Rachel's Precaution Reporter #134 "Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World" Wednesday, March 19, 2008printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Letter From Scientists to the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations
"The rush to 'feed Africa' should in no way excuse crop geneticists and agricultural development agencies from exercising the precautionary principle in evaluating their experiments; neither the Africans themselves nor the diverse African landscapes deserve to be recklessly experimented upon."
Diseases Like Mine Are A Growing Hazard
"What can we do to lower the stakes for future generations? We could take a page from European environmental policy and its 'precautionary principle' of preventing harm before it occurs."
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.
Nanoparticles Already on EU Shelves Warn Green Groups
A new report on nanotechnology products in food argues that the current regulations are insufficient and that a more precautionary approach is required.
Progress In Pacific Fisheries Protection
"Anderton said he was pleased about broad agreement on a precautionary approach to fisheries management, whereby all parties consider long term sustainability of a fishery over short term fishing opportunities."
Benin Renews Moratorium on GMOs
"In keeping with the precautionary principle, Benin adopted on 2 March 2002, a five-year moratorium on the import, marketing and use of GMOs or GMO by-products on its territory."
Hayleys Continues Engagement With the Community
In this puff piece, a Sri Lankan newspaper showcases a major Sri Lankan company's commitment to precaution and other modern principles of development. -- RPR editors


From: Centre for Research on Globalization
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We have been prompted to send you this letter regarding the scientific fallacies and myths underpinning the plans of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA), because we are concerned about its potential genetic, environmental, and economic impacts.


By its own accounts, AGRA is investing heavily in training "the next generation of African crop scientists" to accept an agriculture based on bioengineered crops and the economic structures associated with them. It is already evident that Africa's political leaders are under pressure to tacitly accept AGRA's initiatives and to cooperate with them. Yet this agricultural development scheme, in many ways, follows the same failed logic that flawed the Green Revolution of the 1960s.

Before AGRA begins full implementation of its potentially disruptive agricultural initiative, the following actions must occur.

** A broad spectrum of scientists and science educators need to fully review and challenge assumptions in AGRA' planned goals, motives and methodologies.

** Universities need to commit to conducting applied research on alternative methodologies that may offer Africa more environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural systems.

** Public debate needs to offer a broader view of African hunger and food security, while committing AGRA to greater transparency and accountability.


The agricultural development schemes proposed by AGRA follow much of the same failed logic that flawed the Green Revolution in the 1960s, but now the stakes are higher. Simply put, the AGRA initiative proposes to rapidly develop, and immediately employ, an entire "arsenal" of new seed varieties in order to attack the roots of hunger and to guarantee greater food security to future Africans. Although few scientists today believe that techno-scientific solutions alone can save the world from hunger, the AGRA initiative reads as if the solutions will come mainly from outside funds and technology.

The rush to "feed Africa" should in no way excuse crop geneticists and agricultural development agencies from exercising the precautionary principle in evaluating their experiments; neither the Africans themselves nor the diverse African landscapes deserve to be recklessly experimented upon.

The AGRA arsenal of "new" seeds, including genetically modified (GM) seeds,

** will be placed out into farmers' fields so quickly that they will likely contaminate locally bred varieties and introgress with weeds and wild relatives in the centers of origin of cultivated plants such as sorghum;

** will be monitored haphazardly, given the industry's current record, and with Africa's high levels of wild and domesticated biodiversity, much more is at stake if contamination occurs;

** will set up conditions ripe for the rapid development of resistance among pests and diseases to the chemicals genetically-engineered into the crops, potentially increasing virulence and diminishing the African potential for food security;

** will likely increase, not decrease, the use of pesticides and herbicides, including those which disrupt relationships with pollinators, soil microbes, soil quality and water quality.

The naivete of the AGRA initiative with regard to such potential biological and ecological perils suggests that its managers have never considered the numerous carefully documented case studies compiled over the last five decades that both social and agricultural scientists from around the world accept as valid critiques of such na�ve strategies.

