ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

13 November 2001


"Ottawa's policy of trade uber alles means the corporate sector is no longer just one of many interests competing for government policy attention. It has become completely integrated into the fabric of government." (item 2)

1. Scientists fear invasion of superweeds
2. Canada is a world-class trade bully - good article


1. Scientists fear invasion of "superweeds" [shortened]

By David Brough

ROME (Reuters) - Beware the invasion of the superweeds. Scientists fear genetically modified, or GM, crops, already under attack for allegedly creating "mutant" food, could also create plants that are resistant to herbicides and insects. These could germinate from a previous harvest, hampering weed controls. GM herbicide- and insect-resistant crops are being planted on millions of acres of arable land, mainly in North America, but some scientists worry about their impact on the environment.

 "There are several concerns about the consequences of development and deployment of transgenic herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant crops," the United Nations food body said in a paper on the risks and benefits of GM crops. "Objections to the use of these transgenic crops rest on several issues ... such as: the potential transfer of genes from herbicide resistant crops to wild relatives, thus creating superweeds," the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Media in Canada reported earlier this year that the country's expert panel on biotechnology said GM superweeds had invaded Canadian farms. Canola plants engineered to help farmers had instead escaped and crossbred with each other to form plants stronger than their parents. Most pesticides cannot kill these canola superweeds, which are growing in wheat fields where farmers don't want them.

Potential hazard

Herbicide- and insect-resistant crops may pollute the gene pool of conventional relatives growing in the same area or nearby, depending on the wind and insects, the FAO says. "If there is no barrier to pollination, you get this potential hazard," Ricardo Labrada Romero, the FAO's weed and plant protection officer, told Reuters in an interview. "If, say, you are rotating maize with soybeans, you may find herbicide-resistant maize growing in a soybean field one year." The development of superweeds increases the need for additional labour to weed by hand and rid fields of unwanted plants that compete with the food crop, reducing its yield. "Weeds compete with crops for water, nutrients and light and are responsible for up to five percent of crop losses in developed countries," Labrada Romero said.


2. Canada is a world-class trade bully

Murray Dobbin
National Post; November 12, 2001

'Why do they hate us so much?" This question, asked by millions of Americans in the aftermath of the assault on New York and Washington, is symbolic of what differentiates Canada from the United States. Our sympathy for ordinary Americans post-Sept. 11 is accompanied with an unspoken relief that at least "they" don't hate us. The United States is the evil empire. We're Canada -- peace-loving, caring, cognizant of the needs of other nations.

But this sanguine attitude is becoming more and more like whistling past the graveyard. Canada is increasingly being seen by the third world community as a country that has abandoned its commitment to internationalism and fairness. The fact that we have jumped on the "coalition" train delivering a catastrophe to ordinary Afghanis is just part of the picture. We are now seen as little more than a crass lobbyist for the world's, and our own, largest corporations. When Canadian non-governmental organizations meet counterparts in international forums they brace themselves for the inevitable question: Why has Canada abandoned its historic role to become one of the most aggressive pushers of free market policies?

Ever since Canada signed the original free trade deal with the United States, we have been moving in the direction of the corporate state. Ottawa's policy of trade uber alles means the corporate sector is no longer just one of many interests competing for government policy attention. It has become completely integrated into the fabric of government. There are still glimpses of resistance but they are few and far between. Canada initially fought off the WTO's patent protection provisions trying to defend its generic drug legislation. It argued eloquently the agreement was never intended to "unduly prejudice the vital public interest" in pursuing health objectives. It lost the case. Now it is one of just five countries at the WTO ministerial meetings in Qatar vowing to block an African declaration that would ensure poor countries can take "measures to protect public health" such as using cheaper generic drugs to deal with the AIDS epidemic. The patent protection treaty Canada is now defending is the antithesis of the free trade the WTO says it stands for. It is globally enforced protectionism for the world's most powerful drug companies. Millions will die because of its provisions. Michelle Swenarchuk of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, attended the final meetings aimed at establishing an international bio-safety protocol, held in Montreal in January, 2000. She came away disgusted. Canada was a member of the Miami Group, along with the United States, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, opposing a 150-nation consensus on the need to deal with the implications for bio-diversity, food security and health posed by genetically engineered seeds. "Canada's goal was to prevent international regulation of food and feed," she said. "We parroted the U.S. line and even spoke for the United States on some topics. The Canadian negotiators, just as the end was in sight, almost derailed the protocol by holding out into the middle of the night.

As one Asian delegate said to me, 'Canada used to be such a positive influence. What has happened?' " Following Canada's failed WTO challenge of France's asbestos ban, Chile announced its own ban. For their initiative to protect their citizens from this deadly carcinogen, Chile's elected officials were vilified by Canadian bureaucrats.

Canada's ambassador to Chile, Paul Durand, accused Chilean Health Minister Michelle Bachelet of being "in the thrall of American environmental" lobbyists. Department of Foreign Affairs trade official Pierre Desmarais declared the Chilean decree banning asbestos "undemocratic." Canada's new status as global bully extends to the WTO. It and the other members of the so-called Quad countries -- Canada, the United States, the European Union, Japan -- learned their lesson from Seattle. They have dropped any pretense of democracy and fairness. Brute intimidation is the name of the game. The Quad met in Mexico in August and in Singapore last month and cobbled together the draft declaration presented to the 142 WTO members this past weekend. On Oct. 31, Mike Moore, the WTO Director-General, and Stuart Harbinson, the WTO general council chairman simply declared -- with no legal authority whatsoever -- they would not revise their draft to indicate the opposing views of other delegations. Abandoning past practice of including detailed objections of delegations in a covering letter, they declared the documents would go before the Doha meeting on Nov. 9 without the required 10-day notice.

The draft read as if there was consensus, yet Third World countries are even more opposed to a new round than they were in Seattle. Canada is an eager participant in this whole contemptible process. What is stunning about this turn of events is that Canada's new role in the world -- bully, toady of the United States, running roughshod over the weakest nations in the world -- has been determined without a shred of public debate. If Third World peoples don't hate Canada yet, it's only a matter of time. By the time most Canadians find out, it will be too late.

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