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It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green progress in the EU, May, 2009-another kick in the ass for Monsanto

Today:
  1. Germany joins ranks of anti-GMO countries
  2. MEPs back tougher rules for nanotechnology
  3. Parliament backs strict labelling for tyres
  4. MEPs back eco-design rules for energy-related products
  5. EU lawmakers reject revised energy labels
  6. Parliament backs crackdown on illegal logging
Quote of the day:I might not be a great fan of Greenpeace irrationality in many cases, but on illegal logging, we all should be adamant. You cannot believe how much exquisite woodland turns into green desert, because some low-paid "operators" beat the locals, beat the guards and just cut the trees.

Germany joins ranks of anti-GMO countries

15 April 2009

Berlin yesterday (14 April) joined France, Greece, Hungary and other EU countries opposed to GM crop cultivation by ordering a ban on Monsanto's MON 810 maize, despite European rulings that the biotech grain is safe.

The US biotech company's strain may no longer be sown for this summer's harvest, German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner told a news conference on Tuesday.

The move puts Germany alongside France, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg, which have banned MON 810 maize despite its approval by the EU for commercial use throughout the bloc.

"I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment," Aigner said, stressing that five other EU states had taken the same action.

The decision to ban was based on scientific factors and was not a political one, Aigner said. It was an individual case and not a fundamental decision against GMO crops, she added.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has tried without success to get the bans in other countries lifted and on Tuesday warned it would examine the German decision. "The Commission will analyse the ban by Germany with the adequate scientific information support and the Commission will decide on the most appropriate follow-up toward this situation," Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau told a regular briefing.

Monsanto spokesman Andreas Thierfelder said the decision was unjustified and no supportable scientific reasons for the ban had been given. Should the ban be confirmed, Monsanto would consider legal options with the goal of enabling GMO seeds to be planted for this year's harvest.

The MON 810 maize is resistant to corn borer, a butterfly whose caterpillars damage maize plants.

The south German state of Bavaria welcomed the decision and now planned to become a GMO-free zone, Bavarian state Environment Minister Markus Soeder said.

Aigner's decision was also welcomed by German environmentalist association BUND.

Environmental group Greenpeace called on Aigner to work inside the EU to stop further approvals of GMO maize. source

My comment: Ah, poor Monsanto. I almost feel pity for them. Nah, I don't. They get what they deserve. Seriously, how a company producing seeds could become a giant? Don't want to sound more socialist than I am, I like entrepreneurs and I like successful companies, but their case is very smelly-especially their cases against people who by accident grew their plants.

And I believe in free will. Just as smoker do intervene with the rights of non-smokers, because non-smokers do not have the choice not to breath the smoke, the same, I think that if a seed is so aggressive that it can genetically pollute a whole region, then it violates the rights of the other producers. Then, it must be banned. I'm not against that technology. I just think that if someone want to grow such seeds, they have to do it in a closed space, so that no seed can escape that place under no circumstances. I mean, there is already genetic pollution in Mexico, we don't need more of it.

MEPs back tougher rules for nanotechnology

28 April 2009

The European Parliament last week backed a controversial report by Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter urging the European Commission to revise its stance on nanomaterials. MEPs said all nanomaterials should be considered as new substances, and that existing legislation does not take into account the risks associated with nanotechnology.

Environmental and consumer groups welcomed the vote, but industry groups warned that "improper" regulation could stifle one of Europe's growth industries.

The own-initiative report was adopted on April 24 by an overwhelming majority of 391 votes in favour and three against, amid four abstentions. The Commission has yet to formally respond to criticism contained in the non-binding opinion from parliamentarians.

Schlyter said the resolution adopted by the full sitting of the European Parliament was "more than a wake-up call for the Commission and the chemical industry".

He insisted that the EU executive must revise its stance on nanomaterials and revisit all relevant European laws to guarantee the safety of all applications of nanomaterials throughout their lifecycle.

The report also demands that consumer products containing nanomaterials must be labelled 'nano', and that the European Commission must review worker-protection legislation to safeguard employees who handle nanomaterials. source

My comment: Now this is an inititive that I completely support. I remember an article about a butchery, published by NY Times. Workers in the butchery started experiencing all sorts of diseases. In the end, it turned out the problem was the puverised brains of the pigs (a nanoparticle) that provoked severy reactions in the immune systems of the workers. This is a good example why we shouldn't underestimate the effect nanomarticles might have on our health. Even when the element in normal size is ok, it still could be dangerous in nanosize. So, I hope the EC would very soon act accordingly.

