viernes, junio 29, 2007

Pg. 74 Vol. 156 No. 1 MARC GUNTHER
Fortune, July 9 2007 [U.S. Edition]



Etiquetas: , ,

Comentario de ETC sobre Synthia

ETC Group
News Release
28 June 2007

Synthia’s last hurdle?

Synthia – the “Original Syn” artificial microbe – may have jumped a hurdle that Dolly – the cloned sheep – never could

Synthia, the (theoretical) human-made synthetic microbe – still barely a twinkle in J. Craig Venter’s eye – may be in search of a surrogate micro-mom sometime very soon. According to a research report released today in Science magazine, Synthia (the subject of a patent application discovered by ETC Group a few weeks ago -see “Goodbye Dolly -- Hello Synthia!”) may have overcome her last hurdle. The report, authored by Craig Venter and his colleagues at Synthetic Genomics Inc., claims to have inserted a foreign bacterial genome into the cell of another bacterial species. Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith who is one of Venter’s co-authors in the research article told a meeting of synthetic biologists in Zürich on Monday that this represents a significant step en route to building a whole new life form. As the article itself concludes, “…we have discovered a form of bacterial DNA transfer that permits … recipient cells to be platforms for the production of new species using modified natural genomes or manmade genomes…” “In the case of Dolly the cloned sheep,” says Jim Thomas of ETC Group, “the job was to insert a single parent’s DNA into an embryonic cell for replication. Venter’s group replaces the host cell’s natural DNA with an entirely foreign species.” “The peas in this pod would not look alike at all,” adds ETC’s Executive Director, Pat Mooney, “it's like pod-outcasting.”

The team of synthetic Genomics scientists inserted the whole genome of Mycoplasma capricolum – a bacterium that often infects goats – into another bacterium showing that it is possible to “boot up” a new species through the cells of another species. “Synthia – the artificial goat bug – may, if it works, surpass Dolly – the lamb clone – with the scientific breakthrough,” says Pat Mooney.

The patent application disclosed at the end of April showed that – at the time of application – no one had created artificial life. But, at the same time, the patent claims that the method it disclosed could make artificial life possible. Today’s article, by some of the same inventors, seems to suggest that the patent may need updating. Presumably, Synthetic Genomics Inc. is submitting a new application for this new approach. “For at least two years now, Craig Venter has been promising the world artificial life in a matter of months,” Thomas notes, “The promises keep coming and the months keep rolling by. Now the research team may have just overcome one of the last hurdles to synthetic life.” Pat Mooney adds, “However, the real hurdle that Synthia and Craig Venter have to overcome is society. Synthetic biology is a form of extreme genetic engineering that has enormous implications for everyone who lives on this planet.”

Despite the delays and the changes, no one attending the Synthetic Biology 3.0 gathering in Zürich this week really doubts the ability of the technology to build unique life forms. “Perhaps the most shocking thing about all this,” concludes Jim Thomas, “is that scientists now treat the construction of artificial life as a ‘given’. Everyone seems to feel it is just a matter of time.” During the Zürich conference earlier this week, Jim Thomas of ETC Group called for scientists to join with civil society and governments in a broad societal discussion over the socio-economic, environmental, health, and ethical implications of the new technology. (For further information about the Zürich meeting, see

ETC Group will be discussing the implications of Synthetic Biology and the potential development of artificial life forms when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s scientific subcommittee meets next week in Paris (July 2 – 6). Climate change is on the UN body’s agenda and Craig Venter is claiming that Synthia could be used to improve agricultural crops as agri-fuels. As the intergovernmental agency responsible for the Cartagena Protocol (the treaty on the transboundary movement of genetically-modified organisms), ETC Group believes that the Convention should study whether entirely artificial life forms (unnatural biodiversity) come under the remit of the protocol and (whether they do or not) what the impact might be on natural biodiversity.
For further information:
Jim Thomas:, tel: +1-514-516-5759
Kathy Jo Wetter:, tel: +1-919-960-5223
Pat Mooney:, tel: +1-613-241-2267
Silvia Ribeiro:, tel: +52-5555-6326-64


jueves, junio 28, 2007

Islands at Risk: Genetic Engineering in Hawaii

A film by Earthjustice, 2006
The film can be viewed in its entirety online at:

To purchase the DVD:

Review by Claire Robinson

In my corner of England, the growing season starts in June and lasts for four short months. It's an achievement if once a week I get enough tiny veg from the garden to make a meal. So when I briefly lived in Hawaii in the early 90s, I felt as if I'd died and woken up in God's garden. My host's home was set in a jungle of coconut, banana, avocado, pineapple, mango and papaya trees. He hadn't planted anything himself, nor did he tend the plants. Nature was in charge. The plants produced so much food that it would fall off the loaded trees every night. In the morning we had to pick it up before the wildlife got to it, and eat it or give it away before it rotted.

As for weeds, I couldn't see anything that I could identify as one. Amongst the cropping trees were huge, extravagantly beautiful flowering and foliage plants. They looked strangely familiar and yet alien. Eventually, I realized that I recognized them from home as garden exotics. But in Hawaii, they grew wild and supersized, and you didn't have to buy, plant, feed, or weed them. Summer lasted all year round, so the plants enjoyed an endless growing season. This was their home, and the Creator had given them everything they needed.

How did a place so blessed by nature find itself targeted, in the chilling words of one activist, as a "national and international sacrifice area for biotech and genetic modification research"? How did its fertile fields get to be occupied by monocultures of experimental plants with Guantanamo-style bags over their heads? Answer: by stealth. A film by the Hawaiian nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, Islands at Risk, features an interview with local hunter and activist Walter Ritte, who says, "We knew nothing about GMO until one day there was a rumour that there were strange things being grown in our cornfields. The whole farming community was changing and we didn't even know." In a process subsidized by US taxpayers and assisted by the state government of Hawaii, the islands' soils have become the open-air laboratories of chemical and biotech giants DuPont, Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, for the testing of GM crops.

