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.
Recent Content Related to Biodiversity & Cultural Diversity
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.
A bill to prohibit field testing and commercialization of Terminator seed technology was introduced in the Canadian Parliament. Terminator refers to plants that are genetically engineered to render sterile seeds at harvest - a technology that aims to maximize seed industry profits by preventing farmers from re-planting harvested seed.
"Canada needs to pass this bill into law because genetic seed sterilization is dangerous and blatantly anti-farmer - suicide seeds threaten to intensify corporate control over Canadian agriculture and offers no benefits for farmers," said Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union.
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.
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.”
On the day before the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds its loudest alarm yet, ETC Group warns that some OECD states, led by the United States, are betting on a pie-in-the-sky techno-fix to address climate change. “Geoengineering” refers to the intentional, large-scale manipulation of the environment to bring about environmental change. With no hope for Kyoto, little political will to ask industry or voters to change lifestyles and a growing recognition that carbon trading is a farce, some governments are concluding that massive earth restructuring is the only way out. The Guardian reported earlier this week that the US government is lobbying the IPCC to promote geoengineering activities, such as deliberately polluting the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures. (1)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 21 February 2006 news release from the Ban Terminator Campaign reported on Monsanto's revised pledge on Terminator. Whereas the company made a public commitment in 1999 not to use Terminator technology, its new pledge suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses in the future. Now Monsanto's Director of Public Policy has written an apology to the Ban Terminator Campaign and concedes that it didn't really mean it would consider using Terminator in non-food crops.
Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week (March 2006) when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 2006.
Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week (January 2006). The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.
The Enola bean patent case demonstrates that intellectual property challenges are not a viable means of “correcting” abuses in the patent system. Just about everyone agrees that the Enola bean patent is technically invalid – the bean, in fact, is genetically identical to a pre-existing Mexican bean variety that was previously known and grown in the United States.
As governments at the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong bristle with the thorny politics of trade, the report that ETC Group releases today, Oligopoly, Inc. 2005, serves as a reminder that what looks like buying and selling between countries is most often the redistribution of capital among subsidiaries of the same parent multinational corporation.
Seeding makes readers aware of what has changed - scientifically, politically and environmentally - since the publication in 1994 of Patents for Life, a book that has made its mark.
Volume I offers policymakers a clear description of the facts, the fights and discussions concerning the ownership, conservation and exchange of genetic resources. It will teach readers new to these issues for the first time why germplasm is important and why it is the subject of intense trade negotiations. The reader will better understand issues related to intellectual property and security at national and international. Volume II will deal with the legal mechanisms: 1) to conserve and exchange germplasm for current and future generations, 2) to encourage innovation in the field of conservation and germplasm enhancement, 3) for find solutions to the rights and interests of indigenous and rural populations that create and maintain biological diversity. AUTHOR Crucible Group includes the following: Civil society organizations (including Aboriginal groups): Alejandro Argumedo, Margarita Florez, Glen Hearns, Dan Leskien, Atencio Lopez, Andrew Mushita, Gurdhial Singh Nijar, Rene Salazar, Priscilla Settee, Hope Shand Private sector and industry: Don Duvik, Klaus Leisinger, Brian Lowry, Radha Ranganathan, PV Subba Rao, Tim Roberts, Reinhard Von Broock Public Sector: Tewolde Gebre Egziabher Behran, Engsiang Lim, Geoffrey Hawtin, Mita Manek, Nora Olembo, Tuan Vo Xuan, Nuno Pires de Carvalho, Gesa Horstkotte-Wesseler, Louise Sperling University: Assiah Bensalah Alaoui, Carlos Correa, Michael Flitner, Cary Fowler, Jaap Hardon, Francisco Martinez-Gomez, Michael Pimbert Management Committee: Susan Bragdon, Chusa Gines, Christine Grieder, Michael Halewood (coordinator), Pat Mooney, Olle Nordberg, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Carl-Gustav Thornstrom, Beate Weiskopf, Joachim Voss (President)
In Oligopoly, Inc. 2005 ETC Group finds that corporate concentration -- not only in food and agriculture, but in all sectors related to the products and processes of life -- has increased remarkably since ETC's last review two years ago. The report also reveals that a subterranean struggle is underway at the nano-scale to control the fundamental building blocks of life and nature. Corporate investment in nanobiotechnology (or, synthetic biology) could give ultimate control to a very different set of corporate actors.