MAI Protests Accelerate
Organizers of a national call-in against the Multilateral Agreement on Investments
were pleased with the response that flooded the telephones of Senate offices
and the U.S. Trade Representative on Feb. 10. "Some Senate offices
reported just tallying the number of calls they were getting so many,"
said Ruth Caplan of the Alliance for Democracy, co-chair of the campaign
against MAI, which would allow foreign investors to sue to overturn local,
state and national government acts that interfered with their ability to
make profits. "You can imagine their surprise when many of the Senate
offices still hadn't heard of the MAI!" Caplan added.
MAI critics played down the significance of an announcement that the nations
negotiating MAI would not be able to sign a final agreement in April, as
originally planned. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky confirmed
to reporters that the U.S. government would not sign the final agreement
in April, but she would not elaborate. Lori Wallach, director of Public
Citizen's Global Trade Watch, in a report to anti-MAI activists, cautioned
that this is a standard negotiating procedure: The negotiating countries
still plan to lock down the provisions on which there is consensus and follow
up with negotiations on outstanding issues.
"Anyone who was around during the NAFTA or GATT Uruguay Round negotiations
is very familiar with this dance," Wallach wrote. "The U.S. government
announces that there is a disaster and they cannot finish the negotiations.
They want the opponents to lay off, the business guys to pile in the pressure
and the other governments to offer better deals at the negotiating table."
The plan is to eventually submit the agreement to the Senate as a treaty,
bypassing the House of Representatives. Call your senator toll-free at 1-800-522-6721
to express your opinion on whether the U.S. government should give up its
sovereignty to transnational corporations. And while you're at it, call
your U.S. Representative and make sure he or she does not vote for "Fast
Track" review of future trade deals.
NFU Urges Action
National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the Clinton Administration and Congress
to enact the recommendations made by the National Small Farms Commission
-- many of which include programs or policies which increase competitiveness
in agricultural markets.
for Small Farms
"Farmers and ranchers are told to produce for the market, yet there
is very little semblance of a free enterprise system in today's economy.
This commission felt strongly that the only way of sustaining family farm
and ranch agriculture is to give producers more marketing options by increasing
marketplace competitiveness," said Kathleen Kelley, a Meeker, Colo.,
rancher who was vice co-chair of the commission.
Kelley, who also serves as vice president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
notes that the farmers' share of the consumer food dollar has dropped from
37 percent in 1980 to 23 percent today. "Neither consumer nor producer
benefit from lower commodity prices," Kelley said.
"Time is running out for family farmers and ranchers under the current
structure which encourages largeness at all costs," Kelley said. The
best way to assure a stable, quality food supply in this country is to put
in place policies which will sustain and strengthen the U.S. family farm
and ranch system of agriculture."
The commission report defines a small farm as those with "less than
$250,000 annually in gross receipts on which day-to-day labor and management
are provided by the farmer and/or the farm family that owns the production
or owns, or leases, the productive assets."
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under heavy pressure
from public interest organizations and environmentalists, revoked the permit
for cotton farmers to spray RhonePoulenc's toxic herbicide bromoxynil, which
has been shown to kill fish and cause birth defects in mammals. This means
that cotton farmers are unlikely to be buying any more of RhonePoulenc's
genetically engineered, bromoxynil-resistant cotton seeds. Another ag biotech
miracle product bites the dust. (From the Pure Food Campaign.)
* On Jan. 14 Monsanto threatened to stop selling recombinant Bovine Growth
Hormone (rBGH or rBST) in the state of Vermont if mandatory licensing provisions
are implemented by the state. In a Jan. 7 letter to members of the Vermont
dairy industry Monsanto said pending state legislation would "severely
disrupt previously private business activity; and it would do so in the
absence of any legitimate state interest sufficient to justify the intrusion
into your privacy."
* The Vermont rBGH disclosure bill calls for any supplier of rBGH who sells
or distributes the controversial genetically engineered hormone to be licensed
by the state. Suppliers would be required to maintain records of purchasers'
names and other information. This would enable retailers and consumers to
determine which of Vermont's milk and dairy products were gene-altered.
Despite strenuous efforts by Monsanto, who have invested almost a billion
dollars in the drug, to prevent labeling and intimidate anti-rBGH farmers,
processors and retailers rBGH has failed miserably in the U.S. marketplace.
Only approximately 4 percent of U.S. dairy cows are currently being injected
with the drug.
* In a related development, the World Health Organization, meeting in Rome
Feb. 17-26 was expected to continue withholding approval for Monsanto's
rBGH on human safety grounds. Mounting evidence presented to the WHO indicates
that significantly higher levels of human growth hormone factor IGF-1 in
rBGH-derived milk and dairy elevates the risks for human breast and colon
cancer and may expose dairy cows to greater risks for coming down with Mad
Cow disease. The United States is so far the only industrialized country
in the world to have approved the controversial drug for commercialization.
Although rBGH is banned in Europe, the U.S. currently exports $30 million
a year in dairy products to the EU, the majority of which are not certified
as being rBGH-free.
* The DNA Plant Technology Corporation of Oakland, California, a major biotechnology
company (producer of the now defunct gene-altered "Endless Summer"
tomato), was indicted in U.S. Federal District Court on January 7 for criminal
conspiracy in exporting high-nicotine, highly addictive, genetically engineered
tobacco to Brazil. After covertly growing the tobacco in Brazil, five million
pounds of the super-potent Y-1 tobacco were reimported back to the U.S.
and inserted in five major brands of cigarettes. The transnational cigarette
giant, Brown & Williamson, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The U.S. Justice department alleged in court documents that DNAP and B&W
worked together to utilize the genetically altered tobacco to manipulate
the nicotine levels in tobacco plants, thereby making tobacco products derived
from the gene-altered plants more addictive.
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