News Releases

Farmers Call for Suspension of Seed Treaty

Governments fail to meet minimal Treaty obligations UN conference told

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.

UPDATED: The World's Top 10 Seed Companies - 2006

Based on 2006 Seed Revenues

Based on 2006 revenues, the top 10 seed corporations account for $13,014 million or 57% of the commercial seed market worldwide.

The top 3 seed companies account for $9,000 million – or 39% of the commercial seed market worldwide.

The top 4 seed companies account for 44% of the commercial seed market worldwide.

The world’s largest seed company, Monsanto, accounts for 20% of the world’s commercial seed market.

Syns of Omission

Civil Society Organizations Respond to Report on Synthetic Biology Governance from the J. Craig Venter Institute and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

A report on policy options for governance of synthetic biology is a disappointing effort that fails to address wider societal concerns about the rapid deployment of a powerful and controversial new technology. Synthetic biology aims to commercialize new biological parts, devices and living organisms that are constructed from synthetic DNA - including dangerous pathogens. Synthetic biologists are attempting to harness cells as tiny factories for industrial production of chemicals, including pharmaceuticals and fuels. ETC Group describes the synthetic biology approach as "extreme genetic engineering."

Press Release: Broad International Coalition Issues Urgent Call for Strong Oversight of Nanotechnology

Over Forty Groups Release Fundamental Principles for Nanotech Oversight, Citing Risks to the Public, Workers, and the Environment

WASHINGTON, DC – With the joint release of Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials, a broad international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new technology and its products.

The manufacture of products using nanotechnology–a powerful platform for
manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter properties–has exploded in recent years. Hundreds of consumer products incorporating nanomaterials are now on the market, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. But evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. In addition, the profound social, economic, and ethical challenges posed by nano-scale technologies have yet to be addressed.

The G(e)nomes of Zurich: Civil Society Calls for Urgent Controls on Synthetic Life

Scientists and industrialists in the controversial new field of synthetic biology (building life-forms from scratch) are meeting in Zurich, Switzerland this week amidst claims that the world’s first entirely human-made organism may be only weeks away from creation. Swiss and international civil society groups are calling for swift action to control this technology but the scientists themselves are advancing pre-emptive proposals to evade regulation. As scientists meet in Zurich, the UK’s Royal Society and the Swiss government announce plans to investigate synthetic biology.

Die G(e)nome von Zürich

Internationale Organisationen verlangen Kontrollen für die Synthetische Biologie

Synthetische Biologie beinhaltet die künstliche – oder eben synthetische – Herstellung von Genen, Lebewesen oder Teilen davon. Es ist ein neues Feld extremer Gentechnik.

Vom 24. bis 26. Juni 2007 fand an der ETH Zürich der dritte weltweite Kongress zur Synthetischen Biologie statt. Schweizerische und internationale Organisationen fordern die Regierungen zu schnellem Handeln auf, um diese neue und potentiell gefährliche Technologie zu regulieren und zu kontrollieren.

Planktos’s commercial ocean iron fertilization carbon-trading gambit: Brakes on Flakes

Intergovernmental scientific body fires shot across geoengineer’s bow

An intergovernmental scientific committee of the London Convention on ocean dumping agreed at its closing plenary in Spain, to a tough consensus “statement of concern” warning that iron fertilization of ocean surfaces – as an attempt at commercial carbon sequestration – has environmental risks and lacks scientific evidence of effectiveness. The statement was triggered by news that Planktos, Inc. a for-profit enterprise with offices in San Francisco, Budapest, and Vancouver is about to dump 100 tons of iron nanoparticles over a 10,000 km² stretch of Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. The company’s goal is to sell carbon offsets on the unproven assumption that the phytoplankton bloom created by the iron dumping could lead to the permanent sequestration of CO2 greenhouse gases. “Its a very strong statement – literally an emergency call for the full London Convention [of the International Maritime Organization] to take up the threat of ocean geoengineering when governments convene in London this November 5-9,” says Jim Thomas of ETC Group, en route to Europe. “By publicizing the scientific body’s concern now, governments are bluntly warning companies that there could be national and international regulatory repercussions from commercial iron dumping.” Planktos has already been advised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that commercial iron dumping by a U.S. flagged ship could be in violation of EPA rules. In response, the company has told US officials that it will either find another flag or another ship. Although the company has said that it intends to dump 100 tons of iron particles in a stretch of ocean somewhere near the Galapagos Islands this month, the whereabouts of its vessel, the Weatherbird II, is not clear and ETC Group believes the boat to still be docked at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Dumping on Gaia

Claiming to protect the planet from greenhouse gases, geo-engineer, Planktos, Inc., is poised to dump iron in waters off the Galapagos Islands and thumbing its nose at the International Maritime Organization and the US government

Claiming to protect the planet from greenhouse gases, geo-engineer, Planktos, Inc., is poised to dump iron in waters off the Galapagos Islands and thumbing its nose at the International Maritime Organization and the US government

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) London Convention (dealing with ocean dumping) should urgently launch investigations into the activities of Planktos, Inc., a private climate-engineering firm, according to ETC Group (Ottawa, Canada) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA - Washington, DC). The two civil society organizations believe that the company may soon begin dumping iron particles in an 100 km. by 100 km. expanse of ocean near the Galapagos islands – if it has not already begun. Planktos may also have violated the U.S. Ocean Dumping Act during iron dumping experiments carried out in 2002. ICTA and ETC Group submitted a formal request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency early today even as IMO member governments meet in Spain to consider the legality of such high-risk geoengineering experiments. The letter to EPA is available here.

Synthia’s last hurdle?

Synthia – the “Original Syn” artificial microbe – may have jumped a hurdle that Dolly – the cloned sheep – never could

Synthia, the (theoretical) human-made synthetic microbe – still barely a twinkle in J. Craig Venter’s eye – may be in search of a surrogate micro-mom sometime very soon. According to a research report released today in Science magazine, Synthia (the subject of a patent application discovered by ETC Group a few weeks ago -see “Goodbye Dolly -- Hello Synthia!”) may have overcome her last hurdle. The report, authored by Craig Venter and his colleagues at Synthetic Genomics Inc., claims to have inserted a foreign bacterial genome into the cell of another bacterial species. Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith who is one of Venter’s co-authors in the research article told a meeting of synthetic biologists in Zürich on Monday that this represents a significant step en route to building a whole new life form. As the article itself concludes, “…we have discovered a form of bacterial DNA transfer that permits … recipient cells to be platforms for the production of new species using modified natural genomes or manmade genomes…”

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