Rachel's Precaution Reporter #123
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

From: Dot earth (N.Y. Times blog) .........................[This story printer-friendly]
December 29, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Some environmental and legal scholars are proposing that governments at various levels should appoint a "legal guardian of future generations" to consider the impact of policy choices on citizens yet unborn.]

By Andrew C. Revkin

Given the human tendency to favor current needs over future risks, some environmental and legal scholars are proposing that governments at various levels appoint a "legal guardian of future generations" to consider the impact of policy choices on citizens yet unborn.

A leading proponent of this idea is Carolyn Raffensperger, the executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, a group seeking changes in American environmental and public-health policy.

She is proposing that such a guardianship begin with the next presidency. Below you'll find a note she recently sent outlining her idea.

I was casting about for an illustration of how this could play out and realized one decent example is the situation of polar bears in a human-warmed world. Their populations have risen in recent decades because of hunting controls. So, for the moment, all is well. But the long-term picture is bleak, according to the latest analysis by government bear biologists. How quickly do we act to change energy choices now to limit chances that Arctic sea ice will disappear entirely in summers later in the century (something most biologists agree would greatly diminish bear numbers)? Is it good enough (from the standpoint of future human generations) to preserve the bears mainly in zoos?

I spoke with Ms. Raffensperger briefly before the holidays. She explained that even in some of the most forward-looking environmental statutes in the United States, like the legislation creating the national parks, the language on safeguarding this asset "unimpaired" for future generations is in the preamble, and thus not "hard law." "We haven't located that responsibility some place in some entity," she explained, adding that this was what prompted her to pursue the idea of a guardian.

I asked about the economic norm of discounting future risks, on the assumption that coming generations will be richer and smarter than we are, and thus well able to solve their own problems. She said her view of the precautionary principle did not allow discounting. "I actually heard an economist say once that we are obligated to leave these problems to future generations," Ms. Raffensperger said. "We don't buy that."

The climate issue embodies this challenge of balancing present and future costs more than just about any other, many experts say. Long- lived carbon dioxide emissions accumulate, making the challenge of averting a dangerous buildup ever harder with every year of delay in shifting to less polluting (if costlier) energy options.

But the swifter the shift, the higher the costs. It's something of an intergenerational tug of war, but no one is born yet to pull on the far end of the rope. That's why she feels that someone in this generation needs to take on that duty.

In the short run, Ms. Raffensperger explained in an e-mail message to me, her goal is to get presidential candidates to take a position on the guardian concept:

"I am proposing that the next president appoint a legal guardian of future generations that would review litigation at the Department of Justice, the budget at the Office of Management and Budget, and all regulations at the environmental agencies. Can you also imagine what it would be like if the next president used the well-being of future generations and protecting their inheritance of the commons as the litmus test for judicial appointments? Since I live in Iowa I have the opportunity to ask all the candidates rascally questions.

"More generally, we are developing the legal framework to establish the rights of future generations and our responsibility to them. The nonprofit I work for, the Science and Environmental Health Network, has been collaborating with Harvard Law School's Human Rights Clinic on law as if future generations mattered. [Relevant background is here.]

"Early next year we should have draft constitutional amendments for states, nations and tribes as well as a draft statute that would implement constitutional provisions and a job description of a legal guardian. In the short term, the Legal Guardian is something that governments at any level could elect or designate. An additional partnership has been forged with the Vermont Law School to apply guardianship of future generations specifically to climate change. [Link here.]

One reason I love the word guardian is that it embodies wonderful Jungian archetypes. We've been in conversation with people like James Hillman, the writer and psychologist, about the kind of fertile ground a powerful archetype provides.

Finally, you might be interested in looking at the work of the Buddhist Deep Ecologist, Joanna Macy. She's the grandmother of future- generations work. Joanna does remarkable exercises of taking people into deep time to have dialogs with the imagined future beings. This parallels the letters to future generations that you have featured on your blog.

