With the utmost respect, we address Your Holiness regarding a topic of grave concern and global scope—genetically modified (GM) crops and their impact on peoples and on nature, land, water, seeds, and economies, especially those of the Global South.
Almost twenty years of genetically modified crops… What have we gained?
Contrary to what companies promised, official statistics from the United States—the leading producer of genetically modified (GM) crops in the world—demonstrate that the truth of GM crops is that they produce less per hectare than the seeds that were already available on the market, but have resulted in an exponential increase in the use of agritoxins.
The unique scent of the patchouli plant is used in many fragrances and scented products. It is mostly grown in Malaysia, China, India and Singapore. One synthetic biology company is aiming to use synthetically modified microbes to produce a patchouli oil substitute, which could have negative effects on farmers.
Cocoa butter, the main ingredient in chocolate, is produced by 30 tropical countries, and is sold for an estimated $6 billion annually. One synthetic biology company has engineered synthetically modified microbes to produce a cocoa butter substitute, which could threaten the livelihoods of millions of farmers.
This case study illustrates recent developments in synthetic biology that could impact the $35 billion natural rubber market and disrupt the livelihoods of producers. These developments impact the sustainable use of biodiversity and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the genetic resources associated with rubber production. Natural rubber has already lost half of its market to petroleum-based synthetics. If production challenges are resolved, production via synthetic biology could erode the remaining half. Using synthetic biology, three different commercial teams are working to produce a biosynthetic isoprene that could soon impact Asia’s exporters; other companies are producing biosynthetic butadiene and isobutene, also crucial to the manufacture of rubber.
Synthetic biology could impact the $22 billion global flavour and fragrance market and the livelihoods of producers of natural commodities. The world's largest producers of food ingredients, flavors and fragrances are all now partnering with Synthetic Biology companies to develop biosynthetic versions of key high value natural commodities such as saffron, vanilla, vetiver and patchouli - replacing botanical sources. These in turn are just a few our of hundreds of economically important natural plant compounds whose production may be switched to synthetic biology production in a very short time frame.
Known for its musty, woody scent, vetiver oil is also know for its fixative qualities, which means that it helps a fragrance to last longer after it is applied to the skin. Vetiver oil can be detected in the “base notes” of many perfumes or colognes. A synthetic biology company has engineered microbes to produce chemical compounds aimed at replacing traditional Vetiver production, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Haiti, Indonesia, China, India, Japan and Brazil, among others.
Start of an international call to stop genetically engineered organisms
spreading into the environment! Coalition calls for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to take action.
New developments in synthetic biology could have far-reaching impacts on the market for biodiversity-derived natural products and the livelihoods of those who produce them. Cosmetic giants like Unilver and L’Oreal can source squalene from plant sources (olive oil, amaranth seeds, wheat germ, etc.) instead of harvesting the livers of 6 million deep sea sharks per year. This is a positive development. Now, Amyris is producing squalene from engineered microbes in fermentation tanks that are fueled by biomass – up to two million tons of crushed sugarcane annually. Who decides what is the most sustainable and socially just use of biomass and farmland?
No inter-governmental body is addressing the potential impacts of synthetic biology on the conservation and use of biodiversity and on the livelihoods of those who depend on agricultural export commodities (including high-value flavors, fragrances, cosmetics, essential oils, etc). The Convention on Biological Diversity is the most appropriate forum to address this new and emerging issue.
Unlucky 13: Our 2012 year-end review, “193 Shades of Gray,” stumbled into the surreal, post-Rio+20 “Hunger Games” as FAO admitted that it has been underestimating the number of hungry people and overestimating future food requirements and, in a cowardly act of conspicuous consumption, the UN Committee on World Food Security failed to condemn biofuels; Warsaw withered the way of every climate conference since Kyoto; the USA, UK, China and Russia significantly underestimated GHG emissions while the UK, Japan, New Zealand and Australia concluded that they just don’t give a da
After promising on World Food Day (October 16) to block legislation that would legalize the planting of Terminator seeds in Brazil, the country’s Judicial Commission is set to approve suicide seeds as a Christmas gift to Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta.
Farmers produce food, not carbon. Yet, if some of the governments and corporate lobbies negotiating at the UN climate change conference to be held in Warsaw from 11-22 November have their way, farmland could soon be considered as a carbon sink that polluting corporations can buy into to compensate for their harmful emissions.
In a great bit of news for World Food Day, a key Brazilian congressional committee today withdrew the consideration of legislation that would have allowed the sale and use of Terminator Technology, also known as suicide seeds. The Constitutional Commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives was slated to consider Bill PL 268/2007 this morning, but decided instead to withdraw it from the agenda – taking into account the social concerns raised by the national and international mobilization in opposition to the bill. Further, the President of the Commission pledged that as long as he is at the helm, he will not allow the bill back on the agenda.
As the United Nations celebrates World Food Day October 16, in Brazil, a Constitutional Commission is slated to rule on pending legislation that would permit the use of Terminator technology (a.k.a. suicide seeds), upending the country’s 8 year-old ban and violating the international moratorium on the quintessential anti-farmer technology. Meanwhile, on October 17, in Iowa (USA), scientists from Syngenta and Monsanto, two companies that both have Terminator patents, will receive the World Food Prize for their “breakthrough” achievements in developing genetically modified crops.
This week, as we celebrate World Food Day 2013 – whose theme is "sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition” – a serious threat to food sovereignty and food and nutrition security in Brazil has come to light. A bill, ( PL ) No. 268/2007 filed by Rep. Eduardo Sciarra - PSD / PR, allows exemptions to the ban on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs, commonly referred to as Terminator) imposed by Brazil’s Biosecurity Law and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. If passed, this bill will allow the production and marketing of GM “suicide” seeds – seeds genetically engineered to be sterile in the second generation – forcing farmers to buy new seeds for every planting cycle.
Yesterday, ETC Group reported on the scheduled meeting of Brazil's Judicial Commission to rule on the constitutionality of a bill that would allow the planting of Terminator plants (i.e., plants engineered to be sterile in the second generation) in Brazil. While the Judicial Commission did meet, it postponed the discussion on the Terminator bill until next week.
Today Brazil’s Judicial Commission is slated to rule on the constitutionality of a proposed bill that will allow genetically engineered sterility in seeds, known as Terminator Technology. If the bill gains the approval of the Commission, it could quickly come to a vote in Congress. Brazil’s national law to ban Terminator has been under threat since it was enacted 8 years ago, but this most recent congressional action has caused the most serious alarm since it could swiftly overturn the ban.
La Via Campesina, GRAIN and ETC welcome a new UNCTAD report which states that farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food.