lunes, enero 30, 2006

Crashing Davos

Jeff Faux
January 27, 2006

The world’s rich and powerful are heading this week to their annual meeting in the plush mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland. Hosted by the great global corporations (Citigroup, Siemans, Microsoft, Nestlé, etc.), some 2000 CEOs, prominent politicians, pundits and international bureaucrats will network over great food, fine wine, good skiing and cozy evenings by the fire contemplating the world’s future.

This is not a secret cabal; journalists will issue daily reports to the rest of us on the wit and informal charm of our financial betters. Rather, it is like the political convention of those who manage the global economy. Call it the Party of Davos.

domingo, enero 29, 2006

ETC Group
Ban Terminator Campaign
News Release
27 January 2006

Granada's Grim Sowers Plow up Moratorium on Terminator, Clear the Path for its Approval at UN

Terminator Opponents Prepare for Battle at COP8 in Curitiba, Brazil March 20-31, 2006

Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31.

The CBD's "Working Group on Article 8(j)" that met in Granada this week was established to protect the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of Indigenous peoples and peasant farmers. Civil society groups and Indigenous peoples watched in disbelief however as governments ignored the profoundly negative social, economic and environmental impacts of "suicide seeds" highlighted in numerous CBD studies as well as in official submissions from Indigenous peoples and farmers' organizations. The outcome now threatens biodiversity and the future of seed-saving and locally adapted agriculture worldwide.

"Terminator poses a threat to our welfare and food sovereignty and constitutes a violation of our human right of self-determination," said Mariano Marcos Terena of Brazil on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

Although the meeting "reaffirmed" the fragile UN moratorium on Terminator, new recommendations adopted in Granada now may be used to block the CBD's precautionary approach when governments meet in March in Brazil. Not only did the meeting fail to condemn Terminator as immoral and anti-farmer, Australia and the United States falsely claimed that Terminator, which creates sterility, would "increase productivity."

With a US government official consulting at her side, the Australian negotiator insisted on deleting reference to the "precautionary approach" and used this as a bargaining chip to win controversial wording for a "case-by-case risk assessment" of Terminator. "The new reference to case-by-case assessment is shocking and extremely damaging because it suggests that national regulatory review of Terminator is possible - it undermines the CBD moratorium, opening the door to Terminator approval," warns Hope Shand of ETC Group.

"Australia's brazen move confirms that an alarming government-industry strategy is in play to overturn the UN moratorium on Terminator," said Lucy Sharratt of the Ban Terminator Campaign. "The process and outcome dismiss the contributions of Indigenous and local communities."

Despite the unscrupulous push by a handful of rich countries to put industry profits before Farmers' Rights, the majority of governments at the meeting remain solidly opposed to Terminator technology and committed to the existing moratorium. In her welcoming address the Spanish Minister of the Environment acknowledged the dangers of Terminator technology. During the meeting, the African Group, Egypt and the Philippines made impassioned speeches about the potentially devastating impacts of Terminator on biodiversity and food security and the need for national bans. Norway, Pakistan, Kenya and the European Union defended the existing moratorium. India and Brazil both referred to their national laws prohibiting genetic seed sterilization technology. Despite this strong opposition to Terminator, Australia's extreme position and its determination to block consensus left governments little room to negotiate.

In the Halls of Shame: Despite public pledges not to develop Terminator technology, Gene Giants Syngenta and Monsanto lobbied aggressively on Terminator throughout the week. Harry Collins of Delta and Pine Land, the world's largest cotton seed company which is now testing Terminator plants in greenhouses, attended under the auspices of the International Seed Federation. Monsanto's Roger Krueger moonlighted as a representative from the International Chamber of Commerce. They were joined in the corridors by CropLife International, a pesticide lobby group representing the "plant science industry."

Outside the UN meeting Spanish people of all ages gathered to remind governments of the strong public resistance to Terminator technology. Ecologistas en Acción organized public events, street protests, and educational street displays throughout the week as part of the International Ban Terminator Campaign ( When news of the Granada outcome reached the plenary of the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela last night there were howls of anger from thousands of assembled farmers.

"Allowing case-by-case approval of Terminator means a slow death for farmers coffin-by-coffin," explained Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group speaking in Caracas.

The Ban Terminator Campaign will work with groups and movements across the world to strengthen the global resistance to stop Terminator. The fight now moves to the COP8 meeting in Brazil March 20-31.

A transcript of the Draft Recommendation submitted by the Working Group can be read here on ETC Group's web site.

For more information:

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Ban Terminator Campaign
mobile: +1 613 252-2147

Hope Shand or Verónica Villa
ETC Headquarters, Ottawa
tel: +1 613 241 2267

Pat Mooney and Silvia Ribeiro in Caracas
mobile: +1 613 261 0688
tel: Hotel El Cid (+58212) 263 2611


miércoles, enero 25, 2006

Ford Motor Company announced today that it will be cutting as many as 30,000 jobs and will shut down 14 factories as a result of continuing losses.

Ford, now hires about 123,000 workers in North America and lost $5.5 billion in those operations in 2005.

General Motors Corporation last year decided to close all or part of 12 plants and 30,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2008.

With China's recent introduction of a car selling for $10,000 in the U.S., Ford and GM have hit the wall. They have been building big SUV's in recent years and now that gas prices are rising dramatically their sales are dropping significantly. The workers on the China car are making $3.50 an hour compared to the good wages and benefits at the unionized auto plants in the U.S.

Television manufacturing in China pays workers there about 50 cents an hour. Thus TV manufacturing is virtually non-existent in the U.S. any more. On and on the story goes......

Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld has a "strategy guy" by the name of Thomas Barnett. Barnett's job is to teach "military transformation" to high level Pentagon officers and CIA operatives. I've seen Barnett on C-SPAN several times during the past year saying that we are not going to have industrial jobs in the U.S. anymore. The big corporations will move overseas where production costs can be significantly lowered.

America's role in corporate globalization will be "security export" says Barnett. We will build the weapons systems and send our children into "endless war" in order to protect the profits of the corporate elite. Under corporate globalization, Barnett says, there are places called "the non-integrating gap" that have not yet submitted to the authority of the new world order. The job of the U.S. will be to go into the "non-integrating gap" and make sure these countries comply with the dictates of corporate globalization.

Barnett has identified the gap as the Middle East (where we fight in Iraq today), Central Asia (where we are now building six permanent bases in Afghanistan), Africa (where Barnett says the U.S. will be fighting for oil 20 years from now), and Latin America (where you have Venezuela and others not carrying the water for big business).

Barnett says that the U.S. won't do international treaties anymore because they would limit the ability of the Pentagon to do preemptive first-strike attack on any country that is not complying with corporate globalization.

What does this mean for social spending back home? As the job base dries up in the U.S. so will the tax base at the local-state-federal levels. There will increasingly be cuts in social programs. Education will be cut and privatized so that only the children of the rich can afford, without incurring massive debt, a college education. Thus the only real job prospects for many young people will be in the military - endless warriors. Thus the Pentagon's statement that there will be no need for a draft. When the military is the only job around legions of poor and working class kids will have few other options.

