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second nuclear reactor on the way

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2007-02-16 16:45

chernobyl sarcophaguschernobyl sarcophagusLooks like we're about to get another nuclear reactor whether we like it or not. In fact it seems we're not being asked for our opinion at all.

Public Enterprises Minister, Alec Erwin, told parliament on Monday that the government had approved the construction of a second nuclear power station in the southern part of the country. The decision was apparently made by the Eskom board towards the end of last year.

It has not been dislosed where the reactor will be located, although I'm betting it will be nowhere near Mr Erwin's holiday home.

"One does not reveal where a nuclear power plant is to be built, because we still have to acquire the land, although we might have already done that," he said, nonsensically.

Maya Aberman, campaign co-ordinator at Earthlife Africa Cape Town said "[We] can only assume that either the Minister isn't aware of the provisions of the Constitution and laws governing South Africa, that he considers these provisions irrelevant, or that he is attempting to inspire a false sense of optimism about his and his department's nuclear fantasies."

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gene-wash part 2: bias or blatant spin?

Submitted by turbosprout on Wed, 2007-02-14 16:03

Following on from gene-wash part 1, I've at last finished with part 2.

Biotech industry mouthpiece, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) published a report on the 18 January making a number of claims about the increase in uptake of genetically engineered crops worldwide. [ISAAA]

The report claims:
- total area of approved GM crops in 2006 was 102 million hectares in 22 countries — a 13 per cent rise on the previous year.
- over 90 per cent of those growing GM crops worldwide — around 9.3 million farmers — are small, resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
- about 40 per cent of GM crops were grown in developing countries, which showed the biggest rise in growing area — 21 per cent compared to nine per cent in industrialised countries.

gene-wash part 1: a primer on industry reports

Submitted by turbosprout on Thu, 2007-02-01 17:54

Genes are not the only organisms being manipulated. When it comes to telling the truth, reports by bio-industry funded, yet official-sounding organisations leave a lot to be desired.

Should you believe any report sponsored by the industry that stands to benefit from that same report? Hmmm.

Most of us "believed" the tobacco industry for twenty years whilst their scientist cronies repeatedly told us not to worry about the effects of smoking. "There is no evidence linking smoking to lung cancer" was their mantra, whilst we dragged and inhaled for way longer than we should have. [SourceWatch]

Don't Big Pharmaceutical companies always tell the truth? I wonder where the idea for the movie, The Constant Gardener came from? [The Nation] John le Carré author of the 2001 novel says in the book's afterword "By comparison with the reality, my story [is] as tame as a holiday postcard."

campaign to ban paraquat

Submitted by turbosprout on Mon, 2006-11-13 10:10

Last week I received an email from SAFeAGE (the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering) requesting support for a international campaign to ban the use of paraquat in herbicides around the world. So I took a closer look at the campaign by the Berne Declaration (a Swiss NGO) and unearthed a few interesting details...

paraquat verdictparaquat verdictThe use of paraquat is obviously a contentious issue. In fact Syngenta, the Swiss-based agribusiness that uses it in it's Gramoxone herbicide has a whole web-site dedicated to it's defence: It seems a very thinly disguised PR stunt promoting the "benefits" of paraquat and co-opt's a handful of "experts" to endorse the site. I wonder how many of the 8 academics have their research funded by Syngenta?

The most intriguing information on Syngenta's paraquat site is a downloadable PDF in the "For Journalists" section called "Why Paraquat Should Be Banned" and must have been posted there by environmental activists as it stands in blatant contrast to the rest of the spin on the site!

There is no doubt that paraquat is a dangerous substance if not used according to specifications. It is also obvious to me that agricultural practices in the third world are not regulated and enforced as they would be in, say, Europe. Indeed how many farm workers have read the precautionary measures to be taken when using paraquat and how many unscrupulous farmers overuse herbicides?

To what extent should a first-world manufacturer care about whether the users of it's products receive proper training, have the correct safety equipment, follow the proper hygene, are literate etc. To them their responsibility likely ends at having printed the mandatory material safety handling sheet and making the sale.

After all sales of paraquat are estimated to contribute over $300 million US Dollars to Syngenta's bottom line.

Anway take a look at the campaign - I know where I'll be putting my "X".

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consumer activism at

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2006-08-25 12:40 is a great site to check out for lodging your complaints (or compliments) where the rest of the world can see them.

You would think that most companies would be interested in seeing what actual customers think about them. And maybe even respond to complaints. Or at least show in a superficial way that they cared. Or at least manage the risk to their reputations and brands by responding and repudiating your claims. Or explaining their side of the story, right?

Wrong. Some of SA's biggest companies don't give a damn. We don't care what you think. We're megaprofitable and our shareholders like us... so $%^&@ off! That's the message I get when someone doesn't care to respond.

In order of the most complaints logged against them, here are the top ten who couldn't care less:

TELKOM (626 complaints on - why am I not suprised!
South African Airways (293) - another state owned company in second place, surprise, surprise.
BIG Concerts (192) - lots of allegations of not managing concerts responsibly
Standard Chartered/20twenty (168) - "where's my money?"
Nokia (140)
SABC (106)
Ster-Kinekor (105)

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do advertisers get away too easily with misleading us?

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2006-08-25 10:30

This was the title of today's After 8 Debate on SAFM. And listening to the panelists and the callers phoning in, I'd say yep it is way too easy for the South African public to be misled.

What are two products that everyone owns (assuming that you can afford them)? A car and a cellphone come to mind. And which products were those that were most complained about? Misleading advertising of car purchase plans and cellphone contracts!

Car finance companies (usually the car manufacturers) are guilty of hiding the REALLY IMPORTANT TERMS AND CONDITIONS conveniently in the small print. They don't want you to know that after paying your R600 a month for 4 years they will repossess your car because you are unable to afford the R30 000 residual value (such a euphamism!) to make the car legally yours. John Perlman said that a particular motoring magazine was scrutinised and 9 such payment plan centered adverts found of which 1 spelt out the residual payment.

Cell phone contracts and charges are as difficult to to understand as your banking fees. Where else in the world are you tied in to a 24 month contract for a "free" cellphone. Actually it's a 25 month contract as one caller pointed out when it comes to Cell-C.

The advertising agencies seemed to be sidestepping the issues neatly by placing the responsibility of misleading advertising with their clients. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) admitted that they can withdraw unethical advertisements, but only once a complaint has been received by the public, so they will always operate in a reactive manner.

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