Recent Content Related to Biodiversity & Cultural Diversity
Almost twenty years of genetically modified crops… What have we gained?
Contrary to what companies promised, official statistics from the United States—the leading producer of genetically modified (GM) crops in the world—demonstrate that the truth of GM crops is that they produce less per hectare than the seeds that were already available on the market, but have resulted in an exponential increase in the use of agritoxins.
The unique scent of the patchouli plant is used in many fragrances and scented products. It is mostly grown in Malaysia, China, India and Singapore. One synthetic biology company is aiming to use synthetically modified microbes to produce a patchouli oil substitute, which could have negative effects on farmers.
Cocoa butter, the main ingredient in chocolate, is produced by 30 tropical countries, and is sold for an estimated $6 billion annually. One synthetic biology company has engineered synthetically modified microbes to produce a cocoa butter substitute, which could threaten the livelihoods of millions of farmers.
This case study illustrates recent developments in synthetic biology that could impact the $35 billion natural rubber market and disrupt the livelihoods of producers. These developments impact the sustainable use of biodiversity and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the genetic resources associated with rubber production. Natural rubber has already lost half of its market to petroleum-based synthetics. If production challenges are resolved, production via synthetic biology could erode the remaining half. Using synthetic biology, three different commercial teams are working to produce a biosynthetic isoprene that could soon impact Asia’s exporters; other companies are producing biosynthetic butadiene and isobutene, also crucial to the manufacture of rubber.
Synthetic biology could impact the $22 billion global flavour and fragrance market and the livelihoods of producers of natural commodities. The world's largest producers of food ingredients, flavors and fragrances are all now partnering with Synthetic Biology companies to develop biosynthetic versions of key high value natural commodities such as saffron, vanilla, vetiver and patchouli - replacing botanical sources. These in turn are just a few our of hundreds of economically important natural plant compounds whose production may be switched to synthetic biology production in a very short time frame.
Known for its musty, woody scent, vetiver oil is also know for its fixative qualities, which means that it helps a fragrance to last longer after it is applied to the skin. Vetiver oil can be detected in the “base notes” of many perfumes or colognes. A synthetic biology company has engineered microbes to produce chemical compounds aimed at replacing traditional Vetiver production, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Haiti, Indonesia, China, India, Japan and Brazil, among others.
New developments in synthetic biology could have far-reaching impacts on the market for biodiversity-derived natural products and the livelihoods of those who produce them. Cosmetic giants like Unilver and L’Oreal can source squalene from plant sources (olive oil, amaranth seeds, wheat germ, etc.) instead of harvesting the livers of 6 million deep sea sharks per year. This is a positive development. Now, Amyris is producing squalene from engineered microbes in fermentation tanks that are fueled by biomass – up to two million tons of crushed sugarcane annually. Who decides what is the most sustainable and socially just use of biomass and farmland?
No inter-governmental body is addressing the potential impacts of synthetic biology on the conservation and use of biodiversity and on the livelihoods of those who depend on agricultural export commodities (including high-value flavors, fragrances, cosmetics, essential oils, etc). The Convention on Biological Diversity is the most appropriate forum to address this new and emerging issue.
Push to Pass Suicide Seeds Legislation Could Come While Deputies Dance
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Brazilian civil society organizations warned yesterday that a 2007 bill to end Brazil’s ban on Terminator seeds could soon be on the move (again) in the Brazilian Congress. While two bills have been on the congressional agenda for several years, a 2007 bill (PL 268/2007, filed by Rep. Eduardo Sciarra – PSD party) began moving through the Congress last July and came to a head last October. The legalizing of Terminator in Brazil would have global implications, including as a violation of the United Nations moratorium on Terminator technologies, in place since 2000 at the Convention on Biological Diversity.
After promising on World Food Day (October 16) to block legislation that would legalize the planting of Terminator seeds in Brazil, the country’s Judicial Commission is set to approve suicide seeds as a Christmas gift to Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta.
As the United Nations celebrates World Food Day October 16, in Brazil, a Constitutional Commission is slated to rule on pending legislation that would permit the use of Terminator technology (a.k.a. suicide seeds), upending the country’s 8 year-old ban and violating the international moratorium on the quintessential anti-farmer technology. Meanwhile, on October 17, in Iowa (USA), scientists from Syngenta and Monsanto, two companies that both have Terminator patents, will receive the World Food Prize for their “breakthrough” achievements in developing genetically modified crops.
Yesterday, ETC Group reported on the scheduled meeting of Brazil's Judicial Commission to rule on the constitutionality of a bill that would allow the planting of Terminator plants (i.e., plants engineered to be sterile in the second generation) in Brazil. While the Judicial Commission did meet, it postponed the discussion on the Terminator bill until next week.
Today Brazil’s Judicial Commission is slated to rule on the constitutionality of a proposed bill that will allow genetically engineered sterility in seeds, known as Terminator Technology. If the bill gains the approval of the Commission, it could quickly come to a vote in Congress. Brazil’s national law to ban Terminator has been under threat since it was enacted 8 years ago, but this most recent congressional action has caused the most serious alarm since it could swiftly overturn the ban.
La Via Campesina, GRAIN and ETC welcome a new UNCTAD report which states that farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food.
The Food Systems We Don’t Know We Don’t Know – Fifty years ago, at the first World Food Congress in June 1963, the UN was told that, “We have the means, we have the capacity, to wipe hunger and poverty from the face of the earth in our lifetime – we need only the will.” These words have been the mantra of every food conference since. Yet governments still face major gaps in their knowledge about our food supply and consumption. This became horribly apparent in 2007 when governments failed to recognize that a global food crisis was at hand. Fifty years after policymakers committed to end hunger they need to sort out why governments don’t have the means, the capacity, or the will to end hunger.
Recent developments in synthetic biology could impact the $22 billion global flavour and fragrance market and the livelihoods of producers of natural commodities. These developments impact the sustainable use of biodiversity and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the genetic resources that produce natural plant products. The worlds largest producers of food ingredients, flavors and fragrances are all now partnering with Synthetic Biology companies to develop biosynthetic versions of key high value natural commodities such as saffron, vanilla, vetiver and patchouli - replacing botanical sources.