As the synthetic biology industry and the extreme extraction industry move towards deeper collaboration, the climate and biosafety risks and threats from both will become more entangled.
Las Vegas seems to be an apt place to launch a risky corporate gamble that could destroy the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers. Earlier this month, the international food conglomerate Cargill chose the city’s famous Strip to introduce what it hopes will be its next blockbuster product: EverSweet, a sweetener made of “the same sweet components in the stevia plant.”
And yet, despite Cargill’s heavy reliance on stevia in its promotional material, EverSweet does not contain a single leaf of the plant. Cargill’s new product is an example of synthetic biology, a form of genetic engineering that uses modified organisms to manufacture compounds that would never be produced naturally. What makes EverSweet taste sweet is not stevia; it is a compound produced by a bioengineered yeast.
Today, six corporations control global markets for industrial seeds/agrochemicals. They determine the priorities and future direction of agricultural research. What are implications of ag mega-mergers for food sovereignty and climate change? What can be done?
At a time when just three corporations – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – control 55% of the world’s commercial seeds, industrial farming interests in the Brazilian Congress have introduced a bill that aims to overturn the country’s 10-year old ban on Terminator technology – seeds that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds. The technology is designed to secure corporate profits by eliminating the age-old right of farmers to save and re-plant harvested seeds.
Try though they might, Volkswagen can’t seem to get off the air those three little old ladies in their television commercials waving a white scarf in front of a Volkswagen diesel exhaust pipe. (See cartoon.) Volkswagen’s emission scandal is just a prelude to a much bigger emissions sleight of hand that will be rolled out in Paris this December at the Climate Change Summit.
By Silvia Ribeiro
“Liberation Theology” or “Liberation Technology”?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA, Feb 9 2015 — As the climate crisis deepens and political and economic leaders remain in a state of paralysis, geoengineering is increasingly being advanced as a potentially “necessary” action; if recent attempts at opinionmaking are to be believed, it has gone from unthinkable to fundable. And yet, public opinion and much of the scientific community considers geoengineering technologies to be risky and more likely to aggravate than resolve the climate crisis.