Who we are

December 2015

EcoNexus includes scientists who specialise in biology, genetics, livestock and ecology, and people who have worked for many years on issues of social and environmental justice.

Ricarda A. Steinbrecher

Contact: email
Co-Director

Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher is a molecular geneticist and developmental biologist. She has a PhD from the University of London, UK, and a first class honours M.Sc. from the University of Kiel, Germany (1985).

She has specialised in gene regulation and gene modification and has worked as a research scientist in the field of mutational analysis, gene identification and gene therapy in university and hospital settings. Since 1995 she has been working on genetically modified organisms, their risks and potential consequences on health, food security, agriculture, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Her (particular) expertise includes genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs, e.g. terminator technology, incl. GM mosquitoes), GM trees, transformation induced mutations, epigenetics, the new breeding techniques (NBTs) including genome editing techniques such as CRISPR/cas, and synthetic biology techniques.

She is advisor and consultant to many national and international organisations and processes and has acted as scientific expert in governmental and public consultations and court cases. She collaborates and works alongside civil society organisations, indigenous peoples, women’s organisations, farmers’ groups and movements in the global North and South, in particular Asia and Africa, but also North America. This work includes biosafety trainings and workshops on agroecology.

She has been on the board of several national and international organisations, for many of which she has also been a founding member, including the European Network of Scientists for Global and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER).

She has been closely involved with the UN-led international negotiations and implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of genetically modified organisms since 1995 and served on its Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Risk Assessment and Risk Management of Genetically Modified Organisms 2009-2013. She has also been involved in the processes of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity since 1998, including its Subsidiary Body on Science, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA and presently serves on its international expert group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology.

Recent publications and presentations focus on the new breeding techniques (NBTs) including genome editing, biosafety implications of GM trees, and risks and implications of synthetic biology and of gene drives. Previous publications also focused on transformation induced mutations, genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs, e.g. terminator technology), and the failure of GM crops to increase yield.

She is Co-Director of Econexus and a member of the Federation of German Scientists, for whom she serves as representative at international negotiations.

Helena Paul

Contact: email
Co-director

Helena Paul campaigned for the protection of indigenous peoples' rights and tropical forests, with a special focus on Colombia and Brazil from 1989-1996. During those years she also worked on the impacts of oil exploitation in the tropics and spent several years as European representative on the international committee of Oilwatch International. She was also involved in founding the UK Forest Network.

From 1996, she began to focus on patents on life and genetic engineering (GE). She was a co-founder of the No Patents on Life Coalition, the Genetic Engineering Network and a co-founder and chairperson of the UK campaign for a Five Year Freeze on GE in food and agriculture (delete or say it began as120 organisations, 3 million people). She has advised on the building of similar campaigns and coalitions in other parts of the world and has travelled widely, speaking and advising (in English and Spanish) on genetic engineering and agrofuel issues.

She has studied the development of the modern corporation, its rights and lack of accountability, in collaboration with the Programme on Corporations Law and Democracy of the US. She intends (time permitting) to work on how to control the power of corporations and redefine them, to reduce their impacts on the environment and human rights. Having worked with the Gaia Foundation from 1989-2000, she then became part of EcoNexus.

Helena Paul is co-author of the book “Hungry Corporations – transnational biotech companies colonise the food chain” and editor of the English Edition of “Healthy Crops, A New Agricultural Revolution”, by Francis Chaboussou. She also edited “The Forest Within” by Gerardo Reichel Dolmatoff, a Colombian anthropologist.

Since 2000, research into soya, GE and animal feed, especially in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, has been a priority. This work has evolved into a current focus on agrofuels, and the implications for food sovereignty, biodiversity, climate, soil and water, land rights and human rights. In addition she looks at the application of genetic engineering and synthetic biology to first and subsequent generations, crops and trees.

She is presently involved in the international negotiations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with regard to agrofuels, land use issues, agriculture, soils and climate change. She is focusing in particular on the impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems of proposed “solutions” to climate change, and the implications for the future.

She is also involved monitoring UK research on synthetic biology, including consultation with the public and the conduct of scientists in connection with scientific uncertainty, and the differences between the cultures of engineering and biological sciences.

Recent publications include: Agrofuels: Towards A Reality Check In Nine Key Areas (June 2007), The Myth Of The Marginal Lands (September 2008) and Agriculture And Climate Change: Real Problems, False Solutions (2009), all by EcoNexus with other organisations, available at www.econexus.info. She has also written articles for The Ecologist and The Land and other articles on agrofuels for specialist outlets.

Susanne Gura

Dr. Susanne Gura has a PhD from Bonn University in nutritional science and rural sociology, with research on gender issues during the Green Revolution, focusing on Indonesia. Her MSc was in human nutrition with additional studies in development economics.

She has specialised in agricultural biodiversity, including livestock diversity and pastoral systems. She has also investigated corporate concentration and control over genetic resources in the livestock and aquaculture industries and the implications for food security, food sovereignty and sustainable farming.

She has worked with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and advised the German government on international agricultural research policy, with a focus on the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). She coordinated German and international civil society groups participating in negotiations and processes of UN bodies, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the FAO. She is advisor to various civil society organisations.

Within Econexus, she is working on aquaculture, livestock and agriculture & climate change issues. She participates in negotiations at UNFCCC, CBD and FAO. She contributed to the Econexus report on Agriculture and climate change: Real problems, false solutions, with a chapter on the false expectations raised by intensifying industrial livestock and aquaculture.

Recent publications have focused on livestock and aquaculture issues. They include the biodiversity chapter in “The Meat Crisis” (Earthscan 2010); reports on livestock genetics companies, investigating their consolidation and market power and the impact of this industry on smallholders in developing countries. Her report ‘Aquaculture and its Genetic Resources: Corporations versus Communities - Can Small Scale Fishing Communities benefit from Current Developments?’ (ICSF 2009) can be downloaded from http://icsf.net/icsf2006/uploads/publications/reports/pdf/english/issue_...

She is a member of the Federation of German Scientists, a founding member of the German umbrella organisation of agricultural biodiversity conservation organisations (Dachverband Kulturpflanzen- und Nutztiervielfalt e.V) and co-chairs VEN e.V. (Verein zur erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt e.V.), the largest crop variety conservation organisation in Germany.