GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Re: Your opinions please

Dear Janelle,

the underlying motion of all this gene-food stuff is the idea
to converse living creatures, plants, seeds into private (corporate) 
property. That never happend before in human history that
the species tomato, pig, soybean whatsoever became private property.
Even in medieval times when kings or landlords owned herds of cattle
others were still allowed to breed there own cows.

The natural process of reproduction which never was "invented" by any
human being is now considered to be *the*  source of never ending fortune.

A farmer purchasing patented plants cannot take the seeds 
and plant them again, or give them to a neighbor. He has to pay
license every new year!

If a farmer has patented pigs he has to pay for each offspring 
up to the 20th generation.
Even disregarding all the objections against gene foods (I agree with
all of them), even if it were shown that genetically engineered plants
were no risk for the enviroment and health, still the game of monopoly 
played by a handfull of transnational companies will disrupt completely
the existing biodiversity.

In India alone at the moment farmers grow 50.000 varieties
of rice. The IPR-rules would prohibit these farmers from 
harvesting and reusing the seed of any rice variety that has 
been patented.  Sure following the trends already seen 
by the patents of soybean by Monsanto, Grace etc., wheat, corn
by Novartis, you will end up with only 1 or 2 high-tech rice
varieties and a lot of starving poor indian farmers ...

I strongly recommed to study the 

intellectual property rights (IPR) info sheets from 
the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Poliy.


Or by email:

For a complete listing, send email to: 


Eckart Stein

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Pirates of Diversity: The Global Threat to the Earth's Seeds
by Karen Lehman
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
July 1994

Each spring, seeds push through the furrowed earth like ships bearing the
cargo of millenia. What
they carry within is both an antique and a promise, the treasure trove of
the earth's genetic
diversity. Today, these awesome vessels of power are threatened by a new
form of piracy, one
which can destroy diversity itself in the blind rush to capture its

For centuries, seeds moved freely across the continents on the wind, in
birds' bellies, in traders'
caravans, conquerors' pockets, and imigrants' knapsacks. They were
available to all, the sole
property of none, the common heritage of the planet earth.

The common misunderstanding about the world's seeds is that they were
naturally occurring. But
behind every food crop seed there was a long line of farmers who literally
created them through a
process the Mende people of Sierra Leone call "hungoo," meaning innovation
or invention. Just as
the yucca moth and the yucca cactus have evolved together, so have the
world's people and its

Early on, the forerunners of agribusinesses transplanted bananas and
sugarcane from Asia and
coffee from Africa to Latin America and produced them in heavily policed
plantations for export
to European countries. The French outlawed the export of indigo seed from
Antigua and the
Dutch destroyed all of the nutmeg and clove trees in the Molucca Islands
after they had
established their own plantations. By separating the seed from its
cultural root, the colonizers
changed it forever from the living symbol of a community's history into a

The United States is known as the breadbasket of the world-yet of the food
and industrial crops
so abundantly harvested each fall, only one, the sunflower, is native to
this continent. All 15 U.S.
food crops worth $1 billion or more depend on genetic material from other
countries: corn,
potatoes, tomatoes and cotton from Latin America; rice and sugar cane from
Indochina; soybeans
and oranges from China; wheat, barley, grapes and apples from West Central

In the early 1960 s, the United States passed a law granting plant
breeders the rights to patent
seeds, thus preventing others from selling the same variety. Having made
billions of dollars on
seeds developed by farmers in other lands, seed companies are now taking
the final step to ensure
a neverending source of revenue. They are trying to force all countries to
recognize patents on
seeds through a set of trade accords called the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade. If they
succeed, farmers will be forced to pay royalties to companies who hold
patents on the genetic
material they or their ancestors helped to shape.

This new form of genetic piracy has an interesting name, "intellectual
property rights," which are
defined as the rights to protection of innovation. Intellectual property
rights would only be
recognized when they generated profit, which occurs when a worker pulls a
gene out of a seed in
a Boston laboratory, but not when a Mende farmer saves some seeds and
rejects others.
Intellectual property rights are also only respected when the innovation
is capable of industrial
application. Pioneer Hi-Bred can be protected when it mass produces seed
varieties, but the
Indian farmer who collects and saves seeds for next year's planting

This means that innovation that took place in communities over centuries,
or even inovation in
plant varieties that takes place in the present in a communal fashion, is
not eligible for protection.
As more power is concentrated in the hands to the corporate gene
manipulators, the genetic
diversity that has been tended by farmers in millions of fields around the
world is lost.

On October 2, 1993, 500,000 Indian farmers demonstrated against passage of
the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and vowed to protect their right to produce
and protect their own
seeds. They created a charter of farmers' rights, especially the right to
conserve, reproduce, and
modify seed and plant material. They speak for the rest of the farmers of
the world who want to
continue their partnership of hungoo with the vegetable kingdom.
Resistance to the piracy of the
earth's diversity could ensure that for future generations, seeds will
continue to be the fruit of our
common heritage and not the exclusive property of the gene splicers.

This is a condensed version of an article originally published in The
Heart of the Beast Puppet
Theatre 20th Annual May Day Parade Commerative Booklet, May 1994,
Minneapolis, MN.
- -------------------------------

One in a series of info sheets on Intellectual Property Rights available
from the Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy. For a complete listing send email to: 


Date:    Sun, 27 Apr 97 17:16:11 +0200 
From:    Eckart Stein <>To:      Eckart Stein <E.Stein@em.uni-f>Subject: Re: Your opinions please (fwd)

------- End of Forwarded Message