Archive for October, 2008

Mutant Seeds for Mesopotamia

October 22, 2008

Mutant Seeds for Mesopotamia
by Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D.

www.uruknet.info/

October 15, 2008

One would think that Iraqi farmers, now prospering under “freedom” and “democracy,” would be able to plant the seeds of their choosing, but that choice, under little-known Order 81, would be illegal.

But first, it is important to set the context. Most people have never heard of the infamous “100 Orders,” but they help explain why the majority of Iraqis remain opposed to foreign occupation. The 100 Orders allow multinational corporations to basically privatize an entire nation, and this degree of foreign and private control has not been witnessed since the days of the British East India Company and its extraterritoriality treaties.

A few examples of the 100 Orders are illuminating:

* Order 39 allows for the tax-free remittance of all corporate profits.
*
Order 17 grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, immunity from Iraq’s laws.
*
Orders 57 and 77 ensure the implementation of the orders by placing U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector general in every government ministry, with five-year terms and with sweeping authority over contracts, programs, employees and regulations. (1)

Back to one of the most blatant orders of all: Order 81. Under this mandate, Iraq’s commercial farmers must now buy “registered seeds.” These are normally imported by Monsanto, Cargill and the World Wide Wheat Company. Unfortunately, these registered seeds are “terminator” seeds, meaning “sterile.” Imagine if all human men were infertile, and in order to reproduce women needed to buy sperm cells at a sperm bank. In agricultural terms, terminator seeds represent the same kind of sterility.

Terminator seeds have no agricultural value other than creating corporate monopolies. The Sierra Club, more of a mainstream “conservation” organization than a radical “environmentalist” one, makes the exact same case:

“This technology would protect the intellectual property interests of the seed company by making the seeds from a genetically engineered crop plant sterile, unable to germinate. Terminator would make it impossible for farmers to save seed from a crop for planting the next year, and would force them to buy seed from the supplier. In the third world, this inability to save seed could be a major, perhaps fatal, burden on poor farmers.” (2)

What makes this Order 81 even more outrageous is that Iraqi farmers have been saving wheat and barley seeds since at least 4000 BC, when irrigated agriculture first emerged, and probably even to about 8000 BC, when wheat was first domesticated. Mesopotamia’s farmers have now been trumped by white-smocked, corporate bio-engineers from Florida who strive to replace hundreds of natural varieties with a handful of genetically scrambled hybrids.

Where does such hubris come from? It comes from the entire mission surrounding the invasion of Iraq, which, upon closer inspection, had been planned years in advance by a faction of “neo-cons” who adopted Leon Trotsky’s glorification of the state, his theory “permanent revolution,” and his goal of exporting revolution worldwide. The neo-con revolution aims to alter the economic, political and cultural foundations of nations on the other side of the planet (rejecting old-fashioned notions of self-determination, popular sovereignty and even the nation-state system). This mission includes the transformation of agriculture and the establishment of “food control” over local populations.

Order 81 fits into this revolutionary program, and it is quite diabolical upon closer inspection. First, it forces Iraq’s commercial farmers to use registered terminator seeds (the “protected variety”). Then it defines natural seeds as illegal (the “infringing variety”), in a classic Orwellian turn of language.

This is so incredible that it must be re-stated: the exotic genetically scrambled seeds are the “protected variety” and the indigenous seeds are the “infringing variety.”

As Jeffrey Smith explains, author of Order 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture:

“To qualify for PVP [Plant Variety Protection], seeds have to meet the following criteria: they must be ‘new, distinct, uniform and stable’… it is impossible for the seeds developed by the people of Iraq to meet these criteria. Their seeds are not ‘new’ as they are the product of millennia of development. Nor are they ‘distinct’. The free exchange of seeds practiced for centuries ensures that characteristics are spread and shared across local varieties. And they are the opposite of ‘uniform’ and ‘stable’ by the very nature of their biodiversity.” (3)

Order 81 comes with the Orwellian title of “Plant Variety Protection.” Any self-respecting scientist knows, however, that imposing biological standardization accomplishes the exact opposite: It reduces biodiversity and threatens species. So Order 81 comes with an Orwellian title and consists of Orwellian provisions.

