Our friends at the ETC Group led this victory at the recently ended UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in South Korea. Synthetic biology, a new extreme form of genetic engineering with researchers building unique organisms designed to facilitate the manufacture of various products, was previously unregulated. Now countries are urged to create regulations over this potentially disastrous Wild West of DNA manipulation.
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries
SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered
A cacao farmer in Costa Rica. Despite stiff opposition from SynBio countries, the decision is a victory for farmers in the global south. Photo: Everjean
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing numbers of synthetically-derived products are making their way to market. The CBD’s decision is regarded as a “starting signal” for governments to begin establishing formal oversight for this exploding and controversial field.
“Synthetic Biology has been like the wild west: a risky technology frontier with little oversight or regulation,” Jim Thomas of ETC Group explained from CBD negotiations in Korea. “At last the UN is laying down the law.”
“This international decision is very clear,” Thomas added. “Not only do countries now have to set up the means to regulate synthetic biology, but those regulations need to be based on precaution and not harming the environment.”
“The good news is that precaution won the day.”
This decision comes at a critical time. The SynBio industry is bringing some of its first products to market, including a vanilla flavour produced by synthetically modified yeast and specialized oils used in soaps and detergents derived from synthetically modified algae. In December, bay area SynBio firm Glowing Plants Inc. intends to release synthetically-engineered glow-in-the-dark plants to 6,000 recipients without government oversight. The United States is not a signatory to the CBD, making it one of only three countries that will not be formally bound by this decision (the other 2 are Andorra and the Holy See).
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Photo via GMWatch Twitter
Last Thursday, Guatemala lawmakers voted to repeal the so-called “Monsanto Law,” a provision demanded by a trade agreement with the US that would have authorized the privatization of seeds and copyrighting of agriculture.
As this photo posted by GM Watch illustrates, popular resistance, especially from Indigenous communities, played a significant role in pressuring the final decision!
Guatemala strikes down “Monsanto Law”
TeleSUR, September 5, 2014.
In a close vote, Guatemala’s Congress rejects genetically modified seeds in country’s agricultural development.
On Thursday, Guatemalan lawmakers voted 117-111 in favor of repealing the ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States.
The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ called the ‘Monsanto Law’ for its seed-privatization provisions. The agreement requires signing countries to adopt the law and adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.
2013 Monsanto protests in Mexico. Photo: cipamericas
A federal judge in Mexico overturned a permit that allowed Monsanto to plant GMO soy when evidence proved that the frankenplants endangered native honeybee colonies.
Victory is sweet!
In his article, “Monsanto in Mexico: Court rules against the Gene Giant in Yucatan,” Devon G. Pena explains the situation:
According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterdayoverturned a permit issued to Monsanto, the U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in Yucatán. The ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to the judge’s satisfaction) that GMO soy crop plantings threaten Mexican honey production in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán. (Read More)
Across the globe, governments backed by corporate cash call for scientific evidence that GMOs are harmful, but when that proof is placed before them, they dodge reality and keep on pushing their agendas. Mexico revoking Monsanto’s permit shows other governments that it is not too late to turn away from Big Ag and back to the people.
June 26, 2014. Source: Cihan
Delal, who sold a cow so that he could sue the construction company, guards the area against development. Photo by DHA
An administrative court in the Black Sea province of Rize has ruled to halt the construction of a hydroelectric power plant (HES) that was being built on the Andon River, which provides fresh water to at least 3,000 people in the village of Küçükçayır.
Küçükçayır village was declared an environmentally protected site in 2011. The village’s residents held a protest in February against a HES being constructed near the river, closing the main road of the village for hours as part of their protest and not allowing construction equipment to operate at the site. Continue reading
By Diego Cupolo, June 16, 2014. Source: Upside Down World
Rio Baker, the sight of one of five proposed HidroAysén dams in Southern Chile – Photo by Diego Cupolo
After eight years of demonstrations and sometimes violent protests, Chilean environmentalists popped champagne bottles and celebrated outside the ministry building after officials rejected the controversial Patagonian dam project last week.
