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Posts Tagged ‘Regulation

U.S. should follow Europe and put the brakes on nanotech food and other products

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Nanoparticles are already used in many sunscreens.

(Photo: Alex Parlini, Proj. on Emerging Nanotechnologies)

by Jaydee Hanson 29 Jun 201     Grist.org

One month ago, the Committee on Environment, Health and Consumer Protection of the European Parliament voted in favor of excluding nanotechnology from the EU list of novel foods allowed on the market. This committee vote represents one of the first times ever that a legislative body has weighed in on the issue of nanotech particles in food. (Nanotechnology refers to materials or devices developed on an atomic or molecular scale, sized between 1 to 100 nanometers — basically, really, really, really tiny novel particles that our skin and other organs have never before encountered at this scale.)

For those of us watching how government views nanotechnology, this was welcome news.

Whether we are focusing on food or other consumer goods, so far more than a thousand products containing nanoparticles are currently available in the U.S. These nano-enabled products have been put on the market without testing their possible impacts on human health or the environment. And, without stringent government review and without regulation, these products are foisted on an unsuspecting public. People are using nanotechnology, such as sunscreen containing nanoparticles of zinc oxide, on a daily basis, almost completely unaware of what they’re putting on their bodies.

In some cases, nanotechnology has proven benefits, but without a clear understanding of the health and environmental impacts, how can the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the public assess whether or not use of nanotech products is worth the risks? Nanotechnology practically cries out for regulation.

It is a clear, prudent recognition of the overwhelming need for testing in the name of public safety.

That’s what’s encouraging about the European Parliament committee’s action, which also included a declaration that food produced from nanotechnology processes must undergo risk assessment before being approved for use and must be labeled on packaging. The decision was approved by the influential committee almost unanimously, with 42 votes in favor, two against, and three abstentions. While the final plenary vote on the issue is expected to take place in the European Parliament in July, the lopsided committee vote speaks to the absolute logic of such a move. It is a clear, prudent recognition of the overwhelming need for testing in the name of public safety.

It now looks as though U.S. regulatory agencies may be coming around to the point of view that testing should not be considered a burden, but rather an urgent need. The EPA is promising that it will release proposed regulations on nano pesticides soon. We hope the regulations will require companies to report the presence of nano-silver and other nanomaterials in hundreds of consumer products ranging from children’s pacifiers to athletic clothing.

EPA has broad authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) over all substances intended to kill pests, including germ killers, but has not addressed until now the growing nano-silver market (primarily as an anti-microbial agent in food packaging), or the market for most other nanochemicals. The proposed rules would be a response to a legal petition filed with the EPA by the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety in May of 2008, on behalf of a coalition of 12 other public interest organizations, calling on EPA to regulate nano-silver products as pesticides.

The nanotechnology industry often touts the benefits to humanity that their discoveries and applications have created. Lawmakers and regulators should carefully review those real advances, but with balance and logic. We shouldn’t rush to include technology in foods and other products without a clear understanding of the long-term risks these products may pose. The European Commission should follow the directive of the Parliament and to put strong policies in place that will adequately protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of these novel products. And in the U.S., the EPA and the FDA should do likewise.

The Trust Crisis with Regulating Net Neutrality

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August 6, 2010     Activist Post

Since it was reported that Google and Verizon are close to a deal on so-called “net neutrality,” the policy debate has heated up in Washington. Of course the debate has very little to do with the actual mechanics of how net neutrality will work, rather who will get the control to regulate it.

However, now that the FCC has abandoned negotiations on a “net neutrality” compromise, it is looking like the Congress will ultimately establish the rules — handed down to them by their corporate masters. It seems the Elite’s fight over who controls the dial has been decided.  One thing is for sure, whoever controls the speed dial on the Internet will control the entire Web and subsequently all flow of information.

This is where the problem lies:  the American people don’t have any trust in their government, regulatory agencies, or corporations.  In fact, it seems that these three entities typically work in unison to establish profit and power guarantees that can only be described as monopolistic cartels where power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  We the people have lost our voice in nearly all legislation or regulation debates.  And doing away with net neutrality — the people’s last bastion of free speech — is the endgame for the power of the people.