Carolyn Raffensperger Science and Environmental Health Network

There's a broader movement afoot, outside the realm of government and law, to build support for protection of the global commons for all to enjoy, across time. A new Web site, guardiansofthefuture.org, explains the roots of the idea and summarizes it this way: "People who live today have the sacred right and obligation to protect the commonwealth of the Earth and the common health of people and all our relations for many generations to come."

So we're back on the overarching question of what the present owes the future. This relates to those "100-year letters" and an early Dot Earth post.

What do you owe someone else's great-grandchildren?

How do we apportion responsibility across time for dealing with multigenerational impacts, like the human contribution to climate change, and multigenerational tasks, like transforming how we harvest and use energy?


From: Newsweek ............................................[This story printer-friendly]
December 19, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Newsweek: More Americans are giving up their landlines for cell phones, but new research indicates that there may be health risks associated with long-term wireless use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends minimizing any potential hazard by using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum.]

By Jeneen Interlandi, Newsweek Web Exclusive

Americans logged more than 1 trillion cell-phone minutes in the first half of 2007 alone, so it came as little surprise that this is the year cellular-phone spending is predicted to surpass that of landlines, according to Labor Department data released this week. But even as more people give up their traditional home phones altogether, and ever younger kids get their own cell phones, there are still questions in the scientific community about whether this new American staple is safe for heavy or long-term use.

Experts say the concern over cell-phone use stems from a form of radiation that's produced when the devices communicate with their base station. Wireless phones transmit via radio frequency (RF), a low- frequency form of radiation that is also used in microwave ovens and AM/FM radios. While high-frequency radiation (the kind used in X-rays) is known to cause cancer at high doses, the risks of this milder form remain unclear. A cell phone's main source of RF is its antenna, from which it sends a signal to the nearest base-station antenna. The further a cell phone is from the base station, the more RF it needs to establish and maintain a connection. So, the theory is that any risks posed by RF would be greater for people who live and work in areas with fewer base stations. In fact, Israeli researchers reported earlier this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology that long- term cell-phone users living in rural areas faced a "consistently elevated risk" of developing tumors in the parotid gland (a salivary gland located just below the ear) compared with users who live in suburban or urban areas. Other research, including an ongoing multinational initiative known as INTERPHONE, has yielded mixed results so far. While a number of studies have found no correlation between cell-phone use and various types of brain tumors, most of those studies focused on people who had been using cell phones for three to five years. Long-term cell-phone use may be another story. A handful of small studies have indicated that using a cell phone for an hour each day over a 10-year period can increase the risk of developing a rare brain tumor and that those tumors are more likely to be on the side of your head that you use to talk on the phone.

But quantifying the health risks of cell phones is a trickier proposition than understanding how they work. The gadgets have been widely available for only about a decade; tumors can take twice as long to develop. And hands-free devices, which minimize a person's RF exposure by enabling them to keep the phone's antenna away from their head, have only been commonplace for a few years. The data on kids who use cell phones is even more scarce because not enough time has passed to examine the effects on children who use them extensively as they grow. However, many researchers believe younger cell-phone users may face a higher risk of developing tumors because their nervous systems are not fully developed and their skulls are not as thick as those of adults.

The bottom line: more research is needed before a consensus emerges. In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration recommends minimizing any potential risk by using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum. Also, the Federal Communications Commission requires manufacturers to report the relative amount of RF absorbed into the head by any given cell phone. This number is known as the SAR, or specific absorption rate. You can find out how to check your phone's SAR here.

Copyright 2007 Newsweek.com


From: Heise Online (Berlin, Germany) ......................[This story printer-friendly]
December 27, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: It may be a little ironic but the capitalists of today have much in common with the Marxists of yesterday. Both look upon the future as an endless period of inevitable growth. Likewise, both see the environment as an exploitable resource, and have an unwavering faith in the virtue of technological progress. Consequently, both are of the belief that nothing must stand in the way of this inevitable progress -- including the environment.]

