Conagen commercializes scalable sweetness enhancers from nature

Bedford, Mass., July 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Conagen, the Massachusetts–based biotech firm, announced the commercialization of an expansive portfolio of natural sweetness enhancers for taste modification in sugar reduction solutions for food and beverages. The enhancers are made with precision fermentation, a technology that has led to the innovation of an extensive platform of phenolic antioxidants.

Sweetness enhancers in the market today are made by chemical synthesis or by using an organic solvent extraction method, both of which are time–consuming, labor–intensive, and environmentally unfriendly. Conagen's precision fermentation method is a preferred, clean, and sustainable method for developing sweetness enhancement compounds.

"These unique molecules are yet another example of how Conagen leverages its molecular platforms and precision fermentation capabilities to create useful ingredients for food and beverage applications. Our ability to rapidly scale modern, clean and sustainable sweetness enhancers provides additional and better options for taste modulation and sugar reduction beyond those enabled by the non–caloric sweeteners already on the market," said Casey Lippmeier, Ph.D., vice president of innovation at Conagen.

Conagen's sweetness enhancers belong to a group of natural product molecules called phenolic compounds, found extensively in many plant species. Phenolic compounds are commonly found in vegetables and fruits and are a significant part of the human diet. They are biosynthesized by plants and lichens as secondary metabolites and comprise a diverse group of phytochemicals.

Increasing consumer awareness of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes sparks the market pull trend toward zero sugar and low–to–no calorie food and beverages and is expected to continue upward. The health trend drives the growth in new sweetness enhancer technologies for an ever–demanding sugar reduction solutions market. Consumers are seeking ways to improve their diets and are increasingly interested in natural and clean ingredients.

Conagen and its pipeline partner Sweegen, a global leader in wellness–based sugar reduction solutions, have previously teamed up to develop modern natural sweeteners that can replace up to 100% sugar in particular food and beverage applications and bitter blockers to mitigate up to 80–100% bitterness in consumer trending products, such as energy drinks, sauces, and confectionery products with low to no sugar.

"Together, with Conagen, we're building a bridge of natural solutions with mainstream taste," said Casey McCormick, head of global innovation at Sweegen. "These new molecules can modulate mouthfeel and boost the sensation of the sweetness of other sweeteners and flavors in food and beverages, leading to a significant reduction in sugar usage."

McCormick further stated, "Conagen is an ideal innovation partner for Sweegen to continuously build our robust and powerful portfolio and pair it with our first–class sweetener systems. The more sweetness enhancers in our toolbox, the better our exploration and discovery of new ways for food and beverage brands to make healthier products that taste great and resonate with consumers."

Sweegen has a long–standing partnership with biotechnology innovator Conagen. Conagen focuses on developing sustainable, nature–based ingredients that improve existing options in the market or represent completely novel ingredient solutions.


About Conagen
Conagen is a product–focused synthetic biology R&D company with large–scale manufacturing capabilities. Our scientists and engineers use the latest synthetic biology tools to develop high–quality, sustainable, nature–based products by precision fermentation and enzymatic bioconversion. We focus on the bioproduction of high–value ingredients for food, nutrition, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceutical, and renewable materials industries.

About Sweegen
Sweegen provides sweet taste solutions for food and beverage manufacturers around the world.

We are on a mission to reduce the sugar and artificial sweeteners in our global diet. Partnering with customers, we create delicious zero–sugar products that consumers love. With the best modern sweeteners in our portfolio, such as Bestevia Rebs B, D, E, I, M, and N, and brazzein, along with our deep knowledge of flavor modulators and texturants, Sweegen delivers market–leading solutions that customers want, and consumers prefer. Well. Into the Future.

For more information, please contact and visit Sweegen's website,


Migrant Workers from Mexico, Caught Up in Trafficking, Forced Labor and Exploitation

Mexican workers harvest produce on a farm in the western U.S. state of California. The number of temporary agricultural workers from Mexico has increased in recent years in the United States and with it, human rights violations. CREDIT: Courtesy of Linnaea Mallette - Advocates for the rights of the seasonal workers and experts point to worsening working conditions, warn of the threat of human trafficking and forced labor, and complain about the prevailing impunity

Mexican workers harvest produce on a farm in the western U.S. state of California. The number of temporary agricultural workers from Mexico has increased in recent years in the United States and with it, human rights violations. CREDIT: Courtesy of Linnaea Mallette

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jul 8 2022 – Eduardo Reyes, originally from Puebla in central Mexico, was offered a 40-hour workweek contract by his recruiter and his employer in the United States, but ended up performing hundreds of hours of unpaid work that was not authorized because his visa had expired, unbeknownst to him.

