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GE - Report on Biotech policy conference held at Harvard

The web site linked below includes numerous photos and audio clips from the
(pro-) biotech policy conference held at Harvard last week:

>A summary report of the International Conference on Biotechnology in the
>Global Economy is available on the web:
>From: "Sharon Tisher" <>
>Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 10:44:20 -0500
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>Subject: Harvard conference on biotech
>Priority: normal
>I'm attaching my draft report for the MOFGA newspaper on this
>conference. I think you may find some of the statements of the
>attendees interesting,and provocative.  I also submitted a viewpoint,
>entitled "House of Cards?" on the website of the conference, which
>is at

Report from the Harvard Conference on Biotechnology

There is a touch of unreality about sitting in Orono, getting much of my
information about developments in agro-biotechnology from news stories
circulated on various e-mail networks. So as a reality-check, I attended an
international conference on biotechnology policy hosted by Harvard on
September 2-3. The conference was organized by Dr. Calestous Juma, a Kenyan
and the former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biodiversity,
currently a Special Advisor to the newly created Harvard Center for
International Development. In response to Dr. Juma's invitation, over 200
experts from all over the world flocked to Cambridge --
scientists, academicians, and representatives of industry, national
governments and international organizations, including the entire
biotechnology panel of the U.N.  Commission on Science and Technology,
which was holding its meeting concurrently with the conference. There were
a smattering of activist NGO's represented, but none of the big ones, and
the tenor of the conference was decidedly "mainstream."  Nonetheless, it
was evident that these experts in biotech science or policy are asking many
of the same questions as we are, and are just as lacking in answers. Rather
than attempt a narrative of a very intense two days, I will offer up a
collage of comments from both public proceedings and conversations during
the conference.

"It hasn't been a very good year if you're a supporter of these
technologies for their potential." Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Harvard
Center for International Development, noting that whereas there were 2000
articles in the U.S. press mentioning "genetically altered" or "genetically
modified" in all of 1997,  there were over 9000 in the first eight months
of 1999.

"Rarely has there ever been a global debate of such intensity on a subject
on which there is so little substantive knowledge and such conjecture." Dr.
Sheldon Krimsky, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts

"Hundreds of millions of people are eating GM food and as far as I know no
one has gotten sick and no one has posed a plausible theory of why they
would get sick." Dr. Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden.

"The GM debate is a sideshowŠ Any Monarch butterfly that comes into contact
with the 8 to 9 pesticides sprays on a conventional corn crop will be dead
as a doornail." Id.

"99% of the patents are originated in the rich countries. Monsanto's annual
R & D budget is three times that of the entire CGIAR [Consultative Group
for International Agricultural Research, a World Bank organization
dedicated to funding research to address world hunber]." Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.

"The major problem is not that the biotech companies are ignoring the third
world, but that they may be sucking the value out of the unique ecologies
of the third world." Dr. Richard Lewontin, Museum of Comparative Zoology,
Harvard, noting that the industry is developing soy that contains caffeine
and rape seed that can produce palm oil. ("They'll be able to produce palm
oil in North Dakota; add the [coffee] taste to the soy, and who needs Costa

"It's going to come to a head this fall. I don't know what will happen.
Maybe violent uprisings, farmers burning grain in the street." W. Kirk
Miller, Director of International Programs and Regulatory Affairs, North
American Export Grain Association, commenting on diminishing markets for GM
grains, and on the impossibility of guaranteeing, even with efforts of
segregation, that American grain is not contaminated with GM strains.

"No one can claim any benefit of the Terminator technology to the consumer
or the farmer, but the USDA put half the money in [its development]. Dr.
Richard Lewontin.

"1 l/2 billion people depend on farm-saved seed for food security. This
[the Terminator technology] is the most important challenge to the
Convention on Biodiversity. To sterilize a large section of the earth's
surface through trading in sterile seed...." Edward Hammond, Consultant in
Genetic Resources.

"The Terminator technology is not unethical. It is unethical to empower
farmers with the ability to steal value added by companies." Dr. Luther Val
Giddings, Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"Those selling GM have done an appalling job of communicating with the
public." Dr. Peter Raven.

"Public research has to be somehow detached from the centers of power. How
do you do that? Wave a red flag?" Dr. Richard Lewontin.

"Except in Denmark, we have no public debate of a reasoned nature on
biotech research." Prof. Lynn Mytelka, Chair, Division on Investment,
Technology and Enterprise Development, UN Conference on Trade and

"There is no existing scientific basis for developing specific legislation
for transgenic organisms." Dr. Michael Oborne, Organization of Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) (an organization of the 30 developed
nations, whose 1993 policy on biotech safety closely tracked the U.S. FDA's
1992 policy statement).

"There are no canonical tests to evaluate crops that have been genetically
modified. As opposed to the advances that have been made in chemical
toxicology, each GM crop has to be examined on its own for nutrition,
allergenicity, pathogenicity. Tests are being invented as products move off
the assembly line." Dr. Sheldon Krimsky.

"We actually are not quite sure of what has happened." Dr. Julian
Kinderlerer, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Sheffield
University, U.K., on the consumer reaction to GM foods in Great Britain.
Kinderlerer noted that biotech stories appeared on the front page of all
major British papers one out of every three days this year.

"New drugs are only allowed on the market if tests demonstrate that they
are better than existing drugs. Why not for foods? Because we don't have
anything to compare them with. We don't test foods." Dr. Kinderlerer.

"The House of Lords asked the USDA for details of its monitoring of the
[then] 30 million [now 60 million] acres of crops being grown in the US.
I'm afraid the USDA said they had not monitored the crops because they did
not expect any unexpected events. That is recorded in the House of Lords.
We found that astonishing." Dr. Kinderlerer.

"The consumer has a right to know. Even if the scientist believes that a
label is stupid, unnecessary, and possibly even false, the decision of the
consumer that the label is necessary must be overriding." Dr. Kinderlerer.

"Are we afraid to assert our ignorance? Are we willing to come to grips
with the fact that we're not sure how these genes are going to affect other
genes down the line?" Dr. Krimsky.