By John Horvath

Despite the spin about a last minute compromise, the UN Climate Conference in Bali last week was a dismal failure. Although the negotiations revolved around technical, arcane matters, the success of the negotiations hinged on the ability of delegates to set scientifically-based emission targets. Sadly, modern day politics always has to show some form of success, so a 'watered down' Bali agreement, also known as the Bali roadmap, was presented as such. Those who take the issue of climate change seriously, however, were able to see through the hype. The most obvious shortcoming was that the agreement didn't contain specific numbers or targets. Still, many opted for the stoic position that a flimsy agreement is better than no agreement.

Nonetheless, the finger pointing soon began of who was to blame for the hollow success at Bali. Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Australia all opposed targets proposed by a coalition of European countries to reduce emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, a target they said they could never meet. There were also lengthy discussions about China, India and other developing nations that are producing an increasing amount of emissions.

The United States initially did not agree to proposals which strongly required that rich nations help poorer countries access green technology to limit their emissions. The U.S. stance caused delegates to boo the American delegation at the conference. Ultimately the U.S. agreed to go forward with the Bali roadmap.

The rich western countries hope to cash in on a booming market for green technologies

Within Europe, it has become too easy to blame the U.S. and others for failing to address the realities of climate change. In fact, European countries appear to take on a hypocritical and condescending role when it comes to environmental issues. Germany is a prime example. On the one hand, its environmental record is impressive: it is home to the first Green Party to ever govern in a national coalition of a G8 nation and it has also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions significantly in recent years. Germany also heavily sponsors renewable energy production and has invested in the refurbishment of ageing factories.

Yet even for Germany there are limits. For instance, recent measures proposed by the European Commission to reduce the C02 output of vehicles have come under criticism by the powerful German automobile lobby. As with the U.S. and other western countries, there are fears that the German economy could fail under stiff targets.

One way in which some European countries, such as Germany, are able to gloss over their tainted image is by politically pretending to be environmentally conscious. Lately, this has been done by publicly acclaiming that advanced industrial nations must play a role and lead the way in reducing greenhouse gases so as to set an example to emerging economies. The catch is that rich western countries hope to cash in on a booming market for green technologies. As the head of the Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Competitiveness unit at the Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General of the European Commission recently noted, "what we need to do is boost innovation in green technology which will soon be in very high demand."

Thus, while traditional manufacturing and industrial processes move east to India and China where labour is cheap and exploitable, the west is busy setting standards and cornering the market for green technologies. These technologies are then used, in turn, to partly redress a growing trade deficit with Asia. In some ways, this can be viewed as the green side of globalization.

As a result of this situation, efforts to tackle the problem of climate change are often misplaced and, in some cases, do more harm than good. Recent legislation in Europe and Canada to mandate the use of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) is a case in point. Compact fluorescent lighting is one of the fastest and simplest ways to boost energy efficiency and cut CO2 emissions in the home, but even this technology uses only 15% of its power for light (standard incandescent or filament light bulbs achieve only 5%). Not only this, CFLs are not entirely environmentally friendly: they contain mercury, the disposal of which is a growing environmental concern. Moreover, CFL bulbs are only efficient when used for an extended period of time; they actually use more energy than standard bulbs if they are quickly switched on and off. Hence, CFL bulbs encourage people to leave their lights on needlessly, thereby reinforcing an attitude of wasteful consumption.

Combating climate change, therefore, is not simply about applying green technologies, such as changing from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Robert Weissman, editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action, points out that what is needed is a broad public understanding of how the present system of making, transporting, selling, buying, using and disposing of things is trashing the planet. "If we're going to save ourselves from global warming, we're going to have to do things differently," writes Weissman.

Perhaps the best example of misplaced efforts to tackle climate change is the use of bio-fuels. Despite recent questions over the feasibility of bio-fuels, leaders in Europe are of the opinion that research into future bio-fuel technologies must go ahead. Hence, EU Heads of State and Government earlier this year endorsed an ambitious EU Commission plan which set the goals of increasing bio-fuel use in the EU to 5.75% by 2010 and 10% by 2020.

Europe's bio-fuel plan is yet another example in where environmental issues are used as a cover to promote economic policy. In this case it's being used to boost Europe's lagging biotechnology sector which has suffered the past few years due to the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Thanks to climate change, however, the focus of GMO research has now shifted from Franken foods towards bio- fuels, a less contentious issue.

