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[SANET-MG] biotech event in Hawaii
One salient point was the objection to use of tax payers money to
support events that exclude the public. In both Canada and USA
governments have begun to prevent public participation in events and
projects that serve corporations but exclude the taxpayers who pay for
the events or projects.
Vol. 11, Issue 11 - Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Protesters gear up for biotech event
Biotech summit in Waikiki
By Stewart Yerton
This week's Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy
has all the trappings of a world-class meeting: government officials,
multinational corporations, learned academics and, of course, protesters.
Although it's not clear how many will show up, the activists pledge to
be out in force at the event, which starts today at Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Mililani Trask of Na Koa Ikaika Kalahui Hawaii, a human rights and
environmental group, said a main concern is the lack of a framework to
protect the environment and native species. Hawaiian groups created just
such as framework in 2003 in a document called the "Paoakalani
Declaration." But politicians and corporations have ignored the
declaration, she said.
Trask points to a lawsuit involving Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc. as an
example of the state's deficiencies. When the company wanted to import
genetically engineered algae from California to grow on the Big Island,
environmental groups had to sue to force the state Department of
Agriculture to require studies of potential environmental impacts.
There's also the issue of patenting the genes of native plants and
microscopic organisms, a process called bioprospecting.
Walter Ritte, a spokesman for Hui Hoopakele Aina, compared the activity
to the taking of Hawaiian lands in the 19th century. Ritte said
capitalists are now attempting to seize and sell Hawaii's mana, or
spiritual life force.
"Now they're trying to take the thing that is us, that has sustained us,
and they're going to do the same thing to that that they did to the
land," Ritte said.
Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry
Organization, said that in contrast to some pharmaceutical firms,
industrial biotech companies generally gather not plants, but
microscopic organisms found in mud.
Although the conference has a panel on bioprospecting, Trask said she
and other locals were denied the chance to participate.
"It's a shame that public resources were spent, and every effort was
made to exclude the public, the farmers, the native Hawaiian
stakeholders," she said.
Erickson said that the local organizers of the panel discussion had not
submitted Trask's name to the organization. In any case, he said, the
meeting was not meant to be a forum for debate.
"This conference is not about having debates," he said. "It's about
scientific information and policy information."
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