Third World Network - Resurgence
If a Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing does finally materialise, this would be the culmination of almost 15 years of persistent demands by developing countries, in the face of years of strong resistance and even rejection by most developed countries and big business interests such as the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. February 2010.
Biotechnology involves technological applications that use biological systems, living organisms, or their derivatives, to make or modify products or processes. Given its far-reaching implications, biotechnological development raises ethical questions and has aroused alarm concerning its potential adverse effects on biodiversity and natural resources.
The champions of biotechnological development -international corporations and various developed countries, headed by the United States- claim that the application of biotechnology will guarantee the world's food supply, and promote sustainable agriculture, thus benefiting the environment. They also argue that biotechnology ensures more efficient disposal of toxic waste and prevents pollution by treating waste products before they are released into the environment.
In contrast, opponents of biotechnology argue that not only is it damaging for the environment, but also poses a threat to world security since it facilitates the development of chemical and biological weapons.
Genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs) are increasingly being released in countries in the South, many of which have no legislation governing the use of biotechnology, and lack effective control over compliance with security norms and measures.
In January 2000 the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted. It is the first international treaty to recognise GMOs as a separate category of organism that requires its own specific regulatory framework. Apart from establishing the basis for international legislation on cross-border movement of GMOs, the Protocol is important in terms of its reaffirmation of the "precautionary principle", which states that, in the absence of full scientific certainty, a country can limit importation of GMOs on the grounds of their potentially damaging effects.
On 13 June 2003, Palau became the 50th country to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, meaning that the pact finally entered into force on 11 September 2003.
Articles and reports on Biosafety Protocol, regulations, laws, and policies, Biosafety and agriculture, Genetic Engineering, Health, and Food Safety, actions, activities and news relating to Genetic Engineering, books reviews.
The 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is held in Bonn, Germany, from 19 to 30 May 2008. Held together with the 4th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, these meetings are the main decision sphere on issues such as the threat on biodiversity posed by agrofuels, GM trees and the use of terminator seeds.
The Fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts on Liability and Redress in the context of the Protocol will be held from 22-26 October 2007 in Montreal. The Working Group is in the process of elaborating the international rules and procedures in the field of liability and redress for damage arising from transboundary movements of living modified organisms. October 2007.
The eighth Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) promised to take major decisions regarding the conservation of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. See the Choike coverage of the event held 20-30 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil.
The following is a summary of aspects of this key decision taken at the 3rd Meeting of the Parties (MOP3) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity that took place March 13-17 2006.
Agreement has finally been reached on international documentation requirements for bulk shipments of genetically modified commodity grains after five days of intense talks. These negotiations took place at the Third Meeting of the Parties (MOP 3) to the Cartagena Protocol that met in Curitiba, Brazil from 13 to 17 March 2006 with strong pressure form civil society activists from outside the meeting building. March 2006
The 2nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP/2) took place from 30 May to 3 June 2005 in Montreal, Canada. This is the final report of the meeting. (PDF document).
The First Meeting of the Parties (MOP 1) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety adopted ten decisions. Three of them, on the handling of living modified organisms, liability and redress, and compliance with the rules, were especially important as they signalled the start of the transformation of the Protocol from a set of rules into practical policy measures to address the risks associated with genetic engineering. Martin Khor and Lim Li Lin from the Third World Network analyse the outcomes of MOP 1.
In December 2003, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity announced the publication of "The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety: A record of the negotiations", which seeks to record the evolution of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety from the initial provision in Article 19(3) of the Convention itself through to the final adoption of the text of the Protocol in January 2000.
The entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on 11 September 2003 marked the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Protocol, a turning point from negotiation to implementation (pdf version).
Monsanto is a global provider of agricultural products that bring together chemicals, seeds, and biotechnology traits “to improve farm productivity and food quality”. It is also singled out as a threat to biodiversity and environment by the civil society and farmer’s organizations.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) the global area devoted to transgenic or genetically modified (GM) crops has increased more than 30-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 52.6 million hectares in 2001.
India-based organization promoting the efficient management of natural resources and harnessing modern biological techniques to enhance yields, protect and conserve biodiversity, and control environmental pollution.