This is the not-so-bright picture that the corporate dominated government of the U.S. is creating for us. It will become a reality if we don't begin to protest now against this re-introduction of feudalism. We must fight to have a fair tax system in the U.S. that does not let the rich, powerful, and corporate elite get away with not paying taxes. We must fight for public education and affordable college options for our kids. We must fight to create new jobs in manufacturing sustainable technologies like solar, wind power and public mass transit systems. We must fight for health care for all. And we must escalate our educational work and action now, before it becomes too late.
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 729-0517 (Our blog)

lunes, enero 23, 2006

Bolivia derrota a la transnacional del agua

El país más pobre pero rebelde de la América del Sur se anotó una rotunda victoria sobre la transnacional Bechtel, a la que expulsó de su territorio por lucrar con el agua y obligarla, después, a abandonar sus millonarias demandas de indemnización

Se logró expulsar a la Betchel y confiscar sus propiedades sin pagar indemnización. ¿Por qué no hacer lo mismo con las petroleras?

El país más pobre pero rebelde de la América del Sur se anotó una rotunda victoria sobre la transnacional Betchel, a la que expulsó de su territorio por lucrar con el agua y obligarla, después, a abandonar sus millonarias demandas de indemnización.

Este jueves, el gobierno boliviano compró en 25 centavos de dólar el 80 por ciento de las acciones de la empresa Aguas del Tunari, filial con la que operaba Bechtel en Cochabamba, en el centro de Bolivia. Con esta acción se extingue la demanda por 50 millones de dólares que la transnacional había emprendido contra Bolivia, tras que sus propiedades fueran confiscadas y sus directivos expulsados el 2000 por un levantamiento popular que no aceptó el alza de tarifas del servicio de agua potable y alcantarillado, en la denominada “guerra del gas”.

Esta es una verdadera victoria del pueblo boliviano que expulsa a una transnacional sin pagarle ninguna indemnización y un precedente mundial para la lucha de todos los pueblos contra la privatización del agua, dijo el líder del levantamiento popular del 2000, Oscar Olivera.

Según Olivera, la victoria popular sobre la transnacional del agua demuestra que Bolivia puede vencer en la lucha por nacionalizar sus recursos naturales, como el gas y el petróleo, hoy en manos de Repsol, Total, Enron, Shell, British Petroleum, Vintage, Petrobras y otras, que controlan las segundas reservas más importantes de Sudamérica.

Estas empresas operan ilegal e inconstitucionalmente en Bolivia, según establece la sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional, la máxima autoridad jurídica del país, por lo que los sindicatos y organizaciones populares consideran viable su expulsión, con la consiguiente nacionalización de todos los hidrocarburos, valuados en más de cien mil millones de dólares.

Según Olivera, la victoria sobre la Betchel debería pesar en el ánimo del presidente electo Evo Morales para iniciar similar camino: nacionalizando la industria hidrocarburífera y expulsando a las petroleras sin pagarles ni un centavo.

El principal argumento de los que se oponen a la nacionalización efectiva de los recursos naturales señala que las transnacionales que sean expulsadas del país podrían iniciar millonarios juicios por un monto global de casi ocho mil millones de dólares, que no dispone el Estado boliviano.

“Bolivia puede y debe vencer en la lucha por la recuperación plena de sus recursos naturales”, agregó Olivera, al urgir a Morales que “no tenga miedo” de la reacción de las petroleras y el imperialismo.

Hasta ahora, la intención de Morales es legalizar los ilegales e inconstitucionales contratos de las petroleras, adecuando estos contratos a la actual ley de hidrocarburos, elaborada y aprobada por los parlamentarios que gobernaron con el ex presidente Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, derrocado en octubre del 2003. Esta ley aumenta los tributos a las petroleras en una proporción nominal de hasta un 50%, aunque en términos reales no supera el 35%, lo que no es del agrado de las transnacionales, pero que obtienen en contrapartida la legalización plena de sus operaciones y la garantía plena que elimina la base legal de una nacionalización sin indemnización. (La Paz, enero 20, 2006).

Fuente: Econoticias Bolivia

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¡Qué culpa tiene el tomate...!

Eso, qué culpa tiene el tomate. El tomate, esa fuente de sabor, de color, que durante siglos ha sido el referente de los platos frescos del verano, ensaladas, gazpachos, salmorejos, pipirranas... y que ahora, no sabe a nada

Qué le ha pasado al tomate para eso, que no sepa a nada. Claro que ahora tenemos tomate todo el año, ya no hay que prepararlo en conservas, desecándolo como hacen en Mallorca, ni adquirir los tomates canarios en el otoño, cuando se acaba la temporada en la península. Ahora basta con acercarse a cualquier mercado, mercadillo, hipermercado e incluso gasolinera que allí estarán, esperando a que los compremos y hagamos de ellos conspicuos protagonistas de nuestros platos.

Lo peor es que el tiempo nos ha borrado el recuerdo del sabor y del olor del tomate. Y muchos, ni lo echan de menos, pues no lo han conocido.

Llamaban la atención lo perfecto de forma y color de aquellos tomates que venían de Holanda, cultivados en invernaderos con un sistema de calefacción que terminaba por hacerlo poco rentable. Las nuevas técnicas agrarias, orientadas a una mayor producción en un mínimo espacio y a poner a nuestra disposición sus productos en cualquier época del año nos han traído los huertos bajo plástico, el cultivo hidropónico y las cámaras con atmósfera controlada.

El plástico, además del impacto paisajísticos, provoca el ambiental. Metros y metros de cubierta que deben ser renovados periódicamente y cuyos residuos no son fácilmente controlables ni degradables, aunque favorecen el microclima que posibilita programar las cosechas independientemente de los ciclos naturales, además de preservar de plagas e inclemencias meteorológicas. También la disposición en "pupitres" facilita la atención y la recolección de los productos. No viene mal amortiguar la dureza de las labores del campo.

Quizás esto sea lo de menos, pero, ¿qué es lo del cultivo hidropónico? Se trata de suprimir el sustrato natural, la tierra, por un sistema de alimentación de la planta que, por goteo, va aportando los nutrientes y el agua necesaria para el rápido desarrollo de la planta. En el mejor de los casos implantados en una tela de fibra de coco. Las semillas, los abonos y nutrientes, de laboratorio, para garantizar la trazabilidad del producto. Hay que olvidarse de guardar la simiente, que en muchos productos es estéril para tener que adquirirla para el nuevo cultivo. Nada de dejar tierras en barbecho para que se recuperen, podemos adquirir los nutrientes justos y necesarios para la semilla que nos han vendido. Rápido crecimiento, homogeneidad del producto y sencilla evaluación de costes.

Pues ahí está nuestro tomate, rodeado de plástico, con la temperatura y humedad controlada y alimentado mediante complejo sistema de riego. Como en la U.C.I. de un hospital.

Ya está nuestro tomate maduro, no todavía no, pero podemos recolectarlo y dejar libre el invernadero para una nueva plantación. Pero, ¿qué hacemos con un producto que aún no ha madurado?, pues sencillamente ponemos la tecnología al servicio de la agricultura y empleamos las cámaras con "atmósfera modificada". Tras la recolección sometemos al producto a un enfriamiento rápido, mediante el denominado "hidrocooling". El frío retrasa la maduración, pero hasta cierto punto; es aquí donde entra la posibilidad de controlar y modificar la atmósfera de conservación del producto, que, con una alta concentración de anhídrido carbónico y una baja concentración de oxígeno, podemos ralentizar meses la maduración y diferir la puesta en el mercado del producto. Es decir madurar sin sol.

Tenemos tomates que no saben a nada. ¿Es este el precio que hay que pagar por disponer de un producto todo el año? Ojalá...

