1. Towards a new round - EU position
2. REALFOOD: News Update - Trade Justice Now!
1. TOWARDS A NEW ROUND - THE EU POSITION
An Infopack outlining the European Union's position for the forthcoming World Trade Organisation Ministerial meeting in Qatar, Doha, 9-13 November is now available in English and French.
To download the infopack (English or French) from our website, go to:
European Commission, Trade DG, Information Unit
2. REALFOOD: News Update - TRADE JUSTICE NOW!
TRADE JUSTICE NOW!
Farmers around the world are encouraged by big business and bodies, like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to grow and produce food by the cheapest means possible - regardless of quality.
This helps the profits of the supermarkets, fertiliser and pesticide companies but it's bad news for small farmers, people and the environment.
As governments get ready for the next WTO meetings, now is the time to rewrite the rules.
You can be part of the new movement for trade justice. Join the Trade Justice Parade on Saturday 3 November in London - and make world leaders realise that people want trade rules which work for the whole world.
* Huge procession - music with a message!
* Major speakers including Naomi Klein, author of No Logo
* Bring banners and costumes
* Tell all your friends and family!
For more details, visit:
Real Food Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Originally planned as a carnival, the Trade Justice Parade has been changed in response to the current international situation, and will include a one-minute silence for victims of injustice everywhere.
28 September 2001
Farming review won't call for radical change in key areas
The Government's Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food does "not intend to recommend any radical change" on the key areas of CAP reform and international trade liberalisation its chairman Sir Don Curry told Friends of the Earth at the end of September.
The admission seriously weakens the role of the Commission. The reform of CAP, and what replaces it, will have major impacts on the way the countryside is managed and how food is produced. Trade liberalisation may make it more difficult to protect consumers and farmers from practices undesired or unsuitable to the UK such as the use of hormones in farm animals and GM crops.
Sir Don Curry was responding to a letter from Friends of the Earth raising concerns about the narrow terms of the Commission's remit, given the state of crisis in the UK's food and farming sector. Friends of the Earth also raised concerns about the short time period in which the Commission had been asked to report to the Cabinet Office and DEFRA, and pointed out that the Government guidelines specify a 12-week period for public consultation. The Commission only has slightly longer to both consult and report (by 31st December). Friends of the Earth is worried that the Commission's short timetable will lead to important areas, such as food safety and animal welfare, being side-lined.
In his reply to Friends of the Earth, Sir Don Curry reveals that the haste in which the Commission is being asked to report is because "the Comprehensive Spending Review and CAP reform discussions will need to draw on our work". He also admits the Commission will need to "work hard to meet our deadlines".
Liana Stupples, Policy and Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth said "The Government Commission investigating the future of British farming has been placed in a policy straight-jacket and won't be able to recommend the type of radical action that is so desperately needed to safeguard the future for both industry and the environment. CAP reform and international trade liberalisation are key issues, but the Government has effectively kept them off the Commission's agenda. Despite its grand title the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will deliver very little unless it is given more scope."
25 September 2001
UK among worst in European food testing league
Pesticide residue testing of UK food is so inadequate that its safety cannot be guaranteed. In a report published at the end of September Friends of the Earth revealed that the UK lags behind most of Europe in testing food, and that most food types are not tested at all.
Most other EU countries test more food samples for pesticide residues than the UK Government. For example, Italy tested more than 8,000 samples of fruit and vegetables in 1998 and Germany tested more than 6,000. The UK tested 732 samples: Only four EU countries tested fewer.
Taking such a small number of samples means that the vast majority of food consumed in the UK is not checked for pesticides. This includes imported food which may contain residues of pesticides not allowed in the UK. For example, bananas have not been tested since 1997. And even then, according to Friends of the Earth estimates, fewer than one in every 100 million were checked.
Friends of the Earth also discovered that the food types selected for testing did not reflect most diets. Only bread, milk, potatoes, apples and carrots were tested annually between 1994 and 1999. Food eaten regularly by children, such as bananas, yoghurt and chocolate, is rarely monitored. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides in food.
