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Rachel's Precaution Reporter #135

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

North Pender Island, in Canada, Adopts a Precautionary Plan
  North Pender Island, B.C., has adopted an official community plan
  based on the "precautionary principle," meaning that when there are
  threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary
  measures will be taken even if the science is not fully established.
Legislation for the Birds
  "Little recognized was the fact that for the first time in N.J.
  environmental law, the Legislature embraced a true precautionary
  principle. The scientific standard in the law should serve as a model
  and precedent."
The Ethics of Embryology
  Health and safety regulation is now an accepted (although often
  criticised) feature of modern life, as is a version of the
  "precautionary principle" which obliges those proposing some
  technological innovation to provide reasonable scientific evidence
  that it will not cause great or irreversible harm to individuals or
  the environment.
Op-Ed: Faiths Accepting Global Warming
  Religion and science come together on global warming in a
  contemporary application of both Blaise Pascal's Pensees and the
  "precautionary principle."
Mexico: New Rules Pave the Way for Transgenic Crops
  Aleira Lara, the coordinator of Greenpeace Mexico's sustainable
  agriculture campaign, told IPS that the entire regulatory framework is
  designed to promote biotechnology at the expense of the precautionary
  principle. "The Rules are one more step in that direction," she said.
Elk Sterilization Plan Now Unlikely
  "I'm really pleased with the consensus that sterilization is not
  consistent with the goal of maintaining ecological integrity and the
  precautionary principle," said Gaby Zezulka-Maillou.
Spas: How Toxic Is Your 'Natural' Spa?
  Neal's Yard Remedies is another skincare manufacturer committed to
  restricting use of potentially risky substances. "We operate according
  to the precautionary principle, so we don't use substances such as
  parabens," explains Neal's Yard medicines director Susan Curtis.

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From: Victoria Times-Colonist (Victoria, B.C.), Mar. 24, 2008
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NORTH PENDER TIPS SCALES TO ENVIRONMENT

By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist

The fragile balance between the environment and human activity is
likely to tip in favour of the environment on North Pender Island
[British Columbia].

The new official community plan is based on the "precautionary
principle," meaning that when there are threats of harm to the
environment or human health, precautionary measures will be taken even
if the science is not fully established.

"This OCP is groundbreaking in many ways and will likely be used as a
template for other island communities," said Gisele Rudischer,
chairwoman of the Local Trust Committee.

The plan, which includes measures to protect sensitive ecosystems and
new policies to protect the island's water supply, came together after
Islands Trust representatives heard from the community at more than 40
meetings over three years and looked at recommendations from 11 focus
groups.

"We found there were recurring themes," said local trustee Gary
Steeves. "This new OCP reflects what the community told us -- that we
need a more enlightened, progressive approach to planning."

Key issues addressed in the plan are the importance of biodiversity, a
zero-exclusion policy to protect Agricultural Land Reserve farmland, a
policy of working with developers to ensure any development retains
natural areas and that environmental impact is limited, recognition of
the need to maintain a diverse community and the need to address
climate-change issues such as dependence on vehicles.

"We've also retained an environmental planner to help with a public
education program for landowners and the development community on how
to mitigate impacts in these rare remaining fragments of intact
natural areas," said trustee Ken Hancock.

The committee has appointed two new public advisory committees to make
recommendations on transportation and affordable housing.

The aim is to create a better transportation plan and to ensure North
Pender remains a place where people of varying ages, incomes and
abilities can find a home, trustees said.

jlavoie@tc.canwest.com

Copyright Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008

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From: The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), Mar. 25, 2008
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LEGISLATION FOR THE BIRDS

By Bill Wolfe

Today, governor Corzine signed legislation establishing a moratorium
on the harvest of horseshoe crabs. The law is designed to protect the
food supply of the red knot -- a migratory bird that stops to feed
along the Delaware bayshore -- and hopefully prevent extinction of the
species.

Little recognized was the fact that for the first time in NJ
environmental law, the Legislature embraced a true precautionary
principle. The scientific standard in the law should serve as a model
and precedent. Driven by the steeply declining populations of the red
knot, the new law shifts the scientific and legal burden from DEP to
show that the species is harmed, to the fishing industry to show that
any horseshoe crab harvest will not harm the recovery of the red knot
and several other migratory birds. This is an important policy shift
and thus far ignored aspect of what is otherwise a band aid on a dire
situation.

