HTML | PDF | Text
After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it has generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, I believe is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return. -- Bertrand Russell
You may be reading this newsletter for the first time as a result of the BVEJ Experiment. To ensure you receive future copies please subscribe.
To participate in the BVEJ Experiment please visit the BVEJ home page and forward a copy of the BVEJ newsletter to everyone you know, ask the recipients to do the same. [BVEJ newsletter #0031 December 2002]
Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice was formed three years ago as a response to the lack of any effective environmental group in the locality, sadly a situation as true today as it was then. Since then the personnel has changed, but we remain true to our founding principles (see links from home page), the only difference is we have gone international, but our roots remain in the Blackwater Valley.
The lack of any effective local environmental groups was not the only formative factor, the lack of any quality local press, we report what you don't read elsewhere. Our other guiding principle was the dismay at the failure of all existing groups to see the wider picture and the need to cooperate.
Locally we focus on Farnborough Airport, Farnborough town centre and exposing corruption in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. Recently we have taken a closer look at what is happening in Aldershot.
Internationally we are part of the anti-globalisation movement. We highlight the ills of Big Business, as of late Iraq has been the focus of our attention.
Unlike traditional groups, we link together issues, we recognise social, human rights and other issues and link them together. A group fighting rainforest destruction may need our help because it is a British transnational that is carrying out the destruction.
Almost all our back issues are available on our web site, we are slowly slowly, adding more. We used to produce briefings and urgent actions, resources permitting, we may again in the future. We have finally got around to updating our on-line diary (the newsletter contains an edited version).
At the moment newsletter production is our main activity. Our editorial team put together easily digestible articles, often with links and references for more in-depth information.
Latest version of the newsletter usually appears on-line a few days after we have e-mailed out the the newsletter. We will post a notice on Indymedia UK when available.
We would like to be able to put out a hard copy of our newsletter but lack the resources.
We have recently added ourselves to the Yahoo list server. If you are getting multiple copies it is because you are on both the listserver and the manual list. Tell us and we will remove you from the manual list. The two will be for a time run in parallel, but we will eventually use the automated system only. Please ensure therefore you subscribe.
To subscribe to BVEJ newsletter send a blank e-mail to:
To unsubscribe to BVEJ newsletter send a blank e-mail to:
Now even easier, subscribe by entering your e-mail address on the BVEJ web page and click the Yahoo Groups button.
Our material may be freely used and quoted provided it is not used out of context and full credit is given to BVEJ. Our material may not be used without our written consent by for-profit organisations.
Readers are welcome, indeed encouraged, to run off copies and pass around to their friends.
We are not sure if our Yahoo group mail server is working. We are also having problems with our yahoo e-mail account. For some reason it removes line breaks between paragraphs, making the text files difficult, if not impossible, to read (we have got around this by adding the newsletter as an e-mail attachment).
If you don't appear to be receiving an e-mailed newsletter, you can always find it on our website (and we post on Indymedia UK when it's there).
Our website was down for a few weeks from the end of May 2003. It has since been restored and should be on a faster server, but seems to be running slower. The good news is that as we write, there are no popups. In the meantime, we created a new website.
We are taking the opportunity to completely overhaul both our websites, which we will now run in parallel.
In addition to using our search engine, you can also search the site by going to Google, typing BVEJ, followed by whatever you are searching for.
We will, as before, post on Indymedia UK when a new newsletter is on-line, but to be sure of receipt, please subscribe.
More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years. These companies contributed more money to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush - more than $500,000 - than to any other politician over the last dozen years.
A handful of well-connected corporations are poised to make billions in profits off the death and destruction of war in Iraq. Merchants of misery like Bechtel, Halliburton, MCI and others - many with scandal-ridden records - are raking in massive profits through insider “reconstruction” contracts. Other multinationals are leading a “second invasion” of corporate interests seeking to seize control of Iraq’s oil, water and other resources - resources that belong to the Iraqi people.
George W Bush has signed executive orders to protect the companies that are looting Iraq from any criminal prosecutions. The same companies that financed his election campaign.
The University of Illinois at Chicago has won the largest grant in its history - to use for developing weapons of mass destruction. A team of ten UIC researchers won a $15.7 million grant to work with a strain of anthrax resistant to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (cipro).
This research has raised serious ethical and security questions, and is moreover a violation of longstanding international law (including the 1972 International Biological Weapons Convention and the 1925 Geneva Protocol).
