Rachel's Precaution Reporter #97

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2007..............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Kenya: A Victory for the Nation and Endangered Elephants
  "Uncertainty demands application of the precautionary principle or
  approach. Decisions should err in favour of recovery of the most
  threatened [wildlife] populations in Africa and Asia." -- Director,
  Kenya Wildlife Service
A Living Chemistry Lesson
  "When our water supplies or coastal environments are at risk,
  applicants should have to prove their project will not cause harm. Of
  course this is difficult, but denying some projects that might have
  been safe may be necessary for adequate long-term protection. This
  precautionary principle needs to be built into our environmental
Ontario Must Investigate New Chemicals in Water
  "It's the whole notion of the precautionary principle. We don't
  want to wait another 20 years and realize we have a whole generation
  of infertile young men."
Food Chain Depends on Wild Stocks
  "I don't really understand why the government, which authorizes
  these placements [of fish farms], is not -- by nature -- being
  cautious on behalf of not just the people, but the whole ecosystem."
Consumer Demand Pumps Up Supply of Paraben-free Products
  "Although the jury's out on the effect of parabens [in cosmetics] ,
  you might prefer to embrace the precautionary principle. Shop
  carefully and pay attention to labels to create your own paraben-free
  beauty regime."
Call for a Moratorium on EU Agrofuel Incentives
  More than 30 civil society groups from around the world are calling
  for a moratorium, based on the precautionary principle, to stop the EU
  [European Union] rush for agrofuels, which are liquid fuels produced
  from biomass grown in large scale monocultures.
The Dark Side of Soy
  "Even if there is positive information [about soy], and even if
  these studies are well designed, we need to weigh that against the
  fact that we've also got really good studies showing the dangers.
  Better safe than sorry is the precautionary principle."


From: East African Standard (Nairobi, Kenya), Jul. 2, 2007
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By Julius Kipng'etich

[The writer is the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service]

Nairobi -- Two weeks ago, a landmark decision that is likely to affect
tourism for years to come was made in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Delegates from 171-member countries of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites) gave a
nine-year lease of life to our wildlife flagship species -- the

The decision of the 14th Conference of Parties on the African elephant
and ivory trade will have far-reaching ramifications, not just on the
survival of other species, but also tourism.

Previous Cites meetings have been bogged down by acrimonious debates
over the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to
conservation weighed against concerns that such sales may increase
poaching. Recurrent debate on re-opening international ivory trade has
been complicating enforcement, confusing consumers and jeopardising
elephant management plans.

The beneficiaries have been poachers, traders in illicit ivory and,
sometimes, the sport-hunting lobby. Losers have been tourism and local
communities. But now, the trade suspension will send a strong message
to consumers that buying ivory is neither acceptable nor fashionable.

It will also send a clear signal that international trade is banned,
suppress demand, lower prices and remove the incentive for buying and
stockpiling ivory.

In its spirited fight for the ban in ivory trade, Kenya fell back on
its ecotourism model of wildlife conservation that mirrors the
'chicken that lays the golden egg' parable.

The Kenya Wildlife Service support for the setting up of community
conservancies such as Mwaluganje (Kwale), Kimana (Kajiado) Ilngwesi
(Laikipia) was used to show how communities can organise themselves to
benefit from wildlife.

Although Kenya did not get the 20-year suspension it proposed, the
nine-year ban on ivory trade and the stringent conditions attached to
it work in favour of elephants and other wildlife. The suspension of
trade will ease pressure from the effects of Cites decisions on ivory

At the same time, it provides for the establishment of the African
Elephant Conservation Fund to address the long-term issues of

Elephants are highly migratory and many populations are shared among
various countries. Ivory trade and market forces driving it and
international decisions in one State can affect another. Thus, a
cooperative, regional approach to decision-making, taking into account
the needs of the continental population, is imperative.

Yet decisions are mostly made on a national basis and policies vary
considerably. By allowing the split-listing of the African elephant
and different provisions concerning ivory trade from the four
countries whose elephants are in Appendix II, Cites not only created
enforcement problems, but favoured the perceived needs of a few States
to the detriment of others struggling to protect their elephants.

Most of the challenges will be addressed through the Africa Elephant
Conservation Fund that is to enhance the implementation of an action
plan. It includes accessing resources to strengthen the enforcement of
laws against poaching and illegal trade in ivory, control trade,
enhance capacity building and manage elephant translocations. Kenya
has offered to share its expertise in elephant translocation and
management with the other 37 African range States.

Kenya recognises that although elephant States are the best protectors
of their elephants, many lack capacity. The fund will also contribute
to the resolution of human-elephant conflicts and enhance community
conservation initiatives and development programmes.

The trade freeze will also help determine effects of the one-off ivory
sale, establish and address factors that have been driving the
expanding illegal market. It will also provide reasonable time to
refine the Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (Mike) programme to
enable it become an instrument more capable of detecting poaching

Since Mike was started in 1997, there has not been time free from
recurrent discussions about re-opening trade. These can influence
levels of illegal killing, affecting baseline data and preventing Mike
from assessing whether trends are related to Cites' decisions on
international trade in ivory.

Several major seizures in the last two years indicate that 20,000 or
more elephants have been killed annually since the 2004 Cites meeting.
Ivory prices have increased by between seven and eight times in China
and Japan since the late 1990s (most recently quoted in March at
$850/kg or Sh59,500 in Japan), raising concern that commodity
speculators may be buying the ivory.

However, we cannot afford to relax our efforts since organised crime
in illicit ivory trade has been known to go hand in hand with the
globalisation of African markets and economic links.

