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4-Patents: Italian Manifesto for the protection of our genetic heritage

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TITLE:   Manifesto for the protection of our genetic heritage
SOURCE:  Italian Scientific Antivivisection Committee
DATE:    April 14, 1999

Dear Friends,

the Italian Scientific Antivivisection Committee presented the following "Manifesto for the protection of our genetic heritage" in Milan, Italy, on March 22nd, in the presence of DARIO FO, Nobel Prize Winner in literature, testimonial of the campaign: "You don't have to be a genius to oppose the patenting of genes" and first signatory of this manifesto, together with a large number of personalities from the cultural world. We are now collecting signatures from the public, and NGOs as well, to support this Manifesto; our aim is to allow everyone to intervene in the debate about the diffusion of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).  If you would like to subscribe this initiative, please send a message with your name and address to:, specifying: "subscription to the Manifesto".

for the protection of our genetic heritage

The failure at Cartagena last February of 170 nations to agree a code of practice for the marketing of genetically modified food is evidence of the irreconcilable differences between two positions. On the one hand are the major economic powers: their chemical-pharmaceutical industries (newly re-styled as biotechnological companies) own the patents covering genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are lobbying for their immediate acceptance and marketing for use in agriculture and animal husbandry; on the other hand are the countries of the Southern hemisphere (to whom we are indebted for the preservation of the planet's biodiversity), faced with the risk of economic collapse and a new form of colonialism; to which must be added the voice of all those (in Europe and throughout the world) who are alarmed at the major threat to human life posed by these alterations to the planet's genetic heritage.

The CSA, Scientific Antivivisection Committee represents Italy within a coalition of European non-government organisations, the European Coalition on Biotechnology Patents, and has for many years been fighting this threat; in particular it has been campaigning against EU Directive 98/44/EC (which has been challenged by the Netherlands and Italy), which envisages the possibility to grant patents for genes, parts of bodies and whole organisms from animals and plants as well as for genes and parts of the human body.

The Directive was approved by the European Parliament after what the Commission's President, Willy de Clerq, called the "biggest lobbying operation in its history", in virtually identical terms to those that the same parliament had rejected in 1995, proving the extent of our opponents' influence over all shades of political parties and the media. Their purpose in allowing patents for GMOs is to acquire control over all living matter, and in particular over the highly lucrative food market. Using the pretext of any kind of genetic modification, a patent can be obtained for a whole plant, granting ownership of that particular variety and allowing the patentee to market and impose it worldwide and to collect the royalties year after year, since patents apply to all descendants of the patented variety, thus preventing farmers from using seeds from their own crops.

GMOs can be obtained by blending the genes of unrelated species (genes from animals and bacteria can be mixed with those from plants or genes from animals mixed with those from humans). Their patenting and use in the environment makes us the unknowing guinea-pigs in a global experiment from which there is no return; it represents the most serious risk that the planet and humankind have yet known to: 

- The environment, where it will disturb barriers between species
  that have evolved through a lengthy process of natural
  selection and where global market strategies will seriously
  compromise biodiversity;
- Health, because the long-term effects of the diffusion and
  ingestion of GMOs (which have already frequently been shown to
  be harmful) are quite impossible to predict at present;
- The most basic human rights, which will be crushed by the
  patenting of living things - in other words by the
  privatisation of our collective genetic heritage;
- The very dignity of human and animal life. Modified and cloned
  animals will become industrial products, while patents on parts
  of the human body will transform even human beings into
  marketable merchandise;
- Scientific progress, which will be hampered by the
  introduction, through patents, of a concept of "industrial

While we recognise the right and duty of researchers to continue their studies on the genetic modification of micro-organisms and cells, provided they are carried out in a closed environment, we condemn:

- The non-observance of the Precautionary Principle and the
  Convention on Biodiversity sanctioned by the Rio de Janeiro
  Convention  in 1992 represented by the spread of GMOs;
- The non-observance of the UN Declaration on the Human Genome of
  10/12/98, which stated that the human genome cannot be
  commercially exploited;
- The complete absence of adequate action to keep the public
  informed and of a general discussion of these extremely
  pressing issues and the need for the European Union to adopt a
  firm stance based on the freely expressed views of its

* European Coalition on Biotechnology Patents

----------------- End Forwarded Message -----------------


-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email:

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