Resources to Secure Biological and Social Diversity
“The point is not that technologies are bad (although certain technologies may be inherently destructive, centralizing or otherwise dis-empowering). Rather, the evaluation of powerful new technologies requires broad social discussion and preparation. Society must be informed and empowered to participate in decision making about emerging technologies”
What Kind of Social Structure Is Needed to Bring a Sustainable BioSociety to Fruition?
The increasing emergence of technologies that replicate nature must be examined, not just from a material and technology perspective but also from a social and political perspective. Will the new technologies enhance biological and social diversity; or will they lead to monocultures and concentration of power?
Campaigns Opposing Patents on Life
Currently, just describing genetic information and suggesting a use for it is enough for the grant of a patent — not just on the information, but on the genetic material itself and any future use of it. Patents on human genetic material number in the millions — the human genome is already covered several times over by them, with numerous patents granted for the same stretches of DNA. The variety of patents on life includes human cells, cell lines, gene sequences and fragments, plant genes, naturally occurring micro-organisms, transgenic plant and animal varieties, cloning techniques and cloned animals, stem cells and techniques to isolate and grow them can all be ‘owned.’
So What Does This Mean?
“Intellectual property has become a powerful tool to enhance corporate monopoly and consolidate market power. Monopoly control over plants, animals and other life forms jeopardizes world food security, undermines conservation and use of biological diversity, and threatens to increase the economic insecurity of farming communities. The ETC group opposes exclusive monopoly control over living organisms and biological processes.”
The Third World Network is an independent nonprofit international network of organizations and individuals involved in issues relating to development, the Third World and North- South issues. They monitor the effect of international agreements as they relate to farmers, indigenous people and the global commons. Visit the Third World Network website.
For a general overview of Patents on Life, visit the New Internationalist, Issue 349, September 2002.
The Council for Responsible Genetics website fosters public debate about the social, ethical, and environmental implications of genetic technologies.
Genetic Resources Action International Genetic (GRAIN) is an international nongovernmental organisation that promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people’s control over genetic resources and local knowledge. Visit the GRAIN website.