Eco sounding
John Vidal and Paul Brown
Wednesday March 30, 2005
The Guardian [selected/shortened]

Farmed out

In a few weeks Ann Veneman will take over as head of Unicef, the UN's fund for children. The former US agriculture secretary has neo-con form. She previously worked for biotech company Calgene, dismantled most of America's forest conservation laws and has furthered the cause of GM foods around the world. "God help the kids," says one American ecologist.

Brazil nuts

The champagne corks were popping in Monsanto's US offices last week when President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva finally signed Brazil's new biosafety bill. Known widely as the Monsanto law, it will allow GM companies almost free rein. Brett Begemann, a Monsanto vice-president, purred: "This demonstrates Brazil's commitment to a science-based regulatory system." But others said it showed that Lula de Silva was now completely under the spell of agribiz. They recalled the president saying only a few years ago: "The release of transgenics in Brazil would be utter insanity."

Jumping beans

Last week international conservation group WWF hosted a meeting in Brazil with major Latin American soya bean growers. The idea, said WWF, is to work with agribusiness corporations and persuade them to adopt better practices, such as leaving some forest standing and including corridors for wildlife. But WWF has provoked outrage among grasssroots organisations from many Latin American countries which met at a counter meeting down the road. More than 600 ecologists, unions, students, human rights and other groups all deplored the initiative as naive and dangerous. It was summed up by Corporate Watch: "The WWF's agenda seems to accept that monoculture cash crops, GM soya, intense pesticide use and land poverty will always be a feature of South American rural society."

Friendly fusion

The imminent retirement of "Nuclear" Jack Cunningham [one of Blair's keenest GM supporters when a Minister], Labour's veteran MP for Copeland in Cumbria, which includes British Nuclear Fuel's Sellafield works, has been celebrated by opponents of the plant. They fondly hope that their new MP will not be quite so pro-nuclear. Forget it. Labour's chosen candidate is Jamie Reed. He is a press officer at Sellafield.