Threatened biodiversity; capital goes through life

Threatened biodiversity; capital goes through life

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By Víctor M. Toledo

For at least a decade the enormous forces of corporate capital have moved in a coordinated manner to make effective a green economy that breaks the locks lifted by conservationism and environmentalism, and allows access as freely as possible to the variety of life ( biodiversity), conceived as a repository of potential commodities. Life, visualized not only as a set of organisms, but their genes and chemical substances, and the forest masses and even the landscapes that form more of the services it offers. Privatizing biodiversity and turning it into a huge supermarket is the ultimate goal of this new volley. Are they succeeding?

Defenders of nature managed from the Rio summit in 1992 to promulgate a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is a legally binding international treaty, signed by 193 countries, which establishes three key objectives: the conservation of diversity biological, the sustainable (non-destructive) use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. The components of biological diversity are all life forms on Earth, including ecosystems, animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms, and genes. In subsequent years, the CBD in turn created two other fundamental agreements: (a) The Cartagena Protocol, which seeks to safeguard life from biotechnology innovations, that is, to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living organisms; and (b) the Nagoya Protocol, which aims to share in a fair and equitable manner the benefits derived from genetic resources. Both treaties arise in response to the problems and conflicts generated by corporate voracity (mainly pharmaceutical and biotechnology) and the risks that unleashed their technological innovations. In response to the above, organized companies have been trying to influence the main international forums (such as the Johannesburg Summit and the Rio + 20 Summit) and to introduce a vision that justifies and facilitates the commodification of life.

Next December Mexico will host no less than the thirteenth conference of the parties, which is the CBD assembly, where the major decisions are made. There again, this international forum (COP 13) will be the scene of bloody battles about how to make effective the three central missions on the planet's biodiversity. I can see at least three positions clearly. One is that of conservationists and environmentalists, supported in general by the thesis and contributions derived from scientific research, which is what has managed to build binding agreements in these 25 years. The second is the one that arises from the spheres of business and corporations based on ideas such as the green economy and natural capital. And a third that begins to gain presence that comes from those who make up the peoples and cultures that for thousands and even tens of thousands of years have survived and (co-) evolved in intimate connection with the biodiversity that surrounds them. It is no coincidence that at COP 13 there will be large forums dedicated to science, business and indigenous peoples (see:

Two events have started to heat up the atmosphere. On October 17, the Mexican Alliance for Biodiversity and Business was formed, made up of 27 national and global entities, among which stand out (due to their predatory actions and other abuses) companies such as Bimbo, Cemex, Nestlé, Grupo México, Walmart , Fundación Televisa, Syngenta (world leader in the seed and agrochemical market), and the gigantic German chemical corporation BASF, dedicated to producing insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, substances against urban pests, agricultural biotechnology and 757 chemical products in dozens of branches. BASF is the most powerful corporation in the global chemical industry, with a presence in 80 countries and a long history of contamination by toxic substances. The second is the proposal made by the Green Party in the Senate of the Republic to promulgate a new General Law on Biodiversity, contained in 75 pages. Beyond good intentions and its chiaroscuro, this proposal commits two serious faults: it has not carried out a sufficient, wide and legitimate consultation with the social actors, experts and institutions involved (not even the Conabio), and it intends to be approved fast track in three weeks.

The holding of COP 13 in Mexico gives the opportunity to reveal the deep web of the battles for biodiversity that until now have remained hidden, submerged by superficial discourses, self-censorship, secret agreements and a Manichean vision of the subject. The reason is that Mexican biodiversity has been the cause of bloody confrontations between three forces: conservationists in alliance with science, capitalists and indigenous peoples, which is expressed in public policy.

Four decades of research on the subject allow me to arrive at three main and significant conclusions: (a) If something prevents the CBD from reaching the objectives, this is the logic or rationality of capitalism, based on the mass generation of a single commodity that it enters into immediate contradiction with the diversity of life, in addition to its inability to stop the voracity derived from its accumulation processes; (b) That conservationism + environmentalism and science have been gradually co-opted and / or penetrated by mercantile values ​​and the desire for control and domination over nature, which is the ideology of capitalist and technocratic modernity; and (c) That if any sector of society has been and continues to be the only one capable of carrying out the three objectives of the CBD, it is that of non-modern rural cultures (indigenous peoples, peasants, artisanal fishermen, Afro-descendants) . In a next installment I will offer abundant examples that fully confirm these theses.


Video: Webinar1 - Lessons from the fires A biodiversity and climate perspective (May 2022).