NSF Sidesteps Own Report to Fund Controversial Project to Collect the Blood of Indigenous Peoples Around the World. International Controls Needed.
Recent Content Related to Genomics & Biotechnology
According to an article in the October 24th edition of Science magazine, In a new gold rush, genetics researchers are scouring odd corners of the world for families whose DNA is likely to carry interesting genes. They won't be freely sharing what they find, because their backing comes from companies like Sequana Therapeutics Inc. of La Jolla, California; Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Genset S.A. of Paris."
The reason why they won't share: The companies are looking to patent and profit from the DNA of remote populations. Just over a week after the Science report, on November 3, Arris Pharmaceuticals of California announced it would pay US $166 million in stock to take over Sequana, one of the highest profile human DNA prospecting companies. The merged company resulting from the Arris takeover will be called Axys Pharmaceuticals.1
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.
The hesitancy with which the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) began granting animal patents in 1988 has all but disappeared, and today the practice is accelerating dramatically (see chart). The recent trend is fueled by a backlog of patent applications, rapid advances in biotechnologies and the promise of commercial markets for transgenic animals and the therapeutic proteins they produce. Based on the US trend, the European Union can expect hundreds of backlogged animal patents to begin issuing if the European Patent Directive is adopted - as expected - by the European Parliament's Council of Ministers later this year.
The final, 107-page report prepared by the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission on human cloning, accepted by President Clinton on 9 June, sends a clear signal to the biotech industry that it can move full speed ahead to commercialize the cloning of animals, including human beings," says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. "The Commission seems to have sidestepped all the tough ethical issues," Mooney continues, "and has reduced the broad moral debate solely to a question of safety for mother and embryo."
Commercial development of sweet proteins derived from African plants could be worth millions if new, natural sweeteners can bite into the (US) $2 billion low-calorie sweetener market.(1)
Research on intensely sweet proteins is not new, but recent breakthroughs may improve prospects for commercial development.
It's not whether drug companies need patents to create new drugs - but whether society can survive monopoly control over medical research, according to research undertaken by RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International). The world's drug industry represents a health risk and cannot be entrusted with the task of medical research," Pat Mooney, executive director of RAFI insists.
In recent years, the CGIAR ( Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) has come under fire for a governance structure that far more reflects the orientation of scientists in the North than it does their counterparts in the South. At the time of the CG's second review in 1981, there were slightly more South trustees in the system than North. During the nineties however, the tables have turned, and the North now dominates the roster with most of the trustees and almost all of the key management positions. Since he took over the reins as Chair of the CGIAR in 1994, the World Bank's Ismail Serageldin has fought an uphill battle with the 16 International Agricultural Research Centres (IARCS) that form the CG network in order to increase the role of the South. Many credit Serageldin with limited, but praiseworthy, success.
RAFI contacted the inventors of the cloned sheep Dolly, confirming that that the worldwide patents on the cloning technology cover all animals, including humans.
A Colombian genetics institute has offered to return its collection of thousands of samples of human tissue collected in dozens of Colombian indigenous peoples' communities. Indigenous peoples' representatives, including Colombian Senator Lorenzo Muelas and the OrganizaciÛn Nacional IndÌgena de Colombia (ONIC - National Indigenous Peoples' Organisation of Colombia), are currently negotiating the formal return of control and ownership of the samples, which are housed in a Bogot· human tissue bank.
Before disclosing the cloning breakthrough, patent applications were filed and research papers prepared for publication. PPL Therapeutics, a small biotechnology company will be assigned the patent. After the cloning announcement, shares of PPL Therapeutics jumped 16% in one day on the London Stock Exchange.
This map illustrates the transfer of human tissues through third countries. This graphic is part of the Communique on Human Tissue Trade.
Despite the promise of medical breakthroughs, the utilization of human tissue prompts intense ethical concerns regarding ownership of human biomaterials, eugenics, discrimination and medical confidentiality. A large and growing South to North and North to North movement of human tissue is taking place in an almost total policy and regulatory vacuum.
The Parts of Life Agricultural Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge, and the Role of the Third System By Pat Roy Mooney
Development Dialogue is published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.
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).
Human Tissue Collection Initiatives by the U.S. Military; Colombian Indigenous Peoples' Cells in the U.S.; Accompanying maps showing cell collections inColombia and Papua New Guinea
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.
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?
This document reviews the year-long controversy over Agracetus's species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybean varieties. In April 1994, with the support of 18 CSOs worldwide, RAFI announced it would formally challenge the patent at the European Patent Office. A summary of RAFI's opposition statement appears here. A 14 page document.
One of the most eagerly awaited publications in the plant genetic resources (PGR) community. - Diversity 1994, 10(2), 25
The recent GATT agreement and the Biodiversity Convention have moved intellectual property rights to the centre of South-North relations.
Decisions about intellectual property, particularly for plant life, have major implications for food security, agriculture, rural development, and the environment for every country in the South and the North. For the South, in particular, the impact of intellectual property on farmers, rural societies, and biological diversity will be profoundly important.
* Patents granted for genetically engineered cotton could profoundly influence the future of a $20 billion crop critical to many national economies in the South.
* Farmers' organizations in Andean countries believe that patents granted for two varieties of coloured cotton do not recognize the major contribution to the new product by indigenous communities in South and Central America.