from Vandana Shiva

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

From:	Carolyn Raffensperger, [75114,1164]
TO:	Patrick Madden, WSAA
DATE:	8/18/97 11:53 AM

RE:	from Vandana Shiva

From Vandana Shiva, Tewolde Gebre Egziabher and Martin von Hildebrand

Dear Friends

On 16th July 1997, the European Union Parliament voted in favour of
proposed legislation which would allow 17-20 year patents (in effect,
exclusive monopoly rights) to be taken out within the EU on living material
- plants, animals and parts of humans. If implemented - and it can still be
stopped - the legislation would prove a major victory for those
transnational corporations which have been lobbying to impose monopoly
rights over life forms through the patents, and jeopardise the livelihoods
of millions of people in the South.

European colleagues have asked Southern partners to join with them in
making every effort to ensure that the Directive does not become law. The
next stage in the European legislative procedure takes place in November
1997 when (in a meeting of the Council of Ministers) the government of each
EU member country will decide whether to approve the legislation or not. If
enough pressure can be brought to bear on the governments, the legislation
could still be blocked.

We are writing to ask your support in opposing the legislation by signing
been drawn up in conjunction with concerned partners in Europe - The Gaia
Foundation and The Corner House (the new group set up by the former editors
of The Ecologist). Northern groups are also invited to sign as supporter.
Please note the sentence prefacing the signature list: signing on does not
imply that you agree with every word of the memorandum, just its substance.

The memorandum outlines our grave concerns about the proposed European
legislation. It calls for the Directive to be delayed until wide and public
consultation has taken place on the issues involved, both in Europe and in
the countries of the South. The memorandum will be delivered to EU
Development ministers in September.

We would request you to sign on to this memorandum. We would also ask you
to circulate the memorandum as widely as possible and to encourage as many
signatures as possible from concerned scientists, NGOs, communities and
individuals. Please endorsements - name plus organisation, and your address
if you would like to stay in touch - by 15 SEPTEMBER to:

PO Box 3137
Station Road
Sturminster Newton
Dorset DDT10 1YJ

Tel: +44 (0) 1258 473795
Fax: +44 (0) 1258 473748
Email: cornerhouse@gn.apc.org

We apologise if you receive this letter more than once from different
sources. We also realise that the topic may not be in your usual immediate
line of work. We hope you won't mind, however, as we need support from as
many different movements as possible.

Thank you

In solidarity



A Memorandum
from Concerned Citizens of the South
to EU Development Ministers

EU Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions

Dear Minister

As NGOs, peoples' organisations, scientists and concerned citizens of the
South, we are writing to express our disbelief and grave concern at EU
proposals to introduce a biotech patent Directive ("The Directive on the
Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions"), which, if it becomes
law, would allow commercial interests to patent - and thus establish
exclusive monopoly over - plants, animals and parts of humans.

We believe that the Directive, which was approved by the European
Parliament on July 16th 1997 and is scheduled to come before the European
Council of Ministers in November as the next stage of the EU legislative
procedure, sets an extremely dangerous legal precedent and would have
profound negative impacts for millions of people in the South, particularly
the poorest of the poor, and for the environment.

Our particular concerns are summarised in the following bullet points and
expanded in more detail below:

*       Legalising Biopiracy
By corrupting common-sense definitions of what constitutes an "invention"
(in practice, equating it with a "discovery") the Directive, if it becomes
law, would not only encourage the continuing biopiracy of genetic resources
from the South but would also criminalise Southern farmers, herbalists,
traditional healers and indigenous communities.

*       Undermining Food Security
By dramatically increasing the powers and influence of corporate plant
breeders, transnational agribusiness companies and transnational
pharmaceutical corporations, the Directive would entrench further the
multiple political and economic structures primarily responsible for
creating poverty, development dependency and food insecurity in our
countries. In particular, the flow of finance from South to North would
increase as a result of the royalties paid by those in the South who would
have no option but to grow patented crops and raise patented animals if
they wished to export to the EU. Indeed, we reject unequivocally the
argument put forward by industry lobbyists that biotechnology - and hence
the Directive - is necessary if the world's people are to be fed. On the
contrary, we believe it to be a technology which will only exacerbate
hunger and malnutrition by further undermining community control over food
production and access to land and food.