As ominous is AGRA's reliance on a "silver bullet approach" which assumes that technological fixes alone will solve hunger problems. If it continues on its present path, AGRA will sidestep social, ethical and economic issues regarding the need for greater equity in land, water and food distribution. As Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen, has well documented, malnourishment is not a function of the absolute amount of food available, but rather, of the inability of the poor to access food. Further, African research institutions will be more tightly linked to private global seed corporations in ways that challenge current international treaties protecting farmers' rights and benefit-sharing.

Africa's farmers have been developing their own locally adapted and socially appropriate crops varieties, technologies and management strategies for centuries. Unless their local knowledge is seen as a critical resource (wealth) useful in resolving these problems, AGRA will rely on a top-down outside-expert approach that is bound to fail. The African Union also has model legislation for genetic resources, which proposes farmers' rights, prior-informed consent, and benefit sharing, all of which the AGRA initiative ignores.


We as scientists and members of the world community propose that the Gates and Rockefeller teams delay their "big build-up" long enough to listen to both agricultural and social scientists who have had at least a quarter century of experience in documenting the perils of this approach and in finding suitable alternatives based on social and environmental justice and food sovereignty. We urge the financiers and staff of AGRA to accept an invitation to an open forum , to be held in 2008, that addresses these issues head-on, rather than relegating them to the margins.


A few examples of many questions, which need urgent public attention and debate, are as follows:

1.) As scientists, we know that public sector plant and genetic research is increasingly funded by biotech companies, and public research agendas follow private imperatives. This growing private dominance in the direction of research and in control of the world's seeds is matched by increasingly stringent intellectual property regimes.

** Will new seed varieties developed by AGRA for Africa be patented or will the industry's seed breeders honor farmers' rights?

** As farmers' varieties are used for parent material in breeding, will you honor benefit sharing of profits back to the earlier breeders of the parent materials? How will AGRA do this?

2.) Companies in the USA introducing herbicide-tolerant crops must obtain special permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to leave higher levels of herbicide residue on the crop, thus increasing consumer exposure to agrochemicals (e.g., glyphosate, glufosinate). Yet herbicide-tolerance remains the chief focus of agricultural biotech research. The latest twist is dual herbicide- tolerant crops (Pioneer soybeans tolerant to both glyphosate and ALS inhibitors). What measures will be taken to protect consumers from this increased agrochemical exposure?

3.) Genetic engineering has provided only four commercialized biotech crops (soybeans, corn, cotton and canola) that feature one or both of the following two traits: herbicide-tolerance (68% of world acreage); insect-resistance (19%); and corn and cotton "stacked" with both traits (13%). Innumerable field trials have been conducted to develop biotech crops with other traits, from enhanced nutrition to drought- resistance, with little or no success. Given this track record of great expense with high failure, why offer high finance to this particular technology, while under-funding alternatives?

4.) Research has demonstrated that genetically-modified pollen of some crops can drift up to 24 kilometers from its source to contaminate other varieties. What are the ways you propose to reduce genetic contamination of local varieties, bred over centuries, from GM varieties?

We encourage scientists to direct other questions such as these to AGRA's leaders, and request that AGRA formally respond to them on its website and at open forums.

[Signatories can be found by following links here.]


For Reference:

Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA): www.agra.com

Recommendations for a "rainbow evolution" respecting Africa's diverse ecology

African farmers' rights, priori-informed consent (PIC) and benefit- sharing:

African Union (AU). 2000. "AU Model Law on Rights of Local Communities, Farmers, Breeders and Access."


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Copyright 2005-2007 GlobalResearch.ca

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From: Washington Post (pg. B3)
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By Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Some weeks ago, my husband and I treated ourselves to a night at the movies and caught a showing of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," the story of a successful French journalist who suffers a massive stroke that changes his life.

