What a waste!

14th November, 2003



EU member states refuse to approve GM maize






A European Union (EU) regulatory committee this week refused to support a proposal by the European Commission to approve a controversial genetically modified sweet corn.


Environmentalists and consumer groups were critical of the European Commission for proposing that the GM sweet corn, which has been modified to produce its own insecticide, should be allowed into shops in Europe. Friends of the Earth Europe pointed out that new EU labelling and traceability regulations are not yet in place, and that both several member states and the European Parliament had insisted that this must be put right before new marketing approvals are considered. The Commission proposal also bypasses another vital aspect of the new regulatory framework, a GMO approval process which is more thorough and transparent than that which still prevails and which includes compulsory post-approval monitoring of health effects.



A spokesman for Friends of the Earth added that “The Commission proposal avoids the new European Food Safety Authority that has to take into account not only the short and long- term effects, but also effects on future generations, probable cumulative toxic effects and the effect on health sensitive consumers.”



FoE GMO campaigner Geert Ritsema said:



"European countries should be congratulated for not supporting this outrageous proposal from the Commission. This is a victory for common sense. Rather than trying to force these unwanted foods through outdated laws the Commission should now make the biotech industry go through the more transparent and thorough approval process that will be applicable next year.





 

Calling the decision “a wake-up call for the Commission to change its pro-GM policies” Ritsema added that the EU’s unelected executive  “must now start to put the well-being of European citizens and their environment before the business interests of the US Government and the biotech industry."

 

UK Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas added that she found it “unacceptable for the Commission to promote the interests of the US-dominated biotech industry. The marketing request for Bt-11 is based on the old 'Novel Food' regulation, while in the meantime new legislation on the labelling and traceability of GM food and feed has been approved. The new laws defend more strictly consumers' interests and their right to choose. If the Commission manages to convince the regulatory Committee to approve the corn it will lead to a major risk of European citizens consuming GM food without even knowing it."

 

A spokesperson for the Parliament’s United Left Group agreed: “Both the Parliament and a number of member states have made it quite clear since the agreement on a new directive on deliberate release of GMOs in 2001 that no new authorisations should be granted until the whole regulatory framework is in place. As far as we are concerned this means a proper system of co-existence, one which will prevent contamination of non-GM crops, as well as the already-agreed laws on labelling, traceability and food and feed quality.”

 

EU Council risks violating own Treaty in negotiations on public procurement



According to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Council of Ministers risks violating the EC Treaty when revising the directives on public procurement – the purchase of necessary equipment and services by public bodies such as local authorities and government departments.  This has been a hot potato ever since the European Commission began to use internal market rules to try to stop such bodies attempting to use their purchasing power to good effect. Want to buy that new school furniture locally so you keep the mums and dads of the kids who’ll use it in work? Forget it. If they can make it cheaper in Greece (or, soon, Slovakia), then that’s where you’ll buy it. Want to favour companies who treat their workers like human beings? Not if there’s others they can be undercut by who will do anything to cut labour costs, you won’t.  How about choosing a supplier because they recycle their waste efficiently instead of distributing it around local beauty spots? Get real.

 

True, Article 6 of the EU Treaty says that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of Community policies and activities. It just doesn’t say to what extent or in what way this should be done, or when or under what circumstances it might be permissible to put social or environmental considerations before the usual purely commercial tendering rules applying in the EU’s single market.


True, the European Parliament wants public authorities to have the right to buy green electricity, organic food, eco-labelled products, products coming from fair trade organisations and timber with a certificate proving it comes from sustainable forestry. But the Council of Ministers, with support from the European Commission, is insisting that public authorities can only consider environmental and social aspects of products and services when in use by these authorities, not at the production phase.  Nor can the environmental advantage for the wider society be a consideration. What this means in practice is that any exemptions under these rules would be limited to the point of being purely cosmetic.

 

Yet the European Parliament's position is supported by a ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) of 17 September 2002 . This judgement was also based on Article 6, and allows public authorities to integrate environmental requirements that are also of benefit to the public at large and not only to the contracting authority.




Public authorities spend €800 billion a year on products and services (16% of all purchases on the market). It would be possible to use this purchasing power to promote clean and socially- responsible production. For example, public authorities could create a major market for electricity from clean and safe sources, in this way contributing to the Kyoto obligations the EU has, or boost the market for chlorine-free paper (for preventing water pollution). They could emulate some local authorities in the States and insist suppliers pay at least a defined “living wage”, calculated on the basis of what it costs for someone to have a decent life in a particular part of the world. All that’s required is the go-ahead from the European Commission and Council of Ministers. All that’s required is for them to accept and confirm the Parliament’s position and respond to the ECJ’s ruling.


Don’t hold your breath.

