Synthetic biology goes beyond transferring genes between species to constructing entirely new, self-replicating microorganisms that have the potential to convert any biomass or carbon feedstock into any product that can be produced by fossil carbons – plus many more.From the perspective of synthetic biology, the resource base for the development of marketable “renewable” materials (that is not from petroleum) is not the world’s commercialized 23.8 % of annual terrestrial biomass, but also the other 76.2 % of annual terrestrial biomass that has, thus far, remained outside the market economy. Synthetic biology has already attracted the attention of the United Nations and governments. The technology was on the agenda of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that met in Hyderabad, India in mid-October 2012, with governments agreeing to continue monitoring the technology and report back to future meetings of the CBD.
Recent Content Related to Seeds & Genetic Diversity
On March 26th 2013 a legal clause takes effect in the United States which allows Monsanto and other multinational GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) producers to ignore judicial decisions to stop GMO sowing, either due to irregularities in its approval, lack of health and environmental impact evaluations, new scientific evidence that alerts health hazards or for any other reason. It is a global unprecedented exception now called “Monsanto Protection Act”.
There is less than a day to go before the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com hands hundreds of thousands of dollars to a controversial project for the widespread and unregulated distribution of over half a million extreme-bioengineered seeds. Kickstarter, which stands to make over $22,000 from the project (1), has steadfastly refused to comment on its listing of a project to make and distribute ‘glowing genetically modified plants’ using Synthetic Biology.
At the end of April 2013, ETC Group learned that three biohackers from Singularity University in California had mounted a project on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter. It was a plan to carry out the worlds first environmental release of an avowedly Synthetic Biology organism - a glow-in-the dark arabidopsis plant. Shockingly the 'Glowing Plants' kickstarter project promised to mail up to 100 bioengineered seeds to anyone from the United States who gave them $40 online . To date over 4000 people expect to receive syn bio seeds in the post. Even more shockingly they claim that the US Government had agreed not to regulate, assess or monitor this widespread random and nation-wide release of synthetic organisms.
ETC Group is now mounting a counter-kickstarter campaign: - the Kickstopper! Read how you can be part of it.
African Centre for Biosafety, ETC Group, FoodMattersZimbabwe and CTDT
Johannesburg, Harare, Mexico City 15 April 2013
GROWING POWER IN PEASANT SEEDS SYSTEMS: Farmers seeds and struggle against GMOs, AGRA- 2nd Green Revolution. Tunis, March 29.
It has become crucial to defend seeds. In the past 20 or 30 years, what was once seen as normal – peasant farmers growing, selecting, saving and exchanging seeds – has come under attack from corporations seeking to control and commodify the very basis of agriculture.
Issue: The Gene Giants know their market dominance looks conspicuously like an anticompetitive oligopoly, so they’re launching a series of initiatives – including the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds – to mollify antitrust regulators and soften opposition to transgenics while advancing their collective market control. Meanwhile, the world’s two richest men – Bill Gates and Mexico’s Carlos Slim – are working with CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) to make bargain GE seeds and traits available to farmers in the global South.
A report released today by ETC Group warns that 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8 % of commercial seeds and 76.1 % of agrochemicals. The same 6 companies account for at least 76 % of all private sector R&D in these two sectors.
Amid unprecedented corporate concentration, ETC Group’s report provides a critical look at new initiatives launched by the Gene Giants – including the false promise of cheap, post-patent GE seeds – aiming to appease antitrust regulators and pass off oligopolistic practices as acts of charity. Meanwhile, the world’s two richest men – Bill Gates and Mexico’s Carlos Slim – are teaming up with CIMMYT (the international public maize and wheat breeding center based in Mexico) to get bargain GE seeds and traits in the hands of farmers in the global South.
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.
The undersigned, a broad coalition of civil society groups, social movements, local and indigenous communities, public interest, environmental, scientif ic, human rights, religious and labor organizations concerned about various aspects of synthetic biology’s human health, environmental, social, economic, ethical and other impacts, offer the following declaration, The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology.
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:
The global commercial seed market in 2009 is estimated at 27,400 million.
The top 10 companies account for 73% of the global market (up from 67% in 2007).
Just 3 companies control more than half (53%) of the global commercial market for seed.
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and fourth largest pesticide company, now controls more than one-quarter (27%) of the commercial seed market.
Dow Agrosciences – the world’s fifth largest pesticide company – made a dramatic re-entry on the top 10 seed company list in 2009 following a seed company-buying spree that included Hyland Seeds (Canada), MTI (Austria), Pfister Seeds (USA) and Triumph Seed (USA), among others.
A ideia de “uma grande transformação tecnológica verde” que possibilita uma “economia verde” está sendo amplamente promovida como a chave para a sobrevivência do nosso planeta. O objetivo final é substituir a extração e refino de petróleo pela transformação da biomassa. Quem vai controlar a futura economia verde?
Neste documento conjunto, a Fundação Heinrich Böll e o Grupo ETC mostram quem são os novos ‘senhores da biomassa’ e argumentam que, na ausência de uma governança efetiva e socialmente responsável, a economia verde irá perpetuar a economia da ganância.
We invite all civil society organizations and social movements - organizations, communities, and gatherings of Indigenous peoples, farmers, peasants, churches, and all others - to endorse the campaign by signing on to the following statement. (Your group’s name will be used in a list of groups that state opposition to Terminator)
Sign the letter.
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.
Biopiracy refers to the monopolization (usually through intellectual property) of genetic resources and traditional knowledge or culture taken from peoples or farming communities that developed and nurtured those resources.
The Captain Hook Awards are a project of the Coalition Against Biopiracy, an informal group of civil society and peoples' organizations that first came together at the 1995 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Jakarta.