El resultado de tanta agricultura intensiva es el de las llamadas "zonas muertas" del mar en donde se han acumulado el nitrógeno procedente de los abonos utilizados y que acaba con los recursos pesqueros en muchas partes del planeta. Y como ejemplo, el pobre tomate, qué culpa tendrá el tomate. Triste elegido para ilustrar esta precipitación al vacío de muchos productos. Y es que, recuerdo la intervención de Pepe Rodríguez (El Bohío) en unas jornadas de maridaje en el pasado Salón de la Alimentación en Madrid; puntualizaba "... y esto es un tomate, un tomate de verdad, vamos que me los trae un señor que conozco y los cultiva él", mientras montaba su "ensalada de cochino".

La dicha la encontré el pasado verano cuando, una amiga de mi mujer aparece con unas bolsas, "... mira, huele" –"Cabernet sauvignon" pensé yo-. Ese característico olor a pimientos verdes de esa variedad de uva, no eran pimientos que olían a pimientos, de ahí mi sorpresa. Y en la otra bolsa tomates, tomates que olían a tomate. Pero, ¿qué era aquello?. "Un vecino de una calle paralela a la mía que tiene un huerto y que vende lo que le sobra", nos contó. Todos distintos, con alguna irregularidad en el color o en la forma, alguno con algún picotazo de un pájaro, pero todos sabían a algo, que todavía mi memoria recuerda. ¿Tendrán nuestros hijos la posibilidad de conocer estos sabores perdidos?

Y después vendrán los transgénicos, cuyo principal argumento es que con ellos se puede erradicar el hambre. Justificación que no se cree nadie cuando uno ve como se destruyen los excedentes agrícolas y ganaderos para evitar la caída de los precios y por haber superado las cuotas de producción; o como se abandonan y no se recogen los frutos aquellas plantaciones con subvenciones al cultivo y no a la producción, subvenciones cuyo único fin es fijar la población rural. No podrían utilizarse estos excedentes en paliar el hambre y a la vez fijar la población rural. Seguro que no interesa. Aunque el principal problema de lo transgénico será ecológico. Desaparecerán variedades, como está ocurriendo ya con la agricultura y ganadería intensiva, premiando la producción a la variedad y al sabor, y desaparecerán también aquellas aves, insectos y microorganismos que, desde el inicio de los tiempos, han ido alimentándose de estos productos que, a pesar de esta presión han seguido subsistiendo y ha habido de sobra para alimentarnos. Esta alteración en los ecosistemas se verá al cabo de varios años, y cuando los cazadores se quejen de que no hay codornices, de que ya no vienen las tórtolas, tampoco los zorzales, alguien se dará cuenta de que, a los pesticidas, funguicidas y otros tratamientos de la agricultura intensiva se les une la inmunidad de los transgénicos a otros organismos vivos que terminarán por desaparecer. Al igual que muchos agricultores.

Afortunadamente en la cocina se busca el sabor, y cuando el cocinero se preocupa de esto por encima de criterios de costes y uniformidad en el producto, se favorecerá el mantenimiento y desarrollo de los productos biológicos y de temporada, porque las reglas que marca la naturaleza son por las que debemos regirnos. La cocina no es más que aprovechar y transformar los productos disponibles al ritmo que la naturaleza nos da opción a disponer de ellos. Todo lo demás, por mucha tecnología que se le aplique, es sacrificar las variedades y los sabores a un precio demasiado elevado para la naturaleza, y a un precio, el del sabor, que quien gusta del buen yantar tampoco está dispuesto a pagar., Internet, 18-1-06

sábado, enero 21, 2006


Evo: El agua no se privatiza

Redacción BOLPRESS

El presidente electo de Evo Morales ha querido dar una señal al sector más aguerrido del movimiento popular boliviano con la creación del Ministerio de Agua, único en su género y el primero de este tipo en el Poder Ejecutivo. En Bolivia se han producido dos levantamientos populares contra la privatización del agua, el primero en Cochabamba en abril de 2000, enfrentando a la transnacional Bechtel, y el segundo en El Alto, en enero de 2005, contra una subsidiaria de la corporación francesa Suez.

Los movimientos sociales que luchan contra la privatización del agua se han convertido en referentes mundiales y Evo quiere reforzar la tradición institucionalizando un estamento gubernamental que apoye esa lucha. El gobierno de Morales decidió crear el Ministerio de Agua con el objetivo de contar con una estructura estatal especializada en garantizar el acceso de este elemento a toda la población y preservar su carácter público. “El agua no puede ser un negocio privado porque (si se convierte en una mercancía) se estaría violando los derechos humanos. El recurso agua debe ser un servicio público”, enfatiza el Presidente electo.

El gran desafío del futuro gobierno en consolidar el Ministerio del Agua unificando a las diferentes reparticiones públicas que actualmente administran el recurso natural de manera aislada. La lógica privatizadora y mercantilista que imperó en el país en las últimas dos décadas propició una administración hídrica no integral sino parcelada con el fin de facilitar las concesiones privadas de recursos acuíferos. Como consecuencia de esa concepción neoliberal, se puede decir que el recurso casi fue “descuartizado” en diversas instancias del Poder Ejecutivo y de las superintendencias sectoriales.

En la actualidad, el Ministerio de Asuntos Campesinos se ocupa del riego; el Ministerio de Saneamiento y Obras Públicas atiende el agua potable y saneamiento básico; el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente controla la Dirección de Cuentas y la Cancillería vela por las aguas internacionales. Además, existen otras dependencias que disponen del recurso agua sin someterse al control estatal, como las superintendencias sectoriales de Electricidad, Hidrocarburos y Minería. El desafío del futuro gobierno es unir todas estas reparticiones estatales en una sola estructura, el Ministerio del Agua, para desarrollar un control efectivo de los usos del agua, incluidos los usos industriales.

El gobierno del MAS planea diseñar una política nacional de recursos hídricos y normas para el manejo y la conservación de cuencas que garantice y proteja legalmente los derechos de comunidades indígenas y campesinas a las fuentes de agua. Dicha política regularizaría los derechos de aguas, incluiría planes nacionales y regionales de riego; reconocería los derechos de aguas para uso agropecuario y forestal; y propiciaría la transferencia de infraestructura de riego y microriego.


Para conseguir estos objetivos el MAS se propone diseñar una Estrategia Nacional del Agua y de los Recursos Hídricos en función de la estrategia de defensa de la soberanía y seguridad nacionales. La iniciativa incluye la concertación de una nueva Ley de Aguas y su reglamentación ajustada a la estrategia nacional del agua; el rediseño de las políticas y planes nacionales y regionales de riego ajustados a los objetivos nacionales de soberanía alimentaria; el diseño de la Estrategia Nacional de Manejo de Cuencas en función de la estrategia nacional del agua, y el diseño concertado de la Política Nacional de Agua Potable y el Plan Nacional Decenal de Agua Potable.

Una de las primeras tareas del futuro gobierno será regularizar los derechos de agua para que en el mediano plazo gran parte de las organizaciones de regantes, comunidades indígenas y campesinas obtengan el registro de sus derechos como respaldo legal para el uso de sus fuentes de agua para riego.

A la vez, se pretende regularizar las licencias de prestación de servicios de agua potable y alcantarillado sanitario, para que las entidades públicas y sociales cuenten con planes quinquenales, anuales y de desarrollo de largo plazo que amplíen y mejoren sus servicios.


Durante la campaña, el MAS prometió apoyar y promocionar estrategias locales, departamentales, de carácter municipal, intermunicipal, metropolitano que fortalezcan servicios públicos y sociales de agua potable y alcantarillado sanitario. El partido de Evo dijo que concertaría un modelo institucional participativo de regulación del sector a través de una Dirección Nacional.

También prometió modificar la indexación al dólar de las tarifas de servicios de agua potable y alcantarillado, estableciendo una estructura tarifaria indexada a las Unidades de Fomento a la Vivienda (UFV), y aumentar la inversión pública nacional, departamental y municipal en servicios de agua y alcantarillado para superar los actuales déficits de cobertura.


