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French face tough choices to help save the planet

 
 
Reply Mon 1 Oct, 2007 01:29 am
Quote:
French face tough choices to help save the planet

By John Lichfield in Paris
Published: 01 October 2007

In a huge consultation exercise starting this week, the people of France will be asked whether they want to save the planet. The answer is likely to be "oui".

They will, however, also be asked harder questions:

Are French drivers willing to accept lower speed limits on motorways and ordinary roads to reduce carbon emissions?

Are French consumers prepared to pay more for their food, to allow "bio", or organic, farming to take over one fifth of all fields in the next 13 years?

Are French farmers ready to give up their addiction to pesticides?

Are homeowners prepared to pay up to €20,000 (£14,000) - €600bn in total - to insulate their houses? The consultation exercise - including an internet questionnaire and 17 public meetings - is part of a green revolution promised by President Nicolas Sarkozy during his election campaign in the spring. At the end of this month, all interested parties - employers, unions, farmers, consumers, green pressure groups, hunters and conservationists, even bull-fight fans and anti-bull-fight campaigners - will be invited to a conference in Paris.

The results of this conference will influence, but not directly decide, President Sarkozy's environmental policies for the next five years. Working groups have already put forward a series of radical proposals (and discarded even more radical ones).

Over the next three weeks, the public will be asked whether the speed limits on French roads should be reduced from 130kph (80mph) to 120kph on motorways and 90kph to 80kph on rural roads.

Environmental and road safety campaigners say that this would save 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. The car and truck lobbies say that France "cannot save the planet" by knocking 10kph off speed limits. According to opinion polls, the public is split 50/50.

Another contentious issue is likely to be the future of GM crops, pesticides and organic farming.

The more radical green campaigners have already dismissed the conference as a political stunt. Others say that President Sarkozy has at least been willing to put the issues of climate change and sustainable development at the centre of national debate.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 802 • Replies: 11
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Oct, 2007 10:07 pm
What does organic farming and restrictions on the use ofGM seeds and pesticides have to do with "saving the planet"??

Most of the food crops we now raise (even in organic farms) are hybrids, the results of earlier techniques of achieving GM.

Organic farming means lower gross yields and more energy required for the same yield.

Short-lived Pesticides and Herbicides permit significantly higher plant yields per unit of area farmed and energy consumed in producing it. They also enable less intrusive planting techniques and significant savings in topsoil - very important in marginal soil/climate areas.

Why stop with the regulation of the speeds of automobiles & trucks? Why not also regulate the speed of the TGVs of which the French are so proud? In either case the environmental effects are, at best, marginal.

All this strikes me as very stupid.

However, if one of a more suspicious frame of mind were merely to consider all of this a scam designed to rationalize continued French resistance to free trade in agricultural products and uneconomic protectionism for relatively inefficient French farmers, then it begins to make some sense.

Now that decades of milking the EU for agricultural subsidies are coming to an end there certainly is an urgend need for a new rationalization of this domestic French political imperative.

No fools those French.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 12:43 am
Hi, George! (patting on the back).

Continue that way, please, I like to see you develop your sempiternal litany of pet topics... Twisted Evil
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 02:04 am
Quote:
Paris adopts 'climate plan' to slash emissions in city
Source

http://i22.tinypic.com/33aqys6.jpg
La Liberation, 02.10.07, page 16
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 10:12 am
Francis wrote:
Hi, George! (patting on the back).

Continue that way, please, I like to see you develop your sempiternal litany of pet topics... Twisted Evil


Don't patronize me! :wink: It was a good post, factual, to the point, and quite penetrating in the insight offered. Perhaps you will find the courage and energy required to address the central points.

The European fixation against GM plants & seeds does great harm to the economies of the developing nations which are dependent on the meagre agricultural exports they send to Europe. The European fixed preference for the "natural" hybrid plants, developed over centuries of relatively primitive techniques for GM, is hardly meaningful in view of the basic similarity of the process and the results obtained. It is a mask to restrict free trade that is useful for that purpose to inefficient European producers. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the gullibility of European consumers who pay for it all.

Thirty years ago President Jimmy Carter tried to hector Americans into his notions of social morality with a restrictive energy conservation policy which he termed as "the moral equivalent of war" (whatever that means). He too mandated restrictive speed limits on vehicles. We had the good sense to reject him and his Luddite view of the world. Critics of the U.S. government accuse us of imitating the worst behaviors of our imperialistic European forebears. Apparently the process works in both directions.

To some extent all this surprises me, coming from a Sarkozy government. However, perhaps it is a clever attempt to mobilize and redirect the restless political energies of the French towards the greater individual responsibility that he campaigned for with respect to social and economic policy.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 10:17 am
Whatever the nation is - you always get the curve to hit on the Europeans, George.

This is a French initiative, a public discussion, backed by people and politicans from the right and the left - and it was initialised by Sarkozy, the president, not by Fillon or the government.
0 Replies
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 10:33 am
reducing the speed limit by 10kph wont save anything, except perhaps a few lives.

The damage from fossil fuel is already done. We are addicted. We have failed to plan to get off the stuff. Now oil is past peak there will be more fighting over whats left. On top of that we have already done damage to the atmosphere, and the pain of climate change is coming no matter what we do.

Sorry to be so pessimistic.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 10:38 am
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Whatever the nation is - you always get the curve to hit on the Europeans, George.

This is a French initiative, a public discussion, backed by people and politicans from the right and the left - and it was initialised by Sarkozy, the president, not by Fillon or the government.


Perhaps I do. However I surely have your best interests at heart. :wink: Moreover, I don't believe that I am more critical of Europe than are you, old europe, hamburger, Blatham, Steve and other interesting posters from Europe and Canada critical of America. I believe that on both sides this reflects no more than a spirited exchange of perspectives among friends.

I don't deny or argue with the proposition that the initiative is French, that it was launched by the president, or that the dialogue embraces the whole political spectrum in France. However, I do believe I have offered some interesting insights about possible motives for it and the origins of its widespread reception.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 12:06 pm
See: it doesn't work.

When I (or one of the others)critise the USA, we critisise the government, Bush, the administration a party or whatever. But not the Canada, the USA, Mexica, Panama, Brasil .... altogether.

Now, this is a thread about something special in France. And it doesn't take long until you beat all the 46 European countries.
------


I've quite different ideas (and feelings) about the outcome of this initiative.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 12:42 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
Perhaps you will find the courage and energy required to address the central points.


Now, you completely miss the point, George. It's not a matter of energy or courage.

It's a matter of personal philosophy, which disclosing, would, precisely, contradict the very same philosophy.
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 01:33 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
The European fixation against GM plants & seeds does great harm to the economies of the developing nations which are dependent on the meagre agricultural exports they send to Europe. The European fixed preference for the "natural" hybrid plants, developed over centuries of relatively primitive techniques for GM, is hardly meaningful in view of the basic similarity of the process and the results obtained. It is a mask to restrict free trade that is useful for that purpose to inefficient European producers. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the gullibility of European consumers who pay for it all.



Meh.

I don't think you realistically portray the situation here. I agree that the restrictions on agricultural imports to the EU harm developing nations. Same's true for the harm done to developing nations by the restrictions the United States place on agricultural imports.

None of that has anything to do with GM food. If it was merely the restrictions on imports of genetically engineered food that put the developing nations at a disadvantage, those countries could switch to non-GM products and happily export as much as they wanted to the European Union. That's not the case, because the EU actually wants to protect its agricultural industry. Same goes for the US. (Though there are cases where a switch back to non-GM food explicitly for the export to the EU has happened.)


Realistically, the EU restrictions on GM food primarily harm US corporations. I mean, just name the top three countries where companies actually hold patents, develop GM plants, sell engineered seed and collect royalties...

Regarding the purported advantages of GM crops for developing nations (like the possibility of less intensive farming, higher yields per unit of land, use of less pesticides, etc.) the jury is still out. It's not entirely clear if being able to grow more food on less land and to spray it with a very specific herbicide/pesticide that completely eliminates everything apart from what you actually want to grow is such an advantage, when you're not able to save anything of the crop to plant again next year, and you have to buy both seeds and herbi/pesticides from the company that holds the monopoly on them.

And that's quite apart from the perception of GM food in the Western countries. People in the EU are simply more cautious about this technology, while American consumers either care less about it or even embrace it as a new and promising technology.

However, the notion that providing developing countries with GM food is really motivated by a desire to help those poor people rather than by a desire to rake in enormous profits and shift the power in agriculture towards Biotechnology companies seems to be a bit starry-eyed.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 3 Oct, 2007 04:22 pm
old europe wrote:

Meh.
I don't think you realistically portray the situation here. I agree that the restrictions on agricultural imports to the EU harm developing nations. Same's true for the harm done to developing nations by the restrictions the United States place on agricultural imports.

None of that has anything to do with GM food. If it was merely the restrictions on imports of genetically engineered food that put the developing nations at a disadvantage, those countries could switch to non-GM products and happily export as much as they wanted to the European Union. That's not the case, because the EU actually wants to protect its agricultural industry. Same goes for the US. (Though there are cases where a switch back to non-GM food explicitly for the export to the EU has happened.)

Realistically, the EU restrictions on GM food primarily harm US corporations. I mean, just name the top three countries where companies actually hold patents, develop GM plants, sell engineered seed and collect royalties...

Regarding the purported advantages of GM crops for developing nations (like the possibility of less intensive farming, higher yields per unit of land, use of less pesticides, etc.) the jury is still out. It's not entirely clear if being able to grow more food on less land and to spray it with a very specific herbicide/pesticide that completely eliminates everything apart from what you actually want to grow is such an advantage, when you're not able to save anything of the crop to plant again next year, and you have to buy both seeds and herbi/pesticides from the company that holds the monopoly on them.

And that's quite apart from the perception of GM food in the Western countries. People in the EU are simply more cautious about this technology, while American consumers either care less about it or even embrace it as a new and promising technology.

However, the notion that providing developing countries with GM food is really motivated by a desire to help those poor people rather than by a desire to rake in enormous profits and shift the power in agriculture towards Biotechnology companies seems to be a bit starry-eyed.


The introduction of new hybrid rice strains in South Aisia a generation ago contributed significantly to end of famines and starvation in that region. Many of the contemporary GM strains are designed precisely to increase yields in semi arid regions and those with topsoils at risk to wind erosion. I think you may underestimate the potential benefit of these new methods to large parts of Africa.

I doubt that you oppose innovation, when it is driven by a profit motive, as a matter of principle. Why is it necessary to use the power of the state to exclude this one? Why not just let individual producers make their own choices based on the economic tradeoffs? Do you really fear some sort of biological contagion? Doesn't the forced sterility of many of these products resolve that problem?

I agree that both Europe and the United States engage in basically foolish and wasteful programs to subsidize agriculture. In both cases the governments are held hostage to organized groups of producers who benefit from the programs and are able to deploy significant political support for the continuation of government handouts. I also agree that there are real social factors that sometimes (but far less often than the apologists claim) justify such actions. However my strong impression is that the problem is much more pervasive and economically significant in Europe than it is in the U.S.
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