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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
CANADA V9E 2B9
Tel (250) 881-1304
www.earthfuture.com

Executive director of The Solutions Project

 

 ECONEWS


Newsletter No. 82 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - April 1999


MONSANTO SOWS THE SINISTER SEEDS OF CONFUSION

"What shall we plant for Summer, my boy - Seeds of enchantment and seedlings of joy ?"

- Helen Hay Whitney

If the agro-chemical corporation Monsanto has its way, the world's farmers will be planting seeds of confusion and seedlings of woe, not of enchantment and joy. The 10,000 year old tradition whereby farmers store their seed to grow next year's crops will have vanished, and the seeds will be genetically manipulated to be sterile, forcing the farmers to go back to Monsanto or next year's supply. You can literally hear them laughing in the board room, as they contemplate the future they are creating for the world.

The genetically manipulated (GM) revolution is growing at an exponential rate. In 1996, 4 million acres were planted with transgenic seeds. By 1998 that had risen to 70 million acres. In 1996, 1 million acres of genetically engineered 'Roundup Ready' soybeans were planted in the USA. (The soybeans are genetically engineered with alien genes to resist large doses of Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, enabling farmers to spray the stuff all over the beans.) In 1999 there will be 70 million acres of this one crop alone, representing half the US soybean crop.

Monsanto likes to claim that genetic engineering is no different from the older tradition of hybridizing - it's just the application of modern science, designed to feed a hungry world. A growing number of scientists are saying it is different, however - and are beginning to ring the alarm bells. At the York Nutritional Laboratory, Europe's leading specialists on food sensitivity found that food allergies relating to soya increased by 50% last year, and urged the British government to ban all genetically engineered food. (Quoted in the Daily Mail, March 12th 1999).

A 1998 Nature study found that transgenic traits were 20 times more likely to flow to other plants by cross-pollination, which could result in the evolution of weeds that resist the herbicide (Harper's, April 1999). And earlier this year, Dr Arpad Pusztai, a senior British scientist who has worked at the Rowett Research Institute for 35 years, and has 270 scientific papers to his credit, reported that the cauliflower mosaic virus, used as a medium to trigger the genes inserted in GM potatoes, caused damage to the thymus, spleen, intestines and immune systems of rats after only ten days of feeding.

Dr Pusztai was so worried by his results that he declared on British television that he would not eat any GM food, and that it was "very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs". The Rowett Institute, which has received funding from Monsanto, responded by suspending him from his job.

The Europeans are far more alarmed about all this than most Canadians appear to be. (Most middle-of-the-road Canadians are far too comfortable and complacent to make a fuss about anything, apart from trying to reduce their taxes. It must be all those forests, fishes and fuel reserves that God gave Canadians to exploit.) In 1997, the European Union closed the door on Canadian canola after producers were unable to guarantee a supply that had not been genetically manipulated, forcing the Canadian flax producers to slow the development of their only transgenic variety, "Triffid'. (At least they've got a sense of humour.)

This is a huge concern. In India, farmers have been so angry that they organized "Cremate Monsanto" days, when crops are burnt. In England, Iceland Foods has banned all GM foods from its shelves, and the most prestigious restaurants are pressing for a 5-year ban on growing and selling GM food. In 1997, there were 10,500 patent applications for biotechnology traits.

Monsanto has to work hard to make sure that its farmers don't save their own seed. Last fall, they wrote to 30,000 farmers warning them that such an act was "seed piracy", and detailing the hefty fines some farmers were having to pay for breach of Monsanto's rules.

They also take great care to control the US regulatory agencies. In 1992, when the US Food and Drug Administration wrote its rules on GM foods, ruling that consumer labeling and safety testing were unneeded, the policy was written by an FDA deputy commission who had worked for Monsanto for 7 years, and now does so again. (Harper's).

This is just the beginning of it all. Last year, Monsanto bought the company which invented the 'Terminator' gene, which guarantees that seeds of their GM plants will be sterile. Animal feed for cows, pigs and chickens containing GM crops is about to go on the market inspite of evidence that GM genes can be passed to the animal's guts, which humans will then eat; and the UK government is funding research into GM grass, that cows and sheep will graze on. Where - and when - will this all end ?