Antes de poner en marcha su plan para el sector hídrico, el gobierno del MAS debe resolver dos conflictos pendientes que podrían complicarle las cosas: La terminación del contrato con Aguas del Illimani (AISA), concesionaria del servicio en La Paz y El Alto, y la liquidación de la empresa Aguas del Tunari (ADT).

Si bien el conflicto con ADT llegó a buen puerto luego de que el gobierno comprara el 80 por ciento de las acciones a International Water y a Abengoa –librando de esta manera al Estado de un juicio internacional en el Ciadi por 50 millones de dólares–, todavía queda por resolver la disolución de la empresa. Para lograr ese objetivo, el futuro gobierno debe negociar con capitalistas bolivianos que poseen el 20% de las acciones de ADT, entre ellos el empresario Samuel Doria Medina (5%),? la empresa ICE Agua y Energía SA (5%), la Compañía Boliviana de Ingeniería SRL (5%) y la constructora Petricevic (5%).

Por otro lado, en el caso de AISA, los vecinos de El Alto comienzan a impacientarse y parecen ya no estar dispuestos a esperar mucho tiempo más la resolución del conflicto con la subsidiaria de Suez. Si bien la Superintendencia de Saneamiento Básico (Sisab) suscribió un contrato con la firma Pozo Asociados Auditores para realizar una auditoría regulatoria a la empresa que abarque el período 1997-2005 –investigación que permitiría evaluar el trabajo de la compañía y eventualmente confirmar ineficiencias que permitan rescindir su contrato–, algunos vecinos de la ciudad de El Alto consideran que esa auditoría no resolverá sus necesidades inmediatas y ya hablan de tomar físicamente las instalaciones de AISA.

Por ejemplo, los vecinos del Distrito 4 se desmarcaron de la Federación de Juntas Vecinales (Fejuve) al rechazar cualquier tipo de auditaje, pues esa investigación tardará mucho y sólo retrasará la atención de sus demandas, es decir acceder al agua potable. Haya o no auditoría, razonan algunos vecinos, la transnacional Suez iniciará a un arbitraje internacional. Por tanto, los vecinos no descartan una toma física para que la empresa, al menos, tenga una razón para juzgar al país.

Se estima que los resultados de la auditoría serán conocidos en la segunda quincena de febrero de 2006 o principios de marzo. El gobierno pagará alrededor de 360 mil dólares por el trabajo.

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Carlos Walter Porto Gonçalves

Desde los años sesenta, el debate de la naturaleza viene ganando espacio en la escena política. Hasta entonces la preocupación sobre la naturaleza en el interior de la sociedad occidental se circunscribía al debate entre los preservacionistas y los conservacionistas, debate restringido a los sectores científicos que, por lo general, buscaban convencer a las autoridades gubernamentales acerca de la importancia de preservar o conservar los recursos naturales. Ese debate restringido al ámbito técnico-científico y gubernamental no fue suficiente para impedir que la riqueza constituida por la naturaleza se tornara objeto de un debate mucho más amplio, ganando las calles, incitando al surgimiento del movimiento ambientalista propiamente dicho. Los años sesenta señalan, por eso, el inicio de la politización del debate sobre la naturaleza, colocándolo dentro del debate sobre los destinos de la sociedad. [1]

En ese momento, dos cuestiones se apoderaron de la escena: el consumismo y el militarismo. No presenciábamos ya más la crítica a la desigualdad de la distribución de la riqueza entre ricos y pobres, tanto al interior de un país como entre países desarrollados y subdesarrollados. Una nueva crítica emergía en Europa y en Estados Unidos, donde la sociedad occidental parecía haber conseguido sus mayores objetivos, justo ahí donde estaba más desarrollada. Por eso, ya no se trataba de proporcionar a todos aquello que sólo era proporcionado a algunos simplemente distribuyendo la riqueza. De cierta forma, esa crítica afectaba la matriz individualista consumista liberal, y también a quienes confundían socialismo con distribución de la riqueza producida en el interior de una cultura individualista.

Esa politización del debate sobre la naturaleza abría espacios para que sectores técnicos y científicos ganasen fuerza y buscaran sacar provecho presionando a las autoridades gubernamentales para que tomaran medidas conservacionistas o preservacionistas. Hay, por lo tanto, ambigüedad en los sectores técnicos y científicos que se interesaban por la cuestión de la preservación o de la conservación de la naturaleza, cuya retórica clamaba por la despolitización del debate ambiental para que se volviera más objetivo y técnico; pero, paradójicamente, la importancia que alcanzaron provino de la mayor politización de dicho debate. A fin de cuentas, mientras más se vuelva la naturaleza una preocupación de la mayor parte de los ciudadanos, mayor será la importancia de los discursos que se presenten en su nombre. Es lo que veremos ya en 1967, en París, cuando la ONU convoca a una reunión para debatir cuestiones relativas a la biosfera, y en 1972, cuando se realiza en Estocolmo, Suecia, una conferencia mundial sobre el medio ambiente. Téngase en cuenta el papel que el Club de Roma tuvo en la preparación de esa reunión. El Club de Roma fue constituido por un grupo de empresas que operaban a escala mundial (Fiat, Xerox, Olivetti, Remington Rand, IBM, entre otras) y que financió el famoso estudio del Massachusetts Institute of Technology, titulado The Limits to Growth (Os limites do crescimento) (Porto Gonçalves, 1985). La experiencia del Club de Roma articula sectores ligados al gran capital multinacional con los técnicos y científicos.

Durante veinte años (1972-1992) el debate al interior del ambientalismo se dio, entre quienes cuestionaban el estilo de desarrollo, tanto en su vertiente liberal-capitalista como en la socialista de inspiración productivista (exURSS, por ejemplo), colocando en el orden del día la cuestión de una revolución cultural por un lado, y, por el otro, quienes recordaban que la capacidad de soporte del planeta se está agotando, como el Club de Roma, por ejemplo. Una vez más la politización del debate proporcionó un espacio para que se desarrollara un campo de negociación y diálogo donde, casi siempre, se buscaba desplazar el debate del terreno político hacia un terreno técnico-científico, como si esos dos campos fueran excluyentes. La estrategia no es nueva y ya había sido puesta en práctica en un campo muy próximo a los ambientalistas. Recordemos lo que ocurriera a partir de finales de los años cuarenta cuando el hambre comenzó a ser politizada, sobre todo después de la revolución china. La imagen de millones de campesinos en marcha con banderas rojas luchando contra el hambre llevó a que se intentase despolitizar el debate proponiendo una revolución verde para que se comprometieran directamente sectores empresariales como los Rockefeller, movilizando todo un conjunto de instituciones técnicas y financieras además de organismos internacionales. La revolución verde, técnica, fue orquestada contra la revolución roja, de carácter social y político. Este deslizamiento del debate del campo político hacia el técnico forma parte de las técnicas de la política sobre las que Maquiavelo tanto nos llamara la atención y, tal vez por eso mismo, sea tan olvidado.

La politización del debate alrededor de la naturaleza alcanzaría su auge a fines de los años ochenta cuando la revista Time eligió el planeta Tierra como la personalidad del año y la Amazonia destacaba por los incendios dando oportunidad, inclusive, para que el asesinato de un líder sindical y socialista -Chico Mendes- llegara al noticiero mundial, dígase de paso, no como líder sindical y socialista, pero sí como ecologista. Una vez más, a fines de los años ochenta, el debate volvía a señalar una vertiente teórica-política que recordaba que la capacidad de soporte del planeta se estaba agotando -el caso de la revista Time- y otra vertiente que buscaba apuntar hacia la necesidad de una revolución social y cultural en el sentido de instituir nuevos sentidos para nuestras prácticas, como el caso de Chico Mendes. Estamos, una vez más, ante dos paradigmas distintos.

