News Releases

Bracing for 'El Nuña'

Andean Groups Hopping Mad About Popping-Bean Patent

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.

New Terminator Patent Goes to Syngenta

Wake-Up Call for CBD's Scientific Body Meeting in Montreal

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.

RAFI and RAFI-USA Announce Plans of Name Change for Globally-focused RAFI

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.

Enola Bean Patent Challenged

'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.

Seedy Squabble in Switzerland

As Washington tries to sort out what a 'plant' is, world food security is iced in Switzerland. Industry, Europe, Japan, and the G77 (developing) countries look on in amazement.

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.

As Washington tries to sort out what a 'plant' is, world food security is iced in Switzerland. Industry, Europe, Japan, and the G77 (developing) countries look on in amazement.

A Not-so-Thanksgiving Story

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

Seedy Solutions in Switzerland?

A Not-so-Thanksgiving Story

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.

Update on Trojan Trade Reps, Golden Rice, and the Search for Higher Ground

'Golden' Goosed?

The Golden Rice AstraZeneca saga is a case study in public science's failure to understand and address patent issues. In justifying their surrender of Vitamin A enriched GM rice to the giant corporation, the researchers claim they couldn't navigate the 70+ intellectual and tangible property conflicts that could potentially scuttle their work. There are likely no more than 11 - and possibly as few as 4, patent conflicts and one outstanding tangible property issue. A public sector group - including the people Golden Rice is intended to help - should meet to debate all the options and alternatives. The contract and the events surrounding it should be investigated.

The Mouse that Roared on Animal Pharm

Canadian Courts Rule that Mammals can be a Patented Invention

In a split 2-1 decision, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of granting a patent to Harvard Medical School for the oncomouse, a mouse genetically engineered to carry a cancer-causing gene. The decision marks another point in the 15-year battle in the Canadian courts over whether Mother Nature or a Harvard scientist invented the mouse and its offspring.

USDA Refuses to Abandon Terminator Technology

Delta & Pine Land Gets One Step Closer to Commercialization

Two days of contentious debate on Terminator has ruptured the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Advisory Board on Agricultural Biotechnology. Terminator technology, the genetic engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds, has been widely condemned as a dangerous and morally offensive application of agricultural biotechnology, because over 1.4 billion people depend on farm-saved seeds.

USDA ignited the worldwide controversy in March 1998 when it won the first of three patents on genetic seed sterilization, which it holds jointly with Delta & Pine Land - the world's largest cotton seed company.

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