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EDITORIAL

GRAIN | 25 March 1995 | Seedling - March 1995

A viewpoint on the European Parliament's historic rejection of the life patenting directive last 1 March.

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The European Parliament stopped a law proposal that would have made life patenting possible in Europe. We look at the background, the history and the implications.

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BIODIVERSITY SELL-OUT IN THE ANDEAN PACT?

Germán Vélez and GRAIN | 15 March 1995 | Seedling - March 1995

Some Andean Pact countries seem to be willing to hand over their biodiversity cheaply. Others are arguing for more control over access. NGOs fight for rights to local and indigenous communities.

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The IARCs are in a financial and institutional crisis and a meeting was called to relaunch the system, with little success. NGOs call for a consultation process.

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In a world where free trade has become the official development buzzword, indigenous peoples are faced with enormous pressures to commercialise their traditional resources and knowledge, now that genetic resources have become the new building blocks of biotechnology. How can they gain control over the conservation and use of those resources in an legal environment essentially hostile to their cosmovision? Marcus Colchester, Director of the Forest Peoples Programme of the World Rainforest Movement, addresses some of these issues in the following article, prepared as a background paper for a brainstorming meeting on Community Rights and Biodiversity, hosted by GRAIN in Montezillon, Switzerland, 17-18 October 1994.

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THREATS FROM THE TEST TUBES

GRAIN/CEAT | 25 December 1994 | Seedling - December 1994

Whereas by now most industrialised countries have adopted regulations concerning the safe handling and use of genetically engineered organisms, most developing countries still lack any regulations in this field. This imbalance is already stimulating companies to test their biotechnology products in the South, rather than in the North. Faced with many examples of such testing, there is a clear need for a binding regulatory mechanism to rule the testing, release and trade of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This article draws from a position paper prepared for the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Convention on Biological Diversity by the CEAT (European Coordination Friends of the Earth) Clearinghouse on Biotechnology and GRAIN.

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In January of 1993, after many months of exchanging ideas and proposals, a group of governmental and non-governmental organisations from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe decided to develop an ambitious programme to work on the conservation and development of genetic resources at the community level, under the name of Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme (CBDC). This initiative, which received financial support from some major Northern donors, is now ready to take off for a four-year first phase. Camila Montecinos from CET (Centro de Educación y Tecnología, Chile), who functions as the global coordinator for this programme, explains the ideas behind this important initiative.

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As Seedling goes to press, the Clinton Administration is about to sign a bill amending the 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act. The bill, which just passed through Congress, will make it illegal for American farmers to save and sell seeds from proprietary crop varieties without permission from breeders and the payment of a royalty. It is also the precondition for the US to ratify the new UPOV Convention, as revised in 1991. Industry 's ruthless campaign against farmers ' rights to freely save seed in the United States, and the tough struggle NGOs and farming families are caught in to defend diversity in the American seed economy, is best exemplified by the now-famous “Winterboer case”. We asked Ms. Hope Shand of RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) to report on these battles from home. RAFI has been working vigorously to defend farmers ' rights in the US in concert with farmers ' organisations, grassroots seed saving programmes and environmental groups.

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As in other parts of the world, India 's agricultural genetic heritage is under seige. The push to “modernise” and “industrialise” India 's rural landscape has already taken a heavy toll on plant and animal diversity. In fact, the worse might be yet to come. Yet community organisations, independent farmers and NGOs are struggling at the local level to document, conserve and revive biodiversity in innovative farming systems throughout the vast country. Mr. Ashish Kothari of Kalpavrish, an environmental action group based in Delhi, kindly prepared an overview of what is going on for Seedling readers.

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RECOVERING LOCAL MAIZE IN BRAZIL

Angela Cordeiro and Breno de Mello | 20 October 1994 | Seedling - October 1994

The loss of genetic diversity in food crops is a serious threat to agricultural development. In Brazil, a group composed of local associations and farmers ' organisations — supported by NGOs of the PTA (Alternative Technologies Project) network and researchers from EMBRAPA (Brazilian Institute for Agricultural Research) — is working to develop farmers ' self-sufficiency in good quality maize seed, based on the conservation and use of local maize varieties. To date, the experience is showing that farmers can get equally good yields from locally-controlled maize varieties, debunking the myth about the superiority of hybrids. But the effort is threatened by new Brazilian legislation on patenting life. Angela Cordeiro and Breno de Mello, both involved in the programme, wrote this article for the first issue of Biodiversidad: Cultivos y Culturas, a new Latin American magazine co-published by REDES (Friends of the Earth Uruguay) and GRAIN.

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