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Date:

April 17, 2003

Subject:

Organic Backlash , Potrykus Defends GM, Indian Scientist Allays Fears

 

Today in AgBioView: April 18, 2003:

* Organic Food Industry Facing Fear Backlash
* Potrykus sets out to defend the use of GM produce
* Indian scientists allay fears of genetically modified crops
* Protesters fined for damaging GM oilseed rape
* FAO-BioDeC Database
* Should threat of harm prompt action even if risk is uncertain?
* Greenpeace acts 'symbolic' only of a distorted reality

http://www.fumento.com/biotech/organic.html

Organic Food Industry Facing Fear Backlash

Scripps Howard News Service
By Michael Fumento
April 17, 2003

"Blowback” is a policy strategy that ultimately rebounds on its own
devisers. The American organic food industry is now learning about it the
hard way.

On the whole, organic farming is more expensive and produces less
attractive fruits and vegetables than conventional farming. As such, it
maintains only a tiny bit of the market. So to stay competitive, the
industry devised a strategy of scaring the pants off people over the
alleged risks of even trace amounts of synthetic pesticides.

When genetically engineered (biotech) food came along in the mid-1990s,
the organic industry should have embraced them. Instead, it made them
competitors and broadened its fear campaign to include them. Working with
environmentalist allies like Greenpeace, it even convinced some foreign
governments to ban or at least delay the growing and import of certain
biotech crops.

It worked splendidly – for awhile. But now it’s the organic industry
that’s running scared.

That’s because if enough non-organic food is found in otherwise organic
products, sellers might not receive that money-making organic label. And
two different technologies are posing a threat.

First, the ability to detect even the smallest degree of impurity in food
has improved dramatically.

Second, despite repeated boasts from anti-biotech activists that biotech
crops would be left on the compost heap of history, consumers keep
gobbling them up even as they save farmers time and money. So each year,
here and abroad, farmers plant more.

With more biotech grain around there’s a greater chance for a bit of it to
find its way into organic foods, in what’s called “adventitious presence.”

Both the biotech and organic food industries and their farmers work hard
to prevent this. But accidental mixing can occur in many ways. Pollen or
grain can drift from fields, despite having unplanted buffer zones. Whole
or ground grain can mix in machinery, storage facilities, and
transportation unless they’re scrubbed spic and span between crop loads.

Suddenly the organic lobby is crying that with so much genetically
engineered grain around it is their precious labels, not the biotech
industry, that’s threatened with going the way of the dodo.

Never mind that this is all driven by consumer demand, nor that in the
U.S. they have nothing to worry about because the USDA has no fixed limit
on how much trace biotech product can show up in organic food. Basically,
if the crops were raised organically they’re considered organic.

Not so overseas. Because of the organic and environmentalist “Frankenfood”
scare tactics, the nations of the European Union (EU) and some other
countries have set strict tolerances on how much impurity can be allowed
in a product labeled biotech-free or organic.

The implicit tolerance level for organic food in the EU is zero, but
that’s essentially impossible to achieve or enforce. So the European
Parliament will soon vote on a real tolerance limit that will be enforced,
one that would allow a mere 0.9 percent of impurity. (It could have been
worse – Greenpeace lobbied for 0.1 percent.)

“The Japanese have set it at 5 percent, which is far more rational if you
insist upon any level at all,” says Maureen Storey, acting director of the
Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “But
there is no objective support for this (0.9 percent) figure, no scientific
study to support it” she told me.

Says Storey, “The EU studied the issue and concluded there is no human
health risk,” from biotech crops. None. Zero.” According to its 2001
report, “The use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory
scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and
foods.”

An informed consumer should no more worry about adventitious presence in
crops than in finding a blue M&M in a bag of brown ones – nor, for that
matter, about the presence of small amounts organic material in biotech
food.

Storey says the politicians are simply putting perception over science.
“Europe has had serious health scares from food – mad cow disease, dioxin
found in eggs, and industrial oil found in olive oil. Their regulators
botched it and they admitted it.” Europeans are frightened.

