Quick Reads

Toward a Global Moratorium on Plant Monopolies

UN FAO, CGIAR Move to Defend Farmers' Rights, Crop Germplasm; Call for Plant "Patent" Moratorium on CG Seeds

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are moving quickly, and in concert to address abuses of their trust agreements covering several hundred thousand invaluable crop seed accessions, according to the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI).

Aussies Pirate

International Confusion, Anger Greet Australian Kleptomania of Farmers' Plant Varieties from other Countries.

The agricultural departments of at least four Australian state governments, as well as a bevy of other national public and private research institutes, are routinely pirating the indigenous knowledge of farming communities and international research institutes around the world, according to the Canada-based Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) - a rural advocacy organization with twenty years experience in the field. Accusing the Aussie agencies of making cowboy claims' on farmer-bred plant varieties from Brazil to India, RAFI's Executive Director, Pat Roy Mooney, says that several dozen plant 'patent' claims listed by Canberra's Plant Breeder's Rights Office are 'a clear rip-off of the genius of others. In most of these cases, the Australians appear to have done nothing more than select and multiply somebody else's seed and then slap a PBR (plant patent) monopoly on them,' Mooney insists.

International Research Centre (ICARDA) Breaks Trust

Allows Australians to "Patent" Plants Supposedly Held in Trust for Farmers

The Syrian-based International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) has fundamentally misinterpreted its authority" with respect to crop germplasm it holds in trust on behalf of the United Nations, according to the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). In a letter sent to RAFI's Executive Director, Pat Mooney, on January 26th, ICARDA's Director-General, Prof. Dr Adel El-Beltagy, admitted that the Centre had willingly allowed a number of Australian institutes to apply for Plant Breeder's Rights (a form of plant patent) on varieties the Centre holds under a trusteeship agreement with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.

Australians Abandon 2 Plant Patent "Claims"

But many questions remain ... and the fate of 26 other claims are in doubt

Australian crop development agencies have been forced to abandon their claims on two chickpea varieties they admit were obtained from an international public research institute based in India (see RAFI's release of 6 January). In a blunt message sent January 8th, the institute, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) - acting on information from RAFI - demanded that the claims for Australian Plant Breeders' Rights (a patent-like intellectual property regime for crop varieties) be dropped. On January 16th, the two Australian institutes - Agriculture WA and CLIMA - said that the claims had been abandoned.

Recent Australian Claims to Indian and Iranian Chickpeas Countered by NGOs and ICRISAT

Or, how to "invent" a chickpea without really trying

The Australian seed industry has applied for plant breeder's rights (PBR) on two chickpea varieties taken from ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) - an internationally-funded public research centre based in Hyderabad, India. If granted, the Australians will give themselves a 20 year monopoly on the Asian chickpeas, which they propose to market in South Asia and the Middle East. Neither variety, however, is new to farmers. In fact, both are ICRISAT accessions originating in farmer's fields in Iran and India. It's blatant biopiracy," explains Farhad Mazhar of Bangladeshi organization UBINIG and the South Asian Network on Food, Ecology, and Culture, "Australia is privatizing seeds that belong to our farmers, and they plan to sell them back to us with their own self-authorized plant monopoly."

Scientific Review Rejects the HGDP

NRC Signals Need For Ethical Strategy to Protect Diversity. HGDP Opponents Vindicated After Five Years of Controversy

A US National Research Council (NRC) report released October 21 has unambiguously rebuffed the controversy-plagued Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a project that proposed to collect DNA samples from over 700 groups of people - mostly indigenous communities - from around the world.

US Government Dumps the Hagahai Patent

Official Notice to Coincide with Human Rights Day

After months of indecision and confusing signals, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has finally put an end to its internationally-denounced patent on the human cell line of a Hagahai indigenous person from Papua New Guinea. I hope this is the end of what is arguably the most offensive patent ever issued." says Alejandro Argumedo of the Canada-based Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN).

Un brevet pour la vie

L'aboutissement recent de la negociation du GATT et la signature de la Convention sur la diversite biologique ont place les droits de propriete intellectuelle au premier plan des relations Nord-Sud.
Les decisions prises en la matiere, notamment en ce qui a trait aux ressources du regne vegetal, ont d'importantes implications pour la securite alimentaire, l'agriculture, le developpement rural et l'environnement de tous les pays, au Nord comme au Sud. Pour ces derniers en particulier, l'incidence de la propriete intellectuelle sur les agriculteurs, les societes rurales et la biodiversite revetira une extreme importance.

Laws of Life

Another Development and the New Biotechnologies

It is more than a year since the Dag Hammarskjöld Seminar at Bogève and in Geneva. We have tried our best to retain the spirit of those important discussions while updating the information. The pace of technical, political and corporate change makes both the data and the analysis something of a moving target. No doubt we have sometimes missed our mark.