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.
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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.
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.
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
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:
This case study illustrates how a key pharmaceutical ingredient, shikimic acid – traditionally derived from star anise cultivated by Chinese farmers – can be rapidly replaced by a new technological production process. Using synthetic biology, shikimic acid is now being produced commercially in drug industry fermentation tanks. The transition took less than a decade. Shikimic acid is just one example of a raw material that may be affected; it is conservatively estimated that at least 50% of today’s commercial pharmaceutical compounds are derived from plants, animals and microorganisms. 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, essential oils, etc). The Convention on Biological Diversity is the most appropriate forum to address this new and emerging issue.
Purpose: The Ban Terminator Campaign seeks to promote government bans on Terminator technology at the national and international levels, and supports the efforts of civil society, farmers, Indigenous peoples and social movements to campaign against it.
A new 30-page report that documents the growing influence of agribusiness on the multilateral food system and the lack of transparency in research funding has been released today by the international civil society organization ETC Group. The Greed Revolution: Mega Foundations, Agribusiness Muscle In On Public Goods, presents three case studies – one involving the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and two involving CGIAR Centers (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) -- which point to a dangerous trend that will worsen rather than solve the problem of global hunger. The report details, amongst others, the involvement of Nestlé, Heineken, Monsanto, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Syngenta Foundation.
Demand for food, feed and other forms of plant-derived biomass – as well as for strategic resources such as minerals and timber – is driving the international land grab. Control of water resources is another major driver.
Big foundations like Gates and giant agribusinesses like Syngenta are taking an interest in multilateral public institutions committed to ending hunger. The international agencies are having trouble with the “public/private” boundaries. It’s time to evaluate them all.
ETC Group dedicates this Communiqué to the memory of Dr. Erna Bennett who passed away at the beginning of January 2012.
Issue: Three recent incidents show that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) seem to be redacting their reports, or opening their gene banks and looking the other way as the private sector overrides governments and farmers to commandeer agricultural policy and practice. Private foundations and OECD states are causing public institutions to lose their focus on “public goods.”
Will a “great green technological transformation” bring about a “green economy” to help us save ourselves and our planet? Or will it serve those already controlling today’s “greed economy?” In its new report, ETC Group provides a snapshot of the state of corporate control in more than a dozen economic sectors relevant to the green economy (including seeds, energy, bioinformatics and food) and argues that in the absence of effective and socially responsive governance, the green economy will spur even greater convergence of corporate power and unleash the most massive resource grab in more than 500 years.
What you will find in the 'Who Will Control the Green Economy?' Report
- Naming The Green Economy's “One Percent”
'Who Will Control the Green Economy?' provides hard data on the largest and most powerful corporate players controlling 25 sectors of the 'real economy'. This is the only freely available report to assemble top 10 listings of companies (by market share) from 18 major economic sectors relevant to the Green Economy. These lists include the top 10 players in Water, Energy, Seeds, Fishing and Aquaculture, Food Retail and Processing, Chemicals, Fertilizer, Pesticides, Mining, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech, the Grain Trade and more. The report also identifies the leading players in a handful of new and emerging industrial sectors including Synthetic Biology, Big Data, Seaweed and Algae production and Livestock Genetics (pp.1-2).
Next year’s UN conference in Rio de Janeiro should mark the beginning of a new era of environmental and economic cooperation. Rio +20 is not only the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit, it is also Stockholm+40 – marking the UN’s first major environmental conference, and, somewhat ominously, it is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring. As we prepare for 2012, we have 50 years of environmental history to bear in mind.
There is little faith in the reform of the UN system; nonetheless, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 – also known as Rio +20 – is not only to set the stage for a green economy, but also to provide an impetus for the institutional reform of the UN environmental sector. The ministerial-level advisory group brought together by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) is preparing the reforms.
Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops, the world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are filing hundreds of sweeping, multi-genome patents in a bid to control the world’s plant biomass, according to a report released by ETC Group today.
A handful of multinational corporations are pressuring governments to allow what could become the broadest and most dangerous patent claims in history, warns the group at the United Nations’ Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan (18-29 October 2010).
The world’s six largest agrochemical and seed corporations are filing sweeping, multi-genome patents in pursuit of exclusive monopoly over plant gene sequences. Marketed as crops genetically-engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more, this development could lead to control of most of the world’s plant biomass – whether it is used for food, feed, fibre, fuel or plastics. Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change, these companies are pressuring governments to allow the broadest and potentially most dangerous patent claims in intellectual property history. But can patented techno-fix seeds provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change? On the contrary, these proprietary technologies are poised to concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds. For the “Gene Giants,” the goal is “biomasstery” – to profit from the world’s biomass.
New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa
Press Release by African Biodiversity Network, Amigransa Venezuela, Biofuelwatch, CESTA (Friends of the Earth El Salvador), COECOCEIBA Costa Rica, Econexus, ETC Group, FASE Brasil, Gaia Foundation, Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project, Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA), NOAH Food and Agriculture (FoE Denmark), Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA) Chile, Otros Mundos Mexico, Rettet den Regenwald, Salva la Selva, Save America's Forests, Sobrevivencia (Friends of the Earth Paraguay) Timberwatch Coalition and World Rainforest Movement
Twenty one groups today expressed their dismay at an article by leading biochar advocates, published by the science magazine Nature, which proposes that an area larger than the land mass of India could be turned into charcoal plantations in the name of climate change mitigation. The paper’s own figures contradict the authors’ claims that biochar will not lead to large-scale land grabbing in the global South.
On the eve of UN Mother Earth Day, over sixty national and international organizations today threw their weight behind a common statement launching a global campaign to prevent real world deployment of geoengineering experiments.
Geoengineering refers to large-scale intentional tinkering with the climate and earth systems to counteract global warming. The ‘Hands Off Mother Earth’ campaign (or H.O.M.E. campaign) regards such geoengineering schemes as dangerous and unjust. It is urging individuals and organizations to speak out in opposing them.
On the eve of a major intergovernmental conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a civil society member of the international steering committee has resigned, calling the preparations for the gathering of governments and scientists “hopelessly biased” and “foolishly sidestepping key socioeconomic and scientific issues.”
Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, a Canada-based international civil society organization with a long history of work with FAO and biotechnology issues, resigned from the steering committee on Tuesday, February 23 2010. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization conference, hosted by Mexico, runs from March 1- 4 in Guadalajara.