But now, she says, their politicians are merely pandering to false fears.
The EU will even be setting a tolerance on biotech grain in animal feed.

Nevertheless, “As you set thresholds lower and lower, the economics become
prohibitively expensive,” notes Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, professor of
agribusiness at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “Testing costs
alone will send prices up.”

Organic growers and processors will suffer shrinking profits as they pay
to keep out practically every last bit of non-organic grain from
machinery, bins, and barges.

It’s tempting to use a pun or cliché about the organic industry “reaping
what it sowed.” But just call it blowback.

Read Michael Fumento's additional work on biotechnology at
http://www.fumento.com/subiotech.html.

Michael Fumento is the author of numerous books. His next book,
BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World, will be published
in the spring by Encounter Books.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/business.cfm?id=445892003

Potrykus sets out to defend the use of GM produce

The Scotsman
By FORDYCE MAXWELL
April 18, 2003

EVERY political party fighting for seats in the Scottish Parliament is
either promising to ban genetically modified crops or to take an extremely
cautious approach.

Non-political, but on the counter-attack, Professor Ingo Potrykus, the
scientist mainly responsible for developing golden rice - genetically
modified to enhance its vitamin A content - is in Scotland to say that GM
can be a good thing.

Professor Tony Trewavas, head of the Institute of Cell and Molecular
Biology at Edinburgh University, said yesterday that Potrykus’ work was
"an intellectual and technical tour de force in GM technology".

It has also created a furore among environmental groups. Trewavas said:
"The background to his work is well-known in the third world, but
unfamiliar to many in the well-fed West.

"Babies acquire their vitamin A in breast milk. Late weaning on to a mixed
diet including cows milk avoids vitamin A deficiency. Many foods available
in the West also contain vitamin A and government regulations often insist
on their addition if they are lost during processing.

"So vitamin A deficiency in the West is rare. This is not the case in the
third and parts of the developing world. Very young children, particularly
prematurely-weaned babies, are most at risk because they are usually
weaned on to rice gruel made with polished rice, which, effectively, has
no vitamin A."

The deficiency can be disastrous, with blindness a common result. Trewavas
said: "About five million young children every year in Africa and the Far
East lose their sight as a consequence of vitamin A deficiency. In
addition, about one million of these children die from relatively minor
childhood diseases, who would survive if a vitamin A supplement was
provided in the diet."

Vitamin A capsules, distributed twice a year by the World Health
Organisation, and educating mothers about balanced diets have been tried,
said Trewavas.

But high doses of vitamin A can be dangerous and he pointed out that
despite considerable efforts at education in the UK, more than 100,000
people die prematurely every year because they don’t eat enough fruit and
vegetables while eating too much animal fat.

Potrykus and his scientific collaborators tackled the deficiency by
introducing new enzymes into rice to help make vitamin A. The GM variety,
with an obvious yellow colour, also contains higher levels of iron.

The first transformants have been given to the International Rice Research
Institute in the Philippines to transfer into standard rice varieties for
free distribution. Trewavas: "In spite of the humanitarian aspect of this
work, those who have decided to oppose GM crops, regardless of benefit,
have tried to malign the product by claiming it will induce impotence or
induce hair loss.

"Potrykyus has had to fight against that as well as try to concentrate on
his work."

Potrykus will speak at Edinburgh University’s Swann lecture theatre on
Monday, 21 April at 5pm.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Indian scientists allay fears of genetically modified crops

Associated Press
By S. SRINIVASAN
April 18, 2003

In many parts of India and in much of its news media, the term
"genetically modified crops" raises fears about long-term health defects
or new diseases.

However, scientists at the Bangalore Bio 2003 show in one of the country's
technology hubs said genetically modified food could solve some of the
basic problems of the country's more than 1 billion people, most of whom
are poor.

In India, 61 infants out of 1,000 die before their first birthday from
disease or hunger. Doctors are fighting diseases such as malaria, typhoid,
tuberculosis and jaundice.

The scientists speaking up for genetically modified crops said fruits
laced with vaccines, or a midday meal of protein-enriched potatoes and
vitamin A-fortified rice could fight disease and malnourishment.

