ISSUE: Biodiversity prospecting is the exploration, extraction and screening of biological diversity and indigenous knowledge for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources. Bilateral bioprospecting agreements are sanctioned by the multilateral Convention on Biological Diversity. In the vast majority of cases, however, commercial bioprospecting agreements cannot be effectively monitored or enforced by source communities, countries, or by the Convention, and amount to little more than "legalized" bio-piracy.
Has the PPA Benefitted Society? The PPA's Relevance for the South.
RAFI examines plant utility patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office from 1985 through mid-1995. Utility plant patenting is a threat to world food security; exceedingly broad patents on biological materials and the processes used to manipulate them are "locking up" new plant biotechnologies in the hands of a small number of corporations.
Cases from Thailand, Gabon, Ecuador, and Peru
This issue looks at biopiracy case studies around the world including super-sweet brazzein from Gabon; the Foundation for Ethnobiology in Thailand; Peruvian indigenous peoples' rejection of Washington University's ICBG project; and more. A detailed list of bioprospecting and biopiracy activities (as of early 1996) is also included.
Staking Ever-Broader Claims on Entire Species and Important Traits; Implications for the South
A detailed examination of the impact of the US Plant Patent Act. Passed by the US Congress in 1930, the PPA is the world's oldest sui generis intellectual property system designed for the patenting of life forms.
Indigenous Peoples Assert their Intellectual Integrity; Call for Life forms Patent-Free Zone in the Pacific; Life Forms Patent Update
In the race to identify patent and commercialize human genes, scientists and their corporate partners are collecting DNA samples from remote island populations in the South Atlantic, Micronesia and the east China sea. This issue highlights Sequana's search for the "asthma gene" derived from DNA samples collected from the people of Tristan da Cunha.
Genetically Engineered Designer Oilseeds: What's in the Pipeline? Coconut: Pillar of the Economy or Sunset Industry for the Phillipines?
In 1995, Calgene commercialized a genetically modified rapeseed that produces the lauric fatty acid - a product derived traditionally from tropical oils Will Calgene's high-lauric rapeseed displace markets for coconut and palm kernel oil producers in the tropics?
Updates on Pyrethrum, Species Patents, and Neem; Crucible Report: People, Plants, and Patents
ISSUE: Despite international controversy over the patenting of human genes and other life forms, US-based genomic companies (in partnership with major pharmaceutical corporations), are filing patents for exclusive monopoly control on human genes and gene fragments.
IMPACT: The commercial potential of genomic technologies is still untested and unproved. But the commodification of human genetic material raises many profound questions: Who will control the genes and genetic information that may someday unlock secrets to genetic diagnosis and treatment of human diseases? Will the patent grab on human genes ultimately thwart innovation as well as information exchange between public and private sector researchers, and between North and South? Who will benefit, and at what cost to society?
The Implications of a Species Patent; Indian Government Revokes Agracetus Species Patent on Cotton
ISSUE: On March 2, 1994 Agracetus, Inc. (a subsidiary of W.R. Grace & Co.) received a European Patent on all transgenic soybean varieties. The company has a similar patent pending in the USA. In addition, Agracetus has a world patent (WIPO) pending for genetic transformation of rice.
IMPACT: Sweeping patent claims on all transgenic soybeans, a previous patent on all transgenic cotton, and a portfolio of patents pending on other major crops--(rice, groundnuts, maize and more) give W.R. Grace legal monopolies and exclusive control over any genetically engineered variety of soybeans and cotton for the life of the patent. A major chemical corporation is thus positioned to control the direction of future biotechnology research on two of the world's major food and industrial crops. These shocking examples of species-wide" patent claims confirm that the intellectual property system as applied to biotechnology products and processes is out of control, posing a serious threat to global food security and the well-being of small farmers.
Who Owns the Human Genome? Patenting the Human Cell Lines of Indigenous People
Issue: In the 1980's US court decisions set international precedent for the patenting of human genetical material. As a result, exclusive monopolies over human genetic materials are becoming commonplace in the industrialized world, without discussion of the social, ethical and political implications. Perhaps most disturbing is the degree to which orinary citizens, both North and South, have been marginalized from discussion and debate on the patenting of human genetic material.