Table of Contents...
Consensus Statement on Electromagnetic Radiation -- Draft
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) has been
building consensus on the need for precautionary measures to avert
harm from electromagnetic radiation. Here is their draft statement.
When Bad News Is No News
Unfortunately, evidence of harm from electromagnetic fields (cell
phones and wireless computer networks) is being ignored by the U.S.
Could You Live Without Your Mobile Phone?
"Placards, signs and demonstrations have become commonplace [in
England] as residents' and campaign groups have focussed on the
potential health risks of phone masts [cell phones towers],
particularly when they are sited near schools or nurseries." And in
the U.S.? Ho-hum.
European Trade Commissioner Defends Precaution for Biotech
European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson defends the European
policy of precautionmary action to avert harm from genetically
Province Isn't Doing Enough To Protect Water: NDP Leader
A New Democratic Party (NDP) leader calls for precautionary
policies to protect Canada's water.
NGOs Urge Precautionary Principle in Use of Nanomaterials
As evidence of danger from nano-sezed materials mounts up, non-
governmental organizations are calling for a precautuionary approach
to this powerful and poorly understood new technology.
From: Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), Oct. 10, 2006
CONSENSUS STATEMENT ON ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION -- DRAFT
We, the undersigned, are members of the CHE-EMF Working Group within
the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), together with
like-minded colleagues from science, medicine and environmental
We believe there are legitimate health concerns regarding exposure to
radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (EMR), which has rapidly
become one of the most pervasive environmental exposures in modern
life. These concerns are based on the weight of evidence spanning
decades of scientific research on radiofrequency (RF) radiation from
countries around the world. The radiofrequency radiation sources
addressed in this Consensus Statement are those from newer wireless
technologies such as cell phones and cordless phones, cell
towers/antennas, WI-FI networks, WI-MAX, as well as Broadband
Radiofrequency Internet over electrical power lines (BPL).
We recognize that there are significant uncertainties about the long-
term health effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation. However,
prudent policy requires acting on the best available scientific
evidence. Then, based on the Precautionary Principle, which is an
overarching guide for decision making when dealing with credible
threats of harm and scientific uncertainty, policies to protect public
health can be adopted.
As a way of implementing the Precautionary Principle, there should be
an ongoing investment in research, as well as funding for a
transparent, participatory policy analysis of alternatives, when there
is reason to believe that there may be a significant risk from current
or proposed technologies. The principle states that "when an activity
raises threats of harm to the environment or human health,
precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect
relationships are not fully established scientifically." These
precautionary measures may include but are not necessarily limited to
making investments in research and policy analysis. We are deeply
concerned that there is insufficient non-industry funding support for
critical research, given the potential public health consequences of
involuntary and chronic exposure to radiofrequency radiation.
The following four examples show how the Precautionary Principle has
* Scientists in the United Kingdom recommend that no child under the
age of 8 years old use a cell phone. Research evidence shows that
children are more vulnerable than adults to harm from other
environmental exposures (such as chemicals), and the same may be true
of radiofrequency radiation exposures.
* The International Association of Fire Fighters passed a resolution
in 2004, calling for a moratorium on new cell phone antennas on fire
stations and a study of the health effects of these installations. The
Chairman of the Russian National Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation
Protection (RNCNIRP), Yuri Grigoriev, advised that cellular
communication is strongly contraindicated for children and teenagers.
The Canadian Public Health Officer, David Butler-Jones, advised
Canadians to limit their and their children's use of cell phones until
science resolves uncertainties about long-term health effects.
* More research is needed on the health/biological effects, the level
of current and future exposure, and the feasibility, cost and exposure
implications of these technologies, as well as alternatives and
modifications to current technology.
* While research continues, we believe there is sufficient evidence
to recommend precautionary measures that people can take to protect
their health, and the health of their families, co-workers and
communities. We recommend the following measures:
Use a corded phone/land line if possible, which does not involve RF
exposure. Emergency use of cell phones is not discouraged but land
lines should be used for normal day-to-day communication needs.
If you use a cell phone, use an earpiece/headset or the "speaker
phone" setting, which greatly reduces the RF exposure because the
phone is not held next to your head and brain. Using text messaging is
also a good way to reduce RF exposure.
Be aware that the cell phone radiates to some degree even when in
"standby" mode. You can avoid this radiation by either keeping the
phone off (using it as an answering machine), or away from your body.
Using a cordless phone outdoors to alert you to an incoming call is
handy, but returning inside to use a corded phone/land line to conduct
the conversation is advisable.
Before adopting WI-FI wireless networks in workplaces, schools and
cities, the extent of exposure and possible health effects should be
publicly discussed. Although convenient, WI-FI wireless networks
create pervasive, continuous, involuntary exposure to radiofrequency
radiation. Preferable alternatives to wireless technology for voice
and data transmission, including cable and fiber-optic technologies
(that produce no radiofrequency radiation), should be considered,
given the uncertainties about health, cost, liability, and inequity of
There needs to be substantial community involvement in decisions about
the placement and operation of cell towers (also called antennas or
masts). Where possible, siting of these facilities should avoid
residential areas and schools, day-care centers, hospitals and other
buildings that house populations more vulnerable to the effects of
radiation exposure. Periodic information on levels of exposure should
be provided to the public. Cell towers produce radiofrequency
radiation exposure in communities that is constant and involuntary.
