Genetically engineered crop ban
Greenpeace activists hang a 12 by 3 metre banner reading “Ban GMO’s NOW” on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris urging the French government to ban genetically modified organisms. The government is expected to decide in the next few days on the future regulation of genetically modified, or genetically engineered, crops.
France - the EU's biggest agricultural producer - is the sixth
government in Europe to ban genetic engineered crops. (Austria,
Germany, Greece, Hungary and Poland are the other five.) The only
genetically engineered crop currently grown in France is Monsanto's
genetically engineered maize (MON810).
It's not clear if what was announced is a permanent ban, or a
temporary measure. Sarkozy did cite three good reasons to avoid
growing genetically engineered crops:
- Doubts about their usefulness.
- Doubts about their benefits for health and the
- Concerns about their uncontrolled dissemination.
"We're calling on other governments inside and outside of Europe
to follow this positive example," said Greenpeace campaigner Geert
Ritsema. "And to put the interest of citizens and the environment
before the interests of a handful of multinational corporations
such as Monsanto, Bayer, and BASF that produce and sell genetically
Lightbulb manufactures themselves are calling for an end to
energy wasting lightbulbs in Europe by 2019. Sarkozy scores
considerably better with his target of 2010.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs use one-fifth the energy of
traditional incandescents lightbulbs. Switching to energy saving
bulbs in the EU alone, would save 20 million tonnes of CO2, equal
to shutting down 25 medium-size dirty power plants.
Greenpeace campaigner Sharon Becker said, "We hope that this
measure will open the eyes of other EU countries and that the
energy efficiency standards needed to ban these bulbs, will pave
the way for a broader spectrum of standards, for example for
electronics and appliances."
Sarkozy also called for more use of train transport, and better
fuel efficiency for cars. Following through on the promise of cars
which emit on average 120 gram of CO2 per kilometre by 2012 would
have a knock-on effect globally by fully commercializing existing
Nuclear - lack of progress
Although Sarkozy gushed about renewable energy, it's clear
France is not quite ready to give up its nuclear addiction. France
has 59 operating nuclear reactors, and is building a new one based
on what is called the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) design.
France is also marketing its nuclear technology to countries
like the UK, US, China, Canada, Brazil and Morocco. Already there
is an EPR nuclear plant under construction in Finland - years
behind schedule, over a billion euros over budget and plagued by
more than 1,000 documented quality problems.
"It is good that Sarkozy agreed to phase out energy wasting
bulbs," said Greenpeace campaigner Jan Beranek. "But by saying A
he should also say B, which is that thanks to plans for improved
efficiency, there is no need for additional reactors in
From now on in France, the burden of proof must be placed on
ecologically destructive activities, according to Sarkozy. Rather
than environmentalists having to show that there's a better way,
companies and people proposing ecologically destructive decisions
need to prove there is no other choice.
This is probably the most important idea put forward by
Sarkozy. It's very similar to the precautionary principle
championed by Greenpeace and other environmental groups:
The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle
which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or
irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific
consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on
those who would advocate taking the action.
Following the precautionary principle is the route to
sustainable economies and a healthy planet for future generations.
Applying it thoroughly would be a true revolution.
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