Panafrican News Agency

03 July 2001

Mass Graves Linked to British Mining Company

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - New explosive evidence has
linked the London-based Cape PLC Company with a secret
burial of asbestosis victims in the Northern Cape and
Northern Province decades ago.

An investigation by the South African Broadcasting
Corporation (SABC) has revealed that hundreds of former Cape
PLC workers who died from asbestos related diseases before
1968 were buried in unmarked mass graves.

The graves were allegedly destroyed or covered by mine dumps
when the areas were cleared before 1968, the national
broadcaster said.

About 5,000 South Africans suffering from asbestos-related
diseases are suing Cape PLC.

The claimants, who are seeking about 150 million US dollars
in damages, blame the firm for diseases contracted at Cape
PLC's asbestos mining operations in South Africa's Northern
Cape and Northern provinces.

Cape PLC, which was one of the world's largest asbestos
mining companies and which is now engaged in the business of
the asbestos removal, operated in South Africa from the
1890s to 1979 when it disinvested.

However, people are still at risk of contracting the deadly
lung disease, and new cases of asbestosis are regularly
being diagnosed at health centres.

The case is expected to be heard next year, but Cape PLC
lawyers have indicated that they could reach an out-of-court
settlement before then.

The SABC said documents in its possession indicated that the
company colluded with the former apartheid government to
continue its mining operations in South Africa from 1968.

According to the report, about 15,000 people, including
children as young as seven years old, were employed by the
company between 1893 and 1979.

Copyright (c) 2001 PANA Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Los Angeles Times

June 27, 2001


People, Not Technology, Are the Key to Ending Hunger

The debate over biotechnology is a tragic distraction.

By Frances Moore Lappe

Biotechnology companies and even some scientists argue
that we need genetically modified seeds to feed the world
and to protect the Earth from chemicals. Their arguments
feel eerily familiar.

Thirty years ago, I wrote "Diet for a Small Planet" for
one reason. As a researcher buried in the UC Berkeley
agricultural library, I was stunned to learn that the
experts -- equivalent to the biotech proponents of today --
were wrong. They were telling us we'd reached the Earth's
limits to feed ourselves, but in fact there was more than
enough food for us all.

Hunger, I learned, is the result of economic "givens"
we ourselves have created, assumptions and structures that
actively generate scarcity from plenty. Today this is more,
not less, true.

Throughout history, ruminants had served humans by
turning grasses and other "inedibles" into high-grade
protein. They were our four-legged protein factories. But
once we began feeding livestock from cropland that could
grow edible food, we began to convert ruminants into our
protein disposals. Only a small fraction of the nutrients
fed to animals return to us in meat; the rest animals use
largely for energy or they excrete. Thirty years ago,
one-third of the world's grain was going to livestock; today
it is closer to one-half. And now we're mastering the same
disappearing trick with the world's fish supply. By feeding
fish to fish, again, we're reducing the potential supply.

We're shrinking the world's food supply for one reason:
The hundreds of millions of people who go hungry cannot
create a sufficient "market demand" for the fruits of the
Earth. So more and more of it flows into the mouths of
livestock, which convert it into what the better-off can
afford. Corn becomes filet mignon. Sardines become salmon.

Enter biotechnology. While its supporters claim that
seed biotechnology methods are "safe" and "precise," other
scientists strongly refute that, as they do claims that
biotech crops have actually reduced pesticide use.

But this very debate is in some ways part of the
problem. It is a tragic distraction our planet cannot

We're still asking the wrong question. Not only is
there already enough food in the world, but as long as we
are only talking about food -- how best to produce it --
we'll never end hunger or create the communities and food
safety we want.

We must ask instead: How do we build communities in
tune with nature's wisdom in which no one, anywhere, has to
worry about putting food -- safe, healthy food -- on the
table? Asking this question takes us far beyond food. It
takes us to the heart of democracy itself, to whose voices
are heard in matters of land, seeds, credit, employment,
trade and food safety.

The problem is, this question cannot be addressed by
scientists or by any private entity, including even the most
high-minded corporation. Only citizens can answer it,
through public debate and the resulting accountable
institutions that come from our engagement.

Where are the channels for public discussion and where
are the accountable polities?

