Civil Society on Monday, November 19, 2018 at the ongoing United Nations Convention on Biodiversity Conference of Parties (COP 24) in Egypt, called on African and all other delegates to apply caution on the issue of synthetic biology (synbio) and gene drive organisms (GDOs), saying that delegates from the continent are not adequately representing the continent’s interest at the summit.
As representatives of a broad range of African civil society organisations, we do not feel represented by the delegations of Nigeria and South Africa, in their attempt to speak on behalf of the people of Africa on the issue of synthetic biology (synbio) and gene drive organisms (GDOs).
Throughout the history of the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, African delegates have championed the defence of our biodiversity, protection of our seeds, indigenous agroecological practices and culture. They have always advocated the need for a precautionary approach.
In the past, African delegates have strongly defended our ecological life-support systems from threats, such as Terminator technologies (seeds designed to be sterile).
We are now alarmed at what is going on at COP14 and how our concerns for our environment, biodiversity and communities are being betrayed and threatened by delegates from some African nations. In particular, they are not representing our concerns about gene drives and synbio.
Most countries in Africa are still grappling with the threats from basic genetic engineering and associated agro-toxics and do not even have experience or capacity for basic regulation of the risks for those first-generation genetic technologies, let alone synbio and GDOs.
Gene drives, such as those being promoted by Target Malaria, aimed at releasing gene drive mosquitoes in Burkina Faso, are a deliberately invasive technology designed to propagate genetic material across an entire population – potentially wiping out entire species. As Africans, we are forced to confront this new and serious threat to our health, land, biodiversity, rights, and food supply.
African government delegations appear to have been neutralised. They have fallen from grace on the altar of the multi-national corporations, gene giants and private foundations. The African group’s position at the CBD slavishly replicates the position of these interest groups.
As Africans, we do not wish to be lab-rats for Target Malaria’s experiments. We refuse to be guinea pigs for their misguided disruption of our food systems and ecology.
We call on the African and all other delegates to put the brakes on this exterminating technology. We reject any form of representation that is against the interest of our peoples and biodiversity. We call on the governments of Africa to call their delegates to order and avoid acquiescence to unfolding intergenerational crimes.