The legislatively imposed moratorium was made necessary by the veto of
a DEP imposed regulatory moratorium by the NJ Marine Fisheries
Council. Outrageously, that Council is unique because it has the legal
power to block and over-rule regulatory decisions by the DEP
Commissioner. Commercial fishing interests dominate the Council. In
this case, those commercial interests recklessly ignored the science
and arrogantly jeopardized the extinction of this magnificent
migratory bird that feeds on horseshoe crab eggs laid on Delaware
Bayshore beaches. (Read all about the red knot here.)

Unfortunately, the legislative moratorium is a piecemeal solution that
failed to resolve the underlying causes of a much larger set of
problems that adversely affect the entire marine ecosystem. Although
the legislation was critically important, the red knot moratorium is
an illustration of what's wrong with the Marine Fisheries Council and
what must be fixed to reform that Council.

We should not have to drive species to the brink of extinction before
acting. And we should not allow the fate of species and entire
ecosystems to be controlled by narrow special interests. Fisheries,
wildlife, coastal, water, and natural resources of the State are
publicly owned resources that are held in trust and managed by DEP -
the "public trust doctrine" is incompatible with the current powers
and composition of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council.

The causes and real problems result from: 1) the veto power; 2) the
dominance of the Marine Fisheries Council by commercial fishing
interests; and 3) the failure to subject the Council's management
decisions to scientific and public interest standards.

Commercial interests on the Council have abused their authority and
acted for selfish economic reasons in defiance science and the public
interest. No other industry has the power to veto regulations by DEP -
it is absurd to continue to allow this veto power to be exercised for
narrow economic interests, for arbitrary reasons with no
accountability to science or the public interest.

The Legislature needs to act to revoke the Council's veto power;
broaden and balance the composition of the Council; and subject the
Council to scientific and public interest standards. These legislative
changes are required to assure that the Council is a scientifically
sound resource management body that acts in the public interest.

Copyright 2008 New Jersey On-Line LLC.

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From: The Journal (Edinburgh, Scotland), Mar. 26, 2008
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THE ETHICS OF EMBRYOLOGY

There are no easy answers to the questions raised by recent medical
research

By Kenneth Boyd

Should deaf parents be prohibited from using reproductive technology
to have a child with genes for deafness? Should an infertile couple be
prohibited from using artificial sperm and eggs to have a child of
their own? Should scientists be permitted to create hybrid embryos
(animal eggs with human genetic nuclei) for research into human
diseases? These are some of the highly controversial questions raised
by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently being debated
in the UK Parliament.

They illustrate just how rapidly medical research has developed since
the original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990. That Act
allowed the strictly regulated use of human embryos in reproductive
research related to infertility treatment -- research, that is, which
might give other embryos in the future a better chance of developing
safely. But before the decade had ended, embryos were beginning to be
used in a different way, as a source of stem cells in research into
what came to be called regenerative medicine -- potential therapies
using stem cell technology to repair or re-grow bodily organs damaged
by illness, accident or ageing. If this research is successful, many
currently incurable conditions might become treatable by stimulating
the body to heal itself: the shortage of donor organs might no longer
be a problem, cancer and degenerative diseases might be held at bay,
and the human lifespan itself might be healthily extended.

With these enormous potential benefits in prospect, shouldn't
scientists just be allowed to get on with regenerative medicine
research unrestricted by regulations, and shouldn't personal decisions
about the use of reproductive technologies, such as those involving
deaf or infertile couples, be left to the individuals concerned and
their own doctors? Why should Parliament be involved in regulating and
deciding about such matters? An obvious answer, of course, is that in
a parliamentary democracy, parliamentary representatives need to heed
the views of their constituents, and that many of their constituents
belong to or share the views of significant scientific, religious,
disability or other pressure groups, whose arguments for or against
the use of particular aspects of reproductive or regenerative medicine
research are often polarised and politicised. Parliamentary regulation
of research can sometimes seem like a way of achieving the least
socially damaging compromise between warring sections of public
opinion. Underlying these political debates however, there are ethical
questions and quandaries which many members of the public who do not
hold such polarised or politicised views nevertheless find morally
troubling.

