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).
Recent Content Related to Biodiversity & Cultural Diversity
Pharmaceutical firms and biotech companies are approaching botanical gardens to buy samples of tropical plant diversity - a clear violation of the spirit - if not the law - of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The rights of farmers and indigenous peoples are being bypassed by corporate deals that make a mockery of the CBD's fundamental principles.
RAFI reviews the context, issues, events and strategies leading up to the Fourth Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in Leipzig, 17-23 June 1996. A 12 page document.
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
RAFI's survey of agricultural biodiversity reveals that 75% of ex situ genetic resources and technology are held in the North, while 83% of in-situ genetic resources and technology are held in the South. Multilateral regimes for agricultural biodiversity management must insure that proceeds from biodiversity benefits go to the South's farmers.
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.
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.
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.
Phytophtora infestans, also known as the "late potato blight" is the fungus that caused the Great Potato Famine of 1845-49. One hundred and fifty years later, the blight is back again in new and deadlier forms. Will governments muster the political will to wage a true war against hunger and food insecurity? A nine page document.
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.
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.
Privatization and patenting of microorganisms is encouraged by WTO TRIPs. RAFI examines the value of microbial markets and microbial biopiracy.
Pharmaceutical companies dont want to study rare plants. They want to test the most - commonly used species. The valuable medical plants are those with the longest track record in the most location. In a survey of almost 1.000 medical plants used around the world, most of the pharmacologically - (and commercially) interesting species are employed in more than one community, and often, in several countries. This is great news for BioPirates, who can move benevolently from place to place in search of the best deal.
Who benefits from agricultural biodiversity that originates in the farms, fields and forests of the South? 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.
With the advent of new biotechnologies and the emergence of new international agreements, microbial genetic resources are taking on growing importance in North/South negotiations. A 51 page document.
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.
RAFI presents data from dozens of scientific and trade journals to illustrate the enormous contribution made by farmers and indigenous peoples in the South to the wellbeing of Northern citizens, and/or the economic benefit to industry in the North. A 14 page document.
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.
Patent-like claims on two coloured cotton varieties raise many questions and concerns about the ownership and control of coloured cotton, and the lack of compensation for indigenous knowledge and germplasm from the South.