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4-Patents: Thai government and Cornell Research Foundation (USA) draft benefit sharing agreement over GE papaya

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TITLE:  Deal to share GM papaya benefits likely
SOURCE: Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Piyaporn Wongruang
DATE:   27 Sep 2005

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Deal to share GM papaya benefits likely

The Agriculture Department will not hesitate to sign the planned benefit-
sharing agreement over the co-invention of the genetically modified
papaya and related inventions with a US foundation. Sophida Hemakhom, the
department's legal affairs officer, said the department had considered
this thoroughly and viewed that the agreement would have no negative
impacts on the country.

The department plans to sign a memorandum of understanding to share
benefits in GM papaya and other related inventions with the Cornell
Research Foundation, with which Thai researchers co-developed the papaya
years ago.

The foundation has applied for patents to cover the method of growing the
virus-resistant papaya as well as the discovery of the ringspot virus genes.

But experts said the virus are almost naturally common, and therefore
should not be patented.

The experts also urged the department to protect other biological
resources found in Thailand from being patented.

Biotechnology specialist Surawit Wannakrairoj, of Kasetsart University,
said the MOU would automatically force the country to commit to the
patents, which are still arguable.

Under the MOU, Mr Surawit said, papaya producers would have to shoulder
the fees for growing the patented GM papaya strain.

``If farmers are in a disadvantageous position, the department should
stop this, and make things clear about the foundation's right over the
living organisms used in the production of GM papaya,'' said Dr Surawit.

Charoen Kampeerapab, vice president of Silpakorn University in charge of
intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge, said an
independent committee set up to settle the issue has also recommendation
that the genes claimed by the foundation were generic. Hence, the
government could raise this point to oppose the foundation's planned
patent, he added.

Mr Jaroen said the transfer of the Thai strains was likely to violate the
Convention on Biological Diversity, which prohibits the unauthorised
transfers of the bio-resources.


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