NEW S & CAMPAIGN S by Lucinda Labes
doners stumped by nature Dolly the sheep, the world's first clone, appears to be ageing prematurely And elsewhere, attempts to clone monkeys are failing. US Scientists at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Centre, the world's only laboratory attempting to clone primates - in this case, monkeys - are being defeated. The clones rarely survive past the 16-cell embryonic stage. And i t is not just beginner's luck; doners across the globe are failing in their attempts to produce
This biological mechanism, known as imprinting, creates balanced male and female determinations within the embryonic cells. For example, male genes want the baby to be as big as possible, to ensure its continued survival past the womb. So they instruct the embryonic cells to make the woman provide a big placenta. But the female, who doesn't want to be robbed of all her nutrients, instructs the cells to make a smaller placenta.
carbon copies of healthy animals. Even in the most
highly respected laboratories, half of all * cloned foetuses harbour serious genetic dis
orders, from which most die before
birth. Others succumb just days or
weeks after being born, dying sud
denly and mysteriously after a seemingly healthy start.
Now scientists believe they have come up against nature's in-built resistance to cloning. They suspect that a competition played out on a molecular level by the mother and father's genes for presidency over the genetic makeup of the baby is a vital part of the reproductive process.
Scientists believe that many of the defects that they have been finding can be explained by the inability of the cloning process to provide proper imprinting patterns. Dr James Robi, of the University of Massachusetts, tried to create 13 calf embryos. Of these, half had major genetic flaws, four died in the womb, one died at birth and two survived only briefly. Dr. Robi also discovered that most of the clones had severely abnormal lungs and enlarged hearts. Others had livers that were full of fat. But the most noticeable defect was the appearance of oversized placentas that were filled with fluid. Flaws like these, the likely consequences of single parent imprinting, kil l both the embryo and carrier mother.
Last month, in a further blow to cloning laboratories, Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, was discovered to be geriatric before her time. Although she looks perfectly healthy, abnormalities within her cellular make-up spell a grave future for the celebrity sheep. Scientists believe that Dolly, who should have been two years old last February, may actually be the same age, genetically, as the six-year-old ewe from whom she was cloned.
Trade Treaty Trickery The EU and Mexico have agreed a far-reaching, and potentially disastrous, free trade agreement The Global Agreement on Free Trade, Political Partnership and Co-operation was ratified by the European Parliament on 6 May this year without any transparency or popular discussion. This ominous treaty contains many of the central tenets of the notorious Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
Controversial measures like the liberalisation and deregulation of agriculture, forestry and intellectual property rights have been endorsed, and multinational corporations have no obligations to ensure set standards for workers' or indigenous people's rights.
Neither do investors have to guarantee that they wil l leave their host country in the same environmental and social condition in which they found it. Instead, the treaty provides companies with increased powers over local governments, which can be held accountable for any actions that are deemed a restriction of 'free' trade.
Very few people have even heard of this new treaty, let alone understand its implications. A coalition of NGOs from both Mexico and Europe have denounced the treaty, and the way i t was negotiated.
Environmenta Unscrupulous Secretive financial agencies are funding development projects that more publicly accountable institutions dare not touch. Export Credit Agencies like Japan's Export-Import Bank (Jexim) regularly fund projects that displace indigenous people, degrade tropical forests and pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. But whilst large development fund organisations like the World Bank have adopted (nominal) environmental standards, ECAs are quick to approve bottom-of-the-barrel projects that fail to meet international guidelines. Now environmentalists are calling for action to regulate these unscrupulous organisations.
Take the Three Gorges Dam project in China. When the World Bank and the US export credit agency refused to provide funding for the environmentally and socially sensitive scheme, smaller, less reputable agencies queued up to take their place. Similarly, when thousands of outraged protestors convinced the World Bank to pull out of the Narmada Dam
ists Shame Credit Agencies project in India, the German EC A
Hermes was quick to take over.
In 1997, ECAs subsidised 10.4 per cent of world trade, over half of which went towards large infrastructure projects in developing nations. According to the IMF, 20 per cent of all developing nation debt is now owed to ECAs - a greater amount than that owed to the World Bank and IMF. And whilst the volume of trade facilitated by the multilateral institutions has remained fairly stable, between 1988 and 1996, ECA lending soared by 400 per cent.
In March, 45 NGO representatives met in Washington to discuss a comprehensive report on the credit agencies. They have called on G-8 leaders to implement uniform global lending standards for all OECD nations' export, credit and investment insurance agencies within the year. For a copy of the report, A Race to the Bottom: Creating Risk, Generating Debt and Guaranteeing Environmental Destruction, please contact Bruce Rich, Environmental Defence Fund, US, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. + 202 387 3500.
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 4, July 1999