According to ETC Group, the top 10 multinational seed firms control half of the world's commercial seed sales (a total worldwide market of approximately US$21,000 million per annum). Corporate control and ownership of seeds - the first link in the food chain - has far-reaching implications for global food security. With control of seeds and agricultural research held in fewer hands, the world's food supply is increasingly vulnerable to the whims of market maneuvers.
ETC Group reports on trends in intellectual property relating to nano-scale technologies. With nanotechnology, the reach of exclusive monopoly patents is not just on life, but all of nature. Accordingly, ETC Group refers to nanotech's "second nature" patents.
Swiss gene giant Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical corporation and third largest seed company (see tables) has applied for patents that could effectively allow the company to monopolize key gene sequences that are vital for rice breeding as well as dozens of other plant species. While the Genome Giant "donates" rice germplasm and information to public researchers with one hand, it is attempting to monopolize rice resources with the other. Governments, public sector researchers and the United Nations must re-evaluate and reform their cozy connections to companies like Syngenta.
In sharp contrast to the political climate one year ago, the potential health and environmental risks of some nano-scale technologies are now being openly discussed in Europe and North America. In recent months, governments on both sides of the Atlantic have reluctantly conceded that current safety and health regulations may not be adequate to address the special exigencies of nano-scale materials.
A new study revealing that engineered carbon molecules known as "buckyballs" cause brain damage in fish is one more brick in the wall of evidence suggesting that manufactured nanoparticles are harmful to the environment and to health.
J. Craig Venter, the genomics mogul and scientific wizard who recently created a unique living organism from scratch in a matter of days, is searching for pay-dirt in the biodiversity-rich Galapagos Islands. From his 95-ft. yacht, Sorcerer II, Venter is hop-scotching around the globe collecting microbial diversity from gene-rich seas and shores every 200 miles.(1) Venter's ship has already sampled in the Sargasso Sea (North Atlantic), Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador (Galapagos), Chile and is now en route to French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc.).
As negotiations come to a head in Kuala Lumpur at the first meeting of the Biosafety Protocol of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the United States along with Canada and a few Latin American states seem poised to render the 86-nation agreement irrelevant. News earlier this week that the Argentine Government has offered to collect taxes from its GM soybean farmers in lieu of royalty payments has stunned many delegations attending the meeting in the Malaysian capital.
In a paper released 28th January 2004, five University of Toronto (UT) ethicists accuse Prince Charles of "fear-mongering" and ETC Group of condemning poor nations to exports of "bananas and t-shirts." The authors speak enthusiastically about the potential of nanotechnology to improve conditions in the developing world and they express dismay that, in their view, "commentators" are now focusing primarily on risks instead of benefits. ETC Group responds.
Report Prepared for the South Centre
"The Potential Impacts of Nano-Scale Technologies on Commodity Markets," prepared for the South Centre, examines the potential impacts of nanotechnology on two sectors - agriculture and mining - in commodity dependent developing countries. Cases studies on rubber, textiles, platinum and copper provide early examples of how economies and workers in the global South could be affected by nanotech's emerging R&D and products.
This report examines the potential impacts of nanotechnology on two sectors – agriculture and mining – in commodity dependent developing countries. Case studies on rubber, textiles, platinum and copper provide early examples of how economies and workers in the global South could be affected by nanotech’s emerging R&D and products. In most cases it is too early to predict with certainty which commodities or workers will be affected and how quickly. However, if a new nano-engineered material outperforms a conventional material and can be produced at a comparable cost, it is likely to replace the conventional commodity. History shows that there will be a push to replace commodities such as rubber, cotton and strategic minerals with cheaper raw materials that can be sourced or manu- factured by new processes closer to home. Nanotech’s new designer materials could topple commodity markets, disrupt trade and eliminate jobs. Worker-displacement brought on by commodity- obsolescence will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly those workers in the developing world who don’t have the economic flexibility to respond to sudden demands for new skills or differ- ent raw materials.
O Grupo ETC anuncia a publicação do "Manual de Bolso das Tecnologias em Nanoescala ...e a 'Teoria do Little Bang'", um guia básico de nanotecnologia - um conjunto de técnicas para manipular a materia na escala dos átomos e das moléculas (20 páginas).
Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, is rapidly converging with biotech and information technology to radically change food and agricultural systems. Over the next two decades, the impacts of nano-scale convergence on farmers and food will exceed that of farm mechanisation or of the Green Revolution. No government has developed a regulatory regime that addresses the nano-scale or the societal impacts of the invisibly small.
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