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Sunday 1st February 1987

Issue: The use of biotechnology to produce the intensely sweet thaumatin protein.

Plant: Thaumatin is derived from a fruit of a West-African rain forest shrub.

Countries affected: Product will be marketed as a low-calorie sweetener in Europe, Japan, USA

Impact: In combination with other newly developed sweeteners, these products offer the potential to erode traditional sugar markets

Friday 30th January 1987

Issue: Natural vanilla production via tissue culture technology.

Crop: Vanilla planifolia - the commercially important species of Vanilla orchis

Countries affected: Madagascar, Comoros islands, Reunion, Indonesia

Impact: possible loss of $67 million in annual export earnings. 

Saturday 1st November 1986

Product: Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) or Bovine Somatotropin (BST)

Purpose: Designed to dramatically increase milk production in dairy cattle

Counties affected: USA and Europe initially

Impact: Drop in milk prices, loss of 25-30% of dairy farmers, changes in cropping patterns, narrowing of genetic base of dairy cattle

Tuesday 30th September 1986

Issue: Replacement of major cash crop (Gum Arabic)

Countries affected: Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and others

Impact: Possible loss of $ 60 million in annual export earnings and seasonal employment

New starch-based substitutes for gum arabic and other water soluble gums threaten to replace a major portion of gum exports from several African countries.

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Friday 15th May 1998

A public row over the notorious US patent on the medicinal plant ayahuasca has broken out between COICA, the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples' Organizations of the Amazon Basin, and the US government's Inter-American Foundation (IAF). In correspondence made public on the internet by COICA on March 4th, IAF has demanded COICA disavow a 1996 resolution approved by Amazonian indigenous peoples' organizations from 9 countries, that condemns the US plant patent (#PP5751) held by the International Plant Medicine Corporation (IPMC). IAF has further threatened to withdraw funding from groups that don't heed its command.

Thursday 30th April 1998

Canada is holding the line on life patenting. Bucking patent trends in the USA and Europe, Canada's Federal Court ruled last week that Harvard's "oncomouse" is not patentable under Canadian law.

On August 4, 1995 Canada's Commissioner of Patents ruled that Harvard University's genetically altered mice were not patentable in Canada. The President and Fellows of Harvard appealed that decision to Canada's Federal Court. On April 21, 1998, the Federal Court ruled against Harvard, and dismissed the appeal

The (Merchant) Prince and the (Punjabi) Paupers

Tuesday 31st March 1998

A U.S. rice patent has the potential to make Europe's Hans-Adam II "heir apparent" to South Asia's Basmati rice and its famous name. The Liechtenstein Prince's dreams of empire may be decided in a Texas law court.

Monday 30th March 1998

Delta and Pine Land Co. (Mississippi, USA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they received US Patent No. 5,723,765 on a new genetic technology designed to prevent unauthorized seed saving by farmers. The patented technology, Control of plant gene expression" would allow seed companies to control the viability of progeny seed without harming the crop. In other words, the new technology genetically alters the seed so that it will not germinate if re-planted a second time.

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