As I watched the opening scene and the moment when the main character realizes that he's trapped inside his own body, incapable of moving or communicating with those around him, a shiver of recognition washed over me. Two years ago, I also lay paralyzed in a hospital bed, unable to use my arms or legs, to hug my young son or daughter, or to type a word to meet an impending book deadline. Unlike the movie's protagonist, however, I was immobilized by a type of disorder that afflicts nearly 24 million Americans -- and counting.

Autoimmune diseases -- a group of about 100 conditions in which the body's immune system turns on the body itself -- are reaching epidemic proportions. In the past decade, 15 top medical journals have reported rising rates of lupus, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, Crohn's disease, Addison's disease and polymyositis in industrialized countries around the world. Over the past 40 years, rates of Type 1 diabetes have increased fivefold; in children 4 and under, it's increasing 6 percent a year.

If I wanted to make a movie about my life, I'd pitch it to Hollywood as "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" meets "An Inconvenient Truth," the Academy Award-winning Al Gore documentary about global warming. Rising levels of autoimmune disease may well prove to be the next environmental disaster -- only in this case, the changes taking place degree by degree are in the interior landscapes of our bodies.

My paralysis was caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the nerves' myelin sheaths are destroyed by the body's immune system, short-circuiting messages from the brain to the muscles. I've been paralyzed twice in the past seven years. Each time, months of rigorous physical therapy and treatment have enabled me to walk again. But remnants of the disease -- and other autoimmune conditions that have simultaneously ravaged my body -- have left me with a pacemaker, little feeling in my hands and feet, legs that can't ice skate or chase a child, a low white blood cell count and gastrointestinal problems that can land me in the hospital in a blink. Still, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I know patients who are far less fortunate.

I've spent the past two years interviewing leading experts at top medical institutions nationwide to find out why cases of autoimmune disease are skyrocketing. In recent years, many allergists and immunologists have been attributing the rise to the "hygiene hypothesis" -- the theory that our germ-free homes and childhood vaccinations have eliminated challenges to our immune systems so that they don't learn how to defend us properly when we're young. The scientists I interviewed tended to discard the idea that this alone is responsible. They agreed almost to a person that our day-to-day exposure to environmental toxins -- through the air we breathe and the chemicals we absorb through our skin -- is a major trigger of autoimmune disease. "Exposures from our environment are a significant contributor to today's rising rates," says Douglas Kerr, director of the Johns Hopkins Transverse Myelitis Center and a top clinician at the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center.

In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sampled 2,500 people nationwide looking for the "body burden," or amount of chemicals and pollutants each individual carried. They found traces of all 116 chemicals and pollutants they tested for, including PCBs, insecticides, dioxin, mercury, cadmium and benzene, all highly toxic in higher doses. Then, in 2005, researchers from the Environmental Working Group found something more alarming: a cocktail of 287 pollutants -- pesticides, dioxins, flame retardants -- in the fetal- cord blood of 10 newborn infants from around the country.

Because most toxins are found in only trace amounts, it has been difficult to gauge what effect they might be having on our health. Yet studies of both lab animals and people provide disturbing insights into how even low exposures can cause our immune systems to go haywire. Mice exposed to pesticides at levels four times lower than the level the Environmental Protection Agency sets as acceptable for humans are more susceptible to getting lupus than control mice. Mice that absorb low doses of trichloroethylene -- a chemical used in dry cleaning, household paint thinners, glues and adhesives -- at levels the EPA deems safe and equal to what a factory worker might encounter today, quickly develop autoimmune hepatitis. And low doses of perfluorooctanoic acid, a breakdown chemical of Teflon found in 96 percent of humans tested for it, impair rats' development of a proper immune system.

Evidence from occupational studies is even more worrisome -- because the "guinea pigs" are people. Last year, scientists from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Washington released the findings of a 14-year study of 300,000 death certificates in 26 states: Those who worked with pesticides, textiles, solvents, benzene, asbestos and other compounds were significantly more likely to die from an autoimmune disease than people who didn't. Other recent studies show links between working with solvents, asbestos, PCBs and vinyl chloride and a greater likelihood of developing autoimmune disease.

