Nanotechnologies, Geoengineering, Synthetic Biology and the Need for Global-to-Local Technology Assessment

Coordination: ETC Group – Silvia Ribeiro & Pat Mooney (; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Steve Suppan ( )

Description: If we were to believe our governments, every social and economic problem has a technological solution. The answer to climate change is geoengineering; we don’t need to worry about “peak oil” if we have synthetic biology; the nano-sizing of soil additives will “feed the world” by increasing crop yields without harmful environmental consequences, etc. Yet, the more governments rely on techno-fixes, the more they depend on giant corporations to manage our planet and the less democratic becomes our public policy and investments. From global to national to local, civil society and critical scientists need to build Technology Observation Platforms (TOPS) to assess emerging technologies and their unregulated commercialization. Can a technology assessment network reverse the imposition of techno-fixes and enable scientific research priorities to be determined through a democratically robust decision-making process? In the workshop, we will look at some of the new technologies and who is behind them. Then workshop participants will discuss emerging technologies in their countries and how TOPs might respond to them.

A quick note about some of the technologies we will be discussing…

  • Geoengineering strategies to delay climate change are moving from the global to the regional. Later this year or early next year, geoengineers in the United States will experiment with “solar radiation management” – a plan to blow sulfate particles into the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures.  Despite a UN moratorium on geoengineering and growing international opposition, some governments and scientists are proposing regional geoengineering strategies. As though changing the climate over the Arctic or North America or China wouldn’t have global implications
  • Synthetic biology is out of the lab and into commerce and commodities. With second-generation biofuels in trouble, some of the world’s biggest companies are looking at other ways to convert biomass into high-value food, flavour and fragrance products that could immediately undermine millions of smallholder producers and national economies. Governments and the UN system are reluctant to monitor or regulate this extreme form of biotechnology. What can civil society, critical scientists and social movements do?
  • Tens of thousands of pounds of Engineered Nanoscale Materials are being incorporated into a broad array of industrial and consumer products. Because governments and corporations have resisted the regulation of ENMs, they are being environmentally released, posing risks to human and environmental health. What can technology assessment and critical scientists and activists do about the commercialization of ENMs and nano-enabled products to prevent harm to human health, the environment and worker safety?

Disponible en / Available in: French, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil)

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