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 Biopiracy Awards 2002

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PostSubject: Biopiracy Awards 2002   Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:13 am

Most Offensive
The United States Patent & Trademark Office

For allowing the most offensive plant patent – not once, but twice! The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) has the disgraceful distinction of allowing Loren Miller of California to win a US plant patent on the Ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi; patent #5751), which he named "Da Vine." After the patent was legally challenged and cancelled, the US PTO re-instated the patent on appeal. Ayahuasca, known for its medicinal and hallucinogenic properties, is native to the Amazon rain forest where it is used in sacred indigenous ceremonies.

Biopiracy opponents worldwide celebrated in November 1999 when the US PTO initially overturned
the ayahuasca patent. The decision came in response to a request for re-examination of the patent by the Washington DC-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), on behalf of the
Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) and the Amazon Coalition.

The groups requested that the patent be canceled because the claimed patent lacks novelty and
distinctiveness, is found in an uncultivated state, and as a sacred element of many indigenous cultures of the Amazon should not be subject to private appropriation.

Under US law, those who initially (and successfully) challenged the patent were precluded from countering or responding to any of Loren Miller's legal arguments made under appeal. The case illustrates the undemocratic, non-transparent process of the US patent system, which overwhelmingly favors holders of monopoly patents. The system sends a clear message to biopirates that they can lay legal claim to the traditional knowledge and resources of indigenous peoples.

Most Offensive
Runner up
University of Toledo

For its monopoly patent on Ethiopia’s endod, and for demanding royalty payments from the Ethiopian people who wish to use it. Endod has been cultivated and used by African people for centuries, especially in Ethiopia where it is used as a soap and shampoo as well as a poison to stun fish. Ethiopian scientists first discovered that endod is lethal to snails and may be effective in
controlling schistosomiasis, a water-borne disease caused by parasites living in host snails. After an Ethiopian scientist demonstrated endod’s potency to kill zebra mussels to the University of Toledo (Ohio, USA) scientists, they applied for and won US patents 5,252,330 and 5,334,386. When Ethiopian researchers requested access, the University of Toledo advised that their two patents were available for a license fee of $50,000 (plus 2.5% royalty charges and legal fees) or
for outright purchase of $125,000 plus legal costs.2 The endod patents are not new, but these monopoly claims continue to create problems for Ethiopian researchers.
Pod-Ners LLC

For causing economic hardship for Mexican farmers and bean exporters, claiming that yellow beans grown for generations in Mexico infringe the company’s monopoly patent and plant breeders’ rights claim. In November 2001 Pod-Ners filed lawsuits against 16 small bean seed companies and farmers in the US. Fortunately, the yellow bean patent is being challenged by CIAT the (International Center for Tropical Agriculture), with support from FAO. The patent challenge has been stalled and a decision is long overdue because Pod-Ners’ lawyer amended the original patent by filing 43 new claims!

For background information on the yellow bean patent and CIAT’s legal challenge, see:
Proctor’s Gamble, 17 Dec. 2001 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=282
Enola Bean Patent Challenged http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=96
Mexican Bean Biopiracy – 17 Jan. 2000 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=31
Worst Anti-food Security

For seeking to privatize the rice genome and using intellectual property claims to deny full public access to its rice genome data. Rice is a staple food crop for half the world’s population and the primary source of calories for more than a third of the earth's population.
In January 2001 Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical corporation, announced that it had completed the Rice Genome Map – the genetic blueprint for the world’s most important food crop.

Given that rice is the primary staple crop, the question of who will own and control rice genome data is paramount to food security. When Syngenta pledged to make its rice sequencing data available to the academic community through “collaboration agreements,” public sector researchers feared the worst, and farmers and civil society organizations warned that privatization of the rice genome was well underway.

In March 2002 twenty genome researchers signed a joint letter protesting the decision of the journal Science to allow Syngenta to publish its genome map with proprietary rights attached – rather than following the standard procedure of making all new genome sequences publicly available in public-domain databases.

While Syngenta claims that its genome database will be available to public sector researchers, proprietary rights and contracts will give Syngenta the
legal right to determine the terms and conditions for use. For example, researchers who use Syngenta’s rice genome data could be bound by contracts that give Syngenta first rights to any commercial results and/or prohibit the sharing of resulting materials with third parties.

For more information:

Most Dangerous
The US Patent & Trademark Office
For setting the precedent of granting sweeping monopoly patents on elements. The nanotechnology industry is positioned to control the building blocks of
all living and non-living matter.

