Canada Jeopardizes Biotech Liability Talks / Guardian on Tewolde (25/5/2005)

1.Guardian on Tewolde
2.Canada Jeopardizes Biotech Liability Talks

French speakers may also want to check out the following article, 'Les refus de visas canadiens s'amoncellent' by Jooneed Khan in La Presse which points out that as well as obstructing Tewolde, others including from India and Togo, have been denied a visa.,63,0,052005,1043771.php&skip_inter=1

By the way, hope it's a joke about John Gummer (second bit in item 1 below) - he's pro-GM!

1.Eco sounding
John Vidal and Paul Brown
The Guardian, Wednesday May 25, 2005,7843,1491028,00.html

Spoil sport

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher is an extraordinary Ethiopian diplomat, scientist and politician, who, as de facto environment minister, was the official spokesman for Africa at the negotiations of the Biosafety Protocol at the Johannesburg earth summit in 2001. While there, he made a famous impassioned speech that led most of the world's environment ministers to reject US plans to grant the World Trade Organisation powers over international treaties. The Americans were furious, and now their longtime diplomatic chums, the Canadians, seem to have taken their revenge. Last month, Tewolde applied for a diplomatic visa to visit Montreal to tie up the loose ends of the treaty. He was turned down - he doesn't know why but is suspicious of the motive. "Refusing an entry visa has become a neat instrument of interfering with negotiations to which you are not a party," Tewolde says. "But now that I have been prevented from [going] to Montreal, who knows which ones of you will be prevented next time?"

Ruling the Earth

Friends of the Earth is looking for a new chairman of the board. As always, the campaign group is promising little money (around GBP6,000 a year), far too much work, and stormy times. Eco Sounding's odds: 5-1 Michael Meacher; 7-1 John Gummer; 10-1 Sir Crispin Tickell; 20-1 Tom Burke; 100-1 Jonathan Porritt; and 500-1 Swampy.

2.Canada Jeopardizes Biotech Liability Talks
Belated Visa for Africa's Top Diplomat leaves UN's Montreal Biosafety negotiations in suspense
ETC Group, News Release, May 24, 2005

Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25, in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi Tuesday.

Dr. Tewolde's delay at the hands of the Canadian government is particularly troubling because the scientist was a key figure in forcing industrialized countries and biotech corporations to agree to discuss liability and redress issues. The unintended spread of genetically modified DNA from biotech crops has caused unwanted genetic contamination in other countries, and is now a major problem for countries like Canada who are being called on to take responsibility for contamination. Canada is the world's third largest producer of GM crops, after the US and Argentina. Not surprisingly, Canada was among the governments opposed to liability negotiations. The issue became a major stumbling block to achieving the biosafety protocol in 2000. Only when Canada and other major biotech countries agreed to Dr. Tewolde's demand that a special meeting on liability be convened soon after the coming into force of the protocol (in late 2003), did governments in developing countries accept the protocol. That meeting on liability, brokered by the Ethiopian scientist, is the one that he will miss two days of this week.

Dr. Tewolde, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) requested a visa from Canada on May 5th and only received it late Tuesday in Addis Ababa. In response to the delay, the Canadian Government has been flooded with protest phone calls and letters from around the world - a reaction similar to that provoked in February when the government tried to promote Terminator technology (sterile seeds) at meetings in Bangkok.

Dr. Tewolde's case is not unique. Late last year a colleague of his at the Environmental Protection Authority of Ethiopia, Mr. Dereje Agonafir, was refused a Canadian visa to participate in a meeting of a CBD Expert Group relating to the Biodiversity of Water, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems. In a telephone conversation earlier today, Dr. Tewolde suggested that the future of Montreal as host to the Secretariat of the CBD should be tied to the Canadian government's ability to provide other government delegates with visas. Civil society from developing countries have also been denied visas for this week's meetings, including Professor Kavulakunpla Ramanna Chowdry and Kaka Ramakrishna, two farmers from India.

For more information: Pat Mooney, ETC Group - Ottawa, Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-261-0688 [email protected]; Ban Terminator Campaign - Lucy Sharratt, Ottawa, Canada phone: 1-613-241-2267 mobile: 1-613-222-6214


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