2nd Bimonthly Briefing of News from Latin America and the World. -April, 2009
1-15 April 2009
Fortnightly collection of articles and news put together by the ComunicándoNos Team in the Peoples’ Health Network-Latin America. Translated and edited by Susan C. Greenblatt
Global Campaign to Support Women and Breastfeeding
by Marta Trejos
IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) and other groups have launched the One Million Campaign: Support Women to Breastfeed, to collect 1 million signatures and present them to the World Health Assembly. The online petition calls for implementation of the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Help prevent new scandals over contaminated milk and end unscrupulous marketing of baby formula.
Visit the One Million Campaign website: http://www.onemillioncampaign.org/en/Index.aspx
Monsanto Uprooted: Germany Bans Cultivation of GM Corn
Spiegel Online International, 14 April 2009—The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting genetically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany. Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto will be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed “a danger to the environment,” a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.
Read full article: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,618913,00.html
Scientists Reveal Effects of Glyphosate
by Marcela Valente
Buenos Aires, 15 April 2009 (IPS)—Glyphosate, the herbicide used on soybeans in Argentina, causes malformations in amphibian embryos, say scientists here who revealed the findings of a study that has not yet been published.
"The observed deformations are consistent and systematic," Professor Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires medical school and lead researcher on the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), told IPS.
Reduced head size, genetic alterations in the central nervous system, an increase in the death of cells that help form the skull, and deformed cartilage were effects that were repeatedly found in the laboratory experiments, said the biologist.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, an herbicide produced by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, which developed Roundup Ready Soy, genetically modified to withstand high doses of the non-selective weed-killer.
Some 200 million litres a year of glyphosate are used in Argentina. Soybeans cover around 50 percent of all farmland - nearly 17 million hectares - and are the country’s main export product. The herbicide is mainly applied by aerial spraying.
Read full article: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46516
The Fight in Famatina Against Barrick Gold Corporation Continues:
Barrick and Argentine Officials Violently Assault Women at Famatina Roadblock
Peñas Negras, La Rioja, 14 April 2009—Argentine government officials from the Secretary of Mining and Secretary of Environment, along with personnel from the Barrick Gold Corporation today attempted to ascend to the mining camp located in the reaches of the Famatina mountain range. Women from the Assembly, alerted to the intrusion, gathered at site of the road blockade they have carried out for two years in Peñas Negras, lowering the metal bar built to deny passage to the mining company.
The officials and Barrick employees – some twelve men – then bashed their trucks against the barrier, without success. Frustrated, the men proceeded to violently assault the handful of women who were peacefully seated on the road in front of the vehicles. They attacked the peaceful Assembly members with blows and fists, shoving and kicking the women.
More information in English: http://protestbarrick.net/article.php?id=437
More information in Spanish: www.biodiversidadla.org/content/view/full/48455
Pesticide Banned in Europe Kills Cattle in Paysandu
By: RAP-AL Uruguay (Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina)
13 April 2009— A new incident involving endosulfan as protagonist occurred a few days ago in the City of Guichon, 110 kilometers to the east of the capital of the region of Paysandu. On 9 April, a spray plane suffered a fault in flight and dropped an unknown quantity of endosulfan on a field where cattle were pastured.
According to first estimates, just one day after the incident, 50 young animals of more than 250 kg in weight died from eating contaminated grass. In addition hundreds of fish, reptiles and birds of many species. As if this were not enough, fish mortality has been detected in a river (Cañada del Horno) that provides water to the drinking water plant and to the city itself.
What is endosulfan?
Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide. It is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency of the US and the European Union as category 1b, highly dangerous. In scientific literature there is plenty of information about its high level of (eco) toxicity, what happens to it in the environment, its residues in food and forage and its concentration levels in the environment. Based on available information, endosulfan may be classified as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). It brings together the four characteristics that cause a substance to be classified as a POP: high toxicity to nearly all living organisms, very persistent in the environment, high bio-accumulation levels, and it travels long distances. Because of all the above, the EU has prohibited the commercialization and use of endosulfan and has asked for it to be included in the list of the Stockholm Convention, a process designed to limit and prohibit the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Complete article: http://webs.chasque.net/~rapaluy1/endosulfan/endosulfan_Guichon_ing.html
HPV Vaccine is Good Business
By: Silvia Ribeiro, researcher for ETC Group: www.etcgroup.org
ALAI AMLATINA, Mexico City, 13 April 2009— In Mexico, (...) over 4,000 women die every year from cervical cancer; 1.7 percent of all women’s deaths. Infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV) is extremely common in the world and it has been estimated that some 80 percent of the population is infected at some point in life. But, in 8 out of every 10 cases, the body produces natural resistance to the virus.
However, while in Mexico, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, in the United States and Europe, its incidence has dropped significantly over the last few decades. This is because the presence of the virus does not necessarily mean that cancer will development. Other related factors, including smoking, other infections, malnutrition, a weak immune system and lack of early detection (regular Pap smears), contribute to the development of cancer. These are mainly socioeconomic causes, for which no vaccine exists. (...)
Mexico has embarked upon a great experiment in mass vaccination of its population. Other countries in the region are considering or have begun to do the same: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, and others. They are spending millions in public funds that should be used for true prevention, instead of giving multinational pharmaceutical corporations the money and using their populations as guinea pigs.
(...) Since 2008, [vaccination is also] required for women ages 11 to 26 who are applying for an immigrant visa to the United States, who of course must pay out of pocket.