The film shows that the entire enterprise has been cloaked in secrecy from the start. Even lawmakers are not allowed to know what is being planted and where. What is known is that on the island of Oahu, over 2000 field tests of GM crops have taken place. These include pharma plants producing AIDS, hepatitis and swine diarrhoea vaccines, and crops producing industrial compounds. And the experimental fields are within spitting distance of residential areas, schools and old people's homes. The industry claims it's safe as there is no rising incidence of disease. But this is exposed in the film as a lie. Lorrin Pang, MD and consultant to the World Health Organization, points out that the ten years since GMOs have been introduced have seen rises in prematurity, cancers, attention deficit disorder, and adult onset diabetes in children. Pang adds that no one can draw any conclusions as to the cause, as GMOs in food are not labeled.

If you think such criminal disregard for people's health and well-being should be against the law, well, it is. Earthjustice has had some success fighting the industry and government's GM contamination plans in court. In 2003, a biotech company wanted to produce GM drug-producing algae off the pristine Kona coast. The drug that was to be made in the algae had never been assessed for its impact on human health. Earthjustice took the State Board of Agriculture to court to enforce environmental laws relating to pharma crops. After two and a half years of costly litigation, the judge ruled in Earthjustice's favour and said the state has to conduct a study assessing impacts of such crops on the environment before allowing companies to produce them.

As a telling postscript, the film points out that a few months after the court judgment, a GM drug made from a product similar to the one proposed for testing in Kona was given to six healthy men in a human trial in London. All six were rushed into intensive care with multiple organ failure and continue to suffer severe ill effects.

You won't find anyone from industry or government talking about such disasters in Hawaii, however, where hype has replaced fact. Biotech promoters claim that GM virus-resistant papaya saved the papaya industry, whereas organic farmer Melanie Bondera points out that according to the figures, the opposite is true. Since GM papayas were introduced in Hawaii, 60% of the Hawaiian market (mainly Japan) has been lost due to consumer rejection of GMOs, and the small farmers have gone out of business. It's doubtful whether Hawaii's papaya industry can ever recover. Fifty per cent of the papayas never intended to be GM are now GM-contaminated, as is the seed source at the University of Hawaii.

The gene-bashers didn't have such an easy ride when they tried to "save" a Hawaiian sacred food plant, the taro. Hawaiians have been growing taro for over a thousand years, and there are hundreds of varieties adapted to different conditions. Plant experts knew which one to plant where. So when the University of Hawaii announced that it was going to "save" the taro by genetically engineering disease resistance into it, Hawaiians were not convinced. As Jerry Kananui of the Hawaii Island Taro Group says on the film, "It hurts me when I hear they're going to save the Hawaiian varieties of taro. Because they don't need to be saved. They're here." To add insult to injury, Hawaiians found out that the university had already patented the taro. Fury erupted. There's a traditional Hawaiian belief that the taro is the first-born, the body form of the god Kane, the giver of life. It's more important than man. Man's job is to ensure that the taro survives forever, because the taro's job is to feed man. So people got hold of copies of the patents and publicly tore them up, telling the university, "You cannot own our ancestors." The university backed down and gave up the patents.

As one of the farmers interviewed on the film points out, Hawaii is more than capable of supporting itself by selling its abundant non-GM crops: pineapples, flowers, bananas, organic crops. But there's no government support for such agriculture. The federal US government and the state of Hawaii prefer crops with bags over their heads, lethal algae, and papaya that no one wants. The Hawaiian GM experiment has been a recipe not for development but economic decline.


Playing God

Scientists are on the brink of creating the world’s first artificial life form – a living organism never before found in nature. They promise solutions to everything from malaria to climate change. Salvation? Or a step too far? By Hope Shand, Jim Thomas and Kathy Jo Wetter
Author:Hope Shand, Jim Thomas and Kathy Jo Wetter

Transgenics, the kind of engineering you find in genetically modified crops, is suddenly so last-century. As recombinant DNAsplicing techniques pass the 30-year mark, researchers are moving at breakneck pace to the next frontier in the manipulation of life: building it from scratch. Its called synthetic biology, and its poised to revolutionise our life sciences.

Under the paradigm of transgenics, genetic engineering was a cut-and-paste affair. Biotechnologists manually shuffled pieces of DNA the self-assembling molecule that instructs living organisms how to carry out every biological process between existing species. Over much of the past 20 years, genetic technology has focused on deciphering DNA code the sequence of base pairs that make up DNA's double helix in order to identify genes and understand their role in plant and animal life. As a result of this race to read and map genomes, it is now possible to decode, or sequence tens of thousands of base pairs per minute, and to do it relatively cheaply.

Synthetic biology represents a seismic shift in this landscape. Attention is being switched from reading to writing genetic code, with synthetic biologists beginning to scorn nature's designs in favour of made-to-order life forms. At the core of synthetic biology is a belief that life's components can be made synthetically (that is, by chemistry), engineered and assembled to produce working organisms.

Born in the dot-com communities of Boston and northern California, much of the vision of synthetic biology is articulated via computing metaphors. Using concepts borrowed from electronics and computing, synthetic biologists are building simplified versions of bacteria, re-programming DNA and assembling new genetic systems. DNA code is now regarded as the software that instructs life, while the cell membrane and all the biological functions within the cell are seen as the hardware that must be snapped together to make a living organism. Using gene synthesisers, they write the text of DNA code one letter at a time sometimes inventing their own alphabet to come up with new genetic networks bundled together in an artificial chassis a living, self-replicating organism made from scratch. The world's first synthetic biology conference, Synthetic Biology 1.0, convened in June 2004 at the University of California at Berkeley. Two months later, Berkeley announced it was establishing the world's first synthetic biology department. In 2005, three synthetic biology start-ups attracted more than US$43 million in venture capital, and in late 2006 there was talk of establishing an industry trade group for gene synthesisers. While most of the formal activity self-identified as synthetic biology has taken place on US soil, such extreme genetic engineering is happening all around the world. 2007's conference (SynBio3.0) will be held in Zrich, hosted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).

