Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Research in Europe-patents and GMOs, August, 2009

Today:
  1. Halve patent fees for SMEs, says EU think-tank
  2. EU cancer 'partnership' to focus on prevention
  3. Ministers 'deeply concerned' by biodiversity loss
  4. Austria proposes GMO 'opt-out' clause
  5. Commission allows ten more years of GM maize cultivation
Quote of the day:"Yup, when in developed countries people start to question the benefits of cancer-screening in terms of saved life, we make a 100% screening of the population. I'm sorry, I have problems understanding the idea."

Halve patent fees for SMEs, says EU think-tank

30 June 2009

Small, innovative companies should be given special status by the European Patent Office (EPO) in order to remove barriers to intellectual property protection, according to a new report by the Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank.

The time, expertise and costs involved in filing new patents is prohibitive for small firms, independent inventors and universities, according to the report's author, Bruno Van Pottelsberghe of Brussels Free University (ULB).

Driving costs skyward are the fees charged by the EPO, the price of retaining expert legal and technical advice, and translation costs. Enforcing patents in several European jurisdictions is also expensive, Van Pottelsberghe says, who says the introduction of a single patent court could save businesses up €289 million per year. The report suggests creating special patent status for SMEs and young innovative companies, which would bring Europe's patent system into line with the US and Japan, where small firms have enjoyed special treatment for many years.

He was critical of the governance structures of the Office, which has a board made up of 35 representatives of patent offices in member states. A new administrative council with just 10 members from national patent offices, plus representatives of businesses, consumer associations and the academic sector is proposed as an alternative.source

My comment:I'm starting to feel the whole idea of patents is wrong. And in Europe it is a disaster. Of course, inventors should be paid and their inventions protected, but for some reasons, instead of helping people, patents only help big companies. And the very lucky small companies sometimes. But as a whole, the system is more protective than encouraging. Obviously I'm not going to come up with the new system just like that, but think of open source software. It showed us that you can keep your name under your creation and that you can actually earn without creating a legal mess that will make hell for everyone else to follow trough. Maybe those think-tanks should start thinking in this direction, instead of trying so badly to copy USA in terms of patents. Because the system in USA is very far from perfect. And many people are complaining that currently it is with extremely speculative nature. And that it's very bad one for inventors working for big companies. So...maybe we should be a little bit less eager to copy it. But decreasing the cost of patents and creating a common system for Europe is of course a must do.

EU cancer 'partnership' to focus on prevention

26 June 2009

A 'European Partnership for Action against Cancer' to be launched this autumn will aim to screen 100% of the population for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer by 2013, the European Commission announced.

The EU executive outlined the principles behind the new partnership on Wednesday (24 June), saying it hoped to bring together all relevant organisations working on cancer "to identify gaps, address needs and learn from each other".

"In Europe, one in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime," the Commission said in a statement. "This translates to 3.2 million people being diagnosed with the disease every year."

The EU executive said the partnership aims to provide a framework for "sharing information, capacity and expertise in cancer prevention and control" across Europe in order to avoid duplication of work or scattered action.

It aims to engage "a wide range of stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, researchers, patients groups, industry and national authorities," the Commission said.

Key priorities of the partnership, to be launched this autumn in Brussels, include promoting early detection of cancer and defining research priorities.

The European Public Health Alliance, an NGO, hailed the Commission's initiative, saying it was "an important step forward in recognising the environmental dimension of cancer prevention".

"Many environmental factors, including carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides and particles in air pollution, contribute to cancer," the EPHA said in a statement. "These cancers could be prevented by changes in policy to reduce people's involuntary exposure to these chemical substances."

Scientists are divided over the health impact of chemicals, with uncertainties remaining about the effects of low-level contamination in particular. Studies are ongoing to try to determine what level of chemical exposure can be considered safe (EurActiv 01/12/08).

The European Chemicals Industry Council (Cefic) says blood tests that detect the presence of chemicals in people's bodies only provide "a one-off measurement" and do not offer "any information on whether the levels vary over time or what the source of exposure was". source

My comment: Yup, when in developed countries people start to question the benefits of cancer-screening in terms of saved life, we make a 100% screening of the population. I'm sorry, I have problems understanding the idea. And while the chemical screening is good idea, as chemical industry said, one time sample is nothing-you need to find how exposure to chemicals correlate with cancer risk and death from cancer. Only this will be a clear proof which factors are really dangerous and which are not.

I'm not protecting chemical industry AT ALL. I'm absolutely sure that some chemicals are extremely carcinogenic and only our wonderful immune system is to credit for the people that actually don't get any kind of cancer during their lives. The question is how to prove it in a way that people will believe. And what to do next.

