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Volume 33, Issue 3 — March 2003


Treaties in Collision: The Biosafety Protocol and the World Trade Organization Agreements

by Sabrina Saffrin

On January 29, 2000, over 130 countries adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Biosafety Protocol or Protocol).1 The Protocol establishes international procedures applicable to the transboundary movement of bioengineered living organisms (referred to in the Protocol as living modified organisms (LMOs)). The adoption of the Protocol marked the close of over four years of intensive, contentious, and often emotional negotiations regarding the multibillion-dollar trade in bioengineered organisms.

Human beings have genetically modified plants and animals through domestication and controlled breeding for some 10,000 years with little controversy.2 Since 1973, however, modern biotechnology techniques have enabled the transfer of genes from one species to another unrelated species.3 For example, genes from a flounder known to survive in frigid waters have been transferred to tomatoes to make them resistant to frost4; and genes from a natural soil bacterium (bacillus thuringiensis) have been transferred to potatoes and corn to make them resistant to certain insects.5

A Water Solution for the Middle East Conflict

by Itzchak Kornfeld


The key issue is no longer resource development and water quantity but resource allocation and water quality.1

The United Nations (U.N.) has recognized that "water stands today as one of the most critical dangers, one of the most critical breakdowns of peace between nations. It has replaced the threat of war over oil."2 Urbanization, urban sprawl, climate change,3 and droughts worldwide4 are stressing groundwater systems and sources. There are "three main causes of the impending . . . water crisis"5:

1. Rapid urban population growth, increasing at the rate of 170,000 persons per day in developing countries [and hundreds per day in Arizona, California, and Florida];

2. Fifty percent of all potable water is being wasted or lost in the developed world [and much is lost in the developed world due to aging infrastructure and wastefulness]; and

3. Pollution, with over [two] million tons of human excrement and an ever-increasing volume of untreated discharge going into urban water supplies everyday [as well as nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers, fecal matter flowing into streams in the U.S. and internationally].6

Additionally, "in the developing world, more than 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, and 1.7 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. The U.N. [notes] that dirty water causes 80 percent . . . of diseases in the developing world and kills 10 million people annually."7

Similarly, over the past few years the United States has seen farmers fighting for water with fishermen and environmentalists,8 and farmers in southern California's Imperial Valley fighting with adjacent cities for this most precious resource. Water has become a resource and strategic asset under stress and a cause for antagonism and turmoil. Accordingly, conflicts are developing in the United States and abroad over how much of the water pie each segment of daily life—people, industry, and agriculture—are entitled. This Article focuses on water resources in the Middle East's Jordan River Basin.

Learning to Live With the Data Quality Act

by Paul Noe et al.

MS. WAGNER: Welcome to Learning to Live With the Data Quality Act. I am Wendy Wagner, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.

In the year 2001, the U.S. Congress passed the Data Quality Act (DQA) as a rider to an appropriations bill. There was no legislative history indicating what Congress meant when it required agencies to establish processes to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information they disseminate. Instead, Congress directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and ultimately the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at OMB, to provide guidance on what this one-sentence, legislative requirement means.

The Legal Option: Suing the United States in International Forums for Global Warming Emissions

by Andrew L. Strauss

The George W. Bush Administration's refusal to deal seriously with the problem of global warming, perhaps the greatest environmental problem of our time, requires that the international community think seriously about alternative ways of inducing or even compelling the United States to meet its global responsibilities. One strategy being considered is litigation. There are a variety of forms that global warming litigation could take. Plaintiffs harmed by global warming could bring actions in U.S. federal courts against the American government.1 Alternatively, such plaintiffs could sue key American corporations whose conduct has a disproportionate impact on global warming inside U.S. or foreign courts.2 Finally, the United States itself could be called to task before an international tribunal. Last year, I explored the third possibility for the London-based New Economic Foundation. I took on the project because of my concern about global warming, but also because of my commitment, as an international law professor, to the international system. One positive aspect of globalization is that it offers the possibility that law can play an increasing role in international relations. Because of capital's desire to operate in a safe and predictable environment, transnational business interests have successfully promoted legally based regimes such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the economic realm. The present challenge is to build on this trend so that a system of justice can replace power politics in the management of issues related to the environment, social welfare and global security. I see resorting to the evolving international dispute resolution system to help deal with the problem of global warming as supporting the growth and development of this system.3

What follows are the conclusions drawn from my work for the New Economics Foundation. It is a preliminary attempt to "brainstorm" the issues, and it is written for an audience with only a modest background in international law. I do not attempt to come to definitive conclusions, but rather I suggest avenues that might prove promising and should be subject to further study. This Article first examines certain international tribunals in which a case against the United States might be brought, with an emphasis on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and then looks at the relevant law which could be applied in such a case.

Public Lands for the Public's Health

by Richard A. Goodman and Marc L. Miller

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers but as fountains of life.

—John Muir (1898)

A walk in the park is one of our finest cultural opportunities, a value that people expect to find available in their community.

—National Association of State Park Directors

Cardiovascular diseases, epidemic obesity, and other major public health problems in the United States are strongly associated with physical inactivity and other life-style-related risk factors. With the increasing prevalence of obesity, and with physical inactivity high on the list of risk factors for obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and a multitude of major health problems, clinical and public health experts have emphasized the critical importance of increasing levels of physical activity. While efforts to increase leisure-time physical activity have emphasized activities centered around the home and neighborhood, improving public health through increased physical activity may require additional, innovative approaches. Local and state governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should consider new strategies and programs to encourage physical activity.

The systems of public parks operated by state governments throughout the Unites States are a potential public health resource for increasing levels of physical activity. Local and state governments could employ the roughly 8.5 million acres of state parks to promote healthy, risk-reducing activities that would help to improve public health.

Surprisingly, health advocates and park administrators only recently have begun to consider the role that public parks might play in public health. The previous lack of recognition may reflect traditional administrative divisions and institutional barriers: the government agencies that manage state parks typically have little interaction with the government agencies that service human health, and neither sector typically links public lands with the public's health. State park public relations materials sometimes mention recreation and, occasionally, fitness, but they do not connect recreation to health. The public attitude is similar: people perceive parks as places for nature conservation and public recreation, but they have not necessarily made the connection between recreation and health.

This Article focuses on the state of Georgia to examine the role state parks could play in public health. While a single state cannot serve as a universal model, it can provide a concrete focus for analysis, and may provide deeper insights than more general or abstract studies.