Millions of dollars of government and corporate funding are already flowing into synthetic biology labs. Venture capital and government funding have nurtured the field and the first pure-play synbio companies are now open for business. They hold growing patent portfolios and foresee industrial products in fields as diverse as energy production, climate change remediation, toxic cleanup, textiles and pharmaceuticals. Indeed, synthetic biology's first commercial products may be only a few years from market.



miércoles, junio 27, 2007

Por una moratoria a los agrocombustibles


For immediate release – 26th June 2007

Joint Press Release by EcoNexus, Biofuelwatch, Corporate Europe Observatory

Groups from around the world call for a moratorium on EU incentives for biofuels from large-scale monocultures

On 27th June 2007 more than 30 groups from around the world will launch the call for a Moratorium to stop the EU rush for biofuels, which they prefer to call agrofuels: liquid fuels made from biomass which consists of crops and trees grown specifically for that purpose on a large scale. They warn that agrofuel production for EU markets will accelerate climate change, destroy biodiversity and uproot local communities. Organisations will be visiting Brussels on 26 and 27 June to inform the European Parliament about their concerns about the impact of agrofuels on local communities, biodiversity and climate. They are sceptical about the capacity of certification projects currently being drafted in the EU to prevent any of this damage.

In March 2007, EU Heads of States decided in favour of a 10% agrofuel target by 2020. The European Commission have made it clear that they expect a large proportion of those agrofuels to come from palm oil, soya and sugar cane from the global South. Producing the full amount in Europe would require up to 50% of EU farm land. The current EU target of 5.75% by 2010 has already stimulated large-scale monoculture expansion and caused damage to tropical and sub-tropical forests, grasslands, the peatlands of South-east Asia, and to large numbers of communities. The 10% target is creating a further impetus for big projects for infrastructure and production in the global South, where most of the crops to produce agrofuels would have to be planted. Indonesia alone is planning 20 million more hectares of oil palm plantations in order to meet future agrofuel demand ( Much of this expansion is expected to happen at the expense of community lands, peatlands and forests.

Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory states: “The Heads of States made it clear that sustainable sourcing of agrofuels should be a precondition for targets. There are no proposals at all which would guarantee sustainability. The European Commission have suggested ‘standards’ which would allow biofuels from plantations from which communities have been forcibly evicted to be classed as ‘sustainable’, and they will not address large-scale rainforest destruction from the displacement of other types of agriculture by monoculture plantations. In the absence of any guarantees of sustainable sourcing we need a moratorium on agrofuel support, incentives and imports”.

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch adds: “Far from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Europe’s biofuel policy threatens to accelerate global warming by destroying tropical and sub-tropical forests and peatlands, which are amongst the world’s most important carbon sinks. Even in Europe, large amounts of nitrous oxide is released as more fertilisers are being used to grow agrofuels, and our biodiversity suffers as set-asides are to be abolished. Europe’s car industry has used biofuels as a means of avoiding strict fuel efficiency standards which are essential for reducing carbon emissions. If we want to have any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change then we need drastic cuts in fuel use in Europe – not grain and oil crops grown in vast monocultures for European cars”.

Press Conference details:

Press conference Wednesday 27th June at 9.30am at the Quaker Council for European Affairs, Square Ambiorix 50 - B-1000 Brussels, Tel : 02 230 49 35. Speakers from around the world will describe the impact of agrofuels in their regions. They include representatives from World Rainforest Movement. A speaker from Global Justice Ecology Project will talk about agrofuels in the United States.


Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, 0044 -1224 324797 (mornings and evenings) or 0044 – 1224-553195 (afternoons)

Deepak Rughani, Biofuelwatch, 0044-7931-636337 (any time)

Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, 0031-630285042 (any time)


1. The moratorium document may be found at Signatories to date include key groups from around the world such as GRAIN, Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific and The Rural Reflection Group, Argentina, plus European Groups such as Corner House, FERN and Rettet den Regenwald, This document is now being released worldwide for more signatures.

2. Expansion of agrofuel monocultures is already causing forest destruction in many countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The fast growing demand for agrofuels is driving up world market prices for crops such as palm oil, soya, sugar cane, maize and jatropha and rising prices give companies an incentive to expand plantations. Further deforestation could bring the Amazon rainforest to the point of collapse, with grave implications for the region and for global climate stability and rainfall. As Peter Bunyard writes:

“In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly clear that we perturb climate, not simply because of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning, but also because ecosystems such as those of the Amazon Basin play a massive role in the transport of energy from the equator to the more temperate regions of the planet. Our climate system, with its particular prevailing weather patterns, needs those energy transfers.Consequently, we must do all in our power to prevent agro-industrial enterprises … from destroying anymore of the Amazonian tropical rainforests.”

Peter Bunyard. 2007. Climate and the Amazon. In: Surviving the Century: Facing Climate Chaos and Other Global Challenges edited by Herbie Girardet, Earthscan

3. Monoculture plantations, including for agrofuels, cause people to be driven off their land, as this declaration from Paraguay confirms:

“...the expansion of monocultural “green deserts”, such as large scale soy production, non-native grasses and exotic trees, promotes and increases a mechanized agriculture without small farmers; without people. All monocultures are damaging to the ecosystems they supplant; they cause poverty, unemployment and the eviction and exodus of communities in rural areas. They destroy biological and agricultural diversity, poison water sources and the soil and undermine the food security and sovereignty of the people and their countries.”

The Development Model for Soy in Paraguay- Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Anti-Democratic, Asuncion, August 2006,

4. The impact of oil palm monocultures on local communities is already serious:

“It’s as if we were ghosts on our own land. We have been so pierced through by the spines of the oil palm that we are almost dead, left haunting what was once our own land. We don’t usually say this, but this is how it is really. We need to make our case ourselves and explain how the oil palm is hurting us.”

Workshop participant RSPO Smallholder Taskforce, Bodok, Sanggau, West Kalimantan, 7 June 2006”Ghosts on Our Own Land” by Forest Peoples Programme and Sawit Watch,

5. Twenty-nine South African organisations responded to their government’s Draft Biofuels Industrial Strategy by saying:

“…deals have already been struck for large- scale plants to export Biofuels to the European Union. In the process rural farming communities are coerced into signing over their land for a pittance for industrial plantations of canola, maize and soya.”