Parliament backs strict labelling for tyres

23 April 2009

EU lawmakers have insisted that tyre manufacturers such as Michelin and Continental must display details of tyres' fuel performance, as well as their wet grip and noise levels, as of November 2012.

The draft measures were backed by the European Parliament, which approved the proposals by large majority on Wednesday (22 April).

The new tyre label will use a fuel-efficiency classification similar to the energy label for washing machines and fridges, with performance rated from 'A' (best) to 'G' (worst).

The draft text still needs the backing of the Council of Ministers, which represents the 27 EU member states and may express different views.

Parliament sources said they expected the proposal to be adopted in second reading "under the next legislature", as negotiations with member states have not formally opened yet.

European elections are due in June, and the new Parliament will not start its legislative work before the autumn.

One contentious issue is the high degree of detail that the Parliament inserted into the draft text. This includes a new obligation to include a "low-noise mark" depicting a tyre with earmuffs if rolling noise is kept below a certain decibel level.

There are also new obligations for suppliers to provide a "fuel savings calculator" on their websites to allow consumers to make informed choices.

MEPs also chose to modify the proposal from a directive - which usually requires a lengthy transposition process into national law - to a regulation, a more stringent legal instrument which leaves no room for EU countries to tailor rules to their national circumstances.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a Liberal MEP from Germany, said tyre manufacturers had been asking for such unified measures. source

My comment: That's another wonderful idea. Especially the noise pollution measures. People don't realise how important noise is for our healthy lives. And although, the biggest producer of noise isn't the tyres but the engine, it still makes sense to minimise all the damage. And the fuel calculator is also a very cool idea. It could provide a wonderful incentive for buying new tyres, which can even save life! And of course, helps you drive in more economical manner.

MEPs back eco-design rules for energy-related products

27 April 2009

The European Parliament last Friday (24 April) approved the extension of the Ecodesign Directive to cover products that have an indirect impact on energy use. Consumer groups nevertheless criticised the compromise for failing to address all relevant environmental impacts.

In the future, the Commission could set minimum efficiency standards for products which impact on the final energy household consumption, such as windows, insulation materials, showers and water taps. The directive currently only applies to products which use energy directly, such as fridges, hairdryers and televisions.

The agreement makes no immediate changes to the products covered by eco-design rules. New product groups will thus not be considered until 2011, when the Commission will publish its revised working plan, which affects energy-related products as well.

Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi, who steered the legislation through the Parliament, wanted to stretch the scope of the directive to feature all other products apart from means of transport. The proposal was nevertheless rejected by his colleagues .

Moreover, the Parliament failed to obtain a clear timetable for extending the product list. The revised directive will now merely oblige the Commission to review the effectiveness of the current implementation measures in 2012, and to assess whether it is "appropriate" to extend the scope of the directive to non-energy related products.

The Parliament congratulated itself for introducing more of a lifecycle focus into the directive. As part of the review in 2012, the Commission will look at the methodology for identifying environmental parameters, such as resource efficiency, for the whole lifecycle of products.

Consumer groups ANEC and BEUC said, however, that apart from resource efficiency, the revamp of the directive had ignored many other relevant environmental impacts of products' lifecycle phase. They singled out the use of dangerous chemicals, waste production and recycling.

The agreement now needs the final seal of approval from the Council of Ministers. source

My comment: Am, I start getting confused. I mean, I kind of published this news like 3 times and I'm pretty sure there's no repetition. Obviously, the EP has many layers just like an onion :) In any case, I approve what they did, but I think it should have had more obligatory effect on the EC. Oh, well, nothing is perfect.

EU lawmakers reject revised energy labels

22 April 2009

The European Parliament's industry committee yesterday (21 April) voted on two resolutions to block the introduction of new energy labels for household goods such as fridges and television sets.

The decision, if confirmed by a vote in Parliament later this year, would overturn a draft agreement on the proposal passed in March between EU member-state representatives and the European Commission.

The text would replace existing energy labels which are commonly found on household appliances including, fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers.

The new labels would subdivide the highest 'A' class of the EU's well-known 'A-G' energy efficiency classes, and introduce the label to televisions for the first time.

But MEPs on the industry committee argued that the new format would "add to confusion about whether class 'A' represents an efficient or an inefficient product".