Proving an absolute link between chemicals and autoimmune disorders in humans won't be easy. Researchers can expose rodents to low doses of chemicals and look for signs of autoimmune disease about six weeks to three months later. But in humans, autoimmune diseases are long, slow- brewing conditions that smolder for a decade or more before symptoms appear. Moreover, Kerr says, it may be that a combination of exposures rather than a single acute dose increases the risk of autoimmune disease.

Meanwhile, we may all be unwitting participants in an uncontrolled experiment as we wait to see whether rising levels of toxins and pollutants in our blood are the cause of climbing rates of autoimmune disease. Our children are the high-stakes pawns in this game: Pound for pound, they eat more food and drink more water than adults, and their immune systems are still developing and vulnerable.

What can we do to lower the stakes for future generations? We could take a page from European environmental policy and its "precautionary principle" of preventing harm before it occurs. Last June, the European Union implemented legislation that requires companies to develop safety data on 30,000 chemicals over the next decade and places responsibility on the chemical industry to demonstrate the safety of its products.

We also need to look beyond the "hygiene hypothesis" as the sole explanation for the autoimmune epidemic and wake up to what immunotoxicologists have been telling us for years: Our immune systems may be less prepared because we're confronting fewer natural pathogens, but we're also encountering an endless barrage of artificial pathogens that are taxing our systems to the maximum.

Finally, we've waited too long for Congress to allocate funding to finding out what toxic exposures can cause our immune systems to turn against us. Though it estimates that 24 million Americans suffer from autoimmunity, the NIH spent only $591.2 million on autoimmune disease research in 2003, the last year for which figures are available, compared with the $5 billion annual budget for cancer, which afflicts 9 million. The NIH budget for cardiovascular disease, affecting 22 million Americans, is four times that of autoimmune diseases.

My health right now is stable. There are challenges, to be sure -- I type these words with braces on my arms. But my legs take me where I need to go. Still, I live in fear of the day when that creeping paralysis could steal my life away again. Only if we take concrete steps now will the movie of my life and that of millions of other Americans have a chance at a happy ending.

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is the author of "The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance -- and the Cutting Edge Science that Promises Hope."

Copyright 2008 The Washington Post Company

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From: Rocky Mountain Outlook
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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: EUobserver
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By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS -- Environmental groups are warning that advances in the science of nanotechnology are racing ahead of public policy with neither consumers, regulators nor scientists fully aware of the toxicity of so-called nanoparticles.

They are further calling on the European Union to introduce mandatory labelling on all products that contain them and develop strict safety laws on the basis of health and environmental risk assessment.

A new report from Friends of the Earth groups in Brussels, Germany, the US and Australia has identified at least 104 food and agricultural products containing manufactured nanomaterials, or produced using nanotechnology, which are already on sale in the European Union, and warns that consumers are unknowingly ingesting them, despite concerns about the toxicity risks of nanomaterials.

Helen Holder, coordinator of the Food and Farming campaign at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Europeans should not be exposed to potentially toxic materials in their food and food packaging until proper regulations are in place to ensure their safety."

"In the absence of proper safety regulations or mandatory labelling, consumers are being left in the dark about the products they are consuming and are unknowingly putting their health and the environment at risk," she added.

The report, Out of the laboratory and on to our plates, which comes out a few weeks in advance of an expected European Commission proposal on the regulation of nanotechnology, argues that the current regulations are insufficient and that a more precautionary approach is required.

Although not opposed to nanotechnology in principle, the groups are calling on European policy-makers to adopt precautionary legislation to manage potential risks caused by the use of the new materials.

Currently in Europe, there is as yet no nantechnology-specific regulation or safety testing required before nanomaterials can be used in food, packaging or agriculture. However, a forthcoming communication from the commission will offer a review of European legislation in relation to nanotechnologies.

Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at a scale of 100 nanometres or smaller -- the levels of atoms and molecules, is already used in the manufacture of products such as nutritional supplements, cling wrap and containers, antibacterial kitchenware, processed meats, chocolate drinks, baby food and chemicals used in agriculture.

Nanotechnology engineers say that a new era of food free of the negative effects of fatty or sugary foods is upon us, enthusing that future generations of humanity will be able to eat any kind of food no matter how rich or salty or high in cholesterol, thanks to the new science of the very small.

In response to the report, the commission said that it is striving to increase the awareness to food business operators of their legal obligations, in regards to nanotechnologies. However, the commission does feel that new legislation is necessary.

"The existing regulatory framework is already adequate to cover potential risks of nanotechnology based products," said Nina Papadoulaki, the spokesperson for health commissioner Androula Vassiliou. Instead, "the European Commission is focusing its efforts on the effective implementation of existing legislation [such as] risk assessment, data and test requirements, and specific guidance."

The commission has also requested a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority on the risk arising from nanoscience and nanotechnologies on food and feed safety.

In 2004, the UK's Royal Society -- the UK's academy of sciences - issued a report commissioned by the British government on the subject recommending that while nanotechnology may offer many benefits both now and in the future, there was an immediate need for research to address uncertainties about the health and environmental effects of nanoparticles. It also recommended the introduction of regulation to control exposure to nanoparticles.

A spokesperson for the Royal Society said: "A chemical in its nano form can have different properties to the same chemical in its larger form. It's these properties that make nanomaterials so exciting and are what manufacturers are exploiting for their products.

"However, to ensure that we properly protect people from any negative effects, it is crucial that all relevant regulatory bodies keep existing regulations under review. This is particularly important as there are already many products containing nanomaterials on the shelves, and many more expected in the future."

Copyright 2008 EUobserver

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From: tvnz.co.nz
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New Zealand has continued to negotiate for a sustainable management regime for fisheries in the South Pacific in a meeting at Ecuador, and Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton believes progress has been made.

Participants from over 30 countries around the world met in Guayaquil, Equador, for the fifth round of negotiations to establish a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) to manage non-highly migratory fisheries on the high seas.

That includes fisheries such as orange roughy, which some estimate face a high likelihood of extinction in a matter of years if nothing is done to conserve the existing population.

Anderton said the South Pacific was one of the last high seas fisheries that is not being managed.

"It is a chance for New Zealand and like-minded countries to help establish a sustainable management regime on our back door-step, similar to the management we have in our own Exclusive Economic Zones." he said in a statement.

The current meeting aims to advance negotiations on a Convention text that the Organisation would conduct themselves by.

Anderton said he was pleased about broad agreement on a precautionary approach to fisheries management, whereby all parties consider long term sustainability of a fishery over short term fishing opportunities.

The principle, a foundation of much international environmental law, asks parties to consider sustainable practice even where the data is uncertain or inconclusive.

Anderton says New Zealand has already begun to implement interim measures, but progress by other parties has been disappointing.

"We are very concerned over the rapid build up of vessels from distant fishing nations targeting the jack mackerel stock that straddles Chile's waters, which is the largest fishery in the South Pacific."

Data being submitted from countries on catchment sizes and number of vessels will be used to get a broad picture of fishery sizes throughout the South Pacific, hopefully allowing debate on how to ensure an overall sustainable approach.

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From: Afriquenligne
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Cotonou, Benin -- Benin has decided to renew for period of five years, the moratorium on the import, marketing and use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and GMO by-products on its territory, official sources told the PANA [Panafrican News Agency] here Monday.

The renewal of the moratorium, introduced in 2002, was based on the lack of a legal, technical and scientific framework on the threat of transgenic products from some member states of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) invading the sub-regional market.

In keeping with the precautionary principle, Benin adopted on 2 March 2002, a five-year moratorium on the import, marketing and use of GMOs or GMO by-products on its territory.