Jeffrey Smith peels away the layers of mischief behind Order 81, finding it nonsensical that six varieties of wheat have been developed for Iraq:

“Three will be used for farmers to grow wheat that is made into pasta; three seed strains will be for ‘breadmaking.’

Pasta? According to the 2001 World Food Programme report on Iraq, ‘Dietary habits and preferences included consumption of large quantities and varieties of meat, as well as chicken, pulses, grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.’ No mention of lasagna. Likewise, a quick check of the Middle Eastern cookbook on my kitchen shelves, while not exclusively Iraqi, reveals a grand total of no pasta dishes listed within it.

There can be only two reasons why 50 per cent of the grains being developed are for pasta. One, the US intends to have so many American soldiers and businessmen in Iraq that it is orienting the country’s agriculture around feeding not ‘Starving Iraqis’ but ‘Overfed Americans’. Or, and more likely, because the food was never meant to be eaten inside Iraq at all…” (4)

Just in case Iraqi farmer can’t read, Order 81 enforces the new monopoly on seeds with the jackboot. Order 81 makes this clear in its own text, buried at the bottom of the document, as is most screw-you fine print:

“The court may order the confiscation of the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools substantially used in the infringement of the protected variety. The court may also decide to destroy the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools or to dispose of them in any noncommercial purpose.” (5)

Order 81 is about power and profit, but it disguises itself as humanitarian legislation.

Topping it all off, the entire document puts on rather magisterial airs. It was signed by L. Paul Bremer himself, with his own hand, and presumably with his own pen:

“Pursuant to my authority as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority…”

Like the Roman Proconsuls, Paul Bremer also spent a year in the provinces, governing the so-called barbarians…

-The above is an excerpt from Andrew Bosworth’s new book: Biotech Empire: The Untold Future of Food, Pills, and Sex, available at Amazon.

-Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Government at the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Notes

1. Uruknet Report, “Have You Ever Heard of Bremer’s 100 Orders?” 11 April 2008.

2. Institutional Report, Genetic Engineering at a Historic Crossroads,” The Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee Report, March 2001.

3. Jeffrey Smith. “ORDER 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture – The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle.” Global Research and The Ecologist, 27 August 2005, Vol 35, No. 1.

4. Jeffrey Smith. “ORDER 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture – The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle.” Global Research and The Ecologist, 27 August 2005, Vol 35, No. 1.

5 CPA/ORD/26 April 2004/81, p. 27.

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A new vision of ‘credit crunch’

October 13, 2008

 

 

A new vision of ‘credit crunch’

While global markets crater, a Vermont town unites around food

Posted by Tom Philpott a

 

 The effort to revive global credit markets has devolved into farce. Every day, U.S. authorities announce some earth-shaking new measure — a $700 billion bailout, the Fed’s extraordinary move into the commercial-paper business, a coordinated global set of rate cuts — and every day, investors continue acting as tweaky as meth heads when the dope has run out.

Why should this matter to anyone who doesn’t have a pile invested in the stock market? Because we’re in what’s known as a credit crunch. When banks stop lending for a long period, economic activity slows to a crawl, and the economy craters. The jobs that evaporate could include your own.

But are there not other forms of credit, other visions for how economies could function? Hasn’t the Wall Street model of finance — wherein multimillionaire b-school wizards “innovate” such wondrous “risk-spreading” instruments as mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps — gone, well, bankrupt?

The front and business sections of Wednesday’s New York Times brought plenty of alarming financial news. For an unexpected bit of financial cheer, dig back to — of all places — the Dining In/Dining Out section. There, you’ll find a great piece by Marian Burros on the small, once-depressed Vermont town of Hardwick, where people are working together to build a thriving economy around food.

Like many towns in rural America, Hardwick — once a granite-mining center — had fallen on hard times.

Usually in such cases, food cultures wither. Restaurants and diners shutter, farms consolidate in search of larger, far-away markets, and food expenditures become a sieve draining any remaining wealth out of the community and into the pockets of distant shareholders in fast-food chains and retailers like Wal-Mart.

Something different is now happening in Hardwick. Here’s Burros:

Facing a Main Street dotted with vacant stores, residents of this hardscrabble community of 3,000 are reaching into its past to secure its future, betting on farming to make Hardwick the town that was saved by food.

