Wednesday, April 12, 2006

GMO safety under scrutiny in EU

Fortunately, the European Union is coming to grips with safety concerns over genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas brought into question the quality of GMO safety tests and said that risks were present that endangered biodiversity.

They may be a bit of an understatement considering this technology is as unnatural as splicing fish genes into a garbanzo bean using cell-invading viruses.

The EU's Parma-based agency in charge of GMO testing has been criticized over its procedures in handling products destined for the EU market.

Eight EU countries have all-out bans including Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Greece while other countries have partial restrictions on GMOs. The Polish government, for example, has been considering banning planting of GMO crops.

Many states and provinces in the EU are GMO-free zones even if the biotechnology is legal in the respective country as a whole.

If the old adage 'you are, what you eat' holds true, then we must use utmost caution and indeed reject these "Franken-foods" as risks to our health and to the biodiversity of the planet.

Iran to use 54,000 centrifuges for nuclear fuel

Continuing a PR blitz, Iran said it was intent on producing nuclear fuel and would use a facility in the town of Natanz to supply a 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant.

Yesterday Iran claimed to have enriched uranium in centrifuges in defiance of a U.N. Security Council directive.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called for "strong steps" to stop Iran's march toward nuclear power.

However, at present it seems as though the Security Council, not to speak of the United Nations itself, is divided on the issue. Many members have expressed a willingness to wait for a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency due at the end of April.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the U.S. would "look at other alternative" if the Security Council did not act.

America has already leveled economic sanctions against North Korea for that country's defiance of U.S. dictates on nuclear development.

First World Buddhist Forum in China, Dalai Lama and Karmapa not invited

As President Hu Jintao heads to the U.S., China will host the First World Buddhist Forum on Thursday and running until April 18.

China may be hoping the forum will show the country's tolerance for religion and cultural diversity, but two prominent Buddhist leaders have not been allowed to attend the event.

The Dalai Lama and the Karmapa, both having fled from Chinese-ruled Tibet to India, were not invited.

Instead China will promote their own choice for the position of Panchen Lama, an office nearly as powerful as that of the Dalai Lama. China elected its own choice for that seat, and has detained the Panchen Lama selected in the traditional ways of Tibet.

Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese pick, was introduced to the forum guests during a pre-event meeting with government officials. According to reports other attendees failed to publicly greet Gyaltsen Norbu in a sign that they did not recognize his right to the office.

Da Vinci Code faces new lawsuit

Russian author Dr Mikhail Anikin claims that Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code has plagiarised his book, Leonardo Da Vinci: Theology In Paint.

Brown recently defeated a legal challenge by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book he obviously used in writing his own novel.

The lawsuits appear aimed at getting a piece of the pie from the forthcoming release of the Da Vinci Code movie in May. Holy Blood, Holy Grail sales have shot up and Michael Baigent, one of the co-authors, recently released The Jesus Papers, which is also having brisk sales.

Brown's Da Vinci Code is currently number one on USA TODAY's best-seller list.

All the hype will undoubtedly help the box office receipts of the movie, although the legal troubles may have scratched any plans for a Holy Week release a la Mel Gibson and The Passion.

Unlike Gibson's film which was generally lauded in Christian circles, the Da Vinci Code has ruffled the feathers of folk in the Vatican and elsewhere.

Many see it as an attempt to integrate "New Age" or "Eastern" concepts of the divine female with traditional Christianity.