Rachel's Precaution Reporter #127

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008..........Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Featured stories in this issue...

Small U.S. Town Takes Up Safer Cosmetics Campaign
  A grass-roots campaign in Belmont, Mass. is urging consumers to
  adopt the precautionary principle until cosmetics containing
  potentially dangerous chemicals are labeled as such on the packaging.
The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High
  "There are these toxic chemicals being spewed onto the campus of
  Beverly Hills High School; nobody can exactly prove those toxic
  chemicals are causing those kids to get sick, and therefore it gives
  them a free pass."
Yukon's Big 'No' To Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops
  The patenting of our food supply through biotechnology could be
  suggested as one of the greatest systems of control ever devised.
  There are, however, community-led alternatives: GE-Free Zones.
Spotlight: How Safe Is Cloned Meat?
  If you found that the steak on your plate and that glass of milk
  are from a cloned animal, would you eat that juicy red steak and drink
  the milk? There is an ongoing debate between ethical and commercial
  interests when it comes to animal cloning.
E.U. Energy Directive Includes Controversial Biofuels Target
  Many "second-generation" biofuel technologies may prove highly
  controversial because they include techniques to genetically modify
  trees and algae, perhaps abandoning the precautionary principle as a
  basis for such research.
Celebrations After Mobile Phone Tower Plan Is Withdrawn
  "The main reason that we opposed this application is that no one is
  quite sure about the effects that mobile phone masts [towers] have on
African Superbugs To the Rescue
  When (or whether) to release a genetically modified mosquito into
  the environment of Africa, in hopes of ending the scourge of malaria,
  is a complicated question. This author takes it as an opportunity to
  bash precautionary thinking, offering the argument of modern
  "conservatives," which boils down to, "Just do it."


From: CosmeticsDesign.com, Jan. 24, 2008
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By Simon Pitman

As debate over regulation and the safety of cosmetics in the United
States continues to heat up, campaigns by consumer advocacy groups are
starting to trigger action at a grass roots level.

With a population of just over 25,000 the town of Belmont in
Massachusetts would not be considered to be the first place to launch
an awareness program over the potential dangers of certain chemicals
contained in personal care products.

Nevertheless, Sustainable Belmont, a sub-group of Belmont Vision 21
Implementation Committee, has picked up on the word being spread by
the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which has been pressurizing U.S.
cosmetic manufacturers to eliminate potentially harmful ingredients
from products.

Campaign puts pressure on FDA

Likewise the campaign has also put pressure on the FDA to tighten up
regulation surrounding chemicals used in personal care formulations,
advising that potentially dangerous ingredients should carry consumer
warning on product labels.

As well as these points, the Sustainable Belmont campaign is also
picking up on the fact that the FDA has tested only a handful of the
more than 10,000 ingredients that are currently used in personal care

It also points out that this is in stark contrast to regulation
enforced by the European Union for personal care products, which has
in fact banned more than 1,000 substances that potentially cause a
range of medical conditions including cancer and reproductive

Campaign highlights consumer choice

The campaign, launched by Belmont group today, also highlights the
fact that consumers need to make informed choices about the types of
personal care products they purchase, but that current regulations
mean that there is only limited knowledge about potential safety

Bearing this in mind, the campaign is urging consumers to adopt what
is termed a 'precautionary principle,' until the time that products
containing potentially dangerous chemicals are labeled as such on the

Likewise the campaign is encouraging consumers to make it known to
personal care manufacturers about their concerns regarding potentially
dangerous chemicals in products, whilst simultaneously praising
companies that are taking steps towards making their products safer.

Grass roots level

The fact that this type of campaign is now moving to a more grass
roots level indicates both the efficacy of this type of campaign and
the breadth of the audience in the US.

Although personal care firms contest that formulations are
manufactured to strict standards that ensure consumer safety, many of
the leading players have reported increased consumer pressure as a
direct response to these types of campaign.

Indeed, to counteract misleading consumer advocacy group campaigns,
industry association Personal Care Products Council has been
battling a campaign against 'misinformation' from such groups.

Copyright 2003/2008 -- Decision News Media SAS

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From: Jewish Journal, Jan. 25, 2008
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Q&A with author Joy Horowitz

By Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Joy Horowitz's "Parts Per Million: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills
High School" (Viking) is a dense 350-page book detailing a four-year
fight between 1,000 litigants who claimed oil wells at the school
caused diseases, such as cancer, and defendants -- including the oil
companies, the city of Beverly Hills and school officials -- who said
there had been no harmful effects from the (profitable) derricks.