These questions and quandaries are concerned on the one hand with
safety and on the other with solidarity. Health and safety regulation
is now an accepted (although often criticised) feature of modern life,
as is a version of the "precautionary principle" which obliges those
proposing some technological innovation to provide reasonable
scientific evidence that it will not cause great or irreversible harm
to individuals or the environment. Developments and occasional
disasters in the 20th century chemicals and nuclear power industries
ensured that a need for regulation in these contexts was generally
recognised, and a similar need is now recognised in relation to
genetic technologies. An important reason for this is that "genetic
engineering," unlike conventional engineering, deals with materials
which have a life of their own, and can respond to modification in
many unpredictable and potentially unsafe ways. Public concerns about
the potential harms as well as benefits of genetic modifications have
been fed by a long literary tradition, typified by Mary Wollstonecraft
Shelley's Frankenstein, but also by the use and misuse of eugenics in
the early twentieth century, especially in Nazi Germany.

If safety concerns raise troubling and divisive ethical questions, so
too do those concerned with solidarity. In the 20th century,
solidarity, or the recognition in practice of each individual's equal
dignity, regardless of class, race, gender, wealth or poverty, was
increasingly reflected in national and international declarations,
conventions and legislation regarding rights, responsibilities,
opportunities and unfair discrimination. Moreover, part of the impetus
for this came from the recognition that the very opposite of
solidarity had been all too evident in the same century. Even an
activity as ostensibly humanitarian as medical research had been part
of this: reputable doctors, in the USA and other countries as well as
Nazi Germany, were discovered to have conducted harmful research
without consent, especially on people who were racially, socially or
psychologically disadvantaged.

Much of the perceived need for, and implementation of, regulation in
medical research arose from such revelations, and in particular the
insistence, in medical treatment as well as research, on informed
consent. But the problem again, as in concerns with safety, is one of
proportion. If solidarity is the recognition in practice of each
individual's equal dignity, are the individuals concerned only human
individuals, or are members of other species, especially those closest
to humans, to be included? And are the human individuals concerned
only human persons, defined by characteristics such as rationality,
self-consciousness or moral agency, or do they include beings of the
human species, from the earliest stages of human life?

Animals and now human embryos are regularly experimented upon in
scientific and medical research in ways in which it would be
considered totally unethical to experiment upon any being of the human
species from the womb onwards. Intuitively, many of us are prepared to
defend this. A favourite argument in support of this in the case of
embryos, is that if there was a fire in a laboratory and you had the
opportunity to save either a tray of a hundred human embryos or one
child, whatever your beliefs about the moral status of embryos, you
would still save the child. But the problem with this argument is that
in experimenting upon embryos, or for that matter animals, the
alternatives are far less clear cut.

By experimenting on the embryo or the animal, you might eventually
come upon a cure which will save the life of one child, or indeed many
children. But then again you might not. Everyone must hope that
research in regenerative medicine will be successful. But there are no
guarantees. There are no final, knock-down ethical arguments against
those who claim that in using animals we are blinded by "speciesism,"
or against those who argue that in using embryos we are offending
against human life and dignity. But there are also no final, knock-
down ethical arguments to silence those who ask: "If a child, or many
children, might be saved by such research, how can you justify not
doing that research?" Ethics does not necessarily provide answers.
Sometimes it just makes the questions more difficult.

Kenneth Boyd is Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of
Edinburgh

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From: Helena (Montana) Independent Record, Mar. 23, 2008
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OP-ED: FAITHS ACCEPTING GLOBAL WARMING

By John Hart

A few years ago, scientists testified confidently before Congress that
there was no universally accepted scientific proof linking cigarette
smoke and lung cancer.

Senators listened respectfully to Big Tobacco's witnesses, and
concluded that since there was no scientific unanimity, they should
take no action. But people in increasing numbers contracted smoke-
caused cancer until a whistleblower from corporate tobacco released
memos that demonstrated that companies knew about carcinogens in
commercialized tobacco, but continued to prioritize profits over
people. Finally, citizens won lawsuits and politicians passed
effective laws.

Enter the global warming "debate." Big Oil now mimics Big Tobacco.
Industry reps and their supporters argue that there is no conclusive
scientific evidence that humans are causing, or even exacerbating,
global warming. Some even deny that Earth is warming, despite evidence
that since the time scientific instruments first began measuring Earth
temperatures in 1850, eleven of the twelve hottest years on record
occurred in the 1990s and into the present century.

