Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Growing up: Three rivers get legal rights

Whanganui River, New Zealand

Glimmers of hope.  Details here.

Mind you, human rights tend to be honoured a lot more on paper than in practice.  So it will be with river rights.  Rivers, lakes, oceans and their defenders will continue to face countless challenges and battles.  But at least now two rivers have some legal rights to defend.

Meanwhile in the USA, rivers have no more rights than do sewers or highways, both of which purposes they serve.  In sharp contrast, corporations in the USA won long ago the same legal rights as individual citizens, which they deploy to commit horrible crimes against humanity and nature, including the poisoning of rivers, lakes and oceans.  Of course, unlike actual human persons, corporations regularly get away with murder.

In Canada the picture isn’t much better.  The late Conservative regime decimated environmental protections for all but 159 lakes and rivers in this country, leaving more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers wide open to destruction.  Breaking election promises to reverse their predecessors’ crimes against nature, instead the current Liberal regime is deferring to corporate pressure to maintain the status quo.

In such a grim context, the hard-won court decisions in New Zealand and India represent a huge step forward, rare signs that we can act sanely and respectfully in relation to the natural world, our life support system.


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Good news: Scotland to ban growing of GM crops

Scottish Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead: “Banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status.”

Member of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone: “GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business.”

Scotland, landscape 2

Details of the ban are here.

Similarly, in 2014 Russia banned the import and cultivation of GM crops.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “If Americans like to eat GMO products, let them. We don’t need to do that. We have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

South of the border, the Conservative government of Britain has thrown open the door to GM crops.

In April, the European Commission reversed an earlier ban and approved the import of 10 new GM crops for human and animal consumption, including corn, soybeans, cotton and canola oil.

Meanwhile in the USA, the House of Representatives has just passed the perversely named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which prohibits state and local authorities from requiring safe and accurate GMO labeling. By now it’s clear that when consumers know about GMOs, they tend to be skeptical. But when they don’t know… It’s unlikely the Act will encounter any resistance in the Senate or the White House, both deeply beholden to the agri-chemical leviathans.

There is just one fly in the banning-GMOs ointment, but it’s a big one: Under massive international trade agreements like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiated in secret by corporate lobbies, corporations can sue any government bold enough to enact sensible, democratic measures meant to protect the public and the earth if there’s a chance they might limit actual or even potential corporate profits. A ban on GM crops is as likely a target as any.

Still, in taking responsible action, governments of countries like Scotland and Russia set an inspiring example of what is possible.

For a sane conversation on genetic manipulation and food security, visit Canadian scientist/farmer Ann Clark in Bold Scientists, here.  Scroll down to chapter 2, Digging for thistles.