Hired by recruiter Vazquez Citrus & Hauling (VCH), Reyes and five other temporary workers reached the United States between May and September 2017, months before starting work for Four Star Greenhouse in the Midwest state of Michigan.

In 2018, they worked more than 60 hours per week, received bad checks, and never obtained a copy of their contract, even though U.S. laws require that they be given one.

When they complained to Four Star and to their recruiter about the exploitative conditions, the latter turned them over to immigration authorities for deportation in July of that year because their visas had expired, which they had not been informed of by their agent.

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) authorized the arrival of 145 workers to the Four Star facilities in Carleton, Michigan. They were to earn 12.75 dollars per hour for 36 hours a week between January and July 2018.

Reyes’ case is set forth in complaint 2:20-CV-11692, seen by IPS, filed in the Southern Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by six Mexican workers against the company and its manager, whom they accuse of wage gouging, forced labor and workplace reprisals.

This story of exploitation has an aggravating factor that shows the shortcomings of the U.S. government’s H-2A temporary agricultural workers program, or H-2A visa program.

The United States created H-2 visas for unskilled temporary foreign workers in 1943 and in the 1980s established H-2A categories for rural workers and 2B for other labor, such as landscaping, construction, and hotel staff.

These visas allow Mexicans, mainly from rural areas, to migrate seasonally to the U.S. to work legally on farms included on a list, with the intermediation of recruiting companies.

In 2016, the US Department of Transportation fined VCH, based in the state of Florida, for 22,000 dollars for a bus accident in which six H-2A workers were killed while returning from Monroe, Michigan to Mexico.

Two years later, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division banned VCH and its owner for three years due to program violations in the state of North Carolina, such as failure to reimburse travel expenses and payroll and workday records. However, both continued to operate in the sector.

The workers’ odyssey begins in Mexico, where they are recruited by individual contractors -workers or former workers of a U.S. employer, colleagues, relatives or friends in their home communities – or by private U.S. agencies.

Structural problem

Reyes’ case illustrates the problems of labor exploitation, forced labor and the risk of human trafficking to which participants in the H-2A program are exposed, without intervention by Mexican or U.S. authorities to prevent human rights violations.

Advocates for the rights of the seasonal workers and experts pointed to worsening working conditions, warned of the threat of human trafficking and forced labor, and complained about the prevailing impunity.

According to Lilián López, representative in Mexico of the U.S.-based Polaris Project, the design and operation of the program result in a high risk of human trafficking and forced labor, due to factors such as the lack of supervision and interference by recruiters.

“Economic vulnerability puts migrants at risk, because many workers go into debt to get to the United States, and that gives the agencies a lot of power. They can set any kind of requirement for people to get the jobs. Sometimes recruiters make offers that look more attractive than they really are. That is fraud,” she told IPS in Mexico City.

The number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by Polaris in the US reflects the apparent increase in abuses. Between 2015 and 2017, 800 people on temporary visas, 500 of which were H-2A, called the hotline, compared to 2,890 people between 2018 and 2020 – a 360 percent increase.

Evy Peña, spokesperson for Mexico’s Migrant Rights Center, said temporary labor systems are designed to benefit employers, who have all the control, along with the recruiters.

“From the moment the workers are recruited, there is no transparency. There is a lack of oversight by the DOL, there are parts of recruitment that should be overseen by the Mexican government. There are things that the Mexican government should work out at home,” she told IPS from the northern city of Monterrey.

She said the situation has worsened because of the pandemic.

The United States and Mexico have idealized the H-2A program because it solves the lack of employment in rural areas, foments remittances that provide financial oxygen to those areas, and meets a vital demand in food-producing centers that supply U.S. households.

But the humanitarian costs are high, as the cases reviewed attest. Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has 369 labor placement agencies registered in 29 of Mexico’s 33 states. For overseas labor recruitment, seven operate – including four in Mexico City -, a small number compared to the thousands of visas issued in 2021.