"I have great belief that transgenic crops will create a revolution in
increasing nutrition among our school children," biochemist Govindarajan
Padmanabhan of the Indian Institute of Science, said Thursday at the
biotechnology event.

He said a group of scientists headed by Asis Dutta, a professor at
Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, has developed a potato - named
Protato - that contains a third more protein than a normal potato.

Many Indian groups who oppose genetically modified foods portray them as
all Western-made. The Indian scientists made clear they are on the front
lines of such developments.

The gene-modified potato contains a gene called AmA1 taken from Amaranth,
a plant common in South America and available in health food stores. The
gene increases the potato's protein content, including some crucial amino
acids, such as lysine, needed for complete development of a child's brain.

The transgenic potato, developed last year after three years of field
study, awaits approval from the Indian government before it can be sold,
Padmanabhan said.

He also urged that India embrace the use of "Golden Rice," a strain that
includes beta-carotene, which gives the carrot its golden color and is a
rich source of vitamin A.

Lack of this vitamin contributes to blindness.

The strain, created by Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus and his German
collaborator, Peter Beyer, contains two genes from the daffodil flower and
one from a bacterium.

Vaccine expert M.S. Shaila, also of the Indian Institute of Science, said
genes could be added to fruits and vegetables that give them power to
prevent diseases.

This way, children would eat their favorite fruit or vegetable without
knowing they were being given a vaccine, which many now associate with
painful injections, she said.

"The normal practice is to inject proteins or give them orally to children
to achieve immunity. Instead, we can use plants as factories that produce
antigens against disease-causing agents. It can be done both for viral and
bacterial diseases," she said.

Padmanabhan said Indian scientists are also researching the possibility of
a gene-modified "universal vaccine" - one plant that will protect a person
from several diseases.

He favors using the genes of illness-fighting native herbs to modify
fruits and vegetables eaten daily.

Padmanabhan said India has begun to benefit from modern biotechnology and
pharmaceutical sciences only in the last five years and cannot compete
with advanced countries.

"Our advantage is traditional medicines, mostly from herbals that our
ancient texts refer to," he said. "We must validate them, standardize them
and use them in transgenic crops."

He said activists who oppose genetic modification of plants were
preoccupied with BT cotton, the only genetically modified crop allowed in
India on a commercial basis. It has had mixed success.

Environmentalists are fighting against genetically modified cotton seeds
sold by the Monsanto company, saying they will damage the soil and ecology
and increase the cost of cultivation.

"We are bogged down by (the debate over) BT and nothing else. This
uninformed criticism will retard growth," Padmanabhan said.

--

On the Net:

Bangalore's biotechnology site: www.bangalorebio.com

Indian Institute of Science: www.iisc.ernet.in
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/scotland.cfm?id=446812003

Protesters fined for damaging GM oilseed rape

The Scotsman
By Claire Smith
April 18, 2003

FIVE Green campaigners were fined £100 each yesterday for invading a field
and damaging a crop of genetically modified oilseed rape.

Among them was organic farmer and Scottish Green Party candidate Donnie
MacLeod, 54, who was jailed for 21 days last year for contempt of court
while giving evidence during a separate GM crop case for refusing to name
the people responsible for damaging GM crops.

Opponents say cross pollination will affect crops in neighbouring fields,
and fear that genetically engineered plants could have unpredictable
effects on wildlife. But Ross Finnie, the environment minister, has denied
there is any danger and has said he is bound by a European directive to
allow the trials to continue.

In the Black Isle, where trials are already under way, thousands of people
have backed calls for a halt to the production of genetically modified
crops.

Yesterday MacLeod, who is the chairman of the Highlands and Islands
Organic Association, vowed to take his case to the European Court of Human
Rights.

Outside the court, he said: "I am going to appeal my conviction. I also
intend to continue campaigning against GM crops being planted.

"Many politicians agree the crop should not have been planted but it was.

"The planting of this crop was against democracy. The local community said
that they did not want it, and it was threatening my farm and other farms
in the area, but it was forced in by Ross Finnie.

