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European MEPs back plans to halt spread of drug resistance from animals to humans
by European Parliament, WHO, agencies
5 Nov. 2018
Vote in European Parliament calls for more ethical financial investment. (Global Witness)
Today sees a historic vote in the European Parliament, which groups have said could pave the first step for a more ethical system of financial investment across the continent – and even globally. The vote was led by a cross party group of members of the European Parliament (MEPs), presaging a greater EU commitment to more sustainable investment.
As part of its position on the European proposal for rules on ‘Disclosures relating to sustainable investments and sustainability risks’, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to adopt a stronger due diligence regime, and a more robust framework to define sustainability risks when it comes to investments.
This means that MEPs have publicly adopted guidelines set down by the OECD on Due Diligence for Institutional Investors - by calling for a due diligence regime as a key process to ensure sustainable investing.
If EU Member States agree to implement this proposal, this regime will help to ensure that an investor or investment services provider identifies, avoids or mitigates, accounts for and communicates about actual or potential adverse Environmental, Social and Governance factors and sustainability risks.
Groups are urgently calling for the Member States to support the Parliament’s initiative, and work to strengthen this due diligence regime as part of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan.
A recent briefing, released by the anti-corruption NGO Global Witness, shows that European’s money – and EU-based investors – regularly play a key role in funding projects linked to human rights abuses, land grabs and large-scale environmental destruction.
This briefing paper drew on previous Global Witness exposés to highlight the devastating impact of harms caused by predatory natural resource projects on communities around the world and the role that some EU-based investors play in supporting them. This includes case studies involving European investments in oil exploration in Africa’s oldest national park, a mining project in India which sparked violent protests and deforestation and land grabbing in Asia and Africa.
The EU’s landmark Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth aims to ‘reorient private capital to more sustainable investments’ and mainstream sustainability across investors’ risk management – and this recent vote to put this in action has been heralded as a major step forward by the Parliament.
Richard Gardiner, Global Witness said: “This is an encouraging first step in creating a more ethical landscape for EU financial investment across Europe and beyond. Investors need to be able to conduct due diligence to identify whether the assets or companies they are investing in will have any negative impact on people and the planet. They must then take action to mitigate that impact. Investors have very sophisticated systems for managing and mitigating financial risk - now under these rules they will be required to implement the OECD guidelines and do the same for sustainability risks.
“With the political momentum building to make the financial sector more accountable for today’s vast sustainability challenges – be it climate change or threats to local communities – the European Council and its Member States now have an historic opportunity to support the Parliament and act to close these loopholes in the coming months.”
25 Oct. 2018
Plans to limit the use of antibiotics on farms, in order to keep food free from resistant bacteria, were adopted by European Parliament on Thursday.
''Veterinary medicines must not under any circumstances serve to improve the performance or compensate for poor animal husbandry, says the new law. It would limit the use of antimicrobials as a preventive measure, in the absence of clinical signs of infection (known as prophylactic use) to single animals and not groups.
The drugs can be used only when fully justified by a veterinarian in cases where there is a high risk of infection. Metaphylactic use (i.e. treating a group of animals when one shows signs of infection) should be a last resort, and only occur once a veterinarian has diagnosed infection and prescribed the antimicrobials.
To help tackle antimicrobial resistance, the law would empower the European Commission to select antimicrobials to be reserved only for treating humans.
As advocated by MEPs, the text also imposes that imported foodstuffs will have to meet EU standards and that antibiotics cannot be used to enhance the growth of animals''.
"This is a important breakthrough for human and animal health and is by far the more serious attempt that Europe has ever made to achieve responsible antibiotic use in farming," said Coilin Nunan, campaign manager of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a coalition of EU-based medical, health, agricultural, environmental, consumer, and animal welfare groups who campaigned for the action.
It is estimated that 73 percent of the world''s medicines are currently used on livestock, and "farming accounts for about two thirds of all antibiotic use in Europe, so if the legislation is implemented correctly, we should be seeing large reductions in use in years to come."
The "long-awaited" law, which is set to take effect in 2022, will limit preventative use of antibiotics on groups of animals; empower European regulators to designate certain medicines for human use only; impose restrictions on imports; and encourage new research and protections for new drugs.