For its part, the DOL reports 241 licensed recruiters in the US working for a handful of companies in that country.

The ones authorized in Mexico do not appear on the US list and vice versa, in another example of the scarce exchange of information between the two partners.

The number of H-2A visas for Mexican workers is on the rise, with the U.S. government authorizing 201,123 in 2020, a high number driven by the pandemic. That number grew 22 percent in 2021, to a total of 246,738.

In the first four months of the year, U.S. consulates in Mexico issued 121,516 such visas, 18 percent more than in the same period of 2021, when they granted 102,952.

In 2021, the states with the highest demand for Mexican labor were Florida, Georgia, California, Washington and North Carolina, in activities such as agriculture, the operation of farm equipment and construction.

The United States and Mexico agreed to issue another 150,000 visas for temporary workers in an attempt to mitigate forced migration from the south, which will also include Central American seasonal workers.

Details of the expansion of the program will be announced by Presidents Joe Biden and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a meeting to be held on Jul. 12 at the White House, with migration as one of the main topics on the agenda.

Mexican farm workers wait to be tested for COVID-19 in 2020 in Immolakee, a town in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida. The pandemic hit H-2A visa holders, who are mainly engaged in temporary agricultural work, hard. CREDIT: Doctors Without Borders - Advocates for the rights of the seasonal workers and experts point to worsening working conditions, warn of the threat of human trafficking and forced labor, and complain about the prevailing impunity

Mexican farm workers wait to be tested for COVID-19 in 2020 in Immolakee, a town in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida. The pandemic hit H-2A visa holders, who are mainly engaged in temporary agricultural work, hard. CREDIT: Doctors Without Borders


Lidia Muñoz, a doctoral student at the University of Oregon in the United States who has studied labor recruitment, stresses that there are no policies on the subject in Mexico, even though the government is aware of the problem.

“There are regulations for recruitment agencies that are not followed to the letter,” she told IPS from Portland, the largest city in the northwestern state of Oregon. “Most recruiters are not registered. The intermediaries are the ones who earn the most. There is no proper oversight.”

Article 28 of Mexico’s Federal Labor Law of 1970 regulates the provision of services by workers hired within Mexico for work abroad, but in practice it is not enforced.

This regulation requires the registration of contracts with the labor authorities and the posting of a bond to guarantee compliance, and makes the foreign contractor responsible for transportation to and from the country, food and immigration expenses, as well as full payment of wages, compensation for occupational hazards and access to adequate housing.

In addition, Mexican workers must be entitled to social security for foreigners in the country where they offer their services.

While the Mexican government could resort to this article to protect the rights of migrants, it has refused to apply it.

Between 2009 and 2019, the Ministry of Labor conducted 91 inspections of labor placement agencies in nine states and imposed 12 fines for about 153,000 dollars, but did not fine any recruiters of seasonal workers. Furthermore, the records of the Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration do not contain labor lawsuits for breach of that regulation.

Mexico is a party to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention, which it apparently violates in the case of temporary workers.

In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) does not know how many H-2A workers it has assisted through consular services. Likewise, it does not know how many complainants it has advised.

The Mexican consulate in Denver, Colorado received three labor complaints, dated Jul. 25, Aug. 12 and Oct. 28, 2021, which it referred to “specialized allies in the matter, who provided the relevant advice to the interested parties,” according to an SRE response to a request for information from IPS.

The consulate in Washington received “anonymous verbal reports” on labor issues, which it passed on to civil society organizations so that “the relevant support could be provided.”

Consular teams were active in some parts of the US in 2021. For example, Mexican officials visited eight corporations between May and September 2021 in Denver, Colorado.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania they visited 12 companies between April and August, 2021. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin they visited 26 companies between June 2021 and April of this year, and in Washington, DC six workplaces were visited between August and October 2021. However, the results of these visits are unknown.

Mexico, meanwhile, is in non-compliance with the ILO’s “General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment” of 2016.

These guidelines stipulate that hiring must be done in accordance with human rights, through voluntary agreements, free from deception or coercion, and with specific, verifiable and understandable conditions of employment, with no attached charges or job immobility.

Ariel Ruiz, an analyst with the U.S.-based Migration Policy Institute, is concerned about the expansion of the H-2A visa program without improvements in rights.

“There are labour rights violations before the workers arrive in the US, in recruitment there are often illegal payments, and we keep hearing reports of employers intimidating workers,” he told IPS from Washington.

“There are also problems in access to health services and legal representation” in case of abuse, added the analyst from the non-governmental institute.


In the last decade, at least 12 lawsuits have been filed in US courts by program workers against employers.

Muñoz, the expert from Oregon, said the trials can help reform the system.

“There have been cases that have resulted in visas for trafficking victims. But it is difficult to see changes in the United States. They may be possible in oversight. Legal changes have arisen because of wage theft from workers,” she said.

López, of Polaris, said the lawsuits were a good thing, but clarified that they did not solve the systemic problems. “What is needed is a root-and-branch reform of the system,” she said.

The United States has made trade union freedom in Mexico a priority. Peña asked that it also address the H-2A visa situation.

“If they’re serious about improving labor rights, they can’t ignore the responsibility they have for migrant workers. It’s like creating a double standard,” she said.

With regard to the expansion of the temporary visa program to Central Americans, the experts consulted expressed concern that it would lead to an increase in abuses.

This article was produced with support from the organizations Dignificando el Trabajo and the Avina Foundation’s Arropa Initiative in Mexico.

Why citizenship by investment in small island nations is worth considering: CS Global Partners

London, July 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Programs granting citizenship in exchange for economic investment in small island countries are growing in popularity. Over the last decade, these programs have become notable considerations for those looking to diversify their wealth; they offer benefits that most investors look for and cannot find in some parts of the world. Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis as well as Saint Lucia are some of the small island countries which offer citizenship by investment (CBI) programmes in the Caribbean. These countries offer profitable investment opportunities worth considering.

Obtaining citizenship in Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia comes with numerous benefits for investors. These benefits include favourable opportunities to plan and spread one's wealth, reduced citizenship application timelines, extending citizenship to the family, wide range of investment programmes, high standard of living and enjoying the general benefits that come with living in modern, diverse countries. In addition to this, the investment threshold is not as high as those of other countries. Individuals invest less to access the same benefits offered by relatively large countries.

Shorter citizenship application timeline:

When seeking a second citizenship, the citizenship timeline, or the time it takes for one to move from investor to citizen makes a huge difference. According to the 2021 CBI Index, the speed that it takes to process citizenship application in small island countries is rapid compared to other countries offering the same program. According to the same report, fast track CBI processing options which are available at an additional fee.

This is particularly important for time poor investors looking for effective and trusted options with little or no residence.

It must be noted that fast track options do not reduce the amount of due diligence performed on individuals. The same multilayer approach conducted by various external and local firms along with international police authorities applies to these programmes.

Obtaining citizenship with family:

The rise of increasingly complex family relationships is driving investors to seek CBI programs that allow for a more diverse range of family members to be included under a primary application. Even though a majority of CBI programmes provide for the inclusion of spouses and minor children, only a handful of countries do so for adult children and extended family. Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia were ranked high in this regard according to the CBI Index of 2021. These countries have multi–family member categories that can be considered with one primary application. The degree of flexibility in these categories means that points are awarded for adult children, parents, grandparents and even siblings. Investors who are seeking a second citizenship in these Caribbean countries do not have to worry about the breaking of family ties that comes with relocation and immigration.

Wide range of investment programmes:

Every investment option is evaluated based on its rate of return. When considering a CBI option, the types of investments are thoroughly scrutinised because they form basis of the income that investors will receive in the foreseeable future. The broader the investment programmes are, the better the diversification of an investor's portfolio.

Individuals applying for the Dominica CBI can make contributions to the Economic Diversification Fund and Real Estate. The former supports private as well as public projects within the country whereas the latter entails investment in approved real estate projects.

St Kitts and Nevis offers a wide range of CBI options such as the Sustainable Growth Fund. This option follows the Dominica CBI focus which is the public and private real estate development.

Key investments in St Lucia include the National Economic Fund Investment and real estate amongst others. This diversification of investment options is advantageous because it enables investors to select suitable investments that are in line with their risk appetite.

High standard of living:

The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), which encompasses factors such as life expectancy, education, access to healthcare, safety, and income is used to determine a country's standard of living. Dominica, St Kitts, and Nevis, and St Lucia have an HDI of 0.742, 0.779, and 0.759 respectively. These country indices are higher than the countries where most investors come from, and they indicate fairly high standards of living.

