context: nutritional deficiencies, food shortages, crop failures, population growth, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity: these are often perceived as major problems facing the world today. In fact, these are only symptoms of the real problem. The real problem lies with our way of interacting with the natural world. Agriculture is increasingly uncoupled from the environmental systems in which it operates. The available diversity - biological, genetic, ecosystem and social - has not been adequately embraced. The imagination and commitment of people and societies has not been sufficiently engaged in the process of innovation. This is not sustainable in the long term for environments or societies.
change! Due in part to the cumbersome and expensive technologies available and the legal and policy umbrellas in which they act, transnational agri-business companies are increasingly centralising control and production of agriculture and are thus dominating the technology landscape. This has resulted in unprecedented public concerns over the new technologies used and missed opportunities to use new technologies for public good, especially in less developed countries. A new organisation, CAMBIA, wishes to see a vibrant public and private sector contributing myriad solutions to the diverse challenges of food security worldwide. This vision requires the development and delivery of new enabling technologies and skills that can break the logjam that is stifling creative business and public initiatives. This in turn will allow diverse players to regain an appropriate measure of control over research, breeding, utilisation of genetic diversity and management of agricultural systems.
who: CAMBIA is an acronym for the "Center for the Application of Molecular Biology to International Agriculture". CAMBIA, in Spanish and Italian, also means 'change'. This meaning is at the very heart of CAMBIA's mission.
CAMBIA is an autonomous, not-for-profit international research organisation, based in Canada, also registered as a non-government organisation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The NGO is financed by philanthropic organisations, by national and international research funding bodies, by royalties derived from licensing its own technologies, and by limited commercial R&D partnerships.
what: CAMBIA is the founding member of the BIOS initiative. BIOS (Biological Innovation for an Open Society) will develop and validate a new means for the co-operative invention, improvement and delivery of biological technologies, drawing inspiration from the open source software movement to forge a "protected commons" of knowledge and technology. Biological Innovation is much more than biotechnology, encompassing the creative use of living systems and their environment. This includes activities as diverse as plant breeding, agriculture, nutrition, biology research, ecosystem and natural resource management, biofermentation, public health and medicine.
why: “Our institutional ethos is built around an awareness of the need and opportunity for local commitment to achieving lasting solutions to food security, agricultural and environmental problems. We envision a situation in which the broadest community of researchers and farmers are empowered with dramatic new technologies to become innovators in developing their own solutions to the challenges they face - solutions for which they feel ownership.” The BIOS initiative will foster democratic innovation in the application of biological technologies, through the merging of intellectual property informatics and analysis; innovation system structural reform, and co-operative open access technology development activities. Their principles:
Democratise, Decentralise and Diversify: these basic tenets of social, economic, and environmental responsibility can equally be applied to the harnessing of science and human creativity for improving the quality of life, and for promoting sound business and prosperous communities.
Design, Develop, Disseminate: grand philosophical ambitions must be grounded with practical tools for achieving the goals in a meaningful timeframe. The communications and information technology revolutions afford a unique ability to harvest and share information, knowledge and wisdom within and between communities that have been marginalised or inadequately served.