The findings of a four-year study by a German professor could have an enormous impact on the biotechnology juggernaut. In June, Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz announced that the alien gene inserted into oilseed rape had crossed the species barrier and entered bacteria and yeast living in the guts of bees. Said Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, a geneticist at Britain’s Open University: “These findings are very worrying and provide the first real evidence of what many have feared. Everybody is keen to exploit GM [genetically modified] technology, but nobody is looking at the risk of horizontal gene transfer.” She noted that the worst-case scenario would be a transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes now being inserted into some GM crops crossing the species barrier into bacteria. “If this happened it would leave us unable to treat major illnesses like meningitis and E. coli,” she said. This little study has produced a panic in Europe, where the anti-GM movement is becoming mainstream, and food companies are attempting to label products in hopes of keeping a portion of the food supply free of GM contamination. In the meantime, scientists and agricultural company representatives freely admit that genetically modified crops are rapidly cross-pollinating with non-GM crops. Some British farmers who are attempting to grow organic, non-GM food have already been forced to rip up their contaminated crops.
Almost half a million people marched in Gay Pride 2000 in Rome in defiance of moves by the Roman Catholic Church to force the city government to cancel the event. Pope John Paul condemned the marchers: “In the name of the Church of Rome, I cannot not express the bitterness for the affront to the Grand Jubilee of the year 2000 and for the offense to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world.” Rome, however, is not the Vatican, as Gay Pride 2000 marchers demonstrated by marching into the Colosseum, which predates the Church. Nor is the Vatican representative of all Christians, nor an arbiter of all “Christian values,” nor even free of gay activity, as anyone with half a brain should know. Gay Pride 2000 marchers happily ignored Vatican criticism and made July 8 an enormous coming out party for a city with a long, distinguished, and very gay history.
In the spring of 1994 over half a million ethnic Tutsis and thousands of moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists in Rwanda. This episode has been called one of the worst genocides of the 20th Century. On July 7, a seven-member panel created by the Organization of African Unity condemned the U.S., the U.N., France, Belgium, and the Catholic Church for standing by and allowing these people to die. Bill Clinton has asserted that the U.S. failed to act because no one knew what was happening at the time. But a member of the panel, former Canadian ambassador Stephen Lewis, pointed out that Clinton is lying: the U.S. knew exactly what was happening–in fact, the U.S. blocked the U.N. Security Council from sending troops to stop the violence. The panel called for the international community–particularly the U.S., France, and Belgium–to pay reparations to Rwanda “in the name of both justice and accountability.”
A Dutch doctor, Rebecca Gomperts, has a unique solution for ending the impoverishment of women and breaking the international logjam blocking aid money for family planning in the Third World. She and her supporters are collecting funds to launch a floating abortion clinic. The ship, to be called the Sea Change, will visit regions where abortion is illegal: South America, most of Africa, a number of Asian countries, Poland, and Ireland. The Sea Change will drop anchor in international waters near large ports and will stay in one place for up to six months. The ship will be able to perform about 5,000 abortions per year, which is only a fraction of the need. Yet, it’s a beginning, and one of the Sea Change’s main duties will be to bring attention to the enormous need for abortion services around the world. Said Gomperts: “We’re talking about a human right here.”
Earlier this year, a peace agreement in Sierra Leone broke down when U.N. peacekeeping troops entered rebel-held bases in Sierra Leone’s diamond country. Since then, fighting has resumed, a number of U.N. troops have been kidnapped, some U.N. troops have been killed, and the rebel leader has been captured and may stand trial. On July 5, the U.N. Security Council finally imposed a diamond ban on Sierra Leone’s rebels in an effort to stop the flow of guns and money into the country. 90 percent of the country’s diamond mines are already in rebel-controlled territory. Whether this late move will help end the civil war remains to be seen.