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks." A 1995
  Fish Stocks Agreement had previously called for a precautionary
  approach to marine fisheries.
F.D.A. Tentatively Declares Food from Cloned Animals to Be Safe
  "But even if two animals have identical genes, they can turn out
  differently if those genes are turned on or off at different times.
  And studies have shown that patterns of gene activity are different in
  embryos created by cloning compared with embryos created by the fusing
  of sperm and egg."
Organic Valley Calls on USDA to Clarify Position on Cloning
  "After the false promises of the green revolution, DDT, rBGH and
  other GMOs, we have every reason to believe that there will be
  unforeseen negative consequences of cloned animals. The F.D.A.'s risk
  assessment needs to adequately address the issues of the precautionary
  principle, to err on the side of caution...."
EU Council Backs Austrian Ban on GM Corn
  The European Union's Council concludes that Austria has the right
  to exercise precaution by banning certain genetically modified crops.


From: Papua New Guinea Post-Courier (Port Moresby) (pg. 12), Dec. 19, 2006
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New York -- Concerned that overfishing, illegal catches, wasteful
methods and destructive techniques are depleting fish stocks and
ruining fragile marine habitats in many parts of the world, the UN
General assembly recently called on all nations to take immediate
action, to sustainably manage fish stocks, and protect vulnerable deep
sea ecosystems from harmful fishing practices.

The General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution introduced by
the United States that asks all countries to apply the precautionary
approach and an ecosystem approach to the conservation, management and
exploitation of fish stocks.

The resolution expressed the Assembly s particular concern that
illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a serious threat to
fish stocks, marine habitats and ecosystems, as well as the food
security and the economies of many nations, particularly poorer ones.

Globally, more than half of global fish stocks, 52 per cent, are fully
exploited found a study issued jointly earlier this year by the UN
Environment Programme, UNEP, and the World Conservation Union, IUCN.

Overexploited and depleted species have increased from about 10 per
cent in the mid-1970s to 24 per cent in 2002, according to the study,
Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas .

As adopted by the General Assembly, the sustainable fisheries
resolution addressed the issue of bottom trawling, which drags heavy
gear across the ocean floor to catch fish, leaving behind few life
forms of any kind.

The resolution calls on Regional Fisheries Management Organisations
(RFMOs) to close vulnerable marine ecosystems to bottom trawling by
December 2008 unless conservation and management measures have been
adopted to prevent adverse impacts.

The resolution also calls on states negotiating the establishment of
new RFMOs to adopt and implement interim measures to protect
vulnerable marine ecosystems by December next year.

For areas where there are no RFMOs, states are called on to stop
authorising their vessels to conduct bottom fishing until conservation
and management measures are adopted.

During debate on the resolution, IUCN spokesman Harlan Cohen welcomed
"the call for a closure to bottom fishing of areas where vulnerable
marine ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold
water corals, are known or are likely to occur".

But he said the IUCN is concerned that bottom trawling was not banned
in areas where no regional fishery management organisation is in place
because these vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems are unprotected.

Stuart Beck of Palau, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum,
said the forum was disappointed that the resolution did not generate
an immediate interim prohibition on bottom trawling in unmanaged

Mr Beck said the leadership of the Pacific Islands Forum met in
October in Nadi, Fiji, where they agreed to advance international
efforts to institute an immediate interim prohibition on destructive
fishing practices, including bottom trawling, in unmanaged areas
beyond national jurisdiction.

Mr Beck said the forum leaders felt that urgent action on destructive
fishing practices is needed because these practices undermine the
conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, which
is so crucial to the way of life of small-island developing states.

To combat global warming, there is an interest in placing the
greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep beneath the sea floor. This process
would be governed by the Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention
of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, the London
Convention, which took effect this year.

Mr Cohen said the IUCN has greater concern about a possible interest
to sequester carbon through iron fertilisation of the open ocean .

Iron fertilisation is the intentional introduction of iron to the
upper ocean to increase the marine food chain and to sequester carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere.

Dumping iron in the ocean is known to spur the growth of plankton that
remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but preliminary research
done in 1999 and 2002 indicates iron fertilisation may not be the
quick fix to climate problems that some had hoped.

IUCN considers that before any such large-scale fertilisation takes
place, environmental impact assessments should be conducted to examine
the likely outcomes and effects of such activities, Mr Cohen said.

