USA: GM crops could feed the world, says UN report
10 Jul 2001
Source: editorial team

Rich countries must overcome their resistance to genetically engineered foods or risk cutting off the world’s poverty stricken populations from vital food supplies, said the United Nations in its 11th annual Human Development Report. 

The report, which is officially released today, pays much attention to the potential benefits of GM foods for the developing world. It acknowledges that they may pose risks to health and the environment but stresses that they will also increase food and nutrient supplies and thereby reduce hunger. 

“These crops could significantly reduce malnutrition, which affects more than 800 million people worldwide,” it says. 

To date, companies, NGOs and activists in the developed world have dominated the debate over the use of GM. In these countries, the report shows that the main concerns over biotechnology revolve around the potential health problems it poses. This is different, it says, to the trade-off in the developing world between GM crops and the possibility of starvation. 

“'The opposition to yield-enhancing transgenic crops in industrial countries with food surpluses could block the development and transfer of those crops to food-deficit countries,” the report warns.

The UN blames regulators in the US, Canada and the EU for “ignoring the concerns of the developing world” and concludes that “imbalance of voices and influences needs to be rectified”. 

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The American Lawyer 

July 2001 

Slavery Strategy: Inside The Reparations Suit 

A-list of lawyers, academics tackles challenges in
identifying plaintiffs, defendants, damages

By Paul Braverman

Earthquake prediction is a famously inexact science, but
it's easy to see this one coming. By year-end, an all-star
team of lawyers calling themselves the "Reparations
Coordinating Committee" plans to file a suit seeking
reparations for slavery. The legal merits of the case are
unknown, but the tremors will no doubt be felt far and wide.

The group faces problems that seem insurmountable. Slavery
ended in 1865. Who are the plaintiffs? The defendants? And
if the group wins, by some miracle, what will the damages

An A-list of lawyers and academics, led by Charles Ogletree
Jr., of Harvard Law School and Randall Robinson, of
TransAfrica Forum, an African-American policy group, is
trying to answer those questions. No final decisions have
been made, and they're being tight-lipped about their work,
but a few particulars are beginning to emerge. Multiple
cases in multiple forums are likely. The defendants will
come from both the public and private sectors. And the
remedy will be aimed at institutions, not individuals.

The litigation side of the group includes J.L. Chestnutt
Jr., a civil rights lawyer and activist from Selma, Ala.,
who represented Martin Luther King Jr.; Alexander Pires Jr.,
of Conlon, Frantz, Phelan & Pires in Washington, D.C., who
worked with Chestnutt in winning a billion-dollar settlement
for black farmers discriminated against by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture; Stanley Chesley, the king of mass
tort litigation from Cincinnati's Waite, Schneider, Bayless
& Chesley, who represented Holocaust survivors in a
reparations suit; the enormously successful trial attorney
Willie Gary of Stuart, Fla.; and the ubiquitous Johnnie

The lawyers are working closely with a group of political
scientists, historians, and economists, including Cornel
West of Harvard University and Manning Marable of Columbia
University. The group meets every other month or so at
TransAfrica's D.C. office; smaller groups meet more
frequently. Pires has written the early drafts of the
complaint; Gary also is focusing on the nuts-and-bolts legal
problems. Both men doubt whether clever legal arguments
alone can carry the day. "There are lots of ways to get
creative," said Gary. "They could get us into court, but I
don't know if they could survive a motion to dismiss."

Help may lie in the political arena. The black farmers'
suit, for example, only moved forward after a
once-in-a-lifetime alliance between Bill Clinton and Newt
Gingrich prevailed on Congress to waive the
statute-of-limitations defense. Gary would like to see
similar legislation introduced before the reparations case
is even filed. Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the
leading congressional advocate for reparations, is a likely
sponsor. The group is leaning toward filing a number of
suits simultaneously, all overseen by an umbrella
organization. The cases against the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the state of Mississippi, and J.P. Morgan Chase &
Co. (to name three likely defendants), for example, will
involve very different facts and may rely on different
theories of law. Using multiple forums will simplify and
streamline each case. In addition, "I don't think we should
put all our eggs into one basket," said Chestnutt. "Some
people think that a judge would be afraid to dismiss a
reparations suit, but I think most judges wouldn't be able
to get rid of it fast enough."

Every black American may be affected by the legacy of
slavery, but the plaintiffs may be a more select class.
Chestnutt and Gary say that proving a causal link will be
easier for some individuals than others. They favor limiting
the size of the plaintiff class to those who most directly
felt the impact of slavery, such as those who suffered under
Jim Crow laws, or whose grandparents were slaves. They
recognize that this strategy may alienate those who are
excluded, but Gary said, "I'd rather win a case for 50
percent of the blacks in this country than lose a case filed
on behalf of 100 percent." Others in the group are leaning
toward a more inclusive class, according to Chestnutt.

The defendants are easier to name. They will include the
federal government, states that allowed slavery (and perhaps
others), and private corporations that profited from
slavery. Chestnutt said that little attention has been paid
to the last group, but it's the most controversial and may
pose the greatest legal difficulties. Attorney Deadria
Farmer-Paellmann, whose previous work forced Aetna Inc. to
apologize for issuing "slave policies" that paid owners if
their slaves died or escaped, is researching the issue. She
predicts that by year-end, she'll identify about 70
corporations as potential defendants, mostly banks and
insurance companies.

The theory of the case isn't set. Chestnutt favors unjust
erichment. "This is the richest, most powerful country in
the history of the world, and a lot of it was built on the
backs of slaves," he said.

Copyright (c) 2001 American Lawyer Media. All Rights Reserved.

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