The activity Burros describes is dizzying:

In January, Andrew Meyer’s company, Vermont Soy, was selling tofu from locally grown beans to five customers; today he has 350. Jasper Hill Farm has built a $3.2-million aging cave to finish not only its own cheeses but also those from other cheesemakers. Pete Johnson, owner of Pete’s Greens, is working with 30 local farmers to market their goods in an evolving community supported agriculture program.

The area is also home to High Mowing Seeds, a leading national purveyor of organic fruit and vegetable seeds — which, according to Burros, is intimately tied into the Hardwick scene.

All of these entities work closely together to share resources and create synergies. One way they do so is through the non-profit Center for an Agricultural Economy, one of whose projects is to roll out an “eco-industrial park” for agriculture-based businesses.

According to Burros, the Center also “recently bought a 15-acre property to start a center for agricultural education,” and run a a year-round farmers market and a community garden (complete with greenhouse and a “paid gardening specialist”).

There’s even a community-owned restaurant called Claire’s, described thusly by Burros:

Fifty investors who put in $1,000 each will have the money repaid through discounted meals at the restaurant over four years.”Local ingredients, open to the world,” is the motto on restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. “There’s Charlie who made the bread tonight,” Kristina Michelsen, one of four partners, said in a running commentary one night, identifying farmers and producers at various tables. “That’s Pete from Pete’s Greens. You’re eating his tomatoes.”

The payoff of all this activity has been considerable — and not just culinary. A town official told Burros that local-food enterprises have already created somewhere between 75 and 100 jobs to the area — a substantial number in a town with a population of 3,000.

What we’re talking about here is something I’ve been yammering about for years: serious investment in food processing and distribution infrastructure.

How did the town pull it off? Not by relying entirely on globalized credit markets. According to Burros, the town’s ag pioneers have “lent each other about $300,000 in short-term loans” over in recent months.

And they’ve rejected the tired homilies of hyper-capitalism, opting for cooperation over ruthless competition. Burros:

Cooperation takes many forms. Vermont Soy stores and cleans its beans at High Mowing, which also lends tractors to High Fields, a local composting company. Byproducts of High Mowing’s operation — pumpkins and squash that have been smashed to extract seeds — are now being purchased by Pete’s Greens and turned into soup. Along with 40,000 pounds of squash and pumpkin, Pete’s bought 2,000 pounds of High Mowing’s cucumbers this year and turned them into pickles.

I realize that Vermont is a unique place. Few people make fortunes there; but folks with money made elsewhere flock to the state. As Burros puts it:

These entrepreneurs, mostly well educated children of baby boomers who have added business acumen to the idealism of the area’s long established hippies and homesteaders, are in the right place at the right time. The growing local-food movement, with its concerns about energy usage, food safety and support for neighbors, was already strong in Vermont, a state that the National Organic Farmers’ Association said had more certified organic acreage per capita than any other.

Like any community, Hardwick has assets, challenges, and needs. Sounds like its citizens are mobilizing in creative ways to harness its assets and treat its problems.

What they’re doing is by no means unique — or limited to communities with plenty of wealth.

Look at what Growing Power — whose founder, Will Allen, just snagged a MacArhur genius grant — is doing in low-income areas in Milwaukee and Chicago. Or what People’s Grocery is doing in West Oakland, and Added Value in Red Hook, Brooklyn, one of New York City’s lowest-income areas. Look also at what’s going on in Carrboro, N.C, and Woodbury County, Iowa. The list is long and growing.

What these programs need to grab a foothold and start really building robust, job-creating economies is investment cash. Government at the federal, state, and local levels can either continue to neglect these efforts, or learn to support them, leverage them, and help them multiply.

The global financial system has plunged into deep crisis. Its architects — including former Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson — evidently have no idea how to revive it, even with full command of the public purse.

Rather than throw hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars into that dubious project, why not focus on diverting credit to the sort of initiatives happening in Hardwick?

 

Behind the panic: Financial warfare over the future of global bank power

October 12, 2008

By F. William Engdahl

What’s clear from the behavior of European financial markets over the past two weeks is that the dramatic stories of financial meltdown and panic are deliberately being used by certain influential factions in and outside the EU to shape the future face of global banking in the wake of the US subprime and asset-backed security (ABS) debacle.