*       By introducing legislation that would permit the patenting of life
forms, the Directive threatens to preempt a democratic outcome to the 1999
WTO review of the Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreement. It
would intensify the already substantial pressure on Southern nations to
adopt US-style patent legislation or similar and would undermine their
bargaining power within the negotiations. The Directive thus threatens to
undermine the efforts of governments and popular movements in the South to
develop sui generis intellectual property rights systems, as permitted
under the WTO, to protect genuine inventions whilst safeguarding public
access to the traditional knowledge systems that underpin the sustainable
use of resources amongst Southern communities.

In recent international negotiations (for example, on climate change and on
plant genetic resources), the EU has played a key role in acting as a brake
on US efforts to steamroller through a commercial agenda that ignores
social and ecological concerns. It is thus with dismay that we see the EU
now opting for a biotech patenting regime which is business-driven from
first to last, primarily by US interests, and which shows scant
consideration for development and social justice concerns, environmental
sustainability, democracy or ethics. European citizens and specialists have
not even been consulted on the Directive, which will radically affect their
lives and those of citizens worldwide.

With this Memorandum, we signal our solidarity with European groups
challenging the Directive and our determination to join with them in using
every democratic avenue to oppose the commodification the very elements of
life and in evolving a new, sustainable and socially-just relationship
between society and nature.

1.      Legalising Biopiracy: Criminalising the South

Most of the biological and genetic diversity which provides the "raw
material" of plant breeding and biotechnology is to be found in the
developing countries. Unsurprisingly, the North has long relied heavily on
plant varieties drawn from the South, especially for the development of new
forms of disease resistant crops.
During the colonial period, access to and control over the South's
biodiversity was achieved largely by force or the threat of force.1
Numerous plant varieties were simply taken from the colonies of South and
incorporated in plant breeding programmes in the North, or stored and grown
in Northern seed banks and botanical gardens. Despite the ending of formal
colonial rule in most of the South, the flow of biodiversity from South to
North has continued unabated. Of the world's germplasm that has been
catalogued and available for scientific and commercial investigation,
two-thirds of crop germplasm and more than 85 per cent of livestock and
microbial material is now banked in the North, even though almost all of it
originates in the South.2 Moreover, through their control over the
Consultative Group on International Research (CGIAR), Northern interests
effectively control even those gene banks that are based in the South,
ensuring that the agricultural research undertaken in such banks is of
benefit primarily to the North.2 For instance, as much as one third of the
annual outflow of tropical seeds from the Centro Internacional de
Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT) in Mexico, one of the 16
international gene banks funded by CGIAR, now ends up in the hands of US
transnationals such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Cargill.2

Much of the agricultural biodiversity which has been pirated from the South
only exists because it has been maintained and developed by generation upon
generation of Southern farmers, villagers, indigenous peoples and city
dwellers through systematic observation, experimentation, intervention and
selection. Long before scientists were called "scientists", millions of
anonymous farming families were actively engaged in the art and science of
breeding and adapting plants to serve their social, economic, cultural and
political needs. Since rice was first domesticated in Asia some 8,000 years
ago, for example, farmers and local communities have developed well over
100,000 different varieties. Some grow in areas which have five metres of
rainfall a year, others in the desert; some do well in places with average
temperatures well over 30oC, others flourish in fresh or cool climates; all
have depended on rural people actively harnessing the amazing versatility
of genetic combinations to produce varieties best suited to their needs.2
The diversity of cropping systems and varieties that has resulted has long
played a key role in underpinning the food security of Southern communities
at local and national levels.