Could it be true that leakage from the derricks and power plant caused
incidences of cancer up to three times more than normal, as some
experts claim?

Or were people like Erin Brockovich, the celebrity environmental
paralegal who took on the case, "ambulance chasers" and "fear-
mongerers" relying on junk science, as defendants like Beverly Hills
city officials and school administrators said?

As the case is being appealed -- with a partial settlement offer of
$10 million from one oil company -- Horowitz, who will receive the
Environmental Hero of 2008 award from the Environmental Relief
Center on Jan. 31, believes the wells continue to endanger.

The author of "Tessie and Pearlie: A Granddaughter's Story," and the
recipient, with her siblings, of the settlement of a case against
tobacco companies fought on behalf of her late father, Horowitz spoke
to The Jewish Journal about the complicated nuances of the lawsuit,
why she thinks her message in "Parts Per Million" has been silenced,
how the Jewish community sits at the center of the case and to what
lengths people will go to protect their lifestyle.

Jewish Journal: How did you become involved in this story?

Joy Horowitz: I graduated in 1971 and went to my 30th reunion -- it
was a year late, in the summer of 2002. A lot of my classmates, whom I
was looking forward to seeing, had died. They'd had cancer -- some of
them had multiple cancers. When you're a person in your 40s, that's
too young. Then the following February of 2003, that's when Erin
Brockovich descended on Beverly Hills and started making these
allegations between cancer and young graduates. I was very skeptical,
but the more I looked into it, the more I found that what was being
said publicly was not the reality of what was going on.

JJ: What was going on?

JH: You've got these two industrial sites [the oil derricks and the
Sempra power plant], operating at a high school in Beverly Hills.
Over time, there was a major litigation filed, and the number of
people with cancer mushroomed. What started off as about 28 graduates
with cancer mushroomed into 1,000 plaintiffs, some 400 with cancer.
The community said these emissions are inconsequential to the
children's health. There are epidemiological studies that suggest

JJ: What kind of evidence was there linking disease to the oil wells
and power plants?

JH: It depends who you talk to. As far as Beverly Hills High School
(BHHS) goes, there were three epidemiological studies:

1) The Los Angeles cancer registry found threefold excess of thyroid
cancer among young men living adjacent to Beverly Hills High School.
But the author of that study said that her findings lacked statistical
significance, so it wasn't really an issue. (Her husband was working
as a consultant for one of the defendants.)

2) Richard Clapp's study, out of Boston University's School for Public
Health Research, found excess rates of cancer among graduates of BHHS
from 1990-2000 -- threefold for Hodgkin's disease, twice the expected
amount of thyroid cancer and elevated rates of testicular cancer --
but he was working for the plaintiff's law firm, so his study was
ruled inadmissible by the judge, because it hadn't been peer-reviewed
and published.

3) There was a study that was never made public by Philip Cole, a
retired epidemiologist who did a lot of work for industry at the
University of Alabama. The school district cited Dr. Cole's study as
evidence that there wasn't a higher rate of cancer among students at
Beverly Hills High School, but the study was never made public, so I
don't know what the study is.

JJ: In November 2006, the judge summarily dismissed the first 12
plaintiff's cases. In October 2007, Frontier Oil offered a $10 million
settlement to plaintiffs. Why do you think that happened?

JH: For a couple of reasons. In order to get to trial relatively
quickly -- it still took three years -- they had both the defense and
plaintiffs agree to select six cancers. The strongest cases never got
to court.

The other thing is the defendants, which included Sempra and Chevron,
Frontier Oil and Venoco, continued to be willing to spend an
unbelievable amount of money to defend these cases.

JJ: What do you think should be done now?

JH: Nobody has ever done a cohort study comparing the population at
[this] high school to another high school. That would be a really good
first step.

JJ: Why didn't they do that?

JH: They didn't want to invest in that. Had they invested in that, as
opposed to all this money they spent on the lawsuit, that might have
been an interesting step, but instead, they took great pains to keep
information from getting public.

