GENET archive


4-Patents: More details in the Yellowstone biopiracy case revealed

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  Lawsuit compels more bioprospecting revelations
        Department of Interior snookered in Yellowstone
SOURCE: Edmonds Institute, USA and International Center for
        Technology Assessment, USA, Press Release
DATE:   January 10, 2000

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Lawsuit compels more bioprospecting revelations
Department of Interior snookered in Yellowstone

January 10. Washington, D.C. More than two years after a Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed on behalf of the
Edmonds Institute, a public interest, non-profit in Washington
State, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park
Service released "Appendix B" of a Cooperative Research and
Development Agreement between Yellowstone National Park and
Diversa Corporation and agreed to pay attorney's fees to the
Institute's lawyers at the International Center for Technology
Assessment (CTA) in Washington, D.C. The settlement was the third
"win" for the Institute, CTA. and their allies in the set of
legal actions that have become known as the "Yellowstone Case".

The "case" began with the announcement in August, 1997 of a
"breakthrough" deal allowing Diversa Corporation, a private
company, to remove Yellowstone National Park resources and use
them to develop patentable products. In return for granting such
access, Yellowstone was to receive a small fee, a percentage of
royalties from any products that might ensue, and assistance in
scientifically cataloguing the resources of interest. The company
stood to make millions. How much the park stood to gain remained
a matter of secrecy and contention until today's release of
Appendix B.

Beth Burrows, President/Director of the Edmonds Institute,
reminisced about the legal path of the Yellowstone case: "First
the Department of the Interior settled when they found in their
files materials that they had denied existed. Then Judge Lamberth
ruled that the Department of the Interior had to obey the law and
do an environmental assessment before proceeding with a project
that constituted such a major change in national policy. And
today,the public discovered exactly how pathetic a deal it really

"It's a pittance," commented Joseph Mendelson, legal director of
CTA and attorney on the Yellowstone case. "And it's a shame that
it took a lawsuit to compel the Park Service to release the
financial details of this agreement, but rest assured we will sue
again to ensure the public knows how the Park Service intends to
manage our national parks."

According to the now-public Appendix B, in return for allowing
the biological mining of Yellowstone, the National Park Service
agreed to be paid $20,000 annually for five years, minus any
royalties accrued by the park from net sales or revenues of
commercially viable products derived from Yellowstone
microorganisms. Further,the park agreed to accept royalties of
one half of one per cent percent of net sales of industrial or
pharmaceutical products resulting from Yellowstone microbes, 3
percent of net sales of "research reagent or diagnostic" products
made from Yellowstone genetic resources, and 8 percent of net
sales of "native enzymes purified from cultured microorganisms"
found in the park.

"It's pathetic" said Burrows, "they sold part of our heritage for
a small mess of pottage. So wonder they wanted to keep it secret.
The details alone, especially when you consider that the Park
Service was proposing to pay $25,000 a year to the NGO that
brokered this deal, should convince anyone that the National Park
Service and the Department of the Interior are not the proper
agencies for making such deals. That is, assuming that the public
wants deals like this in the first place."

Mendelson added, "The real issue in the Yellowstone case is about
whether the Park Service even has the legal authority to enter
into these types of agreements. A ruling on that issue is
expected early next year."

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* The Edmonds Institute is a public interest, non-profit
organization that does research and public education on issues
related to environment,technology, and law.

* The International Center for Technology Assessment is a
Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to
addressing the environmental, economic, and ethical issues
surrounding biotechnology.


Beth Burrows (Edmonds Institute): 425-775-5383
Joseph Mendelson (CTA) 202-547-9359


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