Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Lectures about food safety

I do lectures about food safety and environmental problems associated with food production. Recently, my focus has been the over-use of antibiotics for animals, like pigs and cattle. Did you know that these important drugs are used as "growth-promoters" and as a result, many dangerous bacteria are getting resistant? As salmonella, campylobacter, E coli and other bacteria get resistant, common diseases will increasingly become very difficult to treat.

At Japan Offspring Fund, we produced a video about antibiotics.

Please click here for more info about the Japan Offspring Fund video

Other issues that interests me are genetically manipulated foods, hormones and pesticide use in agriculture. I also like to talk about solutions. For example, there is a growing market for organic foods in Japan. I recently went to the Food-Ex, a huge show with foods from almost all countries in the world. It was so interesting to see that organic foods are now becoming more and more popular. I think it shows that consumers are getting sick and tired of worrying about food safety!

Please click here for more info about my lectures

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Promoting Korean traditional foods

I just cannot resist sharing this movie with you. It promotes Korean traditional foods! The cabbage dish is called kimchi, and has a rich spicy flavour that I really like.

Please click here to go to the movie!

Seoul Initiative on Green Growth

Today, the conference could agree on an impressive document, called the Seoul Initiative on Green Growth. This initiative is the main result from the MCED 2005 conference. It includes a new approach of green growth, shifting away from the old paradigm of "grow first and clean up later". Rather, the new paradigm is to present the environment as an opportunity for economic growth, investment, marketing, industry, employment and so on.

How can this be done? The Seoul Initiative suggests to internalize environmental costs into the price of products and services, or by using tax incentives (lower tax if you are more environmentally friendly) and by promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns (one suggestion is to link them to traditional lifestyles and cultural values).

I was glad that the Seoul Initiative also wants to promote the Polluter Pays Principle to manage and protect the quality of air, water and the natural ecosystem.

Unfortunately, it does not mention the Precautionary Principle, a tool that has become common in Europe and other countries.

Finally, I would like to mention that the Seoul Initiative wants to enhance consumer awareness of environmentally friendly products. This is always a priority for consumer organizations, so I was glad to see it in the final document!


Dance Posted by Hello

As the MCED 2005 begun, we were treated with a traditional Korean dance performance.

My speech in Seoul

OK, everyone, here I am, delivering my speech at the Civil Society Forum in Seoul!

Speech in Seoul Posted by Hello

I gave a few examples of how important it can be that governments help us get results. I really like that Tokyo has decided to ban diesel trucks, it has made the air much cleaner. Also, there are many campaigns now for "idling-stop" Car engines are improved, so that the engine stops when the car isn't moving. It saves fuel (10-20 percent) so that is good for both the economy and the environment. Allergies, atopy and other serious health problems affect our beloved ones directly. We cannot accept economic development that makes people suffer.

There are huge environmental problems, especially in Asia, let's not forget that. One area I am interested in is food safety. Many other speakers also pointed out that healthy food should be included in the discussions. In poor countries, the issue of food sovereignty is important.

For example, if trade rules make it attractive to dump surplus food cheaply in another country, the farmers will suffer. And, as a result, the precious environment will also suffer. Other topics we discussed include the right to clean, safe drinking water, the need for a ban on GMOs, and what to do with all the garbage!

Monday, March 28, 2005

What is MCED 2005?

The United Nations holds conferences all over the World, to bring people together and discuss policies. MCED is the "Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development" and this is the fifth such meeting for Asia and the Pacific. This region is really huge and there are a lot of people here. Obviously, the impact on the environment is also huge.

One theme of the MCED 2005 is "Green growth" It means we should find solutions to the environmental problems, as more and more people enjoy the benefits of modern living. The old theme seems to have been "Grow first, clean up later" but that doesn't work when you have a billion people.

My friends tell me that the air is bad in Seoul. But people are really kind and funny, with many good ideas. For example: a campaign for no smoking would be a good idea here. It is a small action, and it can have big results. It would also be good for Korean people's health! Another idea is a walking campaign. Try getting off a station earlier, and walk the remaning distance. Of course, if fewer people use cars, the environment will improve.

The Civil Society Forum that I was invited to wants everyone to increase eco-efficiency of consumption and production systems by promoting green consumption, increasing resource circulation, supporting the eco-design of products, and raising awareness on sustainable consumption and production. We also called for a ban on genetically modified organisms, and asked for more efforts to help the region's poorest citizens.

Lots of good ideas to protect the environment

Many speakers here in Seoul had so many good ideas for how to protect the environement.

Chan Hee Lee, Korean Ministry of Environment, highlighted the need for eco-friendly products. He outlined the tasks of governments: policy making; implementing green consumption policies; and promoting eco-friendly products.

Seung-Ho Han, Hanwha Eco Institute, and Myung-Hee Park, Green Consumer Network, Republic of Korea, advocated information sharing and green communication. They called upon corporations to disclose information related to their products. What can consumers do if the labels on products are impossible to read?

Eun Sook Moon, Citizen’s Alliance for Consumer Protection of Korea, highlighted safety, accessibility and sustainability in consumption.

Manny C. Calonzo, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the Philippines, presented the country’s case of zero waste. He pointed out that urban areas of Asia spend $25 billion a year on solid waste management, noting that open dumps are toxic and waste land and resources, while incinerators could pollute the environment and destroy resources.

Su Yol Hong, Korea Zero Waste Movement Network, described a fee system instituted in Korea for solid waste management with incentives for recycling. He said that producers are also required to sort wastes before incineration, and that NGOs are active in addressing packaging waste and composting.

Shunei Kawauchi, Kurume University of Japan, discussed the cases of Kurume and Minimata in Japan, where citizen activism resulted in re-design of solid waste management systems and reduction of land use for landfill.

Sareeya Chairattananont, Thailand Environment Institute, described a “waste bank” system in Thailand for students to separate and recycle solid waste in return for money. Recycling has reduced solid waste considerably and has accomplished environmental education as well.

Young Sook Park, Korean Women Link Consumers Cooperative, introduced her organization’s joint activities with two NGOs in Japan (Seikatsu Club) and Taiwan involving agriculture producers and consumers in conserving resources and protecting the environment. She stressed the importance of safe food and organic farming and appealed to governments to give more support to these areas.

Seoul, South Korea

I will be in Seoul, South Korea March 22-30, 2005 for a United Nations conference. The topic is sustainable development in Asia. We will be discussing environmental protection and "Green growth". I hope I can use this blog to share my impressions with you.

- Martin