By and large, public health officials hate doing cluster
investigations, because they're almost impossible to determine, to
establish a link between environmental factors and clusters. And
statistically, it could just be by chance that there are all these
extra cancers in this particular area. Historically, there have been
very few proven. Most of the clusters that are proven are among
occupational workers exposed to very high levels of carcinogens. The
classic one is asbestos exposure, and mesothelioma (a cancer of the
lining of the lung), which my dad got from smoking Kents with a
filter. My dad died in 1996.

JJ: Was that part of the motivation for your book?

JH: It's part of who I am. My mother and father taught me how
important it is to insist that we make links between environmental
factors and cancers. He spent the last part of his life doing exactly
that: filing this lawsuit against Lorillard and winning.
He was the first American to beat a tobacco company in court. I'm very
proud of him for that. The ultimate settlement [of $2 million]
happened after he and my mother died.

JJ: What changes have been made at Beverly Hills High School?

JH: There are methane monitors in the boys bathroom by the football
field. The oil operator, Venoco, has supposedly spent $60,000 for
fence line monitors to be able to determine when hydrocarbons and
other toxic gases venture outside of Venoco property onto the school,
but that's about it.

JJ: But you think it's not enough?

JH: At a minimum, I think that the community needs to take a really
hard look at why it's so important that it continue to allow these
industrial sites to operate where their kids are. Now that they're not
part of the lawsuit anymore, it would behoove them to engage in real
discussions about when oil production will stop.... You know, when I
started this book, oil was valued at $30 a barrel, and now it's $100.
I don't see them stopping anytime soon.

JJ: How much do the city and school make?

JH: It depends on how much production is going on at the time; the
last time I checked, it was roughly a half a million for schools and
half a million for the city -- now that the value of oil is as high as
it is, they could be making a whole lot more. The residents get
residuals -- I think quarterly payments. They're not that much, maybe
a couple of thousand a year, but it's enough to make people not to be
too interested in the possibility of change. People like their
residual payments.

JJ: Is that why you think the city and residents were so opposed to
the case?

JH: There's been no solid proof their kids have cancer as a result of
oil production. So they can rely on scientific uncertainty and promote

It's also about property values. This is Beverly Hills. And even
though [about] 60 percent of residents live in apartments there, I
think that people are really blinded by the image of what Beverly
Hills means. You would think that kids and health would be primary.
You would hope that it would be. My book shows otherwise, and it's
very sad that that's the case.

JJ: What has happened since the publication of the book? Has it
spurred any activity?

JH: When the book came out in July, there was a deafening silence
about it in Beverly Hills. I had hoped it might stir some conversation
at the least. It didn't. For a while I thought, "Is it my paranoia? No
one's responding to my book! What is it?" Then I found out there was
this talking points memo, [from the city of Beverly Hills and the
school] suggesting I had a specific point of view, and that I
misstated the facts. Why do they need to do that? Why not just own up
to the reality of the truth? It's like shooting the messenger, as
opposed to dealing with the reality of the situation: There are these
toxic chemicals being spewed onto the campus; nobody can exactly prove
those toxic chemicals are causing those kids to get sick, and
therefore it gives them a free pass.

JJ: How does the Jewish community play a part in this case?

JH: Part of the denial is cultural -- initially the issue was raised
by members of the Persian community in Beverly Hills. There is this
great and undiscussed antipathy in town between the long-standing
citizens there and the newer arrivals from Iran. Because it was the
Iranian American parents who were raising this as an issue, they were
basically dismissed; their concerns were dismissed. Which was really
upsetting to me.

For me, as a Jewish mother, family is everything. How is it possible
that this community of Jews could allow their children to be put in
harm's way?

Joy Horowitz will speak on "Making Decisions in the Face of Scientific
Uncertainty: Beverly Hills High School and the Precautionary
Principle" at the Beverly Hills Library on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The
Environmental Relief Center will present her with an award for
Environmental Hero of 2008.

Copyright 2006-8 The Jewish Journal

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From: TheTyee.ca, Jan. 25, 2008
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Final part of podcast 'Colonizing the Canadian Farmer.'

By Jon Steinman

Listen to this: Download or Stream

The patenting of our food supply through biotechnology could be
suggested as one of the greatest systems of control ever devised. As
the executive branches of North American governments alongside
corporate interests push the Security and Prosperity Partnership
(SPP) forward, it should be noted that reference to "biotechnology" is
littered throughout SPP literature.

