Dimostrazzjoni favur Ikel Nadif

GMO free

Iktar tard illum, il-Moviment favur l-Ikel Nadif (Clean Food Movement) ser jorganizza March kontra Monsanto 2014.

Dan il-Moviment huwa magħmul minn 21 għaqda, l-parti l-kbira minnhom għaqdiet ambjentali.

Il-Moviment Ikel Nadif qed jitlob li tkun imħarsa l-ekoloġija fraġli tal-gżejjer Maltin u li b’mod partikolari Malta tkun dikjarata żona ħielsa mill-Ikel Ġenetikament Modifikat (GMO Free Zone).

Il-Moviment għall-Ikel Nadif qed jitolbu lill-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej eletti f’isem Malta biex jieħdu l-istess posizzjoni kemm individwalment kif ukoll fil-gruppi politiċi tagħhom.

Għandu jkun ċar għal kulħadd x’inhuma l-impatt tal-ftehim li qiegħed jiġi negozjat prezentement bejn l-Unjoni Ewropeja u l-Istati Uniti dwar il-Kummerċ, it-TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). L-impatti tiegħu għandfhom ikunu mgħarbla kif ukoll għandu jkun suġġett għal skrutinju demokratiku.

Il-produzzjoni tal-ikel f’Malta teħtieġ skrutinju aħjar biex ikun assigurat il-ħarsien tal-konsumatur Malti minn abbużi diversi li jistgħu jirriżultaw f’diversi sustanzi kimiċi fl-ikel Malti.

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Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (11) GMOs

gmo_tomato

 

We have been consistent in our opposition to genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in food and farming and in our support for a GMO-free Europe. Greens will continue to lead the fight for GMO free food and against cultivating GMOs here, together with a ban on importing GMOs for animal feedstuffs. We must insist on the right to make our own rules and impose mandatory GMO labeling.

European consumers have the right to know what their food is composed of and where it comes from. Any research on GMOs should be limited to impact assessments including gene flow and cross contamination. (EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : No to GMOs)

Tackling the green skills gap

green skills 3

Launching the public consultation on the Green Economy last month, Ministers Leo Brincat and Evarist Bartolo emphasised the need to address the green skills gap in the process leading to a Green Economy strategy and action plan.

It is estimated that 20 million jobs will be created in the Green Economy between now and 2020 within the European Union. Capacity building is the greatest challenge: ensuring that more working men and women are adequately equipped with green skills.

The Green Economy includes activities in different sectors. It is possible to go about activity in these sectors in a manner which reduces their environmental impacts, is socially inclusive and economically rewarding.

Various sectors have been identified as being of key importance in the transition to a Green Economy. The basic characteristics which distinguish the Green Economy are a reduction of carbon emissions, the reduction of all forms of pollution, energy and resource efficiency, prevention of biodiversity loss  and the protection of eco-system services.

The United Nations Environment Programme  has repeatedly emphasised that the transition to a Green Economy enables economic growth and investment while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness. A Green Economy is one which respects the eco-system and recognises that there are natural limits  which, if exceeded, endanger the earth’s ecological balance. In effect it means that the transition to a Green Economy signifies addressing all of our environmental impacts in all areas of activity. Addressing impacts in one area would still signify progress although this would be of limited benefit.

An agriculture which forms part of the Green Economy is one which works with nature, not against it. It uses water sustainably and does not contaminate it. Green agriculture does not seek to genetically modify any form of life nor to patent it.

Energy efficient buildings, clean and renewable energy together with the sustainable use of land are also basic building blocks of the Green Economy. We cannot speak of the Green Economy whilst simultaneously tolerating  large scale building construction. Having a stock of 72,000 vacant dwellings, (irrespective of the reasons for their being vacant) signifies that as a nation we have not yet understood that the limited size of the Maltese islands ought to lead to a different attitude. The green skills of politicians and their political appointees on MEPA is what’s lacking in this regard.

Maritime issues are of paramount economic importance to Malta’s economy. The depleted fish stock and the quality of sea water are obvious issues. But the impacts of organised crime through the dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea is not to be underestimated as has been evidenced time and again in the exploits of the eco-mafia reign to our north.

