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                    The Garden


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Ganguly and his gang


Splendid just splendid Mr Ganguly!  Just when the whole cricketing world have stopped bothering about test cricket, Ganguly and his gang, now known as the formidable G gang, have gone and drawn a match against Australia, in Australia itself.  Truly remarkable.  The mood in the Indian camp is very upbeat with the Indian team resolving they will brook no nonsense from the Aussies ever again in the field of Test Cricket.

An Australian reporter who was asked to do a story on the Indian team met Ganguly as he was coming out of the dressing room.


“Mister Ganguly.”

“I’m sorry, I need to speak to Sourav Ganguly.”

“I am Mr Sourav Ganguly.”

“Sourav, may I ...”

“Mr Ganguly.”

“Mr Ganguly?  Me?  No no I am a reporter, I am not Mr Ganguly.”

“I am.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure about what?”

“That you are Sourav..?”

“Mr Ganguly.”

“Mister, I am not Ganguly, I am a reporter.”

“I am.”

“You are Ganguly?”

“Mister Ganguly.”

“Listen buster I think you are getting mixed up.  I am not Ganguly.  I am a reporter.  Ganguly is the fellow who played some strange game called Test Cricket!”

“Strange game?”

“Yeah some of our local teams couldn’t use the pitch for five days because this Ganguly fellow insisted on playing our boys for five days.  Bring your team here, play yer fifty overs and go, is what de rules say.  But five days?  No one but him and his men, could use the field.  Very unfair I must say.  Have you seen him?”


“Ganguly?  I need to ask him where he learnt this new game?”

“New game?”

“Yeah this boring game he brought from India.  You Indians have so much time to go and watch a game for five days?  Block, pad, block, pad.  They’re all waiting fer this Ganguly chap outside”

“Who is?”

“Killer mob.  They want to lynch him.  Five days and at de end no result?  Ye guys want to make our boys lose interest in the de game?  Some sort of conspiracy?”

“You better ask Ganguly?”

“You mean Mr Ganguly?”

“No, no just plain Ganguly...!”

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When northern elephants fight over GMOs


As the world’s attention was focussed firmly on the Cancun World Trade Organisation summit in September, an important international agreement quietly made its entry on the world stage, holding out immense implications for developing countries.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which aims to regulate trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), came into force on 11 September after five-year-long negotiations over trade advantages and disadvantages - intractable North-South issues that are set to continue to bedevil the Protocol’s implementation.

This is highlighted most forcefully by the US move to take the European Union to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism over the EU’s insistence that US exporters clearly label all GM food sold to Europe.

One of its main complaints is that Europe’s stand makes Africa reject GM.  The elephants that are Europe and US thus fight, and the grass that is Africa gets trampled.  The WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, which would have had direct or indirect implications on the case, collapsed on 14 September 2003, largely because the South, and especially Africa, refused to accommodate the elephants.

Is this a foretaste of the future of the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol as well?  Why do I foresee future difficulties?

The reasons are many, flowing chiefly from the substantive differences between the developing countries and the US over GMO regulation.

The US, which is unlikely to be a party to the Protocol, and the 60 parties to the Protocol start from opposing premises.

The US starts from the premise of ‘Substantial Equivalence’, which says GM crops are as safe as non-GM ones unless proved otherwise.  The EU and the developing world support the ‘Precautionary Principle’ embodied in the Protocol which states that a GM crop is to be considered possibly risky unless proved to be safe.

From these perceived differences flow implications for implementation.

The Cartagena Protocol requires a country to allow the importation of a GMO only after it has obtained all the necessary information about it and carried out a risk assessment to evaluate the likelihood of harm to human health, to agricultural systems, to its environment and to its socio-economic conditions.

The country of import is first informed by the exporter or by the country of export of the intention to export the GMO.

The country of import, after a risk assessment, then informs the exporter or the country of export in writing whether or not it will allow the import.

In the case of GM commodities intended for food, feed or for processing, the intention to export is notified to all countries in one go through a computerised database system called the clearing-house.

In this procedure, failure to communicate a decision to the country of export or to the clearing-house cannot be taken as an agreement to import.  The failure might happen through lack of capacity and the Precautionary Principle would then imply that no exportation takes place.

There are some exceptions to the procedure.

A GMO that is merely transiting through a country is not subjected to the procedure.  However, if a country considers any GMO as too dangerous to be allowed even transit, it has the right to register this fact at the clearing-house and prohibit its transiting.

A GMO that is destined for contained use - under conditions from which it cannot escape into the open environment and cannot come into contact with humans or other forms of life - need not go through the procedure before importation.

