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Potential Impacts of Synthetic Biology on the Biodiversity

The new and emerging issue of synthetic biology is relevant to the attainment of the objectives of the CBD, its thematic programmes of work and cross-cutting issues. We recommend that SBSTTA, in the development of options and advice on the new and emerging issue of synthetic biology for the consideration of COP11, consider the following actions/recommendations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

Objection against the planned Rocpwer biofuel plant

I am writing to object to the new planning application from Rocpower Ltd to build a 7 MW biofuel power station at Baraugh Green, which would burn about 10,000 tonnes of vegetable oil every year.

Patenting Genes

Three examples show that patents on genes and gene fragments seriously threaten future medical research. They can stifle research and collaboration and increase prices through patent monopolies, neither of which serve the public interest. A review of gene patents - both granted and pending over the last few years - is long overdue. In particular, the case of the CCR5 gene and AIDS clearly highlights the folly of granting broad patents for all medical applications. The simplest solution is for genes and gene fragments to be made unpatentable – political action is needed now before the companies clean up on gene patents and society is left counting the cost.

Golden Rice - Is this the way to solve malnutrition?

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a serious form of malnutrition that weakens the immune system and may cause blindness. Several measures address VAD and have shown positive results. Genetically modified rice containing beta-carotene is a new approach in an early experimental stage. Golden Rice demonstrates the problems of public research in an area where both plant and technology are heavily protected by patents.
Read the complete article here.

Rio+20: Where's the debate about corporate power?

In the face of the multiple crises of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change plus economic turbulence and injustice, it is strange that there is so little discussion about controlling corporate power and exploitation in the run-up to Rio+20. There are proposals for increasing the participation of women, youth and communities in decision-making. There are calls to reduce land degradation and deforestation, promote sustainable production and consumption, increase energy and resource-use efficiency, and protect ecosystems.

Carbon - The New Cash Crop

Following Copenhagen the message is clear: if we do not act swiftly, industrial agriculture could soon claim large rewards from carbon trading by being recognized as a carbon sink. We know that climate change has the potential to irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. But we also know that industrial agriculture is a major cause of climate change, so how can rewarding it with carbon credits help reduce its climate impacts? The Land Magazine: http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/

Agriculture and soils in carbon trading

Including soil carbon sequestration in a Copenhagen agreement may provide opportunities for commercialization and profit, but should not be confused with proven strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilient food systems and empowering rural communities. In the negotiations and debates leading up to Copenhagen, there has been growing emphasis on carbon credits for agriculture and the inclusion of soil carbon sequestration into the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other mechanisms including REDD.

Agriculture and Climate Change - Real Problems, False Solutions

Few would deny that agriculture is especially severely affected by climate change and that the right practices contribute to mitigate it, yet expectations of the new climate agreement diverge sharply, as well as notions on what are good and what are bad agricultural practices and whether soil carbon sequestration should be part of carbon trading.

Feed the world?

The promise of more food from increased yields is driving the appeal for more GM crops, but that promise is theoretical and unfulfilled, argue Dr Ricarda A Steinbrecher and Antje Lorch. Since the 1980s, biotechnology companies have promised that genetic engineering would produce crops that deliver higher yields. No such crops have ever been produced, but as fossil fuel supplies dwindle and food prices rise, the belief that higher-yielding GM crops could solve both our fuel and food problems has gained momentum and prominence among policymakers, government officials and the media.

Genetically Engineered Trees & Risk Assessment

Trees differ in a number of important characteristics from field crops, and these characteristics are also relevant for any risk assessment of genetically engineered (GE) trees. A review of the scientific literature shows that due to the complexity of trees as organisms with large habitats and numerous interactions, currently no meaningful and sufficient risk assessment of GE trees is possible, and that especially a trait-specific risk assessment is not appropriate. Both scientific literature and in-field experience show that contamination by and dispersal of GE trees will take place. Transgenic sterility is not an option to avoid the potential impacts posed by GE trees and their spread. Regulation of trees on a national level will not be sufficient because due to the large-scale dispersion of reproductive plant material, GE trees are likely to cross national borders. All this makes GE trees a compelling case for the application of the precautionary principle.

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