Nick Cobbing / Still Pictures /

Entry points

The most current reading on patents on life is on the web. Tracking the progress of the enormous quantity of applications and shifting industry alliances and making sense of it all is no mean feat. Two groups do it particularly well:

The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (the ETC Group) despite its academic-sounding name offers accessible information that combines naming and shaming with witty analysis.

Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) provides excellent updates on agricultural patenting. Their newly launched ‘Growing diversity’ section promotes local efforts to manage biodiversity from around the world.

Further resources and campaigns

British charity ActionAid attempts to patent the potato chip to highlight the injustice of patents on food. The Council of Canadians’ biotech campaign. The dirt on biotech corps (among other things) – a nationwide Indian campaign opposing the privatization of genetic resources. Canadian Catholic agency Development and Peace’s postcard campaign against biotech seeds has collected over 175,000 signatures. Friends of the Earth’s anti-GM food campaign. Top-notch information, thoroughly researched, from GeneWatch UK. Greenpeace campaigns within an anti-genetic engineering context. Support the ‘No patents on rice! No patents on life!’ campaign here. Contact MASIPAG (Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development via ] Human Genetics Alert – ethical arguments against some areas of genetic research. Institute of Science in Society – down-to-earth views from concerned scientists. Action for biodiversity from the Netherlands. The Seed Savers’ Network which aims to protect plant genetic diversity. The Third World Network – patents and indigenous knowledge examined. Biodiversity, food security and sustainability with Vandana Shiva as the guiding spirit. The Women’s Environmental Network’s campaigns.

Action addresses

*International* Indigenous People’s Biodiversity Network PO Box 567 Cusco, Peru. Tel: +51 84 232 603 Fax: +51 84 245 021 Email: A global network of indigenous peoples’ organizations working to conserve biodiversity and protect indigenous knowledge. *Activist groups by country* *Aotearoa / New Zealand* Whanganui Iwi Law Centre PO Box 817 Whanganui Email: Against the commodification of indigenous knowledge, but not patents specific. *Australia* GeneEthics Network 340 Gore St, Fitzroy 3065 Tel: +61 (0)3 9416 2222 or (Australia only) 1300 133868 Fax: +61 (0)3 9416 0767 Email: Web: *Britain* GAIA Foundation 18 Well Walk London NW3 1LD Tel: + 44 (0)20 7435 5000 Fax: +44 (0)20 7431 0551 Email: *Canada* Polaris Institute 312 Cooper Street Ottawa, ON K2P 0G7 Tel: + 1 (613) 237-1717 Fax: + 1 (613) 237-3359 Email: Web: *US* Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism PO Box 818 Wadsworth, NV 89442 Tel: +1 775 835-6932 Fax: +1 775 835-6934 Email: Web:

Worth reading

Vandana Shiva is the best commentator – intelligent, engaged and rigorous. Two of her books tell it like it is – _Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge_ (Green Books 1998) and _Protect or Plunder? Understanding Intellectual Property Rights_ (Zed Books 2001). A short, lucid synthesis of the issues surrounding food production can be found in Luke Anderson’s _Genetic Engineering, Food and Our Environment_ (Green Books 1999).

A fascinating (if somewhat jargon-heavy) document is The Crucible II Group’s _Seeding Solutions: Volume 1_, a non-consensus briefing that brings activist and industry voices together. Jeremy Rifkin’s _The Biotech Century: How Genetic Commerce Will Change the World_ (Phoenix 1999) is wide-ranging in scope, tracking the implications of biotechnology for our world.

New Internationalist issue 349 magazine cover This article is from the September 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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