Already, it's quite clear that cultivating energy crops in Europe on set-aside and non-cultivated land won't be enough to meet the EU's bio-fuel targets. The solution, therefore, is seen in increasing output per hectare and boosting crop quality through plant science. Hence, as pundits argue, the EU must turn to biotechnology in order to combat climate change. This, in turn, will help to reinvigorate the European biotechnology sector and make it more competitive with the U.S. and Japan, a hitherto major concern for EU leaders.

The trouble with this is that rather than trying to solve a problem, it's creating more instead. A recent United Nations report warned that bio-fuels could cause serious damage to the environment and have an adverse impact on the lives of millions. One problem is that the crops needed to produce the fuel are competing with food crops for land and could therefore jeopardize the food supply. Indeed, throughout the EU this past year member states experienced a sharp rise in food prices as a result. In addition to this, bio-fuels could lead to land and water scarcity, as well as accentuate the loss of biodiversity and soil erosion. Growing bio-fuels crops has already led to large-scale deforestation in some areas of the world.

At present it takes 2 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bio-fuel, and the crops are often treated with insecticides and fertilizers which are known to damage the ozone layer. Thus, for those who try to ease their guilty conscience by using bio-fuels made of maize, sugar cane, or rapeseed instead of oil, more harm is potentially being done to the environment than good.

The likelihood that European leaders will see the fallacies in their environmental policies is slim. While environmentalists generally argue that the only real solution to the problem of climate change is to reduce emissions by reducing consumption, the European Commission regards such an idea as unthinkable. According to one official, "reducing emissions by simply reducing our economic activity, as advocated by some radicals, is not a realistic scenario."

This is because the prevailing ideology within the political and business elites of the world is that we need to improve energy efficiency so that we will be able to create the same products and services as we do now -- only using less energy. The challenge, therefore, is to implement energy savings that would not lower our living standards and economic activity.

The capitalists of today have much in common with the Marxists of yesterday

All this sounds fine, but the problem with such an idea is that it's not sustainable in the long run. In other words, do we keep improving energy efficiency until we reach the point where we create the same products and services using no energy at all? Or is this another problem for the future to solve, as we will all be dead and buried by then?

This wouldn't be such a problem if economic conditions were constant. Sadly, in this modern era of global capitalism, it's not. Modern-day capitalism requires constant growth, and lately this pace of growth has been accelerated. If growth stagnates or a contraction sets in, the consequences would be catastrophic. This why many experts fear the popping of the China economic bubble; it's not a question of if but when.

It may be a little ironic but the capitalists of today have much in common with the Marxists of yesterday. Both look upon the future as an endless period of inevitable growth. Likewise, both see the environment as an exploitable resource, and have an unwavering faith in the virtue of technological progress. Consequently, both are of the belief that nothing must stand in the way of this inevitable progress - including the environment.

History has since demonstrated the shortcomings of such an unwavering belief in inevitable progress, growth, and technology. Communism's environmental legacy is well known, and toward the end of the cold war when the environment was a key issue in most People's Democracies, lip service was paid to the need for environmental protection. Meanwhile, capitalism's attitude toward the environment has been more or less the same. If history is to teach us anything, it's now that communism is dead we must seriously consider burying capitalism.

This is because one of the underlying attributes of modern day capitalism is the unequal distribution of global wealth. In the time of Adam Smith, the proportion of differences in wealth between the large areas of civilisation on the planet ranged from 1 to less than 2. In 2000, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it reached a proportion of 1 to 74. Inequalities have thus escalated out of proportion.

In conjunction with this, so too has the exploitation of resources. The western world consumes by far more than its share of the world's resources. It's this exploitation coupled with a belief in inevitable growth and progress which has put the world on the road to ruin.

