he most dramatic technological transformation in history – involving information technologies, biotechnologies and engineering – has occurred since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992; during the same period, however, governments have systematically downsized or eliminated their capacity to understand science and monitor technologies. While technology has thus far played an extraordinarily prominent role in preparatory documents for Rio+20, technology’s potential contribution to sustainable development and/or new Green Economies cannot be realized as long as the world lacks trusted and transparent mechanisms – at global, regional and national levels – for technology evaluation. The absence of such mechanisms incites distrust and invites disaster.
Recent Content Related to International Governance
Earth Grab - Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes' - essential, cutting-edge climate science in everyday language - published this week (27 October 2011). The authors reveal information that the large corporations who profit from climate change do not want the public to know.
'Earth Grab' analyses how Northern governments and corporations are cynically using concerns about the ecological and climate crisis to propose geoengineering 'quick fixes'. These threaten to wreak havoc on ecosystems, with disastrous impacts on the people of the global South. As calls for a 'greener' economy mount and oil prices escalate, corporations are seeking to switch from oil-based to plant-based energy.
minent environmentalist Vandana Shiva, founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, writes in her foreword that this research 'pulls back the curtain on disturbing technological and corporate trends that are already reshaping our world and that will become crucial battlegrounds for civil society in the years ahead'.
The book has already captured the attention of writer Naomi Klein, who writes that this 'crucial book reveals ... Indispensable research for those with their eyes wide open'. Campaigner George Monbiot adds that its exploration of 'three crucial issues which will come to dominate environmental and human rights debates in the coming years make it an essential resource for anyone trying to keep up with the times'.
Opponents of proposals to “geoengineer” the planet have two reasons to celebrate this week.
Firstly, ETC Group has learned that UK scientists, in the midst of controversy, are on the cusp of postponing an imminent test of an experimental hose (dubbed the “Trojan Hose” by opponents) designed to deliver sulphur dioxide to the stratosphere as a way to engineer a cooler planet. The test had been scheduled for October; on Monday, 60 groups from around the globe sent an open letter to the UK government and the research councils involved expressing their opposition to the experiment. No public announcement of the decision has been made and details must be clarified, but an undeniable lack of prior stakeholder engagement is the likely reason for the delay.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wound up its expert meeting on geoengineering in Lima, Peru, which included all three IPCC Working Groups, it committed to remain “policy relevant but not policy prescriptive.” Despite getting off on the wrong foot (no transparency), with some of the wrong experts (scientists with financial interests), on some of the wrong topics (governance), the IPCC has now confirmed that it will not make recommendations to governments regarding research funding for the controversial technologies, governance models or the legality of experimentation.
At a press briefing following the close of the expert meeting, the IPCC stated that its focus will be “establishing the scientific foundations for an assessment of geoengineering.” This assessment would include risks, costs, benefits and social and economic impacts, intended and unintended consequences as well as uncertainties and gaps in knowledge and will be based solely on peer-reviewed literature. “Of course, a real assessment of geoengineering will need to be much broader than a scientific peer-review process,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group from Lima, though outside the meeting. “Civil society organizations have been clear that we do not want these dangerous technologies developed; they are a new threat from the very same countries that are responsible for the climate crisis in the first place!”
125 international and national organizations, representing at least 40 countries from all continents, sent an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), demanding a clear statement of its commitment to precaution and to the existing international moratorium on geoengineering. The IPCC will hold an expert meeting on geoengineering 20-22 June in Lima, Peru.
The Big Downturn? Nanogeopolitics, ETC Group’s new 68-page report on global governance of nanoscale technologies, is an update of our 2005 Nanogeopolitics survey. In the intervening five years, policymakers – some kicking and screaming – have begun to acknowledge that fast-tracking nanotech has come at a price and that some sort of regulation is needed to deal with at least some of the risks nanoscale technologies pose.
The New Biomassters - Synthetic Biology and the Next Assault on Biodiversity and Livelihoods
Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering
Gene Giants Stockpile Patents on “Climate-Ready” Crops in Bid to Become Biomassters
This report exposes the new climate 'Plan B' for what it is: a political strategy aimed at letting industrialized countries off the hook for their climate debt. From adjusting the global thermostat to changing the chemistry of our oceans, these technofixes are a threat to people and the planet. The report contains an overview of the history, the science, the interests behind their rapid development and the international governance issues at stake.
Realpolitik, we are advised, recognizes that the multilateral system can’t produce an equitable or effective agreement that will mitigate climate chaos: Recognizing this, concerned governments and scientists have no reasonable choice but to investigate technological strategies that could reduce or delay climate change, at least until social forces make a practical agreement possible. Also according to Realpolitik, there is no more hope of achieving a multilateral consensus on re-jigging the thermostat than there is of adopting effective targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, the issue is to create a narrative and construct a governance model that will allow a courageous, far-sighted, science- based “coalition of the willing” to justify their unilateral manipulation of the Earth’s systems. They call it geoengineering – we call it geopiracy.
