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Articles by Hope Shand

Hope Shand is research director of ETC Group, a civil-society organization that tracks new technologies, monitors corporate concentration, and supports food sovereignty.

Featured Article

Synthetic biologists, a brave new breed of science entrepreneurs who engineer life-forms from scratch, are holding their largest-ever global gathering in Hong Kong this week, known as “Synthetic Biology 4.0.”

Although most people have never heard of synthetic biology, it’s moving full speed ahead fueled by giant agribusiness, energy and chemical corporations with little debate about who will control the technology, how it will be regulated (or not) and despite grave concerns surrounding the safety and security risks of designer organisms. Corporate investors/partners include BP, Chevron, Shell, Virgin Fuels, DuPont, Microsoft, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland.

“Bankrolled by Fortune 500 corporations, synthetic biologists meeting in Hong Kong are promising a green, clean post-petroleum future where the production of economically important compounds depends not on fossil fuels — but on biological manufacturing platforms fueled by plant sugars,” explains Jim Thomas of ETC Group.

“It may sound sweet and clean, but this so-called sugar economy will catalyze an unprecedented corporate grab on all plant matter as well as... Read more

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  • A review of Claire Hope Cummings’ Uncertain Peril

    In October 1996, a spokesman for Monsanto told Farm Journal why his company was buying up seed companies left and right: "What you're seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it's really a consolidation of the entire food chain."

    Uncertain PerilToday, Monsanto is the world's largest seed company -- and makes more money selling seeds than chemicals. The company's biotech seeds and traits accounted for 88 percent of the worldwide area devoted to genetically modified seeds in 2006 -- and Monsanto earns royalties on every single one. No one needed to tell Monsanto: Whoever controls the first link in the food chain -- the seeds -- controls the food supply.

    What better way to understand the perilous state of industrial food and farming than by starting with the seed? Claire Hope Cummings' new book, Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds is a sharp and elegant analysis of the biotech seed debate.