Weekly News Review

25th July, 2004



EU halts GM maize import: European Commission fails in 7th attempt

EU agriculture ministers today failed to support the European Commission's proposals to allow the import into the EU of a genetically modified (GM) maize made by the US company Monsanto. This is the seventh time in a row that the Commission has failed to win support from the member states for a GM product.

he maize, called NK603, has been engineered to resist Monsanto's own herbicide,  RoundUp. Last month the Commission failed to get the majority it needed for the NK603 to be used as animal feed. This week's vote was for its use as a human food. However, after it became clear that there would be no qualified majority there was no official vote and so the position of individual countries is unclear.

The maize has been subject to no analysis of the possible long-term effects on human and animal health or of its effects on vulnerable groups such as the very young, the very old, pregnant women or people who, for reasons of culture or personal eccentricity, consume large amounts of maize. Approval of the maize would therefore be in breach of the EU's own regulations. 

Responding to the decision, campaigner Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE)  said:

"The European Commission has now failed seven times in a row to get enough support to approve new genetically modified foods. Their position is increasingly untenable and clearly incompatible with the wishes of the citizens and Governments of Europe. It is time that they put the welfare of the European public before the business interests of the biotechnology industry."

For a detailed FoEE briefing on genetically modified maize NK 603, see: here

Left Euro-MPs declare support for Chavez

In the run-up to the recall referendum which will be held on 15 August in Venezuela, the European United Left / Nordic Green Left Group (GUE/NGL) of 41 members of the European Parliament has issued a declaration stating its solidarity with the Venezuelan people and its support for their democratically elected president, Hugo Chavez. Four GUE/NGL MEPs - Ilda Figueiredo, Sarha Wagenknecht, Maria Luisa Bergaz, Kostas Alyssandrakis- travelled last week to Venezuela to see conditions in the country for themselves. On their return they agreed with the rest of the Group that they should declare their firm opposition to the "putsch perpetrated in Venezuela on 11 April 2002 and its approval without objection by the Spanish presidency of the EU, and to several instances of destabilization for which the opposition of this country was responsible but which enjoyed the support of the United-States."  The delegation, which was the latest of several fact-finding trips to the country, concluded that "the government of President Chavez has integrated many poor Venezuelans into political life and developed excellent social programmes that help all Venezuelans to profit from the wealth of the country."  The MEPs deplored the false image of the situation projected in the media and the failure of the opposition to state unequivocally that it would respect the referendum's result, which President Chavez has promised to do.  The declaration ended by urging the Venezuelan people "to support firmly the government of president Hugo Chavez during the recall referendum." 

Paul Emile Dupret, an official of the GUE-NGL who travelled with the MEPs, was held at Miami airport on his return visit. Kept for 25 hours in a basement cell, he was then informed that his right of entry without a special visa, which all citizens of EU member states enjoy, had been revoked. There is no right of appeal, and the decision could lead to further actions by governments who will wonder why Dupret is persona non grata in the US and, either through genuine apprehension or as a pretext to exclude a left activist and solid worker for human rights in Latin America and elsewhere, also refuse him entry. Read Paul-Emile's account of his treatment at the hands of Bush's airport Gestapo in next week's spectrezine update.  

Unknown takes on top parliament job

For the next two and a half years the European Parliament will be guided by Josep Borrell, a 57-year old Socialist from Catalonia. He takes over an assembly whose MEPs were voted in by a record low 45.5% of the electorate. Read more here

Big groups grab important parliament committees

The large groups in the European parliament are set to head the most important committees in the House, following an agreement between the political groups. Read more here

New commission slowly begins to take shape

As the current European Commission enters the twilight months of its mandate, member states are jostling both openly, and not so openly, about whom should be sent to Brussels and what they should do there. Read all about the Eurocrats' shenanigans here

Demonstrators demand that World Bank follows  own review's recommendations, ends support for environmentally and socially damaging extractive industries

Campaigners around the world, from Washington to Jakarta, marked the 60th Anniversary of the World Bank on Thursday 22nd July with an international non-violent  ‘day of action’, protesting at six decades of the Bank’s disastrous policies, misguided loans, increasing debt, and investment in dubious development projects [1].

The anniversary falls in the run up to a crucial August 3 decision by the World Bank on the implementation of the Extractive Industries Review (EIR). The review, carried out at the request of World Bank President James Wolfensohn, demands an end to the Bank’s support for unsustainable investments in oil exploitation and coal mining.

Amongst its recommendation are that support for mining projects should only go ahead on receipt of informed consent from local communities and indigenous peoples likely to be affected, and the guarantee of their land rights; respect for human rights, including freedom of association; the phasing out of lending in support of oil and coal and investment instead in  renewable energy; no financing in areas of armed conflict; protection of biodiversity through establishing “no go” areas for internationally recognized critical habitats; and increased out projects; and increased transparency.

The final decision rests with the Bank’s Board, but indications from the Bank’s management suggest they do not want to see the review implemented, and will continue to invest billions of dollars in the oil, gas and mining industries. The World Bank is accountable to its shareholders, which are almost all of the world’s governments.

Commenting on the report's implications, Longgena Ginting, director of WALHI/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia, said: “It’s time to shake up the World Bank and implementing the Extractive Industries Review is a crucial first step.  The World Bank is a public institution, intended to alleviate poverty, but instead it is supporting damaging industries and putting corporate profit before people and the environment. Oil, mining and gas projects have a clear irreversible damage and contribute too little to fight poverty. In many oil producing regions, poverty remains a structural poverty. There is no reason for the bank to continue supporting this."

Established in 1944, the World Bank was set up to make loans and guarantee credit to its 184 member countries. Its ostensible mission is the alleviation of poverty.  But the Bank’s interpretation of poverty alleviation has been increasingly called into question, with major investments made in projects which have had a detrimental effect on local communities, and damaged the local and global environment.

For more information about the protests see here

For more information on the EIR, view here and here

For more information on why “International Financial Institutions Must stop drilling, piping and mining”, download the Friends of the Earth International report here

International conferences organising resistance to global capitalism

This week sees two major international gatherings which may be of interest to Spectre readers. From July 23 to 29 in Belgrade there is the Peoples' Action Global Conference which you can keep up with here  And starting a couple of days later, running from July 25 to 30, in Quito, Ecuador is the Americas Social Forum. Read all about the ASF here  In addition, activists will be targeting the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. News of that here

US newspaper on third parties: latest edition available

Ted Glick writes from the US to say that "The Summer issue of IPPN's quarterly newspaper, Independent Politics News, is out, and it's good! There are articles about the national Green Party convention, Progressive Dane in Wisconsin, the Vermont Progressive Party, the W.V. Mountain Party and the S.C. United Citizens Party. There are reports on the April 25th March for Women's Lives and the global justice protests in Georgia at the G-8 meeting, as well as the latest with planned protests at the Democratic and Republican conventions. There's a special four page section about IPPN's 2004 Racism Watch project with resource information for use on a local level. And there's more! To receive a free sample copy send us your regular mail address. If you'd like to get a bundle to distribute to people you know, let us know how many and where we should send them. We ask for at least the cost of postage and whatever donation above that you can make."

International Conference co-sponsored by Spectre: still time to register A Better World's in Birth?  Struggles against Globalization

Conference organiser Bill Pelz writes: "Globalization.  A word thrown around in the media.  Maybe you even have an idea about what it is.  Still, most of us are still unsure about what this process is and how it affects our world.  'A Better World's in  Birth?

Struggles Against Globalization' will be an international conference where people from Asia, Europe, Latin America and even Chicago will discuss how people are responding to this latest stage of Capitalism. Panels on Iraq, Cuba, Colombia, Iran, Phillippines,  Haiti, India, Brazil, Palestine, Africa, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela and more. International Conference DePaul University - 2320 N. Kenmore August 5-8, 2004    Chicago Sponsors: DePaul University - International Studies Program, Research Institute of Comparative History & Culture (Seoul, Korea), Spectre Magazine (Belgium), Global Studies Association (North America), Institute of Working Class History           

Invited International Speakers include (list in formation):

Penelope DUGGAN, International Viewpoint (Paris), Boris  KAGARLITSKY, Institute of Globalization (Moscow), Jie-Hyun LIM, Historian, Hanyang University (Korea), Jean-Pierre PAGE, Trade Unionist (Paris), Luis Adolfo CARDONA, Trade Unionist, - SINALTRAINAL (Colombia), Yoomi JEONG, Deputy Secretary General of Korea Truth Commission, Riko ROSETE, Committee on Pilipino Issues. Register now here

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper: issue of July 21, 2004 is now available on line here Main story deals with how the Australian government was dealt a blow on July 7 when broadcaster SBS TV's Dateline aired a damning report that provided compelling evidence that Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib had been illegally transferred to Egypt, where he was severely tortured. Dateline confirmed that the Australian government was aware that Washington had ordered Habib's removal to Egypt, but did nothing to stop it. Green Left Weekly spoke to Habib's lawyer, Stephen Hopper, about the new evidence. Also "Military families applaud Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11" and outstanding coverage of Australian, regional and international affairs.

In These Times, radical left US journal and website, informs us that as part of a "larger redesign effort" they have "spent a lot of time creating ways for our readers to receive more content from our Web site. Freshly designed, www.inthesetimes.com continues to provide the news and in-depth analysis that the mainstream media won’t cover and offer the stories that our readers can relate to." Based in Chicago ITT has the flavour of that city, but deals also with  national and international affairs.  ITT  is an excellent way to keep up with left thinking and action in the US. Sign up to the free In These Times Mailing List at mailing_list@inthesetimes.com