"It is important that the people of the Highlands stand up for what is
right.

"The campaign still goes on and I will refuse to pay the fine. The verdict
of the court was not correct. I believe that our judicial system appears
to have been hijacked by corporate interests.

"We will not accept a judgment such as this."

He said he intended to take his case to the European Court of Human
Rights.

MacLeod, of Kylerona Farm, Ardersier, and his four co-accused were found
guilty at Dingwall Sheriff Court of aggravated trespass after a nine day
trial.

The others convicted of the offence at Tullich Farm on the Black Isle in
August, 2001, were Catriona Spink, 37, of Gorthleck, Inverness-shire;
Andrew Aikman, 56, of Kinloss; James Grigg, 41, of Auldearn; and Daniel
Puplett, 26, of Findhorn Caravan Park, Forres.

The sheriff, Alexander Pollock, told the five he was satisfied beyond
reasonable doubt that the destruction of the oilseed rape plants was
unlawful.

MacLeod asked Mr Pollock for six months to pay the fine but the sheriff
allowed him just two months to find the money.

In March, five anti-GM campaigners became the first in Scotland to be
convicted of the crime of aggravated trespass.

Those convictions related to August 2001 and the first wave of
demonstrations against the GM crop planted on a farm owned by Jamie Grant,
near Munlochy on the Black Isle. Protesters lay down in front of tractors
in an attempt to obstruct farm workers sowing the seeds.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.fao.org/biotech/inventory_admin/dep/default.asp

FAO-BioDeC Database

FAO-BioDeC is a database meant to gather, store, organize and disseminate,
updated baseline information on the state-of-the-art of crop biotechnology
products and techniques, which are in use, or in the pipeline in
developing countries. The data base includes about 2000 entries from 70
developing countries, including countries with economies in transition.

Data Source: Information was obtained from published literature, surveys
carried out by ISNAR as well as information collected by FAO through
fact-finding missions and expert consultations. The data base is still
incomplete at this first stage. Verification and regular updating of
information in the database will be done through a network of national
correspondents. All comments, criticisms and suggestions are most welcome.

The main objective of FAO-BioDeC is to give an overview of the different
stages of adoption and development of these technologies in different
countries and regions; it may assist to identify needs and gaps in
agricultural research and offers countries the opportunity to give a
closer look to programmes in neighbouring countries and identify potential
partners for joint programmes.

The data base at this stage is limited to research, testing and
commercialization of specific crop technologies and products in developing
countries. No quantitative information is available with regards to the
human capacity or funding involved. It does not cover activities carried
out in developed countries even if they are meant for subsequent use or
adoption in developing countries, nor does it cover research being carried
out in international research centres located in developing countries.

The database will be expanded in a second phase to include the animal,
fisheries and forestry biotechnology sectors.

http://www.fao.org/biotech/inventory_admin/dep/default.asp
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Should threat of harm prompt action even if risk is uncertain?

San Diego Union Tribune
April 16, 2003
By Scott LaFee

At first glance, the precautionary principle sounds an awful lot like
something your mom might say: If something seems dangerous, don't do it.
Back off. Be careful. Look before you leap. Better safe than sorry.

The precautionary principle would appear to be compellingly
commonsensical. If your arm hurts when you pinch it, stop pinching it. If
you're dumping chemicals into a river and fish are dying, stop dumping.

But what if you can't actually prove – with any scientific certainty –
that the chemicals are indeed culpable? What if those chemicals are the
unavoidable byproducts of producing something undeniably beneficial, such
as food or medicine?

Precautionary principle proponents don't blink. If an activity threatens
harm to the environment or human health, they say, it should be stopped or
changed, even if causative proof of that harm isn't fully established.

"We understand the difficulty of tracking cause and effect. We understand
the limitations of science," said Carolyn Raffensperger, executive
director of Science and Environmental Health Network, a think tank based
in Ames, Iowa, and major proponent of the principle.