A fines de los años ochenta la ONU, que en esa misma década había patrocinado la elaboración de un informe que buscaba diagnosticar el estado ambiental del planeta -el Informe Brundland-, convoca a una reunión para debatir la relación entre medio ambiente y desarrollo -la CNUMAD- a realizarse en Río de Janeiro en 1992.

viernes, enero 20, 2006

My new favorite band


(From the band's web site)

Thievery Corporation's fourth album, The Cosmic Game, finds the duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton in their most expansive mood yet, as their latest sonic exploration blurs the boundaries between rock, breaks, future-bossa, dub, and other mind-altering sounds. When dropped, The Cosmic Game is a psychotropic, aural concoction, which clearly opens a new dimension in the ever-evolving Thievery odyssey.

"When we finally got down to recording this album, we talked a lot about expressing more elements of our personal growth in our music. We also talked a lot about psychedelics and new ways of viewing reality and how they obviously affected music in eras past. During the months of recording, we spent a lot of time reading favorite authors and discussing 'so-called' conspiracy theories. I think this is fairly clear from the lyrics ," says Garza.

Certainly, a wide-ranging spectrum of sounds and subject matter lies at the center of The Cosmic Game, and Garza and Hilton have displayed even deeper musical sensibilities than their previous albums foreshadowed. After the warm minimalism of Sounds from the Thievery Hi-fi, Garza and Hilton raised the production value significantly with the highly acclaimed Mirror Conspiracy, which contained the seminal international hit "Lebanese Blonde." The next Corporate offering was the conscious and thought-provoking The Richest Man in Babylon, which easily distanced itself from the ever-growing crop of soulless 'chill out' compilations which had begun flooding the shop bins.

Having expanded on the sound of their last LP, The Richest Man in Babylon, Garza and Hilton have further crossed the sonic boundaries with forays into rock and psychedelia that are fused with their signature dub and tripped-out sound with collaborations with rock legends Perry Farrell, The Flaming Lips and David Byrne.

As well as the high profile collaborations, Eric and Rob have assembled a diverse cast of dancehall toasters, Brazilian percussionists and smoky-voiced chanteuses to create The Cosmic Game. This time, the downbeat revolution may not only get televised, it might get actual airplay. Which would be a long time coming for Garza and Hilton, After selling more than a million units independently on their own label, (ESL Music), touring around in all continents, and writing remixing, producing, deejayng, the corporation is fully realizing their sound.

Ironically, Thievery Corporation formed in Washington D.C., a city the duo often refer to as 'the real Babylon." One major by-product of life in the heart of empire is the diversity of the people it attracts to its riches. Underneath the power brokering, DC has quietly spawned a sophisticated musical multi-culturalism (especially in the Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods that became TC's home). The city also gave a base to Dischord Records and Positive Force, a scene whose fierce independence, musically and politically, forcibly affected every nearby young musician with a non-mainstream pulse.

Hilton grew up in suburban Maryland, playing guitar under the influence of punk and all it ushered in -- first rocking around with a pre-teen garage band, then warmed by the glow of the District's hardcore revolutionaries, Minor Threat. "I think Rob and I both followed those early releases on 7" vinyl only and we never forgot that this little Indy label called Dischord, run by the band members sent shockwaves around the globe. I still get a little idol-stuck when I see one of the Fugazi guys in the neighborhood."

After cutting his teeth on DC and UK punk, Hilton was sonically liberated by UK two-tone crews such as the Specials and Brit-soul sides such as the Style Council. After checking the references of those bands, he was turned on by the roots and soul music of Jamaica and America. Hilton's first deejay gig was playing ska and Northern Soul as an opener for his friend's Mod band. Later, he asked to spin house music at DC's top super-club of the '80s, the Fifth Column. By the early 90's he helped throw a warehouse weekly called Exodus, where Hilton tapped a young deejay Dubfire (now, half of the house music duo DeepDish) to spin a multi-culti mix of hip-hop, soul jazz, dancehall and dub.

Rob Garza's youthful existence (mostly in suburban Maryland as well, but also Connecticut and his mother's hometown of Juarez, Mexico) involved digging into his parents' collection of knowingly picked, adult classics - Henry Mancini, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, The Beatles - followed by immersion into the weirder shades of atmospheric rock (The Pixies, Hugo Largo) and the industrial side of life (Renegade Soundwave, Meat Beat Manifesto). By the end of high school, he was making beats in his own basement studio for unsigned rappers, while studying classical piano. A love-at-first-listen with bossa nova king Antonio Carlos Jobim was in his future.

Garza and Hilton finally met in the summer of 1995 at the now-infamous Eighteenth Street Lounge. As the myth goes, Eric and Rob bonded over strong drinks, dub, bossa nova and jazz records, then decided to see what would come of mixing all these in a recording studio. The duo caught the ears of underground deejays with their first two offerings, "2001 Spliff Odyssey" and "Shaolin Satellite". Who could have predicted that those two offerings and a subsequent LP, Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi, would define a new genre in electronic music, and connect with an international community of like-minded souls? Even as the terminology and lexicon has come and gone (trip-hop, downtempo, chill out, leftfield and other innocuous record industry monikers), Thievery Corporation have managed to defy the confines of category and creatively tap in to their deep appreciation for by-gone sounds as they deftly re-interpret them in their own innovative fashion.

"Our deepest source of inspiration comes from our record collections. On this album we wanted to make songs that sounded like they may have been recorded by some of our favorite artists from the past. We also wanted to explore that sort of late 60's Moog-ed out, paisley-beat sort of thing as well," says Garza.

This deep appreciation for sounds that have come before has never been more apparent on a Thievery disc. On the lead track of The Cosmic Game, "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)", Garza and Hilton, have teamed up with the Flaming Lips, to make something that sounds one part Thievery, one part Lips and one part Pink Floyd. As odd as that sounds, the combination of the lush keys, solid beats, groovy bassline and Wayne Coyne's lead vocal are quite evocative. Coyne clearly intones over this gorgeous ambient-pop opener, "Well, let's start by making it clear who is the enemy here". And on the rest of the album, the Corporation leaves but two options: to struggle or to reflect.


Two new items from the GM Watch news archive


Message to GM Watch from pv satheesh:

Dear Jonathan

On behalf of the South Against Genetic Engineering a South Indian alliance of over 50 networks, farmers groups, civil society organisations, consumer activists, scientists, academics and media people we are urging the President and the PM of India not to meet the CEO of Monsanto. The essence of our argument is as follows:

"As the first citizen of this country, Mr Prime Minister, we hope you will stand by the millions of farmers of this country by defeating the Monsanto ploys and treating them just as another seed company, a dubious one at that. We urge you to refuse to meet Mr Grant. He and Monsanto do not deserve your august audience.

Peddling its wares as a "solution" to agriculture crises in the developing world, Monsanto has turned into a problem itself than a solution. Therefore it needs to be treated no better than a vendor whose real care is none other than his own monetary interest.

Moreover Mr Prime Minister, the legacy of Monsanto lies in deadly chemicals such as "Agent Orange" which burnt and destroyed the Vietnamese landscape and brought death to hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Things have not changed much today.