While the NDP has taken on the legitimacy of the SPP as a major
campaign, it became clear following last week's broadcast that the
ability to politically challenge this system of food control in Ottawa
is running into obstacles.

There are, however, community-led alternatives: GE-Free Zones. Last
week's broadcast concluded with a sampling of audio clips from the
first GE-Free Kootenays meeting taking place in Nelson, B.C., in
November 2007.

Local residents and politicians gathered together to discuss the
creation of such a zone. This broadcast continues in more depth by
exploring the dialogue that took place during that meeting. The show
seeks to create a better understanding of how all communities can
begin taking such concerns into their own hands. We also spend time
learning of similar efforts being forged in one of the last areas of
North America still free of genetically engineered crops: The Yukon.


Tom Rudge -- GE-Free Yukon (Whitehorse, YK) -- Tom is a steering
committee member of the Society for a GE Free BC. He is a drector of
the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), founding member of
the Fireweed Community Market, the leader of the Whitehorse Slow
Food Convivium. Tom has been around since the beginning of the
organic food movement in the Yukon, and is part of Growers of Organic
Food Yukon -- a chapter of the Canadian Organic Growers. He has a
degree in agriculture, and operates a certified organic farm, Aurora
Mountain Farm.

Jessica Stevenson -- researcher, Greenpeace Canada (Vancouver, BC)
-- Greenpeace Canada has been running an ongoing campaign titled "Say
No to Genetic Engineering." The organization has commissioned a
number of polls, among them one that indicated British Columbians
overwhelmingly demand labelling of foods that contain genetically-
engineered ingredients. Greenpeace opposes the release of GE crops and
animals into the environment based on the precautionary principle.
They advocate interim measures including the labelling of GE foods and
the segregation of GE crops and seeds from conventional and organic
seeds. Greenpeace supports the 58 recommendations made in 2001 by the
expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada. They also oppose all
patents on plants, animals, humans and genes.


Angela Reid -- deputy leader, Green Party of British Columbia
(Kelowna, BC) -- Angela has run as a Green Party candidate in four
elections, two provincial and two federal, between 2001 and 2006. In
the spring of 2006, Angela was appointed to the Federal Council of the
Green Party of Canada (GPC), and soon after was elected as a
councillor at large during the GPC's August Convention in Ottawa.
Angela is also the CEO of the GPC's Kelowna Electoral District
Association, and was recently appointed the Okanagan Regional
Representative for the Green Party of British Columbia. She operates
Tigress Ventures providing consulting services for environmental and
socially-oriented businesses.

Gord McAdams -- councillor, City of Nelson (Nelson, BC) -- Gord has
worked as an ecologist for B.C.'s Ministry of Water, Air and Land
Protection. In 2005, he was fired for bringing confidential government
documents to the B.C. Supreme Court in support of a court action
brought by the West Kootenay Ecosociety. The documents showed that the
minister of Water, Land and Air Protection had made "an unauthorized
exercise of his statutory power" when he favoured a developer by
agreeing to move an access road in Grohman Narrows Provincial Park.
The government documents clearly stated that the new road would bury
nests and kill eggs of endangered painted turtles in the park. On Dec.
11, the Campaign for Open Government and the B.C. Freedom of
Information and Privacy Association presented Gord with the
Whistleblower Award for 2007.

Related issues:

The Evolution of Frankenfoods? The multibillion-dollar nanotech
industry wants to change what you eat at the molecular level.

Jon Steinman is producer and host of Kootenay Co-op Radio's program
Deconstructing Dinner. A new podcast with notes is posted here every
Friday afternoon, and all Deconstructing Dinner podcasts can be found

thetyee.ca Copyright 2003 -- 2007

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From: NSTonline (Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia), Jan. 27, 2008
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By Nurris Ishak

Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) -- the European
Union's food safety agency -- published a draft opinion which gave the
greenlight for consumption of cloned animal products.

Despite having limited data, the report declared that meat and milk
obtained from healthy cattle and pig clones and their offsprings are
within the normal range with respect to the composition and
nutritional value of similar products obtained from conventionally-
bred animals.

"In view of these findings, assuming that unhealthy clones are
prevented from entering the food chain as is the case with
conventionally-bred animals, it is very unlikely that any difference
exists in terms of food safety, " it said.

