Blog Archives

Ditch the precautionary principle and innovate, to further the global control of food

Corporate-political alliances in many countries seek to control the food supply and to profit, not only by trading activities, but by speculation.


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Bayer, Dow Chemical, Novartis and Syngenta – why was Monsanto’s name missing?

Recently, the CEOs of several agrochemical companies sent a letter to the Presidents of the European Commission, Parliament and Council calling on them to stop applying the precautionary principle to risk assessments and start applying the ‘Innovation Principle’, to stimulate economic recovery in Europe.

ERF logoThe companies used the medium of the European Risk Forum, whose policy briefs are said to provide high-level, focused analysis of major regulatory issues; their ‘Communication 12’ may be read via this link.

Was Monsanto following the Tesco example? Having become very unpopular, Tesco dropped its name from its new convenience stores, Was Monsanto advised not to sign by its peers for the same reason – or was it a company decision?

Recently agro-chemical industries have:

  • organised the first European Innovation Summit – hosted by Ireland during their EU Presidency;
  • posted many ‘opinion pieces’ on various mainstream media on GM (golden rice in particular)
  • accused environmentalists of hindering progress and causing the death of thousands of children;
  • created media space for ‘GM ambassadors’ such as Mark Lynas and the UK environment minister, Owen Paterson..

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However, a recent report from the European Environment Agency has documented the benefits of taking precautionary action which often include resource and cost savings, as well as secondary societal and economic benefits.

It concludes that use of the precautionary principle accelerates innovation, reducing the costs of harm by promoting the development of more efficient and safer alternatives to polluting activities and products.

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. European Environment Agency, EEA Report No 1/2013.


Bad decisions by government 30: support for polluting industries – GM crops, nuclear power and waste-burning

Today the BBC reports that ‘executive members’ representing three Lake District councils will vote on whether to search for a site for an underground repository in which to store high level nuclear waste. Cumbria is the only area still considering such a facility. Construction is not expected to begin before 2025.

Radiation Free Lakeland, opposing the building of a repository, say that any intended facility would be as large as the city as Carlisle and as deep as Scafell is high.

The Unite union representing Sellafield Workers said that 12,000 jobs at Sellafield depended on the industry, with thousands more in the local supply chain.

In February a Chinese delegation of nuclear decision-makers from the commercial and policy sectors will visit Britain for a week of meetings with UK decommissioning and waste management ‘supremos’.

Young minds train for a nuclear future

Nuclear future young mindsHitachi has signed a £700m deal to buy Horizon Nuclear Power from its German owners and is planning to build reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey, north Wales, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, a county also threatened with the imposition of a large incinerator.

The paragraph headline was seen in the Stroud News and Journal. Can we find no better engineering alternatives for these young people who have entered apprenticeships? The words of their MP, Neil Carmichael, an ardent proponent of the nuclear industry, were reported in Hansard: “Locally in Gloucestershire, as well as through the national training academy for nuclear, we are working hard to ensure that we have sufficient skills—and retain those skills—ready for nuclear new build”.

Hold to the Precautionary Principle

The European Environment Agency Report No 1/2013, Late lessons from early warnings, from a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers, contains case studies covering a range of chemical and technological innovations and highlighting a number of systemic problems. The second volume investigates specific cases where danger signals have gone unheeded, in some cases leading to death, illness and environmental destruction.

The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be; the government should take its message to heart and rethink their support for GM crops, nuclear power and waste-burning industries.

If ever there was a case for the precautionary principle . . . and America is beginning to admit it

Today George Monbiot in the Guardian presents links to a large body of evidence suggesting that Alzheimer’s is primarily a metabolic disease. Some scientists now call it diabetes type 3.

One such, in Eat Your Way to Dementia New Scientist, 1.9.12, is award-winning journalist Bijal Trivedi (left) – informed by a degree in biochemistry, an MS in molecular, cell, and developmental biology and an MA in science journalism from NYU.

Before noting the technologies which companies use to make ‘junk food’ addictive, Monbiot notes that there is a long-established association between Alzheimer’s and diabetes 2 and there are also associations between Alzheimer’s and obesity:

“Researchers first proposed that Alzheimer’s was another form of diabetes in 2005. The authors of the original paper investigated the brains of 54 corpses, 28 of which belonged to people who had died of the disease. They found that the levels of both insulin and insulin-like growth factors in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients were sharply reduced by comparison to those in the brains of people who had died of other causes. Levels were lowest in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease. Their work led them to conclude that insulin and insulin-like growth factor are produced not only in the pancreas but also in the brain. Insulin in the brain has a host of functions: as well as glucose metabolism, it helps to regulate the transmission of signals from one nerve cell to another, and affects their growth, plasticity and survival.”

He concludes that the government’s answer to the multiple disasters caused by the consumption of too much sugar and fat will merely be to call on both companies and consumers to regulate themselves . . .

A search revealed a wealth of awareness amongst commentators in the USA

Two examples are the findings of an Iowa State University survey and of Marion Nestle, editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health.

The Iowa State University survey received 1710 responses from government scientists and inspectors and found that parts of the food industry withhold food safety data in order to protect their business interests.

Editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health, Marion Nestle, has illustrated food politics in action: “watered-down government dietary advice, schools pushing soft drinks, diet supplements promoted as if they were First Amendment rights”.

Regular readers will not be surprised by her explanation of how food companies lobby officials and co-opt experts and her conclusion:

“When it comes to the mass production and consumption of food, strategic decisions are driven by economics—not science, not common sense, and certainly not health . . .
“The food industry plays politics as well as or better than other industries, not least because so much of its activity takes place outside the public view.”