Rural communities express dismay – “land grabs” fuelled by Biofuels Strategy, March 2007, signed by 29 South African organizations, see


Vida artificial


Descargue aquí PDF Descargue aquí PDF (81 KB) - aprox. 14 segundos con un modem de 56K

En Zurich la sociedad civil demanda control urgente sobre la creación de organismos sintéticos

Grupo ETC
Boletín de prensa
26 de junio de 2007

Científicos e industriales en el controvertido nuevo campo de la biología sintética (la construcción de formas de vida desde cero) se reúnen esta semana en Zurich, Suiza, con la expectativa de que el primer ser vivo totalmente construido por seres humanos está prácticamente a unas semanas de su creación. Grupos de Suiza y de la sociedad civil internacional demandan que se controle esta tecnología, pero los científicos intentan evadir la regulación adelantándose con propuestas para evadirla. Mientras los científicos se reúnen en Zurich, la Royal Society del Reino Unido y el gobierno Suizo anuncian planes para investigar la biología sintética.

Biología Sintética 3.0

“Biología Sintética 3.0” es el nombre del congreso científico internacional, con sede en Zurich, que se celebra del 24 al 27 de junio para discutir los recientes avances en la biología sintética, el nuevo campo de ingeniería genética extrema que intenta construir formas de vida sintéticas (mediante química) y ensamblarlas en el laboratorio para producir “máquinas vivas” -organismos totalmente programados para desempeñar tareas particulares. Algunos de estos organismos son diseñados para liberarse al ambiente. Actualmente existen una docena de empresas de biología sintética en todo el mundo además de 70 “acuñadoras de genes” que manufacturan moléculas de ADN para uso industrial. Los primeros productos comerciales derivados de la biología sintética (como una fibra textil de DuPont) están punto de entrar en el mercado y hay preocupación de que patógenos peligrosos, como el virus de la viruela o el Ébola puedan construirse en los laboratorios y usarse como armas biológicas. Puesto que la biología sintética va mucho más allá de las técnicas de ingeniería genética usadas anteriormente para producir alimentos y fármacos transgénicos, no existen leyes que se ocupen de la seguridad contra armas biológicas, ni la inocuidad para la salud humana de estos organismos o sus riesgos sociales.

“Una vez más una nueva tecnología avanza amenazante sin que ningún gobierno u organismo internacional sea capaz de regularlo o controlarlo”, dice la bióloga Florianne Koechlin de SAG (el grupo suizo que trabaja en tecnología de genes). “Una vez más escuchamos de la comunidad científica, con el apoyo de la industria y las fuerzas armadas, que tienen la vida bajo control y que pronto podrán construirla desde cero. Pero la vida es más que la suma de sus partes.” Koechlin es miembro de un organismo de ética, conformado por el gobierno de Suiza, que investigará las implicaciones de la biología sintética en este 2007.

¿Quién es dueño de Biología Sintética 3.0?

La tarea de crear nueva legislación se volvió más urgente a principios de este mes, cuando el Grupo ETC, una organización de la sociedad civil internacional, descubrió la primera solicitud de patente sobre una forma de vida artificial producida mediante biología sintética. La solicitud de patente no. 20070122826, titulada “Genoma bacteriano mínimo” reclama derechos monopólicos sobre un “organismo vivo que puede crecer y reproducirse” cuyo genoma (su información genética completa) se construyó totalmente en laboratorio. Craig Venter, cuyo instituto científico tramitó la solicitud de patente, dijo a Business Week que su equipo se encuentra a semanas o meses de producir dicho organismo, nombrado Micoplasma laboratorium (que el Grupo ETC apodó 'Syntia'). (1) Si lo logran, marcarán un parteaguas en la evolución como la hemos conocido.

Craig Venter mismo tiene una larga historia de mezclar ciencia de vanguardia con explotación comercial. Él encabezó la parte privada del proyecto de secuenciamiento del genoma humano, vendiendo información genética humana a cuanta compañía farmacéutica se le atravesaba. Una vez más ha anunciado que espera hacer mucho dinero con esta nueva ciencia, alardeando que su nueva creación sintética sería el primer organismo de un billón de dólares.(2) Apenas la semana pasada firmó un acuerdo de inversión con la empresa petrolera British Petroleum, que elevó el valor de su nueva empresa, Synthetic Genomics Inc., a 300 millones de dólares.(3) Los críticos de la sociedad civil tienen la preocupación de que con las patentes de amplio espectro, Venter logre una posición monopólica como el 'Microbiosoft' de la biología sintética.

“En el último año, quienes hacen biología sintética se han ido a la cama con las grandes empresas”, explica Jim Thomas del Grupo ETC. “Con British Petroleum, Cargill y DuPont apostándole a la biología sintética, la agenda corporativa está comenzando a tomar las riendas de esta poderosa tecnología. La sociedad debe preocuparse por cuáles intereses serán ignorados o aplastados.”

Biología Sintética 3.Oh no, aquí vamos de nuevo…

Hace un año (durante la reunión de Biología Sintética 2.0 en Berkeley, California), los científicos intentaron imponer un plan para auto regular sus actividades, lo que fue visto por los críticos como una maniobra para eludir legislaciones futuras. Suspendieron sus planes calladamente después de que 38 organizaciones de la sociedad civil firmaron una carta abierta llamando a los científicos a abandonar el esquema y trabajar en un diálogo más incluyente con la sociedad. Tal diálogo no se vislumbra todavía. Este año las mismas propuestas se presentaron con nuevo envoltorio en el número de junio de Nature Biotechology.(4) La propuesta de autogobierno reciclada, hecha por miembros de un nuevo grupo comercial, , The International Consortium for Polynucleotide Synthesis, junto con científicos-empresarios y empleados del FBI (Buró Federal de Investigación de Estados Unidos), se enfoca exclusivamente en las cuestiones de armamento biológico. Presenta una estructura en la que la industria pone las mejores prácticas y el software de identificación de ADN sintético que pudiera ser atractivo pata los bioterroristas. Además, los autores recomiendan que todos los compradores de ADN sintético revelen su nombre, la institución a la que sirven y brinden cualquier información de bioseguridad relacionada con las secuencias que están ordenando.

Los autores se sienten satisfechos de que este esquema y considran que será suficiente para cumplir con las leyes existentes sobre seguridad biológica. Los críticos no están convencidos.

