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Articles

A Bad Bet on Synthetic Biology

Cargill's Eversweet is competing with farmers and misleading consumers

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.

The Paris Climate-Change Spectacular

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.

Briefings

Merge-Santo: New Threat to Food Sovereignty

If we act, we can stop the Big Six from becoming the Titanic Three.

Briefing Note, March 23, 2016

As ETC first warned in May[i] last year and again in February[ii] this year, the pressure of two mergers among the Big Six Gene Giants would make a third merger inevitable. In the last few days the business media have reported that Monsanto is in separate talks with Bayer and BASF – the two German giants among agricultural input companies. While anti-competition regulators are fussing about the hook up of DuPont with Dow and of Syngenta with Chem China, Monsanto urgently needs to make a match. They hope that if regulators let the other two deals go through, they won’t be able to deny Monsanto a chance to even the score.

Geoengineering and Climate Change: Implications for Africa

Some governments are exploring geoengineering as a way to reduce or delay climate change.   Geoengineering could technically take climate decisions away from all but the richest countries. Computer models show that stratospheric interventions to reduce sunlight and lower temperatures may benefit some temperate zones but negatively impact Africa with important social and agricultural consequences.

Geoengineering and Climate Change: Implications for Asia

Some governments are exploring geoengineering as a way to reduce or delay climate change.   Geoengineering could technically take climate decisions away from all but the richest countries. Computer models show that stratospheric interventions to reduce sunlight and lower temperatures may benefit some temperate zones, but negatively impact Asia’s monsoons with important social and agricultural consequences.