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.
Recent Content Related to Synthetic Biology
New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa
As environment ministers from 193 countries take stock of the globe’s dramatic loss of biodiversity at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan next week (18-29 October 2010), ETC Group warns that high-risk “technological fixes” that claim to hold the key for solving the climate crisis should be put on ice.
The global meeting, marking the International Year of Biodiversity, will debate a de facto moratorium on the release into the environment of synthetic life forms (a form of extreme genetic engineering marketed by industry as the building blocks of the “green economy”) and on geoengineering activities (massive intentional manipulations of the Earth’s systems). Existing international law has no adequate controls for these controversial new technologies.
ETC Group released three new reports on these technofixes, explaining the interests behind them and the risks inherent in their uncontrolled development.
As the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) ponders guidelines for considering new and emerging issues that may have implications for biodiversity – and struggles to adopt a protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) – researchers in synthetic biology are developing the capacity to construct synthetic life forms. The repercussions for biological diversity are unknown but could be devastating. Natural organisms, too, may be “tweaked” using synthetic biology to allow for patent monopolies beyond the reach of state sovereignty or of indigenous peoples.
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.
In a paper published today in the journal Science, the J. Craig Venter Institute and Synthetic Genomics Inc announced the laboratory creation of the world's first self-reproducing organism whose entire genome was built from scratch by a machine.(1) The construction of this synthetic organism, anticipated and dubbed "Synthia" by the ETC Group three years ago, will stir a firestorm of controversy over the ethics of building artificial life and the implications of the largely unknown field of synthetic biology.
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.
Montreal - As hundreds of delegates gathered for the Sixth Annual Conference on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing at Palais des congrès in Old Montreal, a group of NGOs held an early morning press conference across the street.
Montreal. Several groups including Greenpeace, ETC Group and Biofuelwatch are warning that the biotech lobby will mount a major green-washing public relations exercise during the Sixth Annual Conference on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing that will be held at the Palais de congrès (19-22 July 2009).
ETC Group released a 48-page report, "Who Owns Nature?" on corporate concentration in commercial food, farming, health and the strategic push to commodify the planet's remaining natural resources.
In a world where market research is becoming increasingly proprietary and pricey, ETC Group's report names names, discloses market share and provides top 10 industry rankings up and down the corporate food chain. Not all the corporations identified in ETC Group's new report are household names, but collectively they control a staggering share of the commercial products found on industrial farms, in our refrigerators and medicine cabinets.
In this 100th issue of the ETC Communiqué we update Oligopoly, Inc. – our ongoing series tracking corporate concentration in the life industry. We also analyze the past three decades of agribusiness efforts to monopolize the 24% of living nature that has been commodified, and expose a new strategy to capture the remaining three-quarters that has, until now, remained beyond the market economy.
Peak oil, skyrocketing fuel costs and climate crisis are driving corporate enthusiasm for a “biological engineering revolution” that some predict will dramatically transform industrial production of food, energy, materials, medicine and all of nature. Advocates of converging technologies promise a greener, cleaner post-petroleum future where the production of economically important compounds depends not on fossil fuels – but on biological manufacturing platforms fueled by plant sugars. It may sound sweet and clean, but the so-called “sugar economy” will also be the catalyst for a corporate grab on all plant matter – and destruction of biodiversity on a massive scale.