Archive for February, 2007

The Future of Food

February 28, 2007

I went to a screening to this The Future of Food last night and invited a big-time local farmer friend to come along too. France is inching its way towards large-scale commercial growing of GMOs and has the experiences of neighbour Spain to draw on with regard to what happens to conventional and organic varieties once this happens. (Not good, see this Greenpeace report for details). I hope the farmer might have a think on the issues raised and tell his friends.

It’s not a bad film, giving a comprehensive synopsis of the massive problems presented by GMOs and their supporters, not least of which is of course due to the good people of Monsanto, backed by their investors. My main complaint was that the film slipped into propaganda mode a couple of times, overdoing its messages with images of WW1 tanks followed by tractors (nerve gas was modified for use as a chemical spray for farming, dontcha know?) and others of a farm worker covered head to foot in protective clothing while spraying strawberry plants followed immediately by a boy eating a strawberry. Fair enough points in themselves but a bit clunkily made.

Farmer friend thought pretty much the same thing, and questioned the overall balance of the thing. Again, a fair point, though any journalist who has ever tried to put questions to a company like Monsanto, and Syngenta too for that matter, knows that the exercise is a frustrating and fruitless waste of time. Dispassionate facts are hard to find when it comes to GMOs, as Arpad Pusztai found out at the cost of his career. I hope to get the farmer to agree to show the film to some of his fellow muck rakers.

There is a more in-depth review of the film here.

As for GMOs in France, or OGMs as they call them here, José Bové and four of his fellow travellers will be in court in Carcassonne on March 7 for the latest legal round of one of his many direct actions. I hope to catch up with him for an interview about GMOs in the context of democracy, locally, nationally and globally.

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Inadequate and misleading – judge for yourself

February 16, 2007

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Another day, another deception from the government in charge of the mother of parliaments. This time, it’s Labour’s mock consultation last year on whether to build new nuclear power stations in Britain. Take it away, Mr Justice Sullivan:

“The 2006 consultation document contained no information of any substance on any of the issues identified as being of crucial importance,” he said. “It was not merely inadequate but it was also misleading.”

His wiggedness went on to say something had gone “clearly and radically wrong” with the consultation paper, issued last January.

The Guardian leader called it “pretending to listen”. And no, I couldn’t resist responding.

Labour, building on the good work of their predecessors in power, the Conservatives, make an ever more convincing case for the inability for elected representatives to run the country on our behalf. As usual, the Americans do it with just that little bit more style and panache, as Greg Palast’s “The Best Democracy Money can Buy” does such a good job of showing. But Tony’s not doing badly.

Vive direct democracy.

Lies, damned lies, lies damned and then some more lies

February 14, 2007

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More work on talking about a revolution, chapter 3 and the state of our national democracies. Once you look into the amount of lying that has been done by Tony and friends before and after winning power in 1997, the case for direct democracy becomes more compelling than ever.

I have just read Peter Oborne’s The Rise of Political Lying. which provides a magnificently detailed account of how badly representative democracy has gone off the rails in Britain. Shame that Oborne is so unimaginative and unradical in his proposed solutions to the problem.

Funny that on the day I finish the book, one of its bit-part deceivers Denis MacShane should pop up on the Guardian’s comment is free site slagging off petitions as a way of trying to improve democracy. I responded, sort of inevitable really.

Tridents to turbines

February 6, 2007

A thoughtful comment by Ian Davis on what Britain could do instead of diving ahead with a replacement for the “independent” nuclear deterrent that the United States has allowed us to sit on Daddy’s knees and steer around underwater for the last few decades.

Real democracy would mean a nation sufficiently confident in itself to debate this question widely, with all those involved being confident of having some influence on the final result. That would mean ordinary people having more than a vote in the general election of 2005, under Britain’s grotesque first-past-the-post system, and another within five years, quite probably after the decision on Trident had been made by prime ministerial fiat, rubber stamped in cabinet and shepherded through parliament with the odd Labour rebel voice silenced by the Conservative opposition’s support.

This important debate, like so many in British political life, is one in which we ordinary voters may only bleat out our contributions. We have the most miniscule of influence on the political process that will determine the outcome. Trident’s future is important. The rotten state of our democracy is all the more so.