In 2007, for the first time, sales of vaccines for adults surpassed paediatric vaccines, as part of the strategy to create new markets. The largest share came from the lucrative business for vaccines against HPV, of which several of its over 100 strains are associated with cervical cancer. There are two vaccines on the market: Gardasil from Merck, which protects against strains 6, 11, 16 and 18, and Cervarix from GlaxoSmithKline, against strains 16 and 18. (...) Types 16 and 18 are associated with 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Full article in Spanish: http://alainet.org/active/29863&lang=es
More information in English: http://www.pri.org/health/Global-Health/panama-hpv-vaccine.html
Torrijos Decides to Privatize Health Care
By: Marco A. Gandásegui, Jr.
ALAI AMLATINA, Panama City, 15 April 2009—For over 25 years, Panama’s health system has been crumbling under structural adjustment policies that benefit a handful of businessmen to the detriment of the general public, particularly children and mothers. These policies also contribute to the rampant crime and violence by worsening Panama’s gaping social inequality.
We must take a different approach in addressing social problems. For example, public safety is jeopardized when citizens’ rights and responsibilities are ignored. Instead of more jails, we need a universal education plan. We need to stop talk of creating repressive armed groups and, instead, talk about investing in a national (preventive) health and social security plan. But instead of this, the Panamanian government introduced a neoliberal bill in congress that privatizes the country’s health system. President Martín Torrijos wants to leave all Panamanians with a system that will put an end to the 40 years of public health begun by his father, General Omar Torrijos, with the creation of the Ministry of Health in 1969.
The proposed law would transfer all health plans from the national level to the municipalities, of which there are 71 in Panama. With the exception of the capital district, all the municipalities have pervasive budget deficits. They regularly receive subsidies from the central government to meet their needs. Municipalities, including the capital district, do not have the capacity to develop comprehensive health plans. In the long run, the health “plans” will fall into the hands of multinational corporations and their local partners, who specialize in selling drugs, medical equipment and services. The objective of these companies, who will compel the municipalities and their officials to capitulate, will not be to provide health services. Their sole objective is and will continue to be making money and ensuring high profits for their owners.
Full article in Spanish: http://marcoagandasegui.blogspot.com
What Motivates Indigenous Colombians? It’s a matter of life and death
Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, 18 April 2009—Many Colombians still ask what it is about the minga (communal work) and why indigenous people are brave enough to mobilize and call on the country to take action? The answer, we believe, is in the conscience, unity and political clarity of the comuneros, the joint owners of common land.
A common, although not exclusive, characteristic of indigenous peoples is our relationship with Mother Earth. We have in order to exist. Life is sacred. It is the ultimate and vital reason for being of all societies and all cultures. Our Law of Origin requires that our efforts to reproduce and survive ensure the harmony and balance of our Mother Earth. This means that the production of wealth, that is, the economy, has to subordinate itself to life. If we destroy Mother Earth and there is no life, then there is no economy. Nature is the primary and greater economy. It is the greatest productive and reproductive force that exists and we must recognize it as such, to base all other economies on knowing, promoting and protecting it. The subsistence economy, which is for ensuring the life and sovereignty of peoples and cultures indivisibly, is a second economy. It brings together the accumulated wisdom of peasant and indigenous peoples, without which, the past, present and future are impossible. Denigrated by agribusiness interests, it is presented as being a primitive, backward economy, so that it can be replaced by toxic monocropping for monopolies and transnational exploitation. It is now evident that contrary to what they try to push down our throats, without peasant and indigenous economies, and not just subsistence economies, but also large-scale ones, there will be no future. Finally, in the market economy, not only the market for monopolistic accumulation, but also the regulated market for exchange and for the collective welfare, it is impossible to strengthen the reproduction of society and life. Therefore, for indigenous peoples, life is an end in itself and the economy is inseparable from ecology and they need to be in harmony in order to ensure survival. This requires us to resist a model that is a threat to life itself.
Full article in Spanish: http://www.nasaacin.org/noticias.htm?x=9829
Accident Insurance Should be an Element in People’s Right to Health and Safety
By: Arturo Quizhpe Peralta, Dean, Medical School, University of Cuenca
Cuenca, 15 April 2009—Compulsory Traffic Accident Insurance (SOAT is the Spanish acronym) should be one element in the strengthening of the public health system. It should not be an isolated project that tries to have an impact on a problem that is the responsibility of society as a whole, and the health sector in particular. This is something we have been insisting on from the beginning.
The numerous problems with this insurance scheme mentioned by the media, policy-holders, and public and private health services stem from it being a vertical programme forced on us in contradiction to the principles of the national government itself and of the right to health, which should always prioritize public over corporate interests.
Death and Disability
The tragedy and drama of road accident victims points up the need for urgent, comprehensive changes that will attack the causes of these accidents, change people’s behaviour, and benefit and protect all Ecuadorians. Therefore, the compulsory tax that all vehicle owners pay should be used to strengthen prevention programmes, health promotion, victim and family assistance, and the public service emergency system.
National Health Emergency System
Every day the media report on scenes of pain and death on the country’s streets and highways, and they also describe the lack of or limited emergency services. Despite all the efforts and the devoted, altruistic work of institutions such as the Red Cross, 911, and public hospital emergency and ambulance services, on-the-scenes immediate response is still deficient.
Given this reality, compulsory accident insurance that covers funeral costs and victim assistance is not enough! We urgently need a comprehensive programme that puts life at the forefront, and reduces pain and suffering to the extent possible.
Any accident “insurance scheme” has to attempt to decrease death and disability, because life is priceless. Therefore, we believe that it is imperative for the national government, the congress, and the Ministry of Public Health to analyze the following priority issues:
- The need for a national accident education and prevention programme, emphasizing in particular alcoholism and poor driving skills, with broad participation by communities, health sciences schools in our universities, and the automobile associations.
- The development of a true emergency system, including the use of modern technology in public services, air ambulances, and around-the-clock no-cost emergency care..
These are realistic measures, which can be fairly financed through the money paid by vehicle owners, to prevent deaths and save lives, and not to pay for dead bodies.