Republic of Moreland

November 28, 2007

Moreland objects to Brumby’s GM decision

Filed under: environment,food,health,politics — Kath @ 7:49 pm

Moreland State MP Carlo Carli supported Victoria’s ban on GM food crops. So did The Greens, of course, and so did Moreland City Council. And so did between 70-90 per cent of Australia’s polled population, including farmers. But John Brumby, learning nothing from Howard’s spectacular defeat, made the secretive and undemocratic decision to overturn the ban yesterday. Sigh. From today’s Crikey:

Coinciding with Jeffrey Smith’s Australian tour to promote Genetic Roulette: the documented health risks of genetically engineered foods, yesterday Victorian Premier John Brumby bowed to pressure from big agribusiness and announced, without consulting caucus, that Victoria would overturn bans on GM food crops.

Gene contamination knows no borders, and New South Wales has also lifted its bans, to the rancour of other states.

But, even facing the threat of revolt among up to 40 of his own MPs, Brumby refused to release Victorian Chief Scientist Sir Gustav Nossal’s review of the impact of lifting the ban before his announcement. Sir Gustav was appointed to lend scientific credibility to a review whose terms of reference were strictly and solely economic: not scientific. As the review itself states: “It is not the purpose of this panel to judge… health and environment assessments.”

Overturning the bans was widely regarded as a done deal at least a year ago, prompting an un-named MP to tell The Age Brumby was “treating caucus like idiots”.

So why was Brumby secretive? Perhaps he feared market revolt. Last Tuesday, Coles government relations advisor Chris Mara told a Parliamentary forum that “Coles listens to our customers and over 90% do not want GM ingredients in their food.” Goodman Fielder, Australia’s largest food company, also backs the bans. Tatiara Meats, Australia’s largest lamb exporter, and 250 other food companies also want the bans kept.

Why? Because the public does. In polls taken by AC Nielsen, Roy Morgan, Millward Brown, The Age, and Swinburne University and Choice magazine, a whopping majority of Australians (between 70 and 90 per cent) don’t want GM foods. In this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald poll, 84 per cent of respondents don’t want it.

Despite agribusiness bodies giving the nod to GM food crops, 80% of farmers surveyed in a 2002 poll taken by the SA Farmers Federation supported a ban. In an August 2003 Biotechnology Australia poll 74% of farmers surveyed were not considering using GM crops. A Biotechnology Australia 2006 study found that “The Australian public see great risks from GM foods and crops and concerns are continuing to rise.” This followed an ABC report that there was “no market” for GM canola in Australia.

As big UK, Japanese and US chains remove GM food from their shelves, the EU is discussing the withdrawal of five GM crops. “Consumers are rejecting GM foods. Markets in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere are closing and domestic markets are likewise threatened. This is driving prices down,” Canada’s National Farmers Union reported.

This also comes at a time when scientists and farmers internationally are warning about the economic and health perils of GM food, some of which is unwittingly eaten because of inadequate labelling laws. Whether or not Brumby believes these warnings is irrelevant. He has forgotten that in a democracy and a marketplace, the customer is always right.

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November 22, 2007

More on the safety risks of WiFi

Filed under: environment,health — Kath @ 11:55 am

Further to my earlier rantings, here’s an extract of a Crikey article on WiFi technology:

Around the world, government organisations, including schools, are facing a backlash for imposing wireless internet signals on citizens.

In the US, a class action lawsuit filed by parents at an Illinois school claims prolonged exposure to low intensity microwaves emitted by WiFi networks “can break down DNA strands, cause chromosome aberrations.” Lawyers acting for the class action claimed to have collected “more than 400 scientific articles, summaries and references outlining health risks… most of which have been researched and written after 1995.”

In the UK, the Teachers Union is calling for a ban on WiFi in schools, and universities are also starting to ban WiFi from campus. Canada’s Lakehead University president Fred Gilbert said that “microwave radiation in the frequency range of wi-fi has been shown to increase permeability of the blood-brain barrier, cause behavioural changes, alter cognitive functions, activate a stress response, interfere with brain waves, cell growth, cell communication, calcium ion balance…” and so on.

And last month, an international working group of senior scientists and public health policy academics, The BioInitiative Working Group, released a report listing serious health risks and urging tightening of international standards, particularly around children. The report gives a meta-analysis of more than 2000 studies and concludes that “existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health.” It recommends no WiFi in schools.

Another appeal, reportedly signed by 36,990 doctors, also claims existing standards are set too low, because they’re based on the erroneous assumption that only thermal heating of cells cause health effects. Yet as EMR Australia has reported, many studies suggest serious health impacts from non-thermal effects of low intensity radio-freqency signals like WiFi. The Freiburger Appeal signatories believe wireless devices, including portable home phones, have triggered “a dramatic rise in severe and chronic diseases”. Following this appeal, a reported 50,000 more doctors’ signatures were gathered on the Lichtenfelser Appeal, the Bamberger Appeal, the Hofer Appeal and the Helsinki Appeal.

Then there’s the Benevoto Resolution and the Catania Resolution both of which cite health risks and recommend wireless zones in cities. There are citizen groups like the San Francisco Neighbourhoods Antenna-Free Union and Australian groups like Tower Sanity Alliance.

November 12, 2007

Government to destroy hoons’ cars

Filed under: environment,Sydney Road — Kath @ 9:20 am

Check it out. Just what we need in Moreland.

November 7, 2007

Green roofs on sheds

Filed under: Backyard experiment,environment,gardening,urban farming — Kath @ 11:33 am

Green Roofs Australia reports that this rooftop garden cost around $35 per square metre to install. This is because the plants are hardy herbs and sedums, which don’t require watering (so no expensive roof irrigation).

A couple of months ago I put a green roof on the chook shed, which has a corrugated iron roof. I put down dam lining, and an old wadding doona for filtration. Most green roofs would require better filtration than this (carpet underlay is good), but since the water runoff from my chook shed goes straight into the garden, nutrient-rich runoff isn’t a problem.

Next, I put compost, and I (quite literally) threw a few sedums on top. The borders are old fence posts. I have photographed the start of my green chook roof, and I’ll
put up before and after pics in a few months, as well as pics of my (house) rooftop pumpkin crop.

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