This week (02/2011) ETC Group travels to Dakar to meet friends and partners – new, old and yet-to-be – to learn, listen and share information about corporate power and emerging technologies, including their impacts on marginalized communities. In the run-up to the Rio+20 Summit in May 2012, the international community will be confronted with a challenging list of so-called ‘green economy’ technology and policy proposals – as well as major agricultural and environmental institutional decisions.
Recent Content Related to Corporate Monopolies
The Big Downturn? Nanogeopolitics, ETC Group’s new 68-page report on global governance of nanoscale technologies, is an update of our 2005 Nanogeopolitics survey. In the intervening five years, policymakers – some kicking and screaming – have begun to acknowledge that fast-tracking nanotech has come at a price and that some sort of regulation is needed to deal with at least some of the risks nanoscale technologies pose.
The New Biomassters - Synthetic Biology and the Next Assault on Biodiversity and Livelihoods
Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering
Gene Giants Stockpile Patents on “Climate-Ready” Crops in Bid to Become Biomassters
Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops, the world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are filing hundreds of sweeping, multi-genome patents in a bid to control the world’s plant biomass, according to a report released by ETC Group today.
A handful of multinational corporations are pressuring governments to allow what could become the broadest and most dangerous patent claims in history, warns the group at the United Nations’ Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan (18-29 October 2010).
The world’s six largest agrochemical and seed corporations are filing sweeping, multi-genome patents in pursuit of exclusive monopoly over plant gene sequences. Marketed as crops genetically-engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more, this development could lead to control of most of the world’s plant biomass – whether it is used for food, feed, fibre, fuel or plastics. Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change, these companies are pressuring governments to allow the broadest and potentially most dangerous patent claims in intellectual property history. But can patented techno-fix seeds provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change? On the contrary, these proprietary technologies are poised to concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds. For the “Gene Giants,” the goal is “biomasstery” – to profit from the world’s biomass.
New technologies and the threat to sovereignty in Africa
As environment ministers from 193 countries take stock of the globe’s dramatic loss of biodiversity at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan next week (18-29 October 2010), ETC Group warns that high-risk “technological fixes” that claim to hold the key for solving the climate crisis should be put on ice.
The global meeting, marking the International Year of Biodiversity, will debate a de facto moratorium on the release into the environment of synthetic life forms (a form of extreme genetic engineering marketed by industry as the building blocks of the “green economy”) and on geoengineering activities (massive intentional manipulations of the Earth’s systems). Existing international law has no adequate controls for these controversial new technologies.
ETC Group released three new reports on these technofixes, explaining the interests behind them and the risks inherent in their uncontrolled development.
While most scientists left the Copenhagen Climate Summit feeling gloomy about their influence, a small group of geoengineering advocates came away emboldened by the summit’s weak outcome and uncertain road ahead. This group of scientists aims to get on with research and experimentation in controversial geoengineering technologies. Their real excitement is over “solar radiation management” (SRM). This is a way of “cooling down the planet’s thermostat” by reflecting a portion of the sun’s rays back to outer space, through a variety of techniques ranging from sunshades in space, to aerosol sulphates in the stratosphere, to whitening clouds. These high-risk, planet-altering schemes affect global warming without changing its cause which is excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Technology transfer is one of the four key topics being discussed under negotiations on Long-Term Cooperative Actions in Copenhagen (the others are mitigation, adaptation and financing). The inter-governmental negotiating text that is under discussion contemplates various measures for accelerating the diffusion of technologies.
Nano-scale technology is a suite of techniques used to manipulate matter at the scale of atoms and molecules. “Nano” is a measurement – not an object. Unlike “biotechnology,” where you know that bios (life) is being manipulated, “nanotechnology” speaks solely to scale. A “nanometre” (nm) equals one billionth of a metre. One human hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick. It takes ten atoms of hydrogen side-by-side to equal one nanometre. A DNA molecule is about 2.5 nm wide. A red blood cell is vast in comparison: about 5,000 nm in diameter. Everything on the nano-scale is invisible to the unaided eye and even to all but the most powerful microscopes.
ETC Group reported on a patent application(1) under examination at the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in which Siegers Seed Company of Holland, Michigan, claimed invention of a “warted pumpkin...wherein the outer shell includes at least one wart...” On February 13 2009, the USPTO put its 9-page verdict in the mail(2) rejecting all of the application's 25 claims.