[answering the preceeding question] "While foods tested in Europe are
believed to be safe, the view of many scientists is that we can't predict
the effect of releases into the environment. At the very least we need to
monitor extremely carefully what we put out into the environment. This is
very difficult to do. Effects are so small you don't know what you're
looking for." Dr. Kinderlerer.

"By going too far too quickly, we may kill this technology." Dr. Helen
Argalias, UN Commission on Science and Technology.

"Prince Charles never used the words 'Frankenstein foods."' An unnamed
employee of the Prince, responding to a characterization of the Prince's
opposition to GM foods.
From: "ekogaia" <>
2b) Report from Of the International Conference on Biotechnology in the Global
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 22:17:57 +0200
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Below is quite a long and involved piece on the International Conference on
Biotechnology in the Global
Economy, held at Harvard University last weekend.

It is an important document in that it gives some of the most recent
thinking on issues surrounding the spread of GMO's and GE into the global

It is also important in that it gives the thinking of a wide range of people
from all aspects of the Diaspora. It is on the whole quite positive as far
as acceptance of labelling and transparency is concerned.

On the other hand there is a strong desire to internationalise this
technology by the G8 and a distinct lack of capacity and need in the south
(third world). It would do well to develop more modern sustainable farming
practices allied to better distribution and storage for existing crops
rather than leap into the GE debt trap. This issue has not been adequately
explored. Neither has the need for improvement of existing plant types and
introduction of alternative conventional crops.

I am not going to go into a long discourse about this extended article -
best draw some of your own conclusions.
All the best

Glenn Ashton

International Conference on Biotechnology in the Global
Economy is available on the web:


                    DEVELOPMENT (IISD) <>

                  SD WWW Site: <>

      Written and edited by:
   Paola Bettelli <,
   Nabiha Megateli
  Lavanya Rajamani <>
            Deborah Davenport <>

                       Electronic Posting:
                 Kevin Cooney <>

                     Managing Editor:
        Langston James "Kimo" Goree VI <>

Volume 30, Number 01
Monday, 6 September, 1999

WWW site for this meeting can be found at:


The International Conference on Biotechnology in the Global
Economy took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, from 2-3
September 1999. Organized and hosted by the Center for
International Development (CID) and the Belfer Center for Science
and International Affairs, Harvard University, the conference
attracted over 200 participants from academic institutions, civil
society, industry, government departments and international
organizations, including the UN Commission on Science and
Technology for Development, UN Conference on Trade and Development
(UNCTAD), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World
Bank and the Global Environment Facility Secretariat(GEF). The
conference aimed to broaden the debate on biotechnology beyond the
narrow confines of the biosafety question and to foster dialogue
between researchers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, policy
makers and practitioners.

Participants met in four plenary sessions to hear keynote speeches
on science and economy in the new millennium; science, technology
and international development; biotechnology in the global
economy; and the way ahead. They also met in nine break-out
sessions to discuss: the evolution of the biotechnology industry;
biotechnology in international trade; intellectual property rights
(IPRs) in biotechnology; biotechnology and international
relations; bioprospecting; biotechnology in developing countries;
environmental aspects of biotechnology; biotechnology and human
health; and ethics, social values and biotechnology.

The output of the conference will be a brief summary of the
discussions which Calestous Juma will prepare, focusing on
solutions rather than on concerns. This conference material is
expected to feed into research agendas, policy discussions, and
training and educational material on biotechnology and public
policy. The Harvard CID will set up a task force to keep open the
emerging dialogue among participants on the continually evolving
issues in the biotechnology field.


Although humans have cross-pollinated plants and cross-bred
animals for centuries to suit their own needs, recent
technological advances that permit manipulation to extend to the
genetic level have provoked differing reactions from different
sectors of the society, ranging from optimism to cautiousness to
moral outrage. While Europe has witnessed a strong public outcry
against genetically modified foods, elsewhere in the developed
world concern has been centered on the possible trade restrictions
on agricultural exports and consequent loss of profits. While some
have focused on the possible negative health, safety and socio-
economic repercussions of biotechnology, others have stressed its
enormous potential to feed the burgeoning populations of the
developing world with pest-free and nutrient-enriched food.

Consensus on this controversial issue has thus far eluded policy
makers, resulting in conflict and dissension in the various
international fora that are currently considering differing
aspects of biotechnology - the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), the FAO Commission on Access
to Genetic Resources, Codex Alimentarius, the World Trade
Organization (WTO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD). Earlier this year an Extraordinary Meeting of the CBD
Conference of the Parties failed to reach agreement on the
biosafety protocol as scheduled, and informal consultations of the
CBD's Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety to resume the
extraordinary meeting of the COP are scheduled for mid-September.
It is against this background of controversy that Harvard's
International Conference on Biotechnology is set.



Jeffrey Sachs, CID, opened the conference, noting intense
controversy over biotechnology in the last few months. He
contrasted the remarkable potential of biotechnology in areas such
as health and agriculture with the great challenge of making it
safe and publicly acceptable.

David Sandalow, White House Council on Environmental
Quality/National Security Council, highlighted seven questions the
Conference should aim to address:

*  What are the potential benefits of biotechnology?

*  What are the risks of biotechnology?

*  What processes and principles should national governments use
to regulate this technology?

*  How can national governments better understand this technology?

*  What international mechanisms can best help manage this

*  How should we balance private and public sector roles?

*  How can we improve public discourse on this topic? How can the
public be better informed on this issue?

Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden, began his presentation by
discussing the global transformations within which biotechnology
has emerged in this century, notably: the advent of crop and
animal domestication; agricultural expansion into wilderness
areas; increasing human population densities; rising disparities
in wealth and consumption patterns; global climate change; and the
rapid loss of stratospheric ozone and biodiversity. He asserted
that the CBD ought to focus on biodiversity conservation,
biospheric sustainability and wealth sharing rather than on trade
battles over genetically modified crops. He stated that
sustainability implies living on the earth's interest rather than
its capital and that biodiversity, as an intrinsically regional
and national good, requires local actions and initiatives.

