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Seedling - December 1994

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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