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.
Recent Content Related to Genomics & Biotechnology
ETC Group exposed the Venter Institute’s controversial patent applications on the world’s first human-made living organism built entirely from synthetic DNA (dubbed “Synthia” by ETC Group). Newly published patent claims reveal an even bigger grab for ownership of synthetic life.
Farmers’ organizations who were invited to attend a United Nations meeting on the Treaty that governs the exchange of crop seeds for research and plant breeding late yesterday told the assembled governments that the Treaty would have to be suspended. Speaking on behalf of 30 farmers’ and other civil society organizations, Ibrahima Coulibaly of ROPPA (regional farmers’ organization of West Africa) said that, “the Treaty, hosted in Rome by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), must halt the exchange of crop germplasm – the critical material for plant breeding. The suspension should remain in effect until governments meet the minimal obligations of the Treaty including its core financial arrangements,” the African farmer leader concluded.
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.
Ten years after Dolly the cloned sheep made her stunning debut, the J. Craig Venter Institute is applying for a patent on a new biological bombshell - the world's first-ever human-made species. The novel bacterium is made entirely with synthetic DNA in the laboratory.
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.
Issue: Everybody’s trying to jump-start science – and, especially, agricultural science – in Africa. Starting with the G8 meeting in Canada five years ago – and pledges by four of its members to build new centers of scientific excellence in Africa – the Syngenta Foundation, CGIAR, Jeffrey Sachs’s Earth Institute, and now, Google, Gates, and Rockefeller are all pushing new initiatives for the continent. While there is no denying that Africans deserve support in their struggle to address hunger, disease and climate change, science and technology are no “silver bullet” to resolve Africa’s problems. Yet, when the G8 meets this June in Germany they are expected to announce a new research agenda that will again propose scientific solutions to the world’s – and, particularly Africa’s – social problems.
On 3 May 2007 ETC Group (a Canadian-based international civil society organization - formerly known as RAFI) together with "No Patents on Life!" and Greenpeace will continue a 13-year legal battle against one of biotech's most notorious patents. At an appeal hearing at the European Patent Office in Munich, civil society organizations will argue that Monsanto's patent (European Patent No. 301-749) on all genetically engineered soybeans - unprecedented in its broad scope - must be revoked. "No patent symbolizes the brokenness of the patent system better than Monsanto's species-wide patent on genetically engineered soybeans," said Hope Shand of ETC Group. "Monsanto's patent is both technically flawed and morally unacceptable," said Shand.
ETC Group released a 16-page review of five new initiatives intended to launch what ETC dubs “Green Revolution 2.0” in Africa. Leading the charge is a plan to construct four Centers of Excellence together with a second initiative called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Green Revolution that followed World War II focused on semi-dwarf, high-yielding plant varieties” says Pat Mooney, ETC Group’s Executive Director. “It was a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it silver bullet,” Mooney adds, “Africa left it.” In other words, Green Revolution technologies were inappropriate for the needs and resources of African farmers. ETC Group’s communiqué warns that, in Green Revolution 2.0, “big-box” science is being buttressed by a strategy to restructure African agriculture. Although the cornerstone of the new revolution will still be high-tech seeds, the G-8 and private foundations also want continental changes in market structure, intellectual property laws, and seed regulation so that agribusiness suppliers can profitably sell seeds, chemicals, and other inputs to farmers. “Big-box science will be linked to small box suppliers,” Mooney argues, “This time, the silver bullet has a gun.”
In this article we explore the misleading rationale behind the production of biofuels as a way to alleviate the climate change. Biofuels would largely be obtained from transgenic crops, with the objective of increasing business opportunities for the gene giants.
A new report by the ETC Group concludes that the social, environmental and bio-weapons threats of synthetic biology surpass the possible dangers and abuses of biotech. The full text of the 70-page report, Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology, is available for downloading free-of-charge on the ETC Group website.
"Genetic engineering is passé," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group. "Today, scientists aren't just mapping genomes and manipulating genes, they're building life from scratch - and they're doing it in the absence of societal debate and regulatory oversight," said Mooney.