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has also approved meat and
milk from clones for consumption despite protests from the public, and
the Washington-based non-profit public interest organisation, Center
for Food Safety.

Animal cloning received worldwide attention in July 1996 with the
birth of a female sheep named Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an
adult cell. Though experts predicted she would have a life expectancy
of between 12 to 15 years, Dolly died at the age of six due to a
common sheep disease.

Following the successful process, other mammals such as cows, horses,
pigs and even a cat were cloned.

On Jan 17, the New York Times carried an article in which the European
Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies warned that the
negative effects were grave enough that cloned products should be kept
off the shelves.

The EFSA had opened a consultation process with member states and
industry before giving its final opinion in May.

In Malaysia, the ethical and religious issues of animal cloning itself
remain a question mark. However, according to Perak Mufti Datuk Seri
Harussani Zakaria, as long as the cloned animal is in accordance with
Islamic principles and techniques, it can be eaten.

"If the animal is cloned from another animal which is halal for Muslim
consumption such as cows or goats, it can be eaten, even though it was
not conventionally bred,"he said

The most famous misconception on animal cloning is that it involves
the modification of genes.

Clones are actually exact biological copies of normal animals,
identical twins of sorts.

Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) executive director
Mahaletchumy Arujanan confirms that cloning does not involve genetic

"Though in some cases, cloned animals could be subjected to
modification of its genetic makeup to incorporate valuable traits,"she

Traits such as taste, tender, less fatty meat and disease-resistant
animals are more consumer friendly, though it is unlikely that your
steak will come from cloned cows anytime soon, thanks to the high cost
of cloning itself.

Cloning a single cow can cost up to US$20,000 (RM65,560), so it is
primarily used for breeding.

Chances are the products will come from their offspring.

Moreover, Malaysia has yet to lift the ban on meat imports from the EU
because of the mad cow disease incident a few years ago.

The disease is still prevalent there, said a senior officer from the
Health Ministry's Food Safety and Quality Division.

"However, the ban on imports from the US was lifted, provided the meat
comes from abattoirs that had already been inspected and certified as
halal." He did not exclude the possibility of cloned meat and dairy
products entering the Malaysian market via the US due to the lifting
of the ban.

Cloned meat could also slip in via countries from which Malaysia
imports its meat.

"As far as I know, we have not conducted any study on the safety of
cloned meat because it is not available locally. Therefore, we rely on
the findings by the scientists and researchers in the US.

"Cloned meat can also be genetically modified, and any decision to
import genetically modified products will only be made by the Genetic
Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC). Food that contains genetically
manipulated materials is required to bear labels stating its
contents,"said the officer.

This is to satisfy Malaysia's multiracial society's need for knowing
what they are engaged with and in this case, not a conventional food

"We term this as 'informed choice'. So Muslims, Hindus and vegetarians
would know the status whether there are animal components in their
food, and for Muslims, whether it contains any porcine properties."
Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Tan Sri
Muhyiddin Yassin said any meat imports will require quarantine
approval and certification.

Similarly, meat from cloned or GMO animal will also be subjected to
quarantine approval and certification to be issued by the Veterinary
Service Department.

"Since meat from cloned or GMO animal are food products which are to
be regulated under the new National Biosafety Act 2007, food safety
assessment will need to be conducted and regulatory approval be
obtained before it is allowed into the Malaysian market," said

"Therefore, the decision by the EU will not have much effect on
Malaysia." The reluctance to allow cloned products into the market is
also enforced in Japan, according to a Reuters news agency report.

Though Japan is one of the countries with livestock clones, Japanese
consumers "were almost certain to be slow in accepting cloned meat,
given their conservative palates", according to the article.

Mahaletchumy said the main issues will be concerns on safety for
humans, environmental impact, ethical, social and religious aspects.

"Activists will certainly oppose the commercialisation of these
products. Besides, approval of new products and consumer acceptance
are two different things. Should it happen, though, consumers can
choose between the conventional and the cloned." "If the benefits of
food derived from cloned animals outweigh other concerns, then the
products should be allowed to be marketed and research in this area
encouraged." In the absence of data to support safety claims, such
products should not be allowed to enter the market, said Lim Li Ching
of Third World Network, a non-profit organisation which promotes
research on biosafety, among other things, through its website,
Biosafety Information Centre.