- Guy Dauncey


Please note:  the Green Diary has moved, click here to view.


ECONEWS

Published as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your donations.AG00119_.gif (2913 bytes)

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A very big thankyou to Debra Barr, Tim Isaak, Wes Gietz, Janis Aitken, Noel Lax, C. Pedersen, Marianne Raedler, Louise Pothier, Daphne Wheeler, Richard de Candole, Bill Moffat, Donna Dublin, Stephen Housser, Rob Barry, Stephanie Slater, Tina Fraser, Harriet Rueggeberg, Unlimited Possibilities, Ian Graeme, Gwen Howey, Roger Colwill, CM Borris, Aaron Rain & Debbie Good.

* Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1.
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* If you don't want to receive EcoNews please let us know, to save the postage !

EcoNews Delivery : In recent months we have been using the Garth Homer Centre's bulk mailing services. With Canada Post's new rate structure, publications are rated higher than admail, so we are reverting to the regular mail. Apologies for recent late deliveries, which were due to the bulk mailing system.


THE ECO-PERSONALS

* Help wanted. Environmentally ill Fairfield woman needs housework and errands done a few hours per month by an unscented worker who neither uses fabric softener, nor shares laundry facilities with users. Car unnecessary. 658-2027.

* Congratulations to Anna Hall and the West Coast Anti-Whaling Society, for leading last year's drive to stop the Makah tribal whaling, maintaining a continuous presence at Neah Bay for 57 days, and for winning the Environmental Achievement Award of the Year from Tourism Victoria. (250) 472-8493 www.anti-whaling.com

* The Harmony Foundation is seeking applicants to join its program 'Building Sustainable Societies : Training for Community Leadership' (May 27th - 30th). Scholarships available. For details, call 380-3001.

* Want to build a more sustainable community on your own street or apartment ? The Street Volunteers are running free trainings and study groups. details Guy, 881-1304.

* Live in Fernwood, looking for a cool way to travel ? The Victoria Car Share Co-operative is seeking more Fernwood members. Also in James Bay, Fairfield and elsewhere. 995-0265

* Green actors wanted for Clean Air Day in June, to prepare a short theatre performance to motivate people to "go green". Small honorarium possible. For auditions, call Melanie, 592-5207. If you are a business or organization that reduces local air pollution and/or greenhouse gases, call Melanie for an invitation.

* Wally Du Temple has prime deposits - good liquidity, rich in nitrogen donkey and mule manure. Get those vegetables ready to beat off the Y2K bugs ! 656-1767 esperanto@home.com

* Religion and the Environment Summer Institute, July 23 - 25th, at Dunsmuir Lodge. Science alone cannot solve our current ecological problems. Do religious traditions have wisdom to offer? David Suzuki, Sallie McFague and Harold Coward will explore the contributions of science, the Judeo-Christian, Aboriginal, and Eastern religious traditions in plenary and small group discussions. $360 before April 2, then $410 Janet King 721-8827


ICELAND AS THE WORLD'S FIRST HYDROGEN ECONOMY ?

Iceland has announced plans to try to turn itself into the world's first hydrogen economy, in partnership with Shell and Daimler-Benz, eventually replacing the gasoline and diesel in all its cars, buses and fishing fleet with non-polluting hydrogen. Iceland's interest in hydrogen stems from its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The small country already relies on renewable energy sources for two thirds of its total energy needs (hydro for electricity and geothermal energy for heating), but has a high per capita level of emissions because of its huge fishing fleet. Iceland might become a key hydrogen player, exporting the fuel to Europe's first public hydrogen refueling station, which opened recently in Hamburg, Germany, opening the way for hydrogen powered vehicles to refuel easily. (MSNBC February 17th, 1999)


SPRAWL or PARADISE ?
PART 2

A Panel Discussion on Blue/Green Spaces and Regional Growth in the Victoria Area

Diane Bernard, Guy Dauncey, Joanna Kafarowski, Alison Spriggs, Jeff Ward & Ray Zimmerman

