Now that you can drive your ‘nano’ car, listening to your ipod ‘nano’ while wearing ‘nano’ sunscreen and ‘nano’ clothing, the UK’s largest organic certifier has just introduced the perfect nano-antidote - a ‘nano-free’ standard for consumer products. The Soil Association – one of the world's pioneers of organic agriculture announced today that it is has banned human-made nanomaterials from the organic cosmetics, foods and textiles that it certifies.
On January 15, 2008, these two headlines shared the same Google News page. What's wrong with this picture?
"F.D.A. Says Cloned Animals Safe to Eat"
"188000 Pounds Of Tainted Beef Recalled"
What do ocean-going yachts, space-traveling bacteria and synthetic life have in common? J. Craig Venter, of course. The self-styled genome tycoon has been busy pushing the boundaries on what may appear at first glance to be unrelated enterprises. Nothing could be further from the truth. A suite of recently uncovered patent applications lodged by Venter and his colleagues reveal not only an attempt to grab ownership over much of synthetic biology (see news release) but also a breathtakingly bold business plan for producing millions of new synthetic organisms per day. At the heart of this are plans for a new, automated process enabling rapid assembly of complete synthetic genomes - plans that, if realised, could render current genetic engineering techniques quaint and obsolete. Venter calls it "homologous in vitro recombination" or "combinatorial genomics." ETC suggests it might be properly dubbed "shotgun synthesis" and it has the potential to blast apart current biotech practice.
In the past, several multinational seed corporations have publicly pledged not to commercialize Terminator seeds - but, not surprisingly, there is intense industry pressure to overturn Brazil's national law prohibiting suicide seeds. Bill number 268 (2007) in the Brazilian Congress proposes to:
Below you will find a series of articles on biofuels, originally written in Spanish by one of ETC Group’s researchers. (Unfortunately, English translations are not always available). Biofuel production is currently a much-debated topic in Latin America. The prominent farmers’ organizations in the region believe that the production of biofuels will lead to further marginalization and erosion of the lands which are currently being used for food production.
By Silvia Ribeiro
ETC Group attended the 12th meeting of the scientific advisory body (SBSTTA) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which met in Paris 2-6 July 2006. Expectations were high that SBSTTA would tackle new and emerging issues on its agenda: agrofuels (a.k.a. biofuels) and climate change. Despite the urgency of these matters, some governments managed to block meaningful recommendations and put a chill on biodiversity’s hottest topics.
You'd think that after some of the world’s most eminent marine biologists attacked it; the IPCC report dumped on it; and the IMO’s scientific group to the London Convention last week passed the equivalent of an emergency motion advising it not to proceed - that Planktos Inc. would go to ground or hoist a white flag before it sinks in embarrassment.
The BP-Berkeley deal, the new joint Bio Energy institute, and also the recent job hop by John Menlo of BP fuels to Amyris Biotech - are all extra strings tying the interests of the Syn Bio community as a wholeever closer to the interests of big business. It should be noted that in each of thse cases CEO Keasling plays a central role. The same man who claims to be developing Synthetic Biology to serve the worlds poor (via synthetic artemisinin) seems to be rather busy these days serving the fabulously rich.
"I think this is going to become the foundational technology of the 21st century" - that was the triumphant message with which Tom Knight of MIT brought Synthetic Biology 3.0 to an end today. An engineering generalist who moved from artificial intelligence to artificial life, it was Knight who, along with Drew Endy, developed the concept of biobricks -- snap-together genetic parts from which to assemble Lego-like genes.