Peace and Environment News — Insider, July–August 2013
by Mike Buckthought
EU Pesticide Ban Protects Bees
The European Commission has announced that it will protect honey bees by restricting the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides. Effective December 1, the European Union will restrict the use of the pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam for a period of two years. The ban is backed by European Food Safety Authority scientists who identified the risks posed to bees by the three pesticides. Recent studies have found that neonicotinoid pesticides can harm honey bees. Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic collapse of bee populations. Taking action to protect bees will help support food security and biodiversity. Bees provide pollination for a wide range of food crops and wild plants. (European Commission, April 29, 2013; European Food Safety Authority, January 16, 2013)
March Against Monsanto
On May 25, an estimated two million people joined “March Against Monsanto” protests in over 430 cities around the world. Protesters voiced their concerns about the dangers posed by genetically modified (GM) food. Biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto are responding to public pressure. Monsanto is quietly abandoning efforts to push for the approval of new GM crops in most of Europe, thanks to strong public opposition. Monsanto spokesperson Thomas Helscher told Reuters that Monsanto would sell GM seeds “only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system.” Monsanto plans to end efforts to produce GM corn in Europe, with the exception of Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic. (CBC News, May 25, 2013; Reuters, May 31, 2013; Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, June 5, 2013)
Fracking Threatens National Park
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee plans to send a monitoring mission to evaluate the risks of fracking near Gros Morne National Park, on Newfoundland’s west coast. Delegates meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, discussed the threats posed by oil exploration. The park was designated a World Heritage site in 1987. However, Black Spruce Exploration and Shoal Point Energy Limited plan to drill exploratory wells just outside the park’s boundary. According to UNESCO, the park provides “a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle lie exposed.” Gros Morne is known for its spectacular cliffs, fjords and glacial valleys. The World Heritage designation could be removed if the committee finds that the park is threatened by fracking. (CBC News, May 17, 2013 and June 19, 2013; The Canadian Press, June 20, 2013)
Canada’s Flawed Legislation
International organizations around the world are expressing concerns about Bill S‑10, Canada’s flawed cluster munition legislation. Canada signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, but has yet to ratify it by passing implementation legislation. The international treaty saves the lives of civilians by banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. However, Canada’s proposed legislation includes loopholes that would allow Canadian soldiers to use or transport cluster munitions, when joint military operations involve a country that is not a party to the Convention. In June, Norway and the International Committee of the Red Cross raised their concerns, adding to a growing list of countries and organizations that have criticized Canada’s flawed draft legislation. A total of 112 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. (Mines Action Canada, June 12, 2013; Cluster Munition Coalition, June 12, 2013; The Canadian Press, June 17, 2013)
Ontario Introduces Anti-SLAPP Bill
The Ontario government is introducing legislation to protect people from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). SLAPPs have been used by some corporations to silence public criticism. The effect is to limit public debate about the impacts of proposed projects, and undermine the rights of people to participate in public decision-making processes. For example, a developer may push for a new subdivision in an old-growth forest, and sue a community organization that opposes the project. The community organization would be burdened with exorbitant legal costs. The proposed legislation would provide a review process that would halt SLAPPs that interfere with public participation. (Ottawa Citizen, June 4, 2013; Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, November 2010)
Mike Buckthought is a writer based in Ottawa.
Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 28, Number 3, July–August 2013, page 6.