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Synthetic Biology

Thursday 24th November 2011

This submission examines the potential impacts of synthetic biology and its relevance to
the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity: the conservation and
sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from
the utilization of genetic resources.

Synthetic biology broadly refers to the use of computer-assisted, biological engineering to
design and construct new synthetic biological parts, devices and systems that do not exist
in nature and the redesign of existing biological organisms. While synthetic biology
incorporates the techniques of molecular biology, it differs from recombinant DNA
technology.

SBSTTA must not defer its consideration of synthetic biology as a new and emerging issue
requiring governance. Synthetic biology is a field of rapidly growing industrial interest. A
handful of products have reached the commercial market and others are in pre-commercial
stages. OECD countries currently dominate synthetic biology R&D and deployment, but
basic and applied research is taking place in at least 36 countries worldwide. Many of the
world’s largest energy, chemical, forestry, pharmaceutical, food and agribusiness
corporations are investing in synthetic biology R&D. Current applications of synthetic
biology focus on three major product areas that depend heavily on biomass feedstock
production processes: 1) biofuels; 2) specialty and bulk chemicals; 3) natural product
synthesis.

Tackling Technology: Three Proposals for Rio

Tuesday 1st November 2011

he most dramatic technological transformation in history – involving information technologies, biotechnologies and engineering – has occurred since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992; during the same period, however, governments have systematically downsized or eliminated their capacity to understand science and monitor technologies. While technology has thus far played an extraordinarily prominent role in preparatory documents for Rio+20, technology’s potential contribution to sustainable development and/or new Green Economies cannot be realized as long as the world lacks trusted and transparent mechanisms – at global, regional and national levels – for technology evaluation. The absence of such mechanisms incites distrust and invites disaster.

Tuesday 1st March 2011

International effort to address the food, energy and climate crisis tend to regard technology as an important part of the solution. This optimism about technology also prevails in debates around the Green Economy and international environmental governance. And of course technology does hold some potential solutions to some important problems. However, two decades of accelerating technological development and deployment, in the context of massive trade and investment liberalization, has left the globe in far worse straits than it was when the very concept of sustainable development was in its infancy. And now, it is time for a technological te-think. New high-risk technologies, ranging from the very small (synthetic biology, nanotechnology) to the very large (geoengineering), are rapidly developing. Their promoters promise that they hold the keys to solving climate change, world hunger, energy shortages and biodiversity loss and the precautionary principle and social and economic impacs are often ignored in the rush to deploy the latest technofix.

Recommendations for CBD Delegates

Friday 8th October 2010

As the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) ponders guidelines for considering new and emerging issues that may have implications for biodiversity – and struggles to adopt a protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) – researchers in synthetic biology are developing the capacity to construct synthetic life forms. The repercussions for biological diversity are unknown but could be devastating. Natural organisms, too, may be “tweaked” using synthetic biology to allow for patent monopolies beyond the reach of state sovereignty or of indigenous peoples.

Stop Geoengineering - Our home is not a laboratory

Thursday 22nd April 2010

Industrial societies have produced unprecedented ecological crises: climate change, depleted fresh water, build-up of toxins, collapse of ecosystems and accelerating species extinction. The transgression of natural limits for private gain has compromised the integrity and survival of our living planet, Mother Earth. This way of living on the Earth has become unsustainable. Common sense says we must act to build a fairer civilization, one that steps more lightly on the planet – and fast.

RE: Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies: March 22-26 2010

Wednesday 31st March 2010

As civil society organizations and social movements working to find constructive solutions to climate change, we want to express our deep concerns with the upcoming privately organized meeting on geoengineering in Asilomar, California. Its stated aim, which is to «develop a set of voluntary guidelines, or best practices, for the least harmful and lowest risk conduct of research and testing of proposed climate intervention and geoengineering technologies,» is moving us down the wrong road too soon and without any speed limit.

Friday 26th February 2010

On the eve of a major intergovernmental conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a civil society member of the international steering committee has resigned, calling the preparations for the gathering of governments and scientists “hopelessly biased” and “foolishly sidestepping key socioeconomic and scientific issues.”

Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, a Canada-based international civil society organization with a long history of work with FAO and biotechnology issues, resigned from the steering committee on Tuesday, February 23 2010. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization conference, hosted by Mexico, runs from March 1- 4 in Guadalajara.