On the organization of the biotechnology industry, Raven
emphasized the importance of scientific knowledge networks. He
traced the history of research on DNA and genetic transfers,
contending that 1990s "hype" regarding genetic modification and
transgenics has not recognized that genetically modified crops are
biologically similar to other kinds of crops. However, Raven
expressed support for: sustainable agriculture; the labeling of
bio-engineered foods; and the examination of their properties and
potential environmental impacts through publicly trusted
institutions. He recommended making the 21st Century an "age of
biology", with more transparent and frequent consultations between
the stakeholders involved in biotechnology, and establishing new
socially-oriented institutions able to handle the rapid advances
and impacts of biotechnology.


In his dinner address, Mohamed Hassan, Third World Academy of
Sciences, highlighted growing disparities in scientific
development between developed and developing nations as one of the
major challenges currently being faced by the global scientific
community. He said that while 90% of research on science and
technology is based in developed countries, only a few developing
countries have experienced significant scientific or technological
progress in recent years. He asserted that efforts by
international organizations to overcome these disparities have not
been successful and emphasized the importance of scientific
knowledge and research and development (R&D) as a means to bridge
the gap between developed and developing countries. Hassan
underscored the need to enhance developing countries' research
capacities in areas of concern to them, including information
technology and biotechnology. He called for the creation of
centers of excellence in developing countries and establishment of
information-sharing networks on the internet that link scientists,
academies, centers of excellence and R&D institutions throughout
the world.


Jeffrey Sachs, CID, asked participants to consider how
biotechnology and global science might be mobilized for economic
development in poor countries and whether institutions that
reflect the health and food system needs of developing countries
can be established which also reflect global market realities.

In describing the "ecology of economic development," Sachs
suggested that two ecological gradients determine the geographic
distribution of poverty and wealth: latitudinal climate and access
to sea navigability. Sachs also claimed that economic models of
convergence, which assume that open trade flows and markets narrow
the gap between rich and poor, operate within rather than across
regional ecological zones. Hence, biotechnology sciences are both
ecologically specific and driven by market forces. Sachs

*  establishment of contingent funds for scientific R&D pertinent
to developing countries, such as a contingent fund for the malaria

*  long-term nutrition cohort studies in developing countries;

*  expansion of the private sector-university nexus through
centers of scientific excellence in the tropics for biotechology

*  incentives to expatriate developing country scientists to
pursue biotechnology-related work in their own countries;

*  university networks between developed and developing countries
with joint training centers and degrees in tropical food and
health systems;

*  roundtables on biotechnology to enable communication between
political and business leaders; and

*  a task force on biotechnology as an outcome of this conference.

Stefan Moraveck, United Nations Commission on Science and
Technology for Development, described the Commission as an
advisory body to the United Nations Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) which examines and makes recommendations to the UN
regarding science and technological matters. He expressed the
Commission's interest in interacting with academia, the private
sector and R&D institutions.

Moraveck noted frequent political friction within the Commission
on the relationship between R&D and market forces. He stated that
the Commission had recently concluded that partnerships and
networks are a means to achieve national and regional capacity-
building for biotechnology. He said the Commission had also
addressed critical issues on biotechnology for food production not
currently addressed in other fora. He recommended:

*  improvements in the dissemination of balanced information on

*  further research on intellectual property rights in developing

*  support for networks between public and private sectors

*  capacity-building in developing countries for biotechnology
R&D; and

*  identification of areas for the establishment of centers of
excellence and investments by the private sector in these


Fernando Quezada, Biotechnology Center of Excellence Corporation,
facilitated this session that traced the evolution and structure
of the biotechnology industry in relation to national
competitiveness and globalization. Quezada proposed that a
distinction be made between the geographic distribution of
biotechnology companies and their numbers, as well as between
cyclical changes and changes that present completely novel and
hence risky transformations. He asserted that globalization has
led to the establishment of a few, large global biotechnology
companies that maintain entry thresholds too high for smaller,
later arriving competitors. Quezada recommended consideration of
how to balance public and private sector involvement and better
understand recent reconfigurations of relationships between
government, industry, academic and public actors.

Panelists: Richard Lewontin, Museum of Comparative Zoology,
Harvard University, focused on the key problems and gradual
evolutionary changes in the agro-biotechnology industry. He
emphasized the dominance of rich country innovations and their
increasing protection and control through intellectual property
rights. He highlighted the shift from hybrid crops, identifiable
through gene markers for the purpose of detecting replanting of
seeds without contractual permission, to the new terminator
technology, which produces plants with infertile seeds, that he
considered useless to farmers and consumers.

Lewontin further highlighted recent agribusiness activities,
particularly the genetic domestication of tropical specialty crop
traits (caffeine and palmytic oils) into temperate crops such as
soy beans and rape, which may harm unique agro-ecological systems
and export economies in the developing world. He encouraged
reflection on the implications of public sector involvement in the
creation of terminator technology and its protection through
property rights, referring specifically to contributions by the
United States Department of Agriculture.

Lynn Mytelka, UNCTAD, discussed a number of ruptures associated
with the evolution of the biotechnology and life sciences
industry, which she said was not restricted to agrotechnology and
pharmaceuticals. She particularly highlighted the roles of new
genetic technology, market saturation, patent expiration and
ecological impacts as driving the changes in this dynamic
industry, characterized by inter-firm alliances, mergers and
acquisitions and rapid R&D investments. She said that new
dedicated biotechnology oligopolies are increasingly knowledge-
based, global and dependent on patents and licensing.

Michael Malinowski, Center for the Study of Law, Science and
Technology, Arizona State University, highlighted US
accomplishments in promoting biotechnology applications,
especially new pharmaceuticals. He noted the rapid transformation
of life science research platforms into biotechnology tools and
commercial products since 1988. He attributed this "success story"
of drug discovery to: the recognition of industry-academic
alliances; regulatory responsiveness regarding the patentability
of living matter; the US product- rather than process-oriented
approach; the creation of incentives for small business; state
agency reform; and the initiation of the Human Genome Project.
Malinowski also pointed to emerging needs, including standards of
care, funding for clinical research, and the harmonization and
removal of impediments to global market access.