And of course, I think screening of 100% of population sounds almost as bad as taking genetic samples of 100% of population and making AIDS tests of 100% of population. The aim shouldn't be to cover all. The aim should be to provide help/treatment where needed and to examine groups at risk only when you're sure you can then heal them. Or 80% of them. If you kill more women than you save by giving them a breast-cancer therapy, maybe screening should be changed.

Ministers 'deeply concerned' by biodiversity loss

30 June 2009

EU environment ministers yesterday (25 June) called for better evaluation of EU policies to protect biodiversity and asked for 'ecosystem services' to be integrated into the bloc's policies in order to measure the drivers of biodiversity loss.

Meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers declared themselves "deeply concerned" by the European Commission's recent assessment that the EU is unlikely to meet its 2010 target of halting biodiversity decline.

To address the bleak situation, they suggested examining the impact of EU rural development and fisheries policies on biodiversity and asked the Commission to assess the effectiveness of the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas.

The ministers further urged better use of the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy to strengthen biodiversity conservation. The EU and its member states are also requested to consider reduciing pressure on fisheries to "sustainable levels" in upcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Ministers also called for better understanding of the impact on biodiversity loss of consumption of products like meat, soy beans and palm oil. Ministers also reacted to the Commission's Communication on policy options for an EU strategy on invasive alien species (IAS), published in December 2008.

They asked the EU executive to prepare a specific strategy by 2010, containing measures on prevention, including trade-related aspects, early detection, warning and rapid response, monitoring and control as well as restoration of biodiversity affected by IAS.

With the EU failing to achieve its biodiversity protection targets, the European Environment Agency (EEA) is calling for protection measures to be integrated into agricultural, forestry and fisheries policies, and goods and services to be priced according to their true impact on the environment. source

My comment: NATURA 2000 is a lie, ok?! In Bulgaria, although a region is part of NATURA, you still can cut trees in it and in one such case, the wood was exported to Greece-another EU country that is very well aware of the idea of NATURA 2000. So let's just stop pretending we don't know what's going on. And I won't even comment the deep concern of ministers when they all participate in that crime. I don't get it why if they don't care, they make those directives on the first place. If you ask me, there should be an European directive forbidding the land that suffered forest fires to be used for anything else but for re-planting trees on it and maybe it should be allowed to sell it. This will solve the problem with forest fires pretty much everywhere. As a whole, in this direction, there is so much to be done that it's amazing eco-systems in Europe are such a mess. I mostly like the part with "alien species". That would be GMos. And they really have to be monitored and regulated since they have the tendency to take over regions-there was such case in Mexico with gmo corn that took over the normal corn.

Austria proposes GMO 'opt-out' clause

25 June 2009

After a debate on environmental risks related to the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Austria is now calling for an opt-out clause to be introduced to related EU legislation to allow individual member states to decide on cultivation.

The issue has been added to the agenda of a meeting of EU environment ministers today (25 June) in Luxembourg.

As authorisation of GMOs still remains problematic, the Austrian delegation has submitted a note to ministers on the "way forward" on the issue.

The delegation argues that "relevant socio-economic aspects could form a basis for individual member states to prohibit or regulate the cultivation of GMOs on the whole territory, or certain defined areas, of individual member states".

This view is officially supported by Bulgaria, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovenia.

However, as there is currently no methodology available for defining and evaluating socio-economic criteria, Austria proposes that such criteria could be agreed upon "during the process of discussion on socio-economic aspects" that were started under French EU Presidency last year (EurActiv 09/12/09).

One example of socio-economic criteria could be forbidding the cultivation of GM crops next to vineyards, the GM contamination of which could affect the quality of wine, a diplomat explained.

The Austrian note stresses that the development of socio-economic criteria should consider options which could allow member states to decide for themselves on cultivation "without changing the general authorisation procedure for placing GMOs and products on the market".

"The legally soundest solution" could be a set of minor amendments to relevant EU legislation, introducing the right of an individual country to "restrict or prohibit indefinitely the cultivation of authorised GMOs on its territory," reads the note. Such amendments could be based on both the EU's subsidiarity principle and the principle of unanimity for decisions on land use. source

My comment: Erm, should I say I absolutely agree with this. Greeting to WTO. I'm not sure, but I think they allowed this to Austria. But I could be wrong, of course. We'll see.