There are many uncertainties and controversies associated with
elephant populations and ivory trade: Uncertainty over numbers,
controversy over the signal effect (whether debate on trade and one-
off sales send a signal to poachers and the market), uncertainty over
factors driving illegal trade and controversy over the effects of re-
opening legal trade.

Such uncertainty demands application of the precautionary principle or
approach. Decisions should err in favour of recovery of the most
threatened populations in Africa and Asia, not populations in the few
range States that want to export ivory.

The other important implication of the trade ban is that Cites can
focus on other endangered species in subsequent meetings as we put
mechanisms in place to address the escalating illegal killing of
elephants and trade in ivory in Africa and Asia.

The danger and the neglect that endangered species such as lions,
leopards, rhinos and antelopes, among others, have suffered over the
years now have a chance to be addressed.

Copyright 2007 East African Standard

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From: theday.com (New London, Conn.), Jul. 1, 2007
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By James N. Kremer

What we might call "the n problem" is a curious one. The pollution of
coastal waters by inadvertent over-fertilization with nitrogen is
arguably the most serious threat to coastal ecosystems worldwide.

As with other high-profile environmental issues, several interesting
characteristics aggravate our attempts to manage the problem
effectively. First, it came upon us quickly. The nitrogen problem in
coastal waters became apparent largely in the last 30 years, and few
scientists and engineers saw it coming. We've reached the present
level of impact many times faster than global deforestation, human
population pressure, or greenhouse gas concentrations in our

Second, we can't blame "bad guys." While some environmental crises can
be blamed on corporate entities, nitrogen is essential for all life
and is linked to our normal daily activities, especially diet. The
sensitivity of our environment to bio-active forms of nitrogen is not
surprising, since all plants and animals on land and sea need it.
Admittedly, nitrogen from fossil fuel combustion by vehicles and
industry aggravates the problem so gas guzzlers and energy wasters
deserve some blame, but the larger share of nitrogen pollution locally
comes from the benign activities of domestic waste (septic systems and
commercial sewage treatment facilities) and fertilization of yards,
gardens and crops.

Third, the links and pathways of nitrogen connecting us to the sea are
surprisingly complex. Many forms of chemicals containing nitrogen move
around in dust and gasses in the atmosphere, in rain, surface waters
and underground aquifers, in soils, plants and in the food and waste
of all animals.

Some processes are direct and obvious: some of us apply fertilizer to
our lawns and ornamental plants. Other processes are indirect and
obscure: nitrogen entering our coastal waters in groundwater today may
have left septic systems far upland 25 years ago. (Even properly
functioning, standard-technology domestic waste treatments do not
remove nitrogen well.)

Fourth, the culture of science is surprisingly conservative. Science
is slow to embrace new information. We cannot always make the right
decision, and scientists prefer the mistake of not accepting a true
result right away to the mistake of accepting a false one. Therefore,
information used to inform policy may be scientifically incomplete or

In my view, the following factors in the fabric of the nitrogen
problem have implications for effective local response. The parts of
the nitrogen problem that we can deal with most effectively are linked
to personal decisions and to development in coastal watersheds. I'm
not an expert on municipal government, but I've watched cases where
towns are having difficulty preventing development applications in
areas that I agree are inappropriate. It's not the development, per
se, it's the wrong place for the project.

Parts of the approval process appear to facilitate development. Local
regulations by planning, zoning and wetlands commissions have features
originally built-in as safeguards that can work against solving such

** Burden of Proof: Our judicial presumption of innocence lets some
guilty persons go free in preference to convicting the innocent.
Presently, many towns must approve development plans that meet the
technical regulations. Should proposed developments be presumed safe
unless proven unsafe? Shifting the burden of proof makes sense when
there are potentially dire consequences.

oPrecedent: Change is difficult. It seems unfair to change the rules.
If a development plan would have been approved in the past, is it
unfair to deny it today? Yet, we have to be willing to do this, or we
restrict new information and changing conditions from informing our

oRole of Science: Scientists reach consensus slowly. It's not
surprising that the information transferred from science to public
policy lags behind, and as a result current regulations are not based
on the most recent scientific knowledge.

The public needs to realize that nitrogen pollution is a serious
problem that everyone can do something about, even before official
policies change. Using less fertilizer (or none) is easy and direct.
Ten to 50 percent of the nitrogen pollution is from fertilizer in
local watersheds. Also, the typical Americans' diet is protein rich,
and most of the "N" in what we eat passes as waste, is not removed by
on-site or municipal treatment, and eventually reaches our waters.
Shifting to a "Mediterranean diet" of more veggies and less protein
could reverse the predicted increase in "N" fertilizer use nationwide.

Regulations and policies need to respond effectively to change. To
some extent we do this now, but perhaps not effectively enough.
"Adaptive management" is a widely appreciated theory, but difficult to

Regulations should enforce general goals, with details evaluated and
changed in response to new problems and new knowledge. This adaptive
strategy conflicts with the primacy of precedent and it can be abused.
But society must be able to change when new information shows our
present course has high risks.

Finally, who bears the burden of proof needs to be considered together
with risk. When consequences are serious, it is appropriate to require
proof of no damage from a proposal rather than to require the public
to prove that damage is likely.

When our water supplies or coastal environments are at risk,
applicants should have to prove their project will not cause harm. Of
course this is difficult, but denying some projects that might have
been safe may be necessary for adequate long-term protection. This
precautionary principle needs to be built into our environmental

James N. Kremer is a professor of marine sciences at the Avery Point
branch of the University of Connecticut.

Copyright 1998-2007 The Day Publishing Co.