What Monsanto manufactures today does not remotely resemble agriculture as we know in the subcontinent. Mr Prime Minister, agriculture for us symbolizes LIFE. Monsanto spells DEATH. Through its herbicides and genetic engineering technologies it burns and destroys agrarian landscapes, poisons soils, creates deprivation and DEATH for farmers. Therefore they have no right to meet you, the Prime Minister of India, masquerading as representatives of "life" sciences.

The company also has a history of influencing governments in the South through means which are not above board. In Argentina its bullying tactics have turned the government against its very people and now there is a federal tax levied on farmers that goes directly into Monsanto's pockets.

In Indonesia the company is charged with corruption, bribing senior environmental officials to repeal the requirement for environmental impact assessment for new genetically engineered (GE) crop varieties to be able to speedily commercialise its GE cotton."

I have attached the press release and the letters we have addressed to the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

with warm regards



PRESS RELEASE, January 20, 2006

It is with deep shock, concern and suspicion that we receive the news that the Prime Minister of India and the President of India are receiving the Chief Executive of Monsanto Mr Hugh Grant next week. We cannot simply fathom why the head of a dubious agro chemical company which has earned more notoriety than fame, is being given such a big honour of being received by the heads of this great country.

We are urging the President and the PM to refuse to meet Mr Grant. He and Monsanto do not deserve an audience by the heads of such an illustrious country such as India.

Monsanto is an international conglomerate in the business of agri-chemicals and biotechnology. In recent times Monsanto is the leading monopoly trader of seed and food – something in our culture that was never a tradable commodity.

The legacy of Monsanto lies in deadly chemicals such as "Agent Orange" which burnt and destroyed the Vietnamese landscape and brought death to hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Things have not changed much today.

What Monsanto manufactures today does not remotely resemble agriculture as we know in the subcontinent. Agriculture for us symbolizes LIFE. While Monsanto spells DEATH. Through its herbicides and genetic engineering technologies it burns agrarian landscapes, poisons soils and creates DEATH for farmers. Therefore they have no right to meet you the first citizens of this country, masquerading as representatives of " life" sciences.

Monsanto also has a history of influencing governments in the South through means that are not above board. In Argentina its bullying tactics have turned the government against its very people and now there is a federal tax levied on farmers that goes directly into Monsanto's pockets.

In Indonesia the company is charged with corruption, bribing senior environmental officials to repeal the requirement for environmental impact assessment for new genetically engineered (GE) crop varieties to be able to speedily commercialise its GE cotton. [Please see the annexed story: Monsanto, Indonesia and Corruption published in Bangkok Post] Some excerpts:

In fact, Monsanto was made to pay a fine of one million US dollars for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with an "illegal payment" of $50 000 to a senior Indonesian Ministry of Environment official. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US found out that from 1997 to 2002, Monsanto’s Indonesian affiliates made at least US$700,000 of illicit payments to at least 140 current and former Indonesian government officials and their family members. When their lobbying failed they bribed a senior Indonesian Environment Official US$50,000 to 'incentivize ' him.

The company also has had a dubious record in our country, from conducting illegal transgenic field trials to attempting to patent our traditional wheat variety.

Given this background of Monsanto, we are deeply worried whether the visit of the CEO is a preclude to its infamous ways of influencing governments to allow its writ to run. Therefore as citizens of this country it is our duty to caution the Prime Minister and the President that their meeting with the Monsanto CEO might sully their own clean image. In a metaphorical sense, they might be supping with the devil itself!

As civil society representatives from Andhra Pradesh, we are specially sensitive to the activities of Monsanto. The media in AP is painfully aware of the tragic losses suffered by farmers who grew Monsanto bred Bt Cotton seeds. The losses were so heavy and the performance of Monsanto seeds were so very bad that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] of the Ministry of Environment, Government of India cancelled the license for Monsanto seeds in Andhra Pradesh. When AP Government asked Monsanto to pay compensation for the farmers who had lost their crops, the Company tried to duck its responsibility. This forced AP Government to ban all Monsanto operations in AP.

Very recently the GoAP has also filed a lawsuit against Monsanto using the MRTP act for the abnormal prices of its seeds. The cost of a good hybrid cotton seed which produces 10% more than the Monsanto Bt Cotton is around Rs.800 per kg [sufficient to sow two acres] while the Monsanto Bollgard seeds cost an astronomical Rs. 3600 per kg, 4.5 times higher. Therefore AP Government was forced to file a lawsuit. In continuation, it also has asked the governments of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to join in this effort to halt Monsanto’s monopolistic effort.

All these events have obviously rattled Monsanto. It views India as its greatest market now that China has started producing its own Genetically Engineered cotton and in the Europe it has got a severest drubbing. Therefore they do not want to suffer any reversals in the Indian market. They will try to go till the last mile to control the Indian market. The meeting scheduled with you is a part of their aggressive market-grabbing tactics.

We urge the President and the Prime Minister, as the first citizens of this country, to stand by the millions of farmers of this country treating Monsanto just as another agro-chemical company, a dubious one at that.

If they still choose to meet him, we urge them not to give even an inch from what the Government of Andhra Pradesh has demanded. If at all, in the interest of their countrymen and farmers they should ask Monsanto to stop introducing anti farmer, anti environmental and anti-life technologies into this country.

[p v satheesh]


miércoles, enero 18, 2006

Tossing the hot potato: Member States, the European Commission and GMOs

Helen Holder

The European Union has resisted the biotech industry’s attempts to flood Europe with GMOs. But if things had been left up to the EU legislators, it could have been a very different story.

In the 90s, EU laws on GMOs were dangerously inadequate. Despite this, 18 GMOs were authorized in the EU. The push for stricter legislation did not start as an initiative of the EU institutions. It was the public's outrage and refusal to be force-fed GMOs that made Member States agree to review the law and take a better look at health, environmental and sustainable farming issues.

Yet despite this, support for plant biotechnology discreetly continued over the years with billions of euro going into green [agricultural] biotech research, and a cosy relationship being developed with industry. EuropaBio, the main biotech lobby organisation, is one of the lead partners for the EU funded "Plants for the future: A European vision for plant biotechnology towards 2025".

According to an adviser in the Commission’s Research Directorate-General: "We in Europe are strongly committed to biotech, and have a clear strategy for its promotion and diffusion".

Lack of laws on genetic pollution and liability

1998 was a key year: EU countries decided to review GMO legislation and, taking a precautionary approach, agreed to a de facto moratorium on new GMO authorisations.

Seven years on, the EU has enlarged to 25 countries, and the legal framework for the import, use and cultivation of GMOs is still not finished. New laws do exist and are an improvement on the initial legislation, but genetic pollution and liability have yet to be decided (this is known as "coexistence" of GM and non GM crops) .

Despite these unresolved issues, the European Commission pressured Member States to agree to the end of the de facto moratorium in 2004, and placed 17 varieties of a genetically modified (GM) maize on what is called the common catalogue of seeds. This means that these seeds can now be bought and planted by farmers across the whole of the European Union and opens the door to GM crops being grown on a large scale across Europe, despite no coexistence measures being in place.

WTO dispute launched

One reason for the Commission pressure on Member States is the WTO GMO dispute which was filed by the US, Canada and Argentina in 2003. They are attacking the precautionary approach of EU countries as trade protectionism. The ruling, due in 2006, is expected to be long and complex without necessarily having a clear result, however it is possible that the EU will ultimately loose.

With this dispute rumbling in the background, the European Commission has continued to put pressure on Member States to accept GMOs. Most recently, in June 2005, it brought a proposal to the EU Environment Council for the lifting of the national bans on GMOs, which Member States refused .

