Why Horizon Scanning and Technology Assessment is necessary in the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Illustration source: Husson University 

By CSO Synbio Working Group 

With the current trajectory of science and technological developments, countries find themselves techno-dazzled. There is no doubt that multiple crises, including ecological, climate and health, require actions that are systematic and occur at many levels. However, many current proposals for solving multiple crises are focused on over-simplified scientific and techno-fixes hyped by corporate promoters.

They risk by-passing effective processes of governance, including mechanisms for accountability and free, prior and informed consent. This is why technology horizon scanning, participatory assessment and monitoring is needed for people to anticipate and thus be better prepared to track new developments.

The claims that there are benefits arising from genetic engineering technologies are misplaced. Africa has witnessed its fair share of genetically modified failures, for example, Bt cotton in Burkina Faso. Second-generation technologies such as synthetic biology are being pushed to solve the very problems caused by first generation genetic engineering technologies. Even more so, the development of gene drives by groups like Target Malaria, designed to modify species and ecosystems are bound to lead to reduction of genetic diversity which has several implications to ecosystems. We should also beware that attempts to establish a Major Group for academia/researchers at CBD entrenches those working with outdated modes of thinking in more influential positions than they already are.

In the current negotiations on the post 2020 GBF, there has been emphasis on technology transfer in several Targets such as number 4, 13, 14, 19.2; Goal D and also Section B.bis, and most of all, Target 17 deals with biotechnology. It is important that horizon scanning and technology assessment are embedded in the aforementioned goal and target. We urge Parties to ensure that the text proposals for horizon scanning, monitoring and assessment be supported as reflected in Targets 17 and 19.2 to ensure effective implementation of the GBF while allowing review of the fast-paced technology advancements particularly in developing countries.


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