Heavy industry is fortunately absent in Malta. New industries like the pharmaceutical industry are more eco-conscious. However we still require more inputs on resource efficiency and eco-design.

Greening tourism is essential in order to ensure that more of tourism’s environmental impacts are addressed.  The consumption of tourism is 50% more per capita than that registered for a resident, indicating that there is room for considerable improvements.

Public transport is still in shambles. The effects of this state of affairs is evident in the ever increasing number of passenger cars on our roads which have a major impact on air and noise pollution in our communities. Greening transport policies signifies that the mobility of all is ensured with the least possible impacts.  Still a long way to go.

Waste management has made substantial improvement over the years even though it is still way  behind EU targets. It is positive that the draft waste management strategy has established the attaining of a Zero Waste target by 2050. However we still await the specifics of how this is to be achieved. It is achievable but the commitment of all is essential.

Our water resources have been mismanaged, year in, year our. Discharging millions of litres of treated sewage effluent into the sea is just the cherry on the cake. The contaminated and depleted water table which still contributes around 40% to Malta’s potable water supply is in danger of being  completely lost for future generations if we do not act fast.

All the above have been dealt with in various policy documents. One such document is the National Sustainable Development Strategy which establishes the parameters for the action required. Implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy is the obvious first step in establishing a Green Economy.  It is here where the real green skill gap exists. Decision makers lack green skills. This skill gap exists at the level of Cabinet, Parliament, the top echelons of the civil service and in the ranks of the political appointees to Boards and Authorities where decisions are taken and strategies implemented.

When this skill gap is addressed, the rest will follow and we will be on the way to establishing  a green economy.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 14 December 2013

Le għall-Ikel modifikat ġenetikament

gmo-monsanto

Għadni kif wasalt lura d-dar minn sehem għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fid-dimostrazzjoni kontra l-ikel ġenetikament modifikat. Kien hemm attendenza sabiħa għax dawk li huma konxji minn l-impatti tal-logħob bil-ġenetika tal-ikel huwa numru li qiegħed dejjem jikber.

Minbarra l-Alternattiva Demokratika kien hemm preżenti it-Tabib Joseph Cassar, ex-Ministru tas-Saħħa, l-Ministru tas-Saħħa attwali Godfrey Farrugia, l-Ministru tas-Solidarjeta’ Soċjali Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca u l–Ministru tad-Djalogu Soċjali (u Ħarsien tal-Konsumatur) Helena Dalli. Kien hemm preżenti ukoll rappreżentanti ta’ bosta NGOs inklużi NGOs ambjentali.

L-ikel genetikament modifikat hu l-kawża ta’ ruxxmata allerġiji, mard u infertilita.

Il-logħob bil-ġenetika għandu impatt fuq l-agrikultura, is-saħħa, l-biodiversita’ u l-kwalita’ tal-ħajja tagħna ilkoll.

Għalhekk dalgħodu ltqajna biex nipprotestaw. Ipprotestaw ukoll bħalna f’tal-inqas 40 pajjiż ieħor. Biex is-saħħa tal-flus ta’ dawk li jipproduċu l-ikel ġenetikament modifikat ma tibqax tkisser lil kulħadd.

More than fine-tuning is required

 

 

Going through the draft National En­vironment Policy (NEP) one immediately acknowledges that its im­plementation will take quite some time. A long journey always starts with a couple of short paces, the first of which being generally the most difficult. While this obviously depends on the level of commitment to the task ahead, the very fact that a decision to start the journey has been taken is of significance.

There are important issues which the draft NEP fails to tackle adequately. I will focus on two of them.

One can start with highlighting principles, the foundations of environmental policy. The Environment and Development Planning Act of 2010, consolidating previously existing legislation, in article 4 thereof defines the objectives of environment policy in terms of principles to be upheld: government action shall aim to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations in accordance with the principles of precaution and prevention as well as the rectification of environmental damage at source. The importance of the polluter pays principle as an environment policy tool is also emphasised. This is also underlined in article 192 of the consolidated EU treaties.

