CEO at the UN Biodiversity COP9

A view from the Observatory…

Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory reports back on events at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) talks in Bonn, May 2008.

Bonn, 19 May -- The biosafety negotiations in Bonn last week ended without a legally binding agreement on who could be held liable and pay compensation in case of damage due to GM crops. Nothing more than an accord was reached, which will be negotiated further over the next two years. This time it was Japan blocking progress, with the silent approval of New Zealand, Peru and probably others. Japan will host the next CBD, which makes it look particularly bad.

During the Bonn talks (the MOP), the six biggest biotech corporations, in response to proposals for binding liability rules, presented their own liability scheme or “Compact”, under which practically no case of damage to biodiversity could ever result in compensation (as far as one can regard money to be able to compensate for that) but the Compact was protested against, and was removed from the table.

Lobby group PRRI has again brought a sizeable delegation to the CBD, and promoted their side-event via the NGO tables. Luis Destefano-Beltran, a PRRI member from Peru spoke up at various events including the one on GM monocultures, claiming that there was no established link between the technology and the impacts of monocultures. Destefano was also reported to have responded on behalf of Peru in one of the official negotiating working groups.

Another PRRI member from Brazil could be heard arguing for a super productive sugar cane that ‘does not compete with food production’ and ‘is not growing in the Amazon’, completely ignoring the fact that the competition issue is all about land. Sugar cane production has a domino effect, pushing soy and cattle to the north. This was particularly interesting against the backdrop of the resignation of Brazil’s environment minister Marina Silva, the chair of the CBD, on the grounds that she lacked the support to effectively protect the Amazon.

Germany will take over as chair at the end of this COP. Brazil and Germany have announced a deal aiming to facilitate trade, establishing an agrofuel working group on market access, breaking down trade barriers and looking at social and ecological certification. Certification will also be on the agenda of COP, but in their statement on Monday, civil society organisations have clearly said “No to Agrofuels”. Certification will only be a smokescreen for the push for agrofuels.

Merkel and Lula have made it explicitly clear that they want ‘second-generation’ agrofuels. It is very clear, seeing the many genetically engineered (GE) tree trials have already been approved in Brazil, that this will lead to a massive expansion of GE tree monocultures to provide cellulose.

Apparently, Germany will also give a chunk of money to protect the Amazon. The fact that Marina Silva just resigned from her job because of the lack of political support for her alledged efforts to protect the Amazon, and that Merkel signed the deal anyway, shows how ‘serious’ this part of the deal really is.

The other part of the deal involves extending the 1975 deal between Brazil and Germany to build three nuclear power plants. Two of these have been built, and have generated serious contamination problems and encountered local resistance. Now, the Brazilians have persuaded Germany to deliver technology and support for the third nuclear power plant, ANGRA 3. According to Brazilian organisations, this is only the beginning, as Brazil now has vast nuclear plans.

Merkel is now in Lima, Peru, for the EU-Latin America summit. Apparently, she has taken the upcoming Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo aside to express her concern about the increased number of land occupations by campesino and landless movements. This threatens the wealth and status of German immigrants in Paraguay. Land occupations are the major theme of a tour, organized by CEO and ASEED, on which Gilda Roa of the Movimiento Agrario y Popular will speak at various events, including a side event at the MOP. See for details.

This second week in Bonn, agrofuels, as well as related issues such as GE trees feature on the agenda. Highly contested climate experiments like ocean fertilization, much criticised by environmental organisations, will also be discussed. The Secretary General of the CBD, Ahmed Djoghlaf, gave an insight into his views on biodiversity during a meeting with civil society when he said that: “the largest corporation in the world is not WalMart…. It’s nature”. The Secretariat and the German government have gone out of their way to welcome business participation in the MOP/COP in Bonn.

Meanwhile, the Green rapporteur for the Renewables directive in the European Parliament, Claude Turmes, has proposed dropping the 10% target for agrofuels.

The latest news is that Kofi Annan and Jeffrey Sachs, are coming to Bonn to promote the new “Green Revolution” (ie. an industrial agriculture model) as a solution for climate change and the food crisis. This is a great insult to agricultural biodiversity, being debated now. On International Biodiversity Day, Thursday 22nd, the largest biotech corporations, together with Chiquita and the international union of industrial farmers, are holding a ‘celebration of biodiversity’.

A new website has been set up to follow the ins and outs in Bonn. See

Check out our page on the May 2008 UN Convention on Biodiversity conference, with links to additional information, including pictures and movies.


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