ETC Group released a 16-page review of five new initiatives intended to launch what ETC dubs “Green Revolution 2.0” in Africa. Leading the charge is a plan to construct four Centers of Excellence together with a second initiative called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Green Revolution that followed World War II focused on semi-dwarf, high-yielding plant varieties” says Pat Mooney, ETC Group’s Executive Director. “It was a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it silver bullet,” Mooney adds, “Africa left it.” In other words, Green Revolution technologies were inappropriate for the needs and resources of African farmers. ETC Group’s communiqué warns that, in Green Revolution 2.0, “big-box” science is being buttressed by a strategy to restructure African agriculture. Although the cornerstone of the new revolution will still be high-tech seeds, the G-8 and private foundations also want continental changes in market structure, intellectual property laws, and seed regulation so that agribusiness suppliers can profitably sell seeds, chemicals, and other inputs to farmers. “Big-box science will be linked to small box suppliers,” Mooney argues, “This time, the silver bullet has a gun.”
Recent Content Related to Patents & Biopiracy
A new report by the ETC Group concludes that the social, environmental and bio-weapons threats of synthetic biology surpass the possible dangers and abuses of biotech. The full text of the 70-page report, Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology, is available for downloading free-of-charge on the ETC Group website.
"Genetic engineering is passé," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group. "Today, scientists aren't just mapping genomes and manipulating genes, they're building life from scratch - and they're doing it in the absence of societal debate and regulatory oversight," said Mooney.
During summer vacation 2006, the lead US environmental regulatory agency acknowledged it has approved at least 15 novel nano-scale chemicals. Earlier this year EPA sanctioned the unproven use of iron nanoparticles to clean up a pesticide dump.
Issue: Medical applications of nano-scale technologies have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by delivering powerful tools for diagnosing and treating disease at the molecular level. But the current zeal for nano-enabled
medicines could divert scarce medical R&D funds away from essential health services and direct resources away from non-medical aspects of community health and wellbeing. Although nanomedicine is being touted as a solution to pressing health needs in the global South, it is being driven from the North and is designed primarily for wealthy markets. Using nano-scale technologies, the pharmaceutical industry’s ultimate goal is to make every person a patient and every patient a paying customer by “medicating” social ills with human performance enhancement (HyPE) drugs and devices. Nanoenabled HyPEs could usher in an era of two-tiered humans – Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens 2.0.
In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
Two World Bank projects, with funding from the GEF (Global Environmental Facility), propose to introduce genetically modified crops such as maize, potatoes, cassava, rice and cotton into five Latin American and four African countries that are centers of origin or diversity for these and other major food crops. Civil society organizations warn that DNA contamination from genetically modified crops poses an unacceptable risk to stable crops that are the basis of peasant economies in these regions. The multi-million dollar projects are being promoted under the guise of scientific biosafety research, but civil society organizations on both continents are calling for their immediate rejection because they threaten food sovereignty and farmer-controlled seed systems.
Synthetic biology (the attempt to create artificial living organisms) should be self-regulated say scientists at Berkeley assembly. Civil Society organizations say "No!"
"If biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." Nature, October 2004
Scientists working at the interface of engineering and biology - in the new field of "synthetic biology" - worry that public distrust of biotechnology could impede their research or draw attention to regulatory chasms. Synthetic biologists are trying to design and construct artificial living systems to perform specific tasks, such as producing pharmaceutical compounds or energy. In October 2004, the journal Nature warned, "if biologists are indeed on the threshold of synthesizing new life forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster could be huge." An editorial in that same issue suggested that there may be a need for an "Asilomar"-type conference on synthetic biology. In light of these concerns, scientists gathering at "Synthetic Biology 2.0" (May 20-22, 2006) at the University of California-Berkeley hope to make "significant progress" toward a "code of ethics and standards." Their actions are intended to project the message that the synthetic biologists are being pro-active and capable of governing themselves as a "community." In their view, self-governance is the best way forward to safely reap the benefits (both societal and financial) of synthetic biology. Civil Society organizations disagree.