A pro-biotech Commission

"This Commission has made biotechnology a high political priority. If used properly, it has the potential to become a driving force in our knowledge-based economy." - Gunter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry

EU funding for plant biotechnology research started over 20 years ago, with the Biomolecular Engineering Programme (BEP) in 1982. BIOTECH II (1994-98), supported 42 projects in plant biotechnology, a European Plant Biotechnology Network,and a European research consortium. Framework Research Programmes 1-6 have consistently funded plant biotechnology with the amount of funding steadily increasing. Framework Research Programme 7, which is currently being finalized, lists food, agriculture and biotechnology as the second of its nine cooperation themes, with funding of 2455 million euro.

Furthermore, The Commission's new Industry Policy, which was launched earlier this month, includes a biotechnology policy and closer cooperation with industry. One of the policy’s sectoral priorities is "food and life science industries" .

A fragile moratorium on commercial growing

Within the Commission, a deal has been struck between the different directorates general (DGs) – environment, consumer protection, agriculture, industry, trade - to stop the clock on new applications for the commercial growing of GMOs but to push on with authorizations for import and use. However this "moratorium" on commercial growing is likely to last only until coexistence measures are in place.

The next year will be key in defining how the coexistence of GM and non GM crops will be dealt with at the EU level. It remains to be seen whether the Commission will focus on strict EU legislation to stop GMO pollution and to protect farmers' and consumer's right to choose, or whether it will continue to spin the economic aspects of green biotech through its industry and research policies. Renate Kuenast, Germany's consumer protection minister, reported in April 2005 that organic farming in Germany has created 150,000 jobs.

The Commission is frustrated at European resistance to plant biotechnology and even goes so far to publicly criticize the people it is supposed to serve. According to the Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, in a speech to biotech industry lobby group EuropaBio , "The controversial area of green biotech provides new solutions for sustainable agriculture, […] However, we all know that public attitudes as well as Member States' positions hamper the development in this area"

Member States happy for the Commission to do the dirty work

The bullying of the Commission should not however divert attention away from the role of Member States, who sit on the EU Council and are the ultimate decision makers in the European Union. All too often, they avoid taking a clear position on GMO authorizations and so decisions revert to the Commission. The Czech Republic, unlike most other new EU member States, has a poor voting record. Despite the majority of consumers not wanting GM food to be sold in the Czech Republic , the Government has abstained or voted to authorize GMOs in all votes since the ending of the de facto moratorium.

Member States must stand up to the Commission and the biotech industry, as they did in June 2005 when they defeated the Commission at the EU Environment Council. Otherwise, they will allow the Commission to use free trade and unproven economic arguments to force agricultural biotechnology on a European population opposed to GMOs, and which considers that EU decision-makers should pay as much attention to environmental considerations as to economic and social factors .

October 2005
Helen Holder
European GMO campaign coordinator
Friends of the Earth Europe

Background on EU legislation

The European Union (EU) first adopted legislation (Directive 90/220) for the authorization of GMOs in 1990. In 1997 a Regulation on Novel Foods was also adopted , based on the principle of substantial equivalence.

A new Directive , adopted in 2001, brought improvements, such as the safeguard clause (allowing countries to ban specific GMOs on health or environmental grounds), and public registers. However the directive failed to address certain key issues. Member States announced that the de facto moratorium would remain in place until such a time as adequate legislation was in place. Two new Regulations were adopted in 2003. One covered food and feed authorizations for both human food and animal feed, thus replacing the previous Novel Foods Regulation. The second dealt with traceability and labeling. The new Regulations, adopted in 2003, contained improvements on previous legislation but also had negative aspects such as an allowed threshold of 0.9% for adventitious or technically unavoidable GMOs. Furthermore, the issues of GMO contamination and liability remain unresolved (coexistence).


1.comment to AgBioView listserve (quoted in GMwatch, June 2004)


3.The safeguard clause (Article 16 in EU Directive 90/220 or Article 23 in 2001/18) allows countries to ban or restrict GM products that have already been authorised at an EU level. See also:


5.Plant Genomic and Biotechnology for sustainable and competitive agriculture, European Commission



8.Spiegel International, Germany, April 18 2005,1518,352006,00.html

9.The Commission's new Biotech Policy, Biotechnology Policy Day High Level Roundtable, SPEECH/05/536, September 2005

10.See October 2005 edition of Friends of the Earth Biotech Mailout,

11.In April 2000, an opinion poll conducted for the Czech Television and Broadcasting companies showed 87% of men and 93% of women wished to have GM food visibly labelled. In November 2000, a survey by a Czech newspaper revealed that 99% of consumers did not want GM food to be sold in the Czech Republic.

12.Special Eurobarometer 217, April 2005 9 out of 10 people said that decision-makers should pay as much attention to environmental considerations as to economic and social factors.

13.Deliberate release of genetically modified organisms to the environment, 90/220/EEC.

14.Novel Food Regulation 258/97

15.Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC

16.Regulation 1829/2003

17.Novel Food Regulation 258/97

18.Regulation 1830/2003

For more information:
Web page link for FoE Czech Republic:


martes, enero 17, 2006

Selling the Amazon for a Handful of Beads

By Kelly Hearn, AlterNet. Posted January 17, 2006.

In the midst of an Amazonian oil boom, classified documents reveal deep links between oil companies and Ecuador's military. Tools
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Ecuadorean Huaorani Indians march on the streets of Quito. The Huaorani Indians were protesting against oil exploration by oil companies on their lands. Credit: REUTERS/Stringer GG/SA.

Scanning bookshelves in his tiny law office in Quito, Ecuador, Bolivar Beltran's disdain for Big Oil is as legible as the contracts that map their nefarious ways.

"These were all negotiated in secret," says the soft-spoken attorney and Ecuadorian congressional aide, explaining how he used a lawsuit last year to obtain pages of once-classified contracts between the Ecuadorian military and 16 multinational oil companies.

In November, when I visited him, Beltran handed me a grainy photocopy of a contract dated 2001. Then another bearing an official government seal. Soon a small table is covered, his finger running down keywords that spill off the page. Occidental Oil. Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense. Counterintelligence. Kerr-McGee. Armed Patrols. Military detachments. Burlington Resources.

The contracts come to light as an oil boom bears down on the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecuador's 100,000 square kilometers of the world's richest rainforests unfortunately sit atop 4.4 billion proven barrels of oil, the 26th largest reserve in the world. Since the 1960s, state and private companies have taken oil from Ecuador's eastern province, known as the Oriente, and sent much of it to the United States, leaving behind environmental and public health disasters. And on top of all else, serious poverty: Despite their country's vast natural resources, 70 percent of Ecuadorians live below the poverty line.

Impoverished, in debt and dependent on petro-dollars for revenues, the Ecuadorian government has put some 80 percent of its oil-flush lands up for international grabs, according to Amazon Watch, a California-based watchdog group. Oil companies are given subsoil rights by the government, but by law must negotiate with the pre-industrial societies that hold title to jungle lands -- tribes like the Huarani, the Achuar and the Shauar tribes, some of which have only come into contact with the modern world in recent decades.

Too often, the tribes' introduction to modernity comes from oil company negotiators. By finessing them into signing away oil access in morally deplorable contracts, these deals channel the legendary purchase of Manhattan Island for $24 worth of trinkets. But they are learning fast. Increasingly savvy to the oilman's ways, tribes here are putting on war paint, grabbing spears and shotguns, and saying no, sometimes violently, to the world's most powerful interests.