Outside of economic factors, small island countries rank high in terms of freedom of expression, civil liberties, and political rights which all contribute to a high standard of living. Investments in these countries also tend to offer considerably stable returns because of reduced political risk from upheavals or conflict.

Low minimum investment outlay:

According to the CBI report of 2021, small island countries offer relatively lower investment outlays for their CBI programmes. The minimum investment outlay is an important measure because it is one of the most practical and foremost considerations for all investors. Overall, small island countries had the lowest minimum investment requirements, with some as low as USD 100 000 in Dominica. The low investment outlay means that investors can access similar benefits that come with being a citizen of a country, without paying a fortune.

Intersecting Crises are Impeding the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Threatening Peace & Security

By Stefan Shweinfest
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 8 2022 – This week marks the mid-way point to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and with it the release of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022.

While we would like to trumpet success stories and report that we are on track in eradicating poverty and hunger and improving health and education in this report, the reality is, we cannot.

Instead, the data show that cascading and intersecting global crises are creating spin-off impacts on food and nutrition, health, education, the environment, and peace and security, presenting existential threats to the planet, and have already undone some of the initial accomplishments towards the SDGs.

In fact, the results of the report reflect a deepening and impending climate catastrophe; a war that is sparking one of the largest refugee crises of modern time; shows the impacts of the pandemic through increased child labour, child marriage, and violence against women; as well as food supply disruptions that threaten global food security; and a health pandemic that has interrupted the education of millions of students.

The report sounds an alarm that people and the planet are in serious challenges, rather than reading as the successful story of progress that we would have hoped for when launching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted or reversed years of development progress. As of end of 2021, nearly 15 million people worldwide had died directly or indirectly due to COVID-19. More than four years of progress in alleviating extreme poverty have been wiped out, and 150 million more people facing hunger in 2021 than in 2019.

An estimated 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person instruction over the past two years. The pandemic severely disrupted essential health services. Immunization coverage dropped for the first time in a decade and deaths from tuberculosis and malaria increased.

Stefan Schweinfest

As grim as the scenario sounds, we shall set a course for achieving the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through recovery and response: enact new ways of thinking and open up new possibilities.

During COVID-19, responses sped up the adoption of digital technologies and innovative approaches. There are some examples of positive trends coming out of the report: There has been a surge in the number of internet users due to the pandemic, increasing by 782 million people to reach 4.9 billion people in 2021, up from 4.1 billion in 2019.

Global manufacturing production grew by 7.2 per cent in 2021, surpassing its pre-pandemic level. Higher-technology manufacturing industries fared better than lower-tech industries during the pandemic, and therefore recovered faster.

In addition, before the pandemic, progress was being made in many important SDGs, such as reducing poverty, improving maternal and child health, increasing access to electricity, improving access to water and sanitation, and advancing gender equality.

War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is creating one of the largest refugee crises we have seen in modern time, which pushed the already record-high global refugee number even higher. As of May 2022, over 100 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

The crisis has caused food, fuel and fertilizer prices to skyrocket, further disrupted supply chains and global trade, roiled financial markets, and threatened global food security and aid flows.

Projected global economic growth for 2022 was cut by 0.9 percentage point, due to the war in Ukraine and potential new waves of the pandemic.

The world’s most vulnerable countries and population groups are disproportionately impacted by the multiple and interlinked crises. Developing countries are battling record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens.

With competing priorities and limited fiscal space, many are finding it harder than ever to recover economically. In least developed countries, economic growth remains sluggish and the unemployment rate is worsening.

Women have suffered a greater share of job losses combined with increased care work at home. Exiting evidence suggests that violence against women has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Anxiety and depression among adolescents and young people have increased significantly.

Climate Emergency

Low-carbon, resilient and inclusive development pathways will reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, transform our food systems, create better jobs and advance the transition to a greener, more inclusive and just economy.

The world is on the verge of a climate catastrophe where billions of people are already feeling the consequences. Energy-related CO2 emissions for 2021 rose by 6 per cent, reaching their highest level ever and completely wiping out pandemic-related declines.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, as set out in the Paris Agreement, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to peak before 2025 and then decline by 43 per cent by 2030 from 2010 level, falling to net zero by 2050.

