Rachel's Precaution Reporter #83

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Eating Beef Could Threaten Sons' Fertility
  Today, a team of scientists says women who ate a lot of beef while
  pregnant bore sons who were more likely to suffer from poor sperm
  quality and suggests that the growth promoters used in cattle may be
Don't Mess with Hormones, Expert Warns
  A new report on men in the U.S. finds low sperm counts correlate
  with eating beef, and a well-known British scientist advises a
  precautionary approach to hormone-treated meat.
New British Report Says Precaution Is Necessary for Nanotech
  A new report from the British government's own Council for Science
  and Technology criticizes British policy on nanotechnology for paying
  too little attention to harm from this new technology.
Precautionary Principle on Trial in British Columbia
  In British Columbia, the Tsawwassen indigenous people have gone to
  court to try to stop a major electric power line from crossing their
  land. They are using precautionary arguments.
Preventive Confinement and the Security of State
  With President Bush invading Iraq and denying prisoners the right
  of habeas corpus -- all in the name of precautionary action --
  advocates for the precautionary principle need to think deeply about
  the precautionary principle in relation to preventive war and
  preventive detention.
WTO 'Fever' Can Stem Advance of Precautionary Principle 'Virus'
  The sky is falling! The precautionary principle is spreading around
  the globe like a deadly virus. Be afraid. Be very afraid!


From: The Telegraph (UK), Mar. 28, 2007
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Don't mess with hormones, expert warns

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

The sons of women who regularly ate beef during pregnancy are more
likely to have low sperm counts, according to a report published

Copenhagen University researchers concluded that sperm counts were
falling in the West more than a decade ago and exposure to pesticides
and industrial chemicals have long been under suspicion, with
principle suspects including "gender-bender" chemicals that act like
the human sex hormones.

Today, an American team concludes that women who ate a lot of beef
while pregnant had sons who were more likely to suffer from poor sperm
quality and suggest that the growth promoters used in cattle may be

The study of men living in the USA and born between 1949 and 1983
revealed that those whose mothers ate more than seven beef meals a
week had a sperm concentration that was more than 24 per cent lower
than in men whose mothers ate less beef.

In addition, three times more sons of high beef consumers had a sperm
concentration that would be classified as sub-fertile by World Health
Organization standards, in comparison to men whose mothers ate less

One British expert said that the findings are "alarming." Another
added: "Don't mess with growth promoters is the obvious take home

But others were sceptical about findings which were based on asking
women how often they ate beef decades ago.

Prof Shanna Swan, lead author of the study published in the journal
Human Reproduction, said: "These findings suggest that maternal beef
consumption is associated with lower sperm concentration and possible
sub-fertility, associations that may be related to the presence of
anabolic steroids and other xenobiotics (foreign chemicals) in beef.

"Theoretically, the foetus and young children are particularly
sensitive to exposure to sex steroids. Therefore, the consumption of
residues of steroids in meat by pregnant women and young children is
of particular concern."

But while the study results revealed a significant link between the
lowest sperm counts and mothers who were the highest beef consumers,
researchers could not pinpoint hormones, pesticides or other
environmental chemicals as a direct cause.

"What we're really doing here is raising an issue," said Prof Swan,
who is director of the Centre for Reproductive Epidemiology at the
University of Rochester, New York.

"The average sperm concentration of the men in our study went down as
their mothers' beef intake went up."

Prof Swan and her colleagues recruited couples to the study when the
pregnant women attended prenatal clinics between 1999 and 2005. As
well as asking questions about the couples themselves (medical
histories, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and
diet), the researchers requested the men to ask their mothers to fill
in a brief questionnaire about their diet while pregnant with their

The men also provided semen samples. Out of 773 men who provided
samples, information was available for 387 on how many beef meals
their mothers ate during their pregnancies.

Prof Swan said: "The number of beef meals consumed by the mother was
significantly and inversely related to her son's sperm concentration.
Sons of high beef consumers had an average sperm concentration of 43.1
million sperm per millimetre of seminal fluid, while sons of mothers
who ate less beef had an average of 56.9 million sperm -- a
statistically significant difference of 24.3 per cent.

"Among sons of mothers whose beef consumption was not high, only 5.7
per cent had sperm concentration below the WHO threshold for sub-
fertility of 20 million sperm per millimetre of seminal fluid. This
was significantly less than the 17.7 per cent of men whose mothers
were high beef consumers who fell below this threshold.

"The proportion of men with sub-fertile sperm concentration and of men
with a history of possible sub-fertility increased the more beef meals
the mothers had eaten while pregnant. These findings suggest that
maternal beef consumption is associated with lower sperm concentration
and possible sub-fertility.

"However, I must point out that most mothers in this study lived in
North America and our findings may not apply to other regions. In
addition, pesticides, other contaminants and lifestyle factors
correlating with greater beef consumption may play a role in the
effect we observed.

"In order to clarify whether prenatal exposure to anabolic steroids is
responsible for our findings, this study needs to be repeated in men
born in Europe after 1988 when growth promoters were no longer
permitted in beef sold or produced there." The study was not devised
for making recommendations, she added.

"However, if a pregnant woman is concerned and wants to take
precautionary action, there are a few things she can do that may lower
risk and probably are not harmful. She might restrict her consumption
to organic beef. She can also reduce the amount of beef she consumes
while pregnant, if she is careful to eat sufficient protein from other

Dr Allan Pacey at The University of Sheffield, said: "That hormones
given to cattle might have lowered the sperm counts of adult men
because their mothers ate a lot of beef when they were pregnant with
them, is alarming to say the least. This clearly needs to be
investigated further."

Prof Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council's Human
Reproductive Sciences Unit, Edinburgh, said: "This is a serious
scientific study conducted in the most rigorous fashion, so it needs
to be taken seriously.

"The difficulty in repeating the study in Europe with men whose mums
conceived them after the ban on use of growth promoters in animals is
that we know that such young men have remarkably low sperm counts
overall, probably unrelated to meat consumption by their mothers, so
this may not prove possible to do.

"Also we should be looking at a similar study in relation to chicken
consumption years ago as DES was used very widely for growth promotion
in chickens whereas various growth promoters were used in cattle.
Don't mess with growth promoters is the obvious take home message."

But others were sceptical. Alastair Hay, Professor of Environmental
Toxicology, University of Leeds, said: "There are major difficulties
with this type of study not the least of which is asking a woman how
often she ate beef whilst pregnant 25-30 years ago. We have no idea
how much beef she ate which would be important to know. At the very
least this study should prompt further investigations."
Today's news

Copyright Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007

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From: The Telegraph (UK), Mar. 28, 2007
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Eating beef could threaten sons' fertility

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

The relevance of this work to the UK is open to question, according to
Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council's Human
Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh.

"I don't think that in Europe we ever used these chemicals to quite
such the same extent as in the United States," he said.

However, Prof Sharpe said there was no doubt that sperm counts in
young men across Europe "are very low on average".

Although there is no clear explanation, he said there was mounting
evidence "that if you mess around with hormones of the male baby in
the womb there are going to be consequences, one of which is to affect
sperm counts and fertility".

But to prove a single chemical is responsible is "an impossible task,"
Prof Sharpe added.

The latest studies from Europe and America show that mixtures of
hormone-like chemicals, each of which is at levels thought to have no
effect, can have significant effects when they act in concert.

"Individual chemicals are probably not to blame while mixtures are
almost certain to have some effect," Prof Sharpe said.

Over the years, growth promoters used in America have changed from
those with a female hormone-like action to having a male action, he

In Europe, the use of these hormones has been banned since 1988 and
there has been an EU-wide ban of US beef.

Prof Sharpe said today's news "will be music to the EU's ears because
of its fight with the US on embargoing imports of their meat".

Growth promoters for cattle, such as the synthetic hormone
diethylstilbestrol (DES), have been used in the USA since 1954.

Although DES was banned for use in cattle in 1979, other hormones such
as oestradiol, testosterone, progesterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate
and melengestrol continue to be used.

Residues of these chemicals remain in the meat after slaughter, so
American authorities have regulated their use to avoid unintended
adverse effects in humans eating the meat and defined an "acceptable
daily intake".

Acceptable intakes are, however, based on traditional toxicological
testing "and the possible effects on human populations exposed to
residues of anabolic sex hormones through meat consumption have never,
to our knowledge, been studied," said Prof Shanna Swan, author of the
new work.

Copyright Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007

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From: The Register (London, England), Mar. 28, 2007
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Teeny stuff, big issues

By Lewis Page

The UK government has been castigated by its own picked scientists for
spending too much on research into developing nanotechnology and not
enough on looking into its dangers.

The Council for Science and Technology (CST), "the UK government's
top-level advisory body on science and technology policy issues", says
the government has committed £90m to the nanotech industry for
2003-09, but only £3m on checking out "toxicology and the health
and environmental impacts of nanomaterials".

In a report (300Kb PDF) released yesterday, the top-level advisory
boffins expressed their disappointment that the government hadn't
stuck to its original plans to take a precautionary approach to
nanotech development. Indeed, the scientists seemed to feel at times
that there was a wider-ranging problem with the UK's attitude to

"CST also wishes to highlight a more generic issue concerning the way
in which government identifies, funds, and manages obstacles to the
exploitation of new technologies," it wrote. "The balance between
research that develops new applications of nanotechnologies and that
which provides the necessary underpinning for its safe and responsible
development must be addressed."

But the scientists were scrupulously fair, with harsh words for their
academic colleagues too.

"There is no guarantee that the research necessary to public safety
and the research that interests the scientific community will be

This has been true ever since the first mad professor set up his
dungeon laboratory, of course. Any scientist worth his salt would
rather work out how to make dead flesh live again than write up the
safety case for doing it. Even so, it's nice to see boffins finally
admitting this.

The CST certainly isn't bashing the idea of nanotech in general. It
admits that "Greenpeace and the Soil Association suggest that a
moratorium is a necessary part of any precautionary approach", but it
doesn't agree.

This is unsurprising given that one of the report's principal authors,
Dr Sue Ion, holds a senior slot at British Nuclear Fuels and the rest
seem to be similarly hardcore pro-technology types.

Indeed, one of the CST's main arguments for research into nanomaterial
toxicology is that it would allow "nanoremediation", the use of new
nano wonder-substances to clean up previous, old-fashioned
environmental disasters.

For instance, it seems that PCB contamination might be neutralised
using nanoparticles of iron: but it would clearly make sense to find
out whether nano-iron is bad for people first. The report recommends a
minimum £5-6m per annum of government funding for this kind of

Essentially, the CST's idea seems to be that nanotechnology can't
develop and be used without a knowledge of the risks and the likely
regulatory framework.

The report's authors reckon that as recently as 2004 the UK was "seen
as a world leader in its engagement with nanotechnologies". But the
British now risk becoming nano also-rans, well-armed with ideas but no
idea whether they're safe.

The CST concludes that "the UK is losing that leading position and
falling behind in its engagement with this fast developing field,
primarily due to a distinct lack of government activity".

Copyright Copyright 2007

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From: Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia), Mar. 26, 2007
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Court won't hear Tsawwassen residents' "precautionary" submission on
power lines

By Andrew A Duffy, Times Colonist

Day one of the B.C. Court of Appeal hearings into the $230-million
Vancouver Island Transmission Reinforcement project dealt a blow to
Tsawwassen residents hoping to re-route the work.

A three-judge panel ruled it will not consider whether existing right-
of-way agreements permit the construction of new overhead transmission
lines in Tsawwassen, as it felt the question does not fall within its

That means the only question the court will consider is whether the
precautionary principle must be applied by the B.C. Utilities
Commission when rendering decisions on projects such as this one.

The precautionary principle says when there is an element of doubt --
as in questions of whether high-voltage power lines increase the risk
of developing cancers -- courts should err on the side of safety.

The panel heard the submission from the Tsawwassen Residents Against
High Voltage Overhead Lines Monday, and on Tuesday will hear from
project proponent B.C. Transmission Corp.

"That came as a surprise to us," said corporation spokeswoman Donna
McGeachie of the dismissal of the right-of-way issue. "We were
anticipating it would be discussed."

The Court of Appeal has suggested its ruling will be released within
three weeks.

The project intends to replace the aging, 51-year-old power lines that
link Vancouver Island to the mainland's electricity grid.

B.C. Transmission Corp. has said the old submerged cables, which
provide about 10 per cent of the electricity to Vancouver Island, will
be unreliable after the fall of this year.

The new lines, which will carry five times as much electricity as the
unreliable old ones, are expected to be in service by October 2008.

Copyright 2007 CanWest Interactive

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From: Daily News (Sri Lanka), Mar. 23, 2007
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By Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

MISTAKE: As little ones in school, one of the stories that we revelled
in was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In one instance, we find
Alice being confused by an argument adduced by the queen in support of
preventive confinement. The queen tells Alice that the king's
messenger is in prison, being punished and the trial does not even
begin until the following week.

The messenger is being incarcerated for a crime he was yet to commit.
"Suppose he never commits the crime?" asks Alice. "That would be all
the better, wouldn't it?" says the queen. Alice does not agree.

