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The new biomassters

Synthetic biology and the next assault on biodiversity and livelihoods

April 2009

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Summary :

Under the pretext of addressing environmental degradation, climate change and the energy and food crises, industry is portending a “New Bioeconomy” and

the replacement of fossil carbon with living matter, now labeled “biomass.” The most productive and accessible biomass is in the global South – exactly where, by 2050, there may be another 2 billion mouths to feed on lands that (thanks to climate chaos) may yield 20-50% less.

Although this would seem to be the worst time possible to put new pressures on living systems, governments are being told that “Synthetic Biology” – a technology just being invented – will make and transform all the biomass we will ever need to replace all the fossil fuels we currently use.

Meanwhile, new carbon markets are turning plant-life into carbon stocks for trading (in lieu of reducing emissions). But, the companies that say “trust us” are the same energy, chemical companies, agribusinesses and forestry giants that created the climate and food crises in the first place.

At Stake Food, energy and national security. With 24% of the world’s annual terrestrial biomass so far appropriated for human use, today’s compounding crises are an opportunity to commodify and monopolize the remaining 76% (and even more in the oceans) that Wall Street hasn’t yet reached. Industrial sectors with an interest in switching carbon feedstocks to biomass

include the energy and chemical, plastics, food, textiles, pharmaceuticals, paper products and building supplies industries – plus the carbon trade – a combined market worth at least $17 trillion.