The decision halts development of what would have become Chile’s largest energy endeavor in history, the $8B HidroAysén hydroelectric project, which involved building five dams in two of South America’s widest rivers along with 1,600 km of power lines through pristine Andean valleys and fjords to carry energy to the nation’s central regions.
In a report by the Associated Press, Patricio Rodrigo, executive secretary of the Patagonia Defense Council, called the moment “the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile.” Continue reading
By Emily Jovais, June 11, 2014. Source: International Rivers
Photo from International Rivers
It’s not every day we celebrate a victory as significant and hard-won as today’s triumph in the eight-year campaign to protect Chilean Patagonia from the destructive HidroAysén dam project!
This morning, Chile’s highest administrative authority – the Committee of Ministers – made a unanimous decision to overturn the environmental permits for the controversial five dam mega-project, which was planned on the Baker and Pascua rivers. This highly anticipated resolution effectively cancels the project, ruling that assessment of the project’s impacts was insufficient to grant project approval back in 2011.
The Committee, which consists of the Minister of Environment, Health, Economy, Energy and Mining, Agriculture, and Tourism, evaluated 35 appeals which were filed by the Patagonia Defense Council and local citizens in response to the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment after it was approved in May 2011. Though it has taken more than three years, with meetings and decisions being repeatedly delayed and eventually passed on to the new administration, today’s decision is a recognition of the technical and procedural flaws surrounding HidroAysén as well as the significant impacts the project would have had on one of Chile’s most iconic regions. Continue reading
April 28, 2014. Source: Agence France-Presse
Protesters do morning exercise after camping overnight outside the Taiwan presidential palace on March 10, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taiwan calling on the government to shut down the island’s nuclear power plants, citing the painful lesson of Japan’s nuclear crisis after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake two years ago. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan said Sunday, April 27, it would stop construction at a controversial nuclear power plant, after tens of thousands of protesters blockaded a main street in the capital calling for the project to be scrapped.
Protesters broke through a police cordon to take control of a busy eight-lane intersection demanding an end to construction of the “Nuke Four” power station outside Taipei.
Later Sunday, the ruling Kuomintang party yielded to pressure from the anti-nuclear demonstrators and promised to stop work at the plant.
“There will be no further construction of reactor one,” Kuomintang spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi told reporters.
“Only safety checks will be done and after that it (reactor one) will be sealed for storage. Construction of reactor two will be terminated,” he said. Continue reading
Note: Here is some good news to the round out the week. While we aren’t too hopeful that this Brazilian court ruling will set the stage for more of its kind across the world, it could at least provide hurdles to companies like ArborGen and FuturaGene, who want to plant hundreds of millions of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees throughout Brazil. And who knows, maybe the ripples will reach the courtrooms and regulatory agencies in North America.
Whatever the long-term implications, this is certainly a victory for small farmers in Brazil.
-The GJEP Team
March 14, 2014. Source: Sustainable Pulse
In an historic ruling on Thursday Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court has unanimously decided to cancel the release for cultivation of Bayer’s Liberty Link GM Maize.
The ruling is another legal disaster for the biotech industry as it follows the decision taken earlier this week by a court in the Campeche region of Mexico toban GM Soybean cultivation, to protect the traditions of the Mayan people, namely beekeeping.
The Brazilian Court annulled the decision by Brazil’s Biosecurity Commission (CTNBio), who had allowed the release for cultivation of Liberty Link GM Maize. The civil action against CTNBio was started by Land Rights, the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense – IDEC and the National Association of Small Farmers.
The decision is reported to have created new legal paradigm and may force Brazilian authorities to reconsider all other commercial releases of GMOs in Brazil. Never before has a Judge stated that there is a need for studies on the negative impacts of GMOs in all major biomes in the country.