New Internationalist


Issue 349
Nick Cobbing / Still Pictures /
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 [email protected]>]> 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


Indigenous People’s Biodiversity Network PO Box 567 Cusco, Peru. Tel: +51 84 232 603 Fax: +51 84 245 021 Email: [email protected]>

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


Email: [email protected]>

Against the commodification of indigenous knowledge, but not patents specific.


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: [email protected]>



GAIA Foundation

18 Well Walk

London NW3 1LD

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7435 5000

Fax: +44 (0)20 7431 0551

Email: [email protected]>


Polaris Institute

312 Cooper Street

Ottawa, ON

K2P 0G7

Tel: + 1 (613) 237-1717

Fax: + 1 (613) 237-3359

Email: [email protected]> Web:>


Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism

PO Box 818

Wadsworth, NV 89442

Tel: +1 775 835-6932

Fax: +1 775 835-6934

Email: [email protected]>


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.

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This article was originally published in issue 349

New Internationalist Magazine issue 349
Issue 349

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