The most interesting development in recent days has been the unified and strong position of the German chancellor, finance minister, Bundesbank and coalition government, all opposing an American-style EU Superfund bank bailout. Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pursues his crony capitalism to the detriment of the nation and benefit of his cronies in the financial world. It’s an explosive cocktail that need not have been.

Stock market falls of 7 to 10 percent a day make for dramatic news headlines and serve to foster a broad sense of unease bordering on panic among ordinary citizens. The events of the last two weeks among EU banks since the dramatic state rescues of Hypo Real Estate, Dexia and Fortis banks, and the announcement by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling of a radical shift in policy in dealing with troubled UK banks, have begun to reveal the outline of a distinctly different European response to what in effect is a crisis ‘Made in USA.’

There is serious ground to believe that US Goldman Sachs ex CEO Henry Paulson, as Treasury secretary, is not stupid. There is also serious ground to believe that he is actually moving according to a well-thought-out long-term strategy. Events as they are now unfolding in the EU tend to confirm that. As one senior European banker put it to me in private discussion, ‘There is an all-out war going on between the United States and the EU to define the future face of European banking.’

In this banker’s view, the ongoing attempt of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and France’s Nicholas Sarkosy to get an EU common ‘fund,’ with perhaps upwards of $300 billion to rescue troubled banks, would de facto play directly into Paulson and the US establishment’s long-term strategy, by in effect weakening the banks and repaying US-originated asset backed securities held by EU banks.

Using panic to centralize power

As I document in my forthcoming book, Power of Money: The Rise and Decline of the American Century, in every major US financial panic since at least the Panic of 1835, the titans of Wall Street — most especially until 1929, the House of JP Morgan — have deliberately triggered bank panics behind the scenes in order to consolidate their grip on US banking. The private banks used the panics to control Washington policy, including the exact definition of the private ownership of the new Federal Reserve in 1913, and to consolidate their control over industry, such as US Steel, Caterpillar, Westinghouse and the like. They are, in short, old hands at such financial warfare to increase their power.

Now they must do something similar on a global scale to be able to continue to dominate global finance, the heart of the power of the American Century.

That process of using panics to centralize their private power created an extremely powerful, concentration of financial and economic power in a few private hands, the same hands which created the influential US foreign policy think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921 to guide the ascent of the American Century, as Time founder Henry Luce called it in a pivotal 1941 essay.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people like Henry Paulson, who by the way was one of the most aggressive practitioners of the ABS revolution on Wall Street before becoming Treasury secretary, are operating on motives beyond their over-proportional sense of greed. Paulson’s own background is interesting in that context. Back in the early 1970s Paulson started his career working for a notorious man named John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s ruthless domestic adviser who created the Plumbers’ Unit during the Watergate era to silence opponents of the president, and was left by Nixon to ‘twist in the wind’ for it in prison.

Paulson seems to have learned from his White House mentor. As co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, according to a New York Times account, in 1998 he forced out his co-chairman, Jon Corzine ‘in what amounted to a coup.’

It is becoming clear Paulson, and his friends at Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, had a strategy, as did the godfather of asset backed securitization and deregulated banking, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, as I have detailed in my earlier series, Financial Tsunami, Parts I-V.

Knowing that at a certain juncture the pyramid of trillions of dollars of dubious subprime and other high risk home mortgage-based securities would come falling down, they apparently determined to spread the so-called ‘toxic waste’ ABS securities as globally as possible, in order to seduce the big global banks of the world, most especially of the EU, into their honey trap.

They had help. In recent testimony under oath by Eric Dinallo, the superintendent of the New York Insurance Departmen,t at the AIG bailout oversight hearing into the AIG rescue by Paulson, Dinallo said that funding cutbacks in recent years directed by the Bush-Cheney administration had reduced the responsible department that should regulate or watch over the $80 trillion in asset backed securities (ABS), which included the toxic subprime and Alt-A mortgage securities and much more. The Bush administration cut the staff of more than 100 people down to one — yes that was not a typo. One as in ‘uno.’