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From: News 1130, Jul. 2, 2007
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By Chinta Puxley

Toronto -- Ontario must do more to investigate whether potentially
dangerous chemicals in the water supply coming from everyday shampoos,
soaps and pharmaceuticals pose a threat to people's health and the
ecosystem, the province's environmental commissioner says.

There is a pressing need for the province not just to monitor the
spread of such chemicals, but to spend millions on research and get on
top of the threat posed by pharmaceuticals and personal care products
(PPCPs), Gord Miller said.

The chemicals, which are showing up in water around the world, come
from farm activity, antibiotics or other discarded medication that is
poured down the toilet or sink, medication found in human waste, and
run-off from antibacterial soaps and shampoos.

They travel through the septic system and can make their way back into
source and drinking water because sewage treatment plants aren't
equipped to get rid of them.

In her recent annual report on Ontario's drinking water, Environment
Minister Laurel Broten highlighted PPCPs as an emerging threat and
said the province is doing a "survey" to find out how much of the
chemicals are in the province's water.

But Miller -- who warned about the threat of pharmaceuticals in his
2005 annual report -- said that's not enough. The province should put
millions into investigating the impact the chemicals are having on
animals and their ecosystems to determine what they might do to
humans, Miller said in an interview.

"We tend to focus primarily on human health," Miller said. "That's
important, but the alarms go off too late if you're already poisoning

It's an increasing problem that the province needs to get on top of,
he added.

"We have to spend some money now to find out what's going on."

The threat is only going to grow, Miller said, as the population
continues to grow, people use more medication and the baby boomers

Maureen Carter-Whitney, research director with the Canadian Institute
for Environmental Law and Policy, said scientists are still trying to
determine just what impact pharmaceutical chemicals can have on both
humans and animals.

Generally, she said the chemicals are only found in the water in small
amounts. But, she said, they are "always there."

Studies conducted in northwestern Ontario suggest the chemicals can
contribute to infertility in animals, delayed reproductive development
and damage to the liver and kidneys.

The chemicals can also contribute to antibiotic resistance, Carter-
Whitney said.

"It's at the point where it's a threat, but it's a threat we need to
start doing something about," she said.

"It's the whole notion of the precautionary principle. We don't want
to wait another 20 years and realize we have a whole generation of
infertile young men."

Jim Smith, the province's chief drinking-water inspector, said Ontario
has one of the most sophisticated systems in the world to protect its
drinking water. The system has been strengthened since the Walkerton
tainted water tragedy of May 2000, when E. coli contamination caused
seven deaths and thousands of illnesses, he said.

There are always emerging threats that the province is now required to
publicly report on and investigate, he said. The Liberal government
set aside $400,000 last year to fund 20 research projects examining
PPCPs and labs are now working on analyzing this set of chemicals,
Smith said.

It will likely take the province up to five years to get a handle on
the current science and act on it, Smith said.

"As chief inspector, do I feel that I'm being protected? Yes. Do I
feel that the right steps are being taken? Yes," Smith said. "We're as
current as any leading jurisdiction in the world."

Environment Minister Laurel Broten said the province does need to get
"a better understanding" of these emerging chemicals and the threat
they could pose in drinking water. The $400,000 in provincial funding
is a "very big move forward," she said.

"We know that Ontario has incredibly safe drinking water and we want
to make sure that we continue to have safe, clean drinking water and
that we are always vigilant," she said. "This is an issue we take very

The province is waiting on the federal government to develop standards
on how much of these chemicals are acceptable in source and tap water.
It is also conducting its own studies, including one which found some
50 different types of PPCPs in the Grand River just outside of

People can do their part as well to keep such chemicals out of the
system in the first place by returning their old or unused medication
to a pharmacy which can dispose of it properly, Broten said.

Copyright 2006 Rogers Communications Inc.

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From: Canoe.ca (Vancouver, B.C.), Jul. 4, 2007
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By Robyn Stubbs

Salmon are part of a complex ecosystem above and below the ocean and a
key part of the natural food chain.

Other fish, eagles, bears and orcas all depend on healthy runs to

Paul Spong, an orca researcher based out of a small lab on Hanson
Island, has been studying B.C.'s northern orca residents since 1970,
and says he's "completely convinced" that the proliferation of fish
farms in the Broughton is directly impacting the area's salmon runs.

Spong is concerned a depleted wild salmon stock could spell trouble
for the orcas, and says he struggles to understand the justification
for expanding an industry when its impacts are unclear.

"In science, you need to adopt a precautionary principle that says you
don't do things when you don't perfectly understand that they're not
going to be harmful," says Spong.

"I don't really understand why the government, which authorizes these
placements, is not -- by nature -- being cautious on behalf of not
just the people, but the whole ecosystem."

Copyright 2007, Canoe Inc.

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From: Chicago Tribune, Jun. 27, 2007
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By Jessica Ramakrishnan, Special to the Tribune

Beauty junkies may have noticed a new label -- "paraben free" or "no
parabens" -- on their body-care products.

In the past, every time you washed your hair or moisturized your face
or body, you were likely slathering on parabens, chemicals that act as
preservatives for beauty products such as foot cream and hair
conditioner. But with research pointing to possible links between the
preservatives and breast cancer, parabens have earned a bad

Beauty firms, particularly those that market their products as
natural, are responding to consumer concerns with new paraben-free
product formulas, according to Leigh Anne Rowinski, beauty industry
expert at IRI, a consumer research group. Manufacturers are turning to
alternative preservatives, such as phenoxyethanol and chlorophensin,
which ensure products have a reasonably long shelf life -- up to two
years in many cases -- without the health concerns associated with

"The beauty industry has been selling all things 'pink' for some time
now," says Rowinski, referring to the pink ribbon-branded products
sold to raise breast cancer research funds. "Having been made more
aware, consumers are starting to ask more of the products that they
are putting on their bodies."

