COP9 - PRRI win Captain Hook award, etc.
2.The threat of GM trees
3.A Peek at PRRI
NOTE: For an intro to what's happening at the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn see http://www.iisd.ca/vol09/enb09442e.html
Among the concerns being raised at COP9 are the promotion of false "solutions" such as agrofuels, genetically engineered trees (see item 2), and climate technology "fixes" such as ocean fertilization.
Organisations like La Via Campesina have also been drawing attention to the causes underpinning the current food crisis and calling for the COP to recognize farmers' rights to seeds and to prohibit GM crops and industrial agrofuels.
Find out more about COP9 at Undercover COP
1.PRRI win Captain Hook award
Yesterday at a side event at COP9, PRRI (the Public Research and Regulation Initiative) won the Captain Hook Award for the 'worst smokescreen' for pretending to be 'public researchers, when many of their members are closely tied to industry and the pro-GM lobby group invariably lobbies for the industry's agenda.
You can watch the PRRI part of the award ceremony here
More about the Captain Hook awards for biopiracy etc. here:
2. Intervention by Anne Petermann, of the Global Justice Ecology Project, at the UN Biodiversity Convention in Bonn, Germany, 21 May 2008
Thank you Madam Chair,
Genetically engineered trees pose a tremendous threat to forest biodiversity, and to indigenous peoples and local communities.
I fear that some delegations in this body are not taking this seriously. This body must strengthen the decision on GE trees made at COP-8, to prevent irreversible social, cultural and ecological impacts. I wish to thank the delegate from Liberia, and the African Group for insisting on the suspension of the release of GE trees, and also the delegate from Bolivia who pointed out that GE trees will only benefit large companies.
Commercialization of GE trees is moving forward rapidly, driven by pulp and paper and agrofuels industries.
Wood-based agrofuels will create a massive new demand for wood. These so-called second generation agrofuels are further driving the commercialization of GE trees and will result in increased illegal logging and accelerated conversion of forests to massive monoculture tree plantations of both conventional and GE trees. This, in turn, will further drive climate change.
The enhanced destruction of forests that would result from the commercialization of GE trees will take a very high toll, not only on wildlife and biodiversity, but on forest-dependent and indigenous communities and women. You cannot say that you support the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and that you are committed to biodiversity protection, yet simultaneously allow the release of GE trees.
A ban on GE trees is critical because of the enormous threat of trans-boundary contamination. Scientists have determined that tree pollen can travel for over 1,000 kilometers.
Even GE tree scientists acknowledge this threat. In the 2005 FAO report on GE trees, over half of researchers surveyed named unintentional contamination of native ecosystems as a major concern.
I would also like to strongly caution this body about using the Precautionary Principle as defined by Principle 15 under the Rio Declaration. This definition is much weaker than precaution as defined under the Cartegena Protocol, and includes large loopholes that undermine it.
Social movements and environmental organizations around the world are mobilizing against GE trees. The STOP GE Trees Campaign now includes 137 member organizations in 34 countries around the world, including many in the very communities that will be directly affected by the commercialization of GE trees. These groups are united in their call for an immediate ban on genetically engineered trees. In addition, the growing consensus of independent scientists who are not affiliated with companies is that GE trees are far too dangerous to release into the environment.
It is now the time for Parties to acknowledge the concerns of civil society and the growing concerns of public interest scientists and foresters around the globe. The decision from COP-8 must be strengthened. The Precautionary Principle must be affirmed. The only way to do this is to immediately stop the release of GE trees and remove existing releases.
We have much more detailed scientific information on these concerns available here.
3. A Peek at PRRI
Corporate Europe Observatory,
16 May 2008
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) biosafety negotiations have been the target of biotech industry lobbyists and pro-biotech governments from the outset. For the past few years, the pro-GM lobby at UN biosafety negotiations have seen a new actor on the stage: the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI).
Apparently independent from industry, this group claims to represent the "public research sector" - but how public is public research when GM is involved?
PRRI stated aims are to inform the public and negotiators about the benefits of public research in modern biotechnology, and to provide scientific information to negotiators on biosafety issues. However, many PRRI members are known to have close industry links.
PRRI's activities are clearly allied with the private sector, and many meetings are jointly organised. The regional meetings for example held ahead of the upcoming CBD meeting in Bonn were organised in collaboration with AfricaBio, a South Africa based biotech stakeholders organisation in Africa, and with the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) in Europe - a body which brings together companies, biotech associations, universities and research institutions.
One of the former Steering Committee members of PRRI, Willie van der Greef, has only just changed his role of promoting public research for a position of Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European biotech lobby association. Steven Strauss, PRRI's GE tree expert is director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative (TBGRC - previously known as TGERC) at Oregon State University. TGERC members have included Arborgen, the world's biggest forest biotechnology company - currently running field trials with GM poplar, eucalyptus, pine, sweetgum and cottonwood trees.
Clearly, the agenda of PRRI and that of biotech industry are not always that different. However, at Monday's PRRI side event, questions on industry links were rejected as being 'naÃ¯ve'.
In 2006, at the third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP 3), in Curitiba (Brazil), PRRI brought more than 40 representatives.
When parties meet for MOP4 and COP9 in Bonn this month (12-30 May) PRRI lobbying efforts will target any action taken by the CBD against genetic technologies such as Terminator seeds and genetically modified trees. They will also be hoping to influence negotiations on issues such as liability, agricultural biodiversity and the consideration of socio-economic concerns in biosafety policy.
Previously, corporations, corporate related "NGOs" (such as the Syngenta Foundation) and governments were the main funders backing PRRI. Now, however, the European Commission has granted 800.000 USD for a 3 year project, including both providing information to politicians and the public; and involvement in international biosafety negotiations.
A new article is available for MOP4/COP9 in Bonn giving examples of PRRI members’ industry links, and highlight their agenda at MOP4/COP9.
The full article can be found on www.corporateeurope.org