Commission allows ten more years of GM maize cultivation

1 July 2009

The European Union took a step closer yesterday (30 June) towards ten more years of biotech cultivation after leading scientists reconfirmed the safety of the only genetically modified crop to be grown commercially in Europe so far.

That crop is an insect-resistant maize type developed and marketed by US company Monsanto, approved for a decade of growing in 1998 and now awaiting licence renewal.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in the Italian city of Parma, said the maize, known by its code number MON 810, was "as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health".

It also said MON 810 maize was "unlikely to have any adverse effect on the environment in the context of its intended uses". Those intended uses include seed for cultivation. EFSA's long-awaited opinion is significant since it provides the basis for EU regulators to begin the process of renewing the standard 10-year authorisation for growing the GM maize, banned in six EU countries on environment and health concerns.

France, the EU's cereals powerhouse, banned cultivation of MON 810 maize in February 2008. But its ban is conditional on the EU renewing its approval, which expired in April 2008. If the renewal is granted, as is likely, France's ban will lapse.

The European Commission, which administers and monitors EU biotech policy for the bloc's member states, has said it will use the EFSA opinion as the basis for any authorisation renewal.

So far, the timing for this is far from clear - but during the renewal process, MON 810 may still be grown in EU fields.

Monsanto, which reacted jubilantly late on Monday via its website to the EFSA opinion even before it was published, hailed it as an "exciting milestone for European farmers".

But green groups said EFSA was riding roughshod over the concerns of national EU scientists, especially after EU environment ministers called in December for a review of EU approval laws and better, longer-term safety assessments. source

My comment: No comment, really. People should have more reasons to act jubilantly, but this is not mine. The renewal isn't a surprise, it's just sad. Because we don't need that corn, there are so many natural varieties, that works just fine. And if some disease develop-it might kill one or 2 of them, but it won't kill all of them. While if these GMo's take over, there will be only one variety, that a new disease will kill. And nobody would give you back your money.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Environment in july, 2009 and a personal note

Today:
  1. EU worries about access to key raw materials
  2. Poor countries 'unable' to absorb climate funding, EU warned
  3. UN negotiators grudgingly accept draft climate treaty
  4. UNFCCC urged to address ecosystems
  5. UN warns about migration impact of climate change
No quote of the day for today. This post was prepared hmm 3 weeks ago. Then I had an accident and a surgery and obviously I couldn't take care of my blogs. I'll be offline for a while, since I hit my head very hard and I have to stay away from the computer for like a month or two and so on. So, I hope you enjoy this post and I hope that soon enough I'll be able to continue my posts since I have so much to tell, but in any case, I have to take my time for rest . So see you soon, I'll try to post every once in a while, but we'll see how things are going. But be sure, I don't want to abandon my blogs!

EU worries about access to key raw materials

4 June 2009

European Union ministers supported plans last week to ensure industries get better access to raw materials, as competition for access to commodities such as rare metals becomes fiercer with globalisation.

A new strategy, to be fleshed out later this year, should aim to lower the consumption of primary natural resources by increasing resource efficiency and recycling, EU industry ministers agreed after a meeting last week (28 May).

"The European economy is dependent on a number of energy and non-energy raw materials," read the ministers' conclusions , adding that achieving a "resource-efficient economy should be a guiding principle for European industrial policy".

Their words came as an endorsement of a European Commission raw materials initiative, published in November last year (EurActiv 5/11/08).

EU industries, and particularly those active in telecoms, aerospace and other hi-tech sectors, are facing fierce competition for natural resources from emerging economies, the Commission pointed out.

China and India are increasingly using raw materials from Africa and Latin America, which are home to some of Earth's largest reserves of minerals and metals.

In particular, China accounted for more than 50% of the growth in world consumption of industrial metals between 2002 and 2005."

"Reducing energy consumption and the use of raw materials, removing trade barriers to improve the supply of raw materials, improving energy- and resources-efficiency and achieving a greater use of renewable energy sources and secondary raw materials should be the guiding principles for European industry," the ministers said in their conclusions.

The ministers called for "raw materials diplomacy," inviting the Commission to "reinforce the dialogue with all relevant third countries and raise the issue in all appropriate trade and other fora".

They also invited the Commission to finalise a preliminary list of critical raw materials in view of a final agreement "before the end of 2009".

High-tech materials are increasingly at the basis of innovative "green techs", associated with renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gases, the Commission pointed out in its November assessment.

Raw materials considered as "potentially critical" for 'high tech' sectors and the economies of developed countries, include niobium, platinum and titanium, the Commission said in its preliminary assessment (see Annex of Commission raw materials initiative ).