5 December 2003, an 'anti-coca' coalition of political organizations, community organizations, student groups, and union activists rallied and marched in Chicago to commemorate the assassination of Isidro Gil. Mr Gil was murdered on 5 December 1996 inside a Colombian Coca-Cola bottling plant. He was the lead negotiator for Sinaltrainal, the Colombian food and beverage workers' union. The following organizations were participants: Colombian Action Network, DePaul Anti-Coca-Cola Coalition, La Voz de Los de Abajo, Loyola Students Against Sweatshops, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee's Labor Rights Task Force, Pilsen Southwest Side Green Party, Mexico Solidarity Network, Students for Social Justice, Student Labor Action Project and United Students Against Sweatshops.
This diverse 'anti-coca' coalition has called for a boycott of all Coca-Cola products; the coalition contends that Coca-Cola supports the paramilitary group that assassinated Mr Gil as part of their anti-union policies. Luis Adolfo Cardona was the featured speaker at this event. A former Coca-Cola worker, Mr Cardona narrowly escaped from the same paramilitary group that assassinated Mr Gil. He has been granted political asylum by the United States government.
The activists marched from St Pius Church in Pilsen to the Coca-Cola bottling factory, also in Pilsen. They created a shrine in memory of Mr Gil at the entrance to the plant. There was no communication between the factory employees and the activists, though the shrine was entirely removed a few hours after it was placed.
On the same weekend, a Killer-Coke conference was held at SOAS at the University of London. In the evening a joint party was held with Palestinians. Commentary from the party was broadcast on Middle East Panorama, Resonance FM, a few days later.
In Ireland, the worldwide boycott of Coco-Cola has taken hold and is rapidly spreading.
Levi-Strauss, that all-American brand, has announced the closure of its last remaining factories in the US and Canada. Almost 2,000 jobs will be lost as the company joins the now familiar race-to-the-bottom in transferring its manufacturing operations offshore.
“Regrettably, these closures will affect workers who have done a tremendous job for the company over the years,” said chief executive officer Phil Marineau. “We understand the impact this change will have on them, their families and communities. As we have done in the past, our intent is to provide a comprehensive separation package for employees, along with support for the local communities through philanthropic grants.”
In 1990, Levi's closed its largest plant in the US to relocate to Costa Rica where workers earn in a day what their US counterparts earn in an hour. The non-unionised San Antonio, Texas plant was the largest in the community's history. Of the severed 1,150 workers, many of whom received less than 24-hours notice, 86 per cent were female and 92 per cent Latinos. They were denied any of the useful retraining and other assistance that Levi's claims to bestow on its rubbished ex-employees. Viola Casares, a co-coordinator for sewing co-operative, Fuerza Unida, recalls: “As long as I live I’ll never forget how the white man in the suit said they had to shut us down to stay competitive.”
Levi's claim that it “is committed to ensuring that individuals making its products anywhere in the world do so in safe and healthy working conditions and are treated with dignity and respect” is a marked contrast to CEO and President, Philip Marineau's, surprisingly candid acknowledgement that, “the apparel industry is chasing low-cost labor.”
It is such “low-cost labour” that led to immigrant workers in Saipan's garment industry to file a lawsuit in 1999 alleging that they were falsely lured to the US territory by promises of high pay. On arrival they were forced to endure the country's minimum wage of $3.05, “donate” time after their shift was over and live with the threat of being fired and deported at whim.
As a US Commonwealth, Saipan is exempt from American labour, immigration and customs laws, thus allowing clothing to be stamped with the coveted “Made in the USA” tags and avoiding the complex system of quotas that limits US imports from foreign nations. Twenty-six companies agreed to a settlement involving the establishment of an independent monitoring system to prevent future abuses and the creation of a $20 million fund to pay for back wages. The twenty-seventh company, Levi-Strauss, is still refusing.
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation's landmark suit against Nestle Waters North America has ended in a court order to halt all spring water withdrawals from a site in Mecosta County, Michigan.
After mass resistance in Wisconsin forced Ice Mountain out of that state, they set up a bottling plant in Michigan. The fight against water privatization has been led by two organizations, Sweetwater Alliance, a state-wide, grassroots, group "dedicated to the liberation of essential resources from corporate control," and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which spearheaded the trial against Ice Mountain.
Judge Lawrence Root handed down the order for Nestle to terminate its spring water withdrawals in a markedly personal 68-page written decision.
