Thursday, November 18, 2010

Patent grab threatens biodiversity and food sovereignty in Africa

Hope Shand in the Guatemala Times: A new report by ETC Group reveals a dramatic upsurge in the number of patent claims on ‘climate-ready’ genes, plants and technologies that will supposedly allow biotech crops to tolerate drought and other environmental stresses (i.e. abiotic stresses) associated with climate change. The patent grab threatens to put a monopoly choke-hold on the world’s biomass and our future food supply, warns ETC Group. In many cases, a single patent or patent application claims ownership of engineered gene sequences that could be deployed in virtually all major crops – as well as the processed food and feed products derived from them.

The patent grab on ‘climate-ready’ crops is a bid to control not only the world’s food security but also the world’s yet-to-be commodified biomass. In the fog of climate chaos, the ‘Gene Giants’ hope to ease public acceptance of genetically engineered crops and make the patent grab more palatable. It’s a fresh twist on a stale theme: Crops engineered with ‘climate-ready’ genes will increase production and feed the world, we’re told. Plants that are engineered to grow on poor soils, with less rain and less fertiliser will mean the difference between starvation and survival for the poorest farmers.

To gain moral legitimacy, the Gene Giants are teaming up with high-profile philanthro-capitalists (Gates and Buffett Foundations), big governments like the USA and UK and big-box breeders (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) to donate royalty-free genes and technologies to resource-poor farmers – especially in sub Saharan Africa. The quid pro quo is that African governments must ‘ease the regulatory burden’ that might hinder the commercial release of transgenic crops and embrace biotech-friendly intellectual property laws….

An image of a tobacco plant which has been genetically engineered to express a gene taken from fireflies (specifically: Photinus pyralis) which produces luciferase. TIt is the first representation of a transgenic multicellular organism expressing bioluminescence. This image was first published in a November 1986 issue of the journal Science in a paper titled "Transient and stable expression of the firefly luciferase gene in plant cells and transgenic plants". Image taken by Keith Wood (of DeLuca lab) for Science Magazine. Permission to use on Wikipedia has been granted by Science Magazine, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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