March 02, 2007

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The US Agriculture Department has given preliminary approval for the first commercial production of a food crop engineered with a human gene. Matt Kaye reports from Washington DC.

USDA says the project by California’s Ventria Bioscience poses no ‘undue risks’ to the environment. The Sacramento firm wants to cultivate rice bio-engineered with human genes that make anti-diarrheal proteins on hundreds of acres in Kansas. ‘Not a good idea’, according to Center for Food Safety Director Andrew Kimbrell…who says USDA’s lost three court cases brought by the Center in the last six-months to stop field trials of genetically-engineered crops… (sound Kimbrell) “The USDA is not doing its job…It is not doing its job in protecting the environment from these crops…and, it’s not doing the job in protecting human health…and organic seeds from contamination.” Kimbrell says the answer to preventing the spread of genes from experimental plants to conventional ones is to grow the plants in greenhouses in controlled conditions. He says his group will bring another suit against USDA over its latest action, and urges a moratorium on any new field trials until the agency “gets its act together.” The public has until March 30th to send comments to the USDA before the “preliminary approval becomes permanent. In Washington, Matt Kaye, for Free Speech Radio News.

Tornadoes across 5 states have left more than 20 people dead in Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri. Eight students died when a tornado directly hit a high school in Enterprise, Alabama. The tornado took out a wall, causing a concrete slab ceiling to collapse on the students taking refuge from the storm. Rescue teams have been called in and a state of emergency is in effect in the most affected areas.

The city of New Orleans joined a lawsuit yesterday against the army corps of engineers asking for $77 billion worth of damages for levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. Christian Roselund is in New Orleans and has more.

The city of New Orleans, the city’s power company, Entergy New Orleans, and the city’s Sewerage and Water Board beat a midnight deadline last night to join the lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, started by four residents whose homes were destroyed and a news anchor. The Corps estimates that sixty thousand individuals have joined the lawsuit – and all day Thursday traffic was backed up for miles outside Corps headquarters. On February 2nd a federal judge opened the floodgates for the legal action by ruling that a 1928 law protecting the corps from lawsuits did not apply because of the Corps’ construction of a navigational canal which compromised the levee system. The corps has since said that it will consider closing the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the waterway where a storm surge traveled. A hearing on extending the deadline which would allow more residents to join the suit will be held this Friday in federal court. For FSRN, this is Christian Roselund in New Orleans.

Top trade negotiators from the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India will meet in London and Geneva this weekend to discuss stalled World Trade Organization efforts to liberalize global commerce mostly in agriculture. But bitter disagreements are keeping the countries from reaching a consensus. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose reports from New Delhi.

The United States and the EU want emerging economic powers like India and Brazil to open up their agricultural markets. But India and Brazil are demanding the US cut agricultural subsidies. This disagreement led to the failure of the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks 8 months ago. Now trade officials are back at the table, this time in London and Geneva. On the eve of the talks, the US accused India of being a less pro-active contributer to the negotiations, a sign of bitterness that has periodically marked the trade talks. India is part of a block of key developing nations that have joined forces to resist pressure from rich countries to completely open their agricultural markets. These countries say the whopping subsidies given to US farmers distort the market and create an uneven playing field. Pressure could mount again if the two blocks fail to reach on a compromise by the beginning of next week. For FSRN, From New Delhi, in India, This is Vinod K. Jose.

Police in Denmark are bracing for another night of street clashes in the wake of the mass eviction of a squat in Copenhagen. The building in question had been occupied for 25 years and was well-known among European activists as a cultural and community center for youth. Police raided the building early Thursday morning and even landed a helicopter on the roof. Demonstrators responded by building barricades and hurling cobblestones. As many as 250 people have been arrested. The legal conflict over who controls the space began in 2000 when the local government sold the building to a religious organization. At the time of its purchase, the building had been occupied for 18 years. Street clashes erupted throughout the day Thursday in Copenhagen; riot police sealed off the area around the squat, nearby businesses boarded up their windows, and demonstrators set barricades on fire. The mass eviction sparked spontaneous protests in more than a dozen cities in northern Europe.

Dems Launch Investigation into Recent US Attorney Resignation
Democrats are launching an investigation into why it appears several US attorneys have been forced out by the Bush administration for reasons they say are politically motivated. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Weekly Political Roundup: The Republican Candidates
A conservative conference in Washington DC hosts a slue of Republican Presidential candidates. In this week’s Political Round Up, FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell brings us what was said, along with some more political news.

Iraqi Policemen Kidnapped in Retaliation for Rape Accusation
At least eighteen Iraqi policemen were kidnapped today in Diala province, northeast of Baghdad. Hiba Dawood files this report.

Bay Area Stages Actions against Immigration Sweeps
In San Francisco this week, migrant rights activists staged a week of actions opposing the current wave of immigration raids throughout the Bay Area. The Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, or ICE, raids are part of a nationwide sweep targeting undocumented immigrants across the US. Immigration rights activists say the sweeps are terror tactics. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

Gaza Fishers Banned from Coast
Since the abduction of an Israeli soldier in June last year, Israeli gunships have prevented Palestinians from fishing off the coast. This has severely affected both fisher’s livelihood and Palestinian’s food security. FSRN Rami Almeghari reports from Gaza.

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