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The corruption of agricultural science

with pictures from Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil

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Genetic Engineering in Plants and the “New Breeding Techniques (NBTs)”

Over the last 5-10 years there have been rapid developments in genetic engineering techniques (genetic modification). Along with these has come the increasing ability to make deeper and more complex changes in the genetic makeup and metabolic pathways of living organisms. This has led to the emergence of two new fields of genetic engineering that overlap with each other: synthetic biology and the so-called New Breeding Techniques (NBTs).

New breeding techniques

In the interest of protecting the environment and public health, genetically modified crops are subject to risk assessment, an authorisation process and labelling rules under EU law. All non-traditional breeding processes that change the structure of DNA using genetic engineering technologies or interfere with gene regulation fall within the scope of these GM regulations. Some are now calling on the European Commission to exempt new genetic engineering techniques from GM rules. The undersigned groups argue that such an exception could threaten the environment and our health, and would violate EU law.

AGROPOLY - A handful of corporations control world food production

In just 18 pages, Agropoly shows how a handful of companies have come to dominate the agro-industries for:

A Foreseeable Disaster: The European Union’s agroenergy policies and the global land and water grab

Why despite ten years of accumulating evidence on the social and environmental cost of agrofuels, does the European Commission persist with its failed policies? An analysis of the EU's bioeconomy vision, how it is fuelling land grabs in Africa, the agrofuels lobby that drives policy, and the alternative visions for energy that are being ignored.

African Agricultural Growth Corridors and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition: Who benefits, who loses?

This brief report looks at how governments, international finance institutions and global corporations are collaborating in major new projects in Africa (currently in Mozambique and Tanzania) to reorder land and water use and create industrial infrastructure over millions of hectares in order to ensure sustained supplies of commodities and profits for markets. The Corridors concept first emerged at the World Economic Forum and a number of major corporations are involved. African Agricultural Growth Corridors are described as development opportunities, especially for small farmers, but are likely to be most advantageous to corporations and client governments. They have the backing of international institutions including the World Economic Forum, the G8 and G20 groups of the major global economies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank. More recently many of the same players have come together to create the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which promises to reinforce and extend the Corridor concept.

The report is divided into three parts, 1) an introduction to the Corridors and the New Alliance and who is behind them, 2) the corridors themselves, and 3) the potential impacts.

Committee on World Food Security: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition draft report: Biofuels and Food Security

The 2011 Report on Price volatility and food security by the HLPE on Food Security and Nutrition provided well-researched and high-quality evidence about the role of biofuels in recent food price rises and price volatility.

Business and Biodiversity: A Licence to Operate

Business wants access to resources, capital and markets, and a seat at the global policy development table in order ensure it has a licence to operate. At a time of growing concern about pressure on natural resources and the need for sustainability, business also has to talk about biodiversity and sustainable development as a means to secure its business targets. But its motives, influence and outcomes in terms of biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefits need to be assessed. Before COP12, steps should be taken to reduce the direct and indirect influence of business on biodiversity decisions in order to assert the primacy of biodiversity as part of our global commons, to be governed by the CBD, not the corporate sector.
At COP 11, business was omnipresent. There were more than 70 events described as ‘business-related’ around COP11 in Hyderabad. It is worth looking a little more closely at the groupings involved. For example, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), originally commissioned by the G8 +5 was linked to several of them. The TEEB for Business Coalition has powerful founder members including a UK accountancy institute, large conservation organisations and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which was involved in 3 side events. This is a very large group whose emergence dates back to the Earth Summit of 1992. Top business clusters within WBCSD include 23 utilities and power companies, 17 oil and gas, 17 engineering, 17 chemical companies, 13 consumer goods, 13 cement, 12 mining and 11 tyre companies.

Canada in violation of international obligations to the CBD…

While Parties at COP11 were considering Climate-Related Geoengineering (Agenda item 11.2), evidence was provided that Canada had broken the geoengineering moratorium. It had failed to prevent a geoengineering scheme from being carried out in the Pacific ocean, close to the Canadian west coast. The scheme involved dumping around one hundred tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean in July 2012. This created a plankton bloom that spread across some 10,000 square km of ocean. It was so large that it attracted the attention of ocean researchers.
The scheme has also created a media bloom that is spreading around the planet, initiated by the UK Guardian on Monday 15th October 2012. The one place where it does not seem so far to have penetrated is COP11 - and the CBD is where the geoengineering and ocean fertilisation moratoria were born.
There are many facets to this story. It turns out that one of the people behind the scheme is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc. This company formerly sought to carry out commercial dumping projects near the Galapagos and Canary Islands, and got into trouble with the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments, which honoured the moratorium and banned the experiments.
The initiator of the Canadian scheme apparently intended that it should yield lucrative carbon credits, something expressly prohibited under the moratorium (Decision IX/16, Section C, para 4). Indigenous People of the islands of Haida Gwaii were persuaded to set up the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and to channel their own funds into a 'salmon enhancement project', which they were persuaded would revive their salmon catch and enhance the local ocean ecosystem.

Biotech Companies COMPACTing their responsibilties

In May 2008, on the eve of MOP4 in Bonn, six major biotech companies suddenly presented their "Compact" in an effort to undermine the then still ongoing negotiations about Liability and Redress. The Parties decided against it, continued negotiating and finally - at MOP5 in Nagoya - adopted the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress.
Unfortunately that doesn't mean that we have seen the end of the Compact. Four years later and the same six companies (Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Dow Agro Sciences, Syngenta, BASF and Bayer CropScience) together with the Global Industry Coalition (GCI) are still lobbying for it - but now they claim that they never wanted to stand in the way of the Supplementary Protocol, that they just want to provide countries with different options.
The text of the Compact has been amended since its first version, but the basic issues are still the same as they were at their presentations four and two years ago.
Narrow definition of damage
The Compact does not in any way address traditional damage, i.e. damage to property, health and life, other than damage to biological diversity as defined in the Compact. From this, it follows that a major portion of potential damage, such as damage to farmers and their livelihoods and health, will not be covered. (see D. Currie 2010, ECO 34(2)) Only significant damage to biodiversity going to be covered. What does this mean?
The Compact does not cover contamination, nor damages of which the Compact Tribunal assumes that they will heal by themselves; nor possible adverse effects addressed in the official risk assessment of the Competent Authority; nor on species for which solid baseline with all its natural variations has not been established (Compact, Art. 8).

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