Two recent news stories highlight the debate. "Lawmakers doubt science
behind climate change issues," in the Helena Independent Record on
March 11, reported on conflict at the Environmental Quality Council
meeting when government action was proposed to address global warming.
"Southern Baptists Back a Shift on Climate Change," in the New York
Times on March 10, presented a contrasting decision, by Christian
leaders, to take action on the issue. In its editorial "Climate denial
is persistent" on March 12, the IR noted that no amount of science
will convince people "when 'faith-based politics' based on the gospel
according to the likes of Rush Limbaugh" take precedence over
scientific evidence.

In contrast to conservatives living by their political "faith,"
members of religious faiths have increasingly accepted scientific
findings related to global warming, and urged their followers to "care
for Creation." Southern Baptist leaders, not exactly flaming liberals,
called for a greater response to climate change from their members,
who comprise the second-largest U.S. Christian church. Their current
president and his two predecessors, along with 41 other leaders,
signed "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate
Change," which was issued officially on March 17. The document states:
"Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting
evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-
informed." The document calls for "prudent action" by individuals and
governments, which should include "responsible policies" in response
to global warming. Acceptance of such responsibility was evident in
the policies proposed to the Environmental Quality Council.

The Southern Baptists are not alone. In 2001, the U.S. Catholic
bishops, leaders of the largest Christian church, had issued "Global
Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good."
Each year since then, representatives of the bishops have written
letters to and testified before congressional committees calling for
responsible governmental action to address global warming. Popes John
Paul II and Benedict XVI have proposed international responses to
planetary warming.

Two years ago this month, the National Association of Evangelicals
promulgated "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action." The
document observed at the outset: "As evangelicals we have hesitated to
speak on this issue until we could be more certain of the science of
climate change, but the signatories now believe that the evidence
demands action." The NAE statement resulted from the pleas of an
evangelical British scientist that Christians in the U.S. should
address global warming issues. Evangelical leaders noted when issuing
the statement that while they ordinarily agreed with President Bush on
social issues, on this one they disagreed with him.

In these church documents, the scientific basis for religious
teachings has included the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), an association of some 2,500 scientists from
around the world. The IPCC was a co-recipient, with Al Gore, of the
2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The IPCC findings corroborate findings and
statements by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), whose members
include Nobel laureates in the sciences. All three churches'
statements, the IPCC report, and the UCS express concern that global
warming will especially harm the world's poor.

Over the centuries, conflicts have occurred periodically between
religion and science. In recent decades, however, and in regard to
environmental issues, theists and atheists have been able, in the
words of Harvard biologist (and atheist) E.O. Wilson, to "meet on the
near side of metaphysics." Church members have increasingly worked to
take care of God's creation.

Religion and science come together on global warming in a contemporary
application of both Blaise Pascal's Pensees and the "precautionary
principle."

In the seventeenth century, philosopher-mathematician Pascal pondered
the relationship between believing in God and doing good works. He
proposed that we can wager on whether or not God exists, and act
accordingly. We could act as if God exists and live a morally good
life, and lose nothing if we are wrong. We could act as if God does
not exist and live a reprobate life, and lose everything for eternity
if we are wrong. He suggests that the prudent thing to do is to wager
that God exists, even if we are uncertain.

The precautionary principle in science states that if a possible
course of action has unknown consequences, which might be either
minimal or catastrophic, prudence would dictate that we not take a
chance (a wager) with catastrophe, but reject the action. If we choose
to act while hoping that no harm will result, and we are wrong, then
there will likely be terrible consequences. But if we act to avoid
catastrophe, ultimately we will be better off.

In the global warming debate, will we wager that we need do nothing,
and throw caution to the winds? If we're wrong, global catastrophe
will result. But if we wager that it's better to be careful, whether
we're right or wrong, we and our descendants will benefit because
we'll take better care of our Earth home.

As we think about global warming, two questions confront us: "Who's
your scientist?" and "What are you willing to wager?" The vast
majority of scientists studying the issue, including Nobel laureates,
warn of warming's impacts, and urge caution; a handful of politically
motivated scientists are in denial and advocate inaction. Our
responses to these questions will affect Earth and all life now and
for generations into the future. How will we wager?

John Hart teaches and writes about environmental issues in Helena and
Boston, and serves as president of the Montana Environmental
Information Center. His latest book is "Sacramental Commons: Christian
Ecological Ethics."