It is the germplasm from such community-nurtured biodiversity that
multinational biotechnology companies are now seeking to patent. In order
to establish monopoly rights over commercially-valuable (or potentially
valuable) materials collected historically from the South, for example,
"biodiversity brokers" are now openly contacting botanical collections
throughout Europe and North America and offering large sums of money in
exchange for their corporate clients being given exclusive use of the
germplasm held in the collections.3 In addition, companies and research
institutes are now scouring the South in search of potentially valuable
plants that have so far escaped the collectors. In most cases, companies
and researchers have capitalised on the knowledge of local people to
identify potentially useful agricultural or medicinal varieties, which they
have then taken back to the North and patented (primarily under the US
patent system) without any innovation taking place. Blood samples have been
taken from various peoples in the South and some of the resulting cell
lines patented. Recent patents taken out, or filed, as a result of such
predatory research include those on:

*       Barbasco, Clibadium sylvestre4
A well known plant cultivated by Amazonian indigenous peoples for hundreds
of years and used in agriculture and medicine. It is best known as a highly
effective poison that stuns and paralyses fish. A barbasco compound, with
no modification, let alone inventive steps, has been patented by Conrad
Gorinsky, president of the UK-based Foundation for Ethnobiology. The
compound is being marketed to pharmaceutical giants Zeneca and Glaxo.
(Patent Numbers: EP 610059, GB 9301920, US application filed.)

*       Mamala, Homolanthus acuminatus
A Pacific plant - found from New Caledonia to Tahiti - and widely used by
Samoan peoples as a medicine. The US Department of Health and Human
Services, the US Army and Brigham Young University now jointly hold a
patent on a "prostratin compound" isolated from the plant, again with no
inventive steps.
(Patent numbers: EP 531413, US 5,599,839, WO 9118595)

*       Turmeric, Curcuma longa
A medicinal herb long used by practitioners of ayurvedic medicine in India
- the ground roots are applied to wounds to promote healing - turmeric has
now been patented by researchers from the University of Mississippi (US).
The US patent grants the university monopoly rights over "a method of
promoting healing of a wound by administering tumeric to a patient
afflicted with a wound." The patent has been challenged by the Indian
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
(Patent number: US 5,401,504)

Far from putting a stop to such biopiracy, the proposed EU Directive would
actively encourage it in two ways. Firstly, by granting the status of
"inventions" to products and processes that owe their very existence to the
appropriation - that is, theft - of knowledge that has been built up
collectively by generations of anonymous experimenters, the Directive
legalises such theft.5 Biopiracy will no longer be piracy: it will instead
be a legal right enshrined in EU law.

Secondly, by permitting the patenting of life forms, the Directive would
provide industry with a new means of establishing control over areas of
nature which were previously held in common by communities in the South.
This would inevitably create new incentives for companies to pillage the
common wealth and knowledge of humanity as they seek to exploit and control
what they now term the "green gold" of biodiversity. Even those companies
and researchers who are uneasy about taking out patents will be under
immense commercial pressure to do so if patent rights are available. And it
is the South which will furnish most of the plant and animal varieties over
which the companies will seek to establish monoply control through patents.

The consequences for livelihoods in the South - and particularly for
small-scale farmers - are severe. Once patents have been established over a
plant or animal used by Third World farmers, their right to trade that
plant or animal to countries where the patent holds will be severely
curtailed. Recently, for example, two professors at Colorado State
University patented a variety of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a major
Andean food crop. The male flower of the "Apelawa" variety has long been
known to be sterile; this attribute has been used by the patent holders to
create hybrid quinoa. The patent is not limited to a single variety but
extends to any quinoa hybrid derived from Apelawa. Legally, the owners of
the patent have the right, if they wish, to prevent, or to levy a charge
on, any imports of any hybrid quinoa from entering the US if the hybrids
are produced using the Apelawa variety. Should a European patent be
granted, the same trade restrictions would apply.