"I am holding that Nestle's pumping operations at the Sanctuary Springs must stop entirely," Root wrote. "Further, I am unable to find that a specific pumping rate lower than 400 gallons per minute, or any rate to date, will reduce the effects and impacts to a level that is not harmful."
As its fortunes improve at home, McDonald's Corp. is facing a rebellion by its franchisees in Brazil that is undermining the company's performance in Latin America and aggravating its woes overseas.
One-third of McDonald's franchisees in Brazil, its eighth-largest market, are suing the company, accusing it of overcharging for rent and undermining them by opening too many stores.
Once touted by McDonald's as a model operation, Brazil is now a drag on earnings. In July, an internal memo announced that Latin America president Ed Sanchez will resign in December, after leading the region for eight years, to become a partner in a company that supplies McDonald's meat products.
McDonald's announced that Brazil's chief, Marcel Fleischmann, will leave his post at the end of 2003 to oversee the northern part of Latin America, which includes Mexico but is less important than Brazil, according to people close to the company. A successor wasn't announced.
The company doesn't detail Brazil in its Latin American results. But for the latest quarter, McDonald's omitted results for Latin America altogether, while including other regions. A McDonald's spokesman says the figures were left out because the region has only 1,600 of the chain's 30,000 restaurants. But a company executive in Sao Paulo says the reason was that Brazil, along with Venezuela and Argentina, was stuck in a rut.
One of the most successful ant-McD days was in Cardiff. But the protesters suffered from an over-the-top police reaction.
Cardiff police admitted in court to beating Val Swain while she was handcuffed. The judge then sent her and a fellow protester to prison despite the fact that neither have any previous convictions and represent no threat to any member of the public.
In the early hours of Thursday, 16 October, Cardiff police arrested three people on Newport Road. After handcuffing all three detainees and securing them in a police van, officers removed Val Swain from the van and beat her on the legs with a telescopic truncheon. Several hours later police raided the suspects' houses removing anti-McDonald's leaflets.
In Cardiff magistrates court the following day, the arresting officer admitted in a statement that he had beaten Val in order "to change her thought processes".
The three are charged with criminal damage, conspiracy to commit criminal damage and assaulting police officers.
None of the detainees have been convicted of any previous criminal offence and all hold down responsible jobs. Despite this fact, the judge, who earlier in the day released on bail a man who had threatened to kill his neighbour, remanded Val Swain and Geoff Cornock in prison pending appearance in Cardiff Crown Court on 28 October. Unquestionably, the judge has denied the right of Val's three daughters (aged 13, 10 and 3) to the care of their mother. The judge had endangered not only Val's job, but also that of her partner and, by so doing, places the integrity of the family in jeopardy.
The imprisonment of the two people is wholly disproportionate to the alleged offences. The confiscation of the anti-McDonald's leaflets, the brutality shown by police officers and the imprisonment of the accused demonstrates the true motives of the police: the victimisation of those who protest.
Val Swain and Geoff Cornock are political prisoners, detained for challenging the power of the state and the transnationals.
At an anti-McDonald’s protest in Newcastle people took McRubbish back to Mucky Ds and were giving out free food outside the so-called restaurant when they were asked to move by the police. The protestors agreed to go if McDonald’s took back their rubbish; an angry employee then came out took the rubbish and started chucking the protestors’ spuds cutlery and plates into a rubbish sack! So what did the police do? Arrest one of the protestors for obstructing the highway!
If you paid 15% of the MoD’s budget you’d expect a little bit of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”
The world’s largest mining company, Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ), a company whose primary concern is bringing global Nirvana through capitalism, has been scratching the back of the Indonesian military to the tune of 15% of its budget. Coincidence - the area around RTZ’s most important mine in West Papua is highly militarized. Also coincidence that there have been hundreds of substantiated and thousands more unsubstantiated instances of murder, torture, false imprisonment, kidnapping by the hired militia not to mention massive environmental genocide. Thanks to the efforts of NGOs and activists negative publicity is having an impact on Rio’s presence in Indonesia.
The Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya province is vital to RTZ, yielding 1 million ounces of gold and 255,500 tons of copper. Grasberg has the largest gold deposit in the world yet RTZ has begun a partial pullout. In October it announced the sale of its half share in the Kaltim Prima coalmine and already sold its biggest primary gold mine.
