International business briefs: Bhopal protest, Clean Water Act, Coastal support, Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in US, GM scandal protest

Under the slogan "taking responsibility for tough choices", Greenpeace activists protested outside the World Economic Forum this week in Davos about Dow Chemical's refusal to pay compensation to victims of their huge chemical pollution incident in Bhopal 20 years ago. In an attempt to make the multinational corporation face up to its mistake, compensate victims and clean up the affected area, protesters dressed up as skeletons and lay on the streets outside the forum to testify for the 20,000 victims that died in the world's worst-ever chemical disaster.

EPA is issuing an interpretive statement and a proposed rule in response to recent court decisions highlighting the need for EPA clarification regarding Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting requirements for the application of pesticides to or over the nation’s waters. The statement and proposed rule reflect EPA’s long-standing policy that a CWA permit is not required where application of a particular pesticide to or over water is consistent with requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Any pesticide that is approved for use in the United States must undergo extensive study and review to help ensure that, when properly used, it does not pose unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at EPA, noted, “Clarifying this issue is critical because confusion over permitting requirements could keep public health officials from preventing or responding to an infestation of mosquitos or from controlling an invasive species.” Through this action the agency is reinforcing the importance for local officials, resource managers, agricultural producers, and other pesticide users of applying pesticides in accordance with their label directions. Applications of pesticides in violation of the labels are subject to enforcement under all appropriate statutes including FIFRA and the CWA.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has agreed to work together to help coastal communities grow in ways that benefit the economy, public health and the environment. The partnership was formalised with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement today. The new coastal communities partnership will seek to deliver the latest information and technology to communities for reusing previously developed land and providing more housing and transportation choices, while preserving critical natural areas and limiting air and water pollution. These techniques are important strategies for limiting air and water pollution, preserving land and enhancing quality of life. The agreement will help NOAA and EPA achieve national goals for better management of coastal resources and protection of human health and the environment. The partnership results from a major goal of the Bush Administration to have federal agencies coordinate with state, tribal and local stakeholders to develop comprehensive cooperative conservation strategies to protect the nation’s coastal resources. The EPA-NOAA Partnership will provide training for local government staff and officials; outreach and education on successful policies, ordinances and initiatives; and assessments of the impacts of management actions on sensitive coastal areas.

A report from an international task force underscores the urgent need to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, according to Republicans for environmental protection (REP America). The report is one more reminder that stubborn denial is not a viable climate strategy. “Doing nothing about greenhouse gas emissions will worsen the risks of highly disruptive climate change, including increased extreme weather, rising sea levels, and reduced food production,” REP America Policy Director Jim DiPeso said. At both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington needs to face up to the problem and adopt prudent policies this year to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which can be accomplished through money-saving energy efficiency measures and widespread commercialisation of clean energy technologies that will create new jobs.

And finally, this week the Greenpeace ship Esperanza intercepted the bulk carrier ‘Golden Lion’ 140 nautical miles off the coast of Portugal. The Golden Lion is transporting 30,000 tonnes of genetically engineered soy from Argentina to France. Also onboard the Esperanza were leading representatives of the French farmers movement ‘Confédération Paysanne’ (part of Via Campesina) and the ‘Les Faucheurs Volontaires d’OGM’ activist collective. “This GMO shipment should never have been sent to Europe, and we call on the French public to go to the port in Lorient on Friday to take part in a peaceful protest against GE soy entering the French food chain,” says Arnaud Apoteker. “Millions of tons of GE soy are imported each year to feed cattle, hogs and poultry in Europe. This is a slap in face for all European citizens who have rejected GMOs in their food.”

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