I expected the proposed NEP to define a policy direction as to how these principles are to be applied in Maltese environment policy. The draft NEP speaks at length on the polluter pays principle exclusively within the context of waste management policy completely ignoring its applicability in other areas. It makes indirect reference to the preventive principle and to the rectification of environmental damage at source. However, it makes very scant reference to the precautionary principle and limits this strictly to genetically modified organisms.

The precautionary principle is incorporated as Principle 15 in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and was subsequently taken up by the EU and various other countries as a basic principle in environmental legislation. The Environment and Development Planning Act of 2010 defines the precautionary principle as “the principle whereby appropriate measures are taken to protect the environment and to ensure sustainable management of natural resources in the absence of absolute or conclusive scientific proof of the need for such measures”. Uncertainty about damage to our health or to the environment calls for policy in which precaution is the primary objective. The NEP is where this should be spelt out.

Other countries have produced detailed documents guiding both stakeholders and policymakers. An example being the report entitled Prudent Precaution, submitted in September 2008 to the Netherlands’ Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment by a panel of experts appointed by the Health Council of the Netherlands. As stated in the introduction to the said report the relevance of the precautionary principle is not restricted to the environment.

The draft NEP is silent and fails to define this essential policy direction. It is hoped that this failure will be rectified.

The draft NEP clearly indicates that the government is preoccupied with a lack of adequate environmental governance. The recognition of this fact is beneficial as the solution of any problem is dependent on recognising its existence.

It is clear that the fragmentation of environmental issues among the different ministries and authorities is not of benefit to environmental governance in Malta. While acknowledging that it would be impractical to have all areas (in particular those with the barest of overlaps with the environment) under one ministry or authority it does not make sense to have both Malta Resources Authority and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority with jurisdiction over fragmented water issues. Nor does the 2008 decision to hive off climate change from the environment to the resources portfolio make any particular sense in a local context. There will always be overlaps between the three pillars of sustainable development. In addition to water and climate change, in a small country it is much easier to coordinate closely related areas such as resources management and the environment. This would amalgamate the small numbers of trained personnel available.

With this in mind it would have been much better if environment protection and the environmental functions of the present MRA had been amalgamated within the Environment Ministry. It would have been of much more benefit than the current fusion of environment protection with land use planning.

Fragmentation is one of the causes of weak environmental governance in Malta. Yet the draft NEP only offers the solution of Cabinet committees. Cabinet committees have never solved anything. Rather they tend to be rubberstamps. The problems created by fragmentation have to be dealt with by bringing the related fragments back together in a permanent manner.

The adequate management of the environment requires a clear political direction and commitment to address administrative fragmentation. While the draft NEP is a courageous attempt it seems to require more than fine-tuning. Present and future generations demand it.

Published in The Times, September 24, 2011

Dealing with Environmental Crime

published July 9, 2011

 In late 2008, the European Union, through a joint decision of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, adopted Directive 99/2008 “on the protection of the environment through criminal law”.

Member states had to implement this directive by not later than December 26, 2010. Malta, together with 11 other EU member states, did not comply. As a result, on June 16, the EU Commission issued a warning to all 12 states to comply within two months.

The EU directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law does not create new environment legislation. It aims to consolidate existing laws through harmonising penalties that should be inflicted as well as by ensuring that these penalties are really a deterrent.

Annex A to the directive lists EU legislation (some 70 directives and regulations) subject to this directive’s provisions. This is wide ranging and includes legislation regulating waste, GMOs, air quality, quality of water for human consumption, use of sewage sludge in agriculture, use and transportation of hazardous materials, protection of water from nitrates originating from agriculture, trade in endangered species and many others.

Within EU structures, the Maltese government opposed provisions of the proposed directive. So it is no surprise that this resistance is also reflected in the implementation process. This gives a new significance to the Maltese government’s declarations on the importance the environment has in its political agenda.

During the discussion stage in the EU structures, representatives of the Malta government expressed a view contrary to the harmonisation of sanctions primarily on the basis of the economic disparity across the EU member states.