Discussion: In ensuing discussion, numerous participants
questioned whether and how to balance public and private sector
involvement in biotechnology R&D. One participant suggested that
the private-public boundary has become blurred. Another
participant asked if the emergence of knowledge-based oligopolies
was different from international biotechnology research networks
such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) system.

Lewontin argued that public investments in science ultimately
serve to subsidize private interests and outcomes. Mytelka
stressed that the public and private sectors are distinct, adding
that oligopolies are closed structures motivated to acquire
private gain and exclude others. Although the CGIAR system, like
earlier public sector biotechnology, was not designed to be a
closed system, its need for economic survival makes patents and
closer collaboration with industry increasingly attractive.

Malinowski said that increasing the number and diversity of
biotechnology transfer agreements would be beneficial, as would
centralizing standardized reporting through technology transfer
institutions open to public scrutiny and full disclosure. During
remaining deliberations, panelists and participants offered a
number of possible solutions to current dilemmas, such as:

*  increased public debate on biotechnology;

*  the creation of systematic channels for regional information
exchange on competition policies;

*  the establishment of mechanisms to regulate and monitor bio-
industry oligopolies; and

*  the promotion of responsible linkages between public and
private sector biotechnology R&D through measures such as joint
research between universities, co-patenting between companies and
researchers, and technology transfer agreements.


Scott Stern, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, facilitated debate on the linkages between the
health and environmental risks of biotechnology and international
trade relations between nations and economic blocs.

Panelists: Per Pinstrup-Andersen, International Food Policy
Research Institute, Washington D.C., predicted biotechnology would
be an important aspect of the next trade round at the WTO,
particularly on labeling and the precautionary principle. He added
that the Codex Alimentarius Committee would likely be drawn into
the WTO.

Pinstrup-Andersen attributed opposition to GMOs in Europe to the
fact that Europeans generally do not perceive a need for GMOs. He
highlighted the issue of trade restrictions on seed, referring to
India's recent ban on terminator technology. He stressed the
significance of biotechnology to developing countries, stating
that developing countries, slated to double their net import of
grain by 2020, will have difficulty reducing their imports without
increasing food productivity through GMOs.

Les Levidow, Center for Technology Strategy, Open University,
posed a series of strategic questions: How can the dichotomy
between science and politics created by terms such as "science-
based regulation" be breached? What is the relevance of market
stage precautions and criteria, such as those associated with the
WTO-Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary agreement, to potential trade
barriers and disputes?

Since the precautionary approach involves taking political
responsibility for scientific and normative uncertainties
regarding possible undesirable effects of biotechnology, how can
it be refined in practice on a case-by-case basis? How might
international trade be linked to precautionary practices devised
by regulators to ensure the safe use of genetically-modified crops
with respect to their non-genetically-modified counterparts?

Peter Pauker, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade, categorized concerns about GMOs as related to
socio-ethical and religious factors, safety, and environmental
damage. He said that socio-ethical and religious concerns were
driving the debate and needed to be addressed. In identifying the
reasons for vehement opposition to GMOs, he said that GMOs had
become a lightening rod for past and present regulatory failures.
Pauker called for the establishment of credible, balanced and
transparent processes to deal with the issues raised by
biotechnology. He stressed that the WTO, Codex Alimentarius and
CBD should each focus on their respective areas of competence. He
highlighted the need for the WTO to determine whether existing
trade provisions apply to biotechnology and whether new provisions
are required. Parker recommended public engagement in a dialogue
to enable people to determine the real risks and benefits of

Discussion: The ensuing discussion focused on the precautionary
principle, the role the WTO with respect to biotechnology, and the
anatomy of current public opposition to GMOs. One participant,
identifying reasons for such opposition to GMOs in the UK, said
GMOs are believed to be unnatural, unnecessary and without
benefit. Another participant responded that all agricultural
modifications are unnatural, and today agricultural innovations
are tested with unprecedented levels of precision, predictability
and safety. While one participant said that people make irrational
choices and need more information on biotechnology, another said
that the public today is more scientifically literate than ever
before and stressed the need to examine why the public is opposed
to the idea of GMOs.

Several participants highlighted the important role of improving
dissemination of biotechnology-related information to the public.
Noting that food security problems in Africa were not due to
production shortfalls but, rather, to mismanagement and
corruption, one participant questioned the use of biotechnology to
solve hunger and food production problems. He critiqued the
discussion of the biotechnology issue in the WTO, which is
perceived by developing countries to be lacking in transparency.
Pinstrup-Andersen responded that since the genetically modified
nature of a product can be used to create a non-tariff barrier to
trade this issue belongs within the WTO forum. He claimed that
biotechnology does not belong within Codex Alimentarius
discussions or ongoing negotiations of the CBD.

One participant underscored the role of risk assessment and
management in determining the dimensions of doubt. He said the
debate on biotechnology is not an ideological one but one on the
strategic use of doubt. Stern concluded the session by identifying
one area requiring further discussion: the diffusion patterns of
biotechnology products.


Deborah Hurley, Harvard Information Infrastructure Project,
facilitated the session on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).
She introduced the members of the panel and said they would
present perspectives on IPR regulation in the US, Europe and other

Panelists: Terry Fisher, Harvard Law School, outlined the
intellectual property protection system in the US and referred to
the requirements for patent protection under it. In comparing US
patent requirements to those established in international
agreements such as the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPs) agreement and European directives, he described patent
protection in the US as being "generous" in allowing patents on
genetically altered microorganisms, multicellular plants, animals
and certain types of single genes. He pointed to disadvantages of
patent protection, including: rent dissipation; impediment of
secondary innovations; concentration of ownership of genetic
information in developed countries; and exacerbation of
inequalities in wealth distribution. Among advantages he noted
incentives for innovation and acceleration of the pace of
biotechnology applications. Fisher recommended requiring stricter
construction of patent claims, allowing compulsory licenses,
permitting price discrimination and regulating the uses of "patent
substitutes" such as contracts and technological protections, as
possible ways of retaining the advantages while mitigating the
disadvantages of patent protection.