While acknowledging that this technology enables voice and data
transmission via a cell phone that is important to many people in
every community, those who live, work or go to school in the vicinity
of wireless facilities will be disproportionately exposed. Not enough
research has been done to determine the safety or risk of chronic
exposure to low-intensity RF radiation from cell towers and some
studies suggest there may be harm.
Broadband Radiofrequency Internet transmitted over electrical power
lines (BPL) needs to be thoroughly researched and the findings
publicly disclosed and discussed before full deployment of this new
technology. Discussion should include comparison of exposures and
potential health effects of BPL technology versus cable and fiber
optics. BPL technology uses electrical wiring as the vehicle for
carrying RF radiation into and throughout all electrified buildings in
a community, including every home. Therefore, BPL has the potential to
expose entire communities to a new, continuous, involuntary source of
RF radiation. The RF signal will be carried on everyone's home wiring,
even in the homes of those who do not wish to subscribe to this new
Internet service. People will have no chance to "opt out" or turn off
In summary, we recommend caution in the further deployment of wireless
technologies, and deployment of safer, wired alternatives until
further study allows better definition of the risks of wireless.
Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD, Member, American Academy of Environmental
Medicine, Corte Madera, CA
James B. Beal, EMF Interface Consulting, Wimberley, TX
Martin Blank, PhD, Columbia University, New York, NY
Roger Coghill, Coghill Research Labs, UK
Andy Davidson, HESE-UK, Worthing, UK
Cynthia Drasler, MBA, President, Organic Excellence Chemical Free
Products; Host, Chemical Free Living Radio Show, Phoenix, AZ
Nancy Evans, Health Science Consultant, San Francisco, CA
David Fancy, Canadian SWEEP Initiative (Safe Wireless Electric and
Electromagnetic Policy), St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada
Marne Glaser, Chicago, IL
Reba Goodman, PhD, Columbia University, New York, NY
Leonore Gordon, Coordinator, New York State Coalition to Regulate
Antenna Siting, Brooklyn, NY
Elizabeth A. ("Libby") Kelley, Executive Director, Council on Wireless
Technology Impacts, Novato, CA
Michael Kundi, PhD, Institute of Environmental Health, University of
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Henry Lai, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Michael Lerner, PhD, Commonweal, Bolinas, CA
Samuel Milham, MD, MPH, Indio, CA
Lloyd Morgan, Berkeley, CA
Lisa Nagy, MD, Member, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and
Environmental Health Research Foundation, Vineyard Haven, MA
Elihu Richter, MD, MPH, Hebrew University, Hadassah School of Public
Health and Community Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel
Joan M. Ripple, Treasurer, Council on Wireless Technology Impacts and
health and disability researcher, Novato, CA
Jeanne Rizzo, RN, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Fund, San
Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science and Environmental Health Network, Ann
Cindy Sage, Sage Associates, Santa Barbara, CA
Lavinia Gene Weissman, Managing Director, WorkEcology, Jamaica Plain,
Patricia Wood, Executive Director, Grassroots Environmental Education,
Port Washington, NY
See below for international resolutions urging precaution with
International Resolutions Advocating a Precautionary Approach
to the Use and Expansion of Wireless Technologies
Scientists and public policy researchers across the globe have
acknowledged the evidence of potential health effects from
radiofrequency radiation and advocated a precautionary approach to the
use and expansion of wireless technologies. For example:
October 1998, scientists adopt the Vienna Resolution, which states
that "biological effects from low intensity [RFR] exposures are
June 2000, scientists adopt the Salzburg Resolution, stating "the
assessment of biological effects of exposures from base stations in
the low-dose range is difficult but indispensable for protection of
public health...there is at present evidence of no threshold for
adverse health effects." In other words, there is no threshold for
May 2000, the UK Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones chaired
by Sir William Stewart, reports that "a precautionary approach be
adopted until more robust scientific information becomes available."
[Read the "Stewart Report" here.]
September 2002, scientists at the International Conference "State of
the Research on Electromagnetic Fields Scientific and Legal Issues"
held in Catania, Italy, adopt the Catania Resolution, calling for
"preventive strategies based on the precautionary principle."
November 2004, the European Union's EMF REFLEX Research Project is
released [11 Mbyte PDF], showing that mobile phone radiation
(radiofrequency radiation) damages DNA in human cells. [Read a
commentary by Dr. Lennart Hardell here.]
In January 2005, the UK National Radiation Protection Board issues a
warning that no child under age 8 should use a cell phone, citing the
growing scientific evidence that exposure to RFR poses a health risk.
The report also cautions about the health risks of exposure to cell
phone antennas (referred to as "base stations): "...there remain
particular concerns in the UK about the impact of base stations on
health, including well-being. Despite current evidence which shows
that exposures of individuals are likely to be only a small fraction
of those from phones, they may impact adversely on well-being."
In February 2005, the Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA)
issues a statement urging that "the strictest possible safety
regulations be established for the installation of masts and
transmitters, and for the acceptable levels of potential exposure of
individuals to electromagnetic radiation."