“De los catorce autores del esquema propuesto, solamente cuatro [que son empleados del FBI] declararon que había intereses financieros que competían con la propuesta. Pensamos que las inversiones de los propios autores en el éxito de la tecnología no ayuda a su capacidad de autocrítica, sino que la anula,” argumenta Kathy Jo Wetter del Grupo ETC. “Ya es lo suficientemente negativo que esta nueva industria reclame propiedad exclusiva sobre formas de vida artificiales; no debe permitírseles que hagan sus propias regulaciones, artificiales también.”

Para mayor información

Jim Thomas, ETC Group
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group
Pat Mooney, ETC Group tel: +1 613 241-2267
Hope Shand, ETC Group tel: +1 919 960-5767
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group tel: +52 5555 6326 64
Florianne Koechlin, SAG
tel: +41 79 6530274

Reporte del Grupo ETC: Ingeniería genética extrema: una introducción a la biología sintética, enero de 2007

Boletín de prensa y documento de contexto del Grupo ETC, “Los microbios salen de la caja de Pandora”, 7 de junio de 2007
“Solicitud de patente del Instituto Venter sobre la primera especie del mundo sintetizada totalmente en laboratorio”

Boletín de prensa del Grupo ETC y documento de contexto:
“Alarma sobre biología sintética: coalición global demanda debate público y supervisión inmediata”


1. John Carey, “On the Brink of Artificial Life, Business Week, 25 de junio de 2007
2. Barrett Sheridan, “Making It Happen,” Newsweek International, 4 de junio de 2007
3. Michael Kanellos, “Oil giant BP invests in microbe specialist,” CNET 14 de junio de 2007; Matt Marshall, “Synthetic Genomics searches for alternative fuels, valued at $200M,” VentureBeat, 18 de junio de 2007
4. Hans Bügl et al., “DNA synthesis and biological security,” Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 25, No. 6, junio de 2007, pp. 627-629.


A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton in Global South

Film review for GM Watch
Reviewer: Claire Robinson

The biotech industry has hyped its GM Bt cotton as a saviour of the developing world. But the experiences of farmers who have grown the crop suggest otherwise. A group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust traveled to Mali, South Africa and Indonesia to document farmers' experiences of Bt cotton.

In Makhatini, South Africa, often cited as the showcase Bt cotton project for small farmers, 100,000 hectares were planted with Bt cotton at the start of the project in 1998. By 2002, that had crashed to 22,500 hectares, an 80% reduction in 4 years. By 2004, 85% of farmers who used to grow Bt cotton had given up. The farmers found pest problems and no increase in yield. Those farmers who still grow the crop do so at a loss, continuing only because the South African government subsidizes the project and there's a guaranteed market for the cotton. The only farmer who defends Bt cotton in the film is T J Buthelezi, who has long touted GM crops around the globe courtesy of Monsanto. Apparently, though, Monsanto forgot to include Mrs Buthelezi on its hospitality programme. She states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr. Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options.

In Mali, USAID is pushing for the introduction of Bt cotton. But Malian cotton farmers have produced huge increases in yield without using GM crops. And at the conclusion of a citizens' jury in which Malian farmers heard evidence from pro- and anti-GM sources, the farmers unanimously sent their government the stern message that they do not want GMOs.

Bt cotton seeds were introduced into Indonesia with the army riding shotgun and Monsanto giving massive bribes to officials to bypass environmental restrictions. But no amount of heavy-handed force will make a dud crop flourish, and problems with pests, poor yields, and high seed costs so angered farmers that they burned the Bt cotton fields. Monsanto fled.

In the light of such repeated failure in the developing world, it's obvious why the biotech industry is now focusing on India. Unbelievably, the Indian government has continued to welcome Bt cotton despite the thousands of farmers who have committed suicide after their Bt cotton crops have failed. This situation is exacerbated not just by corrupt politicians and a coterie of industry-friendly regulators but by a largely uncritical media happy to soak up industry spin. This award-winning film provides a welcome antidote to the hype of corporations and the willful blindness of governments and the media.


A film by Community Media Trust, Pastapur, and Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, India Published February 2007

Price: GBP10.00 UK / $18.00 US

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martes, junio 26, 2007

Monsanto nailed in South Africa

Posted: 2007/06/25
From: Source

mathaba -

Monsanto forced to withdraw ad

Biotech crops giant Monsanto has been ordered to withdraw an advertising claim that no negative reactions have ever been reported to genetically modified foods.

The Advertising Standards Authority made the ruling this week in response to a consumer complaint lodged against a Monsanto South Africa print ad referring to GM grain products.

The ASA added however that it would reconsider its ruling if Monsanto came up with substantiation of its claim.

The ad, which ran in the February edition of You magazine, carried the heading: "Is your food SAFE?" and contained an image of a woman with two children in a kitchen looking at a cake.

Below the sub-heading: "Biotechnology - the true facts" it said: "This is one of the most extensively tested and controlled types of food, and no negative reactions have ever been reported."

The ASA said the complainant, a Mark Lewis, said the "no negative reactions" claim was false, and cited a scientific study on "the dangerous effects of these products".

Monsanto had said in response that all biotech crops approved for commercialisation world-wide had been thoroughly assessed for safety according to international guidelines.

They had been found to be as wholesome, nutritious and safe as conventional crops, Monsanto said.

The ASA said, however, that the onus was on Monsanto to provide independent verification of the "no negative reactions" claim.

Though Monsanto had provided numerous studies contradicting claims that GM foods were unsafe, they made no reference to the "no negative reactions" claim in the ad.

The claim was therefore "currently unsubstantiated", the ASA said, and had to be withdrawn immediately.

The claim could not be used again in its current format until substantiation had been submitted, evaluated, and a new ruling made. - Sapa


lunes, junio 25, 2007

Terminator parte dos

25 de junio de 2007

Secuela a la historia de las semillas suicidas:
Proyecto Transcontainer de la Unión Europea
Terminator se transforma en Zombie

El Grupo ETC publica su nuevo Communiqué "Terminator: la secuela", que informa sobre nuevas investigaciones con semillas suicidas

Ya está disponible en español el reporte del Grupo ETC sobre un nuevo cultivo transgénico que las empresas promoverán como solución al flujo no intencionado de transgenes desde cultivos genéticamente modificados, farmacultivos y árboles transgénicos (Communiqué núm. 95). Si estas tecnologías se comercializan, la industria multinacional de semillas aumentará su control sobre las semillas y podrá restringir aún más los derechos de los agricultores.