Despite the lack of conclusive scientific answers, consumers spent
$102 million on paraben-free products last year, a 41 percent increase
over the $73 million spent in 2005, according to IRI, which tracks
brands sold in mass-market drugstores and supermarkets.

The range of paraben-free products in the market has grown from basic
items such as soaps to luxurious spa-style products such as body
scrubs, said Lisa James, founder of the beauty products Web site B-
Glowing (b-glowing.com).

"It used to be the case that only the 'granola' brands avoided
parabens and made products that didn't always perform the way you
wanted," James says. "These products have moved from the dusty corner
that everyone avoided in health food shops to high-end boutiques and
back to supermarket chains."

The trend shows no sign of abating, says Noelle Wagner, Midwest
regional coordinator for Whole Body, the body care section of Whole
Foods Markets. Many of the natural supermarket chain's suppliers are
reformulating their products to exclude parabens, she says. Last
summer, Whole Foods started to remove parabens from its own body care
line, 365.

"We can't say how many people are concerned, but those who do care are
buying much more of these products," Wagner says.

Major beauty firms, however, have yet to leap on the no-paraben

"We constantly study peer-reviewed scientific publications to stay
abreast of the latest developments related to our products," said an
e-mailed statement from a representative of Estee Lauder, which owns
brands such as Clinique, Bobbi Brown and MAC. "To date, there have
been no conclusive studies [that] confirm a direct link between breast
cancer and parabens."

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates only color additives
in beauty products, says that parabens are safe as long as they do not
exceed 25 percent of a product's formula. Parabens make up a tiny
fraction -- 0.01 to 0.1 percent -- of most product formulations,
according to the FDA.

While the FDA holds firm to its position, natural-product makers and
retailers are not looking back.

Whole Foods' Wagner says the chain is unlikely to add new product
lines to its body care aisles if they contain parabens.

B-Glowing's James, who lost her mother to breast cancer, believes that
more and more beauty firms will follow suit.

"The paraben issue is not going away," she says. "I would be surprised
if any products have parabens in them in the future."

- -- -

Paraben-free beauty cabinet

Although the jury's out on the effect of parabens, you might prefer to
embrace the precautionary principle. Shop carefully and pay attention
to labels to create your own paraben-free beauty regime. Paraben-free
products are available at stores such as Sephora, which stocks lines
such as Skyn ICELAND and Dr. Hauschka, to Wal-Mart, which carries
Noah's Naturals, a no-paraben skin- and hair-care line.

Face moisturizers

Juice Beauty's Green Apple Moisturizer SPF 15 ($38,
www.juicebeauty.com) contains organic ingredients. For a splurge, try
Care by Stella McCartney's 5 Benefits Moisturising Cream ($76,

Body moisturizers

Rich and exotic with scents such as sandalwood and guava, Pacifica's
Body Butters are dry-skin quenchers ($15.95, www.pacificacandles.com).


John Masters Organics has been paraben-free for more than 15 years.
Fans of the line especially love the Honey & Hibiscus Hair
Reconstructor ($28, www.johnmasters.com) for its tropical scent and
luxurious conditioning effect.

Face wash

Jurlique's Ultra Sensitive Facial Cleanser ($42, www.jurlique.com) is
a mild cleanser for delicate skin; Burt's Bees Garden Carrot
Complexion Soap ($8, www.burtsbees.com) is a non-drying alternative.


Try Burt's Bees toners, which contain garden tomato for normal and
oily skin or rosewater and glycerin for mature and sensitive skins
($12, www.burtsbees.com).

Body scrubs

Merlot, Sauvignon and Cabernet scrubs from French spa brand Caudalie
make for a heady exfoliation experience ($32 for a set of three mini
treatments, www.sephora.com).


Tom's of Maine toothpastes (from $1.69, Walgreens) come in teeth
whitening and child-use formulas.

Shower gels

Whole Foods' 365 Shower Gel is a bargain ($1.99, Whole Foods Market).
A more exotic pick is Greek brand Korres' Jasmine Shower Gel ($11,


Delicate Ultra-Care Shampoo ($22, www.sidlabhair.com) from Sidlab
promises to leave your hair clean and silky.

- -- -

The paraben controversy

Parabens are widely used to preserve cosmetic and pharmaceutical
formulations that contain water and oil, says Suzanne Snedeker,
associate director of translational research at Cornell University's
Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research.

A 2004 paper published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology on the
concentration of parabens in breast cancer tumors was the first to get
widespread media attention, Snedeker says. "There's no strict evidence
that parabens cause tumors," she says. "The bulk of papers have found
that parabens can act as environmental estrogens and support the
growth of tumors."

However, many questions remain unanswered, Snedeker says. Among them
are the extent to which parabens support tumor growth and how factors
such as multiple exposure and age come into play.

"We have some of the dots but not the whole picture," she says. "You
don't need to fill in every dot to see it all, but ultimately
consumers have a choice of how they want to gauge their risk."

-- J.R.

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From: Transnational Institute, Jul. 1, 2007
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More than 30 civil society groups from around the world are calling
for a moratorium to stop the EU rush for agrofuels, which are liquid
fuels produced from biomass grown in large scale monocultures. The
call is for the EU to stop incentivising these fuels through its
proposed targets on their production, rather than promoting genuinely
renewable energy sources.