Copyright Helena Independent Record; a division of Lee Enterprises

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From: IPS-Inter Press Service, Mar. 20, 2008
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MEXICO: NEW RULES PAVE THE WAY FOR TRANSGENIC CROPS

By Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY -- After a three-year-long process, Mexico is about to
clear the way for legal cultivation of transgenic crops, in spite of
resistance from environmentalists and several small farmer
associations.

The Rules for the 2005 Biosafety Law on Genetically Modified Organisms
were published Wednesday, and by the end of this year a national
biosafety system and special guidelines for experimental sowing of
transgenic maize will be in place.

According to some scientists and the government, constructing this
legal edifice was appropriate and necessary, as in their view it
ensures legality and regulates the study, experimental planting, and
potential sale of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Trangenic organisms are modified in the laboratory by introducing
genes from other plant or animal species, in order to improve their
characteristics, such as yield or resistance to environmental
conditions.

In the natural environment, GM crops can cross-fertilise with wild,
native species or traditional hybrids and alter their genes, which
environmentalists call "genetic pollution."

There is no conclusive evidence about the health effects of consuming
foods containing GM ingredients, although there have been a few cases
of health problems.

Environmentalists and several campesino (small farmer) groups say that
Mexico could pay a high price if the wealth of its biodiversity were
adversely affected by the release of transgenic crops.

Aleira Lara, the coordinator of Greenpeace Mexico's sustainable
agriculture campaign, told IPS that the entire regulatory framework is
designed to promote biotechnology at the expense of the precautionary
principle. "The Rules are one more step in that direction," she said.
The precautionary principle advocates avoiding the possibility of harm
to the environment or human health, by prohibiting actions when doubts
remain about their safety.

Environmentalists refer to the Mexican biosafety law as the "Monsanto
Law", after the U.S. biotech giant that is the world leader in
transgenic seed production, which has publicly backed the legislation.

Miguel Colunga, leader of the Democratic Campesino Front of Chihuahua,
a state in northern Mexico, says his country "is still in time to
reverse" the authorisation of GM crops.

"Transgenic crops are not safe, and we will lose our sovereignty,
because the GM seeds belong to just a few transnational corporations,"
Colunga told IPS.

Using seeds patented by companies like Monsanto forces farmers to buy
seed every planting season, paying the corporations each time, and
puts an end to thousands of years of the traditional practice of
saving the best seeds from the harvest to use for the next sowing.

The Biosafety Law on Genetically Modified Organisms, with its 124
articles, 33 pages and dozens of footnotes, and the 64 articles and 30
pages of Rules that accompany it, lay the basis for biotechnological
research and create monitoring mechanisms for importing GM products
and growing GM crops.

They also establish the intention of confronting the potential
negative environmental impacts of GM organisms, while benefiting from
their presumed advantages. The scheme under which transgenic crops
will be authorised to enter Mexico is "case by case, and step by
step."

The Biosafety Law and its Rules are adequate, because they ensure and
guarantee that what happened in Brazil will not happen in Mexico, Luis
Herrera, a renowned Mexican biotechnologist, told IPS.

The Brazilian government accepted GM crops after discovering that they
were already being grown, illegally and without prior research, he
pointed out.

The Mexican regulations will allow experiments and assessments to be
carried out, to establish with certainty the safety of planting GM
maize, soybean, cotton or any other transgenic crop, said Herrera, who
is avowedly in favour of the technology.

The scientist, who along with other researchers produced the first
transgenic plant at the University of Ghent, Belgium, in 1983, is now
the director of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Diversity at
the state Centre for Research and Advanced Studies.

Limited trials of transgenic potatoes, squash, papaya, soybean and
other crops have been carried out experimentally in Mexico over the
past few years, without any clear rules to regulate them.

The main concern of opponents of GM crops is the possibility that
transgenic maize will be introduced and released in the country, an
action which has been expressly prohibited by law since 1999.

One of the transitory rules attached to the biosafety law stipulates
that by May 19 specific regulations should be drawn up to define where
and how experiments may be carried out with GM maize.

The possibility that transgenic maize may be grown in Mexico, even on
an experimental basis, raises hackles among opponents of GM foods.
Maize is the staple food in Mexico, where it was domesticated 9,000
years ago, and is of immense cultural value.

"We are hoping that Mexico as a whole will be declared the centre of
origin of maize, so that experiments and cultivation of GM maize are
banned in the country," said Greenpeace activist Lara.

Mexico produces about 20 million tonnes of maize a year, on an area of
8.5 million hectares. Over three million local campesinos, most of
whom are poor, grow maize using native seeds, or seeds that have been
improved by methods other than genetic manipulation. There are dozens
of sub-species of maize.

