Featured Articles on GMO issues
'Green' economy or greed economy? Rio+20
2.Global coalition calls for oversight of synthetic biology
3.SynBioWatch to Hold Public Discussion on Synthetic Biology Risks – Berkeley
1.'Green' Economy or Greed Economy?
Saturday March 24th 2012, 11am to 5pm, London Feminist Library http://feministlibrary.co.uk/visit-us
In June this year, twenty years after the original 1992 Earth Summit, the United Nations will once again bring together a conference to discuss the environment and the global economy. The conference hopes to discuss what they call the 'green economy', a follow-on concept from 'sustainable development'.
The 'green economy' consists of (i) giving nature and 'ecosystem services' a financial value which can be used to facilitate trading, as has already taken place for carbon emissions, and (ii) using new 'green' technologies such synthetic biology/biomass and 'geo-engineering' to combat environmental problems.
Hope or hype? Will new technologies build a real green economy or perpetuate the current greedeconomy?
*Whose interests are served by such technocratic 'green solutions'?
*What are the risks of synthetic biology and geoengineering?
*What’s wrong with putting financial values on nature?
*Can we build a real green economy based upon economic justice?
Come join the debate, learn the latest details.
Speakers and support from: Luddites200, ETCgroup, the Land Magazine, EcoLabs and others.
The event is free (bring lunch to share) but participants are encouraged to donate GBP2-10 to support the London Feminist Library. http://feministlibrary.co.uk
Because there is limited space we also encourage you to register in advance http://t.co/o4ecIBlO
2.Global coalition calls for oversight of synthetic biology
Friends of the Earth, March 13 2012
[many embedded links in original]
Friends of the Earth is thrilled to release the Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology, the first global declaration from civil society to outline principles that must be adopted to protect public health and our environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology. The report also addresses the field’s numerous economic, social and ethical challenges. The writing of these principles was a collaborative effort and has been endorsed by 111 organizations from around the world.
Synthetic biology is "extreme genetic engineering," an emerging technology that is developing rapidly yet remains largely unregulated. With synthetic biology, instead of swapping existing genes from one species to another (as in "traditional" genetic engineering), scientists can write entirely new genetic code on a computer, "print" it out and then insert it into living organisms - or even try to create life from scratch.
Check out our fact sheet to learn more about the risks this emerging biotechnology poses to human health and our environment, and how it could deepen social and economic injustices around the world.
The synthetic biology industry is expanding rapidly, with a market value in 2011 of over $1.6 billion that is expected to reach $10.8 billion by 2016. However, there has been little to no governance of the industry or assessment of the novel risks posed by synthetic organisms. There have been calls for “self-regulation” by the industry and at the end of 2012 President Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a report saying that industry self-regulation would be sufficient and “gave the green light” to the synthetic biology community. Friends of the Earth, along with 56 organizations from around the world sent a public letter to the Presidential Commission which criticized its report for ignoring the precautionary principle, relying on so-called “self-governance” instead of true democratic governance of this technology, lacking adequate review of environmental risks and placing unwarranted faith in “suicide genes” and other technologies that provide no guarantee against the escape of synthetic organisms into the environment.
The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology is our response to such calls for self-governance or business-as-usual when it comes to regulation of biotechnology. The broad coalition calls for the following seven principles to safeguard public health and the environment from the novel risks of synthetic biology and to ensure open, meaningful and full public participation in decisions regarding its uses:
*Employ the Precautionary Principle
*Require mandatory synthetic biology-specific regulations
*Protect public health and worker safety
*Protect the environment
*Guarantee the right-to-know and democratic participation
*Require corporate accountability and manufacturer liability
*Protect economic and environmental justice
A broad coalition of environmental, religious, consumer, scientific, worker safety and human rights groups has come together to call for the proper governance of synthetic biology. These recommendations are rooted in the precautionary principle and the belief that the health of people and our environment must take precedence over corporate profits. Until the proper regulations and safety mechanisms have been put in place, we believe there must be a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms. While synthetic biology may be a useful tool in helping to better understand biological systems, it carries too many risks and unanswered questions to be allowed outside the lab at this time.
The principles for the oversight of synthetic biology (Report)
This report is the first global declaration from civil society to outline principles that must be adopted to protect public health and our environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology.
3.SynBioWatch to Hold Public Discussion on Synthetic Biology Risks
BioPolitical Times, March 16 2012
A coalition of social and environmental justice organizations collectively known as SynBioWatch will hold a public meeting in Berkeley, CA later this month to discuss synthetic biology, an emerging form of genetic engineering that creates self-replicating organisms using synthetic DNA. The gathering will focus on a billion-plus dollar plan to expand the UC's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab into a major research facility for synthetic biology. The event, entitled, "Unmasking the Bay Area Bio Lab and Synthetic Biology: Health, Justice, and Communities at Risk," will feature a panel of distinguished local and international activists, scientists, and policy advocates.
The Alliance for Humane Biotechnology, Friends of the Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment and the ten other organizations express major concerns about the risks that synthetic biology poses to worker safety, the environment, public health, local economies, and social justice. The event website reads:
The development of these high-risk genetic technologies is largely driven by the oil, chemical, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical industries, the military, and other federal agencies, in a rapid, high-profit commercial race. But the risks synthetic biology pose”¦are poorly understood, and lack adequate oversight, transparency or protections.
Given the gravity of these new techniques, the event's slogan, taken from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seems more than fitting: "When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men."
More information on the event can be found on SynBioWatch's website and Facebook event page.
The meeting will be held on Thursday, March 29 from 7-9:30 pm at the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA) and is free and open to the public.