In September 2006, the International Commission for Electromagnetic
Safety (ICEMS) releases the Benevento Resolution, which emphasizes
that the accumulated evidence points to "adverse health effects from
occupational and public exposures to electric, magnetic and
electromagnetic fields (EMF) at current exposure levels." Signed by 31
leading scientists from around the world, this resolution calls for
governments to "adopt guidelines for public and occupational EMF
exposure that reflect the Precautionary Principle."
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From: Chicago Reader, Jun. 15, 2007
WHEN BAD NEWS IS NO NEWS
European papers are reporting some troubling research about cell
phones that American papers aren't.
By Michael Miner
The Columbia Journalism Review plays darts every issue with unworthy
journalists, but its Darts & Laurels feature for May and June threw
one at the entire "U.S. news media." Launching a dubious metaphor, CJR
took the American media to task "for failing to pick up a long-
The item explained that when major papers in Britain, Germany, Canada,
Israel, and other countries "recently rang, sometimes on page one,
with the findings of a five-country study that showed a statistically
significant increase in a certain type of brain tumor among people who
had used cell phones for ten years or more, one might have expected
the American press to at least record the message." But it didn't,
said CJR, even though "the telecom industry here keeps hoping that the
FCC and the federal health agencies will raise the levels of cell-
phone radiation currently allowed.
"Memo to journalists: call waiting."
Cell-phone radiation is non-ionizing, which means it produces heat
but, at least in theory, doesn't threaten biological organisms at the
atomic level. The idea that nonionizing radiation is a menace
regardless goes back at least as far as the 1977 book The Zapping of
America: Microwaves, Their Deadly Risk, and the Coverup, by New Yorker
writer Paul Brodeur.
"There is a vast conspiracy among the press, especially newspapers,
not to write about the biological studies, especially the
epidemiological studies done in Europe," Brodeur told me this week.
Like other vast conspiracies, this one shows every sign of being able
to live on indefinitely, never confirmed beyond doubt or discredited
to everyone's satisfaction. That a long period of latency precedes
whatever damage cell phones might do only hardens both sides'
CJR singled out two publications for praise: the Florida Sun-Sentinel,
for reporting the study, which was published in January by the
International Journal of Cancer, and Microwave News, a newsletter that
provided a "comprehensive, comprehensible account of the controversial
findings." Brodeur tells me its editor, Louis Slesin, got his start by
studying the Zapping files and is now "the authority on microwave
When I looked online for the story CJR told me wasn't there -- well,
it wasn't there. On the ABC News site I found an AP story with the
headline "Study Disputes Cell Phone-Cancer Link: Large Study From
Denmark Offers the Latest Reassurance That Cell Phones Don't Trigger
Cancer." Medpagetoday.com carried a staff-written story citing the
same Danish study and headlined "Once Again, No Cell Phone-Cancer Link
Found." The PC Magazine Web site carried a Reuters story based on a
British survey under the headline "Study Minimizes Cancer Risk From
And the very day I conducted my search, May 29, MSN.com touted a story
by MSNBC science editor Alan Boyle on the possible link between cell-
phone radiation and low sperm count and played it for laughs: "There's
no known connection between cell phone radiation and health risks, but
thankfully there's silver-threaded underwear for those who are
Ho ho. Slesin was so concerned that the American press wasn't telling
the public something it needed to know that he wrote and shopped
around an op-ed sounding the alarm. It began, "Two billion people now
use cell phones, many for hours on end. But are they safe? Could
putting a small microwave transmitter next to your brain lead to
cancer or a neurological disease?"
He couldn't be sure, "but some of the early returns are disquieting."
Citing studies that other reporters took comfort in, Slesin said they
"point to a problem over the long term. These studies show that using
a cell phone for more than ten years leads to higher rates of two
different kinds of tumors: gliomas, a type of brain tumor, and
acoustic neuromas, a tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the
brain. In each case, the tumors were more likely to be on the side of
the head closest to the phone."
"To be sure, these are still preliminary findings," Slesin
acknowledged, but he didn't think it made sense to ignore them. In his
view skeptics who assert that "the worst microwaves can do is heat you
up, and even then only at power levels much higher than you could ever
get from a cell phone" not only "abound" but dominate the debate in
this country. "The heating-only advocates, many of whom have links to
industry, are in control even though laboratory research has shown
that microwave radiation can damage DNA, upset sleep patterns, alter
cognitive function, increase the flow of chemicals through the blood-
brain barrier and bring on headaches."
Here in the U.S., Slesin wrote, no epidemiological studies are being
made of cell-phone radiation, the American Cancer Society has called
the idea of cancer risk a "myth," and Consumer Reports published a
long recent report on cell phones that didn't even take up the
question of radiation. But "it's a completely different story in
The op-ed wasn't published. Slesin says the New York Times and Boston
Globe both turned it down.
When I asked Brodeur to explain what he meant by a "vast conspiracy,"
he took a verbal step back, as if to distance himself from the lunatic
fringe. "What there is is self-censorship," he replied. "The reason
is, as always, money. You follow the money trail and the newspapers
have a vested interest in the big telecommunications companies. It's
an enormously powerful industry and it has managed to convince a lot
of people there is absolutely no harm." Slesin said something similar
in his op-ed: he claimed the "wireless industry has a stranglehold on
the health debate" and "Motorola and Nokia, the two largest phone
manufacturers, dismiss all claims of a possible hazard."
When I looked harder I began to find studies that backed Slesin up.