IPS was informed by official sources that the authorities and their
advisers intend to allow experiments with transgenic maize to be
carried out in the north of the country, where there is less
biodiversity, and the connection between farmers and maize is not as
strong.

In addition, campesino associations in the states along the border
with the United States have been asking for several years to be
allowed to grow GM maize, on the grounds that it is the only way they
can compete in the marketplace with U.S. farmers.

"It's a myth that transgenic crops are more productive. Here in
Chihuahua, many of us grow hybrid maize (improved by traditional
techniques) and we can prove that it's better than the transgenic
kind," said Colunga, of the Democratic Campesino Front.

"We can modernise our farming with our own maize. It's safe, it
doesn't harm the environment, and it doesn't make us dependent on
Monsanto or other companies," he said.

These companies take legal action against those who use their seeds
without contracts and payments.

The companies state that GM crops do not harm the environment and are
suitable in every way, and millions of hectares all over the world are
now planted with transgenic crops.

However, there are documented examples of potentially dangerous GM
maize. In the United States, Starlink maize was withdrawn from the
market in 2000 after consumers experienced allergic reactions.

And transgenic MON-863 maize, belonging to Monsanto, which was
authorised for human consumption in Mexico, harmed rats in
experiments, according to a confidential report by the company itself
which was made public in 2005 by a court order.

In 2007, the worldwide area sown with transgenic crops amounted to
114.3 million hectares, "benefiting 12 million farmers," according to
a report by the International Service for Acquisitions of Agri-biotech
Applications (ISAAA), a U.S. not-for-profit organisation that promotes
GM crops.

Less than 20 years ago, the area sown with transgenic crops was
insignificant.

In the U.S. where, unlike in Mexico, transgenic maize as well as
traditional varieties are grown, maize occupies 32 million hectares
and production is over 300 million tonnes a year, 15 times more than
in Mexico.

Mexico imports large quantities of maize from the United States to
make up for the deficit in its own production. GM maize is included in
these purchases, and the authorities do nothing to prevent it,
environmentalists complain.

If the deadlines are met, by the end of 2008 trials of transgenic
maize will be under way, which is good news, Monsanto spokesman David
Carpintero told the Reforma newspaper.

Copyright 2008 IPS-Inter Press Service

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From: Rocky Mountain Outlook, Mar. 16, 2008
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ELK STERILIZATION PLAN NOW UNLIKELY

A controversial experiment to sterilize 10 female elk in Banff to test
the effectiveness of birth control as a way of reducing the burgeoning
elk population around the townsite is likely off the table for this
year.

By Cathy Ellis

A controversial experiment to sterilize 10 female elk in Banff
[Alberta, Canada] to test the effectiveness of birth control as a way
of reducing the burgeoning elk population around the townsite is
likely off the table for this year.

An advisory group to Parks Canada on Tuesday (March 11) recommended
against the fertility control experiment at this time, although the
superintendent of Banff National Park does have the final say.

The group also ruled out establishing off-leash dog areas outside town
boundaries aimed at keeping elk at bay, or erecting permanent fences
designed to keep elk out of certain areas, such as the recreation
grounds and Banff Springs golf course.

They indicated they would prefer to continue with an experiment next
winter of using semi-permeable wooden fences at five wildlife
underpasses to trap elk on the north side of the highway, where they
are more likely to be hunted by wolves and cougars.

Banff-based UTSB Research, which holds a seat on the committee and has
loudly voiced its opposition to using the birth control drug Gonacon,
was happy with the recommendations to come out of Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm really pleased with the consensus that sterilization is not
consistent with the goal of maintaining ecological integrity and the
precautionary principle," said Gaby Zezulka-Maillou, of UTSB Research
after the meeting.

"We felt introducing sterilization in a wild population, particularly
using a relatively untested product was not prudent and was costly.
The substance Gonacon has not been rigorously tested."

The birth control plan was part of the bigger picture to reduce the
growing number of elk around the Banff townsite to avoid a public
safety threat and widespread environmental damage.

Elk numbers have more than doubled in the last three years, with a
count last year estimating there to be at least 204 individuals in
areas around the Banff townsite. The animals are likely seeking a safe
haven from cougars and wolves.

