News Releases

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…”

News Release from the Galapagos National Park re: Planktos

The Galápagos National Park (entity in charge of managing and administering the two protected areas of the Galápagos Archipelago), is concerned with the US Company Planktos and its plans to experiment in waters near the Galápagos Marine Reserve. For this reason the park has been examining data to stop the Planktos experiment, which could affect the fragile ecosystems of the Galápagos Islands, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Geoengineers to Foul Galapagos Seas-Defying Climate Panel Warning

As the UN's top climate science panel, the IPCC, prepares to criticise the idea of geoengineering, one maverick geoengineering company, Planktos Inc, has announced it is about to dump several tonnes of tiny particles into the waters around the Galapagos Islands, covering an area larger than Puerto Rico. Doing so, they claim, will re-engineer the atmosphere, win them commercial carbon credits and perhaps a shot at the $25 million prize for greenhouse gas reduction put up by Richard Branson. Mainstream scientists are sceptical and environmental and social justice groups are crying foul.

REVOKED!! Monsanto Monopoly Nixed in Munich

but little joy in foiling soy ploy at this late date

Munich – The European Patent Office put the brakes on Monsanto’s over-the-top corporate greed by revoking its species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybeans (EP0301749) – a patent unprecedented in its broad scope. ETC Group, an international civil society organization based in Canada, won its 13-year legal challenge against Monsanto’s species-wide soybean patent when an EPO appeal board ruled that the patent was not new or sufficient (i.e., the invention claimed was not sufficiently described for a skilled person to repeat it). The patent challenge was supported by Greenpeace and “No Patents on Life!” Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of UK-based EcoNexus also joined the opposition team in Munich as a scientific expert.

Monsanto's Soybean Monopoly Challenged in Munich

European Patent Office Will Decide Fate of Species-Wide Soybean Patent on 3 May 2007

On 3 May 2007 ETC Group (a Canadian-based international civil society organization - formerly known as RAFI) together with "No Patents on Life!" and Greenpeace will continue a 13-year legal battle against one of biotech's most notorious patents. At an appeal hearing at the European Patent Office in Munich, civil society organizations will argue that Monsanto's patent (European Patent No. 301-749) on all genetically engineered soybeans - unprecedented in its broad scope - must be revoked. "No patent symbolizes the brokenness of the patent system better than Monsanto's species-wide patent on genetically engineered soybeans," said Hope Shand of ETC Group. "Monsanto's patent is both technically flawed and morally unacceptable," said Shand.

News Release: Food Sovereignty or Green Revolution 2.0?

This time the “silver bullet” has a gun

ETC Group released a 16-page review of five new initiatives intended to launch what ETC dubs “Green Revolution 2.0” in Africa. Leading the charge is a plan to construct four Centers of Excellence together with a second initiative called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Green Revolution that followed World War II focused on semi-dwarf, high-yielding plant varieties” says Pat Mooney, ETC Group’s Executive Director. “It was a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it silver bullet,” Mooney adds, “Africa left it.” In other words, Green Revolution technologies were inappropriate for the needs and resources of African farmers. ETC Group’s communiqué warns that, in Green Revolution 2.0, “big-box” science is being buttressed by a strategy to restructure African agriculture. Although the cornerstone of the new revolution will still be high-tech seeds, the G-8 and private foundations also want continental changes in market structure, intellectual property laws, and seed regulation so that agribusiness suppliers can profitably sell seeds, chemicals, and other inputs to farmers. “Big-box science will be linked to small box suppliers,” Mooney argues, “This time, the silver bullet has a gun.”


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