Issue: Medical applications of nano-scale technologies have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by delivering powerful tools for diagnosing and treating disease at the molecular level. But the current zeal for nano-enabled
medicines could divert scarce medical R&D funds away from essential health services and direct resources away from non-medical aspects of community health and wellbeing. Although nanomedicine is being touted as a solution to pressing health needs in the global South, it is being driven from the North and is designed primarily for wealthy markets. Using nano-scale technologies, the pharmaceutical industry’s ultimate goal is to make every person a patient and every patient a paying customer by “medicating” social ills with human performance enhancement (HyPE) drugs and devices. Nanoenabled HyPEs could usher in an era of two-tiered humans – Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens 2.0.
In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
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.
Synthetic biology (the attempt to create artificial living organisms) should be self-regulated say scientists at Berkeley assembly. Civil Society organizations say "No!"
"If biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." Nature, October 2004
Scientists working at the interface of engineering and biology - in the new field of "synthetic biology" - worry that public distrust of biotechnology could impede their research or draw attention to regulatory chasms. Synthetic biologists are trying to design and construct artificial living systems to perform specific tasks, such as producing pharmaceutical compounds or energy. In October 2004, the journal Nature warned, "if biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." An editorial in that same issue suggested that there may be a need for an "Asilomar"-type conference on synthetic biology. In light of these concerns, scientists gathering at "Synthetic Biology 2.0" (May 20-22, 2006) at the University of California-Berkeley hope to make "significant progress" toward a "code of ethics and standards." Their actions are intended to project the message that the synthetic biologists are being pro-active and capable of governing themselves as a "community." In their view, self-governance is the best way forward to safely reap the benefits (both societal and financial) of synthetic biology. Civil Society organizations disagree.
A coalition of thirty-eight international organizations including scientists, environmentalists, trade unionists, biowarfare experts and social justice advocates called for inclusive public debate, regulation and oversight of the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology - the construction of unique and novel artificial life forms to perform specific tasks. Synthetic biologists are meeting this weekend in Berkeley, California where they plan to announce a voluntary code of self-regulation for their work (1). The organizations signing the Open Letter are calling on synthetic biologists to abandon their proposals for self-governance and to engage in an inclusive process of global societal debate on the implications of their work (see attached Open Letter).
Movimentos de Agricultores, de Povos Indígenas e de Organizações da Sociedade Civil ao Redor do Mundo Exigem Banimento
É oficial. Os governos na Convenção de Diversidade Biológica das Nações Unidas (CDB), de forma unânime, mantiveram a moratória internacional de facto sobre a tecnologia Terminator - plantas que são geneticamente engenheiradas para produzirem sementes estéreis na colheita. A 8ª reunião da CDB foi encerrada hoje, em Curitiba, Brasil.
The winners of the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracyare an eclectic group that includes old favorites and new up-and-comers; Community-based biodiversity efforts win Cog Awards for defending food sovereignty
Google "Crashed" today (March 2006) at the Captain Hook Awards ceremony during the meeting of the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). No, this doesn't mean that Internet service was interrupted in Curitiba's ExpoTrade Convention and Exhibition Centre where the CBD meeting is being held through March 31. It means that Google walked away with an unexpected big win - just as the movie "Crash" did a few weeks ago at Hollywood's Academy Awards. In all, eleven Captain Hooks received prizes in ten categories related to biopiracy. There were seven Cog Award winners in six categories related to biopiracy resistance and community-based biodiversity strengthening.
A broad coalition of peasant farmers, Indigenous Peoples and civil society today (24.03.2006) celebrated the firm rejection of efforts to undermine the global moratorium on Terminator technologies - genetically engineered sterile seeds - at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil.
"This is a momentous day for the 1.4 billion poor people worldwide, who depend on farmer saved seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina a global movement of peasant farmers. "Terminator seeds are a weapon of mass destruction and an assault on our food sovereignty."
"Terminator directly threatens our life, our culture and our identity as Indigenous Peoples," said Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo indigenous community in Argentina, on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.
"Today's decision is a huge step forward for the Brazilian Campaign against GMOs," said Maria Rita Reis from the Brazilian Forum of Social Movements and NGOs. "This reaffirms Brazil's existing ban on Terminator. It sends a clear message to the national government and congress that the world supports a ban on Terminator."
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.