Multinational Monitor

MAR/APR 2007
VOL 28 No. 2


Big Pharma and AIDS Act II: Patents and the Price of Second-Line Treatment
by Robert Weissman

Manuel Cossa's Story: Mining and the Migration of AIDS
by Stephanie Nolan

Slow on Generics: Bush Policy Saves Lives, At a Premium
by M. Asif Ismail

HIV In Uganda: The Challenges of Getting Pills to Patients
by Richard Kavuma

Building Up Baja: US Suburbanization Comes to the Peninsula
by Dan La Botz


Cry for Action: Shameful Neglect and the Search for Hope in AIDS-Ravaged Africa an interview with Stephen Lewis

Four Million Short: The Healthcare Worker Shortage
an interview with Lincoln Chen


Behind the Lines

Deadly Dictates: The IMF, AIDS and the Healthcare Crisis

The Front
Climate Changing Africa -- African Inequality

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Alfalfa Angst

Monsanto must halt sales of genetically engineered alfalfa, a federal judge ruled in March, marking the first time a federal court has overturned a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval of a biotech seed and stopped planting.

The alfalfa seed has been genetically modified to resist spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer found the USDA failed to properly assess its potential impact on the economy and the environment before permitting Monsanto to market the biotech seeds.
The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety, which filed the suit, charges the alfalfa could create herbicide-resistant “super weeds,” contaminate natural and organic alfalfa, and cause farmers to lose export business to countries not wanting the genetically-modified version of the crop. “Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets and to the environment,” says Will Rostov, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “We expect the USDA to abide by the law and give these harmful effects of the crop full consideration.”
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) originally ran an environmental assessment as an “alternative” to the legally required environmental impact statement, says Rachel Iadicicco, APHIS spokesperson. “We had a finding of ‘no significant impact,’” she says, adding, “We’ve made steps to comply with the court’s ruling.”

Monsanto representatives declined to be interviewed, but in a prepared statement Executive Vice President Jerry Steiner said, “The extensive regulatory dossier for Roundup Ready alfalfa, combined with farmer stewardship agreements, provides a robust and responsible approach to managing the environmental questions raised by the plaintiffs in this case.”

The Bhopal Legacy

The toll of death and disease from the Bhopal, India chemical disaster continues to mount. The 1984 leak of dangerous gases from a Union Carbide chemical plant has now killed more than 22,000 people, according to Amnesty International, with hundreds of thousands still sick.
Dow Chemical, which purchased Union Carbide in 2001, wants to put the disaster behind it. But Amnesty International says the company remains liable for damages that it is not disclosing to its shareholders.
Following the disaster, Union Carbide refused to pay interim relief to victims and refused to appear in Indian courts to face charges of culpable homicide. In 1989, Union Carbide paid the Indian government $470 million in a legal settlement, but the agreement did not end ongoing criminal prosecution, nor offer an environmental remedy for the contaminated site. Today the Bhopal District Court and the Supreme Court of India still consider Union Carbide and former CEO Warren Anderson to be “absconders” from justice.
In April 2007, Amnesty International called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Dow for not disclosing information to shareholders regarding the company’s culpability in the Bhopal disaster, including tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs.
“Despite the settlement of prior civil litigation, the company remains stymied in India as a result of the ongoing impact of the Bhopal disaster,” states Amnesty’s letter to the SEC. “Frankly, considering the professed importance of India as a market and production base for the company’s businesses in the Asian region as a whole, we believe the impediment to investing in India owing to the unresolved liabilities in Bhopal may constitute a material matter that ought to have been previously disclosed by the management to shareholders.”

In a continuing court case regarding cleanup of the still-toxic but abandoned factory, the Indian government in May 2005 filed a brief asking Dow for a $22 million deposit toward cleanup costs. Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow, wrote a letter to the Indian Ambassador to the United States saying the Indian government should withdraw its request. Dow never disclosed this ongoing litigation to its investors. In addition, Dow claims that India is merely a “growth region” and does not acknowledge the risks the Bhopal legacy poses to its expansion there.
“Looking at these letters, it seems that Dow’s refusal to address the human rights of the Bhopal survivors may be having a serious, but undisclosed, financial impact,” says Amy O’Meara of Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Program. Under SEC rules, companies must disclose material information to investors.

