The last-ever Mid-term Meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has shuffled into extinction in Durban, South Africa. The fate of the outmoded Green Revolution centers - the South's most important scientific research system, remains in limbo. The 'donorsaurs' (as its 58 funding governments and foundations have been dubbed) are faced with a number of unresolved challenges.
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A rare tiff with the seed and biotech industries over intellectual property will leave the USA and Australia outside looking in on a new agricultural genetic resources treaty. Next steps: the FAO Commission in June and the World Food Summit in November?
A new US patent, awarded to Monsanto on 16 January 2001, has blind-sided biotech scientists and threatens to knee-cap public sector research because it gives Monsanto exclusive monopoly rights on a crucial method of identifying modified plant cells in the laboratory.
ETC Group Censored! The 25th Anniversary Edition of the Top Censored Stories of the Year, 2001 features critical social issues that have been under-reported or ignored in the mainstream media. ETC Group is the recipient of two Project Censored awards, and both are featured in this book. Biopiracy in Chiapas and the efforts of local indigenous peoples to defeat the US-government funded International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG-Maya) is one of the award-winning issues identified by Project Censored in 2000.
Tales from a Tribunal: 'The nuña bean is part of the Andean heritage. It is our treasure. For a company to patent a nuña cross, claiming the 'bean-nut popping bean' as an 'invention' with absolute world novelty is immoral and violates the rights of all indigenous groups,' said Elias Carreno, Coordinator of the 'Stop Biopiracy in the Andes' Campaign of the Associaci n Kechua-Aymara for Sustainable Livelihoods, ANDES (translated from Spanish).
Indigenous elders from six Andean communities that grow nuna beans met in late February for a traditional Quechua 'tribunal' to deliberate on US Patent No. 6,040,503 on the 'bean-nut popping bean' awarded to a US food processor, Appropriate Engineering and Manufacturing. The popping bean trait is found only in the Andean nuna bean, which the inventors claim in their patent. After hearing testimony from expert witnesses, the tribunal rendered their decision. Their verdict was unflinching in its criticism of intellectual property monopolies that are predatory on the knowledge, rights and resources of indigenous people.
World's Largest Agrochemical and Seed Enterprise Holds Growing Arsenal of Terminator and Traitor Technologies
Syngenta, the world's largest agribusiness firm, was formed on 13 November 2000 with the merger of AstraZeneca and Novartis. The next day the company won its newest Terminator patent, US Patent 6,147,282, 'Method of controlling the fertility of a plant.' (The patent was issued to Novartis - but the company's intellectual property goes to Syngenta.) With pro forma 1999 sales of US $7 billion, Syngenta is the world's largest agrochemical enterprise, and the third largest seed corporation.
'This patent has caused great economic hardship for farmers in northern Mexico, and we welcome attempts to overturn it,' said Miguel Tachna Felix, spokesman for the Agricultural Association of Rio Fuerte in Sinaloa, Mexico which represents 22,000 farmers in northern Mexico. Felix is referring to a legal challenge of a US patent on a yellow bean of Mexican origin.
Twenty-three years old, one of the world's most experienced biodiversity/biotech advocacy organizations is broadening its focus and changing its name, the directors of RAFI and of RAFI-USA announced today.
Long history: RAFI and RAFI-USA staff have been working together for over 20 years. Work on agricultural genetic resources that began under the mandate of the International Coalition for Development Action (ICDA), a Brussels-based civil society organization (CSO), in 1977 quickly merged with similar work under the auspices of the Rural Advancement Fund in the southern United States and led to the formation of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) as a Netherlands incorporated CSO in 1985. Although the international work began to be known as RAFI, the work was still under the auspices of the Rural Advancement Fund which fully supported the work through its staffing and fundraising efforts.
What 'grows' but doesn't 'move'? If you're an agronomist, the standard answer is a 'plant'. In Neuchatel, Switzerland last week however, at a tactically critical food security negotiation, the running joke was 'Washington trade policy'. As world seed and biotech industries, governments of Europe and Japan, and G77 (developing) countries watched in consternation, U.S. Government representatives tied themselves in knots trying to explain the difference to uninterested patent and trade lawyers back in their capitol, between plant genetic resources in agriculture from other industrial technologies. The U.S. delegation continuously raised what appeared to other delegations, to be nonsensical conflicts between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and an agreement being revised by governments in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to safeguard the flow of crop germplasm for scientific research and international food security.
The Biosafety protocol on GM crops was a big thing in January, but the meeting about to begin in Neuchatel addresses a 'clear and present danger' to world food security. A brave little band of 'biocrats' could decide the fate of the scientific exchange of crop genetics. Their political bosses don't even know they've left town!
The Biosafety deal struck by governments in Montreal in January was intended to make the world safe from (or for?) transgenic crops. But what about the safety of those pedestrian seeds that are the basis for virtually all genetic crop improvement? The stuff that lets bio-engineers juggle genes and allows farmers to breed new diversity that can meet the stresses coming with global warming? Whereas the biosafety protocol tries to prevent the unwanted movement of GM seeds around the world, another treaty is being developed to facilitate the exchange of seeds for scientific research.