Category Archives: Synthetic Biology

Sign the petition to prevent GE trees from contaminating forests

With the Right to Know labeling movement in full swing, GMOs are making headlines in every major website and newspaper in the U.S. However, genetically engineering food isn’t the only way that industry is trying to sneak their modified plants into our lives.

Enter genetically engineered trees.

Companies like ArborGen, jointly owned by International Paper and MeadWestvaco among others, are pressuring congress and the USDA to give them permission to release billions of GE eucalyptus seedlings in vast plantations across the U.S. Teamed up with another false solution to climate change, bioenergy, these GE trees, also called GM trees or GMO trees, could invade our natural forests, altering them forever. Not to mention drying up ground water and causing massive firestorms.  It is time to say no to corporate greenwashing  and no to genetically engineered trees.

GE ecualyptus farms are a growing threat to biodiversity. This is a eucalyptus greenhouse in Brazil.  Photo: Anne Petermann/GJEP

To prevent GE trees from contaminating natural forests, the Campaign to STOP GE Trees is circulating a petition demanding the USDA ban ArborGen and other entities from selling/distributing GE trees and creating “frankentree” planations across the U.S. The USDA is set to make a draft decision any day now. The more signatures the Campaign gets, the greater the chance we have to stop GE trees.

Sign the Petition to Ban Genetically Engineered Trees

To Whom It May Concern, I demand that all petitions by GE tree company ArborGen to plant or sell their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees be rejected. In addition, I demand that all petitions to release dangerous GE trees into the environment be rejected as they are inherently destructive and the full extent of their social and ecological risks has not been assessed. Further, I demand the USDA ban planting GE trees and all such plantings of GE trees be banned outright.

Sign the petition!

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Filed under Biofuelwatch, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology

That was the year – Unlucky 13

January 7, 2014. Source: ETC Group

etc_groupUnlucky 13: Our 2012 year-end review, “193 Shades of Gray,” stumbled into the surreal, post-Rio+20 “Hunger Games” as FAO admitted that it has been underestimating the number of hungry people and overestimating future food requirements and, in a cowardly act of conspicuous consumption, the UN Committee on World Food Security failed to condemn biofuels; Warsaw withered the way of every climate conference since Kyoto; the USA, UK, China and Russia significantly underestimated GHG emissions while the UK, Japan, New Zealand and Australia concluded that they just don’t give a damn. UNEP first endorsed – and then disclaimed – methyl hydrates as a green, clean energy source. Haiyan/Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon ever recorded, struck the Philippines leaving four million people homeless, and a million Syrians bore the hurricane of refugee flight amidst the tsunami of winter snows.

Lucky 13: In October, a pro-Terminator bill came up for vote in Brazil’s Judicial Commission but was withdrawn; came back again at the end of December and was withdrawn again; massive GM maize plantings in Mexico about-to-be approved most of 2013 were halted by national and international mobilizations leading to a lucky legal ploy in September; that was overturned in December, but restored the same week; lucky us, Edward Snowden courageously told us more than we feared to suspect; Benedict XVI quit; replaced by the happy surprise of the year, Pope Francis. We had Nelson Mandela for 95 years.

2013’s Over-the-Top Understatements: Two demonic pearls from prominent Canadians: Toronto’s hallucinogenic Mayor, Rob Ford, admitted to the Today show, “I’m not perfect,” and Harvard’s hubristic professor, David Keith, confessed to news satirist Stephen Colbert that spraying sulfuric acid in the stratosphere (geoengineering) was a “totally imperfect technological fix.”

2013’s Idiotic Idioms:

·      “Unconventional energy,” or “unconventionals,” for short – including fracking, methane hydrate extraction;

·      “Oilsands” (a.k.a. “tar”) – the capitalist’s alternative to “alternative energy;”

·      “Distorporation” – The Economist magazine’s description of MLPs (Master Limited Partnerships) for the massive secrecy move by extractivist investors;
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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Land Grabs, Rio+20, Synthetic Biology, Warsaw/COP-19, World Bank

Earth Minute: Why Doha is not where climate justice will happen

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

This week’s Earth Minute addresses the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, and why many climate justice organizations have decided not to attend this year’s climate conference, and are organizing with social movements and communities instead.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Geoengineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Oil, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Synthetic Biology, UNFCCC

KPFK Earth Segment: Marty Cobenais of IEN on Obama’s Keystone Pipeline reversal and ETC Group’s Jim Thomas on the threat of synthetic biology

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod and the Sojourner Truth show at KPFK Pacifica in Los Angeles for weekly Earth Segments and weekly Earth Minutes.

This week’s Earth Segment features Marty Cobenais of Indigenous Environmental Network giving IEN’s perspective on Obama’s Keystone pipeline reversal, and Jim Thomas of ETC Group on the threat to communities of synthetic biology, and the upcoming public forum Unmasking the Bay Area Bio-labs and Synthetic Biology: Health, Justice and Communities at Risk.

To listen to the Earth Segment, click on the link below and scroll to minute  42:00:

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Media, Synthetic Biology, Tar Sands

2012: The Year of the Luddites?