Was that just ideological budget cutting fervor, or was it deliberate? Was former Goldman Sachs’ man, the man who convinced the president to hire Paulson, Bush’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Joshua Bolten, now the president’s chief of staff, responsible for insuring there was no effective government oversight of the exploding securitization of mortgage assets?

These are perhaps some questions which the good congressmen ought to be asking people like Henry Paulson and Josh Bolten, and not such red herring questions as how large Richard Fuld’s bonus pay at Lehman was. Are Mr Bolten’s fingerprints on the corpse here? And why is no one questioning the role of Paulson as CEO of Goldman Sachs, then the most aggressive promoter of exotic and other asset backed securitization products on Wall Street?

It now would appear that the Paulson strategy was to use a crisis — a crisis that was pre-programmed and predictable as far back as 2003 when Josh Bolten became head of OMB — when it exploded, to panic the more conservative European Union governments into rushing to the rescue of US toxic waste assets.

Were that to have happened, it would in the process destroy what was left of sound EU banking and financial institutions, bringing the world one step closer to a global money market controlled by Paulson’s cronies — US-style crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is certainly appropriate here. Paulson’s predecessor at both Goldman Sachs and at Treasury, Robert Rubin, liked to accuse the Asian bankers of Thailand, Indonesia and other lands hit with the speculative attacks of US-financed hedge funds in 1997 of ‘crony capitalism,’ leaving the impression the crisis was homegrown in Asia and not the result of a deliberate executed attack by US-financed financial institutions to eliminate the Asia Tiger model among other goals, and turn Asia into the funder of US debt.

Interesting to note is that Rubin is now a director of Citigroup, obviously one of Paulson’s crony bank ‘survivors,’ and the bank which to date has had to write off the largest sum in toxic waste securitized assets.

If the allegation of preplanned panic, a la the Panic of 1907, is accurate, and it is a big if, then the plan worked . . . up to a point. That point came over the weekend of October 3, coincidentally the national unification holiday of Germany.

Germany breaks with US model

In closed door talks well into the evening of Sunday October 5, Alex Weber the hard-nosed head of the Bundesbank, BaFin head Jochen Sanio and representatives of the Berlin coalition government of Chancellor Merkel came up with a rescue package for Hypo Real Estate of a nominal €50 billion. However, behind the dramatic headline number, as Weber pointed out in a September 29 letter to Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück that has been made public, not only did the private German banks have to come up with 60 percent of that figure, the state with 40 percent. But also, given the careful manner in which the government, in cooperation with the Bundesbank and BaFin, structured the rescue credit agreement, the maximum possible loss, in a worst case scenario, to the state would be limited to €5.7 billion, not €30 billion as many believed. It’s still real money but not the blank check for $700 billion that a US Congress under duress and a few days of falling stock market prices agreed to give Paulson.

The swift action by Finance Minister Steinbrück to fire the head of HRE, in stark contrast to Wall Street where the same criminal fraudsters remain at their desks reaping huge bonuses, indicates as well a different approach. But that does not cut to the heart of the issue. The situation of HRE arose as noted previously, from excesses in a wholly-owned daughter bank of HRE subsidiary DEPFA in Ireland, an EU country known for its liberal loose regulation and low tax regime.

A British policy shift

In the UK, after the costly and foolish bailout of Northern Rock earlier in the year, the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just announced a dramatic change in policy in the direction of Germany’s position. Britain’s banks will get an unprecedented 50 billion-pound (€64 billion) government lifeline and emergency loans from the Bank of England.

The government will buy preference shares from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Barclays Plc and at least six other banks, and provide about 250 billion pounds of loan guarantees to refinance debt, the Treasury said. The Bank of England will make at least 200 billion pounds available. The plan doesn’t specify how much each bank will get.

That means the UK Government will at least partially nationalize its most important international banks, rather than buy their bad loans as under the unworkable Paulson plan. Under such an approach, costs to UK taxpayers once the crisis abates and business returns to more normal conditions, the government can sell the state shares back to a healthy bank at perhaps a nice profit to the Treasury. The Brown Government has apparently realized that the blanket guarantees it gave to Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley merely opened the floodgates of government costs without changing the problem.

The new nationalization policy is a dramatic contrast to the Paulson ideological ‘free market’ approach of buying the worthless bonds held by the select banks Paulson chooses to save, rather than recapitalize those banks to allow them to continue to function.