Patents also grant the patent holder the right to levy royalties on the
seeds of patented varieties, even when the seeds have been saved from the
previous year's crop. If Southern countries were to adopt patent
legislation similar to that proposed in the EU patent Directive - and they
are under intense pressure from Northern companies and governments to do so
- farmers would be legally obliged to pay each year for the end product of
their own centuries-long research.2 Keeping seed from one year's crop to
grow the next year's crop is a traditional part of farming, particularly in
the South. To allow rights over seeds to be handed over to corporations,
which can then maintain or withdraw varieties as they wish, restrict access
to the crop, and demand royalties on farm saved seed, would criminalise
farmers for saving seeds or trading patented produce; create dependency
where there was previously independence; force farmers to pay for what was
previously free and theirs; and reduce farmers increasingly to the status
of contracted labourers for corporations. For poorer sections of the
community, the result is likely to be increased debt and, ultimately,
bankruptcy and dispossession.

2.      Undermining Food Security

Far from enhancing food security, as the lobbyists for the biotechnology
industry claim, patents on plant varieties and living organisms will
drastically undermine still further the ability of Southern countries to
feed themselves.

Certainly, biotechnologies may increase the yield of some agricultural
crops. However, the poor and hungry are poor and hungry not because there
is too little food in the world; they are poor and hungry because they
invariably do not have access to the means to buy food or to grow it for
themselves, particularly as more and more farmers in the countries of the
South are being driven off their lands. In the global supermarket, only
those who have the income to translate their biological needs into
"effective demand" get to eat. Increasing agricultural production (assuming
this is possible through biotechnology) whilst leaving the structural
causes of poverty and hunger intact is a recipe not for feeding the world
but for continuing to starve sizeable numbers within it.6

By placing control over germplasm in the hands of the richest and most
powerful players in agriculture - effectively allowing them to control the
production and distribution processes from seed to stomach - patenting
threatens to reinforce the very social, political and economic structures
that deny people access to food and which thus generate food scarcity. The
bulk of transgenic crops, for example, are primarily being developed by
large, often transnational, corporations. Such companies are not in
business to give away their products: they sell to those who have the money
to buy them. Not surprisingly, much of their research is directed towards
developing new industrial markets for crops, rather than developing food
for poorer people. In the maize sector, for example, control over new
genetically-engineered varieties already rests with the world's largest
transnational corporations whose breeding programmes are transforming maize
from a food into a raw material for industry. Twenty-five per cent of
patent applications for genetically-engineered maize, for example, involve
techniques to modify the quality of maize; the bulk of research is focused
on increasing the crop's starch content, the base for many industrial

Other research programmes reflect a similar preoccupation with enhancing
profits rather than food security. A report by the Biotechnology Industry
Organization, for example, suggests that much effort will be devoted in
future to applications beneficial to the transport and processing of food.
Delayed ripening or rotting of fruit and vegetables, for instance, will
improve the appearance of produce, allowing it to be transported over
longer distances and kept on supermarket shelves for longer periods of
time.7 Such developments have been driven by a commercial preoccupation
with marketing foods rather than feeding poorer people.

Engineering for long shelf life, however, while it may improve corporate
profit margins, does nothing to improve the livelihoods of farmers or the
health of the environment. Global companies controlling production and
distribution worldwide may need square tomatoes and tomatoes that do not
rot, but small farmers and consumers looking for fresh produce do not.
Their interests are better served - as numerous small farmer groups have
repeatedly made clear - by encouraging food to be grown and consumed as
close as possible to the point of production, giving consumers and growers,
not transnationals, greater control over the market, in addition to
benefiting the environment through reduced transport-related pollution.

Indeed, on the farm, biotechnology is driving farmers further and further
towards monoculture production and genetic uniformity. The effect will be
to undermine food security further by eroding the very biodiversity on
which a sustainable, healthy agriculture rests. In addition, there is a
very real risk that genetic pollution - adding to the existing heavy
environmental burden of chemical pollution - could fatally disrupt key
ecological and biological processes, causing genetic alterations to the
entire food chain that will remain as a legacy for all future generations.
Whereas the production, trade and use of harmful chemicals can be banned to
minimize further damage, such a ban on genetic pollutants would be useless
because, once in the environment, living organisms continue to reproduce
themselves regardless.8 Such alterations are already occurring as a result
of genetically-modified crops and foods which have been introduced into the
environment and food chain. Allowing commercial concerns the right to
patent living organisms can only increase both the rate of genetic changes
in the food chain and the likelihood of major, adverse modifications.

