I was wrong about trade (6/24/2003) A few years ago I would have raised at least two cheers. The US government, to judge by the aggressive noises now being made by its trade negotiators, seems determined to wreck one of the most intrusive and destructive of the instruments of global governance: the World Trade Organisation. A few years ago, I would have been wrong.
The case for a GM-free sustainable world (6/17/2003) The consistent finding from independe esearch and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicide and pesticide use. GM crops have cost the United States an estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination. Massive failures in Bt cotton of up to 100% were reported in India.
Other industries have the tools to manage excess capacity (6/13/2003) A recent issue of Business Week contained a news report that caught my eye. The article noted that "factories are awash with excess capacity" and that the capacity utilization rate in manufacturing was only 72.5% during April 2003. In response to slackening demand, CEOs have continued to lay off workers and idle plants to increase their profits or at least reduce their losses. When demand and prices are down, manufacturing industries do not hesitate to idle some of their productive capacity.
Let's do a Monsanto (6/13/2003) Something about the launch of the government's "great GM debate" last week
rang a bell. It was, perhaps, the contrast between the ambition of its
stated aims and the feebleness of their execution. Though the environment
secretary, Margaret Beckett, claims she wants "to ensure all voices are
heard", she has set aside an advertising budget of precisely zero. Public
discussions will take place in just six towns.
Transgenic Contamination of Certified Seed Stocks (6/11/2003) The spread of transgenes from genetically modified crops is a great threat to the quality of certified seed. Canola (oilseed rape in the UK) (Brassica napus, B. rapa, B. campestris) is the second most valuable crop in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a sub department of Agriculture Canada, requires a distance of 200 metres separation between fields growing certified seeds from any other Brassica, and a distance of 50 metres from weedy relatives. Recently, however, producers of hybrid canola seed have required a separation of 2 kilometers from a Brassica crop, in recognition that pollen from a Brassica crop may travel as far as a kilometer or more. CFIA separation distances are evidently inadequate for insuring the purity of certified seeds.
Friesen, Nelson and Van Acker in the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, studied certified canola seed stocks for contamination due to transgenes for herbicide tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate or thifensulfuron . Certified seed stocks were studied in field plots to which herbicides were applied. The results showed that 95% of 27 certified seed lots were contaminated with herbicide tolerance transgenes; with 52% of the seed lots exceeding the 0.25% maximum contamination standard set for certified seed. Some lots were tolerant to both glyphosate and glufosinate.
Biopirates in the Americas (6/4/2003) With the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the United States government and major American transnational corporations hope to obtain unlimited access to Latin America's vast biological riches. Control of biodiversity is an element of increasing importance in the competitive advantage of corporations and nations, for it is the raw material of the genetic revolution in what some analysts refer to as the "Biotech Century." The businesses that covet biodiversity – pharmaceutical and agrochemical corporations, as well as upstarts in the budding fields of genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics – comprise a veritable biological industrial complex that seeks control of health and nutrition worldwide.
COOL and the Canadian BSE incident (6/3/2003) The recent announcement that a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in Canada gives us the opportunity to follow up on our recent discussion of country of origin (COOL) labeling. BSE or as it is commonly called, mad cow disease, first appeared in England in 1985. Once it was determined that BSE caused variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in some people who had eaten infected meat products, beef consumption in England and the rest of Europe dropped significantly.