Download the call as a PDF.

The undersigned call for an immediate moratorium on EU incentives for
agrofuels and agroenergy from large-scale monocultures including tree
plantations and a moratorium on EU imports of such agrofuels. This
includes the immediate suspension of all targets, incentives such as
tax breaks and subsidies which benefit agrofuels from large-scale
monocultures, including financing through carbon trading mechanisms,
international development aid or loans from international finance
organisations such as the World Bank. This call also responds to the
growing number of calls from the global south against agrofuel
monocultures[1], which EU targets are helping to promote.


Agrofuels are liquid fuels from biomass, which consists of crops and
trees grown specifically for that purpose on a large scale. Agrofuels
are currently produced from crops such as maize, oil palm, soya, sugar
cane, sugar beet, oilseed rape, canola, jatropha, rice and wheat.
Agrofuels are designed to replace petroleum, mainly in road vehicles
and trains. Biodiesel and ethanol are the main types of fuel produced.
Agrofuels do not include biofuels derived from waste, such as biogas
from manure or landfill, or waste vegetable oil, or from algae.

Agrofuels are being promoted by governments and international
institutions as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from
transport, and improving 'energy security', i.e. of helping to ensure
regular supplies, stabilise the price of oil and mitigate the impacts
of volatile oil prices and possible peak oil. Public support for
agrofuels is further justified on the basis of their claimed positive
impacts on rural development and jobs in producer countries, promises
of 'second generation' agrofuels whose production will not compete
with the production of food, and assumptions about the availability of
large amounts of 'degraded' or unused land.

Agrofuels are also being strongly promoted by industry. New corporate
partnerships are being formed between agrobusinesses, biotech
companies, oil companies and car manufacturers. Billions of dollars
are being invested in the agrofuel sector in a development often
likened to a 'green goldrush', in which countries are turning land
over to agrofuel crops and developing infrastructure for processing
and transporting them.

Impacts of agrofuels from large-scale monocultures:

Agrofuels are generally grown as monocultures (including plantations),
often covering thousands of hectares. In order to compete in the
market, they require government support such as subsidies and tax
breaks. Support for agrofuels has to date failed to acknowledge the
negative social, environmental and macro-economic impacts associated
with this kind of farming.

Forecasts by different UN agencies predict that in future most
agrofuels will be produced in the global South and exported to
industrialized countries. Although presented as an opportunity for
Southern economies, evidence suggests that monoculture crops for
agrofuel such as oil palm, soya, sugar cane and maize lead to further
erosion of food sovereignty and food security[2], threaten local
livelihoods[3], biodiversity[4],water supplies[5] and increase soil
erosion and desertification[6].

Agrofuels are currently being developed within the intensive,
mechanised, agro-industrial paradigm, using massive monocultures and
inputs of fertiliser and pesticide. There is strong evidence that such
agrofuel production will not mitigate climate change but instead may
accelerate global warming, as rainforests, peatlands and other
ecosystems that are essential carbon stores are being destroyed to
make way for plantations. There is also controversy about how much
greenhouse gas is generated by the agrofuel production process and
whether agrofuels provide any real savings once issues such as
fertiliser use (and thus increased nitrous oxide emissions[7]),
refining, transport etc, are taken into the equation.

GM agrofuels:

Many of the crops currently being used for agrofuels have been
genetically engineered (soya, maize, rape). A decade of utilization
has revealed that the current range of genetically modified crops have
not increased yields or reduced dependence on inputs. However,
proponents of genetic engineering in agriculture are already using the
threat of climate change to argue for wider use of GM crops and the
development of new ones such as GM eucalyptus for agrofuel production.
GM crops and trees pose serious risks to biodiversity, ecosystems and
the food chain. GM microbes and enzymes being developed as part of
cellulosic ethanol research (so-called second generation -- see below)
could also pose severe risks that have not been researched or even
considered by governments.

Second generation agrofuels:

It is being suggested that a "second generation" of agrofuels can be
developed that will solve some of the problems posed by current
agrofuels, such as competition between food and fuel production. The
aim is to find ways (including genetic engineering and synthetic
biology) of modifying plants and trees to produce less lignin,
engineering the lignin and cellulose so that they break down more
easily or in different ways, and engineering microbes and enzymes to
break down plant matter. Such high-risk techniques do not challenge
the pattern of destructive monocultures designed to feed increasing
energy consumption patterns. A moratorium on monoculture agrofuels is
needed now, to prevent further damage being done through the over-
hasty promotion of agrofuel crops. In the meantime, the promises and
potential risks associated with second-generation agrofuels should be
fully examined. Whatever the outcome, such fuels will not be available
for approximately ten years and decisive action to address climate
change is required immediately.

Scope of the moratorium:

The moratorium called for by the signatories will apply only to
agrofuels from large-scale monocultures (and GM biofuels) and their
trade. It does not include biofuels from waste, such as waste
vegetable oil or biogas from manure or sewage, or biomass grown and
harvested sustainably by and for the benefit of local communities,
rather than on large-scale monocultures. A moratorium on large-scale
agrofuels and their trade could favour the development of truly
sustainable bioenergy strategies to the benefit of local communities -
as opposed to the financial benefit of the export-oriented industries.