The battle lines drawn

What has emerged are the outlines of two opposite approaches to the unfolding crisis. The Paulson plan is now clearly part of a project to create three colossal global financial giants — Citigroup, JP MorganChase and, of course, Paulson’s own Goldman Sachs, now conveniently enough a bank. Having successfully used fear and panic to wrestle a $700 billion bailout from the US taxpayers, now the big three will try to use their unprecedented muscle to ravage European banks in the years ahead. So long as the world’s largest financial credit rating agencies — Moody’s and Standard & Poors — are untouched by the scandals and congressional hearings, the reorganized US financial power of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase could potentially regroup and advance their global agenda over the coming several years, walking over the ashes of a bankrupt American economy made bankrupt by their follies.

By agreeing on a strategy of nationalizing what EU finance ministers deem are ‘EU banks too systemically strategic to fail,’ while guaranteeing bank deposits, the largest EU governments, Germany and the UK, in contrast to the US, have opted for what will in the longer run allow European banking giants to withstand the anticipated financial attacks from the likes of Goldman or Citigroup.

The dramatic selloff of stocks across European bourses and across Asia is in reality a secondary and far less critical issue. According to market reports, the selloff is being driven mainly by US hedge funds desperate to raise cash as they realize the US economy is going into economic depression, that they are exposed and that the Paulson Plan does nothing to address that.

A functioning solvent banking and interbank system is far the more strategic issue. The ABS debacle was ‘Made in New York.’ Nonetheless, its effects have to be isolated and viable EU banks defended in the public interest, not just the interest of Paulson’s banking cronies as in the US. Unregulated offshore vehicles such as hedge funds, unregulated banking, unregulated insurance all went into building the $80 trillion ABS Tsunami as I have called it. Certain more conservative EU hands are not about to buy the remedy being offered by Washington.

The coordinated interest rate cut by the ECB and other European central banks while grabbing headlines, in effect do little to address the real problem: banks fear to lend to each other until their solvency is assured.

By initiating state partial nationalizations across the EU, and rejecting the Berlusconi/Sarkozy bailout scheme, the governments of the EU, interestingly enough this time led by the German, are laying a more sound foundation to emerge from the crisis.

Stay tuned, it’s far from over. This is a fight for the survival of the American Century which has been built since 1939 on the twin pillars of American financial dominance and American military dominance — Full Spectrum Dominance.

Asian banks, badly burned by Wall Street’s manipulated 1997-98 Asia Crisis, are apparently very little exposed to the US problem. European banks are exposed in different ways, but none so serious as in the US banking world.

F. William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order (Pluto Press), and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (www.globalresearch.ca). He may be contacted through his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

Cannabis less harmful than drinking, smoking: report

October 2, 2008

 

LONDON (AFP) – Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, according to a report by a research charity Thursday, which called for a “serious rethink” of drug policy.

The Beckley Foundation, a charity which numbers senior experts and other academics among its advisors, said banning cannabis has no impact on supply and turns users into criminals.

“Although cannabis can have a negative impact on health, including mental health, in terms of relative harms it is considerably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco,” says the report by the Foundation’s Global Cannabis Commission.

The government is pressing for cannabis to be re-classified in law as a Class B drug compared with its current, less serious, Class C classification.

Authorities are concerned notably by the growing prevalence of the potent “skunk” form of the drug. Around 80 percent of cannabis seizures are of this strain, said to be linked to mental health problems, official figures show.

The Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, claimed only two deaths worldwide have been attributed to cannabis, while alcohol and tobacco use together kill an estimated 150,000 people in Britain alone.

“Many of the harms associated with cannabis use are the result of prohibition itself, particularly the social harms arising from arrest and imprisonment,” it said.

“It is only through a regulated market that we can better protect young people from the ever more potent forms of dope,” it added.

The decision to reclassify cannabis upwards into the more punitive Class B category — which includes amphetamines — is a U-turn for the Labour government.

Cannabis was downgraded from Class B when Tony Blair was prime minister, butGordon Brown announced a review of its status soon after taking over in June last year.

An earlier review of the cannabis classification, at the time of the last 2005 general election, resulted in it remaining Class C.

Swedish twins get banged

October 2, 2008

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