A coalition of thirty-eight international organizations including scientists, environmentalists, trade unionists, biowarfare experts and social justice advocates called for inclusive public debate, regulation and oversight of the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology - the construction of unique and novel artificial life forms to perform specific tasks. Synthetic biologists are meeting this weekend in Berkeley, California where they plan to announce a voluntary code of self-regulation for their work (1). The organizations signing the Open Letter are calling on synthetic biologists to abandon their proposals for self-governance and to engage in an inclusive process of global societal debate on the implications of their work (see attached Open Letter).
Movimentos de Agricultores, de Povos Indígenas e de Organizações da Sociedade Civil ao Redor do Mundo Exigem Banimento
É oficial. Os governos na Convenção de Diversidade Biológica das Nações Unidas (CDB), de forma unânime, mantiveram a moratória internacional de facto sobre a tecnologia Terminator - plantas que são geneticamente engenheiradas para produzirem sementes estéreis na colheita. A 8ª reunião da CDB foi encerrada hoje, em Curitiba, Brasil.
The winners of the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracyare an eclectic group that includes old favorites and new up-and-comers; Community-based biodiversity efforts win Cog Awards for defending food sovereignty
Google "Crashed" today (March 2006) at the Captain Hook Awards ceremony during the meeting of the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). No, this doesn't mean that Internet service was interrupted in Curitiba's ExpoTrade Convention and Exhibition Centre where the CBD meeting is being held through March 31. It means that Google walked away with an unexpected big win - just as the movie "Crash" did a few weeks ago at Hollywood's Academy Awards. In all, eleven Captain Hooks received prizes in ten categories related to biopiracy. There were seven Cog Award winners in six categories related to biopiracy resistance and community-based biodiversity strengthening.
A broad coalition of peasant farmers, Indigenous Peoples and civil society today (24.03.2006) celebrated the firm rejection of efforts to undermine the global moratorium on Terminator technologies - genetically engineered sterile seeds - at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil.
"This is a momentous day for the 1.4 billion poor people worldwide, who depend on farmer saved seeds," said Francisca Rodriguez of Via Campesina a global movement of peasant farmers. "Terminator seeds are a weapon of mass destruction and an assault on our food sovereignty."
"Terminator directly threatens our life, our culture and our identity as Indigenous Peoples," said Viviana Figueroa of the Ocumazo indigenous community in Argentina, on behalf of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.
"Today's decision is a huge step forward for the Brazilian Campaign against GMOs," said Maria Rita Reis from the Brazilian Forum of Social Movements and NGOs. "This reaffirms Brazil's existing ban on Terminator. It sends a clear message to the national government and congress that the world supports a ban on Terminator."
Curitiba, Brazil. After a week that has seen a worldwide mobilisation against Terminator technology, the issue of Suicide Seeds is about to hit the negotiating floor of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Curitiba, Brazil (March 2006). Known to the CBD as GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), Terminator crops are genetically modified to create sterile seeds at harvest so that farmers must buy new seed every season. Today (22.03.2006) the Ban Terminator Campaign, a global coalition of over 500 organisations, released new financial calculations indicating that Terminator seeds will impose a burden of billions of extra dollars in seed costs on some of the world's poorest nations.
A 21 February 2006 news release from the Ban Terminator Campaign reported on Monsanto's revised pledge on Terminator. Whereas the company made a public commitment in 1999 not to use Terminator technology, its new pledge suggests that it would use Terminator seeds in non-food crops and does not rule out other uses in the future. Now Monsanto's Director of Public Policy has written an apology to the Ban Terminator Campaign and concedes that it didn't really mean it would consider using Terminator in non-food crops.
Indigenous peoples were betrayed and Farmers' Rights trampled at a UN meeting this week (March 2006) when the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments - guided by the US government and a brazen cabal of corporate Gene Giants - took a major step to undermine the existing moratorium on Terminator technology (i.e., plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest). The damaging recommendations from the meeting in Granada, Spain, now go to the upcoming 8th biennial meeting of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 2006.
Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week (January 2006). The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.
The Coalition Against Biopiracy exposed the globe's nastiest biopirates and rewarded the most steadfast resistors at the Captain Hook Awards on 24 March 2006 during the meeting of the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil. This ETC Group Communique provides a detailed description of the 2006 award winners.
After more than a decade of negotiations, the CBD has yet to provide meaningful regulations to stop biopiracy – the monopolization of genetic resources and knowledge taken from the farming communities and peoples that have developed and nurtured those resources. The Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy are given out at the meeting of the CBD’s COP to draw international attention to the Convention’s failure to put human rights above monopoly rights and for continuing to propagate the myth that equitable benefit sharing is achievable in the context of predatory patent regimes. Cog awards are given to those institutions, peoples’ organizations, governments and individuals who have fostered real opposition to biopiracy, defeated predatory patents or defended the intellectual and cultural integrity of farmers and Indigenous Peoples.
*In the Middle Ages, cogs were small ships built with high sides to make them less vulnerable to pirate attacks.
The Enola bean patent case demonstrates that intellectual property challenges are not a viable means of “correcting” abuses in the patent system. Just about everyone agrees that the Enola bean patent is technically invalid – the bean, in fact, is genetically identical to a pre-existing Mexican bean variety that was previously known and grown in the United States.
As governments at the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong bristle with the thorny politics of trade, the report that ETC Group releases today, Oligopoly, Inc. 2005, serves as a reminder that what looks like buying and selling between countries is most often the redistribution of capital among subsidiaries of the same parent multinational corporation.
Patents granted in major trading jurisdictions such as the European Patent Office or the US Patent and Trademark Office are often accepted without question by overburdened patent authorities elsewhere. Yet, many exclusive monopoly patents related to the processes and formulae of life are contrary to a country's moral sense - or even pose a threat to food security or the environment. Many countries have national patent laws that provide for what is commonly known as ordre public - ensuring the government's right to say "no" to "immoral" patents. This well-established national right is also embedded in the GATT TRIPS (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property) agreement under Article 27(2).
Seeding makes readers aware of what has changed - scientifically, politically and environmentally - since the publication in 1994 of Patents for Life, a book that has made its mark.
Volume I offers policymakers a clear description of the facts, the fights and discussions concerning the ownership, conservation and exchange of genetic resources. It will teach readers new to these issues for the first time why germplasm is important and why it is the subject of intense trade negotiations. The reader will better understand issues related to intellectual property and security at national and international. Volume II will deal with the legal mechanisms: 1) to conserve and exchange germplasm for current and future generations, 2) to encourage innovation in the field of conservation and germplasm enhancement, 3) for find solutions to the rights and interests of indigenous and rural populations that create and maintain biological diversity. AUTHOR Crucible Group includes the following: Civil society organizations (including Aboriginal groups): Alejandro Argumedo, Margarita Florez, Glen Hearns, Dan Leskien, Atencio Lopez, Andrew Mushita, Gurdhial Singh Nijar, Rene Salazar, Priscilla Settee, Hope Shand Private sector and industry: Don Duvik, Klaus Leisinger, Brian Lowry, Radha Ranganathan, PV Subba Rao, Tim Roberts, Reinhard Von Broock Public Sector: Tewolde Gebre Egziabher Behran, Engsiang Lim, Geoffrey Hawtin, Mita Manek, Nora Olembo, Tuan Vo Xuan, Nuno Pires de Carvalho, Gesa Horstkotte-Wesseler, Louise Sperling University: Assiah Bensalah Alaoui, Carlos Correa, Michael Flitner, Cary Fowler, Jaap Hardon, Francisco Martinez-Gomez, Michael Pimbert Management Committee: Susan Bragdon, Chusa Gines, Christine Grieder, Michael Halewood (coordinator), Pat Mooney, Olle Nordberg, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Carl-Gustav Thornstrom, Beate Weiskopf, Joachim Voss (President)