Certification is no solution at present:

Since public support and targets for agrofuels are being justified for
their supposed environmental benefits, a number of different
initiatives have been started up to develop 'sustainability
certification schemes'. The undersigned organisations regard
certification schemes, whether voluntary or mandatory, to be incapable
of effectively addressing serious and potentially irreversible damage
from agrofuel production, the main reasons being:

* Macro-level impacts such as the displacement/relocation of
production to lands outside the scope of the certification schemes
cannot be addressed through these schemes. Likewise, certification
cannot deal with other macro-level impacts like the competition with
food production, and access to land and other natural resources.
* The development of such criteria has to date failed to ensure that
communities most directly affected by agrofuel production are included
in the discussion and fully consulted from the outset, or to comply
with basic procedural requirements ensuring Free Prior and Informed
Consent of indigenous peoples whose lands will be affected.
* The development of agrofuels is proceeding far more quickly than
certification can be implemented.
* In many countries, conditions are lacking to ensure the
implementation or monitoring of such safeguards, or accountability for
those responsible for violating them.

As one certification initiative from the Netherlands, the Cramer
Report,[8] says: "Some of the impacts of biomass production are
difficult to assess on the individual company level, and only become
apparent on the regional, national and sometimes even on the
supranational level. This is true in particular for the impacts caused
by indirect changes in land use and is especially important in the
themes Greenhouse gas emissions, Biodiversity and Competition between
food and other biomass uses. In determining the sustainability of
biomass it is crucial to take these macro-impacts into consideration".
At present, there are no concrete proposals for macro-level policy, in
addition to certification schemes, that would deal effectively with
these macro-impacts.

Why does a moratorium need to be implemented with immediate effect?

Despite an increasing number of civil society statements and evidence-
based reports expressing concern about the unintended but foreseeable
negative impacts of agrofuels and calls to halt their expansion, the
agrofuel rush is accelerating. The decision of the high-consumption
countries, notably the EU and the US, to introduce significant
incentives for agrofuels, such as mandatory targets, publicly funded
subsidies and tax breaks, is triggering speculation and investment in
plantations and enticing countries in the global South to commit
substantial portions of land to agrofuel crop-production.

In the past 18 months, billions of dollars have been invested in
agrofuel plantations and refineries and associated infrastructure. In
Indonesia, $17.4 billion dollars of investment were pledged in the
first quarter of 2007, whilst the government plans to convert some 20
million hectares of land to biofuel plantations. 9-10 million hectares
of rainforest are acutely threatened in West Papua alone. In Latin
America, the Inter-American Development Bank has announced plans to
invest $3 billion in private sector agrofuel projects. Governments in
a growing number of countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay,
Ecuador and Colombia, are implementing national strategies to boost
agrofuel production that involve financial incentives and investment
in and licensing of refineries and infrastructure projects, including
new roads, ports and pipelines. Those infrastructure developments will
open up old-growth forests and other natural ecosystems to
destruction, whilst accelerating the displacement of local communities
by expanding plantations. The impacts of this massive, rapidly growing
investment in agrofuel expansion will be irreversible and irreparable.

Agrofuels pose a particular threat to tropical forest and wetland
ecosystems, as events in Indonesia already indicate. Such forests play
a vital role in stabilising climate and creating rainfall. There is
evidence that the Amazon rainforest may be approaching a point where
deforestation will have reduced the vegetation so much that it can no
longer maintain its rainfall cycle, thus threatening much or all of
the ecosystem with potentially rapid die-back and desertification[9].
Further destruction of rainforests and peatlands for agrofuels could
push the planetary system into accelerated warming, sea level rise and
ecological change sooner than fossil fuel emissions alone. If the
current rush for agrofuels is allowed to continue while certification
and the necessary macro-level policies are developed, the damage such
schemes and policies are meant to prevent will already have been done
by the time they are in place. The risks of a 'wait and see' approach
are far too high. The EU should apply the precautionary principle to
its approach to biofuels and implement a moratorium.

A moratorium will immediately reduce the demand for crops and trees
used as agrofuel feedstocks, thus reversing current increases in
commodity prices and putting the brakes on the expansion of
monoculture plantations for agrofuels which is threatening ecosystems,
food security, communities and the global climate. It will provide
time to look at the consequences of large-scale agrofuel production in
order to make a sound and comprehensive assessment of their socio-
economic and environmental implications. This will include assessing
the foreseeable impacts of proposed agrofuel targets and ensuring that
proposed policies and safeguards are capable of being implemented and
preventing the serious negative impacts that are already being
experienced. It is essential that civil society, and in particularly
those most directly affected by the production of agrofuel crops are
given a fair chance to assess the impacts of the current promotion of
agrofuels. A moratorium on incentives for large-scale agrofuel crop
production and a halt to EU agrofuel imports will provide the space
required for this discussion.

Signatories call for effective measures to tackle climate change:

Agrofuels have not been shown to mitigate global warming; they
actually threaten to accelerate it. The undersigned support urgent
cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, based on climate science
assessments, which involve a drastic overall reduction in energy use
in industrialised countries, strict energy efficiency standards, and
support for truly renewable forms of energy, such as sustainable wind
and solar energy, as well as the protection of ecosystems and carbon

Your organisation can sign on to this moratorium -- please visit
www.econexus.info or send an email to h.paul@econexus.info


Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz (Working Group on
Rainforests and Biodiversity)

Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz -- Kolumbien (ASK) -- Grupo de Trabajo Suiza
Colombia (Swiss Working Group on Colombia)

Asamblea Coordinadora PatagŪnica contra el Saqueo y la ContaminaciŪn

Base Investigaciones Sociales, Paraguay

BI Kein Strom aus Palmoel


Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) -- Association for the peoples of the
rainforest, Switzerland

Carbon Trade Watch

CEPPAS from Argentina

Corner House

Corporate Europe Observatory





Global Justice Ecology Project


Grupo Reflexion Rural

Munlochy Vigil

NOAH: Friends of the Earth Denmark

Observatorio de la Deuda en la GlobalizaciŪn (Catalonia, Spain)

Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific


Rettet den Regenwald

Robin Wood

Sawit Watch

SETARA Jambi/YKR, Sumatera Indonesia

Solifunds, Switzerland

The Gaia Foundation

Transnational Institute

Watch Indonesia!