Many feel that this may be going a little too far. Without a doubt, there are a lot of problems with capitalism, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not only this, the problems associated with climate change are myriad, especially considering the fact that C02 emissions can come from the most unexpected of places. For example, a cow is as almost damaging to the climate as a small family car. Both emit CO2, while the burping and flagellant cow also emits methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as destructive as carbon dioxide. What is more, the world's growing demand for dairy products and beef has led to more and more rainforests being cleared in order to create additional grazing space. Thus, with about a billion and a half cattle worldwide, cows at present make up more than 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Rather than learning from our mistakes we are intent on repeating them

Along these lines, it appears that the only way to reduce emissions is to reduce consumption. This is no doubt the case for the short term, but the problem of too many cows or cars also underscores an enigma which was pointed out decades ago and which seems to have been relegated to the background since: that of unchecked population growth.

In the 1970s and 1980s the idea of 6 billion people on the planet was then already considered as unsustainable; we are now well past that mark and looking toward a world with almost 10 billion people in the near future. The irony is that the western, industrial world is now complaining of a population shortage because it is starting to feel the economic burden of maintaining a society geared toward constant growth but without the population to sustain it. In other words, western industrial society is slowly but surely becoming aware of its limits.

The problem of climate change is not simply a question of economics and social models, however. At the heart of the matter is the need for a change in social attitudes prevalent in the western, industrial world, one based on insularity and greed. An excellent reflection of this is "The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard" (StoryofStuff.Org), a short film which can be viewed on the Internet (about 20 minutes) that explains the "materials economy" and how it works. Produced by Free Range Studios, the Story of Stuff revolves around the themes of why the world is running up against resource limits, how corporate globalization is premised on externalizing costs (i.e., making someone other than the companies that make things pay for the environmental and human costs of production), how the corporate economy rests on the artificial creation of need ("the golden arrow of consumption") and, perhaps most importantly, that things can be different and must be made to be different.

Indubitably, western industrial civilisation is destroying itself because it's determined to disregard all limits in all areas. It has broken all the aesthetic rules in art, given birth to absolute totalitarianisms, and declared that there are no longer any physical or ethical limits. Likewise, there are no longer any limits on consumption or the exploitation of nature. Our obsession is that we must always have more. Modern society is, as it were, set on holding the position of the "almighty creator".

This attitude goes hand in hand with the Judeo-Christian view of the world which puts human beings in a privileged position above all else in the world. Indeed, extremists even go so far as to claim that it's our God-given right to exploit the earth for our own selfish purposes. As the far-right American pundit Ann Coulter once stated during a TV debate over environmentalism: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the seas [...]. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" Apparently, the punch line was that "raping the Earth" is preferable to "living like the Indians."

Ironically, the Judeo-Christian view of the world, which is prominent in all western, industrial nations, also contains a warning in the story pertaining to "the tree of knowledge". Contrary to the view of many who use this as an excuse to rationalise that ignorance is bliss, the problem with taking a bite of the forbidden fruit is not the acquisition of knowledge itself but its application. In other words, we are too immature to handle certain types of information.

This doesn't mean we need to adopt a Luddite view of the world. Rather, it should be used as a guide for adopting the precautionary principle more often. Unfortunately, we seem to be relying too much on technological progress as a panacea for our ills.

Technology is often regarded as cure with no side effects. Yet the 20th century is full of examples of how the double-sword of technology has led to more problems than solutions: radioactivity, CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), DDT, asbestos, hydrocarbons, nuclear power, and the list goes on. As the Swiss philosopher Dominique Bourg points out, "all this goes to show that the technologies we use have provided an element of control but are limited in scope and have a time bomb potential that could result in catastrophic damage. The more powerful these technologies become, the greater the potential damage they can cause."

Despite this, rather than learning from our mistakes we are intent on repeating them. Nuclear power, for instance, is regarded by some as clean energy and the optimal solution to reducing CO2 emissions while still producing large amounts of much needed energy. But even if the safety of nuclear power plants can somehow be guaranteed, the disposal of nuclear waste remains a nagging enigma.

