Genetic extinction technology challenged at UN Convention on Biological Diversity

FoE International Press release,  18 November, 2018

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT — Today, the African Centre for Biodiversity and Friends of the Earth International held a press conference at the 2018 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) 14th Conference of the Parties to call for a global moratorium on the environmental release of gene drives, a new genetic extinction technology, and to caution for stronger regulation of synthetic biology.

From November 17-29th, international conservation and environmental leaders will meet to call on governments to protect biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights from controversial new biotechnologies. Gene drives have the capacity to wipe out or alter species forever, and to significantly disrupt or modify the ecosystems on which humanity strongly depends for its survival. Gene drives pose serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, human health, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food sovereignty.

The first proposed application for gene drive is being led in Burkina Faso by the Target Malaria Project, funded by the Gates Foundation, designed to eradicate mosquito populations and thus malaria transmission. This Trojan horse project is exploiting a public health crisis in Africa, despite the lack of underlying science to support its efficacy as a sound medical intervention.

“We should not be used as lab rats in an experiment that could devastate African ecosystems. We ask delegates at COP14 to put the brakes on any release of gene drives.”

Mariann Bassey, Friends of the Earth International and chair of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa

“Burkina Faso is about to face a health and ecological catastrophe. This project risks creating a social and environmental crisis in these local communities. Burkinabe civil society groups are denouncing the project: we refuse to be the guinea pigs of the science of the unknown. We have our own indigenous solutions to put an end to malaria.”

Ali de Goamma Topsoba, president of Burkina Faso based Terre a Vie

Agricultural proposals such as spreading pesticide susceptibility back into weeds that have developed resistance, along with reports that the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the largest funders of gene drive research, highlight wider corporate and military interests in the technology that are being masked by the Target Malaria project.

“Gene drives are threatening food sovereignty and peasant-led agriculture. Small scale farmers don’t need synthetic biology such as gene drives organisms or genome editing to feed communities. La Via Campesina insists that the industrial agriculture process annihilates the human family that is at the heart of small-scale agroecology.”

Geneviève Lalumière, Peasant seed saver from La Via Campesina North America

Read more at FoE International