FAO-BioDeC is a database meant to gather, store, organize and disseminate, updated baseline information on the state-of-the-art of crop biotechnology products and techniques, which are in use, or in the pipeline in developing countries. The data base includes about 2000 entries from 70 developing countries, including countries with economies in transition.
This report examines applications of nanotechnology to food and agriculture, which have the potential to revolutionise and further consolidate power over the global food supply. The report is the first in a series of ETC reports on the potential impacts of nanotechnologies on different economic and social sectors. November 2004.
The manufacture of products using nanotechnology–a powerful platform for manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter properties–has exploded in recent years, but evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. A broad international coalition of consumer, public health, environmental, labor, and civil society organizations spanning six continents called for strong, comprehensive oversight of the new technology and its products. August 2007.
Although nanomedicine is being touted as a solution to pressing health needs in the global South, it is being driven from the North and is designed primarily for wealthy markets argues this report by ETC group. September 2006.
Despite rosy predictions that nanotech will provide a technical fix for hunger, disease and environmental security in the South, the extraordinary pace of nanotech patenting suggests that developing nations will participate via royalty payments. (PDF document). June 2005.
The application of nanotechnology raises fears over public health as well as hopes of social and economic liberation. An intelligent government role in regulating its use is essential says this article by Jack Stilgoe. May 2006.
The 80-page report seeks to widen civil society’s and policymakers’ focus beyond biotech and genetically engineered crops, and to catalyze widespread public debate on the societal impacts of nanotechnology.
According to a new report released by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, nanotechnologies could benefit poor countries and help to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), for example, by purifing drinking water, producing energy and growing food. However, the report fails to mention the health and environmental risks of this new technology, also a missing point in the legislation of most countries in the world. Environmentalists argue that instead of dealing with the true origin of poverty, Northern countries prefer to focus on hi-tech toys. April 2005.
Research commended by the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) recommended 'to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees'. However, several environmental organizations are demanding that this does not go far enough. A ban on GM trees is needed. February 2008.
This 107-page document presents an in-depth study of the agricultural biotechnology capacity in seven surveyed countries - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal - where the strengths and weaknesses of the countries surveyed for biotechnology are presented, together with the potential for biotechnology development (pdf format).
The uptake of genetically modified (GM) crops by farmers in both developed and developing countries has been one of the most spectacular examples of adoption of a new technology in recent global agriculture.
"Flip the tortilla" ("virar la tortilla") is a common Puerto Rican expression. It describes the act of taking someone's argument and turning it on its head. This is precisely what the biotechnology and agribusiness industries are now doing to confound their critics.
Forcing GM food aid on famine-stricken southern Africa is a sheer act of desperation. Behind the aggressive stance and rhetoric, the biotech corporate empire is crumbling. It is morally, scientifically and financially bankrupt. By Mae-Wan Ho.
The interests that are seeking to impose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) include many of the same corporations that have tried to overwhelm the food supplies of the US, Canada and Latin American countries alike with unsafe, largely untested products of biotechnology. By Brian Tokar.
For those of us whose human rights have been grossly violated, from colonization to the present, it is important that we assert our rights to have control over our own bodies, our territories and resources, and our knowledge and cultures. By Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
The gender action plan did not offer answers to the questions about survival, food sovereignty, and traditional intellectual property to the participants of the Women and Biodiversity workshop in Bonn, Germany. August 2008.
This briefing by Greenpeace International provides an overview of the current text under negotiation at the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and highlights some of the key elements that are needed to achieve a successful and meaningful agreement at the Bonn meeting. (PDF). May 2008.
March 2007 is a very important date for Western Africa as the ECOWAS Ministerial Conference on Biotechnology holds in Accra, Ghana. This Conference is the follow up to a series of Ministerial Conferences financed and supported by US Government agencies. The Conference is taking place amid a general lack of information and involvement of all the relevant actors dealing with biotechnology issues. (PDF). March 2007.
Tewolde Egziabher -director general of Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Authority and former chief African negotiator at the Cartagena Protocol- argues that developing nations must put in place biosafety systems based on the precautionary principle, and develop the capacity — no matter how costly — to deal with the risks of genetically modified crops.
Information on the Convention, Convention text, COP decisions, Clearing-House mechanism, participation, programmes and issues, strategic plan, and Convention bodies. Available also in Spanish and French.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) website providing information, news, documents, electronic forum, events, glossary, and links. Also available in French, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish.
At the Gleneagles Summit, the G8 saw 'More Science' as the South's solution to poverty and global warming. Behind the scenes, the leading nano nations are rushing to set the rules for global nanotechnology governance. August 2005.
World overproduction of cotton, a crop that degrades the environment by escalating requirement for pesticide, demand on scarce water resources and exhaustion of soil, is a subject for serious concern in its own right. Large commercial plantings - which attract subsidies in rich countries - create monoculture deserts and distort world markets. As a result, the poor producer in the south, who has traditionally grown a crop of one or two hectares, descends into a spiral of debt.
Publicly traded biotechnology companies in the US have been estimated to have suffered cumulative losses of over US$ 40 billion from 1990 to 2003, according to Ernst & Young in a report released in May 1, 2004. Yet the promise of biotechnology continues to capture the imagination of scientists as well as governments and local authorities. Many have bought into the belief that the biotechnology industry holds the key to the development of their communities and economies.
Biotechnology is the answer to problems ranging from hunger in Africa and Asia to obesity in the West. This was the upbeat message from the industry’s promotional showcase, the BIO 2004 conference, which took place in San Francisco in June. In launching the conference, BIO (the Biotechnology Industry Organisation) trumpeted, "the biotechnology industry is performing well across a variety of financial and product development measures." But not everyone was persuaded.
A ruling by Canada's Supreme Court that a company's patent on a gene covers the use of all products containing that gene may have reduced legal uncertainty about GM crops. But it has highlighted — and heightened — the political conflict over them.
Ignacio Chapela, ecologist and assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been denied tenure. He received notice on 26 November 2003 that his academic contract will expire [in June 2004]. But some of his colleagues are questioning the integrity of the decision. They believe that Chapela’s vocal criticism of the biotech industry may have unfairly influenced the tenure process.
The Genetic Engineering (GE) industry is facing a shrinking global market as more and more countries adopt biosafety laws and GE labelling regulations. Moreover, as a result of widespread and mounting consumer rejection and the difficulties experienced by Monsanto in obtaining regulatory approval of its GE wheat, it has decided to pull out of the European cereal market. Africa and Asia are the new frontiers for exploitation by the agro-chemical, seed and GE corporations.
Prospects seem encouraging for a new international agreement to prevent biopiracy and to ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing from the use of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge. October 2010 is the target for this agreement to be adopted by governments that are Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), when the governments gather in Nagoya, Japan for the biennial Conference of the Parties. February 2010.
Since indigenous peoples hold, nurture and use a wealth of traditional knowledge related to biodiversity, it is of paramount interest to ensure that their rights are protected. While the draft document that emerged from the latest international negotiations in Montreal is promising, the challenge, says Jennifer Tauli Corpuz, is to ensure that the rights are recognised and protected and are not watered down. February 2010.
While there is cause for hope that an international agreement to prevent biopiracy will be realised in 2010, it is clear that the targeted goal of reducing biodiversity loss by the same date will not be met. Rejecting the idea that new economic models that put price tags on nature will convince policy makers to tackle this goal seriously, Jessica Dempsey contends that the way forward is to bring pressure to bear through solidarity with communities fighting for biodiversity and climate justice. February 2010.
This report provides 36 brief case studies of medicines, cosmetics and agricultural products that originate from bio-diversity (including plants, marine life and microbes) in African countries and that have been patented by multinational companies without there being evidence of benefits accruing to the countries of origin. (PDF document). August 2006.
The impact of biotechnology on social and gender relations was the issue for discussion in two workshops organized by the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, December 2004. Potential applications of biotechnology with particular gender dimensions include agricultural production, traditional knowledge and health. On the other hand, the effects of the use of biotechnology also have a gender dimension regarding, for expample, environment and natural resources management, food safety, and ownership and benefit sharing of genetic resources. PDF document. March 2005.
Biopiracy is still a major unresolved regulatory problem that affects the inalienable rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over their territories, genetic resources and traditional knowledge. A working group on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) met 14-18 February in Bangkok to discuss better regulatory measures that would take into account these rights. Background papers are available for download in PDF format. April 2005.
This paper outlines some of the issues relating to intellectual property, conditions affecting competition, the public interest and the requirements of the development objective and process.
(Word format). June 2005.
In 2004, the members of the Convention on Biological Diversity started negotiating an "international regime on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing". Many developing country governments are enthusiastic about this process. In reality, the regime will have very little to do with benefit-sharing at all, much less with fair and equitable sharing. May 2005.
This article argues that the developing countries should press for an internationally enforceable legal regime which can ensure an effective protection for the rights of communities on their traditional knowledge-based biological resources by prohibiting the unscrupulous biopiracy practices of the western giant corporations. May 2005.
This issue of ECO features a progress report on COP9 produced by civil society organizations as well as other articles: Make PoWPA a reality; Women and Biodiversity; Canada and Japan stalling on ABS; Anywhere but Canada!; COP Hor[r]o[r]scope; Biodiversity Offsets. (PDF). May 2008.
Some of the most crucial scientific questions concerning health effects of GE and GEOs (genetically engineered organisms) were raised up to twenty years ago. Most of them have still not been answered at all, or have found unsatisfactory answers. Will another twenty years pass before societies realize the urgent need for public funding of genuinely independent risk and hazard related research? (PDF document). October 2006.
Two World Bank projects, with funding from the GEF (Global Environmental Facility), propose to introduce genetically modified crops such as maize, potatoes, cassava, rice and cotton into five Latin American and four African countries that are centers of origin or diversity for these and other major food crops. Civil society organizations warn that DNA contamination from genetically modified crops poses an unacceptable risk to stable crops that are the basis of peasant economies in these regions. The multi-million dollar projects are being promoted under the guise of scientific biosafety research, but civil society organizations on both continents are calling for their immediate rejection because they threaten food sovereignty and farmer-controlled seed systems. June 2006.
This report analizes the impact of bollworm resistant Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh in India, a genetically engineered crop widely promoted by Monsanto both on visual and print media as great a saviour of cotton farmers from the bollworms. April 2005 (pdf format).
The role of modern biotechnology in the economic transformation of developing countries has become the subject of intense academic inquiry and public policy discourse. There is increasing debate about the potential contributions that the technology can make to these countries (pdf format).
The three objectives of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are incredibly ambitious: the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components - without reserve or restriction- and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. The eighth Conference of the Parties on the CBD that will be held in Curitiba, Brazil on late March promises to decide on these issues but civil society organizations already predict a grim outcome. February 2006.
Across the world processes to draw-up national biosafety laws are increasingly disconnected from the people they are supposed to serve. Drafting typically takes place behind closed doors, between local elites and foreign "experts" of the GM lobby, with corporations close at hand to steer the discussion. October 2005.
Since the concerns over genetic engineering were first raised in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety negotiations, there has been increasing evidence of ecological and health hazards and risks, as well as adverse impacts on farmers, some of which are highlighted in this briefing paper.
A campaign has been launched to request the World Health Organization (WHO) not to proceed with a project involving the genetic engineering of the smallpox virus and instead to ensure that all remaining stocks of the virus are destroyed within two years. April 2005.
This book argues for a set of principles to protect our individual liberties and communitarian interests against both the misuse and neglectful use of genetic technology. Building on the notion of a Genetic Bill of Rights, two dozen leading scientists, scholars, and public interest advocates examine the challenges we face in governing the future of genetics.
'Biosafety' refers to a set of measures aimed at regulating and ensuring the safe use of genetic engineering and transnational movements of genetically modified organisms. 'Biosecurity’, on the other hand, is the term used for measures aimed at countering terrorist attacks involving biological agents or toxins. The marriage between both concepts becomes ever more clear as evidence proves that genetic ingeneering may have contributed to the resurgence of infectious diseases in the last years. March 2005.
As negotiations come to a head in Kuala Lumpur at the first meeting of the Biosafety Protocol of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the United States along with Canada and a few Latin American states seem poised to render the 86-nation agreement irrelevant.