Platinum and palladium, for instance, are used in the fuel cells that power hydrogen cars, while sillicon, gallium and silver are used in solar cells. Indium is used to manufacture microprocessors and the next generation of ultra-small RFID chips, which can be embedded in all sorts of consumer products.source

My comment: Oh, yeah? That's it folks. A reality check! I absolutely agree with anything being said and I'm glad people figured out that we cannot out-compete everyone in the hunt for precious materials, so it's better not to need them on the first place. Now, you see how many dimensions, the idea of efficiency has. It's not only about how to best heat your apartment-it's an attitude in life-how to get maximum fun and profit with the minimum resources.

Poor countries 'unable' to absorb climate funding, EU warned

3 June 2009

While governments haggle over the amounts needed to finance climate adaptation in developing countries in order to close a global agreement later this year, concerns are being raised that the demand side of adaptation has been ignored.

If climate negotiators continue to have hang ups over the question of how much funding is needed for adaptation, they will fail to address the other key issue of establishing a mechanism to ensure that adaptation actually takes place, Philip Mikos, head of unit at the European Commission's development department, told a Development Policy Forum roundtable on 29 May.

Debating where the money for tackling climate change should come from, participants in the roundtable agreed that while funds for adaptation can be found, the demand side will need more work.

It is not obvious that developing countries, some of which are already having difficulty absorbing development aid, will be able to make efficient use of the additional funds they could receive under a new global climate treaty, the forum heard.

Much public funding will be needed to create safety nets in poor countries which guarantee sufficient income for people to access markets and adaptive technologies.

Schaar argued that the three years between the conclusion of the climate agreement and its entry into force in 2012 will be crucial for poorer nations to build the capacity needed to benefit from future funding.

Shortly after parties to the UN climate talks adopted a negotiating text, CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis, umbrella organisations for Catholic development agencies, today (3 June) called on governments not to forget adaptation technologies benefiting the world's poor. They stressed that such technologies also include different forms of knowledge and practice, and not just materials and equipment.

In a report launched at the second round of UN climate talks taking place in Bonn on 1-12 June, the development networks argued that the talks are currently biased in favour of mitigation technologies, with countries keen to discuss technology transfer but ignoring the importance of adaptation to poverty reduction.

According to the report, the appropriate technologies are already known as they have been developed in developing countries themselves and can be rolled out accordingly. They must be able to fit local circumstances and use local resources as much as possible, it states.

Developing countries need adaptation technologies that take up few resources and are low-maintenance, the agencies stress. Moreover, they have to be able to work hand-in-hand with mitigation efforts, particularly for land uses like agriculture and forestry, which strengthen food security and livelihoods.

CIDSE and Caritas thus urged climate negotiators to link technology with adaptation talks. They called for an international technology mechanism to help diffuse both existing and future adaptation technologies, and build capacities to adopt advanced technologies like early warning systems and new crop varieties. source

My comment: I really don't get what they mean with all those types of technology, but the key moment is that they are right-it's not enough just to give the money, you must be sure they can spend them on purpose. Because as we in Bulgaria found out-without the administrative capacity, everything stalls. And instead of helping to the people who need the money, they help people who like the money.

UN negotiators grudgingly accept draft climate treaty

2 June 2009

Meeting in Bonn for a second round of talks, rich and poor countries yesterday (1 June) criticised the initial negotiating text of a new United Nations climate treaty, but grudgingly accepted it as the basis for six months of arduous negotiations.

Despite finding fault, delegates accepted the draft as the starting point for negotiations on a treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December to curb the use of fossil fuels and widen the fight against climate change beyond the existing Kyoto Protocol.

"The session here represents a significant new step [...] Governments have on the table for the first time real negotiating texts," Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference.

Ideas on the table ranged from wider use of carbon markets to a proposal that rich countries set aside up to 2% of their gross national product to help the poor cope with global warming.

The United States, for example, has said the first text is weighted toward the interests of developing nations and lacks a clear statement that all countries are going to have to step up action against global warming.

Developing nations say the text has more pages on possible actions by them than on cuts in emissions by the rich. The texts are full of blanks to be filled in during later meetings.

In a later session, developing countries accused the rich of failing to set deep enough cuts in emissions to avert ever more heat waves, floods, rising sea levels or droughts projected by the UN Climate Panel.

They say UN rules require that reductions must be announced six months before Copenhagen, or by 17 June.

Many developing countries say the rich should cut emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst of climate change, far deeper than the cuts planned.

Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European Commission delegation, hinted the EU might fail to make an offer of financing for a new climate deal until Copenhagen. Developing countries want early promises of cash to help them plan.

