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A Mammoth Distraction - Syn Bio and 'De-extinction'.

A Mammoth Distraction - Syn Bio and 'De-extinction'.


The distracting allure of a technofix is a common trick deployed by those pushing risky technologies. Nuclear power we are told might just solve climate change,  GM food could feed the hungry, "DDT is good for you" etc. But the latest eyecatching technofix under discussion at a conference in Cambridge this week is a real dodo: 'Synthetic Biology' we are now told will reverse extinction of species and conserve biodiversity. Really ?

Normalizing Geoengineering as Foreign Aid

Normalizing Geoengineering as Foreign Aid

Climate Drift: Geoengineers have a problem. Computer modeling suggests that blocking solar radiation in the temperate zone (to preserve Arctic ice or to forestall massive methane releases) could cool the Northern hemisphere but its impact could also drift South, creating severe climatic disruptions by dampening down Asia’s monsoon while drying out Africa’s Sahel. Not a popular proposition.

Now, geoengineers may hope they have a solution. A new study in Nature Climate Change[i] by the UK Government’s Meteorological Office suggests that some form of solar radiation management could mitigate the conventional vicissitudes of nature. According to the report, volcanic eruptions north of the equator in the 20th century either contributed to – or caused – droughts along the African equator and further South.

Tunis 2013: If we rely on corporate seed, we lose food sovereignty

World Social Forum Event organized by La Via Campesina, GRAIN and ETC Group

GROWING POWER IN PEASANT SEEDS SYSTEMS: Farmers seeds and struggle against GMOs, AGRA- 2nd Green Revolution. Tunis, March 29.

It has become crucial to defend seeds. In the past 20 or 30 years, what was once seen as normal – peasant farmers growing, selecting, saving and exchanging seeds – has come under attack from corporations seeking to control and commodify the very basis of agriculture.

Informational Backgrounder on the 2012 Haida Gwaii Iron Dump

Almost six years ago ETC Group blew the whistle on a commercial geoengineering outfit called Planktos, Inc., which was making its way to dump 100 tons of iron nanoparticles into the waters of the Galapagos Islands . Working with allies ETC Group was able to prevent that ocean fertilisation dump. In 2012 however we were less lucky. The same geoengineering entrepeuner, Russ George, suceeded in dumping over 100 tonnes of iron into the Pacific ocean west of Haida Gwaii in Canada, claiming that his actions had prompted a 10,000 square km plankton bloom. This time his new company, The Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC), was using millions of dollars in funds from a small indigenous community. Read here the full story of how ETC Group uncovered HSRC's rogue geoengineering scheme and the storm of international concern that ensued.

Geoengineering – The Opium of the People? Pain-killer, Plane-chiller, Plane crasher

Geoengineering – The Opium of the People? Pain-killer, Plane-chiller, Plane crasher

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.

Gene Giants Seek "Philanthrogopoly"

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.

2013: The year of resistance to GM maize

2013: The year of resistance to GM maize

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.

The Maize War

 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.

The Artificial Intelligence of Geoengineering

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.


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