Category Archives: Corporate Globalization

Breaking: Leaked document reveals US-EU trade agreement threatens public health, food safety

WASHINGTON D.C. – A draft chapter of the U.S-EU trade agreement leaked today by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reveals public health and food safety could be at risk, according to an accompanying analysis. The leaked chapter concerns Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues—those surrounding food safety and animal and plant health—in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated. Only TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors, mostly corporate representatives, can read and comment on draft negotiating texts.

The document reveals U.S. plans to “not require port of entry food inspections and testing, meaning food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess…”

According to the IATP analysis accompanying release of the leaked document, “This leaked draft TTIP chapter doesn’t tell us everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety, but it tells us enough to raise serious concerns.”
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Filed under BREAKING NEWS, Corporate Globalization

17 Groups call on Ecover and Method to drop extreme genetic engineering plans

June 2, 2014. Source: ETC Group
 

Photo from ETC group

Photo from ETC group

San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.
The organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean Production Action, Organic Consumers Association, and ETC Group, as well as watchdog and farmer groups in Brazil concerned about the environmental impacts of increased demand for Brazilian sugarcane, say the use of synthetic biology ingredients contradicts Ecover and Method’s branding as “sustainable” and “ecologically sound.”
“Synthetic biology is a new area of extreme genetic engineering and there are no regulations yet in place to deal with the implications of these new synthetic organisms. Our ability to even assess the risks is lagging way behind,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “A wider switch to synthetic biology ingredients is likely to cause serious harm to biodiversity and farmers, and it is disappointing that Ecover and Method are leading the charge.”
Synthetic biology is the practice of artificially constructing genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life or attempt to ‘reprogram’ existing organisms, such as yeast and algae. Synthetic biology companies claim that they can now generate millions of new, untested organisms per day. If a fraction of these synthetic organisms were released, the potential effects on health, the environment and farmer’s livelihoods are wide-ranging – from relatively benign to ecological and economic disruption.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Geoengineering, Greenwashing

Capitalism’s bullets in Latin America: invisible empires, state power and 21st century colonialism

By Benjamin Dangl, June 13, 2014. Source: Toward Freedom

Photo by AP

Photo by AP

 

The notorious US private militia group Academi – previously known as Blackwater – trained Brazilian security forces in North Carolina in preparation for the current World Cup in Brazil, as reported by sportswriter Dave Zirin. Zirin pointed to the 2009 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, which revealed that Washington viewed the expected World Cup-related crises as opportunities for US involvement. Zirin wrote that for Washington, “Brazil’s misery created room for opportunism.”

Capitalism’s bullets follow the World Cup just as they do Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed with the US. Five years ago this month, protests were raging in northern Peru where thousands of indigenous Awajun and Wambis men, women and children were blockading roads against oil, logging and gas exploitation on Amazonian land. The Peruvian government, having just signed an FTA with the US, was unsure how to deal with the protests – partly because the controversial concessions in the Amazon were granted to meet the FTA requirements. According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, on June 1st, 2009 the US State Department sent a message to the US Embassy in Lima: “Should Congress and [Peruvian] President Garcia give in to the [protesters’] pressure, there would be implications for the recently implemented Peru-US Free Trade Agreement.” Four days later, the Peruvian government responded to the protest with deadly violence, leading to a conflict which left 32 dead. Continue reading

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Ecover pioneers ‘synthetic biology’ in consumer products

By Jim Thomas, June 16, 2014. Source: The Ecologist

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Green soap-maker Ecover is the first company to openly admit that that it’s using ingredients derived from synthetically modified organisms – the next wave of GMOs, writes Jim Thomas. So why are they risking their ‘natural’ brand for this experimental biotechnology?

How odd that Ecover thinks the green-minded eco-homemakers that buy its soaps will line up in support of synthetic biology.

Disappointment, surprise, disbelief.

I think I felt a bit of all of these when I discovered that ‘natural’ soap-maker Ecover had become the first company in the world to reveal its use of synthetic biology in the manufacture of consumer products.

The Belgian multinational revealed in April that it has decided to use an algal oil. What it didn’t explain was that the algae oil was produced by biotech company Solazyme using an experimental set of techniques called synthetic biology.

Like many green-minded folks of my generation, I had been using Ecover products as a trusted ‘natural’ brand for over 20 years. Using synthetic organisms to make oil just didn’t jibe with their ‘eco’ image.

Was this a lapse in judgement that Ecover would rapidly rectify once they realised their mistake? I decided to call up Dirk Develter, Ecover’s head of research, to point out the error. Continue reading

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing

TransCanada cries foul over new Keystone XL security risk analysis

By Farron Cousins, June 6, 2014. Source: DeSmog Blog

Photo from DeSmog Blog

Photo from DeSmog Blog

It doesn’t take much to hurt the dirty energy industry’s feelings.  Less than a day after NextGen Climate released a report detailing the vulnerabilities of the Keystone XL pipeline to a terrorist attack, the company fired back at the group claiming that they were being singled out.

The report was commissioned by NextGen Climate and produced by David Cooper, a retired Command Master Chief Navy SEAL, who was part of the team that took down Osama bin Laden.

In his report, Cooper lays out some of the easier ways in which a terrorist can take advantage of the pipeline’s vulnerabilities.  He described the pipeline as a “soft target,” meaning that it doesn’t move, it doesn’t change, and there are huge blindspots along the route.  Continue reading

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Will Brazil turn the Amazon into a factory of genetically modified trees?

Source: ejolt (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade)

By the World Rainforest Movement.

