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October 2000 Planet Main
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The Planet

Mexican Forest Activists Convicted

Just four months after being awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, Mexican activist Rodolfo Montiel and fellow farmer Teodoro Cabrera were convicted of what human-rights activists believe to be trumped-up charges of illegal weapons possession and drug trafficking. Montiel was sentenced to nearly seven years in jail, while Cabrera received 10.

In April, Montiel received the Goldman Prize, one of the world's most prestigious environmental awards, for his work against logging company Boise Cascade. The company had been clearcutting old-growth forests on the mountains in the southern state of Guerrero, causing soil erosion that damaged crops. Montiel and Cabrera were arrested shortly after the organization of Campesino environmentalists, which they helped found, effectively shut down logging in the area.

A July report by Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights and a report by Physicians for Human Rights confirmed the men's claims that they were tortured with electric shocks and forced to sign blank pieces of paper that later became their "confessions." The Sierra Club and Amnesty International have been working to free them from jail since the men were arrested a year and a half ago.

Lawyers representing Cabrera and Montiel have appealed the verdict.

Sprawl Mall Bites the Dust

With the switch of one vote, the specter of a monstrous mall lurking at the edge of Salt Lake City turned to vapor and vanished. In mid June, when a Salt Lake City Council member changed his mind on the zoning proposal at the last minute, the Utah Chapter celebrated not just the demise of the mall, but another strike against the proposed Legacy Highway.

This highway would destroy wetlands and promote sprawl for 125 miles between Brigham City and Nephi. The mall, planned for Legacy's intersection with Interstate 80, would have generated 71,000 car trips a day, adding to Salt Lake's air-pollution woes. Its proposed location, more than 40 blocks from any current housing, would have encouraged other sprawling developments to the west of the city.

New Biotech Policy

Planting genetically engineered corn, tomatoes and other crops should stop until more research is conducted on environmental and health impacts, according to a policy recently adopted by the Sierra Club's Board of Directors.

The transgenic crops that are taking over American farm land are made by splicing genetic material from one species into another. For instance, a toxin normally produced by bacteria is added to corn and soy to make the crop insecticidal. Pollen can carry these genes to closely related crops or wild relatives.

The biotechnology policy also calls for a new regulatory framework and an end to government boosterism for these products, for mandatory labeling and post-marketing surveillance, and for all countries to respect the right of other countries to refuse genetically engineered seed or food.

For the full text of the policy, go to

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