Tag: danielmargrain.com

Bee Killers

Bee

When I was young it used to be a common sight to see cars splattered with insects and numerous species of bees collecting nectar from plants. Bees and insects are wonderful and part of the connectivity of living processes in our world. Nothing human beings do, and nothing that takes place in the natural world, occurs in isolation. And yet we are using pesticides that kill pollinators whose role is essential to the human food chain.

Neurotoxins that kill much of life on earth on both land and in water, and degrade entire foodchains, are resulting in the ‘colony collapse disorder’ (ie the sudden disappearance) of honeybees (1). In the United States, half the colonies of bees exposed to neonicotinoids disappeared in the course of one winter. The findings of an analysis of 800 scientific papers show that worldwide contamination is indiscriminately wiping out wild animals, including those on which farming depends (2).

The use of pesticides that impact negatively on bees and soil animals seriously threaten the food supplies of humans. So why is Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss, seemingly subservient to chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta to the detriment of the science?

The UK government appears to want to throw everything it has against an EU proposal to suspend their use on flowering crops. Last year the Department of the Environment commissioned a study claiming to show that bees were not being harmed (3). It was so flawed that no journal would take it. The lead author soon left to work for Syngenta (4).

The government’s lifting of the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and their seemingly appeasing of the chemical corporations who are clearly in their pocket, would suggest that Cameron and Truss are prioritizing the interests of these corporations over and above the sustainability of the eco-system.

This is the take of the BBC who imply that the National Farmers Union (NFU) are complicit:

The government has temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in certain parts of the country.

An EU-wide moratorium was put in place after some studies showed the pesticide caused significant harm to bees.

But following a second emergency application by the National Farmers Union, two neonicotinoid pesticides can now be used for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop.

Environmental and wildlife groups have called the decision “scandalous”.

‘We have fully applied the precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids introduced by the EU’
Defra spokesperson

The areas where farmers will be allowed to use neonicotinoids has not yet been decided. According to the NFU, it will be those areas where there are records over the last season or so that the pests – primarily the cabbage stem flea beetle – have inflicted most damage on oilseed rape crops.

Farming Minister George Eustace MP told BBC’s Farming Today that it was “predominantly farmers in Suffolk” who would now be able to use neonicotinoids. He said that the government was approaching the issue “with an open mind” and that there was “a lot of ambiguity” about the evidence (4).

Meanwhile on 23 July 2015, the independent British not-for-profit political-activism organisation 38 Degrees issued an emergency petition:

“Fresh batches of bee-killing pesticides are on their way to British farms right now. Prime Minister David Cameron could stop these toxic chemicals before they are spread across our fields and wreak havoc on bees. But he’ll only do it if enough of us pile on the pressure.

Environment minister Liz Truss has just approved this fresh use of bee-killing pesticides. It’s no surprise – she’s been exposed holding cosy meetings with chemical industry lobbyists. If our environment minister won’t protect bees, we need to turn the pressure onto David Cameron. He’s her boss – and that means he has the power to overturn her decision.

Please can you sign the emergency petition to Cameron now, asking him to overrule his minister and act to protect the bees? It will only take a few seconds.(5).

People Socially Cleansed As ‘Dirty Money’ Floods Into London

“There is no place for dirty money in Britain”, so says UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has promised to crack down on dodgy offshore companies that buy up luxury properties in the UK. Cameron says he will introduce a public land registry of properties owned by foreign investors. Channel 4 News has access to the data which highlights the problem is particularly acute in London.

“London must not become a safe have for corrupt money from around the world”, says Cameron. “We need to stop corrupt officials or organized criminals using anonymous shadow companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property without being tracked down.”

The figures are staggering. Some £122 billion worth of property in England and Wales is owned by foreign companies. Around 100,000 UK property titles are registered to them. Most are in Greater London where almost 43,000 properties are owned by overseas firms. “There is no place for dirty money in Britain. Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money anywhere. That is my message to foreign forces. London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash”, he said.

Undercover reporters’ working as part of the Dispatches documentary, From Russia With Cash, discovered just how easy it is to buy property in London with no questions asked. Chido Dunn from Global Witness says that “the presence of corrupt money in the London property market props up corrupt regimes overseas and means that a lot of people are stuck in poverty and violence and don’t have access to education.

So concretely, how is Cameron proposing to deal with the problem?

In the Autumn, data will be released that will highlight which foreign companies are buying up property in England and Wales. Although the data already exists within the public domain, Downing Street says it will now be more easily available.

In Westminster, where one in ten homes are owned by foreign investors, Channel 4 asked  Transparency International about the changes that are being consulted on.  A TI spokesman said that if enacted, the proposals would require foreign owners to declare their interests at the same standard as UK companies. The unanswered question is why the discrepancy in the first place?

That aside, over last 10 years a suspected £180 million of laundered money has been investigated by the authorities. However, according to Global Witness, that’s merely the tip of a very large ice berg. What these new measures will do if enacted will be to identify where the corrupt money is and prevent it from coming in to the country in the future. Currently the government is able to identify who owns a property on an individual and company basis but crucially not who the real people are who hide behind these companies.

People can still use offshore companies to structure their investments in order to benefit from things like inheritance tax and capital gains tax. But, if the consultation process succeeds, people hiding money for a criminal reason will no longer be able to hide it in property.

This appears on the surface to be an important first step. The question is, should the proposals go through, will law enforcement be empowered to properly investigate the practice of money laundering in the UK?

In a speech to Muslims in Birmingham on July 20, Cameron said “that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths”.

But money laundering is a major contributory factor (as is the failure to tax property effectively) in house price rises which in turn results in the kind of social cleansing I discussed here. Any failure by Cameron to get to grips with the problem will increase the problem of social exclusion he claims he wants to redress.

As with much else in the area of social and economic policy, the UK government appear to be tugging at the coat tails of the United States. What applies across the Atlantic is of as much relevance in New York as it is London. But at least in the former, rent controls to some degree ameliorate the problem. That said, UK government policy is geared towards increasing the disconnect between the rich and poor in much the same way the United States is.

As George Monbiot astutely puts it:

“The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.” We suffer the same curse: a ruling class whose wealth lies offshore, and which identifies more readily with a transnational elite than with the other people of this nation. On behalf of this elite, the government now gives away £93bn a year in corporate welfare: a sum bigger than the deficit. It champions the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; a graver threat to the interests of this nation than Islamic extremism presents.”

The failure to tax property effectively has fuelled a rise in house prices so severe that entire English regions are becoming almost uninhabitable to the poor. The situation is made all the worse by the announcement from the head of the National Crime Agency who said there is a direct link between money laundering in property and the massive rise in London house prices.