World Rainforest Movement

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From: Utne Reader, Aug. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


Is America's favorite health food making us sick?

By Mary Vance, Terrain

As someone who is conscious of her health, I spent 13 years
cultivating a vegetarian diet. I took time to plan and balance meals
that included products such as soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, and Chick'n
patties. I pored over labels looking for words I couldn't pronounce--
occasionally one or two would pop up. Soy protein isolate? Great!
They've isolated the protein from the soybean to make it more
concentrated. Hydrolyzed soy protein? I never successfully
rationalized that one, but I wasn't too worried. After all, in 1999
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labeling I found on
nearly every soy product I purchased: "Diets low in saturated fat and
cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the
risk of heart disease." Soy ingredients weren't only safe +- they were

After years of consuming various forms of soy nearly every day, I felt
reasonably fit, but somewhere along the line I'd stopped menstruating.
I couldn't figure out why my stomach became so upset after I ate
edamame or why I was often moody and bloated. It didn't occur to me at
the time to question soy, heart protector and miracle food.

When I began studying holistic health and nutrition, I kept running
across risks associated with eating soy. Endocrine disruption? Check.
Digestive problems? Check. I researched soy's deleterious effects on
thyroid, fertility, hormones, sex drive, digestion, and even its
potential to contribute to certain cancers. For every study that
proved a connection between soy and reduced disease risk another
cropped up to challenge the claims. What was going on?

"Studies showing the dark side of soy date back 100 years," says
clinical nutritionist Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story
(New Trends, 2005). "The 1999 FDA-approved health claim pleased big
business, despite massive evidence showing risks associated with soy,
and against the protest of the FDA's own top scientists. Soy is a $4
billion [U.S.] industry that's taken these health claims to the bank."
Besides promoting heart health, the industry says, soy can alleviate
symptoms associated with menopause, reduce the risk of certain
cancers, and lower levels of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol.

Epidemiological studies have shown that Asians, particularly in Japan
and China, have a lower incidence of breast and prostate cancer than
people in the United States, and many of these studies credit a
traditional diet that includes soy. But Asian diets include small
amounts--about nine grams a day--of primarily fermented soy products,
such as miso, natto, and tempeh, and some tofu. Fermenting soy creates
health-promoting probiotics, the good bacteria our bodies need to
maintain digestive and overall wellness. By contrast, in the United
States, processed soy food snacks or shakes can contain over 20 grams
of nonfermented soy protein in one serving.

"There is important information on the cancer-protective values of
soy," says clinical nutritionist Ed Bauman, head of Bauman Clinic in
Sebastopol, California, and director of Bauman College. Bauman
cautions against painting the bean with a broad brush. "As with any
food, it can have benefits in one system and detriments in another.
[An individual who is sensitive to it] may have an adverse response to
soy. And not all soy is alike," he adds, referring to processing
methods and quality.

"Soy is not a food that is native to North America or Europe, and you
have issues when you move food from one part of the world to another,"
Bauman says. "We fare better when we eat according to our ethnicity.
Soy is a viable food, but we need to look at how it's used."

Once considered a small-scale poverty food, soy exploded onto the
American market. Studies--some funded by the industry--promoted soy's
ability to lower disease risk while absolving guilt associated with
eating meat. "The soy industry has come a long way from when hippies
were boiling up the beans," says Daniel.

These days the industry has discovered ways to use every part of the
bean for profit. Soy oil has become the base for most vegetable oils;
soy lecithin, the waste product left over after the soybean is
processed, is used as an emulsifier; soy flour appears in baked and
packaged goods; different forms of processed soy protein are added to
everything from animal feed to muscle-building protein powders. "Soy
protein isolate was invented for use in cardboard," Daniel says. "It
hasn't actually been approved as a food ingredient."

Soy is everywhere in our food supply, as the star in cereals and
health-promoting foods and hidden in processed foods. Even if you read
every label and avoid cardboard boxes, you are likely to find soy in
your supplements and vitamins (look out for vitamin E derived from soy
oil), in foods such as canned tuna, soups, sauces, breads, meats
(injected under poultry skin), and chocolate, and in pet food and
body-care products. It hides in tofu dogs under aliases such as
textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and
lecithin--which is troubling, since the processing required to
hydrolyze soy protein into vegetable protein produces excitotoxins
such as glutamate (think MSG) and aspartate (a component of
aspartame), which cause brain-cell death.

Soy also is one of the foods--in addition to wheat, corn, eggs, milk,
nuts, and shellfish--most likely to cause allergic reactions. Most
people equate food allergies with anaphylaxis, or a severe emergency
immune response, but it is possible to have a subclinical sensitivity,
which can lead to health problems over time (and is exacerbated by the
lack of variety common in today's American diet).

"People can do an empirical food sensitivity test by eliminating the
food for a period of time and reintroducing it to see if there's an
immune response, but most don't do this," says Bauman. "Genetically
modified (GM) soy is the most problematic, and that's probably what
most people are eating if they're not paying attention. People can
develop sensitivity to a food that has antigens or bacteria not
originally in the food chain, as is the case with GM foods."

