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).
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.
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.
Taking Stock – 20 Years of GM Crops – 40 Years of ‘Genetic Engineering’
By Simone Adler
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.
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”
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”
This is the first in a series of blogs about the participation of CAGJ/AGRA Watch in the 2016 United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancun, Mexico.
By Simone Adler, CAGJ Organizing Director
“Food sovereignty ensures that the right to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those who produce the food”
Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007
Small farmers and peasants around the world have a reciprocal relationship with their environments – as stewards of biodiversity, they are also shaped by the natural biodiversity in which they grow food. This is why the global dialogue and decision-making processes around biodiversity necessitate participation from farmers, food sovereignty activists, and advocates for biodiversity protection.
The CBD recognizes through international law that conservation of biodiversity is a common concern across nations and for all peoples and ecosystems. In the context of sustainable development, the CBD includes measures for the sustainable use of biological resources and includes protection of all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources. Additionally, the CBD address traditional knowledge as important to conserving genetic resources. As a global instrument for national strategies around conservation and sustainability, the CBD has three main objectives:
The conservation of biological diversity
The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources
As an alternative to the World Food Prize awarded the same weekend in Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes that transformation of our food system comes from the grassroots, frontlines, and communities building power – not corporate, biotech, and Big Ag industries focused on profit over people and the planet. Coming together for the Prize and events was an opportunity to reflect on strengthening our organizing and advocacy for agroecology, food as a human right, dignity for workers across the food chain, and community-led solutions to hunger and climate change
With banners and signs reflecting messages of the movement in the center of a circle, folks gathered Wednesday night and Thursday at the WA State Labor Council to discuss the current political moment of the USFSA and the new methodology being proposed for building up grassroots leadership and regional structure in the Alliance.