Paris, 24th November 2015 - At the upcoming Climate summit in Paris, some governments and much of civil society will be pushing for an urgent transition away from the carbon-rich fossil fuels responsible for climate chaos. However, one hi-tech sector, the multi-billion dollar Synthetic Biology industry, is now actively tying its future to the very oil, coal and gas extraction it once claimed to be able to displace. That’s the conclusion of a new report released jointly today from the ETC Group and Heinrich Böll Foundation. Titled “Extreme Biotech meets Extreme Energy”, the report predicts that as the extreme biotech industry and the extreme extraction industry move towards deeper collaboration, the biosafety risks and climate threats emanating from them will become ever more entangled.
The 'New Bioeconomy' describes the idea of a new industrial order that relies on biologically-based materials, technologies and 'services.' It is a term invented by the biotechnology industry but increasingly adopted by policymakers, technologists and global energy, forestry, agribusiness and chemical companies. They are now collaborating to construct this vision of a hi-tech, 'green' future using techniques such as synthetic biology and nanotechnology to transform living 'biomass' into fuels, chemicals and power. However, what is sold as a 'green' switch from fossil fuels to plant-based production is, in fact, a red-hot resource grab on the lands, livelihoods, knowledge and resources of the global South, where 86% of all biomass is located. The Bioeconomy is now threatening biodiversity, fueling land grabs and enabling new corporate claims on nature.