Monday, November 10, 2014

UNESCO: Education for Sustainable Development in Nagoya

Another large international conference in Japan, this time about education. How do we teach kids about environmental issues, health, energy, biodiversity, sustainable development?

Are you a teacher reading Kurashi? How do you teach these issues to your students?

The conference will take place from 10-12 November 2014 in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan. Under the banner of “Learning Today for a Sustainable Future”, the Conference will celebrate the achievements of the Decade, identify lessons learnt while setting the stage for the future of ESD.

It will also showcase initiatives, key players, networks and ideas that the Decade has stimulated. Such examples from all over the world will help to generate future action under the Global Action Programme.

ESD describes the teaching of key related issues — including climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction and sustainable consumption — in forms of education.
Crown Prince Naruhito, who attended the meeting Crown Princess Masako, said he expects young people engaged in ESD to support the future of the Earth.
ESD, which aims to allow every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future, was originally proposed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002 to build a prosperous and safe society through education.
The United Nations has designated the 10-year period between 2005 and 2014 as a decade to promote ESD and the Nagoya conference is expected to serve as a milestone for pointing the way ahead.

The outcomes of the World Conference will inform the deliberations of the World Education Forum to be held from 19 to 22 May 2015 in Incheon, Republic of Korea.


UNESCO is the lead agency for the UN Decade of Education for SustainableDevelopment (2005-2014).

News


UNESCO presented the Final Report for the Decade at the Opening Plenary, entitled Shaping the Future We Want.  It assesses the impact of the Decade on all levels and areas of education and draws out the major lessons that will inform future work. The study was based on questionnaires sent to Member States, UN Agencies and other stakeholders as well as extensive additional research.
The report identifies 10 key findings.  Among them is increased global recognition that education is a critical tool for moving societies towards sustainable development. Countries and jurisdictions from Manitoba to Mauritius have made education more relevant to the social, environmental and economic challenges that the world faces now and in the future.  The report also finds that two thirds of countries responding to the questionnaire already have a national ESD strategy or plan in place and that half have integrated ESD into relevant policies.


NHK: UNESCO ESD conference opens in Nagoya

A UNESCO-sponsored international conference on Education for Sustainable Development opened in Nagoya on Monday.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a speech that education to realize sustainable growth is needed more than ever to deal with deepening impact of natural disasters and climate change.

Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Japan has been committed to the Education for Sustainable Development ideal and that it will promote the drive around the world.

Under the program, children carry out research and hold discussions to resolve environmental issues and ethnic conflicts, rather than being taught by teachers.

The participants gain experience from working with other people and learn about different cultures.

About 1,000 people from 190 countries including ministers and researchers are attending the conference which closes on Wednesday.
A UNESCO-sponsored international conference on Education for Sustainable Development opened in Nagoya on Monday.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a speech that education to realize sustainable growth is needed more than ever to deal with deepening impact of natural disasters and climate change. Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Japan has been committed to the Education for Sustainable Development ideal and that it will promote the drive around the world.
Under the program, children carry out research and hold discussions to resolve environmental issues and ethnic conflicts, rather than being taught by teachers.
- See more at: http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/110188.php#sthash.VugDdRzT.dpuf
A UNESCO-sponsored international conference on Education for Sustainable Development opened in Nagoya on Monday.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a speech that education to realize sustainable growth is needed more than ever to deal with deepening impact of natural disasters and climate change. Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Japan has been committed to the Education for Sustainable Development ideal and that it will promote the drive around the world.
Under the program, children carry out research and hold discussions to resolve environmental issues and ethnic conflicts, rather than being taught by teachers.
- See more at: http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/110188.php#sthash.VugDdRzT.dpuf
A UNESCO-sponsored international conference on Education for Sustainable Development opened in Nagoya on Monday.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a speech that education to realize sustainable growth is needed more than ever to deal with deepening impact of natural disasters and climate change. Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Japan has been committed to the Education for Sustainable Development ideal and that it will promote the drive around the world.
Under the program, children carry out research and hold discussions to resolve environmental issues and ethnic conflicts, rather than being taught by teachers.
- See more at: http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/110188.php#sthash.VugDdRzT.dpuf

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

If You Like Soy Milk And Tofu...

...You will be glad to hear that there will be a new international standard for these "non-fermented" soybean foods, agreed today in Tokyo by the Codex Alimentarius, at the 19th CC Asia meeting held this week. Final words on Friday, then the text will be sent to the global food standards body that will put it in the rules books sometime next year. Important both for protecting consumers from fraudulent products and for companies that want to make the stuff.

