OAHU, HAWAI'I — As thousands of government representatives and conservationists convene in Oahu this week for the 2016 World Conservation Congress, international conservation and environmental leaders are raising awareness about the potentially dangerous use of gene drives — a controversial new synthetic biology technology intended to deliberately cause targeted species to become extinct.
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Since August 1st, the news is spreading that Monsanto had to abandon the construction of one of the biggest factories in the world for producing transgenic seed that was to be installed in Córdoba, Argentina, in the municipality of Malvinas Argentinas. From there they had planned to distribute seeds to Latin America and beyond. This is an occurrence of enormous importance, that the company has not wanted to admit publicly, because the reason for their exit is the persistent popular resistance from neighbourhoods, youths and mothers, who have blocked the factory since 2013.
By Silvia Ribeiro*
It is not often that so many prominent scientists reveal their ignorance on a topic in such a short space. This was the case for the public letter that a hundred Nobel laureates published on June 30th defending genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly the so-called “Golden Rice,” and attacking Greenpeace for its critical stance on these crops. The letter is so full of high-sounding adjectives and epithets, false claims and poor arguments that it seems more like a propaganda tirade from transgenic companies than scientists presenting a position.
‘Gene drives’ seem to be the ultimate high-leverage technology. Yesterday’s report from the US National Academies begun the job of describing what is at stake, but it missed some important questions.
Jim Thomas is programme director at the ETC Group
Coming in at over 200 pages, today’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, 'Gene Drives on the Horizon’ is weighty but disappointing. It fails to properly address three of the most pressing issues raised by the controversial new technology of CRISPR-CAS9 gene drives. Dubbed, the ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ by its inventors, RNA-guided gene drives are a high-leverage synthetic biology technology invented only last year.
Synthetic Biology, according to its proponents, is moving at five times the pace of Moore’s law – basically doubling its capabilities and halving its costs every four months. Except that brash billionaire Craig Venter, often dubbed Bioscience’s Bad Boy, is no Gordon Moore. Venter has just announced that his team has produced Synthia 3.0 – the simplest human-made and self-replicating lifeform ever. Synthia 1.0 was announced – after years of delays – in 2010 and its second coming in this new form has been awaited ever since. Synthia 2.0 slipped by without notice – apparently not much to talk about – but this new version is being hailed by at least some synthetic biology scientists as a breakthrough.
La Via Campesina, GRAIN and ETC Group
The data on which is based the declaration of international emergency for the Zika virus are striking for the lack of evidence to motivate such a pompous statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the face of a mild illness, with very little evidence of connection with more serious ailments and without scientific proof.
For a decade, six multinationals have controlled 75% of the world’s high-tech seeds and pesticides businesses. Late last year, Dow and DuPont agreed to merge and now state-owned ChemChina is buying Syngenta for $43 billion. This means that Monsanto needs a merger to stay in the game. Or, is the game about to be called?