He said the assessments should focus on determining whether iron
fertilisation would actually sequester carbon dioxide on a long-term
basis that is in geological time and whether such fertilization would
have any harmful effects on regional ocean chemistry, including on pH
levels, water clarity or marine biodiversity, either in the water
column or on the benthos .

During the debate, Raymond Wolfe of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the
Caribbean Community, CARICOM, told the General Assembly that transport
of radioactive materials through Caribbean waters remains "of
paramount concern .

Shipments of radioactive waste from Japanese nuclear power plants move
through the Caribbean to Britain and France for reprocessing, and
shipments of reprocessed nuclear fuel are sent back to Japan.

CARICOM continues to implore states to examine alternative means of
disposing of such materials and other toxic waste.

The damage and pollution that might flow from a nuclear waste-related
accident would be devastating to lives and livelihoods in the region
said Mr Wolfe.

Namira Negm of Egypt, expressing concern over destructive fishing
practices, said that the international community had not adopted
sufficient measures to protect the marine ecosystem and establish its
sustainable development. She said damage to coral habitats is a real
problem that must be tackled in the near future.

Kari Hakapaa of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union,
called for a more integrated approach to the marine environment s many
threats .

He said the EU proposes that a conference be convened to agree on
prompt action to conserve and manage biodiversity.

Copyright, 2006, Nationwide News Pty Limited

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From: The New York Times, Dec. 29, 2006
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By Andrew Pollack and Andrew Martin

After years of delay, the Food and Drug Administration tentatively
concluded yesterday that milk and meat from some cloned farm animals
are safe to eat. That finding could make the United States the first
country to allow products from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery

Even if the agency's assessment is formally approved next year,
consumers will not see many steaks or pork chops from cloned animals
because the technology is still too expensive to be used widely.

But the F.D.A.'s draft policy touched off an immediate storm of
criticism from consumer groups, as well as some concerns from meat and
dairy companies worried about consumer reaction.

"At the end of the day, F.D.A. is looking out for a few cloning
companies and not for consumers or the dairy industry," said Joseph
Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy

Mr. Mendelson and other consumer representatives argue that the
science backing the F.D.A.'s decision is shaky and that consumer
surveys show that most people are opposed to cloning animals, let
alone eating them. Some also said that cloning causes harm to the
animals involved and could pave the way for human cloning.

Opponents hope to bring Congressional pressure to bear to derail the
policy before it becomes final or at least to require that such foods
be labeled so consumers can choose to avoid them. F.D.A. officials
said that it was unlikely that labeling would be required because food
from cloned animals is indistinguishable from other food, although a
final decision about labeling has not been made.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, yesterday called for a
"careful, deliberative and open process" before cloned animals are
approved for food.

The F.D.A.'s finding comes more than six years after the agency first
decided to study the matter, after recognizing that the advent of
cloned farm animals raised a food safety issue. After that study, the
agency in 2003 gave a tentative approval to cloned animals for food.
But the F.D.A. retreated after its own advisory panel found there was
insufficient scientific backing for that conclusion.

This time, F.D.A. officials said they had substantial new data, which
they presented yesterday in a nearly 700-page "draft risk

The officials denied the contention from some critics that the policy
was announced during a holiday week in order to reduce publicity,
saying it had taken until now to analyze the data and obtain comment
from other government agencies.

The assessment concluded that milk and meat from cloned cows, pigs and
goats, and from their offspring, were "as safe to eat as the food we
eat every day," Stephen F. Sundlof, the F.D.A.'s chief of veterinary
medicine, said in a telephone call with reporters.

Mr. Sundlof said that by law the agency could consider only the
scientific issues, not consumer demand or the ethics of cloning.

While animal cloning has always been legal, since 2001 there has been
a voluntary moratorium on the sales of milk or meat from such animals
to give the F.D.A. time to study the matter. Some experts say that
some products from clones or their offspring have probably nonetheless
made their way into the food supply.

The moratorium will stay in place until the new policy is completed,
after a 90-day period for public comment and additional time for the
F.D.A. to review the comments. Mr. Sundlof said he could not say when
the final policy would be ready, though it might be by the end of

Even then, the moratorium would remain for products from sheep, the
F.D.A. said, because there was not enough evidence of their safety. No
one has yet succeeded in cloning chickens or other poultry.