John Barton, School of Law, Stanford University, referred to the
pharmaceutical sector in the US as the "child" of patent
protection. He noted that technological innovations in the
pharmaceutical sector can be easily replicated, and without
adequate patent protection companies would be unwilling to invest
in R&D. He indicated that in recent years disputes over patent
rights have driven pharmaceutical companies to merge instead of
litigating against each other. He expressed concern that, as a
consequence of this, control of the world's pharmaceutical markets
is in the hands of 5 or 6 multinational companies. He predicted
the continuation of this trend thanks to the TRIPs agreement
extending IPR protection to the rest of the world. He said that
within five years 75% of the pharmaceutical companies in the world
will be owned by bigger companies from developed nations. Barton
therefore suggested balancing patent protection regulations with
new laws and regulations on anti-trust and competition.

Johnson Ekpere, Scientific, Technical and Research Commission, of
the Organization of African Unity, called for enhanced scientific
knowledge tailored to the specific circumstances of African
countries. He noted that while biotechnology has been promoted as
a panacea for African food security, the skill and capacity
related to this new technology resides in industrialized nations.
Ekpere drew attention to the potential risks posed by
biotechnology and recommended capacity-building in the areas of
assessment, management and monitoring of risks before
biotechnology is commercially introduced into Africa.

Discussion: Several participants referred to the differences
between patent protection laws and regulations in the US and other
parts of the world. One participant noted that in many countries
plant and animal varieties are not subject to patents. Another
participant indicated the EU requirement to disclose patents
within a certain period of time to make them part of the public
domain is not present in US patent law. Other participants
highlighted their lack of understanding on how patents would act
as an incentive for inventions and development of technological
innovations in developing countries. Some participants referred to
the benefits associated with investment by multinational companies
in developing countries. Others argued that investment by
multinational companies is not necessarily geared towards creating
benefits for developing countries. One participant cautioned that
biotechnology might be used to create food supply monopolies.
Several participants questioned the relationship between the CBD
and the TRIPs agreement, particularly with respect to the
protection of traditional knowledge through sui generis systems.
Another participant cautioned against the potential creation of
monopolies in food supplies through the use of biotechnology.


Cristián Samper, Chair of the CBD Subsidiary Body for Scientific,
Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), facilitated the
session on biotechnology in international relations. He spoke of
the links between biological research and international processes
such as FAO and the CBD and noted the increasing tension between
environmental regimes and the international trade system. He
invited panelists and participants to think about the impact of
biotechnology on international relations and vice versa.

Panelists: Patrice Laget, European Commission, outlined the
complex institutional scheme for R&D for biotechnology development
in Europe. He explained the role of the European Commission within
the European Union. He noted a recent increase in resources
allocated to R&D in the life sciences, including research on food,
nutrition health and the environment. He stressed the Commission's
interest in seeking the involvement of scientists from developing
countries through, inter alia, fellowship programmes.

Michael Oborne, OECD, highlighted the contributions of the OECD to
the harmonization of international regulations on biotechnology,
including the elaboration of common scientific concepts,
principles and data requirements to underpin regulation. He gave a
brief overview of the work of the OECD Group on Harmonization and
Regulatory Oversight, the Committee for Scientific Work on
recombinant DNA Safety and the Group of National Experts on
Biotechnology and GMOs. He recalled the recent G-8 (Group of Seven
highly industrialized nations plus Russia) mandate on the need to
undertake further research on the implications of biotechnology
for food safety.

Edward Hammond, Consultant in Genetic Resources, presented a brief
overview of how indigenous peoples' rights are being addressed in
international fora, including the CBD, World Intellectual Property
Organisation (WIPO) and the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources.
He expressed concern over the lack of an international system to
protect communities' traditional knowledge and said that IPRs pose
an additional threat. He stated that IPRs prey on traditional
knowledge and said that attempts to protect traditional knowledge
through sui generis systems would improve indigenous peoples'
situation. He recalled WIPO's work in this regard but noted that
it has come under increasing pressure from the WTO. He said that
the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources work on farmers' rights
over seeds used in their own land is a ray of hope against the use
of "terminator technology" which renders seeds sterile.

Discussion: On terminator technology, one participant questioned
why society would want to deprive companies of the necessary
incentives to develop new technologies through R&D that may
benefit many people. Hammonds responded that sufficient incentives
exist for profit generation and added that terminator technology
does not render  agronomic nor socio-economic benefits.

Another participant suggested broadening the scope of the
discussion and called for consideration of how technology is
affecting international relations and why people are reacting so
strongly to biotechnology. On the first question, one participant
noted the difficulties countries face in trying to adapt to
provisions under international agreements. On the second question,
many participants referred to the uneasiness caused by the
uncertainties inherent in the use of biotechnology and stressed
the need for scientific, social, cultural and ethical input.
Others countered that scientific knowledge is the only way to
resolve uncertainties and reach consensus.

Samper concluded the session by drawing attention to the
fragmented state of the debate and suggested that increased
transparency, dissemination of information and participation in
decision-making processes would be useful for bridging differences
of opinion among peoples, countries and sectors regarding
biotechnology and its use.


This session was facilitated by Theadore Panayotou, Environment
and Natural Resources, CID. Panayotou opened the discussion by
emphasizing that while bioprospecting represents a direct link
between biodiversity and technology, benefit sharing is not a
simple exchange of technology for biological resources between
developed and developing countries. He highlighted the North's
patented technology and capacity to produce chemical synthetics in
contradistinction to the unprotected status of Southern and
tropical biodiversity. He added that fair benefit sharing depends
on how biodiversity is valued and what is being valued - an entire
ecosystem habitat, a protected area or species, genetic material
or associated patented properties or products.

Panelists: Timothy Swanson, School of Public Policy, University
College, London, spoke on estimating the informational and use
value of genetic resources. He emphasized that such biological
resources are not without economic value and described three
approaches to economic valuation of biodiversity: the factorial
approach that allocates shares of total revenues at the end of
pharmaceutical production to numerous factors such as royalties
for biological specimens and the value of land allocated for plant
collection and screening; the search approach to valuation that
estimates the marginal value of probability of genetic resources
providing a medical solution; and the production function approach
that enables measurement of the contribution of genetic resources
to the production of final outputs in agricultural contexts.