Instead of adding classes such as 'A-20%', denoting products which use 20% less energy than a traditional 'A class' product, the MEPs wanted to the closed A-G scale to be maintained.

Parliamentarians called on the Commission to submit new proposals by the end of September 2009 to upgrade existing energy classes so that the highest category would be reserved for the "top 10-20% best-performing equipment".

MEPs stressed that they were not against introducing an energy label for televisions, but merely opposed to the proposed format.

If the Parliament is to use its veto on the new labels, the resolutions endorsed by the industry committee yesterday will have to be backed by the full assembly at the plenary on 4-7 May. This would be the first time the Parliament has used its scrutiny to reject a proposal under new comitology rules.

The energy label format was opposed by the Socialists, Liberals and Greens. The vote in the industry committee was very narrow, which is to be expected in the plenary in May as well, according to Parliament sources. The result is difficult to anticipate, as the June elections are drawing near and MEPs might feel less inclined to vote along party lines, the sources speculated. source

My comment: As I said it when I first heard of this, it's very odd that they have a problem with the new definition of the energy labels. Seriously, they underestimate people. It would take a while to adopt the new labels and then everyone would be used to them. The only thing that I see as a problem is that it's time to redefine the whole A-G scale to mirror the better effectiveness of appliances. If something was A 5 years ago, then today, it should be say C or D. Now we just have new standards. And thus, they have to change the whole scale. And maybe they have to update the scale every year, so that the A-20% don't have to be used. Ok, on second thought, they might have made the right decision :)

Parliament backs crackdown on illegal logging

23 April 2009

The EU took a step towards taking action against illegal logging yesterday (22 April) when the European Parliament voted in favour of stricter rules on timber sold within the bloc's markets, including the introduction of sanctions against offenders.

The Parliament yesterday (22 April) adopted a report authored by Green MEP Caroline Lucas (UK), strengthening the Commission's proposals on timber trade (EurActiv 20/10/08).

According to MEPs, all actors in the timber supply chain must be made responsible for ensuring that illegally-sourced wood does not find its way to the EU market.

The Commission originally proposed a one-off check by the operator which placed timber on the market for the first time. The Parliament, however, wants to make all traders and producers responsible for clearly indicating the source of their products and the supplier of the timber through a traceability system.

Two years after the regulation enters into force, member states would have to ensure that all timber products on the EU market are labelled with this information.

Moreover, the Parliament's move effectively criminalises illegal timber trading, obliging EU member states to impose financial penalties on operators in breach of the law. The co-legislators' amendments to the proposal stipulate that these penalties must represent "at least five times the value of the timber products obtained by committing a serious infringement".

The adopted text also provides for improved monitoring, urging the competent authorities to carry out controls on the supply chain. In case of infringement, these authorities should take "corrective measures", such as "the immediate cessation of commercial activities" and "the seizure of timber and timber products," MEPs say.

The tough stance reflects the extent of the problem. A WWF report last year estimated that almost a fifth of timber coming into the EU market was from illegal sources.

While the Parliament has made quick progress by producing its first-reading stance on the rules governing the timber trade, the 27 member states are yet to present their views.

A Swedish government official said that while member states had different interests, as some are clearly importers of wood products and some are producers, the negotiating difficulties should not be exaggerated.

A source from a member state with a large forestry sector said the problem for wood-producing EU nations is often that they already have well-functioning legislation and monitoring systems to combat illegal logging in their own countries. They are now worried that these might not be compatible with the European framework, it said.

Countries which import a lot of timber from third countries, including the UK and the Netherlands, on the other hand, face different problems. Illegal logging is mainly associated with tropical wood, while EU countries in general have relatively well-regulated timber markets.

However, some member states, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are having problems enforcing legislation to combat criminal activity in the sector.source

My comment: "problems enforcing legislation" is very weak way to express the situation in Bulgaria, at least. A whole forests disappear, because there's always to profit from ignorance and corruption. I might not be a great fan of Greenpeace irrationality in many cases, but on illegal logging, we all should be adamant. You cannot believe how much exquisite woodland turns into green desert, because some low-paid "operators" beat the locals, beat the guards and just cut the trees. I hope soon enough they finish with that directive and that they don't make it criminal only for the people who cut the trees, but also for the governments that don't do enought to stop them. I know this would be harmful for the image of my own country, but this image is destroyed enough and the only way that it eventually gets better is to stop the idiots who want to sell the country on parts and go live in some tropical paradise on the expense of poor locals who don't have the choice to say no.

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