"The problem is that many environmental consequences, intended or not, are
immediate. Change is happening faster than ever, and we can't always wait
for the scientific proof. We think that if you can prevent a problem by
taking precautionary action, you should do so, even if the evidence isn't
all there." To which critics of the precautionary principle howl in
dismay. Such thinking, they assert, ignores the complexities of real world
life and defies more than 300 years of scientific reasoning. The
principle, critics contend, plays upon unfounded emotions and fears, not
empirical fact.

"The principle is anti-science because it says you should make decisions
based not on what you know, but what you don't know," said Elizabeth
Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a
consumer advocacy group headquartered in New York City. "It says, 'We
don't understand everything out there, so let's err on the side of
caution.' On the face of it, that sounds fine. But if you followed that
philosophy in life, nothing would get done."

The case for

Look around, said Raffensperger. Hazards to your health and the
environment abound. Sometimes the threat and its source are obvious and
the remedy clear: Cars produce smog. Smog causes respiratory problems.
Exhaust emissions from cars need to be reduced, if not eliminated.

But often the causal chain is more complicated, harder to follow. There
may be conflicting interests. It may not be possible, using existing
scientific standards, to make a conclusive connection, and thus compel
action.

The precautionary principle was originally devised as a legal concept by
the environmental movement of the 1970s. Over time, it has increasingly
been incorporated into law, particularly in Europe and in various
international treaties, from the Maastricht Treaty establishing the
European Union to the United Nations' Rio Declaration on Environment and
Development in 1992. For nations like Sweden and Denmark, the principle is
an integral part of their national policy on the environmental and public
health.

The precautionary principle is considerably less influential in the United
States. It is currently not expressly mentioned in federal law or policy,
though at the state and local level, a number of government entities are
beginning to consider it. For example, officials within the California
Environmental Protection Agency are currently debating whether to overtly
incorporate the precautionary principle into regulations likely to affect
future legislation and policy.

"It's a big, contentious issue," said Diane Takvorian, executive director
of the San Diego-based Environmental Health Coalition, who is involved in
the process.

The argument, of course, boils down to what constitutes proof and an
undeniable call for action.

"Tobacco is an obvious example," said Raffensperger. "We knew in the 1940s
that tobacco was deadly. We knew about the deleterious effects of tar and
nicotine. We had all of this information and yet nobody could prove in a
court of law that tobacco caused lung cancer because science hadn't yet
found the biological mechanism, the precise explanation of how smoking
caused disease.

"As a result, the tobacco industry was able to deny linkage for years by
insisting there wasn't conclusive proof, that more studies were needed.
And all the while, people smoked and died."

The precautionary principle, Raffensperger said, provides a remedy. It
urges action – or inaction – when logic suggests either is the prudent
course.

For example, groups representing veterans of the first Persian Gulf war
contend that tens of thousands of U.S. troops were exposed, often
unknowingly and without adequate protection, to chemical warfare agents,
radioactive materials and various toxins during service in Kuwait and Iraq
in 1990 and 1991.

Many of these soldiers have since reported an assortment of maladies,
broadly dubbed "the Gulf War syndrome." Veterans groups have demanded
aggressive, comprehensive action, both in expanded health care and in
reducing any continuing threat to servicemen in the region. The reaction
from U.S. military and political leaders has been mixed. Despite numerous
studies, independent and government researchers say they have not found
conclusive evidence that military service in the Gulf is linked to the
various illnesses.

The ongoing debate maddens principle proponents.

"I think we're in a unique time," said Raffensperger. "Events like the
anthrax scare and SARS are showing us that we need to learn how to better
connect the dots. Why are animal and plant species dying off? Why are
rates of learning disabilities, asthma and some kinds of cancer rising? We
can't necessarily wait for science in all its splendor to prove
connections after the fact."

Yet, Raffensperger and others insist the precautionary principle promotes
science by encouraging the search for alternatives to real or perceived
harmful practices and products.

"To people who say we're anti-science, I say baloney. Germany has used the
principle to force technological innovation in its most polluting
industries. Why not use science to help us evaluate lots of alternatives?
Why remain stuck in a 'don't ask, don't tell about harm' approach until
it's too late?

"We are not afraid of the unknown, but we do want to reduce the unknown by
getting people to broaden their thinking beyond the very narrow
constraints of scientific cause-and-effect. We're not trying to push the
clock back on science. We're trying to help it catch up."

Takvorian, a long-time advocate of the precautionary principle, offers
this case in point:

For more than a decade, she said, local environmentalists had complained
that a chrome-plating operation in Barrio Logan was releasing dangerous
amounts of toxic chemicals into the surrounding residential neighborhood.
As a result, they said, children in the area experienced abnormally high
levels of asthma and other ailments.

"Common sense tells you that if you spew a known carcinogen onto homes
right next door, bad things will happen," said Takvorian.

Takvorian and others repeatedly asked for local or state officials to
conduct scientific tests of the facility, but nothing happened for years.
Finally, the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District arranged a
monitoring program to measure airborne levels of Chromium 6, a known
carcinogen. Officials found dangerous amounts, said Takvorian, but the
levels exceeded all established risk models, leaving the researchers
unable to draw scientifically valid conclusions. It took another
monitoring effort last year by the state before the facility was finally
shut down.

"Everyone had a gut feeling this was not a good place," said Takvorian.
"We tried hard to get the science to back that feeling up, but in the
absence of hard data, you have to make a judgment.

"The state spent close to a million dollars, and it took more than a
decade to resolve this problem. If somebody had simply taken some
precautionary measures earlier – relocating the company or buying
pollution control equipment – we could (have) avoided all of this and the
community would have been healthier earlier."

The case against

Perhaps, but Henry Miller remains no fan of the precautionary principle –
at least not in its broadest terms.

A research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at
Stanford University, Miller believes the precautionary principle abuses
science and, as often as not, causes more problems than it solves.

"What I see is a failure to make legitimate comparisons," said Miller.
Consider, he said, "the pseudo-crisis over monarch butterflies."

In 1999, a Cornell University study suggested that pollen from Bt – or
genetically modified – corn might be killing or stunting the growth of
migrating butterflies that fed upon it.

"The precautionary principle says if these products kill beneficial
insects, then maybe we ought not to use them," said Miller. "In reality,
with monarchs, the research was full of half-truths. The initial finding
was based on laboratory experiments with monarch larvae fed huge amounts
of pollen from Bt corn, which makes the corn more resistant to pests.

"It turned out that the findings did not translate to the field. In areas
with vast acreages of Bt corn, there were actually more monarch
butterflies. My point is that advocates of the precautionary principle are
not making real-world comparisons. They're thinking in terms of some sort
of utopian never-never land. They're not comparing the use of Bt corn to
using corn that requires spraying with chemical pesticides that kill
everything in sight, then wash into waterways."

Whelan at the ACSH agreed.

"I have real problems with consistency and where you draw the line," she
said. "Proponents of the principle seem to only focus on things like the
levels of synthetic chemicals in food. But all food is made up of
chemicals. A potato contains 150 naturally occurring chemicals. Do we stop
growing potatoes because they contain trace amounts of naturally occurring
arsenic?"

Whelan argues that the precautionary principle wrongly errs on "the side
of getting rid of things. It always assumes a worst-case scenario. If
there's any perceived risk, it says throw it out. But what about the risks
of doing that? What if getting rid of a drug or program or food actually
results in different, bigger problems."

She cites as examples current objections to genetically modified foods and
stem cell research, both of which promise dramatic social benefits,
according to advocates.

Miller, a former regulator with the Food and Drug Administration,
complains that precautionary principle advocates want "science to prove a
negative, which isn't possible. We should not mistake such advocacy as a
good faith effort to protect the environment or public health. It is
merely political ideology looking for a new weapon."

Principled debate

And so it goes. Both sides claim reason, logic and science on their side.
Principle proponents say their critics are corrupted by excessive
commercial interests and preservation of the status quo. Principle
opponents counter that the other side is hiding other agendas and
ideologies behind the guise of public health and the environment. Both
sides predict ultimate victory.