"The precautionary principle should apply. There is very little
scientific study done, and they have not addressed concerns on the
safety aspects, moral and ethical issues," she wrote.

K. Nagulendran, a senior officer in the Natural Resources and
Environment Ministry, said even if the science is fine, there is an
ongoing debate between ethical and commercial interests when it comes
to animal cloning.

Copyright 2007 NST Online

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From: EUobserver.com, Jan. 28, 2008
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By Oscar Reyes

BRUSSSELS -- With the publication of its draft Renewable Energy
Directive this week, the European Commission confirmed that it plans
to plough ahead with a 10 per cent target for the use of agrofuels
(also referred to as biofuels) in transport by 2020.

The controversy surrounding this measure intensified in the past
fortnight when the EU Joint Research Centre and the UK Parliament
Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) both expressed strong doubts that
the proposed target could be achieved sustainsbly.

In an attempt to diffuse this pressure, Commission President Jose
Manuel Barroso claimed on Wednesday that the target would be
accompanied by "the most comprehensive and sustainable system anywhere
in the world for the certification of biofuels." A closer look at the
Directive shows that most of the key environmental and social concerns
have not been addressed.

The most dire warnings concern the impact of agrofuels on food
security. This is partly an issue about competition between food and
fuel crops. Last October Jean Ziegler, the UN rapporteur on the right
to food, warned that the diversion of arable land to fuel rather than
crop production was "a crime against humanity." But it is the affect
on food prices that could prove to be the more damaging aspect of
agrofuel expansion. The world's poorest people spend 50 to 80 per cent
of household income on food -- and it is poverty, not scarcity, that
is the major cause of hunger.

In response, the Directive promises efforts to analyse the 'the impact
of EU biofuel policy on the availability of foodstuffs in exporting
countries', including effects on price. But simply acknowledging the
potential problem falls far short of taking action to address it.
Already, food riots in Mexico, Indonesia and India have been
attributed to price rises blamed on agrofuel expansion. There is
mounting evidence that "increased demand for biofuels is causing
fundamental changes to agricultural markets that could drive up world
prices for many farm products." as the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook
2007-2016 warned.

The environmental sustainability of the push for agrofuels has been
questioned too. With one-fifth of annual carbon emissions coming from
deforestation, fuels grown on recently cleared lands actually increase
emissions rather than cut them. In addressing this, the Directive
states that biofuels on land of 'high biodiversity value' will not be
counted towards meeting the target. But in closing one door, another
opens. The problem is not simply that new plantations are uprooting
trees, but also that they displace other agricultural activities onto
cleared and deforested land -- a structural change that no
'sustainability criteria' can track.

The Commission's sustainability proposals fall far short on other
environmental issues too, with no firm measures to address the impact
of fuel crops on soil degradation or water scarcity. Up to 4,000
litres of water go into the biomass needed for one litre of biofuel -
a major drain for producing countries which already face severe
stresses on their water supply.

Responding to such concerns, Barroso stressed that the EU is looking
towards the 'rapid development of second generation biofuels'. Yet
many of these technologies would prove highly controversial, since
they include techniques to genetically modify trees and algae,
endangering the precautionary principle as a basis for such research.

Social and labour issues, meanwhile, are simply left out of the EU's
criteria altogether. Yet if the current agrofuel boom continues apace,
Oxfam warned last November, millions of people face displacement from
their land, while the sugarcane and oil palm plantations on which
these crops will be grown have a record of horrific labour standards,
including the exploitation of bonded labour. No proposals have been
forthcoming from the Commission on these social implications, which
ducks behind international trade rules whenever these issues are

For these reasons, the suggestion that the dangers of agrofuels might
be mitigated by the development of 'sustainability criteria' falls
short. It would now be better, surely, to implement a moratorium on
targets and incentives for agrofuel use.

The author is editor of Red Pepper magazine and Communications
Officer at the Transnational Institute. He is currently completing a
book on carbon trading.

Copyright 2008 EUobserver,

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From: icSurreyOnline (Surrey, U.K.), Jan. 24, 2008
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By Luke Bishop

Unpopular plans to build an expanded mobile phone mast [tower] in a
residential area of Dorking have been withdrawn by the applicant.

Mobile phone company O2 had applied to build nine antennas and three
dishes and to erect a fake plant room, which is used to cover up the
unsightly equipment, on the roof of Haybarn House, in South Street.