El Communiqué, de 28 páginas, examina el Proyecto Transcontainer de la Unión Europea, que desarrolla cultivos y árboles transgénicos para Europa que pueden ser "biológicamente contenidos" mediante "esterilidad transgénica reversible." Este proyecto de tres años promueve la idea de la coexistencia entre transgénicos y no transgénicos y busca abiertamente la aceptación del público a los cultivos genéticamente modificados. Ver:

"Siempre hemos sabido que la tecnología Terminator es demasiado lucrativa como para que la industria la abandonara", dijo Hope Shand del Grupo ETC, "pero es vergonzoso que la Unión Europea esté usando dinero del público para desarrollar esterilidad genética de semillas." El proyecto Transcontainer contradice la actitud del Parlamento Europeo que se manifestó contra Terminator el año pasado." El Parlamento Europeo pasó una resolución en marzo del 2006 en la que urgía a los delegados de Europa al Convenio de Diversidad Biológica en Curitiba, Brasil, a que mantuvieran la moratoria de facto sobre Terminator.

En la reunión de Curitiba los gobiernos fortalecieron unánimemente la moratoria, que recomienda no realizar pruebas de campo ni comercialización de semillas modificadas genéticamente para producir semillas estériles en la cosecha. En Naciones Unidas se usa el término TRUG (Tecnologías de Restricción del Uso Genético) para referirse a Terminator.

Los defensores del proyecto Transcontainer argumentan que su objetivo no es restringir el uso de las semillas, sino contener los transgenes, y que la tecnología que están desarrollando es diferente de Terminator porque la esterilidad de las semillas será "reversible", y la fertilidad podrá recuperarse con la aplicación de un químico. Hope Shand explica: "se abre un escenario en el que los agricultores tendrán que pagar por un químico que restaure la viabilidad de la semillas, creando un monopolio perpetuo de la industria sobre las semillas. Incluso si esas "semillas Zombie" no son diseñadas con la intención de restringir el uso de la semilla, la realidad es que los agricultores terminarán pagando por el "privilegio" de restaurar la fertilidad de sus semillas cada ciclo. Las semillas Zombie no son más aceptables que las semillas suicidas. Una forma segura y aceptable de Terminator simplemente no puede existir", agrega Shand.

El reporte del Grupo ETC también analiza la nueva investigación sobre tecnología de extirpación genética (métodos moleculares para borrar transgenes en un momento del desarrollo de la planta). También llamada "Exorcista" por el Grupo ETC, la tecnología es una estrategia para biocontención y para restringir el acceso al germoplasma patentado.

En teoría, la extirpación de ADN puede diseñarse para ocurrir en cualquier momento en el desarrollo de la planta -antes de que el cultivo transgénico produzca flores y polen, por ejemplo, o antes de que se convierta en alimento. El proceso de extirpación puede detonarse mediante un factor externo o un estímulo químico, o la extirpación puede diseñarse para ocurrir automáticamente en un momento particular de la vida de la planta. Kathy Jo Wetter, también del Grupo ETC, explica: "en su estado actual, Exorcista dista mucho de ser una estrategia segura de biocontención -no funcionará el 100% del tiempo- pero incluso si el Exorcista no contiene totalmente el flujo de transgenes, puede servir como método biológico para reforzar las patentes al restringir el acceso a los caracteres patentados."

Finalmente, el Communiqué del Grupo ETC examina los métodos "extremos" de biocontención, que incluyen "genes con letalidad condicional" capaces de matar toda la planta con su ADN transgénico, en el evento de que otras estrategias de contención fallen. La idea es que un cultivo "que se desconecta" se muere en cuanto se activa el gen letal con la aplicación de un químico externo, por ejemplo, llevándose al rasgo transgénico consigo. Si el gen letal no se activa, la planta vive y puede heredar sus transgenes a la próxima generación. Se presume que tales plantas se están desarrollando como estrategia de respaldo de última instancia, para la contención biológica.

"También hay una posibilidad más siniestra", dice Silvia Ribeiro de ETC: " que las empresas 'desconecten' los cultivos que piensen que carecen los acuerdos de licencia apropiados. Ya hemos visto compañías biotecnológicas que acuden a tácticas muy sucias para perseguir a los agricultores sospechosos de infringir sus patentes. Ahora las empresas podrían activar el gen letal o simplemente aplicar el detonador químico para tener la confirmación positiva o negativa de que su patente ha sido infringida."

Ribeiro concluye: "Las semillas Zombie, Exorcista y los cultivos con letalidad condicional son todas estrategias imperfectas que no evitarán el flujo de transgenes desde los cultivos genéticamente modificados. Pero si convencen a los gobiernos de que la contención biológica de transgénicos es posible usando una de esas técnicas o una combinación de ellas, abrirán de par en par las puertas a nuevos mercados de cultivos biotecnológicos, particularmente cultivos y árboles transgénicos. El resultado será que las compañías multinacionales serán fuertemente subsidiadas y aumentará enormemente el riesgo de contaminación transgénica."

En la reunión del Segundo Foro Europeo sobre Desarrollo Sostenible en Berlín (junio 18 al 21) organizaciones de la sociedad civil exigieron a la Comisión Europea que detuviera el financiamiento para la investigación de semillas Zombie, particularmente por sus peligrosas implicaciones para 1, 400 millones de personas que dependen de las semillas conservadas de la cosecha.

El Communiqué del Grupo ETC termina con recomendaciones relacionadas al "uso doble" de las TRUGs -las nuevas técnicas de modificación genética diseñadas para contener transgenes y restringir el acceso al germoplasma patentado. El órgano de asesoramiento científico del CDB (OSACTT) se reunirá en París, Francia, del 2 al 6 de julio de 2007, y debe recomendar que los gobiernos reunidos en la 9ª Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio de Diversidad Biológica (Bonn, Alemania, mayo 19-30 de 2008) fortalezcan la moratoria de Naciones Unidas sobre Terminator y prohíban totalmente esa tecnología.