The finding was hailed by cloning companies, which have been
struggling to build a business. It also drew praise from some farmers
and breeders who have already made clones of their prized livestock
but have had to pour milk down the drain and keep their meat off the

They say that cloning is just another breeding technique, like
artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization.

"This just sort of lifts the stigma of the clones," said Bob Schauf,
a Holstein breeder and dairy farmer in Barron, Wis., who had two of
his prized cows cloned. He said his family and the families of his
employees have been drinking the milk from those clones rather than
see it go to waste. But dairy marketers have expressed concern.

A survey conducted last summer by the International Dairy Foods
Association, an industry trade group, found that 14 percent of women
would turn away from all dairy products if milk from clones were
introduced into the food supply. The association surveyed women
because its research has found them to be the main household decision
makers on dairy products.

The American Meat Institute, while saying yesterday that cloning was
safe, also urged the F.D.A. to be cautious about approval "if most
consumers are unwilling to accept the technology."

A poll this month from the nonprofit Pew Initiative on Food and
Biotechnology found that while most consumers knew little about animal
cloning, 64 percent said they were uncomfortable with it, with 46
percent saying they were "strongly uncomfortable."

F.D.A. officials said no other country had yet approved food from
cloned livestock, although some are considering it. That raised the
prospect that American exports of milk or meat could be blocked by
certain countries if they contain products from cloned animals. An
official in the Washington delegation of the European Union said
politicians and consumers in Europe would no doubt debate the issue.

Carol Tucker Foreman, director for food policy at the Consumer
Federation of America, said consumer groups would ask food companies,
retailers and restaurant chains to shun products from cloned

That raises the possibility that some food companies will label their
products "clone free," just as some now label milk as not coming
from cows injected with growth hormone.

Cloning involves putting an animal's DNA into an egg thats own DNA has
been removed. The resulting embryo, after being implanted into a
surrogate mother, makes a genetically identical copy of the original

But even if two animals have identical genes, they can turn out
differently if those genes are turned on or off at different times.
And studies have shown that patterns of gene activity are different in
embryos created by cloning compared with embryos created by the fusing
of sperm and egg.

These differences are presumed to account in large measure for the low
success rate of cloning. Fetuses can grow unusually large, posing a
risk to the surrogate mother. Many clones die during gestation or
shortly after birth. Some are born with deformed heads or limbs or
problems with their hearts, lungs or other organs.

But the F.D.A. said that obviously sick and deformed animals were
already barred from the food supply. It added that clones that
survived past the first few days "appear to grow and develop
normally" and that healthy adult clones were "virtually
indistinguishable" from noncloned livestock, making their meat or
milk safe.

The draft assessment based its conclusions on an extensive review of
scientific literature on cloning as well as on studies, some done by
cloning companies, comparing the composition of the milk, meat and
blood of cloned animals and conventional animals.

Mr. Sundlof said the agency also found that cloning "poses no unique
risks to the health of animals" beyond those seen with other forms of
assisted reproduction such as in-vitro fertilization. The frequency of
problems is higher with cloning, however, perhaps because it is a
newer technology. The first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, was born
in 1996.

The F.D.A.'s announcement, by paving the way for the end of the
moratorium, could make it easier to persuade farmers and breeders to
pay $15,000 to copy a prized bull or dairy cow.

"I think that this draft is going to provide the industry the comfort
it needs," said Mark Walton, president of ViaGen, a cloning company
based in Austin, Tex., that has yet to turn a profit after five years.

Industry officials estimate there are now only about 500 or 600 cloned
cows in the United States, out of tens of millions of beef and dairy
cows. There are roughly 200 cloned pigs.

Experts say that cloning is too expensive to be used to make animals
only to then grind them into hamburger or even to milk them. Rather,
farmers and breeders are cloning prized livestock so they can then be
used for breeding using more conventional means of reproduction.

That means that most food from cloning would come from the sexually
produced offspring of the cloned animals. The F.D.A. said milk and
meat from such offspring were safe, because any abnormalities in
clones do not carry into the next generation.

The agency's assessment did not include genetically modified animals,
in which a foreign gene is introduced. The agency is still deciding
whether to allow the first of those, a fast-growing fish, into the
food supply.

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From: Organic Valley Family of Farms, Dec. 29, 2006
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Animals, like seeds, need to remain in the public domain, for the
public good, says organic farmers' cooperative.