Grasberg has not been good for RTZ. So annoying when the natives get restless! Who wouldn’t get noisy after so many rapes, tortures and landslides? The environmental damage of the area’s previously unspoilt wilderness also got the company bad press. 110,000 tons of highly toxic waste is discharged daily into the local river. The Lorentz National Park, a World Heritage site, has been contaminated. Same happened to the 10km sea-bed. In May 2000 discharge was washed into Lake Wanagon, sending a wave of rocks, sludge and water cascading on the village below, killing four people. This seems to be a regular scenario. Those not killed in landslides, bumped off or tortured by the military often suffer copper poisoning. The natives, in fact all those not working for RTZ, desperately want them to stop exploiting and poisoning the area. One of the Papuan tribeswomen, Mama Yosepha, prosaically told goldmine Freeport-McMoran CEO, Jim Bob Moffett(!), “You suck my blood until it is all drained and I remain only bones without flesh.”
In May Yosepha, after being imprisoned and tortured and taking legal action against Freeport, was due to address shareholders at the company’s London AGM. It must be a coincidence that she was turned back at the last minute by Indonesian airport security officials. Since then, some Papuan students have gone on hunger strike and there were simultaneous protests, outside RTZ’s London office and in Jakarta outside PT Freeport Indonesia. The demands of the protesters include the cutting of Freeport’s military subsidies and demilitarisation around the mine. As one West-Papuan activist leader said “The Freeport operation should be shut down”
Read: Paul Kingsnorth, One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement, The Free Press, 2003
[BVEJ News February 2002]
After decades of deforestation of tropical rainforest in the amazon basin the ecuadorian state and oil companies are trying to enter oil fields in the last pristine forests, some of them even under state “protection”. All held in the name of economic growth and progress, oil exploitation leads to, as uncountable events in the recent past have shown, destruction and contamination of vast areas and cultural destruction of people who’s life depend on the forest.
During exploration, hundreds of hectares of forest are deforested. For each well, 2 hectares of wood must be deforested. During oil and gas exploratory perforation hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of toxic waste are thrown into the environment without any treatment.
Once the well starts operating, both routine contamination as well as accidental occurs. Contamination occurs when the formation water (a by-product of the refining process rich in salts and toxic elements) is separated and the associated gas is flared. Contamination affects mainly water sources, thus aquatic life.
Moreover it generates social impacts such as forced relocation of traditional communities, health impacts due to contamination and the scarcity of resources, etc …
One of the affected regions is the so-called block 23 in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon Basin, which also is considered to be territorry of the kitchua people of Sarayacu. They’re facing an open, sometimes armed confrontation with the Argentinan oil company CGC-Burlington and the Ecuadorian army.
Sarayacu is an indigenous community which has been struggling for decades with oil exploration in their territory and since then they have succeeded several times against other companies who wanted to do likewise. They show no sign of changing their mind towards the campaign of lies of CGC-Burlington.
According to members of the community, none of all the promises, money and jobs offered by the company could ever replace the health of their environment. Their culture values protection of all that exists in relation with the forest which they call home, and strictly forbids every kind of activity which leads to its destruction.
Access to the community of Sarayacu is only possible via the river Bobonza or airplanes.
Since October 2002 Sarayacu is under a state of siege by the military, which are located at the borders of their territory as well as blocking the only river access. Already once they could repel the attempt of the military to invade their area, and disarm the soldiers while only armed with spears themselves.
Because of international support it was possible to address an accusation of human rights abuse to the International Court of the Americas; nevertheless the Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez announced that the military would begin the invasion of the territory in December 2003 in order to make the drillings possible.
The situation in Sarayaku is getting worse. Government and military officials stressed several times that oil explorations are operations of national priority which means that they can thereby also ignore constitutional territorial rights of the community of Sarayacu.
In order to get access to the territories of Sarayacu, they use different strategies:
Some of the indigenous communities have already been corrupted (or “bought”) by promises and “presents” (including money, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and western goods) of the oil company. One strategy is to create or deepen conflicts between different tribes, communities or even within the communities themselves. Therefore they spread lies, slanderings and false information. Already corrupted communities are convinced that resisting communities are fighting against economic development and “progress” and thus against their own wellbeing.
In the area close to Saryacu there are two other communities which actively support the river blockade of the military.
When this strategy fails there’s still the option of open repression. People are convicted with delinquencies (owing to good relations with courts and prosecutors), intimidated and sometimes even killed with the murder declared accidental.
Officially, the stationary of military forces near Sarayacu is denied (although there is an tremendous amount of counter evidence).
The case is almost unknown to Ecuadorian public and receives little media coverage.
Because of the high probability of military invasion over the next few weeks and the fact that the community in that case will defend themselves with arms, several actions are planned.
Because of their geographical isolation, they have no way of resisting in a non-violent way.
December 5th and 6th, several demonstrations, actions and workshops were due to take place in the nearby city of Puyo. The intention is to make the problems of Sarayacu known to as many people as possible and to increase pressure on the government
Be creative, think about possible actions ( embassy ?!) and spread the word!
Sarayacu is only one out of many communities in Ecuador and other countries, which are facing the destruction of their living habitat as part of the wsar on terror and the globalisation neo-liberal free trade agenda.
The future of a World Bank-sponsored dam scheme at Bujagali Falls on the Victoria Nile in eastern Uganda has been thrown into question with the withdrawal of energy giant AES Corporation from the project.
Virginia-based AES, the world's largest independent energy producer, is currently under investigation by the Ugandan Inspectorate of Government and the US Justice Department for alleged bribery, in violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company, which owns and operates power generation and distribution facilities in 28 countries, is currently pulling out of a number of its operations worldwide and plans to write off the $75 million it invested in the AES Nile Power Bujagali project.
Ugandan government officials have reacted with anger. Ndawula Kaweesi, chairman of the Parliament's Committee on Natural Resources, says the government would seize all AES assets in the country. "They have a financial bond that says that when a developer fails to reach financial closure, they lose that money," he said.
The $530 million Bujagali dam project has been shadowed by controversy from its inception in the mid-1990s when AES won the contract from the Ugandan government without a competitive bidding process and the agreement between the two parties remained secret.
"It was a sweetheart deal for AES and a bad deal for the Ugandan government," says Lori Pottinger of the International Rivers Network. "AES maintained that Bujagali Dam would help pull Uganda out of poverty, but in reality it is a costly white elephant that would increase the nation's debt load, and produce electricity that few Ugandans could afford."
The deal started unraveling in June 2002, when the Inspection Panel, the World Bank's independent investigative unit, found that the Bujagali project violated five operational policies of the Bank. Then in November 2002, until the Ugandan High Court forced the government of Yoweri Museveni to disclose its terms.
A week later an independent review of the Power Purchase Agreement between AES and the Ugandan government, conducted by the Prayas Energy Group, concluded that dam was fundamentally misconceived: "The World Bank's Bujagali dam project in Uganda is excessively expensive. The Power Purchase Agreement of the private project is not in line with international standards, and entails massive extra cost for Uganda. The World Bank has given poor advice to the Ugandan government, and has misled the public about the cost of the project."
The review determined that the agreement would make the Ugandan people pay $20-40 million extra per year compared to similar hydroelectric projects in other parts of the world. However, the population of Uganda is among the poorest in the world. A recent report by the World Bank notes: "No more than 7% of [Uganda's] total population can afford unsubsidized electricity." In addition the government's finances are already stretched thin owing to the country's sizable foreign debt.
The World Bank in particular has drawn heavy fire for its backing of the Bujagali hydropower project. The dam has been the centerpiece of the Bank's plan for privatizing Uganda's energy sector and is part of a broad agenda by the World Bank to promote massive hydroelectric projects as a means of shifting energy production into the private sector in developing countries. Such ventures have been in line with the Bank's so-called high risk/high reward strategy.
Critics have pointed to a conflict of interest between the World Bank's public sector wing, which is trying to force Uganda to open up its state-owned energy sector to private investment, and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, which loans money to private investors like AES Corporation, who may then directly benefit from such policies.
Such potential conflicts of interest can be seen in the close relationship AES has with the World Bank. AES has been one of the biggest recipients of funding from the Bank's International Finance Corporation. The private sector wing of the World Bank has supported AES to the tune of over $800 million since 1995.
IFC support was extended to the Bujagali project, with the World Bank agreeing to loan forty percent of the dams cost. "The World Bank has been a champion of the project to an almost ludicrous degree," according to IRN's Pottinger. "When outsiders were questioning corruption [by AES] they did nothing until they were forced to do something." Finally, in July 2002, Bank funding for the dam was suspended while allegations of corruption were being investigated.