Trade war

The WTO ruling that US steel tariffs breach the Organisation’s rules has intensified the ongoing stand-off over trade issues between the EU and US. As Spectre is based in Brussels, we hope the US remembers this is a TRADE war. If you want to read the ruling that could lead to massive tariffs on US imports into the EU, go to here 

European Social Forum

 

Next week’s Spectre will bring news of the European Social Forum in St Dénis, which readers who, like us, have spent many hours stuck nose to tail with other sorry souls on the Pérepherique ring road will know is a suburb of Paris. Hopefully, the ESF will improve this image, which we realise is totally unfair.  You can check regularly updated reports of the ESF at here

EU law on asylum procedures “an assault on human rights”

  S tatewatch had produced an analysis of new EU procedures for dealing with asylum seekers. Based mainly on documents which are not publicly available, it concludes that t he result will be that “some states with very questionable human rights records” will be deemed "safe countries of origin" Moreover, “Member States will apparently be free in any and all cases to deny applicants the right to stay in the country pending decisions on their appeals"

Statewatch’s judgement of the new procedures is that they “require Member States to lower their standards as regards asylum law” The EU Council of Ministers “is no longer solely setting minimum standards for protection, which already runs the risk of a competitive ‘race to the bottom’ by Member States reducing levels of protection in order to deter claims. Now it is at least partly in the business of forcing them to lower standards, setting a low ceiling for protection rather than a low floor"

The analysis is available at here

Euro fails to eliminate cross border charges

A recent report by BEUC - the European Consumer Association - reveals that the euro has failed to eliminate bank charges for consumers in the Eurozone. From 1 July 2003, the cost of making cross-border bank transfers was supposed to be the same as making a transfer within a single country. BEUC describes this as "the most concrete benefit consumers could hope to gain from the changeover to the euro".

The report reveals however that this benefit has failed to materialise for millions of EU citizens. In six countries (Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Holland and Spain), the regulation bringing down charges has not been implemented. French banks have even introduced new fees, known as "typing fees".

The report cites several examples. To transfer €40 from Greece costs over €26. Sending €100 from Rome to Lisbon costs the consumer €25 and a €100 transfer from Madrid to Brussels is €44.

  Thanks to the UK No campaign for this report.

Next Chechen Election Test

 

By helping Akhmad Kadyrov get elected as president of Chechnya, the Kremlin has guaranteed that the status quo in the republic will continue indefinitely. In other words, the war will not end any time soon. Read Boris Kagarlitsky’s analysis at here

Japanese election disappointment for left

The Japanese Communist Party lost eleven of its twenty seats in last Sunday’s general election.  We hope to carry a full analysis of this disappointing result in the near future. At first sight it appears that the JCP found itself squeezed between the governing party and its allies on the one hand, and a resurgent opposition Democratic Party on the other. Spectre’s resident commentator on Japanese affairs, John Manning, writes that “evidently the votes went to the "Democratic Party, Japanese monopoly's new attempt to move to the foolproof U.S. two-party, repubodemocrat system…. the tide of an apparently united U.S. supporting the war move apparently was too strong for most voters to vote with the JCP against the war alliance.  The JCP, which has never given up in 40-plus years of postwar democratic struggle, will not give up now, but, as always, will examine the new situation and concentrate on the positive - what can be done to advance the people's cause. Their evaluation will be being printed in Japan and will appear in English on their web page, here, within the next few days.”

Unfortunately, Spectre will not be able to carry John Manning’s own analysis of the election for a week or so, as he has to go into hospital. Spectre wishes John a speedy recovery.

Resisting globalization



“The United States is having trouble selling the latest model of souped-up global trade deals as a cure-all for the world's economic ills. First, talks in Cancun last September to expand the World Trade Organization collapsed. Now talks scheduled in Miami for November 17-21 to create a new free trade agreement for the Western Hemisphere likely will  be marked by conflict and similarly end in stalemate.” Read the rest of David Mober’s stimulating analysis at here



BAE System's Dirty Dealings



“It sounds like the stuff of pulp fiction: The UK's largest armaments producer running a £20 million ($33.4 million) slush fund to finance prostitutes, gambling trips, yachts, sports cars, and more for its most important clients the Saudi royal family and their intermediaries, greasing

the wheels of the largest business deal in UK history. These are the accusations made last month by a former employee of weapons giant BAE Systems. And evidence has surfaced that members of the British government were aware of the bribe arrangement, but looked the other way.” Intrigued? Read the rest of Sasha Lilley exposé at here


Fragile superpower



“The United States has never before appeared as powerful and as fragile as at the present moment. It has a gigantic military capacity. Its military budget is equal to the total military budgets of the twenty five other nations beneath it on a scale of power. The latter estimate omitting the Congressionally approved budget in order to attack Iraq. Despite all this, the U.S. is fragile because this military strength is not supported by its economy, but by its currency.”  Go to here

The Stealing of America 

Votescam is the culmination of a groundbreaking 25 year investigation into computerized vote fraud. A must read for anyone seeking to answer the question: “Why can't we vote the bastards out?” The answer is: “Because we didn't even vote the bastards in!” Turns out that all that was unusual about the Bush-Putsch was that the Junta got found out, though of course, contrary to the weird slogan “Information is power”, the cretinous Texan wordmangler is still in the Oval Office. Read how US elections are routinely rigged at herel

Thanks to Alf Mendes for drawing this site to our attention.

