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Protest against patents on life and biopiracy

november 22, 2010
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The conference mainly focusses on HOW industry can get started with biodiversity. ASEED has serious doubts about this approach. Biodiversity and traditional uses are reduced to economic assets without questioning the desirability of this development. "Large multinational companies making money on biodiversity, that always turns out to patenting: the appropriation of pieces of nature," says Linda Coenen of ASEED. "The word patenting is not mentioned at all and criticism was put away in separate debate on Monday night instead of confronting the delegates from industry with it."

With patents knowledge and plants are monopolized and made inaccessible for others. This tends to decrease biodiversity, and foodsecurity as well. That is not only happening in the South but also in Europe. The patenting of agricultural crops is a problem for plant breeding and traditional farming practices like seed saving. A SEED opposes patents on life and feels that natural resources – from seeds to genes to medicine – should remain freely available for everyone.

End of biopiracy not in sight

For years companies have been exploiting the absence of international rules on the use of genetic resources and the protection of indigenous groups. The outcome of the recent UN conference on Biodiversity this may finally change. The objective is to force companies in the future to make agreements with local communities, before they use flora and fauna to develop products. [1]

This looks like a step in the right direction, but according to ASEED it remains difficult to bring into practice. For example, applications or characteristics of genetic material are ften used in more than one community, so with whom will an interested company then agreements on sharing the proceeds? Moreover, not all communities or indigenous peoples recognized by their own government. And who will monitor the implementation and fair application of the Convention? Rights of indigenous peoples are already often violated for many industrial practices. Finally, some key players are not co-operating, including the United States, home to many companies that are guilty of biopiracy.

EU: Stop the monopolization of food crops

Also in Europe privatisation of parts of nature is starting to cause problems. We are talking about food crops. The big seed companies are increasingly patenting plants and plant characteristics. Thus they make work for smaller breeders impossible and push them out of the market. Furthermore, their lobby aims at banning all non-commercial seeds for agricultural crops, now that the EU is reviewing the existing legislation on seeds, bowing to the wishes of the seed giants. This poses a further threat to the diversity of agricultural crops and food security. Saatgutkampagne set up an international protests against this through a petition directed at the EU. ASEED supports this campaign. In April, ASEED published the brochure "You will reap what you sow" on monopolization of seeds [4].

Notes
[1] The COP10 CBD-Biodiversity Convention took place in Nagoya, Japan,  18-29 October 2010. Download the new protocol: http://www.cbd.int/doc/press/2010/pr-2010-10-29-cop-10-en.pdf The US is one of the few states who did not sign the new protocal.