Yet avoiding GM soy doesn't mean all is well, Daniel says: "One
question I get all the time is, 'What if I only eat organic soy?' The
assumption is that GM soy is problematic and organic is fine.
Certainly, organic is better, but the bottom line is that soybeans
naturally contain plant estrogens, toxins, and antinutrients, and you
can't remove those."

The highest risk is for infants who are fed soy formula. "It's the
only thing they're eating, they're very small, and they're at a key
stage developmentally," says Daniel. "The estrogens in soy will affect
the hormonal development of these children, and it will certainly
affect their growing brains, reproductive systems, and thyroids." Soy
formula also contains large amounts of manganese, which has been
linked to attention deficit disorder and neurotoxicity in infants. The
Israeli health ministry recently issued an advisory stating that
infants should avoid soy formula altogether.

Antinutrients in soy block enzymes needed for digestion, and naturally
occur-ring phytates block absorption of essential minerals. This is
most worrisome for vegans and vegetarians who eat soy as their main
source of protein, and for women in menopause who up their soy intake
through supplements.

Soy contains phytochemicals--plant nutrients with disease-fighting
activity--called isoflavones. Studies claim isoflavones can mimic the
body's own estrogens, raising a woman's estrogen levels, which fall
after menopause, causing hot flashes and other symptoms. On the other
hand, isoflavones may also block the body's estrogens, which can help
reduce high estrogen levels, therefore reducing risk for breast cancer
or uterine cancer before menopause. (High estrogen levels have been
linked to cancers of the reproductive system in women.)

Although soy's isoflavones may have an adaptogenic effect
(contributing to an estrogen-boosting or -blocking effect where
needed), they also have the potential to promote hormone-sensitive
cancers in some people. Studies on the effects of isoflavones on human
estrogen levels are conflicting, and it's possible that they affect
people differently. In men, soy has been shown to lower testosterone
levels and sex drive, according to Daniel.

Bauman believes processed soy foods are problematic but maintains that
soy has beneficial hormone-mediating effects. "People are largely
convenience-driven," he says. "We're looking at this whole processed-
food convenience market and we're making generalizations about a
plant. Is soy the problem, or is it the handling and packaging and
processing of the plant that's the problem?

"Primary sources of food are a good thing. Once there was a bean, but
then it got cooked and squeezed and the pulp was separated out, and it
was heated and processed for better shelf life and mouth feel. Soy
milk is second or third level in terms of processing."

Bauman's eating-for-health approach calls for a variety of natural and
seasonal unprocessed whole foods, including soy in moderation,
tailored to individual biochemistry and sensitivities. "Using soy as
part of a diet can bring relief for perimenopause, for example," he
says. "Throw out the soy and you throw out the isoflavones." (It is
possible to obtain plant estrogens to a lesser extent from other
foods, such as lima beans or flax.) "The literature is extensive on
the benefits of soy, and that should always be stated, just as the
hazards should be. That's science. These studies are not ridiculous or
contrived, but take a look at them. Who's funding them?" asks Bauman.

"There are a lot of problems with these studies," Daniel says, adding
that the 1999 heart health claim was an industry-funded initiative.
"Even if there is positive information, and even if these studies are
well designed, we need to weigh that against the fact that we've also
got really good studies showing the dangers. Better safe than sorry is
the precautionary principle. Possible benefits are far outweighed by
proven risks."

Daniel and Bauman agree on the benefits of variety. "My experience as
a clinical nutritionist is that people who have a varied diet tend not
to get into trouble," says Daniel.

"We like to demonize certain foods in this society," says Bauman. "If
you want to find a fault, you'll find it. The bottom line is: What is
a healthy diet?"

Reprinted from Terrain (Spring 2007), published by Berkeley's Ecology
Center. Dedicated to fine feature writing about environmental issues,
Terrain is distributed free throughout Northern California.
Subscriptions: $15/yr. (3 issues) from 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley,
CA 94702; www.ecologycenter.org/terrain.

Soy "Nuggets"


Soy milk, curdled and pressed into cubes of varying firmness. Often
used as meat substitute. A nonfermented product, tofu contains
antinutrients, which can block absorption of essential minerals.


Fermented soybean paste, used in soups and sauces. Rich in probiotics,
good bacteria that aid vitamin absorption. Miso is high in sodium but
is considered one of the healthiest soy products.

Soybean Oil

To extract oil, soybeans are superheated, ground, pressed, mixed with
chemicals, and washed in a centrifuge. Soybean oil accounts for 80
percent of all liquid oils consumed annually in the United States.

Soy Milk

A processed beverage made of ground soybeans mixed with water and
boiled, which removes some toxins. Sugar is added to improve flavor.
An eight-ounce serving contains up to 35 milligrams of isoflavones,
which may change estrogen levels and hormonal function.

Snack Food

Highly processed, a source of trans fat. Check your labels: Potato
chips, tortilla crisps, and many other deep-fried things have been
cooked in soy oil--straight up or partially hydrogenated.


Whole soybeans pressed into loaves, which are then fermented. Often
used as a meat substitute. Tempeh is rich in B vitamins, minerals, and
omega-3 fatty acids.

Fast Food

A source of hidden soy. Processed soy proteins extend some burgers and
chicken (nuggets, patties, even "grilled breasts"). Buns contain soy
oil and to a lesser extent soy flour and lecithin. Soy oil also
appears in dressings and dips, in American "cheese," and as the No. 2
ingredient in fries. There's even soy in Big Mac's secret sauce:
Soybean oil nets top billing.


Whole soybeans, commonly boiled in the pod and eaten as a snack. Most
commercial edamame has been preheated to make digestion easier, but it
still contains antinutrients.

Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved Ogden Publications, Inc.

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