Of course, we want such products to be supplied in a pure form, without unnecessary chemicals!

It's like watching paint dry, but the past couple of years provided results. For example, "plain" soy milk will not be allowed to contain any artificial food additives or colourings at all. That's progress as some countries initially tried to water down the standard and delayed the work. Also today, Indonesia almost put a spanner in the works for tofu, by insisting that turmeric or annatto, i e yellow colours, should be allowed. Their rationale, opposed by everyone else, was that in the past, Indonesia made soy bean curd this way, because such substances could help preserve the product, and consumers have gotten used to "yellow tofu" and even though the country now has refrigeration to better preserve the stuff, so turmeric is no longer necessary, they still want to continue its use... Well, you get the general picture. Debates like this between government officials are all part and parcel of the Codex system. The solution, this time? Allow Indonesia to do what it wants, but other countries may keep their ban on all such substances. Unless that caveat is clearly stated in the text, it could become a trade barrier under the WTO.

So, keep tofu pure.

The text that the 25-plus Asian countries agreed on also contains an interesting labelling provision: if genetically soybeans are used, the soy milk or tofu should carry a label with that information, if countries have such labelling laws. Again, it is important to get agreement on such matters to avoid trade wars.

Other work this week includes a new text that is supposed to provide hygiene guidance for street food vendors, and proposals from Korea about some of their traditional foods. "Laver" or nori may get a standard, but my guess is it will take a major effort. Japan also wants a standard for natto.

Officials from WHO and FAO are in town, and gave many insights into how the world's food system is evolving. On Friday, by the way, Japan's government will have to try to explain how it has dealt with the radioactive contamination of food since March 11, 2011. Many countries still ban foods from Fukushima and the neighbouring prefectures.

As usual, you can learn a lot during these meetings, but I also suffered from all that sitting in uncomfortable chairs in a stuffy meeting room with an interpretation headphone hanging on my ear.

Still, glad to be able to report that this particular little piece of the larger puzzle went the right way, this time.

On the other hand...

...You may be justified in wondering why a totally obscure body of government officials are making rules about foods that... you like. 

Codex website here

Photo from the 18th CC Asia meeting in 2012.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Eco Links For October 2014

Inspired by this and more, tongue firmly in cheek...

Tokyo, Japan -- Power was restored in most of Japan on Sunday, a day after the impoverished, energy-starved nation was plunged into a nationwide blackout when a transmission line from well, nowhere, failed, officials said.
The blackout was the country's worst since a 2007 cyclone knocked out the national grid for several hours, and again exposed inefficient and dated infrastructure that has held back development in the North East Asian nation.
Electricity was cut across Japan at around noon Saturday after the transmission line experienced a "technical glitch" that led to a cascade of failures throughout the national power grid, with power plants and substations shutting down.
After an evening spent in the dark, most of the residents of Tokyo, the capital of more than 10 million people, got electricity back on by 1 a.m. Sunday. Power was restored in other major cities too, but it was not clear how many people were still without electricity.

Tokyo's hospitals and the international airport continued to operate after the blackout Saturday with emergency generators. But many offices normally open had to send their employees home.
"This is terrible," said Mohammad Hasan, a resident of Tokyo's upscale Shibuya neighborhood. "We had some confidence in the government over last few years that the power sector was improving slowly. But what is this?"
Japan is considered one of the most energy-poor nations, with one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the world. 

OK, ok, that was a stretch. But you get the picture. I made that up, from The Mainichi's article, Power restored as Bangladesh struggles to fix grid

And then there was this:

Japanese households could face dimmed lights and flickering TV sets in three years' time because authorities are putting Japan’s last coal-fired power plant at risk of closure.
The company’s power station provides electricity for 2m homes and plays a crucial role in balancing electricity supply and demand to prevent shortages in Japan.
But rising green taxes and high network charges set by regulator could make it unprofitable by winter 2016-17 and could force its closure.
If the plant is shut and no replacement built Japanese consumers will be at risk of interrupted electricity supplies.
Closure would also be likely to heighten the risk of blackouts across Japan and force the National Grid to extend the use of emergency measures to keep the lights on, experts said. 