Wednesday April 14th, 7:30 - 10pm

Fairfield Community Place
Garry Oaks Room 1335 Thurlow Road
Sierra Club (Victoria Gp) 472-8646


Cadboro Bay Chiropractic

Dr Barry Curran
2571 Penrhyn St
477-1133
University / Gyro Park Area


Check out the new Victoria Green Pages !

www.greenpages.victoria.bc.ca


WE ARE EATING THE PLANET
- IT'S OFFICIAL

Humans have destroyed more than 30% of the natural world since 1970, with serious depletion of the forest, freshwater and marine systems on which life depends, while consumption pressure from increasing affluence has doubled in the past 25 years and continues to accelerate, according to the ground-breaking Living Planet Report from the World Wide Fund for Nature. "Time is running out for us to change the way we live if we are to leave future generations a living planet. We knew it was bad, but we did not realize how bad." One of the most serious problems revealed for the first time is the depletion of accessible freshwater resources, half of which are being used by humans, double the amount of 1960. Freshwater eco-systems are declining at 6% a year, threatening to dry up many wetlands and pushing their species to extinction. Carbon dioxide emissions have doubled in the same period, far in excess of the natural world's ability to absorb them, accelerating global warming. The global consumption of wood and paper has increased by two-thirds, and most forests are managed unsustainably. In the same period, marine fish consumption has more than doubled, and most of the world's fish resources are either fully exploited or in decline. Norwegians, Taiwanese, Americans and Singaporeans are singled out as the world's most voracious consumers, responsible for depleting the Earth's resources faster than other countries. (Norway catches 250 kg of fish per capita, over 10 times the world average, mostly to feed salmon in fish farms.) While growing population is part of the problem, increased consumption is the main problem. The average North American or Japanese consumes 10 times as much of the world's resources as the average Bangladeshi. "This quantifies for the first time a scary decline in the health of the world's forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems. It shows we have lost nearly a third of the Earth's natural wealth since 1970." (Gro Harlem Brundtland, World Health Organization). "The index presents a warning which we should all take most seriously because it charts an alarming decline in the health of natural forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems over the past 30 years. The conservation of natural ecosystems is not a luxury which only the rich can afford, but is essential to ensure the maintenance of the vital ecological functions of our planet upon which we all depend for our survival." (Sir Ghillian Prance, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew).


TURNING DOWN THE HEAT

Global climate change is by far the biggest problem our planet faces. All around the world, temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting, and hurricanes, floods and droughts are on the increase. It's not just a feeling that "something's wrong with the weather" - something IS wrong, and we are to blame, through our ever-increasing output of greenhouse gases and our destruction of the world's forests. We have been warned for years that world sea levels will rise by 1 meter over 100 years - but now there are far more dramatic warnings coming from the prestigious US Climate Institute that the whole of the unstable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (2,000 square kilometers of it, the size of Mexico), which is already breaking up piece by piece, could collapse into the ocean within the next 10 years, raising global sea levels by 6 metres. That's enough to wipe out much of Bangladesh, Florida, coastal China and the Lower Mainland of BC, removing much of the world's productive farmland. In a recent meeting with Victoria climate activist Bruce Torrie, John Topping, President of the Climate Institute, told Bruce that top US government scientists were preparing to announce the possibility of such a break-up. The implications of such a disaster are mind-numbing, turning the worst Y2K and earthquake predictions into bed-time stories, so there is an obvious reluctance not to rush to judgement unless it is clearly justified. EcoNews will carry more on this story next month.