A GMO for use as a pharmaceutical for humans is subjected to the procedure unless there is another international law or a specified international organisation to govern its import and export authorisation.  At the moment, there is no international law other than the Cartagena Protocol to govern the environmental impacts of GMOs.  The World Health Organisation is responsible only for the safety to human health of pharmaceuticals - GMOs or otherwise - and not for their environmental impact.

When it comes to implementing and regulating the Protocol, however, developing nations are faced with all kinds of handicaps - for a variety of reasons.

For instance, the Protocol depends on full information for its effective implementation - it requires a labelling and traceability regime to be negotiated once it comes into force.  But the US, the biggest producer of GMOs in the world, refuses to label them, so countries will not necessarily know when an unlabelled US GMO is imported into their territories.  In the meantime, safety will be compromised.


Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Director General of Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Authority, was chief African negotiator at the Cartagena Protocol.

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Bush is obsessed with war


Throughout 2003, the world lived with Bush’s obsession.  Debate over Iraq dominated international diplomacy, and took up almost the entire UN agenda.  The war in Iraq cost countless innocent lives, such as when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was bombed.  At the same time, Bush’s emphasis on a one-dimensional, militarized approach to global problems has fueled unrest and instability throughout the Islamic world, leading to increased terrorism in Turkey, North Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Southeast Asia.

The nature of suffering around the world hardly justifies this narrow strategy.  Focusing on terrorism to the exclusion of other issues, and emphasizing the military response to it, will not bring prosperity and peace, or even a significant reduction in the number of attacks.  While 3,000 innocent people died in the US on September 11, 2001, in Africa 8,000 innocent children die every day from malaria.

Yet malaria is preventable and treatable.  The problem is that most of Africa is too poor to mobilize the methods of prevention (bed nets) and treatments (anti-malarial medicines) that could save millions of children every year.  The US spends more on Iraq each day than it does on Africa’s malaria in a year.

George W. Bush is obsessed with the war on terrorism, especially with the military response to terrorism.  American foreign policy reflects that obsession.  This year, the US will spend around $450 billion for the military, including the costs of the Iraq War, while it will spend no more than $15 billion to overcome global poverty, global environmental degradation, and global diseases.  In other words, US foreign policy spending is thirty times more focused on the military than on building global prosperity, global public health, and a sustainable environment.

As 2003 draws to a close, it is time for world leaders to help guide the world away from the obsessive, failing approach of America’s government.  President Bush should be made to understand that the US will find no true international support if America speaks incessantly about terrorism while doing almost nothing about the problems that really affect most of the world: poverty, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, vulnerability to disease, and climate change.

Ironically, President Bush claims that the UN does not follow through on its word.  He declared in London recently that “the credibility of the UN depends on a willingness to keep its word and to act when action is required.”  Yet the US repeatedly violates its own UN pledges.

For example, at the International Conference on Financing for Development, in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, America signed the Monterrey Consensus, which includes a promise by rich countries to raise their development assistance towards 0.7% of national income.  That would bring an additional $60 billion per year in foreign assistance from the US--approximately what it spent on Iraq this year.  Yet President Bush has simply ignored this promise.

There are many other similar commitments that the US has made in recent years to the UN that remain utterly unfulfilled.  The US promised action to fight man-made climate change as a signatory to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in 1992.  It has so far failed to act.

America also promised--in the Doha Declaration in 2001--to open its markets to the world’s poorest countries.  Yet at Cancun, Mexico earlier this summer, it refused to open its markets even to exports from struggling African economies.

The list goes on and on.  At the Millennium Assembly in 2000, the US promised to pursue reduction of global poverty, yet it has taken few steps in that direction.  At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, America committed itself to protect global ecosystems, yet little has been seen or heard from US policy makers on this issue since then.

America is certainly not alone in failing to promote the international goals adopted in the UN.  But because the US is the richest, most powerful country in the world, its neglect is devastating.  If the US really wants to undercut terrorism, it must recognize the interconnectedness of extremism, poverty, and environmental degradation, and it will need to understand the struggles for survival that are underway among the poor everywhere.

But the world should not wait for the America to come to its senses.  The US represents just 5% of the world’s population, and just one vote of 191 countries in the UN General Assembly.  Poor countries, especially the democracies of the developing world--Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico, Ghana, the Philippines--should say, “We need to act on the issues that concern us, not just on the issues that concern the US.”  What the world needs most in 2004 is a declaration of independence from American willfulness.

[Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.]

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2003.



For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.