Meanwhile AES was confronted with a great deal of pressure from non-governmental organizations both in Uganda and abroad that were concerned with the economic, social, and environmental problems posed by the dam. Ugandan NGOs have pointed out that the project is in violation of World Bank-mandated provisions for resettlement and the environment, among other policies.
Frank Muramuzi of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has spearheaded the effort against the project. "The Bujagali dam is not in the best interest of the Ugandan people," he says.
Now that AES has pulled out of the Bujagali dam project, the hydroelectric projects future is in up in the air. The Ugandan government is scrambling for a replacement for the dam's primary developer and is said to be courting South Africa's state-owned power utility Eskom Ltd.
The World Bank has said that it continues to be committed to the project. "The World Bank Group and the Government of Uganda believe that Bujagali remains the long-term, least-cost electricity supply option for Uganda and that it is in the best interests of the country to develop the project at the earliest opportunity," according to a statement from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation following AES departure.
Yet the withdrawal of AES is a second major blow for the Bank's high risk/high returns dam strategy: just last month Electricité de France, the chief developer of the controversial Laotian dam project Nam Theun 2, which was backed by the Bank, decided to pull out. Given that there continues to be worldwide opposition to massive dam projects, other developers may think twice before investing in the both these dams.
In the largest procedure of its kind in the world, the UK government wanted to make sure that the introduction of GM crops in the UK would be based on scientific facts and public approval. For a change it seems to have been good that they have done so. It is now obvious that the public are against GM food and GM crops, and the trials showed that herbicide tolerant GM crops can be worse for the environment than conventional agriculture.
Public meetings were held all over the country, a website gave the opportunity to state one's opinion, a scientific commission wrote a report, and farm-scale field trials where conducted over several years. All of these results are now going into a final report (overview). Besides this official programme numerous actions took place. Meanwhile some GM companies have decided to reduce their activites in the UK.
All in all the outcome is quite simple:
Many more people participated in the public debates than was ever expected, and the majority of those that voiced their opinion were against GM crops and GM food.
The scientific report sketches a rather cautious picture, even when there were only two critical scientists in the commission studying the GM field trials.
The field trials show negative environmental impacts of herbicide resistant GM crops when compared to conventional agriculture.
Numerous actions took place all over the country by professional NGOs as well as by individuals, ranging from spreading information on GM to the decontamination of GM-fields and crop trashing.
GM companies are withdrawing from the UK: BayerCropScience withdrew from field trials in the UK, Monsanto closed its grain seed production while insurance companies refuse to insure GM related risks to farmers.
A coalition of NGOs, led by the Council of Canadians, has applied to intervene in the patent infringement case involving Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser and biotechnology giant Monsanto that will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. [BVEJ News May 2001 and BVEJ News February 2002]
The Federal Court of Appeal found that Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto’s patent rights to genetically engineered canola (oilseed rape). The Supreme Court has granted Schmeiser the right to appeal that ruling. Intervener status would allow the Council of Canadians and its coalition partners to make submissions to the Supreme Court countering Monsanto’s arguments.
“This will be the first time that an appellate court anywhere in the world will consider what infringement means on a patent to a genetically modified life form” says Steven Shrybman, the lawyer representing the coalition. “The Court’s decision is likely to have a considerable impact on both the domestic and international debate about patents to life.”
The coalition also involves Canadian organisations such as the Sierra Club of Canada and the National Farmers Union.
“This case is far greater than just Percy Schmeiser,” says Terry Boehm of the National Farmers Union. “Given the level at which Monsanto’s GE canola has contaminated Western Canada, the implied liability for all Canadian farmers is enormous. We simply cannot allow the current verdict against Schmeiser to stand.”
The precedence associated with this ground-breaking case has also attracted key international groups to the coalition. These include the Action group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, the Washington-based International Center for Technology Assessment, and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, led by renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
“If other jurisdictions were to follow the approach adopted by the Federal Court of Appeal in this case, the result would undermine the seed-saving practices of hundreds of million of farmers whose livelihoods depend on this practice. Moreover, because seed saving fosters biodiversity and increases productivity, any new constraint on the practice of saving seeds is likely to harm both goals,” says Vandana Shiva.
“Unfortunately, a policy and regulatory vacuum continues to exist in Canada when it comes to biotechnology and genetically engineered foods,” adds Nadège Adam of the Council of Canadians. “This is yet another example of how our government has dropped the ball on these issues.”
The case is expected to be heard by the Canadian Supreme Court January 2004.
@nti copyright - information for education and action - copy and distribute