News Releases

Ahoy, Mates!

The Coalition Against Biopiracy today calls for nominations for the Fifth Captain Hook Awards

What's the most scandalous case of biopiracy[1] in your country? Who's ripping off indigenous knowledge in your community? Which privateer is most egregiously pillaging the global commons for profit? Who's monopolizing your genes or patenting your plants?

Nominate your least favorite pirate for a 2008 Captain Hook Award. All outrageous achievements in biopiracy deserve recognition!

Nominate your most admired biopiracy-resistor for a 2008 Cog Award. All those who have fought off biopirates, defeated predatory patents or otherwise foiled the nefarious plots of fiendish privateers deserve recognition. (Cog Awards are so-named because cogs were ships designed to repel pirate attacks.)

Venter Institute Builds Longest Sequence of Synthetic DNA (that Doesn’t Work)

“It’s not how long – but how wise” cautions ETC Group

ETC Group renewed its call for a moratorium on the release and commercialization of synthetic organisms, asserting that societal debate on the oversight of synthetic biology is urgently overdue. The renewed call came as J. Craig Venter’s research team announced that it has constructed a bacterial-length synthetic genome in the lab using mail-order synthetic DNA sequences. They’ve named the synthetic genome, Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0, and it’s similar to its counterpart in nature, a genital bacterium with the smallest known genome of any free living organism. The announcement is not breaking news because the work had been previously reported, but the details were published today in Science.

Organic Pioneer Says No to Nano

ETC Group Welcomes World’s First ‘Nano-free’ Standard

Now that you can drive your ‘nano’ car, listening to your iPod ‘nano’ while wearing ‘nano’ sunscreen and ‘nano’ clothing, the UK’s largest organic certifier has just introduced the perfect nano-antidote – a ‘nano-free’ standard for consumer products. The Soil Association – one of the world’s pioneers of organic agriculture – announced today that it is has banned human-made nanomaterials from the organic cosmetics, foods and textiles that it certifies. (1)

The World Torpedoes Ocean Fertilization: End of Round One on Geo-Engineering

191 countries agree to a landmark moratorium on ocean CO2 sequestration

As the ninth meeting of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) draws to a close in Bonn, Germany the world’s governments are set to unanimously agree a wide-ranging “de-facto moratorium” on ocean fertilization activities. This first-ever global decision on a geo-engineering technology should spell the end of commercial plans to sequester carbon dioxide by dumping nutrients into the open ocean. Nonetheless, one ocean fertilization company, Climos Inc. of San Francisco, appears to be moving full steam ahead in defiance of international consensus.

“The message from the UN Biodiversity Convention is clear. The world does not want commercial ocean fertilization and companies like Climos should be looking for another occupation,” says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, who is in Bonn at the negotiations. “Ocean fertilization could lead to toxic tides, lifeless waters and disrupted ecosystems and livelihoods. There is unanimous agreement among the 191 countries here that it is absolutely the wrong way to tackle climate change.”

Extreme Monopoly

Venter's Team Makes Vast Patent Grab on Synthetic Genomes

ETC Group exposed the Venter Institute’s controversial patent applications on the world’s first human-made living organism built entirely from synthetic DNA (dubbed “Synthia” by ETC Group). Newly published patent claims reveal an even bigger grab for ownership of synthetic life.

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.


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