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• 03•02•2002 •

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Treaty launched at World Social Forum

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Press Release
Embargo Date: 1 February 2002


Hundreds of NGOs from More than 50 Nations Announce Support of a Treaty to Establish the Gene Pool as a Global Commons


Biotech Activists to Challenge Government and Corporate Claims on Patents on Life
Treaty to Be Centerpiece of International Campaigns Around the World

(Porto Alegre) 1 February 2002 -- Biotech activists from more than 50 nations announce today their support for a treaty which would establish the earth’s gene pool as a global commons. Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs) leaders say they will challenge government and corporate claims on patents on life in every country. The treaty is the first globally coordinated campaign among biotech activists, and already has the support of over 250 organizations.

Activists will be working with political parties to introduce the Treaty Initiative in parliaments around the world over the next year. In September 2002, activists will demand that governmental delegates to the Rio +10 Conference in South Africa endorse the Treaty to Share the Genetic Commons and make it the centerpiece of future biodiversity efforts.

Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC, says, "The gene pool should not be allowed to be claimed as commercially negotiable genetic information or intellectual property by governments, commercial enterprises, other institutions or individuals. The global gene pool is a shared legacy and, therefore, a collective responsibility." Mr Rifkin added, "A global treaty to share the gene pool is the most important task ahead of us as we make the transition into the Age of Biology."

The Treaty Initiative to Share the Genetic Commons, which aims to prohibit all patents on plant, microorganism, animal, and human life, will be launched at a press conference hosted by NGO leaders on 1 February 2002, during the greatly anticipated World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. The press conference will be held at 10:00 am (local time) at the Catholic University (PUC), Av. Ipiranga 6681, Bairro Paternon, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul.

The official workshop, "The Launch of the Porto Alegre Treaty to Share the Genetic Commons" will take place during the World Social Forum on Saturday, 2 February 2002 at 16h00 in the Catholic University / Predio 11 / Sala 603.

"Currently, under the protection of the WTO, multinational corporations are exploiting critical genetic resources for private gain," says Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "This ground-breaking global initiative represents a major new effort by NGOs to work within the existing global system to change international law so that it works for all people."

"Our initiative improves upon other international agreements dealing with this issue in one very fundamental aspect," says Vandana Shiva, Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in India, "unlike other initiatives, we oppose the extension of intellectual property rights to any living thing as well as the components of the living things."

Eighteen organizations, including the Foundation on Economic Trends and the International Forum on Globalization in the US, Centro de Educacion y Tecnología in Chile, Comitato Scientifico Antivivisezionista in Italy, the Indigenous Peoples’ Biodiversity Network in Peru, Southeast Asia Regional Institute for Community Education (SEARICE) in the Philippines, the Community Technology Development Trust in Zimbabwe, and Via Campesina have formed an international committee working to create a civil society process which would lead to the presentation of the Treaty to governments at the Rio+10 Conference in South Africa in the fall.

"We believe that our evolutionary heritage is not a commodity to be bought or sold," adds Maude Barlow, National chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "All of the current arrangements and consultative initiatives based on the principle of selling prospecting rights to genetic information and extending intellectual property protection to life are unacceptable mechanisms for governing the gene pool."

"This treaty is designed to ensure that governments and Indigenous Peoples are the caretakers of their part of the genetic commons and to establish the appropriate statutory mechanisms needed to ensure both sovereignty and open access to the worlds genetic diversity," says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group (formerly RAFI).


For more information:
Alexia Robinson, Foundation on Economic Trends, ph: (202) 466-2823
Chela Vazquez, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy ph: (612) 203-5633
Jennifer Story, Council of Canadians, ph: (613) 233-4487, ext. 234
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-- DRAFT --

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We proclaim these truths to be universal and indivisible;

That the intrinsic value of the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, precedes its utility and commercial value, and therefore must be respected and safeguarded by all political, commercial and social institutions,

That the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, exists in nature and, therefore, must not be claimed as intellectual property even if purified and synthesized in the laboratory,

That the global gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a shared legacy and, therefore, a collective responsibility,


Whereas, our increasing knowledge of biology confers a special obligation to serve as a steward on behalf of the preservation and well being of our species as well as all of our other fellow creatures,

Therefore, the nations of the world declare the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, to be a global commons, to be protected and nurtured by all peoples and further declare that genes and the products they code for, in their natural, purified or synthesized form as well as chromosomes, cells, tissue, organs and organisms, including cloned, transgenic and chimeric organisms, will not be allowed to be claimed as commercially negotiable genetic information or intellectual property by governments, commercial enterprises, other institutions or individuals.

The Parties to the treaty - to include signatory nation states and Indigenous Peoples - further agree to administer the gene pool as a trust. The signatories acknowledge the sovereign right and responsibility of every nation and homeland to oversee the biological resources within their borders and determine how they are managed and shared. However, because the gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a global commons, it cannot be sold by any institution or individual as genetic information. Nor can any institution or individual, in turn, lay claim to the genetic information as intellectual property.


-- Draft : Version 8 --

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