Increasingly, public discussion about food and hunger
is framed by advertising by multinational corporations that
control not only food processing and distribution but farm
inputs and seed patents.

Two years ago, the seven leading biotech companies,
including Monsanto, teamed up under the neutral-sounding
Council for Biotechnology Information and are spending
millions to, for example, blanket us with full-page
newspaper ads about biotech's virtues.

Government institutions are becoming ever more beholden
to these corporations than to their citizens. Nowhere is
this more obvious than in decisions regarding biotechnology
-- whether it's the approval or patenting of biotech seeds
and foods without public input or the rejection of mandatory
labeling of biotech foods despite broad public demand for it.

The absence of genuine democratic dialogue and
accountable government is a prime reason most people remain
blind to the many breakthroughs in the last 30 years that
demonstrate we can grow abundant, healthy food and also
protect the Earth.

Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but by a
scarcity of democracy. Thus it can never be solved by new
technologies, even if they were to be proved "safe." It can
only be solved as citizens build democracies in which
government is accountable to them, not private corporate


Frances Moore Lappe is a visiting scholar at MIT.

Copyright (c) 2001 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved.

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THAILAND: Anti-GMO campaign launched in response to
biotechnology conference
06 Jul 2001
Source: editorial team

Activists are to join forces with agricultural groups and consumer protection organisations next week, to launch a People against GMOs campaign in Thailand.

The campaign has been created as a response to an international conference on biotechnology, which is scheduled to take place in Thailand 10-12 July. The New Biotechnology Foods and Crops: Science, Safety and Society conference, which is
organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is thought by many to be aiming to promote acceptance of GM products and divert attention in developing countries away from the socio-economic or the
ethical side of the debate.

Saree Ongsomwang, of the Confederation of Consumers Organisations, maintained: “The conference is aimed at weakening the strong feeling against GMOs in developing countries while the OECD had failed to persuade their public to accept GM products.”

BioThai, a group network advocating protection of biological resources, is forming part of the campaign and has refused an invitation to become part of the conference’s steering committee. Other activists come from Greenpeace International,
Consumer International and the Third World Network.

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Black farmers open a new route to fair

by Gary Grant     June 29, 2001

It is tempting to say we told you so. On June 24 The N&O reported what the 
Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) and its thousands of black farmer clients 
have been saying for 2 1/2 years, that the historic black farmer settlement 
in Pigford vs. Glickman is not all that it was cracked up to be (article, 
"Black farmers' plight not over"). The fine print contained in the Pigford 
black farmer settlement fell far short of providing a full remedy to the many 
thousands of farmers who were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) in the 1980s and '90s. More particularly, the settlement 
unfairly required farmers to prove their discrimination claims without having 
access to evidence and further required farmers to submit their claims for 
determination under what can only be described as a vague and arbitrary 
process. However, the most visible shortcoming of the settlement was the 
total lack of prospective injunctive relief requiring the USDA to change the 
way it does business. For decades the USDA and its county committee system of 
administration directly contributed to the drastic decline of family farming 
in this country -- both black and white -- but most dramatically among 
minority family farmers. The USDA's culture must change, and once it changes, 
all American family farmers will benefit. Last year, LLPP, a nonprofit legal 
advocacy organization that represents small, minority and limited resource 
farmers in North Carolina, took a giant first step to bring about the needed 
changes in the way USDA treats family farmers. LLPP and several North 
Carolina farmers, on behalf of themselves and a class of women and minority 
farmers across the country, filed a second class-action lawsuit against USDA 
in federal court in Washington, D.C. The primary purpose of the new class 
action, called Wise vs. Veneman, is to obtain the prospective, injunctive 
relief that proved evasive in the first lawsuit. On March 19, 1999, you ran 
an editorial supporting the settlement in the first class-action, opining 
that it was "tough to see how it (the settlement) could be any fairer." LLPP 
responded in a March 31, 1999, People's Forum letter pointing out that the 
settlement would lead to thousands of claims being unjustly denied and 
predicting that after "after all the monies are paid out, what is left is a 
USDA that resembles the same old USDA." In light of your June 24 article, it 
is our hope that you will reconsider your editorial position. We hate to give 
into temptation and say it, but we told you so. 

STEPHON BOWENS Executive Director 
MARCUS JIMISON Director of Litigation 
Land Loss Prevention Project 

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