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Vol. 4, No. 2 AgWatch E urope www.foodandwatereurope.org Fall 2010 eu ope A Quarterly Report
Vol. 4, No. 2 AgWatch E urope www.foodandwatereurope.org Fall 2010 eu ope A Quarterly Report
Vol. 4, No. 2 AgWatch E urope www.foodandwatereurope.org Fall 2010 eu ope A Quarterly Report

Vol. 4, No. 2

AgWatch

Europe

www.foodandwatereurope.org

Fall 2010

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A Quarterly Report on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Safety

GM Animals in the Food Chain

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) finding that the AquAdvantage genetically modified (GM) salmon is safe for human consumption sparked an international public outcry that challenged the myth that U.S. consum- ers are “happy” to eat GM foods. Angry citizens jammed the White House switchboard with phone calls protesting plans to approve sale of the fish and to not require label- ling for the controversial product. In a poll Food & Water Watch conducted with Lake Research Partners, 78 percent of Americans say they don’t want GM salmon approved without more research, and opposition grows stronger for other transgenic meat.

There’s good reason for this concern — the FDA is relying on safety “assessments” conducted by the biotechnology company itself, which admits that, while they have com- plied with FDA requirements, they have not conducted any clinical trials on animals or humans on the safety of the fish as a food. The FDA maintains its ludicrous position that the GM salmon is “substantially equivalent” to natural fish, and therefore does not require thorough safety testing, despite reports that FDA scientists themselves have found elevated levels of an insulin-like growth factor that is a suspected carcinogen. To add insult to injury, production facilities would be sited in Canada and Panama, a move many believe is designed to avoid having to conduct the kind of environmental impact assessments that would be required if production were scheduled within the United States.

Water as a Human Right

In a surprise victory, the United Nations voted to pass a resolution on the right to water and sanitation on July 28, 2010. One hundred twenty-two states voted for the resolu- tion and 41 abstained, including the United States. (No state voted against the resolution.) In October, the UN Hu- man Rights Council took it a step further, affirming that the right is contained in existing human rights treaties and that states have the primary responsibility to ensure the realisa- tion of these rights.

Even though the European Union has declared its support for the Human Right to Water, this right is violated daily:

Water as a Human Right, continued on page 2

violated daily: Water as a Human Right , continued on page 2 EU labelling requirements should

EU labelling requirements should mean consumers here have more choice than our U.S. cousins, but as this sum- mer’s cloning debacle showed (see inside), the only sure way to prevent these products from finding their way onto our plates is to ban them. Many consumers have already indicated that they would have no option but to avoid salmon altogether if GM salmon were not labelled.

Critics will now watch closely the progress of other GE animals planned for the food chain, like the low-phosphate Enviropig, including how liability will be handled for dam- age they may cause. The fact remains that human error often undoes the best laid contingency plans, and GE ani- mals not only pose tremendous risks, but are more impor- tantly totally unwanted and utterly unnecessary.

Inside This Issue

Cloned Meat on Your Dinner Plate? – 2

GM Hiccups – 3

Bad Track Records of Private Water Companies in Europe and the United States – 3

Fishy Formula — Bad for Business and the Environment – 3

Deepwater Oil Drilling — Still No Sign of a Moratorium – 4

eu ope AgWatch Europe • Fall 2010 Cloned Meat on Your Dinner Plate? Tensions between
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AgWatch Europe Fall 2010

eu ope AgWatch Europe • Fall 2010 Cloned Meat on Your Dinner Plate? Tensions between EU

Cloned Meat on Your Dinner Plate?

Tensions between EU and UK food safety authorities, as

well as between the European Commission and Parliament, flared in August when an unnamed UK farmer alleged in

a U.S. newspaper that he had been selling milk from the

offspring of a cloned cow into the human food chain. A UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) investigation could not substantiate these claims, but more shockingly did discover that meat from clone offspring had been sold and eaten without consumers knowing. (See Food & Water Europe factsheet at www.foodandwaterwatch.org/world/europe/ factsheets/cloned-animals/)

The FSA maintains that products from both clones and their offspring must be treated as “novel foods” under regula-

tions designed to ensure they are safe. EU authorities, how- ever, apply the definition only to the clones themselves, not their offspring. This is not a small matter, as a Scot- tish farmer with a dairy herd of some 96 clone offspring announced he would apply to the FSA for authorisation to sell their “premium” milk. He later backed away from actually making the application, but consumers are now fully aware of the presence of clones on EU farms, often as

a result of imported breeding material from U.S. clones.