Welcome To Dubailand

A monument to excess has reached a new milestone. The United Arab Emirates’ Dubailand, which promises to be the world’s largest entertainment and tourism complex, in March officially opened its headquarters to the public, featuring a 3,200 square foot model of the entire development to come.
“It was the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed that began this road to a world of fun and leisure,” says Mohammad Al Habbai, CEO of Dubailand, referring to Dubai’s current leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The headquarters feature exhibitions including a roller coaster, an artificial volcano and two Bengal tigers.
When completed, the 3 billion square foot development will house the largest water park and the largest shopping mall in the world, and will be twice the size of all Disneyland/Disney World resorts put together. The Dubai Snowdome will be the largest free-standing transparent dome structure in the world and will feature a rotating ski deck, mountain run, snow play area, toboggan run, penguinarium, ice skating rink and a theater featuring a virtual flight over the Antarctic. (All in Arabia, where swimming pools are cooled in summer to be comfortable.)
Also planned for Dubailand is the Restless Planet, a dinosaur theme park with more than 100 animatronic dinosaurs, and the Astrolabe Resort, the first “immersive entertainment environment based on education themes in the Middle East.” The Falcon City of Wonders will showcase life-size replicas of the Great Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Once fully operational, Dubailand expects 40,000 visitors a day and 15 million visitors a year.
“We are thrilled to share the excitement that all of us experience in translating the vision of Dubailand,” says Al Habbai. “Visitors to the headquarters will be able to see for themselves the progress being made toward delivering a unique project that will significantly add to Dubai’s positioning as a multicultural tourist haven.”

Tofu’s Underbelly

A large soy processing and shipping facility in the lower Amazon was ordered shut down by a Brazilian Regional Federal Court in March, ending a dramatic struggle between Greenpeace and Cargill, the port’s operator and one of the world’s largest agribusinesses. Greenpeace has long argued that Cargill’s port was built illegally and with no regard for the devastating environmental impact the soy business has had on the Amazon.
While the Federal Court’s decision was stayed upon Cargill’s appeal, the ruling marked a turning point in Cargill’s dealings with soy growers in the Amazon. Cargill agreed to a two-year moratorium on buying soy grown on newly deforested land and is now “discussing things with the authorities to resolve the situation,” including an inspection by the Brazilian Environmental Agency, says Lori Johnson, Cargill spokesperson.
Cargill’s presence turned soy into a lucrative cash-crop for farmers in the Amazon region, leading farmers to clear forests for soy plantations. “Since Cargill arrived in Santarem, soy has been the major driver of deforestation,” says Tatiana de Carvalho, a Greenpeace Brazil Amazon campaigner.
About 6,500 square miles of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon was destroyed between 2005 and 2006. Soy farming, along with illegal logging and cattle ranching, is now a key cause of deforestation in the Amazon.                             Cargill continues to maintain that it had the proper authorization to build the port, and that its presence has brought much-needed economic growth to the region. However, a 2006 report published by Greenpeace offered a much different profile of the company, accusing Cargill of supporting farm operations that use slave labor, collaborating with farmers who steal land and effectively underwriting extensive deforestation.
Greenpeace’s next demand is for the federal government to undertake a complete and participatory environmental impact assessment that takes into account Brazil’s environmental laws, says de Carvalho. De Carvalho believes a full assessment will lead to a denial of authorization for the project.

New Mexico: The Rig Is Up

For New Mexicans, the days of waking up to find an unannounced oil rig in the front yard are gone. A new state landowner protection bill requires the oil and gas industry to give advance notice of drilling activity, and to compensate land owners for any damage to their land.
In the past, oil companies could purchase or lease the underground mineral rights to an area of land from the state or federal government and receive authorization to explore for mineral deposits without ever speaking to the surface owner. With mineral rights obtained, oil and gas industries had the right to enter the property to search for minerals and, if found, the right to remove those deposits.
The Surface Owners’ Protection Act is the result of a three-year debate between cattle ranchers and the oil and gas industry, and is considered one of the strongest surface protection bills in the country. Under the new law, companies are required to notify landowners 30 days prior to any digging activity, describe the project in detail and propose an agreement to compensate for the use of the land. Landowners have 20 days to accept or reject the agreement and, if no agreement is reached, companies must post bond before digging the wells.
If companies fail to take these steps, landowners can seek triple damages in court. Governor Bill Richardson says the new law shows that New Mexico is “an energy producer with sensitivity to the land and property rights and property owners.”
“This new law gives landowners a powerful tool to negotiate with oil and gas companies, so it should result in less conflict between operators and surface owners,” says Bill Sauble, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.
Environmentalists are not satisfied, however. The Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club charges that the bill does not go far enough, as it does not contain provisions regulating the amount of surface destruction, or dealing with environmental impacts and groundwater protection.

- Jennifer Wedekind


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