What is nanotechnology? A nano is a measurement equaling one-billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology is a very broad term referring to an array of technologies encompassing everything from the manufacture of nano-scale materials (the commercial manufacture of bulk sprays, powders, and coatings is already big business), to the fabrication of structures utilizing the quantum physics of nano-scale materials, to the futuristic and hotly debated goal of creating selfreplicating nano-robots. Some argue that selfreplicating nano-machinery is beyond the realm of possibility while others, including ETC group, believe that the real question is not if, but when. ETC group believes that the impact of nanotechnology will augment or exceed that of biotechnology.

Of the roughly 112 elements known so far (a handful come and go or are in dispute), 22 are human-made.

There will be more. Are they patentable? Glenn Seaborg, the American who won a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951, couldn’t see why not. He “invented” Americium #95 and acquired US patent #3,156,523 on November 10th, 1964.

Today, with the world’s largest corporations gearing up to work down at the nano-level, it is only a matter of time before industry convinces patent examiners that the genetically-engineered microbe of twenty-two years ago is no different from the atomically-engineered elements of today. The danger is that nanotech will follow biotech’s passion for sweeping product and process patent claims that could tie up the technologies involved and give a handful of
corporate giants monopoly over the tools that will be used to manufacture everything. Everything includes the raw materials essential to life.

For more information: “Patenting Elements of Nature,” ETC Genotypes, 25 March 2002. http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=308
Worst International Convention
World Trade Organization

For failure to amend the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). Despite the demands of South nations, there has been no substantive review of Article 27.3(b), nor has consideration been given to the option of excluding all biological materials from patentability.

In August 2000 the United Nations Sub-Commission for the Protection of Human Rights recognized that WTO/TRIPs could infringe on the rights of poor people
and their access to both seeds and pharmaceuticals.

Last year, the 53rd session of the same sub-commission considered two reports related to intellectual property: one on the relationship between intellectual property and human rights, and the other on the human rights dimensions of the WTO TRIPs Agreement. The subcommission reaffirmed the conflict between TRIPs and basic human rights, stressed the need for adequate protection against biopiracy, and called for more serious attention to human rights in both the implementation and review of TRIPs. The Human Rights Sub-Commission also requested a special study on the impact of TRIPs on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Worst Excuse
Pythopharm Inc.
For thousands of years the San aboriginal people of southern Africa have chewed on stems from the Hoodia plant to suppress hunger and thirst on hunting trips in the Kalahari Desert. In April 2001 a UK-based biotech
company, Phytopharm, announced that it was using the appetite-suppressing ingredient derived from the Hoodia plants, P57, to develop a powerful new drug for treating obesity. South Africa’s Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) first isolated and patented Hoodia’s active ingredient, P57, which it licensed to Phytopharm in 1997.7 The following year Phytopharm announced a $32 million licensing agreement with pharma giant Pfizer for the commercial development of P57.8 Based on early clinical trials, analysts predict that P57 could become a blockbuster anti-obesity drug worth US$2 billion per year.

But what about the 100,000+ San people from the Kalahari who first discovered the plant and whose traditional knowledge has been usurped by the patent?
Phytopharm’s chief executive, Richard Dixey, told the Financial Times, “We’re doing what we can to pay back, but it’s a really fraught problem…especially as
the people who discovered the plant have disappeared.”

The San people filed legal demands for compensation in 2001, and a benefit-sharing agreement is in the process of being negotiated through South Africa’s Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, the institute that first patented P57 and licensed it to Phytopharm. Royalty payments to the San will not come from Phytopharm.

Late last year, Phytopharm’s Dixey told the Guardian, “These bushmen are wonderful people and I'm delighted they've got themselves organized.”

For further background information on Phytopharm and the Hoodia biopiracy case: http://www.actionaid.org/ourpriorities/foodrights/car/robbed.shtml
Worst Excuse
Honorabe Mention
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

In 1995 the International Rice Research Institute (Los Banos, Philippines) failed to obtain a signed Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) before transferring Thai
Jasmine rice germplasm to a US researcher. The MTA obliges the recipient not to patent or otherwise monopolize the donated seed. In 2001, controversy over
the transfer of Thai rice germplasm to the US erupted in the streets of Bangkok and beyond when researchers at the University of Florida announced their goal of developing Thai jasmine rice for US growing conditions.12 Farmers’ and peoples’ organizations, NGOs and the Thai government actively protested the
transfer of Thai germplasm and took action to thwart any future efforts to claim intellectual property on Thai jasmine rice.

If commercially successful, US-bred Jasmine could supplant much of Thailand's $1 billion export market not only to US gourmets but elsewhere in the world.
Thailand is the world's leading rice exporter and its Jasmine aromatic rice commands a premium price.

Jasmine was bred and nurtured by Thai farmers from generation to generation and its market has become vital to the well being of many farming communities in that country.

IRRI's failure to obtain signatory agreement not to patent was unintentional, and IRRI has since taken corrective action to make the MTA retroactive.

Ultimately however, signing the MTA and agreeing not to patent does not solve the problem. IRRI and US researchers must also explore tougher moral questions about the social and economic impacts of research that threatens to endanger the livelihoods of poor farmers.

For more information: “US acquisition of aromatic Thai rice breaks trust, tramples farmers, threatens trade and seed treaty talks” 30 October 2001, http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=257
The Thai Network on Community Rights & Biodiversity (BioThai): tel: 6622952-7953 fax: 6622952-7371 biothai@pacific.net.th
Worst Corporate Offender

For Monsanto’s most recent attempt to gain a sweeping patent on soybeans. According to Greenpeace, Monsanto’s WIPO application (WO/0018963) claims
gene sequences associated with high yielding soybeans, all soybean plants (both wild and domesticated) in which these sequences are found, and the screening methods to identify the marker. If granted the patent, could severely restrict molecular marker-assisted breeding in soybeans for enhanced yield, and restrict the ability of farmers to use, save, and exchange soybean seeds containing the proprietary gene sequences. To add insult to injury, the naturally occurring gene sequence claimed by Monsanto originated from a wild Chinese
species of soybean. Monsanto claims that it isolated the sequence from a wild soya plant that it obtained from a US gene bank. China is the genetic homeland of soybeans, and free exchanges of Chinese soya germplasm have enabled plant breeders worldwide to develop one of the world’s most commercially valuable food/feed and oilseed crops.

Monsanto’s dominance over the soybean crop worldwide is astonishing. The company’s GM (genetically modified) seed technology accounted for over 91% of all GM seeds planted worldwide in 2001 – and Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant soybean seeds account for the largest share of GM seeds. According to ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications), 33 million hectares planted in GM herbicide tolerant soybeans in 2001, approximately 46% of the total world area devoted to soybeans.

For more information, see: Greenpeace Backgrounder: “Monsanto’s Biopiracy of the Soybean,” October, 2001. http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng
For ETC background on Monsanto’s first species-wide patent on soybeans:
“RAFI challenges Agracetus’ Species-Wide patent on soybeans at EPO,” December, 1994. (Note: Monsanto acquired Agracetus in 1996.)
Notable Mentions and Reference Sources
1 Letter from David R. Downes, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law, to Todd Dickinson, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Acting Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, March 30, 1999.
2 Letter from John M. Kane, Technology Transfer Specialist, University of Toledo, to Dr. Aklilu Lemma, President, Endod Products, Inc., 9 March 1995.
3 Syngenta News Release, “Researchers complete rice genome map,” January 26, 2001. http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/article.asp?article_id=126
4 Butler, Declan. “Geneticists get steamed up over public access to rice genome.” Nature, Vol. 416, pp. 111-112.
5 Sub-Commission on Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights, Commission on Human Rights, United Nations, “Resolution on Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights,” E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/7, 17 August 2000.
6 United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, “Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights,” E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/21. http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.SUB.2.RES.2001.21.En?Opendocument
7 Madeley, John. “Living off the fat of the land,” Financial Times, December 1, 2001.
8 Phytopharm website, http://www.phytopharm.co.uk/
9 Jenkins, Patrick. “Phytopharm hails trial success of obesity drug pharmaceuticals group in licensing talks with Pfizer,” Financial Times, December 6, 2001, p. 27.
10 Firn, David. “African cactus could help fight obesity,” Financial Times, April 11, 2001, p. 2.
11 Clark, Andrew. Phytopharm hails bushmen's fatbuster The Guardian, December 6, 2001, p. 26.
12 Kimpel, P. “Gourmet-Style Jasmine Rice may be Future US Crop,” University of Florida News, Belle Glade, Florida, September 11, 2001. http://www.napa.ufl.edu/2001news/jasmine.htm
13 Statistics on area devoted to GM soybean crop comes from: James, C. 2001. Global Review of Commercial Transgenic Crops: 2001. ISAAA Briefs No. 24: Preview. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
The author of this post does not take ANY credit for ANY of the information presented. The credit goes to this document and its effort in identifying the acts of bio piracy. These lawsuits are public knowledge and have been shared as such.

If there is any copyright infringement or legal violation, kindly let us know (by posting here or contacting the admins) and we will remove this thread/post at the earliest.

Martin Niemoller wrote:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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