The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


Euroactive Publishes Press Release on new EU Biobased Industry Initiative

Today the European Commission adopts a new proposed €3.8 billion Public Private Partnership for Biobased industries in Europe, aimed at ensuring smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and at enabling Europe to become a world-leading Innovation Union . The proposal comes as part of an innovation investment package of new Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) under Horizon 2020.

At the announcement, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “These initiatives not only strengthen our economy, they are an investment in a better quality of life. Working together will enable us to tackle issues that no one company or country can deal with alone.” Continue reading

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A European Perspective on Government Data Surveillance

By Christopher Kuner

The recent revelations concerning widespread US government access to electronic communications data (including the PRISM system apparently run by the National Security Agency) leave many questions unanswered, and new facts are constantly emerging. Thoughtful commentators should be hesitant to make detailed pronouncements before it is clear what is actually going on.

Nevertheless, given the potential of these developments to fundamentally reshape the data protection and privacy landscape, I cannot resist drawing a few high-level, preliminary conclusions, from a European perspective:

Legal protection without political commitment is insufficient to protect privacy. In the regulation of data flows across national borders, trying to resolve conflicts between privacy regulation and government access requirements solely through legal means puts more pressure on the law than it can bear. In addition to strong legal measures, we need greater commitment to privacy protection at the political level, which unfortunately is lacking in many countries.

Government access to personal data is a global issue. International Data Privacy Law recently published a detailed legal analysis last year of systematic government access to private-sector data in nine countries (Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, the UK, and the US), and concluded that a lack of adequate transparency and clear legal standards in this area is a global problem. Revelations about the US programs should not distract attention from issues regarding government access to data in other countries. Continue reading

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GMO Foods Cont’d

Keith Kloor argues in Discover magazine that “the worst misinformation and myths about genetically modified foods has spread from the anti-GMO fringes to the mainstream.”  He feels that the anti-GMO movement is based on fear and not science.  To back up his view he quotes an article published in Scientific American by Pam Ronald, a University of California plant geneticist:

There is broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops (Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Committee on Environmental Impacts Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants, National Research Council and Division on Earth and Life Studies 2002). Both the U.S. National Research Council and the Joint Research Centre (the European Union’s scientific and technical research laboratory and an integral part of the European Commission) have concluded that there is a comprehensive body of knowledge that adequately addresses the food safety issue of genetically engineered crops (Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health and National Research Council 2004; European Commission Joint Research Centre 2008).

A reader responds to Kloor’s dismissing the European approach that “until proven safe, we’re gonna, like, avoid this stuff.”

The Europeans have simply taken an approach that is closer to what a normal, sensible individual would take. When a certain amount of evidence accumulates suggesting that something is not good for you, it makes eminent sense to say “Well, then I’m not going to consume this thing until someone can show me that it isn’t harming me.” The North American approach is to say “Go for it until it can be irrefutably demonstrated that this is doing something bad.” Of course one never gets to the point where the evidence is considered irrefutable. This same tired way of framing the problem has been used relentlessly by Monsanto, climate change deniers, the tobacco industry, etc., etc.