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Barack Obama: Liar, Warlord, and Corporate Shill – Stephen Lendman

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May 31, 2010

(ThePeoplesVoice) – It shouldn’t surprise because no one gets the top job or any government position of power unless they’re safe-  yet, naively, most people thought Obama was different. Many still do.

As a candidate, he promised change, a new course, sweeping government reforms, addressing people needs, and “ensur(ing) that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists” – the same ones who bought and now own him. He promised peace and delivered war; real health and financial reform, not same old, same old; help for millions losing jobs, homes, hope and futures, not handouts to Wall Street and other industry favorites; regulatory oversight, not the usual incestuous government-industry ties, making disasters like in the Gulf possible, and when they happen conspiring with offenders in coverup, distortion, lies, and a total disregard for the environment, wildlife, and way of life for thousands – let alone permanent damage to a vital ecosystem.

At the same time, Big Oil gets billions in subsidies, special tax breaks and other financial benefits, besides operating in a regulatory-free environment.

The 1995 Outer Continental Shelf Deep Water Royalty Relief Act (DWRRA – courtesy of Bill Clinton) exempted royalties on defined amounts of deep water production. After its 2000 expiration, the law was redefined and extended to promote further deep water drilling.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) defines it as having a water depth of 200 meters (656 feet). To be eligible, leases must be in the Gulf of Mexico, west of 87 degrees and 30 minutes west longitude (the Florida-Alabama boundary), and MMS must determine that the site isn’t economically viable without relief.

Given longstanding MMS-industry coziness, it’s practically rubber-stamp. DWRRA also reduced royalties on pre-November 28, 1995 leases, decided by the Interior Department Secretary on a case-by-case basis – again, practically assured by officials with close industry ties.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act was one of the friendliest ever with over $10 billion in handouts. It lets oil giants pay federal royalties in barrels of oil and grants exemptions on some wells, subsidizes a new R & D program for ultra deep water drilling and unconventional oil and gas development, creates hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax breaks, increases what oil and gas companies can deduct on pipeline expenses, provides more liability protection besides the $75 million cap (established by the 1990 Oil Pollution Act after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, an amount too small to matter).

As an Illinois senator, six months into his term, Obama supported it, an early clue to where he stood, and how he hoped to gain – the usual “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” payoff.

It worked hugely with BP, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) reporting that its employees and political action committees gave more to him than to any other federal candidate in the past 20 years.

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WHO issues warning about corruption of pharmaceutical industry

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Natural News April 30, 2010

(NaturalNews) – The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a fact sheet warning about the corruption and unethical practices that are endemic to every step of the pharmaceuticals business.

“Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector occurs throughout all stages of the medicine chain, from research and development to dispensing and promotion,” the fact sheet reads.

The medicine chain refers to each step involved in getting drugs into the hands of patients, including drug creation, regulation, management and consumption. According to WHO data, unethical practices such as bribery, falsification of evidence, and mismanagement of conflicts of interest are “common throughout the medicine chain.”

The fact sheet also highlights other forms of corruption specific to particular steps in the chain. For example, clinical trials may be conducted without proper regulatory approval, royalties may be collected through manipulation or disregard of the patent system, and products may be registered with incorrect or insufficient information. Drugs may be produced through substandard or counterfeit methods, leading to products that are less effective at best, and hazardous at worst. Corruption can also occur during the drug inspection process, allowing such shoddy products to be given a government seal of approval.

Once drugs have been produced for the market, corruption can occur via the selection of non-essential drugs for different governments’ lists of “essential” medications. Unethical marketing strategies — both legal and illegal — are common throughout the drug business. Vendors may collaborate with pharmaceutical companies and doctors might be unduly influenced to dispense drugs to gain the greatest profit rather than to produce the greatest benefit for the patient.

This corruption can have serious consequences, the WHO warns.

“Medicines are only beneficial when they are safe, of high quality, and properly distributed and used by patients,” the fact sheet says.