For instance, "Tumour risk associated with use of cellular telephones
or cordless desktop telephones" appeared in the World Journal of
Surgical Oncology in October 2006. And in January of that year,
"Cellular Phones, Cordless Phones, and the Risks of Glioma and
Meningioma" ran in the American Journal of Epidemiology, where it was
reported that "among long-term cellular phone users [ten years or
more] a twofold risk of glioma was observed."
But I also discovered a mainstream newspaper article neither CJR nor
Slesin had given credit to. It ran February 18 in the Chicago Tribune
and was written by Mike Hughlett, a financial writer who covers
Motorola. Hughlett says he wrote about the debate because he
considered it part of his beat. "I'd read for years about it," he
says. "I wondered, is it a dead issue? I researched and it didn't seem
to be a dead issue -- on the other hand, there was nothing you could
prove. My story was more about science than business, the limits of
Hughlett reported that most epidemiological studies done in Europe
haven't found a statistical link between tumors and cell-phone usage
-- but not all. "The problem," Hughlett wrote, "in addition to the
conflicting lab results: lack of an accepted scientific theory" of how
cell-phone radiation could cause harm.
Hughlett talked off and on with Slesin for months, and the article
labeled him either "a pot-stirring independent voice, or an advocate
of the view that radiation risks are being soft-pedaled -- depending
on who's describing him." Those are pretty friendly characterizations,
and not even mutually exclusive. Slesin is willing to answer to either
Yet when Slesin accused the media of negligence he didn't cite
Hughlett as an exception. "Here's why he dropped off my radar screen,"
Slesin e-mailed me. "I guess I never considered his piece as covering
the tumor findings. He does mention them, but not as spot news, the
way the Sun-Sentinel did. It's more one item in an 'On the one hand...
and on the other hand' piece... . But he did mention the tumor
findings, which is more than most everyone else in the U.S. did."
Gloria Cooper, who writes Darts & Laurels for CJR, didn't know about
Hughlett's story until I told her, and then she was embarrassed. "We
did the best search we could possibly do," she said, wondering aloud
if she should run a correction. She asked what Hughlett had said to me
about her CJR item, but the obliviousness was mutual. Hughlett hadn't
known it existed.
Return to Table of Contents
From: Hornsey and Crouch End Journal (UK), Jun. 20, 2007
COULD YOU LIVE WITHOUT YOUR MOBILE PHONE?
Health fears have sparked protests in Haringey
There are at least five [cell phone towers] within 100 metres of the
Clock Tower on Crouch End Broadway. The rooftops along Muswell Hill
Broadway and Wood Green's town centre are also lined with them.
And on the streets below everyone is jabbering into a mobile phone.
While people love the flexibility and low cost of mobiles they are not
so at ease with their inevitable by-product -- a giant mast [cell
phone tower] on their doorstep.
Battle lines have been drawn countless times in Haringey as one of the
many mobile phone giants is given planning permission for another base
station to cope with growing demand.
Placards, signs and demonstrations have become commonplace as
residents' and campaign groups have focussed on the potential health
risks of phone masts, particularly when they are sited near schools or
Sarah Purdy, who has fronted a campaign against them in Muswell Hill
for over two years, has urged planning bosses to take potential health
risks into account at the planning stage -- something they are unable
to do at the moment.
Mrs Purdy said: "I think with mobile phone use it is Russian roulette.
It's like smoking. However, I think with being in the main beam of a
phone mast all day and all night, it destroys the immune system. So
not everyone gets cancer but if you look at that school where they
have been in the main beam 15 years, 14 out of 30 teachers were sick."
She added: "The Stewart Report that was done in 2000 is being
completely ignored by the government and that did recommend a
precautionary principle. They said the main beam of a phone mast
should not fall onto schools.
"It was taken on in the Department of Education but not in planning
Residents can often feel powerless as mobile operators apply to put
masts in their areas. Appeals to the planning authorities fall on deaf
ears as they can only turn applications down on environment issues -
such as whether they unacceptably clutter the pavement -- not as a
potential health hazard.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has backed a
parliamentary private members bill by her Liberal Democrat colleague,
Andrew Stunell, calling for tighter health restrictions.
Ms Featherstone said: "That would make health grounds an objection you
can make against mobile masts. The point is it's raising exactly the
right issue. At the moment many a planning application goes through
because there's not a reason to refuse it.
"I think people are very concerned. At the same time they use mobile
phones. And therefore I don't think you can put the mobile phone genie
back into the bottle. But nevertheless, I think you can go along with
the precautionary principle."
She added: "All mobile phone companies should have an obligation to
work together and to share masts. They should work with local people
when choosing sites. They should find out more about local areas."
Recent anti-mast campaigns have seen controversy rage over a mast in
St Peter Le Poer Church, in Colney Hatch Lane, Muswell Hill, with
accusations that it could be used to send pornographic imagery.
There was also outrage when it was discovered Haringey council was
receiving £10,000 a year for accommodating one on Hornsey Town
There was also a long-running campaign against masts on the old BT
exchange in Grand Avenue, Muswell Hill, which is close to more than
one school. And the council's River Park House building even has one
on its roof.
Haringey is one of a clutch of councils which has agreed to put
pressure on the government over the worries faced by residents. But it
stopped short of adopting the "precautionary principle" -- which would
enable the council to reject applications for masts on the grounds of
potential health risks.