The declaration coming out of the World Food Summit for Food Security in Rome is even worse than the “shameful” document adopted by world leaders in 1996, so famously criticized by Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Governments won’t promise anything to anybody. The only issue really being debated in Rome is whether control of the UN’s “Department of Agriculture” will be wrested from the UN’s Rome-based agencies and surrendered to an amorphous, G8 conjured, public-private compact called the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. If the Partnership prevails, national sovereignty fails, and civil society's hopes for Food Sovereignty will suffer.
This statement was initiated at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil in January 2009. ETC Group released it on March 10, 2009 on the eve of a geo-engineering panel at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions.
Since the World Social Forum last met in Nairobi in January 2007, civil society organizations from around the globe have confronted an alarming new threat to our rights and biodiversity: the threat of unjust and high risk geo-engineering schemes and specifically ocean fertilization. We are facing off against several multimillion-dollar private and government-backed projects that aim to re-engineer our climate and oceans. We will soon face other attempts to intentionally alter our soils, deserts and other ecosystems on a large scale in the name of climate protection and profit-making, including the lucrative carbon trade.
Issue: The world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in plants that the companies will market as crops genetically engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more. BASF, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont and biotech partners have filed 532 patent documents (a total of 55 patent families) on so-called “climate ready” genes at patent offices around the world. In the face of climate chaos and a deepening world food crisis, the Gene Giants are gearing up for a PR offensive to re-brand themselves as climate saviours. The focus on so-called climate-ready genes is a golden opportunity to push genetically engineered crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change. But patented techno-fix seeds will not provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change. These proprietary technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.
What's the most scandalous case of biopiracy in your country? Who's ripping off indigenous knowledge in your community? Which privateer is most egregiously pillaging the global commons for profit? Who's monopolizing your genes or patenting your plants?
Nominate your least favorite pirate for a 2008 Captain Hook Award. All outrageous achievements in biopiracy deserve recognition!
Nominate your most admired biopiracy-resistor for a 2008 Cog Award. All those who have fought off biopirates, defeated predatory patents or otherwise foiled the nefarious plots of fiendish privateers deserve recognition. (Cog Awards are so-named because cogs were ships designed to repel pirate attacks.)
The topic of this report is the burgeoning Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) genetic testing industry, which is promising consumers a guidebook for maintaining health as well as a gene-based horoscope predicting future illness.
Contrary to the opinion of many, June's Food Summit actually did something. It signaled the beginning of the end for the multilateral system as we know it. Over the next six months the food emergency - and the international institutions designed to address it - could get worse.
WASHINGTON, DC – With the joint release of Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials, a broad international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new technology and its products.
The manufacture of products using nanotechnology–a powerful platform for
manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter properties–has exploded in recent years. Hundreds of consumer products incorporating nanomaterials are now on the market, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. But evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. In addition, the profound social, economic, and ethical challenges posed by nano-scale technologies have yet to be addressed.
ETC Group released “Terminator: The Sequel,” a Communiqué reporting on new research related to “suicide seeds” and other genetically modified (GM) seed technologies that pose unacceptable threats to farmers, biodiversity and food sovereignty.
Munich – The European Patent Office put the brakes on Monsanto’s over-the-top corporate greed by revoking its species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybeans (EP0301749) – a patent unprecedented in its broad scope. ETC Group, an international civil society organization based in Canada, won its 13-year legal challenge against Monsanto’s species-wide soybean patent when an EPO appeal board ruled that the patent was not new or sufficient (i.e., the invention claimed was not sufficiently described for a skilled person to repeat it). The patent challenge was supported by Greenpeace and “No Patents on Life!” Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of UK-based EcoNexus also joined the opposition team in Munich as a scientific expert.
On the day before the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds its loudest alarm yet, ETC Group warns that some OECD states, led by the United States, are betting on a pie-in-the-sky techno-fix to address climate change. “Geoengineering” refers to the intentional, large-scale manipulation of the environment to bring about environmental change. With no hope for Kyoto, little political will to ask industry or voters to change lifestyles and a growing recognition that carbon trading is a farce, some governments are concluding that massive earth restructuring is the only way out. The Guardian reported earlier this week that the US government is lobbying the IPCC to promote geoengineering activities, such as deliberately polluting the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures. (1)
During summer vacation 2006, the lead US environmental regulatory agency acknowledged it has approved at least 15 novel nano-scale chemicals. Earlier this year EPA sanctioned the unproven use of iron nanoparticles to clean up a pesticide dump.
Two World Bank projects, with funding from the GEF (Global Environmental Facility), propose to introduce genetically modified crops such as maize, potatoes, cassava, rice and cotton into five Latin American and four African countries that are centers of origin or diversity for these and other major food crops. Civil society organizations warn that DNA contamination from genetically modified crops poses an unacceptable risk to stable crops that are the basis of peasant economies in these regions. The multi-million dollar projects are being promoted under the guise of scientific biosafety research, but civil society organizations on both continents are calling for their immediate rejection because they threaten food sovereignty and farmer-controlled seed systems.