"Were you ever punished"? The queen asks Alice. "Only for faults" says
Alice. "And you were all the better for it" the queen retorts. "Yes,
but then I had done the things I was punished for" says Alice, "and
that makes all the difference".

The queen is triumphant: "but if you had not done them, that would
have been even better still".

And Alice thinks to herself, "there is a mistake here somewhere".
Mistake indeed. This puts all of us who live in the modern world in a
dilemma between proactively pre-empting a calculating evildoer on the
one hand, and honouring the most fundamental tenet of democracy which
says that preventively confining someone is antithetical to the tenets
of civil liberty and erodes the fundamental right of a person to
liberty, on the other.

United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson exhorted this
principle years ago when he said that the jailing of persons by the
courts because of anticipated but yet uncommitted crimes could not be
reconciled with traditional American law and is fraught with danger of

There have certainly been exceptions to this principle. One is called
the "dangerous person approach" based on self defence.


A striking example of this is found in the closing argument of John
Adams on behalf of the British soldiers accused to have carried out
the Boston massacre, when he said that the first and strongest
principle is to prevent our own deaths by killing those about to
attack us.

However, to resort to an extreme measure such as preventive
confinement, one has to have compelling and incontrovertible evidence
of the guilt of a person beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Immanuel Kant, the eighteenth century German philosopher, in his book
Metaphysical Elements of Justice, said that it is intolerable to
impose punishment for a future crime, as judicial punishment must
always be imposed for a crime that has already been committed.

There is no doubt that we live in interesting times, when we propound
our own principles that are calculated to cocoon us from evil and
terror. One such is the "precautionary principle" which the New York
Times called one of the most important ideas of 2001.

The precautionary principle has its genesis in environmental
protection and is founded on the theory that it is morally justifiable
to take precaution against environmental damage.

This has now been extended to respond to threats to liberty and
security. However, the question is, to what extent can we spread the
precautionary principle over the canvass of the law?

We have created laws that justify our confining potential evildoers,
on the basis that we are preventing acts against the security of the
State by doing so.

In the United Kingdom, in the 1942 case of Liversidge v. Anderson, the
House of Lords considered Defence Regulation 18B which allowed the
Home Secretary to order a person detained if he has reasonable course
to believe that such a person was of hostile origin or association.
The majority decision in this case was to the effect that if the Home
Secretary thinks he has good cause that was good enough.

The dissenting judgment of Lord Atkin, who was of the view that judges
should not be more executive minded than the executive, was later
upheld in the appellate stage of the 1951 Sri Lankan case Nakkuda Ali
v. Jayaratne where the court held that such a power, to detain
persons, must be exercised on objectively reasonable grounds.

In the United States, of corresponding analogy is the wartime
experience where 120,000 Japanese persons were placed in detention
camps during the second world war. In 1988, the United States Congress
passed legislation to the effect that the prisoners had largely been
detained under racial and other subjective motivation which were
determinants of a weak political leadership.

There are instances where a State can be defended for invoking
preventive detention based on the overarching principle of social
contract by which the citizens charge the State with the
responsibility of ensuring their security.

Social Contract describes a broad class of philosophical theories
whose subject is the implied agreements by which people form nations
and maintain social order.

Social contract theory provides the rationale behind the historically
important notion that legitimate state authority must be derived from
the consent of the governed which, in other words means that a
democratic State is precluded from enacting draconian laws against the
civil liberty of citizens unless with the consent of the people.

The first modern philosopher to articulate a detailed contract theory
was Thomas Hobbes, who contended that people in a state of nature
ceded their individual rights to create sovereignty retained by the
state, in return for their protection and a more functional society,
so social contract evolves out of pragmatic self-interest.

Hobbes named the state Leviathan, thus pointing to the artifice
involved in the social contract.

Civil liberties

This brings one to the fact that, at the heart of the debate is the
concept of civil liberty. Civil liberties is the name given to
freedoms that protect the individual from government. Civil liberties
set limits for government so that it can not abuse its power and
interfere with the lives of its citizens.

Basic civil liberties include freedom of association, freedom of
assembly, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

There are also the rights to due process to a fair trial and to
privacy. The best known genesis of civil liberties is the Magna Carta
(Latin for "Great Charter", literally "Great Paper").

Also called Magna Carta Libertatum ("Great Charter of Freedoms"), it
is an English charter originally issued in 1215. Magna Carta was the
most significant early influence on the extensive historical process
that led to the rule of constitutional law today.