Again, I made that up. Cut & paste from The Telegraph, Scotland power shortage warning as coal plant faces closure

This, however, I did not make up. If you live in Los Angeles, you know your water supply is in deep trouble:

LA Times: Amid drought, mayor directs L.A. to cut water use 20% by 2017

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive directive on Tuesday requiring Los Angeles to reduce its fresh water use 20% by 2017 as a response to the prolonged drought.
Garcetti also asked L.A. departments to dramatically cut the amount of water used by replacing lawns and other city landscaping, including street medians, with less thirsty plants.




"Our relationship with water must evolve," Garcetti said. "We cannot afford the water policies of the past. We must conserve, recycle and rethink how we use our water to save money and make sure that we have enough water to keep L.A. growing."The mayor also directed that the city's Department of Water and Power reduce its purchases of costlier imported water by 50% by the year 2024.

Flanked by city and environmental leaders at a news conference held at the DWP headquarters, Garcetti said it was important to address outdoor water use -- which makes up half of residential water consumption.

There were no new mandatory restrictions announced Tuesday for residents. But Garcetti asked them to voluntarily reduce their outdoor watering to two days a week. The mayor asked them to use DWP rebates to install landscaping that is drought-resistant, and to install more efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances.
The mayor said that if water reduction targets are not met by a combination of mandatory city actions and voluntary steps by residents, then residential restrictions will be mandated -- including restrictions on watering and washing cars.



"Keep in mind that reducing water use is not just good for the environment, it lowers water bills," Garcetti said. "Reaching our target and reducing per capita water use by 20% would save our ratepayers up to $120 million" a year. Water use in California has generally been going down.





After a slow start, the State Water Resources Control Board reported that Southern California sharply cut its urban water production in August, down 7.8% from the same month in 2013. Locally, DWP cut its use by 8.8% compared to the previous year. But both numbers fell short of the statewide 11.5% water-use reduction and were far below Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of a 20% reduction.After the release of the state data, Garcetti said he was "grateful that Angelenos are stepping up" but cautioned “we must do more to further reduce our reliance on expensive imported water.”
The move comes as the DWP has stepped up enforcement of its water conservation ordinance, which places restrictions on behaviors such as outdoor watering, washing down sidewalks and allowing runoff into streets. The water agency quadruped the size of its response unit, sending more staff to crack down on residential water waste.

Japan does have  a lot of rain, and water, a resource often overlooked as everyone seems so focused on oil and fossil fuels. CIA The World Factbook clocks Japan at 430 cu km (2011). South Korea is just 69.7 and China, 2,840.  I was surprised to see Sweden at only 174 cu km.

Nevertheless, there have been a number of water shortages here in Japan too, as outlined by MLIT: Water resources in Japan

Previously, Japan repeatedly experienced major water shortages; for example, 1939 in Lake Biwa, 1964 in the year of Tok yo Olympics, 1967 in Nagasaki, 1973 in Takamatsu, 1978 in Fukuoka, and so on. Though occurrence of water shortages has become rare in recent years the shortage in 1994 covered almost all Japan, when approximately 16 million people were affected at least once by suspended or reduced water supply, and agriculture suffered production losses of 140 billion yen.


Tokyo's Bureau of Waterworks has a lot of information about its recent activities.

Tokyo Water Professionals

Message from Director General of Tokyo Waterworks
U.N. sponsored conference on Climate Change points out that global warming continues to progress. Thus there is a growing need for countermeasures.
Energy and environmental issues are common critical challenges for waterworks utilities. We, therefore, need to make further efforts in introducing of renewable energy source, promoting efficiency of pumps and facilities improvement considering energy efficiency.
This page is currently used to introduce the efforts by Tokyo Waterworks, and we are planning to add up-to-date information of other cities soon, as well as the case reports. What we have in our mind is its use as a forum for discussion.
Submissions of reference cases and updated information are welcome. We are looking forward to your active participations.

The twenty-first century is called "Water Century."
Water is indispensable for our daily life. However, it is said that more than a billion people in the world, mainly in Asia and Africa, are devoid of access to safe drinking water.
Water supply in Tokyo boasts a history of over 400 years. More than 100 years have already passed since Tokyo Water-works started its business as a modern waterworks in 1898. Today Tokyo Waterworks is one of the world’s top waterworks, supplying water to 13 million people.
Tokyo Metropolitan Waterworks Bureau has succeeded in securing water resources and reinforcing facilities to ensure steady supply of clean water. Consequently, not only from the standpoint of scale, but also from the quality point of view we are supplying the highest level of water in the world. In recent years we have introduced sophisticated technologies in order to respond to the increasing demand for high-quality water and to meet the measures against disaster and environmental requirements. We are thus offering high-quality services.
As a "World-class Water Supplier" we are determined to make greater international contributions in the future. We take them on as our mission to provide our advanced technologies and know-how to the waterworks corporations in Asia through accepting trainees and dispatching our engineers, and to make contribution to the improvement of world waterworks. Tokyo Waterworks Bureau will continue to make all efforts on the sustainable development of waterworks all over the world.