Urgent need to invent new methods of economic and political regulation

The dilemma for many is that our reliance on technology is such that we have become increasingly isolated from reality and the outside world. This can be clearly seen through the advent of the so-called "information society". Computer-mediated communications has become simply another technology in which the promises of a greener, brighter future have turned out to be superfluous. The Internet especially was supposed to deliver a "new economy". Moreover, the "paperless" medium of the Internet would help save trees while the tele-working would cut down on traffic congestion and emissions. It has since turned out to be the opposite: the economy is the same as it ever was, more paper is being used than ever before, and with so many people online computers now cause more emissions than civil aviation worldwide. It's not just about household computers: the Internet requires huge server and data storage facilities, and as the flow of data doubles every four months, electricity consumption grows with it.

Our reliance on technology to fix problems related to our egocentric view of the world is such that halting the irreversible effects of climate change when they become intolerable or catastrophic is regarded by some as a possible alternative. Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize winner (1995) and renowned atmospheric chemistry expert at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, has suggested releasing aerosols into the upper atmosphere to chemically neutralise carbon dioxide. Although Crutzen believes that this solution should only be considered as a last resort if the climate machine were to spin out of control, it nevertheless betrays what Bourg views as "another head-long technological rush with potentially nasty surprises -- all of which would be on a planetary scale." Accordingly, the danger of such an idea is that it provides a justification for inaction today on account of the fact that tomorrow action can be taken on a global scale.

In the end, regardless of the technology at our disposal, it's quite clear that the only way to combat climate change is a thorough and radical change in the way we live and consume resources. However, given the close relationship between our lifestyles and our personal values, such a fundamental change is only possible if we make alterations to basic ethics. For instance, we rarely take into account future generations or distant populations when making important decisions. Moreover, western societies are structured so as to enable each person to maximise their own interests. As a result, it's only to be expected that the ultimate objective of western, industrial society is to produce and consume more and more.

Environmental degradation and climate change has shown that this is clearly no longer sustainable. The free organisation of society is showing itself to be at odds with the management of shared environmental assets. There is now an urgent need to invent new methods of economic and political regulation. This includes branding certain aspects of our lifestyles as criminal.

Subsequently, we can no longer leave everything up to "the market". The practice of market-based emissions trading demonstrates both the misplaced attempts of EU environment policy and the erroneous notion that somehow we can always buy ourselves out of trouble. The role of the markets is to stimulate the economy, but pricing can't be used as the basis for new ethical values required by a global society. Hence, certain activities not only mustn't be regulated by the market, they must be forbidden and severely punished by law.

Europe provides a perfect example of how difficult such a change can be for the individual. Europeans are acutely aware of climate change and do care about the environment, but the vast majority are still unwilling to make radical and perhaps even painful changes to their own habits and lifestyles. Hearing the truth strikes fear into the hearts of most; hence, western industrial society prefers to take refuge in a head-long technological rush for a solution.

Unless the fundamental economic, ethical, and even religious foundations upon which western industrial society are built are re- evaluated and revamped, then the changes proposed or enacted to combat climate change will be too little too late. Along these lines, roadmaps like the one worked out in Bali don't chart a way forward, but simply lead to a dead end.


From: Danish Ministry of Agriculture ......................[This story printer-friendly]
October 19, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: "As a new element, the organic farming principle of caution will be incorporated directly into the new Organic Farming Act [in Denmark]."]

Denmark's status as frontrunner in the field of organic food and farming must not be blemished. Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen has just presented a parliamentary bill for a new Organic Farming Act that will effectively keep rotten apples out of the organic farming business

The credibility and good reputation of organic food and farming among consumers is vital to the continued growth and development of this field. So, with the new Organic Farming Act, actions that can damage public confidence in organic production will be viewed upon with extra stern eyes.

Under this bill, farmers who have been convicted of for instance gross neglect and abuse of animals within the last five years will not be able to obtain a licence to engage in organic farming. The same applies to farmers with convictions for importing illegal medicines.

"Organic food and farming is totally dependent on consumer confidence. Therefore, it is important that individuals are prevented also in future from jeopardising the credibility of organic production", says Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen.