Anil Gupta, Indian Institute of Management, spoke on biopiracy,
bio-partnership and bio-grassroots ventures. He said that the
burden of fairness should not only be placed on biotechnology
producers but also on all pertinent social institutions, and that
sustainable extraction should not be isolated from in situ
biodiversity conservation. He noted that: two-thirds of plant-
derived human drugs are used for the same purposes for which
native peoples discovered and used them; innovation, investment
and enterprise need to be linked in bioprospecting and such
linkages cannot emerge from the state alone; indigenous peoples
and their knowledge systems and experts cannot be simply seen as
"traditional" or "communal"; and bioprospecting can be pursued by
local as well as global industries. In conclusion he called for:

*  global disclosure by corporations of their sources of genetic

*  a global registry of biodiversity-derived innovations;

*  prior informed consent and fair practices in accessing and
exploiting biodiversity;

*  monetary and non-monetary incentives to learn about and
implement sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity in
multi-species ecosystems;

*  implementation of creative benefit sharing models; and

*  the development of methods to inspire younger generations to
learn about biodiversity.

Katy Moran, Healing Forest Conservancy, spoke about sharing
benefits arising from plant-based drug discovery and
commercialization. She described her institution's strategy and
experience in returning long-term benefits to all countries and
culture groups that choose to contribute plants and knowledge to
Shaman Pharmaceuticals. No matter where a plant sample or
knowledge originates, she emphasized that benefit sharing
requires: diverse models; different time frames; prior informed
consent; the recognition of local knowledge and experimentation;
long-term profit; and risk sharing. Benefit-sharing activities
supported by Healing Forest Conservancy include: community
development projects such as water irrigation and airfield
construction during drug development; training in plant collection
and the preparation of herbaria specimens; and, in the case of
drug commercialization, trust funds and legal constitutions for
allocating financial resources equitably for the purposes of
integrated rural development and traditional medicine.

Discussion: In ensuing discussion, facilitator Panayotou asked
participants to reflect upon shifting biodiversity values and the
interdependence that may exist between biotechnology, patents and
biodiversity knowledge. Many participants noted the challenge of
developing national policies for access to genetic resources to
ensure biodiversity conservation and the partitioning of benefits.

One participant noted that pharmaceutical companies place economic
value on phytochemical extracts rather than on genetic or living
material, adding that attaching dollar values to a hectare of
forest may ignore the existence values not captured by quantifying
genetic material. Another participant questioned the distinction
being made between contemporary and traditional knowledge, while
yet another noted that biodiversity is treated economically as an
open access resource but legally as patentable private property. A
few participants highlighted the issue of academic, research or
botanical institutions acting as intermediary spokespersons for
diverse local communities and disadvantaged groups, while other
participants called for increasing collaboration with commercial
actors. Also mentioned was the need to obtain prior informed
consent, recognize the heterogeneity of local communities, and
bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss ways to resolve
bioprospecting conflicts and devise alternative strategies.


As facilitator, Sudha Nair, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation,
requested participants to examine the institutional factors
affecting the ability of developing countries to use biotechnology
to meet their needs, and to focus on devising strategies to
optimize the benefits of the biotechnology revolution.

Panelists: Manfred Kern, Biological Research, AgroEvo GmbH,
Germany, characterized biotechnology as a tool to deal with food
insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa which is due, inter alia, to:
poor marketing and processing systems; low investment capacity;
poor administration; lack of funding for research; and poor
management of natural resources. He stressed the need for
developing countries to draw up a catalogue of unsolved technical
problems for presentation to big companies. He affirmed that
although AgroEvo GmbH would not expect to make a profit when
approached by developing countries for assistance, it would not
expect to lose money in the endeavor. In addition to
biotechnology, Kern identified several potential measures for
feeding the world, including: facilitating access to developed
country technology; cooperation/partnerships/pilot projects in
R&D; enhancing R&D on neglected crops; support for safety
research; promotion of private local seed companies; and promotion
of patents in developing countries.

Hans Herren, International Center of Insect Physiology and
Ecology, Kenya, asked whether developing country farmers needed
GMOs. He said biotechnology could do little to address the
problems of soil infertility, difficult credit and market access,
lack of storage facilities and inadequate infrastructure that
plague developing country agriculture. Herren highlighted issues
such as gene flow and genetic pollution risks in the deployment of
new GM varieties. He recommended training to enable people to
understand what happens when GMOs are deployed. He cautioned that
GMOs are not a "silver bullet" solution and concluded that there
is a need for a comprehensive strategy to address food insecurity
in the developing world.

Robert Herdt, Rockefeller Foundation, said that solving Africa's
food problems necessitates addressing food productivity. He
stressed the need for better education for women, well-functioning
markets and higher farm productivity. He said higher farm
productivity would depend on broader use of currently available
improved technology, the importation of well-adapted technology
and local adaptive research. He identified a potential role for
biotechnology but cautioned that because farmers reuse seed the
market is very small. On the situation of developing countries
vis-à-vis biotechnology, Herren stressed that multinational seed
companies are not focused on their needs; the CBD and TRIPs are
forcing the pace of change; and there is little biotechnology that
merits IPR protection. He said developing countries get very
little help from the US to address their needs in agriculture.
Major companies focus on profitable hybrid maizes and hybrid
cottons rather than on the rice, yam and cassava that are staple
foods in the developing world. He called for strategies to harness
biotechnology to improve living conditions in the developing

Discussion: Several participants expressed concern for the recent
decrease in agricultural development assistance. Some identified a
need for political will at the national and international level.
One participant asked how to initiate a dialogue with political
leaders in developing countries to get them to take the lead.
Another participant stressed that the focus be on helping
developing countries develop local capacity to address their

Herren cautioned those seeking a "quick fix" that the potential of
biotechnology should be used "in harmony" with other social,
cultural, economic and ethical aspects. One participant
highlighted the need for institutions and processes to include
women's views, considering women's significant involvement in
farming. One participant queried the value added by biotechnology.
In response, Kern said biotechnology could contribute higher
yields and lower pesticide use.


