A view from Bonn

Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory reports back on events at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) talks in Bonn, May 2008. 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 ended without a legally binding agreement on who could be held liable for compensation for damage caused by GM crops. Negotiators reached an "accord" 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. This does not look good for Japan who is host for the next CBD.

During the talks, 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 much as money can compensate for that) but the Compact was protested against, and was removed from the table.

The PRRI lobby group has once again brought a sizeable delegation to the CBD. 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 the merits of 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 poignant given that Brazil’s environment minister Marina Silva, the chair of the CBD, has just resigned 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 the COP, but in their statement on Monday, civil society organisations demanded a “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. Many genetically engineered (GE) tree trials have already been approved in Brazil, so it can be assumed that this will lead to a massive expansion of GE tree monocultures to provide cellulose.

Germany has also said it will also give a chunk of money to protect the Amazon - despite the clear problems highlighted by Silva's resignation.

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. Brazil, they say, has vast nuclear plans.

During the second week here in Bonn, agrofuels, as well as related issues such as GE trees will 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.

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

Check out CEO's page on the 2008 UN Convention on Biodiversity conference, with links to additional information, including pictures and films.

Bonn, 19 May -- The biosafety negotiations in Bonn ended without a legally binding agreement on who could be held liable for compensation for damage caused by GM crops. Negotiators reached an "accord" 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. This does not look good for Japan who is host for the next CBD.

During the talks, 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 much as money can compensate for that) but the Compact was protested against, and was removed from the table.

The PRRI lobby group has once again brought a sizeable delegation to the CBD. 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 the merits of 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 poignant given that Brazil’s environment minister Marina Silva, the chair of the CBD, has just resigned 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 the COP, but in their statement on Monday, civil society organisations demanded a “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. Many genetically engineered (GE) tree trials have already been approved in Brazil, so it can be assumed that this will lead to a massive expansion of GE tree monocultures to provide cellulose.

Germany has also said it will also give a chunk of money to protect the Amazon - despite the clear problems highlighted by Silva's resignation.

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. Brazil, they say, has vast nuclear plans.

During the second week here in Bonn, agrofuels, as well as related issues such as GE trees will 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.

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

Check out CEO's page on the 2008 UN Convention on Biodiversity conference, with links to additional information, including pictures and films.