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
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 earths 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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