The government-funded Stewart Report, concluded seven years ago, was
the last major investigation into mobile phone masts. Technology has
moved on since then.
James Stevenson, communications manager for O2, which recently sited a
mast in Muswell Hill, said: "If the government changes the
legislation, which is unlikely, we would not be too fussed with that.
We could cope with the government change.
"I think the industry would welcome another Stewart Report -- even
though there's been another report which again proves there's no ill
"It's still quite a useful piece of work. We've got a lot of evidence
lot of scientific organisations who have looked at it and found
absolutely nothing as far as health and safety concerns."
He added: "We understand how people feel and we try as best we can to
explain to them what we are doing and how the industry works.
Copyright 2007 Archant Regional Limited
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From: Medical News Today, Jun. 16, 2007
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE EU
Speech By Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner
In this speech to the European Biotechnology Open day in Brussels EU
Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson strongly defends an open European
approach to biotechnology and GM food; one that prioritises strict
science-based health and safety testing but which recognises that safe
biotechnology has a crucial role to play in agriculture and
agricultural trade both in Europe and the developing world. Calling
biotechnology "The coal face of applied science in the twenty first
century" he concludes: "we must be under no illusion that Europe's
interests are served by being outside a global market that is steadily
working its way through the issues raised by GM food. They are not".
Mandelson argues that Europe has the appropriate risk-management
systems for ensuring that biotechnology is rigorously tested, but that
these systems can be badly undermined if politicians and risk-managers
do not defend the science that underpins them. He says: "A rigorous
system means approving GM imports when the science is on their side
just as we take a firm line when precaution is justified... if
politicians and risk managers undermine their own system... we devalue
objective science as our most important benchmark -- and that is a
dangerous step to take." Mandelson warns that as a global market for
GM products grows, EU application of its rules will come under greater
international scrutiny. He warns: "If we fail to implement our own
rules, or implement them inconsistently, we can -- and probably will -
Mandelson argues that any blanket rejection of GMOs ignores the fact
that genetically modified foods have played a key part in past
revolutions in agricultural productivity and will be central to
providing sufficient food and feed stocks for a growing population in
the developing world. They are also likely to have a central role in
shaping agricultures response to climate change through adapted bio-
Mandelson argues that there is an economic risk in Europe if we fall
behind the global economy in approving safe biotechnology. He cites
recent European Commission research that suggests that Europe may find
it increasingly hard to source animal feed that is approved under EU
rules -- putting a heavy strain on the EU livestock sector. He says:
"Isolation from international trade in agricultural biotech products
that have passed credible safety standards simply may not be a viable
option for the EU".
Mandelson argues that the EU should take the lead in shaping "a global
system of clear rules that allow exporters and importers to trade GM
crops and feed in confidence". He identifies negotiations on the Codex
Alimentarius, bringing the Biosafety Clearing House of the Cartagena
Protocol to full operational status and the reinforcement of the WTO
SPS Agreement as key priorities.
Mandelson concludes: "One extreme of the biotech debate in agriculture
often wrongly portrays it as a conflict between consumer sovereignty
and corporate power -- between caution and recklessness. The other
extreme of the debate -- especially in the United States -- thinks it
is a tussle between free trade and protectionism. It is none of these.
Strong safety standards are legitimate principles of international
law. The best defence of consumer and corporate interests is a regime
that is open to new technologies but ensures they are tested in a way
that keeps public safety and health paramount. And so long as we apply
the same rules and standards across the board the protectionist label
doesn't stick. From its side, the biotech industry needs to keep in
mind that while technology determines what is possible, consumer
demand determines what is economically viable. Public fears may be
misplaced, but they cannot and should not be dismissed. We -- and by
that I mean you the industry and we, public authorities and
governments -- need to do a better job of setting out the issues."
Many thanks for the invitation to join you today.
The title of this conference calls biotech 'the invisible revolution'.
Which is true. Yet this all but invisible technology is reshaping
agriculture and industry; revolutionising medicine. Biotechnology is
arguably the coal face of applied science in the twenty first century.
But biotech can arouse strong emotions. There is something in human
nature that can make us afraid of science, nervous of new
technologies. When those technologies affect the basic materials of
life, the concerns are magnified.
But technological change has transformed the way we live immeasurably
for the better. The scientific revolution taught us how to understand
the natural world. Technological change has given us the capacity to
shape and develop it for the public good.
My essential message today is that biotechnology is a critical part of
the world's economic and environmental future. But it touches on some
deeply sensitive issues -- it goes right to the heart of how we feel
about nature, risk and technology.
There are still those who are unnerved at the speed with which
science, and the application of science through technology, changes
Biotech is at the sharpest end of that technological revolution -- and
evokes some of the strongest responses. Its advocates -- like the
advocates of many new technologies -- sometimes make expansive claims.
Its opponents say untested technology is being pushed on unwilling
people. The atmosphere can end up so impossibly polarised that a
rational public debate becomes impossible.
However, we must not allow the positive argument for biotech to be
lost because public authorities and governments are sometimes afraid
or unable to make the case to their citizens. That is not the
leadership the public has the right to expect. As others around the
world move ahead -- in the United States and Japan, but also the
emerging economies -- we in Europe must also play a leading role in a
sector that will play such an important role in tomorrow's economy.