Instead, under current voluntary national commitments to climate action, greenhouse gas emissions will rise by nearly 14 per cent by 2030.

A Road Map out of Crises

The road map laid out in establishing the Sustainable Development Goals has always been clear. Just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are the solutions.

In taking action to strengthen social protection systems, improve public services and invest in clean energy, we address the root causes of increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change.

We have a valuable tool in the release of The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 to understand our current state of affairs. What’s more, in order to understand where we are and where we are headed, significant investment in our data and information infrastructure is required.

Policies, programmes and resources aimed at protecting people during this most challenging time will inevitably fall short without the evidence needed to focus interventions.

Timely, high-quality and disaggregated data can help trigger more targeted responses, anticipate future needs, and hone the design of urgently needed actions. To emerge stronger from the crisis and prepare for unknown challenges ahead, funding statistical development must be a priority for national governments and the international community.

As the SDG Report 2022 underscores the severity and magnitude of the challenges before us, this requires accelerated global-scale action that is committed to and follows the SDG roadmap.

We know the solutions and we have the roadmap to guide us in weathering the storm and coming out stronger and better together.

Stefan Schweinfest is Director of the Statistics Division in the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). Under his leadership, the Division compiles and disseminates global statistical information, develops standards and norms for statistical activities including the integration of geospatial, statistical and other information, and supports countries’ efforts to strengthen their national statistical and geospatial systems.

IPS UN Bureau


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Wild Species Central to Human Survival, New IPBES Report Offers Options for their Sustainable Use

The IPBES Sustainable Use of Wild Species report was launched in Bonn, Germany. The report offers insights, analysis and tools to establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae worldwide. Credit: IISD Diego Noguera

The IPBES Sustainable Use of Wild Species report was launched in Bonn, Germany. The report offers insights, analysis and tools to establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae worldwide. Credit: IISD Diego Noguera

By Joyce Chimbi
Nairobi, Jul 8 2022 – Fifty thousand wild species meet the needs of billions of people worldwide, providing food, cosmetics, shelter, clothing, medicine and inspiration. But now, a million species of plants and animals face extinction with far-reaching consequences, including endangering economies, food security and livelihoods.

Against a backdrop of an ongoing global biodiversity crisis, a new report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on July 8, 2022, offers insights, analysis and tools to establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae around the world.

The cover of IPBES Summary for Policymakers of Sustainable Use of Wild Species Assessment. Credit: IPBES

The cover of IPBES Summary for Policymakers of Sustainable Use of Wild Species Assessment. Credit: IPBES

The IPBES Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species builds directly on the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which alerted the world that a million species of plants and animals face extinction, many within decades.

Approved this week by representatives of the 139 member States of IPBES in Bonn, Germany, the report is a result of four years of work by 85 leading experts from every region of the world to help decision-makers address the unsustainable use of wild species.

On the key findings, Professor John Donaldson from South Africa, who co-chaired the Assessment with Dr Jean-Marc Fromentin from France and Dr Marla R Emery (USA/Norway), said “at least 50,000 wild species are used through different practices, including more than 10,000 wild species harvested directly for human food. An estimated 70% of the world’s poor depend directly on wild species.

“One in five people rely on wild plants, algae and fungi for their food and income; 2.4 billion rely on fuel wood for cooking; and about 90% of the 120 million people working in capture fisheries are supported by small-scale fishing.”

The report found that rural people in developing countries are most at risk from unsustainable use, with a lack of complementary alternatives often forcing them to further exploit wild species already at risk.

Overall, wild tree species account for two-thirds of global industrial roundwood. Trade in wild plants, algae and fungi is a billion-dollar industry. Even non-extractive uses of wild species are big business.

Pre-COVID, tourism based on observing wild species was one of the main reasons that protected areas globally received eight billion visitors and generated US$600 billion yearly.

Ana Maria Hernandez Salgar, IPBES Chair, said the report harnesses different knowledge systems to the dialogue on sustainable use of wild species.

“We cannot talk of the intrinsic relationship between people and nature if we do not incorporate sustainable use of wild species as one of the greatest challenges we face. We have to reduce the overexploitation of wild species and their unsustainability,” Salgar says.

