Tag Archives: India

asbestos and what’s fair

24 Jul

Asbestos is a known killer. Exposure to it increases the risk of lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. If you’re a smoker, your chances of getting lung cancer go up 1000x. It also increases risk of mesothelioma, which pretty much only happens to people exposed to asbestos.

The problem with asbestos is that it’s made of tiny fibers, which lodge in the lungs. The body isn’t good at dealing with foreign substances – can’t kill it like it would kill a bacteria, can’t break it down because of it’s synthetic make up – so it just engulfs it then stores it away. It builds up, and the reaction surrounding cells have to it can cause major (i.e. fatal) problems down the road.

Asbestos doesn’t just affect people exposed to it directly at work. It also increases cancer risks in the families of people who have been exposed to asbestos, even if the family members themselves weren’t directly exposed. It’s because asbestos fibers stay on the clothes of the exposed people, and they in turn go home and expose their families to it, along with anyone else who has a lot of contact with them.

Asbestos used to be used in developed countries, like Canada, as an insulator. Once the detrimental health effects became obvious, asbestos was banned from being used anymore. Many institutions have tried to replace asbestos in buildings, but in many cases it’s just left alone because disturbing it would put the people removing it at risk.

Asbestos is a major export from Canada, particularly from the city in Quebec called … Asbestos. Exports go to developing countries that have not banned it’s use, like India and China. While people who work with Asbestos in Canada are wearing full body suits, workers in India and China are equipped with just bandanas. Unfair? Or their fault?

It’s been tough times for everyone, especially small towns without diverse industries to rely on. Asbestos is a small town in Quebec which took a big hit when its asbestos mine was shut down earlier this year. But now that it’s reopening, thanks to this government grant.

Check out this quick-read article  written by a Canadian senator on what the dealio is on the thing called asbestos, a town called Asbestos, developing countries, and what’s good for Canada versus what’s right.

the link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Asbestos+gets+lease+death/6895798/story.html#ixzz21Yh1tVKV

The GM Genocide

10 Jan

The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops

From a 2008 Daily Mail article.

Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide – a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.

Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.

The [Indian] authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.

In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.

But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers’ lives have slid back into the dark ages.

Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years – up to 17 million acres – many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.

Far from being ‘magic seeds’, GM pest-proof ‘breeds’ of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That’s because GM seeds contain so- called ‘terminator technology’, meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.

Monsanto has admitted that soaring debt was a ‘factor in this tragedy’. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as ‘untimely rain’ or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.

Officials also point to surveys saying the majority of Indian farmers want GM seeds  –  no doubt encouraged to do so by aggressive marketing tactics.

During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three ‘independent’ surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive – and then later admitted the difference was 1,000 per cent.

(A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is ‘only double’ the price of ‘official’ non-GM seed – but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by ‘unscrupulous’ merchants, who often also sell ‘fake’ GM seeds which are prone to disease.)

With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. ‘We just want to escape from our problems,’ one said. ‘We just want help to stop any more of us dying.

India’s farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds.

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