— Jeff Conant, for GJEP

This year, 2012, marks the bicentennial anniversary of the British Luddite movement, which rose up in 1812 in an organized rebellion of‘machine-breaking’ against industrial textile frames and other equipment found to be odious to workers’ dignity. The two-hundredth anniversary will be marked by widespread celebrations of the Luddites’ historic achievement, in the form of galas to be held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., Windsor Castle, Rockefeller Center, and Wall Street…wait, no, pardon: my fact-checking department tells me that’s not right. They’ll be held in impromptu squats and occupied factories in devastated rust belt cities like Flint, Michigan and empty granaries amidst the industrial soy plantations of Brazil’s Cerrado and the African Sahel. No, well, not that either…

Indeed, the poor old Luddites, great humanitarians that they were, and harbingers of the two-hundred year industrial blight-to-come, have lived on largely as a negative: anyone who questions the nature of technological progress is deemed a Luddite and summarily dismissed.

Historically, the Luddites, armed with hammers, pistols and a desperation to protect their livelihoods, seized the imagination of the British public in the early-nineteenth century. And they have held on to it. Two centuries later, the word ‘Luddite’ is still familiar all round the English-speaking world, even if vastly misunderstood.

Were the Luddites simply a band of destructive ne’er-do-wells who seriously thought that by smashing the new machines in the factories of the early 1800s they could ‘uninvent’ the technology that threatened to take away their jobs and their social status as elite craftsmen? That is how they are often seen today, and the word ‘Luddite’ is used for anybody who is reluctant to use a computer or a mobile phone. But there was more to the original Luddites.

A number of organizations, especially in the UK, are rising (up) to the occasion and bringing the Luddites back into our awareness. And the timing couldn’t be better: with the effects of industrial capitalism devastating the planetary ecosystem, and now devouring itself in a fit of austerity measures, rebellions, and economic collapse, perhaps it’s time to sit down for a chat with the mysterious Ned Ludd and his cross-dressing band of clandestine saboteurs.

A great resource to start with is Luddite Link; also worth visiting is the British People’s History Museum in Manchester, England, where, thanks to the direct action of a group called Luddites200, the Luddites will be put back in their rightful place in history after a long and silent banishment in obscurity.

Another great resource, for those interested in current issues around technology, is Friends of the Earth Australia’s recent issue of their magazine Chain Reaction. It includes an article by Luddites200 member Dave King and an excellent spread of articles from GM food to geoengineering to Fukushima to synthetic biology.

With the Rio+20 Environment Summit coming up this June, it is a fine moment to assess where twenty years of ‘sustainable development’ have gotten us, on top of two-hundred years of industrial resource extraction and exploitation. While policy-makers and big green NGOs lick their chops over emerging technologies like synthetic biology and geoengineering, technological ruses like ‘climate-smart agriculture’, biochar, and REDD; and while market-minded technocrats lay plans for the ‘green economy’ to promote these technologies and to facilitate trading in ecosystem commodities and services, perhaps we should pause for a long moment and consider the Luddite value of, well, pausing for a long moment.

The Andean Indigenous Peoples’ movements posit an alternative to industrial-progress-at-all-costs; they call it Buen Vivir – living well. The original Luddites, who might rather’ve spent their time lifting a pint after work rather than smashing machines and dodging the authorities, probably would’ve called it the same thing.

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Filed under False Solutions to Climate Change, Rio+20, Synthetic Biology

KPFK Earth Segment on Synthetic Biology Lab Scheduled to be Built in Richmond, CA

This week’s Earth Segment featured GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann discussing the new synthetic biology lab that is scheduled to be built in Richmond, California, and the concerns about this extreme genetic engineering technology.

To listen to the segment, go to the link below and scroll to minute 8:40.

KPFK Earth Segment Jan 26, 2012

For more on the proposed Synthetic Biology lab in Richmond, see our previous blog post:

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod’s Sojourner Truth show on KPFK–Pacifica Los Angeles radio show for a weekly Earth Minute on Tuesdays and a weekly 12 minute Earth Segment every Thursday.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Posts from Anne Petermann, Synthetic Biology

Report Released on Dangers of Biofuels and Synthetic Biology

From the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD)

FIELD has prepared a new briefing paper on next generation biofuels and synthetic biology.

The paper explores how synthetic biology is being used to create next generation biofuels, their potential risks and harms, and the need for clear thinking on domestic and international regulationFIELD has prepared a new briefing paper on next generation biofuels and synthetic biology.

To download the 5 page paper, click here

Note: while the paper is quite clear on the devastating impacts that have been documented from so-called “first generation” crop-based agrofuels, they do not adequately explain the threats from second generation “ligno-cellulosic” agrofuels–many of which are the same as those associated with first generation agrofuels: competition with food crops for land, deforestation to make room for agrofuel feedstocks (and all the emissions that result from this land use change), and of course the threats from trees genetically engineered to make better fuel.

For more on these threats from second generation agrofuels, download our booklet “From Meals to Wheels,” or our report “Wood-based Energy: The Green Lie

–The GJEP Team

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Synthetic Biology, UNFCCC