Climate Chaos in a Geoengineering Age, a Report Commissioned and Published by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

Monday 14th December 2009

This critical overview of geoengineering technologies examines the history, politics and social and ecological implications of attempts to add large-scale, intentional manipulation of the planet to the menu of possible responses to climate change. The report contests the notion that more funding, research and experimentation is needed into geoengineering technologies, and provides a series of recommendations on how these controversial technologies should be regulated.

LA SOCIETÀ CIVILE CHIEDE VALUTAZIONE DEGLI IMPATTI DELLE TECNOLOGIE NELL'AMBITO DI UN ACCORDO A COPENHAGEN

Wednesday 9th December 2009

l trasferimento di tecnologia è uno dei quattro temi principali che

verranno discussi nel corso dei negoziati sulle azioni di cooperazione
per il lungo termine a Copenaghen (gli altri sono mitigazione,
adattamento e finanziamenti). Il testo negoziale preliminare contiene
diverse misure volte ad accelerare la diffusione di nuove tecnologie.
Con ogni probabilità i negoziati si tradurranno in un "piano d'azione"
e in un nuovo "organismo" di gestione delle tecnologie, che dovrà
coordinare diversi pannelli tecnici e/o centri di innovazione, e che
avrà grande influenza negli anni a venire sul tipo di sostegno
politico e finanziario che le nuove tecnologie riceveranno. In questo
quadro, è di grande importanza riuscire a fare in modo che siano le
tecnologie appropriate e benefiche a ricevere il necessario sostegno,
e non quelle pericolose o dannose. Questo non può avvenire senza una
valutazione approfondita ed adeguata degli impatti ambientali e
sociali di ogni nuova tecnologia.

让我们三思而行 公民社会呼吁技术评估成为 任何哥本哈根协定的组成部分

Friday 4th December 2009

我们 - 来自世界各地的公民社会组织和社会活动团体 – 认为迫切需要真正
的、持久的应对气候变化的解决方案。我们认识到,如果没有真正的、持久的应
对气候变化的解决方案,将带来人类不得不面对的致命后果。我们必须紧迫地增
强应对气候变化挑战的能力,同时显著减少温室气体的排放。
一些公司、个人、甚至是政府正在恐慌和无助地推广未经测试和未经证明的技术,
作为“我们唯一的选择”。然而我们不愿意看到,在没有考证对生态和社会影响
的情形下,这些未经测试和未经证明的技术,就被推广使用。一些视为能储存碳
或调控自然体系的技术,可能造成灾难性的生态和社会后果。在某些情形或方面
技术转让是在哥本哈根长期合作行动谈判中的四个关键议题之一 (其它是减
缓、适应和资金)。在讨论中的政府间谈判文本考虑了不同的加快技术渗透的
措施。它很可能是创建一个“行动计划”以及一个“技术机构”和不同的技
术组或创新中心,在以后的时间内证实它对决定何种技术获得资金及政治上
的支持具影响力。我们需要保证恰当的技术可以得到它们需要的支持,而错
误的技术会被放弃。如果没有一个全面的社会和环境的评估过程,这个目标
就不会实现。

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Reports

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Monday 18th October 2010

This report exposes the new climate 'Plan B' for what it is: a political strategy aimed at letting industrialized countries off the hook for their climate debt. From adjusting the global thermostat to changing the chemistry of our oceans, these technofixes are a threat to people and the planet. The report contains an overview of the history, the science, the interests behind their rapid development and the international governance issues at stake.

Issue:

Realpolitik, we are advised, recognizes that the multilateral system can’t produce an equitable or effective agreement that will mitigate climate chaos: Recognizing this, concerned governments and scientists have no reasonable choice but to investigate technological strategies that could reduce or delay climate change, at least until social forces make a practical agreement possible. Also according to Realpolitik, there is no more hope of achieving a multilateral consensus on re-jigging the thermostat than there is of adopting effective targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, the issue is to create a narrative and construct a governance model that will allow a courageous, far-sighted, science- based “coalition of the willing” to justify their unilateral manipulation of the Earth’s systems. They call it geoengineering – we call it geopiracy.

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