Even when chocolate was tested, children's chocolate was not. Instead, samples of continental and cooking chocolate were examined. Although the tests found residues of lindane in most samples, there has been no regular follow-up testing. Lindane, which has been linked with breast cancer, and is due to be banned across the EU, is still used on cocoa beans.
Sandra Bell, Real Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "Pesticides are regularly being found in our food, but because the testing system is so inadequate we don't know the real scale of the problem. Some of these pesticides have been linked to cancer and other health problems, and children are particularly vulnerable. The Government must do more to provide shoppers with real information about the food they eat. Monitoring costs must not be put ahead of public health."
10 September 2001
Government blasted over GM crop trials
A report by Government advisors was published in early September which said that farm scale trials are not an adequate justification for the commercialisation of GM crops. The Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), which is also highly critical of the way the GM trials have been run, says that there must be a wider public consultation before GM crops are grown commercially.
Pete Riley, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "Congratulations to the AEBC for having the courage to point out the inadequacies that riddle the GM farm scale trials. These fundamental flaws are hardly a surprise: we have pointed them out to the Government on numerous occasions. The GM trials have always been far more about politics than about rigorous science. The very least the Government should do is abandon these trials until they have properly addressed issues such as contamination and liability. More fundamentally, they should recognise that they can't impose GM crops and food on a public which quite obviously doesn't want them."
7 September 2001
A welcome new GM food code - but EU GM labelling law must be changed
New industry guidelines have been set up by the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium on how to avoid accidentally introducing GM ingredients into food products. This good news is diluted by the fact we still lack a strong enough EU law on the labelling of products containing GM material - consumers should be told if their food contains any GMOs.
Under European law any product containing more that one per cent GM material must be labelled as containing GMOs. Friends of the Earth says this is inadequate and that products containing any detectable levels of GMOs must be labelled.
Pete Riley, senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "British consumers have made it perfectly clear they want GM-free food. They should be told if products contain any detectable levels of these unwanted ingredients. The current labelling laws are far too weak and allow the biotech industry to introduce GMOs into our food by stealth."
Friends of the Earth also warned that special attention needs to be given to seed and food crops to avoid accidental contamination. Separation distance between GM and non-GM crops are woefully inadequate and don't reflect the distances pollen can travel when carried by insects or wind.
Pete Riley continued: "The current proposals for keeping seed and food crops free from GM contamination are pathetic. Unless separation distances between GM and non-GM crops are greatly increased widespread contamination is inevitable. If the biotech industry can't guarantee that their GM crops won't contaminate conventional crops then they shouldn't be allowed to grow them."
14 August 2001
Bush told to stop threatening other nations' food safety laws
More than 200 consumer, farm and environmental groups worldwide sent a letter protesting against threats by the Bush administration to challenge other countries' food safety laws as barriers to international trade. Groups representing millions of citizens from Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the US and the UK have signed the letter.
Weyland Beeghly, Agricultural Counsellor from the US Embassy in India, said in May that the US was considering challenging a ban in Sri Lanka of genetically engineered organisms by submitting a complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The ban is scheduled to take effect on 1 September.
Wichai Chokwiwat, Secretary General to the Thai Food and Drug Administration, told Thai newspaper The Nation, that his country was a target of threats to use US trade laws to retaliate against a Thai proposal made in July to require labelling of genetically engineered corn and soya crops.
The campaigning organisations, which include Friends of the Earth International, called the US threats unreasonable, especially since the US allows its own states to establish food safety and environmental laws that are tougher than national laws. A five-year moratorium on engineered fish was passed in the state of Maryland last April. US pesticide laws also allow states to set limits on pesticide use that are more strict than federal law.
"If a US state can have a moratorium on genetically modified foods, why can't other countries do the same?" said Chair of Friends of the Earth International and resident of El Salvador Ricardo Navarro. "The US has no right to tell Sri Lanka or any other country how to write their food safety laws."
Senior Food and Farming campaigner for Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland Pete Riley, said: "The hypocrisy of the US in trying to dictate to another sovereign state how it should legislate on GMOs, while allowing variations within its own country beggars belief. Bush's administration has once again danced to the tune of the biotech companies in lobbying for WTO action against Sri Lanka. It is time the US Government and the WTO understood that individual countries have laws which reflect their culture and environment. They are not merely satellites of the US."
The letter to the Bush administration argues that Sri Lanka and other nations have a scientific, regulatory and moral basis to set limits on the proliferation of genetically engineered organisms. A copy of the letter to the Bush Administration, and a full list of signatories, can be found at www.foei.org
9 August 2001
Friends of the Earth welcomes Farming Commission, but slams inquiry into foot and mouth
Friends of the Earth gave a guarded welcome to the announcement of the Policy Commission on Farming and Food, but slammed the inquiry announced into the foot-and-mouth outbreak as "totally inadequate".
Friends of the Earth is deeply worried about the terms of reference for the Policy Commission, which may prevent the it from making the radical policy changes needed to produce environmentally and socially sustainable food and farming policies.
Commenting on the Food and Farming Commission, Sandra Bell, Food and Farming Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "We welcome the announcement of the new Commission on Farming and Food but we are deeply concerned that the Government still insists that the Commission has to present policies that fit with increased trade liberalisation. Mr Blair has to recognise that sustainable farming and trade liberalisation are not compatible. Increased trade liberalisation will mean the further collapse of small farming in this country, with the environmental and social impacts that this will bring. It also runs the risk of the greater spread of animal diseases around the world ."
She added: "The Commission has a huge job ahead of it, with confidence in the safety of our food at an all time low, and farmers reeling from crisis after crisis. It is clear that an overhaul of farming and the food system is essential. The path of intensive farming which this country has followed over the last few decades has failed farmers, the environment and consumers. We hope the Commission will present some radical options for a more sustainable future for our countryside and access to safe and healthy food for all."
Friends of the Earth believes the food and farming commission should address:
** a moratorium on GM crop planting - there should be a fundamental assessment of whether GM technology fits with the aim for more sustainable farming
** measures to significantly increase organic farming in the UK, to support farmers and help reduce imports of organic food
** a review of how to protect family farmers from unfair trading practices that favour massive food companies and food retailers - including further investigation into the power of the biggest supermarkets
** a strategy for reducing the use of pesticides and other chemical inputs
** an investigation into how local markets for UK-produced food can be developed
** how support payments can be diverted from production and into more sustainable ways of farming, including organic.
** how to ensure that safe high quality food is available to all sectors of society.
2 August 2001
End of the Line for GM in the UK?
New proposals for controlling GM contamination in seeds could mean an end to genetically modified farming in the UK.
Amendments to the Directives controlling seed purity, proposed by the European Commission, will require massive increases in separation distances between non-GM seed crops and GM crops, making it impractical for farmers to grow the two side-by-side. For basic oilseed rape, for example, seed production, the proposed separation distance is five kilometres from GM crops - requiring a huge exclusion zone around all GM oilseed rape.
The EU is proposing a 0.3 per cent - 0.5 per cent GM threshold for contamination by EU-approved GM varieties, but the costs of ensuring non-GM seeds meet this standard will fall on the conventional seed producers and not the biotech industry.
The EU proposed thresholds are intended to ensure the final crop reaches the food/feed processing factory with less than the one per cent contamination - a level which has been widely criticised as being far too high by consumer and environment groups. (Supermarkets are already operating at a much lower contamination threshold of 0.1 per cent). Imported seed will be required to have zero contamination from genetic modifications which are not approved in the EU.
Last week the UK Government announced further sites for the GM winter oilseed rape farm scale trials, where separation distances from non GM crops are no more than 200 metres.
Carol Kearney, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "These new proposals should sound the death knell for GM farming in the UK. In practice they will mean a choice between a GM-free future for farming, or GM-only seed and food. The seed industry knows what UK consumers want and expect. A GM-free future is the only real option they face."
26 July 2001
GMO industry given licence to pollute
Eurocrats take away consumers' right to GM-free food
Consumers risk unwittingly buying unlabelled and unauthorised genetically modified produce, following new regulations issued by the EU.
