Background: At a recent Synthetic Biology Conference in Cambridge UK, Synthetic Biologist Jay Keasling announced that the consortium he was working with now intend to replace the entire global supply of artemisinin (an anti-malarial compound) with their new synthetic-biology derived version.
Synthetic biology goes beyond transferring genes between species to constructing entirely new, self-replicating microorganisms that have the potential to convert any biomass or carbon feedstock into any product that can be produced by fossil carbons – plus many more.From the perspective of synthetic biology, the resource base for the development of marketable “renewable” materials (that is not from petroleum) is not the world’s commercialized 23.8 % of annual terrestrial biomass, but also the other 76.2 % of annual terrestrial biomass that has, thus far, remained outside the market economy. Synthetic biology has already attracted the attention of the United Nations and governments. The technology was on the agenda of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that met in Hyderabad, India in mid-October 2012, with governments agreeing to continue monitoring the technology and report back to future meetings of the CBD.
There is less than a day to go before the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com hands hundreds of thousands of dollars to a controversial project for the widespread and unregulated distribution of over half a million extreme-bioengineered seeds. Kickstarter, which stands to make over $22,000 from the project (1), has steadfastly refused to comment on its listing of a project to make and distribute ‘glowing genetically modified plants’ using Synthetic Biology.
April 30, 2013
1400 Independence Avenue,
SW Room 1147
Washington DC 20250
Ms. Bethany Jones:
At the end of April 2013, ETC Group learned that three biohackers from Singularity University in California had mounted a project on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter. It was a plan to carry out the worlds first environmental release of an avowedly Synthetic Biology organism - a glow-in-the dark arabidopsis plant. Shockingly the 'Glowing Plants' kickstarter project promised to mail up to 100 bioengineered seeds to anyone from the United States who gave them $40 online . To date over 4000 people expect to receive syn bio seeds in the post. Even more shockingly they claim that the US Government had agreed not to regulate, assess or monitor this widespread random and nation-wide release of synthetic organisms.
ETC Group is now mounting a counter-kickstarter campaign: - the Kickstopper! Read how you can be part of it.
In October 2012 ETC Group uncovered that a commercial geoengineering firm had quietly carried out the world's largest geoengineering deployment to-date (in July 2012). When the news became public as a result of ETC Group's investigations, it caused a wave of concern among scientists, governments, the public and of course the people of Haida Gwaii. HSRC have since said they intend to carry out further ocean fertilization dumps. On this page we have collected some of the background on the Haida Gwaii ocean fertilization episode, how the story was reported, the legal situation, the science and more.
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.
* Tuesday March 5: SKIDEGATE
Kay Centre Performing House - 7 pm
* Wednesday March 6: MASSET
Howard Phillips Community Hall - 5 pm
Pat will share ETC Group's ongoing research into the potential impacts of geoengineering and his experience of the international legal and governance questions raised by ocean fertilization and geoengineering. He will also talk about the global movement of civil society groups, Indigenous Peoples Organizations and science and policy experts now calling for a halt to geoengineering.
The undersigned, a broad coalition of civil society groups, social movements, local and indigenous communities, public interest, environmental, scientif ic, human rights, religious and labor organizations concerned about various aspects of synthetic biology’s human health, environmental, social, economic, ethical and other impacts, offer the following declaration, The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology.
It may be a time of thanksgiving for the harvest in North America but in the boardrooms of Monsanto, Du Pont and Dow Agrosciences biotech executives may be saving their biggest thanks to the outgoing Mexican President: Felipe Calderon.
In these last dying days of his presidency, Calderon is widely expected to grant permission for the commercial planting of more than 2.5 million hectares of genetically modified maize (corn) in the global centre of origin and diversity for this important world food crop. If he does so this move of historical importance would amount to a "knife in the heart" of both Mexico's ancient maize culture and the diversity of maize worldwide.
Please take a moment to sign and support a new international petition against the impending commercialization of GMO maize in Mexico at http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Monsanto_in_Mexico/?fSLKJbb&pv=1
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:
From: Sweet,Adam [NCR] [mailto:Adam.Sweet@ec.gc.ca]
Sent: October-17-12 4:24 PM
Environmental protection and enforcement is a priority of our government. Under Budget 2012, we increased the levels of fines, and we have also recently increased the number of enforcement officers.
More information about the world’s largest geoengineering deployment to-date has come to light since news of the iron-dust dump made headlines on Monday. The so-called ‘Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation’ (HSRC) claims it dumped 100 tonnes of iron particles into the Haida Eddy of the north-east Pacific Ocean to produce an artificial plankton bloom, even though the practice is prohibited by globally agreed moratoria and Canadian law. The CEO of HSRC, John Disney, claims that several Canadian government agencies – including Environment Canada – were apprised of HSRC’s ocean fertilization plans before deployment. Canada’s Environment Minister says an investigation is underway and the dump would be illegal if it indeed happened.
In October 2010 in Nagoya, Parties to the CBD adopted a landmark decision to place a moratorium on the testing and deployment of geoengineering technologies (Decision X/33 para 8w) – recognising the particular threat to biodiversity and livelihoods. That moratorium marked the first time an international body had begun to establish oversight over this new field.
From 8th - 19th October 2012 the CBD will be meeting again at COP11 at Hyderabad India. ETC Group proposes that parties meeting in Hyderabad adopt an “ABC” of precaution:
At COP 11, government negotiators will be asked to consider bringing a new and emerging area of industrial activity under the oversight of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning technological field that builds artificial genetic systems and programmes lifeforms for industrial use. It urgently requires effective governance. This briefing details ten key points to consider.
It's not just that we are facing "something new", we are facing "something else". The speed, breadth and depth of technological change is out-pacing and out-scoping policymakers. Since 1992, the convergence of technologies (living and inert) at the atomic - or nano - scale is adding new dimensions to the nature of technological transformation. Governments need global tools to respond to "something else". Find in this briefing ten technology leaps making the case for prioritizing Technology Assessment at the UN.