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)
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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.
Curitiba, Brazil. After a week that has seen a worldwide mobilisation against Terminator technology, the issue of Suicide Seeds is about to hit the negotiating floor of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Curitiba, Brazil (March 2006). Known to the CBD as GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), Terminator crops are genetically modified to create sterile seeds at harvest so that farmers must buy new seed every season. Today (22.03.2006) the Ban Terminator Campaign, a global coalition of over 500 organisations, released new financial calculations indicating that Terminator seeds will impose a burden of billions of extra dollars in seed costs on some of the world's poorest nations.
Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week (March 2006) when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 2006.
Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week (January 2006). The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.
The Enola bean patent case demonstrates that intellectual property challenges are not a viable means of “correcting” abuses in the patent system. Just about everyone agrees that the Enola bean patent is technically invalid – the bean, in fact, is genetically identical to a pre-existing Mexican bean variety that was previously known and grown in the United States.
As governments at the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong bristle with the thorny politics of trade, the report that ETC Group releases today, Oligopoly, Inc. 2005, serves as a reminder that what looks like buying and selling between countries is most often the redistribution of capital among subsidiaries of the same parent multinational corporation.
In Oligopoly, Inc. 2005 ETC Group finds that corporate concentration -- not only in food and agriculture, but in all sectors related to the products and processes of life -- has increased remarkably since ETC's last review two years ago. The report also reveals that a subterranean struggle is underway at the nano-scale to control the fundamental building blocks of life and nature. Corporate investment in nanobiotechnology (or, synthetic biology) could give ultimate control to a very different set of corporate actors.
Seeding makes readers aware of what has changed - scientifically, politically and environmentally - since the publication in 1994 of Patents for Life, a book that has made its mark.
Volume I offers policymakers a clear description of the facts, the fights and discussions concerning the ownership, conservation and exchange of genetic resources. It will teach readers new to these issues for the first time why germplasm is important and why it is the subject of intense trade negotiations. The reader will better understand issues related to intellectual property and security at national and international. Volume II will deal with the legal mechanisms: 1) to conserve and exchange germplasm for current and future generations, 2) to encourage innovation in the field of conservation and germplasm enhancement, 3) for find solutions to the rights and interests of indigenous and rural populations that create and maintain biological diversity. AUTHOR Crucible Group includes the following: Civil society organizations (including Aboriginal groups): Alejandro Argumedo, Margarita Florez, Glen Hearns, Dan Leskien, Atencio Lopez, Andrew Mushita, Gurdhial Singh Nijar, Rene Salazar, Priscilla Settee, Hope Shand Private sector and industry: Don Duvik, Klaus Leisinger, Brian Lowry, Radha Ranganathan, PV Subba Rao, Tim Roberts, Reinhard Von Broock Public Sector: Tewolde Gebre Egziabher Behran, Engsiang Lim, Geoffrey Hawtin, Mita Manek, Nora Olembo, Tuan Vo Xuan, Nuno Pires de Carvalho, Gesa Horstkotte-Wesseler, Louise Sperling University: Assiah Bensalah Alaoui, Carlos Correa, Michael Flitner, Cary Fowler, Jaap Hardon, Francisco Martinez-Gomez, Michael Pimbert Management Committee: Susan Bragdon, Chusa Gines, Christine Grieder, Michael Halewood (coordinator), Pat Mooney, Olle Nordberg, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Carl-Gustav Thornstrom, Beate Weiskopf, Joachim Voss (President)
"The Potential Impacts of Nano-Scale Technologies on Commodity Markets," prepared for the South Centre, examines the potential impacts of nanotechnology on two sectors - agriculture and mining - in commodity dependent developing countries. Cases studies on rubber, textiles, platinum and copper provide early examples of how economies and workers in the global South could be affected by nanotech's emerging R&D and products.