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Obama’s phony banking “reform”

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The Elite at the hub of our financial crisis have established themselves in positions of preeminent wealth and power without actually contributing anything useful to America’s economy.  They make and do nothing,  just taking bites out of what others have produced. Since they have so little stake in our society, it is not surprising that their corrupt system built the bubble and arranged to profit when it collapsed.

The revolving door between Wall Street Banksters and the government meant to regulate them means no real change is likely without a sustained outcry of the American people.

Photo by Rich Tatum

Obama’s phony banking “reform”

Barry Grey 27 April 2010

Debate on the Senate version of the Obama administration’s bank regulatory overhaul is expected to begin shortly. The House of Representatives passed its banking bill last December.

Neither bill does anything to curb the power of the banks or limit their parasitic and socially destructive activities. What the media is calling the “most sweeping overhaul” of the banking system since the Great Depression in reality sanctions the ever greater monopolization of the financial system by a handful of Wall Street giants, imposes no limits on executive pay, and allows the banks and hedge funds to continue gambling on exotic and largely unregulated securities such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.

The so-called bank “reform” is an exercise in mass deception—an attempt to placate popular hostility to the banks and provide the government with political cover while it continues to do the bidding of Wall Street.

The bills have been drawn up in the closest consultation with bankers and bank lobbyists. This collusion has been widely reported in the press and presented as a perfectly normal and acceptable fact of political life. The front-page lead article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal describes the intensive lobbying being carried out by billionaire investor Warren Buffet to alter the Senate bill’s provisions on derivatives.

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Simon Johnson: Fraud at the heart of Wall Street

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Our Pecora Moment

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By Simon Johnson

We have waited long and patiently for our Ferdinand Pecora moment – a modern equivalent of the episode when a tough prosecutor from New York seized the imagination of the country in the early 1930s and, over a series of congressional hearings: laid bare the wrong-doings of Wall Street in simple and vivid terms that everyone could understand, and created the groundswell of public support necessary for comprehensive reregulation.  On Friday, that moment finally arrived.

There is fraud at the heart of Wall Street, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Pecora took on National City Bank and J.P. Morgan (the younger); these were the supposedly untouchable titans of their day.  The SEC is taking on Goldman Sachs; no firm is more powerful.

Pecora exposed the ways in which leading banks mistreated their customers – typically, retail investors.  The SEC alleges, with credible detail, that Goldman essentially set up some trusting clients and deliberately misled them – to the tune of effectively transferring $1 billion from them to a particular unscrupulous investor.

Pecora had the drama of the congressional hearing room and used his skills as an interrogator to batter the bastions of Wall Street, day-after-day, with gruesome and convincing detail.  We don’t know where and when, but the SEC action points in one direction only: Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman) in the witness box, while John Paulson (unindicted co-conspirator) waits in the on-deck circle.

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Mainstream Science Questions GMO Safety and Lack of Testing

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BY CAREY GILLAM, Reuters

Are US regulators dropping the ball when it comes to biocrops?

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI — Robert Kremer, a US government microbiologist who studies Midwestern farm soil, has spent two decades analyzing the rich dirt that yields billions of bushels of food each year and helps the US retain its title as breadbasket of the world.

India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, blocked the release of a genetically modified eggplant made by Monsanto. — Reuters

Mr. Kremer’s lab is housed at the University of Missouri and is literally in the shadow of Monsanto Auditorium, named after the $11.8-billion-a-year agricultural giant Monsanto Co. Based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the company has accumulated vast wealth and power creating chemicals and genetically altered seeds for farmers worldwide.

But recent findings by Mr. Kremer and other agricultural scientists are raising fresh concerns about Monsanto’s products and the Washington agencies that oversee them. The same seeds and chemicals spread across millions of acres of US farmland could be creating unforeseen problems in the plants and soil, this body of research shows.

Mr. Kremer, who works for the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), is among a group of scientists who are turning up potential problems with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and the most widely used weed-killer in the world.

“This could be something quite big. We might be setting up a huge problem,” said Mr. Kremer, who expressed alarm that regulators were not paying enough attention to the potential risks from biotechnology on the farm, including his own research.

Concerns range from worries about how nontraditional genetic traits in crops could affect human and animal health to the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.

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