“President” Bush’s impressive pedigree

 

“Bush - Nazi Dealings Continued Until 1951 - Federal Documents” by John Buchanan and Stacey Michael from The New Hampshire Gazette Vol. 248, No. 3, November 7, 2003 can now be read on line at here



“After the seizures in late 1942 of five U.S. enterprises he managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen, Prescott Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush, failed to divest himself of more than a dozen "enemy national" relationships that continued until as late as 1951, newly-discovered U.S. government documents reveal. Furthermore, the records show that Bush and his colleagues routinely attempted to conceal their activities from government investigators.”

Israel's Guantanamo


“Representatives of the Israeli left and Palestinian political forces signed a peace agreement in Geneva last month, promising a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, apart from 2.5% of the West Bank ceded to Israel for settlements. Its capital will be East Jerusalem and it will control all the Old Town except the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. This shows peace is possible and the Israelis have partners in building it. Ariel Sharon's virulent denunciation of the agreement proves that it has embarrassed his government: refusing it would mean continuing violence.” Read the rest of Jonathan Cook’s article in the English-language version of French radical monthy Le Monde Diplomatique at here

The reality behind the embargo on Cuba

 

The objective of the pro-embargo advocates has no relation to foreign or domestic policy of fostering change in Cuba. A small group of rich right-wing Cubans use anti-Castroism to increase their own power and fortunes. Saul Landau explains how it works at here  And last month Noam Chomsky visited Cuba to participate in the 3rd Latin American and Caribbean Social Sciences Conference (CLACSO) where he was interviewed by Bernie Dwyer of CounterPunch. Read Cuba's 50 Years of Defiance: An Interview with Noam Chomsky at here




Environmental Conference on Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam - Report on Ethical, Legal & Policy Issues

 “I feel that I'm waking up to the world I left 30 years ago,” said Daniel Ellsberg during the run-up to the recent US invasion of Iraq. Ellsberg was referring to the similarities between that process and the early stages of the U.S. war against Vietnam, whose secret history he disclosed by leaking The Pentagon Papers to the press some thirty years ago.

Those similarities emerge clearly from a new report on the ethical, legal and policy issues remaining from the Vietnam War-- one in a series resulting from the Environmental Conference on Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam held in Stockholm in July of 2002.

From the Preface:

"This report deals with issues that are subject to heated dispute. They include military aggression, violations of international law, war crimes, ecocide, imperialism, and responsibility for widespread, prolonged human suffering.


"It is difficult to avoid controversy when dealing with such matters, and it is virtually impossible in the case of the Vietnam War. For one thing, many of those directly involved are still alive and are emotionally committed to one or another interpretation of its history.


"Another aggravating factor is that any discussion of these issues necessarily involves the most powerful nation on earth— a superpower which exercises a degree of global hegemony that is without precedent. . . .


"The current conventional wisdom regarding the Vietnam War, including its history and consequences, has been strongly influenced by the dominant interests of U.S. society. To a large extent, those interests are the same today as when the war was being planned and executed.


"This report does not reflect those interests. . . . "

The full report is available under the heading of "REPORTS-- Ethics/Law/Policy" at this web site: here

Spectre was this week invited to attend a meeting of the “Joint Enquiry Committee on Waste of the Italian Parliament”. We couldn’t attend, but we agree that allowing the Italian Parliament to  be used to house a bunch of Berlusconi-ite crooks “ex”-fascists and other assorted undesirables is a great waste. Polls show most Italians agree, so perhaps it will soon be put to better use.

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper provides news, information, opinion and debate from an environmental and left perspective. Latest issue features “Refugees, terrorism 'scare': Howard whips up fear and racism”. The Australian government is using the hysteria around the deportation of Willie Brigitte for alleged "terrorist" activities and the arrival of a small boatload of asylum seekers to prepare the most favourable terms for a federal election. It is counting on fear and racism to win the election for the Coalition parties, as they did last time.” Read this and much more Australian and international news and comment at http://www.greenleft.org.au 

 

The Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, which is closely associated with Green Left Weekly has recently added a number of publications to its website http://www.dsp.org.au  They include Neville Spencer (ed) Cuba as Alternative - An Introduction to Cuba's Socialist Revolution (2000) and Doug Lorimer The collapse of 'communism' in the USSR, Its causes and significance (1997)  For other publications from the DSP and Resistance Books go to http://www.resistancebooks.com.





Alf Mendes, who has written several times for Spectre on the background to the Bush junta, writes that  “As a source of references (some 200 pages long!) relating to America’s role in the current global scene, here is the best - & most

comprehensive - I’ve come across.” Take Alf’s advice and pay it a visit.

 

Bush lied, others died: go to here to read a list of the junta’s porkies. There may be an excuse for Dubya himself, as people of abnormally low intelligence are notoriously able to convince themselves that the things they are saying are true. But many of the people infesting the White House can read as well as you or I, and should know better.

 

War Resisters' International's new webshop is now online. You can order WRI publications, Broken Rifle badges, or donate to War Resisters' International online, using your credit or debit card. Payment is possible in £ Sterling, Euros, and US Dollars. The WRI webshop is online at here Donations can be made at here