Sustainable Development: Rio+20, CSD

In June 2012, the global political focus will be on the next big environmental summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20 because it comes 20 years after the high proile Earth Summit of 1992.

The Earth Summit gave us Agenda 21, the UN climate convention, the biodiversity convention, the precautionary principle, the forest principles and meaningful civil society engagement - all under the banner of "sustainable development". At Rio+20, global leaders are tasked with identifying what went wrong in hte past 20 years, re-organizing the governance that has failed to deliver any progress on diverse environmental crises and crafting a roadmap towards a global "green economy".

Rio+2- brings us to a crossroads that offers both risks and opportunities. Rio+20's centerpiece "green economy" is poorly defined and could become a cover for further commodification and monopolization of nature, the violation of human rights and the deployment of high-risk technologies. Alternatively. the Rio summit could re-set the agenda for diverse, people-centered, local green economies, with policies that protect the environmnt, strengten the commons, promote equality establishing a new participatory and transparent multilateral system for technology assessment.

Features

Coming in at over 200 pages, today’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, 'Gene Drives on the Horizon’ is weighty but disappointing. It fails to properly address three of the most pressing issues raised by the controversial new technology of CRISPR-CAS9 gene drives. Dubbed, the ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ by its inventors, RNA-guided gene drives are a high-leverage synthetic biology technology invented only last year.

Synthetic Biology, according to its proponents, is moving at five times the pace of Moore’s law – basically doubling its capabilities and halving its costs every four months. Except that brash billionaire Craig Venter, often dubbed Bioscience’s Bad Boy, is no Gordon Moore. Venter has just announced that his team has produced Synthia 3.0 – the simplest human-made and self-replicating lifeform ever. Synthia 1.0 was announced – after years of delays – in 2010 and its second coming in this new form has been awaited ever since. Synthia 2.0 slipped by without notice – apparently not much to talk about – but this new version is being hailed by at least some synthetic biology scientists as a breakthrough.

Paris, 27th November 2015 – Some of the world’s largest agro-industrial corporations will be flying the flag for ‘climate-smart agriculture’ at the upcoming Climate Summit. They will claim that hi-tech crops and intensive industrial agriculture are needed to rescue farmers (and the hungry) from a warming world – a claim widely dismissed by peasant movements and civil society groups.

Many of the world's largest agro-industrial corporations are pushing forward the poorly-defined idea of "Climate-Smart Agriculture"(CSA) to re-market industrial agriculture as 'climate-ready'. This report uncovers how some advocates of CSA are embracing the extreme genetic engineering tools of synthetic biology ("Syn Bio") to develop a set of false solutions to the climate crisis.

The 20-page report includes: