RNA Interference GMOs to enter South Africa and Nigeria

The African Center for Biodiversity warns that the South African government recently received an application for use of a new variety of GM Maize.

The African Center for Biodiversity(ACB) warns in an alert published August 10th, that the South African government recently received an application for the import, feed and processing of a new variety of GM Maize, MON87411. This GM Maize is a “multi-stacked variety” meaning it is created through conventional breeding of four distinct genetically modified varieties of maize. Unlike standard first-generation GMOs, this variety uses something called the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, which means that double-stranded RNAs are introduced into the gene which work to silence certain genes. The new gene editing technique has not been properly assessed for risk before applying to go to the market, according to the ACB’s knowledge of Monsanto’s risk assessment procedure, and ACB lists the potential risks to include possible exposure following consumption, or the potential for off-target regulation of unintended genetic pathways. Such GMOs are the latest in the GM push on the wider African continent. Nigeria has recently received an application for the field trials of a GM cassava variety that also use RNAi to reduce the amount of starch in cassava, with the purported aim of preventing starch breakdown during storage. Read the ACB’s full report here.

 

 

 

What the Monsanto-Bayer Merger Means for South Africa

This past December 2016, Monsanto shareholders agreed to the sale of their company to German Agro-chemical and seed company Bayer, for $66 million US Dollars. It will be the largest ever foreign corporate takeover in US history. The newly merged company will now control 29 percent of the world’s seed markets, and 24 percent of the world’s pesticide market. AGRA Watch partner The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Foundation, has published a paper called, ‘The BAYER-MONSANTO merger: Implications for South Africa’s agricultural future and its smallholder farmers”, outlining the proposed merger.

ACB is headquartered in South Africa, where Bayer and Monsanto are major actors in the seed and agrochemical industries. This deal will require approval from about 30 regulatory agencies around the world, including the South Africa’s Competition Commission.

ACB explains how the Monsanto-Bayer merger is happening against the backdrop of other mega-mergers also consolidating the agrochemical and seed markets, including genetically modified seed markets. Six agro chemical giants will soon become three, as US chemical giants Dow and DuPont merge in a deal estimated to be worth US$130 billion, and China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and Swiss-based Syngenta merge in a deal worth around US$43 billion.

According to the report, if all the mergers are approved, three corporations will control 60% of the global commercial seed market and 64% of the agrochemical market. The corporations will also be able to claim “too big to fail” status, setting the stage for future bailouts using public resources, and further reducing accountability and opportunities for democratic control of the food system.

ACB points out that these mergers will further push integration between seed and agrochemical market. It will restrict farmers’ choices about what crops they plant and what inputs they use. This model of production will deepen inequality, threaten the integrity of land and water resources, and decrease agricultural biodiversity.

With the full support of AGRA Watch, ACB calls on the South African Competition Commission to reject the merger. They also call of the South African government to rein in the power of corporations and to commit resources towards decentralised R&D in partnership with farmers and consumers for more democratic and sustainable agricultural development.

Download and read the full report PDF.

 

Contact:

Ms Mariam Mayet: Director ACB mariam@acbio.org.za

Dr Stephen Greenberg: Research Co-ordinator ACB stephen@acbio.org.za

Mr Benjamin Luig: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Benjamin.Luig@rosalux.org

Challenge the #GlobalSeedGrab

Fight the Enabling the Business of Agriculture Supported #GLOBALSEEDGRAB

Dear community,

A few weeks ago, we shared about the World Bank’s dangerous Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project and the particular threats it poses to African agriculture (read our analysis here). Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bank and its donors.

On January 18, letters signed by over 150 groups (including CAGJ) were sent to the World Bank as well as the five donors behind the EBA project, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, demanding an end to this hijacking of farmers’ rights to seeds and the corporatization of agriculture.

This joint advocacy led by the Oakland Institute has forced the World Bank to recognize the importance and value of farmer-managed seed systems! In the 2017 EBA report released this week, the Bank incorporated some of the language from the letters word-for-word into the seed section (see attached image for an example of the specific language copied from the letter).

However, beyond this recognition, the Bank is still running the EBA and promoting the pro-corporate regulations we have denounced. Now, everyone can email the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and EBA donors directly to request the withdrawal of this harmful project.

As we highlighted in our last blog, the seed indicators are part of a regime of power that seek to legitimatize a vision of agro-industrial production, commercialization, and privatization. For farmers, this means creating markets along the supply chain to displace farmer-managed seed systems and agroecological farming. The Bank’s small fix aimed at silencing criticism does not guarantee changes in these indicators or the promotion of pro-private sector seed policies and large-scale industrial agriculture.

We cannot let the World Bank dictate agricultural policies of sovereign nations at the expense of farmers. Tell World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Western donors: DROP THE ENABLING THE BUSINESS OF AGRICULTURE INDEX NOW!
Share on facebook! Challenge the #GlobalSeedGrab

Thank you for taking action!

Blogs, Reports, Fact Sheets, & More: CAGJ/AGRA Watch at UN Conference on Biodiversity

cop13-logo

In December, staff and members of CAGJ and AGRA Watch traveled to Mexico to present in a conference in Mexico City on the current state of genetic engineering, participate in the UN Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, and organize a side event with our African and European partners on the Gates Foundation and philanthrocapitalism.