When a licence is revoked

The bill also tightens the restrictions on existing organic farmers. The Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries proposes that individuals who have had their organic farming licence revoked should not be allowed to continue to engage in organic farming activities in new company set-ups for a period of up to five years.

"If an organic farmer loses his licence one day for spraying his crops with for instance Round-up, the same farmer should not be allowed to continue organic farming activities the next day under the guise of a new company," says Eva Kjer Hansen.

Organic farmers that violate organic farming rules relating to the use of medicines, and for example administer medicines without veterinary assistance, will in the future have their licence immediately revoked for a period of up to five years."

As a new element, the organic farming principle of caution will be incorporated directly into the new Organic Farming Act.

The new Organic Farming bill has been drafted on the basis of a unanimous recommendation by the The Danish Organic Foods Council, a body in which farmers, industry, the retail trade and consumers are represented.

The new Organic Farming bill has been well received by all parties in the Danish Parliament, which is expected to pass the act within a few months.

(c) Policy Dialogue International 2005-07


From: The Monitor (Kampala, Uganda) ......................[This story printer-friendly]
December 24, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of natural resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World Charter for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b) that activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination.... Studies carried out so far clearly show that the proposed destruction of Mabira forest shall spell doom for Uganda.]

President Yoweri Museveni is at it again; this time around reminding the country that the controversial proposal to give away Mabira forest which led to the death of three people about six months ago, is not yet resolved after all.

His remarks while meeting the NRM Parliamentary Caucus last week in effect mean that government could still go ahead a give away part of the tropical rain forest to a private investor, the Lugazi-based Mehta Group, in total disregard of public opinion.

Most depressing about this debacle though is the fact that Mr Museveni's resolve to parcel out a protected national resource contradicts the announcement made to the world in October by his finance minister Dr Ezra Suruma, at a dinner meeting hosted by the South American President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, in Georgetown that the Uganda government had dropped the plan to give away part of Mabira forest.

And why should a national leader against all odds push for the alienation of 17,540 acres, nearly a third of Mabira forest to Mehta when there are huge chunks of an utilised public land in this country under government control which can be gazetted for the industrilisation programme.

What's the moral justification for this disdain to an evident national consensus that Mabira forest reserve is a no-go area for the promoters of industrialisation! Quite maddening too, is the apparent lack of government interest to explain to the country why of all places it's Mabira that should be earmarked for 'industrialisation'.

Is it the proximity of the place called Mabira that has attracted the 'investors' to justify its destruction, or is it an element of ego and greed (some of the main factors that erode the principles of good governance) that can possibly explain the determination by the powers that be to destroy what remains of our national forest cover?

Whatever the motive it's our civic duty as citizens to remind our leaders that the constitutionally established principle of public trust applies to all our national resources and public land.

Our leaders including the president have a legal obligation under the public trust doctrine to manage national resources in a manner that doesn't prejudice the interests of all Ugandans.

President Museveni chairs the cabinet which in April studied a damning cabinet memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Water and Environment which paradoxically, strongly argued against the destruction of the forest.

In the cabinet memo, experts noted the negative impact of changing the land use of the 7,100 hectares of Mabira tropical rain forest; which among others will lead to reduction in water flow to the lakes and rivers, change temperatures and loss of unique ecosystem whose economic value is estimated at Shs23.3 billion.

The negative effects that await the country once Mabira is given away, can also be prescient too. Over the years ,there is been too much destruction of our forest cover and the ramifications for this obliteration have been clear for all to see including the unprecedented severe weather conditions experienced in the country this year.

The unpredictability in climatic conditions that threaten the survival of mankind, have led to the development of a basic international environmental precautionary law principle to protect and conserve nature for the benefit of present and future generations.

The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of natural resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World Charter for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b); that activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; that their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature.

Studies carried out so far clearly show that the proposed destruction of Mabira forest shall spell doom for our country. Parliament and the courts of law should therefore urgently intervene to save Mabira forest from being destroyed for selfish benefits of some 'investors'. Ugandans should remain firm in the defence of Mabira forest to prevent irreversible harm to our environment.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

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Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160
New Brunswick, N.J. 08901