There is no act of law in Benin governing the sector and the country lacks scientific skills and equipment for the detection, monitoring and control of GMOs.

Copyright 2008 Afrique-Actualite

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From: Sunday Times Online (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
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Sri Lankan conglomerate, Hayleys, in its continuous community engagement, has actively participated in the restoration of three ancient reservoirs in the hinterland of the country to encourage and renew traditional practices of the past, an international audience was told earlier this month.

This came in a presentation by Hayleys Chairman N. G. Wickremeratne to the inaugural Working Conference of the CEO Water Mandate of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). The meeting was held in New York earlier this month and Wickremeratne was represented by Hayleys Board Member Arjun Senaratna.

Hayleys was among the first global corporate entities and the only Sri Lankan company to endorse the CEO Water Mandate, a call to action and a strategic framework to make sustainable water resources management a priority for businesses world-wide.

Excerpts of the presentation:

Water has played an unparalleled role in Sri Lanka's civilization for over 2500 years. The ancient Kings of the country built thousands of reservoirs and these along with the temples formed the Village, the basic societal unit of the country. These reservoirs, some dating back as early as the 4th century BC, were designed for rain water harvesting and flood protection and were used for irrigation and domestic needs. Uniquely too these systems were maintained by the local communities as a common resource.

The Kings of Sri Lanka did not build palaces -- they left a legacy of water resources. This unique hydraulic civilization not only supoorted man in his pursuit of agriculture but also the magnificent flora and fauna of the country, and do so even today.

There is probably no other corporation in Sri Lanka so closely identified with the ethos of the country as Hayleys. It has played a defining role in the transformation of the country to a modern economy but its significant point of differentiation is that while doing so, it projects and protects the core values of the country.

In all of its business activities Hayleys has consistently displayed a commitment to sustainable development embodying the principles enunciated by the Global Compact even before they were proclaimed in 2000 and well before the Group became a signatory to the UNGC in 2006/07.

Why and How

The emerging problem in terms of water and climate change in Sri Lanka is a very pressing reality. Water is important for the country for Agriculture, Industry and Hydro power. These are all areas in which Hayleys is actively involved in and we see a compelling rationale in supporting the principles of the UNGC through the Water Mandate. We abide by three principles relating to the environment in the following ways:

** UNGC Principle 7 advocates support for a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.

** Our large manufacturing facilities are significant users of water. The Group consumes nearly 8500 c/m of water per day. All large water users of the Group are ISO 14000 accredited and continuously seek to reduce the impact of water use and contamination, going beyond environmental regulations.

** Hayleys manages nearly 20,000 hectares of Tea, Rubber and Forest lands in the country.

The employment of sustainable agricultural practices and prevention of pesticide residues entering water courses is a major priority. Our rubber plantations have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, UK as well managed forests.

UNGC Principle No: 8 calls for initiatives for greater environmental responsibility. Hayleys is a leading supplier of crop protection chemicals and fertilizers. It reaches both the organised plantation sector and one-in-four rural farmers. It provides them with training on the correct and safe use of chemicals and advice to prevent excess water extraction and contamination of water sources.

Principle 9 of the UNGC advocates development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. The following are examples of what we do -- Hayleys manufactures superior Activated Carbon used extensively for water and air purification applications; the Group has developed Geo-Textile blankets from woven bio-degradable coconut fibers, which are used for soil stabilization and erosion control; Coconut fibre slabs are used for 'floating islands' from which water plants are induced to extract nitrates and other contaminants from water bodies.

We believe these activities are very well aligned to the focus areas of the CEO Water Mandate covering especially Direct Operations, Supply Chain and Water Shed Management. Sustainable use of water is not new to Sri Lanka or for Hayleys.

However countries and businesses such as ours cannot survive following these best practices unless there is meaningful recognition, endorsement and economic reward for their practice.

Without this, practices in environmental sustainability would rapidly become unsustainable in the harsh light of the global marketplace.

Copyright 2008 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. Colombo. Sri Lanka

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