Weekly News Review

13th December, 2002

GMO lobby dealt blow as EU Ministers approve labelling regime

Since genetically modified foods hit the markets, consumers have asked for labelling of products that contain GE ingredients. Inside the EU only two GMOs are approved for human consumption, a type of maize (corn) and a type of soya, and they are supposed to be labelled, though only if they are detectable in the product itself. This sounds reasonable, but in fact it perpetuates the misconception that the only, or main, reason why people would want to avoid GMOs is out of concern for their own or their families' health. This is certainly a worry, but of at least equal concern is the fact that GMOs threaten environmental catastrophe, that they reinforce the imbalance of power between North and South and between agri-corporation and farmer, and that they jeopardise the livelihoods of conventional and organic farmers who risk having their crops contaminated by those of their neighbours. Because cooking oil, for example, contains no proteins, the GMOs used in its production would be undetectable.


Now, under pressure from a number of member states and progressive Members of the European Parliament, the EU is putting together a new set of rules which, though far from perfect, will require such foods to be labelled and represent what Greenpeace has called "the strictest labelling requirements in the world for genetically modified food."


All genetically engineered food and food ingredients, including highly processed derivatives such as sugar, refined oil and starch produced from genetically modified organisms, will have to be clearly labelled. Another separate new regulation will set up a thorough 'traceability' system in order to follow food and food ingredients consisting of, containing or produced from genetically modified organisms across all stages of the food processing and distribution chain through to the final product.


The deal has yet to be approved by the European Parliament, which has the right of co-decision in legislation covering consumer rights.

Anyone who would like full details can write to Spectre, as we have all the relevant documents and would be glad to email them to you.


Left MEPs speak out on Venezuela 


The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament this week issued the following powerful statement about the current attempt to install a US-backed dictatorship in Venezuela:


The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament reaffirms its support for the people of Venezuela, their institutions and their government in the face of attempts at destabilisation made by the same coalition which directed the failed coup d'etat in April against the government of Mr. Chavez.


The "crime" of this government is to have blocked the privatisation of oil company PDVSA, the largest company in Latin America and the world's fifth largest oil exporter, which provides 15% of US imports. The Chavez government wants also to devote more resources from the oil industry to programmes for development and fighting poverty.


The GUE/NGL Group condemns the recent acts of violence and intimidation carried out by the opposition, in particular, the destruction on 6 December of the MVR headquarters, close to Mr. Chavez, the sabotage of vital elements of the oil production chain, the destruction of dairy trucks and buses, and the acts of violence committed, in particular, those carried out by bands of motorcyclists who are attacking tradesmen and contractors who do not want to back the general strike, etc.


The GUE/NGL Group launches an appeal to the European media to give coverage to the immense popular support for the current government and for the democratic, economic and social reforms that it has carried out.


The GUE/NGL Group asks the European authorities not to support or recognise, in whatever form it takes, the movement which is trying to topple the government. It appeals to European companies present in Venezuela not to participate in this movement.


Wanna use taxpayers money to fly round in a private jet? Get yourself elected to the European Parliament....or even a job there


"Dear", started a letter recently received by a friend of Spectre working at the European Parliament. No name, just "Dear", a sure sign of someone who doesn't really understand how the English language works, but we'll let that pass. A person claiming to be "Lilly Taranto" (doesn't sound real to us, more like a saloon barkeep in a 1950s western) of Freud Communication, a  "PR Agency from London, UK" (for those of us who don't know where London is) was "writing on behalf of my client Marquis Private Jets...which "offers the Private Jet Card, a breakthrough in luxury and high speed personal travel. Individuals and companies can now combine the benefits of private jet ownership with the flexibility of a short term programme, and no long- term capital commitment. For a single payment everybody can purchase 25 hours or more of occupied flight time on the youngest fleet of private jet aircraft with the highest operational standards in the World - Netjets." We like the "everybody"!

This, "Lilly" informs us "would be a great opportunity for European Union officers to travel around easily without the need of queueing (sic) up at airports for check-in and other formalities." We can certainly see the advantages of that. I mean, who wants to travel with the people who elect us and pay our wages?  "I believe that both EU officers and members of parliament as well as their respective relevant organizations could benefit from this offer." 

The European Parliament has a committee on Transport whose members, with honourable exceptions, never go on any form of public transport other than aircraft and high-speed trains. Lilly clearly thinks this is a great idea and would like to extend it.


Our informant tells us that "None of this would matter - MEPs and well-paid staff at the European Parliament are bombarded with all sorts of SPAM email, some of it even more offensive than this. What really caused my jaw to bang against the desk was that this was actually sent out by a MEP, or rather his assistant. If you pay your taxes inside the EU then you paid for the time it took the assistant to do this favour for Lilly and her charming chums. If you don't like this, then write and make your views known to MGrosch@europarl.eu.int   Remember that Mr Grosch may well know nothing of the matter, so be polite!  On the other hand, if any readers fancy turning up at the next anti-globalisation bash in a private jet, check out http://www.freudcommunications.com

Hang on a minute. Lilly Tarranto? Freud Communications? Couldn't be someone out there pulling Spectre's ghostly appendage, could there?


British parliamentary committee attacks EU arrest warrant proposals

The UK Home Affairs Committee has produced a highly critical report on the British government's Extradition Bill, the measure which will implement the EU Framework Decision

on the European Arrest Warrant. Commenting, Committee chair, Labour MP Chris Mullin, said: "We are not happy with the Bill as it stands and we want to see some significant changes." The Bill proposes fundamental changes to the current system of extradition to and from the UK. In particular, it makes provision in UK domestic law for the introduction of a European Arrest Warrant by implementing the EU framework decision of June 2002. The Bill creates two categories of countries: category 1 territories which will qualify for "fast-track" extradition arrangements, based on "taking on trust" those countries' judicial and administrative systems; and category 2 territories which will be subject to a streamlined version of the existing extradition procedures. The Government intends that all EU member states will be in category 1.

