Cocoa butter, the main ingredient in chocolate, is produced by 30 tropical countries, and is sold for an estimated $6 billion annually. One synthetic biology company has engineered synthetically modified microbes to produce a cocoa butter substitute, which could threaten the livelihoods of millions of farmers.
The latest instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Assessment Report (AR5), released today, contains no reference to geoengineering in its Summary for Policymakers, though it attributes a slew of negative effects to so-called planet hacking in its full report. Released after a week-long negotiating session of Working Group II (WGII, which assesses the human and ecological vulnerabilities to climate change and options to adapt), today’s report represents a precarious victory over ongoing pressure within the IPCC – by geoengineering proponents and some governments (e.g., Russia, the USA, Canada and the UK) – to legitimize geoengineering as a solution to climate change.
Farmers produce food, not carbon. Yet, if some of the governments and corporate lobbies negotiating at the UN climate change conference to be held in Warsaw from 11-22 November have their way, farmland could soon be considered as a carbon sink that polluting corporations can buy into to compensate for their harmful emissions.
As early as next year, a new ingredient straight out of a petri dish could enter our favorite foods – from ice cream to apple pie. It’s a ‘vanilla-like’ flavor produced via a new extreme genetic engineering technology called ‘synthetic biology.’ No government anywhere in the world has taken steps to assess or regulate this technology, yet its imminent arrival on the commercial market may threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of tropical vanilla farmers and their families in countries such as Madagascar and Mexico.
This new vanilla flavor exists nowhere in nature, but the companies behind it are confident it deserves a 'natural flavor' label. ETC Group and Friends of the Earth believe that would be misleading and that consumers need to know the real story behind this novel, genetically engineered ingredient.
In a great bit of news for World Food Day, a key Brazilian congressional committee today withdrew the consideration of legislation that would have allowed the sale and use of Terminator Technology, also known as suicide seeds. The Constitutional Commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives was slated to consider Bill PL 268/2007 this morning, but decided instead to withdraw it from the agenda – taking into account the social concerns raised by the national and international mobilization in opposition to the bill. Further, the President of the Commission pledged that as long as he is at the helm, he will not allow the bill back on the agenda.
Today Brazil’s Judicial Commission is slated to rule on the constitutionality of a proposed bill that will allow genetically engineered sterility in seeds, known as Terminator Technology. If the bill gains the approval of the Commission, it could quickly come to a vote in Congress. Brazil’s national law to ban Terminator has been under threat since it was enacted 8 years ago, but this most recent congressional action has caused the most serious alarm since it could swiftly overturn the ban.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the first installment of its latest climate change Assessment Report, AR5, the final paragraph of its Summary for Policymakers – a bullet point referring to proposals for deliberately altering climate systems – has caused consternation by addressing the controversial topic of geoengineering. (1)While the paragraph does not endorse geoengineering, as had been proposed by Russia, its very presence is ringing alarm bells.
Background: At a recent Synthetic Biology Conference in Cambridge UK, Synthetic Biologist Jay Keasling announced that the consortium he was working with now intend to replace the entire global supply of artemisinin (an anti-malarial compound) with their new synthetic-biology derived version.