Proponents cite the principle's popularity and increasing utility,
especially outside the United States.

Opponents take heart that application of the principle in the United
States has indeed been spottier and slower. "I don't see the precautionary
principle as being anything more than a fringe idea here," said Whelan.

Only time will tell. The San Francisco Environmental Commission has
drafted the principle into a revision of the municipal environmental code,
but commission president Randall Hayes is cautious about whether the
action will prove wise.

"It sounds great to say, 'Play it safe.' Who's going to be against that?
But we'll have to see if the idea actually proves to be a helpful tool.
We'll try it out and see if we can learn some lessons."

Mom, one suspects, couldn't have said it better.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/18/1050172755677.html

Greenpeace acts 'symbolic' only of a distorted reality

Sydney Morning Herald
By Paul Sheehan
April 19 2003

Greenpeace has complained about media coverage, including mine, of its
actions to prevent HMAS Sydney from leaving Sydney Harbour last week.

"It is misinformation to say that we dragged a heavy chain across the
passage where the Sydney was sailing," Tim Hollows, a spokesman for
Greenpeace told me. "It was a light nylon rope with buoys attached. It
wouldn't snag anything. It was easy to move, and we made our actions clear
well in advance. We notified the boat more than two nautical miles before
it reached the rope. We want the misinformation to stop."

The CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Peter Mullins, added: "All
authorities, including the police, the navy and the harbourmaster were
made aware of the rope well in advance, leaving sufficient time to avoid
collision or damage."

So it was a rope with buoys attached, not a metal cable, that awaited HMAS
Sydney. However, beyond that, it appears that Greenpeace and the police
occupy alternative realities. "You are not wrong," Commander Terrence
Dalton, head of the Marine Area Command, told me. "It was a strong rope
and it would have fouled the rudder of the ship.

"And this talk about warnings is absolutely not true. There was no
pre-warning given to us whatsoever. There were no negotiations with us
whatsoever."

Undisputed facts: the warship was delayed, one policeman was injured, 10
activists were arrested, Greenpeace tried to prevent, symbolically or
otherwise, an Australian warship from operating in the Iraq theatre. This
action was taken as US and British forces in Iraq were on the brink of
liquidating the regime of Saddam Hussein. Greenpeace still wanted these
forces withdrawn immediately.

Alternative realities also appear to separate what Greenpeace says about
symbolic protests and what Greenpeace actually does. On March 14,
Greenpeace issued the following press release: "This morning Greenpeace
took non-violent, direct action in Spain, Turkey and Russia in an urgent
appeal to all world governments to find a peaceful resolution to the Iraq
crisis."

Among the highlights of the "direct action" in the weeks leading to the
war were: in Spain, the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, blocked the
entrance to the Rota naval base, preventing the US Navy vessel Cape Horn
from sailing to the Gulf; in Turkey, Greenpeace activists placed a truck
painted with the message "No to war - US go home" across the entrance to
Iskenderun Harbour, blocking a convoy of trucks carrying US military
equipment. Two activists chained themselves to the top of the truck and
four locked themselves between the wheels.

Other day's activities included: in Britain, Greenpeace activists in small
mobile teams closed down more than 100 Esso petrol stations across the
country because Esso's parent company, ExxonMobil, "by driving the USA's
addiction to oil ... is fuelling this war for oil". In Holland, the
Rainbow Warrior and a flotilla of small craft in the Dutch port of
Rotterdam blocked a ship loaded with US military equipment bound for the
Gulf. In Belgium, two Greenpeace vessels, Rainbow Warrior and Argus, as
well as activists on a loading dock at the port of Antwerp, disrupted the
loading of US military equipment onto two transport ships bound for the
Gulf.

In New York on March 26, with Saddam's regime crumbling, Greenpeace
supported a call by the Arab League for an emergency session of the United
Nations to seek an end to the invasion.

Greenpeace talks soft and plays hard. It is embedded with the hard left,
where environmentalism is often a flag of convenience for
anti-corporatism. It's time to put the Pollyanna act to rest.