Convention on Biodiversity: La Via Campesina intervention on synthetic biology

(Hyderabad, 11 october 2012) Thank you, madam chair. I am speaking on behalf of La Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless people, indigenous people, agricultural workers, rural women and youth. La Via Campesina has 150 member organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas and over 200 million members. We urge parties to implement here at COP11 an immediate moratorium on the environmental release and commercial use of synthetic biology and its product.

Synthetic biology is the next wave of biotechnology that threatens life, biodiversity, food sovereignty, and farmers’ rights. No longer is industry limited to genes found in nature to genetically modify plants – with synthetic biology, new genes and traits can be developed on a computer to create novel organisms and novel plants that have never existed before in nature. Under synthetic biology life will not be a product of nature but of a lab and it will be patented and privatized. The new life forms that synthetic biologists are developing are defined by the market and the profits that big corporations that finance this new technology expect to have.

These organisms will lead to unpredictable interactions with nature, genetic contamination of our crops and threaten the health of our ecosystems. Synthetic biology will lead to a major biomass-grab to produce fuels, industrial chemicals, and plastics for elite consumerism. This will further threaten our access to land and water – all of which are already in dispute.

Finally, we urge parties to apply the precautionary approach and establish an immediate moratorium on synthetic biology at this COP. We also urge parties to listen to and consult peasants as we are the basis for the majority of food production, and the ones who will suffer most from the loss of biological and agriculture biodiversity.

Thank you