The UN Conference on Biodiversity included meetings and negotiations of the 13th Conference of Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 8th Meeting of Parties to the COP (COPMOP 8) of the Cartagena Protocol, and the 2nd Meeting of Parties to the COP (COPMOP 2) of the Nagoya Protocol.

Please explore the information below to learn more about what were were up to and the issues we engaged with! Continue reading “Blogs, Reports, Fact Sheets, & More: CAGJ/AGRA Watch at UN Conference on Biodiversity”

Report-back on Mexico City Conference on GMOs

Taking Stock – 20 Years of GM Crops – 40 Years of ‘Genetic Engineering’

By Simone Adler

phil-speaking
Phil Bereano, AGRA Watch Member, speaks during the ENSSER conference on Gates and Philanthrocapitalism. (L-R) Phil Bereano, Mariam Mayet of African Center of Biodiversity, Angela Hilbeck of ETH Zurich, and Dr. Oram Arellano, session chair for the conference.

On December 1st and 2nd, AGRA Watch member Phil Bereano and CAGJ Organizing Director Simone Adler joined scientists from around the world for a conference held at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City to present where we are in regards to genetic engineering in agriculture and other fields, where we’ve come, and where we are going. The conference, titled “Taking Stock – 20 Years of GM Crops – 40 Years of ‘Genetic Engineering’” was hosted by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Third World Network (TWN), the Mexican Union of Scientist Concerned with Society (UCCS), and the Latin American Union of Scientist Concerned with Society and Nature (UCCSNAL).

The two days of presentations (with simultaneous Spanish and English interpretation) were organized on topics ranging from the “human cost of GM crops in South America” to “CRISPR Gene Drives and the implication of extinction technologies and population-scale engineering”, from “the failure of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso” to “legal framework for GMO risk assessment: excluding public science”. AGRA Watch member Phil Bereano gave a presentation entitled “Philanthrocapitalism: the Gates Foundation’s African Programs are not Charity” as part the session “GMOs in Developing Countries”.

Preceding the Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity and Meeting of the Parties on the Cartagena and Nagoya Protocols held in Cancun, this conference presented an opportunity to review and share analysis on issues of concern at COP13 and MOP8 in particular, such as synthetic biology and gene drives.

The report by ENSSER gives a robust summary of the presentations, including Phil’s (see below), and their important analyses. Continue reading “Report-back on Mexico City Conference on GMOs”

Biopiracy and Synthetic Biology at COP13: Industry Pressure and Civil Society Concern

This is the third in a series of blogs about the participation of CAGJ/AGRA Watch in the 2016 United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico. Read the first blog: Convention on Biological Diversity: what is it and why do we participate?  and the second blog: Negotiation and Dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference

capthookpress
Press Conference for the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy at the COP13 Negotiations.

One of the most contentious issues surrounding the Convention on Biological Diversity and the subsidiary Protocols is synthetic biology. Since the beginning of this Conference on Biodiversity, we have seen the tactics and arguments on the side of advancing synthetic biology, as well as the positions and strategy organized by science-activists, researchers, and groups concerned with this technology because of its potentially adverse effects on food sovereignty, public health, and risk assessment. Today, in an action organized by civil society at the COP13 negotiations, the “Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy”, corporations, governments, and organizations were “awarded” for their behaviors in making profit from  stolen genetic resources from indigenous peoples and local communities, while defenders of biodiversity were recognized at the ceremony for repelling biopiracy attacks.

What is synthetic biology?

So-called synthetic biology is technically an extension of genetic engineering, in which a DNA synthesiser is used to build artificial DNA from scratch – not from nature. Synthetic biology is predicted by its proponents to be a nearly 40 billion dollar industry as this technology develops for synthesis of DNA and genetically re-designed biological organisms, from pharmaceuticals to food ingredients, and – of particular concern to food sovereignty activists – genome-edited and self-replicating crops, insects, and animals. Continue reading “Biopiracy and Synthetic Biology at COP13: Industry Pressure and Civil Society Concern”

Negotiation and Dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference

This is the second in a series of blogs about the participation of CAGJ/AGRA Watch in the 2016 United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico. Read the first blog: Convention on Biological Diversity: what is it and why do we participate?

cbdplenaryparticipation
Phil Bereano, Simone Adler, and Johanna Lundahl during a Plenary session of the CBD.

By Simone Adler

Beginning this past Sunday and going through December 17th, the two week United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico is organized into different levels and spaces of negotiation, dialogue, and presentation. Throughout, the participation of attendees to the Conference varies by process and rank.

COP13, COP-MOP8, COP-MOP2

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (aka Access and Benefit Sharing, ABS), and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are all being negotiated at this Conference. Each has its own governing body. For the CBD, it is the 13th Conference of Parties (COP 13); for the ABS it is the 8th Conference of Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties (COP-MOP8), and for the Cartagena Protocol it is the 2nd Conference of Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties (COP-MOP2). This UN Conference is unique in that all three COP and COP-MOP are meeting simultaneously, as the content of each are inextricably related.

Who is participating?

The primary participants in CBD, ABS, and Cartagena Protocol negotiations are the government delegates from the countries that are signed Parties, i.e. the members of COP-13, COP-MOP8, and COP-MOP2. These participants are known as “Parties”. Significantly, the US has not signed these agreements, thus is not a Party. However US governmental officials do attend, and have considerable influence over the deliberations. Continue reading “Negotiation and Dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference”