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Synthetic biology products found in “green” laundry detergent

Note: You can check out this letter from our friends with ETC Group asking Ecover to reconsider their use of synbio and genetic engineering in their “green” products.

-The GJEP Team

By Stephanie Strom, May 30, 2014. Source: NY Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Consumer products containing ingredients made using an advanced form of engineering known as synthetic biology are beginning to show up more often on grocery and department store shelves.

A liquid laundry detergent made by Ecover, a Belgian company that makes “green” household products including the Method line, contains an oil produced by algae whose genetic code was altered using synthetic biology. The algae’s DNA sequence was changed in a lab, according to Tom Domen, the company’s manager for long-term innovation.

Ecover calls the algae-produced oil a “natural” replacement for palm kernel oil, which is in such high demand that environmentalists are concerned that tropical rain forests are being felled to grow palm trees, disturbing ecosystems and threatening endangered animals.

“Finding a sustainable source of palm oil is, of course, difficult,” Mr. Domen said. “This new oil is a more sustainable alternative from a new technology.”

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, False Solutions to Climate Change, 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, Humor, Land Grabs, Rio+20, Synthetic Biology, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Warsaw/COP-19, World Bank

Geoengineering the sky is not ‘normal’

Note: Rachel Smolker is the co-Director of Biofuelwatch and a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

By Rachel Smolker, December 9, 2013. Source: Huffington Post

In the wake of the climate negotiations in Warsaw, the consensus appears near universal: the international process is not going to deliver, and it is up to countries and communities to go it on their own. For some, that means taking serious and dramatic steps to reduce emissions. For others, like Bangladesh or the island nations, it means finding a way to survive the consequences of climate change with little help from the international community. For all of us, it means facing a future of weather extremes, crop failures and potential disruption of virtually everything on an unprecedented scale. For advocates of climate geoengineering, the failure of global agreement is wind in their sails: “More reasons” why drastic measures such as spewing sulphate particles into the stratosphere, or “fertilizing” the ocean with iron filings, or burning and burying billions of tons biomass (as biochar or “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage”) should be seriously considered and research should be gloriously funded.

Of course the converse argument is that if global agreement on addressing climate change cannot be achieved, how can we possibly expect any global consensus on, or governance of “technomanagement” of the atmosphere where the risks of serious negative consequences, for some people in some places, at least, are so grave?

This worries me profoundly, and apparently others as well. It is why faculty from Johns Hopkins University and American University recently launched a new, Washington DC based “Climate Geoengineering Consortium”.The stated goal of the consortium, perhaps laudable, is “to generate space for perspectives from civil society actors and the wider public, to produce a heightened level of engagement around issues of justice, agency, and inclusion.” Perhaps I am too skeptical, but “generating space” for a debate seems a bit vague. This new consortium recently organized a meeting, slated as a “closed door” meeting of civil society representatives. Closed meetings for civil society always make me a little nervous. Especially when the topic is planetary scale interference with the global commons — the life support systems of our planet!

I’m not sure really how I ended up on the list of invitees, but I decided to attend. The meeting was held in a stark space at Johns Hopkins, with the requisite sleek furnishings and snack plates wrapped securely in sparkling plastic. Nobody in attendance was a shade darker than a bowl of oatmeal, all were dressed in drab, illuminated by glowing computers, tablets and smartphones. Represented were staff from Johns Hopkins and American University, as well as the conservative American Enterprise Institute (Lee Lane), Bipartisan Policy Center, NASA (Mike McCracken), the renowned blogger, Joe Romm, and long time (but now retired) Friends of the Earth director, Brent Blackwelder. There were representatives from U.S. Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch and various others. Certainly more diverse than some meetings, but even I could not avoid the sensation of being sort of a token.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering

KPFK Earth Watch: Geo-engineering pushed as “Plan B” for climate crisis, included in int’l climate science assessment

ETC Group’s Jim Thomas discusses the risks of “planet hacking,” or geoengineering, and its inclusion in the latest international climate science assessment after heavy pressure by resource-rich countries like Russia.

kpfk_logoGlobal 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.

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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Radio, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy, Pollution

Russia urges UN climate report to include geoengineering

Note: Just as there is no ‘planet B,’ there is no ‘plan B’ when it comes to climate change.  Industrialized nations, especially the US, need to drastically decrease their energy and resource consumption as quickly as possible.  Relying on unproven geoengineering technologies that tinker with the earth’s delicate climate and weather patterns is a dangerous mistake that we can’t afford to make.

Geoengineering will not solve the climate crisis, or the underlying problems of colonialism, environmental racism and economic domination.  It will, however, ensure that power remains in the hands of the 1%, who want the free market to control everything…even the weather.

-The GJEP Team

By Martin Lukacs, Suzanne Goldenberg and Adam Vaughan, September 19, 2013. Source: The Guardian

Documents seen by the Guardian show Russia is asking for a conclusion of the report to recommend geoengineering. Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Documents seen by the Guardian show Russia is asking for a conclusion of the report to recommend geoengineering. Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Russia is pushing for next week’s landmark UN climate science report to include support for controversial technologies to geoengineer the planet’s climate, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

As climate scientists prepare to gather for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm to present the most authoritative state of climate science to date, it has emerged the Russian government is asking for “planet hacking” to be included in the report. The IPCC has not included geoengineering in its major assessments before.

The documents seen by the Guardian show Russia is asking for a conclusion of the report to say that a “possible solution of this [climate change] problem can be found in using of [sic] geoengineering methods to stabilise current climate.” Russia also highlighted that its scientists are developing geoengineering technologies.

Geoengineering aims to cool the Earth by methods including spraying sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, or fertilising the oceans with iron to create carbon-capturing algal blooms.
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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, UNFCCC

A dream of trees aglow at night

Note: If successful, this would be the world’s first environmental release of a Synthetic Biology (also known as “extreme Genetic Engineering”) organism, setting a disastrous precedent for industry without any regulatory oversight whatsoever.

ETC Group and others have launched a “Kickstopper” project to put the brakes on this dangerous development.  Relatedly, later this month, Global Justice Ecology Project, Earth First!, and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees will be coordinating a major week of protest at the Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference in Asheville, NC — click here to join us!

-The GJEP Team

By Andrew Pollack, May 7 2013. Source: The New York Times

Antony Evans, left, and Kyle Taylor show E. coli with jellyfish genes.  Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Antony Evans, left, and Kyle Taylor show E. coli with jellyfish genes. Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Hoping to give new meaning to the term “natural light,” a small group of biotechnology hobbyists and entrepreneurs has started a project to develop plants that glow, potentially leading the way for trees that can replace electric streetlamps and potted flowers luminous enough to read by.

The project, which will use a sophisticated form of genetic engineering called synthetic biology, is attracting attention not only for its audacious goal, but for how it is being carried out.

Rather than being the work of a corporation or an academic laboratory, it will be done by a small group of hobbyist scientists in one of the growing number of communal laboratories springing up around the nation as biotechnology becomes cheap enough to give rise to a do-it-yourself movement.

The project is also being financed in a D.I.Y. sort of way: It has attracted more than $250,000 in pledges from about 4,500 donors in about two weeks on the Web site Kickstarter. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Commodification of Life, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Synthetic Biology

Report: The artificial intelligence of geoengineering

January 22 2013. Source: ETC Group

Photo: ETC Group

Photo: ETC Group

Gaia is complicated. From stratospheric currents to undersea rivers – and from plankton to palm tree emissions and sequestrations – quantifying, qualifying and calibrating planetary systems is at least as challenging as understanding genes or neurons. Despite decades of modeling, we are no more likely to predict next month’s best picnic day than we are to anticipate the proclivities of our DNA or to trace a memory in our cranium. Frustratingly, we have learned to map and manipulate genomes, geographies and memories, but we can’t control the consequences. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy

Video: UK and Canada win ‘Dodo’ award for blocking biodiversity talks

Note:  While the Dodo Awards were given out a week ago during the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11), we think it is important to highlight them, especially considering recent events in Canada involving a scandal that violated an international moratorium on geoengineering experimentation.  You can read more about that catastrophe here.

-The GJEP Team

By Ed King, October 17, 2012.  Source: Responding to Climate Change

Canada and the UK have won the COP11 Dodo award for countries who have done most to obstruct the negotiations in Hyderabad.

Organisers the CBD Alliance said Canada was the “clear leader” for breaking UN rules on geoengineering and refusing to consider the impact of biofuels on food.

On Monday the Guardian revealed a Canadian businessman dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean in July, a technique known as ocean fertilization. The Alliance say this was carried out with the knowledge of the Canadian government.

The UK is accused of blocking attempts in the EU and CBD to develop safeguards for synthetic biology, with the tacit support of the USA, who is not a signatory to the Convention.

Synthetic biology generally refers to the use of computer-assisted biological engineering to design devices and systems that do not exist in nature – and there are concerns that without regulation new organisms could contaminate the environment.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Humor, Oceans