In the first two months of 2013, leading advocates of geoengineering have argued variously that researching geoengineering (as a Plan B to GHG emission cuts) is like helping a cancer patient manage pain while seeking a cure; or, that an accelerating gaggle of executive jets circling the equator could spray enough sulphuric acid in the stratosphere to keep the Earth’s thermostat within bounds; or, that a single island state could thumb its nose at the military might of the major powers and geoengineer the planet to its liking. So much lobbying and still months to go before the IPCC delivers its fifth assessment report – with an anticipated treatment of geoengineering.
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A report released today by ETC Group warns that 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8 % of commercial seeds and 76.1 % of agrochemicals. The same 6 companies account for at least 76 % of all private sector R&D in these two sectors.
Amid unprecedented corporate concentration, ETC Group’s report provides a critical look at new initiatives launched by the Gene Giants – including the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds – aiming to appease antitrust regulators and pass off oligopolistic practices as acts of charity. Meanwhile, the world’s two richest men – Bill Gates and Mexico’s Carlos Slim – are teaming up with CIMMYT (the international public maize and wheat breeding center based in Mexico) to get bargain GE seeds and traits in the hands of farmers in the global South.
Bees from 1.500 hives of a community in Hopelchen, Campeche, have died the 6th of February 2013 due to a fumigation of soy crops from Monsanto in a nearby area. This has had a direct impact on more than 50 rural families that after a bad maize harvest due to a drought, were hoping to recover with the sales of organic honey which is now impossible since the honey is contaminated with pesticides and genetically modified (GM) pollen. Álvaro Mena, a Mayan peasant and beekeeper who takes part in the Network in Defense of Maize has estimated that the losses amount to 10 million pesos, a year’s income for these families. Impacts have been also observed in four other communities. There is more intensive fumigation with GM crops, and since these crops are resistant to pesticides and planted in monoculture, enormous quantities of chemicals are applied. This is not a coincidence: it is the toxic avalanche that comes with transgenic farming and the threat of authorizing millions of hectares of transgenic maize.
In the face of an imminent authorization of the Mexican Government’s to sow millions of hectares of GM maize in this country, several social networks and collectives in Oaxaca have declared 2013 as the Year of Resistance to GM maize and of defense of native maize, life and autonomy of the maize people. The most important genetic heritage of the Mesoamericans is at stake.
Communique # 109
Chaos theory proposes that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could cause a hurricane in Texas. Complexity theory compounds the chaos by adding the quantum-like effects of, for example, genome changes in the butterfly to the conflictions of supercomputer models. Now, geoengineers want to multiply the complexity with politics. The result is an extreme form of artificial intelligence.
Gaia is complicated. From stratospheric currents to undersea rivers – and from plankton to palm tree emissions and sequestrations – quantifying, qualifying and calibrating planetary systems is at least as challenging as understanding genes or neurons. Despite decades of modeling, we are no more likely to predict next month’s best picnic day than we are to anticipate the proclivities of our DNA or to trace a memory in our cranium. Frustratingly, we have learned to map and manipulate genomes, geographies and memories, but we can’t control the consequences.
...Or "193 Shades of Grey".
2012 Whizzed and then it Fizzed, but 2013 can be Better
To get 2013 off with a technological BANG, ETC staff are offering (what, for us, amounts to) a ‘light-hearted’ reflection on the year past and projections for the one already upon us.
Uppers: At the end of the year, New Scientist announced that we have reduced the under-5 child mortality rate by 60 % in the last 20 years. In the United States, government studies revealed during the year that teenage pregnancies have declined 40 % since 1990; teenage smoking (at 10.6 %) is at its lowest level since records were first kept in 1975; the number of traffic fatalities in New York City (declining ever since 1971) are the lowest since 1910; in spite of a 50 % increase in the number of firearms, the number of US households possessing guns is continuing to drop. And, in late October, The Economist reported that, across most industrialized countries, the annual crime rate has been dropping steadily since the mid-1990s. In 2012, studies announced that homophobia, at least in OECD states, is declining steeply – a little short of World Peace or ending hunger but still something to celebrate.
If we are to survive climate change, we must adopt policies that let peasants diversify the plant and animal varieties on our menus. Only they have the know-how and patience to find out what plants and livestock will thrive where. A fundamental change in the regulatory machinery is needed.
Mexico remains on high alert following the attempts of Monsanto and other agribusiness multinationals to win the government’s approval to plant 2.5 million hectares of transgenic maize in Mexico, the center of origin and diversity of maize. As ETC wrote last month, approval would allow the boldest coup of a global food crop in history and would threaten biodiversity, farmers’ rights and resilience in the face of climate change. While the outgoing government of Felipe Calderón did not approve the applications before leaving office on November 30th, its last-minute, surreptitious changes to regulatory procedures removed obstacles that could have hindered the new administration’s ability to grant the companies’ requests.
Inside and outside Mexico, voices have decried the attack aimed at the heart of Mexican cultures, food, health and nature. Since mid-November, there have been workshops and public meetings, as well as petitions and protests by farmers, artists, activists and scientists in social and print media and on the radio. La Via Campesina, Grain and ETC Group wrote an open letter to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) asking the multilateral agencies to intervene for the sake of global food security.
This briefing outlines the principal decisions and resolutions of the Convention on Biological Diversity and London Convention/Protocol relating to ocean fertilization in the context of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation's "Haida Salmon Restoration Project".
The CBD Moratorium
Agribusiness giants Monsanto, DuPont and Dow are plotting the boldest coup of a global food crop in history. If their requests to allow a massive commercial planting of genetically modified (GM) maize are approved in the next two weeks by the government of outgoing president Felipe Calderón, this parting gift to the gene giants will amount to a knife in the heart of the center of origin and diversity for maize. The consequences will be grave – and global. With the approvals and December planting deadlines looming, social movements and civil society organizations have called for an end to all GM maize in Mexico. Mexico’s Union of Concerned Scientists (UCCS) has called on the Mexican government to stop the processing of any application for open-field release of GM maize in Mexico. ETC Group joins these calls, and appeals to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – intergovernmental bodies mandated to support food security and biodiversity – to take immediate action.
Please take a moment to sign a global petition against the commercialization of GMO maize in Mexico at: