During summer vacation 2006, the lead US environmental regulatory agency acknowledged it has approved at least 15 novel nano-scale chemicals. Earlier this year EPA sanctioned the unproven use of iron nanoparticles to clean up a pesticide dump.
Presentation of Kathy Jo Wetter on behalf of ETC Group
Thank you for the opportunity to present the views of ETC Group. We are an international civil society organization based in Canada. Our work focuses on the social and economic impacts of emerging technologies and their implications, especially for marginalized communities. I’m based in ETC Group’s North Carolina office.
In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
Two World Bank projects, with funding from the GEF (Global Environmental Facility), propose to introduce genetically modified crops such as maize, potatoes, cassava, rice and cotton into five Latin American and four African countries that are centers of origin or diversity for these and other major food crops. Civil society organizations warn that DNA contamination from genetically modified crops poses an unacceptable risk to stable crops that are the basis of peasant economies in these regions. The multi-million dollar projects are being promoted under the guise of scientific biosafety research, but civil society organizations on both continents are calling for their immediate rejection because they threaten food sovereignty and farmer-controlled seed systems.
Synthetic biology (the attempt to create artificial living organisms) should be self-regulated say scientists at Berkeley assembly. Civil Society organizations say "No!"
"If biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." Nature, October 2004
Scientists working at the interface of engineering and biology - in the new field of "synthetic biology" - worry that public distrust of biotechnology could impede their research or draw attention to regulatory chasms. Synthetic biologists are trying to design and construct artificial living systems to perform specific tasks, such as producing pharmaceutical compounds or energy. In October 2004, the journal Nature warned, "if biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." An editorial in that same issue suggested that there may be a need for an "Asilomar"-type conference on synthetic biology. In light of these concerns, scientists gathering at "Synthetic Biology 2.0" (May 20-22, 2006) at the University of California-Berkeley hope to make "significant progress" toward a "code of ethics and standards." Their actions are intended to project the message that the synthetic biologists are being pro-active and capable of governing themselves as a "community." In their view, self-governance is the best way forward to safely reap the benefits (both societal and financial) of synthetic biology. Civil Society organizations disagree.
A coalition of thirty-eight international organizations including scientists, environmentalists, trade unionists, biowarfare experts and social justice advocates called for inclusive public debate, regulation and oversight of the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology - the construction of unique and novel artificial life forms to perform specific tasks. Synthetic biologists are meeting this weekend in Berkeley, California where they plan to announce a voluntary code of self-regulation for their work (1). The organizations signing the Open Letter are calling on synthetic biologists to abandon their proposals for self-governance and to engage in an inclusive process of global societal debate on the implications of their work (see attached Open Letter).
The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches issued a strong condemnation of Terminator seeds and called on churches and ecumenical partners to take action to stop the technology. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia warned that sterile seed technology would increase economic injustice all over the world.
ETC Group renewed its 2003 call for a global moratorium on nanotech lab research and a recall of consumer products containing engineered nanoparticles. There is particular urgency for those products that are ingested, applied to the body or released in the environment. The need for action is underscored following the decision by German authorities to recall a nanotech bathroom cleaner, "Magic Nano" - purportedly a product of nanotechnology. At least 77 people reported respiratory problems in late March after using the product. Six people were hospitalized but later released when their respiratory distress faded. The company marketing "Magic Nano" is Kleinmann GmbH, a German subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works (a US Fortune 200 corporation with 650 subsidiaries in 45 countries and 49,000 employees). Kleinmann sells "Magic Nano" in a spray pump and as an aerosol spray. The recall only applies to the aerosol spray. There is no information available regarding the nano chemical compound used, nor whether the problem lies with the nanoparticles or with the interaction between the particles and the conventional aerosol propellant.
It's official. Governments at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have unanimously upheld the international de facto moratorium on Terminator technology - plants that are genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The 8th meeting of the CBD ended today in Curitiba, Brazil.
"The CBD has soundly rejected the efforts of Canada, Australia and New Zealand - supported by the US government and the biotechnology industry - to undermine the moratorium on suicide seeds," said Maria Jose Guazzelli of Centro Ecologico, a Brazil-based agro-ecological organization.
"By consensus decision, all governments have re-affirmed the moratorium on a genetic engineering technology that threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.4 billion people who depend on farmer-saved seed," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group.
Movimentos de Agricultores, de Povos Indígenas e de Organizações da Sociedade Civil ao Redor do Mundo Exigem Banimento
É oficial. Os governos na Convenção de Diversidade Biológica das Nações Unidas (CDB), de forma unânime, mantiveram a moratória internacional de facto sobre a tecnologia Terminator - plantas que são geneticamente engenheiradas para produzirem sementes estéreis na colheita. A 8ª reunião da CDB foi encerrada hoje, em Curitiba, Brasil.