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Rio+20: Where's the debate about corporate power?

In the face of the multiple crises of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change plus economic turbulence and injustice, it is strange that there is so little discussion about controlling corporate power and exploitation in the run-up to Rio+20. There are proposals for increasing the participation of women, youth and communities in decision-making. There are calls to reduce land degradation and deforestation, promote sustainable production and consumption, increase energy and resource-use efficiency, and protect ecosystems.

GE Wheat trial by Rothamsted Research

In Conclusion: I have wanted to highlight and list a few points that elucidate the shortcomings of the data provided and the risk assessment carried out and provided. These, in my view, give evidence to the necessity to do further indoor trials, reassess the hypothesis and test for health consequences before any open environmental release should or could take place. It should further be deliberated whether the approach taken to address the aphid problem does not in itself cause new problems.

Biofuels: how many are invasive alien species?

It was interesting to hear from Brazil this evening that the biofuels text was unbalanced and too negative about biofuels and that Jatropha, for example, is good for climate mitigation. It was also instructive to learn that there are no invasive alien species issues around biofuels. Considering that there a lot of scientific evidence points to some biofuels also being invasive species, it really made one wonder if some delegates realise that SBSTTA is actually a scientific body. Just some of the invasive alien species considered for biofuel include perennial grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), miscanthus (Miscanthus spp.), and giant reed (Arundo donax). Then there are trees such from the poplar family (Populus spp.), willows (Salix spp.) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp). In addition we have Jatropha (Jatropha curcas), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), and moringa (Moringa oleifera). This is only a very short extract from a long list. A number of these species have already demonstrated their invasiveness in different regions. Some readily create an invasive monoculture that wipes out biodiversity. Others combine to create alien landscapes that superficially resemble simplified ecosystems.

We also heard from NGO Searice of the Philippines that algae ‘without a name’, destined for biofuel production, were going to be introduced in a marine sanctuary – an area of one million hectares close to the shore, a region regularly visited by dolphins and whales. The fact that these algae were apparently nameless caused Searice to wonder if they were actually a product of synthetic biology. Local communities successfully resisted the project, using the precautionary principle. However, these algae were also destined for release in other areas and we do not know what happened there.

Biodiversity should not be expected to earn its living in the market

On May 2nd 2012 a paper appeared in Nature entitled: A global synthesis reveals biodiversity
loss as a major driver of ecosystem change. It analyses existing data to show that biodiversity loss and extinctions are altering processes fundamental to ecosystem functioning and resilience, with major implications for us all. This is not a new message, but one that has constantly been ignored.

Engineered to fail?

Geoengineering refers to a range of proposed technologies designed to deliberately intervene in and alter earth systems on a large-scale – particularly proposals to technologically manage the climate system as a ‘technofix’ to climate change.
In Oct 2010 the CBD adopted a de facto moratorium on testing and deployment of geoengineering technologies and initiated reports into the governance of geoengineering and potential impacts on biodiversity (decision x/33 paragraphs 8w and 9 l and m).
At SBSTTA 16, Parties will review those studies and make further recommendations for governance of geoengineering. Given the clear conclusions of those studies – that most geoengineering is not governed by other international instruments and also that numerous risks to biodiversity and livelihoods have been identified – this is the moment to reaffirm and strengthen that moratorium and to initiate a geoengineering test ban.

Are we continuing to fuel Biodiversity Loss?

Industrial scale bioenergies, including biofuels are rapidly expanding, creating massive new demand for wood, vegetable oil and agricultural products. Already these demands are inflicting serious and irreversible impacts on forests and other natural ecosystems, soils and water resources. Expansion of industrial monocultures, including tree plantations, to meet this demand occurs at the expense of biodiversity and food production, while also contributing to “land grabs”, undermining the rights of peasant farmers and indigenous peoples, and hampering efforts to achieve food sovereignty and agrarian reform.
The CBD Secretariat's report rightly acknowledges many of these negative impacts. However, in line with COP10 decision X/37, it focuses predominantly on 'tools', i.e. standards and certification, to address the often complex direct and indirect negative impacts, without assessing whether those tools are credible instruments.
Standards and certification schemes per se have not been effective and are no match for countering the drivers of bioenergy expansion: targets, mandates and subsidies, especially in Europe and North America. To effectively address the negative impacts, those incentives need to be eliminated.

Why we should continue to oppose the inclusion of agriculture in the climate negotiations

The World Bank is pushing hard to extend the life of carbon markets. It sees agriculture as an essential part of the strategy. That is just one reason why we should continue to oppose the inclusion of agriculture in the climate negotiations. For those who are accredited to the Climate Convention, the deadline to respond regarding a programme on agriculture is 5th March.
For all of us it's important to understand clearly what is behind all the talk of "climate-smart" agriculture and "sustainable intensification".

Arguments against a proposed programme of work on agriculture under the UNFCCC’s scientific advice committee (SBSTA)

An agriculture work programme may sound attractive to those who are concerned about issues like:

Potential Impacts of Synthetic Biology on the Biodiversity

The new and emerging issue of synthetic biology is relevant to the attainment of the objectives of the CBD, its thematic programmes of work and cross-cutting issues.
We recommend that SBSTTA, in the development of options and advice on the new and emerging issue of synthetic biology for the consideration of COP11, consider the following actions/recommendations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

Synthetic Biology needs urgent attention from the SBSTTA

With Decision IX/29, and in particular in accordance with paragraph 4 of decision X/13, the CBD called for "submissions of information on synthetic biology and geo-engineering, while applying the precautionary approach to the field release of synthetic life, cell or genome into the environment".
We herewith would like to submit our concerns and relevant information to particular aspects of Synthetic Biology, such as DIY Synthetic Biology and Bio-hacking.

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