The EU Parliament had voted in July for a complete ban on clones and their offspring in the food chain, calling for an immediate interim moratorium until the European Com- mission could bring forward the legislation required. In October, the Commission instead proposed a five-year ban on cloning in the EU to acknowledge ethical and animal welfare problems. It nevertheless proposes to continue the import of products from clones (semen and embryos) and food from clone offspring in the food chain. The Com- mission also failed to deal with overwhelming consumer demand for labels on any such products. Food & Water Europe called this position “hypocritical and indefensible,” as it effectively says cloning is ethically unacceptable in the

EU but turns a blind eye to proifts derived from suffering outside the EU.

The situation is even worse in the United States where trace- ability regarding products from cloned animals and their off- spring seems to be lax. Tom Vilsack, who heads the United Stated Department of Agriculture, said that he is not able to confirm or deny if products from cloned animals and their offspring have entered the food chain in North America.

Although Vilsack claimed that food products from such animals are safe, he was also quoted in a recent Montreal Gazette article as saying that “the U.S. will continue their ’moratorium’ on not allowing the sale of meat from cloned animals until the products are widely accepted as safe.” However, his own lack of knowledge and the events in Europe make clear that cloning of animals on both sides of the Atlantic is not adequately controlled.

Water as a Human Right

Continued from page 1

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.7 billion people still lack access to clean water and 2.3 billion people suffer from water-borne diseases each year.

Water-borne diseases occur due to the inability to access clean water, and are increasingly caused by the unafford- able pricing of water. Pre-paid water meters are installed in poor areas to ensure profitable supply and services are cut off if citizens fall behind on their payments. Privatization of water has only exacerbated the problem.

We are continuing to collaborate with allies around the world to enshrine the human right to water in an interna- tional treaty, looking towards the People’s Water Forum in Marseille in 2012.

eu ope AgWatch Europe • Fall 2010 GM Hiccups The future of genetically modified (GM)
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AgWatch Europe Fall 2010

GM Hiccups

The future of genetically modified (GM) food and crops in the EU has faced renewed opposition on several fronts in recent months.

After the controversial approval in March of the German chemical company BASF’s GM Amflora potato, which precipitated a number of bans in EU member states, the company was summoned by the European Commission to explain how the unapproved GM Amadea potato found its way illegally into 11 fields in Sweden. The incident raised questions about GM potato plantings in Germany and the Czech Republic, with German authorities halting distribu- tion of Amflora until the problem is resolved. The Mecklen- burg-West Pomerania Environment Minister said, “My trust in the BASF quality assurance system has been seriously shaken.” BASF has applied for authorisation of the second GM potato.

BASF downplayed the event in a September press release, stating that the only a small number of Amadea potatoes was found and that they were promptly removed before entering commercial starch production. It also was quoted in a recent European Voice article, stating that the Amadea potatoes “are safe for humans, animals and environment.”

Bad Track Records of Private Water Companies in Europe and the United States

Recently releasing a report on both Veolia Environnement and Suez Environnement, Food & Water Europe has been tackling the privatization of water head-on. The Paris- based companies have both gained notoriety for bill- ing problems, poor system maintenance, repair delays, workforce reductions and other issues that compromise environmental and consumer safety to increase profits.

With the problem of aging water systems and a shortage of funds, many municipalities consider privatizing their water systems in order to upgrade these essential resourc- es. But due to their inefficiencies, privatized water systems often end up costing municipalities extra money in the form of fines for water quality violations and water loss, among other problems.