3.      Undermining the South in the WTO

Persuaded by the powerful moral, economic, political and social arguments
against patenting life forms, many NGOs and peoples' organisations in the
South have successfully pressed their governments to develop alternative
sui generis  systems of intellectual property rights, as permitted under
the WTO. These systems would protect genuine inventions whilst at the same
time safeguarding public access to the traditional knowledge systems that
underpin the sustainable use of resources amongst Southern communities.

Such sui generis systems are being strenuously opposed by the USA. Earlier
this year, for example, the US warned Thailand that a draft Bill aimed at
recognizing and protecting traditional medical genetic resources and
knowledge could be in violation of the TRIPs agreement of the WTO. The
draft bill had not even been seen by the US government when the warning was

In 1999, the WTO is due to review its clause permitting countries to
exclude plants and animals from patenting and to develop their own sui
generis systems. The EU Directive would preempt a full and open discussion
of the clause and seriously undermine the ability of Southern governments
to resist pressure from the US to introduce patents on life. The proposed
EU Directive would effectively foreclose one of the few potentially
democratic opportunities within the WTO for countries to negotiate over the
most fundamental of rights - to use our biodiversity and knowledge directly
to meet our food and medicinal needs.

Given these concerns, we urge you to:

*       oppose the current Directive;

*       use all your influence to press your government to veto the
Directive when the Council of Ministers meets in November this year to
consider the proposed legislation;

*       press for wide public consultation on these issues both in Europe
and in the South, because our societies would be deeply affected by the

We recognise that some regulation in the EU of intellectual property
rights, as they relate to biotechnological products, is needed (this could
in fact be achieved by reform and clarification of the existing European
Patent Convention); however, we join colleagues in the North in rejecting
wholeheartedly the framework of regulation provided by the current
Directive and, indeed, its whole underlying thrust.

To repeat: with this Memorandum, we signal our solidarity with European
groups challenging the Directive and our determination to join with them in
using every possible democratic avenue to oppose the patenting of life and
in evolving a new, sustainable and socially-just relationship between
societies and nature.

Yours sincerely

The undesigned endorse this memorandum in whole or in part:



1.      See Cary Fowler, Biotechnology, Patents and the Third World, in
Shiva, V. and Moser, I., eds., Biopolitics: A Feminist and Ecological
Reader on Biotechnology, Zed Books, 1996.
2.      "CGIAR: Agricultural Research for Whom?", The Ecologist, Vol.26,
No.6, November/December 1996, p.263.
3.      Von Weizacker, C., Personal communication.
4.      Examples taken from: RAFI, "Out of Control - Northern Patent
Systems Threaten Food Security, Human Dignity and are Predatory on the
South's Resources and Knowledge.", Briefing, 1997.
5.      The healing properties of turmeric, for example, have not been
"invented" by the University of Mississippi: they are a "discovery" that
has been passed on to US researchers by Indians acquainted with the
time-honoured use of turmeric in Ayuvedic medicine. Even where genetic or
other technologies are used to create entirely new products from plants and
animals, "invention" is rarely involved. Locating on a chromosome the gene
which is responsible for trait is discovery, not invention. Relocating that
gene, albeit in another organism, is filing, not invention. Only the
technique for maintaining the gene outside the body could conceivably be
termed an "invention".
6.      Kloppenburg, J. and Burrows, B, "Biotechnology to the Rescue?
Twelve Reasons Why Biotechnology is Incompatible with Sustainable
Agriculture", The Ecologist, Vol. 26, No.2, 1996.
7.      Steinbrecher, R., "From Green revolution to Gene Revolution: The
Environmental Risks of Genetically-Engineered Crops", The Ecologist,
Vol.26, No.6, 1996.
8.      Howard, V., Paper presented to UK Parliamentary and Scientific
Committee, July 1997.

PO Box 3137,
Station Road,
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Tel: 01258 473795
Fax: 01258 473748
Email: <cornerhouse@gn.apc.org>

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