Recent Content Related to Patents & Biopiracy
Nano-scale technology is a suite of techniques used to manipulate matter at the scale of atoms and molecules. “Nano” is a measurement – not an object. Unlike “biotechnology,” where you know that bios (life) is being manipulated, “nanotechnology” speaks solely to scale. A “nanometre” (nm) equals one billionth of a metre. One human hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick. It takes ten atoms of hydrogen side-by-side to equal one nanometre. A DNA molecule is about 2.5 nm wide. A red blood cell is vast in comparison: about 5,000 nm in diameter. Everything on the nano-scale is invisible to the unaided eye and even to all but the most powerful microscopes.
ETC Group reported on a patent application(1) under examination at the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in which Siegers Seed Company of Holland, Michigan, claimed invention of a “warted pumpkin...wherein the outer shell includes at least one wart...” On February 13 2009, the USPTO put its 9-page verdict in the mail(2) rejecting all of the application's 25 claims.
On December 4, 2008, while most folks in the United States were eating the last slices of pumpkin pie left over from Thanksgiving dinner, the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published patent application US20080301830A1 on a Warted pumpkin, “invented” by the Director of Sales & Marketing at Siegers Seed Company in Holland, Michigan, USA. The patent application claims a “warted pumpkin...wherein the outer shell includes at least one wart associated with the outer shell of the body.”
ETC Group released a 48-page report, "Who Owns Nature?" on corporate concentration in commercial food, farming, health and the strategic push to commodify the planet's remaining natural resources.
In a world where market research is becoming increasingly proprietary and pricey, ETC Group's report names names, discloses market share and provides top 10 industry rankings up and down the corporate food chain. Not all the corporations identified in ETC Group's new report are household names, but collectively they control a staggering share of the commercial products found on industrial farms, in our refrigerators and medicine cabinets.
In this 100th issue of the ETC Communiqué we update Oligopoly, Inc. – our ongoing series tracking corporate concentration in the life industry. We also analyze the past three decades of agribusiness efforts to monopolize the 24% of living nature that has been commodified, and expose a new strategy to capture the remaining three-quarters that has, until now, remained beyond the market economy.
Issue: The world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in plants that the companies will market as crops genetically engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more. BASF, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont and biotech partners have filed 532 patent documents (a total of 55 patent families) on so-called “climate ready” genes at patent offices around the world. In the face of climate chaos and a deepening world food crisis, the Gene Giants are gearing up for a PR offensive to re-brand themselves as climate saviours. The focus on so-called climate-ready genes is a golden opportunity to push genetically engineered crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change. But patented techno-fix seeds will not provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change. These proprietary technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.
Today (21. May 2008) the world learned which corporations, governments, institutions and individuals earned a spot in biopiracy’s hall of shame when the Coalition Against Biopiracy (CAB) announced the winners of the 5th Captain Hook Awards at a lunch-time ceremony during the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, Germany.
A report released by Canadian-based civil society organization, ETC Group, reveals that the world's largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in plants that the companies will market as crops genetically engineered to withstand environmental stresses associated with climate change - including drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more. ETC Group's report warns that - rather than a solution for confronting climate change - the promise of so-called "climate-ready" crops will be used to drive farmers and governments onto a proprietary biotech platform.
The infamous Enola bean patent, first denounced by ETC Group eight years ago as a textbook case of biopiracy, was struck down yesterday (April 29, 2008) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. One of the most controversial plant patents in history, the effort to defeat it was unprecedented because it involved the United Nations and international plant breeding institutes.
What's the most scandalous case of biopiracy in your country? Who's ripping off indigenous knowledge in your community? Which privateer is most egregiously pillaging the global commons for profit? Who's monopolizing your genes or patenting your plants?
Nominate your least favorite pirate for a 2008 Captain Hook Award. All outrageous achievements in biopiracy deserve recognition!
Nominate your most admired biopiracy-resistor for a 2008 Cog Award. All those who have fought off biopirates, defeated predatory patents or otherwise foiled the nefarious plots of fiendish privateers deserve recognition. (Cog Awards are so-named because cogs were ships designed to repel pirate attacks.)
The swarm of media attention focusing on today's opening of the Global Seed Vault in Norway's high Arctic may overshadow an even bigger news story. The Norwegian government pledged to give 0.1% of money spent on commercial seed sales to support Farmers' Rights, and challenged other governments to do the same. The critical message is that even the most secure gene bank storage is not the ultimate solution. Governments must provide support to farmers to improve local conservation and breeding, and help them obtain access to far away seed accessions.
Contrary to the opinion of many, June's Food Summit actually did something. It signaled the beginning of the end for the multilateral system as we know it. Over the next six months the food emergency - and the international institutions designed to address it - could get worse.
ETC Group exposed the Venter Institute’s controversial patent applications on the world’s first human-made living organism built entirely from synthetic DNA (dubbed “Synthia” by ETC Group). Newly published patent claims reveal an even bigger grab for ownership of synthetic life.
In the name of moving “beyond petroleum,” Big Oil, Gene Giants, governments, start-ups and others are forming partnerships that will extend corporate control over more resources in every part of the globe – while keeping the root causes of climate change intact. With grudging recognition that first-generation agrofuels are neither economical nor ecological, investors turn to other life-based technologies, including synthetic biology, for the next alternative fuel fix.
Based on 2006 revenues, the top 10 seed corporations account for $13,014 million or 57% of the commercial seed market worldwide.
The top 3 seed companies account for $9,000 million – or 39% of the commercial seed market worldwide.
The top 4 seed companies account for 44% of the commercial seed market worldwide.
The world’s largest seed company, Monsanto, accounts for 20% of the world’s commercial seed market.
ETC Group released “Terminator: The Sequel,” a Communiqué reporting on new research related to “suicide seeds” and other genetically modified (GM) seed technologies that pose unacceptable threats to farmers, biodiversity and food sovereignty.
A bill to prohibit field testing and commercialization of Terminator seed technology was introduced in the Canadian Parliament. Terminator refers to plants that are genetically engineered to render sterile seeds at harvest - a technology that aims to maximize seed industry profits by preventing farmers from re-planting harvested seed.
"Canada needs to pass this bill into law because genetic seed sterilization is dangerous and blatantly anti-farmer - suicide seeds threaten to intensify corporate control over Canadian agriculture and offers no benefits for farmers," said Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union.
Munich – The European Patent Office put the brakes on Monsanto’s over-the-top corporate greed by revoking its species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybeans (EP0301749) – a patent unprecedented in its broad scope. ETC Group, an international civil society organization based in Canada, won its 13-year legal challenge against Monsanto’s species-wide soybean patent when an EPO appeal board ruled that the patent was not new or sufficient (i.e., the invention claimed was not sufficiently described for a skilled person to repeat it). The patent challenge was supported by Greenpeace and “No Patents on Life!” Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of UK-based EcoNexus also joined the opposition team in Munich as a scientific expert.
Issue: Everybody’s trying to jump-start science – and, especially, agricultural science – in Africa. Starting with the G8 meeting in Canada five years ago – and pledges by four of its members to build new centers of scientific excellence in Africa – the Syngenta Foundation, CGIAR, Jeffrey Sachs’s Earth Institute, and now, Google, Gates, and Rockefeller are all pushing new initiatives for the continent. While there is no denying that Africans deserve support in their struggle to address hunger, disease and climate change, science and technology are no “silver bullet” to resolve Africa’s problems. Yet, when the G8 meets this June in Germany they are expected to announce a new research agenda that will again propose scientific solutions to the world’s – and, particularly Africa’s – social problems.