Outside the meeting, protesters from environmental group Greenpeace, dressed as snowmen, trees, polar bears and camels, warned delegates of the risks of climate change. source

My comment: Nothing new here and the article is kind of out-dated, but anyway, I wonder when people will realise it's time to stop the games and to start acting. We cannot delay those actions indefinitely. The problem is that the time is ticking and well, I won't say that the climate is going to change in a month or in half an year, but after all, we'll have to eventually start acting. And the sooner, the better.

UNFCCC urged to address ecosystems

9 June 2009

Managing carbon losses from ecosystems must feature in a new global climate policy framework if the world is to reduce global warming to a sustainable level, a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report argues.

The report was published on Friday (5 June) in Bonn, where the global community has gathered to negotiate the terms of a new global climate accord, due to be agreed upon in Copenhagen in December.

"Safeguarding and restoring carbon in three systems – forests, peatlands and agriculture - might over the coming decades reduce well over 50 gigatonnes of carbon emissions that would otherwise enter the atmosphere," said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general. He argued that the tens of billions of dollars earmarked for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to secure emissions from power plants would be better spent on addressing the capacity of natural systems to retain and absorb carbon.

Ecosystem carbon management makes sense in economic terms too, the report argues, stating that without subsidising alternative land use, the costs are "modest relative to clean energy options".

According to estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body, agriculture will be second only to buildings in terms of climate-change mitigation potential. Combined with forestry and peatland restoration, it offers the greatest potential for greenhouse gas cuts, the report states.

In addition to ensuring that the carbon stocks in natural ecosystems remain intact, effective carbon management involves increasing CO2 sequestration, the report states. Policies and direct interventions to stop deforestation and protect peatlands from drainage could have a positive impact on both emissions levels and the health of ecosystems, it said.

The agriculture sector could become carbon-neutral by 2030 with appropriate techniques, the UNEP believes. Replenishing often-depleted agricultural soils with appropriate techniques, such as conservation tillage and the use of compost and manure, would bring societal as well as environmental benefits by creating new jobs, the report adds.

The environmental arm of the UN stresses, however, that policymakers must strike a balance between rural livelihoods and carbon management policies, so that the livelihoods of rural communities and indigenous peoples are not sacrificed in the race to cut emissions.

The UNEP said that parties in Bonn were now starting to heed calls to address ecosystems in the fight against climate change. The biggest reductions in the agricultural sector can be made in the developing world, but extensive capacity-building is needed to make the required technologies available, it pointed out. source

My comment: Hm, I wonder how the agriculture could become carbon neutral, but I'm sure we can find a way to minimize the damage. The problem is not so much in CO2, but in the other gases directly or indirectly connected with artificial fertilisers. And this obviously can be changed since fertilisers can be modified to be more ecologically friendly if people want to do it. It's just a matter of will.

UN warns about migration impact of climate change

10 June 2009

Some 23.5 million people could be displaced by climate change in the densely-populated Ganges, Mekong and Nile River deltas if the sea level were to rise by a metre, according to new research by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), and other research institutes.

The usable agricultural land area could shrink by at least 1.5 million hectares, while an additional 10.8 million would feel the effect of a sea level rise of two metres, says the first multi-continent survey on the impact of environmental change on migration, to be presented today by UNU-EHS and CARE International, an NGO, in Bonn.

Backed with empirical evidence gathered by numerous researchers, the report attempts to forge consensus on the importance of addressing climate change as a driver of migration.

It urges international climate negotiators gathered in the former German capital for the second round of climate talks to factor migration into adaptation strategies as climate change is set to force increasing numbers of people to leave their homes, particularly in the poorest parts of the world.

Estimates of the number of people displaced due to environmental change range from 25-50 million in 2010 to nearly 700 million in 2050.

The largest impact will be on the least developed countries and island states, which also have the poorest resources to deal with the consequences of global warming, the report states.

The report cautions that government involvement may not always leave people better off, as resettlement can come at a high cost, with lost livelihoods and cultural degradation. It therefore points to the importance of involving the local population in adaptation planning. source

My comment: This article is just for your information. I think that predictions should always be taken with a little bit of doubt, but still, it's obvious that climate changes can cause a lot of troubles-starting with islands that can turn out to be under the water-which means total displacement of all of the habitants and ending with ultra-strong hurricanes and so on, which are unpredictable and can always be argued that are just an accident, but statistics is one, a trend-another thing. The conclusion-when you read predictions, you can always choose to believe them or not, but you have to remember that we have to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

 

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