El texto completo de "Terminator, la secuela" puede descargarse sin costo en


Genomas de Zurich

ETC Group

News Release

25 June 2007

The G(e)nomes of Zurich: Civil Society Calls for Urgent Controls on Synthetic Life

Follow Syn Bio meeting on ETC Group's blog:
Scientists and industrialists in the controversial new field of synthetic biology (building life-forms from scratch) are meeting in Zurich, Switzerland this week amidst claims that the world's first entirely human-made organism may be only weeks away from creation. Swiss and international civil society groups are calling for swift action to control this technology but the scientists themselves are advancing pre-emptive proposals to evade regulation. As scientists meet in Zurich, the UK's Royal Society and the Swiss government announce plans to investigate synthetic biology.

Synthetic Biology 3.0

An international scientific congress, Synthetic Biology 3.0, is meeting in Zurich from 24-27 June to discuss the latest advances in Synthetic Biology – the new field of extreme genetic engineering that attempts to build synthetic life forms. Synthetic biologists contend that all the parts of life can be made synthetically (that is, by chemistry) and then engineered together in the laboratory to produce a "living machine" “ fully working organisms programmed for particular tasks. Some are being designed for intentional environmental release. Today there are about a dozen synthetic biology companies worldwide plus almost 70 commercial "gene foundries" that manufacture designer DNA molecules for industrial use. The first commercial products using synthetic biology (e.g., a textile fiber by DuPont) are about to enter the market and there are concerns that dangerous pathogens, such as smallpox or Ebola virus, could now be constructed as bioweapons. Because synthetic biology goes far beyond the genetic engineering techniques previously used to develop genetically modified food and drugs, no laws have yet been developed that address its safety, security and societal risks.
"Once more a new technology is storming ahead with no government or international body able to regulate or control it," says biologist Florianne Koechlin from SAG (the Swiss Working Group on Gene Technology). "Once more we hear from the scientific community, supported by industry and the military, that they have life under control and will soon be able to construct it. But life is more than the sum of its parts." Koechlin is a member of the Swiss government-appointed ethics body that will investigate the implications of synthetic biology later this year.
Synthetic Biology 3.Ownership?

The task of framing new laws became more urgent earlier this month when ETC Group, an international civil society organisation, uncovered the first-ever patent application on a fully synthetic life form produced via synthetic biology. US patent application no. 20070122826, entitled " Minimal bacterial genome," claims monopoly ownership of a "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" whose genome (full genetic information) has been built entirely through mechanical means. Craig Venter, whose scientific institute filed the patent application, has since told Business Week that his team is only weeks or months away from having built such a synthetic organism, dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium (nicknamed "Synthia" by ETC Group).[i] If they succeed it will mark a break with evolution as we know it.
Craig Venter himself has a long history of mixing cutting-edge science with commercial exploitation. He led the private part of the human genome-sequencing project, selling human genetic data to pharmaceutical companies as he went. Once again he has announced that he hopes to cash in on a new science, boasting that his new synthetic creation could be the first trillion-dollar organism.[ii] Just last week he inked an investment deal with oil company BP that brought the commercial value of his start-up company, Synthetic Genomics, Inc., to US$300 million.[iii] Civil society critics are concerned that, using broad patents, Venter may carve out a monopoly position as the "Microbesoft" of synthetic biology.
"In the last year synthetic biologists have really climbed into bed with big business," explains Jim Thomas of the ETC Group. "With BP, Cargill and DuPont setting their sights on synbio, the corporate agenda is starting to drive this powerful technology. Society should be concerned about whose interests will get ignored or even trampled on."
Synthetic biology 3.oh no here we go again...

A year ago (at Synthetic Biology 2.0 in Berkeley, California) scientists attempted to advance a plan for self-governance of the field, seen by critics as a ruse to head off future regulation. Those plans were quietly dropped after 38 civil society organisations signed an open letter calling on the scientists to abandon the scheme and pursue a wider, more inclusive dialogue with society. No such dialogue has been forthcoming. This year the same proposals have largely been repackaged, and published in the June issue of Nature Biotechnology.[iv] The recycled governance proposal, authored by members of a new trade body, The International Consortium for Polynucleotide Synthesis, along with scientist-entrepreneurs and employees of the US FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), focuses exclusively on biowarfare concerns. It presents a framework where the industry body shares best practices and screening software to identify synthetic DNA that could be of interest to bioterrorists. In addition, the authors recommend a requirement that all buyers of synthesized DNA reveal their name, home institution and offer any biosafety information relevant to the sequences they are ordering. The authors feel satisfied that this 'path forward' is sufficient to top-up existing biosafety laws. Critics disagree.
"Of the proposed framework's fourteen authors, all but four [who are FBI employees] declared competing financial interests. We believe the authors' own investment in the success of the technology cannot help but overwhelm their capacity for self-criticism," argues Kathy Jo Wetter of ETC Group. "It is bad enough that this new industry is already claiming exclusive ownership on artificial life forms; they should not be allowed to make up artificial governance frameworks, too."
For more information:
Jim Thomas, ETC Group jim@etcgroup.orgÂ
available in Zurich on +1 514 5165759 (mobile)
Kathy Jo Wetter, ETC Group
Pat Mooney, ETC Group tel: +1 613 241-2267
Hope Shand, ETC Group tel: +1 919 960-5767
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group tel: +52 5555 6326 64
Florianne Koechlin, SAG
tel: +41 79 6530274

ETC Group report, Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology, 16 January 2007
ETC Group news release, "Patenting Pandora's Bug: Goodbye, Dolly...Hello, Synthia! J. Craig Venter Institute Seeks Monopoly Patents on the World's First-Ever Human-Made Life Form", 7 June 2007
ETC News Release, "Global Coalition Sounds the Alarm on Synthetic Biology, Demands Oversight and Societal Debate,” and text of Civil Society Open Letter to Synthetic Biologists, 19 May 2006

[i] John Carey, "On the Brink of Artificial Life" , Business Week, 25 June 2007
[ii] Barrett Sheridan, "Making It Happen," Newsweek International, 4 June 2007
[iii] Michael Kanellos, "Oil giant BP invests in microbe specialist," CNET 14 June 2007; Matt Marshall, "Synthetic Genomics searches for alternative fuels, valued at $200M," VentureBeat, 18 June 2007
[iv] Hans Bügl et al., "DNA synthesis and biological security," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 25, No. 6, June 2007, pp. 627-629.