Against that backdrop of rising tension, these previously unpublished contracts, including classified agreements between the Ecuadorian military and 16 oil companies, are changing the debate. The bulk of the documents, obtained by Beltran and verified by this reporter in November, offer what experts say is an extremely rare and detailed look at how cut-throat capitalism and an oil-guided militarization of the Ecuadorian Amazon are digging deep rifts through the country.

Sealing the deal with a fingerprint

"This one is one of the worst," Beltran says, handing me an eight-page contract.

In 2001, Agip Oil Ecuador BV, a subsidiary of the multibillion dollar Italian petrochemical company Eni, convinced an association of Huarani Indians to sign over oil access to tribal lands and give up their future right to sue for environmental damage. In return Agip gave, among other things, modest allotments of medicine and food, a $3,500 school house, plates and cups, an Ecuadorian flag, two soccer balls and a referee's whistle.

Pulled quote
Download the full document [PDF]


Pulp Factions: Uruguay’s Environmentalists v. Big Paper

by Raúl Pierri, Special to CorpWatch
January 16th, 2006

cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Christmas Eve 2002, Alfredo Bazzini went to draw water from the family well in Las Flores, a small farming town in western Uruguay. What he found was that the water his family depended on for drinking, cooking, washing, and farming had dried up.

"It wasn’t only my well that didn’t have any water, all of the wells in town, even the deepest, were empty, and nobody knew what to do," Bazzini recalls.

For the residents of Las Flores in the department (province) of Paysandú, this was the climax to a desperate story that began some two years earlier, when the water level in local wells dropped by up to 60 percent. And kept dropping.

"When it rained the wells filled up almost to the top, but then the water level would drop to even lower than it had been before," said Bazzini.

With no way to bring water in from outside, townspeople watched helplessly as their watermelons and peanuts -- the mainstay crops of the local economy -- began to dry up, too.

Eucalyptus as Far as the Eye Can See

The culprit, it turns out, is the Eucalyptus tree, or rather the large-scale plantations run by international corporations that are spreading across Uruguay. The tree farms are heavily fertilized by tax subsidies from the federal government and aid from such international financial institutions as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Las Flores lies just three kilometers east of Piedras Coloradas, the main town in a region that has been afflicted by a growing water shortage since becoming a favored location for this lucrative new crop.

Other settlements in the region are also suffering the impact of eucalyptus plantations. The forestry companies are buying up more and more land and the eucalyptus forests are now spreading up to the very doors of the small towns and villages," commented fruit grower David Kertesz. That is what happened at Las Flores. "At first the plantations were far away, but little by little they kept moving closer," Bazzini reported. "When they reached to just a few meters out of town, the water ran out and the land died."

"That Christmas Eve we hit rock bottom," Bazzini recounted. "The little water left was gone, and it never came back." The 40 local families who lived off the land were forced to leave everything behind and move away. Only five houses remained occupied. Today, Las Flores is known as Pueblo Seco, "Dry Town."

The phenomenon is being repeated throughout the plantation region. Downstream from the San Francisco creek near Piedras Coloradas, local residents no longer have enough water to raise cattle. Nearby, in the village of Colonia 19 de Abril, 25 to 30 meter wells have dried up, and so has most of the surrounding marshland, said Augusto Sande, a farm produce transporter. Now, "to find water you have to dig a well at least 60 meters deep, which costs $4,000, and almost none of the farmers have that kind of money," remarked Sande.

Native to Australia, the eucalyptus is ideal for pulpwood production: It grows quickly and is accomplished at scavenging large amounts of water at the expense of other plants. Foreign-owned large-scale plantations of the fragrant trees now occupy more than 700,000 hectares (2,700 square miles) in Uruguay, estimates María Selva Ortiz of the REDES- member of the Friends of the Earth non-governmental environmental network.

Botnia of Finland has planted trees on 60,000 hectares (232 square miles) of prime land, while ENCE of Spain already owns 50,000 hectares (183 square miles) and plans to purchase even more, according to Ricardo Carrere, spokesperson for local environmental group Guayabira.

But some in the halls of government, the ivory tower, and on the ground question the development. Uruguayan Agriculture Minister José Mujica has publicly called for limiting monoculture tree plantations, to prevent further degradation of the soil and exhaustion of the country’s water supply. Máximo D’Atri, an independent researcher notes that "In all of the locations where there is eucalyptus monoculture forestry, the water supply is running out, and in the areas near these forests, the arable land has suffered irreversible deterioration." And two farm workers who have watched the deterioration first-hand agree. "The more eucalyptus trees they plant, the less water we have. Things are going from bad to worse," said Aníbal Sosa and Mario Díaz Suarez.
Pulp Culture

The mills will alter not only the environment of the region, but will radically change the culture. Fray Bentos is now a quiet, unassuming urban landscape where practically the only nod to modernity today is an eight-storey building across from centuries-old Artigas Square, the geographical center of the city. It is proud of having few serious social problems and one of the country’s highest life expectancy.

The pulp industry "can inject a lot of money into the city and boost business undertakings of every kind," says investment advisor Aldo Manfrini. Already, there is talk of major real estate projects that include a luxury hotel, three shopping malls, two parking lots, two superstores and a privately owned casino, all in the heart of a city currently characterized by narrow tree-lined streets almost free of traffic and quaint single-storey homes.

Manfrini commented that some of these projects, including the hotel and casino, "go hand in hand with the needs that will be created by the influx of industrialists and company executives and officials, both foreign and Uruguayan, who will come to Fray Bentos regularly when the mills are in operation."

Manfrini admits that the mills will not provide jobs for a very large number of the city’s inhabitants. "But the industrial activity will indirectly bring major benefits for everyone in Fray Bentos," he maintained. A private school and top-rate private hospital are under consideration to serve a new social sector with considerable buying power: the technicians, managers, administrative directors and other specialized personnel that Botnia and ENCE will transfer to Fray Bentos power.

Supporters cite the boost that all this activity will give the local economy and envisage a significant upgrade to the region’s transportation system of bridges, highways, and private ports linking the mills to domestic and international commerce. Opponents warn of the potential environmental impact of the pulp mills as well as the negative impact of pollution on tourism, fishing and other activities that currently employ thousands of local residents today.

In Las Canteras, one of the city’s most humble neighborhoods, two kilometers away from the city center, Manuel Burgos, 37, an unemployed father of four, is worried. "It’s like being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea," he explains. "You get your hopes up about the opportunities for a better life that could be opened up by the pulp industry, but at the same time you’re afraid that in the end it won’t be like they promised, and that in addition, they won’t be able to control the pollution,"

Julia Méndez, who is 22, single, a student, and also unemployed, shares Burgos’ doubts, but adds that in any case, it is a risk that has to be taken, because "there are no other prospects in sight in this city."

Dionisio Cabral Vitale, a 72-year-old retired fisherman, proposes that the matter should be resolved through a large assembly of the city’s residents, even if the discussions take weeks or months.

"Me and a lot of other people are against the mills and especially against the eucalyptus forests, which are taking the water away from 120 families of farmers right here, who would already be finished if the local government didn’t bring them water in tanker trucks. But there are also people in favor of the mills, because they claim there will be more jobs. So I believe that we need to all meet together to reach a decision and tell the government yes or no, because the government never consulted us," he declared.

"Trees for pulp production have taken over land formerly used to grow wheat, barley, sunflowers and linseed," said Carrere, who is also the coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM). A large percentage of that land used to belong to small and medium-sized farmers who were driven under by the economic crisis that hit the country between 2000 and 2003. "These farmers, left without capital or any kind of government support, sold their fields to the corporations, and at very low prices," reported Mercedes Borrás, who served as the legal representative of one of the many families strangled by the debts they incurred during the crisis.