Parks wants to avoid the situation of the 1980s and 1990s when
hundreds of urban elk moved into town, often seen strolling downtown,
holding people hostage in their homes as they feasted on lawns and
charging and attacking residents and tourists.

On an environmental level, the unusually high density of elk led to
severe ecological problems for other species such as birds and
beavers, as the ungulates overgrazed shrubs and aspen and made it
difficult for rejuvenation.

In reaching its recommendation to cancel the sterilization project of
10 elk cows, the montane advisory group considered the advantages and
disadvantages of fertility treatment.

It was told the advantages of sterilization would help prevent the
population from increasing, would allow animals to live without
contributing to a population increase and may only partially reduce
elk-human conflicts, as there would be no calves to defend.

On the downside, however, was the concern that fertility control does
not affect elk behaviour or distribution, nor does it address
ecological effects of high elk densities, such as elk grazing, and it
does not fully address concerns about elk-human conflicts.

As well, the drug Gonacon is relatively new and would prove costly.
From handling the elk, to injecting them with the drug by hand and
fitting them with a collar for monitoring purposes was estimated to
cost about $500.

Parks Canada officials say there is a chance the elk population could
be slightly down, especially considering wardens destroyed 20 high
habituated elk this winter, 13 more were killed on the train tracks
and the cow-calf ratio was unusually low at 16 per cent.

But they say they will continue monitoring the elk population around
town and try to get a better handle on the numbers during the spring
survey, scheduled for sometime in May.

They plan to bring the dog handler back this spring to chase elk out
of town during the calving season and do ongoing hazing of elk on the
Banff Springs golf course in the summer.

As well, they will also put up more signs to try and keep people,
including those walking their dogs off-leash in the area of the
airstrip, out of the Cascade corridor to encourage wary carnivores to
use the area.

They also plan to put the semi-permeable fences back up next winter.

The experiment to put the six-foot high wooden fences at five
underpasses was not deemed overly successful this year, as the elk
stampeded through one of the fences back to the south side of the
highway, where they spent much of the winter.

In addition, the area's two main wolf packs did not travel through the
Cascade wildlife corridor. There was, however, a known cougar kill in
the wildlife corridor and another in the Minnewanka Loop region.

Jesse Whittington, a wildlife specialist with Banff National Park,
said this winter's results did not quite prove themselves, but the
experiment can't be judged on one year alone and needs to be given
more time.

"There was lots of cougar activity this year, but the elk were
relatively safe from wolves. If the Cascade pack was travelling
through there, it might have been more effective," he said.

"Wolf use in there changes over time. In previous winters there have
been wolves, but not the last two winters."

Mike McIvor, president of the Bow Valley Naturalists and a member of
the advisory group, said it is important to give the

experiment of using the semi-permeable fences to keep elk on the north
side a chance to work.

"One of the things we all have to come to terms with is that the
natural world functions on a completely different timetable than the
frenzied immediate one that we're part of," he said.

"When we're trying to change things and trying to learn from what
we're doing, I think we have to demonstrate some patience and I think
it's completely wrong to expect instant results."

Susan Webb, a representative for the Town of Banff on the committee,
concurred, saying she agrees more time must be given to see if the
experiment of using the semi-permeable fences needs more time to get
results.

She also said she was glad Parks was not moving ahead with
sterilization.

"I think of Banff National Park as a leader in the national parks in
Canada. It's a flagship park, and it's always wise to act on more
information than less information," said Webb.

"If some other national park in the United States is doing the
research with birth control, let's benefit from that. We should go
with proven science. It feels right not to experiment when we're not
sure what the results would be."

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From: The Telegraph (London, U.K.), Mar. 24, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]

SPAS: HOW TOXIC IS YOUR 'NATURAL' SPA?

Everyone loves being pampered but are the ingredients as pure as you
think? Erin Gill investigates

By Erin Gill

Going to a spa is all about forgetting your worries and
responsibilities, letting your mind float and focusing, instead, on
your body. Anyone who has emerged from a spa rejuvenated and ready to
take on the world again knows that a good spa offers something
genuinely valuable amid all the luxury bathrobes and poolside wicker
furniture.

Before you let your mind switch off, there is one niggling worry that
might be worth investigating. What goes into all those body wraps,
scrubs, lifts and refreshers ? Is that facial made from 100 per cent
fresh papaya or are there other less natural ingredients in it too?

