We are losing ecosystems, species and biological diversity on a daily basis – worldwide and often forever. Humankind with its ways of producing and living endangers the planet’s biodiversity to an extent that scientists are speaking of a sixth mass extinction.
At the same time, synthetic biology and new genetic engineering technologies pose various risks and challenges for regulation. How can we protect biological and genetic diversity? What trends are threatening and destroying our ecosystems? And what does that have to do with global justice? Our dossier illustrates new developments and their background.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The Convention on Biological Diversity is a multilateral treaty. It entered into force in 1993 and has 196 parties.
The Convention has three main goals including: the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation follows the CBD negotiations and is a member of the civil society network CBD Alliance.
Synthetic Biology (or Syn Bio) describes a set of new genetic techniques for designing and engineering lifeforms for industrial purposes. As an 'extreme' form of genetic engineering, Syn Bio also creates new genetic codes.
So far, there is neither a public debate worth mentioning nor any regulation by law. This debate is currently very important for the future of food and agriculture where so-called „New Breeding Techniques“ are supposed to produce plants with new characteristics.
We look at the risks Synthetic Biology poses for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and shed light on the controversial gene drive technology.
Gene drives have not been tested for unintended consequences, nor fully evaluated for ethical and social impacts.