Genomics & Biotechnology

ETC Group has tracked developments in the genetic engineering of plants, animals and microorganisms since the early 1980s and tracked the transition of the biotechnology industry into a broader 'life sciences' industry spanning agriculture, pharmaceuticals, energy and chemicals production. Today, biotechnology encompasses a variety of techniques that involve the use and manipulation of living organisms to make commercial products (including cell and tissue culture, recombinant DNA technology and synthetic biology). Underlying the commercial manipulation of life are ever more powerful genomics technologies (gene-mapping) that enable companies to quickly 'read,' store and digitally analyze genetic information -- either of single organisms or entire ecosystems (known as metagenomics). ETC Group (then RAFI) was one of the first organizations to warn of the downside of genetic engineering of crops and livestock and has since kept an eye on developments in human biotech, synthetic biology, biowarfare and industrial biotech.

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Beyond the prognostications of even its most pessimistic critics, Terminator science is snowballing into the corporate profit centre of the next decade and beyond. And, if the major seed and agrochemical multinationals have their way, Terminator and Traitor (negative trait) technologies will come on the heels of the new millennium to a farm near you.

After months of indecision and confusing signals, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has finally put an end to its internationally-denounced patent on the human cell line of a Hagahai indigenous person from Papua New Guinea. I hope this is the end of what is arguably the most offensive patent ever issued." says Alejandro Argumedo of the Canada-based Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN).

The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology is the first global declaration from civil society to outline principles that must be adopted to protect public health and our environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology. The report also addresses the field’s numerous economic, social and ethical challenges. The writing of these principles was a collaborative effort and has been endorsed by 111 organizations from around the world.