Facilitator Victor Buxton, Environment Canada, introduced the
topic by saying that countries now face the challenging prospect
of developing institutional arrangements to identify and manage
the risks associated with biotechnology. He queried whether
biotechnology is likely to offer the next generation of
environmental remediation technology.

Panelists: William Clark, Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs, Harvard University, identified structural
questions to help provide a framework for analysis:

*  What is the biotechnology issue and who gets to say?

*  How do the risks and benefits of biotechnology compare to their

*  Who bears the risks and who reaps the benefits of

*  How should the inconclusiveness of risk assessments be handled?

He proposed that: the imbalance of benefit takers and risk takers
be addressed, especially for the developing world; collaborative
networks for research, monitoring and assessment be developed;
adaptive management strategies with provision for outside
evaluation be designed; and precautionary values be taken

René von Schomberg, European Commission, sought to focus
discussions on three questions:

*  Is the precautionary principle designed to restrict trade?

*  Does the precautionary principle conflict with risk assessment?

*  Does the precautionary principle lead to more restrictive
environmental measures?

He asserted that the precautionary principle is neither designed
to restrict trade nor to conflict with risk assessment. He
referred to the European Directive 90/220/EC concerning the
deliberate release of GMOs into the environment. This Directive
translates the precautionary principle into precautionary
regulation that incorporates flexible regulatory standards and
proportionate regulatory requirements.

Luther Val Giddings, Biotechnology Industry Organization, said
that biotechnology applied to agriculture is critical to meet the
challenges of food production. He added that many aspects of
biotechnology are fundamentally "green" in their application. He
stressed that biotechnology could alleviate pressures on wild
lands and biodiversity and suggested applying the standard of
"relative risk" rather than absolute risk to biotechnology. He
stressed that transgenic food crops have been subjected to more
safety reviews and a priori scrutiny than any other crop in
history. He lamented the fact that biotechnology had become a
lightening rod for many issues with the ironic consequence of
delaying the influx of more environmentally safe technologies. On
information dissemination, Giddings said that while there were
several facts that would be "nice to know," there are only some
facts that regulators "need to know."

Discussion: One participant termed the efforts to justify
biotechnology on grounds of food insecurity as "disingenuous",
since current efforts at biotechnology have not been targeted
towards the South, and recommended examination of the consumption
patterns of the North. Val Giddings responded that biotechnology
is not the sole solution to food insecurity in the developing
world, but pointed out that a few companies have targeted research
and technology towards developing countries.


The session on biotechnology and human health was facilitated by
Alexander Golikov, Inter-Agency Commission on Genetic Engineering
Activity, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Panelists: Sheldon Krimsky, Department of Urban and Environmental
Policy, Tufts University, said there had never been such a global
debate over an issue about which so little is known. He noted that
there were no standard tests for health hazards in crops as there
are for chemicals. He said there are two prevalent views on
testing for health risks associated with genetically modified
food. According to the first, food is considered to be safe when
it does not cause or contribute to disease. The second view is
broader and more complex because it involves the nutritional
components of food to determine food safety. He noted the US Food
and Drug Administration's voluntary consultative process to test
transgenic food products for safety.

Elettra Ronchi, OECD, referred to her institution's contribution
to science-based approaches to risk regulation, referring to the
"Blue Book" of principles and guidelines developed in 1982 by a
group of OECD national experts. Work on food safety was later
undertaken and the principle of "substantial equivalence" was
developed. The science-based approach to risk regulation refers to
the fact that guidelines, rules and regulations are to be based on
the best available scientific knowledge and should be sufficiently
flexible to adapt to new technology. According to the principle of
"substantial equivalence," the most practical approach to the
determination of safety is to consider whether food components
from organisms developed by the application of modern
biotechnology are substantially equivalent to analogous
conventional food.

Julian Kinderlerer, Department of Molecular Biology and
Biotechnology, Sheffield University, elaborated on the effects of
information on public opinion and consumer behavior. He recounted
that until 1991 the only genetically modified food on the market
in the UK was a certain brand of tomato paste. Once the highest-
selling brand in the market, it was ultimately removed from
counters due to adverse publicity about genetically modified
foods. He noted, however, that in many instances public opinions
are shaped by misconceptions due to inadequate information, citing
reports that the vast majority of Europeans believe only
transgenic foods contain genes.

Discussion: Referring to the impact of GMOs on human health, one
participant questioned why public perception of genetically
modified crops as an alternative to use of hazardous pesticides
has recently shifted to a view that they represent a threat.
Krimsky pointed to the role played by NGOs and other segments of
civil society regarding biotechnology. One participant noted that
sometimes activism discredits the veracity of scientifically-based
facts. Other participants argued that NGOs play an important role
in asserting the right of consumers to know whether they are
purchasing a genetically modified good or not. Most participants
agreed that better public understanding of GMOs is important and
called for better communication strategies and dissemination of
information about genetically modified organisms, goods and
products by the companies or institutions that research and
produce them.


Facilitator Timothy Weiskel, Environmental Ethics and Public
Policy Program, Harvard University, introduced the session on the
ethical dimensions and social values attached to biotechnology.

Panelists: Sheila Jasanoff, Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs, Harvard University, began by noting how a
sense of crisis  permeates many presentations. She suggested
seeing such perspectives as an outcome of the success of reason
and values of the 18th Century Enlightenment, particularly: the
wide diffusion and accessibility of technical knowledge; the
institutionalization of complex governance structures; and the
enhanced capacities of people to be reflective and critical about
the technologies we produce.

Jasanoff proposed that biotechnology debates take into
consideration three well-established critiques of technology: the
notion that technologies lead to unintended consequences; an
understanding of technology systems as political, rather than
value-free, channels for reaffirming inequalities and structural
problems out of which technologies emerge; and, finally,
recognition that rationality and progress must be seen differently
by different social and cultural actors. She concluded by asking
whether biotechnology rests on competing visions of progress and
what institutional mechanisms can assist in resolving and
negotiating around these differences.