It was approved in a 583-16 vote with 20 abstentions. A separate measure that also garnered support from an overwhelming majority of MEPs will set restrictions on the sale and use of medicated feed for livestock.
MEP Molly Scott Cato, of the U.K., pointed out that the legislation could have broader positive impacts, explaining to the Guardian that it "will also challenge the factory farming model where animal suffer appalling conditions and are packed together in unhealthy conditions," because "without the routine use of antibiotics, farmers will need to adopt better farming practices."
MEP Françoise Grossetete of France: “This is a major step forward for public health. Beyond farmers or animal owners, the use of veterinary medicines concerns us all, because it has a direct impact on our environment and our food; in short, on our health. Thanks to this law, we will be able to reduce the consumption of antibiotics on livestock farms, an important source of resistance that is then transmitted to humans. Antibiotic resistance is a real sword of Damocles, threatening to send our health care system back to the Middle Ages.”
Her remarks echoed those of England''s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, as her government launched the Keeping Antibiotics Working Campaign earlier in the week.
Davies warned "that without swift action to reduce infections, we are at risk of putting medicine back in the dark ages—to an age where common procedures we take for granted could become too dangerous to perform and treatable conditions become life-threatening."
A Public Health England report published this month found 3 million common surgeries such as caesarean sections and hip replacements could become hazardous without serious and widespread efforts to prevent the rise of superbugs, or strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Despite the report, campaign, and Davies warning, there are concerns about which aspects of the EU legislation the United Kingdom will follow, as it is slated to take effect post-Brexit. Michael Grove, the nation''s Tory environmental secretary, has reportedly challenged the provision that will outlaw preventative mass medication of livestock.
While urging the U.K. to comply with Europe''s new rules—which largely align with suggestions from the World Health Organization (WHO)—Nunan concluded, "The EU must now use its collective power, alongside the WHO, to push for tighter regulation of global farm antibiotic use, or else we will be soon facing into the post-antibiotic era."
Praising Europe for passing the legislation, Matt Wellington, head of the U.S. Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups antibiotics program, said, "let''s follow the example here in the U.S."

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Those who produce food are among world’s hungriest
by Hilal Elver
Special Rapporteur on the right to food
24 Oct. 2018 (UN News)
Agricultural workers have the hardest time accessing food for themselves, and are often excluded from national labour and social protection frameworks, a United Nations independent human rights expert said on Tuesday.
“Agricultural workers, including women, children and migrants and plantation workers, are increasingly faced with low wages, part-time work, informality, and a lack of social and economic protections,” said Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, as she presented her annual report to the UN.
Agricultural workers make up approximately one third of the world’s workforce - 1.3 billion people - and often work in industrialized food systems which focus on increasing food production and maximizing profitability, at the expense of workers.
According to the Rapporteur, more than 170,000 agricultural workers are killed doing their jobs every year; the risk of a fatal accident is twice as high in food production than in other sector.
Those working on farms or plantations, face “regular exposure pesticides and to long hours spent in extreme temperatures without adequate access to water,” said Ms. Elver, and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable as they face “more severe economic exploitation and social exclusion than other agricultural workers” and “lack the fundamental protections otherwise extended to citizens”.
The human rights expert noted that “employers are more likely to consider migrant workers as a disposable, low-wage workforce, silenced without rights to bargain collectively for improved wages and working conditions.”
Children are also extremely vulnerable: about 108 million of them face the same dangers through agricultural work due to insufficient risk-prevention and lack of control measures. More than two thirds of the child labour workforce employed in the broader agricultural sector.
The Special Rapporteur urged governments to take action “to ensure that the people who produce our food do not go hungry, and that their fundamental rights are fully respected.”
“Labour rights and human rights are interdependent, indivisible, and mutually inclusive”, she stated, adding that “the full enjoyment of human rights and labour rights for agricultural workers is a necessary precondition for the realization of the right to food.”
States bear the primary duty to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food of agricultural workers under international human rights law and to regulate the national and extraterritorial behaviours of the private sector.
“It is time for States to step up, and take swift and urgent action to hold accountable those who commit human rights violations against agricultural workers and to prevent further violations”, the expert said.
* Access the report via the link below.

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