Will the Brazilian government give a permit to plant genetically modified eucalyptus trees on a commercial scale? That’s the breakthrough expected by Suzano, one of the biggest Brazilian pulp and paper companies, and its fully owned biotechnology firm Futuragene. To export pulp and to feed its paper mills in Brazil, the company has planted almost 400 thousand hectares of large-scale monoculture fast-growing eucalyptus plantations in seven Brazilian states.

Suzano´s argument that this is a safe enough technology can be countered by the risks and especially the huge uncertainties that exist around this new technology which should at least postpone any introduction at commercial scale for now. Even the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that has seriously failed by allowing certification of millions of hectares of large-scale monoculture plantations in spite of the many negative social and environmental impacts, at least applies the rule that GE technology should not be used in certified plantations. At least for this reason then, FSC should decertify Suzano, an FSC-certified company.

But another argument deserves a strong and immediate reply: Suzano argues that their new genetically engineered eucalyptus tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by introducing such trees, Suzano affirms it will need less land and could therefore reduce the use of chemical inputs and make more land available for food production.

That looks convincing. However, the experience in Brazil itself shows a quite different story. According to EJOLT´s report “A Global Overview of Industrial Tree Plantations”, in the past decades the Brazilian eucalyptus trees that are used in industrial plantations succeeded to achieve a 60% increase in productivity per hectare (not using genetically engineered trees), increasing from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently. More important however is that the area covered by these plantations in the country never decreased for that particular reason. They actually increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today, and the Brazilian plantation industry plans to duplicate this area by 2020. The Brazilian “success story” of being the country with the highest wood productivity per hectare worldwide has never been a reason to use less land, on the contrary. Higher productivity gave these companies such an advantage that they expanded their plantations and pulp mills more and more, increasing their profits.

Suzano´s move to GE eucalyptus trees to increase productivity even more also attends its aim to explore a new use of its wood: producing pellets to be exported for energy production, to co-fire with coal in the UK. For this reason, Suzano has expanded its plantation in the Northeastern state of Maranhão over the past years, causing new conflicts with traditional communities that have been experiencing that their communal territories used for cattle grazing, fruit collection and other activities, get invaded by eucalyptus plantations. This has led to several conflicts, which gave reason to include Suzano in the recently launched EJOLT´s Atlas on Environmental Conflicts.

To summarize, Brazilian experience has learned that rather more than less lands will be occupied when productivity increases, and rather more than less conflicts will arise. Suzano´s demand for commercial planting of genetically modified eucalyptus trees led WRM, together with groups in Brazil and Latin America, to launch a letter to the Brazilian authorities to express their deep concern and urge the Brazilian government not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

A statement from the international Stop GE Trees Campaign in support to this letter is available for sign-ons.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture

Hundreds of Maasai Families under threat of eviction as Geothermal companies invade their land in Kenya

By Ben Ole Koissaba, June 3, 2014. Source:  Intercontinental Cry

Photo from Southworld.net

Photo from Southworld.net

Reminiscent of what happened to the Maasai community in Narasha in 2013, Maasai pastoralists in Kedong, Akira and Suswa are glaring at massive evictions arising from a group of concessions awarded to several companies including Hyundai, Toshiba, Sinopec and African Geothermal International (AGIL) for the purposes of developing geothermal projects on the Maasai lands.

According to the local communities–who claim ancestry to the land and have filed cases in Kenyan courts– African Geothermal International (AGIL) and Marine Power along with Akira I and Akira II1 have disregarded court injunctions instituted by the Maasai, proceeding to deploy their heavy machinery to their proposed project sites without due diligence or consultations with the local communities. The concession areas, which cover hundreds of thousands of acres, are home to thousands of Maasai pastoralists. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs

U.S. investors, government policies leading global land-grabs

By Carey Biron, May 28, 2014. Source: MintPress News

In this June 5, 2013 photo, farmers prepare the soil for planting rice in a field which was confiscated in 1992 by the Myanmar security forces in Dala, southeast of Yangon Myanmar. About three hundred farmers led by social-justice activists entered the 500-acres (2-square kilometer) land on June 5, 2013, and started preparing the soil for paddy cultivation defying the government’s ban as navy officers watched armed with guns. Despite new freedoms in Myanmar, new laws are still used to punish protesters and small-scale farmers for protesting land grabs. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this June 5, 2013 photo, farmers prepare the soil for planting rice in a field which was confiscated in 1992 by the Myanmar security forces in Dala, southeast of Yangon Myanmar. About three hundred farmers led by social-justice activists entered the 500-acres (2-square kilometer) land on June 5, 2013, and started preparing the soil for paddy cultivation defying the government’s ban as navy officers watched armed with guns. Despite new freedoms in Myanmar, new laws are still used to punish protesters and small-scale farmers for protesting land grabs. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. public and private sectors are among the leading drivers of a global drive to snap up usable – and often in-use – agricultural land, in what critics say remains a steadily increasing epidemic of “land-grabbing.”

Africa and Southeast Asia are together seeing some three-quarters of problematic large-scale land acquisitions, according to new research from the global development group ActionAid. Africa remains a particular focus of this investment drive, constituting six of the top 10 countries experiencing significant land-grabbing. The continent has seen at least 40 million hectares switch hands in recent years as part of large-scale sales or leases.

However, land speculation is currently affecting almost all continents. The report warns of particularly negative effects for the estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide that rely on small-scale agriculture to meet their families’ needs. And this impact is felt far more broadly, as those smallholders, a majority of whom are women, provide the food that feeds some four-fifths of the developing world, according to the United Nations. Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Land Grabs