Recent Content Related to Biodiversity & Cultural Diversity
The idea of re-engineering the entire planet (geoengineering) used to be the stuff of science fiction, but in the past few years a small group of geoengineering enthusiasts has worked hard to give it a veneer of respectability. On 1st September, they will have succeeded in getting the world’s oldest scientific academy, the UK’s Royal Society, to legitimize dangerous planet-tinkering schemes with minimal transparency and even less public participation.
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.
An international declaration was launched by 147 organisations opposing the growing hype and political support for Biochar. The groups signing the declaration "strongly oppose the inclusion of soils in carbon trade and offset mechanisms, including in the Clean Development Mechanism.” The groups further assert that ," the ‘biochar’ initiative fails to address the root causes of climate change.” 
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.
Issue: The world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in plants that the companies will market as crops genetically engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more. BASF, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont and biotech partners have filed 532 patent documents (a total of 55 patent families) on so-called “climate ready” genes at patent offices around the world. In the face of climate chaos and a deepening world food crisis, the Gene Giants are gearing up for a PR offensive to re-brand themselves as climate saviours. The focus on so-called climate-ready genes is a golden opportunity to push genetically engineered crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change. But patented techno-fix seeds will not provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change. These proprietary technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.
Today (21. May 2008) the world learned which corporations, governments, institutions and individuals earned a spot in biopiracy’s hall of shame when the Coalition Against Biopiracy (CAB) announced the winners of the 5th Captain Hook Awards at a lunch-time ceremony during the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, Germany.
What's the most scandalous case of biopiracy in your country? Who's ripping off indigenous knowledge in your community? Which privateer is most egregiously pillaging the global commons for profit? Who's monopolizing your genes or patenting your plants?
Nominate your least favorite pirate for a 2008 Captain Hook Award. All outrageous achievements in biopiracy deserve recognition!
Nominate your most admired biopiracy-resistor for a 2008 Cog Award. All those who have fought off biopirates, defeated predatory patents or otherwise foiled the nefarious plots of fiendish privateers deserve recognition. (Cog Awards are so-named because cogs were ships designed to repel pirate attacks.)
The topic of this report is the burgeoning Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) genetic testing industry, which is promising consumers a guidebook for maintaining health as well as a gene-based horoscope predicting future illness.
The swarm of media attention focusing on today's opening of the Global Seed Vault in Norway's high Arctic may overshadow an even bigger news story. The Norwegian government pledged to give 0.1% of money spent on commercial seed sales to support Farmers' Rights, and challenged other governments to do the same. The critical message is that even the most secure gene bank storage is not the ultimate solution. Governments must provide support to farmers to improve local conservation and breeding, and help them obtain access to far away seed accessions.
ETC Group renewed its call for a moratorium on the release and commercialization of synthetic organisms, asserting that societal debate on the oversight of synthetic biology is urgently overdue. The renewed call came as J. Craig Venter’s research team announced that it has constructed a bacterial-length synthetic genome in the lab using mail-order synthetic DNA sequences. They’ve named the synthetic genome, Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0, and it’s similar to its counterpart in nature, a genital bacterium with the smallest known genome of any free living organism. The announcement is not breaking news because the work had been previously reported, but the details were published today in Science.
Because governments have failed to govern, the leading multilateral institutions involved in food and agriculture are in deep trouble. Unless governments and international secretariats cooperate, these institutions will be irreparably damaged and the power vacuum OECD states have created over recent decades will continue to be filled by multinational agribusiness and the new philanthro-capitalists.
Now that you can drive your ‘nano’ car, listening to your iPod ‘nano’ while wearing ‘nano’ sunscreen and ‘nano’ clothing, the UK’s largest organic certifier has just introduced the perfect nano-antidote – a ‘nano-free’ standard for consumer products. The Soil Association – one of the world’s pioneers of organic agriculture – announced today that it is has banned human-made nanomaterials from the organic cosmetics, foods and textiles that it certifies. (1)
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.
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.