The application had originally been refused by Mole Valley District
Council because it said the phone mast would be visually intrusive to
the area, but an appeal was lodged in July.

The plans were also opposed by residents of Vincent Road and Vincent
Lane,roads which sit behind Haybarn House, because they were concerned
about the potential health effects of having a mobile phone mast in a
built-up area with two schools and a hospital nearby.

Although the Department of Health currently denies any long-term
effects of mobile phone masts, there are examples such as the village
of Wishaw, in Scotland, where residents successfully had a mobile
phone mast removed after complaining of a variety of health problems,
including nosebleeds, headaches and cancer.

Valerie Hollis,a resident of Vincent Road, said: "I think it was a
very good decision by the company to withdraw this application.

"The main reason that we opposed this application is that no one is
quite sure about the effects that mobile phone masts have on health."

And Bronwen Roscoe, also of Vincent Road, said: "I am delighted that
02 has withdrawn its application to site a mobile telephone mast on
Haybarn House.

"Given the council's failure to apply the precautionary principle
during the planning process,and 02's lamentable attempt at public
consultation, I was not hopeful of a satisfactory out-come.

She added: "I am not opposed to the safe use of mobile phone
technology so much as the complacency and inertia of the Government
and operators in keeping us fully informed.

"I appreciate that, as a nation, we are wedded to our mobile
phones,and masts are an integral part of that infrastructure, but
there are other more appropriate locations than residential areas.
Thankfully, on this occasion, and for whatever reason, sense has

O2 says it decided to withdraw the application because of the strength
of feeling against the mast from both the council and from residents.

Jim Stevenson, the community relations manager for O2, said: "We have
decided to look again at the site where we were going to put the

"In light of everything coming into us from the council's planning
officers and local residents, we decided to look again at the whole
site and make some changes for the future.

"We do want to reapply to build a mast in Dorking but not at this

An application to turn the upper floor of Haybarn House into flats,
which has also been bitterly opposed by residents,is still going
through the appeal process.

Copyright 2008 East Surrey and Sussex News and Media

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From: Hawaii Reporter (Honolulu), Jan. 24, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


'Brother, can you spare a malaria pill?'

By Katherine Mangu-Ward

The phone rang in my room at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge in the
Serengeti. It was the early days of a group trip to Tanzania and
Kenya, but one woman in my group had already discovered the joys of
East African baggage handling in Nairobi, where her bags had been
misplaced along with those of another member of the group.

"I'm collecting Malarone for the destitute," she said cheerfully. Like
most of the people on the trip, she had gotten a prescription for
protective anti-malaria medication from her doctor before starting out
the trip. Hers had been in the lost bag, so she was looking to
replenish her supply.

"No problem," I said, "My doctor prescribed me a couple of extras.
I'll bring them down at breakfast."

This transaction -- handing off a few spare pills to reduce the threat
of a terrible illness -- seems so simple. So why can't we manage it on
a large scale? Why can't we figure out how to put pills in the hands
of the hundreds of millions of people in Africa who fall ill after the
bite of a malaria-carrying mosquito every year, or the one million
people who die from the disease, nearly all of them children?

The drugs that my group carried were state of the art, with a price to
reflect that, retailing at a little under $75 a week. Lariam, the
generation of pills before Malarone, caused strange hallucinogenic
dreams (actually, my doctor asked if I'd prefer the Lariam, since
"some arty types like that sort of thing." I politely declined.) And
the old, pennies-a-day quinine-based staples were no longer effective
in parts of Tanzania. Too bad, because there's nothing like a truly
medicinal gin and tonic (tonic contains quinine).

The pills require vigilance -- they must be taken every day and for 7
days after leaving the malarial area (not that most affected people
have the luxury of ever "leaving the malarial area"). Likewise, other
methods of prevention, like bed nets and interior insecticides require
upkeep. Many of the current crop of nets must be resprayed with
insecticide at regular intervals, and they must be kept free of holes
and tucked tightly around the edge of the mattress. (The first night I
used a bed net, I managed to trap a mosquito inside with me.)

But in the end, as simple as it seems like it ought to be, we can't
stockpile enough pills, we can't get them in the right hands, there
aren't enough bed nets, and they aren't being used with enough
consistency, insecticide use is patchy, and use of the most effective
insecticide, DDT, is controversial -- controversial enough to be
banned in some of the worst off countries.