In providing the evidence and science needed to ensure sustainability, Fromentin said the report identifies five broad categories of practices in using wild species: fishing, gathering, logging, terrestrial animal harvesting, including hunting and finally, non-extractive practices.

Alongside each practice, the authors then examined specific uses such as food and feed, materials, medicine, energy and recreation, providing a detailed analysis of each trend over the past 20 years.

The examination reveals that, by and large, the use of wild species has increased, but the sustainability of use varies. For instance, global estimates confirm that about 34 percent of marine wild fish stocks are overfished and that 66 percent are fished within biologically sustainable levels.

The survival of an estimated 12 percent of wild tree species is threatened by unsustainable logging. Several plant groups, notably cacti, cycads and orchids, are threatened by mostly unsustainable gathering. Unsustainable hunting is a threat to 1,341 wild mammal species.

Further, Emery said that sustainable use of wild species has and can have an even more significant contribution to the realisation of UN’s SDGs. She singled out 12 SDGs, including ending hunger, sustainable life on the planet, and sustainable life on earth, terrestrial areas and underwater.

Emery highlighted what is currently recognized as the potential role of wild species in meeting SDGs and how it pales in comparison to the substantial contribution that remains untapped.

“Among environmental drivers, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species in particular impact the abundance and distribution of wild species and this, in turn, impacts their sustainability, and in turn their ability to contribute to human well-being,” Emery says.

The report finds that global trade in wild species increases substantially without effective regulation across supply chains – from local to international. Global trade of wild species generally increases pressures on wild species, leading to unsustainable use and sometimes to wild population collapses – such as the shark fin trade.

Illegal trade in wild species represents the third-largest class of all illicit trade, with estimated annual values of up to US$199 billion. Timber and fish make up the largest volumes and value of illegal trade in wild species.

To address a global biodiversity crisis that is growing urgent with every passing day, Fromentin said the report fronts seven key elements with the potential to significantly promote sustainable use of wild species. These include policy options that are inclusive and participatory, that recognize and support multiple forms of knowledge and policy instruments and tools that ensure fair and equitable distribution of costs and benefits.

It further stressed the need for context-specific policies monitoring wild species and practices. These policy instruments should be aligned at international, national, regional, and local levels and maintain coherence and consistency with international obligations while considering customary rules and norms. Robust institutions, including customary institutions, should support them.

In conclusion, the report’s authors examine a range of possible future scenarios for the use of wild species. Confirming that climate change, increasing demand and technological advances, making many extractive practices more efficient, are likely to present significant challenges to sustainable use in the future.

To address identified challenges, the report proposes actions aligned to the five broad practices in the use of wild species. Take fishing, for instance, recommended actions include reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, suppressing harmful financial subsidies and supporting small-scale fisheries.

The timing of the report is crucial as world leaders move closer to agreeing on a new global biodiversity framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference in December 2022, fronted as the road to a bold new agreement for nature.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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A World of 8 Billion, Yes, But (II): The Unseen, Untold Story of the 50%

"When nearly a third of all women in developing countries are becoming mothers during adolescence, it is clear the world is failing adolescent girls,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. Credit: Michael Duff/UNFPA Teenage Pregnancies - Teenage pregnancies - Almost one third of women in developing countries had their first baby while they were still in their teens, with nearly half of those new mothers aged 17 and younger

“When nearly a third of all women in developing countries are becoming mothers during adolescence, it is clear the world is failing adolescent girls,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. Credit: Michael Duff/UNFPA

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jul 8 2022 – While women and girls have been so far enjoying some of their due rights in Western high-income countries, the overwhelming majority of teenagers and adult women in the impoverished regions of the current world’s population of 8 billions continue to suffer all kinds of inequalities.

Such a harsh reality does not only impact their basic human rights, like equal treatment, same rights as men in decision-making, working conditions, payment, property, healthcare, staggering poverty and a very long etcetera, but also the pressing need to guarantee their right to protection against all sorts of gender violence, abuse, rape, and the consequences of unwanted, unintended pregnancies in particular among teenagers and child girls.

Almost one third of women in developing countries had their first baby while they were still in their teens, the report shows, with nearly half of those new mothers aged 17 and younger – still children themselves

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) released ahead of the 2022 World Population Day on 11 July, an extensive report titled the Gender and income inequalities driving teenage motherhood in developing countries.