Harriet Strimpel, Bromberg and Sunstein Attorneys at Law,
discussed the role of patents in biotechnology. She said that the
value of a patent depends on the "terrain of patentability," that
is, the actual use of patents, the national jurisdiction and legal
infrastructure within which they are legalized, and whether
mechanisms for effective exclusion of others exist. She pointed
out differences between the US, where no moral legal provision
exists in the patent system, and Europe, where moral concerns for
not disrupting l'ordre public (the public order) can justify non-
patentability. She concluded by asking participants to reflect
upon whether there is a distinction to be made between real
property and intellectual property or between human organs and
plant materials.

Tony La Viña, Biological Resources Programme, World Resources
Institute, linked the issues of ethics and social values to the
current paralysis of negotiations associated with the CBD and its
pending biosafety protocol. He portended a crisis of failure given
the ease with which ethical and social issues are recognized but
not seriously addressed. He noted three factors that make current
biotechnology especially difficult to grapple with: its rapid pace
of development; its pervasiveness; and its profound implications
for equity and the basic human concerns of life, food security,
livelihoods, and human and ecosystem health.

La Viña called for adoption of a precautionary approach to the
potential unintended consequences of the terminator technology and
other biotechnologies; participatory social and ethical debates on
the issue; risk assessments and implementation of labeling
schemes; and adherence to the principle of prior informed consent.

Discussion: As facilitator, Weiskel questioned: how scientific
agendas are being set in relation to social agendas; whether
ethics concerned with the "oughtness of things" and self-restraint
are related to the power relations involved in politics; and
whether ethical concerns need to go beyond generational human
matters to include interspecies, ecosystemic and intergenerational
ethical concerns. Given that genetic material is both a real
sequence and informational, he noted the challenges posed by
making a distinction between real versus intellectual property. He
also noted that urgent issues, such as biosafety, may not yet be
the most important ones for current policy-making.

Participants debated whether the wealth of a society and
disadvantaged groups afford different ethical sensibilities; what
constitutes precaution if risks are not clear in the case of new
biotechnologies; and to what extent social values, ethics and
institutions get transferred with particular technological

Participants generally agreed that cultural and social structures
cannot be separated from technical and scientific developments. La
Viña objected to the idea of terminator technology given the risks
associated with farmer inability to plant future crops and
potential impacts on the environment.

One participant wondered if new biotechnologies are exporting
Western ethics like no other technology before them, particularly
the ethics of exclusive ownership and control of nature through
patents and acceptability of recombinant DNA practices. Another
participant said that if the manipulative nature of biotechnology
was the main concern it should have been raised 10,000 years ago
when the first crops and animals were domesticated.


In his concluding remarks, Calestous Juma, provided an initial
outline of his forthcoming summary, which will include a section
on the background to the biotechnology debates, an insight into
key issues and suggestions on ways to move forward. He said he
will avoid focusing on concerns in order to shift focus onto
plausible solutions. Juma drew attention to the tensions between
globalization and biotechnology, and to linkages between
discussions on biotechnology and discussions on trade. He
highlighted the differing uses of the term "biotechnology,"
ranging from clusters of techniques to products resulting from the
application of such techniques or, in some cases, even the
biotechnology industry itself. He asserted that the question of
what national governments should regulate would depend on cultural

Juma elaborated on possible next steps. On research, he said
various theoretical issues needed to be sorted out such as the
precautionary principle and substantial equivalences between
organisms. He recommended training policy makers and fostering
consultation between people with different views. He advocated
more communication with the public regarding governance systems
and questions of transparency. On conference follow-up, he said a
biotechnology task force would be set up by the CID, in
consultation with conference participants and other interested
parties in order to address issues such as institutions, research
and training pertinent to biotechnology and the global economy.

Jeffrey Sachs closed the conference at 5 p.m. on September 3.

September 1999, Berlin, Germany. Contact: USDA; Internet:

1999 Trondheim, Norway. Contact: NINA NIKU, Odd Terja Sansdlund;
Tel: +47-73-80-15-48; Fax: +47-73-80-14-01; E-mail:; Internet:

GLOBAL CHANGE AND PROTECTED AREAS: 8-16 September 1999, L'Aquila,
Italy. Contact: Guido Visconti, Dipartimento di Fisica, Universita
degli Studi di L'Aquila, Via Vetoio, Coppito, 67010 L'Aguila,
Italy; E-mail:;

1999, Oxford, UK. Contact: Dominique Attala, Refugee Studies
Programme, Queen Elizabeth House, 21 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LA,
UK; Tel: +44-1865-270-722; Fax: +44-1865-270-721; Email:

September 1999, Vienna, Austria. Contact: CBD Secretariat; World
Trade Center, 393 St. Jacques Street, Suite 300, Montréal, Québec,
Canada H2Y 1N9; Tel: +1-514-288-2220; Fax: +1-514-288-6588; E-
mail:; Internet:

October 1999, New York University School of Law, New York, NY,
USA. Contact: Bobbie Glover, NY School of Law; Tel: 1-212-998-
6415, 998-6417; Fax: 1-212-995-4037.

SOUTHEAST ASIA): 24-26 October 1999, Colombo, Sir Lanka. Contact:
P. Balakrishna, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, 48, Vajira
Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka; Tel: + 94-74-510-517; Fax: +94-1-580-
202; E-mail:

Washington, DC. Contact: CGIAR Secretariat; Tel: +1-202-473-8951;
Fax: +1-202-473-8110.

Geneva, Switzerland. Contact: Internet:

1999, Munich, Germany. Contact: EuropaBio '99; Tel: +32-2-735-
0313; Fax:

+32-2-735-4960; E-mail:; Internet:

India, 22 November-3 December 1999. Contact: ICGEB; Tel: +91-11-
616-7356; Fax: +91-11-616-2316;

FIFTH MEETING OF THE CBD COP: 15-26 May 2000, Nairobi, Kenya.
Contact: CBD Secretariat; World Trade Center, 393 St. Jacques
Street, Suite 300, Montréal, Québec, Canada H2Y 1N9; Tel: +1-514-
288-2220; Fax: +1-514-288-6588; E-mail:; Internet:

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