The impact assessment produced by the EU on the proposed directive had emphasised that, in the EU, there are three areas that organised crime focuses on to the detriment of the environment. These are illicit trade in ozone depleting substances, illicit hazardous waste treatment and disposal and illicit trade in endangered wildlife species. A study entitled Organised Environmental Crime In EU Member States (2003) quoted by the EU impact assessment also states that 73 per cent of researched environmental crime cases involve corporations or corporate-like structures.

Organised environmental crime, which has a turnover of billions of euros in the EU, can have a devastating effect on the economy. There are various examples which we can draw upon. The case of the contaminated mozzarella in the Naples environs in March 2008 is one such example. Organised crime pocketed substantial landfill charges for the handling of toxic and hazardous waste, which was subsequently dumped in areas that were reserved for the grazing of buffalo. The resulting buffalo mozzarella was contaminated with dioxin. The impacts on the mozzarella industry were substantial.

Proof of the operations of the eco-Mafia has also surfaced some time ago when Francesco Fonti, a Mafia turncoat, took the witness stand against the Calabria Mafia. We do recall information given as to the sinking in the Mediterranean of about 42 ships laden with toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. One of the said ships has been located and identified off the coast of Reggio Calabria.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at a time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were financed by the eco-Mafia. They supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. Italian journalists (RaiTre) who had tracked down the shipments were shot and murdered in Mogadishu.

The dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea can have very serious impacts on Malta. It contaminates what’s left of fish stocks but also, depending on the location used for dumping, it can impact Malta’s potable water, 60 per cent of which originates from seawater processed by reverse osmosis plants.

Given these serious impacts I would have expected that the Maltese government would be at the forefront in implementing the directive on environmental crime in order to ensure that issues of cross-border organised environmental crime are adequately tackled. It is indeed very unfortunate that the tools which the EU provides so that Malta can protect its real interests are continuously ignored. One cannot help but ask why.

Law firm Hugo Lepage & Partners, in a comparative study commissioned by the EU Commission and entitled Study On Environmental Crime In The 27 Member States (2007), repeatedly identifies penalties for environmental crime in Malta as being at the lower end of the scale in the EU. The message that gets through is that environmental crime is treated lightly in Malta. Malta is not alone in this respect: it enjoys the company of a small number of other countries.

Environmental crime should be punished through penalties that are effective and proportionate to the environmental damage carried out or envisaged. It is in Malta’s interest that this is done expeditiously.

EU Commission approval of GM potato deplorable

AD press statement issued yesterday 2nd March 2010

 

Alternattiva Demokratika deplores the fact that the EU Commission has given its approval for the cultivation of genetically modified potatoes.

Prof. Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika Spokesperson on International and EU affairs stated: “Commissioner Dalli has probably set a record as an EU Commissioner: he has been in office for less than three weeks and, by issuing  the first GMO cultivation in 12 years, he has insulted the over 70% of EU Consumers who are opposed to Genetically Modified foods.  It is shameful that a Maltese Commissioner had to be the instigator of such practices, which are detrimental to people’s health.  Alternattiva Demokratika urge the Maltese government to block the Commission decision in Council”.

Simon Galea, AD spokesperson on agriculture and animal welfare, added: “Serious concerns remain about the consequences of GMOs on human health and the environment. The Maltese government should ensure that GMO food does not enter our country and that only fruit and vegetables grown using traditional and conventional methods of agriculture should be served at Maltese tables.  We owe this to present and future generations.”

Il-Ħrafa dwar l-Ikel Ġenetikament Modifikat

F’artiklu ppubblikat fl-Independent l-Ingilterra huwa spjegat kif minn studju riċenti li sar matul dawn l-aħħar tlett snin mill-Universita’ ta’ Kansas fl-Istati Uniti ta-Amerika anke l-produttivita tal-GMOs hi dubjuża.

Dan minħabba li spiss jiġi repetut l-argument illi l-GMOs huma neċessarji biex jingħeleb il-ġuħ fid-dinja. Fil-fatt, jirriżulta minn dan l-istudju illi s-soya ġentikament modifikata tipproduċi 10% anqas mill-ekwivalenti tagħha konvenzjonali.

Dan apparti l-ħsara lill-biodiversita kif ukoll il-potenzjal ta’ effett negattiva fuq is-saħħa li ma ġiex mistħarreg biżżejjed.