The Committee express concern about some important aspects of the decision to adopt the European Arrest Warrant. In particular, they are concerned about the erosion of the safeguard of "dual criminality" (whereby the offence for which extradition is sought must also constitute an offence under UK law) and the ill-defined nature of the 32 categories of offence which will be exempt from the dual criminality requirement. They note in particular the fact that no debate on this issue was held on the floor of the House of Commons. They acknowledge that the UK is now committed to the adoption of the European Arrest Warrant, but recommend that the Home Secretary give consideration to a proposal aimed at providing some safeguard against abuses of this new procedure. This is that in each case, when the judge is of opinion that the alleged offence is not a crime in the UK, a separate decision as to whether to extradite should be taken by the Home Secretary. Read the rest of Statewatch's analysis of the bill and the Committee's report on it here

What is the scale of fraud and corruption in the European Union?


...is the question posed in a recent, topical bulletin from the (British) Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign. Its answer? "...essentially falls into two parts. The first concerns the extent to which budget appropriations either get misspent or disappear completely. The second relates to the standards of honesty and transparency with which the EU bodies, and the people who staff and get appointed or elected to them, behave. As regards the money, we have firm figures on which to rely, and they are enormous. The European Court of Auditors itself admits that about 5% of the total EU budget cannot be properly accounted for at all each year, while a further 5% is not spent on the programmes for which the funds were appropriated. As regards the integrity of the EU bodies and personnel, the evidence is more difficult to quantify, but the picture is not an edifying one."  To read the rest, and to find out more about the campaign, go to http://www.lesc.org.uk/

An international call from veterans and soldiers to members of the armed


We Are Facing a Serious Choice: Perpetual War or Resistance!

One year after September 11, 2001 it has become very clear that the grand alliance of “Benign Imperialists”(as they call themselves) are using the “War on Terrorism” to continue to further their “right” to make war on anybody, anywhere in the world, at any time, by any means. International treaties and conventions are ignored. Borders, other than their own, are proclaimed to have no significance as they march into any country or board any ship on the open seas. POWs are put in chains and flown away to Cuba like slaves in total violation of the Geneva Convention.

They have rained death and destruction on the people of Afghanistan, sent troops to the Philippines and to Yemen, are carrying out mass slaughter in Palestine and they are gearing up now to attack Iraq, while they threaten Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and 60 other countries. Led by the rulers of the USA--who have asserted their right to world hegemony and are now

declaring themselves Supreme Judge, Jury and Executioner--all the big powers are taking part in a global offensive against the people of the world.

At the same time they are instituting police state measures in their “home countries”. They are creating the means to stifle any resistance against their war and the system it serves. In the name of “defending freedom” they are implementing the very repressive measures they claim to be fighting against. Perpetual war abroad means mass repression at home.

As Veterans and Soldiers from many countries we call on the troops of all Armies taking part in this offensive to REFUSE... RESIST...REBEL!! Read the rest here


Save the Arctic Refuge! Slide shows available


In preparation for the renewed threat to the Arctic Refuge when the Republican-dominated US Congress convenes next month, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center is making sets of slides available to activists and sympathisers. The purpose of the kit is to build support for protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by highlighting the values of and threats

to the Refuge.

The kits will cost $25 and include 36 slides showing the values of and threats to the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, two prepared scripts (one short and one long) to accompany the slides, fact sheets on the Arctic Refuge and on current legislative threats to the coastal plain, a sample letter to help participants prepare personal letters to their congressional delegates, and additional information on how you can get involved in the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge.

The Center is trying to get a sense of how many kits to make. If you think you might be interested in purchasing a kit in January, they'd like to know as soon as possible so they can make a good estimation.

What will Eastern Europe's participation in the EU mean for democracy? In 'Euroskeptics or Europhiles', Boris Kagarlitsky argues that "removing customs barriers and creating common rules and administrative bodies does not guarantee that unification will be achieved. Read the rest at here


The London-based Institute of Race Relations recently established an "IRR news network" covering government policy, policing and criminal justice system, violence and harassment, asylum seekers and refugees, education, media, employment, extreme-right politics, immigration law, housing, health and sport. See here

Alternatives to Globalisation: A Better World is Possible is a new collection of  essays by some of the leading voices of the international left. Better World examines the ideological underpinnings and negative economic and environmental effects of neo-liberal globalisation before offering 10 alternatives for global governance. Read more here

Asia People's Security Network has a new website covering threats posed for human rights in Asia by the US "war against terror" ? How do internal security acts curb democracy in the

region? How are these issues related to the coming war in Iraq? The answers can be found here

Confronting 9-11, Ideologies of race, and eminent economists is the latest issue, Volume 20, of  Research in Political Economy. Includes analysis of the role of drug and oil in fuelling US wars, and an examination racism as it affects Haiti and South Africa are case studies. Four chapters deal critically with writings of major economists, including JM Keynes. Go  here for a table of contents, more information and how to order.

Labour Left Briefing is an independent voice and forum for socialist ideas in the (British) Labour Party and trade unions. December issue contains articles on the firefighters' struggle, the coming war, the Blairites' new Asylum Bill, and South Africa. Michael Hindley, former Euro-MP and frequent contributor to Spectre, writes on EU enlargement. Go here for more information and a selection of articles from this and previous LLBs