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.
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”