So we need an open and rational debate about the risks and benefits of
biotechnology more than ever. That debate -- and the implications for
trade and development -- is what I would like to talk about today.
The Biotech Economy
We are already living in a biotech era -- from the medicine you take
to the laundry detergent you use. In the health sector, biotechnology
is now an essential part of the development of new drugs and
therapies. Industrial biotechnology that can replace chemical
processes and the consumption of fossil fuels will be important in
reducing Europe's carbon footprint. The European Union's bio-fuel
strategy would not be possible without industrial biotechnology.
Most Europeans are not overly troubled by this. In fact, the most
recent Eurobarometer on this subject from 2005 actually showed that
most Europeans are enthusiastic about potential new applications of
But there is one glaring exception. Something like six in ten
Europeans say they oppose Genetically Modified food. When applied to
agriculture and the food we eat, biotech appears more threatening and
our reaction is more ambivalent. Nevertheless, half of Europeans still
say that they would be ready to buy GM food if it were healthier or
more environmentally friendly. Which suggests that the advocates of
biotechnology need to do a lot more to explain what biotech is, and
what its real risks and benefits are.
The role of science and risk
Like any new science, biotechnology carries risks and those risks must
be probably assessed and managed. EU legislation on the approval of
biotech products requires all new products to be thoroughly tested to
the most rigorous scientific standards.
But no technology can ever be totally risk free. So we have developed
the precautionary principle which is now incorporated in most EU
policy on environmental and health protection. The precautionary
principle is not about purely hypothetical hazards. It carries its own
strict preconditions. First, a potentially dangerous effect must be
identified and second, it must be possible to show clearly that we do
not have the scientific means to judge properly the level of risk.
This process takes time, and those whose job it is to manage risk are
right to be thorough. But it is also reasonable to insist that when
the process has run its course, and the scientific issues have been
thrashed out, we stand by the science. And that applies to both the
technical experts and to the politicians they report to. A rigorous
system means approving GM imports when the science is on their side
just as we take a firm line when precaution is justified.
It is hard enough to communicate the outcome of complex scientific
assessments to people in a simple but clear manner. If politicians and
risk managers undermine their own system it becomes almost impossible.
We devalue objective science as our most important benchmark -- and
that is a dangerous step to take.
Biotechnology and the (next) green revolution
The reason for a consistent, science-based approach to GMOs is not
only a matter of good government and public trust. A rational debate
on GMOs is a matter of the economic future and well-being of people
around the world.
Take agriculture. The world's population is projected to reach 9
billion people by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organisation
anticipates that world food demand will double by that date, while
agriculture will have to produce more energy crops and more raw
materials for industry if we want to tackle climate change.
To meet this demand in a sustainable way, we will have to increase
productivity in agriculture. Water resources will be put under
increasing strain. Inputs like nitrogen fertilisers will become more
expensive and subject to stricter rules. Forty years ago, the green
revolution was about producing more with more: more fertilisers, more
energy, more water. The challenge of the 21st century is to produce
more with less.
We face a huge rise in demand for food and animal feed in the
developing world. GM can help developing countries produce crops
designed to address their specific needs -- like genetically modified
wheat did in India and Pakistan. It is simply not responsible or
defensible calmly to refuse to assess the role of GM food in meeting
Could Europe get left behind?
Turning our own backs on safe GMOs here in Europe may carry the same
risks. Europe is a major agricultural exporter and one of the largest
importers of farm goods -- including biotech products.
This is particularly important for the European livestock industry.
Europe is heavily dependant on the import of feed products for the
simple reason that we do not have the available land both to farm
animals and to grow the feed they need. Reliable imports of feed are
the basis of EU livestock production and its thousands of jobs.
My colleague Mariann Fischer Boel, the Agriculture Commissioner, has
just conducted a study on the impact on the EU farm sector when GM
crops that have been widely approved outside of Europe are then not
approved in Europe. The results suggest that as the EU's major
suppliers of animal foods, such as soybeans, approve new GM varieties,
Europe may find it increasingly difficult to source GM-free soybeans.
China's massive appetite for soybeans will also increasingly shape
what is grown and sold.
Today, agricultural biotech has largely remained a US-based industry.
But very soon it is likely to become a global technology. Unless we
can close the gap between GMO approvals in the EU and in feed-
exporting countries such as US, Argentina and Brazil we may have
hungry cows and struggling farmers. Isolation from international trade
in agricultural biotech products that have passed credible safety
standards simply may not be a viable option for the EU, and we have to
understand this reality.
The implications for trade policy
How do these questions impact on trade policy? Europe's policies on
biotechnology are above all a domestic issue. We set and implement our
own rules, a right respected alongside our obligations under
agreements like the Cartagena protocol and the WTO SPS Agreement.
But in an increasingly open global economy, where trading partners are
moving ahead with their own GM and biotech policies, Europe's policies
will of course affect those who want to trade with us. We will
inevitably be scrutinised closely. If we fail to implement our own
rules, or implement them inconsistently, we can -- and probably will -
I believe Europe should have a positive agenda too -- an interest in
shaping a global system of clear rules that allow exporters and
importers to trade GM crops and feed in confidence. Europe can and
should play a leading role here. International negotiations on the
Codex Alimentarius as an important standard setting body are one place
to start. The Biosafety Clearing House of the Cartagena Protocol needs
to be made fully operational to allow developing countries to make
informed choices about the food products they import. Within the WTO,
the SPS Agreement could become a stronger focal point for
international rules on GM policy and practice.
We also need to recognise that our rules raise the bar for exporters
into the European Union from developing countries, who sometimes see
our safety standards as an impediment to trade or even as hidden
protectionism. If we want developing countries to participate in the
trade in biotechnology and to benefit from it we have to provide
support to enable them to meet the requirements. By helping them
fulfil our requirements, we can help them meet global standards.
Most importantly, we must be under no illusion that Europe's interests
are served by being outside a global market that is steadily working
its way through the issues raised by GM food. They are not.
Conclusion: the way ahead
One extreme of the biotech debate in agriculture often wrongly
portrays it as a conflict between consumer sovereignty and corporate
power -- between caution and recklessness. The other extreme of the
debate -- especially in the United States -- thinks it is a tussle
between free trade and protectionism.
It is none of these. Strong safety standards are legitimate principles
of international law. The best defence of consumer -- and corporate -
interests is a regime that is open to new technologies but ensures
they are tested in a way that keeps public safety and health
paramount. And so long as we apply the same rules and standards across
the board the protectionist label doesn't stick.
From its side, the biotech industry needs to keep in mind that while
technology determines what is possible, consumer demand determines
what is economically viable. Public fears may be misplaced, but they
cannot and should not be dismissed. We -- and by that I mean you the
industry and we, public authorities and governments -- need to do a
better job of setting out the issues. So that people are aware of the
potential benefits of GM food; and -- crucially -- so they have
confidence in our testing and approval regime and are given
appropriate information. Otherwise too many Europeans will continue to
see GMOs in black and white terms, wholly good or wholly bad.
The way that human technologies affect us and the natural world has
always been a flashpoint for debate. Biotechnology is no different.
The only rational response is a patient assessment of the evidence and
a careful explanation of the facts. Biotechnology has already improved
millions of lives around the world. That alone is reason enough to
ensure that we do not deny those benefits to millions more.
Return to Table of Contents
From: Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada), Jun. 20, 2007
PROVINCE ISN'T DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT WATER: NDP LEADER
By Rob O'flanagan
Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton was in Guelph yesterday talking
about water resources.
Water is a finite resource that must be carefully conserved, says
provincial NDP Leader Howard Hampton, who stood near the rippling
Speed River in Guelph yesterday and assumed the stance of guardian of
the province's precious H2O.
Flanked by Guelph's federal New Democrat candidate Tom King and
Wellington Water Watchers' activist James Gordon, Hampton said the
Liberal government is not observing a "precautionary principle" to
protect and sustain water, allowing it to be bottled and sold by
private companies, and potentially exported to the United States.
Strong regulations are needed to protect the vulnerable resource, he
said. Hampton said a major population surge projected for Guelph will
put water resources under increasing pressure.
Allowing a major international company like Nestle to drain off local
water is a mistake, Hampton said. Nestle Waters Canada has a major
water bottling operation in Aberfoyle.
Global warming, Hampton added, will have a significant impact on the
quantity and quality of our water. Hampton said that before the 2003
election, McGuinty asserted taking water for commercial purposes
should be limited.
The government recently brought in the Safeguarding and Sustaining
Ontario's Water Act, intended to strengthen the management, protection
and conservation of Ontario's water resources.
But Hampton said the legislation is toothless.
"While the rhetoric of the legislation is all high sounding and has
all of the right buzz words in it, when you actually look at the legal
standards in the legislation and the legal requirements in the
legislation, they are very lax," he said.
There is nothing in the legislation to prevent a large private company
from taking large quantities of water from local aquifers or from
transferring water out of the Great Lakes, he said.
The issue is relevant to Guelph, he said, because Nestle recently
applied to renew its permit to take nearly 3.6 million litres of water
out of wells in Aberfoyle daily for the next five years.
"This all comes to roost here in Guelph because you have a very large
transnational corporation, Nestle, which wants to get a permit to take
very large amounts of water from one of the local aquifers," Hampton
"Many of the people who are sounding the warning about global warning
are saying that part of global warming is you cannot take your water
supplies for granted," he added. "In the longer term, areas in
southern Ontario may have less water than we have traditionally had,
and we may go through periods of very serious drought."
King called water a "precious resource." Letting a company pump water
is "just plain nuts," he said, urging consumers to stop buying bottled
King and James Gordon agreed water coming out of Guelph's taps is of
excellent quality, and said there is no need to purchase bottled
"I think the days of bottled water has come and gone," Gordon said,
adding the public has put its trust in the government to protect and
preserve our water supply, but the government does not have firm
strategies in place to do so.
Return to Table of Contents
From: EurActiv, Jun. 14, 2007
NGOS URGE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IN USE OF NANOMATERIALS
As lack of scientific data on nanotech's health and environmental
risks impedes the development of specific legislation, NGOs [non-
governmental organizatuions] call for the application of the
precautionary principle. "The need for more evidence does not have to
stop us from taking action now," they claim.
