UK Consumers to pay £11 billion for invasive smart meters

Following their original report in March 2014, SkyVision Solutions have released an updated version entitled, “A Perspective on How Smart Meters Invade Individual Privacy”. The report demonstrates the unreasonable invasion of privacy, and the unnecessary risks posed from the collection of extensive smart meter-related data unnecessary for billing purposes. The data collected can be used either maliciously or inadvertently to determine habitual routines, occupancy/vacancy, as a target for advertising, for behaviour profiling and more. The report’s logical, step-by-step approach also points out that, for applicable jurisdictions, the collection of data constitutes an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Since the EU has no equivalent direct constitutional protection, the threat to European citizens is even greater.

This comes at a time when the UK Government Public Accounts Committee release their "Twelfth Report Update on preparations for smart metering". The Department of Energy and Climate Change's Smart Metering Implementation Program requires that 53 million electricity and gas meters in UK homes and small businesses are replaced by energy suppliers by 2020. The Summary states "The costs of installing smart meters, some £10.9 billion, will be borne by consumers through their energy bills". As well as savings for energy suppliers and networks, the government committee is expecting smart meters to "help consumers reduce their energy consumption, encourage them to shift demand away from peak times", saving an average of 2% on their energy bills, but this relies on consumers "becoming more "savvy" in making decisions about using energy". Among the concerns are the impact of smart meters on vulnerable and low income consumers, the reliance on assumed competition in the industry to control costs and deliver benefits which may well prove insufficient to protect consumers, and the danger that the Government gets locked into an existing technology when technologies are changing fast - leading to consumers paying for investment in a system which is already out of date. No mention is made of the safety and security of the technology, and ANH-Intl are among those who are campaigning.

Federal Court judge allows lawsuits alleging Merck falsified MMR efficacy

It's been reported that a US federal court judge has "…agreed to hear most of the claims in two lawsuits alleging that Merck & Co. lied about the efficacy of its measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine". The cases are being brought by two former Merck virologists, who assert that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval was granted for the vaccine based on falsified efficacy results. Merck said that the vaccine was 95 percent effective.

A request by Merck to dismiss the claims was declined by the court with regard to most of them. We are told, "The presiding judge found that sufficient information about the vaccine was withheld from the federal government, adding that the government might have declined to purchase vaccines from the drugmaker had the information been available".

Cancer deaths are double in areas with GM

The ministry of Health in Córdoba, Argentina have released a report that demonstrates that deaths from cancerous tumours are double the national average in areas using genetically engineered crops and agrochemicals. The official investigation has documented 5 years worth of cancer cases in the province. These results have provoked the opinion that the use of GMO crops is turning into a “genetically engineered hell”, with doctors and researchers criticising the government for the unwillingness to act upon the findings. Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez of the University Network for Environment and Health stated that: "What we have complained about for years was confirmed and especially what doctors say about the sprayed towns and areas affected by industrial agriculture. Cancer cases are multiplying as never before in areas with massive use of pesticides.”

The people don’t trust in the TTIP

According to a new survey by YouGov, 42% of British people don’t trust the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to protect the UK National Health Service (NHS) from privatisation. Despite the Government saying the NHS is not an area that is up for discussion during TTIP negotiations, there are fears it and other public services will be sold off to US investors. A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We have no intention of allowing the TTIP to dictate the opening up of NHS services to further competition; and it will not do so. The NHS will always be free at the point of use for everyone who needs it." However campaigners are still calling for David Cameron to confirm that the government's veto will be used to remove public services from the agenda. Other concerns involve agricultural and food trade between Europe and the US with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Friends of the Earth and Compassion in World Farming warning that "fair, sustainable and safe food could permanently be damaged by the transatlantic trade deal on the table."

MEPs voice concern over loophole in GM legislation

MEPs are increasingly concerned that a loophole in GM legislation means that GM-opposing member states could be taken to court if they partially or totally ban the cultivation of GMOs in their territory. The ‘opt out measure’ that allows member states to do this doesn’t require any justification for the ban and MEPs are worried that this might result in law suits being bought by big GM firms for losses. One MEP called the proposals “deficient” while MEP and environment committee chairman, Giovanni La Via, said “We would need to work a lot on some details of the file, but the final legislation should leave member states the choice to allow or not such crops in their territory, without facing penalties – and we want to make sure that the final text is crystal clear on this point.” Belgian Greens MEP, Bart Staes, is not happy as “Biotech companies are going to get involved in the process”. The second reading recommendation to be drafted by Frédérique Ries, the Belgian MEP responsible for steering the legislation through parliament, is to be discussed on 9 October and voted on 5/6 November. MEPs and the Italian presidency of the Council aim to reach an agreement before the end of the year.

Mandatory GM labelling opposition triple spending

Those opposed to the mandatory labelling of food in the US have increased their lobbying expenditures from $9.3 million in 2013 to a total of $27.5 million in the first 6 months of 2014. That’s three times their total expenditure in the whole of 2013. Contributing to this spending is the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Coca Cola, Pepsi, Monsanto and Dupont. These figures were reported by the environmental working group, but the GMA said the dollars spent were far below these figures.

Those supporting GMO labelling disclosed $1.6 million in 2013, and for the first half of 2014 this has increased to $1.9 million. In May, Vermont became the first US state to make a stand and pass a mandatory GMO food labelling law. Since then, more than 20 other states are considering doing the same. The food and agriculture industries have sued to block the Vermont law, stating that it implies GMO products are unsafe and will increase costs all round, for both consumers and for farmers.

School children to get nasal flu vaccine

From this Thursday all children aged two and over will be offered the flu vaccine, via nasal spray. It is the second phase of the child immunisation programme that was started in 2013 by the Public Health Agency (PHA). Last year when the vaccine was offered to primary school children, over 80% of them were vaccinated, according to Dr Richard Smithson, making it “by far the highest uptake in the UK.” The PHA has said that all children at risk should continue to receive flu vaccinations as they have done in previous years. The programme is being phased in over several years and by the end will cover children between the ages of two and 16. The mainstream view from conventional medicine is that it will result in a significant reduction in the cases of flu. No data is yet available regarding potential flu vaccine related side effects.

New report reveals staggering growth of new US GMO-free products

A new 65 page report has recently been published by the Natural Marketing institute (NMI), entitled "GMOs: What do US consumers really think of GMOs?". NMI state “In previous research, NMI explored consumers' level of understanding and concerns over the past decade surrounding GMOs. While in the past, NMI found widespread confusion about GMOs, the amount of recent media exposure on the subject has fueled consumer understanding and concerns”.

Ken Rosebro from the Organic and Non-GMO Report reiterates that "consumer awareness and concern about genetically modified foods in the United States is increasing while usage of non-GMO food products is growing rapidly…. the number of new ‘GMO-free’ or non-GMO products entering the markets in Europe and the US increased dramatically. In Europe, the number of new GMO-free products increased by 30 percent—from 2860 to 3699—from 2012 to 2013, while in the US the number of new GMO-free products increased from 551 in 2012 to 1350 in 2013, a growth rate of 145 percent.” The article also reported “the NMI survey also found increasing health concerns with GMOs: 61 percent of respondents said that GMOs impact their personal health, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year”.


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