8th November, 2003

Predictions that a regulatory committee meeting of member state experts which meets on next Monday would effectively lift the EU moratorium on approval of new varieties of GMO now look like coming unstuck. European Commission officials are now reported to be pessimistic of the prospects of the committee’s approving a new variety of GM maize.

The EU authorities were hopeful that the new regulatory framework adopted for GMOs in July would be enough to persuade member states to lift the ban, but it now seems unlikely that the proposal to approve the maize will even be put to the vote. If no vote is called the Commission can claim that the delay is a mere hiccup, whereas if the matter is put to the vote and fails to win approval the moratorium will in effect be strengthened.

The committee in question uses the qualified majority system (QMV) when voting.  QMV means that each country casts a number of votes proportionate to its size. If no majority is reached by this method – either for acceptance or rejection of the application for approval, the matter will have to be voted again by the Council, in which sits the relevant minister form each EU country, The Council uses the same voting system, and if it too can reach no majority then the unelected Commission would have the power to authorise the placing of the GM maize on the market itself. However, given the very controversial nature of the issue, it might be reluctant to do this.

Hovering in the background, of course, is the (also unelected) Bush junta, which is taking the EU to the World Trade Organisation, claiming that its products are being unfairly excluded.

World Uranium Weapons Conference seeks to break cover-up


ore than 200 delegates from twenty countries gathered in Hamburg from 16-19 October to exchange views and experiences and to hear a succession of scientists, medical professionals and other experts present recent findings on these illegal weapons. Among the delegates were military personnel, a nuclear lab whistleblower, a prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal on Afghanistan, veterans and their families, and representatives of NGOs and peace movements.

Iraqi scientist Dr Souad Al-Azzawi, who received the internationally recognised Nuclear Free Future Award just before the Conference, presented her findings on environmental contamination from depleted uranium (DU). Workshops dealt with such topics as the science behind DU, its use and dangers, international law, and affected veterans and civilians. Proceedings were filmed by professional filmmakers. The intention was also to stream proceedings live to the internet but "unexplained problems" prevented the live stream being available while the conference was happening. Organisers hope film of the conference will soon be restored and will post the schedule at here

Conference organisers were disappointed by a poor turnout from the mainstream press, particularly at a press conference held on he second day. Conference co-ordinator Marion Kuepker said that "We believe this is part of the continuing cover-up on the issue of devastating health problems resulting from 'depleted' uranium weaponry used by the US, UK and NATO forces in Iraq, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Afghanistan."

Spectre hopes to bring you a fuller report of the Conference, its conclusions and the participants plans for future actions in the near future. We apologise to you and the organisers for the delay in this report, which was caused by the fact that we could not do a Weekly News Review last week - due to circumstances entirely within our control - we went on holiday!

Austrian environmentalists protest the murder of a brave friend and colleague

Activists in Vienna are planning to protest this Monday (Nov. 10) at 5 pm outside the Ecuadorian embassy to denounce the assassination of Angel Shingre, a well-known campesino leader and human rights defender killed in Ecuador last week.

Friends of the Earth International is leading a campaign to have the Ecuadorian government to launch an independent investigation into the assasination. Friends of the Earth groups elsewhere are also planning protests outside Ecuadorian embassies in their own countries.

Friends of the Earth Austria staff had been working since June 2003 with Angel Shingre against the plans of the Austrian transnational corporation OMV to get involved in the Ecuadorian oil business. They issued a statement saying that “Angel Shingre, 47 years old, was outstanding in his dedication to helping small farmers and indigenous communities. For more than 20 years, he worked tirelessly to promote environmental rights and defend affected communities in the face of abuses by oil companies and a culture of impunity in the region.”

At the time of his murder, Angel served as Coordinator of the Office of Environmental Law in Ecuador. During his final weeks, before the cold-blooded assassination on the morning of November 4 in the city of Coca (Orellana), he helped and advised communities that are affected by the oil field known as Pindo and communities in the Shiripuno River area. They are organizing to vindicate their rights against Oil giant Chevron Texaco.

The assassination took place just few days after the beginning (22.10.2003) of a major lawsuit by 88 plaintiffs in the name of 30.000 rainforest inhabitants against Chevron Texaco for damages the transnational corporation allegedly caused in the Amazon Rainforest since the 1970s.


Third World Loses $200bn Through Capital Flight - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan


“In 2002, for the sixth consecutive year, developing countries made a net transfer of financial resources of almost 200 billion dollars to other countries, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan has said.  Annan who spoke at the high-level dialogue of the general Assembly on financing for development, said such a situation lacked common sense. ‘Funds should be moving from developed countries to developing countries, but these numbers tell us the opposite is happening,’ he said. ‘Funds that could be promoting investment and growth in developing countries, or building schools and hospitals, are instead being transferred abroad.’  He argued that in spite of promising investment opportunities in the developing world, including improved economic policies, fear and uncertainty were keeping the resources from being deployed where they were needed most. If what we say about financing for development is not to ring hollow, if financing for development means anything, we must reverse this negative balance sheet, and fix the system so that all countries, and all people, especially the poorest can benefit,’ he said.” Read the rest of this report of Kofi Annan’s speech at



ESF: For all the latest on next week’s European Social Forum in Paris go to here