Lafarge, Wis. -- In response to the F.D.A.'s tentative approval of
food from cloned animals, George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the
nation's oldest and largest organic farmers cooperative, called on the
USDA to clarify its position on the use of cloned animals.

Siemon assumed that cloning would not be allowed in the standard as it
falls within the ban on GMOs, excluded methods and prohibited
technologies. Explained Siemon, "Organic farmers work in harmony with
nature, not to change it. Consumers can be assured that Organic Valley
and its meat brand, Organic Prairie, will never allow the use of
cloned animals on our farms and in our products."

Siemon urged consumers to speak out against the pending approval
during the 90-day public comment period of the F.D.A.'s risk

"Cloning is not just about producing food for consumers. It's about
greed and patents," warned Siemon. "The real question with cloning is
who is going to benefit -- consumers? farmers? animals? Allowing
animal cloning, like seeds, to be patented by profit-driven companies
has too many unknown risks and is a detriment to farmers and the
future of our food supply."

Tedd Heilmann, General Manager, Organic Prairie, Organic Valley's meat
brand, said, "After the false promises of the green revolution, DDT,
rBGH and other GMOs, we have every reason to believe that there will
be unforeseen negative consequences of cloned animals. The F.D.A.'s
risk assessment needs to adequately address the issues of the
precautionary principle, to err on the side of caution, especially in
issues related to human and environmental health."

Copyright 2006 PR Newswire

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From: FoodNavigator.com, Dec. 20, 2006
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By Lorraine Heller

The European Council is today due to formally back Austria's ban on
the cultivation of two genetically modified crops, a move the
biotechnology industry has branded as a "departure from rational
decision making" .

This marks the second time the Council has rejected proposals from the
Commission requesting Austria to repeal the temporary precautionary
measures concerning the use and sale of two genetically modified (GM)
maize varieties.

MON 819 is designed to resist the corn borer moth larva, and is
currently already grown in other countries, including Spain, France,
Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic. T25 allows for the use of a
broad-spectrum herbicide for weed control without damaging the crop.

But Austria has remained firm in its ban of the varieties, a stance
that has resulted in repeated attempts to overturn the decision.

The first proposal to legalize MON 810 and T25 was rejected by the
Environment Council in June 2005. The Commission consequently re-
consulted the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which concluded
in March this year that there was no reason to believe that the
continued sale of these products was likely to cause any adverse
effects for human and animal health or the environment.

Therefore in October 2006, the Commission re-submitted its proposals
to repeal the Austrian safeguard measures on the grounds that there
are no scientific elements to justify their maintenance, which are
against the principle of free movement of authorised products.

But at the latest session of the Council, these proposals gathered the
opposition of a qualified majority of Member States.

According to the Council, the decisions were justified because the two
maize lines had been approved under an old directive, which has since
been replaced by a newer one. This latest directive contains
harmonized environmental risk assessment criteria for genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), and the two GM products have not yet
undergone a procedure of re-approval and re-assessment in accordance
with the new directive.

The Council also noted that where the conditions set out in the
relevant legislation apply, a Member State may restrict the use and
sale of a GMO in accordance with a safeguard clause in the new

In addition, the Council said that the different agricultural
structures and regional ecological characteristics in the European
Union need to be taken into account in a more systematic manner in the
environmental risk assessment of GMOs.

But according to the European biotechnology industry association
EuropaBio, the Council's decision has "seriously damaged the
credibility of the regulatory system on which much of Europe's
innovative and industrial capacity relies" .

"The EU's own scientific assessments have repeatedly made clear that
there is no reason to consider that the products constitute a risk to
human health or the environment. The Council is undermining the
authority of its own expert advisors. Europe is the only region in the
world that votes on its science, the community must start to believe
its own scientific opinions," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, EuropaBio's
Secretary General.

The decision is "an alarming indifference to the EU's own rules, and
to common sense", according to Simon Barber, the associations

"The further information the Council requested in 2005 has now been
provided, and it indicates unambiguously that the products carry none
of the risks alleged. But still the Council declines to follow the
advice of the EU's own expert advisory bodies. This departure from
rational decision-making is disconcerting -- not only for these two
products, but for every innovator in every industrial sector that is
subject to EU regulation," he said.

Copyright 2000/2006 -- Decision News Media SAS -

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
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