¿El agronegocio gobierna?

Novedades de GRAIN
Junio 2007


Desde la sociedad civil permanentemente sostenemos una fuerte oposición
al rol que han asumido las grandes corporaciones transnacionales: el poder
de controlar y determinar las políticas públicas en los que países en
que operan de manera de ver favorecidos sus negocios y sus operaciones.

En el ámbito de las políticas agrícolas -y específicamente en el
terreno de la aprobación de los Organismos Genéticamente Modificados- esta
ingerencia ha sido brutal y en varios A Contrapelo hemos descripto y
analizado estas prácticas.

Sin embargo, no cabe duda de que este rol no podría ser jugado sin la
mediación agente, cómplice y/o negligente de los gobiernos, quienes tienen
el deber de actuar -desde los ámbitos ejecutivo, legislativo y judicial-
en defensa de los intereses de la comunidad.

En este A Contrapelo, a partir de una serie de acontecimientos que han
tenido lugar en América Latina, identificamos la forma en que desde la
esfera gubernamental se ha actuado favoreciendo intereses de las corporaciones
del agronegocio y en absoluto desmedro de la agricultura campesina y la
soberanía alimentaria.

Junio 2007 - GRAIN, ¿Las corporaciones del agronegocio gobiernan en
América Latina?,

Abril 2007 - GRAIN, ¿Monsanto prepara el desembarco final sobre las
semillas en América Latina?,

Octubre 2004 - GRAIN, Monsanto y las regalías semilleras en Argentina,


GRAIN está teniendo actualmente una evaluación externa que enfoca
nuestro trabajo de información y extensión. Esta encuesta es una de los
insumos para los evaluadores. Nos ayudaría mucho si usted pudiera destinar unos
minutos de su tiempo a completar esta encuesta.


miércoles, junio 20, 2007

En defensa del libro de Smith

Claire Robinson responds to Monsanto man's review

[Claire's responding to this review in the Des Moines Register ]

Surely the point of getting a scientist like Paul Christensen to review Jeffrey Smith's book about the hazards of GM foods, "Genetic Roulette", is so that he can come up with some reasoned scientific arguments against it. Disappointingly, Christensen doesn't quote any science to support his sweeping claims that the book is "short on science". Smith's book, on the other hand, is stuffed with science supporting the notion that GM foods are hazardous to health.

Christensen implies that there is an "existing scientific consensus" on the safety of GM foods. Yet Smith's book proves that there is no such consensus. Hordes of scientists - geneticists, epidemiologists, toxicologists, pathologists, soil biologists, and agronomists - are warning us of the risks and real harm associated with GM foods and technology. They're all quoted and their work is extensively presented in the book. You only have to read it to realize that Christensen is engaging in wishful thinking and not scientific thinking when he invokes the non-existent consensus.

Christensen also implies that unnamed "regulators" test GM foods for safety. They have never done so. What they do is to take a quick look at summaries of research (prepared by industry) that industry scientists claim to have done (but which is often not published and open to scrutiny). Often, such summaries do not provide data on which claims of safety are based, and the data remains secret. When data is forced into the open, as a result of lawsuits or Freedom of Information legislation, the summaries are found to be wildly at odds with the data.

Christensen engages in a common industry ploy to dismiss worrying findings of research or case studies when he claims that the diversity of the observations and explanations in the book "undermine the assertion of science-based concern". The pharmaceutical, weapons, chemical, and vaccine industries have used the same argument of "too many notes" (an accusation leveled against Mozart in his lifetime) when seeking to dismiss the symptoms of people who have been made sick or killed by their activities. There is nothing unscientific about diversity of observations. One action may have many effects. It's up to scientists (not Smith) to pull together some of that diversity of effects into a coherent argument. Many scientists, as Smith's book shows, have begun that process, and Smith presents their arguments. However, the continuance of those scientists' work is often frustrated by having their funding cut off or, as has been the case in several proposed studies on GM food, being denied access to the GM foods they want to test. So perhaps there are fewer cut-and-dried, undeniable arguments than Christensen demands, but that isn't the fault of GM critics, but of those who want to silence the scientists' warnings.

Indeed, for someone who claims to want more science, Christensen seems strangely determined not to engage with the science in Smith's book. "Science," he says, "is looking for a pattern that consistently repeats," and therefore, he implies, Smith's book is not science. But, in a bizarre self-contradiction, he then castigates Smith for doing just that - giving us "new patterns in the data"! Christensen further complains that "Genetic Roulette" "contributes little because it does not sort out the patterns and how they are linked to plausible causes." But this is exactly what the book does do. True, Smith hasn't set up a lab to repeat and complete all the aborted and suppressed research that found problems with GM food, but that isn't really his job, is it? In fact, Mr. Christensen, isn't that what you and your former scientific colleagues in industry were supposed to have done before releasing GMOs into our food supply?

I say "former colleagues in industry" because according to Christensen's resume at

he was Monsanto's technical product manager for Asia from 1999-2001, and before that he worked for Dekalb Genetics, where, in his own words, he "developed European regulatory strategy to support the approval of Dekalb transgenics". Such closeness between industry and "regulators", in which industry people effectively write the rules for regulators, and slide back and forth between private and public sectors, has been the rule since the launch of GM products. And the process has nothing to do with science or proof of safety. GM foods were initially approved as a result of a political directive to support the biotech industry which overrode the warnings of the US Food and Drug Administration's own scientific experts. When government and industry work together so tightly, there is no need for the "conspiracy theories" that Christensen accuses GM critics of espousing.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Christensen's response to "Genetic Roulette" is that it follows to the letter the predictable arguments that biotech advocates use to try to silence GM critics, as described on page 252 of Smith's book. Two that come to mind are "Sweeping dismissal" while avoiding responding to specific details, and "Invoking of scientific organisations", implying that there's a consensus on safety and that regulators think GM food is OK.

If you'd like a more realistic picture of what's in Smith's book than Christensen's review yields, you can read my review of it at .

Or better still, read the book itself and the evidence therein, and decide for yourself!

Claire Robinson
Co-editor, GM Watch