south-north development monitor [Email Edition]

SUNS #4440, Tuesday, 25 May 1999


United States: Fox mating with the guard dog (on biotech)? (Chakravarthi Raghavan, Geneva)

Agriculture: Costs and benefits of Biotechnology (IPS, Washington)

Health: Tobacco convention needs more teeth (Martin Khor, Geneva)

Asia: Crisis causes massive unemployment (IPS, Washington)

Argentina: Social Security for the few, Insecurity for the rest (IPS, Buenos Aires)

Labour: Rights set back 100 years in duty-free zones (IPS, Rio de Janeiro)


Some excerpts from selected articles:

United States: Fox mating with the guard dog ?

Geneva, 19 May (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The 'revolving door' problem in Washington -- officials, and retired or defeated Congressmen, Senators and aides joining corporations or becoming lobbyists (and vice versa), now appears to have spread to some NGOs.

This new twist to an old Washington problem has now come to light, and has become the subject of email exchanges and now an article by in the Corporate Crime Reporter by its editor Russel Mohibar.

The article, and some investigations by Beth Burrows of the Edmonds Institute (acting on a tipoff) have brought out that Patricia G. Kenworthy who was Director of Regulatory Affairs in Washington, DC for Monsanto Transnational Company was appointed by the National Environment Trust, a Washington-based NGO, to help develop their new initiative to fight agricultural biotechnology.

Kenworthy and her bosses at the NET participated in a high-level planning meeting of NGOs active in the field of environment and biotechnology. The planning meeting was for both fund-raising and campaign to bring about labelling of bio-tech products and processed goods for sale.

According to Beth Burrows of the Edmonds Institute, when she contacted other NGOs present at the meeting, some had no misgivings, while others expressed some concern and wariness about Kenworthy's participation.

Monsanto's is a big player in bio-tech products, including the bovine growth hormone, and the US President Bill Clinton Administration. A number of US Congressmen and Senators are also pushing Monsanto's interests in other countries in Europe and elsewhere). The US clout is sought to be used directly, and/or under threat of WTO processes -- raising disputes, winning rulings and imposing sanctions -- for opening up markets to the bio-engineered soy and other agricultural commodities and the processed goods with such bio-tech products.

Faced with the prospects of an open ban on imports and marketing on grounds of health and other "exceptions" to the WTO rules, the US is also pushing for non-interference with "free trade", but adoption of some kind of labelling and leaving the choice to consumers.

Health: Tobacco convention needs more teeth

Geneva, 20 May (Martin Khor) -- Consumer and health advocates in developing countries have called on the World Health Organisation and the World Health Assembly to give more "teeth" to the proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), negotiations for which are being launched at the Assembly this week.

In order to be effective, the FCTC must address the issue of restricting the international trade of tobacco products, particularly from developed to developing countries. A leading Third World consumer and health group, the Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) based in Malaysia, has called on the WHO and its member states to ensure that the Convention affirms that public health in the developing countries (whose citizens are the main victims of tobacco) should take precedence over the World Trade Organisation's market access and market opening practices and principles.

Representing the views of developing-country citizen groups in a series of NGO events parallel to the World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva, CAP research officer Mary Assunta said that the aspect of international trade was the most important issue the Convention should deal with if it was to attain its aim of curbing tobacco use in the Third World.

CAP also proposed that the FCTC include a ban on the export of tobacco from OECD to non-OECD countries (following in the footsteps of the Basel Convention on hazardous wastes under UNEP), or alternatively to have a system of prior-informed consent (PIC) to regulate tobacco exports.

It also wants the Convention to have a strong liability and compensation clause, so that tobacco companies are liable to compensate victims and governments for adverse effects their products cause in any Member State of the Convention.

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