Related: Nanotech -- risks for health and environment need
Industry is increasingly using nanotechnology in sectors such as
healthcare (medicine), consumer products (food, electronics,
cosmetics), information technology and the environment. However, major
gaps remain concerning the exposure risks associated with
The potential risks of nanotechnology include the risk to health of
nanoparticles and materials as the nanoparticles can be inhaled,
swallowed, absorbed through skin or injected into the body, whereas
the behaviour of nanoparticles inside the body is not as yet known. As
to environmental risks, the effects of free nanoparticles on the air
or water are also unknown.
Other related news
Biomonitoring still perceived as 'controversial' science
Member states accused of 'cheating' on bathing-water quality
Experts urge international effort on nanotech safety
UN says more research needed on nanotech safety
Experts tell EU to prop up ethics in nanomedicine
While nanotech products are already being mass-produced, the political
debate on regulating nanotechnologies is just beginning. The EU's
Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks
(SCENHIR), which has analysed whether the current nanotech risk-
assessments are good enough for developing legislation, came to the
Conclusion (2006) that improvement is needed.
Issues: "The production of nanomaterials is increasing rapidly and
they have broad applications (tennis balls, cosmetics, electronic
equipments, cleaning products, stain- free surface coatings) even if
their health, environment and safety aspects are not known yet," said
Commission official Eva Hellsten in a Green Week session on 'Future
Scenarios for Human Health and the Environment' on 13 June 2007.
She explained that the EU's approach to nanotechnologies is 'safe,
integrated and responsible' and presented two range of issues
currently under EU examination:
Regulatory aspects -- making an inventory of existing regulation and
checking whether nanotechnologies are already covered by other
community legislation, thus defining the legislative framework,
considering both implementation and enforcement tools for this
specific framework, and; improving knowledge base -- conducting
nanotech risk assessment, considering risk management and studying
toxicity, ecotoxicity, as well as human and environmental exposure to
nanomaterials. "Environmental and health risks of nanomaterials are in
principle covered by the EU regulatory framework. However,
implementation of the legal framework remains difficult because of
scientific knowledge gaps [on nanomaterials] and a fast-evolving
market for products," said Hellsten.
Positions: "Will we slam the stable door after the horse has bolted?"
asked Benedicte Paviot, moderator of the session, using a metaphor to
raise a question on the urgency of nanotech regulation.
"Current scientific risk-assessment methods [for nanomaterials] are
really not reliable. We don't have the knowledge. Nanomaterials are so
small and reactive and we don't have natural defences in the body
against them," said Eva Hellsten, from the Commission's DG
Environment, Directorate Water, Chemicals and Cohesion.
Hellsten added that inclusion of nanomaterials in the Reach chemicals
regulation that entered into force on 1 July 2007 is "somewhat
problematic". "Nanomaterials resemble chemicals, but the novel
nanomaterial properties being developed make them different," she
But Erwin Annys, speaking for the chemical industry group CEFIC, was
more convinced that no specific nanomaterial regulation is needed as
"nanomaterials are already covered by the current Reach legislation".
Aleksandra Kordecka, chemicals campaigner at Friends of the Earth
Europe (FoE) said that the "opportunities for improvement in the next
Reach, set to take place 2012, include the inclusion of new
substances, such as nanoparticles, to the law.
With regards Reach, she said that FoE "is quite seriously concerned
that it will not be properly implemented and afraid that future
reviews will weaken the law".
"More money in the EU's Seventh framework programme for research (FP7)
goes towards the development of new nanomaterials rather than studying
their health and environmental effects," a representative of Friends
of the Earth pointed out, urging more coherence between stated policy
priorities and final actions. She also said that ensuring
nanomaterials safety has been an issue for re-insurance companies, due
to lack of proper health-risk assessment.
Lisette van Vliet, toxics policy advisor at the Health and Environment
Alliance (HEAL) said: "There is a huge gap between what science tells
us about chemicals and the policy methods used to protect health."
She illustrated how, between 1970 and 2000, the regulation on
methylmercury has become stricter as more scientific evidence and
knowledge has been gained and urged the application of the
precautionary principle. "The need for more research and evidence does
not have to stop us from taking action now."
According to a recent Eurobarometer (June 2006), Europeans do not
perceive nanotech as risky; rather, they support its development,
perceive it as being useful to society and morally acceptable and have
far greater confidence in regulation than for example their
transatlantic counterparts in the US or Canada.
EU official documents
PreLex: Commission communication: nanotechnologies: An action plan
for Europe 2005-2009
Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks
(SCENHIR) Opinion on the appropriateness of existing methodologies to
assess the potential risks associated with engineered and adventitious
products of nanotechnologies (28-29 September 2005)
Think tanks & Academia
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars -- Project on
emerging nanotechnologies: Nanotechnology and Life Cycle Assessment
-- A systems approach to nanotechnology and the environment --
Synthesis of results obtained at a workshop in Washington DC 2-3
October 2006 (20 March 2007)
The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering: Nanoscience
and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties -- Two-year
review of progress on Government actions: Joint academies' response to
the Council for Science and Technology's call for evidence (October
The Royal Society: Nanotechnology and Nanoscience: opportunities and
challenges (July 2004)
United Nations Environment Programme: GEO (Global Environment
Outlook) Year Book 2007 (5 February 2007) [Emerging challenges -
nanotechnology and the environment]
Return to Table of Contents
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