JULY 2007


VENEZUELA: Chavez dumps Monsanto

From: *Lionel & Toni McCosker <>

Jason Tockman, Caracas  From: Governor
Sunday, April 29, 2007 1:34 PM

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has announced that the cultivation
of genetically modified crops will be prohibited on Venezuelan soil,
possibly establishing the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops
in the western hemisphere.

Though full details of the administration's policy on genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) are still forthcoming, the statement by President Hugo
Chavez will lead most immediately to the cancellation of a contract that
Venezuela had negotiated with the US-based Monsanto Corporation.

Before a recent international gathering of supporters in Caracas, Chavez
admonished genetically engineered crops as contrary to interests and needs
of the nation's farmers and farmworkers. He then zeroed in on Monsanto's
plans to plant up to 500,000 acres of transgenic soybeans in Venezuela.

"I ordered an end to the project", said Chavez, upon learning that
transgenic crops were involved. "This project is terminated."

Chavez emphasised the importance of food sovereignty and security -
required by the Venezuelan Constitution - as the basis of his decision.
Instead of allowing Monsanto to grow its transgenic crops, these fields
will be used to plant yuca, an indigenous crop, Chavez explained. He also
announced the creation of a large seed bank facility to maintain
indigenous seeds for peasants' movements around the world.

The international peasants' organisation Via Campesina, representing more
than 60 million farmers and farmworkers, had brought the issue to the
attention of the Chavez administration when it learned of the contract
with Monsanto. According to Rafael Alegria, secretary for international
operations of Via Campesina, both Monsanto and Cargill are seeking
authorisation to produce transgenic soy products in Venezuela.

"The agreement was against the principles of food sovereignty that guide
the agricultural policy of Venezuela", said Alegria when informed of the
president's decision. "This is a very important thing for the peasants and
indigenous people of Latin America and the world."

Alegria has good reason to be concerned. With a long history of social and
environmental problems, Monsanto won early international fame with its
production of the chemical Agent Orange - the Vietnam War defoliant linked
to miscarriages, tremors, and memory loss that more than 1 million people
were exposed to. More recently, the company has been criticised for
side-effects that its transgenic crops and bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
are believed to have on human health and the environment.

Closer to home in Venezuela, Monsanto manufactures the pesticide
"glyphosate", (Roundup) which is used by the neighbouring Colombian
government as part of its Plan Colombia offensive against coca production
and rebel
groups. The Colombian government aerially sprays hundreds of thousands of
acres, destroying legitimate farms and natural areas like the Putomayo
rainforest, and posing a direct threat to human health, including that of
indigenous communities.

"If we want to achieve food sovereignty, we cannot rely on transnationals
like Monsanto", said Maximilien Arvelaiz, an adviser to Chavez. "We need
to strengthen local production, respecting our heritage and diversity."

Alegria hopes that Venezuela's move will serve as encouragement to other
nations contemplating how to address the issue of GMOs.

"The people of the United States, of Latin America, and of the world need
to follow the example of a Venezuela free of transgenics", he said.

>From Green Left Weekly, May 5, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page. <>

Tensions rise as American drought worsens, threatens to spread

Chicago Tribune
Jun. 18, 2007 04:54 PM

ATLANTA - North and South Carolina are fighting over a river. In Tennessee, springs are drying up, jeopardizing production of Jack Daniels whiskey. The mayor of Los Angeles is asking residents to take shorter showers. And in Georgia, the governor is praying for rain.

More than a third of the United States is in the grip of a menacing drought that threatens to spread before the summer ends.

While much of the West has experienced drought conditions for close to a decade, the latest system is centered over Alabama and extends to much of the Southeast, heavily affecting Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Virginia as well as parts of Arkansas and West Virginia.

Parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee are experiencing a level D4 drought, the most extreme level charted and the worst in the nation. Severe drought conditions are moving north, into Kentucky and closer to the Midwest."It's one of the worst droughts in living memory in the Southeast at this point," said Doug LeComte, a drought specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This happens only about every 50 years or so."

The severe conditions have forced cities to establish tough water restrictions, basically banning everything from watering lawns on weekdays to wiping out summertime rituals such as cooling off children with water hoses.As lawns turn brown and tempers flare under the sweltering heat, neighbors are snitching on one another, turning in those whose lawns appear too green. And officials in some cities are dealing with those perpetrators by imposing hefty fines, turning off water service to homes and throwing chronic abusers into jail.In Columbia County, Ga., near Augusta, officials are receiving at least a half-dozen calls a day from people turning in their neighbors. So far they have turned off water to 50 homes that violated the water ban at least three times. Wellington, Fla., has issued more than 2,000 citations, with fines ranging from $75 to $250 for repeat offenders.

The Birmingham, Ala., area has some of the toughest repercussions for those who ignore its ban on using lawn sprinklers or decide to wash their cars in driveways. Residents are being told to use hand sprayers or fill buckets to water their flowers and grass. In the city of Birmingham, violators face hefty surcharges for using more than the allotted amount of water.In Atlanta, where rapid growth is contributing to the water shortage, outdoor water use is banned during the week. In suburban Forsyth County, violators can receive up to a $1,000 in fines and up to 60 days in jail for the second violation. The fire chief in suburban Roswell, Ga., is considering banning Fourth of July fireworks in that city, fearing that a spark could ignite fires.

Extreme drought in at least 95 Georgia counties has hurt the state's $54 billion agricultural industry. Officials said farmers throughout the South are being hit hard, with losses to cotton, peanuts and corn.Farmers in California, Kentucky and Alabama are selling their herds because a shortage of hay to feed them."Farmers are reporting nothing but dust. It's dire straits," LeComte said.

Jerry Hamilton, the distillery plant manager for Jack Daniels in Lynchburg, Tenn., told the Associated Press recently that the stream that supplies iron-free water for its whiskey recipe was flowing about one-third to one-half its normal rate. Officials said the distillery is conserving the water from Cave Springs, which has been used for 140 years, using it only for whiskey.

South Carolina and North Carolina are battling over the Catawba River, which provides drinking water and electricity for the two states. South Carolina has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to ban a plan by two suburbs of Charlotte to pump up to 10 million gallons of water a day from the river.Unless a resolution is found quickly, the states could end up in a water war like the one involving Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Those states have been embroiled in a court battle over how to share the water in the Chattahoochee River for 16 years.

Experts blame the Southeast's drought on a persistent high-pressure system that has kept rain away from the area. In California, an abnormally dry winter is the culprit.

Americans use an average of 100 gallons of water a day, and they're being urged to cut their demand to put less pressure on the supply.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants residents to reduce their water use by 10 percent through small changes, such as taking shorter showers and sweeping sidewalks instead of spraying them down.People will have to learn to conserve or pay a price in the future, LeComte said.
"This is a reminder that these major droughts can happen anywhere," he said. "Whether this is a trend or not, it will make people rethink their use of this valuable resource and realize that it is not infinite."