This report examines the potential impacts of nanotechnology on two sectors – agriculture and mining – in commodity dependent developing countries. Case studies on rubber, textiles, platinum and copper provide early examples of how economies and workers in the global South could be affected by nanotech’s emerging R&D and products. In most cases it is too early to predict with certainty which commodities or workers will be affected and how quickly. However, if a new nano-engineered material outperforms a conventional material and can be produced at a comparable cost, it is likely to replace the conventional commodity. History shows that there will be a push to replace commodities such as rubber, cotton and strategic minerals with cheaper raw materials that can be sourced or manu- factured by new processes closer to home. Nanotech’s new designer materials could topple commodity markets, disrupt trade and eliminate jobs. Worker-displacement brought on by commodity- obsolescence will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly those workers in the developing world who don’t have the economic flexibility to respond to sudden demands for new skills or differ- ent raw materials.
According to Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group in Mexico: "It's no surprise that the industry is using the findings to serve its own interests - as 'proof' that contamination no longer exists and that GM crops should have free reign everywhere, even in the South's centers of crop genetic diversity. Indigenous and farming communities vigorously disagree with the biotech industry's self-serving interpretation of the study."
According to peasant communities in Oaxaca, the new findings are not terribly surprising. Baldemar Mendoza of UNOSJO (Union of Organisations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca) - who lives in the region covered by the new study - said, "We took samples in 3 of the 18 communities that the new report mentions (San Juan Ev. Analco, Ixtlan and Santa Maria Jaltianguis) and our results were also negative in those three communities." Mendoza points out that the geographic area sampled by the new study is small and the 18 communities are predominantly forest communities, which means that their main activity is not planting maize. Mendoza also points out, "The new study doesn't refer to any other part of Mexico where contamination has been found but some in the media are already making the false claim that 'there is no contamination in the whole state of Oaxaca or even all of Southern Mexico.'"
Twenty-five years after the biotech industry got the green light to patent life, nanotech goes after the building blocks of life.
On the 25th anniversary of Diamond vs. Chakrabarty,* the US Supreme Court's landmark decision (June 16, 1980) that opened the floodgates to the patenting of living organisms, ETC Group releases a new report, "Nanotech's 'Second Nature' Patents."
ETC Group reports on trends in intellectual property relating to nano-scale technologies. With nanotechnology, the reach of exclusive monopoly patents is not just on life, but all of nature. Accordingly, ETC Group refers to nanotech's "second nature" patents.
Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening (May 2005) Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25 2005, in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi Tuesday.
A confidential document leaked today (07.02.05) to ETC Group reveals that the Canadian government, at a United Nations meeting in Bangkok (Feb 7-11), will attempt to overturn an international moratorium on genetic seed sterilisation technology (known universally as Terminator). Even worse, the Canadian government has instructed its negotiators to "block consensus" on any other option.
"Canada is about to launch a devastating kick in the stomach to the world's most vulnerable farmers - the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seed," said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney speaking from Ottawa. "The Canadian government is doing the dirty work for the multinational gene giants and the US government. Even Monsanto wasn't prepared to be this upfront and nasty. Canada is betraying Farmers' Rights and food sovereignty everywhere."
Swiss gene giant Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical corporation and third largest seed company (see tables) has applied for patents that could effectively allow the company to monopolize key gene sequences that are vital for rice breeding as well as dozens of other plant species. While the Genome Giant "donates" rice germplasm and information to public researchers with one hand, it is attempting to monopolize rice resources with the other. Governments, public sector researchers and the United Nations must re-evaluate and reform their cozy connections to companies like Syngenta.
ETC Group's first Communiqué of 2005 focuses on Syngenta, the global gene giant that ranks first in agrochemicals and third in seeds. Syngenta has a patent pending in 115 countries that, if approved, would give it a multi-genome monopoly over at least 40 plant species.
In a remarkable departure from its role as a public science network, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is huddling with the biotech industry (including Monsanto and DuPont) to craft a policy response to the unwelcome and ongoing spread of DNA from genetically modified plants to farmers’ varieties. The meeting begins in Rome on Monday (30.08.2004) and comes three years after scientists first confirmed GM contamination in Mexico's maize crop – and two and a half years after farmers’ organizations and their civil society allies called upon CGIAR and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to take action. Farmers’ organizations are not invited to the meeting.