Ei Yoshida
Director General
Bureau of Waterworks
Tokyo Metropolitan Government


Shooting at the Hinohara in Jun 2014
*Hinohara (檜原村 or 桧原村 Hinohara-mura) is a municipality in Nishitama District, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan. It is the only administrative unit left in the non-insular area of Tokyo that is still classified as a village. Hinohara has population of 3,043 (as of January 1, 2006), an area of 105.42 km², and a population density of 28.9/km².






Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another IKEA Opens In Japan...

...and I was not invited, again. LOL, I went to visit the new one in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, that just blew me away. What a culture shock. The best and the worst, of two worlds!

First, it is HUGE unlike anything I have seen in Japan. Yes, there are other Home Centers and some are rather big, but IKEA is humongous and like a maze, once you get inside. You will get lost among the Älmhult designs with names like Tönt or Skvallerkärring and Kullerbytta. Well, not the first two, but maybe the last one, say for a cozy armchair made in Malaysia. Funny thing, at IKEA, next to nothing sold is actually Made in Sweden.

Dazed amongst all the blue and yellow, I walked and walked, lost among plastic window cleaners at 200 Yen or pretty classy paper lamps at 2000 Yen. Oh, they have expensive items too, but I wasn't in the mood. Weird plastic Christmas decorations and mass produced Almoge curtains. Not an Organic cotton cushion in sight, but that might change, I suppose, if people here start asking for it.

Best and the worst? Well, the staff is super friendly, and addressed me in English, which was odd, but cute, since I said "Tack så mycket" in Swedish, so maybe they just misheard. But again, very friendly and helpful, in that special Japanese way, where customer is, well not king, more like, "I appreciate that you shop here, that pays my salary, so I will treat you like I wish you would treat me" kind of way. Then of course, this being Japan, the lack of real information, as in what kind of materials are really used, and where do products come from, like the wood, is it from Amazon rain forests or Siberian old growth, cut down by dubious loggers hoping to retire on the Crimea...

I really liked the ubiquitous IKEA restaurant on the second floor, if you are a vegetarian you could eat well there, try the broccoli medallion, grönsakskaka or ベジタブルメダリオン for 200 Yen, with mush potatoes and salad, or rice. For all of you who eat anything, there are meatballs, and other IKEA language pages identify them as made with pork and beef from Australia, but not so the Japanese page. That may because a lot of processed food from Australia contains meat that is imported from other countries.

Australian Pork Ltd told the committee that most consumers are unaware that 70 per cent of "Australian made" ham and bacon is made from imported pork.

So it is complicated. The salmon may or may not be from Norway, the information is confusing.

In the famous IKEA food shop, I bought knäckebröd, Made in Finland. Yummy, and I trust that, real rye bread cannot be faked...

OK, back to regular blogging, soon, after this dip into Swedish multinational colonialism redux, a kind of reminder that the World carries on, with or without you... Lots and lots of young couples in their 20s and 30s, looking to spruce up their homes. I wish them well, and I wish IKEA will become a responsible corporate member here in Japan, and publish their CSR report in Japanese, for a start.

Top image from Tachikawa My Pleasure

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amari: "[TPP] Agreement Is Not Yet In Sight"



Score another failed round of negotiations, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues to let down big business that wants less regulations and more secrecy.

And meanwhile, Japan's newly appointed Trade Minister Miyazawa is in hot water for taking illegal donations from a foreign company, a story that I'm sure will have more importance than the fact that some on his staff joined a S&M club and paid for it from his pocket (although he says he did not attend).

