OAHU, HAWAI'I — As thousands of government representatives and conservationists convene in Oahu this week for the 2016 World Conservation Congress, international conservation and environmental leaders are raising awareness about the potentially dangerous use of gene drives — a controversial new synthetic biology technology intended to deliberately cause targeted species to become extinct.
Coming in at over 200 pages, today’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, 'Gene Drives on the Horizon’ is weighty but disappointing. It fails to properly address three of the most pressing issues raised by the controversial new technology of CRISPR-CAS9 gene drives. Dubbed, the ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ by its inventors, RNA-guided gene drives are a high-leverage synthetic biology technology invented only last year.
Briefing Note, May 31st, 2016
For a decade, six multinationals have controlled 75% of the world’s high-tech seeds and pesticides businesses. Late last year, Dow and DuPont agreed to merge and now state-owned ChemChina is buying Syngenta for $43 billion. This means that Monsanto needs a merger to stay in the game. Or, is the game about to be called?
The Year that Ended Dangerously
The $130 billion Dow-DuPont merger announced last week has rekindled ChemChina’s $44.6 billion bid for Syngenta which, in turn, may provoke a fourth takeover try by Monsanto. If ChemChina prevails, Monsanto is likely to look for a deal with either BASF or Bayer. If they get their way, the world’s Big Six agricultural input companies controlling 75% of global agricultural R&D may be reduced to three or four.
ETC Group and Heinrich Böll Foundation are releasing new language versions of a ten minute animated introduction to Synthetic Biology. Titled “What is Synthetic Biology ? : Engineering life and livelihoods” this short explainer cartoon, drawn by award-winning Canadian animator Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre and produced by documentary filmmaker Jocelyne Clarke was previously only available in English but is now available in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.
Addis Summit creates a Technology Facilitation Mechanism including a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss technology issues, including risks and opportunities of emerging technologies for the UN’s 2015–30 Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December will feature all the tightly choreographed production values of a Hollywood blockbuster. The cast will be huge: presidents and prime ministers at center stage, supported by thousands of extras, including protesters, riot police, and busloads of media. The script may still be under wraps, but the plot has already leaked: This time, in sharp contrast to the failed negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, the planet is going to win. It is a seductive plot, but one that does not quite hold together.