The solutions to the climate change crisis are all around us, from the renewable energy revolution to the need to make our cities so bicycle-friendly that 50% of our trips are done by bike. Some aspects of the revolution, such as wind energy, are taking off at a tremendous pace, but Canada is missing the boat entirely, still in the thrall of the oil, coal and gas barons from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Hibernia. On April 8th, CBC's 'The Nature of Things' with David Suzuki (8pm) is showing a new film on global solutions to climate change called 'Turning Down the Heat : The New Energy Revolution', by Vancouver film-maker Jim Hamm, on which I had the privilege to work as researcher, production assistant and web page writer (www.davidsuzuki.org/energy). The film takes an exciting look at solar and wind energy, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles and many other solutions, and asks why Canada is so slow to come on board. So set your videos to record it, if you're going to be out. This is the overriding issue which we should all be focussed on.


THE GARDEN PATH

Organic Heritage Plant Nursery

at the Greenhouse, 1834 Haultain St
(between Richmond & Foul Bay)

Open Tuesday April 20th
to Sunday June 6th, 10am - 5pm
(Closed Mondays)

Heritage flowers, vegetables & tomatoes, culinary & medicinal herbs, fragrant English roses - sweet peas - flowering shrubs

Carolyn Herriot, 592-4472


A BIOREGIONAL SCHOOL
IN VICTORIA

Are you searching for the right educational opportunity for your child, or concerned about the lack of empowering environmental education in the schools ? A group of concerned parents, community members and certified teachers are planning to start an independent, multi-aged elementary school in Victoria this September. Their focus is bioregional education, getting students outside the classroom and involving them in learning opportunities in the natural communities in which we live. "The (environmental) crisis cannot be solved with the same kind of education that helped create the problems." - David Orr. Kara, 598-5322.


 SUCCESS ! THE TOBIN TAX

Over $1,000 billion is traded every day on the world financial markets, 95% of which are by currency speculators who can have a devastating effect on struggling economies. The Tobin tax is named after the Nobel Prize winning economist, James Tobin, who first proposed the tax as a means to make the world economy more stable, democratic and equitable. The income from the tax could be used for genuine social and economic development and environmental protection in less developed countries. Thanks to a heroic effort by Results Canada, the House of Commons has just voted by 164 - 83 to pass the Tobin Tax proposal brought forward by Lorne Nystrom, an NDP MP, "that the government should enact a tax on financial transactions in concert with the international community." Canada is the first country in the world to pass such a motion - a private NDP member's bill. The motion gives the government a strong mandate to go to the G8 Summit and other international gatherings to promote a tax on international currency speculation as a key component of a 'new international financial architecture'. Congratulations to Results Canada.


NO NOISE, NO POISON GARDENING

We are dedicated to re-establishing a quiet ambience in our neighbourhoods. Along with landscaping lovely surroundings,
we will tend your garden and lawn without the use of noisy machines. The cost to you is the same. We also specialize in compost & organic soil.

Call Istvan, 598-8980


ACTION OF THE MONTH :

GYPSY MOTH SPRAYING

In a matter of days, perhaps weeks, planes may be flying over people's homes and gardens in Brentwood Bay, Vic West, Esquimalt and the Western Communities down to Sooke, releasing a substance called Foray 48B, containing Btk. They say Btk is a harmless biological pesticide, but Btk is only 2% of Foray 48B. The rest is a secret chemical agent listed as 'hazardous' on the materials data sheet. If the spraying goes ahead, individuals who are sensitive will risk major negative health reactions, most of our native butterflies and caterpillars will be killed, and organic farmers in the spray areas will lose their organic status. Last month's EcoNews spelt out Ten Good Reasons Not to Spray. Now it's time to stop the spraying. Ground-based mass trapping could achieve the same effect for 1/10th of the cost.

ACTION : Write to the Hon Dave Zirnhelt, Minister of Forests, Minister of Agriculture, (Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4, Fax 387-1040), Corky Evans, Minister of Agriculture Fax 387-1522 and Premier Glen Clark, Fax 387-0087, expressing your views. This is an assault on the community by unknown chemicals, for very dubious reasons.


Deadline for May: April 27th


The Green Diary has moved!  Click HERE to see whats happening!

 


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EcoNews provides this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:

EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1, Canada. Thanks !

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Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.


EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Sustainable Communities Consultancy

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

Forthcoming  'Journey into the Future : 2000 - 2015'
An ecofictional novel

EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource

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