The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th March 2004

Imperialist justice - The law is whatever GW Bush says it is!

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by Daphne Liddle

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Margaret Beckett last Tuesday announced Government approval for the commercial growing of one type of genetically modified maize in Britain. Other types of GM crops remain banned.

This is in spite of a recent consultation exercise that showed 90 per cent of public opinion is opposed to GM crops.

  This decision was made on the basis of tests on growing varieties of GM maize, sugar beet and rape which compared the performances of the genetically modified strains with the ordinary strains in standing up to herbicides.

 Only the GM maize proved stronger than its ordinary equivalent.

 Environmentalists have protested that this test was flawed because the herbicide used on maize in the tests, atrazine, is due to be banned in 18 months. The effects of GM crops on the environment were not properly being compared with ordinary crops, which will be grown in future with less potent pesticides.

 But the purpose of making a crop resistant to herbicide is to allow farmers to drench the land in herbicide and every wild plant (weed) in the vicinity will be wiped out. Only the desired crop will survive. This alone will have a catastrophic effect on wild plants and all the insect, bird and animal life they sustain.

 There are further dangers if the GM crops cross-pollinate with wild plants to produce herbicide resistant weeds, which could quickly spread out of control. This has already begun to happen in Canada.
who on earth

Sarah North of Greenpeace said: “Who on earth is Tony Blair listening to? He’s given the nod to GM maize based on trials that anybody with a passing knowledge of A-level science would be able to tell you were flawed.”

  The giant chemical companies behind the production of GM varieties welcomed the Government’s decision.

 But many former advocates are showing signs of doubts. The Royal Society, hitherto all in favour of GM, has called for urgent long-term monitoring of the environmental impact.

 And Tim Bennett, speaking for the National Farmer’s Union, said: “The farming industry, as always, will strive to provide a safe an diverse choice for the consumer, but it is important to protect businesses that choose not to explore the GM option.”

 And there are likely to be plenty of agricultural businesses that do prefer to stick with traditional crops because even if the Government is happy with GM crops, the buying public is not. Producers of GM crops will have a hard time finding a market.
meet the costs

Margaret Beckett also said the Government would expect the GM companies to meet the costs if anything went wrong. She said there must be compensation for any non-GM farmers who suffer financial loss through no fault of their own, for example through their crops being contaminated from nearby GM crops.

 “I must make it clear that any such compensation scheme would need to be funded by the GM sector itself rather than by Government or producers of non-GM crops,” she said.

 The GM industry was furious. Paul Rylott, who heads BioScience UK at Bayer Crop Science, said the industry would never agree to set up such a compensation fund. He claimed there was no evidence that genetic modification was harmful and therefore no grounds for compensation.

 He said: “We have not been asked to do anything of the kind anywhere else in the world, we do not intend to start in the UK.”

 Bernard Maratelli, speaking on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: “The industry has no intention of setting up a fund in advance, but we are prepared to talk to the Government and see if some suitable arrangement can be made.”

 Clearly the GM industry is not so confident that it will not in future face heavy compensation claims, and this may inhibit the planting of GM crops in Britain. But it also means that the industry will try to shift the costs onto the Government, whatever Margaret Beckett says.

 The Royal Society warned that proper separation distances between crops need to be enforced to avoid contamination and compensation claims.

 The effects of eating genetically modified foods so far do not appear to be harmful. But many effects may not show up for years and when they do it will be too late.

ignored protests

In giving approval for GM maize, the Government ignored protests from nine organisations representing eight million members. These include the National Trust and the Women’s Institute, Fiends of the earth, the national Consumer Council, the Consumers’ Association, Genewatch and the public sector trade union Unison.

 In a joint letter to Tony Blair, they wrote: “Although the Government clearly recognises public opinion is against GM food, it is now considering how to develop a ‘coherent strategy on promoting biotechnology in the EU’ against he wishes of the majority of its citizens.

 “We are also dismayed that the Government appears to be focussing attention on how ‘opposition to GM might eventually be worn down’ rather than addressing the many legitimate concerns that people have about GM technology and incorporating these concerns into decision making.”

 The anti-GM campaigners have pledged to fight on. Sarah North said: “Downing Street should know that there are thousands upon thousands of people ready to fight Tony Blair on this.

 “The end result could be chaos in the countryside during an election year. Today isn’t the end. It’s just the start of it.”


Charge them or free them!

FIVE BRITISH prisoners in the Guantánamo Bay have been released by the American authorities.  A further four remain in this US concentration camp without trial two years after they were captured by American troops during the invasion of Afghanistan.

Four of the freed Britons are being questioned by the police in London (nb. The 5 detainees in Britain have now been released). One has been released without charge. The fact that the Americans released them proves that these men had broken no American laws. If they have infringed any British laws then they should be speedily charged. If not then they must be freed.

The Blair government has bent over backwards to give moral support to the monstrous regime at Guantánamo Bay. It has done little, up to now, to protect the interests of these British Muslims who happened to be in Afghanistan when the Americans launched their invasion to topple the Taliban regime.

Though the prisoners in Guantánamo are regularly described as Taliban fighters or supporters of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network there is no evidence that any of the British prisoners had even borne arms in Afghanistan or any suggestion that they were armed when they were arrested.

Even if they had they are still entitled to be treated as prisoners of war or charged under the various anti-terror laws of Afghanistan or the United States. What the United States has no right to do is cage several hundred prisoners in appalling conditions in its military camp in Cuba, subject them to daily humiliation and mental torture and deny them access to lawyers.

Apologists for American imperialism in Britain argue that these people shouldn’t have been in Afghanistan in the first place. It’s a pretty hollow argument.

First of all Britain was not at war with Afghanistan though it supported the US invasion that was, in itself, illegal under international law. So there is no case for “treason”. Secondly there has been no evidence presented that these men were in any sense volunteers for the Taliban militia.

But even if they had been British law applies only when it suits them.

The British government turns a blind eye when it comes to “terrorism” in the service of imperialism. This country has been a safe-haven for all sorts of Chechen rebels much to the fury of the Russian authorities. Only this week the Russians revealed documents found on the bodies of two dead Chechen rebels that showed that one was a British citizen and another held British travel documents.

During the Anglo-American campaign against Serbia in the 1990s supporters of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” seemed to come and go without hindrance and as for mercenaries, the self-styled “soldiers of fortune” – most of their paymasters seem to ultimately be based in London or the Channel Islands.

Last week the Zimbabwean government impounded an American plane and arrested over 60 mercenaries apparently bound for oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in a bid to overthrow the government. Acting on a tip-off from the South African and Angolan governments the Zimbabweans claim these men were linked to a British “security” firm, the US government and a South African mercenary group.

The men, apparently of South African, Angolan and Namibian origin, will be charged under Zimbabwean law. But imagine the outcry in some quarters if Robert Mugabe had herded them into a barbed-wire camp and left them to rot for a couple of years like the Americans have done in Guantánamo Bay.

All the British prisoners in Guantánamo must be returned immediately to Britain and those who have lived for two years in appalling prison conditions must be paid appropriate compensation by the United States for the suffering they have endured.  

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