The short answer to that question is yes. In many cases the products
used during spa treatments are not nearly as natural as all those
references to algae and rose essence imply. Depending on what the
products are designed to achieve, they may include detergents,
synthetic fragrance, a range of preservatives... the list goes on.

You're not being lied to about the natural ingredients, you're simply
not being told about everything else that is in that delicious cream
now covering you from neck to toe. And you won't find product
ingredients listed on spa websites or even on the websites of
manufacturers of spa ranges, such as Elemis, Decleor and Clarins.

There is no question of illegal substances being used, although it is
possible that the use of some ingredients that are legal today will be
more restricted in a few years' time. A n overhaul of the way
chemicals are regulated across Europe, called Reach (Registration,
Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), is under way. After years
of wrangling, Europe's political leaders agreed to proceed with Reach
in 2006, having realised that the shortcomings in existing chemicals
regulation couldn't be ignored any longer. The key motivation for the
project is concern about the absence of safety data for tens of
thousands of chemicals that have been on the market for years.

What regulators are increasingly seeking from the skincare and
cosmetics industry is better data about the penetrative power of
skincare ingredients, plus more information about the possibility that
exposure to particular substances could make conception more
difficult, or cancer, genetic change or weakened immunity more likely.
Our skin is not an impermeable shield that separates us from the world
we live in.

Depending on whom you ask, either no one is asking spas what is in the
treatment products they use or spas are facing questions from
customers on a regular basis. Suki Kalirai, chairman of the Spa
Business Association, has not heard of any spa being asked to discuss
formulations. He doesn't think it is a concern and says that if it
ever becomes one it will be the job of product manufacturers to
provide information. Meanwhile, Fiona Brackenbury, head of UK training
and education for spa range manufacturer Decleor, tells a different
story. "The situation today is very different from even five years
ago," she says. "Now, when a new spa is opening and all the brands are
invited to present their products, we are asked much more technical
questions. Spa managers want to know what is in our formulations."

A few skincare brands won't face a struggle to reformulate because
they already exclude many substances of potential concern. REN
Skincare is one such brand and its marketing bumf is crystal clear:
"No petrochemicals, sulfates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, synthetic
colours, TEA, DEA, glycols, silicones, PEGs et al."

Rob Calcraft, one of REN's founders, explains: "It has to be possible
to bridge the gap between eco skincare -- which so often is heavy,
bad?smelling and offers so little pleasure and modernity -- and the
high-tech, well-packaged mainstream brands. The market has become so
polarised, with natural brands focused on high-quality ingredients
versus the big, synthetic boys who, at best, are inching towards a
more natural approach. Bridging that gap is what we're trying to do
with REN."

Neal's Yard Remedies is another skincare manufacturer committed to
restricting use of potentially risky substances. "We operate according
to the precautionary principle, so we don't use substances such as
parabens," explains Neal's Yard medicines director Susan Curtis.
However, like many in the business, Curtis acknowledges that
completely natural skincare is not a realistic aspiration. "Unless you
want to make up a product fresh every day, then some type of
preservative is needed, and if you want to make an effective shampoo
you do need a mild detergent. There are a lot of questions about
potential health risks but not a lot of evidence. Not enough research
is being done." Some of the substances under suspicion may prove
benign, but there isn't enough solid data yet to know one way or
another.

Finding a spa that uses fewer chemical-intensive products in its
treatments isn't easy. A few British spas use REN products, including
Barnsley House, Bamford Hay Barn, Royal Day Spa and the male-specific
treatment rooms at Wholeman, W1. Neal's Yard has its own treatment
rooms. Tucked away in the New Forest, SenSpa is one of the few British
spas to ensure that all its treatment products are as natural as
possible. Spa director Lina Lotto, who is in the process of developing
SenSpa's own range of organic skin therapies, says: "Everything will
be Soil Association-certified, there will be no synthetics, and even
some preservative systems approved by the Soil Association are
excluded."

SenSpa's natural approach is the exception. The British spa sector
appears content to stick with conventional brands, at least for now.
Champneys spokesperson Sharon Scott is refreshingly honest when she
says that product formulations "are not something we worry too much
about". However, she adds that Champneys would "do something if public
concern grew". Time will tell.

Further information:

European Health & Environment Alliance

US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' database

Women's Environmental Network's cosmetic campaign

Chemical Watch, news service focusing on chemicals regulation:

SenSpa, Brockenhurst, Hampshire

REN

Neal's Yard Remedies

Copyright Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008

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