Fwd: Bolivian Farmers Demand Researchers Drop Patent on Andean Food Crop (fwd)

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---Nancy Grudens Schuck  wrote:
> For SAEd -- NGS
> >
> >>>      =======================
> >>>      Bolivian Farmers Demand
> >>>      Researchers Drop Patent
> >>>      on Andean Food Crop
> >>>      =======================
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Bolivia's National Association of Quinoa Producers (ANAPQUI) is
asking two professors at Colorado State University to abandon their
controversial patent on one of the country's most important food crops
- quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) - a crop that feeds millions throughout
the Andes, including many Aymara and Quechua Indigenous People.
"Our intellectual integrity has been violated by this patent," said
Oscar Mamami, ANAPQUI's President. "Quinoa has been developed by
Andean farmers for millenia, it was not 'invented' by researchers in
America," said Mamani. "We demand that the patent be dropped and that
all countries of the world refuse to recognize its validity." Mr.
Mamani will travel to New York City on 22 June to make his appeal on
behalf of quinoa farmers at the United Nations where a Special Session
of the General Assembly will meet from 23-27 June. ANAPQUI will also
present the quinoa patent as a violation of Human Rights before the
International Peoples' Tribunal on Human Rights and the Environment,
22-23 June in New York City.
In a May 27 letter to Colorado State University professors Duane
Johnson and Sarah Ward, the producers' association points out that US
Patent No. 5,304,718 grants Johnson and Ward exclusive monopoly
control over a traditional Bolivian variety known as "Apelawa," a
quinoa type named for the farmers of a Bolivian town of the same name
near Lake Titicaca. The patent, issued in 1994, is valid until the
year 2011.
The patent claims the use of "Apelawa," a traditional Bolivian quinoa
variety as a source of male sterile cytoplasm in a technique to create
hybrid quinoa. But the US patent is not limited to a single hybrid
it claims any quinoa hybrid that is derived from Apelawa. According to
the patent, this might include many traditional varieties grown by
peasant farmers in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile as well as
varieties important in Bolivia's quinoa export market.
Though little known outside of the Andes, quinoa is becoming
increasingly popular in North America and Europe as an exceptionally
nutritious food crop. Johnson and Ward believe that their technique
for hybridizing quinoa will increase the crop's yield, making it
better suited for commercial production in the North.
International NGOs are joining ANAPQUI in protesting the US patent on
quinoa. "Bolivian farmers have  every right to be alarmed," says Koos
Neefje of OXFAM UK,  an international development NGO based in London.
"We join ANAPQUI in demanding that the patent be abandoned. It is a
clear threat to food security. The patenting of any food crop is
morally offensive, and should not be allowed by governments,"
concludes Neefje.
"The quinoa patent is a shocking example of biopiracy," states Pat
Mooney, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Foundation
International (RAFI), an international NGO headquartered in Canada
that first uncovered the controversial patent. "Bolivian farmers and
researchers were stunned to learn of its existence. After all, they
freely shared their quinoa seeds and knowledge with the Colorado State
professors. By slapping a patent on quinoa the US researchers have
selfishly appropriated knowledge and genetic resources that belong to
indigenous people of the Andes," explains Mooney.
Technically the owners of the quinoa patent have the right to prevent
imports of hybrid quinoa from entering the US if they are produced
the Apelawa variety. One of the patent owners, Colorado State
University professor Duane Johnson, has already stated that he will
donate the technology to Andean countries and will not enforce the
patent outside of the United States. But Bolivian farmers and NGOs are
not satisfied and point out that male sterility in Andean farmers'
varieties of quinoa has been known for decades.  "We don't need a US
professor to 'donate' to us what is rightfully ours," says Mamani.
"The issue is not simply quinoa," says Edward Hammond of RAFI.
"There's something terribly wrong when patent offices grant monopoly
patents on food crops - especially poor peoples' staple foods. This is
a dangerous and disturbing precedent, and it must not be allowed to
stand. Access to food and the universal Right to Food should not be
left in the hands of those who control patents on technology and
germplasm," concludes RAFI's Hammond.
ANAPQUI will be joined by RAFI, the Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity
Network and other NGOs at the UN General Assembly, 23 - 27 June in New
York City. The groups will ask the General Assembly to seek an
Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (the World
Court) on the moral issues surrounding the patenting of food crops and
other life forms.


RAFI Canada
Pat Mooney or Jean Christie
(613) 567-6880

Edward Hammond or Hope Shand
(919) 542-1396
Mr. Felix Gutierrez Matta
+ 591-2-372935

Bolivian Institute of Agricultural Technology
Dr. Alejandro Bonifacio, Quinoa Breeder
+ 591-08-114028

Simon Ticehurst
La Paz, Bolivia Office
+ 591-2-325789

The campaign to reject the quinoa patent claims is also supported by
Agricultural Missions (USA), Lutheran World Relief (USA), Canadian
Lutheran World Relief, IBIS (Denmark), Indigenous Peoples'
Biodiversity Network (IPBN) and Fundación Bolinvest (Bolivia).
D. Merrill Ewert, Associate Professor
Department of Education
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853-4203
Phone:  (607) 255-7755
Fax:  (607) 255-7905

> Nancy Grudens Schuck
> Graduate Student
> Cornell University
> Mailing address (Aug. '96-July '97)
> 14 Home Street Apt. 202
> Guelph, Ontario, N1H 2E5
> E-mail: ng13@cornell.edu
> ***************************

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