Food & Water Europe also helped launch “Water Makes Money,” a new documentary exposing the corruption and scandals behind private water contracts that the above- mentioned companies make with communities around the world, focusing on cases in France and Germany. While it reveals a lot of dirty practices, there is also room for hope, as it covers how communities have woken up to this abuse and gathered forces to fight back and retake control over their essential water resources. Learn more about the film at www.watermakesmoney.com.

This latest lapse in biosecurity involving illegal contamina- tion of fields with unauthorised GM crops showed once again that the risks are as much from human error and lax corporate controls as from the technology itself, supporting calls for an EU-wide ban on GM cultivation to dispel wor- ries that such untested industrial crops may find their way into the food chain.

industrial crops may find their way into the food chain. Fishy Formula — Bad for Business

Fishy Formula — Bad for Business and the Environment

Food & Water Europe released a report on factory fish farming as the European Parliament debated a new frame- work laying the foundation for a European-wide policy for sustainable aquaculture. Our report details the dam- age caused by factory fish farming (known as open-ocean aquaculture, or OOA), a practice which the Parliament unfortunately supports.

Nearly three-fourths of the EU’s total aquaculture produc- tion — namely farmed salmon, trout, seabass and sea bream — originates from the more unsustainable, often corporate-owned OOA systems. According to the report, this figure has quadrupled since 1990 and risen 15-fold since 1985.

The report links the rise in OOA to local economic dam- age, citing communities that have experienced the loss of thousands of jobs (see more at www.foodandwaterwatch. org/world/europe/fish/fish-farms/no-jobs-here/). OOA operations have polluted coastal waters, undergone numer- ous corporate mergers and replaced employees with new technology. OOA operations have also polluted waters with disease, filth, and (sometimes unapproved) chemicals and antibiotics that can leak from the cages.

Read the report at www.foodandwaterwatch.org/world/ europe/reports/fishy-formula/

eu ope AgWatch Europe • Fall 2010 Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants
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AgWatch Europe Fall 2010

eu ope AgWatch Europe • Fall 2010 Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig on April 21, 2010. Photo by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Deepwater Oil Drilling — Still No Sign of a Moratorium

Since the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, Food & Water Europe has been working with members of the European Parliament to ensure that this never happens in Europe.

Before the BP disaster, both oil companies and the U.S. Minerals Management Service said that there was a zero percent chance of this ever happening, which led to complacency in terms of safety checks and development

of safety technology. Since no risk was presumed, no

money had been invested into developing technology or detailed plans for capping a well should such an explosion occur. BP’s own internal documents, as quoted in a recent U.K. Telegraph article, stated that, “The oil spill

consequences of a catastrophic failure of a deep sub-sea well head, either due to equipment failure or accidental damage, have never been considered in detail.”

A recent motion for a resolution was passed in the

Environment Committee of the European Parliament where MEPs supported a moratorium on all new drilling permits, but the specific call for a moratorium failed when it passed before a parliamentary plenary vote under heavy attack

from certain political parties.

After meeting with oil companies in July, the European Commissioner for Energy stated that he fully believed a moratorium on all new drilling permits was necessary and that a coordinated European effort was essential. In October he finally proposed a moratorium be enforced,

before softening his stance the next day after pressure from member states and instead called for EU member states

to stop granting licences for new installations until safety

regimes have been assessed.

While we welcome the Commission’s initial announce- ment of a moratorium on deepsea oil drilling, their ambig- uous position and withdrawal of a tougher stance shows that they are succumbing to pressure from oil companies. The Commission and member states should not wait for another accident to happen before taking this seriously.

Food & Water Europe

Working to Protect Europe’s Consumers, Farmers and Environment

Food & Water Europe is a non-profit food safety and agriculture policy organisation with offices throughout the EU that works toward sustainable food production and water resource policies.

tel: +48 146 422 127 web: www.foodandwatereurope.org email: europe@fwwatch.org

Staff Wenonah Hauter – Executive Director – whauter@fwwatch.org

Gabriella Zanzanaini – Brussels coordinator – gzanzanaini@fweurope.org

Eve Mitchell – UK representative – emitchell@fweurope.org

Anna Witowska – GMOs, Eastern European issues, factory farming, global trade – awitowska@ fweurope.org