In the past, several multinational seed corporations have publicly pledged not to commercialize Terminator seeds - but, not surprisingly, there is intense industry pressure to overturn Brazil's national law prohibiting suicide seeds. Bill number 268 (2007) in the Brazilian Congress proposes to:
Below you will find a series of articles on biofuels, originally written in Spanish by one of ETC Group’s researchers. (Unfortunately, English translations are not always available). Biofuel production is currently a much-debated topic in Latin America. The prominent farmers’ organizations in the region believe that the production of biofuels will lead to further marginalization and erosion of the lands which are currently being used for food production.
By Silvia Ribeiro
ETC Group attended the 12th meeting of the scientific advisory body (SBSTTA) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which met in Paris 2-6 July 2006. Expectations were high that SBSTTA would tackle new and emerging issues on its agenda: agrofuels (a.k.a. biofuels) and climate change. Despite the urgency of these matters, some governments managed to block meaningful recommendations and put a chill on biodiversity’s hottest topics.
You'd think that after some of the world’s most eminent marine biologists attacked it; the IPCC report dumped on it; and the IMO’s scientific group to the London Convention last week passed the equivalent of an emergency motion advising it not to proceed - that Planktos Inc. would go to ground or hoist a white flag before it sinks in embarrassment.
The BP-Berkeley deal, the new joint Bio Energy institute, and also the recent job hop by John Menlo of BP fuels to Amyris Biotech - are all extra strings tying the interests of the Syn Bio community as a wholeever closer to the interests of big business. It should be noted that in each of thse cases CEO Keasling plays a central role. The same man who claims to be developing Synthetic Biology to serve the worlds poor (via synthetic artemisinin) seems to be rather busy these days serving the fabulously rich.
"I think this is going to become the foundational technology of the 21st century" - that was the triumphant message with which Tom Knight of MIT brought Synthetic Biology 3.0 to an end today. An engineering generalist who moved from artificial intelligence to artificial life, it was Knight who, along with Drew Endy, developed the concept of biobricks -- snap-together genetic parts from which to assemble Lego-like genes.
'The cool' and 'the concerned' -- that was how Zurich-based ethicist Nicola Biller Andorno today aptly characterised the two tribes attending Synthetic Biology 3.0...The cool, in her lexicon, are the synthusiasts, those who regard making synthetic life forms as...like...hey dude, that's like, so cool. The concerned, roughly speaking, is made up of people like us (we've never been accused of being cool). Namely, the dour civil society and social scientists whose gut reaction to making new life forms is -- er.. that's concerning.
Sunday afternoon and Synthetic Biology 3.0 gets underway in high spirits amidst the glass and concrete of the ETH Campus. Host Sven Panke kicked off the conference promising that SynBio3.0 would have something for everyone -- the enthusiasts (clearly the majority), the curious and the skeptics (we guess that's us).
Some of us from ETC are in Zurich for the next few days observing what happens when you cram several hundred synthetic biologists and industrialists into a conference room -- the evolution of a new industrial species? These 'Synthusiasts' are now into their third annual international congress, Synthetic Biology 3.0, each conference named like a software update. Unlike software updates however it's not clear they've really ironed out the major bugs in the intervening years.
When patents on Terminator seeds first came to light nine years ago, even the most jaded among us were stunned by the audacious corporate greed manifested by this novel (and complex) gene engineering technique. Terminator refers to crops that are genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest - the equivalent of a 'biological patent' that would prevent farmers from re-planting harvested seeds and guarantee perpetual sales for the commercial seed industry. 'Suicide seeds' are surely one of the most immoral applications of genetic engineering and an egregious use of taxpayer money.