One might think, then, that a new, technological solution, one that
required no upkeep and no individual responsibility, would be

Researchers have recently conscripted a gene for a toxin from a sea
cucumber, of all things, in the fight against malaria. Inserting this
gene into mosquitoes creates a toxic environment for the malaria-
causing parasite that usually lives happily in a mosquito's gut. These
tweaks make it impossible for malaria to be passed from human to human
via mosquito.

In order for this scheme to work, the modified mosquitoes have to
outbreed normal mosquitoes in the wild. This has been the main
challenge for scientists thus far. But the current generation proves
to be surprisingly robust in a caged trial, dominating the mosquito
population at 70 percent in the ninth generation when feeding on
malarial blood. In fact, killing the malaria-causing parasite may
actually give the genetically modified mosquitoes an edge by allowing
them to live longer and lay more eggs, according to the scientists at
the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

"This fitness advantage has important implications for devising
malaria control strategies," they write in the journal Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.

The lab-made mosquitoes aren't quite good enough yet -- they don't
outbreed regular mosquitoes on a diet of regular blood. But the
concept has undeniable appeal, right? Let a few genetically freakish
mosquitoes into the population and then sit back and watch as they
outbreed their treacherous, malaria-carrying brothers and sisters.

So far, the criticism has been fairly muted, and the researchers
themselves are being cautious and circumspect, saying that it could be
as long as ten years from now before release into the wild is a

"What we did was a laboratory, proof-of-principle experiment; we're
not anywhere close to releasing them into the wild right now," said
study co-author Dr. Jason Rasgon from Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, Maryland.

"There is quite a lot of research that needs to be done, both in terms
of genetics and the ecology of the mosquitoes; and also research to
address all the social, ethical and legal issues associated with
releasing transgenic organisms into the environment," he said.

But even with that cautious note in the air, many are already seeing
visions of the worst possible outcome. "Once new species get out of
their ecosystem and they are not kept in check by other processes
that's when they start to cause mayhem," Deborah Long of Plantlife
Scotland told the Guardian.

Respected groups like the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology are
standing by previous statements about the possible problems caused by
GM insects. "The mobility and range of insects pose international
regulatory challenges never faced with GM crops," they wrote in 2004.

In response to initial announcements about the modified mosquitos, the
Guardian's James Randerson wrote "it will probably be the perception
of risk rather than the actual risks that are important. GM-crops were
scuppered in Europe by the what-if fears: in the end, the scientific
assessment did not matter." Sadly, he's right.

Lots of study and lots of caution are appropriate, of course, but this
is the beginning of storyline that is already too familiar. The logic
of bans on DDT, pest-resistant GM crops, and other technological
solutions to human problems will be applied here too, and Africa will
suffer for our timidity.

When it came right down to it, no one on my trip probably needed the
Malarone pills anyway. We had high concentration DEET insect spray in
our bags and bed nets in our rooms. Yes, there were malaria warnings
for both Tanzania and Kenya, but a downloadable detailed report from
the CDC showed risk areas in more detail, and we weren't going to be
in them, for the most part.

We were taking the pills as a luxury, our excess of caution born out
of our excess of wealth, relatively speaking. I was bitten a few times
on the trip, and the knowledge that I was drugged up stilled the alarm
I might otherwise have felt. But all around me, I watched citizens of
Tanzania and Kenya casually brush away mosquitoes that could have
brought them low with a single bite. Even if I'd given away every pill
in my stock, it wouldn't have made a dent.

Generosity amongst friends is not so easy to duplicate on the
necessary scale, even with the riches of Bill Gates, and the
charitable spirit of Mother Teresa. Other solutions are needed.

And while we worry about what might happen to the ecosystem if we
release a mosquito with a small change in its genes, millions of
people roll in their beds (or on mats on the floor), fevered and ill.
We shouldn't release modified mosquitoes before they are ready. But
when they are ready and the inevitable invocation of the precautionary
principle comes, we should try to weigh the caution we are used to
being able to afford against the real suffering of real people whose
lives are so different from our own that it is difficult to

Katherine Mangu-Ward is an associate editor of Reason Magazine.

HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials
submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors,
as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to

Copyright 2008 Hawaii Reporter, Inc.

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