For modern times, the most enduring legacy of the Magna Carta is
reposed in the right of Habeas Corpus which in common law countries is
the term ascribed to a legal action or writ by means of which
detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The writ of
habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the
safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.

Known as the "Great Writ", a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is
a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian)
ordering that a prisoner be brought before the court so that the court
can determine whether that person is serving a lawful sentence or
should be released from custody.

The prisoner, or some other person on his behalf (for example, where
the prisoner is being held incommunicado), may petition the court or
an individual judge for a writ of habeas corpus.

The right of habeas corpus -- or rather, the right to petition for the
writ -- has long been celebrated as the most efficient safeguard of
the liberty of the subject. The great jurist Albert Venn Dicey wrote
that the Habeas Corpus Acts "declare no principle and define no
rights, but they are for practical purposes worth a hundred
constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty".

In most countries, however, the procedure of habeas corpus can be
suspended in time of national emergency. In most civil law
jurisdictions, comparable provisions exist, but they are generally not
called "habeas corpus".

There are instances where preventive detention will be necessary. Alan
Dershowitz, Professor of Law at Harvard University, in his book Pre-
emption -- A Sword that Cuts Both Ways, asserts that " There is a
desperate need in the world for a coherent and widely accepted
jurisprudence of pre-emption and prevention, in the context of both
self-defence and defence of others".

Of course, here Dershowitz is referring to the international scene,
but it would not be wrong to ascribe this principle to the national
level when there is a dire need to control anarchy and insecurity of a

However, the bottom line for any preventive jurisprudence in the
omestic context is the social contract theory where State authority
must be derived from the people.

There must be a preventive jurisprudence in place governing the acts
of the executive and law enforcement officers. Preventive acts must
never be ad hoc, or decided at the whim of the law enforcer. If this
were not to be the case, as Alice said: "There is a mistake here

The writer is Coordinator, Air Transport Programmes, International
Civil Aviation Organization, Canada.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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From: PR Newswire, Mar. 27, 2007
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Princeton, N.J. -- In a recent editorial and newsletter interview,
trade and regulatory lawyer Lawrence Kogan discusses why commencing a
WTO [World Trade Organization] legal action against the European
Union's (EU's) REACH chemicals regulatory regime remains the most
effective way to halt the global advance of the extra-WTO
Precautionary Principle.

The costly and burdensome REACH was adopted last winter despite
widespread international protest. Nevertheless, Brussels' allies
within the new 110th Congress have admonished U.S. negotiators
preparing for the upcoming April EU-US Transatlantic Summit to work
towards the harmonization of REACH with U.S. chemicals laws.
Apparently, these representatives do not 'care' whether it will cost
America its economic health.

Mr. Kogan argues that, "for the past decade, the EU has exported its
regulatory aversion to best-available science, economic-cost benefit
analysis and strong intellectual property right protections throughout
the world to 'level the economic playing field' for its noncompetitive
industries." It has tried to make the global legal environment "more
hospitable to the Precautionary Principle", he says, "in much the same
way that a protein-coated virus infects a healthy human body and
redesigns its metabolism."

According to Kogan, "The Precautionary Principle virus' REACH protein
has already attached itself to and penetrated foreign host cells (U.S.
and other non-EU sovereign jurisdictions), is reprogramming them with
its unique DNA code (hazard- as opposed to risk-based chemicals laws
and industry practices), and is rapidly reproducing itself (at
federal, state/provincial and local levels) and spreading to other
uninfected cells" (nations) in the global economy. He emphasizes that
"we must arrest the Precautionary Principle just as the human body
destroys infections, before it spirals out of control, reforms
international law and overtakes the American free enterprise system".

Kogan makes an important point. The human body does not rid itself of
debilitating viruses by becoming more hospitable, and thus, less
resistant, to them. Rather, the human immune system aggressively
attacks infections by producing toxic chemicals that cause the body's
temperature to rise.

The resulting fever helps the body by slowing down the rate of viral
reproduction and ultimately killing off the virus. The Institute for
Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD) is a non-partisan
non-profit international legal research and educational organization
that examines international law relating to trade, industry and
positive sustainable development around the world. These ITSSD
documents are accessible online at:

http://www.itssd.org/Publications/p04_SCM03_Viewpoint2.pdf and 

Contact: Lawrence Kogan Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable
Development +1-609-951-2222 info@itssd.org

Copyright 1996-2007 PR Newswire Association LLC.

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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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