Dossier: Biodiversity

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.

Articles

Events

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Synthetic Biology

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.

Publications

Further Resources

Disputed Nature - Biodiversity and its Convention

Species are vanishing at such high speed that researchers are talking in terms of a sixth major mass extinction happening within human history. This introductory publication clarifies the vital development-policy significance of the discussion over biodiversity.

Gene drives have not been tested for unintended consequences, nor fully evaluated for ethical and social impacts.

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.

Publications

Outsmarting Nature? Synthetic Biology and Climate Smart Agriculture

Many of the world's largest agro-industrial corporations are pushing forward the poorly-defined idea of "Climate-Smart Agriculture"(CSA) to re-market industrial agriculture as 'climate-ready'. This report uncovers how some advocates of CSA are embracing the extreme genetic engineering tools of synthetic biology ("Syn Bio") to develop a set of false solutions to the climate crisis.

Extreme Biotech meets Extreme Energy

The extreme genetic engineering industry of Synthetic Biology (Syn Bio) is shrugging off earlier pretensions that it would usher in a clean, green ’post-petroleum’ economy. Now they are partnering with big oil, coal, gas and mining interests. This report details this emerging fossilbiotech alliance.

Reckless Driving: Gene drives and the end of nature

Imagine that by releasing a single fly into the wild you could genetically alter all the flies on the planet. This is the terrifyingly powerful premise behind gene drives: a new and controversial genetic engineering technology that can permanently alter an entire species by releasing one bioengineered individual. Civil society groups are alarmed by this newfound ability to reshape the natural world.