Almost one third of women in developing countries had their first baby while they were still in their teens, the report shows, with nearly half of those new mothers aged 17 and younger – still children themselves.


Inequalities, entrenched

Gender-based and income inequalities, adds the report, are highlighted as key in fuelling teen pregnancies by increasing child marriage rates, keeping girls out of school, restricting their career aspirations, and limiting health care and information on safe, consensual sex.

Entrenching these inequalities are climate disasters, COVID-19 and conflict, which are all upending lives around the world, obliterating livelihoods and making it more difficult for girls to afford or even physically reach school and health services.

This leaves tens of millions yet more vulnerable to child marriage and early pregnancy, adds UNFPA.

“When nearly a third of all women in developing countries are becoming mothers during adolescence, it is clear the world is failing adolescent girls,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

“The repeat pregnancies we see among adolescent mothers are a glaring signpost that they desperately need sexual and reproductive health information and services.”


Adolescent motherhood

Most births among girls under the age of 18 in 54 developing countries are reported as taking place within a marriage or union. Although more than half of those pregnancies were classified as “intended”, young girls’ ability to decide whether to have children can be severely constrained.

Indeed, the report finds that adolescent pregnancy is often – albeit not always – driven by a lack of meaningful choice, limited agency, and even force or coercion. See, for example: Daughters of a Lesser God: 800 Million Girls Forced to Be Mothers.

Even in contexts where adolescent motherhood is considered acceptable and planned for, it can carry “serious and long-term repercussions, especially when health-care systems fail to ensure accessible sexual and reproductive care and information for this vulnerable age group.”


Complications, deaths

Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 years, who are also far more likely to suffer a litany of other violations of their human rights, from forced marriage and intimate partner violence to serious mental health impacts of bearing children before they are out of childhood themselves.

Girls who give birth in adolescence also often go on to have more than one baby in quick succession – which can be dangerous both physically and psychologically.

“Among those who first gave birth at age 14 or younger, nearly three quarters had a second baby before they turned 20, and a staggering 40% of those had a third before they left their teens.


Why is child motherhood so high?

Adolescent births now account for 16% of all births in the world, and the report shows women who began childbearing in adolescence had almost five births by the time they reached age 40, warns the report.

“With inequalities and humanitarian crises multiplying and intensifying, we know women and girls are bearing an unequal burden of the consequent physical, psychological and economic turmoil.”



Also according to the report, in conflict as in climate disasters, schools and health facilities are frequently reduced to rubble and devoid of staff and equipment.

Insecurity and violence render it impossible for people to move around even for basic necessities, including contraception and other critical sexual and reproductive health care.

“Crises and displacement are also known to lead to spikes in gender-based and sexual violence, in turn causing more sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies from rape, and rising rates of forced and child marriages as parents struggle to cope with financial hardship and aching hunger.”

Under these circumstances, access to employment, education and health services is disrupted or suspended entirely, pushing girls out of school, women out of the workforce and leading child marriages and unintended pregnancies to soar.


Seeing the Unseen

UNFPA’s State of World Population Report 2022: Seeing the Unseen highlights the alarming figure that almost half of all pregnancies in the world are unintended and explores the health, human right, humanitarian and socio-economic linkages of unintended pregnancies.

This is including the issue of gender-based violence, the increased barrier women face in accessing reproductive health services in conflict settings and the risks related to unsafe abortions.

In its report on World Population Day: “A world of 8 billion: Towards a resilient future for all – Harnessing opportunities and ensuring rights and choices for all,” for the first time in history, we are seeing extreme diversity in the mean age of countries and the fertility rates of populations.”

While the populations of a growing number of countries are ageing and about 60% of the world’s population live in countries with below-replacement fertility of 2.1 children per woman, other countries have huge youth populations and keep growing pace.

But focus should be on people, not population, highlights the United Nations Population Fund. Reducing people to numbers strips them of their humanity. Instead of making the numbers work for systems, make the systems work for the numbers by promoting the health and well-being of people.


The untold story

Back to the key issue of women and teenagers, UNFPA’s report: Motherhood in Childhood: The Untold Story, features the trends and provides a wide picture of such a shocking problem.

‘World is failing adolescent girls’ warns UNFPA chief, as report shows third of women in developing countries give birth in teen years.

Is this the world that human beings want?