EU Commissioners ruled that genetically modified food/feed products (GMOs) not authorised in the European Union will be tolerated in small quantities (one per cent), as long as their presence is "adventitious" or "technically unavoidable".
The Commissioners also ruled that the presence of such contamination does not have to be labelled. A recently-passed EU directive (2001/18/EC) is to be modified to allow for the change.
Pete Riley, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "This ruling gives biotech companies a licence to pollute. All they need to do is say that any GM contamination was "accidental" and they will be able to get away with it. It is the thin end of the wedge - they will contaminate our agriculture and food supply, and that contamination will self-perpetuate as time goes on.
"The EU has given in to pressure from the biotech industry and the US government, putting business interests above the needs of consumers. How can people have confidence in a system that allows 'unauthorised' GM produce to be sold, without even a label to identify it is there?"
9 July 2001
New league table shows stores' pesticide performance
Friends of the Earth delivered its verdict on supermarket pesticide policies in a new league table. In a close battle for top slot, the Co-op edged ahead of Waitrose following new commitments, announced last week, to get pesticides out of its food. Crucial to the Co-op gaining top position is its openess with consumers. It is the first retailer to promise to publish the results of its own pesticide residue testing [www.co-op.co.uk]. The new verdicts update the league table produced last June by Friends of the Earth.
The top two are closely followed by M&S and Iceland. But the biggest five supermarkets fared less well. Asda is sliding down the table with Tesco also falling behind. Sainsbury's did slightly better, due to recent commitments to phase out some dangerous pesticides. Somerfield and Safeway remain "stuck in a rut". Meanwhile Morrisons and Netto are "slackers" facing relegation at the bottom of the table. Neither has a policy to reduce pesticide residues in their food.
Most supermarkets claim to have a policy to reduce pesticide use, but official data shows that about half the fresh fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets contains pesticide residues. These include residues of pesticides which are known hormone disrupters. There is increasing evidence that these chemicals are implicated in health trends such as declining sperm counts and increases in the rates of some cancers.
Friends of the Earth wants all retailers to ban the use of the most dangerous pesticides, including hormone disrupters, and work with suppliers to aim for zero residues in their food. Friends of the Earth also wants all retailers to be open about what's in their food and publish the results of their own residue testing.
Sandra Bell, Real Food Campaigner of Friends of the Earth, said: "Shoppers will want to know that the Co-op and Waitrose are top of the pesticide league table. They are taking real action over customer concerns about pesticide levels in our food. Other retailers should follow their lead. They should also match the Co-op's pledge to publish its pesticide testing results, so that customers know what's in their food. Friends of the Earth will continue to monitor the situation and tell the public which supermarkets are meeting the challenge and which ones are ducking it."
How Friends of the Earth rates the supermarkets on pesticides (details follow):
2. Runners up:
3. Getting there
5. Work to do
6. Falling behind
8. Stuck in a rut:
4 July 2001
Close the last foot-and-mouth mass burial site
DEFRA ignores Dept of Health guidelines
A Friends of the Earth survey revealed that DEFRA is failing to use available capacity in licensed landfill sites and continuing to use a mass burial site. This contravenes advice published earlier in the month by the Department of Health (DoH). Friends of the Earth is calling for a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth. This should cover issues such as why the DoH advice on disposal routes has been continually ignored during the crisis.
The DoH report says that rendering, incineration and engineered licensed landfills are preferable to burial sites. But DEFRA has told Friends of the Earth that it is still using a mass burial site at Tow Law (County Durham) because rendering plants are closed on weekends. Health risks from mass burials include contamination of private water supplies by Cryptosporidium, E Coli 0157 and Giardia. The Environment Agency has failed to take into account biological risks in its risk assessment on threats to groundwater at Tow Law. It has also failed to allay community concerns about the potential impacts from airborne pollution from the site.
Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth's Campaigns Director, said: " The Department of Health has given clear advice to the Environment Agency and the Department of Agriculture - don't use burial sites if there is capacity in licensed landfill sites, incinerators or rendering plants. Yet again communities are needlessly suffering because of inept decision making by some government bodies. It's time to close down the last mass burial site and announce a comprehensive public inquiry."
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