But back to TPP. Today, another non-round of negotiations (the last proper one was held in Brunei, which I attended as a "stakeholder" for Consumers Union of Japan) has failed to get results. This time in Sydney, the amicable host, Australian Trade Minister Robb (how is that for irony, a politician actually called exactly was they do best, rob paul to pay peter, etc. etc.) criticized NGOs and other experts who are trying to bring information about this deal to the public:

Mr Robb lashed out at consumer groups and the Greens for spreading misinformation about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, before walking into a meeting with 11 trade counterparts in Sydney on Saturday to finalise the "basic elements" of the deal.
"Those who are opposed to this scheme for all sorts of reasons are peddling a lot of misinformation, saying pharmacy costs will go up," he said on ABC Radio.
"This is not the intention or the outcome that will occur with this particular 21st century agreement."
Mr Robb's words back up assurances by Finance Minister Matthias Cormann this week that the government would not support an outcome that sees medicine costs pushed up.
But consumer advocacy group Choice claims the trade deal includes provisions to stretch patents on some life-saving drugs for an extra 12 years. Prices usually drop 16 per cent once the patent expires.
"If the TPP extends patents we'll be paying higher prices for some medicines over a longer period of time," said Choice's campaign manager Erin Turner.


I might add that Choice is a highly respected independent consumer organization in Australia, with a long history as a member of Consumers International.

In Australia, the debate and the demonstrations have been fierce this weekend. Here is a good take from The Conversation, with some history to help you if you feel a little lost:

Deja vu: last week a new version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was leaked. Even as experts try to make sense of 77 pages of complex text, IP negotiators are meeting in Australia this week and next to try to finalise the treaty.
Experts have already highlighted some big issues with this IP text. Extensive proposals on patents, clinical test data and the links between patent law and processes for approving pharmaceutical products, if agreed, look like creating barriers to access to medicines in the region. There are unprecedented proposals to criminalise certain kinds of unauthorised access to or use of trade secrets that, at their broadest, could threaten journalism and whistleblowers.
Extensive criminal and civil enforcement provisions are also there. Some extraordinarily long copyright terms – yes, longer even than we already have here in Australia – are still on the table. Less widely commented on are proposals – not surprisingly opposed by Australia – that would demand changes to our local IP rules, especially in the area of trademark law (with special and potentially very broad protection for famous brands) and in our protection of industrial designs. What’s striking about this is how little has been learnt from the past.

If you are interested in how TPP may complicate efforts to protect the environment, do read my analysis over at Japan Focus:


The documents reveal that Japan plays a major role in obstructing the progress of the Environment Chapter. Japan is “concerned” with the language relating to equivalency in the scope of the coverage, that is, the question of how a country may deal with imported products that are identical or almost identical with domestically produced products. For example, imported timber from tropical forests would compete with “similar” wood products produced domestically, unless rules are in place to prevent this. Without international rules, it would be impossible for an importing country to compete with countries that export wood products manufactured by corporations that engage in clear-cutting. Increased trade in such timber would lead to even more destruction of rainforests, and less ability to control the corporations that engage in unsustainable logging practices. Efforts to label genetically modified organisms (GMO) and provide consumers with information about how food has been produced could also be curbed.

On the other hand, we learn that Japan has joined all other nations in opposing a proposal by the United States related to how to address other environmental agreements. This is connected to whether or not the novel dispute settlement mechanism in the TPP should be implemented. The United States, which has refused to ratify many global environmental agreements, seeks to settle trade conflicts in the TPP rather than the WTO. This could make it difficult for countries like Japan to maintain stricter domestic legislation that resulted from having ratified other environmental agreements.

Still, there has not been a single proper round of negotiations held in Japan. 

There are a lot of critics here, and before Japan’s trade officials sign anything, it ought to be discussed in public. Or maybe it will just fizzle out, as the United States heads towards mid-term elections, and no support seems to be forthcoming to support TPP in Congress? Why should people in Japan and their elected representatives not have the same rights to democratically discuss a major trade deal? 


Oct. 27, 2014 - Updated 12:59 UTC+9
The Japanese and US chief negotiators for the projected Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement met in Sydney on Monday. But they were unable to break the deadlock in trade negotiations between the 2 nations.
Japan's Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari met US Trade Representative Michael Froman, shortly before the final day session of the 3-day talks. 12 countries are participating in the TPP negotiations.
They apparently failed to achieve a breakthrough on key areas, including removal of tariffs on 5 agricultural categories.
After the meeting, Amari told reporters the 2 sides will continue with working-level talks in an aim to narrow their differences.
He said much progress has been made since the bilateral ministerial meeting in Washington last month.
But he said difficult issues remain, and agreement is not yet in sight.
Amari also said the 2 countries are in the final phase of the negotiations and that the talks will likely become more difficult. He added both sides will step up their efforts.
Amari indicated that he will meet Froman again before the summit talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Op-Ed Against TPP by Ralph Nader and Koa Tasaka (Asahi Shimbun)

We got the following op-ed published in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun this week, co-signed by Ralph Nader from Public Citizen and Koa Tasaka from Consumers Union of Japan. It was written in response to an editorial column that made unsubstantiated claims about TPP and consumers.

