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.
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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.
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.
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)
In Oligopoly, Inc. 2005 ETC Group finds that corporate concentration -- not only in food and agriculture, but in all sectors related to the products and processes of life -- has increased remarkably since ETC's last review two years ago. The report also reveals that a subterranean struggle is underway at the nano-scale to control the fundamental building blocks of life and nature. Corporate investment in nanobiotechnology (or, synthetic biology) could give ultimate control to a very different set of corporate actors.
According to Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group in Mexico: "It's no surprise that the industry is using the findings to serve its own interests - as 'proof' that contamination no longer exists and that GM crops should have free reign everywhere, even in the South's centers of crop genetic diversity. Indigenous and farming communities vigorously disagree with the biotech industry's self-serving interpretation of the study."
According to peasant communities in Oaxaca, the new findings are not terribly surprising. Baldemar Mendoza of UNOSJO (Union of Organisations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca) - who lives in the region covered by the new study - said, "We took samples in 3 of the 18 communities that the new report mentions (San Juan Ev. Analco, Ixtlan and Santa Maria Jaltianguis) and our results were also negative in those three communities." Mendoza points out that the geographic area sampled by the new study is small and the 18 communities are predominantly forest communities, which means that their main activity is not planting maize. Mendoza also points out, "The new study doesn't refer to any other part of Mexico where contamination has been found but some in the media are already making the false claim that 'there is no contamination in the whole state of Oaxaca or even all of Southern Mexico.'"
Twenty-five years after the biotech industry got the green light to patent life, nanotech goes after the building blocks of life.
On the 25th anniversary of Diamond vs. Chakrabarty,* the US Supreme Court's landmark decision (June 16, 1980) that opened the floodgates to the patenting of living organisms, ETC Group releases a new report, "Nanotech's 'Second Nature' Patents."
ETC Group reports on trends in intellectual property relating to nano-scale technologies. With nanotechnology, the reach of exclusive monopoly patents is not just on life, but all of nature. Accordingly, ETC Group refers to nanotech's "second nature" patents.
Ottawa - Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher of Ethiopia, Africa's chief scientist and negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, received his Canadian visa late Tuesday evening (May 2005) Ethiopian time. Dr. Tewolde, who is scheduled to be in the crop biotech liability negotiations tomorrow morning, May 25 2005, in Montreal, has his bags packed and is awaiting a revised plane ticket that - even under ideal circumstances - could only get him to Montreal in time for the final day of the controversial set of UN negotiations (May 27). After extended discussions over Canada's Victoria Day holiday on Monday, a visa arrived in Ethiopia from the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi Tuesday.
In a breathtaking display of political interference, the Canadian government has blocked entry of Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartagena (biosafety) Protocol, who was scheduled to attend UN meetings beginning next week (2005) in Montreal. The Protocol is the United Nations treaty that governs the international movement of genetically modified (GM) organisms.
Dr. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist and its representative to the Montreal-based UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa yesterday (May 2005), and without explanation.
Following 72 hours of negotiations by e-mail, telephone and in-person, the Swiss Gene Giant Syngenta confirmed to ETC Group (11.02.2005), that it would allow its multi-genome patent application covering the flowering sequences in at least 40 plant species to lapse at the European Patent Office (EPO), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and around the world. Syngenta's announcement follows a month-long campaign launched by ETC Group and supported by farmers' organizations, trade unions and other civil society organizations.
Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto, spoke today (in 2005) at a UN meeting in Bangkok - harshly criticizing his governments' efforts to promote field-testing and commercialization of Terminator seeds (plants genetically-modified to render seeds sterile at harvest time).
"The Canadian government has acted shamefully. It is supporting a dangerous, anti-farmer technology that aims to eliminate the rights of farmers to save and re-use harvested seed," said Schmeiser. "Instead of representing the good will of the Canadian people or attending to the best interests of the Biodiversity Treaty, the Canadian government is fronting for the multinational gene giants who stand to win enormous profits from the release of Terminator seeds around the world."
Schmeiser is the 74-year old Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto for patent infringement when the company's patented, genetically modified canola seed invaded his farm - unwanted and unwelcome. A victim of genetic pollution and a champion of Farmers' Rights, Schmeiser courageously fought Monsanto all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court.
A confidential document leaked today (07.02.05) to ETC Group reveals that the Canadian government, at a United Nations meeting in Bangkok (Feb 7-11), will attempt to overturn an international moratorium on genetic seed sterilisation technology (known universally as Terminator). Even worse, the Canadian government has instructed its negotiators to "block consensus" on any other option.
"Canada is about to launch a devastating kick in the stomach to the world's most vulnerable farmers - the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seed," said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney speaking from Ottawa. "The Canadian government is doing the dirty work for the multinational gene giants and the US government. Even Monsanto wasn't prepared to be this upfront and nasty. Canada is betraying Farmers' Rights and food sovereignty everywhere."
Swiss gene giant Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical corporation and third largest seed company (see tables) has applied for patents that could effectively allow the company to monopolize key gene sequences that are vital for rice breeding as well as dozens of other plant species. While the Genome Giant "donates" rice germplasm and information to public researchers with one hand, it is attempting to monopolize rice resources with the other. Governments, public sector researchers and the United Nations must re-evaluate and reform their cozy connections to companies like Syngenta.
ETC Group's first Communiqué of 2005 focuses on Syngenta, the global gene giant that ranks first in agrochemicals and third in seeds. Syngenta has a patent pending in 115 countries that, if approved, would give it a multi-genome monopoly over at least 40 plant species.
Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, is rapidly converging with biotech and information technology to radically change food and agricultural systems. Over the next two decades, the impacts of nano-scale convergence on farmers and food will exceed that of farm mechanisation or of the Green Revolution. No government has developed a regulatory regime that addresses the nano-scale or the societal impacts of the invisibly small.
A nanotecnologia, a manipulação da matéria na escala dos átomos e moléculas está rapidamente convergindo com a biotecnologia e tecnologia da informação para alterar radicalmente os sistemas de alimentação e agricultura. Nas próximas duas décadas, os impactos da convergência da escala nanométrica sobre os agricultores e alimentos serão maiores que os da mecanização agrícola ou da Revolução Verde. Nenhum governo desenvolveu um regime de regulamentação que considere os aspectos relativos � escala nanométrica.
The ETC Group, announces the publication of Down on the Farm, the first comprehensive look at how nano-scale technologies will affect farmers, food and agriculture. Nanotechnology refers to the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, where size is measured in billionths of metres and quantum physics determines how a substance behaves. According to Hope Shand, ETC Group’s Research Director, "Over the next two decades, technologies converging at the nano-scale will have a greater impact on farmers and food than farm mechanisation or the Green Revolution."
In a remarkable departure from its role as a public science network, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is huddling with the biotech industry (including Monsanto and DuPont) to craft a policy response to the unwelcome and ongoing spread of DNA from genetically modified plants to farmers’ varieties. The meeting begins in Rome on Monday (30.08.2004) and comes three years after scientists first confirmed GM contamination in Mexico's maize crop – and two and a half years after farmers’ organizations and their civil society allies called upon CGIAR and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to take action. Farmers’ organizations are not invited to the meeting.