In its September 08, 2014 editorial, Asahi Shimbun argued that “Japan, U.S. should consider consumers, not industries, in reaching TPP deal.”

As consumer movement leaders in the U.S. and Japan, we agree that it is crucial that both countries prioritize consumer interests. However, we strongly disagree with the editorial’s unsupported assumption that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it is currently being negotiated would benefit consumers.

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment.
From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Consider who has had the greatest influence on the TPP. Almost all of the 500 official U.S. private sector trade “advisors” represent corporate interests. While agribusiness, Wall Street, and pharmaceutical interests have had special access to the process and negotiating text, representatives from consumer, health, and other public interest organizations have been left in the dark. Even members of the U.S. Congress cannot easily access the draft text. Similarly in Japan, elected members of the Parliament are unable to provide any constructive input to the negotiations.

Due to the extreme secrecy of the negotiations, it is impossible to know everything damaging to consumers that may be included in the TPP text. However, leaked draft texts of some of the chapters have confirmed that the TPP rules would benefit large multinational corporations at the expense of consumers.

The leak of the TPP’s environmental chapter shows that the U.S., which is not a party to United Nation conventions such as the Climate Change Convention or the Biological Diversity Convention, will do everything it can to use TPP to continue to avoid rules suggested by the international community.

Also, a leak of the TPP’s investment chapter indicates that it will include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a controversial system that grants foreign investors the right to sue governments in extrajudicial tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic policies or government actions that may diminish the investors’ future “expected profits.” This brazen infringement of national sovereignty has been used under NAFTA and other treaties by corporations to attack toxics bans, nuclear energy phase-outs, tobacco regulation, unsafe food import bans, financial stability measures, water and timber policies, mining safety rules, fracking bans, and more. The cases are heard by three private-sector lawyers, many of whom are in a conflict of interest as they rotate between serving as “judges” and suing governments for corporations. These cases cannot be appealed and there is no limit on what the tribunals can order governments to pay. This is corporate supremacy run amuck.

Under U.S. trade agreements alone, governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. Or, to avoid threatened challenges, governments have been “chilled” from taking action, such as after R.J. Reynolds threatened Canada when it was considering stronger tobacco regulation. ISDS is not the only anti-consumer aspect of the TPP.

As well, a leaked draft of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed that TPP would expand the scope of medicine patents and strengthen drug monopolies, increasing the consumer price of crucial drugs. The TPP would also require countries to allow the importation of food that does not meet domestic safety standards. Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary chapter, food labels providing important information for consumers could be challenged as a trade barrier, including labels for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This is completely unacceptable in Japan, where we are asking for better protection of biological diversity, and Japan’s mandatory labeling rules should be improved, not challenged.

Despite the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, the TPP’s Financial Services chapter would limit our governments’ ability to regulate to preserve financial stability and protect consumers’ hard-earned savings. Draconian copyright provisions pushed by Hollywood could jeopardize consumers’ access to information on the Internet.

These are just a few examples of crucial consumer policies that could be jeopardized by the TPP in its current corporate dominated form.

So, yes, the U.S. and Japan have an obligation to protect consumer interests within an open democratic process. However, the TPP negotiations are achieving the opposite, posing a dire threat to consumer protection and the public interest. That is why many of the largest consumer organizations in the U.S. and Japan are vehemently opposed to the TPP’s dictatorial impacts.

Ralph Nader, Public Citizen
Koa Tasaka, Consumers Union of Japan

October 23, 2014 (私の視点)TPP 消費者への深刻な脅威だ ラルフ・ネーダー、田坂興亜
朝日新聞は、英文サイトに掲載した9月8日付の社説(本紙は7日付朝刊)で、TPP(環太平洋経済連携協定)は消費者にメリットをもたらすという前 提でTPPに賛同するような姿勢を示したが、日米両国の消費者運動の主導的立場にあるものとしてTPPが!する問題を提起したい。

Please support Consumers Union of Japan and Public Citizen!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Football

http://www.marca.com/eventos/marcador/futbol/2014_15/champions/1a_fase/jornada_3/grupo_a/atm_mlm/

My brother is in Madrid, the Champions League has that effect on people.

http://www.sydsvenskan.se/sport/fotboll/mff/direktrapport-fran-champions-league/

Malmö FF against Madrid...


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WTO: You Have No Right To Know Where Your Meat Comes From









Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) in the US is a problem, but how will it affect labels in Japan?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the United States over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat.

The latest U.S. labeling rules, put into effect in 2013, require meat sold in grocery stores to indicate the country, or countries, where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

According to a WTO report released on Monday, the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. But the WTO compliance panel also found that the labels do provide U.S. consumers with information on the origin of their food, countering Canada and Mexico’s assertion that the labels do not serve their intended purpose.

The NGO opposition has already made its case, but will the WTO listen?

And, will you listen?


Corporate Trade Agenda Threatens American Consumer’s Right to Know
Washington, D.C.—Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) rules for meat and poultry that went into effect in 2013 still ran afoul of the global trade rules. The WTO’s compliance panel decided that the goal of country of origin labels was not trade illegal, but it narrowly found that the implementation of the COOL rules discouraged livestock imports from Canada and Mexico.

“The WTO’s continued assault against commonsense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The United States should appeal the ruling and continue to fight for sensible consumer safeguards at the supermarket.”

The WTO has not acted expeditiously on the COOL dispute and the expected appeal will likely drag on well into 2015. The compliance panel began working on this phase of the dispute in September 2013. Although meat industry opponents of COOL and other corporate interests are demanding that Congress take action to repeal COOL, there is no need to legislatively change this labeling program.

“Congress should leave the popular COOL labels alone and not legislate in haste,” said Hauter. “The muddy WTO ruling does not warrant a blunt legislative instrument like repealing or weakening COOL.”

COOL labels were included in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills due to overwhelming consumer and farmer support. COOL is required for unprocessed beef, pork, poultry, lamb, goat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, some nuts and seafood. Congress reaffirmed mandatory labeling in the 2014 Farm Bill by adding venison to the products covered by the COOL labels.

Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. rules for COOL at the WTO in 2008 before the first label was ever applied to a steak or pork chop. COOL didn’t even go into effect until 2009, and those original labels were vague and confusing to consumers, especially the ‘mixed-origin’ labels that were allowed to state for example, ‘Product of USA, Canada.’ Canada and Mexico prevailed in the WTO dispute over the original 2009 rules when the WTO determined that, although the goal of providing information about the source of food to consumers was WTO-legal, the confusing labels did not justify the cost of maintaining information on the origin of livestock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the COOL rules in 2013 to address the concerns raised by the WTO decision by eliminating the misleading ‘mixed origin’ country of origin label for meat and ensuring that each cut of meat displays each stage of production (where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered) on the label. This sensible approach improved the utility of the information consumers receive from the label and allows livestock producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace.

Nonetheless, Canada and Mexico demanded that the WTO reject the new COOL rules and today the WTO recognized that although the new rules attempt to fulfill a WTO-legitimate regulatory objective and were more accurate, it found that the new labeling regime still did not appropriately balance consumer information with the regulatory costs. It suggested that the rules were not specific enough (by not clearly specifying that imported livestock fed in the United States also were fed for a portion of their lives in the country where they were born) and highlighted the preposterously unlikely scenario of consumers being mislead in the event that livestock were raised in multiple countries before being imported to the United States. These dubious limitations on consumer information provided the basis for arguing that the new COOL labels did not provide sufficiently accurate information to justify the cost of the rule. 
“People have the right to know where the food they feed their families comes from. It is nonsensical that a label that lets consumers know the origin of their food is a trade barrier,” said Hauter. “Congress and USDA must stand up to the WTO and maintain the existing requirements for country of origin labeling.”

This trade dispute also highlights how corporate special interests can use the WTO to evade democratic governance. For the last fifteen years, the U.S. meatpacking industry has tried to prevent consumers from knowing the source of their food. The industry opposed COOL in the Congress, the executive branch and the courts but COOL has survived the special interest attacks. This year, the meatpacking lobby sued to block the 2013 COOL rules and lost their legal case at the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals and even a further en banc panel of Appellate jurists. The meatpackers also tried and failed to repeal COOL during the 2014 Farm Bill debate.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.